Westminster diary w/b 17th December

Monday

My early morning meeting got cancelled at the last minute so a quick reshuffle of the diary sees me grab the next flight to London. The first notable event in the chamber is another statement from the Prime Minister regarding the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union. These increasingly regular statements remind me of the weather updates you see on the TV when the weather is particularly bad and everybody needs reassured but at the same time are being told to baton down the hatches. The most intriguing part of the statement was when in three sentences the Prime Minister changed position three times over the Irish border. “The backstop will not need to be triggered” was followed by “If the backstop were nevertheless to be triggered” which in the next line became, the EU would negotiate “a subsequent agreement that would replace the backstop”. It is that sort of muddled thinking that has got us in to the mess we are in now. Thankfully the select committee on transport was a more focused event. We are looking at ‘Active Travel’. It was interesting to hear how towns and cities are working towards increasing access for cyclists and pedestrians. There are more cars on the road now than ever before but we are using them less. The SNP Scottish Government recently announced an investment of £80 million annually in cycling and walking to encourage a greater shift towards active travel. This fits in nicely with work being undertaken in Inverclyde by Sustrans Scotland and Community Tracks. I should have been attending a reception in the Irish Parliament but events once again caused a change to planned business.

Tuesday

Jeremy Corbyn has lodged a motion of no confidence in the Prime Minister. It’s a complete waste of time as even if he were to miraculously win it, it is not a binding vote. To rectify the situation the SNP, Greens , Lib Dems and Plaid Cymru get together and lodge an amendment to completely replace the motion with a vote of no confidence in the government. That is compliant with the Fixed Term Parliament Act 2011 section 2 and therefore the outcome of that would be binding. If the government lost that vote they would have 14 days to form a government that had the confidence of parliament and if not we would have a General Election. With the SNP running high in the polls it is an outcome I would welcome. Meanwhile the day job involves the Select Committee on Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs taking evidence on strategic leadership in the civil service. The SNP secured a debate on Brexit under the standing order 24 (SO24). The debate was oversubscribed and easily filled the time allocated to it. I attended a drop in event to promote the campaign for votes at 16.

Wednesday

The Labour motion was not taken and therefore our amendment falls. Overnight the SNP, Greens, Lib Dem’s and Plaid Cymru launched our own motion of no confidence in the UK Government. It remains to be seen if they are prepared to pick up the gauntlet. Prime Minister’s Questions started with each side wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and quickly descended into the usual exchange of abuse. The irony seems to be completely lost in that place. The rancour continued into a series of points of order at the end of PMQs after Jeremy Corbyn was accused of calling the Prime Minister a “stupid woman”. The speaker came under extreme pressure from Conservative and Unionist MPs. It is just the latest in a series of examples of the abuse that flows back and forward in the chamber, including two aimed at SNP members in the last week. I stayed for the Home office statement on immigration post Brexit. A sorry state of affairs that will leave Scotland worse off as was pointed out by my SNP colleague Stuart C McDonald MP when he said “these policies will make the UK poorer economically, socially and in terms of opportunity. They do not signify a ‘global Britain’ – but an inward-looking Tory government and a Prime Minister obsessed with net migration targets.” An SO24 request from Keir Stammer MP was delayed by thirty two minutes of additional points of orders. Including points of order saying why are wasting time with points of order. Westminster has finally descended into bedlam. The request was granted and the debate on leaving the E.U. with no deal took place. A quick dash to the airport and I managed to catch the 19:30 flight home.

Thursday

My early return from Westminster allowed me to meet with Home-Start Inverclyde to discuss how they help to provide children with have a happy and secure childhood with the aim to help them achieve their full potential. In the afternoon I visited the Amnesty International Photographic exhibition in the Beacon Arts Centre.

Friday

Constituency cases took up most of the day and after work I had a catch up with my SNP Councillor colleagues.

