Westminster diary w/b 13th May

Monday

Business continues to be slow at Westminster so I took the opportunity to work in my constituency office in the morning and catch a later flight to London. Incredibly, at this point in time, when we are at the cusp of the United Kingdom’s relationship with the European Union business in the House lasted from 14:30 to 17:45. There are duties and responsibilities that drag me to London but in all honesty, there are days when my time would be better spent in my constituency.

Tuesday

Today started with the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee taking evidence about eating disorders and the Public health Ombudsman. The oral evidence was interesting, but the written evidence was harrowing. The lack of intervention and knowledge within the medical profession as a result of the lack of training is staggering. During a ten year training period the average GP in England will receive 2 hours training in eating disorders. It was a joy to then meet up with Ian Russell, Chair of the Infrastructure Commission for Scotland and hear about the long-term strategy for infrastructure that he is working on. Too often politicians are pulled into 5 year plans. So, to hear that he is developing a 30 year strategy at the request of the Scottish Government was encouraging. I dropped into the alcohol alliance Parliamentary reception and did an interview for Panorama. The minimum unit price, as part of broader strategy has been effective but there is a long way to go to improve Scotland’s relationship with alcohol.

Wednesday

I started at the end child poverty drop in where I was given the statistics on Inverclyde’s child poverty. 25% of children in Inverclyde are living in poverty and although that is far from the worst it is still a stark reminder of how far we have to go. I attended the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Bees. We are trying to encourage the development of pollinator strips. Fortunately, Inverclyde is already switched on to the need and we have excellent projects at Broomhill, Hector McNeil Baths and Belville Gardens leading the way. Prime Ministers Questions was a sorry affair of posturing with very little real engagement. I hosted a meeting with Ladbrokes Coral and was interested to hear their commitment to reducing gambling related harm. I remain unconvinced.

Thursday

Up early to catch the tube then train to Heathrow as I am on the 8:55 to Stockholm along with cross party colleagues from the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on prostitution. We are on a fact-finding mission to Sweden to investigate the Nordic Model. It is a hectic two days. Today we had briefings from the ambassador at large for combating trafficking and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

Friday

An early start with an 08:00 meeting with the Swedish Police Authority. This takes up most of the day. One of the joys about these sort of events is the opportunity to meet experts in their field and mix with Parliamentary colleagues from other parties to seek out and find common ground on which we can work. Mia de Faoite is a survivor of prostitution and her knowledge, lived experience and intellect are hugely influential and a privilege to experience. She also has an encyclopaedic knowledge of Eurovision but nobody is perfect. I make my way home via the 18:05 Stockholm to Heathrow London and the 21:30 to Glasgow. I arrive home at 23:30.

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Westminster diary w/b 6th May 2019

Monday

Much has been said about the regeneration of Dundee. As today was a public holiday I visited the V&A and the Dundee Contemporary Arts (DCA) centre to see them for myself. The water side regeneration is impressive and both venues were extremely busy. The V&A building is stunning but the exhibition space seemed small. The addition of a canteen and a souvenir shop in the grand entrance hall look very much like afterthoughts. The DCA which is comparable to our Beacon Arts Centre, has combined exhibition space with cinemas, restaurants and bars. It struck me as less touristy than the V&A and a well-liked well used facility by local people. The port of Dundee looks across the silver Tay To Fife and it can be beautiful and moody but it doesn’t compare to the stunning beauty that we enjoy in inverclyde looking across the Clyde to Argyll and Bute.

Tuesday

An early flight was required to get me on the Westminster estate for the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs select committee which started at 9:30. We took evidence from senior civil servants about the leadership programmes and how the most senior civil servants are trained. There was a lot of management speak banded about and I am not convinced that the outcomes are measured in any meaningful way.

