Westminster diary w/b 26th November


My week at Westminster started with a meeting with Hardeep Matharu. She is a senior writer and researcher with Volteface. We have an informative discussion regarding synthetic cannabinoids and the judicial system. It is a timely meeting as my next discussion is with Martin Powell of Transform Drugs and Chief Inspector Jason Kew of Thames Valley police. Together we are pursuing every avenue open to facilitate safe drug consumption rooms. In the afternoon there is a statement in the House by the Prime Minister on the European Union summit. It was more of the same sales pitch designed to convince her back benchers that the deal she has brokered is worth supporting. The UK Government line continues to be, this deal or no deal and of course the truth is that we should add to the mix the option to stay in the European Union and maintain the status quo. The select committee for the public administration and constitutional affairs took evidence from Bent Flyvbjerg (professor of major programme management at the university of oxford) on the UK government’s management of major projects.


I had a meeting with Jennifer Keen from the Institute for Alcohol Studies and Viv Evans from Adfam. We discussed a range of issues around alcohol abuse but specifically the lack of support for family members affected and support for carers. The adjournment debate was led by my SNP colleague Martin Docherty-Hughes MP. Martin used the occasion to call for the foreign office to lend the appropriate support to his constituent Jagtar Singh Johal who has been arrested and held in prison while on holiday in India. Jagtar requires consular support, due process to be followed and a fair trial.


Volteface hosted an event to brief MPs and staff on the experience of legalising recreational cannabis in Canada. It’s a fascinating and complex story as Canadian provinces have autonomy in governing the law in their own jurisdiction. This varies from British Columbia where they have had cannabis shops and a tolerant approach for years to Ontario where cannabis stores are new and are a state monopoly. My concern is that the legal cannabis industry is massive and this huge new industry will want to influence any new marketplaces that open up around the globe. We must base all decisions on evidence and not perceptions which will increasingly be driven by marketing companies. Oral questions to the Secretary of State for Scotland turned in to the usual SNP bad exchange. Prime Minister’s questions wasn’t much better. This Conservative government continually blame the SNP Scottish Government for the shortcomings of the UK government. The Scottish Labour MPs say nothing to defend Scotland in case it is construed as praise for the SNP. I attended a drop-in session to listen to Palestinian groups with major human rights concerns. I receive many emails from constituents asking me to attend such events for Palestine. It’s a controversial topic but I believe the Palestinian people have a right to be heard. In the evening I meet with the law students from Strathclyde University on their annual visit to the House of Commons.


Business is remarkably slow today (the calm before the storm) and so I take the opportunity to get an earlier flight up the road during which I write an article for the papers about community ownership. Once I am back in the office I catch up with constituency cases in my office.


I met with Dan Robertson (Network Delivery Coordinator) from Sustrans, an organisation that help to establish active travel schemes. We are building a very vibrant cycling community in Inverclyde with organisations like Community Tracks and Inverclyde Bothy (based at Gourock Railway Station). Like many organisations fund raising is difficult and time consuming. Hopefully Sustrans can help with guidance and funding. In the afternoon I joined volunteers from the Inverclyde Foodbank to collect donations at Tescos in Greenock. And after that I visited the Start-Up Drinks Lab at Kelburn Park in Port Glasgow.