Q&A with SNP MP Stewart McDonald on his campaign to ban unpaid trial work periods

Written by Staff reporter on 17 October 2017 in Inside Politics

The SNP MP, who represents Glasgow South, has introduced a private members' bill to outlaw unpaid trial work periods

Stewart McDonald MP - Image credit: UK Parliament

You have been campaigning against unpaid trial shifts. How is it going?

The campaign is going well. Raising public awareness of the issue has helped bring it sharply on to the political agenda. I’m encouraged by the support my bill has amongst other MPs and will keep up the efforts to secure enough votes for its second reading in March next year.

What made you take up this particular issue?

There are lots of great injustices in the world that irk me, but the two that get to me most are rogue landlords and rogue employers.

I heard about a company offering people 40-hour trial periods for absolutely no pay whatsoever, and no promise of the job in the end. Having taken the company on and getting them to scrap their practice, this seemed like an obvious area to tighten the law up in when I was drawn in the ballot for a private member’s bill.


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Has the new political landscape with a lack of a Conservative majority made it easier or harder for individual MPs to pursue their own hot topics?

There’s certainly a renewed vigour amongst opposition MPs to get things done, as the lack of a majority means there are opportunities. Some Conservative MPs are now much more guarded, but the discipline is unlikely to last as we can witness from their own cabinet.

What does the SNP group need to do now to be heard?

Do what we do best: provide a strong, cogent, consistent opposition to the Tories. We are diminished in numbers, but we have an excellent team of colleagues who now have a couple of years under their belts. We just need to keep providing that social democratic offer that is in stark contrast to anything else being offered by our opponents.

How has the feeling in the Commons changed since the election?

I miss lots of my old colleagues, particularly my good friend John Nicolson. We had such a laugh together, but he was also great to bounce political ideas with. Things have changed for me having been given a meaty front bench brief as the new defence spokesperson, so I’m getting stuck in to that with the defence policy team.

Have you made any new cross-party pals?

I’ve always got on with people in other parties. Everyone loves Carolyn Harris, who has done great work on funeral poverty, gambling and WASPI. I get on really well with Labour’s new Glasgow MP Paul Sweeney. As well as sharing a strong interest in Glasgow’s built heritage, our politics are pretty much aligned outwith the issue of independence – he’s a good guy. I’m also impressed by a couple of the other new MPs and their maiden speeches, particularly Bim Afolami, Luke Pollard and Tonia Antoniazzi.

What’s the funniest or worst thing that’s happened on your commute between Scotland and London?

There was the time I managed to fly back from London to Glasgow on Stuart McDonald’s boarding pass, meaning I got his seat and he had to get the next flight. That happened just a few weeks after the 2015 election.

There was also the time I had to take the sleeper – which I avoid because I can never sleep on it. I had had a few drinks with a friend before catching it at midnight and was well and truly ready to rest my head. Just as I was getting in to my cabin, a voice said, “you’re my MP”. Exhausted and a little well-oiled from whisky, I had a 20-minute discussion about politics with a constituent at the most unexpected time.

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