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Westminster diary w/b 10th December

Monday

All of today’s plans got wiped as the UK Government decided after three days of debate and 164 speeches that the next two days of debate would not take place and that the Meaningful Vote scheduled for Tuesday wasn’t that meaningful after all. The Select Committee for Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs met to consider our latest report. The timing of our report ‘Confidence motions and the Fixed Term Parliament Act’ could not have been better. As of Monday the future of the current Prime Minister, Government and Parliament were all tenuous. Erskine May (the big book of Parliamentary process) became very popular in the House of Commons library while the plotters and schemers huddled together in corridors and lobbies. Amidst the nonsensical rhetoric and political posturing, work did continue. I met with the Minister for Defence Procurement regarding the Type 31e frigate programme. Three consortiums have been given £4.5 million pounds each to bring forward a design. The winning design will then get the contract to build five type 31e frigates, each with a value of 250 million pounds. Ferguson Marine are represented in two of the three consortiums and I continued to lobby for them to be part of a winning bid.

Tuesday

I was in the chamber to support Norman Lamb’s ten minute rule bill, ‘Cannabis regulation and legislation’. The purpose of the rule is to facilitate a debate on the subject, unfortunately that opportunity was voted down. The SNP had a free vote but Labour were whipped to abstain. Why they won’t even debate the subject is beyond me. We then had a debate on the reason for cancelling a debate. This was not Westminster’s finest hour. As the evening drew to a close it was becoming clear that the Prime Minister was going to face a vote of no confidence from her own party. The process demands that 48 Conservative and Unionists MPs have to submit a letter asking her to resign. This number was reached with apparent ease. Whatever happened to ‘strong and stable’?

Wednesday

My day started at a Delegated Legislation committee. It was not contentious as it was simply moving existing laws regarding merchant shipping’s recognised organisations from the jurisdiction of the European Union to United Kingdom Parliament. There have been a host of these committees doing the same thing for hundreds of laws. All these laws that Brexiteers were so opposed to, have been accepted by the U.K. and nobody batted an eyelid. The Tory rebels got there vote but failed to remove their leader. The Prime Minister won by 200 to 117 votes and lives to stumble on. She has said she will not stand at the next election. Now all we have to sort out is Brexit! Because Westminster has become a moving feast we have regular briefings on the state of play at the procedures that may or may not be applicable. Westminster continues to prove that every day is a school day.

Thursday

Disaster as I manage to pull out a temporary filling while flossing. It is a timely reminder that amidst the ruminations of constitutional legislation and having the privilege of participating and witnessing history unfold, everyday life goes on. It’s a slow day in the chamber and most of my day is given up to reading and writing. It’s another privilege of this job that affords me days like this. In the evening I attended a reception and private dining (as much as my lack of tooth would allow) with ex-President of the Government of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont. I got the badly named ‘sleeper’ train up the road.

Friday

Early arrival at Glasgow Central on the overnight train from London. Quick change of platform and down to Greenock. Home for a quick shower and change of clothes and my first meeting is with Peel Ports. Lots to talk about. I meet up with Citizens Advice Scotland. We need to ensure that money allocated to aid the roll out of Universal Credit which is being given to Citizens Advice still comes to Inverclyde despite the fact that we don’t have a Citizens Advice Bureau. In the afternoon I have a number of constituency meetings.

Westminster diary w/b 3rd December

Monday

A calm start to what was going to be a frenetic week. A group of six MPs and a couple of Members of the House of Lords found ourselves on the same flight and the same tube journey to Westminster. Normally we just get on with our own business. We exchange pleasantries but not much more but today the atmosphere is different and our phones are hot as rumour and counter rumour leak and are leaked from London. The only known business of the day is the Prime Minister’s statement after the G20 summit. It’s a statement so there are no votes but it does serve a purpose as the opening salvoes are fired across the government bows. However, they took no notice. They should have.

Tuesday

The UK government flip flop from charm offensive to hostile behaviour, rotating at hourly intervals. They are clearly in a spin and are desperate to assert their authority. The first vote of the day is a government amendment to a ‘Privilege Motion’ it has the title Contempt of House. The amendment seeks to remove the censure of contempt and instead refer the question of publication of legal advice, and the increasing use of the ‘humble address’ mechanism, to the Privileges Committee. The SNP voted against the amendment (so did two Conservative members) and we won 311 to 307. We then voted on the Privilege Motion (un-amended). The motion found Ministers in contempt of the House for refusing to publish the Brexit legal advice, and it ordered immediate publication of the advice. SNP voted AYE and the motion was carried 311 to 293. A point of order followed during which the government confirmed it would publish the legal advice the following day. There then followed an amendment to allow any motion brought to the House under section 13 of the EU Withdrawal Act to be amendable.  Currently the EU Withdrawal Act and Standing Orders only require a neutral, unamendable motion in the event of a no deal situation being declared.  SNP voted AYE along with 25 Conservative Members, and the amendment was carried 321 – 299.  The Business Motion as amended was then carried without division. Then the debate started. I wandered home at midnight leaving a few of my SNP colleagues still in the chamber waiting for their turn to speak.

