A Week in Parliament

Priorities?

After two days of debating estimates – the allocation of money as per the budget, Parliament can vote on the proposed expenditure. These two days of debates are new, and came about from SNP pressure - under the old system, you were not actually allowed to talk about the estimate process or the sums of money. So the previous process was a debate in which the actual subject could not be debated!

Given the fact that the estimates match the budget, which means continued austerity and a real term budget cut of £2.6bn to Scotland’s budget it would seem daft for us not to do anything but vote against the proposals. Yet when it came to pushing matters to a vote, it was viewed as petty politics by some because England were playing a world cup match at the same time. No-one with any self-reflection was able to see that expecting politicians just to down tools because England were playing was possibly the wrong priorities.

Given all business and timings of debate are completely controlled by the UK Tory Government. Therefore, if the football was deemed such a priority then they could have scheduled business differently. Not that I am saying I think that business should be scheduled around England football matches, but it is a choice they can make.  Or, if they are really that concerned about the inefficient voting system then perhaps this just highlights the need for an electronic voting system.

It was interesting to see Tories shouting and swearing at various members of the SNP, myself included just for pushing the different votes. One aspect I pointed out to some Tories was that if the football was sooo important, and that we could only muster 33 votes and that it was clear Labour were abstaining then perhaps they needed to review having 300ish MPs voting against us!

Claim Of Right

The SNP brought forward a motion recognising the historical claim of right that the people of Scotland are sovereign. This dates back to the Declaration of Arbroath and the idea that the monarch had to represent the people and be answerable to them, else a new monarch would be chosen. In modern times it is about recognising wider democracy and that the will of the people must be recognised and acted on. In 2012, in Holyrood, the Tories voted against this even although it was agreed by all other parties. This time they have accepted it. This is welcome and could have ramifications when it comes to matters like another referendum when it means Westminster should not be a blocker on such matters.

Brexit Shambles Part 99

So the PM agreed a deal with her cabinet, but before it can advance, she was hit by more resignations. This is her 5th Cabinet Minister to have quit or been forced out which is remarkable in such a short space of time. With the different factions in the Tory party it is difficult to see how she can replace the Secretary Davis and the Ministers without there being more fallout. It seems quite clear that Teresa May is now running out of time as all her fudging starts to fall apart.

These thoughts were first published in the Kilmarnock Standard

A Week in Parliament

To Vote or Not

There was a key infrastructure vote in Westminster on Heathrow. The SNP position, on which I was leading on was eventually to abstain. It was a curious position to find myself in – I have criticised Labour about some of the abstentions they have undertaken. So why take a neutral position?

On the positive side, the Scottish Government has signed a memorandum of understanding with Heathrow Airport. They have pledged to provide a pre-construction logistics hub in Scotland – with Prestwick the favourite location – and a minimum commitment of £300m construction and supply chain expenditure. FlyBe have expressed an interest in commercial operations from Prestwick to Heathrow if they can get slots. All the Business of Chambers in Scotland support expansion as do all Scottish Airports except the Gatwick owned Edinburgh airport. It is predicted up to 16,000 jobs could be created in Scotland in the long run if Heathrow gets an additional runway.

It is expected that “up to 15% of new slots will be available for domestic routes”. This is where I started to get a bit uneasy. Bizarrely, slots are sold to airlines. Then often what happens is that the airlines decide to scrap their domestic routes and use the slots for long haul routes instead. As a result, the only way the slots can be guaranteed to be retained for domestic routes is for the UK Government to put in place control measures – such as public service obligations for airport to airport routes. They indicated to me they are willing to do this if domestic routes start to disappear. This was simply not robust enough and the main reason that the SNP abstained. I observed that with so many businesses and airports in favour, I couldn’t vote to block. But without absolute commitments on connectivity, I couldn’t endorse it with a vote either.

There are some environmental concerns as well. One thing – they will be resolved in court as there will be judicial reviews undertaken. At least that will give certainty on those matters.

Save the Endangered Species

One of the new Scottish Lib Dem MPs is shall we say “slightly off the wall”. Recently at Foreign Office Questions, he raised the issue of the Scottish Wildcat, and the need to save it from extinction. As a rare Scottish indigenous species, I agree with him. However, he raised the matter as a follow up question on illegal wildlife crime. Why does he believe this is a matter for the Foreign Office and does he really think Boris Johnson is the man to save the wildcat?

