Mind how I say the Opposition Party are not traitors? Neither are the UK Government party – if anything, they’re the opposite of traitors. They may talk about how proud they are to be Scots – and they do, at length. They may claim they put their constituents’ interests first and foremost – and they do make such claims. But they are members of a party which is dedicated to the perpetuation of their chosen state. Their state is the United Kingdom. They can never work with the cause of independence, for it represents nothing short of an existential threat to them. Keep this in mind, next time you see some pundit acting surprised that a member of the UK Government’s party voted with the UK Government, even if they are Scottish. “Scottish” doesn’t enter into it. Scotland doesn’t enter into it. It never did.
I’ve had a look through the maiden speeches of all 12 new MPs who, we were told, would vote as a bloc for “Scotland’s interests.
Scottish Tories expected to vote as bloc to protect Scotland’s interests
Sources say leader Ruth Davidson will tell MPs to champion Scotland in Westminster, adding to pressure on Theresa May
…Scottish Tory sources say Davidson will use her authority by asking all 13 MPs, including the Scottish secretary, David Mundell, to “champion the Scottish national interest” both at Westminster and inside the government.That includes fighting for greater Scottish powers and spending on fisheries and agriculture during and after the Brexit negotiations, to reinforce Holyrood’s existing powers in both areas under devolution.She is also expected to ask the UK government to fund the Borderlands initiative, a cross-border economic and infrastructure investment coalition of English and Scottish local authorities which UK ministers had promised to support. The Scottish Tories won all three Borders seats on Thursday.
See if you can square their honeyed words with what happened last night. I would simply love to know how they think they are representing the interests of their constituents by denying their Scottish Parliament the right to even have a fair say in the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.
Andrew C. Bowie (West Aberdeenshire & Kincardine)
It is an incredibly humbling experience to have been elected to this place. I hope that, however long or short my time here may be, I will be able to serve West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine with the same dedication and purpose as my predecessor, Stuart Donaldson, did for two years.
I am fully aware that I walk in august footsteps: Sir Robert Smith held the seat for 18 years; George Kynoch sat here and represented the equivalent seat of Kincardine and Deeside for five years; and, of course, the still much respected and fondly remembered Sir Alick Buchanan-Smith held Kincardine and Deeside and, before that, Angus North and Mearns from 1964 until his death in 1991. That was 27 years, and I am only on day 18.
Members will, I am sure, get fed up of my 12—yes, 12—Scottish Conservative colleagues insisting that their patch of God’s own country is the most beautiful in the entire UK. Although I do, of course, sympathise with them, it is quite clear that the most beautiful, unique, attractive and downright brilliant constituency in the entire country is West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine—from the Cairngorms National Park around Braemar, down through the Dee Valley and Royal Deeside, to Ballater, Aboyne and Banchory, skirting the edge of the granite city itself, taking in Blackburn, Westhill, the subsea capital of Europe, and down to the North sea cost at Portlethen and north Kincardine. There is also the picturesque, pastoral Donside, Corgarff, Strathdon, Alford and Kemnay. Stonehaven and the villages in Howe of the Mearns were made famous, of course, by Lewis Grassic Gibbon in what was the favourite novel of my grandfather, an English teacher, “Sunset Song”.
In the old rhyme,
“the twa peaks you can see frae the sea, Clachnaben and Benahie”,
are both in West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, although I should admit to having to share the latter with my hon. Friend the Member for Gordon (Colin Clark).
What other seat has such history? I could—but I will not, because time will not permit it—tell the gripping tale of how the Honours of Scotland were smuggled out of Dunnottar castle in a creel basket by a minister’s wife, to save them from the clutches of the marauding army of Oliver Cromwell; or of the romantic but ultimately doomed 1715 Jacobite rebellion, which began at Braemar with the raising of the standard of James VIII and III; or of Victoria, Albert, John Brown and how Deeside became Royal Deeside; or of the Monymusk reliquary, thought to be 1,300 years old and which held the bones of St Columba and was carried in front of the victorious Scottish army at Bannockburn. I could tell those tales, but I will not.
It would, of course, be entirely remiss of me to speak today without mentioning how I, in West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, now have the immense honour of representing Balmoral castle. In fact, as Members from Scotland will be aware, the residence in the north-east of Scotland is now represented by a Conservative not only in this place, but in the Scottish Parliament by my friend and colleague Alexander Burnett. With Ruth Davidson herself representing Holyrood palace in Edinburgh, Her Majesty will, I am sure, be delighted to know that she now has three elected Conservative representatives on whom she can call. It is an honour to represent Balmoral, even when, if canvassing, it is an extremely long drive to walk up only to find that the resident is not on the electoral roll.
I have 33 seconds left, so I will canter through the rest of my speech. Today we continue to debate the Queen’s Speech, specifically how it relates to Brexit and foreign affairs. The speech last week stated that a Bill would be introduced to repeal the European Communities Act 1972 and provide certainty for individuals and businesses.
Last Thursday I attended the royal highland show in Ingliston. I met many farmers, including from West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine. In between lamenting how appallingly poor the Scottish National party has been at managing the common agricultural policy system north of the border, they wanted to make one thing abundantly clear. What farmers and all in the agriculture sector require—what they need now more than anything else—is certainty and stability in our country and our economy, and a clear way ahead so that they can plan and grow their businesses, not just for the next five years, but for the next 10, 15 and 20 years.
What the farming sector and, indeed, this country do not need is further uncertainty in the shape of another referendum on Europe or another general election, and they certainly do not need another referendum on Scottish independence. Why not all come together, in the national interest of the United Kingdom, and support the Government this week? That is what my constituents need me to do, and that is what I will do.
Colin Clark (Gordon)
It is an honour to speak for the people of the constituency of Gordon. My constituency was formed in 1983 and has since been loyally represented by two Members. Malcolm Bruce represented Gordon from 1983 until 2015. He was an able and well-admired Member of Parliament, becoming a member of the Privy Council in 2006. He was knighted in 2012 and became a life peer in 2015 as Lord Bruce of Bennachie.
I also pay tribute to my immediate predecessor and former First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond, who was elected to represent Gordon in 2015. He was first elected in Banff and Buchan in 1987, served at both Westminster and Holyrood and was a parliamentarian for 30 years—30 years as a public servant dedicated to his cause. I wish him all the very best.
The traveller through Gordon starts in the hills of the west, first coming to Huntly, the home of the Gordon clan. Heading east, they experience the howes and valleys, taking in the Garioch and Inverurie, on to Ellon and the coast at Newburgh and Balmedie. This is good, productive land on a scale that can compete, dominated by family farms. The constituency takes in large parts of the north of the city of Aberdeen. Expanding rapidly during the boom years, it has shown remarkable resilience. It is industrious and has adapted to lower oil prices, and I look forward to the city region deal linking the city and shire.
Gordon has a diverse and resilient economy driven by locally grown entrepreneurs. It is an area of enterprise and employment, where the number of registered businesses has grown from 4,500 to 5,200 over five years. Having seen downturns in the North sea before, many supply companies have moved their focus to exports outside Europe: exports of personnel with expertise developed in the North sea, technology built and manufactured in the north-east and unique engineering techniques applicable to other industries. Offshore oil and gas is focused on efficiency. It is a long-term investor and needs stability.
The downturn in oil and gas has taught us to promote other industries, such as tourism, which was long neglected. Gordon is rich with castles, stunning and bracing beaches and access to limitless outdoor pursuits. The area is well served by hotels and restaurants and very well served by golf courses, even one owned by the President of the United States. Industry, however, has been hurt by punitive business rates in the north-east. During the oil boom, there was a froth of high rents. Business rates increases of 100% to 200% are not unusual and coincide with a fragile recovery. The business sector recognises that it must contribute, but excessive rates damage employment, investment and sentiment, and we are at risk of displacing jobs. The Scottish Government committed that every penny raised locally would stay local. It was none other than my predecessor, the former First Minister, who made this change to regional finances. I ask that the north-east regional councils get to keep the extra funds raised, allowing councils to mitigate the business rates rises if they so choose.
All three of the north-east constituencies of Scotland are geographically dominated by farming. Farming in Scotland is the bedrock of the food and drink industry, which turns over £14 billion a year. It accounts for 19% of total manufacturing, and supports 360,000 jobs. As that bedrock, agriculture deserves our support to achieve efficient production and a fair share of the high street price.