Wednesday

Despite lots of noise from the benches Prime Ministers Question time was a dull affair. The government were still hurting from losing three votes the night before and didn’t come looking for a fight. I spoke at the Drugs, Alcohol and Justice All Party Parliamentary Group. This group is well represented by those in recovery and those providing the services. There are differences in opinion regarding how services are commissioned but a united belief that safe drug consumption rooms could make a valuable contribution. In the evening I attended a Saint Andrew’s Day event to promote Scottish produce. I was delighted that The New Chocolate Company and The Start-Up Drinks Lab both based in the Kelburn Business Park, Port Glasgow, had produce available. I can confirm that it went down very well.

Thursday

I was twentieth on the business papers for a question to Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union and miraculously I was taken. I pressed the Secretary to respect the vote of the Scottish Parliament to reject the withdrawal bill but he chose not to. I spoke in the European Union Withdrawal Act debate. I even threw in a joke from one of Greenock’s favourite sons Chic Murray.  As penance I was in the chamber until eight pm.

Friday

Up with the sparrows in time to catch the Heathrow express and the 7:40 flight to Glasgow. I had a day of surgeries throughout the constituency and in the evening hosted an evening with Lesley Riddoch in the Beacon Arts Centre. Over 120 people took the opportunity to watch two short films about, Norway and The Faroe Islands and then take part in a question and answer session with Lesley. On Sunday I shall be taking part (I didn’t say running) in the Santa Dash organised by Tommy (the clown) Armstrong.

Westminster diary w/b 26th November

Monday

My week at Westminster started with a meeting with Hardeep Matharu. She is a senior writer and researcher with Volteface. We have an informative discussion regarding synthetic cannabinoids and the judicial system. It is a timely meeting as my next discussion is with Martin Powell of Transform Drugs and Chief Inspector Jason Kew of Thames Valley police. Together we are pursuing every avenue open to facilitate safe drug consumption rooms. In the afternoon there is a statement in the House by the Prime Minister on the European Union summit. It was more of the same sales pitch designed to convince her back benchers that the deal she has brokered is worth supporting. The UK Government line continues to be, this deal or no deal and of course the truth is that we should add to the mix the option to stay in the European Union and maintain the status quo. The select committee for the public administration and constitutional affairs took evidence from Bent Flyvbjerg (professor of major programme management at the university of oxford) on the UK government’s management of major projects.

Tuesday

I had a meeting with Jennifer Keen from the Institute for Alcohol Studies and Viv Evans from Adfam. We discussed a range of issues around alcohol abuse but specifically the lack of support for family members affected and support for carers. The adjournment debate was led by my SNP colleague Martin Docherty-Hughes MP. Martin used the occasion to call for the foreign office to lend the appropriate support to his constituent Jagtar Singh Johal who has been arrested and held in prison while on holiday in India. Jagtar requires consular support, due process to be followed and a fair trial.

Wednesday

Volteface hosted an event to brief MPs and staff on the experience of legalising recreational cannabis in Canada. It’s a fascinating and complex story as Canadian provinces have autonomy in governing the law in their own jurisdiction. This varies from British Columbia where they have had cannabis shops and a tolerant approach for years to Ontario where cannabis stores are new and are a state monopoly. My concern is that the legal cannabis industry is massive and this huge new industry will want to influence any new marketplaces that open up around the globe. We must base all decisions on evidence and not perceptions which will increasingly be driven by marketing companies. Oral questions to the Secretary of State for Scotland turned in to the usual SNP bad exchange. Prime Minister’s questions wasn’t much better. This Conservative government continually blame the SNP Scottish Government for the shortcomings of the UK government. The Scottish Labour MPs say nothing to defend Scotland in case it is construed as praise for the SNP. I attended a drop-in session to listen to Palestinian groups with major human rights concerns. I receive many emails from constituents asking me to attend such events for Palestine. It’s a controversial topic but I believe the Palestinian people have a right to be heard. In the evening I meet with the law students from Strathclyde University on their annual visit to the House of Commons.

