Westminster diary w/b 25th April


I was Interviewed for a documentary on medical cannabis. The interview lasted 45 minutes and will probably end up as a 30 second soundbite. That’s how these things usually pan out. Questions to the Home Office is rapidly becoming a vehicle for the most obsequious of the Tory backbenchers. Questions turn into long rambling statements of support for the government position and sycophantic praise of the minister. The outcome is that cross examination of UK government policy and actions is kept to a minimum. I was on a Delegated Legislation committee to debate money laundering and terrorist financing. We removed Zimbabwe from the list of high-risk countries and added the United Arab Emirates. This brings the UK’s list in line with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) list. Around 18:30 we had a couple of votes on the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.


Straight into my select committee to read through and approve our report on the Cabinet Office Freedom of Information Clearing House. We also discussed our future agenda. The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Gambling Related Harm took evidence about a Single Customer View which would enable monitoring of gambling behaviour and red flag potential harm but this can only work if the ownership is independent of the gambling industry and it must be written in to legislation that all on line gambling operators must sign up to it. Because we had votes on the ‘judicial review and courts bill lords amendments‘, the APPG for medical cannabis was cancelled but we did have time for the APPG on drug policy reform. It was great to hear from Neil Woods, Niamh Eastwood and Mike Trace. In the chamber a general debate on Ukraine was followed by the Nationality and Borders Bill with votes until 22:57.


PMQs was a sorry affair. I didn’t hang around for long. I had a meeting with the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury along with Ian Duncan Smith MP and Lord Butler. We are pre-empting the need to convince the treasury to accept the Gambling Act overhaul that we hope DCMS are working on. I hosted an event for GambleAware which was well attended by MPs and it was good to catch-up with Fast Forward who are based in Scotland. And I zoomed in to the Cross Party Group at Holyrood on Medical Cannabis. The Government’s Elections Bill was in, what is referred to as, the ping-pong stage, with amendments made in the House of Lords now coming to the House of Commons for consideration. The Bill’s failings have been highlighted by my select committee the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC), whose Conservative Chair concluded – “We feel that the Elections Bill proposals lack a sufficient evidence base, timely consultation, and transparency, all of which should be addressed before it makes any further progress. And with events in Ukraine in mind, Conservative peer Lord Cormack, said “It is grotesque that we have this Bill before us while people are literally dying for democracy.” In the end of a bewildering day of processes, the Lords did not ask any amendments and therefore business collapsed at 9pm. This completely changed Thursday’s business.


I had planned and replanned today a number of times in anticipation of last night’s outcome, but I admit I had not considered the possibility that the Lords would do nothing. I quickly cancelled my accommodation for tonight and booked a flight home.


The biggest event today was a briefing by the Royal Mail. The Regional Operations Director for Scotland, Ross Hutchison opened the briefing by providing an update on Royal Mail’s operations in Scotland. Fiona Hamilton, Head of Public Affairs, then provided an update on the future of Royal Mail services and how the business is changing to meet the needs of customers.

Westminster diary w/b 18th April


Lucky for me I was on holiday today, so I used the time wisely and washed my windows. Life in the fast lane indeed.


Up at the crack of dawn and off to Westminster. Unusually I had a member of my team travel with me as we have discovered that getting satisfactory outcomes for Ukrainian refugee cases is proving much easier and faster if we can talk directly to the Home Office staff directly. We had six outstanding cases and managed to resolve five of them in one day.  I dropped in to the ‘access to cash’ event and I shall continue to press for cash to the penny for the many people who require on this facility. I visited the Maritime UK event and had an interesting discussion about the lower Clyde coast and all the opportunities that exist. In the Chamber we were debating the Global Migration Challenge. Immigration brings out the worst in the UK Government’s attitude and hiding behind this legislation is a pernicious vile attitude that seeks to persecute those fleeing from war torn countries.  The Prime Minister then made a two-minute half-hearted explanation of his actions when he broke the law and attended a party at 10 Downing Street. He quickly progressed to the crisis in Ukraine and shamelessly tried to tie himself into the narrative regarding the bravery of the Ukrainian resistance. It was a sickening display of politicking totally devoid of any sense of humility.


My select committee took evidence from Lord Bew in his capacity as Chair of the House of Lords Appointment Commission. The session focused mostly on the appointment of Lord Lebedev whom after being placed in the Lords donated half a million pounds to the Conservative and Unionist Party.  I took the opportunity to drop in and support the guide dogs who visit parliament every year and do such magnificent work. It’s always amusing to see hardnosed ruthless politicians gushing over the cutest of dogs and desperate for their attention.  Maybe we are human after all. I was the SNP spokesperson for a debate in Westminster Hall on Tackling Drug Crime in Local Communities. There I still a tendency to think we can arrest our way out of a health crisis but that hasn’t worked for fifty years. The debate was interrupted by votes in the House of Commons, but they were just a prelude to the voting fiasco at the end of the day when during eleven votes the telling machines broke down one by one until we were reduced to using paper and pen which slows down the whole process. For those that follow such things I didn’t vote in the first vote as I was acting as a teller. I counted 311 people voting against the outcome I wanted. Sometimes this job can be cruel.


