Westminster diary w/b 12th November

Monday

It’s going to be a long night at Westminster but as its U.K. Parliament Week I delay my departure and visit St John’s Primary School in Port Glasgow. The primary six class are well briefed and grill me on all aspects of my role as MP. I jump on a train to Glasgow to attend Citizens Basic Income Stakeholder event.

Then it’s off to the airport. The budget debate is in full swing in the House of Commons and I take the opportunity to intervene and express my concern that the UK Government’s decision to delay the £2 maximum bet on FOBTs may have been influenced by a report by KPMG. The report, as the authors freely admit, was framed by the requirements of the British Bookmakers Association. The debate was followed by votes and I make it back to my flat at midnight.

Tuesday

Today was a strange day even for Westminster. Events and meetings were cancelled, rescheduled and cancelled again as rumours circulated the estate of Prime Minister’s statements and cabinet resignations. Amidst the chaos is was good to sit down with members from the ‘cycle to work alliance’. In Inverclyde the Bothy at Gourock railway station and the Community Tracks scheme are working very hard to provide bikes and routes. The next step is for employers to provide facilities to safety store bikes and changing facilities for employees. It was a privilege to attend the formal launch of ‘Gambling with Lives’. This charity has been set up to help publicise gambling related harm including suicide. It is the brave parents of young men that have committed suicide due to gambling addiction that have started the charity and I will be doing everything I can to help promote their cause.

Wednesday

I met with Steve Brine MP (Parliamentary under-secretary of state for Public Health and Primary Care) to discuss medical cannabis under prescription. It was a private meeting with civil servants in attendance as is the protocol. Mr Brine was very open in his views and I welcome that. He was happy to expand the conversation into other drug policy areas and I shall be looking to progress these matters further with him in the chamber in the near future. One good meeting calls for another and that’s just what happened when I met Kat Banyard to discuss prostitution and the global sex trade.

The imminent Brexit Statement was dominating most folk’s minds and we were promised a statement after PMQs but the timing constantly changed. PMQs lasted longer than it needed to which delayed a written statement that I had been waiting for. It wasn’t the Brexit statement it was the agreement from the U.K. Government to implement the £2 maximum spin on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals in April 2019 and not delay it as they had announce in the budget. Compared to Brexit this will not command many column inches but for those people whose lives have been blighted by these machines it is a very big deal. I am glad to have played my part in making this happen along with Carolyn Harris MP (Labour) and Iain Duncan Smith MP (Conservatives) and from the SNP local colleague Stuart McMillan MSP and Stuart McDonald MP.

Thursday

And so the Brexit statement has been released and as was stated in the chamber during the Statement on the EU exit negotiations, it was dead before it was even read. The Secretary of State for Exiting the EU resigned and more were to follow. Scotland was not mentioned once in the near 600 page document. So much for a family of Nations. The utter contempt that Scotland has been shown during the entire Brexit process reveals the true nature of the U.K. government. After an internal SNP de-briefing I got the 19:30 flight home.

Friday

I visited Inverclyde Academy, Clydeview Academy and Port Glasgow High School to discuss democracy and all things politics with the pupils. This rounded off Parliament Week and I would like to thank all the Inverclyde schools and organisations that took part. If we want to affect change we need be skilled in the ways of politics and Parliament. It is encouraging to see so many young folk taking up that challenge.

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Westminster diary w/b 5th November

Monday

Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee took evidence from the Right Honourable Mark Harper MP. Mark was the Minister responsible for the Fixed Term Parliament Bill and the committee were seeking his insight into how elections can be forced during a fixed term. Next up was the All-party parliamentary group for Catalonia. This was my first opportunity to report back on my visit to Catalonian political prisoners and it was a privilege to have Sergi Marcen attending the meeting. Sergi is the Head of the Delegation of the Catalan Government to the United Kingdom and Ireland. He leads the bilateral relations between Catalonia and the United Kingdom and Ireland, focusing on economic interests, institutional relations, tourism and cultural promotion, as well as, helping the Catalan community living in these countries. I had a quick dash to make the Delegated Legislation on draft building societies legislation. This is another of the jobs that require to be completed before Brexit. They don’t take long but do tie up roughly twenty people.

