There is a Chinese curse which says: ‘May you live in interesting times.’ We are now living in those interesting times. There is a Conservative Government at Westminster. They have laid out their plans in the Queen’s Speech. Twenty six Bills will come to the House of Commons. Plenty of words with even more to come with the wrangling and debates which will be needed to see them through.
While the Conservative Party has a a clear majority, it is still a small one. Most of the legislative proposals have the potential to divide the UK up in a real and acrimonious way. One Nation politics is not on offer. Evel (English votes for English laws) may not be evil but it is more than mischievious.
Expect even more restrictive laws curbing workers’ rights, immigrants, migrant conditions and asylum seekers. Watch while housing associations are emasculated with the ‘right to buy’ losing them vital housing stock. See what result the erosion of the NHS in England has on devolved but Barrett Formula dependent, Scotland. And watch as Europe blows a raspberry to London despite the current glad-handing tour.
Yes, these are interesting times and they, surely, will be very uncomfortable for a lot of people. And – just like asylum seekers who are being put into the prisons called ‘detention and removal centres’ there is no limit to how long the country will have to suffer punishing changes. Or maybe that should be: there is no limit to how long people will last under the bruising conditions now being developed.
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.’
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.
18 September 2013
The Yes, No and Not Yet Decided debates have one year to go before the people of Scotland have to make up their minds and cast a vote in the Referendum.
History will be made on 18 September 2014 when the people of Scotland have to answer the question: ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’
In the interests of the 5000 unique visitors Google Analytical says visit this website each month, the www.localnewsglasgow.co.uk reporter has been to a Yes and a No campaign meeting.
To be strictly accurate, the No people operate under the official banner of ‘Better Together.’
And while both had the regular format of chairperson introducing four speakers, the mood and tenor of each occasion was very different.
Sounding positive and aspirational was a recent gathering in Maryhill Burgh Halls where Bob Doris, an SNP MSP, chaired for Yes Scotland with an audience of around 200. The line up was John Paul Tonner from the Labour for Independence group; Carolyn Leckie from the Women for Independence group; retired politician Dennis Canavan, Chair of the Yes Scotland campaign and Cat Boyd from the Trade Unions for Independence group.
At the Mitchell Library some days earlier, the ‘Better Together’ campaign fielded former Chancellor Alistair Darling along with Scottish Labour Party Leader Johann Lamont, Lib Dem MSP Willie Rennie and Ruth Davidson Leader of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party. The audience of around 300 saw a professional, big screen video. It had a variety of Scottish people of varied age speaking in a variety of regional accents, all saying why they will vote ‘No': because they believe the nations would be ‘Better Together.’
It was unfortunate for the speakers that they were seated directly in front of the screen on the stage. They would have had a very sore neck if they’d turned round and watched the show. But to the audience watching and listening, the speakers were clearly visible. Both Alistair Darling and Johann Lamont busied themselves with reading their notes during the screening while Ruth Davidson and Willie Rennie made attempts to watch and listen.
Setting the tone for the speakers, Johann Lamont said she was delighted to be at the event. ‘I’m a proud Scot. I love Scotland and its people and dearly believe we will stay stronger in the United Kingdom.’ She said Scotland deserved better and was currently ‘on pause’ because Alex Salmond wouldn’t address the issues around the referendum. ‘I believe there is more that binds us than divides us. Alex Salmond believes he is a Tartan Messiah who, uniquely, speaks for Scotland. He does NOT!’ she emphasised. ‘This is not a fight between Scotland and England. It is a fight between Scotland and Salmond and Scotland is going to win.’ Speaking of the ‘shared vision’ within the UK rather than a political ‘shouting’ match, she concluded: ‘I enthusiastically embrace the opportunities to work in partnership to make Scotland a place that is better than the past.’
Lib Dem Scottish Leader Willie Rennie said that as part of the UK, Scotland had the ‘best of both worlds. It is up to us to keep it that way.’ He insisted that while the Scottish Nationalists were right about the success of the Scottish Parliament they were wrong to believe the only way to protect that was apart. ‘With Johann and Ruth we have achieved change in Scotland by coming together.’
Ruth Davidson, Scottish Conservative Leader said she was talking personally and reflected on her three years as a Territorial Army reserve. ‘I was so proud we stopped the slaughter in Kosova. Our armed forces are truly inseparable as is our NHS.’ She highlighted the job opportunities for young people and the value of exports to ‘our partners across the way.’ Control of health, Police and Parliament gave the ‘best of both worlds.’ She added: ‘Security with our armed forces and our NHS means we get the best of both worlds and stand up better together.’
