PACAC – Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee has published an interim report today (The Status and Effect of Confidence Motions and the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011) which confirms the principle that the government is dependent on maintaining the confidence of the House of Commons and any vote of no confidence could topple the government.

The SNP will wholeheartedly support any vote of no confidence in the government, especially in light of the cowardly move to pull the Withdrawal Agreement vote to prevent the government facing a humiliating defeat in the Commons.

The Prime Minister herself admitted that the vote would have been overwhelmingly rejected by MPs – not just on the opposition benches, but on the Tory backbenchers as well and putting narrow party political interest before constituents across the UK is a pathetic move by the Prime Minister which she must not be forgiven for.

It is now clearer than ever before that the UK government cannot command the confidence of the House of Commons. Theresa May and her government must now be held to account for their unforgivable dereliction of their responsibility.


Brexit – Meaningful vote

All of today’s plans got wiped as the UK government decided after three days of debate and 164 speeches that the next two days of debate would not take place and that the meaningful vote scheduled for tomorrow wasn’t that meaningful after all. I spoke last Thursday but a number of my colleagues were scheduled to speak today or Tuesday. This effectively means that their preparation time was wasted and events that had been cancelled or turned down became opportunities missed. The latest collapse in confidence displayed by the UK government did not go down well in Parliament. The speaker can’t tell the government what they must do in circumstances like this but it was clear he was less than happy with the way parliament had been directed and expected better of the government. As I write this we are no further forward and as the vote has been cancelled we are technically further back than we should be. The Prime Minister was clear why she was cancelling the vote “if we went ahead and held the vote tomorrow the deal would be rejected by a significant margin”. The key word in that statement is ‘significant’. The government expected to lose the vote but, by voting, all MPs would have expressed their intentions. The government whips would then have a few days to bully or bribe their members into changing their allegiance. But the number of Conservative and Unionists prepared to rebel against their own government was so large that the whips knew they wouldn’t win a second vote. Now they are buying time. The stumbling block identified by the government in the prime Minister’s statement is the Northern Ireland border. This is no surprise as the government bought the DUP votes for one billion pounds after the 2017 election and the DUP are not happy campers. The Conservative and Unionist slogan of ‘Strong and Stable’ looks more ridiculous every day. The Prime Minister’s deal should come before the House of Commons immediately so that it can be voted down and we can replace Tory chaos with a solution that will protect jobs, living standards and Scotland’s place in Europe.

Spango Valley

Fans of the comedy series The League of Gentlemen will be familiar with the phrase ‘a local shop for local people’. Well without their black humour or any sense of irony I am happy to say local land should be utilised in the best way possible for the local community. Since the Charter of the Forests, published in 1086 at the same time as the Magna Carta, it has been a widely held view that land, sea, wind, water are most productive and better managed when the benefits can be shared. Locally, in Inverclyde, we have seen Inchgreen dry dock practically mothballed for years while ship repair work goes elsewhere. And we have watched as the Spango Valley, once a hub of activity, an incubator to burgeoning careers, an employer of thousands of locals, became a ghost town and eventually was demolished and cleared. Over two years ago I asked Inverclyde council to get involved in regenerating the valley. My vision was for a centre of excellence for renewable energy technology. This has not come to fruition for a number of reasons. Some of which are understandable, others are not. Next Tuesday (4th December 2018) seventy acres of the Spango Valley come under the hammer at auction in London. The reserve price is £500,000. I have talked to the current owners, Canmore, and kept them informed of developments for the best part of three and a half years. I am extremely disappointed that they did not approach me first to see if a local person or persons were interested in buying or bidding for this land. The limited timescale now means that assessing the land and its potential, determining its current condition and raising the money is almost impossible. Whatever happens to Spango Valley and whoever the new owners are, Inverclyde council must immediately enter discussions with them to get the Valley back to being a productive asset for our community. Be it Renewables or as Stuart McMillan MSP has suggested a site for film production companies, it can’t be another example of land banking, left dormant while this area is crying out for jobs.

