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Jamie Stone MP Makes Maiden Speech at Westminster - Highlights Maternity Issue in Caithness

8th July 2017

Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat, Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross 4:05 pm, 6th July 2017.

Thank you for calling me to speak, Madam Deputy Speaker, and may I congratulate you on your appointment?

It is a great honour to speak in this House. I am the first member of my Stone family ever to be elected as an MP, and standing here I like to think of my mother and father looking down on me with pride. I also owe sincere thanks to my wife Flora and my three children. Without their support and great help, the likelihood of my being elected to this place would have been rather smaller.

It is customary for new Members to mention their predecessors. Dr Paul Monaghan is a passionate nationalist and while here he took a close interest in middle east matters, the welfare of former inhabitants of the Chagos islands and, in particular, animal welfare. That is his record. I acknowledge it and thank him for it.

In addition, I really must mention my great friend who once represented part of my constituency, the late Charles Kennedy. He is much missed and will never be forgotten, by me in particular. I was for a time his constituency chairman.

Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross is the second largest and most remote constituency on the UK mainland. For that reason it presents special challenges to the Scottish and UK Governments. Sparsity of population, distance and severe winter weather all necessitate taking a different approach to the delivery of vital services. What works in Surrey or Glasgow is not necessarily going to work at all where I come from.

For that reason, recent changes to local maternity services in my constituency, which involve greatly increased numbers of pregnant mothers having to make a 200-mile round trip to Inverness, are causing great concern. Therefore, within the rules of this House pertaining to devolved Scottish Government matters such as health, I give notice that that issue is of the greatest importance to me and that I shall use my role as an MP to do everything in my power to address it.

Equally, lack of access to suitably fast broadband is proving to be a drag anchor to many local businesses in my constituency. That is particularly unfortunate when we are trying to promote tourism in this most beautiful area. The importance of operating efficiently online cannot be over-exaggerated. If local tourist businesses are to compete in a global market, they depend on that type of service. Again, I give notice of the importance of the subject to me and, given the opportunity, I will have much to say about it in the future.

My constituency and its constituent parts have an interesting history. For instance, I am absolutely prepared to bet that Members do not know that he whose portrait hangs among others in the Strangers' Dining Room—the Whig leader, Charles James Fox—was the Member for my hometown of Tain in Easter Ross. In the 1784 general election, Fox fought a particularly energetic campaign to win his seat here, by which I mean Westminster, which he represented. He was helped by the great beauty of her age, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, who was strongly suspected to have been his lover at the time, but it was absolutely to no electoral avail. Owing to a legal challenge, the result lay unconfirmed for over a year. Fox strongly suspected that his distant cousin George III and Pitt the Younger lay behind this evil stratagem, and it served only to deepen his dislike for George III. But Fox had cunning friends, who dreamed up a wheeze. They made him a burgess of Kirkwall in Orkney—a burgess is a freeman—and because of that he was very quickly duly elected to the pocket burgh of Tain and the Northern Burghs. And so he represented my home town until his Westminster result was ultimately cleared, after which he resigned.

Would that my own efforts to be elected to represent my home town had been as easy of those of Charles James Fox. I could elaborate on the fact that Malcolm MacDonald stood for my constituency. Indeed, the uncle of Sir Nicholas Soames, one Randolph Churchill, also contested the seat. Given the time available, however, I will save that for another day.

I am sorry that Angus Brendan MacNeil is not here today, because I want to quote some Gaelic to amuse your good self, Madam Deputy Speaker, and to test Hansard. We have a saying:

"Togar càrn mòr de chlachan beaga", which means:

“The mighty cairn is built of little stones”.

I do hope that this particular stone—myself—may play a suitable part in the mighty cairn that is democracy in this special place.


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