Westminster diary wb 30th January

Monday

The main debate of the day was the ‘Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill’ . It’s an assault on the right to withdraw your labour, it makes it easier to fire you, it’s an attack on the trade union movement. It’s easy to take for granted such things as a forty-hour week, paid holidays, paid maternity leave and a host of other workers’ rights that were all fought for by the trade unions. This Conservative and Unionist Government is now, post Brexit, dismantling the power of the unions. What makes it all the more shocking is that the SNP amendment to the bill, one that sought to protect the devolved institutions including the Greater London Assembly and Labour run Welsh Parliament was not supported by the Labour Party. So much for the party of devolution. We started voting at 21:56 and the final vote was at 23:00.

Tuesday

My select committee took evidence on Planning for the future of the Government’s Estate. The debate around where governments departments should be located has been on-going for decades but most recently dispersing them around the U.K. was a Conservative Party manifesto promise in 2017. The prospect of jobs being transferred out of London into Inverclyde is attractive, but this policy has been rolled out so many times and in so many ways that it’s hard to believe that the U.K. Government really believe in it. The Office of National Statistics locating to Newport has been complicated and no real evidence exists to show how it has helped the area. Meanwhile there are more civil servants based in London than ever before. The target was to get 50% of the senior civil servants out of London but that has not materialised or looks like happening any day soon.

Wednesday

It’s Wednesday, it’s twelve o’clock, it’s Prime Minister’s Questions time. And believe you me it was not a crackerjack of an affair. This week Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer continued their weekly routine of blaming the other. There is something very wrong about two grown men shouting and pointing at each other with their supporters baying in the background while both accuse the other of condoning a bullying culture. Last week, I said Stephen Flynn wiped the floor with the Prime Minister, this week he mopped him up, rinsed him out and threw him in the bucket. I had the joy of appearing on the panel of BBC Politics Scotland live from Millbank Studio in Westminster. It’s a rapid run through during which I pointed out that the establishment has a lack of self-awareness and no ability to self-impose the ministerial code. And it is three years since Brexit. Bloomberg tell us that the United Kingdom is £100 billion pounds a year worse off because we left the European Union. You won’t see that on the side of a bus. I got home at 22:30.

Thursday

I attended the ‘Time to Talk day’ event hosted by the Salvation Army in Port Glasgow. It’s a day for friends, families, communities and workplaces to come together to talk, listen and change lives. I met with folk from Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs, representatives from the Co-op whose chosen charity this year has been SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health) and the irrepressible Georgie from Clyde Coast Radio. My career, after politics, as the late-night disc jockey playing tunes into the wee small hours of the morning awaits me. Meanwhile to ensure the connectivity exists I met with Digital Scotland to discuss the R100 programme.

Friday

I met with Police Scotland to hear about Community Policing and the Greenock Police Office Partnership Hub. In the afternoon, I met with Scottish Water for an update on the £2.5 million flood alleviation project on the A8 at Pottery Street. I had a briefing with interested stakeholders regarding the development of a culture quarter centred around the Glebe building. These meetings have extra significance now that Inverclyde has been awarded £19.3 million in Levelling Up funding. I met with the theatre production company Vanishing Point that are busy rehearsing their next production ‘Love Beyond’ at the Beacon Arts Centre.

Westminster diary wb 23rd January

Monday

I attended the Inverclyde Taskforce in the municipal buildings. Among the items on the agenda were the losing bid for Greenport status, the winning bid for levelling up money and the recent announcement that Amazon are ‘considering’ pulling out of Gourock. It was a well-attended meeting and Ivan McKee MSP was there from the Scottish Government. I took advantage of having Ivan in the room to have a private discussion around other industrial opportunities in Inverclyde.  Having met with Glasgow Airport last week I met Peel Ports in the afternoon. Obviously, they are disappointed about losing out on the Greenport bid and questions must be answered regarding the winning bids, but I was heartened by the investment Peel are making in Inverclyde, much of which goes unnoticed. 

