Tele column – 20th July 2018

Recently, Inverclyde council has been asking for input regarding the town centre area and in particular the roads to the West of the shopping mall. This is one of a number of such events that have been run in the area. I am always delighted when people engage in the decision making process. The citizens of Inverclyde should be listened to. The fabric of Inverclyde has been eroded with very little consultation. Our coast line has been abused for generations. Land that belongs to us all has seen the wrong buildings erected. Views and shore access has been removed. The very essence of what makes Inverclyde has been sold by the pound and with very little consideration for the greater good. But sometimes we make it easy for this to happen. We don’t engage in the sort of numbers that would concern the decision makers and this allows them to pay lip service to the community. When was the last time a major or even close to a major building project was guided by public opinion. Too often it is just the window dressing. And that’s the way it will always be unless people get motivated, organised and start making their voices heard.

I want to knock down the police station and build the new college on that site. This is something I’ve frequently discussed with West College Scotland. I want to sell the fire station in Port Glasgow to Ferguson Marine. Having met with Fire Scotland to urge they consider selling the land to Ferguson Marine and look at alternative sites in Port Glasgow. I want to build a new combined police, fire and rescue service on the site of Greenock fire station. I want to relocate the cinema and bingo hall into the mall. It was ill-conceived to put these two buildings on our glorious waterfront given they have no need for the views. I want to use Spango Valley for renewable energy technologies. This is something I raised during numerous discussions/meetings with businesses, interested parties and Inverclyde Council. And don’t start me on the old Inverkip power station site. There is the potential to do something magnificent on that site from environmentally friendly and sustainable houses to a complete eco village. Building houses on the Inverkip power station site, Spango valley and the Ravenscraig Hospital site is a recipe for gridlock on the A78. I have pushed many of these ideas towards the council but feel frustrated, at times, with our lack of ambition. It’s time we in Inverclyde started thinking big. If we don’t believe in ourselves why should anyone else?

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Written question – Health [19/07/18]

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, with reference to the publication entitled A Healthier Future: Diet & Healthy Weight Delivery Plan, published by the Scottish Government on 2 July 2018, whether he plans to seek convergence of regulations on price promotion between Scotland and England. (163145)

Tabled on: 11 July 2018

Answer:
Steve Brine:

We welcome Scotland producing its own obesity plan and recognise many of our ambitions are aligned, including measures on price promotions. In the second chapter of our childhood obesity plan, launched in June 2018, we have committed to consult on price promotions later this year. We will consider all responses before setting out the next steps, including looking at the action being taken in Scotland.

‘Childhood obesity: a plan for action, chapter 2’ is available at the following link:

www.gov.uk/government/publications/childhood-obesity-a-plan-for-action-chapter-2

The answer was submitted on 19 Jul 2018 at 16:09.

 

HIV Outbreak

The recent report of 934 drug related deaths in Scotland in 2017 highlights a national disgrace which must act as a wake-up call. Back in the 1980s the world was introduced to ‘a big disease with a little name’, HIV. This forced us to reconsider our attitude towards drug consumption. Through advances in medical science and a change of behaviour, notably increased use of condoms and a reduction in sharing needles in the drug injecting community, we gained greater control and eventually slowed down the spread. It took us a few years to come to terms with the crisis facing us but during that time we nearly got it right. We nearly embraced needle exchanges and in some cases, like Glasgow, where we did, we greatly reduced the spread of HIV. In other cities such as New York and Edinburgh we didn’t and HIV spread like wildfire through the drug injecting community and beyond.

But over 30 years later the spread of HIV is once again increasing and yet the solution is already known. Safe Drug Consumption Rooms (SDCR) have been operating under various guises in the U.K. since the 1920s and the Rolleston Committee and after the 1971 misuse of drugs act and therefore more akin to the current legal restrictions, we had the harm reduction units on Merseyside which were primarily associated with Dr John Marks. These units recorded zero deaths, zero HIV, a drop in acquisitive crime of over 93% and a reduction in addiction of over 92%. (1)

Now we are closing needle exchanges, refusing licences for SDCRs and not surprisingly the consequence is that we have another burgeoning HIV epidemic. Last time, if we were to be extremely generous, we could blame ignorance. This time, we have no such excuse. The facts are written in the history books. The academic studies line the walls of libraries. The list of deaths are legion. This time we know what we must do and we have models that exist in other countries that we can draw upon. Those who pertain to have morals must ensure that this time, we get it right. The last time, too many grieving families lost loved ones and too many lives were blighted. SDCRs are paramount to halting the advance of HIV. And SDCRs are preferable to needle exchanges. All the issues that have made needle exchanges unpopular and led to closures are addressed by SDCRs. They don’t involve people carrying drugs to the rooms, those same people don’t leave carrying drugs and then consume it in the immediate vicinity. And we don’t have the detritus of used needles, foil wraps, bloodied wipes and vomit blighting the lanes and bin sheds of the vicinity. And if you are one of the few honest souls that are prepared to admit that you don’t care about the death of drug users then at least look at the financial argument. A pound spent on prevention, saves three being spent on health service treatment further down the line and seven on the criminal justice system. So whether it is moral or financial the argument for government funded SDCRs is a winner. The alternative is a dereliction of responsibility by the U.K. government in the face of a growing epidemic.

