With only days to go before voting for new local councillors (Thursday 3 May in case you’ve forgotten!) the campaigning seems slow in most places – unless you are actively involved. From the outside it is clear that knocking on doors and traditional hustings, while important, don’t make much of a dent in anyone’s thinking.
Lip service is being paid to the serious local concerns that citizens have. Personalisation is being sidelined expect by those who have to bear the brunt of sometimes as much as 50% of the care allowance they once had. Destitute asylum seekers don’t have a voice so prospective candidates can avoid that issue. It is a ‘no voter’. The cuts and how they impact on communities is only slowly being understoon. When the councillors are duly elected it will be too late to expect them to change their ways and keep election promises – not that anyone seems to be making any promises. Yes individuals are following their party’s line and reading the words from the script they have in their hand. But it is – for the most part – not being said from the heart. It will be a difficult choice for those who bother to vote, to work out how best to place their 1,2,3 and more numbers. And there will not be a result on Thursday night because counting won’t start till Friday morning. A simple hope is that enough people will actually go to their voting station and make their mark to make the results worthy of being called democratic.
October is the busiest month of the year for COMMUNITY COUNCILS. Most of them have elections and the remainder have an annual general meeting (AGM)
While it is low in the elected representative ranks, the status of a community council is critical for local representation. The Community Council has the legal responsibility to scrutinise development plans for their area, for example.
For anyone interested in democracy, it is worth checking out what the nearest Community Council will be doing this October and becoming involved.
Apart from Jordanhill in November, 30 others are holding their AGM in October. They are: Auchensuggle, Baillieston, Blairdardie and Old Drumchapel, Dumbreck, Garnethill, Garrowhill, Gartcraig, Gartloch, Germiston, East Govan, Hillhead, Hillington, North Cardonald and Penilee, Hutchesontown, Ibrox Cessnock, Kelvindale, Kelvinside, Milton, Molindinar, Mount Vernon, Newlands and Auldhouse, Parkhouse, Pollok North, Pollokshields, Sighthill, Simshill Old Cathcart, South Cardonald and Crookston, Toryglen, Wallacewell, Woodside.
Elections are usually held every second year. So the Community Councils which will hold elections in October are:
Anderston; Arden, Carnwadric, Kennishead & Old Darnley; Blythswood and Broomielaw; Bridgeton and Dalmarnock; Broomhill; Cadder; Calton; Claythorn; Croftfood and Menock; Darnley and South Park Village; Drumchapel; Drumoyne; Garthamlock and Craigend; Govan; King’s Park; Kinning Park; Knightswood; Knightswood North Templar; Lambhill; Langside, Battlefield and Camphill; Laurieston; Levern District; Maryhill and Summerston; Merchant City and Trongate; Mosspark and Corkerhill; Mount Florida; North Kelvin; Parkhead; Partick, Pollok; Pollokshaws and Eastwood; Possilpark, Robroyston; Ruchill; Scotstoun; Shawlands and Strathbungo; Swinton; Thornwood; Townhead and Ladywell; Wellhouse and Queenslie; Whiteinch; Woodlands and Park; Wyndford and District; Yoker; Yorkhill and Kelvingrove.
The successful Constituency and List candidates from last week’s election lost no time in starting work at the Scottish Parliament.
Familiarisation for the newcomers, settling in for the seasoned MSPs and the swearing in ceremony on Wednesday 11 May for everyone. With a new presiding officer selected -Tricia Marwick, the first female to hold this important office – the Team Scotland in all its different hues was ready for action.
The LOCAL NEWS GLASGOW has asked each party what its priorities are now.
Glasgow’s lone Conservative and Unionist Party MSP, Ruth Davidson, said: ‘I’m delighted and honoured to be elected to represent Glasgow in the Scottish Parliament. I pledge to work for everyone regardless of how they voted – especially during the period of the Commonwealth Games when the eyes of half the world will be upon us. I will do everything I can to stand up for Glasgow in the Scottish Parliament.’
