Syrian voices heard thanks to UNITING NATIONS group

December 29, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Thursday 17 December 2015

The UNIS group meet MSPs at Holyrood on 17 December 2015.

The UNIS group meet MSPs at Holyrood on 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).

MSP Sandra White (SNP) of Glasgow Kelvin and Chief Inspector Alastair Muir listen intently to the Syrian speakers. They both spoke at the event.

MSP Sandra White (SNP) of Glasgow Kelvin and Chief Inspector Alastair Muir listen intently to the Syrian speakers. They both spoke at the event.

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.

Speaker Feras Alzoubi told his story and asked for improvements to the system. Seated is Mohamed Souidi who chaired the event and on the left is Mrs Ahlam Souidi who is the founder of UNIS.

Speaker Feras Alzoubi told his story and asked for improvements to the system. Seated is Mohamed Souidi who chaired the event and on the left is Mrs Ahlam Souidi who is the founder of UNIS and interpreted Mr Alzoubi’s speech from Arabic into English.

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.

Mrs Ahlam Souidi launches the book 'Celebrating Together.'

Mrs Ahlam Souidi launches the book ‘Celebrating Together.’

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. P1090255 It was drawn to a close by Mr Alzoubi’s six year old son, Hamza, singing a Syrian song.



Celtic Connections 2016 gets off on the right note

October 20, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

The amazing Celtic Connections 2016 programme was announced today (Tuesday 20 October) by Artistic Director, Donald Shaw.

Sounding the right note for Celtic Connections 2016 - The Granny Green Trio, Rachel Brown, tuba; Lizy Stirrat, accordion; Holly Boddice, trumpet;

Sounding the right note for Celtic Connections 2016 – The Granny Green Trio, Rachel Brown, tuba; Lizy Stirrat, accordion; Holly Boddice, trumpet. Photograph by Ian Watson.

From Thursday 14  to Sunday 31 January,  at least 2,500 musicians from around the world will gather in Glasgow for 18 days of concerts, ceilidhs, talks, art exhibitions, workshops, free events, late night sessions and a host of special one-off musical collaborations.

Stars of world, folk and roots music, who will perform on 26 stages at venues across the city, include Rickie Lee Jones, The Chieftains, Lau, The Unthanks, Béla Fleck, Moving Hearts, Robert Plant, Lucinda Williams, Admiral Fallow, Toumani Diabaté, Karine Polwart, Boys of the Lough, and Larry Carlton.

Artists from Inner Mongolia to Armagh, Senegal to Italy, and Brittany to the Outer Hebrides and Southern Manitoba are scheduled to perform at this hotbed of musical talent from cultures and countries from across the globe.

The Opening Concert will celebrate 50 years of the Traditional Music & Song Association of Scotland with musical director Siobhan Miller at the helm.

Family ties will be highlighted by The Wainwright Sisters, and They Might be Giants performing a special matinee performance for children.

Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson and John Grant are among the stars of New Americana who will take to the stage during the festival.

Pilgrimage will be explored through a series of performances, including the reimagining of Joni Mitchell’s 1976 album Hejira – which explores themes of the constant journey we are all on in life – by James Robertson.  While Drift is inspired by the true story of Betty Mouat, a crofter from Shetland, who spent eight days drifting alone in the North Sea.

Matthew Welch’s Blarvuster, the Aidan O’Rourke Trio and Soumik Datta & Bernhard Schimpelsberger: Circle of Sound, are among those who will step into the spotlight at a new venue the Drygate Brewery. This represents a new strand for Celtic Connections called – The Shape of Folk to Come – which looks at future music developments.

A series of major anniversaries will be marked. Le Grand Anniversaire, celebrates Aly Bain at 70. He’ll be joined by his long standing cohort Phil Cunningham to celebrate 30 years of performing together.

Bwani Junction will be performing Graceland,  30 years after Paul Simon’s classic album was released. Four of the original members of the recording will be performing on this very special occasion.

A series of concerts – In the Tradition – will celebrate piping and Gaelic music. The Auld Alliance between Scotland and France will feature in Showcase Scotland as the festival celebrates France as the partner country for 2016 and the 10th anniversary of the twinning of Glasgow and Marseille.

Showcase Scotland is delegate based and hosted in the city of Glasgow over four days during Celtic Connections.  Musical directors and programmers of leading festivals and venues from around the world attend the event where around 60 songwriters, bands and musicians are showcased. A Trade Fair is held to provide an additional platform for promoters to meet with artists and their representatives to discuss booking possibilities.