Another recent contribution was a debate on “UK Intergovernmental Co-operation”. He stated that when he visits his sister in law in Northumberland “I think to myself, “I am in England. I can have a pint now and I will not be pulled over and not be done for it.” That’s an MP who gets to the heart of the serious issues! It is little wonder that the Lib Dems were previously tipped to be an endangered species themselves.

These thoughts were first published in the Kilmarnock Standard.

A Week in Parliament

What is a Rebel?

From the Cambridge dictionary, rebel means “a person who refuses to accept the government's power”. Anyone following politics of late, would have read that Tory rebels would defeat the UK Government on amendments on the EU Withdrawal Bill. It did not come to pass as the original amendments agreed in the Lords were defeated by the UK Government. This was because the Government agreed to make further changes. Which turned out not to be the case...

One week later and we were assured the rebels would not back down after being done over by the UK Government. The lead “rebel” Dominic Greave MP, a former Attorney General, very intelligent and who we are told is a man of utmost integrity. However, yet again, some weasel words from the UK Government and he backed down as did many of his colleagues. It seems to me that he has a different understanding of the word rebel, or maybe there is a specific Tory understanding of what it means because he certainly has accepted the Government’s powers to the point of no return.

No Deal

And so, the hard line Brexiteers are cock-a-hoop at the back down of the “rebels”. They think it means the UK can just crash out of Europe. In their minds, all will be fine…apparently Airbus are lying when they say they will pull out; other businesses are scaremongering and doesn’t it just gladden your heart when the Foreign Secretary actually says “F*** business” when asked about it? This poses further questions, (a) what does he have to do to get sacked? (b) what is their plan? and (c) do they care about anything other than the fact they think the UK can return to some Empire status they fondly miss?

With the Foreign Minister’s behaviour, I find it surprising that some people think the SNP are the ones to disrespect Westminster!

Gala Season

Summer season brings all the local community galas, fetes and events. It makes for very busy but enjoyable weekends as I like to get out and about and support these when I can. I managed Mauchline Holy Fair, Dunlop, Darvel, Galston, Fenwick, Hurlford, Stewarton Bonnet Guild’s Gala Days; two days at the Lapraik Festival in Muirkirk and Stewarton United’s Beer Festival (a real sacrifice on my part!). I also managed to drop into Ayrshire Samaritans’ one year birthday bash at their new premises as well as doing the “Roon the Toon” 10k. Often some of these events were on the same day, so time management, not my strongest point, was in order. A huge congratulations to all those who organised these events. Having been involved with the Newmilns Gala Committee in the past, I know first-hand how difficult it can be to get volunteers, pull in the right favours and the all-important fundraising aspect. This year, the great unpredictable, the Scottish weather turned out for the most part to shine on all those events – which always makes them that bit more enjoyable, so thanks again to all those volunteers.

These thoughts were first published in the Kilmarnock Standard.

A Week in Parliament

Unacceptable Heckling

I accept I do a bit of “Tory bashing”. It is not my intent to always do this. This week I feel obliged to comment on what I saw as unacceptable heckling and behaviour. And by coincidence he is a Tory.

Ian Blackford raised a point of order and asked the question “what options are available to us?” and the Tory MP, Ian Liddell Granger shouted “suicide”. It was clearly picked up on the microphones for TV so there is no ambiguity of what was said. There are so many levels here – he was suggesting that Ian Blackford should consider going away and killing himself. He is also belittling the effects of suicide and making it a joke of it.

After the event, instead of contrition, he then has the gall to suggest he stated “political suicide”. A complete and utter lie. He ran out the chamber after making the remarks as he knew he had been picked up. Yet Granger now claims we are “cowards” for raising it after he left the chamber, but he knew full well we were trying to raise the matter.

I returned to the subject at Business Questions, and highlighted firstly the key work undertaken by charities but also the funerals of two suicide victims that I have attended and found harrowing. I referenced a constituent case and therefore how disgusted I was by this MP’s behaviour. There are 6000 suicides across the UK each year. It is also known that people have difficulty speaking about how they feel and it is a struggle to break down these taboos and encourage people to be open about their feelings and seek help. I worry that this man may have possibly set such campaigns back. Hopefully by highlighting our anger and belief that this behaviour is unacceptable, we can balance the scales a bit.

