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.

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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.

 

Westminster diary w/b 9th July

Monday

My first event at Westminster was a briefing regarding the cabinet meeting at Chequers the previous Friday. In keeping with the Brexit process so far, the intended host of the event was changed at the last minute and the projector required for the power point presentation went missing. I don’t know what goes on behind the closed doors of the upper echelon of power but every time I see it manifested in public it’s a shambles. Following the briefing the Prime Minister made a statement in the house. It was beyond contempt as she continued with the ‘All Right on the Night’ mentality. Meanwhile, three cabinet members had resigned. Things are clearly not alright and yet the UK government continues to reject overtures of conciliatory discussions from devolved powers. In the evening I met with Rachel Moran to discuss the Nordic Model for prostitution.

Tuesday

I met with various trade union representatives to listen to their concerns around the bidding process to build the ‘Fleet Solid Support’ ships. The FSS contract has been extended to countries across the world. The trade unions and many others believe that the FSS are warships and therefore should be built in the UK, which is the usual process. I had a meeting with the Glasgow coordinator for the WASPI campaign and it was good to catch up with ongoing campaign. I was disappointed to learn that the ministers with responsibility for the Department for Work and Pensions had still not managed to sit down with the board members of the WASPI campaign. This is another classic example of the UK government burying its head in the sand. This issue will not just go away, in fact after their upcoming AGM I expect it will come roaring back. The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Scottish Sport consisted of an extremely interesting briefing on transitioning back to normal life after a career in sport. It highlighted the lack of support that most sportspeople are given by their organising bodies and the financial difficulties along with psychological issues that can arise.

Wednesday

I had an interview with academics from Bath University regarding Universal Basic Income. It is an area that I have worked on since I was elected and shall continue to investigate. I spoke last year in Portugal on this topic and thirty one countries were represented. I have been invited to speak in Barcelona this September. It is an indication of the growth of this movement that it continues to spread across the globe and many professionals, politicians and academics are seeking a positive outcome. In the chamber, once again Scotland Questions was an ill-tempered affair as the Secretary of State dismissed all criticism regardless of how constructive it was. Prime Minsters Questions was bereft of the Prime Minster as she was in Brussels and as protocol dictates the Labour opposition was provided by their deputy too. So it was David Lidington against Emily Thornberry. And the winner was Ian Blackford who amidst the mindless barracking between Conservative and Labour, struck the correct tone, questioning the confrontational stance of President Trump. I spoke (all be it brief and quick) in the ship building debate. I put forward the case to build the FSS in the UK and highlighted the benefit to communities. The cheapest option is not always the best and the social economic benefit in the immediate community and throughout the supply chain should always be a consideration. The reason the debate was concluded before its allotted time and speeches were cut short was quite unbelievably because a football match was taking place. I think thousands of shipyard workers jobs deserve better than that.

Thursday

I sat in on business questions and was expecting to read up on Carillion for the afternoon debate. I was not expecting the government statement on the Brexit White Paper. It turned into an extremely confrontational event. The process is that before a government minister gets to his or her feet to make a statement the spokesperson of the opposition parties are given a copy within a suitable timescale to read it and produce a response. This government decide to release the white paper to the media four hours before any opposition members. Another Brexit Shambles. In a very rare if not unique action the speaker of the house basically instructed the government minister to get the white paper into the hands of all members before he made his statement. To do this he had to prompt him a few times and eventually suspend the house. I took place in the last debate of the day which focused on the collapse of Carillion. I grabbed the 20:30 flight home.

Friday

Was mostly spent catching up with constituency casework and local issues. In the afternoon I managed to squeeze in a physiotherapy appointment for my latest sporting injury.

Westminster diary w/b 2nd July

Monday

I let the train take the strain on Monday morning. I took the 8:40 from Glasgow Central to London Euston. Its four and a half hours without interruption when I can read and prepare. I had a question on the order paper for the Department of Work and Pensions and the outcome is that they informed me that 1200 people had died while waiting for universal credit assessment and therefore received no payment. I then asked the minister to improve the process as currently if someone on universal credit dies at the end of their assessment period, it is presumed they died at the start and there is no payment for that period. The Prime Minister made a statement to the House, which was really an update on the latest European Council meeting. Not surprisingly we didn’t hear anything we didn’t already know.

