A momentous week. First the tragic crash of the Police helicopter into the busy Clutha Vaults pub with the loss of nine lives – the pilot and two police officers aboard the helicopter and six patons in the pub.
Then the news that Nelson Mandela had died. The Colossus who led South Africa out of apartheid and into a new and more equal world had finally walked to freedom of a different kind.
In both instances the people of Glasgow showed their true mettle. They ran into the pub to bring out the injured. They provided tea and support for the emergency services personnel who had the terrible task of searching for survivors and retrieving bodies once the embedded helicopter had been removed. For Mandela, they were standing in Nelson Mandela Square within hours of his passing. On a cold, dark night with slight smirr falling, several hundred people listened to tributes and learned of the proud place Glasgow and Scotland had in the struggle against apartheid.
Bouquets of flowers appeared spontaneously. People talked to total strangers, sharing grief and memories, tears and sadness, a helping hand and solidarity.
Each individual had empathy for others. Whether it was immediately at the time of the crash and in its aftermath or whether it was history when Nelson Mandela was given the Freedom of the City and the years of effort it took to achieve that, didn’t matter.
What was important was that people in Glasgow identified with the humanity of others at a critical time. Instinctively they reacted as if the person needing help was one of their own. Let’s all hope and pray that true solidarity is in evidence for future struggles at home.
Scotland’s future was mapped out today with the Scottish Government’s launch of its guide to an independent Scotland.
In a smooth performance First Minister Alex Salmond and Deputy Nicola Sturgeon presented the 650 paged book of proposals.
Corralled in Glasgow’s Science Centre with several hundred journalists from around the world, the pair easily answered all the questions usually quoting the exact pages where the information was printed.
Alex Salmond called the document ‘the most comprehensive blueprint for an independent country ever published.’ Entitled ‘Scotland’s Future – Your Guide to an Independent Scotland’ the 170,000 word document is available online and 20,000 copies have been printed. It can be read on: http://www.scotreferendum.com/
He said: Scotland’s future is now in Scotland’s hands. It won’t be decided by the government or the media but by the people of Scotland.’
Setting out his prospectus he said: ‘It is a mission statement for the kind of country we should be and which this Government believes we can be.’ He emphasised that one part marked the route to a vote for independence. The other part contained the proposals to achieve the objectives set out, should an SNP Government be returned in the general election following such a vote.
He said: ‘We know we have the people, the skills and the resources to make Scotland a more successful country. What we need now are the economic tools and powers to buld a more competitive, dynamic economy and create more jobs.’
Deputy Nicola Sturgeon asked as many people as possible to read the guide and make up their own minds about Scotland’s future. She said: ‘This is an incredibly thorough and detailed guide which includes 650 questions about an independent Scotland – with the answers.’
‘When it comes to social equality, health, quality of life and economic performance, Scotland has too often lagged behind the performance of our near neighbours across Northern Europe – many of them countries of similar size to Scotland.’
She went on: ‘ This is an unprecedented chance to transform our country for the better. Our employment and social policy proposals – including a revolution in childcare – show what is possible.’
Among the key parts of the massive document is a section detailing the changes needed, the opportunities independence would provide for a Scottish Government to make those changes and the present SNP Government’s priorities for action.
The timescale and the process needed for Scotland to make the transition following a ‘yes’ vote, are outlined. Details of the negotiations and agreements that would be needed are set out. Emphasis is placed on a written constitution and equality and human rights being protected and promoted in a future ‘modern democracy.’
Among the priorities of an SNP Scottish Government in an independent Scotland would be:
an expansion of childcare provision to enable more women and parents to work.
a reduction of corporation tax by three percentage points
cutting Air Passenger Duty by 50 percent.
A safe, ‘triple-locked pension’ to put more money into pensioners’ pockets.
basic rate tax allowances and tax credits to rise, at least, in line with inflation.
A change in the way ‘green levies’ are paid to save families around £70 a year on energy bills.
A fairer welfare system, including a halt to Universal Credit and the abolition of the Bedroom Tax.
Said Alex Salmond: ‘We do not seek independence as an end in itself, but rather a means to change Scotland for the better.’
