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.

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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.

Westminster diary w/b 21st May

Monday 

My first event was the All-party parliamentary group on prostitution. We were launching a report with the title ‘Behind Closed Doors’. It deals with the sexual exploitation of woman trafficked across Europe to be abused in pop up brothels. The event include a speech from an incredibly strong, articulate and brave woman named Mia De Faoite. Mia survived prostitution and campaigns to promote the Nordic model which will decriminalise the seller and prosecute the purchaser. It’s a model I fully support and it was good to have an SNP colleague, Ash Denham MSP, also speaking at the event. I nipped into the chamber for questions to work and pensions. Most of the afternoon was spent in the transport select committee discussing the intercity east coast rail franchise. 

Tuesday 

I started the day taking evidence from Andy Street, the mayor of the West Midlands, in front of the select committee for public administration and constitutional affairs. He wants more powers devolved to the West Midlands post Brexit and even pursued the idea of the West Midlands staying in the customs union. He recently wrote a damning article describing the potential pitfalls to the supply chain for manufacturers after we leave the E.U. I then left the parliamentary estate to chair an infrastructure event in the Royal Aeronautical Society. In the afternoon I was briefed by the Minister for Defence Procurement, Guto Bebb MP. His brief covers shipbuilding so it was a lively discussion. I then had a meeting with the Minister for Sport, Tracey Crouch. This was a follow up to the announcement that the UK Government intends to set the maximum stake on fixed odd betting terminals at £2. We are now discussing the timeline for implementation. My last event of the day was a reception for Heathrow Airport where my colleague Alan Brown MP spoke.  

Wednesday 

I had a meeting with Highways England with my transport select committee hat on. We discussed major infrastructure programmes including a new tunnel under the M25 to accommodate the proposed new runway at Heathrow. I spoke at an event discussing the future of gambling in the U.K. It was good to see that some bookmakers attended the event and are prepared to engage with a programme of socially responsible gambling. I then ventured into the House of Lords to speak at the All-Party Parliamentary Group on drug policy reform. The focus on medical cannabis is becoming so time consuming that we agree to support the setting up of an APPG solely dedicated to medical cannabis. This frees up the existing group to focus on drug related harm and support. 

Thursday 

I stood for topical questions on Transport and asked the Secretary of State if the bidding process for the eastern railway franchise, which has failed three times now, would include a clause to consider prosperity weighting. This is an idea the ministry for defence is considering for future defence contracts. I covered this in my column in yesterday’s edition. I stayed in the chamber just long enough to respond to the public accounts select committee report on Carillion. It still disappoints me that after three profit warnings the U.K. Government were still awarding Carillion contracts worth billions of pounds. It would appear they had adopted the attitude that Carillion were too big to fail and therefore more tax payer money was used to attempt to offset a cash flow problem which eventually brought them down. 

Friday

First day of recess. Most of the day was spent on constituency casework however I managed to squeeze in a catch up with the local DWP and a council group meeting to discuss local development plans.

 

Westminster diary w/b 14th May

Monday 

This was my first day back at Westminster since the death of my partner, Linda, and it was always going to be difficult. I prepared for it, almost like a first day at school. Shining my shoes, laying out clothes and packing a bag the night before. Fortunately it was a day short on confrontation and spent listening and learning instead. I met with Marc Etches from Gamble Aware to talk about a range of ways to address gambling related harm, including a statutory levy on bookmakers and restricting advertising target audiences. The Select Committee on Transport took evidence on ‘Mobility as a Service’. MaaS is designed to join up different methods of transport to allow a person to utilise a combination of bike, car, bus, ferry and train to plan their journeys with a central payment method along the line of the system currently available in Helsinki. I attended a debate in the chamber on the effect of Brexit on haulage permits and trailer regulations.  

Tuesday 

I dropped in on an event organised to highlight Scotland’s Declaration on Human Rights. This event highlights it is 70th years since the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Select Committee on Public Administration and the Constitution took evidence on the methodology and scrutiny behind the pre-appointment process within Whitehall. In the chamber there was an urgent question on the murder of civilians in Palestine and a vote on the recommendations from the Leveson inquiry.  

Wednesday  

Started with oral questions to the chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the cabinet office. I bobbed for a question. I was going to ask him to explain how he claimed to be preserving the integrity of the United Kingdom while he refused to acknowledge the Scottish Parliament vote that was supported by all parties except the Tories, not to a pass a legislative consent motion regarding Brexit. But as I was not selected, we shall never know. In the afternoon I attended an extremely interesting event that explained how the island of Orkney has become a centre for excellence for renewable energy. Orkney has overcome many obstacles to achieve this but they used an island mentality of getting on with the job and recognising the community value that their hard work has brought to fruition. I sat in on the latest Brexit debate on customs. It’s truly frightening how poorly prepared the United Kingdom is for leaving the European Union and it won’t be cabinet ministers that suffer it will be the ordinary citizens of the entire U.K. When so many manufacturing companies work with the ‘just in time’ process that means any interruption to their supply chain will grind production to a halt, we need to get customs regulations agreed across the European Union now. 

Thursday 

I had been given the heads up that the U.K. Government were going to announce a change to the betting limits on fixed odd betting terminals (FOBTs) so I was planning on being in the chamber to hear the news and possibly talk to the statement. As it turned out I was given the privilege to respond from the front benches by the SNP. This change to set the maximum bet at £2 per spin is extremely welcome and it was achieved by cross party cooperation. I worked hand in glove with Carolyn Harris (Labour) and Ian Duncan Smith (Conservative) to get this through and my hope is that we can continue to work together to reform gambling policy and improve the support provided for those affected by gambling related harm. I bumped into Gordon Brown (ex-Labour Prime Minister) at the airport. I was going to remind him that he said in April 2015 that Labour would never lose Inverclyde to the SNP but the poor man looked miserable enough without me annoying him, that and the fact he had two armed guards at his side.  

