The Sighthill stone circle, the first astronomically aligned circle to be built in Britain for over 3000 years, faces demolition in preparing Glasgow’s bid for the 2018 Youth Olympics.
The campaign to save it has revealed that the circle is far better known and more used than either its builders or Glasgow City Council was aware. Although the circle was built for scientific and educational purposes, and as a tribute to four prominent archaeo – astronomers all connected with the city, it means a great deal to other people for other reasons. Many go there for prayer, reflection or meditation, to enjoy the views, for the park setting and wildlife, or just for peace and quiet.
The petition to save the circle has more than 3,400 signatures with support from celebrities and cross-party backing from MSPs. Another 600 are on Facebook with comments from people in Sighthill and other parts of Glasgow and from across Scotland, the UK and the world.
Recent publication of “The Stones and the Stars, Building Scotland’s Newest Megalith” by Duncan Lunan, who designed the circle as Project Manager in 1979, has brought the circle’s existence to ever-growing attention.
For years there has been a Christian memorial at the circle maintained by the Forbes family, whose mother’s ashes are scattered there – as are others, it’s now known. But many other groups such as Pagans and Druids have been using the circle for ceremonies during the solar year and are now doing so in a more organised way, to draw attention to the use they make of it and their wish for it to remain.
Wednesday 20 March 2013 marks the spring equinox, with sunrise at 06:19 am. On that day the sun is overhead at the equator and day and night have equal length all over the world. Druid and Pagan groups will be present to mark both sunrise and sunset, inviting all of like mind and sympathisers to join them. There will be walking and cycling tours passing through, and origami classes and other impromptu events through the day. Sunset at 6:31pm will be the main event.
For details please see:
Duncan Lunan is scheduled to lecture on the Sighthill stone circle on Wednesday 10 April 2013 at Carnegie Library in Ayr; for details of that and other talks, and to sign the petition, go to the website www.sighthillstonecircle.net
Or contact Duncan by email: email@example.com.
The Gambia – a favoured, West African, holiday sunshine destination for many Scots – is now the bloodbath of Africa. Nine people have been summarily executed in recent weeks with the remaining 38 in the country’s ‘death row’ expected to be shot soon.
Since 1981, the Gambia has been abolitionist in practice and among more than two thirds of states worldwide, which have abolished the death penalty in practice or in law.
President Yahya Jammeh said publicly during recent Eid celebrations that he would: ‘rid the country of all criminals’ by ‘mid-September.’
Many of the people facing the death penalty still have legal processes pending – such as appeals. But the country’s legal system is now widely considered to be in disarray with lawyers, judges and other legal officials being removed at the whim of the President.
Members of the Campaign for Human Rights in the Gambia discussed this ‘sickening’ issue with officials in the Scottish Government on Thursday 13 September.
Said Campaign Chairman Arthur West: ‘The human rights situation in the Gambia is deteriorating fast. Amnesty International issued a report on enforced disappearances, torture and extra judicial killings in 2008. Last year they updated that with a ‘Climate of Fear’ report showing that the Gambia was not observing its international human rights obligations. These executions dramatically step up the erosion of human rights. We have brought this to the notice of the Scottish Government and are urging that they do all they can to make their concerns known and to prevent further executions.’
The bodies of those executed have not been released to families. Neither the people executed nor their families were given warning of their final hour.
More than 20 Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) have signed a motion condemning the nine executions and urging the UK Government and wider international community to ‘seek a resolution at the UN General Assembly condemning the use of the death penalty and all human rights abuses in the Gambia and to consider that aid, trade, tourism and diplomacy all have a role to play in putting pressure on the Gambian Government to end its abuse of human rights.’
The sponsor of the parliamentary motion, MSP Patrick Harvie, said: ‘The death penalty is a gross violation of basic human rights wherever it is used. But in the case of the Gambia, the background is one of political oppression, unfair trials, torture and censorship. It`s vital that the international community opposes this brutal regime and supports those Gambians who are bravely speaking out against the authorities there.’