At the core of the festival is the award winning Education Programme, which sees thousands of children attend free morning concerts, experiencing live music from Scotland and further afield. Up to 11,400 children will take part in Celtic Connections Education Programme for schools which includes five free morning concerts.

In addition there will be more than 60 public workshops for all ages and abilities from dawn until dusk over each of the three weekends.  Highlights include the Ukulele School hosted by Finlay Allison and The Fiddle Village hosted by Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas.

The Royal Scottish National Orchestra and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra also make a welcome return.

The final day of Celtic Connections – Sunday 31 January – includes a show at the Old Fruitmarket in aid of the Bert Jansch Foundation, whose charitable aim is to support the next generation of acoustic musicians.  Robert Plant, Bernard Butler, Archie Fisher, and Jacqui McShee will perform in Bert Inspired: A Concert for Bert Jansch.

Donald Shaw, Artistic Director of Celtic Connections, said: “Celtic Connections is rooted in a love of traditional, folk and world music. Since our earliest days the passion, the skill, and the excitement that you find at a live concert at Celtic Connections has inspired us to put together the programme each year. For 2016, we are bringing superstars and cult heroes, new talent, and artists who were legends long before the first Celtic Connections was staged.

“We have a lot of amazing concerts to pack into 18 days, so join us when Celtic Connections returns next January.”

Councillor Archie Graham, Chair of Glasgow Life, said: “Glasgow is a welcoming city which is proud of its heritage and embraces diversity. Each January we host a festival which in many ways mirrors our home city. The expertise and skill that drives Celtic Connections also shines through in an education programme that benefits thousands of children across Glasgow and Scotland. Invaluable opportunities enrich lives and offer chances to learn, to enjoy and to be part of the always unique, always brilliant musical happening which is Celtic Connections.”

Ian Smith, Portfolio Manager for Music, Creative Scotland, said: “Celtic Connections is one of the world’s great music festivals and to have established such a global presence in a comparatively short time underlines its place as one of Scotland’s creative treasures.”





Red Road rubble now latest tourist attraction

October 15, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

The remains of the six tower blocks on Red Road which were blown down on Sunday are now attracting tourists. Nicknamed – the Leaning Towers of Petershill – the two fragments of buildings still standing with ten or more floors intact, are being widely photographed.

Holding up the Leaning Tower of Petershill. Pic by Dr Helen Murray and Catriona Fraser.

Holding up the Leaning Tower of Petershill.
Pic by Dr Helen Murray and Catriona Fraser.

Dr Helen Murray and her friend Catriona Fraser came from Aberdeen specially to see the mounds of rubble. From Glasgow originally, Helen said: ‘You knew you were home when you saw the Red Road flats on the horizon. My mother has asked me to bring her here to see the site even although she’s never been on this side of the city.’

The  two friends have toured the country taking fun shots of different places and people – including tennis star Andy Murray.

Local residents in the Red Road exclusion area were – mostly – back to normal. Said Margaret Finlay, a family support worker at the Tron St Mary Church of Scotland on Red Road: ‘It was back to work on Monday. There wasn’t a lot of inconvenience.’ The Church’s community allotments had been covered with black tarpaulins to protect the vegetables and other plants from the dust. And the  Sunday service had been held in Springburn Church along with that congregation.


Black covers (lying below the cross) protected the Tron St Mary’s community gardens. The freshly painted building will celebrate 50 years of service from Saturday 17 October.

Bonnybroom Nursery which was possibly the closest building to the demolition site, was open on Monday as usual. Glasgow City Council was asked by the head teacher to put out a tweet to that effect.


Bonnybroom Nursery School was open as usual on Monday.

The senior citizens’ Alive and Kicking building on Red Road and the Family Centre next door were all still being cleaned up today (Thursday 15 October)  before expecting to re-open soon.

Contractor Safedem is using high-reach machinery to dismantle 123 Petershill Drive. The work will involve weakening the steel frame enough to enable it to be brought down to ground level under controlled conditions. A safe exclusion zone within the site has been set up so that parts of the structure can be dismantled safely. The exclusion zone also includes a buffer zone for debris.

A GHA spokesman said: ‘Although two of the blocks did not fall exactly as predicted on Sunday, all blocks are now at a height that the demolition can be completed as planned. The contractor is now dismantling the remaining floors of the blocks. This work will be carried out under strict health and safety conditions and with minimum disruption to residents.’


Mechanical demolition has begun on the remaining structures.