In the Green corner, Patrick Harvie retained one of the two seats his party had held previously in the Scottish Parliament, by attracting 5.95% of the Glasgow List vote. He said: ‘It’s great to be back in Holyrood again and thanks to everyone across the city who voted Green last week. Now the SNP have won their historic majority, it will be harder and more necessary for the rest of Parliament to scrutinise them and to hold them to account. But we will also aim to work constructively with them where there are opportunities to do so. I am also committed to being as strong a Green voice as possible for Glasgow and to working with party colleagues towards next year’s crucial local council elections.’
The jubilant SNP, with 69 seats have a majority for the first time in the Scottish Parliament’s history. Now they can easily drive through their legislation. Even reduced by one seat when Tricia Marwick became Presiding Officer, the SNP majority gives their Government real clout.
Labour have 37 seats in the Scottish Parliament and have lost several leading politicians in Glasgow – Frank McAveety, Charlie Gordon, Bill Butler and Pauline McNeill. Conservatives took 15, Lib Dems 5, Greens 2 and one Independent seat to bonnie fechtur, Margo Macdonald.
First Minister Alex Salmond was on the phone to Westminster as soon as he knew the good hand the Scottish electorate had dealt him. His first negotiation was to push to strengthen the Scotland Bill. The demands from Holyrood now press the Westminister government for earlier access to enhanced borrowing powers to support capital investment, responsibility for Corporation Tax and control of the Crown Estate to benefit the renewables programme.
The first SNP MSP to respond to the LOCAL NEWS request for their priorities was James Dornan for Cathcart Constituency. He took the seat from Labour’s Charlie Gordon.
He said: ‘my immediate priority is to put my office in a high-profile, extremely visible location to ensure everyone knows who their MSP is and where they can contact me. I’ll continue the work I started as a Glasgow City Councillor in representing my constituents and do all I can to save Glasgow’s charities from the brutal and heartless decision of the city’s Labour administration, to cease the concessionary rent scheme. This is leaving some of Glasgow’s most crucial charities in real danger of closure.’
Sandra White the Constituency MSP for Kelvin said: ‘One of my many priorities will be to ensure that the grassroots voices of the people of Kelvin will be heard. I also aim to protect our open spaces and the unique character of Kelvin and to promote equality of life for all through housing, jobs and education.’
List MSP Bob Doris of the SNP said: I intend to ensure that sectarianism and anti-Irish racism continues to be tackled long after the latest round of media headlines have faded. We need a consistent, long-term approach and I hope to lead a Members’ Debate on the matter in the Scottish Parliament in the near future. I also want to do all I can to promote jobs and economic recovery in our city and – yes- that does require more powers for Scotland. I am also preparing to consult on a Members’ Bill to change legislation to allow Fatal Accident Inquiries to be held into suspicious or unexplained deaths of Scots overseas. This follows the tragic death of Maryhill woman Julie Love’s son, in the waters of Margarita Island, Venezuela. Add to that my wedding to my fiancee, Janet, in Rhodes in August and it should be a busy few months ahead!’
The first Labour MSP to respond was Paul Martin who said: ‘ It is a privilege to be elected the first MSP for the new Glasgow Provan seat. The next five years will be incredibly challenging given the decrease in public spending that is forecast. I want to spend the next term in Holyrood fighting for health services to stay local by making sure we keep Lightburn Hospital in my constituency open. I also want to make sure that local people are not left stranded with a bus service more worried about profits than the public. The re-regulation of the bus industry is vital and the cowardice from the current Scottish Government cannot continue. However, most importantly for me, I will always make sure that the views of local people and communities are heard. It is an honour to serve the area I was born and brought up in and I will spend the next five years dedicated to its residents.’
Pupils at Bellahouston Academy are having their own election today. Working closely with Glasgow City Council’s Returning Officer, George Black, the actual process of voting has been studied and put into effect as it would be in real life.
From 7am this morning people have been striking off names on the electorial list which was compiled by S3 students who led on the election exercise. ‘This is fun,’ said Marc Hillhouse (14) as he drew a line threw each elector’s name when the person came to vote. ‘I didn’t know how to cast a vote before and it is good to be a part of the process.’
Turning up to get his voting paper was Ashar Mirza (17). He was one of almost half of the 600 eligible to ‘vote’ who had made their mark by 11.30am. ‘I’ve been reading the papers to give me an idea of who to vote for,’ said Ashar whose concern was university funding as he aims to go to university.
