Tonight begins the last lap of the Referendum debate. With only 44 days to go before the vote many people have now settled on their Yes or No. According to the polls, a good proportion still remain to be convinced one way or the other.
So the debate at 8pm tonight between Alex Salmond, Scotland’s First Minister and Alistair Darling, head of the UK Better Together campaign in the Royal Scottish Conservatoire in Glasgow may help make up minds.
Let’s hope it will be a true debate. With a balance of views being presented and questions from the selected audience of 350 being answered honestly. It would be a pity if it descended into the stairheid rammy of Nicola Sturgeon and Johann Lamont.
The setting and the format lend themselves to true discussion and open debate. STV’s political editor, Bernard Ponsonby will chair the session.
And before a word is spoken, the bookies are backing Salmond to ‘win’. But whether he does or doesn’t tonight. The critical factor is that both leaders tonight move more people to register to vote and persuade those who have a vote to use it.
The first of the eight victims of the helicopter which crashed into the Clutha Vaults pub, has been identified. He was Gary Arthur, aged 48 from the Paisley area. His family has been informed.
Throughout the night, emergency workers will continue to stabilise the site on Glasgow’s riverside, to make it safe for searches for bodies. Police sniffer dogs have already been deployed. Chief Constable Sir Stephen House said: ‘We are dealing with a very sensitive and complex operation.’ The remains of the helicopter have to be removed from the building to enable save searches of the remainder of the popular pub.
An estimated 120 people were in the building listening to the band Esperanza. Police Scotland reported, mid afternoon on Saturday, that eight people were dead including the two police officers and the civilian pilot in the helicopter. More than 30 people were taken to hospital after the incident late on Friday night and 14 of them were reported to be serious, mostly with head and chest injuries.
People anxious to find missing relatives who were believed to be in the pub that night are asked to call the Police Scotland Casualty Bureau number – 0800 092 0410.
The Queen and UK Prime Minister David Cameron were among the first to offer their condolences. Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond and later, his deputy, Nicola Sturgeon have both attended the site of the tragedy.
Prayers will be said in Churches of all denominations on Sunday. Special prayers were said at the nearby St Andrew’s Cathedral in Clyde Street at the Saturday Mass which was led by Archbishop Tartaglia who said: ‘I was distressed by the news. My heart goes out to all those who have been affected by this tragic accident.’
Priests from the Cathedral parish have been offering assistance during the search and rescue operations. One of them, Monsignor Christopher McElroy, said: ‘We shall hold the deceased, the injured and those still engaged in the rescue and recovery at the Clutha in our thoughts and in our prayers.’
As the 835 jobs loss at BAE Systems in Govan, Scotstoun, Rosyth and Filton in South Gloucestershire begin to register, the Scottish Government has stepped in with support for re-training.
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, with Finance Secretary John Swinney, met BAE Systems management today to offer help. She said: ‘The Scottish Government has well-established arrangements to access training to those affected by redundancy. We want to send out a strong message about what is there and both management and unions are receptive to that.’
A meeting next week between BAE Systems and the unions will work on the fine detail of which jobs will go, progressively, through till 2016. ‘When we know that detail we will know how our Government support can be best targeted,’ said MSP Sturgeon.
The announcement this week of major restructuring of the naval sector of BAE Systems plc was not unexpected but will have a dramatic effect around the country and has sparked a political row.
A total of 1775 jobs will be lost including 940 next year in Portsmouth where a 500 years tradition of shipbuilding will cease. Work which would have been carried out there on elements of the second Queen Elizabeth Aircraft Carrier will be done in Glasgow.
The cost of the restructuring will be borne by the Ministry of Defence and follows the tapering of work towards completion of the aircraft carrier programme, the six Type 45 destroyers and two export contracts.
BAE Systems and the UK Ministry of Defence have agreed that Glasgow would be the most effective location for the manufacture of future Type 26 ships. The company proposes to consolidate its shipbuilding operations in the city with investment to create a world –class capability. Meantime, three new ocean-going offshore patrol vessels will be built in the Glasgow yards for the Royal Navy to bridge the gap.
