Thursday 17 December 2015
Syrian refugees raised their voices in the Scottish Parliament today and got a fast reply from the First Minister. Within a couple of hours of two speakers requesting to meet First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to discuss issues they were concerned about, she said she’d be willing to hear them early in the new year.
More than 52 asylum seekers, refugees and local supporters of the group Uniting Nations in Scotland (UNIS), travelled from Glasgow to the presentation arranged by MSP Sandra White (Glasgow Kelvin).
UNIS is a charity organisation working closely with Police Scotland, BEMIS the ethnic minorities umbrella body, the British Red Cross, Findlay Memorial Church, Crossing Borders, Maryhill Integration Network, the International Women’s Group and the Inner Circle Men’s Group.
Two of the UNIS members gave speeches in the Scottish Parliament committee room. Feras Alzoubi – a father of three, who came with his family through the United Nations Vulnerable Person Relocation Scheme and Marwa Daher a 16 year old youth member of UNIS who arrived under the same scheme. Both praised the UK Government and the UN for helping them to be brought to safety. They also thanked the Scottish Government and local authorities for their warm welcome and the help they’d received from UNIS. But each touched on issues they felt needed more attention.
Said school girl Marwa Daher in excellent English: ‘We didn’t choose to leave Syria. But we had to. Danger had become our shadow.’ She was unable to attend school in Syria because of the war which claimed the life of her 15-year-old brother. She said she was quite happy in school in Scotland. But added: ‘I wish even more could be done for people like us to support us in our education. We still feel confused about the education system and other issues.’ She then asked to meet the First Minister to ‘share our experiences in order to resolve them and to make them better for the other children who are coming to the country.’
Electing to speak in Arabic, Feras Alzoubi said he was ‘re-born’ on the day he came to Glasgow.
After he and his family were left for dead in their home after hours of shooting, he escaped. ‘But my mother and brothers, unfortunately, are not protected by the UN Vulnerable Persons Scheme. They were left behind.’ He asked, therefore, for parents and other family members to be offered protection under the UN Scheme.
He was traumatised by his experience of being shot at and by the subsequent journey but – four months after arriving in Scotland – he is still waiting to see a consultant about his bullet wound injuries.
He added: ‘We know now that our children have a future here and we will contribute to building the economy of Scotland, but we ask the Scottish Government to recognise we Syrian refugees are people with a lot of experience and many skills. A programme to help us get into our previous types of work would be useful.’
Both speakers mentioned how helpful it had been to attend UNIS events to learn about Scottish culture, share their own culture and be informed by Police Scotland about the law in Scotland as they were anxious to stay on the right side of it.
UNIS leader and founder Mrs Ahlam Souidi launched a booklet ‘Celebrating Together’ containing the stories of many of the refugees who had been involved with UNIS and photographs of the social events held in conjunction with Police Scotland and other partners.
On her ‘to do’ list for the organisation are: setting up a Women’s Group which will address various issues including domestic violence; establishing training so that Syrian skills can be used effectively in Scotland; setting up a youth group.
Chief Inspector Alastair Muir of Police Scotland said there were many success stories to celebrate while police worked with asylum seekers and refugees. ‘But it takes time to integrate and then to trust,’ he said. ‘Police here don’t operate in the way police in other countries do. We don’t ‘do’ guns, for a start. We like to stress that New Scots are protected here. But it takes time to build relationships and for our message to get across that Police here will not tolerate intolerance – whether race, religion or domestic violence.’
The event at the Scottish Parliament was ably chaired by Mohamed Souidi who came to the UK at the age of one and speaks fluent Arabic, English and French. It was drawn to a close by Mr Alzoubi’s six year old son, Hamza, singing a Syrian song.
All six of the infamous Red Road high flats were ‘blown down’ today but remnants of two of them remained after the explosion. Hours after the event, no one at Glasgow Housing Association (GHA) was able to comment on whether this was intended or not. Nor did the social landlord – part of the Wheatley Group – release the normal details of how much explosive was used, how many tonnes of rubble would be created etc.
One insider, however, said that the steel structure of the building was such that four times the normal amount of explosive would have been used and the two bits of building remaining standing would have been ‘not expected.’
And by early evening it was understood that hundreds of people were being advised to ‘look at the GHA website’ to see where they might spend the night if they were unable to return to their homes because of the unsafe, remaining structures.
