Six months from today voters in Scotland will have a chance to make history. How they vote on Thursday 18 September 2014 in the Referendum, will decide if Scotland divorces the UK and goes it alone or stays in the same unbalanced relationship.
If enough people turn out to cast their vote, there will be a democratic decision. But on current trends, fewer than 20% make their mark. Even the increasing number using a postal vote doesn’t alter the low turnout.
So how can more people be persuaded that their vote counts? How can more people in this final six months, be persuaded to discuss the issues for and against independence?
Pathetic, bad-tempered tv pantomimes – such as the Lamont /Sturgeon skirmish – and the Andrew Marr hectoring, opinionated interview of Salmond, are more likely to put people off thinking about the issues.
So where will thinking individuals find respectful debate among knowledgeable equals? If anyone has an answer to that, this website would be delighted to report those debates.
Europe is taking legal action against the UK Government because levels of air pollution in major cities – including Glasgow – are not at an agreed low level despite extra time to get there. The lower levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) should have been reached in 2008. Now the UK faces fines of up to £300m. The cost in human terms is that 29,000 people die earlier than they should because of the adverse health conditions brought on by air pollution. Hear no evil.
Flood waters in the South of England have devastated vast areas of the land, ruined thousands of homes and brought out politicians to view the watery graves of millions of dreams. See no evil.
If this analogy were to work, the next item should illustrate – Speak no evil. However, when the leaders of the land cheerfully use Hear and See for convenient sound bites, you can be sure the Speak bit will utilized that way too.
In fact, they spoke out with intent – evil or otherwise is for voters to decide. Westminster’s three monkeys showed they were really blood brothers. Despite differing party colours they each said Scotland couldn’t use Sterling on independence. Tory Chancellor George Osborne said Scotland would be ‘walking away’ from the currency. Shadow Chancellor Labour’s Ed Balls said it would be ‘bad for Scotland’ to keep the pound and the Bank of England. And Lib Dem’s Danny Alexander speaking as Chief Secretary to the Treasury said his party couldn’t agree to such a proposition.
At some point the traffic induced air pollution will have to be addressed. Almost immediately, money was found to prevent further flooding and to make homes habitable when the rain stops. But we’ll have to wait till Thursday 18 September to see if the combined wisdom of three of the UK’s leaders will put a stop to the Scottish Government’s plans.
The year has started on the credit side. Glasgow City Council has rolled out a scheme to have £10 deposited in a credit union account opened by any S1 school pupil in the city. This clever initiative should help these young people stay out of the hands of pay day loan sharks.
But the City has gone further – the cross-party group which examined the issues of pay day loans has also succeeded in having the websites of the sharks made unaccessible from Council computers. And they’ve successfully lobbies other big corporates to do the same.
Now they are lobbying the Scottish and the Westminster Governments to play their part by giving the local authority greater planning powers to help stop the sharks renting in prime sites. There is a danger in this. If a local authority such as Glasgow City Council is allowed by law to refuse planning permission for a commercial company to rent premises owned by the Council, where does that stop? Could the council choose not to allow a health company it doesn’t approve of, premises? Or any political company it doesn’t agree with?
There is also the danger that by banning the pay day loan companies from prime sites owned by the Council, those companies will seek out – and find – premises to rent from landlords who don’t have the same scruples. Alternatively, they may resort to ‘back street’ shops not on the Council’s register or control. People seeking financial help – and who are not aware of credit unions – will then be even more at risk.
As we head for the start of 2014, most people take the opportunity to review the past twelve months and plan a new course for the year to come.
And this website is doing that. In the light of major events in Glasgow – the Commonwealth Games and the International Piano Competition – the influx of visitors will be phenomenal.
Glaswegians are good at putting out the welcome mat and will love the the chance to make folk feel at home. But we must also pay attention to the people who are already here, who need some TLC. The asylum seekers, the citizens who hit hard times and are made homeless or have to depend on food banks for something to eat. The communities that are ripped apart by multinational interests which seem to be given precedence over local wishes.
If we are to have any sense of pride in our own country we have to up our game in looking after our own – and not at the expense of welcoming the incomers either. This, to this Editor’s way of thinking, means each person has to accept more responsibility for their own actions and inaction. By each individual thinking first: ‘what will be best for my community?’ and not ‘what will be best for me, alone?’ we might have some common ground to build on.
With the chance of voting for a once in a life-time decision in September with the Referendum, we have to be clear about what we want as the outcome. Whether a person has decided to vote Yes, No or is still pondering the issue, it is vital that each individual considers the common good and doesn’t settle for the selfish position of ‘what’s in it for me?’
By thinking back to all the events and policies and decisions made in 2013 or effective then, that could be a guide to what will be ahead of us all in these times of austerity.
And if change seems necessary to defend a small community, a vulnerable group, for goodness sake speak out, act and work to make the changes you think important. It will not be enough for any responsible citizen to sit back and complain. Only by the actions of those prepared to work for change in harmony with others, will we have the kind of society the vast majority dream about.
The www.localnewsglasgow.co.uk wishes all our followers a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year.
Sadly, no sooner has Mandela been buried than the feuds in his immediate family boil over again. For a man of peace he must have had a most uncomfortable time trying to deal with his own nearest and dearest.
Now they have to manage their grievances themselves, publicly and in a world spotlight.
But that’s not a new thing. More than 250 years ago Robert Burns, our national poet, observed the difficulties in seeing ourselves as ‘ithers see us.’
And with the spotlight on Scotland in the long run-up to the Referendum, citizens here will have to find a way to ‘see ourselves’ more clearly.
To date, a lot of knee-jerk reaction seems to have been acceptable. One says Yes! The other says No! With each trotting out glib sound bites with little substance. Surely we can rise about such arrogant behaviour which simply communications the attitude: ‘I’m right because I say so. Therefore I won’t listen to you.’
Some listening, some searching for evidence to support one’s own contentions, some genuine evaluation of opposing opinions to find the truth, would serve us all well. It would be a shame – and would bring shame to us all – if we cannot find a more intelligent and peaceful way to come to a collective, acceptable solution to the anxieties of the present.
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.