Tuesday

Early start for the Westminster Hall debate on Reclassification of synthetic cannabinoids. I spoke against the motion as there is a mountain of evidence to suggest that, although it may feel good to lock up problematic drug users, it doesn’t improve the situation for anyone. I went to the drop in for Responsible Gambling Week and was pleased to hear that a number of people agree with me that a statutory levy on bookmakers should be imposed to fund support for those affected by gambling related harm. Following that I attended the All-party parliamentary group on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals. It was particularly pleasing to have Tracey Crouch MP attend after her principled resignation the previous week over the implementation date of the £2 maximum stake. I was in the chamber to support Marion Fellows MPs ten minute rule motion bill for child maintenance changes. The following debate was to mark the hundred years since Armistice Day and the end of the First World War. I dropped in to the Scottish Renewables event and managed to catch-up with a few familiar faces. I caught the 19:30 flight home.

Wednesday

Back in the constituency as Westminster is not sitting for the rest of the week. I had meetings with constituents regarding a range of topics but mostly universal credit. The full role out in Inverclyde continues to cause damage despite the excellent work being done by the DWP and related organisations. In the afternoon I visited the Beacon to meet the writer, producer, musical director and actors from the new production ‘Lena’. The play tells the story of Lena Zavaroni and her path to fame and ultimately untimely death.

Thursday

After catching up with a raft of paperwork in my office I did a question and answer session with pupils at the West College Scotland waterfront campus. A fifteen minute slot expanded to ninety minutes and it was very enjoyable to run through a wide range of subjects with such an engaged audience. And in the afternoon I did a radio interview for a Catalonian based organisation.

Friday

Was solely based around constituents enquiries and I engaged with a range of people on topics from cycling to Palestine. On Saturday, I shall attending Saint Giles Cathedral’s remembrance service as a guest of the French Consul General. That will be followed by a reception and a recital of Claude Debussy’s wartime work. On Sunday I shall be attending the service of commemoration at the Mid Kirk and shall lay wreaths at the Wellpark and the Cross of Lorraine.

Westminster diary w/b 29th October

Monday

The big event of the day was of course the UK Budget. In just over an hour the Chancellor, Phillip Hammond MP, laid out his plans for the United Kingdom as we rush towards Brexit. Once the Chancellor has sat down, MPs can get copies of the Red Book which goes into more detail. I obtained my copy along with the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) report Economic and Fiscal Outlook. The OBR was established to provide independent and authoritative analysis of the UKs public finances. It didn’t take much reading of the OBR report to find a problem. On page 2 of 253 the OBR state that the treasury had repeatedly failed to observe the forecast timetable and that the OBR could not certify as reasonable the package of measures affecting universal credit on the basis of the information provided. The U.K. Government continues to plough a lone furrow and seems to find it impossible to engage with other bodies, devolved powers and EU members, instead they continue to adopt an alright on the night stance. I don’t share their optimism.

Tuesday

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee met to discuss our future programme. I left before the evidence session as I was chairing a session at the Opioid Addiction Summit. The summit was an engaging and informative event and during my session I endeavoured to get as much interaction with the audience as possible. They were not backward in coming forward. The overall feeling was that until we make drug policy a health issue we will not make the progress required. In the evening I attended a briefing from Alyn Smith MEP regarding Brexit negotiations.