The main event was a debate to hold the Prime Minister to account for lying to and misleading Parliament. A number of Conservatives feel so angry at the behaviour of the Prime Minister that they have called for him to resign and would have voted for the motion of contempt but in the end, they didn’t contest the motion and so there was no division and therefore no vote. This allowed me to make a quick sprint to the airport and make it home by quarter past eight.


In the morning, I welcomed the First Minister to the Beacon Arts Centre as part of the local council campaign. In the afternoon I had a meeting with Liberty Charge. They own Virgin Media and we discussed electronic charging points powered by their broadband network. And I spoke with the local sea cadets to get a better understanding of the issues they are experiencing regarding a suitable location for their requirements.

Greenock Telegraph 22nd April 2022

Lies, damned lies and Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson

The most recent in a long list of embarrassing episodes perpetrated by the Prime Minister, is the scandal that has been dubbed Partygate. When the rest of us were told by the UK government we couldn’t visit dying relatives and we couldn’t attend funerals, it was party central at number 10 Downing Street. The culture within was one of entitlement and arrogance. But we should not be surprised because this is not something new. Throughout his rise to the top of the Conservative and Unionist Party, bumbling Boris has been guilty of many serious faux pas. While he was a journalist, he was sacked for making up quotes. Two years later he provided his friend, Darius Guppy with the home address of a reporter that Guppy was arranging to have violently assaulted. Three years later he was forced to apologise for an article about the Hillsborough disaster in which he said, Liverpudlians were wallowing in their ‘victim status’. None of this has harmed his political career even though it has also been less than impressive. He was dismissed as shadow arts minister by then-Conservative leader Michael Howard in 2004, resigned as Foreign Secretary before he could be sacked, described Muslim women wearing burkas as looking like letter boxes. During the Vote Leave campaign, he backed the infamous advert on a bus which claimed, that the UK was sending £350m a week to the EU that could instead be spent on the NHS. The UK Statistics Authority said Mr Johnson’s claims were “a clear misuse of official statistics”. And then there was the investigation over the refurbishment of his Downing Street flat, for which the Conservative and Unionist Party was fined nearly £18,000. And all that was before we even heard of Partygate. After initially denying that he knew of any parties, he then said he did but he wasn’t at them and now we know both were lies. The Metropolitan Police have fined him and are investigating other parties that it is believed he attended. The burning questions are why does this man keep his job and how did he get it in the first place? And the answer is simple, people within his own party make excuses for his behaviour and facilitate his continuation. Without his party he will be nothing and while he remains in office it’s not just the Prime Minister that should be held responsible it is those that stand by him and in doing so are mocking the sacrifices made by so many others.       

Job vacancy – caseworker

Working for:  Ronnie Cowan MP for Inverclyde

Job Title:  Caseworker (permanent contract)

Location:  Constituency office in Greenock, Inverclyde. 

Travel around the constituency or to Westminster may be required. 

Hours: full time (37.5 per week, with occasional evening or weekend working when time off in lieu will be given)

Salary:  £21,529 – £31,705

Details:  Ronnie Cowan MP is looking for a Caseworker, to work in his constituency office in Inverclyde.  This a perfect opportunity for someone with excellent administrative and IT skills, who works well in a small team, has a positive attitude, and would like to gain experience in a Member of Parliament’s office. 

The Caseworker will provide support to the MP’s constituents on a range of issues, such as financial, housing, immigration, and social security.  They will help to resolve problems through liaising with UK and Scottish government agencies, local authorities, charity/voluntary sector or other organizations. 

Applicants should have a strong interest in local and national politics, and an awareness of the constituency of Inverclyde.

Occasional evening or weekend work may be required.

Responsibilities will include:

  • Attend constituency surgeries and meetings.
  • Manage and progress a portfolio of casework, including logging cases, taking appropriate actions promptly, monitoring progress, analysing patterns of enquiries and producing reports.
  • Liaise with government agencies, voluntary sector and other organisations to help resolve cases. 
  • Gather relevant information to assist with resolving cases. 
  • Respond to correspondence and enquiries from constituents, including drafting letters, emails and documents.
  • Retain records and information confidentially and in line with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
  • Maintain, update and develop knowledge of relevant legislation and guidance.
  • Administrative support for the office.

Necessary skills:

  • Excellent IT skills including a casework tracking system, MS Office Applications (i.e. Word, Excel and Outlook), Internet and Intranet.
  • Excellent interpersonal and oral and written communication skills, with a positive and flexible approach.
  • Ability to draft letters and emails to a high professional standard.
  • Motivated to work independently as well as the ability to work effectively as part of a small team.
  • Good office administration skills.

Interview:   Interviews will be held at 20 Crawfurd Street, Greenock, PA15 1LJ.

Start Date:  As soon as security clearance & pre-employment check questionnaire completed.

How to apply:  Please send your CV and covering letter setting out your eligibility for the role, paying particular attention to the necessary skills and responsibilities, to: ronnie.cowan.mp@parliament.uk.

Closing Date: 9th May 2022