Alistair Darling who is Chairman of the Better Together Campaign said plainly: ‘The stakes are high. Even if we win by only one vote we will have won.’ He urged his audience to help: ‘Point out the case for the UK. Our opportunities come through being a part of a larger country. That applies to jobs, health and education. We are part of a larger economy and of a UK we helped build. It has such a good influence in the world.’ He added: ‘I am a proud Scot and a proud Brit. I don’t see why I have to choose one or the other. I want to be both.’ As Chancellor of the Exchequer who handled the economic crisis when the banks collapsed, he said: ‘Panama uses the US dollar so their currency rate is set by a foreign government. They allow another country to decide how much they can spend and borrow. I used to run the Treasury. If you use a foreign treasury you have no democratic control of your finances. When the RBS ran out of money I asked them – how long can you last? – the answer was three hours. I was able to save the situation and stop that happening only because the UK had the strength behind it. An independent Scotland could never have done that.’
He said: Whether it is currency security or eavesdropping on the BBC – which Scotland would as a foreign country – we can’t walk away from that kind of co-operation. We have strength as the UK We are bigger, better and stronger together.’
Two members of the audience were united with the speakers. ‘I’m not political,’ said Dorothy Kelly from Dunblane, who recently retired as a secretary from Stirling University. ‘But I really believe in the UK together. Separation would cause problems. I’ll be voting ‘No’ to protect the union.’
Hamish McArthur is studying social science and politics at Stirling. He said: ‘I’ve got my own NO Campaign on facebook and will be voting No to Scottish independence.’ Originally from Hagshill, Glasgow, he said: ‘There is so much on line. There is a real public forum and a big lot of information. We’ve five or six students involved from all political parties. It’s good and gets everyone engaged.’
The member of the public who took most attention at the Maryhill and Springburn ‘Yes’ Campaign meeting in Maryhill Burgh Halls a few days later, was Julie Hyslop who runs the local food bank. She said: ‘The Food Bank is not there to do the job of the benefits agency. But it is clear that if we didn’t feed people they’d starve. It is a disgrace. Working class people have been misrepresented and abandoned. I hope for change.’
Chairman Bob Doris said: ‘The Referendum decision is not a party political one. It is too important to leave it to the politicians. If we leave it to them we’ll lose. The best way is to bring the discussion back to the community. That’s what it is all about.’
First speaker, Cat Boyd of Trade Unions for Independence, said: ‘I work in a low paid area and conditions are getting worse. The 1% cap on wages is effectively a wage cut. There is not a 7% wages hike. Instead, there is a constant attack on jobs, pay and pensions. The Westminster government refuses to negotiate.’ She said she was ‘gobsmacked’ to hear Ed Miliband proposed to cap winter fuel allowance. ‘That, along with the Falkirk Labour candidate scandal gives enough reason to vote YES!’
Coming from a strong trade union background she said trade unions were the largest democratic bodies around. They were fighting to stop the NHS from being decimated and challenging the Victorian style poverty of today. ‘Economic justice, equality and solidarity are core trade union values. ‘We’re in our fifth recession of recent times yet there is a record number of billionaires. Solidarity is collective power. We should be demanding that the anti-trade union laws in Scotland be abolished,’ said Cat to loud applause. She went on: ‘The British thirst for war in Ireland and Iraq is an attack on ordinary people. Let Scotland break away from that. It is so long since I had any cause to hope. Now 18 September 2014 opens the possibility for radical change for us.’
She was followed by John Paul Tonner, youth officer for Labour for Independence. A modern studies teacher he said people in Scotland should ask themselves the question: ‘What kind of society do I want to live in?’
‘Some think there is nothing wrong with the society we live in. But do you want to have 74% of the government being millionaires? Do you want the welfare state to be equated to a parasite? Do you want institutions to be sold off? I don’t.’
He said his heart sinks when he hears students and colleagues saying Scotland is too poor or too wee and daft a country to go it alone. ‘Is child poverty all we can hope for from a Parliament we didn’t vote for, hundreds of miles away?’ He added: ‘We are only one pen stroke away from being the change we want in the world. It will not be a tartan Utopia with whisky drinking, bagpipe playing people. It can be a 21st century nation we can be proud of and we can be part of its just dynamics.’