In the light of today’s debate, I implore the Minister to highlight the plight of health provision in Gordon and the north-east of Scotland to his counterpart in the Scottish Government. Aberdeen Royal Infirmary serves 600,000 people. We depend on its continued expertise; it is of the utmost importance that it preserves its international reputation as a teaching hospital. In the last few years, it has been at risk of playing second fiddle to the hospitals of Glasgow and Edinburgh.
The people of Gordon would ask us to respect the geography—it is three to four hours’ travel time to the central belt—and to look again at the shortage of doctors and nurses in the north-east. Gordon, like so many other areas, has an ageing population, and I would encourage the Minister to bring the debate out into the open on how we best prepare for demands on our services in the future.
Gordon and the whole north-east makes a huge contribution to the Scottish and UK economies, paying for the services we all depend on. It is not an area of privilege, but an area of hard work, an area of new start-ups and reinvention, and an area of enterprise and employment. Gordon is an outward-looking constituency, a confident area and an area of optimism and growth, ready to embrace opportunities, including Brexit. Through the democratic process, Gordon has fiercely defended its place in the United Kingdom.
I would suggest to Opposition Members that this country needs to talk up its opportunities, talk up its position in the world and be positive about the road that lies before us.
David Duguid (Banff & Buchan)
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker—and thanks for pronouncing my name so well!
I congratulate Frank Field on securing this debate and welcome this opportunity to make my maiden speech. It is quite timely, because in just the past couple of weeks I have started engaging with my local Citizens Advice office and jobcentres on this very subject in preparation for the roll-out of universal credit in my Banff and Buchan constituency in March, in much the same way as my right hon. Friend Anna Soubry described earlier.
I am proud and honoured to have been elected by the people of Banff and Buchan to represent them in this place. I totally agree with my hon. Friends who have spoken before me about the beauty of their Scottish constituencies. However, as I am the last Scottish Conservative to deliver my maiden speech, I can now say definitively that Banff and Buchan is indeed the most beautiful.
I wish to take this opportunity to pay tribute to my predecessor, Dr Eilidh Whiteford. Eilidh represented Banff and Buchan in this House for seven years. She worked hard for her constituents, as well as here in Parliament. Earlier this year, she became the first Scottish National party Member of Parliament to have a private Member’s Bill passed into statute. Her Bill enhanced protection for victims of domestic abuse in line with the Istanbul convention. I am sure that the whole House will join me in thanking Eilidh for her contribution and wishing her well in the future.
The election results in June made it clear to me and my colleagues from the north-east of Scotland that the people there do not want another independence referendum. On top of that, regardless of how they voted in the EU referendum—for Members’ information, my constituency did vote to leave the European Union—the electorate in Banff and Buchan made it clear that they wanted the Government to get on and deliver Brexit. I committed to do all I could to support and influence the Government in getting the best possible Brexit deal for Scotland.
Leaving the EU presents great opportunities for the two main industries that define my constituency: fishing and farming. As we leave the EU, we will leave the common fisheries policy and, as we do so, we will regain complete control over access to our fishing waters out to 200 nautical miles or the median between two countries. In Banff and Buchan, we have two of the largest fishing ports in Europe: Peterhead and Fraserburgh. Peterhead is also a major port supplying the North sea oil and gas industry as well as, more recently, offshore wind projects. Seafood processing is a major industry in my constituency, with our produce exported across the UK, Europe and beyond, including to North America and Australia.
The other key industry in my constituency is of course agriculture. I am bound to say that Banff and Buchan has some of the best grazing land available, and that helps to produce some of the best Scotch beef and lamb. Of course, the topic of food and drink in Scotland cannot pass without a mention of Scotch whisky. Although there are relatively few distilleries in Banff and Buchan, much of the best malting barley is grown there.
Many of my constituents and others across the north-east of Scotland are employed, as I was for the previous 25 years, in the oil and gas industry. Workers from across north-east Scotland commute to Aberdeen or work offshore. Many work in related engineering, manufacturing and service businesses located around the north-east, not just in Aberdeen. Many of those businesses were started by local entrepreneurs, are still family owned and have grown into some of the biggest employers in the area. Indeed, some have won UK awards for their focus on the training and development of young people and apprentices.
I find it incredible that a constituency that is home to so many entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized businesses, and that contributes so greatly to the food and drink and energy sectors, has one of slowest average broadband speeds in the country. The average download speed across Banff and Buchan of 6 megabits per second can only be dreamed of by many of my constituents who are struggling to get speeds of 1 or 2 megabits per second, if they get any at all. That lack of connectivity hampers business growth and discourages people from coming to live in the area, so one of my top priorities is to pressure Governments on both sides of the border to work towards delivering an acceptable minimum broadband performance across rural Banff and Buchan, not just in the towns.
We live in an age when more and more of our services are provided online. However, while those online services increasingly become the norm, including when applying for universal credit, many people still do not have adequate access to broadband internet. That is simply unacceptable. A decent broadband service is rapidly becoming essential for every business, school, hospital and household, wherever they may be located.
Another growth opportunity in Banff and Buchan is tourism. Our coast across the north-east of Scotland is like no other on the British Isles. Rugged cliffs are home to a wealth of birdlife, including Scotland’s only mainland gannet colony at Troup Head.
You are all most welcome.
Our shoreline is regularly visited by porpoises and dolphins, and even the occasional humpback or killer whale.
In summary, Banff and Buchan is a great place to live in and to visit. However, the standard of some of our public services, particularly education and health, has taken a bit of a hit in recent years under a SNP Government who are obsessed with pursuing independence at any cost.
Our town centres are much in need of regeneration, with many shops and offices lying empty, particularly in coastal areas. For that reason, I decided to locate my constituency office in the old county town of Banff.
In conclusion, like Opposition Members, I welcome the opportunity to have strong voices—Scottish voices—in this House. With that said, I am especially glad to be one of the 12 additional Scottish Conservative voices on the Government Benches.
Luke Graham (Ochil & South Perthshire)
It is with enthusiasm and humility that I rise to make my maiden speech representing the constituency of Ochil and South Perthshire. My enthusiasm is founded on the opportunity provided by being the first Conservative and Unionist representative for my constituency, and the first Conservative or Unionist to represent Clackmannanshire since 1931. My humility is based on the faith that the constituents of Ochil and South Perthshire have placed in me and my party to deliver progress for them during this Parliament.
I pick up the baton from Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh. I pay tribute to her work on equality and international issues and hope to continue raising awareness of those issues in this Parliament. I would also like to pay tribute to Gordon Banks, the first MP for Ochil and South Perthshire, who worked tirelessly on constituents’ issues and achieved such success that his dedication is still talked about on the doorsteps of Crieff, Alloa and Kinross today.
Ochil and South Perthshire is a large and diverse constituency formed of three distinct communities: South Perthshire, Kinross-shire and Clackmannanshire. It is right to start at Loch Leven in Kinross-shire, with its breathtaking views best observed from the villages of Kinnesswood and Scotlandwell, before moving to Kinross and Milnathort, home of fine local businesses such as Hunters, Unorthodox Roasters and Heaven Scent, as well as Rachel House, Scotland’s first children’s hospice. Furthermore, Kinross-shire plays host to the current Grand National winner, One for Arthur, so you know who to back in a tight race.
South Perthshire is renowned for its agricultural heritage, boasting crops, livestock and a fine, growing collection of distilleries—namely, Glenturret, Tullibardine and Strathearn. However, it is not just farming and whisky; South Perthshire has also provided one Prime Minister and two “Star Wars” actors. I will let Members of the House decide who provided the greater service to the United Kingdom. South Perthshire’s scenery not only wins affections but boasts the Crieff Hydro and the Gleneagles Hotel, providing relaxation and world-class golfing, so colleagues have more than one excuse to visit our constituency. Moreover, with Highland Spring based in Blackford, we can provide not only your whisky but your water too.
As you cross the stunning Ochils, you will reach Clackmannanshire—the wee county with a big heart. Clackmannanshire has a proud industrial past in mining, paper manufacture, mills and breweries. While some industries have now moved on, the Harviestoun Brewery, Diageo and the United OI glass works continue to complement the whisky and water from the north. From the Hillfoots villages to the towns of Alloa and Clackmannan, Clackmannanshire may have earned its name, the “wee county”, from its boundary lines, but it has the landscape, the people and the ambition to show that it is not size but what you do with it that counts.
In such a diverse constituency as Ochil and South Perthshire, connectivity is a key issue. I therefore intend to use my time in this House to improve connectivity for residents, whether it be in the form of rural broadband, mobile phone signal or greater infrastructure investment to better connect our constituency with the rest of the UK. But it is not just roads, rails and wires that my constituency needs; it also requires more social connectivity. We must look to combine inward investment with initiatives to build social capital in areas of deprivation, so that we can in turn improve social mobility.
