I attended the sod cutting ceremony at the new Scottish Government funded NHS clinic which is being built on the site of the old Wellington Academy. It doesn’t come cheap at over £20 million pounds but it will be a welcome replacement for the existing facility opposite the West station. I took the opportunity to have a meeting with Jeanne Freeman MSP (Cabinet Secretary for Health) and we covered a range of issues.
I caught an early flight which ensured I got to Westminster for a 9:30 start to the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs select committee. We were taking evidence on managing major projects. The U.K. Government does not have a good track record with major infrastructure projects and there seems to be a reluctance to learn from failure. Primarily due to their reluctance to admit they failed and supported by political expedience. I made my way to the Chamber to listen to debate on TV licences being paid for by over 75s. Another example of the U.K. Government attempting to divest itself of responsibility. I met with representatives from the People’s Post Code Lottery. They have concerns around the capping of their income and that they would be adversely hit by a statutory levy on gambling companies. The People’s Post Code Lottery is a charity and so don’t pay tax but they do pass on a higher percentage of the money raised to good causes than other gambling organisations.
Mike Russell MSP (Scottish Government Brexit Minister) briefed the SNP group on the current state of play regarding Brexit brexit and the plans afoot to develop citizens assemblies in Scotland. I am particularly pleased that citizens assemblies are on the political agenda. The example that Ireland has produced could go a long way to providing a template for a Scottish version. I met with Charles and Liz Ritchie whose son Jack committed suicide as a result of his gambling addiction. They started a charity called Gambling with Lives and have very quickly built it to be a source of excellent research and a powerful lobby group for reform, education and support. Prime Ministers Questions was again poorly attended by the governing party as the Conservative and Unionist party are too deeply entrenched in inner party conflict to actually get on with doing the job they were elected to do. The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Gambling Related Harm took evidence from a number of witnesses including the CEO of Camelot.
In the evening all 35 SNP MPs voted on an opposition motion to suspend standing orders on Tuesday 25th June to allow a backbench bill to be taken as the first item of business – with the presumption the bill would prevent the UK Government from allowing a ‘no deal’ scenario. This is similar to the mechanism used in April by Yvette Cooper MP and Oliver Letwin MP to take control of the parliamentary agenda. The motion was defeated 298 – 309. Which was a great shame as 8 Labour MPs voted against their own party.
I chaired a symposium on Infrastructure, accountability and meeting the needs of users. It was arranged by the Westminster Energy, Environment and Transport Forum and held in the Caledonian Club out at Hyde Park. It was particularly interesting to hear from experts from France, Switzerland and those representing the freight industry in the UK. After a quick walk in the pouring rain I made it back to Westminster where I had a meeting with John Coates the CEO of Bet365. This was part of the ongoing investigation into gambling related harm and the responsibilities the gambling industry has.
Today started with a meeting with Louise Hunter from Creative Inverclyde. It’s always good to meet people who believe that this area can and should be represented on a bigger stage. We need to encourage others to have the confidence to invest in Inverclyde. I then drove up to Whitelee Windfarm for a tour of the control centre and windfarm site. In the evening I attended Notre Dame High School’s production of Les Misérables. On Sunday I shall be supporting the Port Glasgow 10k run with my good friend Cappy the Cat.