Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Important Announcement

Please note that Parliament will dissolve at 00:01hrs on Wednesday 3rd May until after the General Election and during this time there will be no Members of Parliament.

Due to the rules and regulations of dissolution, I will be unable to hold surgeries or take on any casework. I sincerely apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.

If you are in need of assistance there are other organisations and representatives you can contact in the mean time. I will include links to these below.

My office telephone number will also be out of use during this time.

My office staff and I are committed to helping any constituents who have contacted us previously and if you are awaiting a response to an enquiry made on your behalf, we will be in touch with you over the course of the next few weeks if we have not done so already.

The following website is useful in understanding what different representatives such as MSP's and Councillors can deal with. If you have an issue, I recommend firstly finding out who the most appropriate person is to contact.


Agencies and departments that can offer further support and advice are:

Citizen's Advice Scotland


Welfare Rights






UK Visas and Immigration


Scottish Welfare Fund


Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Animal Welfare Debate - The Puppy Trade

I would like to thank the many constituents who have contacted me this week about the important issue of animal welfare. Neil Parish MP, member for Tiverton and Honiton has secured a backbench business debate tomorrow in Parliament about stricter legislation surrounding the puppy trade. I am unfortunately unable to attend due to a long standing commitment with the Public Accounts Committee. Please be assured, however, I fully support the aims of this debate and hope to see better protection for animals against cruel and unfair breeding practices.
Tighter laws around selling and breeding dogs will make it illegal to sell puppies younger than eight weeks old and require anyone breeding and selling three or more litters of puppies a year to apply for a formal licence. Breeders who do not follow these rules will face an unlimited fine and/or up to six months imprisonment.

The new rules will also mean that ‘backstreet breeders’ as well as larger commercial breeders must meet strict welfare criteria to get a licence. They will also govern anyone trading commercially in pets online.

If this new licencing scheme is properly enforced, it should allow buyers to distinguish between a reputable breeder and a rogue breeder or seller.  

The rapid rise of social media sites such as Instagram and Facebook has brought with it a worrying trend of certain dog breeds becoming more sought-after and ‘fashionable’. For example, the Pug and French Bull dog have become extremely popular in recent years – this is reflected not only online but in well-known shops selling merchandise and clothing with images of these dog breeds on it. This will naturally put pressure on the puppy trade industry as the demand increases.
In January, the RSPCA reported that there was an increasing number of these ‘designer’ dog breeds being abandoned and making their way into their care. Premature separation from mothers and over-breeding have severe negative consequences for animals’ health and wellbeing. Many irresponsible breeders neglect the welfare of their animals and may not properly vaccinate them, leading to steep vet’s bills for buyers. This ultimately adds to the number of abandoned dogs when their owners realise they cannot afford to give them the care they need. The RSPCA reported that many of the abandoned dogs suffered from severe skin conditions and other medical concerns, which is likely due to the poor conditions they have been bred and raised in by puppy dealers as well as neglect from owners.

In Scotland, the Scottish Government are responsible for animal welfare. The SNP Scottish Government has already implemented an Animal Dealers Regulation, which restricts the sale of young cats and dogs, and ensures the welfare of puppies who pass through a dealer. Despite this being a devolved matter, I have publically supported many campaigns promoting better protection of animals and I welcome the recent changes the UK Government has made.
Many animal welfare charities encourage anyone considering owning a dog to think about rehoming an older dog first. I would encourage anyone planning to buy a dog from a breeder or seller to beware of irresponsible breeders and sellers. The new legislation set out by the UK Government is certainly a step in the right direction however, I do believe in order for it to be effective, it requires proper and robust enforcement. I hope the UK Government will continue to take steps to protect animals and I will continue to support any campaign that calls for better animal welfare laws.


Wednesday, 15 March 2017

2017 Spring Budget Speech

"I proudly share the mining heritage of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Gareth Snell), who is no longer in his place. Although I might not agree with quite everything he says, I commend him for his passionate and quite excellent speech, and for his extremely kind and honest words about his predecessor. Stoke-on-Trent certainly has a new champion, and we on these Benches wish him all the very best for his future in this place.

My hon. Friends on these Benches have made numerous salient points regarding the shortfalls of this Budget, which is noticeably a much thinner document than last year’s pre-EU referendum spring Budget. A thinner document, and yet thinner gruel within. I would like to focus on the glaring issue of the extraordinarily misleading employment statistics used as a foundation for many of the new proposals in this Budget. The Chancellor has claimed that 2.7 million more people are

“enjoying the security and dignity of work than in 2010”.—[Official Report, 8 March 2017; Vol. 622, c. 809.]

