Monday, 26 April 2010

Dangerous dogs!

I'm getting to this issue a little late, but I personally feel it's very important. The Scottish Parliament has recently passed legislation on dangerous dogs. The Private Members Bill was begun by Alex Neil MSP before he became a Minister, and steered expertly through Parliament by Christine Grahame MSP. Info on the background to the Bill can be found here.

The main thrust of the legislation, which amends the 1991 Dangerous Dogs act, is to recognise that any dog can be dangerous and that attacks can and do happen in any location. It also recognises the issue of dogs which seriously harm or kill other animals as well as humans. Incidents range from a bite to the most horrendous cases; it's clear that there needs to be more responsibility taken by owners for their pets, and hopefully this will be a step in the right direction.

The act introduces the so called 'dog asbo', the dog control notice. A person now has the option of reporting an out of control dog should it's behaviour cause reasonable apprehensiveness or alarm. The burden of investigating and enforcing the notice falls to local authorities.

I hope that this legislation is successful in bringing in that change, and I for one will certainly be encouraging all my constituents to report any concerns they have about dogs in their area.

Tir Conaill Harps

I had the pleasure of being invited along to the Tir Conaill Harps Awards Dinner on Saturday night.

The Harps run lots of activities for young people, including gaelic football, hurling, camogie, women's shinty and ladies gaelic football. They also run exchange trips to Ireland for young people from Glasgow. I've attended an event in the past where some of the young people involved have spoken about their experiences, and I know they got a lot out of it. Mainstream sports like football aren't for everyone, and it's clear that a bit of variety and the chance to try something different really has an appeal; it also has the benefit of getting young people to participate in exercise.

It was inspiring to hear about their work over the past year, and to join in celebrating the success of committed coaches, teams and young people. We were also given a demonstration of Irish dancing by some prizewinners from the recent Championships held in Glasgow. I'm very grateful for the warmth with which I was welcomed, and thank Tommy Main and all involved for having me along.

The Harps minibus and the sports equipment stored inside was recently set on fire, and they have been
fundraising hard to obtain replacements. If you'd like to help with the appeal, please contact the Harps through their website linked to above.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Labour caught fibbing

One thing I just can't stand is politicians deliberately misleading the public, spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt. Once a leaflet is out there, the damage is done - I've never heard of a party putting out retraction leaflets, or writing to people afterwards to clear up the misunderstanding.

I missed the leaders debate tonight as I was attending the Evening Times Community Champion awards (more on that tomorrow), but watching Newsnight, it seems that Gordon Brown has been caught lying to the public in a leaflet put out in his own constituency.

Coming on the back of their abhorrent mailing targeting cancer patients, Labour have been scaremongering on concessionary travel. In the debate, Brown said "I have not authorised any leaflets".

Maybe he didn't authorise it, but a leaflet put out on his behalf in his own constituency clearly states that Gordon Brown will "fight against SNP cuts to concessionary travel".

What cuts would those be? The SNP Government has actually expanded the concessionary travel scheme to include disabled veterans from April 2011. Our manifesto reinforces our commitment to the current scheme for pensioners.

This is an issue that really matters to pensioners - it allows them the freedom to get about and to visit friends and family. Once Labour spread this kind of untruth, SNP activists and candidates have to fight doubly hard to win back the trust of voters.

Brown's leaflet also wanders into other devolved matters , mentioning making communities safer - that'll be the SNP delivering record numbers of police - and improving town centres - that'd be through the SNP's successful and popular Town Centre Regeneration fund.

Any campaign I've been involved in has agonised over the wording of leaflets, semantics, pedantry and meaning taken apart and put back together several times by a team of people before a leaflet goes out. It's unacceptable in my view to deliberately mislead the public, especially when it attacks another party.

I'm really glad of websites like and Channel 4's factcheck, who allow us now to see all the leaflets and give the voters a better chance of finding out the truth.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Lib Dems: Woolly on Nukes

Somewhat typically, the Lib Dems have come over all woolly on the topic of nuclear weapons and trident replacement. It's an important issue - one of principle and one of cost.

Trident replacement is costly, and even Generals are calling for a re-think.

To be clear, the SNP's manifesto states:

"We have a moral objection to nuclear weapons and are firm in our belief that when the UK government is planning cuts in important budgets, they should not be wasting £100 billion on buying a new generation of nuclear bombs. We have been proud to stand alongside Scotland’s faith groups, the STUC and community campaigners in opposition to Trident and its replacement and we will continue to do so."

The Lib Dems say they are:

"showing leadership by committing not to replace the Trident nuclear weapons system on a like-for-like basis"

What exactly does this mean though? One fewer sub? A couple fewer nuclear warheads?

Following comments by the Lib Dems foreign policy spokesperson Ed Davey on the Daily Politics,
Kate Hudson of the CND blogged:

"Sorry to say there is a disappointment today on LibDem nuclear policy. Ed Davey, party spokesperson on foreign policy, was on the BBC Daily Politics debate earlier on today, with Hague and Milband. When pressed to more fully explain LibDem nuclear policy, he confirmed that they did want Britain to have nuclear weapons.

