Sunday 28 February 2010

Malcolm Fleming for Glasgow South

Another weekend, another fundraiser!

Hot on the heels of the
Patrick Grady-Mags Park joint fundraiser last weekend, Malcolm Fleming held a ceilidh last night at Pollokshaws Burgh Hall. Superb buffet prepared by volunteers, foot-tapping music, and great company.

Every penny raised at these events goes directly towards the campaign - paying for leaflets, phone canvassing, and materials like the wee flags and balloons we give out on the street. The more we raise, the more people we can contact to share our views on how important this General Election will be for Scotland. We can let more people know why bright, enthusiastic, talented candidates like Malcolm will be able to do a great job representing them.

There are few more last-minute fundraising events to go still before the election, so from that point of view, some SNP
campaigns would prefer May 6th!

Friday 26 February 2010

Election speculation part deux

People are speculating and nervy rumours are circulating on the prospect of a March election.

Further to my previous speculatory post, I see today that the Council Diary now appears online up until the 7th of May. It's nice that the business of Glasgow City Council isn't to be disrupted by any pesky elections... Whether the election is called on 25th of March or the 6th of May, the committees below, held on those days, will probably be struggling for a quorum.

09:30 Licensing and Regulatory Committee
11:00 Drumchapel Anniesland Area Committee
13:30 Shettleston Area Committee
15.30 Green Group

New bins for Millerston Street

Millerston Street in my ward, between the Gallowgate and Duke Street, is particularly prone to litter and fly tipping. A lot of people pass along the street on their way to and from Celtic Park and, sadly, they tend to leave a mess behind them.

I had a request from a constituent to have the area cleared up, which Land and Environmental Services duly carried out. To prevent the same mess happening again, I made a modest request for an extra lamp-post bin. To my surprise, LES have responsed enthusiastically with a promise of eight bins, for on each side of Millerston Street. This should make a huge difference to the area, and football fans now have no excuse for dropping their litter!

Monday 22 February 2010

Where's my candyfloss?

So Labour's latest slogan is "A Future Fair for All". The first few splutters on Facebook were about this future fair, and whether we could expect candy floss and bumper cars. Another friend suggested that re-electing Labour could be a fête worse than death (sorry!!!).

I don't get Labour at all. They've had thirteen years to make a fair future a reality, and to suggest they need more time smacks of desperation.

Children starting primary school in 1997 are now of voting and working age - do they see a world which is fair? And are they even likely to vote in this, a real election, rather than the X Factor or Strictly?

Yes, it takes time for policies to work through, and the early actions of a government might not be seen for several years. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation's study from last year on Poverty, Inequality and Policy since 1997 examined the details and found a mixed picture. While some progress has been made towards a more equal society, there is still a long way to go and, more worryingly, from around 2003, the momentum seemed to peter out.

"Notable success stories include reductions in child and pensioner poverty, improved education outcomes for the poorest children and schools, and narrowing economic and other divides between deprived and other areas.

But health inequalities continued to widen, gaps in incomes between the very top and very bottom grew, and poverty increased for working-age people without children. In several policy areas there was a marked contrast between the first half of the New Labour period and the second half, when progress has slowed or even stalled."

It seems to me to be difficult to argue that the Labour rollercoaster will pick up speed again. I am really not keen on a Conservative Government in Westminster, but I feel just as strongly that Labour don't deserve another term in office.

I see independence as a genuine alternative to this punch and judy show - a chance for Scotland to try to make our own impact on the inequalities which scar our society. The report notes that devolution hasn't made a great deal of impact, and really that should be obvious. We have no control over the levers which would tackle inequality - taxation, benefits, employment - these remain reserved to Westminster. The Scottish Government can take many actions to help alleviate a few of the symptoms of poverty and inequality, but only independence allows us the chance of finding our own cure.

I was out on the doorsteps on Saturday working for Patrick Grady, our candidate for Glasgow North. It's always interesting speaking to voters, and I enjoy the questions and debate you get faced with. I think though, in terms of strategy, there's a lot to be done to give people a reason to vote. I don't mean to vote SNP, but to vote generally.

An SNP vote in the Westminster elections can't change an unequal society overnight - but neither will a vote for any other party. What it will do is put Scottish issues high on the agenda, and allow our Government to have greater leverage. Sending a bunch of Labour MPs - an increasingly inexperienced and unknown bunch too, given the number standing down - to Westminster will not do this. They will end up as anonymous backbenchers in a Labour opposition, biding their time. We send our MPs to get the very best deal for Scotland at every opportunity; to settle up, not settle down. Who else can say the same?

