Westminster diary w/b 17th July


Business was slow at Westminster so I took the opportunity to stay in my constituency for the day and meet with a number of constituents. I also attended the Climate Challenge Fund event in the Beacon Arts Centre. Suitable community applications can be granted up to £150,000 to invest in projects that are beneficial to the environment. My office shall be contacting a range of local organisations in regard to this.


It’s a 5am start to catch the early bird down to London. My first meeting of the day should have been with Amnesty International but due to an on-going situation in Turkey the meeting was cancelled. I attended an event titled ‘Meaningful Multilateralism: Future UK leadership in Nuclear Disarmament’. The main speaker was Sir Malcolm Rifkind. I was disappointed to miss the photo opportunity to highlight the campaign to reduce the odds to £2 on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) but I was scheduled to speak in a debate on drugs policy reform and therefore had to be in the chamber. The debate was extremely interesting and I spoke without a time constraint which was a welcome experience. There is cross party support that wishes to make drug reform a health led issue rather than a criminal justice one, as it is now. But the latest UK Government report is still not following that line. In the evening, I attended a showing of Al Gore’s new documentary. It’s a follow up to his massive success (it won two Oscars) ‘An inconvenient truth’. The follow up (An Inconvenient Sequel) is rather less about climate change, a little more about Al Gore. Maybe his political career isn’t over yet.


It was the turn of the Secretary of State for Scotland to come to the House to face questions. Tommy Shepherd MP leads for the SNP on this occasion and handled it extremely well. Tommy can work an audience and managed to silence the 13 Tory MPs that represent Scottish constituents with one withering look. The Secretary and the shadow Secretary (Labour’s Lesley Laird MP) seemed happy to agree on most things and blame the SNP for them too. I am afraid the tribalism of Holyrood has come to Westminster. It does not serve the public well. Prime Ministers Questions was a poor affair but I have grown used to that.


The main event is a debate on Job centre closures, secured by my SNP colleague Chris Stephen MP. I take the opportunity to take the government to task over the planned closure of the Port Glasgow Job centre and once again ask the minister Damian Hinds to visit Inverclyde to understand the geography and the difficulties the planned closure will bring. Unbelievably the new Tory MP for Ayr Carrick and Cumnock can’t resist defending the ‘modernisation’ process. He then said he had visited a job centre in 2005 after he left the fire service. I wonder if it is still open to give others the support he got then. The debate finishes at five and it’s a dash to the airport only to see I am delayed.


My first day of the summer recess and it’s a busy one. My first meeting is with constituents regarding issues in Larkfield. Then I meet with Inverclyde Council Chief Executive, Aubrey Fawcett, to discuss all things Inverclyde. The afternoon is packed with constituent meeting ranging from policing, heritage and child care. I then get a guided tour of the refurbished custom house by Riverside Inverclyde.