Westminster diary w/b 18th October

Monday

Not surprisingly, after the passing of James Brokenshire MP from cancer and the murder of David Amess MP, Westminster was very subdued working place on Monday morning. After questions to the Home Office, during which I pressed the minister to reveal what research he was basing his stance on psilocybin on, the rest of the business was given up for tributes to David Amess.  I know that in some circles as an SNP member, some people expect me to hate all people from all other parties but that’s simply not the case and I don’t feel any need to apologise for that. David was a decent human being that did not agree with me on some issues that I would rather he did. But first and foremost, he was a decent human being. 

Tuesday

I was in early to contribute to the Westminster Hall debate on the effect of Post Office closures on the local communities. In between voting and my weekly finance and economy meeting I had a quick question and answer session with pupils from Aileymill Primary. The pupils were extremely engaged in the subject matter and it was a joy to take their questions and answer them. Unfortunately, it was not a long session as just like school pupils a lot of my life is dictated by the bell. And when the division bell rings, I am required to drop everything and vote. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on medical cannabis under prescription met to discuss our immediate aims and also discuss future engagement with the U.K. government after the reshuffle of ministers. I then had three meetings in quick succession and a vote in between. 

Wednesday

Prime Minister’s Questions were it interesting. Watching the Prime Minister struggle to respond to pretty basic questions around the ‘on-line harm bill’ from the leader of the opposition, Keir Starmer. I have said earlier that the chamber has been understandably subdued and as that mood continues it is clear that the Prime Minister is much more comfortable in a knock about debate which allows him to belittle his opponents and being expected to handle himself in a more professional manner is beyond him. It didn’t last long as he lost his temper when confronted by Ian Blackford over the disgraceful handling of carbon capture projects in Scotland. Once again Westminster’s promises have been broken. I spoke in the Westminster Hall debate on ‘access to cash’. While acknowledging the popularity of cashless transactions and the reduction in the use of cash, we still need a strategy to transition that does not leave people behind. 5 million people in the U.K. still rely on cashing over 1 million don’t have a bank account. I managed to catch the end of the ‘environmental bill lords amendment 1 government motion to disagree’. I was expecting to vote at the end of business but as it transpired I didn’t.

Thursday 

My select committee PACAC (Public administration and constitutional affairs) took evidence from the ONS (Organisation for national statistics), UKSA (United Kingdom’s statistics authority and (Office for statistics regulation) OSR. It may sound like a battle of the acronyms but was actually a very interesting session examining the use and the understanding of statistics in government. We need timely accurate data on which to base policy and we need the confidence that the data being produced is independent of any political influence. We also need civil servants and politicians that can process the data appropriately. I attended the usual Thursday business statement and then headed home.

Friday 

I had a safety and security briefing with Police Scotland. These happen on a fairly regular basis but obviously given the murder of an MP while carrying out his parliamentary duties, it does no harm to reconsider my personal security and that of my co-workers. There is a balance to be found but engaging with my constituents remains paramount to fulfilling my duties as the elected member for Inverclyde. I visited Primark to discuss their new sustainability strategy. I concluded with a briefing on COP26 and am looking forward to attending in due course.  

Westminster diary w/b 20th September

Monday

In Westminster before 11:00 and straight into a meeting with colleagues as we try to unpick the UK government cabinet reshuffle and now that the dust has settled its obvious that some ministers that we had invested considerable time in to produce a working relationship have moved to other departments or been moved out. Now that I am at Westminster, I am back to the pre-COVID methods of communicating with my office team via Teams. We cover casework with an emphasis on the social welfare aspects. Later on, I have a briefing from an expert on the Online Safety Bill as I would like to feed into the committee on the gambling safety angle. In the evening there are four votes on the Social Security (uprating of benefits) Bill and one vote on the Elections Bill which ended at 20:49. It’s worth noting that I am not recorded as voting on New Clause Two as I was acting as a teller.

Tuesday

Unusually for a Tuesday I don’t have a select committee meeting. So, I had a long lie and a big breakfast! No I didn’t. I used the time to meet with a representative of the cruise ship industry for an update prior to tomorrow’s debate on the contribution of the cruise industry to the economy. I then wrote my column for the Greenock Telegraph and my speech for tomorrow. I had a group meeting with councillor colleagues in the early evening, followed by the same with my MP colleagues.