Friday 

I have meetings with West College, a visit to the site of the new demolished Inverkip power station and meetings with constituents. And finally can I just thank everyone who has helped and supported me during a most difficult time, especially my office team, my friends and my family. Love and respect.

 

Westminster diary w/b 26th February

Monday

A morning flight for London and my first event is Home Office questions. I am trying to get a question raised on medicinal cannabis. I have been in contact with the mother of Billy Caldwell who receives a prescription for medicinal cannabis to help control his seizures and I am trying to help the family of Alfie Dingley achieve the same outcome. Hopefully they will see sense sooner rather than later. The transport select committee discuss rail infrastructure. It is mostly devolved but it is always of value to hear about issues and solutions across the UK. The All-party parliamentary group on Catalonia heard from an independent group that acted as observers at the Catalonian elections. There feedback was interesting and highlighted the use of the media to the detriment of the independence movement.

Tuesday

My first meeting was as part of a joint select committee. Public Accounts and Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs combined to take evidence from the senior managers at Carillion. It amazes me that as they ran down the employee’s pension fund (deficit of £500 million), left suppliers unpaid (£2 billion) and now over 1,000 people are being made redundant they still managed to pay executive bonuses of over £4 million. Which because they changed the rules can’t be clawed back. My next meeting is with the head of government relations for SAP (computer software solutions and consultancy business). On the back of the Carillion crash they are looking to provide a procurement platform for government contracts and beyond. A quick but informative gathering of the Scottish Constitution group was followed by a meeting with the First Minister. I finished the day with an evening event hosted by Babcock.

Wednesday

I attended the Marie Curie Great Daffodil Appeal before Prime Minsters Question time. I am one of the judges in ‘Your UK Parliament Awards’ along with the Speaker of the House John Bercow. The level of entrants is extremely high and we eventually settle for winners of each of the five categories. A number of local schools took part in UK Parliament Week and I see it as an opportunity to engage young adults in the democratic process. It is not all about parliament and includes community activism and social mobility. In the evening I attended a dinner hosted by the Industry and Parliament Trust titled ‘Powering the Future of Electric Vehicles’. I am sure there are many of you that remember the launch of the embarrassing Sinclair C5 in 1985. Thankfully electric vehicles have come a long way in recent years. The challenge ahead is to have an infrastructure that supports them.

Thursday

The first event of the day is Transport questions. Given the weather in London and the red weather warning across central Scotland most of us are already thinking about transport but primarily how to get home. We are finding it hard if not impossible to secure any guaranteed passage. The rest of the day is consumed by meetings and definitely no fun in the snow.

Friday

Due to the weather I was detained in London and so all my appointments in Inverclyde were cancelled. My apologies to all those that I had to let down. I spoil myself with a day of reading Johann Hari’s latest book ‘Lost Connections – uncovering the real causes of depression and the unexpected solutions’. It is thought provoking and I hope to get Johann up to Inverclyde sometime for a speaking engagement.

Westminster diary w/b 19th February

Monday

This is the last day of recess. I use it to catch up with the paperwork that I should have already caught up with, such is recess. I meet a land management company. This is one of these spin offs from a speculative meeting in Westminster when I identified a local connection. In the afternoon I caught up with Ferguson Marine. Anyone who has visited the site over the last few years would be hugely impressed with the progress that has been made. The financial investment is reaping its rewards. Going forward, any Ministry of Defence work that can be secured would be extremely welcome too.

Tuesday

An early start ensures I am at Westminster for 9:30am. My select committee on Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs takes evidence in a private session from people close to the collapse of Carillion. These private sessions, although they are confidential, provide me with the information I require to constructively question the senior members of Carillion next week when they come in front of the committee in public. An urgent question in the chamber on medicinal cannabis gives me the opportunity to highlight the case of Alfie Dingley. He can suffer from as many as thirty fits in a day and we know they can be controlled by medicinal cannabis but the Home Office will not permit it. The select committee on transport takes evidence from a number of stakeholders in aviation regarding a proposed new runway at Heathrow. I was hoping to attend the London School of Economics as part of a panel talking on Basic Income but I could not get away from the estate.

Wednesday

My first meeting is with an energy consortium that have created an energy park much like the one I outlined for Spango Valley. I shall be taking them up with their offer to visit it soon. I met the Mum of Billy Caldwell. Billy like Alfie suffers from epilepsy and has seizures. His are controlled by medicinal cannabis and his family are looking to help other families in the same situation gain access. Prime Minister’s Question time was a fairly drab affair. This is reflected in the number of members that are no longer attending. It is not the energy charged hot House it used to be. I attend a drop in for ‘Disability Confident’ and share our local experiences with the organisers. The All Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy reform is a lively affair as we feel we may be getting somewhere with medicinal cannabis. In the evening I attend an event to hear Johann Hari talk about his latest book ‘Lost Connections’  the causes of depression and the solutions. I am hoping to get Johann to come to Inverclyde to talk at some time.

Thursday

I am scheduled to speak in a debate on the Cancer Strategy but I am changed to summing up which means a hasty rewrite so I can facilitate the summary aspect as well. The debate goes well and many members from across the house made valuable contributions. I caught the 19:30 flight home.

Friday

A busy day in the constituency includes casework and meetings. It is finished off with an evening with the local police incident officer. I attended the briefing and local incidents until 23:00. A lot the work carried out by our local police force goes unnoticed but its cumulative effect makes our society a safer and better place to live in.