Arthur West, Chairman of the Campaign said: ‘Our campaign is grateful to Patrick Harvie MSP and the other MSPs who have supported this motion highlighting the worrying human rights situation in the Gambia now. We are particularly pleased that the motion highlights that aid, trade, tourism and diplomacy all have a role to play in putting pressure on the Gambian Government to end its abuse of human rights.’
President Jammeh came to power in a bloodless coup in 1994 when he was an army lieutenant. He has remained in power through three elections. The last – in November 2011 – was held in conditions ‘not conducive for the conduct of free, fair and transparent polls,’ according to the Economic Community of West African States ( ECOWAS) Opposition parties were permitted only 11 days to campaign. Some of their leaders had been imprisoned beforehand. President Jammeh has total power over the media with almost all tv coverage being of his speeches and actions. Independent radio stations and newspapers have been shut.
Journalists have been imprisoned for asking, formally, for permission to protest publicly at the executions. They were charged with ‘conspiracy to commit a felony.’ Their homes were searched; they were held for more than the statutory 72 hours and were not permitted visits in detention by their lawyer or the Gambian Press Union. They were released on bail of US $8,000.
Currently, an estimated one third of the country’s population of 1.8 million, lives below the international poverty line of $1.25 (78p) a day. A good average wage is $24 (£15) a month. Most villages do not have clean running water, electricity or easy access to health care.
President Jamme claims to cure AIDS, personally, and has called for homosexuals to be beheaded.
Following a request to the bottled water supply company Eden Springs for a comment on our story that the University of Glasgow was not renewing their £200,000 contract, the company has sent a statement:
‘Eden Springs UK is aware of the campaign and is taking steps to address inaccuracies contained within it.
‘We have a well established customer network across Scotland and the UK, supplying spring and mineral water directly to consumers in their homes and offices, using water coolers and bottles.
‘Water supplied by Eden Springs in the United Kingdom is sourced, bottled and distributed entirely in the UK. The Scottish water supply is sourced inAyrshire.
‘The long running campaign against Eden Springs’ Scottish operation by the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign has been discredited on many occasions, including the official dismissal by MSPs of a petition to the Scottish Parliament due to the campaign’s flawed and inaccurate assertions. Across all the countries we operate in, the company strictly complies with all laws and legislation as required by national and local government.’
Several MSPs spent time over the Christmas holiday seeing, for themselves, what is being done by volunteers to help homeless people.
This week, Humza Yousaf, SNP MSP for Glasgow, went out with a street team run by the charity Al-Khair working in conjunction with the Simon Community and Emmaus in the city. Said Humza: ‘The street team help people with addiction, mental health, social exclusion, employability, literacy and numeracy problems. The Muslim community spends a lot of time and effort tackling social problems. I was privileged to join those volunteering over the festive period. And am always touched by the amount of work people do to help others at this time of year.’
A few days earlier, James Dornan, Glasgow SNP MSP for Cathcart spent a night patrolling Glasgow city centre with the Street Pastors. He said: ‘Seeing first-hand the work these volunteers do and how positively they are received by people of all ages, was an eye-opener. Their support of those in most need, particularly the homeless, was fantastic – from giving out blankets, gloves and socks to ensuring they were welcome at Glasgow’s City Mission.
‘At this time of year we should give a thought to those unfortunate people who find themselves on the streets. But we should also pay tribute to the volunteers and organisations that do so much to make life as bearable as possible for them.’
In Aberdeen, Mark McDonald, SNP MSP for North East Scotland, visited a winter shelter run by the Bethany Christian Trust. He said: ‘The experience was deeply humbling. I heard the stories of some of the individuals using the shelter; how they became homeless and how important the services provided by the Trust are to them at this time of year. I spoke at length with the volunteers, including a group from a local recruitment firm who were giving up their time, and making a donation, to assist the work of the Trust. It is important we take time to remember the many people who face real hardship. I commend the work of organisations such as the Bethany Trust, for what they are doing to help homeless people.’
