Thursday 29 October 2009

Labour refuse to debate serious crime in Glasgow

Dramatic gestures are best used sparingly or they fail to be effective. Today, the SNP group in Glasgow City Council felt the need for such a gesture.

As a group, we left the Chamber with disappointment and heavy hearts as a result of the Labour group’s refusal to debate serious and organised crime in this city.

All groups have the right to submit a motion for debate at the full meeting of the Council. The motion we submitted for today’s meeting, despite being advised by the Council’s lawyer that it was legally sound, was rejected by the Lord Provost. Under article 7(1) of the Council’s Standing Orders, the LP will decide all matters of order, competence and relevance.

This is the motion as it stood – I think most people would agree that it is relevant and competent to the people of Glasgow. Sadly, Labour don’t see it that way.

Council affirms its commitment to tackling serious and organised crime in partnership with Strathclyde Police and other organisations.

Council notes that a triple shooting and murder was carried out at Applerow Motors, 730 Balmore Road, during working hours. A development of luxury flats next to the MOT station, both of which are owned and/or affiliated with the Lyons family, was burned down on two separate occasions, the most recent being in February of this year. The Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police wrote to the Licensing Committee to say that the owner of the MOT station was involved in serious crime including the trafficking and supply of Class A drugs.

Council notes that whilst the Licensing Committee has as a result refused the second hand car dealership licence at the site, the UK Secretary of State for Transport has so far declined to exercise his powers to revoke the MOT authorised examiner licence.

Council resolves to formally request that the UK Secretary of State for Transport exercise his powers to revoke the MOT authorised examiner licence from David Lyons and the premises of Applerow Motors, Lambhill.

Tuesday 27 October 2009

Trade Unions and Labour

I was moved to blog after reading Jeff's post about USDAW's generous donation in kind of campaign telephones for Glasgow North East. This is a very useful resource to be offered, so it's unfortunate that Labour will be the only party to benefit from it, despite the offer accidentally going out to all MSPs. Nosiness led me to check out USDAW's website, whereupon I got a bit annoyed.

Of the four news stories featured on their website, three mention Labour very favourably in their first paragraph. Ach, I thought, maybe that's to be expected. However, under Support our Campaigns, the second article reads "Winning with Labour... Join Labour today... It's FREE for USDAW members!". It's beyond me why this is ranked more important than USDAW's campaigns for respect for shop workers and support for the minimum wage. If I was being represented by USDAW, I'd be pretty disappointed.

I've only scratched the surface of their website so I apologise if I'm now speaking out of turn. I'm deeply unimpressed by their watery support for increasing the wages of 16 and 17 year olds and in particular the equalisation of the minimum wage. Their most recent article seems to be a survey, behind that, articles from a few years ago. This is a really important issue for me, and I'm surprised that this particular union falls short of the YSI and SNP's position.

I worked for a high street retailer for six years, from sixth year at school until the year after I left uni. This retailer didn't recognise trade unions, and there were several instances where their input would have been useful (shift changes for the Christmas sales, health and safety, conditions). I see from my work in the Council on the Personnel Appeals Committee the commitment and work of Trade Unions in representing their members, and would have appreciated that during my time in retail.

I don't see from USDAW's website however that they're actually achieving anything very much for their members by paying money and giving positive coverage to Labour; it seems unfair that the hard earned money of their members should be blindly funding Labour. If it's a considered democratic and strategic decision, I could give it some respect; more often than not, unions just seem to pay out over and over again with no guarantee of anything in return.

What frustrates me the most about Trade Unions is their seemingly undying commitment to the Labour Party. This isn't just about loyalty to a cause, it's about money too; from 1st July 2008 to 30th June 2009, Trade Unions donated £9,773,918.25 from their coffers to the Labour Party. Of that, USDAW gave
£1,895,997.41. In that same period, the only other political party who registered donations from a trade union was No2EU:Yes to Democracy, who were backed by the RMT.

I can understand where the trade unions are coming from, and why the bonds with Labour might be hard to break. What I don't get is the tactical significance of continuing to spend the money of their members on a government which doesn't always take their side.

The CWU are considering legal action to prevent Royal Mail bringing in agency staff, and are getting very little time or support from the Goverment. Gordon Brown says "get back round the table", the CWU say it's "vindictive" Mandleson's fault. Funnily enough, the CWU gave the party of government a very generous £663,177.90 in the period mentioned above. What has this achieved? Clearly, in terms of influence over Government policy for the benefit of their members, this has been money down the drain. There are significant gaps between the CWU and the party they fund.

If you're not getting anything much for your money, why continue to fund the Labour Party? Perhaps this is something the world out there might like to explain to me.

Wednesday 21 October 2009

Grit bins

I’ve been sent a list of grit bins in my ward, and thought it might be helpful for folk to know where they are for when the colder weather strikes.

