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Dear Constituent – thank you for writing to me concerning the many issues to do with Brexit.

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Dear Constituent

Thank you for writing to me concerning the many issues around Brexit. At the time of writing this response the future of the whole chaotic project remains uncertain. I will endeavour to write to you again when things become clearer but this is what I have been doing on your behalf as your Member of Parliament in the past few weeks.

My immediate priority has been to stop the prospect of a no deal Brexit. A no deal departure would be the worst possible outcome bringing significant economic disruption, raising concerns about food supplies, medicines and the availability of fuel. In Parliament I have supported the successful efforts to secure the Benn Act which would legally oblige the Prime Minister to seek a further 3 month extension denying him the prospect of a quick no deal departure. I have also supported the actions in the Court of Session and the Supreme Court to have the suspension of Parliament declared unlawful. I was pleased when this was successfully upheld and I was able to return to Parliament to work on your behalf.

What underpins my whole approach to Brexit is the desire of this constituency to remain in the European Union. My view is the best deal we have is the deal that we currently enjoy as a full member of the European Union. Perth and North Perthshire did not vote for this Brexit and I have taken that as the mandate to oppose any deal that would make my constituents worse off.

The next few weeks will determine the conclusion of this divisive project and we should know what the future of Brexit holds. The Prime Minister is still determined to leave by the 31st of October with or without a deal – though he is yet to explain how this is possible with the legal constraints of the Benn Act. Beyond that there will almost certainly be a General Election which will in all intents be a ‘Brexit election’. I will be standing again as a strong and determined voice against Brexit and I hope to continue to make the case against Brexit if successfully returned. 

Thank you for getting in touch and I look forward to writing to you again. 

Pete

 

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WE WILL WIN OUR INDEPENDENCE WHEN A MAJORITY OF THE SCOTTISH PEOPLE WANT IT.

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We will get our independence when the majority of the people who live and work in Scotland want it. I know it sounds indolently straight forward but somehow we have contrived to make this simple fact as complicated as possible. 

Scottish independence will be secured when a majority of people in Scotland demand it because attempting to keep Scotland in the union against its will could and would not work in the UK. The range of decisions that a UK Government would have to be prepared to take to keep Scotland in the union when a majority want to leave would be singularly unpalatable to the UK. I seriously don’t think that the UK public would be at ease with itself if it had to resort to Catalan style political prisoners, particularly when we now know the UK public is at best indifferent about the maintenance of the union.

Just now all we hear is how the UK would ‘forbid’ a referendum and how they would never ‘allow’ independence. The Conservatives particularly pursue an energetic and vigorous campaign to oppose and ‘forbid’ a further referendum because they believe it is in their political interests to do so. Their view is it is they who represent majority opinion on independence and therefore they play hard to that constituency in order to maintain and increase their political support. Only two years ago the Scottish Conservatives significantly increased their share of the vote and gained 12 Parliamentary constituencies on a single issue platform of opposing a second independence referendum. The minute they stop securing such political support for opposing a democratic route to independence, or when that support significantly declines, will be the minute the case of ‘forbidding’ a referendum quickly disassembles. As we have seen recently that moment may be coming very soon. 

The one thing we therefore need to do is to get support for independence as the majority view by persuading those who are as yet unconvinced. When we secure sustained majority support for independence everything changes. We saw just a hint of that when one recent single poll showed that independence was the favoured option amongst the Scottish electorate. That one poll alone created fissures in the Tories and almost broke the Scottish Labour Party who were left in the absurd and ridiculous situation of having to argue that democracy would be forbidden in Scotland. The various contradictions of promoting that position is the fate that awaits all supposed ‘democratic’ political parties. The Scottish Labour Party recently polled below 10% and are now destined to lose all their Westminster Parliamentary seats. Another recent opinion poll predicted that a seatless future also awaits the Scottish Conservatives.