More and more, our politics seems to be calling on anger and outrage to solve our problems. That is understandable. Anger is an easy emotion, but it masks fear. The rapid changes in 21st-century Britain can make people afraid, but rather than calling for a “day of rage”, I hope to call for “days of courage”. We need courage to face the tests of globalisation and to recognise the opportunities that they provide; courage to face the challenges of identity and nationhood, while recognising the strength of our United Kingdom; and, finally, courage to stand by our political convictions, but to know when it is best to stretch our hands across the aisle to work together for the betterment of our communities.
Clackmannanshire has recently adopted the motto “more than you imagine”. I hope to hold true to that motto, though lofty and perhaps naive, and to work with others in this House so that we can achieve more than we, and certainly the public, have come to expect.
Bill Grant (Ayr, Carrick, & Cumnock)
Thank you very much, Mr Deputy Speaker. I compliment my hon. Friend Eddie Hughes on both his note-free speech and his choice of suit, which I have been admiring like other colleagues.
The Bill deals with ATOL and is relevant to people who choose to travel by air. Like my colleagues, I am minded to welcome and support it for three reasons: it is modernising; it is harmonising; and it provides good consumer protection.
May I begin my maiden speech by saying that I am indeed honoured and humbled to be in this Chamber today, having been elected by the people of Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock? It is a privilege, and I will always remember that they trusted me with their vote. I value that and will do all that I can for the constituency of Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock. May I share with hon. Members part of my life’s journey? It would be terribly boring if I gave them my whole life’s journey, but for the past 10 years I was an elected councillor in South Ayrshire. My ward was in the town of Ayr on the coast. There are many good things about Ayr, but I will touch on two. Ayr racecourse is one of the UK’s premier racecourses. I invite Members to come along and spend their money there—they might even make money that they can invest to make some more. Odds on, they may lose some money. In addition, we have hosted the Scottish international air show for the past three years. For the moment, it is a wonderful event. It is not a threat to Farnborough but, in years to come, one never knows.
My time on the council was preceded by 31 years in Strathclyde fire and rescue service. I served throughout Ayrshire and the central belt, was based in headquarters for 10 years as a member of the technical support team, and finally served as a senior officer covering Argyll and Bute, and the beautiful islands—I would name them, but there are too many. It was a complex and diverse fire service, with Glasgow sadly being remembered as a tinderbox city many years ago, and I was well aware of that. Given my background, it is particularly poignant for me to deliver my maiden speech so close in time to the tragic Grenfell Tower incident, which must surely have been a hell on earth for all concerned. I await with interest the outcome of what must be a thorough and effective public inquiry.
I pay tribute to my predecessor, Corri Wilson, for the good work she undertook in this Chamber and in the constituency during her period in office. I thank her and wish her well for the future. Some further thanks are due to my appointed buddy, Joanna Freeman, who is a tolerant and lovely woman. She guided me—a lost soul as one of the new MPs—through what I describe as the wonders of Westminster. I will also take a wee moment to thank my long-suffering wife, Agnes, our two daughters, Angela and Karen, and our family, who have been helpful in the journey that has brought me to this Chamber. Sandra Osborne, Phil Gallie and George Younger preceded Corri Wilson as MPs for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock. They were all excellent parliamentarians who may be remembered by some in this House.
Let me take Members back to the dark days of the second world war of 1939 to 1945, when the Labour MP for South Ayrshire was Alexander Sloan, better known locally as Sanny Sloan. A former miner and a workers’ champion, he served his community well, but regrettably, like so many miners, he was dogged by ill health and died in 1945, soon after his second victory in an election to this House. The commonality is that we were both born to mining families in the small Ayrshire mining village of Rankinston, albeit we were born some 72 years apart.
There are many proud British institutions, but I shall mention just two: this Parliament and the national health service. One wonders—dare I say it?—what the outcome would be if there were a referendum on which should be closed. I suspect that this Chamber would be empty. I thank the national health service, and Dr Nykerie and his team at the Golden Jubilee hospital in Clydebank near Glasgow, for the successful double bypass surgery that I successfully underwent in 2014. My family and I are eternally grateful to them. However, I must apologise to my constituents in Maybole, a town just south of Ayr. I waited three months for my bypass, but they have waited nearly 30 years for theirs. The town is severed by the A77, which is—excuse the pun—a main artery from the central belt of Scotland to the constituency of my hon. Friend Mr Jack for the important ferry ports at Cairnryan that serve the ferry traffic to and from our neighbours in Ireland. It is an economic driver, so the A77 is an essential link. The punishment of the 30-tonners and 40-tonners taking that journey through the villages needs to be rectified, particularly at Maybole, and I am sure that it will be.
Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock is a rural and coastal community that is, to some extent, the bread basket of Britain, with Ayrshire tatties, bacon and cheese, and Ayrshire cattle, not forgetting the—albeit smaller—fishing communities along our coast from Dunure to Maidens and Girvan, which is still an active port, and to Ballantrae in the southernmost part. The good food and eateries in the constituency are considerably more reasonably priced than those in London; they have wonderful prices. After consuming the lovely food of various eateries, visitors may wish to toast that good food with a fine whisky or a delicately distilled Hendrick’s gin from William Grant & Sons in Girvan. There is no connection. Although I am Bill Grant and they are William Grant, I do not have a distillery. Their product is wonderful. Hendrick’s gin and Grant’s whisky are global.
As an area, we have attracted many famous people. Post-war, President Eisenhower was gifted access to and the use of apartments at the beautiful Culzean castle. More recently, another President—President Trump, although he was known as Donald at the time—secured the Turnberry hotel and golf course. I thank his son Eric for the investment in this world-class facility and for securing its future and the associated employment.
We were home to Sir William Arrol, who resided at Seafield House in Ayr. More recently, that was a children’s hospital, where Dr John McClure MBE was the senior paediatrician for many years. Sir William Arrol was the engineer responsible for building the Forth rail bridge—I nearly said road bridge, but that is not the case—the gantries at Harland and Wolff in Belfast, where the infamous or famous ship, the Titanic, was built; and Tower bridge here in London.
This being an Ayrshire constituency, it would be remiss of me not to mention Scotland’s bard, Robert Burns, who was born at Alloway—the ploughman poet, whose fondness for women is renowned. The women were far more fertile than the fields he ploughed, producing numerous offspring, and I am sure he would have faced immense challenges from the Child Support Agency.
But his passion went far beyond the fairer sex, and he penned many poems and songs, with lines such as
“Ye banks and braes o’ bonnie Doon”.
From its source at Loch Doon, the River Doon gently winds its way past Dalmellington, Waterside, Patna, Polnessan, Dalrymple, Alloway and finally to the Firth of Clyde at the aptly named Doonfoot.
There is also “Afton Water”:
“Flow gently, sweet Afton, among thy green braes”.
The River Afton gently winds its way past New Cumnock, where I shall pause for a moment and mention the local football team, Glenafton Athletic, better known as The Glens, who, during the election campaign, won the Scottish junior cup by beating nearby rivals Auchinleck Talbot. To see New Cumnock bedecked in the team colours of red and white, with virtually every home displaying them, and with the lampposts adorned with bunting, was a credit to the strength and community spirit of New Cumnock, and I commend it for that and for the victory on the football park.
As we move onwards, we come to Cumnock, sometimes referred to as Old Cumnock, which plays host to Emergency One (UK), bespoke builders of fire appliances and emergency vehicles that are used throughout the United Kingdom. I commend them for their good work as they export—yes, I will use the word “export”—from Cumnock in Scotland all over the United Kingdom.
As we move on towards Ochiltree, I will stop for a moment at Dumfries House. May I give immense thanks to His Royal Highness Prince Charles for his involvement and, indeed, vision in not only saving Dumfries House for the nation but securing job opportunities in catering and tourism within and, indeed, beyond the constituency? Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock has a proud past. As the Member of Parliament for that constituency, I will endeavour to do my best to secure a promising future.
Finally, an extract from Robert Burns’s poem “To A Mouse”, which may be reflected on by many parliamentarians from all parties, whether past, present or future. It reads simply:
“The best-laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!”
Kirstene Hair, Angus
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for calling me to speak in this important debate. I am disappointed that time will not allow me to contribute to the debate on the intimidation of general election candidates. Nevertheless, I will contribute fully when the opportunity arises, drawing on my own experiences. I thank Pete Wishart, who is from a neighbouring constituency.