Castigating the ‘imposters’ who are the Labour Party today, he said to loud applause: We must reclaim the Labour Party. We, the people, are labour.’
He continued: ‘If we want equality, fairness and social justice we have got to reclaim labour from London. The YES campaign provides the needed social conscience and a positive alternative. We can make a difference by using our energy and getting involved to make things better. We can listen, inspire and have a society we are proud of – have a Labour party we can be proud of.’
Added Chairman Bob Doris: ‘Just as independence doesn’t belong to the SNP, so the labour movement does belong to the Labour Party.’
Former MSP Carolyn Leckie then took the floor to speak on behalf of Women for Independence, a feminist collective. ‘The majority of women are unlikely to be inspired by men in suits,’ she started. ‘The fact is that 52% of the population is female. We need to persuade women. But first we need to listen to women.’ She said she believed in a pluralistic, autonomous, inclusive society. ‘Opinion polls say more people will vote for independence if they believe it will make them £500 better off. But my family – along with thousands of others – has lost an awful lot more in the past five years.’
She said that people in crisis had to wait 15 days for a social work crisis grant and were referred to a website and a food bank for help. ‘This does not match our aspirations,’ she said. ‘There is no guaranteed destination. But we have to take a risk. What are the odds on Miliband becoming Prime Minister? We have to weigh up the risks and opportunities and take responsibility for our own decision.’
She likened it to the process of deciding to borrow money to buy a car. ‘We take a risk going for a loan. We take a risk buying a car. Every day we take risks. The NHS, privatisation of the Royal Mail and the Post Office are all at risk. Break the rules and some people are jailed for ten years yet the bankers get bonuses and rewards for defrauding the rest of us,’ she said angrily to a supportive audience. ‘The biggest risk of all is that we are governed by a Westminster government in whatever guise it might be.’
She went on: ‘We have a right to make an arse of it. It’s our right and our arse. The Referendum is the one and only chance for the people of Scotland to say what they want. We must take that risk. And it is only a wee risk. We are not risking life and limb as some people in other countries do. Simply, we must stand up and be counted and put a cross on a ballot paper.’ She reflected: ‘Think about looking back afterwards and knowing if we did, or did not do that one, simple thing.’
Concluding she said: ‘If everyone who thinks like I do, can go out and persuade one more person we’d have a landslide vote for Yes! Go out and do it!’
The final speaker was Dennis Canavan, Chair of the Vote Yes Campaign who outlined his ‘political journey to independence.’
‘ I didn’t always believe in the cause of independence,’ said the former Falkirk MP who served at Westminster for 26 years followed by 8 years as an independent MSP. ”I’ve been retired for six years and had time to reflect and think. I’ve come to the conclusion that Westminster is completely out of touch with the people of Scotland. The Scottish Parliament is not perfect but judging by its track record over 14 years it has been positively responsive, by and large, to the wishes, needs and aspirations of the people.’
Quoting the Bible in Scots he said: ‘By their deeds shall ye ken them.’ He went on to weigh government in the balance and said. ‘Students are far better off at a Scottish university than south of the border. I went to university in the 1960s when it was the best funded and supported education system of any in the world. Even Maggie Thatcher never abolished student grants. But I was appalled when Tony Blair abolished them and brought in tuition fees. The Labour cabinet of John Reid – Lord Reid now – Gordon Brown and David Blunkett had all been beneficiaries of free education. They had the chance to stop this. But I couldn’t believe it when they kicked away the ladder of opportunity.’
He went on: ‘Senior citizens have free personal care in Scotland. In England they pay for it. The Scottish Parliament fully implemented a fairer system of help including free prescriptions. Frankly, I’m appalled to hear the Leader of the Scottish Labour Party castigating these benefits. She calls them ‘something for nothing.’ Nye Bevin and Keir Hardie must be birlin’ in their graves. Is free education or free NHS care, ‘just a ‘sweetie’, as she puts it? These were the two great pillars of the founders of the Labour Party.’
A promise by First Minister Alex Salmond has given hope to 50 East End families that the £18 million Tollcross Aquatic Centre can provide a replacement for their doomed day care Centre.
The Accord Centre in Dalmarnock will be demolished to make way for a coach park for the Commonwealth Games. In preparation for that, more than 100 people with conditions such as cerebral palsy, Down’s Syndrome and complex learning needs have been dispersed to other centres in the city. But more than 50 families have rejected the proposed alternatives to the Accord believing they had been promised a ‘like for like’ facility.