The Walk Out

And so we walked out of PMQs in solidarity with our Westminster leader, Ian Blackford. He had highlighted the absurd position that Westminster was planning to impose a Bill on the Scottish Parliament against its will. For the record, 2/3 of the Scottish Parliament has voted to reject the bill in its current format as it allows Westminster to legislate in devolved matters. Yet there was only 15 minutes of “debate” on the amendments relating to the offending clause. Then when Ian wasn’t granted a vote he was entitled to, he was suspended from the chamber. It certainly got the attention of the media which allowed us to explain our concerns. And to constituents who think I stopped representing them. It was only PMQs and a debate. I took part in the votes and got other vital work done. A lesson is that my time was actually more productive!

These thoughts were first published in the Kilmarnock Standard

A Week in Parliament

Rail Omnishambles

After my week of enjoyable work experience in the constituency it was back to business as normal at Westminster. And it really was business as usual, in terms of yet another Monday Statement from the Transport Secretary. This time it was about new rail timetables introduced in two rail franchises, Northern and GWR. Turns out neither company had enough train drivers overall and of those drivers they have, not enough are trained on the routes. This has led to massive cancellations and general chaos.

I spoke to a Labour MP for whom it took three hours to travel to Luton. I appreciate some of my constituents have had issues with Scotrail and the whole skip stopping issue previously. And I realise this will be of little comfort to them, but there is no doubt by comparison that the overall performance of Scotrail is way better than what is going on south of the border. Their rail system is in meltdown and the backbenchers are certainly not putting up any defence regards the train company performances.

Part of the problem was also Network Rail over running on construction projects. Many were quick to point that out. But of course who has ultimate responsibility for Network Rail? Yes, the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling. So when he blames them he is actually admitting his own oversight failures. It really is incredible he is still in a job.

Boris Meltdown

I am aware that many of my columns are critiques of the Tory UK Government and/or Government Ministers. I do try to have different topics but sometimes it is so difficult. This is illustrated by the comments by Boris Johnson that the Brexit talks may well “go into meltdown”. And that he favoured a Trump style wrecking ball tactic to the negotiations. It is no wonder he has made so many gaffes in his position as Foreign Secretary with an attitude like that.

David Davis

Another indication of a normal week at Westminster was David Davis the Brexit Secretary threatening to resign his post and then not actually doing it. Talk about the man who cried wolf! Again however, it shows the chaos within the UK Government cabinet. His support was given by backbench Tory MP, Nadine Dorries as follows: “David Davis is ex SAS…He’s also trained to take people out”. Inferring someone is trained to kill is hardly the language of a parliamentarian, and what was speculated was whether this was a threat to the PM not to mess with him. Charming right enough!

Bill Grant PMQ

To round off my observations…my Ayrshire colleague Bill Grant MP had a PMQ. He opted to go on about the SNP and referendums/independence (again). However, he clearly couldn’t read his own writing when he stated we should not have another “decisive referendum”. Having heard the script so many times we know he was supposed to say “divisive”! You never want to get the set piece question wrong but to be fair I have been there myself.

These thoughts were first published in the Kilmarnock Standard.

Constituency Round Up

Constituency Round Up

Parliament has been in a week long recess for Whitsun. Who knows why this still merits Parliament not sitting for a week. I know many MPs were looking forward to it due to the workload (honest most do work hard!) and were taking small trips. I opted to maximise my time in the constituency and attend as many events as I could as well as doing a “work experience” initiative, which involved visiting many workplaces and learning what they do and where possible join in.

The first Friday I did a “pop up” surgery within the Burns Mall as a different venue where passers-by could have a chat or raise matters. Thanks to the operators of the Burns Mall for providing the use of a unit for free. I had a really busy two hours plus and thanks to all those who said hello. We also received a number of queries, and even some health queries that we channel through Willie Coffey MSP’s office as health is devolved. I bet they were glad I did the pop up surgery!

Saturday saw the Holy Fair in Mauchline which is one of the bigger local one day events. There was a great atmosphere with open air performances, great crowds, great produce and great weather. Well worth a trip.

Sunday saw the Junior Cup Final at Rugby Park. It was a great game and Hurlford were so unlucky to lose it at the death. I thought they were the better team, but credit Auchinleck for never giving up. You don’t become the most successful team on Junior football without creating a winning mentality and having self-belief. It is such a fantastic achievement to have won twelve Scottish Cups when the next best record for any team is five trophies.