Scottish Social Media Dinner

I enjoyed participating in the Scottish Social Media Dinner last week - lots of interesting people, mostly from non-political backgrounds. Thanks to Craig McGill of Contently Managed for the invite, and for the attendees for listening and asking so many searching questions. I found the night interesting, and I've left with several good ideas.

Tom Harris, Andrew Reeves and Patrick Harvie all had interesting things to say about blogging, tweeting and social media in general. A couple of good summaries from attendees are here and here: my other half tells me I 'ummed' too much in my speech, for which I apologise. I was also more political than the guys, for which I don't apologise at all! Being political is part of why I started blogging, and telling my point of view of life in Glasgow City Council is also quite important to me.

In related news, I joined Twitter today and installed the widget as you can see. The dinner really made me think more about Twitter, which I had previously dismissed as being a bit too intstant for my purposes - I do still worry about getting myself into bother!

The comments from Patrick at the dinner made me reconsider; he demonstrated how politicians could use Twitter to get input from members of the public in advance of events, meetings and debates. I see Tom has put up some tips today, which I intend to take on board. I'll see how it goes, and welcome any other tips and ideas!

Wednesday 17 February 2010

Glasgow Labour drop the ball

After being caught with their fingers in the till, Glasgow Labour appear to have been in plotting overdrive over the past few days. The Evening Times announces that there will be a reshuffle, with Jonathan Findlay making a hasty exit from the very challenging Education brief to head up SPT.

According to his declaration of interests, Jonathan's a qualified Lawyer, currently employed part time at East Dunbartonshire Council. In other deck-chair shifting, Councillor Paul Rooney will switch from Convener of the Strathclyde Police Board to take over Education (sure there's some transferable skills there...) and Councillor Stephen Curran will replace Rooney at Police. It's unclear whether that means he gives up the very controversial cuts (sorry, I meant Service Reform) portfolio, which I would have thought would require his full attention given the number of staff involved. It's a lot of change in some very high-profile portfolios.

*UPDATE* The Sunday Times, in a rather excellent and detailed double-page spread, mention that Councillor Findlay was also at the Rangers - Zenit UEFA Cup Final on corporate hospitality.

How can he possibly be sent in to clean up SPT when he's part of the same football/hospitality merry-go-round? What is it with Labour Councillors and football anyway? Can't they buy their own tickets like the rest of us?

Scottish Social Media Dinner

As it turns out, I'm speaking at the Scottish Social Media Dinner tonight, alongside blogging luminaries Tom Harris, Patrick Harvie, and Andrew Reeves. Got my fingers crossed that I don't say anything too ridiculous or bore people to death!

Tuesday 16 February 2010

In case you missed it....

In case any of you missed it earlier, here's a link to the C4 political slot video featuring John Mason MP... enjoy!

Political Slot

Channel 4 are running their 'political slot' feature all this week after the news at 19:55.

Tonight's features
John Mason MP, and I hear it's well worth watching.

Monday 15 February 2010

Young people's attitudes to domestic abuse

A couple of news reports today made me pause and think where we're going as a society. The first was news of the study on children's attitudes to violence, by Nancy Lombard of Napier University, which is to be presented at an event with Scottish Women's Aid on Wednesday. The second was news of a public awareness campaign on teenage domestic violence.

It's a relatively small study - 89 children at only five Glasgow Primaries - yet, I'm troubled by some of the comments reported in the study, which seem to hark back to some other age.

“They all said violence was wrong but, when we looked beneath that, they often saw it as justified by the actions of the woman.”

The BBC article on the public awareness campaign quotes Psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos:

"It is very interesting, the way it happens. It's much more about mind control. Through the language used, 'He doesn't allow me to do this, he wouldn't like me doing this'.

"It's as if the boy speaking to them like this is a way of them valuing them. As if they think, 'He cares enough to be jealous', and that is what is particularly worrying."

I find it quite disturbing that young women would willingly accept the notion that that they have done something to deserve violence. The societal pressures on young people seem to me to be greater now than even a few years ago, but nothing, even the fear of losing that first boyfriend or looking uncool, would have made me put up with that kind of behaviour.

Whether it's down to upbringing, the group of people you hang about with, or low self esteem and insecurity, it's not a path young women should be choosing. Accepting violence in relationships at a formative age is likely to set a pattern for all future relationships.

