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.


Anonymous said...

A brown site on contaminated land in labours heartland, how apt

Anonymous said...

Although your Gran can't buy wool or fresh fish , which is obviously a shame , i think its unfair to blame Labour for this or any Government for that matter.

Is it not the case that if there was a major supermarket near here they would simply beat the price from the local smaller shops, nobody would shop there and the business would go out of business.

Market forces determine what shops open and also supply and demand. It appears therefore that there is a demand for bookies and shops that sell alcohol but not fish or wool.

Out of curiosity , how far away is her large brand name supermarket ?

BellgroveBelle said...

Anonymous 1 - indeed!

Anonymous 2 - there is a large supermarket in Wishaw which has contributed somewhat to the dereliction of the town centre. I don't blame them entirely though.

It's not just down to market forces or supermarkets - some towns do survive and thrive, but there needs to be a proper strategy to make this happen.

That policy/strategy is the business of the local Council, which has been Labour for pretty much it's whole existence. I feel it's probably reasonable therefore to apportion some blame to the Labour party. That, and Jack McConnell's 'pigsty' comment.

joe90 kane said...

Anonymous 2
but the fact remains that Labour Party seem to have plans to build a new town centre to replace both Wishaw and Motherwell.

I live mid-way between the two and the Ravenscraig site is just a few minutes walk from my well-appointed council hoose, and none of us locals have been asked as to wether we want a whole new town centre.

Even the name of my ward has been changed to 'Ravenscraig' without as much as a by or leave. The local community centre doesn't even bear the name of the community it's supposed to serve, but that of a Labour Party apparatchik.

Hasn't Labour Party policies and favouritism towards huge corporations done enough to destroy the small buisness owner and small shop-keeper and turned our town centres into ghost towns?

We don't need a new town centre to replace Wishae or Motherwell.

joe90 kane said...

Whilst Calamity Jim Murphy was launching his Labour Party manifesto in a super-duper new college just down the road (no local people got invited) a brownfield site which also boasts a £30 million new sports centre, his fellow local Labour councillors were busily stabbing local people in the back.

Two Labour Pary councillors marched with campaigners to stop a local primary school being closed in one of the poorest parts of our country.
When it came to the vote in North Lanarkshire Council in Motherwell Civic Centre these two Labour Party councillors betrayed the people they claimed they supported -
Parents’ fury as North Lanarkshire Council axe St Matthew’s Primary School
Wishaw Press
31 Mar 2010

THE Labour councillors who represent Craigneuk and Wishawhill have been warned that people in the area will remember their "betrayal" after they voted to shut down St Matthew’s Primary.

Councillors Thomas Lunny and Kaye Harmon supported the decision to axe the school at a highly-charged meeting in Motherwell’s Civic Centre last Thursday.

Lunny and Harmon sided with the ruling Labour group as councillors crushed the hopes of campaigners by voting 39 to 20 in favour of closing the school....

[Labour]...Councillor Kaye Harmon – who we pictured marching alongside campaigners just weeks ago – said she found the decision to close St Matthew’s "very painful" but admitted it was "for the greater good."

More on how Labour-controlled North Lanarkshire Council is facing up to cuts in public spending -
Parents' anger at Education chief's salary
Wishaw Press
07 Apr 2010

CAMPAIGNERS who battled to save St Matthew’s Primary have reacted in fury after it emerged the education chief who said shutting schools was "justified due to unprecedented financial challenges" gets paid £107,793....

...In total 238 council employees earned more than £50,000 last year. The majority of salaries in the report are banded within ranges of £10,000 and consequently it’s not possible to give an exact total of North Lanarkshire’s spend on these workers.

Employees who picked up the top salaries were Chief Executive Gavin Whitefield who was paid a total of £133,509. Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s ministerial salary is £132,393 (this is minus his MP’s salary of £64,766).

Other executives in the six-figure bracket included director of Learning & Leisure Christine Pollock who pocketed £107,793. Also earning the same amount were Executive Director of Corporate Services John O’Hagan, Executive Director of Environmental Services Paul Jukes; Executive Director of Finance & Customer Service Alistair Crichton and Executive Director of Housing & Social Work Mary Castles.