Wednesday

The Transport Select Committee had a private session with Andrew Haines, Chief Executive of Network Rail. I then met with representatives of ABTA to discuss visa, passports, driving licences, cruise ship bookings and a host of other aspect of post Brexit U.K. and tourism which as yet are unresolved. Prime Ministers Questions was particularly poor. The PM and her supporters were in a belligerent mood with cheer leading to the fore and policy left far behind. I met up with Joe Fitzpatrick MSP after his meeting with U.K. government ministers. The SNP MPs and MSPs often take the opportunity to meet and talk even if it’s just half an hour over a coffee. That way we build good inter Parliamentary relations. The All-party Parliamentary Group for drug policy reform met to sign off our work plan and then we heard from Nuna Capez Vice President, commission for the dissuasion of drug addiction in Portugal. It was good to meet up with Nuna again. He always brings clarity through experience to the intricacies of implementing a drug policy with healthcare at its heart.

Thursday

I attended questions to Digital Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) and I was planning on bobbing for a question but kept my powder dry for the fireworks that ensued during an urgent question on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals instead. The U.K. Government have decided, under pressure from bookmakers, to not implement the agreed £2 maximum stake until October 2019. This is six months later than was hoped for and is a dereliction of the U.K. government’s duty to protect those effected by gambling related harm. The centre for medical cannabis had their Parliamentary launch. They are attempting fill a void of knowledge that is required for medical practitioners to prescribe medicinal cannabis. A recent survey showed that 13% of the UK population would consider approaching their GPs for medical cannabis. That’s over six million people. The current system will not fulfil their needs. I caught the 19:30 flight home.

Friday

I caught the 6am train to Edinburgh via Glasgow to attend a Post Brexit common frameworks meeting hosted by the Royal Society of Edinburgh. There were presentations from politicians, academics, the National Farmers Union and of course the Royal Society. I was there to represent the select committee for Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs. It is glaringly obvious that inter-parliamentary decision making is not well served by the current system and there is a real danger that the devolved parliaments will be underrepresented when decisions regarding Brexit are taken.

Westminster diary w/b 22nd October

Monday

I was briefed by a company that develop innovative and long acting medicines for the treatment of severe and chronic pain, cancer and endocrine disorders. Naturally they are now interested in the potential United Kingdom market for medical cannabis. I am talking at an opioid conference soon and so their position is interesting. I had a question on the papers for defence and took the opportunity to ask about the private firms that are providing increasing services to the armed forces but are failing to do the job specified. The Select Committee for Transport took evidence from the Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling MP. The focus was the timetable roll out last May that caused mayhem on the east coast of England line. We also took evidence from senior management at the Office of Road and Rail, Industry Readiness Board and Govia Thameslink Railway. Between them they still seem to be pushing the problem around. December’s planned changes should be interesting.

Tuesday

The Select Committee for Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs was a hard slog through the technical aspects of the House of Commons procedure. I did get the feeling that some committee members were using the extremely well versed witnesses as free legal advice to be used somewhere down the Brexit line. I led in a drugs policy debate in Westminster Hall. It was well subscribed and apart from the Scottish Tories doing their usual SNPBAD it was a good debate. That was until the Minister allocated by the Home Office opened her speech by saying she had to recuse herself from talking about cannabis due to her husband’s business interests. What is the point of sending someone to reply to speeches on drugs if that person can’t talk about cannabis. Having said that I asked the Minister five questions on other drug related matters and she didn’t answer them either. After the debate I attended a briefing from the House of Commons library on the roll out of Universal Credit. Inverclyde has had full roll out since November 2016 but we now face a migration period of the remaining people who are not on it yet. Despite the hard work and dedication of our local jobcentre I expect this next stage to be difficult for many.