Wednesday

The Transport select committee took evidence from the department of transport parliamentary under Secretary of State, Andrew Jones MP and Polly Payne, director general of the Rail Group. It was mostly about franchising and accessibility. Neither of which were answered convincingly. I had to leave early as I was on the Order Paper for questions to the Secretary of State for Scotland. Mr Mundell continued his attempts to muddy the waters over the sovereign right of the people of Scotland to determine their own future. It appears the Claim of Rights and the four parliamentary elections since 2014 mean nothing to him. Prime Ministers Question’s saw the Prime Minister and the leader of her majesty’s opposition use the NHS in England and Wales as a political punch bag. Taking it in turn to criticise the one run by each of their parties. Tory England versus Labour Wales. The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Gambling Related Harm was, as ever, extremely well attended and we took evidence from organisations that provide education modules for children and adults to raise awareness of the potential pitfalls of gambling. We also heard the story of how a young man’s suicide had motivated his mother to form an education organisation and the difficulties they have in funding it. They are currently active in over 1,000 schools and 5 universities but to grow they need more money over a longer period of time. This is just one example where a statutory levy on the gambling industry could be put to good use. The for Drugs, Alcohol and Justice cross-party group was also very well attended and its focus was learning lessons from Scotland. Minimum pricing of alcohol was high up on the agenda as were, safe drug consumption facilities, diversion techniques and static needle exchanges. My flight home was delayed and I got home at 23:30.

Thursday

I had an early start as I was on BBC Radio Scotland at 8:05. Sometimes these interviews can be done over the phone but they wanted to record some TV too so I drove up to Pacific Quay instead. On the back of a report just released by Glasgow University, the topic of conversation was gambling related harm. The rest of the day was consumed by research and writing.

Friday

A good day of street surgeries and engagement with the people of Inverclyde. Top of their agenda was Brexit and the European Union elections on the 23rd of May. It was good to have Margaret Ferrier along with me in her capacity as an ex MP and candidate for MEP.

Westminster diary w/b 29th April 2019

Monday

I attended the Poverty Alliance event on making Scotland’s transport system work for everyone. It was held in the Caledonian University in Glasgow. The main focus was the cost and availability of suitable public transport. It was a well-attended event with representatives from a wide range of stakeholders. Mobility as a service is an area that the select committee on transport has looked at and it is an ongoing concern that the costs of inclusion have historically prohibited the investment required. I caught a late afternoon flight to Heathrow. My day had included a train to Glasgow, a taxi to the airport, a flight to Heathrow and a train to Paddington. I decided it was time to put into practice what I had learned and so I walked to Westminster from Paddington.  

Tuesday

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee took evidence from William Hague and Jack Straw. The subject matter was Parliament’s involvement in the process of deciding on military intervention. It was interesting hearing Jack Straw promote the idea of Parliament’s involvement with his background of ‘dodgy dossiers’ and the UKs involvement in the Iraq war based on non-existent weapons of mass destruction. Ironically my next meeting was about the UKs nuclear weapons programme. The main focus was on the cost of the programme which is eye watering but in my opinion those that support these particular weapons of mass destruction will be prepared to pay any amount of money as they genuinely think they are a deterrent. When you have been taught to live in fear it is very difficult to learn to trust. I attended an interesting lecture on net zero carbon building. There are many ways which we can embrace more environmentally friendly building methods but governments, including local ones, must take the lead. 

Wednesday

The Transport Select Committee took evidence from the Minister of state from Transport, Jesse Norman MP. The main thrust of the enquiry was active travel. The most popular methods being cycling and walking. He is always an enthusiastic and engaging witness that is prepared to fight his corner to support his brief. Prime Ministers Questions continues to be poorly attended and is frankly a meaningless exercise in public posturing. The Prime Minister chose to celebrate the anniversary of the signing of the 1707 treaty of unions (despite the fact it was signed against the will of the people of Scotland) and she failed to acknowledge International Workers Day. On the back of the recent protests by Extinction Rebellion a host of politicians that have never shown the slightest interest in the environment have had a sudden awakening and true to form the opposition day debate was on the climate change emergency. If we are going to address climate change it will take more than warm words at Westminster, we need serious and concerted investment in renewable energy and farming.

I travelled home in the evening.

Thursday

I caught up with administrative matters in the morning and in the afternoon I carried out street surgeries. In the evening I attended the Inverkip and Wemyss Bay Community Council. It’s always good to engage with the grass roots issues that concern the citizens of inverclyde and community councils perform a vital job in that area.