A year ago, Alex Salmond visited the Accord Centre to see for himself what the situation was. Since then behind-the-scenes negotiations and discussions have been taking place with Glasgow City Council officials and elected members and the Scottish Government.
In a personal letter to one of the Accord Centre families, Alex Salmond said this week: ‘I am keen to follow through on the Scottish Government’s commitment to ensure that the legacy of the Commonwealth Games benefits the whole community of Glasgow. While recognising that you will be disappointed that Glasgow City Council has decided that those who use the Accord Centre are to transfer to the Bambury Centre, there is a real opportunity in the medium and long term to influence the shape of the new Aquatic Centre when it is adapted for community use following the Commonwealth Games in 2014. This brand new, modern, resource could be adapted to offer a similar facility to that which you saw when you visited the Harry Smith complex in South Lanarkshire.’
After that visit to South Lanarkshire one of the carers told this website: ‘I wept when I saw it. It was everything we could wish for. There was a swimming pool, gyms, film room, cafe, art room and facilities for people with special needs like our sons and daughters. But it was also open to the public in a way that was safe for the vulnerable users but integrated with the general public.’
Alex Salmond’s letter continued: ‘The longer term plans (at the Tollcross Aquatic Centre) include a range of opportunities for people with learning disabilities such as the development and use of a community hall and function rooms. There is also the possibility of first floor accommodation in the Spectator Gallery which would provide an opportunity for a range of activities. And Glasgow Life staff are investigating how to incorporate personal changing and support areas into existing plans at the build stage of the current development. I know from discussions with my officials, that colleagues within Glasgow City Council are keen to explore and develop this option with you and I would encourage you to do so.’
He concluded: ‘The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that the Games Legacy includes recognition of the needs of people with a learning disability. The longer term plans for the Aquatic Centre present an opportunity to make a positive, tangible impact on the lives of such people. I have, therefore, asked my officials, working in conjunction with Glasgow City Council to prepare a funding package to ensure that a modern facility is created within the Tollcross Aquatic Centre after the Commonwealth Games in 2014 have taken place.’
In November, a confidential report was produced by the Joint Improvement Team made up of representatives of the Scottish Government, NHS and Cosla. According to Glasgow City Council, the report ‘rules out the possibility of Tollcross Aquatics Centre being used as a learning disability centre prior to the Commonwealth Games. There is also a question mark about having a dedicated centre after the games. But it makes clear the desirability of people from the Accord/Bambury Centre using Tollcross as part of their everyday activities.’
Councillor Matt Kerr, Executive Member for Social Care in a statement issued this week said: ‘I welcome this report and the conclusion that the Bambury Centre is a suitable base for people with learning disabilities. That Centre offers a real opportunity to deliver a service that will encourage greater social inclusion for service users. Considerable effort has gone into producing the report and so its recommendations will be taken very seriously by the Council.’ He continued: ‘Since reforming our learning disability services, people are showing they relish having greater flexibility to follow their own interests and aspirations. Using the Bambury Centre allows us to strike a balance between people taking greater control over their lives and retaining a centre.’
The move of the remaining families from the Accord Centre to the nearby Bambury Centre is imminent.
The Bambury Centre in Barrowfield, was recently purchased by West of Scotland Housing Association and is being refurbished. Part of the building, with its own entrance, will be reserved for the former Accord users as a meeting place where they will go out from to different activities.
After the receipt of Alex Salmond’s letter one of the East Carers Group said: ‘ I am very, very pleased with the letter. This is what we’ve been campaigning for. We are not talking about access to Tollcross. We want a fully functional day care facility. The Bambury Centre is the epitome of Glasgow City Council’s approach. It is a shabby after-thought. Our families are not being treated with the dignity they deserve. I cannot understand why the Council is not welcoming Tollcross and incorporating the facilities we’re asking for. They are being dragged kicking and screaming to this. They have been given £150,000 of public money for a feasibility study into making Tollcross suit the needs of vulnerable people but they are not fully engaged with the idea. We want a fair replacement for the Accord Centre. The only people who don’t see this are Glasgow City Councillors.’
Grace Harrigan, an official spokesperson for the East Carers group said: ‘We welcome the commitment to provide modern day centre facilities in Tollcross. But we’d like it nailed down. This is not about access to Tollcross. By law, all new buildings should be accessible. Shame on Glasgow City Council if, after spending £18m on the Aquatic Centre at Tollcross, they have not included the needs of some of their most vulnerable citizens.’