Outside the historic launch there were three sets of demonstrators.
The persistent Anti-ATOS campaign with their Gorilla showing how barbaric they consider the ATOS health care company treats people they assess as job -ready. The group’s constant call is that ATOS should be removed as a sponsor of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014.
Football fans ‘United 1994′ showing a spirited blue and green ‘together’ stance. And some totally committed Yes supporters who make a point of showing their devotion by being at all such events.
Wintertainment is here to cheer us all up during the cold, dark winter. Starting with Fireworks night on Tuesday 5 November, there will be a series of heartwarming events from now till the New Year.
Registration has opened for babies who live in Glasgow and are about to experience their first Christmas. The first 1000 registered will receive special goodies from the City and from St Enoch Centre. Some of them will be invited to meet the Lord Provost – with their parents, of course!
There will be a fun and fund raising Santa Dash of 5k on Sunday 8 December.
Other things include the switch on of the Christmas lights – free but ticketed on Thursday 14 November. Ice skating in George Square – commercial charges. Hogmanay party in the Square and a host of other festive events around the city.
So it is working up to party time! And it is a good idea to create places where people can have a happy time.
But it can also be a distraction. Consider the thousands of people who will stream into town to watch the Christmas lights being switched on. Compare that number with the few who venture into the City Chambers to listen to the Councillors debating important issues.
When those few are so incensed by what the Councillors say and do that they throw down monopoly money and shout at their elected representatives, then something is amiss.
Maybe it is a case of ‘give them circuses’ in the hope that some unpalatable things can be done while the general public are enjoying the latest attraction.
For the first time in 40 years SNP lost a by-election in Govan.
Whatever the personal feelings of the team who supported their young candidate, they would have been expected to wait and congratulate the winning, Labour candidate – who took full advantage of his election speech to rub salt into the wounds of his opponents.
But the SNP did not do that. The team was good enough to return to have a group photograph taken at the request of the Editor of this website and smiled for the occasion. But their hearts must have been sore.
There were rumblings at the various polling stations in Govan of less than harmonious relations between the two parties’ supporters. It is a sad indictment of the relationship between them that such a situation is allowed to fester and grow.
We should expect that those who are chosen by their political party to lead, are worthy of that leadership.
Increasingly from Westminster to Holyrood to Glasgow City Council, the quality of leadership is short of the expectations of ordinary citizens.
In preparation for the Referendum we would do well to remember that.
Some say it is too close to call. But the by-election in Govan Ward 5 will, again, be an historic pointer to our future.
The seat is for Glasgow City Council following the death in July of Allison Hunter a former SNP Group Leader in the City Chambers.
There are 14 candidates. Eleven of them have taken the opportunity to submit a photograph and 150 words to this website. Each was invited to say what they’d do first if elected. Their statements are posted here for the 5000 monthly, unique visitors to this website to view.
Govan is an interesting place that used to be its own place. Since last century it has been part of Glasgow. It has a history going back to pre-Christian times.
Politically it has been pragmatic – choosing the best person for the job at the time. Some might call this strategic voting.
In Westminster terms one of its most famous MPs was a Conservative, Sir William Pearce, who died aged 55 in 1888. He is remembered mainly through the Black Man statue of him opposite the Pearce Institute which bears his name.
By 1970 Govan was a long-held Labour stronghold when 22,364 people cast their vote for their MP giving Labour’s John Rankin the seat with 60.1% of the vote.
In 1973 SNP’s Margo MacDonald famously won Govan’s Westminster seat from Labour with 41.5% of the vote – 6360 out of the 15,168 cast with MacDonald being one of four candidates.
In 1988 Jim Sillars gained the seat for SNP from Labour with 48.8% of the vote – 14,677 out of the 30,104 cast. Sillars was one of eight candidates who included Bob Gillespie for Labour and Bernard Ponsonby for the Social and Liberal Democrats.
In 2012 for the Glasgow City Council elections four Councillors were elected.
