Resistance is growing to the fact that as many as 140 asylum seekers will be made destitute in Glasgow in the next few weeks.
This follows a change of provider of accommodation from Ypeople, a British based Christian charity, to Serco an international conglomerate providing essential services in more than 30 countries. In the UK it runs electronic tagging, video surveillance, nuclear weapons maintenance, several prisons and two immigration removal centres.
At a rally of around 200 people on Thursday 12 April 2012, at the foot of the Red Road flats which are home to many asylum seekers, speaker after speaker spoke out against the inhumanity of putting vulnerable people onto the streets.
Chair of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) in Glasgow, John Matthews, told the crowd: ‘In Europe in living memory Jews were first of all refused the right to work, then removed from their homes. I see Glasgow going that way more and more with the asylum seekers. Asylum is a right under the United Nations Convention so don’t be put off by this struggle.’ The NUJ is the first trades union to count journalists who are seeking asylum, as full members of the union and it is encouraging other trades unions to do the same.
Jim Main of UNISON said that Ypeople’s proposal to throw out asylum seekers from their accommodation was ‘outrageous.’ He went on: ‘We will fight this through every trades unions branch. This is a civil emergency and we must demonstrate to prevent this happening. We must show we are a Glasgow that cares. Everyone must ask questions of people in power.’
Speaking as a Justice and Peace campaigner for the Catholic church, Carol Clarke stated: ‘People must be given human dignity and that means a roof over their head.’
College lecturer, Barrie Levine, praised the Scottish Government for its ‘excellent support.’ Both First Minister Alex Salmond and his Deputy Nicola Sturgeon had sent apologies and messages of support to the rally organisers. Said Barrie: ‘That is excellent, but I want to see Alex Salmond make representation to the UK Government which controls UK Borders Agency (UKBA) and I want to see him fully support our protests and make sure civilised values are brought into play. The Big Society should be called the Sick Society. It is a scandal that people are being made destitute and put onto the street. Make no mistake, Serco has this £175 million contract. But the Ypeople’s Board should hang their heads in shame. There is no need to evict anyone right now.’
In her address to the crowd, SNP MSP, Sandra White, said: ‘we have proposed practical ways forward. The Ypeople have a window of opportunity as they do not need to evict anyone till November. We have asked the Scottish Parliament Secretary for External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop, to make our views known at Westminster. We are asking for the people who cannot be returned to places like Iran, Iraq and Somali because of wars, to be granted refugee status.’
Afro-Caribbean centre organiser Graham Campbell said: ‘The Ypeople Board should not be allowed to do this. It is disgusting. We should all tell them that in writing. The Afro-Caribbean Centre charity is refusing to work with Ypeople till it withdraws the threat of making destitute asylum seekers, homeless. It is a UK government issue and we must demand it be stopped.’
In a passionate speech, Angela McCormick of the Stop the War Coalition, declared: ‘We are here today to show Serco, Ypeople, Glasgow City Council, and everyone else that we will stand with those who have fled oppression – usually war. The link between this Coalition and the asylum seekers is that many of them have fled from war zones, bombs, missiles and weapons of destruction. They have come here seeking sanctuary. But how do we treat them? They are made destitute, kept in poverty and now being forced out of their homes.’ She added: ‘I believe we are the sensible majority. We do not want this to happen. Remember the people who fuelled the wars which caused the asylum seekers to flee in the first instance are the very people who make money from selling the missles and weapons of war.’
Organised by the Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees, master of ceremonies, Jock Morris commented: ‘We want to send a statement to the UK Government and the Scottish Government saying lound and clear – refugees and asylum seekers are WELCOME HERE.’ On a show of hands practically everyone in the crowd agreed with the statement.
‘We are now organising another, bigger rally at the STUC in Woodlands Road, on Tuesday 17 April 2012 to decide on the best way forward, together,’ said Margaret Wood of the Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees. Everyone concerned about this issue is invited.’
Currently around half a dozen destitute asylum seekers are given overnight accommodation each night in a safe, warm place, with an evening meal, a full breakfast and a takeaway lunch pack. But that number is expected to increase dramatically as soon as Ypeople start evicting asylum seekers.
But for the fire and safety regulations, it would have been standing room only on day one of the SNP’s conference in Glasgow. More than 2000 people attended and the overspill for key speeches from Leader Alex Salmond and Deputy Nicola Sturgeon were accommodated in four additional conference rooms at the SECC.