Students at Glasgow University will hold an Austerity Auction today (Wednesday 15 June) to help their Principal’s cause.
Said a student spokesperson: ‘Principal Anton Muscatelli and other members of senior management’s recent £20,000 in bonuses seems rather small. So we’re having an auction to raise funds.’ With tongue firmly in cheek, the spokesperson added: ‘We feel that around 20 or 30 pence will be enough.’
This action is part of a campaign leading up to the Anti-Cuts Action Network (ACAN) demonstration on Wednesday 22 June. The date coincides with the meeting of the University Court which will vote on Muscatelli’s austerity proposals.
The students are based in the Hetherington Club building in University Gardens where there has been a sit-in for 135 days. What started as a protest at the loss of the Club building to post graduate students – to whom it had been gifted – has grown to be the leading students group protesting at savage cuts being programmed by the University.
The Free Hetherington protesters were evicted on Tuesday 22 March, by campus security and around 100 police officers in a heavy handed action that was publicly condemned by many staff, MSPs including Patrick Harvie and the public. On eviction, a massive crowd of students immediately marched to the Senate offices and occupied them. Within a few hours the outcome of round table discussions with University management resulted in the students returning to the Hetherington and continuing their sit-in.
The campaign has already built considerable momentum, with a picket inviting the Principal to quit his addiction to austerity, a stall giving away cake to publicise the demonstration and most recently, a clowning rally. (see photograph)
Cuts still likely to happen include the axing of – Social Work courses, Humanities at the Crichton Campus in Dumfries, Slavonic Studies, The Centre for Drugs Misuse Research and other research projects. DACE – the adult and community learning centre and entry point to the University for many mature students – is likely to be privatised as it generates £1.8m profit a year. Nursing has been given a one year reprieve but is unlikely to be saved as there is an over-abundance of nursing study places in Central Scotland. Courses saved include Archaeology, Classical Studies, most languages and Anthropology.
The local branch of the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) recently passed a vote of no confidence in the Principal. First Minister, First Minister Alex Salmond has openly criticised him.
Commented a student spokesperson: ‘The Senate, the academic governing body of the university, has been angered over the last six months by Muscatelli’s disregard for their decisions. Issues such as £13.2 million being spent to replace a perfectly functional IT system is widely viewed as an unnecessary expenditure.’
A spokesman for the University of Glasgow said: “Following an extensive consultation process, the University Court will meet on June 22. Court will decide on the recommendations made through the consultation panels into the re-shaping exercise that is taking place across a number of areas within the University of Glasgow, in line with our strategic plan. A full range of views and opinions have been taken into account, and the aim throughout has been to ensure that the University of Glasgow continues to deliver a world class experience for our students and staff.”
On day 121 of protests at University Cuts, students at the University of Glasgow held a ‘NO CUTS’ demo on Wednesday 1 June.
They were joined by students from their Crichton Campus in Dumfries which is also under threat.
The University Court is due to make a final decision on Wednesday 22 June. And in a series of ‘Wednesday Warm-ups’ for a major rally planned for that date, around 50 gathered with banners outside the Senate to make their voices heard.
Said spokeswoman Suzanne: ‘This is the start of a month long campaign. Many students have now gone home after the exams but an impressive number has stayed behind to fight to save courses in Glasgow and at the Crichton Campus in Dumfries.’
Originally around £20 million worth of cuts were flagged up by the University. But a four month campaign by students and staff, a contentious 3000 strong demonstration and the longest running student occupation in UK history has brought much success to the campaigners.
Courses which have been saved from the axe include: Archaeology, Classical Studies, most languages and Anthropology. Nursing has been given a one year stay of execution. The department of Adult and Continuing Education (DACE) which generates £1.8 million in profit annually, has been privatised.
