The UK parliament is suspended so the UK Government does not have to answer any hard questions and so the LibDems, Conservative and Labour Parties can have their annual conferences. Given this time away from Parliament one would hope that they would use their time wisely and constructively. Going by the UK Labour party conference, last weekend, my hopes are obviously in vain. It will come as no surprise to you that I am not the biggest fan of UK labour but at these uncertain times Westminster requires a coherent cohesive opposition. Labour could be that opposition if only they were coherent or cohesive, but they are not, and their conference showed us that only too clearly. At the Labour party conference, they agreed not to take a position on Brexit! The classic remark, I used to be undecided but now I am not so sure, springs to mind. A close aide to Mr Corbyn, Andrew Fisher, is set to leave and a leaked memo claims it is because of “a lack of professionalism, competence and human decency at the top of the party” while he is stating that it’s the ubiquitous “spending more time with my family” reason. One good thing to emerge is their desire to provide prescriptions free of charge in England. Well done UK Labour I applaud you. It is time the people of England got the same deal that has existed in Northern Ireland since 2007, Wales since 2010 and Scotland in 2011. In a few more years UK Labour may have a coherent policy on Trident, the European Union, the devolution of powers and their own leadership. Then again, maybe not.
Dear Inverclyde resident,
You will be aware, the Supreme Court upheld the ruling of Scotland’s supreme court – and said Parliament must get back to work so the UK government can be held to account over its Brexit plans.
I am pleased the UK Supreme Court has followed Scotland’s supreme court and ruled that Boris Johnson’s undemocratic decision to shut down Parliament, ahead of Brexit, was unlawful and unconstitutional.
Parliament must resume without delay, so we can hold the UK Government to account on its Brexit plans, which threaten to plunge the UK into recession, destroy 100,000 Scottish jobs, including many in Inverclyde.
I will be back at the Houses of Commons on Wednesday 25th September, alongside my SNP colleagues, to hold this government to account.
Finally, Boris Johnson should resign as his behaviour has been disgraceful and his position is now untenable.
Ronnie Cowan MP
Member of Parliament for Inverclyde
The introduction of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) has significantly disadvantaged people with epilepsy. DWP data shows that, of people with epilepsy who previously received DLA and have been reassessed for PIP, 54% were denied an award as a result of the transition. This is the second highest refusal rate and is over double the national average for all health conditions.
2018 DWP figures also show that of the third of people who appealed after the DWP denied them PIP, a huge 78% of people ended up being given the benefit. The fact that the appeal success rate is so high suggests poor and arbitrary decision-making on the part of assessors. It also indicates the inadequacy of the system in capturing the impacts of epilepsy, and the difficulty for claimants in navigating the initial claim – e.g. describing their condition and securing evidence.
These figures only cover those who have moved from DLA to PIP. DWP data suggests that 65% of people with epilepsy applying for PIP as new claimants have been denied the benefit.
Self-belief, not arrogance
Five years ago, at the count in Inverclyde, as I watched the referendum result unfold, I was full of hopes and aspirations for a new emerging nation. Early in the evening when the Clackmannanshire count was announced we knew we had lost the referendum. Mathematically victory was still possible, but the writing was clearly on the wall.
Later the same evening we lost Inverclyde by 86 votes. We had moved from 26% YES to 49.9% YES, but a loss is a loss. Like me, many people were consumed with disappointment. The dream was shattered and as the adrenaline left our bodies so did the energy that had fuelled our activism. And yet we kept our dignity and supported each other through difficult days.
The General Election of May 2015 gave us an opportunity to start to set things right. And the resulting 56 SNP MPs made it clear that the dream had not died. In the next General Election in 2017 it was apparent that the momentum had stalled and that many voters who had turned out in 2015 had become less motivated and maybe felt less engaged. Politics is a long game and it can do that to people. Especially when so many face the day to day struggle of finding work, putting food on the table and keeping a roof over their heads. It’s understandable that many of those who do not live in a political bubble are less inclined to vote if the end game is not immediately obvious.