Glasgow South West MP Ian Davidson said when the restructuring was first announced, said: ‘This has been an excellent day for shipbuilding and industry on the Clyde, tempered only by the inevitable job losses and the lack of binding commitments to the Type 26 until after the referendum is settled. Access to all this future Royal Navy work would not have been possible were Scotland not within the United Kingdom. It is inconceivable that work would have been transferred from Portsmouth to Glasgow were Scotland a separate country.’
Scottish Secretary, Alistair Carmichael, said that the UK would find it ‘difficult’ to award the contracts for the new Type 26 frigates to Scottish yards if there was a ‘yes’ vote in the Referendum in September 2014.
Westminster SNP group Leader, MP Angus Robertson responded by saying it was ‘quite absurd’ for the Scottish Secretary to suggest this. ‘It is plain daft for the UK Government minister to say it would be difficult to have ships built in Scotland just because we exercise our democratic right to vote Yes, when the Ministry of Defence has procured vessels from Korea.’
Labour Councillers were told they had ‘blood on their hands’ at a stormy meeting of Glasgow City Council today. (Thursday 31 October 2013)
Shouted from the public gallery after a motion to removed ATOS as a corporate sponsor of the 2014 Commonwealth Games was defeated, several people there loudly condemned the Councillors. One man was arrested and charged with alleged breach of the peace. Police Scotland (Strathclyde) say a report has been sent to the Procurator Fiscal.
The motion was moved by SNP Councillor Billy McAllister from Canal Ward 16.
While recognising the ‘immense economic and social benefits’ to be derived from the 2014 Commonwealth Games and commending the international exposure which Scotland and Glasgow would receive from the Games, Councillor McAllister said: ‘ATOS must go as a sponsor. This is a company without any conscience. It is destroying lives.’
He gave details of individuals who had been assessed by ATOS Health Care as fit to work. One died within weeks of being declared fit for work. Another committed suicide. Said Councillor McAllister: ‘At least 10,000 people have been declared fit for work. ATOS is an ugly stain on our society. Their costly contract should be pulled. I do not wish to accept the shocking damage ATOS is doing to Glasgow’s citizens.
Even as people in the public gallery applauded him, the Lord Provost gave him a dressing down for being ‘disrespectful’ of her by continuing to speak well beyond the time permitted.
SNP Councillor John Letford of Maryhill/Kelvin Ward15, supported the motion to removed ATOS as a sponsor of the Games. He said ‘ATOS is the problem, not the solution.’ He called on people working for the health care assessment sector of the company who believed in social justice to follow their conscience and move to another job. ‘We must remove this monster called ATOS,’ he said.
But Labour Councillor Archie Graham for Langside Ward 7, who is Executive Member for the Games said: ‘You must separate ATOS health care from the Games sponsor ATOS which is a different arm of the company.’ He accused the SNP Councillors of attempting to damage the Commonwealth Games. He produced a picture of Nicola Sturgeon, SNP Deputy First Minister ‘enthusiastically participating’ in a Commonwealth Games lead-in event where she was being ‘cheered on’ by ‘the man from ATOS.’ He said it had been decided that ATOS was capable of delivering the Games’ services. ‘It is now impossible to distance ourselves from them. Where would the billions of pounds of sponsorship come from now?’ he queried.
Both Green Party Councillor Martha Wardrop for Hillhead Ward 11 and First Glasgow Councillor Stephen Dornan for Govan Ward 5 spoke out strongly against retaining ATOS as a sponsor for the Games.
Councillor Wardrop said she strongly criticised ATOS and the way it treated people being assessed. But challenged the Labour group that their concern was ‘All about the money they are bringing to the Games.’
Councillor Dornan urged Labour Group members to vote with their conscience. ‘Money can never replace people. That’s your choice.’
In his final response, Councillor McAllister said to Councillor Graham directly: ‘Shame on you if you put profit before people. You can’t say this is outwith your area. This is about our constituents in Glasgow. If you don’t vote with your conscience, this will come back to haunt you. This should not be about party politics,’ he warned.
The final vote was 29 for Councillor McAllister’s motion and 42 against.
At that point the public gallery erupted with people shouting down to the Councillors and throwing down handfuls of monopoly money.
One man shouted: ‘How will the disabled athletes look on this?’