I don't see in the reports where these trends are coming from - whether it's family attitudes, the media, or something else entirely - but it will surely take a great deal of education to ensure these attitudes are not continued. As far as I remember, the teenage magazines I used to flick through would never have endorsed sympathy to abusive relationships, and I hope that hasn't changed. Men's magazines have been criticised for their attitudes towards women, but that alone can't explain this apparent trend.

I've heard anecdotes from those working with young people, who are also deeply concerned by some of the views they've heard. I know from meeting some groups in Glasgow that work is being done in schools with groups of young people of both sexes, and that football clubs and police have also worked together to target fans. It's up to all of us in society to challenge the notion that either side in a relationship is unworthy; this generation should not grow up under the cloud of domestic violence.

Sunday 14 February 2010

Labour Chair of SPT forced to quit

News emerges today that Labour Councillor Alistair Watson, Chair of Strathclyde Partnership for Transport, is to quit the role following several weeks of expenses stories in the Sunday Times. These allegations have resulted in my colleague Cllr Hendry referring SPT to Audit Scotland.

The Times quotes a Labour source:

“What’s been coming out in recent weeks about SPT’s expenses has been damaging and it’s beginning to damage the council. There’s a pattern of SPT spending money, not illegally or immorally, but in a way that its usefulness is not entirely clear. As chairman he should have had a better grip on it.”

I have to admit, I find Cllr Watson very helpful on transport issues on a personal level. He has a great deal of knowledge and experience in these matters, and even very recently arranged for officials to talk me through works on Dalmarnock Station. It will be difficult for any incumbent (Labour, natch, given the composition of the board) to live up to that.

Watson's attitude to expenses and 'fact finding' trips on the public pound, however, is not acceptable - the culmination of this being a highly co-incidental and spurious trip to Manchester to meet with officials to fit in with Rangers playing in the UEFA cup final. I'm not quite sure of the morality of that - but it's certainly not appropriate.

This attitude seems to permeate what SPT does, with trips justifying wild plans and unrealistic ideas which are regularly sooked up by a supine and impressionable local media. SPT needs to stick to fixing the basics - keeping the subway running and protecting vital local services.

Friday 12 February 2010

Happy news

The world, at least as far as my family, friends, facebook and the Cooncil are now all aware of this good news, so I reckoned it's time to share it with you: Joe and I are expecting a baby at the end of June, and I'm very nervous and excited.

I had a scan today, and am just into my twenty-first week.

I intend to be carrying on with my Council work as much as I can - and all the Labourites out there should know I'm certainly not going to be using pregnancy as an excuse to slack off on the election campaigning!

More importantly, with all the technology available, blackberry and such, I'll still be able to carry out my duties as a Councillor. It's a new challenge, but I aim to be up for it!

Sunday 7 February 2010

Party funding

Well, how party funding works in my experience, at least!

There's been much hoo-ha this week about SNP fundraising. I'm not going to comment on the news articles, other than to say that I attended Osama Saeed's fundraiser on Tuesday night to support him as our candidate for Glasgow Central. I paid my husband and I in for the princely sum of £15 a head. We were entertained by some heartfelt speeches, and the dinner was pretty tasty too.

Osama is up against the might of the Sarwar dynasty - according to the Electoral Commission register, since 2007, the Labour party have recieved £23,862.03 in catering and staff and £18,596.54 in cash from Mr Sarwar and his family. Muslim Friends of Labour, which has been associated with Mr Sarwar, has donated the quite phenomenal sum of £330,950 to the Labour party since 2005, mostly to fight in Scottish Campaigns. From these sums alone, you may begin to see what the SNP is up against in Glasgow Central.

The SNP is a party new to electoral success, and our fundraising tends to be done the way it always has been - locally, by the party faithful. I remember being blown away at our pre-election campaign conference in 2007 by announcement after announcement of huge sums of money pouring into the party coffers. Nationally printed glossy literature was doled out to campaigns. It was a huge change from the previous elections I was involved in, and it showed just how many more people we could reach with that extra funding.

I have a folder full of leaflets from past campaigns - mostly done on a shoe-string budget, risographed in black and white. If we were pushing the boat out, these would have additional yellow ink, or be printed on yellow paper. This is still the norm for most campaigns. Our candidates tend to have a budget only of what the local branch can raise themselves. For my own leaflets, I pay for the paper, write the leaflets, print and distribute them myself, sometimes with assistance from the local branch.

I attend SNP fundraisers on a regular basis. When we thought that Brown was going to go for an early election, candidates were selected and 'adoption nights' were quickly held.