Wednesday

I talked to the good folk from the ‘faces and voices of recovery’. They are a small but highly thought of organisation that has developed some very good ideas around alcohol and drug recovery. I attended a briefing and question and answer session with the Right Honourable Chloe Smith MP. This session was designed to encourage better intergovernmental relations. Pity it’s taken this long before someone at Westminster realised they need to work better with the devolved administrations. It was Welsh Questions in the chamber and I went to hear the minister’s answers to questions around the shared prosperity fund. I was not convinced. There is a real danger that money currently spent in Wales and Scotland by the EU will go elsewhere. PMQs was a non-event except for Ian Blackford who questioned the U.K. continued arms deals with Saudi Arabia. The recent murder of the respected Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is the latest in a line of atrocities perpetrated by the Saudis. We need to use whatever diplomatic or financial force we have end these atrocities. The SNP finance and economics group was interesting and was quickly followed by the All-party Parliamentary kidney group. The current focus of the group is to encourage live donors. Living donors currently represent 40% of donors. I finished my day with a visit to the onshore wind generation forum. Lots has been done and there is still a lot we can do.

Thursday

I was on the order paper again and eventually (after 50 minutes) got my question to the Minister for exiting the European Union. We need to know what the U.K. is doing during Brexit negotiations regarding the single market and customs union. I had another delighted legislation committee. More EU law being converted to U.K. laws. I went to the launch of UK Parliament Week. This is always well organised and I like it as it encourages people to engage with democracy. I am pleased that some local schools are getting involved. I was the SNP lead on the last debate of the day on inclusive transport. Councillor Jim McLeod fed into my speech and I was delighted to acknowledge that in the House. Jim has worked tirelessly on the subject for years. I caught the 19:30 flight home.

Friday

I visited Inverclyde Academy to see the restored war memorial. I met with Craig Berry from the Common Weal to discuss automation and I met with the young folk at I-zone to talk about the young people as ambassadors.

Westminster diary w/b 15th October

Monday

First event at Westminster was a briefing on the failing rollout of Universal Credit. A number of MPs whose constituencies have experienced Universal Credit for some time now, got together to share their experiences. This was in preparation for questions to the Secretary of State for the DWP. I bobbed for well over an hour in an attempt to ask a question but along with all my SNP colleagues I was ignored. All I managed to do was aggravate my already aching knees. Not a good start to the week. The statement on exiting the EU negotiations didn’t tell us anything we didn’t know and the behaviour in the chamber when the SNP spokesperson responded was appalling. It really was the self-entitled arrogant Tories and the SNPBAD labour at their very worst. I attended a strategy meeting on the course of action required to address the growing concerns relating to the use of synthetic cannabis in particular Spice and Mamba. Apart from Jeff Smith (Labour MP) and myself everyone just wants harder prison sentences. The evidence says that doesn’t work. I attended a debate on loneliness and its links to poverty.

Tuesday

I met with a Canadian company that produce medical cannabis. With the impending change of the law in the U.K. a number of companies that produce a range of products are lobbying hard to be allowed to supply the U.K. market. I was encouraged that their products covered a range of conditions and as they are already available in Germany they are BMP standard. I attended the back bench business committee to lend my support for a debate on the Equitable Life pension’s debacle.

Wednesday

Following on from a story in the press during the weekend I met with representatives of Gatwick airport who walked me through their plans to utilise an existing runway for additional takeoffs. Presently it is used to feed the main runway. This has been dubbed Gatwick’s “stealth runway”. They are prepared to invest a lot of money and it’s a long term project. The key to its success is likely to be an upgrade to the railway structure and surrounding roads. Scottish Questions was disappointing despite eight questions being allocated to the SNP. Usually that would have ensured fireworks but the Secretary of State for Scotland has obviously taken the stance that he is only accountable to his Westminster overlords and despite his title he didn’t actually answer any questions about Scotland, preferring to rubbish the Scottish Parliament and the SNP instead. Prime ministers questions was a poor affair too. The debate on Universal Credit that followed was a feisty affair. The DWP came under intense criticism. Most speakers were quick to praise the hard work of their local jobcentres and foodbanks but the fact that food banks exist is a damning indictment of the system. I had to leave early as I was the SNP representative on a Delegated Legislative Committee for civil aviation insurance post Brexit and yes, it was as interesting as it sounds. I caught the tail end of the debate in the chamber on social care funding and was pleased to hear that the Scottish Government funding is £157 per head greater than the rest of the United Kingdom. I intervened on the adjournment debate on ‘county lines’. Yet another example where the U.K. drugs policy is failing. The ‘hang them high’ brigade just don’t understand that we have tried that and it doesn’t work.