In the initial speech from Nicola Sturgeon, she recapped on the euphoria of the SNP win as it was played out last year at the count in the very same location. ‘That night will live long in our memory,’ said the politician. ‘It is a huge pleasure to be back here in the SECC.’
In a rallying call to members she said: ‘ These are exciting times. We are working to make Scotland a fair and progressive place. We want to make an election breakthrough and control Glasgow City Council. Labour is crumbling before our eyes. For the first time the SNP will have candidates in all 32 local government constituencies – including Orkney and Shetland. We need local councils to work hand in hand with the Scottish Government. We are ambitious. We want this country to be independent. But the future is in our own hands. We are masters of our own destiny. So let us work hard at persuading the people of Scotland to win the local elections in May and the referendum YES vote in 2014.’ She concluded: ‘Let’s get to work. Let’s get on with it!’
The two day party political conference will boost Glasgow’s revenue by an estimated £1million.
The sharp disparity between jobs and joblessness was highlighted this week in Springburn. A government announcement on Wednesday said Remploy’s Springburn factory will close with the loss of 46 jobs of which 43 are held by people with disabilities.
On Friday, Scotland’s First Minister visited the nearby manufacturing base of Royal Strathclyde Blindcraft’s (RSBi) to pay tribute to its 240 award winning staff – of whom more than half have a disability.
The two establishments are within a five minute drive of each other.
On his visit, First Minister Alex Salmond said: ‘Jobs are this government’s top priority, and a major part of that is investing in workforce training and development.
Employers, workers, union and communities working in partnership with government to promote workplace learning, benefits all of us – which is why it’s so important to recognise achievements like those of the STUC award winners at Royal Strathclyde Blindcraft Industries here in Darnick Street, Springburn.’
He went on: ‘Scottish Union Learning is supported financially by the Scottish Government and I’m proud of what our efforts are helping to achieve. But of course, the real credit lies with the staff here who work so hard to develop not only their own personal potential but the effectiveness of their teams. Each and every one of them has my very best wishes.’
RSBi is operated by City Building, Glasgow City Council’s arm’s-length construction firm.
City Building managing director John Foley said: ‘The First Minister’s visit today is recognition of the great job our staff are doing every day at RSBi, producing quality products for the public, private and third sectors. RSBi is a commercially successful organisation because we continue to adapt our product range to suit the evolving needs of our customers. That’s why we can employ 240 people. RSBi is not run as a charity but as a thriving social enterprise.’
Community Union – the largest trade union within RSBi – provides funding for a range of training courses via the Scottish Union Learning Fund, which is administered by the STUC.
Many RSBi staff have benefitted from training through the Fund, which has brought a direct economic benefit to individual employees and to the company as a whole.
Grahame Smith, STUC General Secretary, said: ‘The STUC Union Rep Awards highlight the invaluable contribution that trade union members make in the workplace.’
The First Minister’s visit was organised after Robert Mooney, a development officer at RSBi, was awarded the STUC One Workplace Equality Award by the First Minister in November 2011.
A registered blind person, Robert invited the First Minister to visit his workplace and witness the state-of-the-art manufacturing taking place at Springburn.
RSBi has had a presence in Glasgow for more than 200 years. The business has continued to evolve to meet the changing needs of the marketplace and currently specialises in manufacturing a wide range of products from office, domestic and educational furniture to timber kits for houses and schools and beds among many other items.
In Remploy’s factory in Edgefauld Road, the impact of the closure announcement was just sinking in. Established since 1976, it is one of the 36 out of 54 Remploy factories expected to be closed this year as not commercially viable. This is because of the Westminster Government’s decision to reduce current funding as part of a package of reforms ‘to maximise the number of disabled people supported into work.’ Of the 46 workers at Remploy in Springburn, 43 have disabilities. They manufacture steel wheelchairs. Government funding for the entire Remploy network is expected to be reduced during 2012/13 with the aim of completing changes by autumn 2013. Soon, Remploy will start discussions with trade unions and management forums to begin the formal consultation on the proposals.
After the announcement William Bain, Labour MP for Glasgow North East said: ‘This is devastating news. In my constituency there are almost 20 people chasing every vacancy. It is incredibly tough out there. There is a big enough shortage of jobs without placing strain and pressure on some of the most vulnerable members of the workforce. The way this has been sneaked out is unacceptable.’
In Glasgow last year, Employment Services found 534 jobs for disabled and disadvantaged people.
Bus conductor Sir Brian Souter was just the ticket when he addressed members at Glasgow South Business Club on Thursday 23 February.