An emergency inspection was believed to be underway as this story
is being written.
Local people in their hundreds stood at various vantage points for hours to wait for the massive implosion. They were well pleased. Cheers and a round of applause accompanied the massive cloud of dust which followed the collapse of the blocks. The dust spread over a very wide area.
Said trainee photographer Joe Graham: ‘That was quick!’ as he scrolled through his images.
Local resident Joan Flanagan said: ‘That was magic. I like big bangs and love to see things being destructed like that.’
Bobby Burns, also a local resident said: ‘That’s bitter sweet to see. It is one chapter of life closed now. But I suppose it opens a new one of re-generation for the area.’ He said he’d lived in two different tower blocks and commented: ‘They’ve both gone now. They were blown down too.’
The huge operation to clear the surrounding area of people began early on Sunday morning. ‘Two thousand five hundred people had to be moved,’ said one GHA official spokesman. ‘That takes time.’
Some resistance was expected from one householder – Tina Suffredini who chairs the local residents’ association. But when the time came, the GHA’s ‘plan B’ to have Sheriff Officers physically remove the lady from her property, was not required and she left her home of her own accord.
MSP Patricia Ferguson, who spent 11 years of her early girlhood in one of the Red Road flats said: ‘These needed to come down. I hope the new developments will bring job opportunities and community facilities and the GHA is consulting with local people to do that.’
The Govan Fair Association recently handed over a cheque for £200 to ‘We are Macmillan Cancer Support’ to help people living with cancer.
Though wheelchair bound, Linda Yates was the chief fund raiser for the Govan Fair Association. ‘I just did what I could to help,’ she said. This included sitting outside with a bucket on Govan Fair Day in June 2015 receiving money given by the crowd. On behalf of Macmillan Cancer Support, modern apprentice Calvin Lynch (17) was happy to receive the cheque for the formal ceremony in the Pearce Institute café in Govan which is run by Macmillan Cancer Support. Vice Chair Sandy Black, wearing the Govan Fair chain of office, officially represented the Association. He said: ‘The money given to Macmillan Cancer Support continues an ancient tradition of the Fair Association – to distribute any surplus from the Fair to those in need locally.’
A spokeswoman for the Macmillan support fundraising team which works upstairs in the Pearce Institute, said the money would be added to what the team raises for Macmillan work.
Later that day, Linda Yates was honoured by the Association – which has a tradition going back more than 300 years – and made a Life Member as was local Church of Scotland minister Moyna McGlynn. Said Chairman Lord James Stringfellow: ‘They have been given Life Membership out of gratitude for the support each has given the Govan Fair and the Govan Fair Association over the years.’
The Association has also ratified its 21st century working model as a company limited by guarantee with Charitable Status. Said Mr Stringfellow: ‘The whole process was managed by OSCR (the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator) who made sure all the legalities and constitutional procedures have been adhered to. We are now on a modern footing and the Govan Fair is protected for the people of Govan for the next 300 years. The current committee are the custodians of huge tradition and we take that role very seriously.’
Later that day, the Govan Fair Association re-elected their committee at a re-called annual general meeting. Solicitor John Flanagan reassured everyone that the legalities of becoming a company limited by guarantee with Charitable Status had been done correctly. He explained that this was to protect the people taking the responsibilities of the Association and was a normal process today. Chairman Lord James Stringfellow also moved an amendment to the standing orders to emphasis that the Govan Fair belongs to the people of Govan and those who are the custodians of the Association and formal supporters of it, are committed to that objective.
Protesters, wanting to shut down Dungavel Immigration Detention Centre near Strathaven, will descend on the prison on Saturday 30 May.
Organised by the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) the demonstration is supported by the Church of Scotland, the Catholic Church, the Muslim Council of Britain, Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees, and community activists from across Scotland.
A recent STUC motion said: ‘Detention is a blight on our asylum system. People being held indefinitely in Dungavel have committed no crime.’ The UK is the only European country which has no limit on the time permitted to detain people seeking sanctuary.
According to the BBC in January, 185 people were detained in Dungavel. Two had been there for more than a year while 32 had been there for more than six months and a further nine for more than three months. Children are not supposed to be detained in Dungavel but fears were expressed at a meeting in Glasgow a few days before the demonstration, that they were being held there before being send to detention centres in England.