Tuesday

I had an early flight down and spent the morning preparing for my select committee on Thursday as my diary was extremely busy up until then.  The main event of the day for me was the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy Reform who had a joint meeting with Unite which is a parliamentary network for global health. There were representatives from Chile, Mexico, USA, Luxembourg, Malta and Germany as well as the U.K.  We discussed approaches to cannabis laws designed to reduce drug related harm. It is fair to say, as i did in my column in the Greenock Telegraph yesterday that the U.K. is lagging behind and as a result we are experiencing more harm and more crime than other European countries.  We had the last vote of the day on the economic crime and corporate transparency bill at 18:51. 

Wednesday. 

I dropped in on the Collective Voice addiction treatment providers who had many good representatives there, including Change Grow Live, Humankind, Forward Trust and With You. Together they were assessing the level of support provided for people in recovery with a view to the recommendations made in the Dame Carol Black report one year ago. I had a meeting with Kate Winstanley from Community Alcohol Partnerships. That are not active in Inverclyde, but they do a great deal of good work in other parts of Scotland. The weekly display of kindergarten petulance from the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition at Prime Minister’s Questions was appalling and I know I am biased but the Westminster leader of the SNP Stephen Flynn wiped the floor with the Prime Minister and did what the leader of the opposition should be doing every week by holding him to account over the gross negligence exhibited day in day out by the Conservative and Unionist U.K. government.  I then met with Together with Refugees and talked to asylum seekers about their lived experiences. The last event before votes was the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Drugs, Alcohol and Justice. The focus of the meeting was on woman’s treatment services. Women’s groups testified that many women are forced into addiction as a result of abusive relationships and they lamented the lack of woman only rehabilitation centres.  We voted at 17:40.

Thursday

My select committee took evidence from the Right Honourable Oliver Dowden MP, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Alex Chisholm, Cabinet Office Permanent Secretary and Civil Service Chief Operating Officer. The enquiry is about the work of the Cabinet Office and I questioned the witnesses on the potential changes within the Cabinet Office to make it “better, smaller and fairer”, and the role the Cabinet Office will take in the King’s coronation through the new Coronation Claims Office which has been created in the Cabinet Office. I pressed the view that in times of great austerity when people are struggling to pay their energy bills, many are living in damp housings, one in four kids are living in poverty, foodbanks are on the increase and teachers, nurses, postal workers and civil servants are striking for more pay, that a man wearing a crown and jewels worth a fortune while riding in a gold coach was maybe not appropriate . The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster disagreed with me.

Friday  

Stuart McMillan MSP and I ran joint surgeries in Port Glasgow. The focus was on energy advice, and we had representatives from Social Security Scotland, Advice Direct and Home Energy Scotland. It’s a sad sign of the times that surgeries that specialise on finance and energy are always busy.

Westminster diary wb 16th January

Monday

I had a very early start to business today, so I travelled down yesterday. Strategy meetings are ten a penny at this time of year but in politics things can change so quickly that input, output, targets and achievements are often only relevant for a brief moment. The pronouncement from the U.K. Government that it intended to seek a Section 35 order to block the Scottish government’s GRR Bill gaining Royal Ascent changed my working week and in the long term it could change the constitution of the U.K. permanently. The main debate was the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill. This is an onslaught on the rights of workers that have been fought for by trade unions for years. And just part of the ongoing suppression of human rights this Conservative and Unionist government has embarked on. Also, the removal of the right to protest and voter Id restrictions are planned, and we are living in a very different sort of democracy. The last vote was at 22:43.

Tuesday

I met with Voltface representatives to discuss emerging medicines. There are several drugs that are used for PTSD and pain relief that are not widely accepted and we hope to engage with the medical professionals and politicians to educate and legislate. I was in the chamber for questions to the Department of Business. I bobbed and bobbed but was not taken. It’s infuriating hearing the government benches field questions that are no more than setups for government propaganda, when I was seeking to engage with the department on the issue of support for those being made redundant by Amazon. The government then made a statement on their Section 35 but didn’t provide the paperwork detailing the reasons for their objection to the GRR bill becoming law in Scotland. It’s hard to make a constructive argument when the U.K. government won’t explain their objections. The SNP then asked for an SO24 (emergency) debate, and the speaker granted it. By the time we got to the first speakers we still didn’t have the ‘statement of reasons’. It eventually appeared during the debate and the reasons why the U.K. government had been so reluctant to provide it earlier were obvious. It is thirteen pages of weak misguided grievances, and it will be challenged in a court of law. My favourite is the assertion that we can’t have different gender recognition laws in Scotland is that the I.T. Systems of the HMRC could not handle it. In thirty-five years of working in I.T. I always thought the computer systems were designed to fit the law, not the other way round. Rather than the changes being “unmanageable, even with considerable time and expense”, I would describe them as a nice little earner for someone. The evening’s business was the Online Safety Bill and votes took place at 20:26. During the debate the Gurkhas brass band performed in the Cabinet car park! Westminster is a strange place.

