Greenock Telegraph 1st July 2022

A Scottish independence referendum on the 19th October 2023 or a General Election campaign based on one question, should Scotland be an independent country. It can’t be much simpler than that. What is being asked is, does Scotland have the right to self-determination and if so, should it be allowed to express its will. Nobody that believes in an electoral democracy can deny the first point. Some may choose to blur the edges by listing ‘more important matters that need to be addressed first’ but that doesn’t answer the question because they have been saying that for ever, there will never be a right time for them. But they can’t deny the right and also say they believe in democracy. If the Supreme Court says it can’t happen without the consent from the UK government and the UK government then denies us a referendum, then that tells you everything you need know about the state of democracy at Westminster. And then we would move to a single-issue General Election. The old unionist guard will be rolled out. The people of Scotland shall once again be told why we are better as part of the UK. All the same lies and, no doubt, a few new ones. The fear factor will be to the fore. After all they can’t possibly hold up the UK today and proclaim it a success story. They can’t make a positive case for the Union. They can’t deny that promises made in 2014 have not been kept. Remember ‘lead not leave’, remember Scotland being better of in the EU, remember the oil is running out? The NO campaign will be another long refrain of fear and dread with undertones of don’t bother your pretty little head Scotland, we know what’s best for you, we shall decide, in fact it is best if you don’t event take part. This is against the backdrop of a crumbling empire, a divided UK, soaring prices, increasing isolation from the EU and a culture of entitlement and privilege riding roughshod over parliamentary procedure at Westminster. Scotland’s exit strategy is becoming clearer and remember 51 nations have claimed their independence from the UK in my lifetime and none that have left have ever asked to come back.

Greenock Telegraph 17th June 2022

On the 18th of September 2014 in Inverclyde 87.4% of the electorate cast their vote in the Scottish independence referendum. That was 2.8% higher than the national figure but some local authority areas registered over 90%. When you consider that turnouts for general elections in recent years have varied between 65% and 75% and that recent council elections struggle to reach 50%, it’s proof that the Scottish electorate are engaged in the constitutional question and that they very much want their opinion to be recorded. Why wouldn’t they? Who would not want to have a say in their nation’s ability to raise and spend its own money, set its own priorities and trade deals, control its own borders and foreign policy. That’s the normal behaviour for any country, unless your Scottish, in which case we have shed ourselves of these powers and the question is do we want them back. Maybe more surprisingly is that some people don’t see independence as the normal default setting, they are happier to allow a UK Government take these decisions for us even though what’s deemed good for the rest of the United Kingdom is not what we voted for in Scotland. The most recent case in point being to leave the European Union. And those who would remain in the union felt so strongly about not having the power and responsibility that they won the referendum in 2014. Imagine feeling so strongly that your nation is too wee, too poor and too stupid to govern itself that you would actively campaign and vote to remain subordinate. We will get the opportunity to reverse that decision and after Brexit, Boris Johnson, Tory austerity and more years of disrespect and neglect of the will of the Scottish people I would hope that the electorate once again engage in large numbers and when asked, Scotland independent? This time they will ask, why not?

Greenock Telegraph 3rd June 2022

The ministerial code is a set of rules and principles which outline the standards of conduct for UK government ministers. Recently the Prime Minister exercised his authority to change the ministerial code so those who breach it don’t have to resign. Convenient, given his recent misdemeanours.