Students first occupied the Hetherington Club building off University Avenue on 1 February this year. A heavy-handed eviction by Strathclyde Police and campus security was severely criticised by students, staff, members of the public and local MSPs. Within hours, the student protesters had re-occupied the Club premises with the agreement of the University management, to continue their peaceful sit-in protest.
Continued the student spokesperson: ‘The campaign has been successful, so far, in saving a number of courses but many are still under threat. We will intensify pressure on Principal Anton Muscatelli with our series of protests culminating in a march on the University Court on Wednesday 22 June. Our message is clear – NO CUTS!’
Alternatives to the cuts, as proposed by the students, include scrapping the £13.2 million IT consultants’ proposed spend on a website.
Said Ceris Aston a 3rd year Liberal Arts student from Glasgow University’s Crichton Campus: ‘Our website has not been updated since May of last year. But the proposal to withdraw Liberal Arts (Humanities) from Crichton is a slippery slope to closure of the campus.’ She said that 75 of the 200 students in Dumfries were Liberal Arts students. ‘We consider all the cuts are unjust and unnessary both in Glasgow and Dumfries. So we are in Glasgow in solidarity with students and staff here.’
Katy Ewing, a class colleague of Ceris’s added: ‘Our course is amazing and consistently achieves high quality passes but the marketing of Crichton Campus is shoddy.’
As well as the Crichton Campus courses, others in Glasgow still under threat are: Social Work, Slavonic Studies, Scottish Training on Drugs and Alcohol (STRADA) and several research projects.
The day before he was elected First Minister for a second term, Alex Salmond sat with Glasgow families in the Accord Centre in Dalmarnock to hear, first hand, their concerns about its demolition. In an easy and interested manner, he talked to many of the 50-60 people there. And he listened closely to what they were saying.
The uninspiring building was to be flattened and used as a bus park for the 2014 Commonwealth Games. But those who use the place – people with conditions such as Down’s Syndrome, autism and other special needs and their families – have protested loudly and brought a temporary halt to the proceedings. They had understood the facility would be replaced ‘like for like’. Instead they had been offered space in an existing community centre which was not suitable for the special needs of the folk who used the Accord Centre on a daily basis.
Said Grace Harrigan, whose 25-year-old son Craig Anderson has Down’s Syndrome: ‘I believe Glasgow City Council thought we would not put up a fight. They thought we were young mums they could bully. But 120 people use the Accord Centre and we are part of a citywide carers network.’ She said the carers had made many approaches to their local Councillors. ‘They did not even phone back or email us back. The two MSPs stopped answering our emails.’ Explaining that the area has been, traditionally, a Labour stronghold, the local centre users and carers were very disappointed by this lack of response from elected representatives. ‘After all, these were the people we voted for,’ she commented.
Having once met Billy McAllister, an SNP Councillor for a different part of the city, she contacted him in desperation. ‘At last, someone seemed to be listening,’ said Grace.
About the same time, one of their supporting groups – Citizens United – which had challenged Iain Gray on such cuts and caused him to run out of Central Station – took up their cause in a face-to-face meeting they were given with Alex Salmon during the election campaign. ‘He told us that he, personally, would look into the situation as soon as the election was over,’ said Citizens United leader Sean Clerkin. ‘And he’s kept his word. I think the Labour-led Glasgow City Council will have to giveway to these demands and give these families a ‘like for like’ centre. If they don’t they will be breaking up a community of the most vulnerable people.’
Carers from Riddrie who were part of the support network for the Accord Centre told the LOCAL NEWS: ‘We know we’ve got to stick together or we’d get nowhere.’ Ina Ross and her son Graham look after another son, Stephen who is 37 and has Down’s Syndrome. ‘The Accord Centre is a life-saver for us. He considers coming here is going to his work. With all the talk of closing it, he’s frightened he won’t get back to his work,’ said Ina.
Another family whose 32-year-old son, Paul, has been attending the Accord Centre since he was 19, said the knock-on effect of the proposed closure had been noticeable in his behaviour. ‘It has been shocking. He’s swearing and behaving badly. He is clearly very upset,’ said dad Andrew.