While reports from various residents alluded to burst water pipes, broken locks, washing machines stopping working, no one spoken to had actually experienced any back lash from the major blow-down on Sunday.

The six blocks were built in the late 1960s. Designed by architect Sam Bunton, they cost £6 million.  The cost of demolition has not been revealed by Glasgow Housing Association (GHA) which is part of the Wheatley Group and owns the iconic properties.



October 11, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Another Glasgow landmark bites the dust – the Red Road flats are gone! Well…almost! Some glitch left two blocks with some of the structure still upright but seriously askew.  Things were done safely and there were no reports of anyone harmed. But, unexpectedly, follow-up demolition will have to be done. Many local residents living within the fall-out (exclusion) zone were decanted from their homes from early morning till after 6pm on Sunday 11 October to ensure their safety during the demolition process. The glitch delayed their return home by about one hour. Glasgow Housing Association – GHA – duly apologised.

Consultations with the local community to decide what the space should be used for, have been under way for many, many months.  Some of those involved in the process are disillusioned: ‘They are not listening,’ they’ve said of the GHA representatives who have been facilitating the discussions.

It would be a shame if that is true.  With two years to go before the site of the demolished flats can be used for anything, there is ample time to get the plan right. Dreams can come true. Collective dreaming can produce ideas of  what could work. Local knowledge and experience should be respected for understanding what DOES NOT work.  Corporate clout and community dreams should merge into something suitable for all.

And if there is any glitch in that process,  the stakeholders should all call a special confab to iron it out – quickly – just in the way the demolition glitch will be sorted.




Flying the flag for Palestine

July 10, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Scottish efforts to highlight the illegality and horror of Israeli action against Palestine are having effect around the world.  But more can be done.  That was the message from a meeting of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign tonight (Thursday 9 July 2015) in Glasgow.


Councillor Jim Bollan, Chairperson Dr Karen Bett and air transport engineer Waseem Abuaglain.

West Dunbartonshire Councillor, Jim Bollan of Alexandria, said flying the Palestinian flag from the Council buildings last year had people ‘queuing round the block’ to take photographs.  The Council’s unanimous decision to do that highlighted the suffering of the people of Gaza who were under bombardment from Israel at the time. ‘People got involved, posted it on facebook and social media and showed there can be no peace in Palestine without justice,’ said Councillor Bollan. ‘West Dunbartonshire was the mouse that roared. There was a crazy reaction around the world.’

Former air transport engineer in Gaza, Waseem Abuaglain, said the Palestinian flag being flown on the West Dunbartonshire council building was well received by people in Gaza. ‘When I talked to family and friends there, they were happy because it showed that people outside care. That is a really important message.’

Both speakers emphasised the need for the world to know about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Said Councillor Bolland: ‘More than 520,000 families have been displaced, 20,000 homes destroyed and 244 schools damaged by Israeli attacks. The slaughter continues but both the United States and the UK say nothing.  The West stands back and allows this to happen.’

Said Waseem Abuaglain who ‘restarted life’  in Scotland: ‘Electricity is now only available for six hours a day – it was eight. Supplies of everything are only a fraction of what is needed because of the restriction on lorry coming in.’

He said that a three minute warning can be given for a rocket attack but it takes more than that time for people to get out of some of the buildings and get out of the area being attacked. He instanced a family home of five storeys which was flattened. ‘That is only one of thousands of houses destroyed. The people cannot ‘move on’ with their lives. They can only continue to live on top of the rubble for there is no place to go.  Gaza is a time bomb, now,’ he said.

He also detailed how the airport – where he once worked – has been destroyed by Israeli attacks.  ‘This was a civilian airport with commercial flights from many countries. Not only is it destroyed now, the farms round about it are also destroyed. Israeli bulldozers dug up the runway which cost $60 million.’  He commented that Israeli fears of ‘security’ at the airport were unfounded because the Israelis themselves controlled the security.

Glasgow City Council’s Nice surveillance system which is used in the city centre, was developed by Israel in Gaza and includes the most advanced face recognition techniques.  ‘It is a disgrace that it is being piloted in Glasgow,’ said Councillor Bolland. ‘This needs to be challenged.’

Dr Karen Bett who is treasurer of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign and who chaired the meeting in Renfield St Stephen’s chapel, said: ‘Scotland by its actions shows that we can change things. We show that Palestine matters.’

The Campaign believes that concerted actions and international pressure including boycott, divestment and sanctions could result in justice and peace in Palestine in the same way such efforts brought an end to apartheid in South Africa.