Wednesday

Straight into Westminster Hall for the debate on the contribution of the cruise industry to the economy. While acknowledging the value of the industry I also brought them to task over their carbon footprint. I know they have a net zero target of 2050 but that is not ambitious enough.

In the chamber for Prime Minister’s Questions. And unusually it was good. Maybe because the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition were not there. Instead, Dominic Raab was chief apologist for the Conservative and Unionist government and Angela Rayner led the cross examination. Angela did an excellent job and landed punch after punch on the deputy Prime Minister exposing his lack of knowledge of the hardships facing people across the UK because of the welfare cuts and rising costs being inflicted upon us all. The cross party, cross platform group on Universal Basic Income had a meeting for the co-chairs. The group does a great job in engaging with all levels of government on this topic. In the evening I met with colleagues to discuss common interests.

Thursday

I had a very interesting meeting with representatives of Scottish Renewable energy sector. It was primarily about the Transmission Network Use of System (TNUoS) and the impact that has on the energy industry. I am perplexed as to why, as we transition towards net zero, Ofgem (the energy regulator for Great Britain) are enforcing geographical charges on energy generators and suppliers. This inhibits development and creates a great deal of uncertainty in the business. We should be doing everything we can to encourage clean green renewable energy, not placing obstacles in their way. The vast majority of countries in Europe do not charge anything for the cost of installing and maintaining their energy transmission systems. I caught up with Scottish Government advisers to discuss the changing face of gambling legislation. It is a fully reserved matter, but it is always good to have these discussions to help me understand the mood within Holyrood. I will also be looking to include something in the next programme for government. I managed to get home for 19:00 just in time to take part in a local planning meeting with colleagues.

Friday

I shall be helping a local company KSB Controls promote a product that I have bought from them to help the air quality within my office. As we transition out of COVID it is important that when people are in my office I have created the best working conditions that I can. This product is part of that. I visited Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL) in their refurbished offices in Port Glasgow and I had a call with the local DWP to plan for the end of furlough and the end of the £20 uplift in Universal Credit. Along with increasing energy prices and the oncoming winter we need to ensure that people do not need to choose between heating and eating.

Westminster diary w/b 13th September

Monday

I arrive at Westminster at 11:00. My first appointment is off the estate at Birdcage Walk with families who have lost loved ones to gambling related harm. It is as a very emotional meeting and is followed up with an interview for Channel 4 news with the focus being the Gambling Act review. There was a statement in the house on the lack of HGV drivers which has resulted in shortages of all sorts within industry and empty shelves in supermarkets. I was particularly vexed about this as I know the UK government blames COVID but is suspect it is more to do with Brexit. I had asked the Secretary of State for Transport a question about this in July 2019 and it appears that nothing has been done since to address the problem. There were votes up until 20:46.

Tuesday

This morning my hotel was full of men from countries around the globe wearing every conceivable military uniform you could imagine. There is a trade fair of military armoury on in London. I couldn’t help but wonder if these men, going to the same exhibition, staying in the same hotel, dining in the same restaurants were going to go home and start killing each other’s citizens with their new weapons. My select committee took evidence for the Minister for the constitution regarding the Elections Bill. There is a degree of scepticism regarding the need for much of it. And a genuine concern that voter ID will disenfranchise many people from the electoral franchise. I had the great privilege of joining the anti-gambling advertising in sport campaign group The Big Step to hand in a petition to number 10 Downing Street. I had meetings with the Scottish Whisky Association and the Bourbon Industry. There is an interesting tie between the two as many of the barrels used by the Bourbon manufacturers are used to age whisky. There is an issue with tariffs imposed on the USA which is adding to the cost and are detrimental to both industries.

Wednesday

Prime Minister’s Question actually became a pantomime this week, with the speaker intervening on the proceedings when the Prime Minister said, “I can see that panto season has come early” the speaker intervened to say “if it has, it is certainly behind him”, referring to his own members braying and bawling. Fortunately, there was a sensible debate in Westminster Hall on geothermal energy extraction. It was my job to sum up, which entails a quick run through the contributions from the previous speaker and a short addition of my own. The conclusion was that geothermal, like all clean green renewable energy, requires investment and it requires it now. Final vote was at 19:00.

