Not surprisingly, after the passing of James Brokenshire MP from cancer and the murder of David Amess MP, Westminster was very subdued working place on Monday morning. After questions to the Home Office, during which I pressed the minister to reveal what research he was basing his stance on psilocybin on, the rest of the business was given up for tributes to David Amess. I know that in some circles as an SNP member, some people expect me to hate all people from all other parties but that’s simply not the case and I don’t feel any need to apologise for that. David was a decent human being that did not agree with me on some issues that I would rather he did. But first and foremost, he was a decent human being.
I was in early to contribute to the Westminster Hall debate on the effect of Post Office closures on the local communities. In between voting and my weekly finance and economy meeting I had a quick question and answer session with pupils from Aileymill Primary. The pupils were extremely engaged in the subject matter and it was a joy to take their questions and answer them. Unfortunately, it was not a long session as just like school pupils a lot of my life is dictated by the bell. And when the division bell rings, I am required to drop everything and vote. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on medical cannabis under prescription met to discuss our immediate aims and also discuss future engagement with the U.K. government after the reshuffle of ministers. I then had three meetings in quick succession and a vote in between.
Prime Minister’s Questions were it interesting. Watching the Prime Minister struggle to respond to pretty basic questions around the ‘on-line harm bill’ from the leader of the opposition, Keir Starmer. I have said earlier that the chamber has been understandably subdued and as that mood continues it is clear that the Prime Minister is much more comfortable in a knock about debate which allows him to belittle his opponents and being expected to handle himself in a more professional manner is beyond him. It didn’t last long as he lost his temper when confronted by Ian Blackford over the disgraceful handling of carbon capture projects in Scotland. Once again Westminster’s promises have been broken. I spoke in the Westminster Hall debate on ‘access to cash’. While acknowledging the popularity of cashless transactions and the reduction in the use of cash, we still need a strategy to transition that does not leave people behind. 5 million people in the U.K. still rely on cashing over 1 million don’t have a bank account. I managed to catch the end of the ‘environmental bill lords amendment 1 government motion to disagree’. I was expecting to vote at the end of business but as it transpired I didn’t.
My select committee PACAC (Public administration and constitutional affairs) took evidence from the ONS (Organisation for national statistics), UKSA (United Kingdom’s statistics authority and (Office for statistics regulation) OSR. It may sound like a battle of the acronyms but was actually a very interesting session examining the use and the understanding of statistics in government. We need timely accurate data on which to base policy and we need the confidence that the data being produced is independent of any political influence. We also need civil servants and politicians that can process the data appropriately. I attended the usual Thursday business statement and then headed home.
I had a safety and security briefing with Police Scotland. These happen on a fairly regular basis but obviously given the murder of an MP while carrying out his parliamentary duties, it does no harm to reconsider my personal security and that of my co-workers. There is a balance to be found but engaging with my constituents remains paramount to fulfilling my duties as the elected member for Inverclyde. I visited Primark to discuss their new sustainability strategy. I concluded with a briefing on COP26 and am looking forward to attending in due course.