More information:  a





Boxer distributes Eid gifts to new hospital’s young patients

July 7, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Champion boxer Amir Khan distributed Eid toys to young patients in the recently opened Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow today (Tuesday 7 July 205). ‘An amazing hospital and staff,’ tweeted the current Silver Welterweight title holder later.

Amir Khan with Yorkhill Children's Charity volunteer Taylor Drummond.   Pic by  STUART WALLACE

Amir Khan with Yorkhill Children’s Charity volunteer Taylor Drummond.

Channelled through the charity Colours of Islam, the gifts celebrate Eid, the religious holiday Muslims observe at the end of Ramadan, the fasting month when it is customary to give to charity and to support good causes.

Kirsten Sinclair, Director of Fundraising at Yorkhill Children’s Charity said: ‘We have a longstanding relationship with Colours of Islam and would like to thank them for the smiles and laughter they bring to our young patients at Eid every year.’

Refana Saleem from Colours of Islam said: ‘We are thrilled to have worked in association with the Amir Khan Foundation in visiting the newly opened hospital. And we are delighted the children can enjoy their new toys. We would also like to thank all our dedicated supporters, sponsors and volunteers for all their work over the years.’

GLASGOW, UK. 07/07/2015 Amir Khan (2 time world welter weight boxing champion) in association with Colours of Islam & Yorkhill Children's Charity visits the Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow today to present Eid gifts to the children on Ward 3A. Picture shows Amir Khan with Jotham Godfrey (5, from East Kilbride).                COPYRIGHT © STUART WALLACE 2015 visit my website:

Amir with  five-year-old Jotham Godfrey and one of the many Eid gifts.                                    Pic by STUART WALLACE

On a tour of the UK during Ramadan, Amir was guest at a charity dinner last night in Glasgow which raised funds for good causes including the Amir Khan Foundation. He tweeted: ‘Amazing ifthar dinner in Glasgow. So much love and generosity shown by the Scottish people for the AK Foundation.’

Twice world champion, Amir has fought at lightweight, light welterweight, and welterweight. He is the youngest British Olympic boxing medallist, having won silver at the 2004 Athens Olympics, aged 17.

The Yorkhill Children’s Charity has funded more than £5m in equipment and service delivery at the new hospital including a £1m interactive play area which is the first of its kind in Europe.

Services transferred from the old Yorkhill Hospital to the Royal Hospital for Children at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow last month.

Calm before the storm

May 7, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

All the SNP women are appearing in yellow.

All the SNP women are appearing in yellow.

As the candidates begin to arrive at the count at the Emirates pavilion in Glasgow, the first votes are being counted.  Early impressions favour the SNP, but the night is young. Exit polls wider in the UK  appear to show that the Conservative and Unionist  Party has the number of seats they need for David Cameron to remain in No 10.

Glasgow North church hustings blessed with peace and good chairmanship.

May 2, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

So many people wanted to attend Sunday’s hustings for Glasgow North candidates that the doors had to be closed when the maximum of 150 was reached in Hillhead Baptist Church building.  Organised by the West End group of Churches – ACTS  – and welcomed by Alison Spurway, the event was chaired by Professor John Curtice whose political commentaries are legendary.  He posed the questions which had been submitted earlier.

Professor Curtis at the back of four of the eight party representatives  -from left:  Jamie Robertson (UKIP), Martin Bartos, (Scottish Green Party), Russell Benson (CISTA), Patrick Grady, (SNP)

Professor Curtis stands behind four of the eight party candidates at the hustings on Sunday 26 April.

Each candidate started by setting out their party’s stall. SNP’s Patrick Grady, said he wanted the energy of the Referendum to re-vitalise politics at Westminster. Opposed to austerity and spending on weapons of mass destruction, he said his party would be a strong voice for Glasgow. He said: ‘Glasgow North is a most idverse area of inequality and presents great challenges. The SNP would represet you with heart and passion.’

Simon Bone, the Scottish Conservative and Unionist (CON) candidate for Glasgow Central, stood in on behalf of his party colleague Lauren Anne Hankinson. He said there were three reasons people in the constituency should vote for her on May 7 – ‘We are part of the Union and that was demonstrated by the Referendum. We’re a young party with a growing membership and young leader, Ruth Davidson. And we’re the party for business – especially small and medium enterprises because we’d keep business tax low and opportunities up.’

