In the political brickbat exchanges the new Scottish Tories have often been referred to as “lobby fodder”. Rather than standing up for Scotland getting concessions from the UK Government as they promised they seem to be there only to help prop it up. This was perfectly illustrated when they voted with their Government on a proposal that saw English schoolkids lose out on free school meals. However, as well as being a matter that does not directly affect their constituents, their votes effectively do not count. Under the English Votes for English Laws (EVEL) process, their votes do not count as Scottish votes get removed in a second count system where they only consider the votes of English MPs. It was also clear that many of them did not realise the pointlessness of voting nor why some of my colleagues were gently mocking them. Proof indeed that lobby fodder is an apt description.
I served on yet another Bill Committee, the Energy Tariffs Bill. This is the legislation to implement a maximum price that people will pay on their energy bills. On this bill committee, I reflected again on the performance of these committees. Even these committees put together to do line by line scrutiny and debate on the new laws being enacted get filled by lobby fodder. Both Labour and the Tories appoint MPs to the committee whose sole job is to sit through the sessions and vote when needed. The Minister responsible for steering the bill through committee has to work really hard answering all queries. The Labour shadow minister also works really hard and apart from that there might be a couple of backbench MPs who have an interest in the subject and engage positively. From an SNP perspective, we only have one or two MPs on such committees. Therefore, to do the job properly we have to work really hard, studying the entire bill, reading briefings and weighing up the pros and cons. I am happy to work hard but it is an eye opener to see other backbenchers just mark time.
The recent nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy raises many concerns. We always have to be cynical when we are told who we should believe and some people recall the false assertions that led to the Iraq war. However, given there has been no credible response from Russia and all western nations believe that Russia was behind the attack then they must have some culpability.
One aspect is clear – we need to get Russian dirty money out the UK. My former colleague, Roger Mullin tried to bring in legislation to end Scottish Limited Partnerships. This is a system that allows companies to be set up with little information in the public domain. They are used for laundering money gained from criminal activities and change is long overdue. The UK Tory Government must act now and I know the SNP will be pushing hard on this. Needless to say, the Tories need to think long and hard from who they receive political donations from.
These thoughts were first published in the Kilmarnock Standard