We get to that majority support by persuading those who opposed independence in the last referendum by responding to their concerns and outlining how independence is the solution to issues that they care about. With the chaotic premiership of Boris Johnson and his suspension of democracy many more people are now seriously considering joining us. Scots who voted No in the last referendum but voted to remain in the EU have been impressed by our commitment to keep the UK in the EU. They are now beginning to recognise that this option is quickly closing down and the only way to secure the EU membership they desire is for Scotland to become an independent nation.

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We must  therefore do everything to accommodate these political journeys. These switchers have serious and legitimate concerns about the Johnson government behaving unconstitutionally and undemocratically so we therefore must ensure that we look absolutely nothing like them. Talk of UDIs and illegal referendums only makes that conversion to our cause all the harder, as does talk of securing independence without the expressed consent of a majority of our fellow Scots.

It may indeed be the case that we will have to consider a range of options if the UK continues to oppose a constitutional route to a referendum but we first have to pursue our ambition to secure a legal, agreed and internationally recognised route to deliver the result we require.

And this approach is winning. Support for independence and the SNP is rising faster than it has for years. Our opponents are in total disarray, dreaming up new barriers and thresholds and are desperately grasping at anything that thwarts the rise in support for independence. They are practically itching for us to do something that puts all of this at risk and we must ensure that we do not give them that gift. That is why, as the First Minister says, we must act in a ‘calm, considered and consensual’ way right now.

After dominating political debate for the last decade views on independence are doggedly fixed and hard to shift and people are not encouraged to come over to us if they feel anxious or concerned about how we intend to get to independence. The only strategy that will ever matter is to secure the support of the majority of people who live and work in Scotland. This is now very much on its way and will soon reach a tipping point and our movement and cause will become unstoppable. 

The UK will be able to assert anything it wants until we get that consistent majority support but all that changes when we demonstrably lead public opinion. They can of course continue to resist a majority but that comes with great risks for them. With majority support for independence the UK can either resolve the situation constitutionally and sensibly or dig in for a futile and damaging campaign that they can only lose. Whatever they choose. We win.

THE SPEAKERSHIP OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS

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With the recent announcement of Speaker John Bercow’s intention to stand down on October 31st there has been a lot of interest in who may put their hat in the ring to replace him. I was one of John’s sponsors when he stood for the position of Speaker in 2009 and have since observed him become one of the most effective and successful Speakers of recent times. He has championed Parliament, reinforced the role of backbenchers and has been fearless in standing up to Government when required. John will be sorely missed and provides a fine example of what a reforming Speaker can achieve. 

In May I said that I would be interested in standing for the position of Speaker if and when that position became available, but today I confirm that I will no longer be seeking a nomination for that role. 

Since then the First Minister has introduced the Referendums Bill and has stated her intention to seek a referendum on Scottish independence in the autumn of next year, a referendum which I am certain will be won. I will not therefore have sufficient time to pursue my wide ranging agenda of reform. I also believe that it would not be fair to have a further election for Speaker in a few years following the departure of Scottish MPs from Westminster in the very slim chance that I would be successful.

My bid for the Speakership was done with the full understanding that it would be highly unlikely to be successful as a representative of the third party with only 35 MPs. Part of my motivation for standing was to highlight the absurdity of some of the mechanics and procedures of the House of Commons, to contrast it with what is happening in Scotland, and use it to detail why Scotland should play no further part in Westminster’s proceedings. A competition around the Speakership would provide an excellent opportunity to promote the case for Scotland’s independence by proposing how we could do things differently in an independent Scotland. It would also have been an opportunity to poke a gentle stick at the whole Westminster political establishment. That opportunity will now be lost in a competition that will be exclusively contested by unionist MPs. 

There were some who interpreted my standing as some sort of lack of  ‘commitment’ about securing independence or a ‘desire’ to stay at Westminster. Where this could not have been further from the truth I just can not be bothered in responding any longer to these absurd assertions. I was intending to stand in a contest where I knew I had no chance of winning as a means to promote the cause of independence. 