GREEN Party candidate Dr Martin Bartos, said his party would put public transport back into public hands to keep profit for people not business. ‘We’re the party for people, the planet and peace,’ he added.

UK Independence Party’s (UKIP) Jamie Robertson said this was a most exciting year to have a general election. ‘The Scots always punch their weight in the UK,’ he said.

James Harrison, a candidate in Glasgow North West, was standing in for Scottish Liberal Democrat (LIB DEM)’s  Jade Elizabeth O’Neil. He said his Party would promote fair taxes by cutting taxes, raising the tax threshold and introducing new green laws.  ‘We’d fight for quality of healthcare and mental health,’ he said.

Ann McKechin, Scottish Labour Party (LAB) – who has held the seat for the past 10 years – said that had been a great privilege and she hoped the electorate would vote for her to continue. ‘I have a strong commitment and am passionate about many things including promoting a living wage, ending the obscenity of fees for industrial tribunals, the future of our young people and social justice.’ She also advocated an end to food banks and stated clearly that she wanted David Cameron out of office.

Angela  McCormick of Scottish Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) said the same old voices of the main Westminster parties had ‘made life misery for thousands.’  She said a key election issue should be the plight of the people who had died in the Mediterranean.  ‘The denial of action to save them and the racism of UKIP, should make you cry.’  She railed against ‘the rich getting richer,’  sanctions and the vast numbers who didn’t earn a living wage.

Russell Benson, introduced as  the candidate for the ‘Cannabis is Better than Alcohol’ Party correct that, amid laughter, to say he was standing for ‘Cannibis Is Safer Than Alcohol.’ He posited that 1 million patients found cannabis an effective medical treatment and that they should not be criminalised. ‘We could save £300m before even considering tax,’ he said.

The eight candidates who appeared at the ACTS hustings on Sunday 26 April. From left: Simon Bone (CON), Angela McCormick (TUSC), ,James Harrison (LIB DEM), Ann McKechin (LAB),  Jamie Robertson (UKIP),Martin Bartos (GREEN), Russell Benson (CISTA), Patrick Grady (SNP).

The eight candidates who appeared at the ACTS hustings on Sunday 26 April. From left: Simon Bone (CON), Angela McCormick (TUSC), James Harrison (LIB DEM), Ann McKechin (LAB), Jamie Robertson (UKIP), Martin Bartos (GREEN), Russell Benson (CISTA), Patrick Grady (SNP).

Asked their position on nuclear weapons, Ann McKechin (LAB) said she had opposed them since 2007 and voted against the renewal of Trident. Patrick Grady (SNP) said  he joined the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament before he joined the SNP. ‘Weapons of mass destruction are a moral outrage. Especially when Ed Milliband said he wouldn’t press the button – yet any Government he might lead would cut help for the poor but spend on weapons.  I’d vote against them at every opportunity if elected,’ he said. Simon Bone (CON) posed the question: ‘Why get rid of them when North Korea is working to have them and other countries will have them in a year to 18 months? Yes, they are a deterrent and the Americans pay for them.’ He clarified that the UK pays for the warheads. James Harrison said he wasn’t involved in negotiations so couldn’t say if the Lib Dems would ‘draw a red line’ on Trident reduction but he wanted to see a reduction in the weapons around the world. Martin Bartos (GREEN) admitted the topic depressed him and he was utterly opposed to nuclear weapons. ‘If they are a deterrent, then why not arm everyone in Glasgow with knives or guns? It isn’t rational. It doesn’t make the world safer by having  nuclear weapons and calling them deterrents. They are as abhorrent as biological or chemical weapons. True leadership would have the moral authority to get rid of them if they don’t want to destroy the planet.’

Jamie Robertson said UKIP would support renewal but admitted the weapons were frightening. His comment: ‘They do support a lot of jobs in Scotland,’ was greeted with groans from the audience. Angela McCormick (TUSC) immediately responded to say the STUC has that week published a report which ‘knocked the myth of jobs on the head,’  and referred people to the STUC’s website.

On the question: ‘Is the financial deficit really important?’ Simon Bone quipped: ‘personally or Government?’ Then revealed that the debts from World War 1 had just been paid back, finally, three weeks before. ‘We’ve got to balance the books. If we borrow, we have to pay back.’ Martin Bartos pointed out that the way you run a nation’s economy is different from how you manage the money in your wallet. ‘When the banks failed, vast quantities of money were printed which went to the banks. But that did not help. We should let this model of austerity go and scrutinise the dogma that has fed it so long. It is better if we think along the lines of a farmer in difficulty needing resources to buy seeds to sow crops to have the hope of harvesting more in the future.’