The last five years has seen many changes in the political landscape. We have experienced two General Elections, a council election, a Scottish Parliament election the European Union referendum and the European Union election. But the biggest change is that despite Scotland voting 62% to remain in the E.U. we find ourselves in the unforeseen position of being taken out of the European Union. Unforeseen that is except to the genius that wrote in page 23 of the SNP manifesto in 2016, “We believe that the Scottish Parliament should have the right to hold another referendum if there is clear and sustained evidence that independence has become the preferred option of a majority of the Scottish people – or if there is a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will”. That person deserves a pat on the back because that statement encompasses perfectly why we need another independence referendum. And its not just because the outcome of Brexit will damage Scotland, it’s because the process of Brexit has shone a light on Westminster. It has asked difficult questions of the UK Parliament functionality and the machinery of the UK government. It has illustrated perfectly the disfunction that exists between Westminster and the devolved parliaments. It has highlighted the disdain for the Scottish Parliament that emanates from Westminster and it has magnified the incompetence of UK government ministers in their dealings with both the devolved administrations and the European Union.
A Westminster establishment that ruled by right has been asked to demonstrate professionalism and competence in the modern era and it has been asked to to do that in the public eye. And it has failed. While the UK Government continues to flounder, the next Scottish independence referendum will hinge on our self belief. Do you believe that Scotland should be governed by the people of Scotland for the people of Scotland? And the answer must be a resounding YES.
Up at the crack of dawn to catch a red eye to London. A British Airways pilots’ strike was causing a deal of disruption but thankfully my flight was unaffected as I needed to be on the estate early. It’s another day of making history at Westminster. In truth every day at Westminster seems to be a day when uncharted waters are being negotiated but this one turned out be a cracker. Prior to the chamber sitting at 14:30 I have an internal SNP MP briefing meeting. An event that used to take place once a week is becoming more like a daily affair. Things are changing so quickly, and the opportunities change shape by the hour that regular discussion is required. I then have the select committee for public affairs and the constitution. We have Mark Sedwill and John Manzoni in front of us. They are the two most senior members of the civil service, the impartial civil service that support the cabinet office and prime minister’s office regardless of their own political views. I can’t help but think that must be incredibly hard at the best of times. Performing that task in today’s political climate takes great skill especially when there are people like Dominic Cummings sacking special advisers to the Exchequer. We asked about the legality of prorogation and the behaviour allowed during purdah. They are as you would expect consummate professionals extremely skilled in answering all questions. The same can’t be said of the current bunch running the UK government. And so to the chamber. At 7:15pm we had a Standing Order No. 24 motion: Prorogation and disclosure of communication. The motion proposed by Dominic Grieve including a ‘Humble Address’ requiring publication of documents related to the Government’s decision to prorogue parliament, and on no-deal planning under Operation Yellowhammer. The SNP voted AYE and the motion was carried 311 – 302. At 00:18 (on Tuesday morning): There was a motion that there shall be an early parliamentary general election. Proposed by the Prime Minister under the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act. The SNP abstained and although the motion was carried 293 – 46, this did not meet the threshold of two-thirds of all MPs to take effect under the Act. I abstained because this is a trap being set for a General Election under terms that suit the no deal Brexiteers. For the record I would welcome a General Election and when the time is right, I shall vote for it. I didn’t hang around for the ceremony to prorogue Parliament, instead I left the building and walked through the crowds of protesters that were still there at 1am and continued to my flat. Sleep came easy.
Everything has changed so it’s a scramble for transport home. The BA strike continues so it’s 18:30 before I can catch a flight. I spend my days writing, reading and catching up on correspondence.
I spent the morning talking to traders in Kempock Street and was impressed by their approach to the High Street of the year awards. Many units are now displaying posters and I am looking forward to the judges visiting on the 17th. Fortunately, I am not in charge of the car parking arrangements. In the afternoon I caught up with constituents and was delighted to be informed by one that we had won his case on Universal Credit and his payment has been reinstated and he had received over £2,500 in back payments. These victories for constituents are a huge part of an MPs job and each one is received with great joy. I took the opportunity to attend the SNP councillors group meeting which enhances my understanding of local issues and the machinery of the council. In the evening I attended the Inverclyde Historical Society for at talk on the British Constitution by Jim Carmichael. It was extremely interesting, and I hope to attend some future talks.
A day consumed in the office with constituent’s cases and catching up with local organisations. Unexpected recess is easily reallocated to local people and events.
I had one of my regular meetings with the local jobcentre. In a professional capacity I am not seeking employment elsewhere. In the afternoon I went up to Captain Street to the Inverclyde men’s Shed where they use their experience and skills to the benefit of the local community. I had surgeries later in the afternoon.
On Sunday, I shall be doing the Alzheimer’s memory walk along with Stuart McMillan MSP.