The wage bill for the chief executive and five executive directors was £672,474, and they were all eligible for performance related pay. Those figures were not available at the time of going to press yesterday (Tuesday) but the chief executive was eligible for up to £12,780 in performance related pay while the five executive directors were eligible for £9780 each.

Christine McGeechan added: "I’d love to know what the criteria is for achieving the performance related bonus. Perhaps the more schools that shut, the bigger the bonus dished out."

BellgroveBelle said...

Feature on tonight's Newsnight (21.04.10) on Craigneuk, and the Ravenscraig project saying a lot of the same things. Labour's legacy for Lanarkshire.

joe90 kane said...

Thanks for that BB.

I'll see if I can watch the Newsnight prog online.

I'm sorry about my over-long comments.

These days, given the corrupt, unresponsive and unnaccountable way we are governed, the SNP manifesto should be writing itself.

What is going on round Motherwell and Wishaw is a good example of SNP's 'local champions' campaign in action. Again, the SNP have got it on a plate.

By all accounts, the save St. Matthews PS campaigners who attended the NLC vote were actually bad-mouthed by Labour councillors telling them to "go away hame and feed yer weans missus" and stuff like that.

Anyway BB, here is an excellent new Scottish source of online news and analysis -
Newsnet Scotland

All the best!


BellgroveBelle said...

No apology needed Joe! It interesting to see the parallels with the Glasgow school closures decision - the anniversary of which is tomorrow.

Mark said...

Saying that there is nothing to show for 12 years of Labour in Ravenscraig (and I'm sorry to point out, really...) is essentially a huge lie. The differences may not be obvious, but let me outline them for you.

Since the closure of the 'Craig, undermined areas have been infilled, extensive groundwork has taken place to reduce contamination, the South Calder Water which flows under has had a remediation facility installed, a new water, electricity and gas infrastructure has been installed, dangerous areas have been secured... and, of course, once all this preperation was done, phase 2 started rapidly: the excellent new Motherwell College campus, the new regional sports facility, and, off of Plantation Rd, the construction of a new housing estate is underway.

These things don't happen overnight; you couldn't logically expect the decontamination of a 1.5kAcre brownfield to take any less time than it has.

In response to a few other questions, the new Tesco supermarket in Wishaw is a 5 minute walk from the far end of Main Street. It is a one minute walk from the train station and the main Newmains->Glasgow buslink, the 267, goes directly by the shop's pedestrian entrance. However, prices across all Tesco stores in the UK are the same, just to clarify.

There are also two large 24 hour ASDAs in the constituency, one directly opposite Newmains Town Center and one directly opposite Motherwell Shopping Center. Both are directly accessible by bus and the Motherwell store is close to the local train station.

In response to other comments, of course, noone has been -asked- if they want a town center but we are all capable of participating in the political system and this involves having the initiative to start the conversation with your councillors, your local newspaper, your MP and MSP. They won't come to you.

No, we do not need a new town center to replace Wishaw and Motherwell. We need a further town center to replace the 1.5kAcre scar on our landscape. We need the investment to make sure there is not a massive death trap littered with mine shafts and old industrial relics in the middle of the Craigneuk and Carfin communities.

As for St Matthew's Primary, the people of Wishawhill are already living in a highly impoverished community and any budget cut which may help the council with some extra money to spend on the area should be appreciated. However I would agree that the salaries of the executive team who made the decision should also be cut in fairness.

The town center of Wishaw is indeed in trouble, but I would cite a few examples of local businesses which have done extremely well in response to anybody who blames government for that change in demand:

There is an IT services company based in Wishaw with a shop in the town center which has recently secured a contract with the council to provide a number of new green IT systems to high schools.

There is a coffee shop in the town center which is doing well (despite, might I add, a Costa Coffee in the local Tesco), and contributed greatly to the local community with a long-running music project encouraging young local musicians to gain valuable experience by participating in a monthly acoustic open-mic session.

There are a number of independent restaurants and grocery stores which have been continuing to do well.

Shops which don't tend to do well are generally trying to fill a niché in the market, for example a sweet shop which was around for a few months at most, and unfortunately we cannot blame this on the local government.

...Hope I've made my point, anyway ;p