Thursday

Business is remarkably slow today (the calm before the storm) and so I take the opportunity to get an earlier flight up the road during which I write an article for the papers about community ownership. Once I am back in the office I catch up with constituency cases in my office.

Friday

I met with Dan Robertson (Network Delivery Coordinator) from Sustrans, an organisation that help to establish active travel schemes. We are building a very vibrant cycling community in Inverclyde with organisations like Community Tracks and Inverclyde Bothy (based at Gourock Railway Station). Like many organisations fund raising is difficult and time consuming. Hopefully Sustrans can help with guidance and funding. In the afternoon I joined volunteers from the Inverclyde Foodbank to collect donations at Tescos in Greenock. And after that I visited the Start-Up Drinks Lab at Kelburn Park in Port Glasgow.

Westminster diary w/b 19th November

Monday

First day of the Finance Bill at committee stage on the floor of the house but before that I attend the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee to take evidence from Andrea Leadsom (Leader of the House of Commons). It’s the role of the leader to ensure that Parliament and Government work together. Her opinion on this differs from mine. Too often ministers responding to debates come with pre-prepared statements and don’t respond to the arguments put forward during the debate. The rest of the day was consumed by the Finance Bill and votes. There were six votes and I got home at 23:30.

Tuesday

I spend the morning writing my speech for the afternoon. I am leading for the SNP on the Finance Bill and I have a new clause I intend to push to a vote. I want the government to commit to a review of the public health effects of gaming provisions and lay a report of that review before the house within six months of passing the act. I see this as holding the actions of the government to account. It also should allow organisations to feed into the review and have their voices heard. My speech writing is interrupted by a visit from Nicola Sturgeon (First Minister of Scotland) to update the group on Brexit negotiations. The debate is also delayed in starting but when it does the minister states in his opening remarks that he will not accept my new clause. This takes me back to the comments made the day before by the Leader of the House. Why debate if the governments mind is closed. To my utter amazement in his closing remarks he says he will accept the new clause. I would like to think it was down to my amazing debating skills but I tend to think the government is nearing exhaustion and didn’t have the stomach for a fight when I had so many back benchers across the parties supporting me. I shall take the win and become only the third SNP MP to amend UK law.  In the evening I attended an event at the Tate Modern hosted by YouTube. It was to promote people who had launched media platforms from You Tube, including teachers, business folk and musicians.

Wednesday

Prime Ministers Questions revealed nothing new. The Prime Minister reverting to her big book of standard responses to most questions. The most interesting exchange was between her and the DUP. Now that they are not supporting the government their relationship is becoming increasingly stressed day by day and vote by vote. In the evening attended the BACTA reception. BACTA is the trade association for the amusement machine industry and its supply chain. The guest speaker was the Right Honourable Tracey Crouch MP.

Thursday

The Westminster Hall debate on WASPI was well attended by MPs. To accommodate the WASPI campaigners it was broadcast live into the main hall so everyone that had come could watch it live. An unexpected statement from the Prime Minister, on the progress of Brexit negotiations, meant I had to leave before the end to go to the House of Commons. The latest missive from 10 Downing Street is full of the meaningless political jargon that we have come to expect. Of particular interest to Scotland is the fisheries policy. At this late stage on fisheries it states in paragraph 73, “the Parties should cooperate” in 74 that phrase is repeated and in 75 it states that “the Parties should establish”. By now it should of course say “we have established and we have cooperated”. The vagueness and therefore dubious interpretations of the latest statement have not satisfied the Brexiteers one wee bit and so the show rolls on.

Friday

I started the day at a meeting with local councillors and then I attended the foodbank to catch up with their situation in the run up to the festive season. In the afternoon I visited my dentist for some root canal treatment.  On Saturday morning I hope to be able to speak at an SNP event in the Beacon.