Thursday

Because I stayed late last night for the adjournment debate I stayed over and had to get up at 5am to catch the red eye up to Glasgow. I attended a wonderful event at Your Voice where I met the folk behind the augmented reality comic that the local Syrian kids put together with a little help from Magic Torch and Police Scotland. The kids were brilliant and were happy to tell me how much they enjoyed last year’s pantomime at the Beacon. The rest of the day was spent dealing with constituents cases.

Friday

I had an interview with the Greenock Telegraph and a few constituents to meet. I also took some time to research and write my speech for the drugs policy debate I am leading next Tuesday in Westminster Hall. I hope it’s an event that stimulates new options. I know I have a number of suggestions for the Home Office minister to take on board. On Saturday I shall be attending the unveiling of the poppy commemoration in the Inverclyde Heritage Hub.

Westminster diary w/b 8th October

Monday

Day two of SNP conference and my last day before heading back to Westminster. Conference is a many headed beast but utilised properly it allows me to meet a host of different people and organisations in a short period of time. Conference attracts businesses, charities, national bodies and media. The task was to get the balance right and talk to them all but still leave time to listen to some magnificent speeches in the main auditorium. I achieved most of what I set out to but didn’t get to speak in a heavily subscribed debate on the introduction of safe drug consumption rooms (DCR). However the motion passed with flying colours and it is the SNP’s intention to pursue all avenues available to open a DCR in Glasgow. I shall also be pushing for a facility in Inverclyde.

Tuesday

Back to reality and the red eye to London. My first engagement is the laughable process when the select committee for public administration and the constitution interview the one and only candidate for a job that virtually nobody knows exists and he was asked to apply by 10 Downing Street. So in case you are the slightest bit interested the committee has rubber stamped Jonathan Evans, Baron Evans of Weardale, for the job of Chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life. The committee is made up of four appointees named by the Prime Minister and one appointment each from the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat ranks. You should be interested, you are paying for it. I then met with Mike Trace to discuss drugs policy reform. Mike is an old hand at this and has worked for the United Nations and Tony Blair’s Government on policy reform. His experience helps the all party parliamentary group immensely. I was in the chamber for the EU summit announcement but it wasn’t anything I had not already heard from the media.

Wednesday

At the request of a local constituent I met with representatives of Humanity and Inclusion UK. They do tremendous work with the International Network on Explosive Weapons. Their aim is to limit the variety of explosives that are dropped on civilians during conflicts. It’s almost unbelievable that I have to type that sentence. We are actually negotiating with governments as to what they can use to kill civilians and what they can’t. It’s an obscenity that we have companies that actually design and manufacture explosive devices to destroy urban habitats and all those within. They then sell their goods around the world. For some light relief I attended Prime Ministers Questions. Once the Punch and Judy show was over Ian Blackford embarrassed the Prime Minister by pointing out that current government policies are responsible for increased suicides. Her response is to appoint a minister of suicides. We now have a Minister for Suicide Prevention and one for food supplies. Welcome to Brexit Britain. On the up side the All Party Parliamentary Group on Medical Cannabis under Prescription has a very productive meeting and I look forward to the Home Office announcement in two weeks time. If the reclassify cannabis as ‘schedule 4’ then it effectively becomes a health issue and progress can made but there is a good deal to be hammered out in the details. The SNP finance and economy team had one of our regular strategy meetings. The focus was on the impending budget. The day continued to improve with the cross party drugs, alcohol and justice group chaired by Lord Ramsbotham. The guest speakers were Sarah Caul (Office of National Statistics) and Rudi Fortson QC (Professor of Law at Queen Mary University of London and practicing barrister). Rudi spoke very strongly in support of drug consumption rooms, sighting one in Hamburg as an excellent working example. I topped of the day by hosting the WASPI movement. Twenty woman that had travelled to London from Scotland to protest against the U.K. government’s theft of their state pension. It was great to catch up with them all.