The result will be, according to commentator Saira Naheem who at 18 has a vote of her own: ‘Nicola Sturgeon will get the constituency seat because she is better known, being the sitting MSP. Labour may get in on the party list vote and it will be a close run thing with AV maybe winning that Westminster vote.’
Said George Black, Glasgow’s Returning Officer who will be on duty tonight at the count, where the Bellahouston Academy ballot boxes will also be counted: ‘It’s crucial that we enrich every young person with as rounded an education as possible and this includes learning about the important issue of democracy and elections.’
Added Bellahouston teacher, Murdo Macdonald, who orchestrated the election exercise: ‘I’m surprised how busy this has been. There was a real rush at the interval. That means pupils have been wanting to vote in their own time. No one is directing them to vote – just like real life!’
General Election count: 1am Friday 7 May 2010
by Alan McCrorie and Martin Graham
pix Stuart Maxwell
‘The big issue is that Labour and the Tories are neck-and-neck,’ said John Mason. ‘The people of Glasgow, it would appear, are falling back on the idea that Labour is the safest option.’
John, who won Glasgow East from Labour in 2008 by 365 votes after a hard-fought by-election, was the man credited by SNP Leader Alex Salmond as having triggered an earthquake in Scottish politics.
Tonight it seems that particular faultline may have been sealed. However, John discounts the feeling among some Nationalists that a lack of SNP presence in UK-wide debates has had an impact at the polls.
‘We’ll know if the debates have had an effect by how well the LibDems have done. In theory, if the debates have had an effect the LibDem vote is going to soar but I’ve not seen that happening here.’
On the doorstep issues, John added: ‘I think people have believed the Tory cuts will be much more severe than the Labour cuts. I remain to be convinced on that one.
‘I have a feeling that the vote here has a lot to do with tradition. I asked a woman in Parkhead what Labour would have to do for her not to vote Labour.
“I’ll always vote Labour,” she told me. I asked if Labour abolished the pension would she vote Labour, she said “yes”.’
The Election count has begun. At the SECC in Glasgow the LOCAL NEWS GLASGOW team is working hard to bring the results fast to our website watchers. Alan McCrorie, Martin Graham and photographer Stuart Maxwell are fielding the results of the seven Westminster constituency seats while colleague Klaudia Jedrychowska is concentrating on the by-election results for Drumchapel-Anniesland, Ward 14, once held by Steven Purcell.
Gemma Mackenzie and Martin Graham
Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson MSP visited Glasgow Central Station to launch a campaign for the High Speed Rail Link to be extended from London all the way to Glasgow.
He was joined by Glasgow SNP candidates Osama Saeed, John Mason MP, Malcolm Fleming and Patrick Grady.
Last month, the Government announced plans for the rail link which would extend from London to Birmingham. If the link was extended as far as Glasgow it would reduce the journey time from 4.5 hours to 3.5 hours.
The minister explained that there was a clear need to move people from air travel to train travel.
He said: ‘We currently have seven million journeys a year from Scotland to London, only one million of these are by train. There are clear advantages in terms of the boost for jobs and the economy.’
The first part of the plan for 120 miles of new rail line between London and the West Midlands would cost between £15.8bn and £17.4bn. Work is due to commence on the project in 2017.
By Martin Graham
Around 150 people filled a hall at the David Cargill Centre on Ledard Road to hear six political candidates outline their views and policy positions for the forthcoming Westminster election on May 6.
The event was organised by Langside Parish Church, who are currently using the David Cargill Centre as a base until their own church across the road is rebuilt following a fire.
With Minister David McLachlan chairing the event, the panel members were; Brian Smith – Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition. Brian is a social worker and Unison rep from Castlemilk; Malcolm Fleming – SNP – Malcolm works for an international aid agency and lives in Shawlands; Shabnum Mustapha – Lib Dem – Shabnum works for a disability charity and lives in Shawlands; Davena Rankin – Conservative – Davena is a manager and Unison rep at Glasgow Caledonian University; Marie Campbell – Green – Marie works for Patrick Harvie MSP; Tom Harris MP – Labour – Tom is the sitting MP, and has held the seat since June 2001.