Westminster diary w/b 12th November

Monday

It’s going to be a long night at Westminster but as its U.K. Parliament Week I delay my departure and visit St John’s Primary School in Port Glasgow. The primary six class are well briefed and grill me on all aspects of my role as MP. I jump on a train to Glasgow to attend Citizens Basic Income Stakeholder event.

Then it’s off to the airport. The budget debate is in full swing in the House of Commons and I take the opportunity to intervene and express my concern that the UK Government’s decision to delay the £2 maximum bet on FOBTs may have been influenced by a report by KPMG. The report, as the authors freely admit, was framed by the requirements of the British Bookmakers Association. The debate was followed by votes and I make it back to my flat at midnight.

Tuesday

Today was a strange day even for Westminster. Events and meetings were cancelled, rescheduled and cancelled again as rumours circulated the estate of Prime Minister’s statements and cabinet resignations. Amidst the chaos is was good to sit down with members from the ‘cycle to work alliance’. In Inverclyde the Bothy at Gourock railway station and the Community Tracks scheme are working very hard to provide bikes and routes. The next step is for employers to provide facilities to safety store bikes and changing facilities for employees. It was a privilege to attend the formal launch of ‘Gambling with Lives’. This charity has been set up to help publicise gambling related harm including suicide. It is the brave parents of young men that have committed suicide due to gambling addiction that have started the charity and I will be doing everything I can to help promote their cause.

Wednesday

I met with Steve Brine MP (Parliamentary under-secretary of state for Public Health and Primary Care) to discuss medical cannabis under prescription. It was a private meeting with civil servants in attendance as is the protocol. Mr Brine was very open in his views and I welcome that. He was happy to expand the conversation into other drug policy areas and I shall be looking to progress these matters further with him in the chamber in the near future. One good meeting calls for another and that’s just what happened when I met Kat Banyard to discuss prostitution and the global sex trade.

The imminent Brexit Statement was dominating most folk’s minds and we were promised a statement after PMQs but the timing constantly changed. PMQs lasted longer than it needed to which delayed a written statement that I had been waiting for. It wasn’t the Brexit statement it was the agreement from the U.K. Government to implement the £2 maximum spin on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals in April 2019 and not delay it as they had announce in the budget. Compared to Brexit this will not command many column inches but for those people whose lives have been blighted by these machines it is a very big deal. I am glad to have played my part in making this happen along with Carolyn Harris MP (Labour) and Iain Duncan Smith MP (Conservatives) and from the SNP local colleague Stuart McMillan MSP and Stuart McDonald MP.

Thursday

And so the Brexit statement has been released and as was stated in the chamber during the Statement on the EU exit negotiations, it was dead before it was even read. The Secretary of State for Exiting the EU resigned and more were to follow. Scotland was not mentioned once in the near 600 page document. So much for a family of Nations. The utter contempt that Scotland has been shown during the entire Brexit process reveals the true nature of the U.K. government. After an internal SNP de-briefing I got the 19:30 flight home.

Friday

I visited Inverclyde Academy, Clydeview Academy and Port Glasgow High School to discuss democracy and all things politics with the pupils. This rounded off Parliament Week and I would like to thank all the Inverclyde schools and organisations that took part. If we want to affect change we need be skilled in the ways of politics and Parliament. It is encouraging to see so many young folk taking up that challenge.

Westminster diary w/b 5th November

Monday

Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee took evidence from the Right Honourable Mark Harper MP. Mark was the Minister responsible for the Fixed Term Parliament Bill and the committee were seeking his insight into how elections can be forced during a fixed term. Next up was the All-party parliamentary group for Catalonia. This was my first opportunity to report back on my visit to Catalonian political prisoners and it was a privilege to have Sergi Marcen attending the meeting. Sergi is the Head of the Delegation of the Catalan Government to the United Kingdom and Ireland. He leads the bilateral relations between Catalonia and the United Kingdom and Ireland, focusing on economic interests, institutional relations, tourism and cultural promotion, as well as, helping the Catalan community living in these countries. I had a quick dash to make the Delegated Legislation on draft building societies legislation. This is another of the jobs that require to be completed before Brexit. They don’t take long but do tie up roughly twenty people.