Friday

My annual check-up with my GP confirmed the presence of a heart, so that’s good. The morning was taken up by constituency surgeries and in the afternoon I met with Kilmacolm residents association and Kilmacolm Community Council to discuss planned house building projects in the village.

 

Westminster diary w/b 22nd April

Monday

I enjoyed a Monday holiday soaking up the good Inverclyde sunshine. I found some time to make promotional videos to encourage people to register to vote and use it in the proposed European Union elections on the 23rd May.

Tuesday

Early flight to London. Business is still sporadic at Westminster as the government works out how to utilise the Brexit extension. My main event was the Hydrogen showcase. I spoke with travel providers and learned the eye watering costs of hydrogen busses and filling stations. Large scale hydrogen conversion projects have the potential to significantly decrease carbon emissions but that potential requires serious funding if it is to come to fruition.

Wednesday

Prime Ministers Questions was the day of the second in commands as the Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition and Ian Blackford MP were all attending the funeral of the journalist L McKee who was murdered in Northern Ireland. PMQs was actually quite cordial for once, maybe because of the tragic circumstances around it. It was followed by a ten-minute rule bill that I had put my name to. The bill attempts to introduce a statutory levy on bookmakers to pay for gambling related harm. Currently a voluntary levy raises about 10 million pounds a year. A 1% levy would raise 140 million. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on gambling related harm took evidence from banks and software providers that are trying to make it easier for problematic gamblers to self-exclude. My last event of the evening was the All-Party Parliamentary Group on prostitution and the global sex trade. We heard from the Swedish ambassador how they had implemented the ’Nordic Model’ (decriminalise the selling of sex and prosecute the purchaser) and the effect it had on reducing prostitution and helping woman out of prostitution. The comparison to Germany where they have decriminalised both the purchasing and selling of sex could not be starker.

Thursday

I spoke to the Urgent Question on Huawei in my capacity as SNP spokesperson on infrastructure. The prospect of the UK 5G telecommunications networks relying on Chinese technology from a company surrounded in espionage rumours and beholden to the Chinese state does not thrill me. I attended the Gambling Commissions report launch ‘National Strategy to reducing gambling related harm’. I was disappointed to hear the DCMS minister Mims Davis say that the Government still believes a voluntary levy is sufficient. I caught the 19:05 flight to Edinburgh as I am attending an inter-governmental forum at Holyrood on Friday.

Friday

I attended an Inter Parliamentary forum on Brexit along with members of committees from the Welsh and Scottish parliaments and on Saturday and Sunday I shall be at the SNP spring conference where I am moving a motion for the creation of a Scottish Statistics Agency and hosting a fringe event on developing drugs policy.

 

Westminster diary w/b 9th April

Monday

Another historic week of votes stretches out in front of me. Or maybe not. The truth is the United Kingdom’s withdrawal process from the European Union has been so shambolic that with five days until the deadline we are no further forward than we were nearly three years ago. As a result, all business in the house of commons is subject to change at almost any given moment. As I set off with colleagues our latest update tells us we can expect a Friday sitting and possibly a Saturday one too. I am pleased to hear that Sir Mike Penning MP (Conservative and Unionist) has secured an urgent question on the supply of medical cannabis. This follows on from the disgraceful scenes at Southend airport over the weekend, when Teagan Appleby had her supply confiscated. Teagan’s parents had paid £4,600 for a three month supply that was prescribed by a paediatric neurologist at the Erasmus Hospital in Rotterdam. The Secretary of State, Matt Hancock, did his best to defend the indefensible and I have some sympathy for him as he has inherited a colossal mess from his predecessor. I bobbed for a question and was taken. We can’t continue to fight each one of these cases in the House of Commons. The law needs changed now.

Tuesday

Another session of bobbing resulted in me being taken during the presentation of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport white paper – Online Harms. I questioned how they could identify ‘designed addiction’ but still largely rely on the gambling industry to govern itself through the gambling commission. If we know the industry is designing in addiction then that must be stopped. The rest of the day was a mish mash of business thrown together as the Prime Minster was off campus trying secure a deal, obtain an extension and start meaningful talks with a Labour party that has multiple leaders and at the same time none. What could possibly go wrong?