James Harrison’s response was to end tax evasion. His party would not rectify things by cutting welfare as the Tory’s had done. Instead Lib Dems would grow the economy to grow more jobs. Ann McKechin said far too many people got too little return for their work. With 500,000 working people dependent on housing benefit, the economy was not working.   Higher wages and spending on research and development were ways Labour would grow the economy. Russell Benson’s solution was to ‘take the economy out of the hands of gangsters and put into the hands of public bodies.’ Angela McCormick’s answer for TUSC was to highlight trade union protests on the cuts planned for the following week. She said: ‘This is not your deficit. It is the bankers’ deficit. They gambled and lost.  It is a sick joke that we are asked to pay when the 1000 richest people in the UK own £500 billion.  If the wealthy tax dodgers were taxed that would bring in £100bn.’ And she warned of bigger cuts to come.

Jamie Robertson’s line from UKIP was to come out of Europe. ‘That would save billions.’ Patrick Grady (SNP) also warned of ‘worse to come.’  But he pointed out that  Finance Minister, John Swinney had balanced the books of the Scottish Government since 2007.

A questioner from the audience asked the candidates to justify the loss of thousands of further education lecturers’ jobs.  Ann McKechin (LAB) said she’s lobbied Glasgow University to pay the living wage as they had some people on zero hours contracts. Labour’s policy was to stop the exploitation of people by forbidding zero hours contracts after 12 weeks. Patrick Grady said it was a free education that motivated him to get into politics.  Jamie Robertson (UKIP) said it was ‘a tragedy’ that people were written off and his party would give people a full-time contract after 12 months.

Angela McCormick (TUSC) said the Tory party – supported by UKIP would be too ‘right wing’ and had already attacked the rights of workers.  ‘I work in further education and know we need to start to do things differently.’

The next question was on the refugees dying in the Mediterranean.  ‘These are Europe’s Boat People,’ said the questioner. ‘Shouldn’t we let them come and bring their assets?’  With Professor Curtis interjecting: ‘Should we take a share of these refugees?’

Answers ranged from Jamies Robertson confirming his party’s policy on more control of UK borders to prevent ‘unlimited immigration.’ Adding that he favoured the Australian points system. to James Harrison (LIB DEM) saying it was ‘a disgrace’ that Europe had reduced the budget (to save those drowning in the Mediterranean) at a time of great need.

Green Party’s Martin Bartos told how his Czech parents came to the UK in the 1980s and he, with them, worked to be good citizens here. ‘We believe immigration helps the economy and enriches culture.’  He also said that as a psychiatrist, he had treated people (asylum seekers)  who had gone through torture. ‘But what was worse was seeing them put through unspeakable things in the immigration process. That is our shame.’

Going against his party’s policy, Conservative Simon Bone declared there wasn’t enough immigration. ‘We forget the numbers we export to Spain, for example. I’d encourage more immigration.’ Patrick Grady (SNP) supported more immigration. ‘We support the right of people to move and be global citizens. Scotland would be a welcome beacon and this would be to our well-being.’ Angela McCormick (TUSC) said the present government had made a conscious decision not to help the asylum seekers and so, in her view, they had murder on their conscience.  ‘We take nowhere near the number of refugees we should . This is a humanitarian crisis.’

She added that Dungavel was ‘Scotland’s shame’ and should be closed down. She highlighted an STUC sponsored protest there on Saturday 30 May in solidarity with the asylum seekers detained in Dungavel who are on hunger strike because of the conditions and the unlimited time they are kept there. Russell Benson considered there was a link between people being trafficked, illegal immigration and the unregulated drugs market. ‘We have an archaic policy in the UK.’ Simon Bone (CON) said the UK had a moral duty to help: ‘We were partly responsible for the conflicts that caused people to migrate.’

On the local issue of the future of the North Kelvin Meadow – wild green space wanted by local people for children to play in and by developers to build flats – all candidates were against the commercial development of the space.

Asked by Professor Curtis what aspect of their Party’s policies they were least comfortable with, there was a wide range of answers. Patrick Grady (SNP) said he’d prefer an elected head of state instead of retaining the Queen, though he’d stand by the promise to abolish the House of Lords.