Monday saw a visit to Alan White Design, based in Hill Street, Kilmarnock. The team there do specialist civil engineering design work for countries all over the globe. It was fantastic to see the unique and inspirational work they do from their Kilmarnock base. Specialist scaffolding design for a bridge in Australia; specialist design for a hotel in Gibraltar, work in Dubai, and more locally the specialist engineering design to allow the Victoria and Albert museum in Dundee. They were the ones that provided the vital design to allow the architect’s design to be physically constructed. I was then supposed to do a town centre walk around with the police who had to cancel as they were on standby due to the trouble on Troon Beach. There’s the unpredictability of life as a police officer right away!

On Tuesday afternoon I managed the town centre walk around. The two police officers were great explaining the different methods they use to deal with anti-social behaviour. It is a sign of the times however, that statistically they are the busiest officers locally I believe. I also hosted a pop up surgery at Ayrshire College on the Tuesday working in Partnership with East Ayrshire Council and a number of partner organisations who were there to provide money and housing advice.

Wednesday saw me making sliced sausage at Afton Glen Meats in Galston. Whilst I didn’t slice my finger, I did nick it a wee bit. Warning – knives are sharp! I then visited the foodbank distribution centre in Darvel to see the fine work going in there. Sadly more donations are always required so I would urge people to donate when they can even if just a couple of items every time you are in the supermarket. This was followed by a visit to the fantastic William McIlvanney Campus in Killie. It was great seeing this bright airy building, including the dance studio and new gym. Great facilities. I then helped the kitchen staff, drying dishes and serving food. After my butcher experience I think they kept me away from sharp instruments!

Thursday saw me at Mossgiel Farm at 5.30am to help milk the cows. I was asked to help round them up using a quad bike. Apparently the cows knew I wasn’t the farmer and so dawdled more and took a loan of me. Refreshing when even cows don’t comply with your wishes! After a constituent visit, I was at the newly refurbished Hurlford Primary School. Again it looks great and I got to see the healthy eating initiative as well as a cooking demo from Christopher Hill who, following a competition has his recipe printed in an international cookbook. Well done Christopher!

I then joined the CHIP van for a health check and saw the great work they were doing and it was amazing how many people simply popped in on the way by. If you see the van – pop in. You will get simple checks such as blood pressure and weight checks. With regards high blood pressure checks this really can save your life.

After a long day, I helped at The Harriers and joined a training session, which after great support from Kenny the coach I managed to do 20 laps of the track. However, remember the Harriers cover all ages and all abilities. They are very hospitable and I recommend the club to anyone.

Following my surgeries on Friday I paid a visit to the Egger factory in Auchinleck, where it was great to hear the multimillion investment they are doing. More importantly, the apprenticeship scheme, so keep an eye out.

I rounded my working week off with a stint behind the bar at The Clansman. I had always fancied myself as a barman, but had to admit to some difficulty with the lager. However, I thoroughly enjoyed my stint and the chat with the regulars. I was frightened it was going to turn into another MP surgery right enough!

My relaxing Saturday started at Dunlop Gala Day. The weather helped but having so much going on was fantastic. This was followed by dropping in to the Newmilns [cattle] Show. I am old enough to remember when it was held in Newmilns.

“Hooray for Hollywood” by A choired Taste was the perfect way to end the week. I congratulate them on ten years of professional shows.

I love getting out and about and I cannot wait to take up the new offers that have been put my way. Any others, just let me know…

These thoughts were first published in the Kilmarnock Standard.

A Week in Parliament

Censure of Transport Secretary

On a Labour Opposition Day debate, Labour put down a motion of censure on the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling. If the Government lost the vote, it would mean in theory the Secretary of State losing a portion of his salary. The reality is though is that it was a vote of no confidence in the Secretary. Not surprisingly, it caused the Government to vote once again and defeat the motion.

I spoke in favour of the motion which while it related to his handling of the East Coast Franchise, I listed other issues and failings. Interestingly, the Tory Rail Minister, Jo Johnson argued it was a vindictive motion and should not have been put forward. I understand him defending his secretary of state, but he clearly chose to ignore the fact that Chris Grayling and Teresa May herself had used such a motion in the past against a Labour Minister. I assume that when they did this, it wasn’t vindictive but completely justified! Also, David Davis the Brexit Secretary was telling me it was a ploy the Tories used all the time in 1979 against the Labour Government Ministers. What goes round comes round apparently.