Tuesday

The first item on my agenda was the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs select committee. We took evidence from cabinet minister Oliver Dowden who until recently was a member of the committee. The topic was pre-appointment hearings. It was interesting to hear how the government plans to improve both gender and ethnic minority representation in high profile public posts. But I wasn’t totally convinced. I am afraid that most of the top jobs are still the domain of the pale, male and stale brigade. We then ran through our report on ‘Carillion – report on public sector outsourcing’. I would have been happier if the report had highlighted the failings of the PFI schemes that have saddled so many councils around the U.K. with masses of debt to repay. Inverclyde’s in in the region of £9 million a year. I also think the report was light on the failings of Carillion itself. I had a number of internal meetings on strategy, policy and portfolios.

Wednesday

My first engagement was off campus at a local hotel where I was a guest speaker for the public policy exchange. The topic was ‘Tackling drug dependency and abuse’. It was a very well informed audience of people who work in this sector and it was extremely interesting. Unfortunately I had to leave and get back to Prime Minister’s Questions which was neither well informed nor interesting. I spoke in a Westminster Hall debate titled ‘Tackling demand for commercial sexual exploitation’. It’s a controversial subject but I favour the Nordic Model which decriminalises the selling of sex and prosecutes the buyer. There is no ideal solution but we could do a tremendous amount of good if we educated men to understand the violence and intimidation that the majority of woman are subjected to when they are being prostituted. If they acknowledged the human trafficking then maybe men would stop purchasing sex. The SNP opposition debate was on the ‘Claim of Rights for Scotland’. This affirms that the sovereignty of the nation of Scotland is with the people.

Thursday

A busy wee day started with a question to the Transport Minister. I asked him about the readiness of the port authorities post Brexit. He assured me it would be alright on the night. I replied, in my role as infrastructure spokesperson, to a government statement on the construction sector deal.

To be fair the minister responded well to my questions and I look forward to see how much of the new money is allocated to Scotland. In keeping with being the third party, we have a duty to provide MPs for various roles. One of those is summing up debates. This allows members to speak so I summed up the debate on the ‘Future of transforming social care programme’ even though it was really an England only matter. I still managed to make the 18:15 flight home.

Friday

I had a meeting with EE and held constituency surgeries in Branchton, Boglestone and the Auchmountain Glen project.

Westminster diary w/b 25th June

Monday

My first engagement of the day was with the select committee for transport. We mulled over the National Policy Statement regarding Heathrow. It’s fair to say the committee were less than happy with the government’s claims that they had reacted to twenty four of our twenty five recommendations, at least in part. After further scrutiny I could only see one recommendation fully implemented and seven that you could argue had partially been implemented. A committee that had a majority of support for Heathrow quickly turned against it. We took full advantage of the good weather and held the ‘Show racism the red card’ event outside on the green. In the evening Heathrow’s expansion was debated. Despite promises made to the Scottish Government I could not support the move. The environmental arguments against the new runway are overwhelming.

Tuesday

Today started with the select committee for Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs (PACAC) taking evidence from the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan. The topic was leaving the European Union and devolved powers. It’s not just Scotland that could benefit from more powers, the larger regions of the midlands, Greater Manchester and Greater London Authority amongst others also see the benefits. It was interesting to hear the mayor say that he had regular meeting with the Brexit minister, David Davis, and his team. More meetings than Scotland’s first Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been granted. Anyone’s Child is an organisation set up by people who have been bereaved by the war on drugs. These are people who have lost a brother or sister, parent or friend to an overdose, drug related illness or even the violence around the production and distribution of illegal drugs. They have formed an organisation to change the laws to legalise and regulate drugs so as the power is taken away from the criminals and the purity of drugs can be guaranteed and monitored. I booked them a room so they had space to congregate and also as a space to retreat to during a long day. I attended their meet and greet and made a quick speech while photographs were snapped.

I also went to their evening event to hear speaker’s personal experiences. Hearing a mother talk of losing her daughter at fifteen years and nine months because the tablet she was sold was so pure it killed her and parents talk of losing two sons through heroin addiction because there was no place to turn or there boys would be arrested only firmed up my views that the current U.K. drug policy is hopelessly outdated and needs radical reform.

