COMMENT PIECE: EAST FIFE MAIL
I’ve taken the decision, as have many of my colleagues, that I should not travel to Westminster in the immediate future to avoid the risk of spreading coronavirus. I will be reviewing this decision every week in the light of the most recent advice from Public Health Scotland and Public Health England. At the moment I believe the increased risk would outweigh any additional benefit I could deliver to my constituents compared with continuing to work from home.
The UK Government is deliberately removing many of the facilities that allowed MPs to vote and take part in debates without having to travel to Westminster, trying to force over 600 MPs to return to Parliament when it can safely accommodate only a fraction of that number. Their only reason was that they wanted TV pictures to show parliament returning to normal.
Instead the pictures showed a shambolic queue over half a mile long to vote, MPs clearly not complying with social distancing rules and a senior cabinet minister speaking in a debate while obviously in some distress from a viral infection. Thankfully the indications are that this was not coronavirus but next time it might well be.
Staff who work in the house of commons have repeatedly raised concerns that the new arrangements are putting them and their families at risk. There’s even talk of their unions balloting for industrial action.
Like most MPs I was inundated with complaints that the prime minister’s chief adviser was allowed to flaunt his own advice and embark on a 500 mile round trip when he should have been self isolating. Many constituents told deeply personal stories of the sacrifices they have made, and the immense distress they have endured, in order to keep to the rules and help save other people’s lives. The fact that the prime minister has refused to sack his adviser makes it clear that they both think they are above the law.
I am supporting a cross party campaign for an immediate ban on the sale of “riot control” weapons to the USA. There’s overwhelming evidence that after the killing of George Flynn by white police officers, police forces in several parts of America used tear gas, rubber bullets and other weapons, not for self defence or to disperse violent riots, but to attack unarmed and non violent protesters. It's not acceptable for the UK to supply weapons to any country that treats its own citizens in this way.
I was very sad to hear of the passing of one of my most inspirational constituents recently. Jimmy Sinclair was born before the outbreak of World War 1. He served with the Desert Rats during World War 2 and received numerous awards for bravery. He refused to wear them in solidarity with comrades who didn’t live to receive theirs. His recent passing at the ripe old age of 107 brought an end to the extraordinary life of a great character, an absolute gentleman, and one of the most patriotic Scots I’ve ever met. Rest in Peace Jimmy.