POST COLUMN: BETTER SUPPORT FOR OUR ARMED FORCES

Coming from an Armed Forces family – where three generations, including my father, brother and now nephew have served – I recognise the importance of paying tribute to the contribution and sacrifice of our forces personnel past and present.

It’s always a privilege to attend local events as the Member of Parliament for West Dunbartonshire, and I was delighted to be part of this year’s Armed Forces Day parade in Clydebank.

The procession from Three Queens Square to the Town Hall had a great turnout of support from residents, with attendance from veterans who have served in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan.

It’s great to see Armed Forces Day return to West Dunbartonshire after last year’s parade had to be cancelled amidst concerns about a lack of available military personnel to deliver the event. It’s an issue I raised with the UK Defence Secretary last year, who was at pains to assure me about the importance of these local events to the armed forces.

As Scotland’s sole representative on the Commons Defence Select Committee, I meet regularly with service personnel, veterans, military charities and support groups. Whilst the UK government is desperate to give the impression of how much it values our Armed Forces, the reality is that morale amongst service personnel is steadily decreasing and numbers are at their lowest for decades.

A recently published survey of Forces personnel makes worrying reading, with just a third of personnel reporting that they feel valued by the Service and even fewer saying they have confidence in the abilities of leadership to resolve issues.

It’s clear that after years of cuts to the Defence budget by the UK government our Forces personnel are at a low ebb – with significant concerns over issues such as pay, housing and leave entitlement.

It’s for this reason that I have introduced a Bill at Westminster to establish a statutory representative body that can help secure better working conditions for UK service personnel.

The Bill would seek to create a body – similar to Police Federations – that would represent serving personnel as employees, advocate for improvements in pay and conditions, offer support in personal matters, and make representations to the chain of command – although crucially, just like the Police Federation, this would not allow strike action.

Even at this early stage, it’s no surprise to see the Tories oppose my Bill – but if the UK government really does value the wellbeing of Forces personnel then it should take this proposal seriously. I look forward to bringing the Bill back to parliament later this year and will continue to press the UK government on behalf of veterans, service personnel and their families.

This column appeared in the Clydebank Post on Wednesday 4th July 2018.

Posted in News | Leave a comment

PRAISE FOR SCOTTISH SPCA ON VISIT TO DUMBARTON ANIMAL RESCUE & REHOMING CENTRE

Martin Docherty-Hughes MP has praised the work of the Scottish SPCA after a visit to the animal welfare charity’s rehoming centre in Milton, Dumbarton.

The MP for West Dunbartonshire was given a behind the scenes tour of the local animal rescue and rehoming centre by the Scottish SPCA’s Chief Executive Kirsteen Campbell.

Mr Docherty-Hughes says that rescue animals make great companions and has encouraged budding pet owners to consider rehoming one of the many animals being cared for by the SPCA.

During the visit Martin was introduced to a number of rescue pets at the centre, including Baillie the staffordshire bull terrier who is looking for a loving family home.

Martin Docherty-Hughes MP said:

“A huge thanks to the team at the SPCA for a very warm welcome to West Dunbartonshire’s animal rescue and rehoming centre.

“I was pleased to catch-up with the team and discuss a number of important animal welfare issues including the impact of illegal puppy farming. There is clear evidence that irresponsible dog breeding harms animals, so it’s important to do your research first and avoid buying from unreputable sources.

“The rehoming centre in Milton do a fantastic job of caring for hundreds of animals including cats, dogs and exotic pets. Rescue pets make great companions and I’d encourage anyone interested in rehoming to get in touch with the SPCA on 03000 999 999.”

Kirsteen Campbell, SPCA Chief Executive, said:

“We were delighted to welcome Martin Docherty-Hughes MP to our centre here in Dumbarton.

“It’s great to be able to showcase the fabulous work done by the team here at the centre and talk more widely about the Society’s aims from increasing the maximum prison sentence for animal cruelty to tackling the illegal puppy trade.”