Wednesday

I have a meeting with a renewable energy contact that is looking to acquire more contracts in Inverclyde. It continues to frustrate me that people from outside Inverclyde see the potential for renewables projects and yet when locally based businesses seek to operate in this market place they are faced with a barrage of red tape and scepticism. Prime Ministers Questions was noticeable for the many empty spaces on the government benches and the quietest public gallery I have ever seen. The public galleries I can understand as this was supposed to be recess so many tickets would not have been allocated but there is no excuse for the government benches to be so sparsely populated. I had a meeting Carolyn Harris MP (Labour) and the father of a young man that is recovering from a gambling addiction. He highlighted a number of areas that his son utilised to secure gambling funds from and we shall work with him to amend the law accordingly to help protect people with a gambling addiction. The debate ‘50th Anniversary of the continuous at sea deterrent’ that was cancelled last week took place today. It was led on behalf of the SNP by Stewart M McDonald who made an excellent speech and handled some very aggressive but ill-informed interventions from both Conservative and Unionists and Labour. It was interesting to hear the Labour spokesperson confirm that Scottish Labour MPs would toe the line of the UK party. I used my time on my feet to highlight the absurdity of the escalation of weapons of mass destruction as a rational way to create a more peaceful society. Escalation can’t bring peace it maintains agreed distrust and then escalates again.

Thursday

Somewhere around 2am the news breaks that the United Kingdom has been given an extension until the 31st of October before leaving the European Union. A zombie government extended until Halloween, you couldn’t make this stuff up. I had a very informative meeting with a company that grow, package and distribute medical cannabis in the USA. Of course, they see a market place to make money from but we currently have people that could benefit from their products. Somebody within the UK government has to realise that as we seek a long term solution we should also be looking at quick fixes to cater for patients today. The Prime Minister made a statement which sounded remarkably like all her other previous statements and even included the line “we need to leave the European Union with a deal as soon as possible “. The immediate result being that Friday sitting was cancelled and next week becomes recess with parliament not returning until the 23rd of April. The greatest constitutional crisis the United Kingdom has faced in modern times and the government’s reaction is to re-instate an already cancelled recess.

Friday

A quick reshuffle of the diary (again), as I now find myself in recess and therefore not at Westminster, means that a lot of next week has changed, I shall be in Inverclyde and expect a great deal of the week shall entail surgeries and door knocking. I know people want to talk Brexit but it will be good to get an opportunity to engage with constituents with local issues once again. As always, my office is at your disposal and I may be coming to street near you.

Westminster diary w/b 25th March

Monday

It’s a morning flight this week as I am on the order paper for questions to the Defence department. With increasing concerns around the supply of medicines and food, post Brexit, I have been trying to clarify the situation regarding the legality of Government and Parliament deploying armed forces on UK soil. To the best of my knowledge this has only happened twice in modern history. During the troubles in Northern Ireland and in George Square Glasgow in 1919. Using the forces in an unarmed capacity is a completely different thing. The now weekly statement from the Prime Minister contained the staggering line “I cannot commit the Government to delivering the outcome of any votes held by this house.” This was a nod to the indicative votes that were being scheduled for Wednesday. My delegated legislation committee considered draft customs and security procedures. Yes, that’s right, customs and security, four days before the planned exit date. I spoke against the statutory instrument as it completely ignored the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. It actually said, “further details on the arrangement for trade between Northern Ireland and Ireland will be published as soon as possible.” That’s not good enough.

Tuesday

Coincidentally the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs select committee we were also looking at military deployment. We took evidence from three extremely senior members of the armed forces. The frustration at the military continually being thrown into conflicts ill prepared and with no exit strategy was shared by all three. When parliament votes on such things the voice of the armed forces but also be heard and their advice must be seriously considered. Of course, the difficulty arises if the armed forces are seen to be political and therefore they tend to be side-lined in the decision-making process. I think we least they deserve is an exit strategy and the correct care and support for veterans after they have served. I bobbed for questions to the Health department but didn’t get taken. I wanted to ask about the availability of medical cannabis. I took the opportunity to talk to the Secretary of State for Health later in the day during votes. I may as well put the archaic voting system to some good use. The All Party Parliamentary Group for Medical Cannabis met and took evidence later in the day. There were too many money men represented for my liking and I can see big business dominating and controlling the market place.

