Interested in helping more people from marginalised groups get into the workplace and making your organisation or business more inclusive?
The Workplace Equality Fund is now open for applications until 11 April.
Find out more and apply at www.equalityadvice.scot
The Home Heating Support fund has been launched to help Scots struggling with their energy bills amid a growing cost-of-living crisis. The Scottish Government scheme, administered by Advice Direct Scotland, is designed to prevent households falling into fuel poverty. The fund is open until 31 March and applications can be made on behalf of individuals by ‘referral partners’ through www.homeheatingadvice.scot. If you are aware of constituents who are struggling with their energy bills, their local council or housing association – or a charity who is supporting them – can refer them to the scheme.
It does seem ridiculous in the current health climate but to do my job I am required to travel to Westminster as the previous facility that allowed me to take part remotely has been removed and so it’s back to crowded rooms and packed voting lobbies. What could possibly go wrong? There were six votes in total today, for three of them I was a teller and therefore I don’t get to vote. I wasn’t alone in not voting to oppose the Tories welfare cap as only 14 Labour MPs opposed, and the rest abstained except for one that felt so strongly about it that she voted for it ! On nights like this food is grabbed whenever one can and the public impression of MPs enjoying fine dining at subsidised restaurants plays out as an unholy scramble for chips and beans in a mouse infested canteen. The last vote was just after 10pm and I scurried away through the London rain to check in to my hotel.
My select committee started at 9:30 and we only had one witness. Lord Evans is the Chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life and his remit, amongst other areas, covers elected members. His career was spent in the security services, initially in counter espionage and later in counter terrorism. In 2007 he was appointed director general of MI5. I am currently reading John Le Carré’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, so it was hard not to see George Smiley sitting in front of me. He was an excellent witness and I pressed him on how the Prime Minister can be held to account for his disgraceful behaviour when the Prime Minister is the person who is supposed to impose the ministerial code. There was an Urgent Question in the house regarding the party held in the Downing Street Garden to which 100 people were invited during a period when the rest of us were in lockdown. The Paymaster General was despatched to defend the indefensible. I was taken and reiterated my view that the Prime Minister has demeaned his position and should be held to account by his colleagues. Last votes were at 7pm.
First meeting of the day was with the Finance and Economy team. We liaise regularly with our Holyrood colleagues to ensure our voice is consistent and focused on issues affecting Scotland and our constituents. Energy is definitely high on the agenda with the Conservative Party’s nuclear fixation undermining clean, green renewables. Unfortunately, this week the Labour Party have by en large supported the Conservative Government on this issue, with only six Labour MPs voting against the Nuclear Energy (Financing) Bill at the third reading while 148 voted for it. Scotland’s energy future should be within the clean, green, renewable sector and only through sufficient investment and a singular determination will we get there. Westminster does not share this view.
I made it back into Inverclyde last night which makes it easier to do my constituency work. My office continues to adhere to Covid guidelines but with suitable hand washing, mask wearing and working within a rota we can utilise the office and support each other. Unfortunately, we cannot open the doors to the public yet. We have witnessed a huge increase in cases with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). There have been several issues which seem to be resolved but the DVLA is now working through a large backlog. In the evening I attended the Inverkip and Wemyss Bay community council via zoom.
The Elections Bill is back in the House of Commons on Monday, and I hope to speak to several amendments. To help me to do this in a constructive fashion I read through all the marshalled amendments today, never an easy read but fortunately my select committee also produced a report and recommendations therefore re-reading that helped enormously. Normally a full day given over to reading is a pleasure. Today it was definitely challenging. On the upside I have managed another week of daily lateral flow tests, all negative.
Once again, we are at a stage in the Covid pandemic where we hope to be exiting a critical stage. During the most extreme times the vast majority of people have gone to great lengths to avoid contracting and spreading Covid. This has been at a cost. Those working on the front line have been more inconvenienced than many. They selflessly sacrificed contact with family and friends and often worked in oppressive conditions for long periods of time. Due to restrictions on numbers attending gatherings, families have been unable to grieve properly or celebrate birthdays, weddings and anniversaries. Due to travel restrictions holidays were abandoned. We isolated, we vaccinated, we wore masks, and we did this because it was the responsible thing to do. Not just for ourselves but for our wider community. It is therefore galling to hear the accusations, accompanied by photographic evidence, that within the grounds of number ten Downing Street a party was held in May 2020. At the time such gatherings were banned and yet Martin Reynolds, the principal private secretary to the Prime Minister, sent 100 invitations to ‘bring your own booze’. What is the mindset within the Conservative and Unionist party that condones this conduct? How entitled does someone have to feel that they are comfortable hosting a party during lockdown while the NHS is at breaking point and families are making sacrifices to contain a deadly virus. If you or I had behaved in this manner it would quite rightly be a matter for the police. The Prime Minster should be holding himself to higher standards, those set out by the Nolan Principles. But he hasn’t, he won’t and he is clearly not fit for office.