On the back of a week’s recess when I managed to meet with NHS Greater Glasgow And Clyde, Network Rail, SAMH, West College Scotland, Mind Mosaic, Our Place Our Future, a number of local businesses and attend the excellent ‘Watt Talk’ at the Watt Institute, I also managed an hour of physiotherapy to ease my aching body. I don’t pretend to begin to understand acupuncture, but it has worked for me on a number of occasions. Today was mostly spent writing and researching and in the evening, I attended the Port Glasgow West community council meeting to get the low down on the plans for health and social care in Inverclyde.
An early flight and back to Westminster. It would appear it’s not just Inverclyde that has traffic management issues as my flight lands on time and then spends 30 minutes looking for a parking space. As I disembark, I am tempted to put a cardboard clock in the cockpit window just in case a warden is lurking. My good mood is cut short when I am informed that NHSGGC are suspending the GP out of hours service in Inverclyde. I have met with NHSGGC twice in the last week and despite the issue being raised they never intimated they would be taking this action. I met with Virgin media to track work being done in Inverclyde and they have a good news story to tell. Along with Carolyn Harris (Labour MP Swansea East) I met the goalkeeping legend Peter Shilton and his wife Steph. Unfortunately, we were not there to discuss his goalkeeping exploits (remember the hand of God or that save from Kenny Dalglish in 1973 at Wembley) we were talking about his gambling addiction. Peter will be working to raise awareness of the issue.
Prime Minister’s Questions was less about holding the PM to account and more about prepared party lines being trotted out by Tory back benchers which were greeted with much fervour by an increasingly disengaged and seemingly untouchable mob hired to jeer at the opposition. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy Reform met and took evidence from experts on County Lines (the practice of distributing drugs around the UK primarily using young adults as couriers). One of the witnesses was an ex-gang member who now runs courses and diversion programmes. The testimony of those with lived experience is always engaging and it is encouraging to see that they have overcome personal difficulties to create positive lives for themselves and are now working to help others. Lastly, I met with Gambling With Lives to hear about the progress they are making in changing the gambling act. Their organisation was born out of torment and anger at the loss of loved ones to gambling addiction. But the work they are doing is constructive and there is a sense that the industry is coming under pressure to change. I caught the 19:45 flight home.
Today was an entire day of research, casework and replying to a pile of correspondence. Also, I’m in the process of arranging a roundtable on reforestation and tree planting which I hope will lead to more action locally. Also, I tried to find out more details of the UK Government drugs summit taking place in Glasgow, today, but it was a closed shop!
I met with the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland to discuss gambling harm. The Alliance role is to engage with people with lived experience and to ensure their voice is at the heart of the decision-making process. I visited the local prison to discuss a range of issues including providing boxing sessions in the prison. This is a project brought to me my local campaigner Rhys McCole. My last appointment of the day was with a builder contractor to discuss local house building developments.
I make no apology for returning to a topic I have mentioned numerous times before. After a weekend of torrential rain and flooding it would appear that we still have lessons to learn in Inverclyde. Once again, the main road to Glasgow has seen major disruption. Granted, the weather we experienced over the 21st and 22nd was extreme, even by Inverclyde standards but if predictions are correct then we can expect to see more extreme weather in the years to come. Progress has been made and it was noticeable that Greenock West railway station did not flood and that the work along Inverkip road has also been successful. But if we are to maintain road and rail links to Glasgow and crucially the health provisions that we seek from there then more work is required.
The facts are clear for everyone to see. Inverclyde is primarily built on the side of hills. The populated areas of Inverclyde are on the river side of the hills. It rains a lot. Water runs down hills. Without interference from us the water will, over time, find its own way to other bodies of water. Locally the principle body of water is the River Clyde. Historically this job was done by a network of burns running into the Clyde. It wasn’t always successful and high tides have caused floods on the lower roads since the end of the 19th century.
The best solution is to work with nature and not against it. No amount of concrete will solve the problem. Rainfall must be trapped as it falls. The reforestation of Inverclyde should be a major project. Capturing the rain in the hills through smart planting of the right trees in the right areas, the creation of flood bunds and flood plain storage will not only reduce the water flowing down the hills it will create jobs and improve our environment. We already have excellent projects run by Parklea Branching Out, Friends of Coves nature reserve and Belville Gardens. The knowledge acquired in these projects must be utilised and expanded. Reforestation will create a natural habitat for wildlife and enhance the area. The rainfall that is perceived as a problem could become part of a solution.
Happy to attend a parliamentary reception in support of Charles & Liz Ritchie and Gambling with Lives. They have undertaken a tremendous amount of work to highlight gambling related harm and what action must be taken to address it.
We may be moving towards a cashless society but we aren’t there yet meanwhile an increasing number of people are being asked to pay to access their own money.
Cashpoints are closing at an alarming rate and consumers are now paying £100 million a year to withdraw their own money.
Recently, I had a meeting with the ATM network LINK and they warned that the entire cash infrastructure could collapse within 1-2 years. In my constituency of Inverclyde, it is the most deprived areas that are being targeted and an unfair burden is being placed on those living there. Free access to cash must be maintained and banks have a duty of care to their customers to ensure that happens.
People paying to access their own cash is unacceptable. @hmtreasury must act now to #ProtectCash for the 1.9 million people who rely on it everyday. Demand the UK Government take action now https://campaigns.which.co.uk/freedom-to-pay/
Good to hear Virgin media are continuing to invest in #Inverclyde digital infrastructure. Their technology-agnostic approach will help provide 1Gbps without digging up the roads. “gigging without digging”.
