Westminster diary w/b 10th February


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.