Keep spooks out of politics
Harold Wilson was the Labour Prime Minister for much of the 1960s and ’70s. A brilliant political operator, Wilson won four out of five elections and had an uncanny knack of sensing when an issue could become too hot to handle. Thus he wisely kept Britain out of the Vietnam War despite pressure from our American allies. He survived a succession of economic crises and held his party together under huge difficulties and with great aplomb.
One of the issues where Wilson sensed trouble was the interception of MPs’ telephone calls by the Security Services. On the back of the celebrated Profumo scandal of the early 1960s Whitehall civil servants and the security establishment wanted to bug MPs but Wilson was having none of it...
Today I visited the Gordon Highlanders Museum in Aberdeen. A fantastic community museum displaying the history and tradition of one of Scotland’s proudest regiments. Had the opportunity to speak to a number of veterans who volunteer their time as tour guides at the museum.
I asked the Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond MP, for an update on UK Government's plans for military intervention in Syria.
"The Foreign Secretary clearly has his itchy fingers on the trigger of military intervention, as indeed do the Defence Secretary and the Prime Minister. With 12 other countries already bombing in Syria, what analysis has been done of what additionality or what further sorties would be flown by RAF Tornadoes, and what possible difference could they make to the military situation?
Response from Mr Hammond:
"My right hon. Friend the Defence Secretary has already made it clear—I remember saying the same, when I performed that role, more than a year ago—that the point is one of military efficiency. We are already flying reconnaissance missions over Syria, but our Reapers now have to fly over Syria unarmed looking for situations, which they then relay back to call in other allies to carry out strikes. That is not the most efficient way to carry out operations."
"We could drop a few bombs from our reconnaissance aircraft, but what difference would that make to the military situation? Why does the Foreign Secretary not listen to his own Back Benchers? As a non-combatant nation, there are certain advantages in being able to make diplomatic initiatives. Given that the Prime Minister is meeting the President of China—another non-combatant nation and a permanent member of the Security Council—why not discuss a joint diplomatic initiative, instead of just thinking that additional bombing is the answer?"
On 20 October 2014, the Scottish Government introduced a 5p charge on all plastic bags. Since then, the latest research has found that plastic bag usage throughout Scotland has reduced by 80 per cent in the last 12 months. That is the equivalent of 650 million bags and a net saving of more than 4,000 tonnes of plastic and other materials each year. The 5p charge has also raised £6.7m for good causes. These figure don't just make for great reading, but also confirms that the Scottish Government made the correct decision in introducing the charge.
I attended a special reception Chinese President Xi Jinping gave to both Houses as part of his state visit to the UK. President Xi Jinping spoke highly of the relationship that exists between China and the UK as well as the need for continued cooperation. You can watch his speech below.
After the reception, I made my way to LBC studios, where I was a guest on the Iain Dale show. I discussed my views on President Xi Jinping's visit, the proposed EVEL bill for the House of Commons and the issues surrounding our steel industry. You can watch the interview in full below.
PinkNews, one of the UK's most read LGBTI online publication, has been going for ten years now. To celebrate, PinkNews held their annual awards show at the impressive surroundings of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. Among some of the winners were Guinness, David Norris and the Victoria Derbyshire Show. I was, therefore, thrilled when I was awarded then PinkNews Ally Award. I can officially say that it was the first award I have ever received in the Foreign & Commonwealth Office!
I am a big supporter of PinkNews. For more than a decade now, founder, Benjamin Cohen and his team have given a voice to many who have otherwise been silenced, or felt too afraid to speak out. Their work is extremely important as we move towards a more equal society. Here's to another 10 years!
In the morning, I attended Business Questions in the Chamber. Following an odd statement, I had to remind Labour Members that there were no Scots in the battle of Agincourt and that Scotland was actually fighting on the other side of the battle! I also used this opportunity to ask why the UK Government has not yet made a statement following prime minister-designate of Canada, Justin Trudeau's announcement that he will be pulling his country out of the planned airstrikes in Syria.
"I caution the Leader of the House against the idea from Labour Members about a celebration of the battle of Agincourt in parliamentary terms, since Scotland was basically on the other side—if I remember correctly, it was assisting a rebellion by progressive forces in England against the Lancastrian autocracy of Henry V.
"On current military engagements, why is there no statement on developments in Syria? There are 12 combatant countries in Syria, and the Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary and Defence Secretary want Britain to be the unlucky No. 13. The new Canadian Government have withdrawn from military operations in Syria, and there has been not a single Government reaction or comment—not even a tweet—about that development. Does that silence speak volumes about a Government who regard military intervention as a substitute for political and diplomatic strategy?"
Response from Leader of the House of Commons, Chris Grayling MP:
"We do not regard military intervention as a substitute for diplomatic strategy. The Government take military action only in extreme circumstances, and when it is essential and the right thing to do. Should we choose to take any sort of military action in the future we have committed to discuss the matter with the House, and should such circumstances arise, we will of course do so."
The House voted on the controversial English Votes for English Laws bill - or EVEL. It was passed by 312 votes to 270 and effectively transformed all of Scotland's 59 MPs into second class members of the House, unable to vote on all matters put before the Commons. But what does EVEL actually mean and how will it work? You can read more about this on the SNP's new website.
Today was #WearItPink day! Many of you will be aware, this was the where the now infamous "Angry Salmond" picture was taken.
I appeared on Going Underground with Afshin Rattsani, where I discussed the ongoing Syria conflict, the latest leaked memo from the White House and why Scotland's steel industry should be nationalised.
An impressive turnout for our Aberdeen Donside branch meeting today. I even had a special wee guest speaker!
An inspiring and brave interview with my friend Fiona Lochhead, wife of my parliamentary colleague Richard Lochhead. This news comes during the same time as Breast Cancer Awareness month.
For more information on this, please visit Wear It Pink's website.
After yet another update, the good people of Scotland are still left without a Saltire emoji, which is just outrageous!