I cannot fathom how he can describe as dignified the gig economy that has emerged since 2010, which is filled with zero-hours contracts and insecure temporary work, or the huge growth in the number of individuals who are self-employed through necessity rather than choice. In fact, the working conditions faced by many today are far less dignified than those faced by people a decade ago. Also, many of those workers now face the loss of the minimal remaining employment rights that have been secured by the EU due to the coming hard Tory Brexit.

The Chancellor has stated that he does not want to saddle the next generation with ever increasing debts. I would suggest that he consider addressing that problem by taking a closer look at the funding allocated to the Department for Work and Pensions Work programme. Since 2011, more than £1 billion has been spent on attachment fees, job outcome payments and sustainment payments, all of which are rather nice-sounding euphemisms for what the Government have really been doing: paying off employers—often large chain retailers—to hire Work programme participants to stack shelves or work on shop tills. Not only does this grossly skew the Government’s employment statistics; it also sheds light on the issue of stagnating productivity. It hardly seems a stretch to suggest that if that £1 billion had been used to invest, rather than to aid the UK Government in fudging their employment statistics, productivity might be just a little higher.

I would like briefly to address the Chancellor’s claim that individuals elect to be self-employed, rather than a regular employee of a business, due to the marginally lower rate of national insurance they are required to pay. This point was made very articulately by my hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian (George Kerevan). That might be the case for wealthy consultants in the City of London, but it is certainly not the case for the numerous builders, joiners, electricians and other tradesmen I have spoken to in my constituency, and others all over Scotland."

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

International Woman's Day 2017

Today is International Woman’s Day which is being celebrated by myself and many other people all over the world. I am encouraged to see the vast support this has had however we should not only celebrate the progress that has been made so far but equally take note of the gaps in gender equality that still remain. The theme for International Women’s Day 2017 is #BeBoldForChange – encouraging people to step up and take ground breaking action to help drive gender equality.

Unfortunately, the gender wage gap is currently still around 15%, meaning women only earn 85% of what men do. According to the World Economic Forum, this wage gap won’t close until 2186. This shocking prediction highlights the need for immediate and necessary action.

I am pleased that from the 6th April 2017, employers in the UK with more than 250 staff will be required by law to publish the following four types of figures annually on their own website and on a government website:

·       Gender pay gap

·       Gender bonus gap

·       Proportion of men and women receiving bonuses

·       Proportion of men and women in each quartile of the organisation’s pay structure.

I hope that this change will bring gender equality issues to the forefront of employers minds and encourage them to put an end to inequality in their workplaces. I also believe this law should be extended to cover all businesses regardless of size given that unequal pay and sex discrimination are not limited to businesses with a larger workforce.

Despite this change being a step in the right direction, the UK Government must also take into account that inequality affects people of all genders and backgrounds, limitations of the reporting system should be considered as it is vital we learn more about the full scale of this issue.

It is also necessary to offer more protection to those who take career breaks to start a family or care for children. According to a survey by the National Childbirth Trust, one in three women find it difficult or very difficult to return to work after maternity leave. Despite the strengthening of legislation surrounding this issue, I further encourage the UK Government to use its investigatory powers to determine why so many women continue to share these unfortunate experiences on such a large scale.

Gender equality must be made a priority and I hope to see robust changes which significantly reduce the World Economic Forum’s daunting prediction. I fully support the #BeBoldForChange campaign for International Women’s Day 2017 and will continue to support any future campaigns that promote gender equality.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Collaborating for Change: Lifting Two Billion People out of Poverty and Violence

This week, I attended the inspiring and humbling Collaborating for Change event which highlighted important issues surrounding poverty and violence. I learned that conflict and fragility affects two billion people across the globe, trapping them in insecurity and creating deep global inequality that affects us all. I met with Mercy Corps’ Global Leadership Council, global economist, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, head of Mission of the Office Quartet, Kito De Boer and Senior Program Officer at Gates Foundation, Valerie Bemo, who are working in collaboration to highlight initiatives that can break through the toughest of challenges. We discussed how we can harness opportunities to create transformative change and make a real difference to those whose lives have been struck with poverty due to conflict and instability.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Surgery Cancellation- Friday 24 February 2017

Unfortunately, I am unable attend my surgeries this week, and will therefore be cancelling the following surgeries on this Friday 24 February 2017: 

Bellshill Cultural Centre- 10 AM 
Viewpark Community Facility- 10:45 AM 
Old Monkland Community Centre- 11:30 AM 
Charlotte Toal Community Centre- 12:15 PM 

This week is the first time since my election in 2015 that I have had to cancel surgeries. While I could potentially send my staff members to these surgeries in my stead, I believe it is disingenuous to advertise surgeries with myself to the public, only for me to be absent on the day. 