Wednesday

The inaugural meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on medical cannabis under prescription was interesting. After that I made a quick dash (or as quick as I can be with a torn cartilage) to the BBC studio at Millbank. I did an interview on BBC radio Scotland with Stephen Jardine around gambling related harm. I quick limp and I made it back for Prime Ministers Questions. I need not have bothered. I attended a drop in event that highlighted the difficulties with sleep in care and the battle for a decent hourly rate and back pay. In the evening I attended, with colleagues from other parties, a book launch for a new publication ‘Drug Wars’ by Neil Woods and JS Rafaeli.

Thursday

I had an early start with an interview for the BBC on medical cannabis on the back of my question to the prime minister last week. The PACAC select committee took evidence regarding pre appointment hearings. We listened to the chairs of other select committees to hear their experiences in this role. There is a general feeling that pre appointment hearings are just a rubber stamp to place people in roles that won’t disrupt government. My last event of the day was to speak in a debate on the role of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACoBA). This is when ministers leave their post and take up jobs in the private sector. In theory ACoBA can advise them not to as they could be seen to be using their inside knowledge garnished as a minister to the advantage of one private company. In practice ACoBA has never advised against taking a position in the private sector. I was scheduled for the half eight flight home but still managed to speak in the chamber in the last debate of the day and make the quarter past six flight. I had the pleasure of sitting next to Patricia Gibson MP (North Ayrshire and Arran).

Friday

Meeting with constituents and local organisations including Caledonian MacBrayne, Mind Mosaic, and local representatives about the development of grass roots tennis (no pun intended) in conjunction with the Judy Murray Foundation.

Westminster diary w/b 18th June

Monday

I injured myself playing football on Sunday in a match against Afghanistan refugees so after the red eye flight I had a quick visit to Saint Thomas’s accident and emergency. They confirmed a torn cartilage and damaged ligaments. Westminster is not a good place to work when walking is painful. I hobbled in to the chamber for an urgent question on medical cannabis. I wrote about this in yesterday’s edition of the Tele. Fortunately the speaker allowed me to express my desire to speak by waving my order papers from a seated position. The SNP secured a three hour debate on the Sewel Convention and I managed to get a short sharp speech on the record. The recent disrespect for the Sewel Convention is the latest of many such actions perpetrated on the people of Scotland by this Conservative Government.

Tuesday

I started the day with our group AGM. Apart from a couple of vacant positions being filled it was business as usual. The stability of the group is important but it doesn’t happen without rigorous debate and self-examination. I attended the annual general meeting of the All-party Parliamentary group on Fixed Odd Betting Terminals. I remain vice chair supporting the fabulous Carolyn Harris (Labour – Swansea East). We already have an agreement from the government to reduce the maximum bet to £2 on FOBTs but the treasury are, as expected, attempting to delay the implementation until April 2020. Back in the chamber the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, made a statement on drugs licensing. The government have been dragged kicking and screaming to the table on this issue and still seem perplexed as to what they should do or why their drugs policy review last year was so widely scorned. In the evening I took part in a Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) podcast along with Thangam Debbonaire MP (Labour – Bristol West) and Crispin Blunt MP (Conservative – Reigate).

Wednesday

Today was dominated by probably the worst performance from Jeremy Corbyn at Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) that I have witnessed. I often wonder why the Prime Minister, amidst her Brexit debacle and Conservative party in fighting still manages to hang on to her job and then you see who is opposite her at the despatch box. Ian Blackford called on the Prime Minister to condemn the action of Donald Trump’s administration in relation to separating children from parents in refugee camps. We have all seen these truly horrific scenes of children in cages. She didn’t condemn it. I was lucky to get a question in the ballot (3 in as many years) and I asked the Prime Minister how her proposed panel of experts would decide who could and who could not get medical cannabis on a one to one basis when 20,000 ( modest estimate) would apply on day one. And if she would consider medical cannabis being made available under prescription. She was swiftly handed a prepared statement that told me she was setting up a panel of experts. Well I knew that already. I now know why it’s called Prime Ministers Questions, because if it was called Prime Minister’s Answers she would be sued under the trade description act. In the afternoon I attended a rather poor briefing on medical cannabis.