Find out more about rehoming pets through the Scottish SPCA here: www.scottishspca.org/rehome/

Posted in News | Leave a comment

RUTH DAVIDSON TOLD TO COME CLEAN OVER TRAIL OF MURKY DONATIONS

SNP MP Martin Docherty-Hughes has set out three key questions that Ruth Davidson must answer over the trail of murky donations leading “straight to her door.”

In a letter to the Scottish Tory leader, the SNP MP urged Ruth Davidson “to be honest with the electorate about who funds her party, and why it chooses to obscure donations.”

Last week, an investigation by BBC Spotlight Northern Ireland reported the practices of Richard Cook, the chairman of the Constitutional Research Council and former vice chairman of the Conservative Party in Scotland.

It revealed that Cook was behind the DUP’s £435,000 donation during the EU referendum, and has “a trail of involvement in illegal activity and foreign money.”

The Ferret website has revealed evidence suggesting that Scottish Unionist Association Trust – which has bankrolled the Scottish Tories to the tune of nearly £320,000 – does not meet the criteria that they are an ‘exempt trust’.

The SNP’s Pete Wishart MP is awaiting a response from the Electoral Commission following his calls for an in-depth investigation into SUAT in relation to its funding of Ruth Davidson’s party.

However, Mr Wishart warned that the scandal surrounding Cook is just ‘the tip of the iceberg’ when it comes to the conduct of the Tory party and its funding.

Martin Docherty-Hughes MP said:

“Ruth Davidson has serious questions to answer over these revelations, as it seems her party has been bankrolled by murky donations.

“She can no longer operate in the shadows and avoid the growing calls for clarity over the trail of dark money leading straight to her door.

“These findings raise some serious concerns, and she must now make clear what checks the Scottish Tory party had in place before accepting such large donations? Is Richard Cook the ultimate source of the donations set out, and is he still a member of the Scottish Tory party? And, whether or not the party still has a policy of accepting donations from the Constitutional Research Council?

“I urge Ms Davidson to be honest with the electorate about who funds her party, and why it has chosen to obscure donations in this way.”

Posted in News | Leave a comment

PIP LIFETIME AWARDS

Both the UK Government’s PIP and ESA process is inherently flawed, and the whole system of disability assessments needs a complete overhaul.

As we saw in response to the DWP Committee’s inquiry on PIP and ESA assessments, people are being put through gruelling and psychologically damaging assessments which are nothing more than tick-box exercises.

The SNP Scottish government has committed to introducing long-term awards for PIP, and has also committed to looking at lifetime awards. It is positive that the UK government has followed the Scottish government’s excellent example and also recently announced they will introduce long-term awards.

Like with other disability benefits, the Tories are forcing disabled people to bear the brunt of the impact of austerity by slowly eroding the value of benefits.

The introduction of PIP to replace DLA has amounted to a cut in the welfare budget, with tighter eligibility criteria for PIP meaning that many claimants who transfer are losing out.

The SNP is committed to creating a social security system based on dignity and respect, and will continue working to do so at both Holyrood and Westminster.

Posted in Campaign Emails, Latest Issues | Leave a comment

UK ARMS EXPORTS TO ISRAEL – EDM 1305

A number of constituents have contacted me about the UK’s arms exports to Israel and Early Day Motion (EDM) 1305.

I share concerns about the recent surge of violence in Gaza and UK arms exports to Israel. The SNP do support a suspension of UK arms sales to Israel unless it can be demonstrated that weapons and components imported from the UK are used solely in accordance with the consolidated criteria. The SNP also holds this position on arms sales to Saudi Arabia where we want to see a suspension of arms in order for an investigation into their use in Yemen. We are clear that international law must be upheld and independent investigations into any breaches must be carried out.

The UK government has approved export licences for millions of pounds worth of arms and arms components to Israel in the past year alone. According to the UK government’s own guidelines, where there is a risk that items are being used for internal repression or in the commission of a serious violation of international humanitarian law, arms exports should be suspended.

The SNP takes any threats against Israel with serious concern and is clear that any violence against the Jewish community must never be tolerated. We remain committed to efforts in finding a two-state solution and sincerely hope that talks to that end can be reconvened in the interests of all those living in the region.