My office and I signed up for the Inverclyde’s International Women’s Day Challenge. The goal is to walk/run 6,000 miles in 60 days from Inverclyde to Rwanda. Team Inverclyde have just crossed the border into Spain. 4 countries in 11 days! To get involved or donate, please visit iwd.bigteamchallenge.com.  

Wednesday

I caught up with a suicide prevention charity, Papyrus, to discuss their plans to open an office in Scotland. They provide education and support to prevent young suicides in the U.K. This was followed by a planning meeting with the chair of then All-Party Parliamentary Group on CBD products. We need to put in place a secretariat for this year and will be pushing for easier access to psilocybin for medical research. Prime Minster’s Questions was a race to the bottom between Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer, each blaming the other for the nurses strike in England and Wales. SNP group leader, Stephen Flynn, took the U.K. government to task over their attack on Scotland’s democracy. On Monday, they restricted workers’ rights, on Tuesday they vetoed the Scottish Parliament’s legislation and today they will be scrapping vital European Union protections. This will result in the U.K. parliament taking control of policy areas that are currently devolved to the Scottish Parliament. This includes, workers’ rights and food and health standards. Because of the complexity of tonight’s business and the possibility of many votes I had made plans to stay in London and travel home early tomorrow. As it turned out the last vote was at 18:55 but it was too late to make alternative arrangements. In the evening, I was informed that Inverclyde had been successful in bidding for £19.3 million as part of the U.K. Government’s levelling up fund. This is exciting news. The scheme was introduced to replace the funding Scottish communities received from the European Union and the pot of money is smaller as a result.  Since Brexit households have had to stretch their budgets further and Inverclyde Council is in the same situation.

Thursday

Up with the birds and on the tube by 5:15 to catch the 6:40 flight home. Careful diary manipulation allowed me to make use of my early arrival in Glasgow to meet the Head of Planning for Glasgow Airport for a catch up and then attend the Glasgow Airport jobs fair. I am planning on organising a jobs fair locally and the airport were amongst the first to step up and offer to participate. In the afternoon I had a meeting with the Heritage Lottery Fund to discuss potential fund applications from Inverclyde. I shall be meeting with them again soon to progress local interests. My last meeting was with the GMB union.

Friday

I attended and spoke at an all-day event in Glasgow run by the Simon Community Scotland. We were addressing the situation around homelessness and specifically the gambling harms that can lead to people being made homeless.

Westminster diary wb 9th January

Monday

Recess was not as relaxing as I hoped as like many, the dreaded man flu took its toll. But it’s back into the old routine and off to Westminster this morning. It’s a slow day which belies the storm that’s brewing.  News is beginning to filter through that Amazon are closing their fulfilment centre in Gourock. I reached out to them but got no response.

Tuesday

The expected email arrived, and Amazon confirmed that they are in negotiations regarding the closure of their Gourock site. Nationally they are reporting that they are closing sites in Gourock, Doncaster and Hemel Hempstead while opening two news sites in Peddimore and Stockton-on-Tees. The majority of my day was then consumed with satisfying the insatiable appetite from the media to speculate about the future of the site and the outcome for its employees. So, while TV and radio interviews came and went, I also had a meeting with Amazon. What angers me most is that the plans in place have obviously taken a long time to mature and yet last November I was assured there was no risk to jobs in Gourock. Scottish Enterprise, Skills Development Scotland and PACE stand ready to help as soon as Amazon have provided details pertaining to redundancies. I had an interview with Tortoise Media about paid political lobbyists. Elected members of the U.K. Parliament being paid by the gambling industry to influence the laws around gambling is not healthy and is potentially abuse of the system. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on commercial sexual exploitation had its Annual General Meeting, and we put in place office bearers and a strategy for the year. We will be attempting to amend the online safety bill next Tuesday to allow people to have images of themselves removed from the internet. 