I did put forward a serious and far reaching agenda of reform which included electronic voting, equality in speaking arrangements, tackling the undemocratic House of Lords and even ‘clapping’ as a show of appreciation to contributions in the House. I will now be looking at the other Speaker candidates to examine if any of them are prepared to promote some of that agenda. 

Can I thank the many colleagues, from all parties, who said that they would be prepared to give me their support and to my constituents who were genuinely interested in me seeking the Speakership. I now look forward to defending my parliamentary seat in the forthcoming General election and, as I have for the past 18 years as a Parliamentarian, working flat out to secure my nations’s independence and sovereignty

PERTHSHIRE TORIES SUSPEND 2 OF THEIR OWN COUNCILLORS

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The Conservative group on Perth and Kinross Council have suspended two of their own councillors in an unprecedented disciplinary crisis in one of the few councils in Scotland they run. Even with the loyal support of the local Liberal Democrats the Tories no longer enjoy a majority on the council. The Tory led administration is often described as ‘the council of chaos’.

Talking of this staggering development Perth and North Perthshire MP, Pete Wishart said:

‘This is quite an extraordinary development and the Conservative group within Perth and Kinross Council seems to be totally riven with infighting and personal vendettas. The people of Perthshire deserve so much better than this dysfunctional council of chaos.

In 2 years, their administration has lost the support of 3 independent councillors and the sole Labour member of the council. They have seen a by-election caused by one of their own Tory councillors being found guilty of criminality. Now they have suspended 2 of their own councillors under allegations concerning their ‘conduct and behaviour’. More than that, there have been repeated complaints about a culture of bullying and the misuse of procedure. The only friends that have stood by the Conservatives throughout all of this are their ‘trusted’ allies within the ranks of the Liberal Democrats. 

The people of Perth and Kinross deserve a full explanation as to what the allegations concerning the two suspended councillors are at the very least. They also need to be reassured that the infighting within the Conservative group will not impact on the delivery of services within Perth and Kinross. 

Conservative councillors have already been on record expressing their unhappiness about the leadership of Boris Johnson and there is a developing feud about the direction of the Scottish party. The scale of disarray within the Conservative group in Perth and Kinross is matched only by the chaos that abounds within the ranks of the Scottish party.  

In the next few weeks there may be a General Election to decide the future Government of the UK. I’m sure the people of Perthshire will be watching this unravelling local crisis and deciding that they will want nothing more to do with the Conservatives and their chaotic stewardship both locally and nationally’. 

ENDS

THE TOTAL HUMILIATION OF RUTH DAVIDSON.

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The Scottish Tories are in trouble. Lumbered with a Prime Minister they never wanted and with their influence amongst the UK party at a new all time low. Their laughable plans to have Ruth Davidson inaugurated as First Minister now seem in tatters as tensions rise across her party and across Parliaments. ‘Civil war’ is a term readily traded in Scottish politics but we might see a bona fide example of the genre as the Scottish Tories prepare to split in to rival camps. 

At the heart of this is the new Prime MInister’s stricture that those who serve him sign up to a ‘do or die’ Brexit, including the now likely prospect of leaving with no deal. Already the career minded amongst the miserable troop of Scottish Conservative MPs have been careful not be be seen to be on the wrong side of this dictum. Only one of their number is apparently prepared to defy. 

The replacement of David Mundell by a little known, old school landed gentry Tory, notable only for his hard views on Brexit has shocked the Scottish Tories to the core. Ruth Davidson did everything possible to retain her old friend in post and fully expected Boris to acquiesce to her demand. The fact that he didn’t care a hoot about her representations smacks of a former adversary enjoying his revenge served particularly well chilled. Boris cares so little about her difficulties that he even bypassed all the Scottish MPs and appointed an English MP in the Scotland Office confirming the utter humiliation of Ruth. 