In October at the Council meeting where the decision to close the Accord Centre was taken, Grace was one of three parents evicted from the public gallery for shouting at the Labour Councillors presenting the case for closure. Because of that, she believes she was targeted when she attended the February Budget meeting of the Council. Not only was she taken out of the public gallery by attendants but she was told she was banned for life from the City Chambers. On the day she told this website: ‘I was doing nothing but listening. Then the attendant came over and said I was disrupting the meeting, took me out of the building and told me I would never be allowed back in.’
This week, in response, a Council statement was received about the incident: ‘A member of the public was asked to leave the City Chambers after being warned by staff about their conduct during the budget debate. No-one has been banned from the City Chambers as a consequence of this incident.’
A long term supporter of the Accord campaigners, community activist, Iain McInnes told this website: ‘This letter from Mr Salmond is good news. We’ve waited a long time for this. However, this is not victory. It is positive input along the road. When we get a letter saying Tollcross will be available for day care, offering facilities which have been available in the Accord Centre, and more; then we will believe the campaign will have succeeded.’
A pioneering new service for the deaf community in Glasgow was launched in October, aimed at supporting people and helping them adjust to the reality of depending on hearing aids.
‘Hear to Help’ was officially launched by The Royal Institute for Deaf People (RNID) on Friday 22 October and will help deaf people maintain hearing equipment and make sure those who depend on NHS hearing aids are well integrated with friends, family and work colleagues.
To achieve this, RNID will be running drop-in sessions across the city taken by trained volunteers. At Linthouse Housing Association on Friday 22 staff from RNID gave an example of the great work they do with hearing aid equipment and Delia Henry, RNID Director for Scotland, explained a little of what ‘Hear to Help’ will offer:
Said Delia:’Getting used to a hearing aid can be difficult and takes time. Our committed team of volunteers is looking forward to running community drop-in sessions and making home visits to build the confidence of hearing aid users. It’s amazing to see the tremendous impact a hearing aid can have in transforming a person’s ability to hear and live a full and active life.’
Nicola Sturgeon was at Linthouse to see the new service launched and believes it will prove invaluable. Said Nicola: ‘I wish everyone involved with Hear to Help well and am delighted that a number of drop- in sessions will be operating in my constituency.
‘Hearing loss can create barriers for people and leave them feeling isolated, a project like Hear to Help will breakdown those barriers and make life better for hearing aid users.’
The launch of ‘Hear to Help’ comes after the Co-Operative Group raised £3.7 million so that RNID could expand its services throughout the Glasgow region. The service is also being funded by the Scottish Government.
Think this service could help you or someone you know? Visit: www.rnid.org.uk/HearToHelp and find out when and where the drop-in sessions will be.
A team of Glasgow-based doctors, nurses and clinicians have spent the Christmas and New Year period preparing for deployment to Southern Afghanistan. Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon MSP visited them before they headed off to treat the wounded in that war theatre.
The Nation Health Service staff are all Territorial Army (TA) volunteers at 205 (Scottish) Field Hospital (Volunteers) base which is in the Health Secretary’s Govan constituency.
She spoke with Commanding Officer Colonel David McArthur, his senior staff, and many of the team who will be flying to Afghanistan this month for a three-month tour.
‘Working in the NHS is already a huge contribution for anyone to make to society. To use your professional expertise and volunteer in the forces, too, is truly selfless,’ she said.
In his civilian role as a staff nurse, Captain Ernie Dagless, from Springburn, is on emergency operating theatre teams at Glasgow Royal Infirmary.
His first TA deployment was to Iraq in 2003.
‘I see a broad spectrum of injuries and work around all the surgical specialities,’ Ernie said. ‘The same is going to happen on deployment, there are going to be injuries and we are going to be the people to treat them. It’s my job to deal with whatever comes in the door.’
That pragmatic approach to work will keep the TA medics focused, he believes. ‘The environment is different – it is in the middle of the desert – but you’re aiming to do the best you can for people.’
Corporal Michelle Williamson, from Broomhill, specialises in treating spinal injury patients at the Southern General Hospital. While acknowledging that nursing is seen as perhaps a traditional role for women on the field of battle, she points out that more of her female peers are moving into combat operations. The recognition that men and women bring different but complementary skills to battlefield triage (prioritising casualties) is crucial in the smooth running of her unit.