Wednesday

I am delighted with the number and quality of employers that have approached me offering the possibility of employment for those being made redundant at Amazon. It will take a few days for the situation to become clearer but hopefully we will be able to employ as many as possible in inverclyde or as near to 300 as possible. I was on the Order Paper for questions to the Secretary of State for Scotland and I pressed him to clarify if we were working towards a consensus, as he said that was what facilitated a referendum in 2014, or is he content to deny the people of Scotland their right to a democratic voice while we remain part of the U.K.? I met with the landlord of the Amazon site to discuss the future use of the site once it becomes available. It was a far more inspiring meeting than I expected, and we have already identified two possible opportunities. In the evening I attended the Greenock West and Cardwell Bay community council meeting.,

Thursday

Along with meetings with constituents I also met with representatives of companies that have potential vacancies to be filled. While the obvious starting point is the 300 people being made redundant by Amazon, I am well aware that many other people are seeking employment in Inverclyde. To this end, I am organising a jobs fair that will bring together prospective employers under one roof. Hopefully together we can help many people find gainful employment, including those being made redundant by Amazon. In the evening I attended the Inverkip and Wemyss Bay community council.

Friday

The day started with a budget briefing from Inverclyde council followed immediately with a meeting to discuss the situation at the Amazon fulfilment centre in Gourock. At this stage I have engaged with Amazon, their landlords, six local employers, the local college, the GMB, the Scottish government, Scottish Enterprise, Skills Development Scotland and the Partnership Action for Continuing Employment. I then met with the new Police Chief Inspector Damian Kane. I visited Berry Global in Port Glasgow to discuss their business post covid and moving forward. There are still ongoing issues around the residents of Sir Gabriel Wood Court and their energy supply and my office are helping all involved to come to a better outcome. I met with residents today. In the evening I gave a talk on constituency border changes, the assault on workers’ rights and your ability to legally protest.

I am looking forward to attending the RSNO Viennese Gala at the Beacon Arts Centre on Saturday.  

Westminster diary wb 12th December

Monday 

A tale of planes, trains and automobiles.

After three flights being cancelled during Sunday evening and early Monday morning I find myself unexpectedly defrosting my car and heading to the train station to catch the 7:07 to Glasgow en route to London Euston. Unfortunately, that plan then ran into trouble as the train terminated at Port Glasgow. My travel plans were rescued by three very kind people who allowed me to share their taxi to Glasgow Central. A slight delay and I was on my way to London. It’s a good reminder for me that a transport system needs diversity and choice to be able to adapt and accommodate the various needs of commuters. My day at Westminster consisted of an SNP MP group executive meeting followed by a long shift in the chamber. I spoke in two debates. I led on voter Id legislation which despite any good evidence the U.K. government is determined to introduce. I then spoke last and very briefly on the standards code of conduct. Votes concluded at 22:36. It was a very cold walk to book in to my hotel before falling into bed at 23:00. A seventeen hour day filled with challenges but also a good reminder of the privileged position I have that means I can adapt to setbacks and most importantly at the end of a tough day I always have a warm safe bed waiting for me, not everyone is that lucky.

Tuesday

My select committee took evidence pertaining to the future of the U.K. government estate. The central government estate is valued at £157 billion and costs £21.7 billion in annual running costs. The debate will be around when it is appropriate to move departments and staff out of London and around the U.K. especially with hybrid working being so in vogue. I bobbed for questions on the Prime Minister’s statement on ‘illegal immigrants’. Of course, it also covers legal immigrants and I pressed the Prime Minister to use his energy and money to improve the existing home office system rather than hiding the backlog away in revamped holiday camps, military bases and student halls.  