Next, there will be demands for ‘loyalty’ from the Scottish Conservatives to retain unity across the UK in the name of the ‘precious union’. The newly crowned ‘Minister of the Union’ will expect Ruth Davidson to perform another one of her now famous ‘flip-flops’ and sign the Boris ‘do or die’ Brexit pledge. If she does not it would be entirely reasonable for Boris to seek to secure a more loyal Scottish Lieutenant to do his Brexit bidding.

The Scottish Conservatives have only got themselves to blame for this embarrassing humbling. If they had made it clear to Boris that they would not countenance their authority being undermined then their bargaining power would at least have been worth a role of the dice. Threatening, then withdrawing, repeated resignation threats rendered them ridiculous and Boris rightly concluded that they did not have the bottle for the fight. Instead the only real defiance deployed was having Ruth back every defeated Boris opponent in the leadership contest until there was none left. How Boris must have been quaking in his boots at such ‘opposition’. 

The one thing that Ruth did get right is her assessment that the Scots will never take to our new Prime Minister. Apparently solid opinion polling evidence told the Scottish Tories that the blustering, Eton public schoolboy buffoonery jarred with the Scottish public. Soft Tory voters impressed with an illusory Ruth ‘detoxification’ and a media manufactured leadership myth are appalled at his previous unacceptable racist and misogynistic comments. Tory remain voters are terrified of his plans for a no deal Brexit and his general pitch for the Farage vote. His ‘Cabinet of all the horrors’ also reminds Scots of the worst excesses of high Thatcherism. Already there is reasonable evidence to suggest that the Tories will be heading into electoral free fall with 53% of Scots saying they will now vote for independence with Boris as Prime Minister. 

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Knowing the electoral liability the Scots Tories were therefore right to throw every resource into the indelicately named ‘Operation Arse’ to stop him. The fact that they made such a total ‘arse’ of it just shows how ill prepared for anything approaching Government they really are. Pursuing this childishly monikered mission so ineptly has infuriated the Boris-ites and this Dad’s Army type defiance was never going to go unpunished. 

Ruth therefore will have to sign up to the ‘buffoon Brexit’ or do what that great Conservative visionary, Murdo Fraser, suggested a long time ago during her leadership contest, and strike out on her own. Declaring Scots Tory ‘independence’ might now be the only option but the window for that is closing quickly. MP colleagues with careers to protect are quickly being enticed into project Boris and then there’s the question as to what on earth do Scottish Conservatives do in another snap General Election? There’s also the obvious little question of ‘if independence is good enough for the Scots Toris then why, etc…..’?

How Ruth must long for Yesterday when all she had to do was ride a buffalo or blow the bagpipes to secure screeds and screeds of fulsome praise and attention. The tired record of ‘Opposing a second referendum’ won’t work anymore and the policy cupboard has been bare for years.

Whatever there was in the way of a ‘Conservative revival’ is all but but sunk in blond ambition. For the Scottish Tories it wasn’t even fun while it lasted

SCOTLAND – THE DRUG DEATHS CAPITAL OF EUROPE. HOW OTHER NATIONS DEALT WITH THEIR DRUG EMERGENCIES.

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The drugs death capital of Europe, with 1% of the population heroin addicts. Half the prison population on drug-related charges. Sound familiar? This isn’t Scotland in 2019, this is Portugal in the early 1990s, a nation which experienced a drugs epidemic on an even bigger scale than what we are currently observing in Scotland. In the early 90s every Portuguese family either had someone caught in heroin’s grip or knew a family affected by its scourge. 

What they did about it was something remarkable. 

As a nation they collectively decided that this could not go on and initiated a national debate assembling a Government led commission to address the crisis. The result was almost as bold as it was pioneering. They decided that a criminal justice approach simply didn’t work and that the response to problem drug use had to be exclusively health based. 