Bailout or Not?

A key argument about the East Coast Mainline is that the Virgin/Stagecoach consortia, VTECH, are having the franchise terminated and the Government will operate it instead. Had VTECH continued in place they would have had to pay £2bn in track rental fees. Now of course they are allowed to walk away and so this has been labelled a £2bn bailout. The Tories were all arguing that it wasn’t a bailout as the UK Government were not handing over that amount of money. I eventually had to argue with one, that if the term “bailout” wasn’t technically true, would he agree that by allowing someone to walk away when they owe you £2bn, then at best it is a write off of that money. They don’t agree and yet claim to be the party of business and money! It is obvious to all, that VTECH have been let off with a £2bn sum they were contractually obliged to pay.

Book/Russia

I seldom have time to read books, but I have just completed “Red Notice” by Bill Browder. It is an excellent insight into the corruption of Russia all the way to the top, with Vladimir Putin, and covers the corrupt sell off of state owned gas and oil companies for pennies to those able to abuse their use of power. It covers the stealing of $230m from the Russian State and all the corrupt police, judges and officials involved and latterly the murder of a lawyer who had exposed this. It also covers how the US changed laws to clamp down on Russian crooks, and the UK is only just getting there now, with a “Magintsky Law” years later.

These thoughts were first published in the Kilmarnock Standard

A Week in Parliament

Tory Government Vote Shock

Since last year’s general election, the Tories have operated a policy of not voting against any Opposition motion, which basically means accepting the motion. This was their tactic of avoiding potentially embarrassing defeats where they might have Tory MPs that would have rebelled rather than following the whip. However, for two recent Opposition Day debates, which involved the Government having to release papers, firstly on the Windrush immigration scandal and then on all their analysis for Brexit, they have suddenly found the will to vote. If ever there were tactics that arouse suspicion that the Tories can 3-line whip votes to prevent them publishing information for other parliamentarians to scrutinise then surely this is it. What are they afraid of, or got to hide?

Pairing

It has been a long standing convention that Labour and Tory MPs often have “pairing” arrangements with an MP from the opposite party. This allows them to agree with each other on certain votes that if one MP cannot be there the other MP then absents himself from the vote. It is supposed to assist say in the case of foreign trips that makes someone genuinely absent. However, to myself it is an odd arrangement as firstly you are completely trusting the MP from an opposite party and secondly if you are an opposition MP that agrees to absent yourself from a vote then you make it much easier for the Government to maintain a winning position. The SNP do not undertake pairing arrangements.

Another party which sits on the opposition benches near the SNP is the DUP from Northern Ireland. I had a conversation with one of their MPs who told me he sometimes arranges pairing arrangements. When I asked more, he explained he pairs with a Labour MP. So, the DUP, who sit on the opposition benches actually vote that much with the Tories that they pair off with Labour rather than a Government MP. This means that while the DUP get extra money as an official opposition party, they are so aligned with the Government when it comes to voting that they pair off with another opposition party. They really do have their cake and eat it given they also levered £1bn out of the Tories for Northern Ireland too.

East Coast Mainline

The UK Government have finally decided to formally end the franchise with Virgin/Stagecoach on the London-Edinburgh train service. They defend the operator for the fact they “got their sums wrong”. I pointed out in Parliament that this means the Department of Transport officials also got it wrong as they recommended tender award; it means those who missed out on the franchise did so against a consortium who basically submitted false figures and is allowed to walk away and it is further proof that the franchise system is not working properly costing all of us taxpayers more money. Virgin/Stagecoach also get to continue to be involved in the train operations, via the Department for Transport until a new working arrangement is put in place. It is time public sector bids are allowed as it is the only time that service has operated successfully.

These thoughts were first published in the Kilmarnock Standard

A Week in Parliament

Strong and Stable Government?