Thursday

First event of the day was questions to Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). I was not on the ballot paper but stood on the back of a question regarding gambling related harm. I was selected (I think my painful groans and grimaces may be a tactic I deploy in the future ) and I asked the Secretary of State to use his influence on the Treasury to force the implementation of a £2 maximum stake on FOBTs by the end of April 2019 and not as currently proposed April 2020. This was followed by a meeting with Heathrow airport. I caught a mid-afternoon flight and attended a community event in Kilmacolm regarding proposed housing developments. I finished the evening with a radio interview for Talk Radio’s James Whale.

Friday

Along with meeting constituents regarding their cases I met with Rape Crisis, Your Voice and the Ardgowan hospice. In the evening I indulged my guilty pleasure by attending the Clydeview Academy performance of the Sound of Music. On Saturday I shall be helping at the Coves Road reservoir clean up organised by Councillor Natasha Murphy. My contribution shall depend upon how mobile and pain free I am and on Sunday I am at the Great Get Together in St Mary’s Hall.

 

Westminster diary w/b 11th June

Monday

My flight was delayed after I got to the airport so I utilised the time to catch up on the pile of reading that never seems to get any smaller. Despite the delay I was on time for the transport select committee where we took evidence around Mobility as a Service (Mass). As a concept it works and has many benefits. Lessons can be learned from Helsinki but the cooperation between private business and state owned organisations will be crucial as will the cooperation between the countries and regions of the U.K. The rest of the day was spent preparing for the EU (withdrawal) Bill which will be debated over the next two days.

Tuesday

The day started with the Select Committee for public administration and the constitution. We were giving due consideration of our next report on civil Service responsiveness. The first decision was to change the terrible name of the report! It examines the working relationship between Whitehall civil servants and government departmental ministers. I attended a Westminster Hall debate on the elimination of hepatitis C. I was glad to hear that needle exchanges and drug consumption rooms were considered. The spread of Hep C is greatly reduced within the drug injecting community when these facilities exist. I attended a briefing on the war on drugs from an ex special operations member from the USA. It was a scary call to come down hard with the full force of the armed law enforcement officers. He clearly had a personal vendetta and I managed to disagree with practically all his conclusions. Then we had the farcical European Union withdrawal bill debate. When the bill was first in the commons we were consistently told that there would be plenty of time to debate it once it came back from the Lords. The Lords laid down 196 amendments. The entire bill was allocated six hours today and six tomorrow. Devolution was restricted to 15 minutes and when it came down to it the minister talked it out. This was a flagrant disregard for the devolved powers and an abuse of the Parliamentary process. We raised a series of points of orders to gain clarification.

Wednesday

I started off at the Transport select committee where we once again appraised the UK Government response to our report on the airport National Policy Statement (NPS). For those that follow the Heathrow expansion debate, it isn’t finished yet. Then onto PMQs which turned into an event to remember. Despite following parliamentary procedure to the letter, the SNP group leader was sent from the house and barred from returning for the rest of the day. I along with all my SNP MPs present walked out of PMQs in solidarity. We did not walk out on parliament. We continue to fulfil all our roles as MPs. Our protest is against the UK Government and how Westminster has legislated on devolved Brexit matters, without meaningful debate and despite the Legislative Consent Motion (LCM) from the Scottish Parliament being withheld. In the evening we returned to take part in the archaic voting process that Westminster loves so much.

Thursday

I attended questions to the Brexit Secretary followed by business questions. The Secretary of State for Scotland then came to the House to make a statement about the EU (Withdrawal) Bill and devolved powers. It was extremely insipid and didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know. As a result the SNP requested an emergency debate on the Sewell convention under statutory instrument 24. That debate was granted and will take place next Monday. I caught the 18:15 flight home.

Friday

I attended and spoke at a carer’s event as part of Carers Week. The theme this year is supporting carers to be healthy and connected. In the afternoon I had meetings at River Clyde Homes and Police Scotland. In the evening I went to the Notre Dame High School musical.