Thursday

A short week at Westminster so I busy myself in Inverclyde by attending the Your Voice and Inverclyde HSCP health event. Another very well attended event designed to gather ideas to reduce health inequality, nurture young people, protect our population, support independent living, reduce addiction harm and build on our strengths. In the afternoon I visited local traders in Gourock that had contacted me with concerns over the planned road works on Cardwell Road.

Friday

I met with McGills buses to raise matters that were brought to me via community council meetings in which I recently attended. In the afternoon I met with Liz Connolly , Principal of West College Scotland. Over the course of the weekend I intend to visit the boat show at the Inverkip Marina.

Westminster diary w/b 10th September

Monday

I delayed my departure to London so I could attend the funeral of George Fellows. George was the husband of my colleague Marion Fellows MP for Motherwell and Wishaw and George was a campaigner and supporter for many years. George was another victim of cancer taken far too early.

Tuesday

My select committee for the constitution and public administration took evidence from the Minister Chloe Smith MP. The main thrust of the enquiry is voter ID. Five trails have been run in England where voters have to provide independent identification before they can vote. A polling card is deemed to be not enough. The aim is to cut down on electoral fraud. Part of the problem is we don’t really know how big the problem is. I also attended the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Infrastructure. It was interesting but not terribly engaging.

Wednesday

The main of the event should be Prime Minister’s Questions but it was the usual shouting match. However the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Fixed Odd Betting Terminals was a riot. Representatives of the gaming industry came to give evidence to back up their claims that it will take between 9 and 12 months to implement a maximum stake of £2 a spin. And they can’t start until a statutory instrument (SI) is passed. Both claims are spurious. I say that from a background of 35 years in I.T. and the knowledge that the S.I. states a maximum spin of £2 across the board and that’s all they need to know.

Thursday

I spent the morning researching and writing a speech. I then travelled to Barcelona where I am speaking at the Unconditional Basic Income Europe conference. Westminster went into conference recess today. It’s an opportunity for those of us in the SNP to pursue wider issues as our conference is not until October.

Friday

I spoke at the conference. It is great to see so many countries across the globe represented.

I shall be attending the conference and hosting events on Saturday and Sunday.

Next week

On Monday, I am visiting drug consumption rooms in Barcelona including their mobile unit. In the evening I shall be visiting the Catalan National Assembly and get a briefing on the political situation in Catalonia. On Tuesday, I am meeting a range of parliamentarians and then visiting Jorge Cuixart who has been imprisoned due to his involvement in the referendum last October. There will then be more meetings with a number of ministers. On Wednesday, the main item of the day is a meeting with President Quim Torra. And then back to Inverclyde.

Westminster diary w/b 3rd September

Monday

Last day in the constituency before the end of summer recess. Today was spent tying up loose ends and preparing to return to Westminster even if it is only for two weeks before the conference recess starts. And one again may I say recess is not holiday it is an opportunity to dedicate all my time to constituency issues and work that does not tie me to London. I caught the 18:50 flight and got to my flat at ten pm.

