Westminster diary wb 30th January


The main debate of the day was the ‘Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill’ . It’s an assault on the right to withdraw your labour, it makes it easier to fire you, it’s an attack on the trade union movement. It’s easy to take for granted such things as a forty-hour week, paid holidays, paid maternity leave and a host of other workers’ rights that were all fought for by the trade unions. This Conservative and Unionist Government is now, post Brexit, dismantling the power of the unions. What makes it all the more shocking is that the SNP amendment to the bill, one that sought to protect the devolved institutions including the Greater London Assembly and Labour run Welsh Parliament was not supported by the Labour Party. So much for the party of devolution. We started voting at 21:56 and the final vote was at 23:00.


My select committee took evidence on Planning for the future of the Government’s Estate. The debate around where governments departments should be located has been on-going for decades but most recently dispersing them around the U.K. was a Conservative Party manifesto promise in 2017. The prospect of jobs being transferred out of London into Inverclyde is attractive, but this policy has been rolled out so many times and in so many ways that it’s hard to believe that the U.K. Government really believe in it. The Office of National Statistics locating to Newport has been complicated and no real evidence exists to show how it has helped the area. Meanwhile there are more civil servants based in London than ever before. The target was to get 50% of the senior civil servants out of London but that has not materialised or looks like happening any day soon.


It’s Wednesday, it’s twelve o’clock, it’s Prime Minister’s Questions time. And believe you me it was not a crackerjack of an affair. This week Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer continued their weekly routine of blaming the other. There is something very wrong about two grown men shouting and pointing at each other with their supporters baying in the background while both accuse the other of condoning a bullying culture. Last week, I said Stephen Flynn wiped the floor with the Prime Minister, this week he mopped him up, rinsed him out and threw him in the bucket. I had the joy of appearing on the panel of BBC Politics Scotland live from Millbank Studio in Westminster. It’s a rapid run through during which I pointed out that the establishment has a lack of self-awareness and no ability to self-impose the ministerial code. And it is three years since Brexit. Bloomberg tell us that the United Kingdom is £100 billion pounds a year worse off because we left the European Union. You won’t see that on the side of a bus. I got home at 22:30.


I attended the ‘Time to Talk day’ event hosted by the Salvation Army in Port Glasgow. It’s a day for friends, families, communities and workplaces to come together to talk, listen and change lives. I met with folk from Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs, representatives from the Co-op whose chosen charity this year has been SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health) and the irrepressible Georgie from Clyde Coast Radio. My career, after politics, as the late-night disc jockey playing tunes into the wee small hours of the morning awaits me. Meanwhile to ensure the connectivity exists I met with Digital Scotland to discuss the R100 programme.


I met with Police Scotland to hear about Community Policing and the Greenock Police Office Partnership Hub. In the afternoon, I met with Scottish Water for an update on the £2.5 million flood alleviation project on the A8 at Pottery Street. I had a briefing with interested stakeholders regarding the development of a culture quarter centred around the Glebe building. These meetings have extra significance now that Inverclyde has been awarded £19.3 million in Levelling Up funding. I met with the theatre production company Vanishing Point that are busy rehearsing their next production ‘Love Beyond’ at the Beacon Arts Centre.