Statement from Martin Docherty-Hughes MP on the Chilcot Report

Amidst the political heat, our thoughts must be with the families of the 179 UK armed services personnel who have perished in this war. Wednesday was an important and sombre day for them.

The Chilcot Report is a catalogue of Government failure and neglect of duty. It is critical of a Prime Minister who led our country into a tragic conflict that has proved devastating for stability in the Middle East. It is clear that those named as responsible must be held accountable for their mistakes and deceptions; what form that will take and what should be done to ensure it comes to fruition requires careful consideration.

The words ‘I will be with you whatever’ will live in infamy, and we now know conclusively that Tony Blair had in his own mind already decided to go to war, long before Parliament was given the opportunity to vote on the matter.

Tony Blair’s lack of commitment to collective decision-making is a critical failure of government, and resulted in a lack of rigorous analysis and challenged thought.

There was an extraordinary lack of political leadership and strategy shown by Tony Blair and the then Cabinet, which led to utter confusion as to which Departments were responsible for post-war planning. He failed the Iraqi people, failed Armed Services personnel and destabilised the Middle East.

It beggars belief that Tony Blair still maintains that he acted in good faith and even more worrying that he has confirmed that he would do exactly the same again. This is certainly not an act of contrition in any real sense.

This report was never meant to provide a legal verdict, but it does quite clearly and with compelling force identify Tony Blair as having obfuscated, pre-determined in favour of war and failed to plan for the long term consequences. Far from being the final word on the Iraq war, the Chilcot Report is the start of a process.

The report extends to 2.6 million words and only after careful analysis will the full implications become clear. My colleagues and I will be going through the report in detail over the coming weeks and months and it will be important to see how the Government and others react during this week’s special debate days. Ultimately our actions will be informed by our constituents and communities and in particular those families of service men and women who lost their lives.

I have received a letter from the Minister of State for the Armed Forces informing me that MOD Welfare Staff are working closely with the families of the 179 service men and women who lost their lives in the conflict. Anyone who needs my assistance getting in touch with the MOD Welfare team should contact my office.

You can watch SNP Westminster Leader Angus Robertson MP’s exchange with the Prime Mininster in the video below:

Statement on the EU Referendum Result

I firmly believe that Scotland and West Dunbartonshire are better off as partners with our European neighbours, and we have voted firmly and clearly to remain in the European Union.
As the Member of the UK Parliament for West Dunbartonshire I want to send a clear message to our community and to local businesses and investors that I am delighted with Scotland’s result which comes from a positive campaign for membership, though I hugely regret that the UK is in the position that it is.

Critically, my position remains that with such a clear pro-EU vote in Scotland in contrast to the UK wide result, our removal from the European Union against our will is democratically unacceptable to our sovereign people; the First Minister has made it clear that all options are now on the table to protect our European Union status, including a second independence referendum.

The Scottish Government will now introduce legislation in the Scottish Parliament to facilitate a second independence referendum, a move which will be welcomed by not only those who voted YES in West Dunbartonshire in 2014, but I believe also by many who voted NO on the promise that it was the only way to protect our EU membership.

I also want to send a particular message to European Union citizens living in West Dunbartonshire, who make a huge contribution to our community; working hard, paying taxes and contributing to our civic and cultural life. You are welcome here. We value the enormous contribution you make to our community and we will fight to make sure that this will not change as a result of this referendum.

The First Minister, with the support of all Parties in the Scottish Parliament, with the exception of the Conservatives, has taken immediate and decisive action to secure Scotland’s relationship with the European Union, including meeting with key European figures in Brussels.

Nicola Sturgeon has been clear; Independence is not the starting point and all options are on the table to protect Scotland’s relationship with the EU. An expert panel with a breadth of expertise and political views will be formed to advise the Government and Parliament on the best way forward to protect Scotland’s interests.

For more details click here

Antimicrobrial Resistance in Animals

The SNP Scottish Government has signed up for the UK Five Year Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy 2013-18, developed in collaboration with public health and veterinary authorities across all UK administrations. The strategy has seven key areas for future action to reduce the selective pressure for resistance from the use of antimicrobials in livestock and companion animals and focuses on both human and animal health. Scottish Government officials participate in a number of working groups and committees established to implement the strategy. For example, the Scottish Government is implementing a plan to eradicate bovine viral diarrhoea that has already halved the prevalence of this disease in Scottish cattle, and thus reduced the need for antibiotics.

