Clyde Life – April/May

Recently, I was fortunate enough to visit the offices of Channel 4 television. It is a short walk from Parliament and I had been invited to attend a showing of the new Danny Boyle movie Trainspotting 2. The original Trainspotting was based in Edinburgh in the 1990’s when Scotland’s capital had earned the reputation as the heroin and AIDs capital of Europe. The gritty, hard hitting and graphic depiction of life for four young men struggling to survive was far removed from other mainstream movies of the time. At that time in Edinburgh drug injection for addicts was frowned upon and pharmacists were instructed not to sell needles. The upshot was that addicts shared needles. This simple action of attempting to stamp down on the act of taking drugs rather than addressing the issue of why so many people were injecting led to an increase of infections and deaths. And since then the situation has not improved. In 1995 Scotland’s drug deaths were recorded as 426, by 2015 there were over 700. And along with increased drug abuse there is increased crime and increased pressure on the NHS. Research involving 350 people who inject drugs in Glasgow city centre has indicated that this group costs £1.7 million pounds in Accident and Emergency costs alone, over a two year period.

Trainspotting 2 picks up 20 years after the original and, without wishing to spoil the movie for anyone, remarkably all four main protagonists are still alive. In real life many addicts have died as a result of the damage they inflicted on themselves in previous years, even if they no longer partake.

Different countries have started to adopt different strategies towards drug use. Many are adopting a more tolerant view and are looking at it as a health issue rather than a criminal one. The decriminalisation of drugs allows them to be controlled by governments and takes the power and money away from the criminals. Moves are afoot to introduce self-injection rooms in Glasgow to allow addicts to inject safely under medical supervision. They also provide additional links to counselling, housing, welfare and health. Schemes such as this already operate in Europe, Australia and Canada. The money spent on rehabilitation is far less than is currently spent on A&E.

In Inverclyde we have many self-help groups and service providers. They support users and encourage them to get free of addiction. Other organisations help to bring order to chaotic life styles and provide support pertaining to housing, food and basic necessities.

 If we are to address the issue of drug and alcohol abuse we need to understand the human beings and the conditions they suffer from. Stamping down hard and locking people up has not worked, a new approach and a new attitude is required. It could provide a solution that all society would benefit from.

After the screening I walked home through the borough of Westminster with its multi million pound properties and as light rain began to get heavier, bedraggled figures huddled in doorways turning their backs on passers-by and their air of superiority.

I wonder if the two Trainspotting movies have helped to change the attitude of many folk towards drug addicts. Have they increased our capability to see human beings in crisis or do we still just see junkies, crack heads, Spud?

If you get the opportunity I would recommend you see Trainspotting 2. It shines a light on an aspect of our society that fortunately many of us will never encounter first hand and helps to remind us all that choosing life isn’t always an easy option.


Moving On – 01475 735200

The Haven, Kilmacolm – 01505 872099

Samaritans of Inverclyde – 01475 721212

Tele column – 31st March 2017

On Wednesday Theresa May (Prime Minister of the United Kingdom) triggered Article 50. This sets in motion the process by which the United Kingdom shall leave the European Union. The agreed timescale is 24 months but at this moment nothing else is agreed.

First the UK Government must agree an agenda with the EU and then they must negotiate the UKs exit. This throws up a multitude of constitutional questions and a myriad of trade and legal implications. As Nicola Sturgeon (First Minister of Scotland) said on Tuesday, “we do know that the change will be significant and profound.” But, “When the nature of the change made inevitable by Brexit becomes clear, it should not be imposed upon us. Let me be clear. I want the UK to get a good deal from these negotiations – whatever path Scotland takes in the future, that is in our interests. I simply want Scotland to have a choice when the time is right.” And that to me is at the heart of any future debate.

The UK voted to leave the EU, Scotland did not. Once we know the terms and conditions that are going to be imposed on Scotland, the people of Scotland must have the democratic right to choose the path they want for their country. But first we must know what effect leaving the EU will have on local businesses, on tourists arriving on cruise ships, on students studying abroad, on Scots living in EU countries and on EU immigrants living in Scotland. Over the next two years or so we will have that debate and as the First Minister said “let us start today as we mean to go on – positively, passionately and respectfully”.

Article 50

During the Article 50 statement, the SNP Westminster Group Leader, Angus Robertson MP, asked the Prime Minister if the UK Parliament, the European Parliament and 27 other European countries Parliaments are to have a say over Scotland’s future – then it is clearly right that the people of Scotland should have a choice over their own future

The Prime Minister’s statement was full of clichés, platitudes and jingoism, but no answers.

It is important to remember that in the EU referendum the people of Inverclyde 63.8% voted remain.

As Scotland’s MPs – we were sent here with a mandate to stand up for the people of Scotland, it is a mandate that the Prime Minister does not enjoy.

The Prime Minister promised an agreement – it is clear that there is no agreement.


Written Question – Welfare [04/04/2017]

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, whether Ministers of his Department have plans to visit constituencies affected by the proposed closure of jobcentres. (69136)

Tabled on: 27 March 2017

Damian Hinds:

The Secretary of State and his Ministers regularly visit DWP sites across the country, including Jobcentres.

The answer was submitted on 30 Mar 2017 at 14:20.


Peel Ports Investment in Inverclyde

I welcome the announcement from Peel Ports that Greenock Ocean Terminal is to double its business in 5 years. The recent investment in Liverpool has not gone unnoticed and I am delighted that Greenock remains a vital link in the supply chain.

The container terminal is an important trading route and crucial to the economy of Inverclyde.

This announcement should complement the City Deal investment of more than £14million being spent on expanding the quayside at the Ocean Terminal and building a state of the art visitor centre with car park. 

The Clyde has for a long time been vital to Scotland’s interests abroad and with this announcement I am hopeful the future of trade and tourism in Inverclyde will continue to be an important economic driver for the area.

Motability scheme

A number of constituents are contacting my office to indicate they are losing their benefit entitlement and Motability car, which is their lifeline, however on appeal they are receiving them back.  Nevertheless, it can be over 8 weeks before a successful appeal and during that time they are without their car.

I find it shocking that some of the most vulnerable people, in society, are being punished and suffering, through the UK Government’s welfare cuts.  I pressed the Government Minister on what is being done to address this specific issue, however I got an unsatisfactory response.

I will be meeting with Motability to discuss Personal Independence Payments (PIP) and motability cars of which over 1,000 people, in Inverclyde, currently use the scheme.

Alongside this, I will continue to press the UK Government on their changes and how it’s adversely effecting my constituents.

My question to UK Government –