Thursday

My second select committee of the week was planned for this morning. It was the pre-appointment hearing for the position of the Public Appointments Commissioner. The role is to provide independent assurance that ministerial appointments to the boards of public bodies comply with the relevant rules. According to the Institute of Government this covers around 300 UK and 55 Welsh bodies. In truth these are appointments not interviews. By this stage there is only one candidate and it’s William Shawcross. However, with the cabinet shuffle resulting in a new Secretary of State (SOS) for Digital Culture Media and Sport (DCMS), I decided overnight to miss the committee and attend questions to DCMS. The plan was to ask the SOS to meet with families from Gambling With Lives as her predecessor has agreed to do. As it turned out I didn’t have to as Ian Duncan Smith managed to ask before me. It’s a swift reminder of the fluidity of work at Westminster when plans chop and change from hour to hour. In keeping with that we had a statement from the Prime Minister about ‘our friendship with Australia and the United States and the security of the Indo-Pacific’. The Prime Minister was very weak on the details and strong on the tub thumping. I took part in the COP26 debate and caught the 17:00 flight and was home by 20:00

Friday

The day starts with my regular catch up with Stuart McMillan MSP and SNP council group leader Liz Robertson. It always good to know what each other is doing so we don’t duplicate work but can help and support each other when appropriate. At midday I had a meeting with local activists and Keep Scotland Beautiful regarding plans we are hatching for Inverclyde. The afternoon is consumed by constituency case work.

Westminster diary w/b 9th March

Monday

9am flight and on the parliamentary estate by 11am. Just time to prepare for questions, which today are for the Department for Work and Pensions. I bobbed for questions but wasn’t taken. Not deterred I bobbed for topical questions and didn’t get taken. I was hoping to raise a Universal Credit case with the minister. I shall pursue other channels. There was a statement on the Corona virus (COVID–19). It’s not a time to panic but I am concerned about the scheduled cruise ships visiting the area. I have to say the Secretary of States response was disappointing. He was unable to explain any plan to contain a breakout on a cruise ship in UK waters. I was on a Delegated Legislation Committee to change the law on tax credits. It was not a controversial matter and was not challenged. I took the opportunity to ask the government to end the 2-child cap which will force another 20,000 Scottish children in to poverty.

Tuesday

This was a hectic day. The evidence session with the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs select Committee (PACAC) was very interesting. The witnesses were Sir John Manzoni KCB who currently serves as chief executive of the civil service and the Cabinet Office Permanent Secretary and Sir Mark Sedwill KCMG FRGS Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service since 2018. He has served as National Security Adviser since 2017. These two big hitters were there to explain the recruitment policy for special advisers (SPADS) at cabinet level and importantly who can hire and fire SPADS. The influence of Dominic Cummings was questioned but you don’t get to the heady heights of the civil service that these two gentlemen have reached by being phased by a mere select committee. They came, they saw, they told us nothing. It was just like the comedy programme Yes Minister but without the laughs. I went straight from there to the chamber to lead in a debate on the Telecommunications Bill. First, we debated amendments to the bill. One from Labour and one from the Conservatives were designed to omit Huawei from the digital infrastructure. Neither managed to get enough backing but there was a minor revolution in the Tory ranks and we shall revisit that when the next telecommunications bill is being debated. We then had the 3rd reading but that was uncontentious.

Wednesday

It’s UK Budget day. A budget long on promises but short on substance. It was almost like a pre-election (oh please not again) budget. Lots of sweeteners to keep folk happy but nothing to say where the money is coming from. As the saying goes, the devil and god are in the detail. I suspect as it unfolds, we shall see that a lot of these sweeteners will be on the never never or maybe the never at all. The red book will be poured over in the coming days.

Thursday

I had the pleasure of meeting President of Catalonia, Roger Torrent. He explained the negotiations with the Spanish Government who are now recognising the conflict, recognising the Catalan cause and negotiating as equals. He is still pressing for an amnesty for the political prisoners and the 1,000 people who have been informed they could be prosecuted because of their part in the 2017 referendum. It was good to hear that the prisoners are allowed out to work up to 5 days a week. They are still prisoners, but they are strong. I caught a rather quiet flight home. Fewer people are travelling because of COVID-19 and I shall continue to monitor the situation regarding my travelling and the service provided by my constituency office.

Friday

A few engagements have been cancelled but I have constituent meetings to keep me busy along with an article for the ClydeLife magazine to write. If the event is not cancelled, I shall be planting trees up at the Coves Road Reservoir on Saturday.