Tuesday

I attended a debate in Westminster Hall on the charges the government makes for registering children as British citizens. The charge is far more than the cost of administration and is clearly being run as a profit making process which is contrary to that in other countries across the globe. I had a meeting with GambleAware to catch up with the safer gambling campaign. We discussed online gambling, intrusive advertising, sports celebrities encouraging gambling and children being groomed as the next generation of gamblers. On that last topic I was horrified when a constituent brought to my attention the slot machines being sold by the toy shop Hamleys. They use real money and normalise gambling at a very young age. I wrote to Hamleys and asked them to remove them from their stores. I then met with Mentor. Their role is to provide education around drug issues. I sat in on an urgent question on the Windrush generation and finished my day at an extremely interesting event discussing ‘County Lines’. This is the process that involves drug gangs recruiting kids to act as couriers. Aside from MPs, most of those at the ‘County Lines’ discussion were serving police and crime commissioners. The phrase “we can’t arrest our way out of a drugs crisis” was used time and again. Even the Minister used it. And yet that is exactly what we are trying to do.

Wednesday

Today started with an internal meeting of the SNP Finance and Economy Team. I attend this in my capacity as spokesperson on infrastructure. Next up was PMQs. Particularly poor this week. The PM didn’t even dance for us. That was swiftly followed by a meeting with the Minister with responsibilities for gambling. She was extremely helpful and forthcoming. The main issue is getting the UK Government’s declared maximum stake on fixed odd betting terminals of £2 implemented next April and not allowing it to slip, as the treasury would like it to. I also brought the issue of Hamleys toy slot machine to her attention. I then spoke on behalf of the SNP in a debate on organised crime and the exploitation of children. As it turned out the focus of the debate was ‘County Lines’ and although this impacts every constituency in the UK there was not one member of Scottish Labour, the Liberal Democrats or Conservative and Unionists at the debate. Everyone that spoke highlighted the increase in violence, abuse and exploitation but despite the findings of the previous evening, the Minister for organised crime still wants to arrest his way out of this crisis. When will they listen?

Thursday

I was on the order paper as question 11 to the Department for Digital Culture Media and Sport. My intention was to seek clarification on the UK Government’s approach to gambling related harm. But some very long questions and equally long answers meant that my question was not reached. On the up side Hamleys wrote to me and told me they are withdrawing the offending toy slot machines.

Just time to write an article and get to the airport to catch my flight.

Friday

The first Friday of every month is local surgeries day and today I was at Port Glasgow library, Craigend resource centre and my constituency office. Sometimes surgeries can be slow but not today. It was an extremely busy day.

Westminster diary w/b 23rd July

Monday

The main business of the day was a debate on strengthening the union. You couldn’t make this stuff up. In the previous weeks and months Westminster has ridden rough over the devolution settlement with absolutely no regard for the will of the people of Scotland. They failed to provide chamber time to debate the devolution aspects of the EU Withdrawal Bill but now they want to debate the strength of the union. It was a bun fight with Tory after Tory talking down Scotland and Labour resurrecting all the old myths around how Thatcher came to power. Blaming the SNP for their infighting and ineptitude in standing up for Scotland. Nothing has really changed. I had a catch up with Baroness Meacher regarding medical cannabis. Molly is one of those peers who give the House of Lords a good name. She is a cross bencher with a solid career in social work and a political conscience. In the evening I attended a showing o documentary on medical cannabis for children with cancer. It is called ‘weed the people’ and will be out Netflix in the Autumn. I returned to the chamber for the adjournment debate on ‘mamba’. I was concerned it was going to be an excuse to call for tougher sentencing and it was. I put the case for education and support.

Tuesday

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee met to finalise our latest report around Brexit. It is published next Tuesday. We then took evidence in public on referendums. I had to leave before the end as I had a question on the order paper for the Secretary of State for health and social care. I asked the U.K. government would make drug policy reform a health based issue rather than an issue for the home office as it is currently. The basis for my question was the latest statistics that show the U.K. has 64 deaths per million because of drug related harm while Portugal has 3 per million. Portugal handed over its drug policy to their health department years ago. My last business in the house before summer recess was supposed to be a debate on gambling advertising aimed at children but unfortunately the debate was withdrawn. So instead my summary of the cost of the Wyfla nuclear power station was my last contribution.