I have no idea what other parties do, but in the SNP adoption nights are where the candidate is formally endorsed by the branch. There usually follows speeches by the biggest names a candidate can muster (all favours are called in!) and if you're lucky, some other form of entertainment - a ceilidh or musicians. Raffles are a certainty. The most entertaining and eclectic adoption event in recent years was Anne McLaughlin's pre-2007, which featured fancy dress, karaoke, and spacehopper races!

In addition, branches hold regular events. Maryhill hold a racenight - not with videos of horses, but with wee horses and furry dice. On the south side, the Pennycooks have been holding cheese and wine events for over twenty years. Burns suppers are of course a popular fundraising event, although for sought-after speakers I've heard 'haggis fatigue' is an occupational hazard!

Most candidates in Glasgow are choosing to take a second bite at the fundraising cherry - a year after their initial adoption, with the General Election much later than they thought when they were selected, another round of fundraisers are looming.

I doubt if any of these will feature fundraising on the scale of Osama's event, but the difference is this; we are still a small party. We don't have trade unions or a host of wealthy funders. We have a limited pool of elected representatives to call on for donations, and the ones we have are very generous with their time and their money. 38p of every £1 the SNP has is donated by individual members, and 21p comes from membership subscriptions.

The money we raise pays for leaflets and other campaign merchandise, and goes towards the cost of telephone canvassing. The SNP don't pay members to go round the doors to speak to you, or to deliver leaflets. We rely almost entirely on our members to volunteer, on the doorstep and behind the scenes.

The youth wing, the YSI, raise money to allow young members to get around the country to campaign. I do my bit by baking cakes to sell at party conference, and our Conference karaoke also brings in the pennies. In 2007, we campaigned in the North East, the Western Isles, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and many places in between.

I personally have visited Council by elections from Glasgow to Elgin; I do this of my own volition and without so much as petrol money.

I do it, and so many of our members do the same, because we believe in our party and our cause.

It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.

Saturday 6 February 2010

Work and play

I was out campaigning with John Mason this morning in Carntyne. We've all been working hard to get John re-elected, and weekends are no exception!

I was out speaking to people on the doorsteps, and I got a pretty warm response. Lots of people knew who John was, and several had already been helped by him. One woman, who John had helped to get new windows, was absolutely delighted by the service she had received from him and I could see John has got a fan for life!

It's really nice to get to listen to people, find out what makes them tick and what they want to see in their area. I'm not sure yet what John can do about the number of cats roaming about the area (I got followed by one around several doors!), but he's on the case!

After campaigning, I headed out to Fir Park to catch the Lanarkshire derby. The snowy conditions over the new year have played havoc with the surface of the pitch, so there was little scope for a stylish passing game. Nevertheless, Motherwell ground out a win, and I'm pleased to see we're up to a decent 5th.

Tonight, I'm off to the 30th birthday party of a good friend. I'm looking forward to it!

Tomorrow... more campaigning I think!

Dalmarnock station

As part of the investment for the Commonwealth Games and in connection to the regeneration taking place in my ward through Clyde Gateway, the train station at Dalmarnock will be receiving a substantial upgrade.

I went for a meeting with SPT officials this week, and got a bit more information on the plans for the station and the timescale for the improvements.

I use the station occasionally going to meetings in Dalmarnock, but it's a bit isolated and it's usually easier to get the bus.

I'm not alone in this view, as it's pretty quiet. At the moment, the station faces out on to Swanston Street, which makes it all but invisible from the main road. Some early plans show a change in the entrance to Dalmarnock Road, and this seems to have been a popular idea at Clyde Gateway's consultation meetings.

SPT are currently working with partners to draw up a series of options, and working out the costs of the improvements.

The station itself, as you can see from the pictures, is pretty unusual, with large concrete beams supporting retaining walls, and bridges going overhead. This makes it more challenging to get the station up to the best standards to allow access for disabled passengers. Lifts would clearly be the best solution, but with limited space, I can see that careful planning will be required to fit them in safely.

The station will be well-placed for the Commonwealth Games, and everyone is keen to see it play a part, bringing tourists, and then being available for the new residents who will come to live in the area afterwards.

The officials hope to have the refurbishment work completed by the autumn of 2013, and I'll certainly keep you updated with any further information.

Eastbound platform - this may end up being the new entrance from Dalmarnock Road.

Platforms and tunnel - the roads above are Swanston Street on the left and Dalmarnock Road straight ahead.

Bridge over the tracks and supporting beams - you can see how narrow the station is, and how little room there is to redevelop.