It is a great privilege to be here today, delivering my maiden speech and representing my home constituency of Angus. I pay tribute to my predecessor, Mike Weir, who served the people of Angus very well in his 16 years in the House. He was a prominent campaigner to save the local post offices in the constituency, and in the House he took on the role of Chief Whip for his party. I wish him all the very best in his future endeavours.
It would be remiss of me not to mention also the previous Conservative and Unionist MP for Angus, the late Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, as he was known after being ennobled in 1989. He was not just a great local voice for his area in this House, but had a remarkable legal career.
The diverse constituency of Angus, nestled north of Dundee and south of Aberdeenshire, incorporates the most beautiful, dramatic coastlines to the east and picturesque, tranquil glens to the north-west. The five main towns are Forfar, Kirriemuir, Montrose, Arbroath and Brechin, where I was born, brought up and educated. There are a number of villages and rural communities as well.
Unfortunately, it is the residents and businesses of those remote areas who have suffered most significantly from the lack of mobile and broadband coverage. With the current coverage roll-out being below the national average, it is unsurprising that this issue has emerged at every single constituency surgery I have held to date. I will use my voice here in Westminster to ensure that the Scottish Government deliver connectivity right across Angus, ensuring that residents and businesses are not left behind because of where they choose to reside and operate.
From my agricultural roots, I understand the importance of this industry to Angus and to Scotland. With the area producing 25% of Scottish soft fruit and 30% of the country’s potatoes, agriculture remains a significant contributor to the local economy. Local farmers understand the increasing importance of diversification and Angus is home to many successful projects, ranging from renewables to the first potato-based vodka, Ogilvy vodka, which is distilled locally near the village of Glamis.
Glamis itself incorporates the famous residence of Glamis castle, the childhood home of the late Queen Mother. I recently attended the annual Glamis prom, one of the many excellent events that are held in the grounds of the castle, attracting thousands of people from across Scotland.
Attractions across Angus entice tourists from far and wide, whether it is to visit the many historic houses and gardens, to try their hand at golf on some of the best known courses, or to get involved in a variety of outdoor pursuits. Montrose port will welcome its first cruise ship, which is due to dock next year—a further great boost for our local economy and tourism industry. Nevertheless, I am incredibly aware that there is a power of work to be done to further promote the area, to support the current offering and to ensure that no one slips north into Aberdeenshire without tasting a Forfar bridie en route.
The businesses throughout Angus range from the local to the global. We have engineering and manufacturing, oil and gas, textiles and a highly regarded food and drink offering. A host of global businesses operate across every corner of Angus in key sectors, including pharmaceuticals giant GlaxoSmithKline; the Montrose textile manufacturer Wilkie in Kirriemuir; the marmalade, preserves and curds exporter Mackays in Arbroath; the textile innovator Don & Low in Forfar; and the design and engineering specialists Hydrus in Brechin. They are supported by a strong network of local businesses, which collectively are the lifeblood of our local economy, providing the jobs that Angus so desperately needs. As a Government, we must support them wherever possible, enabling both prosperity and longevity.
Angus has much to be proud of. However, like many places, it has concerns that my constituents have asked me to stand up and represent them on. The rate of unemployment, particularly among the youth, continues to lie above the national average due to several factors. The north-east oil and gas industry, which many residents in Angus rely on heavily, still has positivity, with new oil fields emerging, but the steady decline in recent years has had a large impact on the livelihoods of residents and on businesses throughout Angus. My north-east colleagues and I will work together with the industry wherever possible to support them.
As we face the challenge of Brexit, I am confident that the Scottish farming and fishing communities have the resilience to remain one of the key pillars of our economy. One of the greatest opportunities from Brexit is the chance to build a support system that works for Angus and for all areas of our United Kingdom.
The political landscape in Angus has demonstrated a clear shift in recent years. In the 2014 referendum on independence, we recorded an above average no vote. In the last three elections, there has been a considerable vote swing towards the Scottish Conservative and Unionist party. Those were strong messages to Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP that the time for constitutional trouble-making was over. Make no mistake, I and my Scottish Conservative, Scottish Labour and Scottish Liberal Democratic colleagues are as patriotic as my Scottish National party colleagues. We now need to ask them to remove the threat of uncertainty over Scotland’s economy and Scotland’s people. No ifs, no buts—a second divisive independence referendum should be taken off the table.
I remain optimistic for the future of Angus and the extensive Tay cities deal, which will directly support those who live and work in Angus. The planned £1.8 billion investment will include key programmes specifically for Angus, such as the Hospitalfield future plan; the Dundeecom public-private partnership, which will create a major decommissioning centre in Scotland; and, of course, the ambitious investment corridor from Montrose to the A90 that will enable the delivery of much-needed infrastructure, stimulating major economic growth in north Angus. I look forward to working with the UK Government and all stakeholders to drive forward the Tay cities deal and ensure that it delivers for Angus.
As the Member of Parliament for Angus, my mission is to ensure that I am the strongest of local champions, representing my home turf with the greatest of integrity and never with complacency. As a staunch Unionist, I will continue to fight with every fibre of my being to keep Scotland as part of our wonderful United Kingdom. Quite simply, we are stronger together and weaker apart. I would also like to make it clear that I am here to help all my constituents, no matter how or, indeed, if they voted. I very much look forward to standing up for Angus and for Scotland in this Chamber on many more occasions to come.
Alister Jack, Dumfries & Galloway
Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to speak in the Second Reading debate on this important Bill. I look forward to working with colleagues from across the House to improve the protections available to British holidaymakers.
I congratulate my hon. Friend Neil O’Brien on his excellent maiden speech. I must also express my appreciation for the advice and guidance I have had both from hon. Members and from Officers of the House as I take my first faltering steps in this place.
I must pay tribute to my predecessor, Richard Arkless, who was elected in 2015. Richard did not have long in his role, but he made a positive contribution in those two years and I wish him very well for the future. I also pay tribute to Russell Brown, his predecessor, who served our region with aplomb for 18 years, until 2015. Russell defeated the Conservative candidate in 1997, riding on a Labour tidal wave, if you remember those days. I do: I was standing in Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale, John Major was going out and Tony Blair was coming in. It was a painful experience—this is sort of therapy for me tonight. Poor old Russell came in on the Labour tidal wave, only to go out in an SNP tsunami in 2015. We may not have seen anything so dramatic at the polls in Scotland this time, but the tide is rising for the Scottish Conservatives and long may that continue.
I have the honour to represent the electors of Dumfries and Galloway, which, measuring more than 2,500 square miles, is the sixth largest constituency in the United Kingdom. From Dumfries to Stranraer, it is a combination of rolling farmland, sparkling waters and beautiful hills and forests. It captures not only two and a half counties, but the hearts of those who live there and all who visit.
Historically, Dumfries and Galloway is the birthplace of John Paul Jones, the founding father of the American navy. No President has visited us to thank us for that. There is one at the moment with a golf course in the neighbouring constituency to the north, but we are not holding our breath. It is also the resting place of Scotland’s national bard, Robert Burns—a fertile poet, as my hon. Friend Bill Grant has covered in his excellent maiden speech. I will say no more on that subject. Thanks to Kirkpatrick Macmillan, in 1840 Dumfries and Galloway gave the world the first bicycle, which I see has really caught on in this city.
Today our industry is centred on agriculture, tourism, forestry and food processing. In particular, the tourism and farming industries are the bedrock of the local economy, and are based around the small market towns of Castle Douglas and Newton Stewart. My constituency is host to some of the finest dairy herds in the United Kingdom, some of the most expansive upland sheep farms in Scotland, and of course the world-famous pedigree beef cow that is the Belted Galloway.
Our tourism market is very important to our region, and we look forward to welcoming old friends and new to treasures such as the Scottish national book town of Wigtown, with its excellent festival; the ports at Portpatrick and Kirkcudbright, the latter also famous for its artists; and the rugged scenery of the Galloway coastline and hills.
Our small communities are dependent on fishing, field sports and walking tourism, but they are also dependent on faster and wider broadband to develop home-grown businesses, and that is something I seek to improve in my new role.
I am well aware of my obligation to play my part in sustaining those rural communities, but I must also encourage economic development in the larger towns of Stranraer and Dumfries. I was born in Dumfries so I know well its issues. However, I also want to make a positive impact in Stranraer, which has seen its ferry terminal move five miles north to Cairnryan in recent years. That move has resulted in many fewer visitors to the town, but they are a resilient lot in Stranraer, with a wonderful community spirit, and I intend to support them in their regeneration efforts in every way possible. The biggest win for them would be an upgrade of the A75 Euroroute from Carlisle to Stranraer, something I have been telling Sammy Wilson, my neighbour across the water. I hope that he has taken it on board. That important economic artery has been ignored by Scotland’s Government for far too long.