Wednesday

First day of recess. Catch up with casework and then a trip to visit CVS in Cathcart Street. I was there to learn about the programme that has community link workers working in GP surgeries. It is a methodology that elsewhere has helped reduce the burden on GPS and given valuable support to patients too. It’s early days in inverclyde but all the signs are good. In the afternoon I met with Scottish Enterprise to learn about their investment levels in the area and their plans for the future.

Thursday

Along with my caseworkers I met with representatives of Inverclyde Council to discuss the Scottish Welfare Fund and in particular discretionary payments. I visited a constituent at home to better understand the problems he has encountered with anti-social behaviour from youths in the area and I had visits to two of the excellent organisations we have locally that support children and young adults with autism. Both the Inverclyde A-team and Reach for Autism do a tremendous job and could always benefit from financial support.

Friday

I had a meeting with Taylor Wimpey regarding their proposals to build houses at Planetreeyetts in Kilmacolm and the rest of the day was consumed by casework. During recess I shall be meeting up with as many companies and organisations as I can but there will always be time to talk and listen to individuals that want to bring their cases to my office.

Westminster diary w/b 16th July

Monday 

I met with representatives of the National AIDS Trust and we discussed the increased numbers of drug related deaths and within that AIDS related deaths in Glasgow and Scotland. One of the major reasons for the increase is the lack of safe drug consumption rooms. While needle exchanges are closing, more people are sharing needles and HIV along with Hepatitis C is spreading. The U.K. Government could change this but actually choose not to. I stood for questions to BEIS and asked if the U.K. Government would follow the Scottish Government’s lead and provide more attractive business rates to help stimulate business. I wasn’t alone in pursuing this line of enquiry but the short answer is that they won’t. We voted long into the night and we watched the Conservative and Unionist Party tie itself in knots as their MPs were threatened and bullied into backing Brexit amendments that they do not support.

Tuesday  

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Fixed Odds Betting Terminals met to decide our strategy to try and force the U.K. Government to implement the £2 maximum spin that they have committed to, next April and not later as they wish to. We then took evidence from people who had lost fortunes on FOBTs and parents of young men that had committed suicide after developing an addiction to these machines. No Minister from the treasury has ever listened to these people. This isn’t about taking tax from FOBTs, this is about reducing gambling related harm. The Treasury should put its calculator in its pocket and do the decent thing. I met with CapBal who are a company that are installing three battery storage devices in Inverclyde. An interesting project with potential for engaging in other renewable projects. 

Wednesday  

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on drug policy reform met for our AGM and plan the year ahead. I bobbed up and down at Prime Minister’s Questions to try and get in in the back of Alison Thewliss question about lack of U.K. Government support for safe Drug Consumption Rooms. But I didn’t get picked. Still it was good physiotherapy for my knees. I dropped in on the Marine Energy Showcase. It’s always refreshing to mingle with people who see the possibilities of renewable energy and work so hard to maximise its potential. The APPG for Medical Cannabis under Prescription provided a drop in session for other MPs and staff to become better informed in the debate. That was followed by a reception organised by the Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU) for those attending a drug policy reform event at Chatham House the following day. 

Thursday 

Today was one of those days when it is an absolute joy to be an MP. I spent the day listening and talking to parliamentarians from all over Europe and the USA to learn about their experiences of drugs, medical cannabis and psychoactive substances.

So many European countries are so far ahead of the U.K. and the 32 US states that have medical cannabis all have different approaches. We can learn and we can make this happen.

Friday 

Started with watching the Victoria Derbyshire Show on BBC where the discussion was on medical cannabis. I then had a catch up with Inverclyde Council officers and then up to Glasgow for a meeting with Robin McAlpine of the Common Weal. I attended a Basic Income workshop and at in the evening I attended a talk by Karl Wilderquist, organised by the RSA. My faithful reader will be familiar with Karl as I have previously heard him talk at the RSA in London.