WATCH: Christine Jardine’s maiden speech

Christine Jardine made her maiden speech this afternoon. The text will follow when it is available.

Madam Deputy Speaker, thank you for choosing me to make my maiden speech in this debate, which is of such crucial importance to our nation’s future. It is a pleasure to follow the entertaining speech of the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Alex Burghart). It is a particular honour for me to have the privilege of representing Edinburgh West 20 years after the late Donald Gorrie first won the seat for the Liberal Democrats. He was a great servant to the area, first as a councillor, then an MP, and then an MSP. He was succeeded by John Barrett and then Mike Crockart, who was replaced two years ago by my immediate predecessor, Michelle Thomson. I am sure that her powerful, moving speech on International Women’s Day, in which she revealed her own teenage trauma, was an inspiration to many.

Now it is my privilege to serve the communities of Edinburgh West. I know that each of us is confident of our constituency’s uniqueness, but few sights can compare with the majesty of our three bridges across the Forth. Whether arriving in Edinburgh West by land, rail or air, those three bridges seem somehow to encapsulate the essence and history of British engineering and its success. From the stark red girders of the 19th century Forth bridge, now a world heritage site, to the distinctive 1960s architecture of the road bridge, to the striking 21st-century sleekness of the soon-to-be-completed—we are promised—Queensferry crossing, all were created along the route of Queen Margaret’s 11th-century crossing, from which the community in their shadow takes its name: South Queensferry. It is just one of our many socially and culturally diverse communities, which include, in the west, Newbridge, Ratho, Ratho Station, and Kirkliston. Then there is Branton, Cramond, Muirhouse, Davidson’s Mains, Blackhall, Drumbrae, Drylaw, Corstorphine, and Murrayfield, whose stadium is of course home to Scottish rugby union, where we look forward to greeting the other nations of the United Kingdom—often with trepidation.

However, Edinburgh West is also home to one of Scotland’s most celebrated couples: Tian Tian and Yang Guang, the UK’s only giant pandas. Some Conservative Members may be relieved that, since the general election, they are no longer outnumbered in Scotland by the pandas. I reassure them that I sympathise; they are not alone.

The constituency is also a key driver of the region’s economy, which is dependent on European trade and European citizens who work in the health service and other sectors and who now find that they are under threat from Brexit. Edinburgh airport—a key link between Scotland and the international market—the royal highland show, which is crucial to agriculture, the RBS headquarters and a new bottling plant for one of the world’s leading drink companies all represent an economy now tensely awaiting the outcome of the next two years of negotiations.

Although we are an area that benefits from being home to many such companies, our communities are not without their challenges. They are challenges that are common to many across the UK: pressure on public services, rising household debt and overstretched health and welfare services. There are also local issues, such as the controversial proposed new flightpath into Edinburgh airport, the threat to our green belt, and the pollution along St John’s Road.

I intend to dedicate my time here to working with groups that take on those challenges, such as the award-winning Tenants and Residents in Muirhouse, the Corstorphine community, which is currently working to rebuild its historic public hall, and many others who campaign tirelessly to improve the lives and welfare of their neighbours. I promise to be their voice on the issues that affect their lives, their livelihoods and their health. I will work on their behalf for the open, tolerant society I believe in and that offers opportunity for all and protects our human rights. And I will remain true to the promise I made on the doorsteps of Edinburgh West last month, to stand up for the constituents’ view, as clearly expressed in two referendums and the recent general election, that although their overwhelming preference is to remain at the heart of the EU, they will have no truck with independence, and are determined that that will be as part of this United Kingdom.

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