I would like to take this opportunity to send another message to the Scottish Government. In the 2014 independence referendum, my constituents voted overwhelmingly to remain in the United Kingdom. The leadership of the SNP should respect that decision.
As we prepare to leave the European Union, it is the task of us all in this House, and in all corners of our great country, to ensure that the United Kingdom goes forward economically, socially, and constitutionally, as one nation. To that end, I look forward to working with my neighbours on both sides of the border, to bring forward the borderland growth deal for the economic benefit of the whole of the north of England and the whole of the south of Scotland.
In conclusion, I thank the House for the consideration that it has shown to me this evening. I would add only that I am proud to have been elected to represent Dumfries and Galloway; proud to be one of a baker’s dozen of Scottish Conservatives returned to Westminster; and proud that we have turned the tables and imposed a Conservative Government on the English! [Laughter.]
Stephen Kerr, Stirling
here is much acclaim for my hon. Friend Mr Seely, whom I am delighted to follow. Thank you for calling me to speak, Mr Deputy Speaker.
Friends and family have asked me what it feels like finally to be here, and I simply say, “Surreal,” but in the best possible meaning of the word. I could add “overwhelming”, and that sense is multiplied today as I speak for the first time in the Chamber as the new Member for Stirling. I am acutely aware that so many people have placed in me a sacred trust to do my best to serve all the people of Stirling and to do what is right for my constituents and in the national interest.
I am proud to call Stirling my home. It is situated at the heart of Scotland and its story is long and dramatic. The famed legend of Stirling’s wolf comes from the 9th century, when the Anglo-Saxon defenders of the castle were roused from their sleep by the howling of a wolf, warning them of an impending Viking attack. The wolf is still celebrated to this day.
Stirling remains as steadfast as the rock upon which its castle sits. Last week, I had the privilege of marching with the people of Cambusbarron on the annual march of the gillies, which commemorates the actions of the sma’folk and camp followers at the Battle of Bannockburn, who came over the hill making such a din that they caused the English to flee. We Scots have always had a knack for causing a stooshie. The march now focuses on saving this important historic site from the threat of quarrying.
Stirling constituency is more than the city. It stretches from Drymen and Strathblane in the west to Cowie, Fallin and Plean in the east, and from Killin, Crianlarich and Tyndrum in the north to St Ninians and the Whins of Milton in the south. Through the good offices of our auction houses, Stirling hosts the premier bull sales in Scotland. Dairy, meat production, and some of the best shortbread in the country are all mainstays of my constituency, not to mention the two whisky distilleries making great use of our prodigious rainfall and fertile soils. Our financial services sector and high-tech businesses in the digital economy all make up a diverse, high-value economy that contributes to the success of Stirling and of the Scottish and the UK economies.
I am a graduate of the University of Stirling, which is now in its 50th year and has a reputation in research and teaching that is second to none. Stirling hosts the oldest and the second oldest charitable trusts in Scotland. Spittal’s Trust and Cowane’s Trust are part of the centuries-old tradition of Stirling’s voluntary sector in providing relief for the needy members of the local trades and guilds and their relatives. Social enterprise is alive and well in Stirling, whether through the encouragement given to local food and environmental initiatives such as the Forth Environment Link, the work of Town Break in helping those with dementia, or the work done by the Trossachs Mobility group in ensuring that people with disabilities can access our magnificent landscape from Callander, which is fast becoming Scotland’s outdoor capital.
Today we are debating the travel industry, and Stirling has a unique connection to the things that make up the modern travel industry. Stirling proudly owns Britain’s answer to the Wright brothers. Frank and Harold Barnwell, originally from Lewisham, made their homes in Balfron in 1882. They came from a family in the shipbuilding business, and they were great innovators. They built their first full-size biplane in 1908. Unfortunately, it failed to take flight but, undeterred, they produced a second design at their works, the Grampian Motor and Engineering Company, under the shadow of the Wallace monument in Causewayhead. And then, on Wednesday 28 July 1909, they were responsible for the first powered flight in Scotland when their aircraft flew to an altitude of 13 feet and travelled for 80 yards before a somewhat abrupt crash-landing.
It is down to the great innovators, like Stirling’s own Barnwell brothers, and the pioneering paths they forged in manned, powered flight that today we have the aviation industry we have. Frank and Harold Barnwell represent the great things that Britain has achieved—in this case, two English entrepreneurs who moved their business to Scotland—to create the inventions and businesses that made the modern world.
I say to entrepreneurs and innovators across the globe: Stirling is evidently the place to be—just as I say to all hon. and right hon. Members that when the peoples of Scotland, England and the other nations of the United Kingdom work together, they have achieved and can yet achieve remarkable things that, in turn, make this world a better place.
Stirling’s best days lie ahead. The enthusiastic support of Her Majesty’s Government for the Stirling city deal, so expertly prepared by the officers of Stirling Council, is most welcome, and I will make it my top priority to work with the Secretary of State for Scotland, my right hon. Friend David Mundell, to secure and deliver the Stirling city deal.
This Bill is especially important to the way in which regulation works for innovative companies that have revolutionised the travel industry in the digital space. The new digital district at the heart of the Stirling city deal will encourage the birth, survival and success of many more innovative digital companies.
The pace of technological change in the world today is staggering. We book travel and transport in completely different ways from how we did it only a few years ago. Gone are the days of flicking through teletext to snap up package deals to the sun. The internet revolution has empowered consumers and disruptive new companies to turn old market models inside out, and the provisions of the Bill are very welcome. It is important that consumer protection rights keep up with the pace of technological change. We must shape future measures in a way that adapts to the new market conditions being created by the entrepreneurial skills and talents of our challenger digital businesses, and not stifle creativity by holding on to outdated and outmoded regulation.
I take this opportunity to pay tribute to my predecessor, Steven Paterson. His tenure was short, and I make no apology for that. That said, he was an honourable and worthy opponent whose passion for Stirling and Scotland cannot be doubted. I wish him well for the future.
His predecessor was Dame Anne McGuire. She was Stirling’s Member of Parliament for 18 years, and her public service was especially noteworthy for her tireless work to promote and extend the rights of disabled people. Hers is a wonderful personal legacy, and one in which we should all take pride. I pay tribute to her.
I should also like to make a special mention of my friend Lord Forsyth of Drumlean, the previous Conservative Member for Stirling. His record of service in this House on behalf of the people of Stirling and Scotland, and the United Kingdom, is remarkable. In his maiden speech in 1983, he spoke of the problems facing rural Stirling in the field of telecommunications. That, I am sad to report to the House, remains an issue, although it is now about broadband and mobile telephony, rather than phone connections. I assure the House that digital connectivity is a subject I will keep coming back to.
Public service is often cited as a reason for Members taking seats in this House, and I add myself to their number. A body politic that exists to serve its citizens is one worth aspiring to. I was raised on politics, listening as a small boy as my grandfather held forth on the merits of the then Prime Minister, Harold Wilson. He was not a fan, but his trenchant view was that the Government of the day should govern in the national interest. Henry Campbell-Bannerman, a former Member of Parliament for Stirling and a former Prime Minister, said:
“Good government could never be a substitute for government by the people themselves.”
That is also the perfect encapsulation of my personal political credo. I believe in liberty, in freedom and choice. I enlist to the moral argument for free enterprise and free trade as the most powerful means of lifting people, whole nations and regions out of poverty. I believe in law and order, equality for all before the law and in the good that government can do. I believe that the family, in all its forms, is the basic unit of society; thriving and successful families make for a thriving and successful society, and social policy is always best seen through the filter of what strengthens the family. I believe in fair dealing, competition that advantages consumers and justice in all its realms. I believe in giving power to the people and in respecting local democracy, in the constructive tension of public accountability, and in listening carefully to the voice of the people.
Whether right hon. and hon. Members reflect on those last words in terms of the implementation of a Brexit sanctioned by the people or the results of the referendum in Scotland to confirm its place within the United Kingdom, respect for the voice of the people and following their democratically delivered instruction is now the business of this House. And so it is that we must be ready to implement the will of the British people, and I make it my part to do so.