LIB DEM’s James Harrison admitted abandoning tuition fees had been a mistake and cost votes. GREEN’s Martin Bartos wished his party had a much cleverer way to get more people standing as candidates. Russell Benson said that Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol was a single  issue party. ‘We could fight on more issues – for example safer alcohol. It can be used as a safe relaxant but it is also tearing communities apart.’

Conservative’s Simon Bone said he was a bit embarrassed by members with extreme views going to UKIP. On the bedroom tax, he didn’t think people should be punished for having an extra room. ‘We should be able to manage the situation better by allowing people to rent out the spare room and make some income.’

Ann McKechin (LAB) admitted it was ‘a very difficult question.’ She said she’d like an MP to interpret issues according to their own constituency and their own principles. ‘Some were opposed to the war in Iraq or to Trident and are prepared to take the consequences.’ Angela McCormick said she had no difficulty with anything in her party’s manifesto: ‘I helped write it!’ She added that the most uncomfortable thing for her was to ‘stand here’ at the hustings meeting.

UKIP candidate Jamie Robertson raised a laugh when he said with hesitation: ‘I’d need to read the manifesto (again) but…I support it all.’


No numpties at Glasgow East hustings

April 24, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

On a warm, sunny afternoon in Easterhouse a local Tenants’ Conference ended with a lively hustings with ‘numptie’ and ‘liar’ coming into play. All the candidates for Glasgow East Constituency were present but none was described as a ‘numptie.’

Candidates for Glasgow East from left: Arthur Thackeray, UKIP; Andy Morrison, Conservative; Margaret Curran, Labour; Gary McLelland, Lib Dem; Kim Long, Green; Natalie McGarry, SNP; Liam McLaughlan, SSP.

Candidates for Glasgow East from left: Arthur Thackeray, UKIP; Andy Morrison, Conservative; Margaret Curran, Labour; Gary McLelland, Lib Dem; Kim Long, Green; Natalie McGarry, SNP; Liam McLaughlan, SSP.

Kim Long the Scottish Green Party candidate used the ‘n’ word.  She explained how getting involved in the Referendum campaign showed her how many ‘numpties’ were in positions of authority. ‘More of us have to step up and shape the new politics in a constructive and collaborative way,’ she said. ‘We need something better than cheap jibes and point scoring. That does not tackle the structural problems.’ Listing 17,500 people in Glasgow using food banks, she commented that austerity is NOT progress. Banning of zero hours contracts and making sure that a person’s pay was able to feed their family would guarantee that work would fight poverty.  She said the Green Party was disgusted by the sanctions regime and it would make access to employment tribunals free. She also said that working with young offenders in community theatre arts helped her see how broken our justice system is.

Natalie McGarry , Scottish National Party candidate said her party was against zero hours contracts. ‘They are unreliable, unfair and disgraceful as you cannot run a household that way.’ She then read out figures from the Labour controlled Glasgow City Council which stated there were 563 people on zero hours contracts in 2013, 1436 in 2014 and 1689 in 2015. At this point the Labour Councillor for the area shouted from the audience: ‘lies, all  lies’ But Natalie replied that the figures were from Glasgow City Council official sources and given to an SNP Councillor who had requested them. ‘You are calling Glasgow City administration liars,’ she said. Earlier she said that three years ago she wouldn’t have had the confidence to speak in public. ‘Thanks to the Referendum Campaign I got a voice. Now I say that politics is not something done TO people but BY people.’  Scandalised by foodbanks and with one in three children in poverty, she said that people deserved better. ‘If the SNP can present a strong opposition (at Westminster) we will challenge Labour and Tory to stop the cuts. We could hold the balance of power and make alliances across the UK parties. The SNP could provide the backbone for a Labour Party that needs one.’

Margaret Curran, Scottish Labour Party (Lab) – who has held the seat since 2010 and who was the local MSP before that –  said this was a big election and a big decision which would be decided by people like the audience. ‘Even my fiercest critics say I work hard. I’ve held 1500 surgeries, have 18,000 constituents and helped save Lightburn Hospital,’ said Margaret.  Once a welfare rights officer working in the area, she said Labour would increase the minimum and the living wage so that people who worked hard got a decent pay in return. Quizzed about the cuts Labour would make, she said the party would work to balance the books. ‘We would tax the better off who could shoulder the burden. We believe in redistribution so that the mansion tax from the South would be used in Scotland. ‘ At this point she was heckled and told the audience didn’t want to hear a manifesto. ‘This is an important question and an important issue and I should be entitled to reply,’ she responded.

