I was honoured when new SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn asked me to join the SNP Whips team in addition to my front bench role shadowing the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. My new position means I’ll be at the heart of the day to day and hour by hour decision making as to when we’ll force things to a vote and how we will vote on government legislation and amendments. Ironically it also means my “voting statistics” will take a hit as one of my duties is to act as a “teller” whenever the SNP Group forces a vote on anything (and to announce the result if we win); as a teller it’s my job to help count the votes but by convention the tellers themselves don’t vote.
I had a rare opportunity to announce an SNP victory last week when we led a successful cross party bid against a Tory bill that would have allowed the Home Secretary to deport asylum seekers even when UK and International Law said this was illegal. Labour had not planned to oppose the bill but to their credit they followed the SNP lead and with the support of MPs from at least five other parties the Bill was defeated.
I spoke in favour of an SNP bid to approve an order under Section 30 of the Scottish Devolution Act. This would have given the Scottish Parliament the undisputed right to decide whether to hold a referendum on Independence. As this received over 50% of party votes at last year’s Holyrood election there was no legitimate democratic reason to oppose it. Nobody in the entire debate disagreed with the fact that the people of Scotland have the right to decide our own future. Only 4 out of 59 Scottish MPs opposed the motion (Labour and the Lib Dems abstained) but it was voted down by the English Tory block vote. Despite opposition from the “Better Together” Labour / Tory / Lb Dem coalition there’s no doubt about the direction Scotland is moving. Last weekend we saw the sixth opinion poll in a row showing a clear majority in favour of Independence.
For many of my constituents this Christmas will be the hardest you’ve ever faced. I’ve never known a time when so many people were worrying about being able to afford the basic essentials of life. My Christmas message is not the time to make political comments about why this is happening so I’ll just say that my constituency team have once again worked miracles to help people in desperate need and on your behalf I‘m eternally grateful to them. As a lifelong Christian I firmly believe that the message of Christmas is that good will always triumph over evil and hope will always triumph over despair. Whatever your own beliefs I hope you’ll find time this Christmas to take strength from spending time with the ones you love, and that the new year will bring everything you wish for you and your family.