I'd like to give my thanks to Cllr Watson and his staff for their time and the helpful information they provided.

Friday 5 February 2010

Glasgow's Health

At today's Executive Committee we discussed (among other items) the Director of Public Health's report An Unequal Struggle for Health. There are a number of important observations and recommendations in the report for the health of our city. One of the most challenging is, of course, our relationship with alcohol.

For Labour, that relationship is even more uncomfortable. Back in December, at the last full meeting of Council of the year, Labour, for reasons best known to themselves, decided to reject the sensible, non partisan motion submitted by the SNP group:

"Council notes with concern the high and disproportionate impact the misuse of alcohol has on Glasgow's citizens and welcomes the commitment of national and local Governments to tackle this.

Whilst Council notes there is no one answer to tackle this problem it welcomes the principle of minimum pricing which has an important role to play in tackling the misuse of alcohol in Glasgow."

They decided to replace our motion with their own version:

“Council is concerned at the problems faced by many in this city as a result of alcohol misuse, recognises that there is no single solution to this problem and welcomes the commitment of local and national governments to tackle this issue.

Council is aware of the Scottish Government’s preferred option of minimum pricing but is concerned that these proposals are flawed and untested.”

Interestingly, the Director of Public Health's report states quite clearly and unequivocally:

"NHSGGC and its partners must support the government proposals on taking action to restrict promotions of alcohol beverages and introducing a minimum retail price for a UK unit of alcohol"

Whoops! Labour looked distinctly uncomfortable when we challenged them on this today, asking them to retract their previous position - a position most likely forced on them by Iain Gray. They would have known in December that this report was imminent, and that the views of health professionals supported the policy. It just goes to show how petty Labour are - they won't support a policy just because the SNP proposed it. Contrast this with the mature, cross-party support for the banning of smoking in indoor public places.

Sadly for Labour, and tragically for the cause of public health in our city, Council standing orders dictate that decisions taken by the Council can't be overturned for a period of six months, so Labour really have painted themselves into a corner on this one.
I'm not certain that it's logical for Labour to back a report contrary to Council policy, but there's really not much else they could do!

The report was accepted unanimously by the Committee, and the work of the Director, Dr Linda De Caestecker, and her team roundly welcomed. I would encourage folk to have a peek at the report - it really is well-written and interesting.

Thursday 4 February 2010

SNP Government Budget passed

Great news to see the SNP Government's budget passed. Some may speak of concessions, but it's the necessity of a minority Government to skilfully manoeuvre a consensus and I think that the Cabinet Secretary for Finance has played the game expertly.

After last year's brinkmanship and shenanigans, things seemed to go very smoothly - although as Will succinctly points out, Labour are still far from being a responsible opposition. They sound less and less convincing every day. Their UK website gives no headline to indicate what they're up to in Holyrood, and it's really no surprise - there's nothing of note to report.

Their Scottish website fails to recognise that the SNP are actually bringing in the boiler scrappage scheme, so they really ought to get rid of this very misleading graphic. Labour also try to get stuck into the Tories for objecting to the further cut in prescription charges, while failing to acknowledge that they themselves voted against the cut by rejecting our budget!

Anyway, having got that off my chest, more positive stuff...

The further reduction in prescription charges is wonderful news. In April, the cost will fall to only £3, while in England, the cost of a prescription is at present an eye-watering £7.20. Lowering the cost helps those most at need, but it's also an important principle. Suffering from an illness that requires prescription medication is difficult enough - people shouldn't feel they have to go without, or decide which medicines to prioritise, through poverty or pride.

I'm very pleased to hear that the small business bonus scheme has been tweaked, increasing the threshold, to continue support to help companies through the recession. The significance of this scheme can be seen in shopping streets throughout Glasgow; on Duke Street, the Gallowgate and Bridgeton Cross, wee businesses have opened providing local people with a range of goods and services. These businesses make our communities viable, and it's great to know our government is doing what they can to help in these difficult times.

It reassuring to hear that an Independent Budget Review will be established to consider the implications of forecasts of reductions in public spending in Scotland. We need to be prepared, and realistic about the future; all parties should find a way to engage productively.

PS - I've also noticed this fairly unfortunate typo-strewn piece on the Labour website...

The independent Literacy Commission, set up by Scottish Labour, has reported.
Iain Gray said: "We need a revolution in literacy teaching our schools and we will argue for that in opposition and once in office we will pursue this relentlessly. This report is huge wake-up call for Scotland."

Dearie me, bad things indeed are...