They decriminalised all drugs for personal use. But they didn’t just leave it at that… they assembled what they now call a ‘dissuasion commission’ to address all drug users brought to the attention of the authorities. Here their drug use was to be addressed, assistance offered, or if necessary sanctions applied. Money saved in criminal justice interventions have been reinvested into drug treatments and services. Twenty eight years later Portugal has just about the lowest rates of drugs deaths and problem drug use in Europe. 

I was in Portugal with members of the Scottish Affairs committee and Westminster’s Health and Social Care Committee last week and we listened in amazement to how this traditional small c Conservative nation addressed their drugs emergency. Where there was the usual resistance to embarking on such a radical approach there in now a national political consensus around this policy. Problem drug users secure support without the societal stigma that treats drug users as outcasts and criminals. Today they are discussing the next steps forward with proposals such as full legalisation of certain drugs and making the treatment of problematic drug use not just a health issue but a human right. 

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Before we got to Lisbon we stopped in at Frankfurt, another fascinating international example. Roughly at the same time as Portugal was experiencing its difficulties Frankfurt had an unusual and disturbing heroin emergency. The financial sector in the city centre was almost besieged with problem drug users who were shooting up in public, dealing and even dying in the streets through overdose. Hundreds of heroin users turned the Gallusanlage into the biggest collection of problem drug users in Europe. From this crisis the ‘Frankfurt Way’ was born. An approach that put harm reduction at its centre by putting in place measures exclusively against the dealing of illegal drugs.

Central to its approach was getting problem drug users better or stabilised. This involved taking the problem off the streets and into safe spaces where treatment could be offered. Drug Consumption Rooms were opened and addicts encouraged to seek help. We visited three of Frankfurt’s 4 consumption rooms and could not believe what was on offer. I know that for some these facilities are still seen as ‘shooting galleries’ but nothing could be further from the truth. One DRC offered sheltered accommodation to addicts and had workshops on site to encourage problem drug users back into the world of work. All of them had wrap around services such as counselling, medical support and treatment options. Frankfurts drugs deaths have since fallen from 147 in 1992 to 22 last year. The Galluslanage has been re-dug to get rid of the discarded needles and debris. There remains a plaque to the many who died in the park due to their addictions.

Could any or all of this work in Scotland? What we probably need more than anything else is ‘the Scottish way’. We need our own approach to address out particular issues and recognise our own cultural values and national debate. What we most definitely need to do is to asses the international examples and be exclusively evidence based. Things can not be ruled out because of a personal ideology or even a deeply held political conviction. The evidence we have received in the Scottish Affairs inquiry has been fascinating, instructive and profound. We will now factor in what we have found in Europe into our inquiry.

What seems to be happening in Scotland now is a refusal to accept our appalling current drug deaths figures. We also probably now find a public ahead of the Government in being able to consider the big levers of change and more prepared to consider the radical and creative solutions. Scotland now has the worst record in Europe for drug deaths and we must look beyond our shores and learn how other nations have dealt with their emergencies. 

THE EXAMPLE OF QUEBEC AND WHY WE CAN NOT LOSE ANOTHER INDYREF.

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IF you want to see a proper grown-up relationship between a “sub-national” government and a central administration you could look no further than Quebec within the Canadian Federation. Quebec proudly guards its special status within Canada and asserts its rights as a “nation within a nation” without question or compromise. It is an arrangement that seems all of the whole 3000 miles away from Scotland within the UK.

I was in Canada chairing a Scottish Affairs Committee visit last week and was part of the highest-level conversations about how Canada’s federal arrangements work across this huge nation, with its 10 provincial governments and three territories. We were there to discuss inter-governmental relations as we conclude our inquiry marking 20 years of devolution.

We also wanted to examine other features of provincial powers such as immigration and the role of sub-national governments in negotiating bilateral trade deals. It was fascinating and revealing stuff. This is my personal account of some of the issues in our visit.

