New information revealed in an FOI request has shown that Tory MP for Stirling has failed to meet with key UK government ministers about Brexit since June last year – leaving Stirling voiceless at Westminster as we head closer to the looming disaster of Brexit.
By former MP for Stirling, Steven Paterson
The UK’s media establishment was positively gushing with praise for the UK Government’s victorious Brexit Ministers at the beginning of the week, as Brexit Secretary of State David Davies and the EU27’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier shook hands on a draft transition deal in Brussels.
If one had been inclined to believe the near-universal media hype on Monday, critics like me should have been not only silenced but confounded that, out of the blue, we were suddenly well on the way to the bespoke deal the Brexiters always claimed we’d get. However, predictably enough, once the fanfare had passed and we could have a closer look at the draft agreement that had been signed off and now apparently confirmed, it turns out that the transition deal is not the resounding Tory victory it first appeared.
The most glaring omission, of course, was of any agreement on border arrangements on the island of Ireland. Although the EU27 had previously insisted that no further progress could be made on negotiations until the issue of the future of the Irish border had been resolved, in the event they allowed a fairly modest concession by Mr Davies and his team on this issue to be progress enough for now.
By Steven Paterson, former MP for Stirling
This week, we should finally get some actual answers on what the Brexit experiment actually means. Prime Minister Theresa May will attend the EU summit, and the crucial phase two of negotiations will be completed, one way or another.
A public which must be completely bored with all things Brexit is going to have to brace itself for yet more torture, but we’re probably on the verge of this becoming real. No longer will we have endless assertions from government ministers of how all this will work and make things inestimably better for us all; instead we’ll face the reality that UK government ministers have been talking through holes in their heads for eighteen months, and that the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has no god given entitlement to be treated as anything special.
Stirling SNP Councillor Susan McGill has raised concerns regarding a recent question put to the Home Office by Stirling Tory MP Stephen Kerr on the number of Christians granted refuge in the UK from war-torn Syria and Iraq.
By Steven Paterson former Stirling MP
In a written statement issued by the Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley this week, the first instalment of the billion pound bung of our money to be allocated to Northern Ireland was dished out.
No less than £410 million has been paid from UK Treasury coffers, explicitly part of the confidence and supply arrangement that ensures that the Tory Government remains afloat thanks to paying off the DUP. Although ostensibly this is direct rule from Westminster over devolved issues in Northern Ireland, in reality, the DUP is in complete control of this process thanks to the present arithmetic in the House of Commons.
Meanwhile, the UK Government is seeking to assume direct rule over one of the other devolved legislatures: Holyrood. Although altogether different in scale, at least for the moment, the attack on Scotland’s devolved parliament resulting from the Brexit vote could have far-reaching and unwelcome implications for the future. In short, if this power grab is allowed to proceed and a precedent is set, this could be merely the thin end of the wedge leading to the aggressive reassertion of London supremacy over hitherto devolved competences.
This is why the Scottish Government is entirely correct to fight this Westminster power grab all the way. Since 1999, the principle of consent has been adhered to when it comes to Westminster legislating on devolved areas and agreement with the Scottish Parliament has been required whenever legislation is being considered at Westminster that has crossed into a devolved area.
SNP MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South Mhairi Black called out the Prime Minister for constantly defending the broken Universal Credit system – citing calls from Stirling Tory Councillors for Stirling Council to commit £600 million over the next three years to mitigate against the impact it is having on vulnerable people.
Comment by Steven Paterson, former MP for Stirling
Late on Tuesday evening, news began to leak out that a letter signed by no fewer than 62 of the most zealous hard Brexit-fanatic Tory MPs – including Stirling’s redoubtable champion Tory MP Stephen Kerr – had been sent to the Prime Minister.
I mean “leaked” in the loosest of terms, of course. Virtually every newspaper in the land had stumbled upon a copy of it somehow, so this hadn’t been accidentally dropped out someone’s briefcase. It had been deliberately placed with various media outlets and timed to crank up the pressure on tortured Prime Minister Theresa May ahead of the meeting of important Cabinet ministers at the Prime Minister’s official retreat Chequers on Thursday. (Predictably, this “War Cabinet” of important ministers meeting at Chequers did not include the Secretary of State for Scotland, but did include the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland – strange who is deemed important these days eh?)
I must admit to having been a wee bit surprised when news outlets began previewing this week’s visit to Belfast by Prime Minister Theresa May, and reporting hopeful noises about the prospects of the successful resolution of the current stalemate over power-sharing arrangements at Stormont.
By Steven Paterson, Former Stirling MP
It’s official: Scotland’s voice is finally being heard in the remotest corridors of power!
The BBC has finally presented the UK map in correct proportions ….but it is all a matter of perspective.
Yes, after a thirteen-year wait, the BBC’s Weather Forecast Department has finally relented to complaints from their distant licence-fee paying customers north of the border that Scotland is actually in reality somewhat bigger than Cornwall. In future, BBC weather forecasts will be presented on a map that accurately reflects the size of Scotland as compared to other parts of the British Isles, instead of being as a grossly-distorted virtual image of Britain as if filmed from a hot air balloon flying somewhere above Bordeaux, with Stirling appearing a billimetre above the Solway Firth in that wee speck at the top.
Every journey starts with a first step, I suppose.
Unfortunately, however, a mile or so down the road from Broadcasting House in Whitehall, the Tory UK Government continues to listen to nobody except itself.
This week, Number 10’s spin machine decided to bill special meetings of the Cabinet taking place to thrash out a common position on Brexit negotiations in the most valiant of terms, describing them as meetings of the “War Cabinet”. But it wasn’t long before expectations of what the “War Cabinet” might achieve were being drastically downgraded. As The Independent’s headline on Wednesday, revealed, “Brexit: Theresa May ‘War Cabinet’ unlikely to reach agreement on UK aims, admits Business Secretary Greg Clark”.
by Steven Paterson, former MP for Stirling
The frenzied speculation about how long Prime Minister Theresa May‘s ghostly apparition will haunt 10 Downing Street reached new heights this week, as Tory MPs engaged in increasingly bitter internecine warfare over the succession.
Mrs May herself must have been grateful to be jetting off to China in pursuit of trade deals, leaving the squabbling factions to tear one another apart in her absence instead of right in front of her. She cuts a lonely figure these days, convincing nobody she has any authority left or is in any realistic sense in charge.
Instead, we have governmental paralysis, despite vital Brexit negotiations restarting this week on which the future prosperity and trading status of the country depends. The hard-Brexit brigade, amongst whose esteemed members are such noted bigwigs as Boris Johnston, Michael Gove and the hyperactive Jacob Rees-Mogg, seem to spend more of their time slagging off members of the more pragmatic majority of the parliamentary Tory party, who were against Brexit to begin with but now feel compelled to follow through with it following the EU referendum. The hard-Brexit brigade is winning though, and no mistake.