He said that Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) would lead the way out of the recession. ‘Never lose sight of the fact that SMEs create the jobs and the wealth.’
Dressed in flamboyant red shoes, the world entrepreneur – with 30,000 employees – said he enjoyed telling people he was a bus conductor when he and his sister set up a bus company in the 1980s. He is actually an astute, fully qualified accountant. In the course of his early training, he spotted the opportunity to provide a bus service between Glasgow and places such as Aberdeen and Inverness. From that experience grew the major bus company Stagecoach. He now operates Souter Investments, the family firm which recorded five major new investments in 2011 and whose personnel won top awards. With interests in Istanbul, Poland, 17 European cities and the UK, and with a minority shareholding in a new Latin American mobile virtual network under Virgin Mobile Latin America, he doesn’t seem to stop for breath.
But he admitted: ‘It was a relief on occasion to know I’d still got my home.’ He’d used his home as security and only when one deal came good unexpectedly because of a mistake in a property sale, was he able to breathe a sigh of relief.
He also said he’d learned from his mistakes. ‘We are all capable of making them,’ said Sir Brian to a full club turnout at an Ibrox stadium function suite.
On bus travel he contested: ‘Only when middle class people use the bus will that form of travel be de-stigmatised. But other things need to be in place too: the right public policies; priority lanes; buses running on time; and park and ride facilities.’
By making wi-fi available on his buses, Sir Brian’s companies had seen a high conversion rate of passengers from cars to bus. ‘But we’ve discovered a new problem – cars following our buses to avail themselves of our wi-fi!’
He shared with Club members and their guests his latest development: ‘Where a business is devoted to giving good customer service, the profits can be embarrassing large. So we now plan to put 45 sleeper coaches on the road – not the 25 that are currently available. This will change the business graph.’
In his summary he said that two things determine what happens in a company. ‘There are the mechanics of what is done, how that is controlled and audited. There there is the dynamic of ideas, passion, risk taking, vision, relationships, drive and gut feelings – all to do with people. You can have a good marriage of 25 years where the mechanics are fine but when you have a wife who can make you laugh still, you have the dynamics of a good relationship. Carry that through to business and you’ll have a really good business.’
Club President Remo Pisaneschi thanked Sir Brian for his illuminating talk and asked the first question: ‘Are you for or against Independence?
To which the reply was: ‘I’m a paid-up member of the SNP. I agree Alex Salmond is a great leader. He has vision. If you believe in democracy, if you believe in people making their own choices, then we can share Sterling, share the sovereign and share some services.’
The President went on to announce that First Minister Alex Salmond, had confirmed he’s address the next Club meeting on Tuesday 20 March. Members would have an evening buffet instead of a midday lunch. See the website for details as Members may take guests. www.glasgowsouthbusinessclub.co.uk
Hundreds of people packed into Falkirk Football Club’s Westfield Stadium on Friday November 4 to celebrate the life of Campbell Christie. The former General Secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress died, aged 74, on October 28 and was buried at a private service in Kirkcudbrightshire.
His family felt the stadium, where he’d spent many happy hours following his team and chairing the Club, was the appropriate place to hold the public tribute but warned everyone to wrap up well and be prepared to be exposed to the elements.
As it was, the day was dry and sunny and the body heat of the several hundred people who attended and the warmth of feeling for the late Campbell and for his family, helped keep everyone happy.
Current STUC General Secretary, Grahame Smith said that Campbell had taken over at the STUC in 1986 during ‘most challenging times’ for Scottish industry and workers. ’But he liked a challenge!’
Grahame paid tribute to his predecessor’s skills in negotiation and people management. ‘He was a master of the gentle art of persuasion,’ he said. One of Scotland’s most outstanding trade union and civic leaders, Campbell Christie led the Scottish TUC through the 1980s and 1990s. ‘He was never afraid of taking the difficult decision, even if he knew it might upset the others in the Labour movement. He always saw the bigger picture,’ said Grahame.
A message from First Minister Alex Salmond was read and said Campbell had been ‘unstinting in his public service right up to the end.’ The family expressed their thanks to Mr Salmond for his support during Campbell’s illness.
Among his many civic responsibilities, Campbell served on Boards as diverse as Forth Valley NHS Lothian, Scottish Enterprise, British Waterways, Age Concern Falkirk, Central Scotland Race Equality Council and the Scottish Premier League. In Scotland, he was appointed to the Scottish Futures Forum through the Scottish Parliament and in Europe he was Vice President of the European Union Economic and Social Committee’s section for Cohesion and Economic affairs – among many other appointments. He was honoured by five universities and made CBE in the Queen’s 1997 Birthday Honours list.