  1.  Drug Wars – Neil Woods and JS Rafaeli

https://www.commonspace.scot/articles/13034/ronnie-cowan-mp-we-already-know-drug-consumption-rooms-will-save-lives-ignorance-no

Picture courtesy of Carl Johan-Sveningsson

Westminster diary w/b 9th July

Monday

My first event at Westminster was a briefing regarding the cabinet meeting at Chequers the previous Friday. In keeping with the Brexit process so far, the intended host of the event was changed at the last minute and the projector required for the power point presentation went missing. I don’t know what goes on behind the closed doors of the upper echelon of power but every time I see it manifested in public it’s a shambles. Following the briefing the Prime Minister made a statement in the house. It was beyond contempt as she continued with the ‘All Right on the Night’ mentality. Meanwhile, three cabinet members had resigned. Things are clearly not alright and yet the UK government continues to reject overtures of conciliatory discussions from devolved powers. In the evening I met with Rachel Moran to discuss the Nordic Model for prostitution.

Tuesday

I met with various trade union representatives to listen to their concerns around the bidding process to build the ‘Fleet Solid Support’ ships. The FSS contract has been extended to countries across the world. The trade unions and many others believe that the FSS are warships and therefore should be built in the UK, which is the usual process. I had a meeting with the Glasgow coordinator for the WASPI campaign and it was good to catch up with ongoing campaign. I was disappointed to learn that the ministers with responsibility for the Department for Work and Pensions had still not managed to sit down with the board members of the WASPI campaign. This is another classic example of the UK government burying its head in the sand. This issue will not just go away, in fact after their upcoming AGM I expect it will come roaring back. The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Scottish Sport consisted of an extremely interesting briefing on transitioning back to normal life after a career in sport. It highlighted the lack of support that most sportspeople are given by their organising bodies and the financial difficulties along with psychological issues that can arise.

Wednesday

I had an interview with academics from Bath University regarding Universal Basic Income. It is an area that I have worked on since I was elected and shall continue to investigate. I spoke last year in Portugal on this topic and thirty one countries were represented. I have been invited to speak in Barcelona this September. It is an indication of the growth of this movement that it continues to spread across the globe and many professionals, politicians and academics are seeking a positive outcome. In the chamber, once again Scotland Questions was an ill-tempered affair as the Secretary of State dismissed all criticism regardless of how constructive it was. Prime Minsters Questions was bereft of the Prime Minster as she was in Brussels and as protocol dictates the Labour opposition was provided by their deputy too. So it was David Lidington against Emily Thornberry. And the winner was Ian Blackford who amidst the mindless barracking between Conservative and Labour, struck the correct tone, questioning the confrontational stance of President Trump. I spoke (all be it brief and quick) in the ship building debate. I put forward the case to build the FSS in the UK and highlighted the benefit to communities. The cheapest option is not always the best and the social economic benefit in the immediate community and throughout the supply chain should always be a consideration. The reason the debate was concluded before its allotted time and speeches were cut short was quite unbelievably because a football match was taking place. I think thousands of shipyard workers jobs deserve better than that.

Thursday

I sat in on business questions and was expecting to read up on Carillion for the afternoon debate. I was not expecting the government statement on the Brexit White Paper. It turned into an extremely confrontational event. The process is that before a government minister gets to his or her feet to make a statement the spokesperson of the opposition parties are given a copy within a suitable timescale to read it and produce a response. This government decide to release the white paper to the media four hours before any opposition members. Another Brexit Shambles. In a very rare if not unique action the speaker of the house basically instructed the government minister to get the white paper into the hands of all members before he made his statement. To do this he had to prompt him a few times and eventually suspend the house. I took place in the last debate of the day which focused on the collapse of Carillion. I grabbed the 20:30 flight home.

Friday

Was mostly spent catching up with constituency casework and local issues. In the afternoon I managed to squeeze in a physiotherapy appointment for my latest sporting injury.

Ferguson Marine

Ferguson Marine have already bid for work relating to the Type 31e Frigates and have also successfully won funding from the EU to produce the world’s first hydrogen-powered ferry. It’s clear that Inverclyde is producing some of the highest quality ships in the world. 

It therefore makes no sense that the UK Government would put additional obstacles in Ferguson Marine’s path when they are well placed to bid for a lucrative new defence contract that would sustain jobs, apprentices and investment in Inverclyde.

I have heard it argued that by allowing countries from across the globe to bid for UK work then the UK shipbuilders will be able to bid for work across the globe. However, this only works if an industry is already vibrant and the shipbuilding sector in the UK is still reinventing itself after years of neglect. It’s need nurtured before it can take on the world.

Surely a UK Government that genuinely cared about domestic shipbuilding would be trying to find an excuse to give Scottish yards the best possible chance of success rather than threatening a positive outcome.

The UK Government must back yards such as Ferguson Marine and ensure that taxpayers money is supporting employment in the UK, rather than subsidising their competition.

Gambling related harm

I welcome more action to both highlight and identify gambling related harm and the issues this can cause for individuals and their family members.

The Gambling Commission report indicates that Total Gross Gambling Yield is £13.9bn which should mean the industry provides £14m (0.1% of GGY) to GambleAware to support their work into research and treatment.

Alongside this, the report highlights there are 33,648 B2 (FOBT) machines in the UK which continue to allow players to lose up to £100 per spin. It’s time for the UK Government to implement the £2 maximum unit stake on FOBTs.

http://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/news-action-and-statistics/news/2018/Measuring-the-impact-of-gambling-related-harms.aspx