In the morning I chaired the Westminster Media Forum policy conference. The topic for discussion was the ‘Next steps for gambling regulation in the UK’. It was a strong panel and fair to say there were different opinions. This event was virtual and although it was nice to get a lie in on a Monday, what is missing from such events is the ability to network after them. Hopefully, we will be having these events in person very soon. The airport was mayhem. Cancelled flights to London led to long queues of disgruntled passengers, many of whom were catching connecting flights. I was therefore surprised to see empty seats on my flight to London.
My select committee took evidence from the Independent Adviser on Ministerial Interests, the Right Honourable Lord Geidt. The adviser is personally appointed by the Prime Minister to advise him on matters pertaining to standards in public life and the appointment is entirely at the Prime Minister’s discretion. There are other people and committees that fulfil very similar functions, including the First Civil Service Commissioner, the Commissioner for Public Appointments, the Chair of ACOBA and the Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists. With so many to choose from I tend to think the Prime Minister chooses the path of least resistance and follows that advice. Lord Geidt entered committee room 15 looking very tense. He was closely followed by senior members of the press which would not have helped. It did give the impression of a man going to the gallows. As it turned out he said nothing of note and further strengthened my views that the powers that be at Westminster avoid scrutiny by building an impenetrable force of place men around them all loyal to the cause of protecting the establishment. To brighten my day, I bobbed at Health questions. I didn’t get in on orals, but I persevered at topicals and got taken as the last question. I pushed the Secretary of State on his appalling record of failing to provide medical cannabis for children with intractable epilepsy. It over 1,800 days since the UK government said they would. I attended a joint meeting of SNP MPs and MSPs to hear the First Minister of Scotland outline the path to independence backed up by substantial discussion papers. Scotland is our country to design and build as we feel fit.
I was in the Chamber for COP26 questions and made the mistake of staying for Prime Minister’s questions. It really is the very worst aspect of life at Westminster and today it was as bad as I have ever seen it. Keir Starmer was appalling, Ian Blackford couldn’t be heard over the abuse and Ed Davey was the victim of a coordinated barracking from the Conservative and Unionist benches. This sort of behaviour would not be deemed appropriate in any other walk of life. The Speaker should be throwing people out and asserting his discipline. He has tried appealing to their better nature but they don’t seem to have one. I spoke in a Westminster Hall debate on the ‘Potential merits of a Universal Basic Income’. It’s a sensible topic for debate that never gets the hearing it deserves from the Conservative and unionist government because they are ideologically opposed to the eradication of poverty. The debate was interrupted for a vote in the main chamber on rail strikes. We then restarted and concluded the debate. There then followed a rush through sweltering London to get to the airport to get home.
I had a catch-up meeting at Ferguson Marine. It has attracted a lot of misinform criticism and I feel for the current management and workforce as they have become a political tool, where in truth they are highly motivated, professional and doing a very difficult job. I was impressed at the progress since my last visit and intend to catch up soon. I dropped in on the West Coast College – social science information session, at the waterfront campus. And then visited the two exhibitions currently running at the Beacon and the East India Harbour. Both very interesting in their own ways and very much worth a visit.
Two interviews this morning. First with the Greenock Telegraph to discuss addiction and changing the law on drugs and gambling. And then with Clyde Insider to talk primarily about gambling related harm. In the afternoon, I visited the jobcentre, had a constituent meeting regarding immigration and finished the day with Scottish Women’s Aid discussing the Scottish Welfare Fund.,