Tributes were paid by his son Doug Christie, brother Leslie and granddaughter Lindsey. And singers Dick Gaughan and MSP Cathy Peattie, also raised their voices, tunefully, to honour the man.
The stadium where the Celebration was held was opened when Campbell was Chairman of the Board of Falkirk Football Club, said present chairman, Martin Ritchie. ‘This is part of his legacy to the people of Falkirk and to the club he served so well.’
In closing, his friend Professor Andrew Scott positioned Campbell’s unique contribution in the history of Scotland. ‘He was an exceptional man who did exceptional things. All of Scotland will miss him,’ he said.
Campbell Christie who was General Secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress for 12 years till 1998, has died, aged 74, at Strathcarron Hospice in Stirlingshire.
Not only was he a champion of the trades union movement, he was a socialist who saw a wider picture and campaigned long and hard for a Scottish Parliament through the Scottish Constitutional Convention.
Said First Minister, Alex Salmond: ‘Scotland has lost a giant of the trade union movement and of public life.’
Current STUC General Secretary, Grahame Smith, said: Campbell was a tremendous ambassador for the trade union movement and for Scotland. He was one of Scotland’s most outstanding trade union and civic leaders and led people through the 1980s and 90s – some of the most challenging times for Scottish industry and Scottish workers – with tremendous skill and passion, gaining respect for himself and the STUC across the industrial and political spectrum.
‘He was never afraid of taking the difficult decision, even if he knew it might upset others in the Labour movement. He always saw the bigger picture.
‘Under Campbell’s stewardship the STUC rose above the exclusion of unions from the ‘corridors of power’ and forged relationships across Scottish society which galvanised opposition to the brutal policies of Thatcher and Major Governments. Those relationships remain in place today.’
Three times chairman of Falkirk Football Club, he was still a Director on his death on Friday 28 October. ‘He steered the Club through some of the greatest turmoil and greatest successes,’ says the Club’s website. A minute’s silence will be observed at the game on Saturday 29 October against Raith Rovers.
A major survey will be carried out on Glasgow Housing Association (GHA) factored and owned properties to check how effective re-cladding and re-roofing work has been.
A recent high level meeting with Government officials, GHA and the Glasgow Home Owners and Tenants Campaign agreed that such a survey should be carried out.
There have been many complaints from tenants and home owners as evidenced by this website. Re-roofing and overcladding work, once completed, has led to problems of dampness in particular, claim many householders.
A GHA spokesman said: ‘Two independent surveys have been carried out already. The last, by the Building Research Establishment, concluded that dampness found in a very small number of homes was caused by heating and ventilation issues and NOT because of the overcladding work. However, we are co-operating fully with the Scottish Government on a further sample survey and will address any issues identified.’
On behalf of the Home Owners and Tenants Campaign, Sean Clerkin said: ‘This shows that persistence pays. We’ve been campaigning for a survey for more than two years. It is the best possible deal for Glasgow home owners and tenants.’
He commented that had Ian Gray not run away from the Campaign people who lobbied him in Central Station, they would not have gone to Alex Salmond during the election campaign. ‘The First Minister is to be praised. He’s kept his word. Not many politicians do. He said during the campaign when he met us that he would support a survey of the overcladding and re-roofing work if he should be re-elected. And he’s done exactly that.’
The SNP celebrated their success in the Scottish Parliament election last month by unveiling a bust of party leader, Alex Salmond.
At a reception for campaign staff in their Edinburgh HQ, the bronze, by prize-winning sculptor David Annand, was unveiled. It will join the one of Winnie Ewing, Party doyen, which was unveiled last year by longtime supporter Sean Connery.
‘The campaign that the party ran is one that will be studied by political theorists for years to come. It was an upbeat, positive campaign that placed Scotland at its heart.
‘At its core was our leader Alex Salmond. His leadership and his direction has put the party into the position that it’s now in with Scotland on the verge of joining the international Community in its own right. In recognition of this, the SNP has unveiled our tribute to him – and to give Winnie some company.’
New discord is appearing in the row over the Accord Centre in Dalmarnock which is used by families who care for adults with complex needs such as Autism or Down’s Syndrome.
Following a personal intervention by Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond, who came to an agreement with Glasgow City Council Leader Gordon Matheson for the day care centre users to go to the nearby Bambury Centre when the Accord Centre is closed, many families are disputing the Bambury was ever a real option.