(Picture courtesy of George Munro, Greenock Telegraph)


Scot Govt – Alcohol & drugs strategy

I am delighted that the SNP Government’s strategy is unashamedly focused on health care and comfortably combines alcohol and drugs in many aspects of the defined support and treatment. This goes a long way to remove the stigma associated with addiction.

Importantly this strategy clearly defines the need to work with partners across healthcare, academia, law enforcement and welfare. Problematic use is a complex issue and there are no easy solutions but without doubt improved education and support, the provision of drug consumption rooms and the availability of naloxone are all steps in the right direction.

This is a recovery orientated strategy that puts the most vulnerable in our society at its heart.

GambleAware’s #CanWeHaveOurBallBack Campaign

GambleAware’s #CanWeHaveOurBallBack is designed to generate conversation and prompt reflection about the impact of betting on football and ask the question whether betting is taking away the nations’ love of football.

The launch of the national conversation comes off the back of recent financial analysis by GambleAware and gambling industry specialists Regulus Partners which shows that 80% of marketing spend by gambling companies is now online.

This surge in online spending coincides with growing concern about the nature and extent of gambling-related marketing and whether it has led to the normalisation of gambling for children. Figures released last week by the Gambling Commission show that that 450,000 children spend their own money on gambling, and that 55,000 children are problem gamblers.

This is an important initiative which brings much needed attention to a growing issue in our community. Football is a game which is enjoyed by people of all ages, but without a frank discussion about the recent uptick in gambling-related marketing, we’re in danger of forgetting the reasons we fell in love with the sport in the first place.

I hope this initiative encourages local fans to reconsider their relationship with betting and football, and remember that ultimately football is about enjoyment without the need to bet on the outcome.

The #CanWeHaveOurBallBack online video is directed by BAFTA nominee Scott Lyon, and can be viewed here


Gambling related harm

Last night, the SNP secured a successful amendment to the Finance Bill requiring the UK government to undertake a review of the public health effects of gambling terminals – and the party has called for the UK government to implement a joined-up strategy to tackle the rising threat of problem gambling across society.

The UK government must urgently get a grip on the devastating and growing impact that problem gambling is having across society under its watch.

Tory ministers have not taken the threat anywhere near seriously enough, and – despite widespread calls – they have repeatedly refused and failed to take the action needed.

It cannot be right that the number of children in the UK with a gambling problem is soaring under the Tories, while highly-addictive gambling machines blight our high-streets and ruin the lives of many thousands of families.

The UK government must finally listen to the evidence, undertake a full review of the impact of gambling related harm on public health and society, and take meaningful action against highly-addictive and exploitative forms of gambling – instead of capitulating to the corporate interests of bookmakers.

Universal Credit

Yesterday, after the new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions first appearance at Work and Pensions Questions, SNP MP Neil Gray challenged the Secretary of State to use the powers of her office and take action on the well-documented issues that Universal Credit rollout has encountered.

The SNP letter calls on the Secretary of State to:

  • Reverse her Department’s punitive benefit cuts, including the £4.7bn cut due next year from the benefit freeze, benefit cap and cuts to ESA.
  • Scrap the abhorrent two child cap and rape clause
  • Halt the roll-out of Universal Credit until it is urgently fixed.
  • Boost wages and lift the minimum wage to a real living wage.
  • Take action to finally support women born in the 1950s who have been affected by the acceleration of the increase in the state pension age.

Here in Inverclyde, we’ve had full service Universal Credit for over two years and my office continues to receive stories from constituents who are suffering at the hands of policy decisions by this UK Government.

Any movement to mitigate the worst of the problems that the rollout of Universal Credit has caused is welcome, but it seems that despite a change in personnel, the UK Government doesn’t plan to deviate from its piecemeal approach to reforming Universal Credit.

Action must be taken to pause the rollout of Universal Credit and listen to the many charities and individuals who are calling for changes to be made in-order to fix the system.