Wednesday

Prime Minister’s Question was a shouting match void of any festive joy as the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition argued over which health service was worse, England run by the Tories or Wales run by Labour. Both studiously ignored the fact that the nurses pay dispute in Scotland has been resolved. SNP leader, Stephen Flynn didn’t. He eviscerated the Prime Minister on his unwillingness to engage with trade unions and then went on to expose the preposterous situation where Scotland produces six times more gas than we consume and yet average bills are £800 higher in Scotland. In Scotland we have the energy we just need the power. A vile ten minute rule bill was brought forward by a Conservative and Unionist MP which symbolises their increasingly right wing agenda. Fortunately, it was voted down. Unbelievably amidst the weirdness of Westminster we then suspended the house until four pm so the king can come and unveil a plague on the floor of Westminster Hall where is mother lay in state! 

I took part in the SNPs opposition debate where we debated Scotland’s right to a referendum. Critics will say we should be debating other topics but the truth is unless we bring it to the table, it’s not on the menu. The sparsely populated government benches were not reflected in the vote as the lobby to oppose our motion filled up at the end of the debate. World records were then broken in getting on the tube , the DLR and through security to catch the 20:30 flight home. 

Thursday 

I spent the day working through cases with my ever diligent and patient office team. Every day they go the extra mile for my constituents and not surprisingly, currently they are spending a lot of time on cases related to energy and heating. 

Friday 

I had a meeting with the Human Rights and Advocacy team from Maryhill Integration. They had concerns regarding the asylum seekers housed locally. I thought they were overly critical of the handling of the situation, and we had an honest and open discussion. Ultimately, we all want a better outcome, but an understanding of the constraints put upon us by the U.K. government is required. I won’t be in Westminster next week therefore I won’t publish a diary. So. I shall take this opportunity to wish you all peace, love and understanding throughout the coming year. 

Westminster diary wb 28th November

Monday

I had a meeting with Paul Scully, gambling minister at Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. He is the latest minister to be tasked with producing a white paper on gambling. There have been nine in four years, maybe one reason why it has taken so long. It was a robust encounter and views were exchanged. I await the outcome. I attended the Scottish Gas drop in event to hear from them and their engineers how to stay warm this winter. Fuel poverty is an issue that will be new to many but just as Covid highlighted many people’s precarious employment status, this winter will highlight the cost of fuel and the difficulty many households will have staying warm. I went to a meeting with Park Home Residents to hear their issues regarding unscrupulous landlords, increase lease fees and prepaid meters. With two such parks in inverclyde it’s a local issue that needs addressing. Fortunately, I don’t have any bad reports on landlords at these sites. I met with ex cabinet minister Kit Malthouse to discuss drugs policy reform. Safe to say we agreed on nothing.

Tuesday

My select committee took evidence from the Rob Behrens CBE, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, Amanda Amroliwala CBE, Chief Executive Officer and Deputy Ombudsman. The main thrust of the event was their annual scrutiny, but I took the opportunity to also press on the delays in agreeing compensation to the WASPI women. I dropped in to meet the National Lottery and get an update on who in Inverclyde has received funding. The APPG for Nordic and Atlantic councils was very interesting and once again I hear about trust, respect and consideration for other countries. This time from the ambassador to the U.K. from Iceland.

Wednesday

Prime Minister’s Questions was a race to the bottom with Conservative blaming Labour and vice versa. The problem with this is that nobody takes responsibility and so issues are not addressed. Immediately after there was an Urgent Question on the Prime Minister’s ethical adviser. The last two have resigned and finding a new one is proving difficult. I suggested that the issue may be that the PM appoints his own adviser, the PM decides which ethical issues will be investigated by his self-appointed adviser and the PM then decides what action will be taken based on the outcome of the report. Maybe the advisers feel constrained in their role? I had a briefing from the Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations and Volunteer Scotland on the Cost of Living Crisis. The role of the voluntary sector and volunteers in Scottish society is vital. Inflation and the resulting cost-of-living increases are creating a long-term and deepening crisis that impacts voluntary sector organisations, staff and volunteers. I then had a hectic two hours covering the APPG on cannabis products, APPG Faroe Islands, APPG Iceland and finally an event to highlight National Axial Spondyloarthritis Society which was attended by Alasdair Davie, a physiotherapist from Inverclyde Royal Hospital.