The reason for my absence is due to my attendance at an important debate. I will be participating in a debate on my colleague Eilidh Whitford MP’s Private Members Bill regarding the implementation of the Istanbul Convention has been scheduled on this date. 

The Istanbul Convention is a Council of Europe convention which aims to prevent violence against women and domestic violence. While a number of other countries have signed the convention, including Turkey, Italy, France and Sweden, to name a few, the UK is not yet a signatory. 

Numerous women in Scotland still face domestic violence every single day. Recent statistics show that 50,000 women in Scotland are reported victims of domestic violence every year. This statistic does not include those women who do not report incidences of domestic violence, either due to fear, manipulation, social stigma, or guilt. Violence against women is not just a problem for the 20th century, it is a problem for modern Scotland. 

The global swing to the right in the political sphere has brought with it increasingly concerning rhetoric and policy proposals in regards to violence towards women. Just last month, the Russian Parliament passed a bill 380-3 decriminilising domestic violence. Prominent politicians on both sides of the Atlantic have made comments downplaying acts of sexual violence. In Arkansas, a bill was recently passed which would require women who were raped to obtain permission from their rapist before seeking an abortion. In Texas, a proposed bill would take away voting rights from women who have had an abortion, by making having an abortion a felony. At the current moment, 25 programmes which aim to tackle violence against women are set to be cut in the US. 

Even the UK Parliament is not immune to this worrying trend of increasing levels of violence towards women. Just last year, it was reported in the press that a woman was raped inside the Parliamentary estate by an MP’s aide. 

On the 21st of January, 5 million people around the world took part in the Women’s March, a global protest against sexist legislation and increasingly violent political rhetoric in regards to women. They were asking for their voices to be heard by those who have the ability to change the status quo- elected representatives around the world. 

On Friday, I will be listening to their call for a change, and speaking up for those women who do not have a voice. 

I again sincerely apologise for having to cancel my surgeries, but I hope you agree the cause is worthwhile.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Brexit Bill

Today is the final day of debate and voting on the Government's Brexit Bill. Coming in at a lamentable three pages, the Bill, along with the Government's woefully lacking White Paper on Brexit, gives absolutely no reassurances. The UK Government has had seven months to come up with a comprehensive plan, and rather than reassure the people, businesses, and industries of this country that Brexit will not have a negative impact, they have produced a 80 pages worth of vague wishes and pipe dreams. 

Businesses depending on import and export markets with the EU have no reassurance that they will not face prohibitively high tariffs. The financial sector still faces chaos. Workers do not have guarantees that their rights will be fully protected. We do not have reassurances that food safety standards will be upheld. The Tory UK Government is looking to abandon the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects the right to life, the freedom from inhumane treatment, the right to a fair trial, respect for private and family life, freedom of religion, and protection from disability discrimination, amongst others, and instead bring in a “British Bill of Rights”. One only needs to look to our American cousins to see how a domestic Bill of Rights can fail on a mass scale to protect human rights. 

Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU. The UK Government has refused to engage comprehensively with the Scottish Government to ensure the protection of the interests and will of the Scottish people. The UK Government has created a constitutional crisis, and is willing to completely ignore the will of the Scottish people, and the future of the Scottish economy in order to pursue populist, xenophobic, and isolationist policy. 

I have received hundreds of emails and letters from my own constituents and around the UK regarding Brexit. These have ranged from those thanking me for standing up and voting against the Brexit Bill in its first reading, to those accusing me of betraying the will of the British people as a whole. 

However, above all else, I am accountable not to Scotland, or the UK as a whole, but to my constituents in Coatbridge, Chryston, and Bellshill. My constituency voted strongly to remain in the EU. As such, as their representative in Parliament, I will be voting in accordance with their wishes tonight against the Brexit Bill.