The British people have spoken and we will leave the European Union. So much of the work of this Parliament is now focused on the job at hand, and much of our work as Members must be focused on working together to get the best deal for our constituents and our country. I believe that, in doing so, we have a duty as parliamentarians to personify civility. We should resist trading in dubious charges, misrepresentations and ugly innuendos. We should demonstrate respect for all people, become good listeners and show concern for the sincere beliefs of others; although we may disagree, we ought not to be disagreeable.
I am here, then, on a mission: a mission to restore civility in politics; a mission to represent and defend the interests of Stirling; and a mission to promote and be an advocate for my home constituency and, above all, to serve the people and national interest of this United Kingdom.
John Lamont – Berwickshire, Roxburgh, & Selkirk
Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for the opportunity to deliver my maiden speech during such an important debate on the future of our country. The challenges ahead of us all are indeed profound.
Representing much of the Scottish borders for 10 years in my previous role as a Member of the Scottish Parliament was a great honour and privilege. Now, as the Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk, I find myself once again humbled by the trust and confidence placed in me by my constituents. I am deeply grateful for their support and promise to work as hard as I possibly can to represent them, regardless of their party politics.
I count myself very lucky to live in and represent one of the most beautiful parts of the United Kingdom—if not the most beautiful. Due to the rural nature of the constituency, it is one of the larger areas represented in this House. With size, comes great diversity: fishing communities like Eyemouth on the Berwickshire coast, paired with distinct and historic towns such as Duns, Coldstream, Hawick, Selkirk, St Boswells, Jedburgh, Newcastleton and Kelso; and then out to the valleys of the remote communities of Ettrick and Yarrow.
My new constituency includes the towns of Galashiels, Melrose, Earlston and Lauder, which I did not have the pleasure of representing in my previous role in the Scottish Parliament. For those who do not know this part of Scotland, all these border towns, and the lands that surround them, are famed for their beauty. Their history runs deep, as is clearly apparent in the centuries-old common ridings and festivals that are held every year in many towns throughout the borders. We also have the glorious home of Sir Walter Scott, Abbotsford house, on the banks of the mighty River Tweed.
Of course, the rural and diverse nature of the constituency provides us with many challenges. I will make it my mission in this place to improve broadband connectivity, thus ensuring that businesses can thrive and compete with the more urban areas of these islands. Similarly, I will make the creation of an environment that allows for job creation a priority. In my view, creating good and well-paid jobs is the best way of lifting people out of poverty. Effective and sustainable transport links—including the extension of the borders railway to Hawick and on to Carlisle—together with better broadband connectivity and improvements to other infrastructure, will be the key to pursuing that aim.
The challenges and opportunities thrown up by Brexit for my constituents—especially export businesses, farmers and fishermen—will be of fundamental importance over the coming years. I will work tirelessly to help to ensure that we come out of the process even stronger and even more together than we are now. Specifically, I look forward to working with the Government on establishing the borderlands growth deal, which will not only secure economic prosperity but deepen ties between communities in southern Scotland and northern England. Our communities may be divided by a border line marked on the map, but we share many of the same challenges, and the borderlands growth deal will give us the opportunity to tackle them together.
Speaking in this great Chamber today, I am struck by the importance of effective parliamentary democracy. Most of all, though, I am reminded of the significant contributions that my predecessors have made to this place. I know that my immediate predecessor, Calum Kerr, worked hard to ensure that the voice of Borderers was heard. We had differing views on big political issues of the day, but he is proud of his border roots and his contributions here were evidence of that. I wish him and his family well for the future. Before him, Michael Moore represented the constituency for 18 years. Such long service and loyalty to the borders will not be forgotten any time soon. His time as Secretary of State for Scotland at such a crucial time in our Union’s history, and his successful private Member’s Bill on the international aid target, show that his influence was not confined to the borders. I pay tribute to him, too.
As I mentioned, the borders is steeped in history and tradition. The foremost examples of this are our common ridings and festivals, which are currently getting under way throughout the borders. All the towns have their own distinct form of celebration and commemoration. However, one things remains constant: all are a celebration of identity and pride, and all allow those who gather a chance to reflect on those who have gone before them. Although a celebration of individuality, the events that take place in each town tie the people of the borderlands together in a show of pride and commonality.
In Selkirk’s common riding, which took place last week, the focus, as at many of these events, is on the battle of Flodden in 1513, when 80 people from Selkirk—known as Souters—went to fight for King James IV against the English. The King was killed in battle, becoming the last monarch from these isles to die in battle, and only one Souter returned. That reminds us that for centuries, whether at war with each other or side by side in war, the nations of our great country have always been intertwined, and our deep, lasting ties are impossible to disentangle.
Our common ridings and festivals, which display such pride in one’s identity yet symbolise an overarching feeling of unity, are striking. Pair that with the rich history that all the nations of our Union share, and it is clear to me that we have much more in common than not—that we are, together, worth more than apart. Perhaps that is clearer now than it has ever been in recent times. Such values are what we all must fight for. I look forward to playing my part as the Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk. Once again, Mr Deputy Speaker, I would like to convey my sincere gratitude to you for allowing me to speak today, and to my constituents for electing me to this place. I hope to do my best in this Parliament for the borders, for Scotland, and for all of our United Kingdom.
Paul Masterton, East Renfrewshire
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to speak in this debate. It is a pleasure to follow Laura Smith in her powerful maiden speech.
With a three-year-old and a one-year-old at home, the thought of enduring a plane ride to sunnier climes on a family trip is somewhat terrifying, so I suspect it may be a little while before I will be in a position to benefit from the additional protections this Bill looks to bring into force. Nevertheless, I welcome its Second Reading.
It is an honour and a privilege to be standing here as the Member for East Renfrewshire, but I must confess that I committed the ultimate sin as a successful candidate at the count: I forgot to thank my wife, who was standing a mere six feet away. So if I could indulge myself for a moment, I would like to put on record for ever more my thanks and love to my wife, Heather, and our two children, Daisy and Charlie.
I would also like to start by paying tribute to my predecessor, Kirsten Oswald. Kirsten was a diligent and conscientious MP who did superb work as her party’s spokesperson for veterans. She achieved a great deal in her short time in this place with much patience and charm, and I wish her and her beautiful family well for the future.
I would like to give special mention to the last Conservative Member for the seat, Allan Stewart, who sadly passed away in December. I know how much it would have meant to Allan to have seen East Ren turn blue again, and he and his wife Susie were in all our thoughts on election night.
Madam Deputy Speaker, despite what other new Members may have led you to believe, it is of course East Renfrewshire that is the most beautiful constituency in the land. It is a beauty found not only in its famous green spaces but in its people. East Renfrewshire is home to Scotland’s largest Jewish community. It has a significant Muslim community, a growing Sikh community, and a strong Christian community. It is home to people of all faiths and none—but the key thing is that none of that matters. The constituency is a fine example of everything a modern, open, multicultural and tolerant Britain should be. Testament to that rich diversity and community cohesion is the fact that the constituency will soon be home to the world’s first-ever joint Catholic-Jewish school in Newton Mearns.
Throughout East Renfrewshire flows an entrepreneurial spirit. From Stamperland to Eaglesham, Busby to Clarkston, home businesses are thriving. Family businesses like Valentini’s ice cream parlour in Giffnock and McLaren’s plant nurseries in Uplawmoor sit at the heart of their local communities. From small enterprises like Optimal Physio in Newton Mearns, or the Enchanted Forest children’s nursery in Thornliebank, through to household names like—appropriately for this debate—Barrhead Travel and Linn Products, ambition, aspiration, innovation and a desire to build a better future for those who follow are proud values that underpin the people I am privileged to represent.
Today’s entrepreneurs are following in a grand local tradition. In 1868, John Shanks opened a foundry in Barrhead to make brassware. In the decades that followed, he developed the bath and lavatory fittings for which his name is famous. Barrhead’s history stretches back much further, however, with the Arthurlie Cross, a stone sculpture dating back to the 9th century, rumoured to mark the grave of Arthur, King of Britons. Nearby Neilston was famed for its cotton, the industrial revolution of the 1800s seeing textile mills dominate the area, powered by the stunning Levern Water. The thread spun at Crofthead mill reached the summit of Everest, being used in the boots of the climbers on the famous British expedition in 1975. Thornliebank printworks, established by the Crum family in 1778, was one of the first smoke-free factories in the world. It has since been replaced by a business park, including a unit inhabited by two Members of the Scottish Parliament, and now myself—so I suspect there is far more hot air emanating from the site now than there was 250 years ago.