I have now added my name in support of Early Day Motion 1305.

Posted in Campaign Emails, Latest Issues | Leave a comment

IVORY TRADE

The recent increases in poaching are deplorable and are fuelled by the trade in ivory.

The SNP welcomes this Bill and the UK government’s progress on tackling the illegal ivory trade.

The SNP hopes to see the UK government fulfil their manifesto commitment of “a total ban on ivory sales” through this Bill.

The SNP will also push to ensure there will not be routes around the ‘commercial use’ definition and that the Bill remains robust enough to achieve the ban it aims for.

Posted in News | Leave a comment

COMPREHENSIVE ECONOMIC & TRADE AGREEMENT (CETA)

The UK Government is expected to bring forward a motion to ratify the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) on Tuesday 26th June, having postponed an earlier vote scheduled for Monday 18th June.

MPs being side-lined with regards to the CETA process is nothing new and the SNP cannot support this motion given the totally inadequate provision of scrutiny procedures in both the Scottish and UK Parliaments.

Indeed, the UK Trade Secretary had to apologise after going back on a pledge to provide sufficient time for a House of Commons debate on the issue. The UK Government has completely side-lined Scotland’s Parliament and Government despite the impact CETA would have on our economy. Having seemingly torn up the Sewel Convention that UK Government’s do not overrule the Scottish Parliament on devolved matters, the contempt shown towards scrutiny by Theresa May’s Tories is nothing short of a disgrace.

Scotland is a proud trading nation and supporting Scottish business to export and attract direct foreign investment is good for businesses, our economy, and most importantly, the people of Scotland. We have expertise in areas including financial and professional services; life sciences, higher education and research; tourism and hospitality; and the oil and gas as well as renewable energy industries. Our exports are growing faster than anywhere else in the UK and well-crafted trade deals helped underpin global sales of almost £30bn last year.

However, the SNP has concerns with certain provisions in CETA and the UK Government has worryingly gone from providing an absolute assurance that the deal does not endanger public services to merely having confidence that it won’t.

Whilst the CETA text includes protections for specified public services, there are concerns that privatisation may be forced upon governments delivering services not explicitly included. Many of my constituents are worried that companies may be able to sue governments in special tribunals outside the court system if they have been adversely affected by changes in public policy and that the so called “ratchet clause” may prevent governments providing services which they or prior administrations had previously privatised.

Instead of providing appropriate mechanisms through which the Scottish and UK Parliaments could have considered these issues amongst others, the UK Government is playing true to form by railroading this motion through the Commons without adequate scrutiny. That is a disgrace and the SNP will not stand by as the Tories continue their campaign against our institutions.

Of course, this debate takes place in the context of Brexit whereby the UK Government intends to remove Scotland from our largest single export market into which we sold goods and services worth £12.7 billion in 2016. The independent Fraser of Allander estimates 134,000 Scottish jobs are supported by EU trade and that a hard Brexit could cost as many as 80,000 jobs between 2020 and 2030.

The UK Government’s disastrous trade policy presents enormous danger to our economy and, in the face of the unprecedented and simultaneous attack on our institutions, the SNP will continue to stand up for Scotland, our jobs and economy.

Posted in Campaign Emails | Leave a comment

FLAMINGO LAND PLANNING APPLICATION

After taking time to review plans for the proposed Flamingo Land development in Balloch I have decided to oppose the application in principle.

Submit your views to Loch Lomond & The Trossachs planning department by 27th June using the following link: https://tinyurl.com/ybkdvyfo

Watch my video below for more details.

Flamingo Land Planning Application

🎥 WATCH: After taking time to review plans for the proposed Flamingo Land development in Balloch I have decided to oppose the application in principle.✍️ Submit your views to Loch Lomond & The Trossachs planning department by 27th June: https://tinyurl.com/ybkdvyfo

Geplaatst door Martin Docherty-Hughes MP op Donderdag 21 juni 2018

Posted in Campaign Emails, Latest Issues | Leave a comment