Helen McCourt explained that the community centre she’d been told her 28 year old daughter Laura would attend was in Easterhouse. ‘I don’t drive so it would take me two buses to get there. She would be taken there, given tea and toast and then have nowhere to go and nothing to do. She has Down’s Syndrome. I need to know she’ll be safe and she wouldn’t be in that environment. In the Accord Centre she has lots of things to do and friends and people she knows.’
When Alex Salmond arrived he was shown round the Centre by manager Vivienne Ferguson. Then he met the families. One of the first people he spoke to was wheelchair bound Joseph Loughran who is 24. ‘Did you vote SNP,’ questioned the soon-to-be First Minister. ‘Yes!’ was the resounding reply. Joseph’s parents Helen and Joe said that a community centre was not a suitable place for Joseph to go to because it was open to the public and that made him vulnerable. ‘He has many complex needs. They can be met in the Accord Centre. He knows the place and feels confident here. We know he’s safe here in a caring community,’ said Joe.
Several of the regular users of the Accord Centre spoke up for themselves directly to Alex Salmond. Cheryl McArthur (32) told him: ‘I don’t want to go to a community centre. All my friends are here. And I’d love to come here five days a week.’
Laura McLauchlan (27) said: ‘I come here three days a week and would like to come five days.’
When the conversation turned to establishing what, exactly, the Accord Centre families had been promised, Alex Salmond asked for minutes of meetings. Quickly scanning them he pointed out that a ‘like for like’ centre was described ‘if possible.’ Said Mr Salmond: ‘Those are weasel words. The intention is clear.’
Promising to follow up the meeting, he left after almost two hours of discussion.
Later his office issued a formal statement: ‘During the election campaign I met many people who benefit from the Accord Centre. They put a good case to me for the future of the facility. They told me that a commitment had been made to them by Glasgow City Council some years ago, that if the centre had to go to make way for the Commonwealth Games as part of the local authority’s programme of modernisation, then they would be offered a like-for-like replacement. I was asked to come and see the centre so that I could understand why those who benefit from the services it provides believe that the alternative they are being offered is not appropriate. Today I was proud to meet staff, carers and service users as well as local people campaigning to save the centre. I think it is an important service for the community and I will continue to urge Glasgow City Council to ensure it is re-housed in suitable premises.’
Glasgow City Council is preparing a detailed response to the issues raised by the families who are fighting for the Accord Centre for publication on this website. Their spokesman said that 22 of the registered users of the Accord Centre had agreed to move to a Centre in Riddrie and were due to start on Monday 23 May.
Work has started at Holyrood. MSPs have now sworn on oath, to do what people have elected them to do and uphold and make the laws of the land.
Time will tell how many will apply themselves with vigour to the task. And time will also tell how the political parties re-align themselves in the new balance of power. But first Labour and Lib Dems need to sort themselves out and find a cohesive strategy. Maybe, just maybe, they first have to find themselves and stop blaming the big boy who hit them and ran away.
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.’
A unique Glasgow service that supports new mums and offers a life line to critically ill babies was highlighted to MSPs at a special Parliamentary event on Thursday November 18.
The service, which is based at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children at Yorkhill, is the first of its kind in Scotland. It provides donor breast milk to babies whose mothers are unable to supply their own breast milk. Mothers who give birth prematurely, have multiple births or have medical complications, often find it difficult to maintain a milk supply, for a number of reasons. This can obviously add to an already stressful and emotional time.
Debbie Barnett, Donor Milk Bank Co-ordinator, organised the event at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh to highlight what the service offers to women who need support. ‘ The service has been running for 32 years, but we are now feeding more babies with more milk than ever before. With funding of £70,000 from Yorkhill Children’s Foundation, the service has, in collaboration with the Scottish National Transfusion Service, developed a milk management service second to none.’