East Renfrewshire’s natural history is equally prevalent. The outskirts of the constituency provide a stunning landscape punctuated with lochs, hills, moors, woodlands and dams, and the community are rightly protective of it. It is little wonder that the constituency boasts the UK Park of the Year in Rouken Glen, and, according to the Royal Mail, the most desirable location to live in the UK, with three other spots in the top 10.
East Renfrewshire’s more recent history brings me back to this place via two Prime Ministers. Gordon Brown was born in a maternity home in Giffnock, now the site of the Orchard Park hotel; and the former Member for the constituency, the redoubtable Betty Harvie Anderson—the first lady to sit in the Speaker’s chair as Deputy Speaker—shared her first parliamentary office following her election in 1959 with none other than the then new Member for Finchley, Margaret Thatcher. So for those new Members who believe that history repeats itself, I am open to offers.
While the results of this election may not have been what those on these Benches hoped in their entirety, north of the border the picture was a little brighter. Much like indyref2, the panda jokes are dead, and I am proud to stand alongside 11 fellow Scottish Conservative faces. Together, we will continue to fight against the destructive politics of socialism and the divisive politics of nationalism. But we shall do so with an outstretched hand, not a clenched fist, because when the UK Government and the Scottish Government do come together in common cause, that partnership is capable of truly transformational change. East Renfrewshire will receive around £44 million of investment through the Glasgow region city deal for projects as diverse as a business incubation hub in Newton Mearns to a wakeboarding centre at the Dams to Darnley country park. I am not sure, Madam Deputy Speaker, if wakeboarding is high on your agenda, but I will extend an invite none the less.
The people of East Ren are renowned for their love of democracy—turnout is always among the highest in the UK—but after seven trips to the polls in just over three years my constituents need stability and for their politicians to get on and do the jobs they were elected to do. It is the Scottish Government’s inability to do just that which is one of the reasons I am here today. For my part, I will first and foremost dedicate myself to improving the lives of my constituents and assisting them when life deals them a difficult hand or they just need someone to listen. East Renfrewshire’s leafy reputation hides real pockets of severe deprivation and daily struggle, with people who feel left behind and forgotten. It is those people who look to this place and to each of us to demonstrate the good that Government can do, and we must not let them down.
The Conservative party must remember what it is for: extending the ladder of social mobility while providing a robust safety net for those who make the climb. This Government must remember that just as we on these Benches believe that anyone from any background can reach as far and high as their talents and efforts will take them, so too must we acknowledge anyone can fall on hard times. One of the giants of Scottish Conservatism, Teddy Taylor, coined the phrase “tenement Tories”. It meant something very simple—that Conservatism must offer an aspirational vision to all. I am here to represent the people who, as he put it, “don’t all live in big hooses”.
The 2015 general election was the point at which the Scottish National party was at its peak—dominant and arrogant. It claimed ownership of my flag and of my voice, but it did not speak for me and it did not own Scotland. And so, the day after that election, I joined the Scottish Conservative and Unionist party. In doing so I made a promise to myself that I would do everything in my power to ensure that my children grew up in a Scotland where their opportunities are unconstrained and their ambition never frowned upon; where their talents and potential would not go unfulfilled; where they are never made to feel ashamed of who they are or how they vote; and, yes, where they remain part of our wonderful United Kingdom. Standing here today may be only the first step towards me keeping that promise to myself, to my children and to families and individuals right across East Renfrewshire and Scotland, but let me assure this House that it is a promise I have absolutely no intention of breaking.
Douglas Ross, Moray
It is a pleasure to follow Stewart Hosie. Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for the opportunity to deliver my maiden speech in this important debate. I particularly welcome the further action to be taken against tax evasion and avoidance that is outlined in the Bill.
Being elected as Member of Parliament for Moray comes second only to marrying my wonderful wife Krystle as the proudest moment of my life. For the son of a farm worker and a school cook to be elected to serve his home area as Member of Parliament is a huge honour and privilege, and one that I will never take for granted. I was born in Moray and educated in Moray, and I have also been a farm worker there. I served for 10 years on Moray Council as councillor for Fochabers Lhanbryde, before representing Moray as part of the wider region as a Member of the Scottish Parliament following the 2016 Scottish election.
Everything I have done, and everything I do, is focused on this wonderful part of the country that I am proud to call home. Of course, others before me have also had that privilege. Alex Pollock was the last Conservative MP elected for Moray in 1983—the year in which I was born. Alex was a hard-working local MP. I still regularly see him in Forres, where he lives with his wife, Verena, and where I have my constituency office.
Margaret Ewing will be remembered by many in this House as a member of the nationalist Ewing dynasty but, locally, she was more fondly remembered for the caring way in which she fought for all her constituents. Even 11 years on from her sad death, she is still very fondly remembered.
My immediate predecessor and I held widely different views on a number of policy areas, none more so than on the future of Scotland. I supported Scotland remaining a strong part of the United Kingdom while Angus Robertson proposed separation and an independent nation. As MP for 16 years, he built up a formidable reputation as a consummate politician who transformed his party and played a significant role in the constitutional debate that we held in Scotland three years ago. Angus was a conscientious constituency MP, supported by a fantastic local office, but as leader of the third biggest party in this Chamber between 2015 and 2017, he played an integral role in national politics as well. Even though he is no longer in this House, I know that his service to Moray, to Scotland and to UK politics will not be forgotten.
It will not surprise hon. and right hon. Members in this Chamber to hear me describe Moray as the most beautiful part of the country—[Interruption.] No ifs, no buts; it is! It rises from Tomintoul on the southern edge of the Cairngorms national park to the shores of the Moray Firth in the north, where dolphins and seals are regular visitors. From Brodie as the entrance from the west to Keith as we leave in the east, we pass through some of the most stunningly beautiful and productive landscapes imaginable.
Forres has been a royal burgh since 1140, making it one of Scotland’s oldest towns. Grant Park—gifted by Sir Alexander Grant, the founder of the digestive biscuit—is a focal point of many visits. The gardens in the park are carefully tended by the fantastic volunteers of Forres in Bloom, and they have rightly received many UK and Scottish accolades for their outstanding displays every year. The natural amphitheatre of Grant Park makes it a fantastic venue for major events such as the European pipe band championships. Where else could we witness not only the very best bagpiping, but the local MP failing miserably in the world tattie scone baking championships?
Along the coast, many traditional communities remain vibrant and thriving. Lossiemouth is a bustling coastal town with outstanding beaches, making it a popular destination for holidaymakers and residents alike.
Returning inland to the largest settlement in Moray, the cathedral city of Elgin continues to grow. New homes and business start-ups are common, confirming the desire of many people to live and work in this part of Scotland. Crossing the border into Banffshire, Buckie is proud of its seafaring past and optimistic about its future. Yesterday’s announcement of the contract for difference award for Moray’s largest proposed offshore windfarm means that Buckie harbour has a real opportunity to support this major investment. Events such as the Buckie Christmas Kracker and the Portgordon fireworks display are just two gatherings held on this coastline that bring local people together every year. They are only possible thanks to the effort and dedication of so many volunteers.
Keith is the last of the main settlements. Mid Street hosts a whole range of shops for even the most discerning customer, as well as its own kilt school. If Members travel around the area just now, they will see the imaginative ways in which members of Keith Young Farmers Club have displayed and designed their silage bales to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the club’s formation. They have transformed the mundane winter animal feed wrapped in plastic into works of art.
Speyside completes this tour of the constituency. Although the area may be more sparsely populated than the rest of Moray, it more than makes up for it with community engagement and co-operation. For example, there is the annual tea in the park event. Throughout August, Glenlivet Hall is a hive of activity as volunteers cook, bake, serve and wash up for customers who come from far and wide.
During the month of August, and the months of planning before then, volunteers work together to ensure that tea in the park goes from strength to strength. Next year, they will celebrate their 15th anniversary. If anyone is unlucky enough to visit on the day when I don my pinny to help out, I can only apologise for my very limited waiting skills.
Although many people visit Moray for its beauty, they leave with its bounty. Moray is home to world-renowned companies such as Walkers Shortbread, Baxters Food Group and Johnstons of Elgin woollen mill, to name just a few. And, of course, we have a little whisky. We produce more of this iconic Scottish drink than any other part of the country. There are 47 Scotch whisky distilleries in Moray out of a total of 199 across the country. That means that nearly 40% of Scotch whisky distilleries are in the Moray constituency.