Wednesday

In for Scotland questions and the usual suspects from the Conservative and Unionists mocking the ability of Scotland to run its own affairs. Take one good look at Brexit and tell me Westminster function’s as a responsible parliament. Prime Ministers Questions was an appalling spectacle. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling related harm was hard going as we listened to evidence from people who have lost money and their health to gambling addiction. Particularly harrowing was evidence that people suffering from acquired brain injuries have been exploited due to their repetitive behaviour disorders. The evening was dominated by the eight indicative votes. None were accepted. A very good indication of what parliament doesn’t want but not very useful in trying to move the debate forward. We did manage to agree to bump the leaving date forward subject to approval from the EU. Amidst all this the Prime Minister offered to resign if her deal was accepted. I have never heard that technique used. Back my deal or I will resign is the usual stance but back my deal and I will resign! Strong and stable anyone!

Thursday

The political machinations moved into hyper-drive today as the dust settled on last night’s indicative votes. In some quarters there seems to be a lot of confusion around why I voted for, against or abstained on certain amendments. Indicative votes are a way of securing Parliamentary time for debate followed by a series of votes on various scenarios, to see which, if any, might command a majority in the House of Commons. They form opinion and may lead to motions that the government believes will have the support of the house. I used my votes to indicate my preferences. Had I voted for some that I abstained on that would have deflected from my priorities. As we move forward and we get to substantive motions then all consideration will be taken to supporting other amendments. Meanwhile business is sparse and all eyes are on the House for a declaration of business tomorrow. Flights are being cancelled, hotels booked, business cancelled and we are all hunkering down for another day in the chamber.

Friday

All my constituency work has been cancelled. My apologies to those I have had to let down at the last minute. Today the UK Government brought forward only the Withdrawal Agreement to be voted on and not the Political Declaration. There were a number of amendments and votes at 2:30pm and then I rushed to catch a flight home, sweet home.

Westminster diary w/b 18th March

Monday

I caught the red eye to London as I was scheduled to do one of my regular tours of Westminster. On a number of occasions I have welcomed constituents and walked them round the estate. Citizens’ engagement is extremely important in maintaining a true democracy and everyone should feel comfortable engaging with their elected members and the mechanisms of government. At midday it was my turn to be hosted as I visited the Imperial War Museum (IWM). Diane Lees (Director General) and I had a lengthy and illuminating discussion around the possibilities of the IWM lending some Stanley Spencer paintings to Inverclyde. My initial idea was for a mini exhibition around Spencer and the wars years in general. Unfortunately, at this time we don’t have a building suitable to host this. The delay to the completion of the McLean museum is a great disappointment. 

Tuesday

An early start to take part in a Delegated Legislation (DL) committee. Regular readers will by now be familiar with the purpose of DLs. Today’s was ‘Draft Railways, licensing of railway undertakings’. The select Committee for Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs took evidence from economists on the governance of national statistics. The United Kingdom’s Statistics Authority came under heavy criticism. At SNP conference in April the local branch will be putting forward for a Scottish Statistics Agency. The gathering of accurate statistics, free from political influence can be an invaluable tool in making good policy. I attended an event for ‘End our Pain’. They are a lobby group for medical cannabis and many of the attendees were parents of children who desperately need access to Bedrocan. Alfie Dingley’s mum has fought tirelessly to get him the correct medication. Sadly many are still being denied. I met with Lisa Quarrell mother of Owen and Karen Gray mother of Murray. Both these kids would benefit greatly but the flaws in the current system makes it impossible for them to legally access it. I had a quick dash to Victoria Tower gardens for an interview with Radio Clyde as a precursor to my debate on gambling related harm. The debate took place in Westminster Hall and was very well attended. Along with the front bench spokesperson, seventeen MPs spoke and the message was loud and clear, the gambling companies need to fund organisations that can provide support for their customers that are experiencing gambling related harm and advertising has to curtailed.  