Rather than act upon complaints and have open transparent government, the UK government’s view is that “complaints can undermine public confidence in standards in public life”. Really Sherlock? Well how about UK government ministers behave in a manner that doesn’t warrant complaints? They also want to have a framework between the executive and the legislature to avoid  “the judiciary being dragged into consideration of political matters”. But these are not political matters they are legal matters and nobody should be above the law. There are many rules, principles, conventions and guidelines at Westminster they are open to interpretation and only work if the people that are guided by them are responsible, professional and principled. If they are not then they can be vulnerable to misuse. The Prime Minister changing the rules here and there may seem like small beer given the problems that we currently face in the U.K.  When people face deciding between heating or eating, when cronies are handed contracts worth millions of pounds, when supply chains are under unheard of strain and when UK minsters and senior civil servants have partied through the pandemic, does the general public really care about a change in the ministerial code?  Judging by my inbox and conversation in supermarkets, on the street and local parks, they do. They care a great deal and I draw strength from that. We must care about the abuse of democracy, we must raise our voices in anger when those trusted with power abuse it for their own ends and maybe most of all we must nip in the bud the direction of travel that we face in the U.K. today. History has taught us that evil prevails when the good do nothing. We must not allow the U.K. to sleepwalk into a system which governs over rather than governs for the people. And we must ensure that in Scotland we have a choice of direction in which to travel.

Greenock Telegraph 20th May 2022

The start of a new session at Westminster is heralded in by the Queen’s speech. The name is a misnomer as it is not actually the monarch’s speech at all, the Queen reads out the U.K. governments proposed bills for the coming session. For some unfathomable reason this involves a procession from Buckingham palace of royals and hangers on, the wearing of ermine robes, jewelled tiaras, fanciful military attire and the utilisation of gold thrones. This year, due to the Queen’s advancing years and poor health her sprightly 73-year-old son got to read out the speech. As I said, it is not his speech, but it does rankle with me that someone born into a position of immense wealth and privilege, wearing a ridiculous ruritanian uniform and sitting on the fore-mentioned gold throne is imparts such vacuous nonsense, none of which is designed to help those most in need during these trying times. The Queen’s speech was void of any substantial bills that will help lift people out of poverty, support people in old age, or stimulate economic growth. The pantomime of black rod banging on the door, the procession of MPs up to the Lords and all the accompanying pomp and circumstance is an affront to the seriousness of the austerity crisis that faces the U.K. today.  These occasions only serve to support the concept of a class system. The bowing and scraping to the aristocrats and doffing of caps should be consigned to the rubbish bin along with the regal trappings and faux military attire. How can we applaud a 73-year-old man that has not seen one day of military action in his life, dressed up like some conquering hero being lauded for reading out loud while so many ex-military personnel sleep rough on our city streets, while casualties of PTSD struggle to get the help and support they deserve? We need to change our priorities and start focusing on the most needy in society and not be dazzled by the pantomime of royal privilege.

Greenock Telegraph 6th May 2022

Just like the fake gothic facade that is wrapped around the Palace of Westminster there is a mask of acceptance and tolerance that hides the true face of the UK Government. 

It is an establishment deeply ingrained with prejudice and where a beating heart, nourished by entitlement and money, sustains outdated attitudes towards women, race, addiction and many under-represented minorities. 

Outwardly, the media training and years in private schools spent nurturing misplaced self-confidence enables them to hold a party line and express their deep concern about issues that have not crossed their minds once, in their sheltered privileged lives. Inwardly the need to conform to the party mantra and to be subservient to the more senior party members, results in a parody of politics that the most talented of comedy script writers could only dream of creating. Too often the need to present a believable scenario as an excuse to a calamitous situation outweighs an inconvenient truth and the need for an honest appraisal is replaced by whatever falsehood they feel they can get away with. 

Westminster is mired in a web of deceit.  And as George Orwell said, “In a time of deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” There are no revolutionaries in the heart of the U.K. establishment, they have no interest in changing a system that serves their needs. Instead, they cling to age old traditions that give them solace to a romanticised past and hope for their own cosseted future. Westminster will never be reformed from within. We need to recognise that and remove ourselves from the constraints of a system that is not for a modern 21st century democracy like Scotland.