Church and human rights authorities have been refused permission by Home Secretary, Theresa May, to visit the prison to see if reports of people detained there being on hunger strike over the conditions and over their unlimited detention, were true.
Speakers at the rally are expected to include Glasgow Girl Amal Azzudin who, as a school girl, along with her peers, challenged the removal of one of their class mates whose family was seeking asylum. Their challenge was successful and the story of their fight was later made into a successful stage musical.
A former home of the Dukes of Hamilton, the Dungavel property is run by the Home Office via a £25million, 5 year contract with GEO, part of the company which runs Guantanamo Bay Detention Centre and private jails in the United States.
For more information and to book a place on the bus: www. stuc.org.uk/dungavel #ShutDunga
In true Presbyterian tradition, all six election candidates for the Glasgow South seat had their say in Cathcart Trinity Church. Each was listened to with respect by the audience of almost 200 people. Three people who wanted to have a shouting match were politely, but firmly dealt with by the Chairperson, Rev Wilma Pearson and chose to leave.
The format worked well. First, every candidate stating his case, then questions were asked by the Chairperson from those submitted some time before. Each candidate gave his answer. And a final response concluded an informative and carefully timed evening.
Tom Harris who has represented the area for Labour since 2001 when the seat was Glasgow Cathcart, left no one in doubt about his concerns should the SNP ‘sweep the board.’ He said: ‘That is the elephant in the room. There can never be a coalition between Scottish Labour and the SNP. The only sure way to stop them is to vote Labour.’
Stewart McDonald, the SNP candidate was equally certain: ‘If you want business as usual at Westminster, then I’m not your guy. If you want to move forward and hold politicians accountable, you should support me.’
Ewan Hoyle, the Scottish Liberal Democrat representative said that the Liberal Democrats were the major ‘green’ party championing climate change at Westminster. ‘If you want green issues to be on the table at Westminster you should vote Liberal Democrat,’ he said.
Kyle Thornton of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party said his party was the only one with a plan to make things better for everyone in Britain. ‘Everyone who wants a job should get a job. There will be help for the young people into jobs or college or university or an apprenticeship. This is not another Referendum. If you want the country to keep together you should vote Conservative.’
Scottish Green Party candidate, Alastair Whitelaw said it wouldn’t be a career disaster for him, personally, if he didn’t get elected. But he urged people to consider the international perspective so that this country cultivated better relationships all over the world. ‘This is the only way to secure our future by being better at the so-called ‘soft’ relationships and being able to speak other languages. Peace, disarmament, food production and climate change are the things that need to be done better in the next 30 to 50 years if we want to make this world a safer place.’
Brian Smith of the Scottish Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) warned: ‘If you vote tactically, you’ll still get austerity. Think carefully and vote for what you really belive in. Dream dreams, that way you can change society.’
Photograph shows BACK ROW from left: Alastair Whitelaw (Scottish Green Party), Brian Smith (TUSC), Ewan Hoyle (Scottish Lib Dems), Kyle Thornton (Scottish Conservative and Unionist). FRONT ROW from left: Stewart McDonald (SNP), Rev Wilma Pearson, Tom Harris (Scottish Labour Party)
The food co-operative at the University of Glasgow is well under way for this semester. Every second Friday from 3.30pm till 5.30pm they hand over the pre-paid vegetables ordered online. Today – Friday 13 February 2015- the people on duty in the foyer of the Queen Margaret Union were (from left) Ambi, Eva and Grace who is showing the new Food Co-op bags which can be purchased for £3. They have been hand-printed by Esme Armour at the Glasgow School of Art (GSA) and are made of bamboo. For more information go to: www.glasgowunifoodcoop.com
The 1,068 volunteers who helped make the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow last year, ‘the best ever’ have been honoured by an exhibition in the People’s Palace on Glasgow Green. The displays will run till 3 August 2015 – the date the Games finished in 2014.
Co-curated by some of the Volunteers, the exhibition features objects from the Commonwealth Games journey. These include the only remaining costume of the Games mascot, Clyde, an iconic teacake seen in the Opening Ceremony, uniforms, photographs and other memorabilia.
Entitled ‘Our Games’ the new exhibition challenges pre-conceived ideas of who can be a volunteer and encourages visitors to add their own experiences of the Games.