Arthur Thackeray, UK Independence Party (UKIP) said he had worked and been raised in the area. He believe the area needed a local voice speaking for them.  Dismissing the ‘legacy’ parties as he called Tory, Labour, Lib Dem and SNP, he said UKIP was the first party to bring new politics which would offer real change. Committed to ending the ‘bedroom tax’ his party would also scrap ATOS assessments, make the NHS free at the point of need, build more social housing, invest in the armed forces and get the UK out of Europe.

Andy Morrison , Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party (Con) said he, too was a local person. ‘I have to be honest – it hasn’t all been peace and light over the past five years. But we are dealing with the fundamentals: – we want to ensure our children and our children’s children can enjoy what we have.’ He said there were fewer university graduates in Scotland and that was a cause for concern. Europe had a higher youth unemployment rate than the UK. But he was proud of the Conservative Party’s record and of his efforts to defend the union.

Gary McLelland, Scottish Liberal Democratic Party (Lib Dem) said his party’s policies were geared to giving people the best possible opportunities to live happily. This included democracy especially at local level, human rights, building alliances and ending the House of Lords.  He wanted Dungavel closed and praised the fact that the UK had committed 0.7% to the UN Development spending goal.

Liam McLaughlan, Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) said he might be the youngest candidate at 19, but he had been holding meetings across the constituency campaigning on things like the bedroom tax during the year when the Labour party was trying to make up its mind on its stance on the issue. ‘People here are disaffected. We need to get back to real values in society.’ He also said his party would ban zero hours contracts and make a £10 minimum wage.

The biggest round of applause of the hustings was when Natalie McGarry said the SNP would abolish the House of Lords where a person turning up got £300 for the day. She followed this with a comment about the cuts ripping the fabric of society. ‘Did the people here cause the bank crisis? No! So why are the people in this room paying the cost?’

And SSP Liam McLaughlan also got a lot of applause when he pointed out that at this time of austerity the FTSE financial index – which charts the value of top companies –  was worth more than ever. ‘Just let that sink in,’ he said.

Blairtummock Housing Association hosted the event. David Bookbinder, Director of Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations was chairperson. He kept a tight rein on the candidates but had to deal with some feisty members of the otherwise attentive audience of around 150.


Under fives have fun in city’s museums

April 21, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Glasgow Museums has challenged all visitors under the age of FIVE to complete 25 tasks by visiting all nine museums in the city and discovering fun things to see and do in each place before they reach their fifth birthday.

Four year old Cameron Foran has started collecting his 25 stickers of things to do in Glasgow's museums.

Four year old Cameron Foran has started collecting his 25 stickers of things to do in Glasgow’s museums.  Photograph by Ian Watson.



Designed especially to entertain and inspire the under fives, the hunt for the fun is led by a furry friend called Museum Mouse.  In a free booklet which can be picked up in all of the museums, the mousie character describes what can be enjoyed where.

Youngsters can hunt for a dragon at the Burrell, imagine they are inside a whale at GoMA or dress up as characters from Sleeping Beauty at Kelvingrove Museum.  They can count the many different animals carved on the Doulton Fountain outside the People’s Palace, or copy the funny expressions on the heads in St Nicholas Garden outside Provand’s Lordship.  At the Riverside Museum, children can show off their firefighting skills with an interactive fire engine game.  St Mungo’s has a scarier version of eye spy with its huge window overlooking the Necropolis. And Scotland Street School offers school uniforms, classroom re-enactments and playground games from past times.

At Glasgow Museums Resource Centre – the only venue requiring pre-booked tours or workshops – the young discoverers can use hat, binoculars and torch to search for Museum Mouse’s trail.

Local youngsters Cameron, Molly and Eva (pictured below) completed all three challenges at the People’s Palace before proudly collecting their stickers at the Enquiry Desk.

Cameron Foran (4) ; Molly Rae (4) ; Ava Hamilton (4) have fun at "The Steamie" in the People's Palace Museum.

Cameron Foran (4) ; Molly Rae (4); Ava Hamilton (4) have fun at “The Steamie” in the People’s Palace.         Photograph by Ian Watson.

Chair of Glasgow Life, Councillor Archie Graham, said more than 3 million people attended the city’s museums last year.  ‘Our museums can open up a whole new world to even the youngest of visitors.  If parents can spare a little time to help the under fives enjoy the many adventures detailed in this new booklet, they could give their child a lifelong love of exploring, investigating and enjoying arts and culture.  I think that is a truly wonderful gift to give the next generation.’

More information on museum opening times, transport options etc at:

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