Greenock Telegraph 22nd April 2022

Lies, damned lies and Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson

The most recent in a long list of embarrassing episodes perpetrated by the Prime Minister, is the scandal that has been dubbed Partygate. When the rest of us were told by the UK government we couldn’t visit dying relatives and we couldn’t attend funerals, it was party central at number 10 Downing Street. The culture within was one of entitlement and arrogance. But we should not be surprised because this is not something new. Throughout his rise to the top of the Conservative and Unionist Party, bumbling Boris has been guilty of many serious faux pas. While he was a journalist, he was sacked for making up quotes. Two years later he provided his friend, Darius Guppy with the home address of a reporter that Guppy was arranging to have violently assaulted. Three years later he was forced to apologise for an article about the Hillsborough disaster in which he said, Liverpudlians were wallowing in their ‘victim status’. None of this has harmed his political career even though it has also been less than impressive. He was dismissed as shadow arts minister by then-Conservative leader Michael Howard in 2004, resigned as Foreign Secretary before he could be sacked, described Muslim women wearing burkas as looking like letter boxes. During the Vote Leave campaign, he backed the infamous advert on a bus which claimed, that the UK was sending £350m a week to the EU that could instead be spent on the NHS. The UK Statistics Authority said Mr Johnson’s claims were “a clear misuse of official statistics”. And then there was the investigation over the refurbishment of his Downing Street flat, for which the Conservative and Unionist Party was fined nearly £18,000. And all that was before we even heard of Partygate. After initially denying that he knew of any parties, he then said he did but he wasn’t at them and now we know both were lies. The Metropolitan Police have fined him and are investigating other parties that it is believed he attended. The burning questions are why does this man keep his job and how did he get it in the first place? And the answer is simple, people within his own party make excuses for his behaviour and facilitate his continuation. Without his party he will be nothing and while he remains in office it’s not just the Prime Minister that should be held responsible it is those that stand by him and in doing so are mocking the sacrifices made by so many others.       

Greenock Telegraph 8th April 2022

When I was a kid, we used to take glass lemonade bottles back to the shop and get a few pennies for them. We did it for the money, we were not mini eco warriors. But of course, that changed with the introduction of plastic bottles which were used and thrown away after one use. And it didn’t stop at bottles it included cutlery, plates, polystyrene food containers and cups. The detritus kept mounting up. And now we live in a disposable society. Looking around my office I am pleased to see that I have glass jars for pens and markers, and for wine gums and liquorice all sorts. I even have glass bottles on a shelf just because they are nice shapes and reflect light in a pleasing manner. But I know that my favoured soft drinks come in plastic bottles and that my food often comes in plastic packaging. Disposing of them thoughtfully helps as they can often be recycled but many are not either recycled or disposed of thoughtfully. The many discarded empty plastic bottles left behind after football matches at the Battery Park and Parklea are living proof that many people haven’t quite grasped the seriousness of the situation. However, a majority 77% of people living in Scotland are concerned about the amount of single-use packaging we use in Scotland. New regulations from the Scottish Government published on 11 November 2021 mean that some problematic single-use plastic items are banned from June 2022 (subject to the Internal Markets Act). Businesses affected by the changes have time to prepare for the new laws coming into force and are encouraged to think about managing stock levels of the banned items. I would encourage businesses to be proactive and start shifting to alternatives (such as reusable items) so their single-use plastics stock is used up when regulations come into force in June 2022.

Greenock Telegraph 25th March 2022

The diversity of opinions that people hold about MPs and therefore by default me, never ceases to amaze me. In recent weeks I have been told by constituents that I shouldn’t be spending so much time on Ukrainian refugees as we have issues that need resolved in Inverclyde. I have also been encouraged by many constituents to do more for refugees. That is in keeping with the ongoing requests to either not attend Westminster or to be there for every sitting minute of every sitting day. There are also those that perceive me as somebody leeching a living off expenses and living a high life on my salary as an MP. Which is countered by those that actually read the independent parliamentary standards authority published data and understand it.  And there is the ‘why am I not doing more for Scotland’s independence’ which is set against the ‘all you do is bang on about independence’.  The facts are that in Inverclyde we have 77,000 people of which 60,622 are on the electoral register. For the Westminster general election 39,903 voted and of those 19,295 voted for me.  I am therefore elected to represent Inverclyde as part of the wider parliamentary democracy. I can’t ask each person what they think on every issue and then do their bidding. I am entrusted to use my judgment. By the law of averages, I won’t make decisions that everyone agrees with every time.  As Edmund Burke said in 1774 “Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgement; and he betrays instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”