Tuesday

Early start for the Westminster Hall debate on Reclassification of synthetic cannabinoids. I spoke against the motion as there is a mountain of evidence to suggest that, although it may feel good to lock up problematic drug users, it doesn’t improve the situation for anyone. I went to the drop in for Responsible Gambling Week and was pleased to hear that a number of people agree with me that a statutory levy on bookmakers should be imposed to fund support for those affected by gambling related harm. Following that I attended the All-party parliamentary group on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals. It was particularly pleasing to have Tracey Crouch MP attend after her principled resignation the previous week over the implementation date of the £2 maximum stake. I was in the chamber to support Marion Fellows MPs ten minute rule motion bill for child maintenance changes. The following debate was to mark the hundred years since Armistice Day and the end of the First World War. I dropped in to the Scottish Renewables event and managed to catch-up with a few familiar faces. I caught the 19:30 flight home.

Wednesday

Back in the constituency as Westminster is not sitting for the rest of the week. I had meetings with constituents regarding a range of topics but mostly universal credit. The full role out in Inverclyde continues to cause damage despite the excellent work being done by the DWP and related organisations. In the afternoon I visited the Beacon to meet the writer, producer, musical director and actors from the new production ‘Lena’. The play tells the story of Lena Zavaroni and her path to fame and ultimately untimely death.

Thursday

After catching up with a raft of paperwork in my office I did a question and answer session with pupils at the West College Scotland waterfront campus. A fifteen minute slot expanded to ninety minutes and it was very enjoyable to run through a wide range of subjects with such an engaged audience. And in the afternoon I did a radio interview for a Catalonian based organisation.

Friday

Was solely based around constituents enquiries and I engaged with a range of people on topics from cycling to Palestine. On Saturday, I shall attending Saint Giles Cathedral’s remembrance service as a guest of the French Consul General. That will be followed by a reception and a recital of Claude Debussy’s wartime work. On Sunday I shall be attending the service of commemoration at the Mid Kirk and shall lay wreaths at the Wellpark and the Cross of Lorraine.

Westminster diary w/b 29th October

Monday

The big event of the day was of course the UK Budget. In just over an hour the Chancellor, Phillip Hammond MP, laid out his plans for the United Kingdom as we rush towards Brexit. Once the Chancellor has sat down, MPs can get copies of the Red Book which goes into more detail. I obtained my copy along with the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) report Economic and Fiscal Outlook. The OBR was established to provide independent and authoritative analysis of the UKs public finances. It didn’t take much reading of the OBR report to find a problem. On page 2 of 253 the OBR state that the treasury had repeatedly failed to observe the forecast timetable and that the OBR could not certify as reasonable the package of measures affecting universal credit on the basis of the information provided. The U.K. Government continues to plough a lone furrow and seems to find it impossible to engage with other bodies, devolved powers and EU members, instead they continue to adopt an alright on the night stance. I don’t share their optimism.

Tuesday

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee met to discuss our future programme. I left before the evidence session as I was chairing a session at the Opioid Addiction Summit. The summit was an engaging and informative event and during my session I endeavoured to get as much interaction with the audience as possible. They were not backward in coming forward. The overall feeling was that until we make drug policy a health issue we will not make the progress required. In the evening I attended a briefing from Alyn Smith MEP regarding Brexit negotiations.

Wednesday

The Transport Select Committee had a private session with Andrew Haines, Chief Executive of Network Rail. I then met with representatives of ABTA to discuss visa, passports, driving licences, cruise ship bookings and a host of other aspect of post Brexit U.K. and tourism which as yet are unresolved. Prime Ministers Questions was particularly poor. The PM and her supporters were in a belligerent mood with cheer leading to the fore and policy left far behind. I met up with Joe Fitzpatrick MSP after his meeting with U.K. government ministers. The SNP MPs and MSPs often take the opportunity to meet and talk even if it’s just half an hour over a coffee. That way we build good inter Parliamentary relations. The All-party Parliamentary Group for drug policy reform met to sign off our work plan and then we heard from Nuna Capez Vice President, commission for the dissuasion of drug addiction in Portugal. It was good to meet up with Nuna again. He always brings clarity through experience to the intricacies of implementing a drug policy with healthcare at its heart.

