Epilepsy Scotland – PIP petition

The introduction of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) has significantly disadvantaged people with epilepsy. DWP data shows that, of people with epilepsy who previously received DLA and have been reassessed for PIP, 54% were denied an award as a result of the transition. This is the second highest refusal rate and is over double the national average for all health conditions.

2018 DWP figures also show that of the third of people who appealed after the DWP denied them PIP, a huge 78% of people ended up being given the benefit. The fact that the appeal success rate is so high suggests poor and arbitrary decision-making on the part of assessors. It also indicates the inadequacy of the system in capturing the impacts of epilepsy, and the difficulty for claimants in navigating the initial claim – e.g. describing their condition and securing evidence.

These figures only cover those who have moved from DLA to PIP. DWP data suggests that 65% of people with epilepsy applying for PIP as new claimants have been denied the benefit.



Scottish referendum – 18th Sept 2014

Self-belief, not arrogance

Five years ago, at the count in Inverclyde, as I watched the referendum result unfold, I was full of hopes and aspirations for a new emerging nation. Early in the evening when the Clackmannanshire count was announced we knew we had lost the referendum. Mathematically victory was still possible, but the writing was clearly on the wall.  

Later the same evening we lost Inverclyde by 86 votes. We had moved from 26% YES to 49.9% YES, but a loss is a loss. Like me, many people were consumed with disappointment. The dream was shattered and as the adrenaline left our bodies so did the energy that had fuelled our activism. And yet we kept our dignity and supported each other through difficult days.  

The General Election of May 2015 gave us an opportunity to start to set things right. And the resulting 56 SNP MPs made it clear that the dream had not died. In the next General Election in 2017 it was apparent that the momentum had stalled and that many voters who had turned out in 2015 had become less motivated and maybe felt less engaged. Politics is a long game and it can do that to people. Especially when so many face the day to day struggle of finding work, putting food on the table and keeping a roof over their heads. It’s understandable that many of those who do not live in a political bubble are less inclined to vote if the end game is not immediately obvious.  

The last five years has seen many changes in the political landscape. We have experienced two General Elections, a council election, a Scottish Parliament election the European Union referendum and the European Union election. But the biggest change is that despite Scotland voting 62% to remain in the E.U. we find ourselves in the unforeseen position of being taken out of the European Union. Unforeseen that is except to the genius that wrote in page 23 of the SNP manifesto in 2016, “We believe that the Scottish Parliament should have the right to hold another referendum if there is clear and sustained evidence that independence has become the preferred option of a majority of the Scottish people – or if there is a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will”. That person deserves a pat on the back because that statement encompasses perfectly why we need another independence referendum. And its not just because the outcome of Brexit will damage Scotland, it’s because the process of Brexit has shone a light on Westminster. It has asked difficult questions of the UK Parliament functionality and the machinery of the UK government. It has illustrated perfectly the disfunction that exists between Westminster and the devolved parliaments. It has highlighted the disdain for the Scottish Parliament that emanates from Westminster and it has magnified the incompetence of UK government ministers in their dealings with both the devolved administrations and the European Union.

A Westminster establishment that ruled by right has been asked to demonstrate professionalism and competence in the modern era and it has been asked to to do that in the public eye. And it has failed. While the UK Government continues to flounder, the next Scottish independence referendum will hinge on our self belief. Do you believe that Scotland should be governed by the people of Scotland for the people of Scotland? And the answer must be a resounding YES.


Westminster diary w/b 9th September


Up at the crack of dawn to catch a red eye to London. A British Airways pilots’ strike was causing a deal of disruption but thankfully my flight was unaffected as I needed to be on the estate early. It’s another day of making history at Westminster. In truth every day at Westminster seems to be a day when uncharted waters are being negotiated but this one turned out be a cracker. Prior to the chamber sitting at 14:30 I have an internal SNP MP briefing meeting. An event that used to take place once a week is becoming more like a daily affair. Things are changing so quickly, and the opportunities change shape by the hour that regular discussion is required. I then have the select committee for public affairs and the constitution. We have Mark Sedwill and John Manzoni in front of us. They are the two most senior members of the civil service, the impartial civil service that support the cabinet office and prime minister’s office regardless of their own political views. I can’t help but think that must be incredibly hard at the best of times. Performing that task in today’s political climate takes great skill especially when there are people like Dominic Cummings sacking special advisers to the Exchequer. We asked about the legality of prorogation and the behaviour allowed during purdah. They are as you would expect consummate professionals extremely skilled in answering all questions. The same can’t be said of the current bunch running the UK government. And so to the chamber. At 7:15pm we had a Standing Order No. 24 motion: Prorogation and disclosure of communication. The motion proposed by Dominic Grieve including a ‘Humble Address’ requiring publication of documents related to the Government’s decision to prorogue parliament, and on no-deal planning under Operation Yellowhammer. The SNP voted AYE and the motion was carried 311 – 302. At 00:18 (on Tuesday morning): There was a motion that there shall be an early parliamentary general election. Proposed by the Prime Minister under the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act. The SNP abstained and although the motion was carried 293 – 46, this did not meet the threshold of two-thirds of all MPs to take effect under the Act. I abstained because this is a trap being set for a General Election under terms that suit the no deal Brexiteers. For the record I would welcome a General Election and when the time is right, I shall vote for it. I didn’t hang around for the ceremony to prorogue Parliament, instead I left the building and walked through the crowds of protesters that were still there at 1am and continued to my flat. Sleep came easy.


Everything has changed so it’s a scramble for transport home. The BA strike continues so it’s 18:30 before I can catch a flight. I spend my days writing, reading and catching up on correspondence.