Stamford Street at Dalserf Street

Forge Entrance at Duke Street

Canmore Street at the Bus Depot

Canmore Street at the Fire Station

Beside 819 Dalmarnock Road

Reidvale Street at Sword Street

Sword Street opposite No.54

Abercromby Drive at R5

Abercromby Square

Claythorn Street at Millroad Street

Landressy Place opposite No.52

MacKeith Street

Dale Path

Baltic Place at Heron Street Path

Queen Mary St opposite St.Francis in the East Church

Claythorn Avenue at No.23

The one at Claythorn Avenue was the result of a request from a constituent, and I would be happy to take forward any requests for ones in other parts of the ward. Obviously, there are financial limits on what can be done, but I’ll certainly argue the case with Land and Environmental Services if there’s a need!

As you can see from the photo, the one at the Bus Depot had been used as a litter bin, and I requested that this was cleared.

Sunday 18 October 2009

Westminster Candidates

Conference is hearing now from some of our Westminster candidates, all of whom have been introduced to delegates by Bruce Crawford.

Eilidh Whiteford, our candidate in Banff and Buchan told us of the people she's met on the campaign trail so far.

David Kerr also spoke about the campaign in Glasgow North East, and gave the story of the first man he met in the campaign; he'll be voting SNP for the first time.

I'm really enthusiastic about this crop of candidates - I know many of them, and believe they will be fine MPs. They're intelligent, principled, passionate people. They will fight for Scotland, and I would love for them all to be elected. I'm certain many of them will be.

Saturday 17 October 2009

Alex Salmond's speech

Just been listening to Alex Salmond's keynote address to conference; as always, it was perfectly delivered, with humour and passion. I intend to put a couple of the key quotes in a post later on, but for now, I'll just pop down a few thoughts.

I think it was a nice touch to include concrete examples of people who have benefitted from our Government's initiatives. This really demonstrates the value of what our party has done and helps people listening at home to relate to the policies.

I was very pleased to hear the CIRV project and the Violence Reduction Unit be credited for their excellent work; Alex packaged this neatly in the speech with the 1000 extra police we have put on the beat since 2007 and the recent statistics which demonstrate that knife crime in Glasgow has fallen by 18%.

Alex was strong also on our opposition to trident renewal, a UK policy which is looking increasingly crazy in these economic times.

Interestingly, while the hall at Labour's conference looked sparsely populated, the Eden Court theatre was jam-packed full right up to the top balconies. Every seat in the overspill cinema was also taken and some delegates were sadly left standing outside. I keep thinking conference couldn't possibly get busier, but each one is bigger still!

Friday 16 October 2009

Electoral Commission Fringe

John Swinney takes the stage

I've just finished listening just to John Swinney, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth. Conference loves John, and he got a huge welcoming round of applause before he said a word!

John started by describing the actions taken by the Scottish Government to protect jobs and work for economic recovery.

John remarked that even relatively simple things can make a difference - 95.3% of Government bills are now paid in ten days. This responsible action helps businesses by ensuring they're not kept waiting for what they're due.

John also talked about the importance our Government places on the Third sector in Scotland, and how they sit at the heart of recovery and growth. Under the SNP, resources for the third sector are up 37%, and the SNP are supporting moves by voluntary and charitable organisations towards becoming sustainable social enterprises. In addition, third sector organisations can access a £1.7m resiliance fund. John announced that charitable water rates relief will be extended for a further 5 years.

The recent draft budget announcement gave John the opportunity to talk about how Scotland - in contrast to the highly indebted UK Government - must living within our means, setting and implementing a balanced budget and taking difficult decisions. John got a hefty round of applause when he said that "the SNP Government knows how to manage the peoples money".

John also fired a shot across the bows to the opposition parties, recalling last years political games with the budget and saying that they can't play games with Scotland's public services.

The speech was light on attacks on other parties, about which I was glad; I think it's much better to speak of our achievements and say what else we can do. That said, John was clear that the public are right to beware the cuts the Tories will make, but we should not forget the cuts Labour are making to the Scottish budget now.

Through the speech, a theme ran through of the restrictions placed on the Scottish budget through the limitations of devolution. John spoke movingly about the imagination and inspiration of our founders 75 years ago, who confounded the critics who never believed we would achieve people elected, a Scottish Parliament, or a SNP Goverment. I got a wee excited shiver up my spine as John got to the culmination of his speech; next step independence.

Thursday 15 October 2009

SNP TUG Fringe Meeting

I appreciate that some readers may be unfamiliar with conference lingo, so a wee explanation first - in between the formal plenary sessions (where resolutions are debated), in the morning, at lunch and in the early evening, organisations host hour-long sessions on specific topics with a range of speakers. These are known as Fringe events. There tend to be several on at a time, weighed up by the quality of speakers or the refreshments on offer. There's very little time to sit and eat proper meals at conference, so food gets quite important!

Tonight, I attended the SNP's trade union group's event, which featured stovies, Alex Salmond, and speakers from the FBU, NUJ, RMT and STUC.

A lively Q&A session discussed issues like health and safety, stress, social partnerships, the problems facing public services in the recession, and the opportunities for trade unions in Scotland.

Debates get underway

Two interesting resolutions so far on climate change and concessionary bus travel. It's Stewart Stevenson's birthday today, but he's spending it at conference speaking!