Thursday

I attended questions to Digital Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) and I was planning on bobbing for a question but kept my powder dry for the fireworks that ensued during an urgent question on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals instead. The U.K. Government have decided, under pressure from bookmakers, to not implement the agreed £2 maximum stake until October 2019. This is six months later than was hoped for and is a dereliction of the U.K. government’s duty to protect those effected by gambling related harm. The centre for medical cannabis had their Parliamentary launch. They are attempting fill a void of knowledge that is required for medical practitioners to prescribe medicinal cannabis. A recent survey showed that 13% of the UK population would consider approaching their GPs for medical cannabis. That’s over six million people. The current system will not fulfil their needs. I caught the 19:30 flight home.

Friday

I caught the 6am train to Edinburgh via Glasgow to attend a Post Brexit common frameworks meeting hosted by the Royal Society of Edinburgh. There were presentations from politicians, academics, the National Farmers Union and of course the Royal Society. I was there to represent the select committee for Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs. It is glaringly obvious that inter-parliamentary decision making is not well served by the current system and there is a real danger that the devolved parliaments will be underrepresented when decisions regarding Brexit are taken.

Westminster diary w/b 22nd October

Monday

I was briefed by a company that develop innovative and long acting medicines for the treatment of severe and chronic pain, cancer and endocrine disorders. Naturally they are now interested in the potential United Kingdom market for medical cannabis. I am talking at an opioid conference soon and so their position is interesting. I had a question on the papers for defence and took the opportunity to ask about the private firms that are providing increasing services to the armed forces but are failing to do the job specified. The Select Committee for Transport took evidence from the Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling MP. The focus was the timetable roll out last May that caused mayhem on the east coast of England line. We also took evidence from senior management at the Office of Road and Rail, Industry Readiness Board and Govia Thameslink Railway. Between them they still seem to be pushing the problem around. December’s planned changes should be interesting.

Tuesday

The Select Committee for Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs was a hard slog through the technical aspects of the House of Commons procedure. I did get the feeling that some committee members were using the extremely well versed witnesses as free legal advice to be used somewhere down the Brexit line. I led in a drugs policy debate in Westminster Hall. It was well subscribed and apart from the Scottish Tories doing their usual SNPBAD it was a good debate. That was until the Minister allocated by the Home Office opened her speech by saying she had to recuse herself from talking about cannabis due to her husband’s business interests. What is the point of sending someone to reply to speeches on drugs if that person can’t talk about cannabis. Having said that I asked the Minister five questions on other drug related matters and she didn’t answer them either. After the debate I attended a briefing from the House of Commons library on the roll out of Universal Credit. Inverclyde has had full roll out since November 2016 but we now face a migration period of the remaining people who are not on it yet. Despite the hard work and dedication of our local jobcentre I expect this next stage to be difficult for many.

Wednesday

I talked to the good folk from the ‘faces and voices of recovery’. They are a small but highly thought of organisation that has developed some very good ideas around alcohol and drug recovery. I attended a briefing and question and answer session with the Right Honourable Chloe Smith MP. This session was designed to encourage better intergovernmental relations. Pity it’s taken this long before someone at Westminster realised they need to work better with the devolved administrations. It was Welsh Questions in the chamber and I went to hear the minister’s answers to questions around the shared prosperity fund. I was not convinced. There is a real danger that money currently spent in Wales and Scotland by the EU will go elsewhere. PMQs was a non-event except for Ian Blackford who questioned the U.K. continued arms deals with Saudi Arabia. The recent murder of the respected Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is the latest in a line of atrocities perpetrated by the Saudis. We need to use whatever diplomatic or financial force we have end these atrocities. The SNP finance and economics group was interesting and was quickly followed by the All-party Parliamentary kidney group. The current focus of the group is to encourage live donors. Living donors currently represent 40% of donors. I finished my day with a visit to the onshore wind generation forum. Lots has been done and there is still a lot we can do.

