Column Evening Times


From the Evening Times:

"I’m discovering there’s really no job description for being an MP. Everyone I meet does it a bit differently.

When you’re a newly elected MP, one of the questions people always ask is, “have you made your maiden speech yet?” Of course, once this initial trial of nerves is over, there’s the realm of Parliamentary questions (both written and oral), Adjournment Debates, making speeches and making interventions in other people’s speeches. No matter how many people I ask, I can’t seem to lay my hands on any handy booklets of tips on the intricacies of Parliamentary procedure. So I figure that I’ll just have to learn by absorbing everything that’s going on.

Striking the right balance between Parliamentary activities and constituency work takes good judgement, but of course sometimes Parliament can be used to take up issues raised by constituents or highlight local problems, so the two areas overlap. This week I was eagerly awaiting the answers to my first written questions, which I asked after speaking with a Bearsden resident about his concerns. They related to the possible use of US forces on Scottish soil during the G8 summit, what the chain of command would be and if US troops were to be deployed, why it was deemed that the British security services were not capable of handling the situation themselves.

The way questions work, you can either ask a question for an answer anytime, or you can specify a “named day” when they must be answered by. This usually means you get an answer a bit quicker. So when my “named day” came round last week, I was genuinely quite excited as I checked my post and discovered an envelope from the Home Office. I was intrigued to know whether the parliamentary question process would yield an illuminating answer. Alas, my only answer was that the Home Secretary would answer as soon as possible! Talk about loopholes. So I’m still waiting, and hopeful that this first, disappointing experience of Parliamentary transparency isn’t how it always is. No doubt you can share my journey of discovery on that one through this column…

*****

Politics can at times be frustrating, gruelling, and exhausting. But then there are the other times which reinforce the feeling that politics can be a hugely satisfying experience

This week I had occasion to feel like that, at the opening of Bishopbriggs Post Office. About a year ago, new owners of Safeway, Morrisons, decided to shut all of the Post Offices in their stores. In Bishopbriggs, Morrisons is at the hub of the town centre, with good transport links, so it was an ideal location for the Post Office.

So when Morrisons made this announcement, understandably, local people were extremely upset. Not only was the future of the Post Office in Bishopbriggs under threat, there was concern for the staff employed to work there. Over last summer I worked with local people to collect over 2300 signatures on a petition, and launched a campaign website, to try to convince Morrisons to change their minds. I even went to their Head Office in Yorkshire. There were not for budging, refusing to listen to a large section of their customer base. Not to be put off, I sent the petition to the Post Office, urging them to find an alternative location in the town centre, not in some far flung, difficult-to-get-to place. Fortunately, the Post Office were more receptive, and working alongside local businessman John Dickson, a plan was created to house a Post Office in a new expanded Poppies gift shop and newsagent. Best of all, this is centrally located. After months of hard work by many people, Saturday saw celebrations at the new Post Office, and I was delighted to be asked to cut the ribbon and declare it open. Now people need to make sure they use the new facility to secure its future."


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