But Glasgow City Council say it is erroneous to claim the Bambury was rejected by Accord Centre users. Said a spokesman: ‘The majority of carers actually supported a move to the Banbury centre back in March, but plans fell through just two weeks before the intended move was due to take place because serious financial difficulties emerged on 11 March, which forced the Bambury into the administration. This put a question mark against the long term future of the centre, with the administrator only able to offer a lease on a month-by-month basis. In these circumstances, with no guarantee that a long-term lease could be secured, Social Work concluded that it would be inappropriate to move to the Banbury and made it clear that the Accord Centre would remain open as an alternative in the meantime. In other words, Social Work had no wish for people to move only for them to have to move again because a short-term lease had expired.’
He continued: ‘The financial issues at the Banbury have now been resolved and the council is now looking to move forward and secure the centre on behalf of the Accord service users. The council is hopeful that as care plans based on the move to the Banbury centre were completed only recently, these plans can be implemented without too much difficulty. These care plans are created in conjunction with carers and service users. It should be borne in mind that the Accord Centre has been a place where people meet in the morning before leaving to take part in activities in the community during the day. These activities include access to leisure services, education, training and work experience and can take place in venues such as Kelvinhall, Tollcross Leisure Centre, John Wheatley College and Reidvale Neighbourhood Centre, where many people with learning disabilities work in the cafe.’
He added that special support equipment had been removed from the Accord in order to be re-located within the Riddrie Centre in time for those Accord Centre service users moving over to Riddrie Centre to be able to use it. ‘These are service users with the highest and most complex support needs,’ said the spokesman.
Council Leader, Gordon Matheson has written to all families who use the Accord Centre to outline the ‘potential solution’ made between him and Alex Salmond. He stressed that the Council intends to buy the Bambury Centre which was ‘ the preferred option for the majority of service users until it became unavailable earlier this year.’
He added that it had been accepted between the two leaders that other local groups which might need to use the Bambury Centre when it was not used by the Accord families, should continue to be able to do so. But the Accord Centre users were to have dedicated time in the Bambury.
In conclusion Gordon Matheson said: ‘It will take a little time to finalise the purchase of the building and to plan the transition and the Council will keep you advised of developments. I know this has been a tense time for many families involved with the Accord Centre but I would like to think this proposal is a positive outcome for service users and their carers. I sincerely hope that you also consider this proposal a positive one.’
A spokesperson for the Accord centre users who have rejected moving to the Bambury Centre said: ‘The Bambury was rejected by the majority of people in March when it was mooted. The financial crisis meant the offer was not formally put on the table and we were glad about that because it was not an option for us. We think the Council is trying to solve two problems in one – the problems of the Banbury centre and the problem of where to put the large number of Accord Centre users who have not found it acceptable or convenient to go to Riddrie Centre.’
Families who care for vulnerable people in Glasgow’s East End say they are ‘gutted’ by the outcome of talks between Glasgow City Council and Scotland’s First Minister.
The families who use the Accord Centre in Dalmarnock as a day centre for adults with complex conditions such as Down’s Syndrome and Autism, have been told they will have to use the Banbury Centre which is about ten minutes away from the present facility.
‘That was rejected months ago,’ said Grace Harrigan a spokesperson for more than 30 families. ‘I cannot believe this is happening. The Council are prepared to dump us anywhere. ‘
Some of the group visited a Lifestyle Centre in Cambuslang to see what South Lanarkshire offered its vulnerable community members. ‘I wept when I saw it,’ said Grace. ‘It was everything we could wish for. There was a swimming pool, gyms, film room, cafe, art rooom and facilities for people with special needs like our sons and daughter. But it was also open to the public in a way that was safe for the vulnerable users but integrated with the general public.’
She said that the Banbury Centre was in the middle of a deeply divided community where there was a lot of police activity because of the trouble there. ‘It is not a safe place to take vulnerable people into on a daily basis.’
The Accord Centre is to be demolished to make way for a coach park for the Commonwealth Games. The day after Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond visited the establishment, the special needs facilities such as softball play area and trampoline, were taken out of the building. ‘The place was stripped,’ says Grace.
Following Mr Salmond’s visit, he met face to face with Gordon Matheson, Glasgow City Council leader to
discuss the situation.
Both Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Government have been asked for comments on the latest phase of the Accord saga and their responses are awaited as we send out the weekly ENEWS.