Thursday

I was on the order paper again and eventually (after 50 minutes) got my question to the Minister for exiting the European Union. We need to know what the U.K. is doing during Brexit negotiations regarding the single market and customs union. I had another delighted legislation committee. More EU law being converted to U.K. laws. I went to the launch of UK Parliament Week. This is always well organised and I like it as it encourages people to engage with democracy. I am pleased that some local schools are getting involved. I was the SNP lead on the last debate of the day on inclusive transport. Councillor Jim McLeod fed into my speech and I was delighted to acknowledge that in the House. Jim has worked tirelessly on the subject for years. I caught the 19:30 flight home.

Friday

I visited Inverclyde Academy to see the restored war memorial. I met with Craig Berry from the Common Weal to discuss automation and I met with the young folk at I-zone to talk about the young people as ambassadors.

Westminster diary w/b 15th October

Monday

First event at Westminster was a briefing on the failing rollout of Universal Credit. A number of MPs whose constituencies have experienced Universal Credit for some time now, got together to share their experiences. This was in preparation for questions to the Secretary of State for the DWP. I bobbed for well over an hour in an attempt to ask a question but along with all my SNP colleagues I was ignored. All I managed to do was aggravate my already aching knees. Not a good start to the week. The statement on exiting the EU negotiations didn’t tell us anything we didn’t know and the behaviour in the chamber when the SNP spokesperson responded was appalling. It really was the self-entitled arrogant Tories and the SNPBAD labour at their very worst. I attended a strategy meeting on the course of action required to address the growing concerns relating to the use of synthetic cannabis in particular Spice and Mamba. Apart from Jeff Smith (Labour MP) and myself everyone just wants harder prison sentences. The evidence says that doesn’t work. I attended a debate on loneliness and its links to poverty.

Tuesday

I met with a Canadian company that produce medical cannabis. With the impending change of the law in the U.K. a number of companies that produce a range of products are lobbying hard to be allowed to supply the U.K. market. I was encouraged that their products covered a range of conditions and as they are already available in Germany they are BMP standard. I attended the back bench business committee to lend my support for a debate on the Equitable Life pension’s debacle.

Wednesday

Following on from a story in the press during the weekend I met with representatives of Gatwick airport who walked me through their plans to utilise an existing runway for additional takeoffs. Presently it is used to feed the main runway. This has been dubbed Gatwick’s “stealth runway”. They are prepared to invest a lot of money and it’s a long term project. The key to its success is likely to be an upgrade to the railway structure and surrounding roads. Scottish Questions was disappointing despite eight questions being allocated to the SNP. Usually that would have ensured fireworks but the Secretary of State for Scotland has obviously taken the stance that he is only accountable to his Westminster overlords and despite his title he didn’t actually answer any questions about Scotland, preferring to rubbish the Scottish Parliament and the SNP instead. Prime ministers questions was a poor affair too. The debate on Universal Credit that followed was a feisty affair. The DWP came under intense criticism. Most speakers were quick to praise the hard work of their local jobcentres and foodbanks but the fact that food banks exist is a damning indictment of the system. I had to leave early as I was the SNP representative on a Delegated Legislative Committee for civil aviation insurance post Brexit and yes, it was as interesting as it sounds. I caught the tail end of the debate in the chamber on social care funding and was pleased to hear that the Scottish Government funding is £157 per head greater than the rest of the United Kingdom. I intervened on the adjournment debate on ‘county lines’. Yet another example where the U.K. drugs policy is failing. The ‘hang them high’ brigade just don’t understand that we have tried that and it doesn’t work.

Thursday

Because I stayed late last night for the adjournment debate I stayed over and had to get up at 5am to catch the red eye up to Glasgow. I attended a wonderful event at Your Voice where I met the folk behind the augmented reality comic that the local Syrian kids put together with a little help from Magic Torch and Police Scotland. The kids were brilliant and were happy to tell me how much they enjoyed last year’s pantomime at the Beacon. The rest of the day was spent dealing with constituents cases.

Friday

I had an interview with the Greenock Telegraph and a few constituents to meet. I also took some time to research and write my speech for the drugs policy debate I am leading next Tuesday in Westminster Hall. I hope it’s an event that stimulates new options. I know I have a number of suggestions for the Home Office minister to take on board. On Saturday I shall be attending the unveiling of the poppy commemoration in the Inverclyde Heritage Hub.