Wednesday

I spent the morning writing two articles. One on drugs policy reform for the Daily Record and one on gambling related harm for Politics Home. Prime Minister’s Question time saw the Prime Minster put up a very poor show. The undoubted pressure she is under and unending hours dedicated to compounding the problem are taking their toll. Jeremy Corbyn was ineffectual. He had some good questions this week but his delivery was off and he still can’t chase down the poor responses from the PM. An interesting addition to PMQs is the input from the ‘independent group’ or the TIGs as they are called. Hearing the tory members shouting abuse at their former colleagues is an eye opener. One by one they get ridiculed. Brexit is indeed a tangled web of deceit, ambition, greed and incompetence. What should have been a short day became longer than necessary when an application was made for an emergency debate under Standing Order 24. Granting such a thing is at the speaker’s discretion, as are it is apparent are a number of things. He granted it and a three hour debate took place covering all the same ground of Article 50 EU withdrawal. I grabbed a six pm flight home.  

Thursday

The morning was consumed by case work and media and in the afternoon I dropped in to the RIG arts driven green arts activities project at the Broomy Bees Garden in Ann Street. Lots of bees being made by kids and tie dye for the adults.

Friday

My first appointment was with Kevin Scarlet at River Clyde Homes. We had lots to discuss. I then caught up with the senior management team at Ferguson Marine. Another event packed with information and the ups and downs of trying to run a business during these very complicated times. When I was first elected I found it very hard to get suitable office accommodation in the area and therefore with a change of landlord I was keen to have a quick sit down to go through the contract and ensure I am in a position to continue to serve the community form my current location on Crawfurd Street. I look forward to a constructive relationship with my landlord for as long as I am required.

 

Westminster diary w/b 11th March

Monday

I am on the rota for today which means I am there to potentially cover urgent questions and statements or any other business that is brought forward on the day. Therefore, I caught an earlier flight than is sometimes required. There was an Urgent Question from Jeremy Corbyn MP around the EU withdrawal process. I took part in an extremely lively E-petition debate in Westminster Hall. These debates are born out of citizens signing petitions and if a sufficient number is reached then they will be debated. Although the debate was lively it didn’t stop a Conservative and Unionist MP attempting to lecture me on the cowardice of the people Scotland for voting no in the referendum of 2014. I must admit I reacted by banging my head on the table. I had to leave early to attend a delegated legislation (DL) committee for ‘draft licensing of operators and international road haulage’. This is yet another DL committee set up to transfer EU law to UK law in haste before we crash out on the 29th of March.  

Tuesday

The Select Committee on Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs took evidence from academics on ‘authorising the use of military force’. The first two witnesses were legal experts and the second were more political. Historically it would have been the King or Queen who declared war or instigated military action. That was passed by the royal prerogative to the Prime Minister. The UK has taken part in over 60 military interventions since World War Two. The process that has been followed has varied wildly from the decision to intervene in the Suez Crisis to military action in Northern Ireland. I raised my concern over the lack of visibility when it comes to deploying armed forces on UK soil. For more information on that you may wish to attend the Beacon Theatre tonight to see ‘The Battle of George Square’. The Attorney General made a statement in the House on the legal advice around the EU withdrawal bill. I took part in a Westminster Hall debate on online gambling protection. I raised my on-going concerns regarding ‘loot boxes’. I attended the Kidney Research UK launch of their report ‘Kidney health inequalities’. In the evening we debated the proposed deal for leaving Europe and the UK government lost by 149 votes. 