This is a terrific example of a local family business having the confidence and business acumen to invest and grow. Nigel knows his business and his market place.
It’s tremendously encouraging to see a business like McCaskie’s continue to push forward with quality at the heart of everything they do. Scottish produce is admired around the world and we should do everything we can to support Scottish agriculture, farming and fishing. We have some of the finest in the world on our own doorstep and with the right investment they can continue to thrive.
With one eye on the weather I drove to the BBC studios at Pacific Quay for a 7:45am interview for BBC Scotland. It was a precursor to my meeting with Neil Doncaster, Chief Executive of the Scottish Professional Football League, to discuss their relationship with gambling. The interview went well, and I then nipped across Glasgow to Hampden Park. It was an open and honest exchange of views, but I remain unconvinced that the SPFL are aware of the responsibility they have to the wider society. I shall be following up today’s meeting with a meeting with Ian Maxwell, CEO of the Scottish Football Association. If football is going to take money from the gambling industry, then they must understand the role they play in normalising gambling. I spent a very blustery afternoon in my constituency office, glad to be in Greenock and not in a plane to London.
The day starts with a 7am flight. Chamber business is once again slow and so I busy myself with committee preparation. There is a statement on HS2 and to my surprise the UK government have committed to HS2 at a new cost of over £100 billion. It is eleven years since the Labour Secretary of State announced a high-speed link from London to Scotland and £12 billion pounds has already been consumed. I thought they would cut their losses and cancel it, but it would appear they are going to chase their losses. With no new track laid I don’t think it’s the best plan and of course there is no timetable for HS2 to actually get as far as Scotland. Investment in rail is required but I don’t think HS2 is the solution. I bobbed for a question but was not taken. Today, the opposition day debate is defined by the SNP and we have chosen to debate migration. The Scottish Government has proposed a system for Scottish visas to work beside the existing system and enable the recruitment of key workers. The Conservative benches talk against the motion as they are entrenched in the mindset that if its proposed by the SNP then they have to object. I asked the Minister if he would support any system that improved the situation in Scotland, and he said he was only interested in UK wide solutions. It’s particularly galling as many of their constituencies rely on migrant workers. We pushed it to a vote and lost.
It’s a busy morning that starts with a meeting with Scottish Enterprise to discuss train manufacturing in Scotland followed by a meeting with a medical cannabis company that are trying to manufacture in the UK but running up against the Home Office legislation. It’s Scottish Questions today prior to Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs). They are fairly unremarkable, just another thirty minutes of Tories talking down Scotland. PMQs was a funfair of knock about with Boris the Buffoon entertaining his star struck hoards. Kirsten Oswald (SNP MP for East Renfrewshire), asked the Prime Minister to justify the Lords voting themselves a pay rise to £323 a day while the monthly allowance for a single person over 25 on Universal Credit is £317.82. The PM in his unbounded wisdom declared it was a matter for the Lords. The All- Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling Related Harm took evidence from the Chief Executive of the Gambling Commission, Neil McArthur. He gave evidence to the Lords enquiry yesterday. It is fair to say that today he got cross examined more thoroughly. The Gambling Commission is not fit for purpose and the Gambling Act needs rewritten.
I bobbed on questions to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and was taken! I asked that when the gambling act is considered that those with lived experience of gambling harm are consulted. I bobbed for questions to the Attorney General but wasn’t taken but I hung around for an Urgent Question pertains to online harm, I asked about defining legislation for gaming online to stop the spread to gambling via loot boxes.
I started with one of my regular catchup meetings with Kevin Scarlet at River Clyde Homes. Of all the issues my office deals with, housing is currently the most frequent. In the afternoon along with Stuart McMillan MSP I met with Scottish Enterprise to discuss the economy of the Clyde.
After the last General Election many political pundits were predicting a period of calm and stability. Logic would suggest that a government with a large working majority would be able to manage that.
But politics within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is never as simple as that. The clue is in the name. Uniting isn’t always easy and it isn’t always the right thing to do. Uniting Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England has been contentious for centuries, and the fact that Norther Ireland was created by partitioning off the six north eastern counties from Ireland compounds the difficulties. If you had asked me where the acrimony would first manifest itself after Brexit, I would not have suspected drugs policy but it has. The Scottish Government announce they plan to host a drugs forum and the UK Government rush in and do the same but don’t engage with the Scottish Government first. The U.K. Government jealously protect their interests, putting them before all others. Then Glasgow was chosen to host COP26 and the UK Instantly shut out the Scottish Government’s involvement and tried to come between them by using the platform for the Prime Minister to flirt with his green credentials. They continue to act like the biggest, worst behaved kid in a kindergarten grabbing toys from other children and discarding them just as quickly. They don’t know what they want but they know they want all of it. With the latest opinion polls in Scotland showing over 50% for independence and with the incredible rise of Sinn Fein in last week’s Irish elections the U.K. Government would do well to start building bridges and I don’t mean the one from Portpatrick to Larne. The proposed £5 million love bombing of Scotland will need to be incredibly successful if we are to stay in this relationship. But I can’t imagine that any amount of cards, flowers, champagne and poetry can pull the wool over Scotland’s eyes this time.
Labour are unionists, Tories are too,
I love Scotland, How about you?