Westminster diary wb 16th January


I had a very early start to business today, so I travelled down yesterday. Strategy meetings are ten a penny at this time of year but in politics things can change so quickly that input, output, targets and achievements are often only relevant for a brief moment. The pronouncement from the U.K. Government that it intended to seek a Section 35 order to block the Scottish government’s GRR Bill gaining Royal Ascent changed my working week and in the long term it could change the constitution of the U.K. permanently. The main debate was the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill. This is an onslaught on the rights of workers that have been fought for by trade unions for years. And just part of the ongoing suppression of human rights this Conservative and Unionist government has embarked on. Also, the removal of the right to protest and voter Id restrictions are planned, and we are living in a very different sort of democracy. The last vote was at 22:43.


I met with Voltface representatives to discuss emerging medicines. There are several drugs that are used for PTSD and pain relief that are not widely accepted and we hope to engage with the medical professionals and politicians to educate and legislate. I was in the chamber for questions to the Department of Business. I bobbed and bobbed but was not taken. It’s infuriating hearing the government benches field questions that are no more than setups for government propaganda, when I was seeking to engage with the department on the issue of support for those being made redundant by Amazon. The government then made a statement on their Section 35 but didn’t provide the paperwork detailing the reasons for their objection to the GRR bill becoming law in Scotland. It’s hard to make a constructive argument when the U.K. government won’t explain their objections. The SNP then asked for an SO24 (emergency) debate, and the speaker granted it. By the time we got to the first speakers we still didn’t have the ‘statement of reasons’. It eventually appeared during the debate and the reasons why the U.K. government had been so reluctant to provide it earlier were obvious. It is thirteen pages of weak misguided grievances, and it will be challenged in a court of law. My favourite is the assertion that we can’t have different gender recognition laws in Scotland is that the I.T. Systems of the HMRC could not handle it. In thirty-five years of working in I.T. I always thought the computer systems were designed to fit the law, not the other way round. Rather than the changes being “unmanageable, even with considerable time and expense”, I would describe them as a nice little earner for someone. The evening’s business was the Online Safety Bill and votes took place at 20:26. During the debate the Gurkhas brass band performed in the Cabinet car park! Westminster is a strange place.

My office and I signed up for the Inverclyde’s International Women’s Day Challenge. The goal is to walk/run 6,000 miles in 60 days from Inverclyde to Rwanda. Team Inverclyde have just crossed the border into Spain. 4 countries in 11 days! To get involved or donate, please visit iwd.bigteamchallenge.com.  


I caught up with a suicide prevention charity, Papyrus, to discuss their plans to open an office in Scotland. They provide education and support to prevent young suicides in the U.K. This was followed by a planning meeting with the chair of then All-Party Parliamentary Group on CBD products. We need to put in place a secretariat for this year and will be pushing for easier access to psilocybin for medical research. Prime Minster’s Questions was a race to the bottom between Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer, each blaming the other for the nurses strike in England and Wales. SNP group leader, Stephen Flynn, took the U.K. government to task over their attack on Scotland’s democracy. On Monday, they restricted workers’ rights, on Tuesday they vetoed the Scottish Parliament’s legislation and today they will be scrapping vital European Union protections. This will result in the U.K. parliament taking control of policy areas that are currently devolved to the Scottish Parliament. This includes, workers’ rights and food and health standards. Because of the complexity of tonight’s business and the possibility of many votes I had made plans to stay in London and travel home early tomorrow. As it turned out the last vote was at 18:55 but it was too late to make alternative arrangements. In the evening, I was informed that Inverclyde had been successful in bidding for £19.3 million as part of the U.K. Government’s levelling up fund. This is exciting news. The scheme was introduced to replace the funding Scottish communities received from the European Union and the pot of money is smaller as a result.  Since Brexit households have had to stretch their budgets further and Inverclyde Council is in the same situation.


Up with the birds and on the tube by 5:15 to catch the 6:40 flight home. Careful diary manipulation allowed me to make use of my early arrival in Glasgow to meet the Head of Planning for Glasgow Airport for a catch up and then attend the Glasgow Airport jobs fair. I am planning on organising a jobs fair locally and the airport were amongst the first to step up and offer to participate. In the afternoon I had a meeting with the Heritage Lottery Fund to discuss potential fund applications from Inverclyde. I shall be meeting with them again soon to progress local interests. My last meeting was with the GMB union.


I attended and spoke at an all-day event in Glasgow run by the Simon Community Scotland. We were addressing the situation around homelessness and specifically the gambling harms that can lead to people being made homeless.