Therefore, it’s plain to see that if I blew with the wind, I would not be serving my constituents well. My duty to you all is to listen and learn but ultimately there will be things we disagree on. Then we have to respect each-others opinion and conduct ourselves in a mature rational manner. I make this plea not for me but for the many council candidates that will be putting their names forward for the Inverclyde council election on May 5th. These people are stepping up and are willing to take responsibility for their communities. I hope that is respected by the electorate and by their fellow candidates. Inverclyde deserves that.

Greenock Telegraph 11th March 2022

During my seven years as an MP, I have seen some of the most extraordinary political events play out. To be up close and personal to them has been a privilege and an education. On Tuesday, the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, provided yet another historic moment when he addressed the Houses of Parliament at Westminster. Through the services of a translator, we all listened to him talk of the onslaught his country is suffering at the hands of Russia. He detailed the deaths and the suffering but also the iron will of the people of Ukraine to overcome their oppressors. The UK government can help. The invasion of Ukraine is resulting in over a two million people fleeing their homeland to find a safe haven. The UK should be one of those havens but unforgivably the UK government is tying up the process with red tape and refusing entry to many. We have families in Inverclyde who are at their wits end, desperately seeking information about loved ones and seeking guidance that will bring them safely to the UK. We need clear instructions and the dedicated resources to facilitate them. Instead, we are getting public relations spin and the now accustomed self-righteous pious indignation from the Foreign Office and Home Office. It was disturbing to watch Liz Truss, Boris Johnson and Priti Patel dutifully nod in agreement with President Zelenskyy and rise to their feet to applaud him while they have delayed and obfuscated over the processes required to provide a safe passage for innocents. The time for action is now, they need to wave the visas and open the borders. I never thought I would witness European refugees taking flight from an invading force. But it’s happening and it’s only going to get worse. It is our humanitarian duty to welcome them, we can’t turn a blind eye and we must not turn them away.

Greenock Telegraph 25th February 2022

There have been some very high-profile cases where parents of children suffering from rare epileptic conditions have called for medical cannabis to be provided on the NHS to treat their kids. As a result of this Matt Hancock said, in March 2019, it would be available on the NHS within six months. Medical use of cannabis was legalised in November 2018.  Since then, two NHS prescriptions have been written. One already existed; therefore, three NHS prescriptions are in use for medical cannabis. In the UK there are 25 private clinics providing private prescriptions, there are 18 producers and 100 products. There are also 100 doctors prescribing. That would lead me to believe that the products exist, and the medical profession is prepared to prescribe it but only privately. The fact is that if you can afford it then your child can get it but its costly. Roughly £2,000 a month is required to fund the private prescription and the medicines. The benefit for the patients is clear for all to see. Children that suffered 50 fits a day and were tied into wheelchairs are now free from their fits, can ride bikes and go to school. The quality of life they experience and the relief for family and friends is undeniable. And yet we have 3 NHS prescription in over 3 years. Currently in the UK 1.4 million people are using cannabis for medical reasons. It’s obvious there is a huge difference between the supply and the demand on the NHS. It is cheaper to fund medical cannabis than it is for the other drugs the children are on and it avoids them being rushed int an ICU at £5,000 a day. We have the medicines, and they are cost effective. We need the governing bodies of the medical professionals to step up and publicly acknowledge the need and we need politicians to listen, learn and legislate.