Amber Rudd's resignation as Home Secretary for incompetence or lying about what she knew (take your pick) once again illustrates the bankruptcy of this Tory Government. In the past year, we have had Michael Fallon the defence secretary resign for inappropriate behaviour; her deputy PM, Damien Green, for lying about what he knew of a police investigation; Priti Patel, International Development Secretary for lying and covering up meetings she had in Israel and Justine Greening quitting as Education Secretary. Meanwhile, still in the cabinet is Chancellor Philip Hammond, who her election team side-lined at the general election, planning to sack him after the election; Greg Clark [who I think is OK] and was briefed against as “deadwood” to be cleared out; Jeremy Hunt with an enhanced brief despite the fact she wanted to move him. The new Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, was previously demoted as May did not rate him and she seems stuck with the hapless Boris Johnson. Then there is David Davis, the Brexit Secretary who keeps threatening to resign. It is no wonder there are continued leaked cabinet rows, and I do not need to put any political slant on the cabinet comings and goings to advise that this does not make for good Government.

Money Laundering and Sanctions Bill

An important Bill went through Westminster, with a transparency amendment accepted. This amendment was to create Public registers of beneficial ownership of companies registered in British Overseas Territories. This is to start to provide transparency on who owns what regards companies. The SNP also supported this with the added bonus we might start to see who owns a lot of the land in Scotland which otherwise is hidden behind these companies registered on the offshore British Territories.

With the SNP supporting this, the Scottish Tory, Luke Graham made the ridiculous intervention that  this proves how the SNP respect the sovereignty of the Westminster Parliament to make legislation as if this was a massive capitulation. It is obvious constitutionally that Westminster has sovereignty over certain matters. It is not what I want, but it is a fact. That is why when they have the power to make inroads on fraud and tax evasion we of course want Westminster to use these powers.

It is also why the SNP moved an amendment to start to clamp down on the Scottish Limited Partnerships and close off a money laundering tax evasion scheme. Sadly, the Scottish Tories voted with their counterparts to narrowly defeat the SNP amendment. If they put their money where their mouths were, then this would be enacted instead of yet another Government consultation on the matter. Mind you, Luke Graham also managed to interrupt this important debate process with a point of order to note that 1st May reflects 311 years since the Act of Union came into force. Further proof that all they are interested in is guerrilla warfare on the SNP rather than the matters in hand.

These thoughts were first published in the Kilmarnock Standard

A Week in Parliament

Windrush Generation

It has correctly been highlighted as a scandal that people who came to the UK legally as British citizens are now being faced with deportation. It is a direct consequence of Teresa May’s stated desire to create a “hostile environment” for illegal immigrants. Of course their zeal is such is that it is always the innocent penalised. This has constituents in Kilmarnock and Loudoun, including a case I brought up in Parliament previously – a Falklands war veteran who was born in South Africa, when they were still part of the Commonwealth, had been refused a passport because he had insufficient documentation. Sufficient documentation to put his life on the line, but not enough for a passport. Says it all really.

As a footnote, the problematic legislation from 2014 was supported by the Labour party except for six rebels. So their fightback is a bit late.

Whose Fight is it?

Bill Grant MP at Scottish questions suggested that more can be achieved in co-operation rather “than picking a fight with one another”. He has a logic there except his inference is that the SNP are picking the fight. The reality is that it is the UK Government who are taking the SNP Government to court to challenge the Continuity Bill. Additionally the UK Government have redrafted legislation that states they will have consent to legislate in certain matters of the Scottish Parliament’s jurisdiction if

  1. The Scottish Parliament gives formal consent

  2. The Scottish Parliament does not debate a consent motion

  3. The Scottish Parliament REFUSES consent.

So yes means yes. Silence means yes. No means yes. It will be interesting to see what self-respecting Scottish MPs and subsequently MSPs are willing to vote for such legislation. It must also be remembered that we are fighting to preserve the powers of the Scottish Parliament as a constitution rather than the SNP Government in the here and now.

Robert Brown

I was saddened to hear the death of Robert Brown, the former councillor for the Crosshouse, Knockentiber and Kilmaurs Ward of Kilmarnock and Loudoun District Council. Along with another councillor, they were the first SNP politicians elected in the district. He was elected in 1977, with a great vote. Unfortunately he lost his seat in 1980, when there was a general swing against the SNP who struggled in the early 1980s. Even then he got 49.2% of the vote share. He was then re-elected in 1984 with a whopping 65% of the vote which really was a measure of the man.

I only met Robert in later years, and he was as enthusiastic as ever. You couldn’t get by his street without being invited in for a chat! Personable, and always ready with cards to give out with Burns quotes he was one of those larger than life characters. My condolences to his family. It was hard work by the likes of Robert all those years ago that was to pave the way for the likes of myself to have any chance of being elected.

These thoughts were first published in the Kilmarnock Standard.