Greenock Telegraph 17th January 2020

Amidst the Brexit madness that is engulfing Westminster three other issues have been pushing themselves to the fore. Gambling related harm is rightly being debated and the UK Government is muting the idea of changes to the gambling act. It needs completely rewritten to be in line with the world of online gambling that we have now. The recent attempt by the big bookies to stream live English FA cup matches to only those that have a gambling account, was thankfully overturned in the face of cross-party outrage. Big reform is required and the sooner the better.

The delays in providing medical cannabis is unacceptable and the clamour for better education for GPs to allow them to prescribe is increasing. I had a meeting with the responsible minister (Baroness Blackwood). She is well informed, and I believe well-intentioned but if we are to catch up with Germany, Denmark, Canada, The Netherlands and other forward-looking nations then we need to prioritise clinical tests and on the back off those educate practitioners that have been left in the dark since the 1971 misuse of drugs act.

As was expected following the Labour party’s humiliation in the General Election they are blaming their leader. It’s difficult now to find any Labour members that admit they supported Jeremy Corbyn in the first place. It wasn’t like back in 2017, then he was the messiah, now he is in true Monty Python fashion just a very naughty boy. So, while we hurtle towards Brexit and the damage that will cause, the Labour Party are engaging in another round of navel gazing and trying to select a new leader that they can undermine with impunity. Meanwhile they don’t know where they stand in relation to indyref2 or the outcome of it. Not so much mixed messages more a complete lack of knowledge and engagement on the subject.

And not surprisingly the Prime Minister has declined a Section 30 request from the First Minister. The tone of his reply is derisory, and I expect he will now promise Scotland the earth in return for our undying loyalty. Remember the vow and how that worked out? Independence is coming and the UK Government have to realise that it benefits us all if we work with mutual respect to create a positive outcome. It’s coming yet for a ‘that.

Greenock Telegraph 3rd January 2020

A happy new year to one and all. There is no doubt that in the world of politics sometimes people look less favourably upon one another and that can even develop into dislike. But I mean it when I say ‘one and all’. Why would I not want any one person to be happy, why would I not want everyone to be happy? When we discuss political differences, I am content in the knowledge that my view of a future independent Scotland is one of an inclusive nation with equal opportunities and no discrimination. A nation where no person is left behind and where communities exist to support and nourish all. As I look towards the coming year, I see precious little harmony at Westminster. The Conservative and Unionist government is reinvigorated by the result of the General Election and will attempt to railroad through change at an unhealthy speed that greatly limits scrutiny and consideration. I can assure you as the MP of a constituency that voted 63.8% to remain in the European Union and returned me on an SNP ticket that I shall do everything I can to resist the Bullingdon bully boys of the Tory far right. It is my duty to oppose their push to ostracise us from the wider European community while knowing the damage their actions will cause to Inverclyde and to Scotland. They may be protected by their own financial security, but the vast majority of Inverclyde are not. Their sense of entitlement must be challenged at every opportunity. Only when countries are governed for one and all can they truly represent the needs of the people, only then can we move forward to a brave new year filled with hopes and aspirations. Someday soon, hopefully this year, the people of Scotland will get that choice.

 

Greenock Telegraph 20th December

After being re-elected at 2:30am on Friday morning I was in my office at 9am. That’s not me grandstanding. I was there because during the campaign I talked to many people that are experiencing issues under Universal Credit and I told them that if I was re-elected I would see them at the first opportunity. And I did.

During the coming months we are going to hear a lot about Brexit. It is a massive issue for all the nations of the United Kingdom. The outcome will affect us all but on a day to day basis many people are still scrambling just to survive. Poverty and deprivation are not always obvious. The effect they have on people can be masked. I know of many parents going without so their kids can eat. The social security system in Scotland is being changed by the SNP Scottish Government. This can’t happen overnight and it can’t happen to the extent we would want it to while 85% of the powers are retained at Westminster. Creating a system that acts as a safety net to protect people from poverty isn’t easy but it’s clear to see that our current manifestation of Universal Credit is not doing the job.

