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New Year's Resolutions That I'd Love to See My Tory Counterparts at Westminster Adopt in 2016

03/01/2016 18:15 GMT | Updated 03/01/2017 10:12 GMT

1.Shed POUNDS overnight with this one simple trick!

Yes, I'm talking to you, David Mundell. Make that government leaner and more efficient in 2016 by getting rid of the Scotland Office. This is the government department responsible for 'strengthening and sustaining the union'. It's an overblown marketing campaign, and a pointless waste of money when we have our own perfectly serviceable and democratically accountable parliament right here in Scotland. What's more, figures show that the Scotland Office's spending has actually gone UP in the last five years, while many other government departmental budgets have been slashed, along with huge cuts to public service provisions. Is this government's legacy really going to be that they protected the salaries of press officers while the use of foodbanks rose? Time to bin this antiquated and useless government department and spend money where it really counts.

2. Look after the pennies, and the pounds will look after themselves...

I was aghast to learn recently that not only do the Lords get £300 per day just for turning up for as little as an hour but that they are not required to pay tax on this either! Let's leave aside for the moment the fact that an unelected second chamber of government where the first chamber gets to pick who sits in it is a total nonsense democratically. And let's temporarily park the issue of them being paid not just a living wage but, at £300 per hour, a living-the-life-of-Riley-and-then-some wage. If that's how it is under this Westminster system (and it is) the very least we can expect is that these Lords and Ladies do the noble thing and pay tax on their earnings like my constituents must do. My goodness, there are debates all the time in The House of Lords about austerity and how we must cut support for those with the least because we are so short of money. Little did many of us know that just by expecting them to live by the same rules as our constituents we could do a lot less cutting and a lot more supporting.

3.Travel to new places! Step outside your comfort zone...

It emerged to the public earlier in the year that the Houses of Parliament need serious work to preserve and repair the buildings. It's a beautiful and magnificent place, but in some ways an ancient palace on the banks of a river isn't the most practical working environment for the thousands of staff who work there. The repairs are expected to cost over £5bn, but could cost considerably less and take significantly less time if MPs and Lords moved elsewhere to work for a few years.

As a former member of the Scottish Parliament, I'd be tempted to suggest that the light and airy business-like atmosphere of Holyrood might make a refreshing change in working environment for some of my Westminster opposition. I gather that'd go down like a lead balloon with both parliaments however, so I'll just lend my support to the call to move parliament around the UK for a few years, bringing an economic boost to areas outside of London. Wouldn't it be lovely for a city like Sheffield or Newcastle or my own city of Glasgow to get a slice of the economic pie that an influx of parliamentarians and all their staff would bring? I'd love for parliament to stop being so London-centric and spread the wealth around a little, and these repairs would be the perfect opportunity to do so.

4.Home is where the heart is! Spend more time with loved ones this year...

When parliament sits, I have to spend more time at Westminster than in my beloved constituency of Glasgow North East. One of the reasons for that is because everything at Westminster takes so long. To cast a vote in a division, we have to troop through lobbies at either side of the chamber - one lobbie for voting aye and a different one for voting no.. One vote on an amendment (and there can be any number in a debate) takes around twenty minutes. A Labour MP told me it was a great thing because you can lobby government ministers as you queue to vote. I pointed out to him that I did not expect to be in the same voting lobbie as the Tory Government very often so the appeal of that was fairly limited. Now I appreciate that electronic voting alone would not necessarily mean more time in Glasgow but it would substantially cut down the time that could be spent doing something more useful for our constituents. We have the technology available, we are given parliamentary iPads on our first day in the job, and it would be incredibly simple to do. This is a real example of tradition holding us back from spending more time representing the people we are elected to serve. I often leave for London at the crack of dawn on a Monday and arrive back at Central Station close to midnight on a Thursday. Luckily I have a brilliant team of people at my Glasgow office who are passionate about supporting our constituents and communities but I find it frustrating to have to play my part from London for most of the week.

5. Make new friends

It's fair to say the SNP new arrivals in May caused a wee bit of a stooshie in Parliament, a place that's so very caught up in its traditions and conventions that nobody really knows how to react when normal people arrive. For me, I'd have been lost (and probably still would be) without the fantastic, amazingly friendly people who work as House of Commons staff. The doorkeepers in particular are so kind, professional and helpful that they frequently brighten up my day. What I found alarming though, is that many staff have told myself and colleagues that before the SNP arrived, the vast majority of MPs, Lords and Ladies didn't so much as break breath to them. Not only have we heard it too often to not believe it but I, myself, have witnessed it more than once and it sickens me! Maybe my resolution should be to never let it go unchallenged again. These men and women are absolutely essential to the running of the House, and it makes me sad to think that they are frequently ignored. One told me that they love the SNP being there because they had to develop thick skins in the past when they were treated "like we were worthless, invisible". Being pleasant costs absolutely nothing, so give it a try this year. Who knows, you might even learn something! I know I've learned more from some of them than from some of you!

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Anne McLaughlin is the MP for Glasgow North East