The first obvious feature to observe is that Canada is a federation. Its constitutional arrangements are therefore designed entirely differently from the centralised UK state, with its strange version of asymmetric devolution. Canada claims to be the most decentralised nation in the developed world, and looking at its constitution, this is an assertion it would be difficult to take issue with. Where there are the obvious tensions over finance and powers (as the number of constitutional cases taken to their Supreme Court testify) there seems to mainly be a negotiated way through based on goodwill and mutual respect.

Talking of tensions immediately brings us back to Quebec. In order to secure the relative peace between Quebec and federal Canada, two independence referendums were required with the last settled by a few thousand votes and less than 1% of the huge 93.5 % turnout.

That was in 1995, and almost 25 years later the independence movement remains diminished – with the party of independence, the Parti Quebecois, languishing with 9 out of the available 125 members of the Quebec provincial government. They are currently selecting a new leader and uncertain whether they are a party of the left or right. Young Quebecers now increasingly identify themselves as pan-Canadian and PQ’s support seems to be dependent on the 1990s sovereignist generation.

The spectacular fall of the Party Quebecios, and its federal equivalent the Bloc Quebecois, is a salutary lesson to those who believe that a second referendum defeat would be consequence-free here.

Quebec is not Scotland, though. The Quebec independence movement is primarily fired by its francophone cultural agenda and differs significantly from the “civic nationalism” that underpins Scotland’s independence ambitions. Canada is also not the UK. In narrowly winning the referendum, Canada went out of its way to ensure that Quebec’s agenda was properly addressed and that its special status was properly acknowledged.

Contrast that to the UK who after promising a similar “near federalism” immediately set about the task of emasculating Scottish MPs with EVEL (English votes for English laws), before repatriating powers that should have ordinarily come to Scotland whilst examining how it can assert itself over a recalcitrant nation.

Back to 2019. Canada and the skyline of Montreal is practically covered in cranes building the new infrastructure required to support the unprecedented economic growth that is currently being experienced in Quebec. They now have powers over immigration bringing in the people and skills required to support a booming economy and address demographic issues on a par with the perilous situation we face in Scotland.

International students attracted to Quebec’s universities aren’t given immediate notice to leave following their studies but instead encouraged to stay and contribute to the growing economy. Their Department of Immigration told us that 60% of responsibilities over immigration now reside at Quebec provincial level. In discussing the CETA and Nafta trade talks Quebec and other provincial governments were in the next room asserting their provincial interests and ensuring that trade arrangements meet the requirements of all the provinces.

Believe it or not, Quebec also has the power to decide if it wants to hold another independence referendum! Responsibility over its own democracy more than anything else demonstrates the respect Quebec is now shown from federal Canada. Where Canada reached out to Quebec the UK almost seems to enjoy an approach which could only be described as passive provocation.

What about securing the federation enjoyed in Canada? Well, where the debate about federalism regularly crops up in Scotland its proponents don’t seem to properly understand what real federalism is or suggest a way how it could be applied across a United Kingdom of four nations where England provides about 90% of the population.

What is absolutely certain is that Quebec has an arrangement that is way beyond anything enjoyed by the “most powerful devolved parliament in the world”.

Where Quebec provides an intriguing example of another nation engaged in a conversation about its independence, the differences are all too real. The UK could never make the accommodations that have been offered to Quebec and it could never progress to a state of federation like that enjoyed across Canada.

The one real lesson that we can take away from Quebec is that we simply cannot lose another referendum. Looking at the condition of the independence movement in Quebec, there seems no clear way forward or real hope of resurrecting that spark after 25 years. Looking at the reasons behind its collapse there is no reason to suspect that a second referendum defeat would not be similarly near-fatal to the independence movement here in Scotland.

Scotland has only one more chance of becoming anything like Quebec and that is to end its current constitutional arrangements with the UK by becoming a self-governing independent nation.

For us there is no other way and that possible one last chance simply can not be lost.