 

Westminster diary w/b 2nd March

Monday

I took advantage of a slow day at Westminster to stay in Inverclyde and catch up with local organisations including Financial Fitness. Many local organisations that do magnificent work are constantly on the lookout for funding. Financial Fitness is one of them. It was good to get up to speed with their needs prior to my meeting with the National Lottery scheduled for later in the week. In the afternoon, I attended the Oxfam led event hosted by Your Voice to investigate inequality and poverty.

Tuesday

The downside of staying in Inverclyde yesterday is the 5am alarm today. I am in Westminster for 9am and there is a whiff of alcohol in the air. Not from the many bars on the estate but from the hand wash that is being supplied to discourage the spread of the corona virus. There is a quick get together of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee (PACAC) as we reform with a new Chair and many new Members. Its primary purpose is to clear the paperwork required. I head across the city with several MPs from other parties to sit in on a briefing in the National Problem Gambling Clinic. It was interesting and informative to hear from the experts in clinical support. I am back in time to drop in on the National Lottery Community Fund event and the Maritime UK drop in session. My next event is new to me. Rather than take evidence I am giving evidence to the Gambling Industry Committee in the House of Lords. It is chaired by Michael Grade and it was an intense but enjoyable process. Late afternoon and I am hosting a GambleAware event in the Members dining room. I break out to attend a briefing on the corona virus from the Secretary of State for Heath and the chief medical officer. Once completed I returned to the GambleAware event. I finish my day in Parliament with an internal SNP meeting.

Wednesday

PACACs first evidence session is with the commissioner for public appointments. It’s a good introduction to the new members and a chance to grill Peter Riddell again. Prime Minister’s Questions lacked any real substance and I went from that to the cross-party group for CND. I then met with representatives of the Institution of Civil Engineers to discuss infrastructure. The wonderful WASPI women were in Portcullis House so obviously I dropped in on them. I glad they are holding their campaign together and continuing to hold the U.K. government to account. The cross-party parliamentary group on drugs, alcohol and justice heard from the select few that were allowed into the UK government drug policy summit in Glasgow. The view was it was a highly politicised event and the dismissal of DCRs as part of the solution was guided by ideology rather than evidence. I caught the 19:45 fight home.

Thursday

I finally got time to read Dame Carol Black’s ‘Review of Drugs’. I didn’t find anything new in it, but I guess I am not the target audience. Until the UK government starts listening to the experts, we will continue to fail to address the misuse of drugs and the associated harm and costs, financial and health, to society. Throughout the day my office continued to receive abusive calls regarding the suspension of the out of hours GP service. I wonder if the people who fuel the anger understand that it is often the people that serve the community that they are placing in this position. I wonder if these keyboard warriors consider the consequences of their actions at all.

Friday

I met with Ian Maxwell, the Chief Executive of the Scottish Football Association to discuss the SFA’s relationship with the gambling industry. I held surgeries in my constituency office in the afternoon and in the evening was a guest at the Innerkip Society Dinner.

Westminster diary w/b 24th February

Monday

On the back of a week’s recess when I managed to meet with NHS Greater Glasgow And Clyde, Network Rail, SAMH, West College Scotland, Mind Mosaic, Our Place Our Future, a number of local businesses and attend the excellent ‘Watt Talk’ at the Watt Institute, I also managed an hour of physiotherapy to ease my aching body. I don’t pretend to begin to understand acupuncture, but it has worked for me on a number of occasions. Today was mostly spent writing and researching and in the evening, I attended the Port Glasgow West community council meeting to get the low down on the plans for health and social care in Inverclyde.

Tuesday

An early flight and back to Westminster. It would appear it’s not just Inverclyde that has traffic management issues as my flight lands on time and then spends 30 minutes looking for a parking space. As I disembark, I am tempted to put a cardboard clock in the cockpit window just in case a warden is lurking. My good mood is cut short when I am informed that NHSGGC are suspending the GP out of hours service in Inverclyde. I have met with NHSGGC twice in the last week and despite the issue being raised they never intimated they would be taking this action. I met with Virgin media to track work being done in Inverclyde and they have a good news story to tell. Along with Carolyn Harris (Labour MP Swansea East) I met the goalkeeping legend Peter Shilton and his wife Steph. Unfortunately, we were not there to discuss his goalkeeping exploits (remember the hand of God or that save from Kenny Dalglish in 1973 at Wembley) we were talking about his gambling addiction. Peter will be working to raise awareness of the issue.