Wednesday

My day started with the Select Committee for Transport. We took evidence from the chairman of HS2 and I took the opportunity to raise the issue of subcontractors not being paid after contracts were cancelled with no prior notice. This matter was brought to me by a constituent. Prime Ministers Question’s saw the PM and Leader of the Opposition go through the motions. The real battle was scheduled for later in the day and would take place in the voting lobbies. The chancellor made his spring statement. It is effectively a mini budget to tweak a few things and was not surprisingly unremarkable. What can a Chancellor do when the U.K. is crashing out of the E.U. in 17 days’ time and potentially crashing the economy? Today was the second day of EU withdrawal vote and we were debating leaving with no deal. After all was said we had three votes. Amendment A was the most contentious. It was in the name of Caroline Spelman (Conservative and Unionist MP) but she tried to withdraw it. She can’t do that. What she really meant was she wouldn’t move it. But what she didn’t seem to realise is that other people with their name on the amendment could move it and they were lining up to do so. It got moved so we voted to rule out a no deal Brexit. The U.K. Government lost the vote by 312 to 308. It was a particularly galling defeat for the government as four cabinet ministers abstained. They had victory in their grasp and as often happens the Conservative and Unionists turned on themselves. The second amendment was to make various provisions for a ‘managed no-deal’ scenario. It was roundly defeated. Another bad day at the office for the U.K. Government.

Thursday

I started my day at International Trade questions as I had a question on the order papers. A number of people stood and asked questions around international trade deals post Brexit that could harm the NHS. I asked for greater transparency of the trading mechanisms. If we learn anything from Brexit is that the U.K. government needs help negotiating. The major debate of the day was to extend article 50. A rash of amendments were put down and six were selected by the speaker, in the end there were five votes and despite having the opportunity to defeat the government and guarantee a people’s vote many Labour MPs abstained and handed victory to the government. A very quick smash to the airport ensued and I caught the 19:30 home.

Friday

A welcome break from the groundhog days of Westminster and I joined a local postman on his rounds. I am used to delivering leaflets for campaigning purposes but the shift the posties put in is on another scale entirely. I was pleased that my next stop was Belville Gardens for soup and a blether. My plum tree is in rude health and I am glad to say is being well looked after. In the afternoon I had street surgeries along with Councillor Jim McEleny.

 

Westminster diary w/b 4th March

Monday

I delayed my departure to Westminster to meet with Angela Rintoul who is a senior lecturer at Monash University in Australia. She is gathering information on gambling related harm and I was happy to pass on the knowledge I have gleaned from my work at Westminster. Gambling related harm is a worldwide issue. I would have stayed in Inverclyde and gotten on with the day job but we were expecting a debate in the Financial Services Bill and possible votes so I headed for the midday flight. Unfortunately, the debate was pulled but there were plenty of urgent questions to fill the void. I was taken (miracles of miracles) for a question on the shambles of the ferry contracts. Surprisingly it was the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care that came to answer. Or not answer as the case may be. I raised my concern over healthcare companies that are extending their credit limits to borrow money so they can stockpile medicines. The other side of the coin is that banks are having to extend loans over longer periods than they would normally have an appetite for.

Tuesday

The select committee on Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs took evidence from experts on the gathering of statistics. What sounds like a very dry topic was in fact an extremely interesting session. In these days of ‘fake news’ it is increasingly important that data can be gathered and reports produced that can guide industry and commerce without political interference. The local SNP branch have a resolution for SNP conference that a Scottish Statistics Agency should be established. I hosted a meeting of Narcotics Anonymous where we addressed their concerns that access to prisons for ex-offenders was difficult. Often and particularly within Narcotics Anonymous, it is the testament of members of the fellowship that gives strength to others. Unfortunately some of those members have criminal records. We are seeking clarification over when they can get permission to return to prison to help and counsel inmates. We had an SO24 (emergency debate granted by the Speaker) on the Ferry Contract debacle. This time the Secretary of State for Transport actually turned up. In the evening the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Catalonia had an extremely well attended and we heard from Toni Comin (ex Minister for Health) and Professor Bill Bowring, an international observer at the trails of political prisoners in Madrid.