James Adams (Labour) and Allison Hunter (SNP) were both elected at stage one. Adams with 1727 votes and Hunter with 1450 votes. A different counting system was used where voters had to mark 1 against the candidate of their first choice, 2 against the candidate of their second choice and so on. The others elected on stage 13 of the preference count were Stephen Dornan (Glasgow First) and Fariha Thomas (Labour)
A total of 7221 votes were cast at that Council election in Ward 5 but only 6924 of them were valid. The vast majority of the 297 rejected papers had the figure 1 against more than one candidate.
It would take a brave person to forecast who will win the Govan Ward 5 seat on Glasgow City Council in tomorrow’s by-election. It will be useful to see how many of the 23,542 voters choose to cast their vote. Last time, only 30% bothered to go to the poll. Which means that seven out of ten people didn’t use their vote. While this is supposed to be a democracy it means that the result is undemocratic because of apathy. So whatever the outcome, it will not be representative of the majority and apathy will have won.
The Govan by-election is underway. Each candidate has been invited by this website to send a brief statement saying what they’d do first, if elected. One of them has to be the new councillor to replace the much respected Allison Hunter who had been a local Councillor on Glasgow City Council before her death in July.
Apart from Facebook entries and a pretty modern video presentation for one candidate, there is nothing much on-line.
Hustings of the old fashioned kind don’t seem to work today. On-line is where the action is supposed to be. Just let us know at www.localnewsglasgow.co.uk if you actually come face to face with any of the 14 wannabe Councillors for Govan Ward 5. We’re looking for them all to give each a chance to speak out.
Canvassing takes time. But it takes a bit of effort to beat one seasoned campaigner who was found delivering his own campaign leaflets on a Saturday morning – dressed in his best suit, collar and tie. He went on to be a Lord Provost – and a good one too. Times have changed. Now candidates are all but invisible even via social media.
Saturday 14 September 2013 should be a busy day. Glasgow’s East End will see an open day for its first, women-only gym. In a pink painted building once used as douce offices on Gallowgate near the Forge cinema, Gill’s gym is set to spin, work-out and dance for a long time to come.
On Glasgow Green, a different crowd will gather to work out how to Bin the Bedroom Tax. The United Nations rapporteur, Raquel Rolnik, who spent two weeks in the UK gathering evidence on how the global financial crisis has affected housing, found that Bedroom Tax issues dominated her interviews with people who were having to cope with the ‘spare room supplement,’ as it is formally called. She said the policy should be abolished as it was affecting human rights. Introduced by the Westminster government, the tax reduces housing benefit where the person has more bedrooms than it is judged they need.
So Saturday’s protesters will assemble on Glasgow Green for a rally and then head for the SECC where the Liberal Democrat Conference will be in process. The protesters have been curtailed by Glasgow City Council on how they may march. And police have curtailed how many may protest at the SECC. The erosion of these human rights is clouded by the fact that the protesters are seriously split among themselves. One wing is led by Tommy Sheridan and the other wing is bitterly opposed to the disgraced politician.
In the middle are the ordinary folk who are suffering to the point – in some cases - of contemplating suicide.
It is a little solace that the Scottish Government has allocated £20 million in its budget this week to provide help to people affected by this iniquitous Tax. But this same Government has also allocated £20 million to boost cycling as a form of transport.
Much more energy and visionary leadership has to be found to work out how to Say No 2 the Bedroom Tax and how to protect human rights to protest, to march and to speak out.
Maybe, just maybe, if more women get together to socialise in pink gyms, a new spin could be found on strategies to save desperate people from self-destruction.
The Glasgow meeting about secret police in Britain was interesting from several points of view. It was well-attended for a start. Enough people were concerned at the idea to give up their evening to hear some detail.
It had a powerful top table of speakers. They related from their own experience what they believe is happening. This provided several pieces of the jigsaw puzzle of human rights in this country. What surfaced was how fragile those human rights are.
Not only the guest speakers but also members of the audience were able to give first hand testimony of violation of their rights by police, courts and official bodies.
When an advocate says Europe does more to promote and safeguard human rights than we do in this country, we should take notice. But more than that, we need to waken up, do our homework and dig to find the facts. After that, we can take collective action to improve the situation.
Dire warnings were given of worse violations to come if the present laws are not sustained and law enforcement agencies are not held to account.