Wednesday

Prime Minister’s Questions was less about holding the PM to account and more about prepared party lines being trotted out by Tory back benchers which were greeted with much fervour by an increasingly disengaged and seemingly untouchable mob hired to jeer at the opposition. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy Reform met and took evidence from experts on County Lines (the practice of distributing drugs around the UK primarily using young adults as couriers). One of the witnesses was an ex-gang member who now runs courses and diversion programmes. The testimony of those with lived experience is always engaging and it is encouraging to see that they have overcome personal difficulties to create positive lives for themselves and are now working to help others. Lastly, I met with Gambling With Lives to hear about the progress they are making in changing the gambling act. Their organisation was born out of torment and anger at the loss of loved ones to gambling addiction. But the work they are doing is constructive and there is a sense that the industry is coming under pressure to change. I caught the 19:45 flight home.

Thursday

Today was an entire day of research, casework and replying to a pile of correspondence. Also, I’m in the process of arranging a roundtable on reforestation and tree planting which I hope will lead to more action locally. Also, I tried to find out more details of the UK Government drugs summit taking place in Glasgow, today, but it was a closed shop!

Friday

I met with the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland to discuss gambling harm. The Alliance role is to engage with people with lived experience and to ensure their voice is at the heart of the decision-making process. I visited the local prison to discuss a range of issues including providing boxing sessions in the prison. This is a project brought to me my local campaigner Rhys McCole. My last appointment of the day was with a builder contractor to discuss local house building developments.

Westminster diary w/b 10th February

Monday

With one eye on the weather I drove to the BBC studios at Pacific Quay for a 7:45am interview for BBC Scotland. It was a precursor to my meeting with Neil Doncaster, Chief Executive of the Scottish Professional Football League, to discuss their relationship with gambling. The interview went well, and I then nipped across Glasgow to Hampden Park. It was an open and honest exchange of views, but I remain unconvinced that the SPFL are aware of the responsibility they have to the wider society. I shall be following up today’s meeting with a meeting with Ian Maxwell, CEO of the Scottish Football Association. If football is going to take money from the gambling industry, then they must understand the role they play in normalising gambling. I spent a very blustery afternoon in my constituency office, glad to be in Greenock and not in a plane to London.

Tuesday

The day starts with a 7am flight. Chamber business is once again slow and so I busy myself with committee preparation. There is a statement on HS2 and to my surprise the UK government have committed to HS2 at a new cost of over £100 billion. It is eleven years since the Labour Secretary of State announced a high-speed link from London to Scotland and £12 billion pounds has already been consumed. I thought they would cut their losses and cancel it, but it would appear they are going to chase their losses. With no new track laid I don’t think it’s the best plan and of course there is no timetable for HS2 to actually get as far as Scotland. Investment in rail is required but I don’t think HS2 is the solution. I bobbed for a question but was not taken. Today, the opposition day debate is defined by the SNP and we have chosen to debate migration. The Scottish Government has proposed a system for Scottish visas to work beside the existing system and enable the recruitment of key workers. The Conservative benches talk against the motion as they are entrenched in the mindset that if its proposed by the SNP then they have to object. I asked the Minister if he would support any system that improved the situation in Scotland, and he said he was only interested in UK wide solutions. It’s particularly galling as many of their constituencies rely on migrant workers. We pushed it to a vote and lost.

Wednesday

It’s a busy morning that starts with a meeting with Scottish Enterprise to discuss train manufacturing in Scotland followed by a meeting with a medical cannabis company that are trying to manufacture in the UK but running up against the Home Office legislation. It’s Scottish Questions today prior to Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs). They are fairly unremarkable, just another thirty minutes of Tories talking down Scotland. PMQs was a funfair of knock about with Boris the Buffoon entertaining his star struck hoards. Kirsten Oswald (SNP MP for East Renfrewshire), asked the Prime Minister to justify the Lords voting themselves a pay rise to £323 a day while the monthly allowance for a single person over 25 on Universal Credit is £317.82. The PM in his unbounded wisdom declared it was a matter for the Lords. The All- Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling Related Harm took evidence from the Chief Executive of the Gambling Commission, Neil McArthur. He gave evidence to the Lords enquiry yesterday. It is fair to say that today he got cross examined more thoroughly. The Gambling Commission is not fit for purpose and the Gambling Act needs rewritten.