Natalia Baltramaitiene, who communicates using British Sign Language, was among the first volunteers to visit the exhibition. She said: ‘The Games was my first volunteering experience and I loved every minute. I met many wonderful people and this has encouraged me to carry on volunteering. I’ve kept my uniform and bags, but it’s brilliant to come to the People’s Palace museum and see so many great memories.’
Volunteer Frank O’Hare said: ‘ Being part of the Games was, for me, like meeting your brothers and sisters in the streets. I’d definitely consider doing it again and I’d encourage anyone thinking about volunteering to give it a go.’
Councillor Archie Graham, Chair of Glasgow Life, said: ‘The People of Glasgow were the magic ingredient that made the Games such a success. Our Host City Volunteers were the face of Glasgow and offered a welcome bursting with warmth and passion and pride.’ He added that the exhibition hopes to inspire people to volunteer. ‘Now we have a whole army of positive role models who will encourage even more people to give volunteering a go. That’s a legacy to be proud of.’
Every one of the 1,068 Host City Volunteers was given intensive training and is featured in ‘Our Games’ exhibition via a large screen projection. Corresponding community exhibitions are on display at community centres in Netherton, Barmulloch and Castlemilk.
For more information on volunteering in Glasgow visit: www.volunteerglasgow.org/volunteer/search or call Glasgow Life volunteer inquiry helpline on 0800 027 6402.
Glasgow’s plan B has nothing to do with the Referendum! It is the Council’s strategy to increase the population of honeybees in the city. Around 120,000 bees have been installed in two insulated beehives on the roof of Glasgow City Chambers.
Vital in the food chain, this kind of bee is under threat because of pesticides and climate change.
Council Leader Gordon Matheson – who is also chair of Sustainable Glasgow – said: “Bees pollinate a third of the food we eat and also pollinate trees which helps reduce air pollution by taking in carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. Numbers have dropped dramatically so Sustainable Glasgow is helping reverse that decline by installing these hives.
“I hope the bees will flourish and help us ensure Glasgow remains a Dear Green Place for generations to come.”
PlanBee Ltd is the company which provides the bees, the hives and the training programmes. Council staff have swarmed to be trained in hive management.
Bees can travel up to three miles to find their target flowers. Said Warren Bader of PlanBee Ltd: “Glasgow is a fantastic garden city. Bees can be safer in a city than in the countryside where a lot of farmers use pesticides and plant monocultures (just one type of crop) which isn’t healthy for pollen production. In a good summer the bees can produce plenty of honey.” He added: “Unless you are a flower, the bees really aren’t interested in you so no one should be worried!”
Wax from the bees will be used as furniture polish in the City Chambers. What happens to the honey will be decided when the quality and quantity is known.
Glasgow aims to become one of the most sustainable cities in Europe by cutting carbon emissions by 30% by 2020 / 21.
Already it has a network of electric car charging points; solar powered parking meters; Green Wardens; electric vehicles in the council fleet and a Green Energy Services Company to promote and oversee renewable energy projects. The Stalled Spaces initiative has seen 32 disused spaces in Glasgow brought back into use as community gardens, performance space and locations for public art installations. This scheme will be rolled out across Scotland.
Next year Glasgow plans to hold Green Year 2015. Twelve months of activities will celebrate the city’s green credentials and encourage others to do their bit for the environment. Twitter: @greenglasgow.
Lorne Brown, an 82-year-old retired newspaper design and layout expert, plans to abseil from the Titan Crane at Clydebank on Saturday 14 June 2014.
A renowned piper, he is doing this in aid of research into Vasculitis. The condition is a dangerous inflammation of the blood vessels. This can result in irreversible damage to organs and even death. Lorne was struck down by Vasculitis and not expected to recover. However, he has regained a remarkable degree of health and has even re-started his Munro ‘bagging’ plan.
Recently, he gave a short talk on the history of the bagpipes to international students at Wellington Church INTERNATIONAL WELCOME CLUB and encouraged volunteers to try playing a tune – more difficult than it looks.
Donations are welcome: www.justgiving.com/Lorneabseil
in aid of research into Vasculitis by the Lauren Currie Twilight Foundation
GOVANHILL & CROSSHILL COMMUNITY COUNCIL
Scottish Referendum Discussion
Don’t know ? Come Along
It’s too important for politicians, alone.
Monday 9th June 2014 at 7pm
Samaritan House, 79 Coplaw Street,
Govanhill G42 7JG
Speakers and public discussion