I got home to Inverclyde at 23:30

Thursday

I dropped in to talk with the postal workers from the Communication Workers Union who are on strike today to highlight their dispute over pay and conditions. We all appreciated our posties during Covid, we should stand in solidarity with them now. I took advantage of the drop in facility in the Greenock town hall to get my Covid booster jag. I was in and out in five minutes. Great service. The afternoon was consumed catching up with correspondence from constituents on an extremely wide range of topics.

Friday

I had two main events. I met with Tesco management to discuss their winter food collection for local foodbanks and River Clyde Homes to hear about their refreshed Five Year Corporate Plan. I took the opportunity to engage with the senior management from both River Clyde Homes and Home Fix Scotland. 

Westminster diary wb 21st November

Monday

I bobbed during questions to the department responsible for Levelling Up funding. It never does any harm to keep mentioning Inverclyde. I pressed for a date and also chanced my arm by pulling up the Secretary of State, Michael Gove for making nonsensical critical remark about Ferguson Marine. I won’t stand idly by and hear the workforce criticised when they are doing an outstanding job. They are turning the yard around under the new management and we should recognise and defend that. They will be in a good place to bid for appropriate work, be those ferries or freighters. The main business in the Chamber was the Autumn Statement and as that carried over on to the next day there were no votes at the end and therefore I left the estate early at 9pm. It rarely happens but after a 6am start it’s always welcome.

Tuesday

My select committee took evidence from both the Welsh and Scottish Governments. We were interested in their involvement in trade deals and international treaties. Unfortunately, we heard the same old story of a lack of respect and engagement from Westminster. There is a defined three tier system that should be utilised but isn’t. We have created all the tools then put them in a box in a locked cupboard and thrown away the key. Meaningful engagement relies on respect and trust being shown by the U.K. gov to the devolved powers and that is lacking.

The APPG on Choice at the End of Life is always a hard listen but it was good to hear evidence from those involved in shaping legislation in the Isle of Man, Jersey, France, the USA and in Scotland. There is much we can learn from others.

Wednesday

I was at the Supreme Court for announcement that Scotland can’t have a referendum. No surprise, it was the expected legal outcome that served to highlight that the matter as to how Scotland or any constituent part of the U.K. can hold a referendum is a political one not a legal one. Parliament legislates, if it changes the law then the Supreme Court would rule differently.  PMQs was heavily weighted toward the SNP as we had eight questions. Not surprisingly we pushed the Prime Minister to see what the democratic route for a referendum was in a voluntary union. He couldn’t answer. There was an Urgent Question on this subject and one of the most interesting contributions came from Colum Eastwood SDLP when he said,

“A former Member of Parliament for Cork City once said: ‘No man has the right to fix a boundary to the march of a nation. No man has the right to say to his country, ‘Thus far shalt thou go and no further’.  Of course, this Parliament no longer has a Member for Cork City, because Charles Stewart Parnell was right. This United Kingdom is clearly not a partnership of equals—that has been made absolutely clear today—so when will the Government publish clear criteria for how the people of the north of Ireland can leave it.”

It’s not for me to tell the people of Ireland what to do but it is interesting that the Supreme Court ruling effects the constitution of the entire U.K., including Northern Ireland and Wales. A democratic deficit that must be addressed. I was on a delegated legislation committee on telecommunications. It was not controversial, but I took the opportunity to go on the record and raise my concern around dark money from outside the U.K. lobbying for change to U.K. law. As has happened in this case. I voted at the close of the day caught the 20:30 flight and was home by 22:30

Thursday

I have an early start as I am speaking at a gambling education event in Edinburgh. Therefore, I caught the 6:28 from Gourock and got to Edinburgh at 8:30. The conference was interesting and a great opportunity to network. I hope to bring a short documentary on gambling addictions made my Martin Paterson to Inverclyde for public viewing.

Friday

I held surgeries in Port Glasgow library and the Branchton community centre in the morning and had a meeting with Robbie Drummond, Managing Director of Caledonian MacBrayne in the afternoon.

Westminster diary wb 14th November

Monday

Travel chaos due to fog in London. Flights are cancelled and therefore trains are over booked. This is compounded by issues south of Peterborough and many commuters either arrive very late or cancel their trips and travel tomorrow. I am in the former category. I utilised my waiting time by starting to read the latest book from Darren McGarvey, The Social Distance Between Us, which is a follow up to his debut novel Poverty Safari. It’s reading well so far, and I think it will be a valuable resource to stimulate and inform the discussion around the much needed societal reforms.