Thursday

I bobbed on questions to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and was taken! I asked that when the gambling act is considered that those with lived experience of gambling harm are consulted. I bobbed for questions to the Attorney General but wasn’t taken but I hung around for an Urgent Question pertains to online harm, I asked about defining legislation for gaming online to stop the spread to gambling via loot boxes.

Friday

I started with one of my regular catchup meetings with Kevin Scarlet at River Clyde Homes. Of all the issues my office deals with, housing is currently the most frequent. In the afternoon along with Stuart McMillan MSP I met with Scottish Enterprise to discuss the economy of the Clyde.

Westminster diary w/b 3rd February

Monday

No need to rush to Westminster so I catch a midday flight. It’s a routine day. After the turbulent years since the 2017 election this Parliament is threatening to be too predictable. It is Monday so the chamber sits until 10pm then we vote and the government wins. It’s a debate on the agriculture bill and despite SNP, Labour, Plaid Cymru, Independent, Green Party, Liberal Democrat and Alliance all combining to vote for the Labour amendment we can’t get close to the 318 Conservative and Unionists votes. That is worrying given that this UK Government seriously needs to be scrutinised on every vote.

Tuesday

I sit in on Foreign and Commonwealth questions but don’t get taken. I take the opportunity to attend an evidence session in the House of Lords. The Gambling Industry Committee chaired by Michael Grade is taking evidence from GVC (Ladbrokes and Coral), William Hill, Bet365, Sky Betting and Gaming, Paddy Power Betfair and the Betting and Gaming Council. It strikes me that all the concessions they say they are making are the changes that the All-Party Parliamentary Group on gambling related harm have demanded they make. The gambling industry still needs dragged and kicking to the table if we are going to reduce the harm. In the evening there are three votes on the NHS. Normally the SNP and Plaid Cymru would not vote as it is defined as ‘an EVEL division’. English Votes for English Laws was created by David Cameron the day after the Scottish independence referendum to stop MPs that don’t represent English seats voting in matters that only concern England. Truth is the SNP never did anyway but on this occasion the vote will determine the finances of the NHS and therefore there should be a knock-on effect to the Barnet formula consequentials. We vote but our votes are not included in the count. This is the first time that we have been excluded from voting on a matter that potentially affects Scotland.

Wednesday

I am picked up by a taxi at 6:45 to take me to broadcasting house (BBC) for a string of radio interviews on Medical Cannabis provision. It slightly embarrassing as the driver tells me the interviews are now taking place in Millbank studios, he drops me off four hundred yards from my house. And on the same say the BBC announced a rise in the TV licence! The interviews went well and I am struck by how non combative the interviewers are compared to the national stations. Prime Ministers Question time is once again restricted to 30 minutes. I think the new format is better. After that I drop in to meet parents of children with epilepsy that are trying to gain access to Medical Cannabis on prescription. Many are part of an organisation End Our Pain. Sixty MPs signed their letter to the Prime Minister. The numbers are increasing but we still have some way to go.

Thursday

I spend the day in my constituency office. Even in this day of email and social media there is always a lot of paper correspondence to catch up on.

Friday

In the morning I have surgeries in my constituency office and then in the Oak Mall. In the afternoon I have a meeting at Inverclyde Council Health and Social Care Partnership and then the Basic Income Hub to catch up on the proposed pilot basic income projects in Scotland.

Westminster diary w/b 27th January

Monday

I am on the rota at Westminster so I catch the breakfast flight. I am in the House bobbing for questions as the ridiculous protocol demands. I didn’t get taken for written questions, so I bob again for topical and I didn’t get taken, so I bob again during the Urgent Question on the 5G network and role of Huawei in it. I finally get taken after one and three quarter hours of standing up and sitting down. Good for the abdomen muscles but infuriating at the same time. I asked the minister of he could offer a 100% guarantee that the digital network would not be compromised if Huawei were offered a future contract. He couldn’t. I sat in for the start of the debate of facial recognition software. The day ended with the adjournment debate brought forward by Patricia Gibson MP (Ayrshire and Arran) on the Claim of Rights. Despite it being about the sovereign right of the people of Scotland determining Scotland’s future the Tory benches spent the entire timing talking down Scotland.

Tuesday

I was taken for a question during the statement on 5G telecommunications. I can’t believe the UK Government can classify Huawei as a ‘high risk’ vendor and still include them in the 5G infrastructure build. To describe their input as on the periphery is to completely misunderstand the architecture of a 5G system. The UK Government is playing with fire and compromising the integrity of the UKs digital network.

