Written by Scott Campbell, Cumbernauld Media's Senior Reporter.
Published at 20:45 on 16 July 2015
Mr McDonald waited some time after his swearing in (pictured) to deliver his maiden speech. Picture: Parliament TV.
FOR Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East’s newly elected SNP Member of Parliament, this week was a tough one: he had to admit how many times he walked into cupboards and wrong meetings.
It has become somewhat of a tradition for new Members of Parliament to do a couple of things during their maiden speech: firstly, they should be gracious in winning, and wish their predecessor well; and, secondly, they should might light of how many times they have found themselves in strange places while trying to negotiating the winding Victorian corridors of the Parliament.
Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East’s SNP Member of Parliament duly met both of these traditions with good grace when he delivered his maiden speech to the House of Commons, earlier this week.
Elected in May’s General Election, Stuart McDonald took the Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East constituency from Labour’s Gregg McClymont, winning the seat with a 14,752 majority.
The area’s new MP delivered his maiden speech on Monday (13th July), and is one of the last SNP MPs to deliver their maiden speech, after the party secured 56 of the 59 Scottish parliamentary seats in the recent General Election.
Starting his speech, Mr McDonald said that it was “an honour and a privilege to make my maiden speech as the new MP for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East,” explaining: “I grew up there, I have family roots there and I will always be grateful to my fellow citizens for putting their faith in me to represent our constituency here in Parliament.”
Continuing further, the MP began making light of his first few weeks in parliament, which he said “give rise to many and varied challenges.”
Mr McDonald MP said: “There is, for example, the huge challenge of navigating the complicated corridors of Westminster—a challenge that I failed spectacularly when I found myself, by accident, a fish out of water and the cause of considerable mirth, in the middle of a meeting of the Conservative 1922 committee. I think that I escaped, just about, with my political integrity intact.
“The other major challenge that I have faced is the fact that there are two new SNP MPs called Stuart McDonald here in Westminster,” McDonald joked.
He added: “Given that we spell our first names differently, I was expecting only the odd stray email or letter. In fact, in two short months, my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow South (Stewart McDonald) has managed to steal my seat on one flight to Glasgow, leaving me stranded at Heathrow; cancel two other sets of return flights; hijack one of my constituents who had travelled 500 miles to lobby me; and steal credit in Hansard for my first ever intervention in this Chamber.
“At such times, many words spring to mind, but “honourable” and “Friend” are not among them. Looking to the positive side, it was comforting to receive a note congratulating me on my maiden speech some four weeks before I rose to make it,” the SNP man jested.
Continuing with his speech, Mr McDonald went on to thank everybody who had provided him with assistance as he found his feet in the weeks after the General Election.
“More seriously, for their assistance in helping me surmount some of the challenges, may I put on the record my thanks to all the staff in the Houses of Parliament, who have been unfailingly helpful in these frenetic first few weeks,” Stuart said.
Moving on with his maiden speech before the House of Commons, Mr McDonald paid tribute to his immediate predecessor, Gregg McClymont.
“I also wish to pay tribute to my immediate predecessor, Gregg McClymont,” McDonald said.
“A Cumbernauld lad, after school at Cumbernauld high, he studied at the universities of Glasgow, Pennsylvania and, finally, Oxford, where he taught prior to his election in 2010.
“His mastery of the pensions brief means that he will be missed on the Labour Benches. I know at first hand that he is definitely missed in the parliamentary football team, notwithstanding his inexplicable support for Airdrie football club.
“I wish him and his new wife well, as well as all his staff, as they take on their next challenges,” Mr McDonald MP added.
After discussing his parliamentary predecessor, Mr McDonald went on to talk a bit about his seat – Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East; a seat which Mr McDonald told colleagues: “…is a constituency that is big in name, but also big in character.
The 37-year-old MP added: “Situated right at the heart of Scotland, from Croy you are but 20 minutes by train from Glasgow city centre, while from Lennoxtown, you are a pleasant half hour drive over the Campsie fells to the banks of Loch Lomond. It is the best of both worlds, to use that expression in an appropriate context.
“The communities of Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East have diverse histories, from old parishes and mining towns to the new town of Cumbernauld itself.
“The communities have shared ambitions and a determination to forge a bright new future. In the weeks before and after my election, I have been amazed at the range of community groups, residents associations, community councils, social enterprises, churches and charities that work so hard for the local people.”
A ‘future free from poverty’.
Drawing his maiden speech back to the matter of the main Budget debate, Mr McDonald said that his constituents had “ambitions” of well-paid jobs, strong communities, well-funded public services and a future free from poverty, but he attacked the Chancellor’s budget, claiming that it put their ambitions “out of reach”.
McDonald said: “The ambitions of the people of Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East include secure well-paid jobs, strong communities, well-funded public services and a future free from poverty.
“The Budget does not support those ambitions; rather, as for millions across the country, it puts them further out of reach.”
After discussing the budget at some length, Mr McDonald MP concluded his maiden speech by explaining his view that it is an “honour to serve” the people and communities of Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East.
“It is an honour to serve the constituents of Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East and, however they voted, I will do whatever I can to support them in achieving their ambitions for themselves, their families and their communities,” Mr McDonald said.
Bedford Conservative MP, Richard Fuller was the first Member to follow Mr McDonald, and in Commons tradition, Mr Fuller told the House of how it was his “pleasure to follow an extremely gracious maiden speech by the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East.
“I particularly noted his kind words for the staff of the Houses of Parliament, which I thought was a particularly noteworthy thing to put in one’s maiden speech, and his kindness to his namesake who took his seat on the aeroplane.
“The hon. Gentleman follows a man, Gregg McClymont, who was probably one of the most intelligent Members and was one of the most fair-minded, so he certainly has big shoes to fill.
“He has made a very good start with his maiden speech today,” Fuller added.
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