Tuesday

My select committee took evidence on lobbying. It is a grey area that needs tighten up as currently the register only requires disclosure that lobbying has taken place and not who has been lobbied, for what purpose and in whose behalf. There is also an issue over who has do declare that they have been lobbied, but that should all be covered in detail once we produce the report. I had a very interesting meeting with Voltface to discuss emerging medicines, including medical cannabis, psilocybin and ketamine. Other countries are progressing with trials, including their use for post-traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia but the U.K. is lagging behind. I dropped in to hear what Green Pastures are doing to help with the homelessness situation and attended a briefing on energy and the challenges facing us all this winter. Finally, I met with Openreach to catch up on all things broadband and their current rollout of ultrafast in Inverclyde. We discussed the poles that are once again increasing in numbers, the problems with wayleaves and their desire to decarbonise their fleet.

Wednesday

I met with Tenacious Labs to discuss the potential for a cannabis industry with all its complexities and opportunities. A properly regulated industry could employ thousands in growing hemp and supplying an industry that is hungry for the raw product to make insulating panels, clothes, biodegradable plastics and many other products. In the chamber Scotland Questions was a sorry affair with a Secretly of State that is biding his time before going to the House of Lords. Prime Minister’s Questions was also underwhelming as the PM is in Bali at the G20 conference, so it was a day for the deputies. Despite being pushed time and time again by Angela Rayner and Kirsten Oswald on the financial chaos that we are experiencing, the deputy PM, Dominic Raab, parroted, covid, Ukraine and recession but steadfastly refused to say the word Brexit. It’s as if the word has been removed from the English language and yet it’s the cause of so many of our current problems. I went to an access for cash drop in to hear from about community banking. I shall be pursuing LINK for details and suitability for Inverclyde. I then heard from Penny who has survived pancreatic cancer. It’s a cancer that has little research and is rarely diagnosed early. She is one of the lucky ones to have survived. Next up in varied day was a meeting with the Cruise Line International Association to discuss decarbonisation of the marine industry, a possible tourist tax and issues around a universal permission to travel. I had votes at 18:00 and then a hasty journey to the airport to catch a flight and got home at 23:00.

Thursday

As part of U.K. Parliament Week, I visit schools in Inverclyde to engage pupils in the democratic process and do question and answer sessions with them. First up today was Port Glasgow High where I met with students studying politics and then the student council. In the afternoon I went to talk to Saint Patrick Primary school P7, they questioned me relentlessly on a range of subjects, after which I had to lie down in a darkened room for a while.

Friday

I continued my school visits today and went to Clydeview Academy and Saint Columba Gourock. My last appointment of the week was with the Green Action Trust to discuss the action required to tackle the nature and climate crisis.

Westminster diary wb 7th November

Monday

Constituency boundary changes.  Talk of the steamie or at least the Members tea-room and late into the evening conservative and unionist MPs were pouring over maps working out who would stay and who would go. I bobbed on the urgent question regarding immigration and was the last person taken from the opposition benches. I pressed the point that in-order to help local authorities accommodate asylum seekers the authorities need to be engaged with at an early stage to ensure that the support and finance is in place otherwise we risk fuelling the bigotry and intolerance that is already obvious from some of the Conservative and Unionist back benches.

Tuesday

I co-chaired a joint event between the Gambling Related Harm APPG and the Suicide and Self-Harm Prevention APPG with Liz Twist MP. The panel consisted of Heather Wardle who is an academic at Glasgow University, Matt Gaskill who is a consultant psychologist and Annie Ashton whose husband completed suicide due to gambling related issues. They all spoke well and answered a range of questions from a very engaged audience. I met with the Portman group who are responsible for regulating alcohol advertising. As they are an industry funded body, I have my reservations, but they are light years ahead of the Gambling Commission. I had a briefing from Irish government about their basic income pilot that they are rolling out to artists and a artisans. The results will be very interesting. Next up was a meeting in the House of Lords to discuss the online safety bill, in particular regarding child pornography on the internet.