Everyone will have their favourite tipple from a Moray distillery, but the one that I am particularly interested in currently sits in warehouse No. 1 at Glenfarclas distillery. The cask that sits in that warehouse was filled in 1994 by my right hon. and learned Friend Mr Clarke, who was Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time. As he sealed the barrel, he stated that it could only be opened and the whisky bottled when Moray once again elected a Conservative Member of Parliament. I know that good things come to those who wait, but I was relieved that the people of Moray decided that, by 2017, the whisky had matured long enough. I certainly hope that the Father of the House will join me in sharing a dram of this 23-year-old from the cask when it is opened in the very near future.
As well as places and produce, Moray is proud of its people, including inspirational individuals such as Lucy Lintott. When doctors diagnosed Lucy with motor neurone disease at the age of just 19, she took the decision not to dwell on her diagnosis, but to embrace life. Anyone who watched her recent documentary could not fail to be impressed by her courage, infectious laughter and zest for life.
Others who have contributed heavily to the area are the men and women of our armed forces. Moray’s proud tradition of supporting military personnel continues today with the 39 Engineer Regiment at Kinloss and the RAF base at Lossiemouth. The future looks bright as we prepare for the arrival of the new Poseidon P-8 aircraft, which could be delivered only due to investment by the UK Government to support the United Kingdom’s armed forces.
In the time that remains, I want to focus on some of the key issues that I will tackle as Moray’s MP. The first is a theme that has been addressed in several maiden speeches and, indeed, by many Members across the House: broadband. Although some parts of Moray are well served with connections and speeds, too many are not. It is of no comfort to those who tell me that their broadband speeds are little better than the old dial-up connections to hear that 94% of Moray premises have access to fibre broadband. If the costs are prohibitive or people are part of the 6% who cannot even access it if they want to, people are right to demand better.
Secondly, I will use my time in this House and my position on these Government Benches to promote the Moray growth deal at every opportunity. The ambitious projects that are being formulated are designed to transform our economy, to address concerns around encouraging young people to live, work and remain in the area, and to tackle gender inequality in employment. To ensure that the Moray growth deal truly delivers what local people want and expect, the council is encouraging individuals and communities to respond to its survey to shape the growth deal. The project is titled “My Moray” but, with the influence of and input from local people, we can ensure the final outcome is “Our Moray”—a vision that delivers for everyone and every part of this great constituency.
The issue of delivery charges has been raised with me since day one in this post and I promised to highlight it in my maiden speech. I live in Moray, and I know that it is part of mainland United Kingdom. It is just unfortunate that many businesses and delivery firms are not quite as observant. They believe that we live on some far-flung island because we have an AB or an IV postcode. They duly add extortionate delivery charges or, in some cases, refuse to deliver at all. That is not only dumb; it is disrespectful. It is not just an inconvenience; it is inexcusable. It is not right; it is just plain wrong. There is a solution, but it needs companies and delivery firms to work together. In that way, Moray customers can feel as valued as any others in the UK. It is a simple request, but one that would make a big difference in our area.
My hobby is football refereeing, and I imagine that the full-time whistle is about to be blown on my maiden speech. When I came to this House, some suggested that my involvement in our great game, trying to manage two opposing sides performing on a green surface, might qualify me to consider a role in the Speaker’s Chair. I confirm that I have no such desire. Twenty-two unruly individuals are more than enough for me to try and control—I cannot imagine what 650 must be like. However, I have found that when I am struggling with 22, flashing a red card and reducing the numbers can help somewhat, so if the Procedure Committee were interested in evolving a red and yellow card system for the Chamber, I would be more than happy to provide the necessary tools.
This Chamber and those of us who make up the United Kingdom Parliament are often held in low regard by the public who send us here. They see politics as distant from them because of the partisan point scoring that emanates across these Benches or between the various Parliaments around this country. As a proud Scot, I welcome the fact that I have two Parliaments—one in Edinburgh and one in London. We will find a lot more favour with our constituents if we spend our time working together where there are common goals, rather than seeking division where there may be none.
To paraphrase John F. Kennedy, let us not seek the Conservative answer or the Labour answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past; let us accept our own responsibility for the future. If we do that, we may begin to restore the reputation of this Parliament and those of us who serve our constituents from here. This is the philosophy I will adopt during my time in this House.
Ross Thomson, Aberdeen South
I am delighted to follow Maria Eagle and thank her for her contribution. I have had the great privilege of representing the city of Aberdeen, its communities and its people over the past five years—first as a councillor and then as a Member of the Scottish Parliament for the North East Region. I am truly humbled and honoured that the people of Aberdeen South have placed their trust, faith and confidence in me to represent them in this very special place.
I give an unwavering commitment to my constituents that no matter which party they voted for, if they voted at all, I will work hard and tirelessly for all of them to make Aberdeen’s voice heard. In 2014, the people of Aberdeen South voted overwhelmingly to stay within the UK, and at this election they have sent the clearest possible message that they do not want a second independence referendum. Although the First Minister may have paused her plans, she failed to take them off the table. The people in my constituency want the divisions in our country to be healed, not exacerbated, which is why Scotland’s First Minister must get back to her day job of improving our schools and hospitals and supporting our economy to grow.
I would like to thank my predecessors for their contributions to this place. For the past two years, Callum McCaig represented Aberdeen South with enthusiasm and energy. I first met Callum when we were elected to Aberdeen City Council. At that time, his friendly, helpful advice was greatly appreciated. He is extraordinarily capable and I have no doubt he will continue to contribute to Scottish public life. I genuinely wish him all the best for his future. It would be remiss of me if I did not pay tribute to Dame Anne Begg, who represented the constituency for 18 years with dignity and compassion. Her tireless and passionate advocacy for the rights of disabled people helped improve the quality of life of many people across our country.
Aberdeen is a global city with a global reputation, known the world over as the oil capital of Europe, and as a centre of excellence for innovation and technology. Aberdeen has long made an impressive contribution to the prosperity of the UK and it is the engine room of Scotland’s economy. However, there is far more to Aberdeen than just oil and gas. It is the silver city with the golden sands. Its beauty is unparalleled when its wonderfully sculpted granite buildings sparkle in the sun—when we get to see the sun, that is.
Aberdeen is a vibrant city that is also alive with culture, music and the arts. My constituency takes in the west end communities such as Queen’s Cross, Harlaw, Ashley, Mannofield and Ferryhill. It incorporates the tightly knit communities of Craigiebuckler, Seafield, Airyhall and Braeside. The constituency stretches further westward, following the mighty River Dee to take in the villages of Cults, Bieldside and Milltimber and right on to Peterculter. In the south, it includes Garthdee and Kincorth and goes along to the coastal settlement of Cove. In the former royal borough of Torry, the iconic Girdleness lighthouse, built in 1813, stands tall.
Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to speak in the debate. I want to thank my constituents for electing me to this place and I look forward to being a strong voice for them here. I want to conclude with the city of Aberdeen’s toast: “Happy to meet, sorry to part, happy to meet again—Bon Accord!”
Common themes can be discerned among all the maiden speeches: plenty of references to the beauty of their constituencies, the productivity of their industries, and where applicable, their generous contributions to the United Kingdom’s swollen coffers. The impression is less that of democratically elected representatives, than of feudal nobles scrambling over one another before their beloved overlord, desperately pleading for patronage. “Sire, you must visit my humble realm, where you can make off with all the sparkling water and winsome whisky you desire!” “Nay, your majesty, you must visit my shire, for it bears your summer castle, and the pleasure palace of a faraway king!” “Please, your omnipotence, come to my lands, which has always been loyal to you even after your dynasty’s plunder and devastation of its people!”
So they ride roughshod over the clear democratic mandate of the Scottish People. First, they refused to respect the 2014 referendum result by delivering the promises they so solemnly pledged – and generally speaking, I would think it’s the winners who need to be held to account on such things, don’t you? Then, they refused to acknowledge the elected representatives of Scotland in 2015 and 2016. Most unforgivably, they refused to acknowledge the democratic expression of the Scottish people as an “equal partner” in the 2015 EU Membership Referendum. And now, we see them overturning the democratic wish of the Scottish People in the 1997 Devolution Referendum, by denying that Parliament a say in a matter of supreme importance to Scotland.
We shouldn’t have expected anything more, despite the mythmaking of the Scottish media. And yet, there’s a cruel irony here. These MPs were all elected on one ticket, and one ticket alone – stop the SNP, & indyref2. They failed to stop the SNP, which remain the largest proportion of Scottish MPs. And here’s the thing – they won’t be able to stop indyref2. Even if you go by the logic that the UK Parliament can stop it any time they liked, why on earth would they even need Scottish MPs to do so? They could do that, if they were so inclined, even if every seat in Scotland was held by the SNP.
Failing to stop indyref2 will be just another broken Tory promise.