I was pleased to note developments in the European Parliament, and that the new proposed frameworks set out additional controls on antibiotics. This includes a ban on the routine preventative use of antibiotics, including those classified as critically important. I am conscious, however, that negotiations on the frameworks are expected to continue until late 2017. I am also aware from the UK Government’s response to questions on this matter in Parliament that they are also supportive of the EU’s action on this issue.

Refugee Crisis – Comment from Martin Docherty

“Sons and Daughters of the Rock and their neighbours throughout the communities of West Dunbartonshire are well known for their generosity. This gesture highlights the difference in the humanitarian approach to this crisis adopted by the people of Scotland in stark contrast to this Westminster Tory Government who would ignore their moral obligation, turning their backs yet again on vulnerable people in desperate need. If your Neighbour’s House is on Fire, you don’t haggle over the price of your garden hose.”

Underground Coal Gasification

The Scottish Government promised to make a decision on underground coal gasification (UCG) before 10 October. On 8 October, the Scottish Government confirmed that a ban will be in place on UCG.

In line with the cautious, evidence-based approach adopted by the Scottish Government, a separate ban on UCG will allow the necessary time for full and careful consideration of the potential impacts of this new technology. Ministers have been clear that fracking and UCG are two separate technologies, subject to different licensing regimes, and hence will be considered separately.

The Scottish Government has appointed Professor Campbell Gemmell, former CEO of SEPA, to lead an independent examination of the issues and evidence surrounding UCG. This will include working closely with communities and stakeholders to understand the issues of most concern to them.

Investigatory Powers Bill

The Investigatory Powers Bill received its second reading in Parliament today (Tuesday 15th March 2016).

 

Whilst the SNP support targeted suspicion based surveillance which is properly authorised and overseen, and we welcome the introduction of some judicial oversight of the authorisation of warrants, we have grave concerns about other aspects of the Bill including collection of Internet connection records and bulk powers.

 

Undoubtedly the law needs a thorough overhaul and the attempt to consolidate a number of statutes in order to have a modern and comprehensive law is to be welcomed.  We recognise that the security services and the police require adequate powers to fight terrorism and serious crime.  However, such powers must always be shown to be necessary, proportionate and in accordance with the law.   In particular, they must not impinge unduly on the right to privacy or the security of private data.   Many of the powers in the Bill do not pass these tests.

 

The Government has failed to strike the right balance and whilst we are prepared to work with all parties constructively to amend the Bill in order to get the balance right, we cannot support the Bill at this time.

 

Many of the powers in the Bill are of questionable legality and in significant respects the powers sought go further than any other government in the west has been prepared to go. The draft bill was given insufficient time for consideration, therefore it is imperative that the Government allows for full scrutiny of the Bill.  In its current form the SNP cannot give this Bill our full support.

 

Today we abstained and said we would work for this Bill to be significantly amended to address our concerns and those of other parliamentarians, civil liberties groups and technology companies. We made it clear that if our concerns are not addressed, we reserve the right to vote against the Bill in the later stages of its passage through Parliament.

Make the Air Fair – (Calls for Ofcom to Implement Mobile Network Cap)

Statement regarding the idea to introduce a 30% cap in Ofcom’s release of the total available mobile phone spectrum in the UK

 

Improving mobile coverage is a high priority for the Scottish Government. We agree that mobile operators need to do more to expand 4G coverage in Scotland. To do so, we are working closely with the industry through our Mobile Action Plan. This aims to improve and increase coverage across Scotland. It includes an infill programme to extend coverage into rural areas not served by commercial rollout. We will announce our proposals for a Mobile Infill Programme by Spring 2017. Furthermore the Scottish Government are working with the UK Government to maximise the impact of the UK Government’s 4G-based Emergency Services Network and the development of a Mobile Infill Project.

 

Regarding the allocation of mobile phone spectrum in the UK, we are seeking a change in the use and allocation of the mobile phone spectrum.  My SNP colleague, Calum Kerr MP, has been leading on this matter in Westminster and recently secured a debate on the release of the 700MHz spectrum band for mobile data in 2020, where he called for a better deal for Scotland. My SNP colleagues and I are sympathetic to the idea of a cap for Ofcom’s release of mobile spectrum and we will be calling for a review of future and existing mobile phone spectrum allocation.