‘Women are a very important part of the military. It’s important to have a female face in many situations,’ Michelle said. ‘Women also bring many skills to the job and you need the skills mix between men and women. It’s the same in any place of employment.’
The LOCAL NEWS GLASGOW hopes to carry a blog from the unit. Watch this website for updates from the battle front. www.localnewsglasgow.co.uk
Five adventurers who left the comfort of the Liquid Ship, their favourite pub in the West End, for the windswept and interesting climes of John O’ Groats, have raised more than £5,000 for Maggie’s Centre.
The team – Martin Johnstone, Adam Alexander, Lee Vickers and Glen Marrilier – buddied up with Kevin McLelland, whose wife, Chantelle, has successfully battled thyroid cancer, to make the gruelling 400-mile cycle trip North in five days.
Looking back on a journey that had more than its fair share of sun, rain, bumps, bruises and punctures, Kevin said: ‘We were inspired by the sense of achievement, absolutely exhausted, looking forward to the next challenge whatever that might be, and in need of a cold pint.’
He added: ‘Chantelle had cancer a couple of years ago. At the time we were provided with fantastic care by the NHS. However, the real need for support came well after the surgery.
‘Both of us were unaware how big an effect cancer would have on us after the event. We turned to a fantastic organisation, the Maggie’s Centre, who offered us so much help and support.’
Southern General City is on its way. The blueprint for an £840m hospital campus on the Govan/Linthouse site of the present Southern General had been unveiled by Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon.
The largest single NHS hospital project yet undertaken in Scotland, it will cost £670m to build with the additional £170m being the kitting out costs for internal roadways, patient transport termini and equipment.
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) have awarded the building contract to Brookfield Europe, a developer with experience in the healthcare field. They judged it was the best value for money though not the lowest bid.
A 14-floor adult hospital with 1109 beds will be created with every patient having their own en-suite. This will help in the fight against hospital infections.
A children’s hospital, with a separate identity and entrance, will be next to the adult hospital. It will have 256 beds over five storeys and will replace the existing Royal Hospital for Sick Children. Children helped design some features which include a covered roof garden and a stage for theatrical productions. There will be a mix of four-bedded and single-bedded rooms because a child’s health benefits from being around other children.
The children’s hospital will be linked to the adult hospital as well as the maternity wing which is being redeveloped at a cost of £28m. Early in 2010 the maternity hospital is expected to be opened.
Said Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon, who is MSP for the area: ‘This is a major milestone in Scotland’s biggest ever hospital building project. This is good news for patients and the entire community. Every penny of the cost will be met from the public purse and the jobs created by the construction will provide a major boost to the local economy.
‘The designs I’ve seen for the adult and the children’s hospitals will provide world-class facilities and be important weapons in our fight against hospital infections. I look forward to seeing this radical design transforming the Govan skyline.’
Three NHS facilities were praised by Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing when she formally opened the building they all share as their headquarters.
Caledonia House at Fifty Pitches site in Cardonald is home to NHS 24, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and the Scottish Ambulance Service among other health agencies. Around 700 employees work there round the clock. ‘This is a fantastic example of joint working,’ said the Cabinet Secretary as she unveiled a brass plaque. ‘It is THE leading example and is no mean feat for everyone involved.’
Refurbished at a cost of £1.6m, Caledonia House was built in 2000 and is leased by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde for 15 years. The joint project was completed within 18 months.
‘Not only does it provide quality accommodation, the benefits of staff working closely together are already being found. Face to face working transforms contact. Now people aren’t just talking on the phone, they can walk a few steps to see the person they need to talk to. Such integration provides for better patient care,’ said the Minister. ‘This is a fantastic achievement and is thoroughly impressive,’ she said adding her personal thanks for the hard work which had gone into the project.
Andrew Robertson, Chair of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said: ‘Three bodies was enough critical mass to achieve this. There is no down side. We have quality accommodation, effective joint working where we gain from each other and there is real value for money.’
Alan Watson, Chairman of NHS 24 added: ‘This move is providing an excellent opportunity for better integration, particularly in Out of Hours care which can only improve patient experience in the longer term.’
The Out of Hours service is the largest in Scotland if not the UK and cares for 1.25 million people. ‘Close working partnership put us in a better position to meet the current winter’s higher levels of demand,’ said Andrew Robertson.
William Brackenridge, Chair of the Scottish Ambulance Service Board said: ‘The new facility has improved our ability to answer 999 calls and quickly dispatch the most appropriate response to patients. Altogether, the move adds up to a better service for our patients.’