Wednesday

I had a question at Prime Minister’s Questions which as is now becoming the norm was restricted to 30 minutes. I got in and asked about the damage the UKs immigration policy will do to the care sector in Scotland. The Prime Minister answered something about seasonal workers. I met with Link to discuss the provision of ATMs that don’t charge for withdrawals in Inverclyde. And I met with members of gambling anonymous to hear their lived experience of gambling addiction.

Thursday

I caught the 6:30am train from Fort Matilda to Edinburgh to attend the 10th annual infrastructure conference. This year’s topic was Delivering Scotland’s New Infrastructure and Increased Capital Investment. It was more interesting than it sounds. The Infrastructure Commission is working on a 30 year plan for Scotland and published its first report recently. I then hot footed it to the Scottish Parliament and attended a debate in the chamber on Drugs and Alcohol. A lot of common sense was spoken from all parties. Now we need the powers and the budget to implement the support and education required. I got home in time to attend a tenants meeting to hear about concerns over housing issues.

Friday

I had a meeting with Valerie Campbell, Lead Community Link Worker to discuss the community link work project in Inverclyde. In the afternoon I had a meeting with Kenny Lang, Environmental Services Manager, Inverclyde Council regarding reforestation and tree planting.

Westminster diary w/b 20th January

Monday

It is never a good start to the week when the first message you receive on your phone is from British Airways to inform you that your flight has been cancelled. A flurry of activity results in a noon flight being booked but it is 6am and I am wide awake! An unexpected opportunity to catch up on some correspondence. Not surprisingly the noon flight is full of members of the House of Commons and Lords. I am in the chamber for the debate on the Queen’s Speech and we finish with votes at 10pm.

Tuesday

In at 9am for the constitution meeting followed by informal discussions with a number of people who are looking for election to chair a select committee. Some of whom I have never met before in my life. The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Gambling Related Harm (GRH) held its Annual General Meeting (AGM) and reconstituted itself. The campaign to control the gambling industry and make it responsible for the damage it causes while respecting people’s desire to enjoy a flutter goes on. It has been a big news week for GRH. I had a number of interviews relating to gambling in football. The most challenging being the Scottish Television one. It was recorded at 20:30 with the presenter and a journalist (Stephen McGowan, chief sports writer with the Daily Mail and fellow resident of Inverclyde) in a studio in Glasgow and me at Westminster in what amounts to little more than a broom cupboard with a camera, bright light and green screen. It’s hard to be part of a coherent conversation when you can’t see the body language of the presenter, but I think I made my point. The game must come before the gambling. I attended the APPG for woods and trees. It’s shocking how far behind the UK Government is in setting targets for reforestation. They are only talking about small scale projects while Africa is planting an 8,000 kilometre green wall right across the continent.

Wednesday

I start the day with an interview with Martyn McLaughlin of the Scotsman (a fellow Morton fan). Once again, the topic is gambling in football. I am hoping this will be an on-going conversation and it won’t require the brave actions of those within the game that are suffering to step up and risk possible expulsion and the subsequent loss of earnings. Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) was short and sharp as is the new way under the speaker, Lindsay Hoyle. The Prime Minister was quick to criticise Scotland and indeed was talking down Scotland before Ian Blackford even got to his feet. I believe the phrase is ‘getting your retaliation in first’. There were five votes on Lord’s amendments to the European Union Withdrawal Bill. They were all defeated by the Conservative and Unionist Government who turned out in their droves to ensure we did not restore the rights of unaccompanied child refugees. In the same week as we remember those who died in the Holocaust we as the United Kingdom are denying unaccompanied children a safe haven. These kids are amongst the most vulnerable in the world, the UK government should hang its head in shame.

Thursday

I was at Inverclyde Academy to support the ‘Inch by Inch’ campaign which aims to educate and support people to eat a healthier diet. Poverty often leads to a poor diet and obesity. Currently it is estimated that almost a third of children in Scotland are at risk of being overweight. The Scottish Government aims to half that by 2030. I was scheduled to attend the Great British High Street awards in Edinburgh as Kempock Street in Gourock was up for an award. But there was not enough time to fulfil my local commitments locally and travel to the awards.

Friday

I visited Peel Ports to see the progress they are making with the floating pontoon that is currently being built at the Inchgreen Dry Dock. In the afternoon I had a discussion on renewable energy in Inverclyde.