East Dunbartonshire MP John Nicolson says it’s time for a Westminster shakeup

Reporter Laura Sturrock interviewing John Nicolson MP.
Reporter Laura Sturrock interviewing John Nicolson MP.

John Nicolson, the new MP for East Dunbartonshire, believes that it’s time to modernise Westminster - saying that it’s currently “like Hogwarts”.

He says it’s the most peculiar place, comparing it to “an English boys boarding school with strange traditions which are antiquated and unnecessary”.

His calls come after the newly elected 56 SNP MPs got into trouble for clapping in Parliament - as the traditional way for MPs to show approval in the House of Commons is to make a noise likened by Mr Nicolson to a “donkey braying”.

He told the Herald: “It’s quite peculiar to watch the MPs opposite me with contorted faces as they make this bizarre sound.

“I’d seen this before but many of my colleagues hadn’t, and they thought it was very weird.

“They feel much more comfortable with clapping and their constituents want them to do that.

“Often Parliament has adapted to us rather than the other way around.

“Traditions like this make the Parliament a very alienating place for people.

“I also think it’s crazy that it takes MPs 20 minutes to vote as they have to queue up through the lobby to have their name ticked off by someone sitting at a high Dickensian desk.

“If you have to vote on three issues it takes an hour - there’s got to be something better to do with an MP’s time?

“It’s time to introduce an electronic voting system.

“Currently it would be extremely difficult for a single parent to be an MP due to the frequent evening working.

“Some other traditions, such as the black rod banging on the door and processions, are charming.

“But when they get in the way of you being able to do your job that’s when they need to be surrendered.”

He says lots of people there have led very sheltered lives as they have studied at Oxford or Cambridge University, practiced law and then gone into a career in politics.

He added: “Some people have never left a cloistered environment.

“I think a lot of politicians are out of touch with reality.

“People often say the standard of debate at Holyrood isn’t high but I haven’t been impressed with the debate in the House of Commons - I think it’s a poor standard of debate.

“There have been times when people have said it was a splendid debate and I have questioned whether I was in the same room.

“Some MPs have fantastic life experience but many politicians don’t seem very interested in what they are saying.

“Many of them hold deeply held prejudices and don’t want to hear anything different.”

Despite the old-fashioned environment of Westminster Nicolson says the Tories have been very welcoming towards the new SNP MPs.

He said: “The Tories often say there are a lot more Scots than there used to be but there’s actually the same number as previously.

“Maybe there seems to be more because so many of us sit together in Parliament now.

“Our MPs represent a wide cross section of Scotland, we have crofters, former journalists, a breast cancer surgeon. We also have a wide range of ages from 20 to 70 years old.

“Kezia Dugdale, the new leader of Scottish labour party, says we look like Scotland!”

Locally, Mr Nicolson would like to work towards getting rid of the pockets of deprivation within his constituency.

He would also like to find a solution for the housing crisis in East Dunbartonshire and repair the roads, which he says are in a terrible state.

He said: “So many council houses were sold off by the Tories and the Labour Government built a derisory number while they were in power which means that we have been left with a chronic shortage.

“Some people within my constituency are living in homes that are uninhabitable, filled with damp and mould on their walls.

“This is unacceptable.

“The state of the roads is also a disgrace, they remind me of the roads in Romania.

“You would not think that we are in an advanced first world country and yet the council has underspent its roads budget.”

Schools are also high on Mr Nicolson’s agenda as he says there’s too big a contrast between the new school buildings in east Dunbartonshire and older ones which he says are not being maintained properly.

He is also backing the parents’ campaign to save St Joseph’s Primary School in Milngavie from closure and says this is a prime example of why local politicians and councillors should listen to their constituents.

He added: “Politicians have not come up with any relevant argument for closing the school.

“It’s got a strong school roll, the parents want to keep it there and many children walk to the school - some with their grandparents.

“The council’s SNP party leader Ian Mackay is desperate to keep St Joseph’s open so I only hope that the SNP win in the next local election and they can achieve this.”