I spent the morning talking to traders in Kempock Street and was impressed by their approach to the High Street of the year awards. Many units are now displaying posters and I am looking forward to the judges visiting on the 17th. Fortunately, I am not in charge of the car parking arrangements. In the afternoon I caught up with constituents and was delighted to be informed by one that we had won his case on Universal Credit and his payment has been reinstated and he had received over £2,500 in back payments. These victories for constituents are a huge part of an MPs job and each one is received with great joy. I took the opportunity to attend the SNP councillors group meeting which enhances my understanding of local issues and the machinery of the council. In the evening I attended the Inverclyde Historical Society for at talk on the British Constitution by Jim Carmichael. It was extremely interesting, and I hope to attend some future talks.


A day consumed in the office with constituent’s cases and catching up with local organisations. Unexpected recess is easily reallocated to local people and events.


I had one of my regular meetings with the local jobcentre. In a professional capacity I am not seeking employment elsewhere. In the afternoon I went up to Captain Street to the Inverclyde men’s Shed where they use their experience and skills to the benefit of the local community. I had surgeries later in the afternoon.

On Sunday, I shall be doing the Alzheimer’s memory walk along with Stuart McMillan MSP.

Greenock Telegraph 13th September 2019

The dictionary definition of prorogue is to ‘discontinue a session of (a parliament or other legislative assembly) without dissolving it’. This week at Westminster it was more akin to a toddler standing in the corner screaming, with their fingers in their ears. The UK parliament has been shut down to stop debate. The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom has thrown his toys out his pram and decided that he doesn’t want to talk to anyone about the UK leaving the European Union. So, there will be no debates, no votes, no select committee, no standing order 24, no urgent questions, no statements, no questions to secretary of states. And as a result, nothing that resembles a democratic parliament in the UK. This is a gross misuse of power and an affront to democracy. The Prime Minister tried to deflect from this by offering a General Election but please be absolutely clear that was a trap that fortunately nobody fell for. A General Election could have resulted in a Conservative and Unionist (possibly in coalition with the Brexit Party and DUP) taking us out of the EU with no deal. Had Labour been a cohesive party they could have backed an election with the aim of winning it but clearly, they are a party in turmoil and have no chance of winning a General Election. The SNP will vote for a General Election when the time is right. I am expecting one sometime in the Autumn but in the current political climate nobody honestly knows. All I can ask of you is that you make sure you are registered to vote and when the time does come please use it.

Brexit – letter to Inverclyde residents

Dear Inverclyde residents,

As you will know, the last week at Westminster has been challenging and a battle over which direction the United Kingdom will take. The UK Government have indicated they are comfortable crashing out of the European Union without a deal. This would be devastating for both Inverclyde and Scotland as a whole. Ultimately, any form of Brexit would be damaging for Inverclyde. Crashing out of the EU with no deal would not only breach Scotland’s vote to remain, including the two thirds of Inverclyde voters who voted so, but would also push the UK into a recession, threatening 100,000 Scottish jobs, and inflicting lasting harm on living standards, public services and the economy.

That is why I was one of the MPs who’s started a legal action aimed at preventing Boris Johnson shutting down parliament to force through a no-deal Brexit – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-49251511.

SNP MPs have voted consistently against no deal and Parliament has rejected a no deal three times this year. Alongside this, my SNP colleagues and I supported the Letwin-Cooper process in March to avoid a no deal, and we did the same again with Benn’s Bill which has become law.

If Boris Johnson wants an election, he must obey the law and take a no-deal Brexit off the table. It is beyond belief that the Prime Minister is disrespecting democracy by shutting down parliament and railroading through an extreme Brexit against the will of parliament and the people.

The SNP is ready for a General Election. We stand ready to bring down the UK government and give Scotland the chance to stop Brexit and to decide its own future.

Yours sincerely,


Ronnie Cowan MP

Member of Parliament for Inverclyde

Written question – medical cannabis [09/09/2019]

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, how many prescriptions for medical cannabis have been issued on the NHS since the rescheduling of cannabis based products. (284234)

Tabled on: 02 September 2019

Jo Churchill:

NHS England and NHS Improvement are using extant systems to monitor use of the newly rescheduled unlicensed cannabis-based products for medicinal use in England. In England, these systems monitor the number of items dispensed and associated costs in primary care and the volume of products used and associated cost in secondary care. NHS England and NHS Improvement Controlled Drug Accountable Officers are also collecting local intelligence in both the National Health Service and independent sector.

The NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) is only able to provide information on prescriptions for cannabis-based medicines that have been prescribed and submitted to the NHS Business Services Authority. It does not hold information on prescriptions for cannabis-based medicines which have been issued but not fulfilled.

The following table shows the number of items for Nabilone and Sativex (licensed cannabis-based medicines) and unlicensed cannabis-based medicines that were prescribed on a NHS prescription, dispensed in the community and submitted to the NHS Business Services Authority for reimbursement between November 2018 and June 2019.

Month Licensed cannabis-based medicines Unlicensed cannabis-based medicines
Nabilone Sativex
November 2018 46 175 2
December 2018 49 181 1
January 2019 44 167 2
February 2019 36 159 1
March 2019 51 171 2
April 2019 49 156 2
May 2019 59 176 2
June 2019 47 187 0
Total 381 1,372 12

In addition to the above, 185 patients have accessed Epidiolex/Epidyolex though the manufacturer’s (GW Pharma) early access programmes ahead of a licensing decision by the European Medicines Agency.

The answer was submitted on 09 Sep 2019 at 16:20.