Among many other issues I shall be continuing to fight for a fairer social security system, reparation for the WASPI women, improved drug and gambling policies, the Nordic model for prostitution, medical cannabis and independence for Scotland. A Conservative and Unionist UK Government was never my first choice but to be honest it was never a choice to be made by the electorate of Scotland and people are waking up to the fact that Scotland gets what England votes for. Along with my SNP colleagues, I shall be working morning, noon and night to ensure that Scotland’s voice is heard. I stood on that promise and was elected on it, I shall now see that through with as much energy as can be mustered. Inverclyde and Scotland will be heard, and I thank the electorate of Inverclyde for giving me this opportunity.

 

Greenock Telegraph 25th October 2019

Somebody once said the last honest person to enter parliament was Guy Fawkes. Four hundred and fourteen years later we still build bonfires and set of explosives to commemorate his failed attempt to blow up parliament. Given the target of his wrath you would think that Westminster would be looking to ban such proceedings, but we are not. Across the U.K. anyone over the age of 18 can purchase fireworks and set them off. The RSPCA would like to see the sale and use of fireworks restricted to specific events such as Diwali, Bonfire Night, Chinese New Year and New Year.

The Dogs Trust is the UK’s largest dog welfare charity. They care for around 15,000 stray and abandoned dogs each year through their network of 20 rehoming centres across the UK.

As a dog welfare charity, they have very negative experiences of fireworks. Fireworks, which can be loud, bright, unpredictable and difficult to escape from, can cause dogs immense stress and this has a negative impact on their welfare. Many people take great comfort from their pets and the companionship they offer. Being able to look after their pets welfare is obviously extremely important.

The findings of a Scottish Government consultation, published in October 2019 found that,

94% want tighter controls on the sale of fireworks and 93% want stronger regulations to ensure animals are not caused unnecessary suffering as a result of fireworks misuse.

Changing the legislation is complex and covers a range of legislative areas. They include consumer protection and explosives, environmental law and animal welfare law. If Westminster were to ban selling fireworks to the public that would go a long way to improving the situation.

If you must celebrate the attempt to blow up parliament can I recommend that you attend a licenced public display. They are by far the cheapest and safest way to enjoy the spectacle.

Greenock Telegraph 11th October 2019

With all that is going on at Westminster now it would be easy to get dragged down by the uncertainty and the disillusionment. While things are far from perfect in Inverclyde it does me good sometimes to remind myself of the great things that are happening here. Ferguson Marine has been saved by the Scottish Government, securing 300 jobs and actively recruiting for more. What was once Scott and Robertson became BPI then RPC is now in Berry Global RPC-BPI and continue to develop recyclable plastics. Good for Inverclyde and good for the planet. McGill’s announced a healthy profit last week. A locally owned company prospering in a difficult market place. Inchgreen drydock is in use developing the floating pontoon for Peel Ports. This represents investment from Peel and the Scottish Government in Inverclyde. Hopefully, it’s a new dawn for the dry dock too. The Baker Street units are fully let and Kelburn continues to attract innovate businesses. Long term family owned companies like Golden Casket and McLaren Packaging continue to make a valuable contribution to the fabric of Inverclyde society. Texas Instruments were bought by Diodes Incorporated and have spent tens of millions of pounds investing in the plant. More jobs are being created and areas of the factory that were dormant are being reopened. As one employ said to me “the lights are going back on”. Not just a statement of fact but a wonderful sentiment for all of Inverclyde.

Greenock Telegraph 27th September 2019

The UK parliament is suspended so the UK Government does not have to answer any hard questions and so the LibDems, Conservative and Labour Parties can have their annual conferences. Given this time away from Parliament one would hope that they would use their time wisely and constructively. Going by the UK Labour party conference, last weekend, my hopes are obviously in vain. It will come as no surprise to you that I am not the biggest fan of UK labour but at these uncertain times Westminster requires a coherent cohesive opposition. Labour could be that opposition if only they were coherent or cohesive, but they are not, and their conference showed us that only too clearly. At the Labour party conference, they agreed not to take a position on Brexit! The classic remark, I used to be undecided but now I am not so sure, springs to mind. A close aide to Mr Corbyn, Andrew Fisher, is set to leave and a leaked memo claims it is because of “a lack of professionalism, competence and human decency at the top of the party” while he is stating that it’s the ubiquitous “spending more time with my family” reason. One good thing to emerge is their desire to provide prescriptions free of charge in England. Well done UK Labour I applaud you. It is time the people of England got the same deal that has existed in Northern Ireland since 2007, Wales since 2010 and Scotland in 2011. In a few more years UK Labour may have a coherent policy on Trident, the European Union, the devolution of powers and their own leadership. Then again, maybe not.