Each candidate spoke well, with Tom Harris in particular holding forth on his own views and making clear the difference between his opinions and the rest of the panel.
Questions from the floor provided good opportunities for the panel to expand on their answers and develop their views. It became apparent that in terms of policy, there was little to differentiate the parties.
The first question sought the panel’s views on Trident replacement – the £20bn plans to replace the submarines, missiles and warheads which make up the UK’s nuclear deterrent.
All candidates except Tom Harris and Davena Rankin spoke against Trident. The panel said that it was illegal, immoral and unnecessary.
Shabnum Mustapaha spoke in favour of a strategic defence review.
Tom Harris said that Trident may not be necessary for today but that we could not leave future generations without defences. He said that it was difficult to judge the situation from the comfort which Trident provided.
Marie Campbell stated that the money would be better spent on sustainable jobs, and Brian Smith said that our children would be pleased that we had got rid of Trident as it only encourages nuclear ambition in other countries.
The next question for consideration was immigration policy. Chairman David McLachlan explained about the Citizens for Sanctuary campaign pledge which each candidate was asked to sign. The pledge states that asylum seekers should be treated humanely, not locked up, and have the right to contribute to the UK while here, through working.
Tom Harris said that he would not sign the pledge as it would send a message that the UK is a soft touch and that relatively large sums of money could be earned by anyone coming here. All other candidates signed the pledge on the night.
Malcolm Fleming stated that most asylum seekers are genuine and that there were genuine ‘push factors’ which led to people seeking asylum in the UK, like the conflict in Somalia.
Malcolm said: ‘The Labour government is a disgrace and the word asylum is now a term of abuse. People arrive with skills then lose them because they cannot practice them.’
Davena Rankin committed to signing the pledge, saying :’The way we treat asylum seekers is a reflection on our society. Only 20-30,000 people per year seek asylum, and Dungavel is a disgrace.
Shabnum Mustapha said: ‘We should deport failed asylum seekers quickly. We have a proud tradition of welcoming refugees, and the UK is 17th in the list of developed countries for receiving refugees.’
Tom Harris said that it was a tough choice between locking up families together with their children or separating them. He had spoken to the Home Office about people spending too long in Dungavel before deportation.
Davena Rankin said: ‘The current asylum system is unfair, there are other ways to prepare families for departure, such as supported accommodation flats.’
At this point, an audience member asked if the Labour and Tory candidates had got their rosettes mixed up.
The candidates were asked what they would do to ensure climate change remained on the political agenda.
Shabnum Mustapha outlined LibDem plans to convert shipyards to make wind and wave power equipment. Davena Rankin confirmed Tory opposition to a third runway at Heathrow.
Malcolm Fleming explained how the SNP had implemented climate change legislation at Holyrood. Marie Campbell stated that the Greens would use the opportunity to rebuild society on a sustainable basis and overcome poverty in the process.
Brian Smith said: ‘Capitalism is the problem because resources are used in an unplanned system where growth is the only measure of success. We need a global perspective to overcome poverty. The Copenhagen climate conference failed because of China’s capitalist ambitions.’
Marie Campbell said that climate capture technology was largely unproved and that nuclear technology is expensive and unsafe.
One audience member raised the issue of potholes. All panel members agreed that the issue needed to be resolved.
Shabnum Mustapha suggested planting flowers in the holes, while Aileen Campbell pointed out that money spent on expensive projects like the Forth Bridge replacement and the M74 extension could be better used to repair the local road network.
Finally, the issue of banks was put to the panel. The Greens and Lib Dems favoured separating High Street banks from investment banks, with the Green favouring a ‘Robin Hood’ tax on bank profits to be re-invested in social enterprises.
The SNP candidate pointed out that the other G7 countries were still practising fiscal stimulus while the UK had stopped.
Brian Smith spoke in favour of a socially planned economy with banks in public ownership. Davena Rankin spoke in favour of regulating the banking sector, without the ‘light touch’ approach which created so many problems in recent years.
Towards the end, Malcolm Fleming quoted Scottish trade union legend Jimmy Reid, who said: ‘I didn’t leave the Labour Party, the party left me.’