They have consistently argued that they do not want a 'like-for-like' replacement for Trident - in other words, presumably not building four new subs, designed primarily for nuclear weapons use. There has been some confusion as to whether they have wanted to go for other nukes or abolish Britain's nukes altogether. This uncertainty has clearly reflected differences within the party about this issue, as has already been clear in these blogs over the past few days.

But Nick Clegg has made it clear in recent statements that they intend to have some form of nuclear weaponry, and again today Ed Davey has made it absolutely clear that the LibDems do favour an alternative form of replacement. But it is not clear what this might be. An air-launched system has generally been ruled out as being insufficiently secure. An alternative submarine system that has periodically been suggested is to put put nuclear warheads on submarine launched cruise missiles, carried on Astute class submarines, modified to carry the load.

The problem with this is that the recent US nuclear posture review is retiring their submarine launched nuclear cruise missiles. So there will be no easy option of getting missiles, and all the associated systems, off the shelf from the US, as we have done with Trident. So presumably we would have to make them ourselves. I can't see that saving any money. After all, cost was a big part of why we gave up making our own in 1960, fifty years ago this month, and bought into US systems - first Polaris and then Trident.

I think the LibDems need to go back to the drawing board on this one - or, to mix my metaphors, get off the fence and come down on the side of genuine nuclear disarmament."

All three major UK parties seem to agree that nuclear weapons are ok - it's just the numbers they need to work out. Don't be fooled by the Lib Dems on this one. Only the SNP will stand up for Scotland, and work to remove immoral nukes from our waters.

European money for Bridgeton

I was really pleased to see this morning that £1,157,086.00 has been secured from the European Regional Development Fund for Clyde Gateway's SME Business HUB in Bridgeton.

This money will go a long way to sustain real jobs and businesses in the East End, and have a large part to play in the regeneration of the area. This is on top of other money from the Scottish Government from the Town Centre Regeneration fund.

The SNP know that to get through the recession, we need to continue to invest in our people and our communities. This particular money is coming from the EU, not the UK.

Commenting on the news, John Swinney said:

"While there are signs of a fragile recovery, this undoubtedly remains a very challenging economic climate. It is absolutely right that the Scottish Government uses all of the levers at its disposal, including European funding, to support projects which can maximise employment opportunities and support our economy through the downturn and towards sustainable economic growth.

"I am delighted by the variety of projects supported by this latest cash injection, from new business facilities to the renewable energy industry. The projects have the potential to support the creation of around 950 new jobs in Scotland.

"This builds on the Scottish Government's Economic Recovery Plan, which has already directly supported up to 15,000 jobs in the Scottish economy at this difficult time. This funding will provide a further and timely boost to our recovery prospects and be warmly welcomed in many Scottish communities."

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Leading the debate in Scotland

Commenting on the Leaders’ Debates which took place tonight, SNP Leader Alex Salmond said:

“All the debate confirmed was that the London parties plan deep cuts to Scotland’s budget and public services. That’s why Scotland needs local and national champions in the House of Commons to break through this cosy Westminster consensus and win a better deal for Scotland.

“Over half the debate should have been captioned ‘Except for viewers in Scotland’.

“It was billed as a historic event but we got was three Westminster politicians looking the same, sounding the same and saying nothing of relevance to Scotland.

“From Wick to Whitburn, viewers would be turned off by television which simply didn’t address the issues which matter to them.”

Excellent pre-debate comment from Lallands Peat Worrier.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Clean Glasgow

Fun filled day today, meeting constituents, gathering myself some more casework, and trying to snap suitable pictures of John Mason and Alex Salmond.

The last task was made slightly trickier by the hoardes of professional media types who came to capture the 'fishel opening of our campaign office in Glasgow East.

In a big election campaign, there needs to be some kind of stunt every day to capture the flighty interest of the media. If you're lucky, it'll make it onto the news, and a few people might find it thought provoking and/or amusing. A lot of effort goes into thinking up these events, so I hope that you do get something from them!

Today's was pretty good - John and Alex cleaning up Glasgow. This took some window cleaner, a nifty SNP branded label, and the cooperation of our neighbouring shopkeeper (well, who wouldn't want the First Minister round to do a spot of cleaning?!).

It's an appropriate metaphor for the difference between SNP and Labour in Glasgow - us
trying our hardest to shine light into those cobweb strewn corners, Labour mired in the grime of generations of one-party domination in the city.

After the press had finished their lengthy interviews, we took to the streets with Alex, chapping doors, and discussing among other things, the intricate tactics of how to get the birds to eat the slugs off your strawberries but not the actual fruit. It's not the first time I've seen Alex surprise a voter with his bafflingly wide knowledge, but it never fails to be impressive.

Monday, 12 April 2010


As regular readers will know, my family are from Lanarkshire. My Gran and Papa Thewliss live in Motherwell, my Gran White in Wishaw.

Growing up, I saw the decline of these towns from busy, bustling hubs, to ghost towns.

