Early start and a chat with Dame Annabelle Goldie on the journey down. Safe to say we don’t agree on everything but we can still have the conversation. I dialled in to the Inverclyde Task Force meeting from my office in Westminster. Good to hear we are going to invest in creating careers in a social work in Inverclyde. And good to see Scottish Government represented by Ivan McKee MSP on the call. We need the vision and the plan but we also need financing to create the environment required to attract private investment. I attended the APPG for Catalonia to hear from the President of the Catalan National Assembly, Dolors Felieu. Two of the previous presidents, Carme Forcadell and Jordi Sanchez were among nine Catalan leaders jailed for ‘sedition’ following the independence referendum. I visited Jordi in his prison cell. Dolors spoke in great detail about the demand for greater autonomy for Catalonia and the persecution of those that took part in the 2017 referendum. Over 4,000 people that facilitated the referendum or actively supported it have been prosecuted. And yet not one person that used violence against the electorate has been charged with any crime. The Conservative and Unionists have announced Rishi Sunak as their new party leader.
A break in my routine as I travelled to Norway today with my select committee. We are investigating the Norwegian political system. The journey is Westminster to Paddington to Heathrow to Oslo. I could have flown from Glasgow to Oslo but parliamentary rules won’t allow me. More Westminster madness. During my flight to Oslo there seems to have a been the beginning of a purge of the previous Prime Minister’s cabinet. I fully expect there will be more before the week is out. It’s a 45 minute transfer into Oslo from the airport and I have just enough time to freshen up before launching into a meeting with the U.K. ambassador to Norway, Richard Wood. The ambassador is well liked in Norway. He is fluent in Norwegian and has worked very hard to engage with all aspects of Norwegian society. He would be a good U.K. ambassador to an independent Scotland. I enjoyed a very nice dinner with the ambassador, there were no Ferrero Rocher.
The first meeting of the day was with the Storting Vice President Svein Harberg.
Followed by a visit to the debating chamber to observe the Norwegian Parliament’s Prime Minister’s Question time. It was nothing like Westminster’s. It was quiet, respectful and cooperative. Interestingly the members are seated in a semi circle chamber in their geographical groupings. Therefore the parties are all interspersed. Much like the Scottish Parliament they vote electronically, work Tuesday to Thursday to allow two days in their constituencies and there is child care provision provided. I then had meetings with the standing committee on business and industry, the Europe consultative committee, the standing committee on scrutiny and constitutional affairs and then the committee on foreign affairs and defence. Finally I met with State Secretary Erling Rimestad. That was the end of the official engagements for the day but I had taken the opportunity to meet up with Dagfinn Hessen from Safer Drugs Policy. It’s always interesting to see a different approach to drug use.
The official meetings continued with Trade, Industry and Fisheries. A briefing from Inge Lorange Backe, Professor Emeritus of Law. Finally I met with representatives of the trade unions and business owners. My final meeting of the trip was with the representatives from the trade unions and business organisations that sit on the EFTA committee. The most striking thing about this visit has been the repeated message from the government ministers, elected members, civil servants and non governmental organisations that they all exercise and expect trust, responsibility and cooperation between each other to create a better Norway. Norway an independent sovereign nation of 5 million people in Northern Europe with a written constitution, it’s own currency and capable of negotiating its own trade deals and international treaties.
I have a couple of swift meetings in London and then travel back to Scotland. It’s been a very informative week and these trips which are both exhausting and stimulating always make me appreciate both the wider world and the joy of coming home.