Wednesday

I started the day at a round table event with Scottish Renewables. It was an extremely interesting discussion encompassing both on shore and off shore wind and importantly how we can mix tidal, wave and solar into the package. I attended both the Marie Curie and Brain Tumour drop ins. Prime Minister’s Question was sparsely attended by the Conservative and Unionist Party, the discontent within their party rumbles on as we approach the decisive Brexit votes next week. I attended and spoke at a Parliamentary round table event on Global Drug Policy. It was attended by delegates from Uganda, Zambia, Ghana, India and many other countries that are suffering because of their part in the international drugs trade. The hard fact that many of the UK representatives couldn’t grasp was that these countries were brutalised by colonialism and had their natural resources stolen from them. Their current poverty and therefore the need of poor farmers to grow the crops and play their part in the industry is because of British colonialism. It is a bit rich that all these years later we still think we can teach them how to run their own countries. Not surprisingly the delegates from those countries agreed with me. Business in the chamber is slow at Westminster so I managed to catch the 20:30 flight home.

Thursday

The morning was taken up by street surgeries in Port Glasgow and I squeezed in some leafleting for Councillor Jim Mcleod at lunch time. The afternoon was spent in my office handling casework to allow members of my team to take holidays and attend on-going training and personal development. In the evening I attendee ‘Creative Inverclyde’ at the Albany. This is a fantastic initiative to encourage cooperation amongst the creative sector while promoting Inverclyde as a place to work and live.

Friday

The plan was to do more street surgeries in the morning but our beautiful rain intervened and I worked in the office instead. I had a meeting with Riverside Inverclyde in the afternoon.

Tele diary w/b 25th February

Monday

I have been taking part in the judging of the UK Parliament awards and the final paperwork was completed today. The parliamentary briefing on the Safer Gambling Advertising Campaign was a lively affair taking into consideration the views of many stakeholders. The campaign is targeted at men between the ages of 16 to 34 that already gamble twice a week. This demographic is recognised as having the greatest potential to experience gambling related harm.

Tuesday

The Prime Minister made yet another statement regarding the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union and explained the current plan. That is current as in Tuesday’s plan. It will change. I met with the Chief Executive of BACTA to get his take on the progress we have made regarding Fixed Odds Betting Terminals and how we can address gambling related harm in his area of expertise. My first delegated legislation committee of the week was ‘Energy Systems regulations’. The sifting committee had cunningly grouped five statutory instrument into one sitting. We out smarted them and considered them all at the same time thus saving hours of meaningless debate. The deputy Speaker gave the group a security update and that was followed by an SNP group meeting.

Wednesday

I met with Alok Sharma MP (Minister for employment). We dialled into the Inverclyde jobcentre and discussed support from Citizens Advice Bureau and funding of the ongoing support to roll out universal credit. Prime Ministers Question time and I had the joy of sitting beside Patricia Gibson the MP for Millport. PMQs is not the classiest of affairs and it was a rare joy to hear Ian Blackford welcome visitors from the Netherlands Parliament to the gallery, in their native tongue. They were clearly delighted. I dropped in to meet Ofcom and get an update on broadband speeds in Inverclyde. I know it’s not a great comfort if you are experiencing poor connection speeds but Inverclyde has 97% properties with 30mbit/s availability. And is better served than many communities. It has certainly improved since we managed to persuade major suppliers to invest in Kilmacolm and Inverkip. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling Related Harm met with a pleasure group that are seeking to expose the algorithms that bookmakers use to stop people winning and at the same time encourage people who are losing. This will be the basis for our next enquiry. I dropped in to the Fairtrade fortnight reception to hear about the West African Fairtrade cocoa producers and how we can support woman’s economic empowerment in the sector. 

Thursday

My Select Committee on the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs met to take evidenced from Sir Mark Sedwill, Cabinet Secretary and John Manzoni, Chief Executive of the civil service regarding Brexit readiness. It’s stunning how much legislation still has to be done and ironically I had to leave early to attend another Delegated Legislation Committee to push through more statutory instruments. The UK Government is now beginning to realise that this can’t be done in time and will take steps to push through legislation without any debate or scrutiny. We could have told them that a year ago. I spoke in the chamber on behalf of the SNP in the St David’s Day debate. It was an interesting event if only to hear so many of the MPs that represent Welsh seats raging against the Conservative and Unionist UK Government.

Friday

As ever the first Friday of the month was spent hosting surgeries throughout Inverclyde. In the evening I attended the Innerkip society dinner. There was no escaping politics with a table of councillors and council officers. On Saturday I plan to attend the AGM of the Coves Community Nature Reserve.