THIS is an odd experience. I’m sitting down to write my column for The National and there isn’t really any Brexit related news to talk about. It feels like it’s been a lifetime since there wasn’t a major story about Brexit breaking while I was trying to write about the previous day’s Brexit mess. But as I start to write this, the situation seems to remain as it has for the past wee while; the Government have secured an extension to Article 50 and sent all us MPs back to our constituencies for a couple of weeks and the Prime Minister’s headed off on a walking holiday.

So, with a rare bit of Brexit respite secured, I thought this would be a great opportunity to talk a bit about some of the issues that are important, but don’t get the amount of coverage they deserve in the never-ending tsunami of ever-changing Brexit news.

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The first issue I want to touch on is climate change.

Discussion about climate change has been prominent in the news and the papers over the past week as the group Extinction Rebellion have been protesting in London, causing disruption on London’s public transport system. It has primarily been Extinction Rebellion’s tactics that have been the topic of the discussion, however, rather than the cause they are trying to represent.

The National:

The climate change debate is odd for the UK because it’s a debate where there is actually a fair amount of consensus. All major political parties agree climate change is man-made and must be tackled. The real debate is on how far and how quickly we should go to tackle the issue. Ozone depletion was a huge topic of discussion as I was growing up, and people and Governments were able to come together to find solutions – it does make we wonder why there is less appetite to tackle the greenhouse effect, that Sir David Attenborough said in December is “our greatest threat”.

READ MORE: Extinction Rebellion block Waterloo Bridge in protest

Part of this, of course, is that tackling climate change is a global issue. It simply isn’t possible for Scotland, or the UK, or the EU to tackle this issue alone. There must be global consensus on tackling this mammoth problem and that isn’t going to happen when American politics is dominated by liars who happily exclaim that climate change is a hoax by the Chinese government.

Another part of this is the media’s coverage of climate change. While there is great journalism out there about the problem, it seems it doesn’t take much for stories about the climate to diverge into nonsense. A recent example is Adam Boulton’s interview on Sky News with an organiser of Extinction Rebellion. What could have been an insightful interview about climate issues and the problems with Extinction Rebellion's tactics quickly became an insulting argument reminiscent of the scene in The Newsroom where Will McAvoy interviews an Occupy Wall Street organiser.

READ MORE: Climate change protesters scale famous Scottish crane in landmark stunt

In January there was a bit of discussion about climate change on Question Time which, for my sins, I was actually watching. An audience member made a point that individuals must be responsible for making choices that will turn the tide of climate change. There is truth to this but, fundamentally, individualism could never solve an issue this gargantuan. We all have responsibilities as individuals, but there is nothing wrong with looking to our elected leaders to lead on mammoth problems like this.

The National:

The second issue I want to discuss, because it can never be discussed too much, is the supposed end of austerity. It’s been around six months since the Chancellor stood up in Parliament and declared: “Today, I can report to the British people that their hard work is paying off and the era of austerity is finally coming to an end.”

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Since then, full service Universal Credit has been rolled out UK-wide and the impacts are stark. My office and my surgeries have seen a huge increase in the number of people coming to us for help with Universal Credit. One constituent of mine was sanctioned for nine months. What was the reason? He had stopped attending meetings at the Job Centre because he had started working.

I hate the sanctions regime. I think it is cruel and callous and unnecessary. It is simply punishment. It has been proven not to save money and doesn’t help people into work. It’s a punitive measure designed solely to appease the kind of person who calls someone using our social security system a “scrounger” or “lazy”. If austerity is truly ending, the sanctions regime must be scrapped.

The National:

A recent Freedom of Information request revealed that the UK Government have spent over £120 million pounds fighting appeals against social security claimants. Some 70% of these appeals were won by the claimants.

If this is what post-austerity looks like, it bears a striking resemblance to the austerity agenda that has ruled UK politics for the past decade.

It can never ever be said enough: punishing the worst off for the mistakes of the richest in society is not an acceptable way run a country.

The last thing I’d like to mention in this Brexit-lite column is this: the earth isn’t flat. It just isn’t. Stop believing and spreading this nonsense. Please.