Currently listening to a topical resolution on the SNP's right to participation in televised leaders' debates. Angus Robertson is telling us that in Canada, where we have a equivalent situation with Quebec, debates with all the party leaders are managed just fine by the tv networks.

Welcome to conference

Arrived at conference on the early train from Glasgow this morning. It's great to see so many people I know from around the country. I hope to get the chance to catch with everyone!

Tuesday 13 October 2009

Test post

I'm hoping to blog from SNP Conference later in the week - hopefully remotely rather than lugging a laptop around with me. If this post works, all should be well!

Gagging the press

As a regular reader of Private Eye, I've been really disappointed with moves towards gagging of the press. An article in their most recent edition (Eye 1246) begins

"Last month a certain institution obtained a high court injunction to prevent a certain newspaper from publishing a certain document. More than that we cannot say; to do so is fraught with danger"

It's difficult enough to find really interesting pieces of investigative journalism these days without lawyers preventing us even knowing about why we can't be told something.

Things have now moved a bit further, and the Guardian has been blocked from reporting a question in Parliament on this whole affair. This is clearly ridiculous. Hansard is online, so we the public can read and consider the words of wisdom (or otherwise) spoken by our elected representatives. If we can see it, the press should be able to report it.

Enter the blogosphere and twitter. A number of people are linking now to wikileaks and, since I saw his post first, I'll link also to Guido. Lets get this out there!

Update: I've been pointed in the direction of this:

If they scrape that barrel much more, they'll go through it...

Hat tip to Chris at Leaves on the Line, who has found this gem of a press release on Willie Bain’s website.

“Nationalist blunder as campaign admits it rents a "tiny" office”

Not only is this scraping the barrel for petty attacks on the SNP, this also demonstrates Labour’s misconception of what a campaign office is actually for. It’s not for activists to sit about in, chat and drink tea – it’s for the organisation and distribution of campaign materials. On my visits so far to our rooms, I’ve seen our enthusiastic activists turn up, ready to work, and head out with bundles of materials. We’re not hanging around!

There is a kitchen in our campaign office of course, for distribution of tea, coffee, soup, sandwiches and biccies, but this is to cater mainly for the many activists coming from further afield to lend their support.

In other related guff – why are Labour activists so afraid to show their faces?!

Monday 5 October 2009


I was invited on Wednesday 30th September to go along to the CIRV football awards; what makes this particularly interesting is what makes this football project different from you and your friends having a bit of a knock-about in the park. This celebration of football and sportsmanship was actually a very significant step in reducing violence in the east of Glasgow, and saving the lives and futures of young people in the area.

Partners from the agencies made clear to me afterwards that actually bringing together the young men from these gangs in the one room was a real achievement. Having them celebrating each other's success and leaving afterwards without any threat of violence was remarkable. I was told that at the start of the project, many of these young men couldn't be in the same room together without violence breaking out. This change in behaviour had been achieved through a lot of hard work, investment, support and a focus on positive alternatives.

I was impressed by the description, but keen to find out more.

I've attended presentations by people from CIRV, and readers may already be familiar with CIRV through Cherie Blair's Dispatches documentary on Channel Four. It's certainly worth watching to get a handle on what is being done. The discription on their website reads thus:

The Community Initiative to Reduce Violence (CIRV – pronounced ‘Serve’) is a multi-agency initiative designed to reduce gang violence across Glasgow. CIRV aims to reduce the impact and incidence of antisocial behaviour and violence, the involvement of young people in crime and the fear of crime – there will be other positive outcomes that are supplementary to these aims.

The staff who work on the programme invited me along to a gang 'call in' at the Sheriff Court a week ago last Friday. The Evening Times carried the story yesterday. I found it deeply moving on many levels.

Court 8 had been set up in such a way that 30-40 young gang members were on one side, and all the staff and speakers on the other. Each speaker in turn would rise, and move over to the side of the court the young people were on to make their points.

A number of speakers related the options open to the young people in the room - prison, death, or changing their ways. Two surgeons from Medics Against Violence showed graphic pictures of the damage a baseball bat, a knife and a gun can do. People who had committed crimes in the past, including murder, spoke movingly about how this affected them. Karen, a very strong and brave mother, described the impact on her life and family of her son's stabbing. The police were firm and made it clear that the law would catch up with these gang members, one after the next, if they chose not to get out.

All the way through, there was a emphasis on the alternatives and the chance for each of the young people to be supported and to make something of their life if they got out of the gang culture.

The young people were given an opportunity to sign up there and then, and given a card away with them should they want to think it over and come to the programme later. It's clear that breaking from the people you've grown up with and spent your life with is difficult, but all the speakers were equally clear that those people who hold you back in life are not your friends, and that better things lie ahead. The choice is in their hands.


I'm sure you'll all be glad to know I safely completed the Clydeslide a day later than scheduled on Sunday morning. I was supposed to be sliding on Saturday, but the gale force winds meant that it was postponed.

Thanks to everyone who has sponsored me online and in person - I really appreciate it and I will put up a wee roll of honour later on once all the pledges have come in.

In the meantime, I've put up a few photos so you can see how scary it was! I'm working on uploading a video too.