Westminster diary w/b 4th June

Monday

I knew I had an early start to business so I took the precaution of flying down to London on Sunday night. My first event was the select committee for constitutional affairs. We were taking evidence from Andy Burnham. He gave up his seat as an MP to stand as Mayor for Greater Manchester. Andy is one of many that want more powers devolved to English regions as he sees London and the South East continuing to attract a disproportionate level of investment in major infrastructure. It’s interesting how he felt he needed to leave Westminster to strengthen his calls for Devolution. I popped in to the chamber for Home Office questions but wasn’t taken. My second select committee on of the day was transport. This was a private briefing from the Chris Grayling MP, Secretary of State for Transport. This was to preempt the statement the following day on the expansion of Heathrow. In the evening I supported the call for a debate on section 58 and 59 of the offences against the person act 1861 and then attended a private viewing at the request of Labour MP Rupa Huq, of an excellent documentary ‘Suburban Steps to Rockland – The story of the Ealing club’. If you like rock music I recommend you search it out and watch it.

Tuesday

The select committee for the constitution met for the second time this week and this time in private. It was an opportunity to review completed work, assess on-going work and plan the next three years workload. I dropped in to the British Red Cross to find out more about U.K. emergency response. People can register as a volunteer and if there is an incident in your area you will be called upon to help. Much like people organised food and bedding in the immediate aftermath of the Grenfell fire.

I was in the chamber for the Government statement on Heathrow and was disappointed to hear that so many of the recommendations by the transport select committee had been disregarded. This was not the message we had been given the day before. Whether you support an expansion of Heathrow or not, this is not good news, as yet again a major infrastructure is in disarray before it has even started. I spoke with the head of government affairs for BMW regarding autonomous vehicles. It was extremely interesting to hear what technology is expected to be available and the categories of autonomous vehicles available. There will be an issue over phasing in these vehicles, particularly HGVs if as is planned local authorities introduce a zonal charge to enter an area. I sat in on the debate on section 58 and 59 of the offences against the person act 1861. I attended a drop in event run by Digital Scotland and was pleased to see that Inverclyde has 97.5% broadband coverage of superfast broadband and we are filling in the gaps. I made a rare foray into the House of Lords to meet with Lord Chadlington to discuss problem gambling. Lord Chadlington has personally funded research and I hope to encourage him to fund more into gambling advertising aimed at children. In the evening I had a briefing from the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority and an SNP group meeting.

Wednesday

My first meeting was with the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association. We discussed clean air quality and of course the now ever present autonomous vehicle roll out. They see the leasing market as a very good way to introduce new cars to the market place in large numbers. Scotland office Questions was a bit of a bun fight as we laid into the Secretary of State. In these times of uncertainty amplified by Brexit, I would have hoped the Secretary of State for Scotland would be fighting for Scotland at every opportunity. Sadly that is not so and we are still not represented at the top table. Scotland will be an after thought in all things Brexit. Prime Ministers Question time was so poor that the empty seats are now becoming obvious. It is quite common to see large numbers of MPs leave the chamber before completion. The All-party Parliamentary Group on Catalonia had a planning meeting and then I met with the head of public health and market access Northern Europe for pharmaceutical company. Their product would change the approach to administrating heroin substitutes. It’s still in the planning stage.

Thursday

Two urgent questions make for a robust start to the day. First it’s Heathrow again. Folk are not happy with the statement made on Tuesday and they have every reason not to be. We are only seeking clarity before the government embarks on this latest scheme. And second we return to clause 58 and 59 of the offences against the person act 1861 following a ruling on human rights by the Supreme Court. I finished my day, before dashing off for a flight, by meeting with Elisenda Paluzie (President of the Catalan National Assembly). She outlined the Catalan democratic deficiency and we discussed ways to highlight the imprisonment of politicians and activists for expressing their political beliefs by the Spanish government. Whether you believe in Catalan independence or not, sending teachers, students and democratically elected members to prison for expressing their views in a peaceful fashion is an outrage against democracy.

Friday

Was constituency work and engaging with local activists regarding their concerns over the council’s housing policy. On Saturday I am attending the Inverclyde Association of Mental Health drop in dementia information session at Broomhill Gardens and on Sunday I am attending a Tea and Blether party organised by Alzheimer Scotland.