Those who take the time to read up on the law in Scotland will be better placed to decide whether the lobby outside Glasgow Sheriff Court on Tuesday 1 October from 9am till 10am is for them.
If they are in any doubt, they could read the report on this website of the meeting held on Monday 19 August in the CCA in Glasgow. It isn’t secret!
There is nothing like a funeral to bring out the best in people. Folk from a wide spectrum of politics and from across the country, paid genuine tributes to the late Allison Hunter, SNP National Organiser for many years and latterly Councillor for Glasgow Govan. Simply by coming together and sitting side by side in a religious setting many would be unfamiliar with, they were showing common cause. For the hour or less of the service and the time drinking tea afterwards, they were able to meet and chat in an empathic way and show respect for the loss of a much loved lady.
Differences were set aside as irrelevant at that moment in time. Scoring points over adversaries was unnecessary. Instead, happy and humourous stories of times spent during campaigns, long election nights and in the corridors of power were shared and chuckled over.
It would be naïve to think this bonhomie could be sustained for much longer than the public farewell required.
But one has to live in hope that it IS possible!
The ability to win over opposition can be revealed in unexpected, human, ways. Politicians of different hues can be excited by the challenge of strongly voiced opinions different from their own. While that might end in the same plight as the moth attracted to the flame, it is possible it could lead to a strong alliance. Only time will tell and frequent gatherings of all kinds – even sad ones – can explore the options.
Jazz – slow ‘n’ easy- ushers in the Fashion Fiesta to the Merchant City Festival repertoire. Starting on Wednesday 24 July and running till Sunday 28 July, the Festival already has comedy, family events, theatre, film, visual art and design all awaiting the return of last year’s record breaking crowds of 95,000 people intent on enjoying themselves.
So almost a dozen of the culture quarter’s high-end retailers on Ingram Street have pitched in with even more high-end styled fun and called it Fashion Fiesta. They will extend their opening hours and will offer exclusive in-store events such as music, fashion and beauty demonstrations and consultations as well as food and drink.
With a cool dip into what’s to come, Nova Scotia Jazz Band clarinettist John Burgess and trumpeter Lorne Cowieson provided the mood music in Cruise yesterday (Wednesday 17 July).
This gave customers the chance to sip champagne and get a heads up on the Fashion Fiesta while viewing the store’s stock.
Ranked second only to London in the shopping stakes, Glasgow has a stash of big-name retailers located in the Merchant City. Councillor Gordon Matheson, Leader of Glasgow City Council and Chair of the Merchant City Festival as well as the City’s Marketing Buereau, said: ‘I am so pleased they are embracing the buzz of Merchant City Festival by programming their own in-store events. We’ll be adding to those with top-tapping music on Ingram Street and around the Festival.’
Retailers involved in the Fashion Fiesta are: Agent Provocateur, Armani, Cruise, Gant, Harvey Jones, Jaeger, Jigsaw, Mulberry, Pretty Green, Ralph Lauren and Replay.
At Mulberry, visitors will see a skilled craftsman make one of the Mulberry iconic bags. Clothing label Pretty Green, founded and designed by musician Liam Gallagher, will have – appropriately – live music on Saturday 27 July and resident DJ Dan South promoting up-coming bands.
The Fashion Fiesta compliments Vintage Glasgow which makes its Scottish debut at the Merchant City Festival this year.
The emphasis throughout will be on glamour and the very best of British fashion creativity across the decades and across the genres.
Frasers of Glasgow will curate a catwalk show dedicated to the 1920s Great Gatsby era. This will take place on Sunday 28 July at 2pm in the Grand Hall of the City Halls in Merchant City. Jazz singer Lou Hickey’s live performance will open the show which has a £10 ticket entry.
For anyone who fancies a make over to see how they’d look in the 1940s, Vintage Hair and Beauty Salon offer to do the job for £10 throughout the weekend.
All weekend the Vintage Marketplace will be free to browse. Fashionista and other festival-goers can expect five days of fun
Check out the website for full details: www.merchantcityfestival.com or follow @MerchCityFest on Twitter.