A day which covered, suicide, gambling harm, and child pornography could be seen as a day of despair but what I heard today from a range of organisations was their commitment to address these issues and create positive outcomes. It was a day of hope and positivity.

Wednesday

The Prime Minister’s Questions from the opposition benches were mostly questioning his judgment in appointing Gavin Williamson, who has since resigned and also the wisdom of appointing incumbent MPs to the House of Lords. It does beg the question how dedicated to their constituencies they are?

Thursday

I started the day at West College Scotland talking to and doing a question and answer session with politics students. These are always invigorating and really enjoyable sessions. I had a remote meeting with the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and minister responsible for gambling. It says a lot that gambling comes under the auspices of DCMS. I have been pushing the U.K. government to publish their white paper on gambling reform for over two years now and due to a number of circumstances this has not happened. Hopefully we will be spared a cabinet reshuffle until the ministers and civil servants involved can publish this paper. Then we shall know the government’s stance on gambling reforms and the debate can start. In the afternoon I met with the Tail of the Bank credit union to catch up with their new management and discuss their plans for the future.

Friday

I started the day with an update on Inverclyde Council budget proposals. And then I visited the Madeira Street site that is proposed for housing. In the afternoon I visited the Amazon fulfilment centre and finally I visited and chatted to 6 Foot Labs about their projects called The Hive and Designed Necessities. Another week covering a wide range of subject matters and engaging with people from all walks of life. That truly is one of the privileges of the job.

On this Remembrance Sunday, I shall be attending the church service in the Mid-Kirk and laying poppy wreaths at the Wellpark and the Cross of Lorraine on the Lyle Hill.

Westminster diary wb 31st October

Monday

Normal service (or as normal as Westminster ever is) has been resumed. I am in the Chamber for questions to Department for Work and Pensions. I bobbed on topicals and was taken so I raised the matter of DWP staff working consistent overtime to qualify for enhanced holiday pay but their employers now saying that they have no definition of ‘regularity’ and therefore no mechanism to calculate what amount should be paid. The minister asked me to write to her. I shall and I shall include the letter her department sent to me. Votes on the genetic technology precision breeding bill ended at 10pm. One noticeable incident was the behaviour of Therese Coffey, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs of the United Kingdom. When declaring her objection to an amendment from the Green Party, she screamed NO, numerous times and took on the appearance of a two year old having a tantrum at bedtime.

Tuesday

My select committee took evidence from Duncan Hames from Transparency International U.K. on the ‘Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and the Trade Union Administration Act 2014’. It was not as dry as it sounds as it really boils down to who can lobby government with impunity and how transparent any lobbying should be. I met up with the founders of Intractable Epilepsy. They are a charity that raises money for medical cannabis for children that are suffering from forms of epilepsy that don’t respond well to mainstream medicine. I am proud to be a trustee of the charity and shall continue to work on their behalf to raise awareness of their cause and bring pressure to bear on those in power who can resolve the issue. I attended a cross parliamentary group on medical cannabis and heard very good speakers including those from Police Scotland.

Wednesday

Prime Minister’s Questions. The Prime Minister refused to answer Ian Blackford’s question if he would increase benefits and pensions in line with inflation, as he promised to do when he was chancellor. Instead, he placed that responsibility on the shoulders of the new chancellor. Remarkable that promises made as chancellor, just a few short months before, can be sidelined when that chancellor becomes Prime Minister. Today was an opposition day debate and it was the SNPs turn. Quite correctly we focused on Independence and the economic argument. My speech centres around the attitude that unionists have that Scotland as a nation is just too small and that we are better sharing financial levers with Westminster. Not an attitude shared in any other independent country in the world. Scotland small? Not something Hugh McDiarmid agreed with, so I quoted his poem of that title. We voted on the debate at 7pm.

Thursday

It was an early start to get home. I caught the 5:45 underground at Westminster and touched down in Glasgow airport at 08:00. This allowed me to catch up in my inverclyde office with local matters pertaining to housing and transport. 

Friday

I had meetings with local councillors and parliamentarians. In the evening I attended local mental health charity Man On in my capacity as a trustee.