The single biggest contributory factor to this was the closure of
Ravenscraig Steel Works at the start of the 1990s. According to the Evening Times, Labour are launching their Scottish campaign from the site of the steel works today.

Jim Murphy is to visit the former Ravenscraig site in Motherwell alongside Labour’s leader in Holyrood, Iain Gray.

In a visit to the new Motherwell College building on the site, the Scottish Secretary will say it symbolises the difference between Labour and Tory policies to the area.

He will say: “The difference between Labour and the Tories’ approach to Scotland is symbolised here in Ravenscraig.

“The Tories left people to fend for themselves as the area was abandoned to decline.

“Labour invested in this area, built the new college and is still rebuilding in Ravenscraig.

“Labour’s plans will rebuild Scotland’s economy and renew Scotland’s public services and political landscape.”

The new College building at Ravenscraig is impressive (and construction work started under the SNP Government); other than that, there's precious little to show on the site for 13 years of Labour in Westminster, 8 years of Labour in Holyrood, and generations of Labour control in Lanarkshire local government.

Furthermore, plans for a shopping hub has drawn criticism from
other shopping centres in the area. Since nearby Wishaw was described by it's Labour MSP as a 'pigsty', I'm fairly sure that local residents might prefer money (such as the town centre regeneration fund) to be invested in their areas first, before something shiny and new draws even more people away from their local shops.

My grandparents have fewer and fewer quality local shops to get their messages - my Gran White can't buy things like fresh fish or wool in Wishaw any more, yet there are plenty of bookies and off-sales.

I can see what Labour are trying to do with the whole harking back to the Tories line - but there's responsibility to be taken there too. Labour MPs in the '80s and '90s failed to stop the closure, and their inaction over the years has done little to repair the damage inflicted on Lanarkshire.

Labour need to think more carefully before they fall back on simply blaming the Tories for the woes of our communities.

Working for Glasgow East - come rain or shine!

Utterly glorious weekend, with a lot of time spent campaigning for John Mason in Glasgow East. It's always nice to work on a sunny day, chatting to people in their gardens and out on the street. Not that the rain stops us, as you can see from the photos from last Monday! There's always plenty of work to be done.

SNP Housing Minister, Alex Neil joined us on Saturday, and visited just a few of the areas currently balloting for housing stock transfer from the GHA to local housing associations. Nearly 2000 homes in six areas have already transferred under the SNP Government so far, with more set to transfer and more tenants to vote soon.

The five LHOs which will go to ballot next month are among 29 local communities in a timetable for SST which could see up to 16,500 homes transfer in 2010 and 2011.

So f
ar, Six Second Stage Transfers – involving 1929 homes - have gone ahead.

These involved Ardenglen (285 homes); Cassiltoun
(Castle Stuart) (526); Parkhead (Crossview) (68); Shettleston (728); Glasgow West (Hyndland) (127) and Provanhall (195).

At the end of last year a majority of tenants who voted did so in favour of transfer to Queens Cross HA (Hamiltonhill) (604 homes) and Cernach HA (420 homes). The transfers will happen in March.

This is a significant achievement - SST stalled under Labour, and the GHA empire grew. Local control is important, and I have seen first-hand the positive benefits it can bring for tenants and whole local areas.

If you would like to help John's campaign, the office is now open at 891 Shettleston Road, Glasgow, G32 7DB. Contact or call 07807214394

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Labour Councillors award themselves another trip at your expense

I enjoyed today's Strathclyde Fire and Rescue Board meeting - lots of interesting papers, and I had plenty of questions to ask. I got the distinct impression that by the end of the meeting, the Chair was getting a bit fed up with me! I think it's only right that when officers put work into the papers before us, that they are properly scrutinised.

I was particularly concerned by the lack of detail in a proposal to move from three areas in Glasgow to two, not least as the papers had no detail on the cost or full personnel implications of the proposal. Oddly, Calton and Parkhead will move to the South of Glasgow! I'm still kicking myself for not moving that the paper be brought back with more detail to a future meeting, but given the composition of the board, the vote would have been unlikely to pass in any event.

There was also a proposal to send the Convener and one Vice Convener (both Labour, as it happens) to the INTERSCHUTZ
conference in Leipzig. Sounds fairly innocuous until you look in the papers and realise that the cost of their attendance at this four-day conference was a rather extravagant £5,900. The cost of actually attending is free, so this sum was to meet the travel, accommodation and subsistence costs for two people. Quite rightly, a few of my colleagues on the board questioned the wisdom of this expense in the current financial climate, and moved rejection of the trip. Labour Councillors rallied round their Convener and Vice Convener's right to attend, and one even accused the SNP of bigotry for daring to suggest it was a waste of money. We were outvoted by fifteen votes to eight. It's frustrating to witness that even in these times of scandals and belt tightening, there's still an appetite in Labour-dominated institutions to splurge on foreign trips.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Alcohol campaign launch

Oh, so quiet!

Apologies for the lack of posting - Joe's computer had to be carted off for emergency recussitation, and my laptop at work went of for encryption on Monday and I only got it back on Thursday. I have tons of things to blog about, and hope to get some of these written and up in the next few days.