 

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.

Greenock Telegraph 30th August 2019

The latest outburst of British unionist propaganda that I have come across is the Minister for Arts Heritage and Tourism, Rebecca Pow, proclaiming the Edinburgh International Festival to be a “massive British showcase of our arts, our culture, our performers, our musicians, our actors , our writers” she then goes onto describe, amongst this self-styled Brit fest, without a hint of irony,  the military tattoo as the “piece de residence”. Apparently amidst our great British culture we just don’t have the words to describe how good it is. What annoys me about this propaganda, is that it’s lazy. It’s a poorly thought out attempt to stick a Union Jack on an event hosted in Scotland that is proud to involve countries from around the globe. What makes the festival great is its internationalism, its diversity. It was created as an arts festival in 1947 to bring countries together. It was a festival conceived to heal the wounds of war through the languages of the arts. It has grown to include jazz, literature, theatre, drama and at every turn has been decidedly non-competitive. So it’s sad to hear a minister of the United Kingdom Government proclaiming Britain being best at all this art and culture stuff. It’s typical of the narrow-minded nationalism that is the Brexit movement. And yet we in the SNP are criticised for being a national party even though our mantra is for an inclusive Scotland that welcomes immigration and embraces diversity. With a newly found budget of £100 million to sell Brexit to the electorate, sadly we can expect a lot more of this Union Jack nonsense. Let’s recognise it for what it is. It’s an advertising campaign just like many others trying to sell you something you either don’t need or already have.

Greenock Telegraph 16th August 2019

While the Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, finds new ways to rip the United Kingdom out of the European Union causing maximum damage to trade, the economy and international relations, his opposition counterpart, Jeremy Corbyn does what he does best, nothing. When the Labour Party leader should be raging against the machine, he is asleep at the wheel of a juggernaut careering off the cliff edge. The clues in the title. Opposition leader. His job is to hold the UK Government of the United Kingdom up to scrutiny. Question it, hold it to account, constantly ask it to consider other, better options. Instead he is busy fighting off the members of his own party. With May gone and Johnson in place, the Labour Party are considering who their next leader will be and the used to be politicians and the wanna be politicians are manoeuvring to be in the right camp. Many will be looking to progress their own careers and fixing your line to a rising star is one way of climbing the greasy pole of politics. The hard bit is deciding who that star is. It wasn’t that long ago that the Labour Party, if not the parliamentary Labour Party, declared Jeremy to be the answer. Now they don’t even know what the question is.

 

Tele column 2nd August 2019

Understandably there have been a lot of column inches given up to talking about the new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson. And no doubt as he blusters his way through interviews and negotiations there will be a lot more. But the problem isn’t just the Prime Minister, it extends to the company he keeps. His cabinet appointments say a great deal about him. The new Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has launched straight in to duplicitous rhetoric, claiming during a Channel 4 interview that he made it clear to voters during the Brexit campaign that they ran the risk of the UK leaving without a deal. There is no evidence in any archived media of Mr Raab warning explicitly about the possibility of a no-deal Brexit during the referendum campaign. The new Home Secretary, Priti Patel, previously held the position as international development secretary, a role she had said should be scrapped prior to her own appointment. She was forced to resign from the role of international development secretary because she held secret meetings with senior Israeli figures. She is firmly on the right of the Conservative and Unionist Party having voted against equal marriage and advocated to bring back the death penalty. Maybe most disturbing are her views on immigration. Ms Patel has stated “Free from the shackles of the EU – and an automatic right of entry for their citizens, with or without work – we will be able to give the type of preference to brilliant scientists, academics and highly skilled workers that we want to see more of.” Ironic since she was herself was an immigrant from Uganda fleeing persecution and finding a safe harbour in the UK. The heads of major government departments should be principled and trustworthy. Their behaviour and attitudes will be mirrored in their staff. I fear an already isolated UK government will become even more intransient and inward looking. Mr Johnson is not the only problem, he is just the guy on top of a bonfire of vanities.