As the police intervened in the public gallery the Lord Provost closed the Council session. Most Councillors re-assembled after a 20 minute break to continue the business of the day.
During the recess Councillor McAllister said he was very angry about the whole issue. ‘A lot of Labour Councillors said to me privately they’d like to support this motion but the Labour Group have whipped them into voting against it. It shows the state of Labour in Glasgow when they can’t vote with their conscience. We govern the city. If we don’t condemn the way ATOS goes about its health business we are condoning it.’
Before the Council meeting re-convened, Councillor Graham called Councillor McAllister’s conduct ‘an outrage.’
By Alieu Ceesay
Following its successful debut four years ago, the Southside Festival attracted thousands at the weekend to Queen’s Park to celebrate the cultural diversity and community spirit of this unique part of the city.
The area was packed with fun and entertainment for all ages with live music, dance, sport, relaxation and comedy as well as the ever-popular face painting and displays from major contributors such as Strathclyde Fire and Rescue Service. Also available was some of the fine, locally produced food and goods.
Said chair of the organising team, Andrew Montgomery: ‘The event this year has been stunning with the best of Glasgow weather and more activities for all ages.’
Local mum of three, Clare Boyd, said: ‘Events like this help bring the communities together to appreciate each other’s culture. The kids had great fun trying all the different children’s activities.’
Japanese tourist Yuko Okumura said: ‘The Southside Festival was really good! A real family festival, lots of games for children, lots of children, lots of balloons. There was a big stage for music and many people lying in the sun. There was a long line of food stalls and people drinking beer and talking – a lot! Not everyone was young. Whole families were there. And it was peaceful!’
As a commercial design student at home and a hobby Taiko drummer, Yuko enjoyed the whole sound and atmosphere of the day.
The fun continued on Sunday when the Picnic in the Park brought another day of music and family fun and good community spirit.
by Alastair Brian
In the first law of its kind in Europe, the Scottish Parliament voted to introduce a minimum price of 50p per alcohol unit this week.
It will come into force in April next year and aims to cut alcohol consumption to save lives and cut the adverse impact alcohol misuse and over consumption has on health, crime and the economy. Four cans of lager will then cost a minimum of £7.92, a bottle of win will be from £4.69 and a bottle of vodka will retail for at least £13.13
Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said the move would have ‘a significant and historic impact.’
It was passed by 86 in favour, 1 against and 32 abstentions.
Labour Party MSPs abstained. Their Shadow Public Health Minister and former addictions specialist, Dr Richard Simpson MSP, said: ‘Scottish Labour offered to support the Bill if the SNP Government accepted our positive proposals to recoup the massive £125 million windfall this generates for big supermarkets and invest that money in tackling the root causes of alcohol misuse and dealing with its consequences.’ He went on: ‘By refusing to reverse its opposition to Scottish Labour’s progressive proposal, the SNP Government has thrown away an opportunity for the whole Parliament to be united in support of minimum pricing. Communities that suffer alcohol-related, anti-social behaviour, will be left wondering why – at a time when budgets across the public sector are tight and the alcohol misuse budget is being cut by SNP by over £3 million – the SNP has voted to stuff the pockets of supermarket shareholders with gold, instead of ploughing the £125 million windfall back into our police and health service that are left to deal with the effects of alcohol misuse.’
The one vote against the new law was a mistake by SNP’s Rosanna Cunningham who admitted she pressed the wrong button in a tweet, later.
However, the new law puts question marks against the authority of Scottish Labour Leader, Johann Lamont. It appears that while she and the Scottish Labour Party in Holyrood opposed the Bill despite their amendment, Scottish Labour MPs are expected to support such a minimum price policy at Westminster.
Bob Doris, SNP MSP for Glasgow, commented: ‘The fact that Labour’s Scottish MPs – including their Deputy Leader Anas Sarwar – support the policy as part of the Westminster Labour group, makes a mockery of Johann Lammont’s claim to be leader of all Scottish Labour. She had one last chance to put Labour’s dreadful politicking of the last few years, behind her and back a policy which she knows is in the interests of the people of Scotland.’
The minimum pricing measure is part of the wider strategic approach to tackling alcohol misuse set out in’Changing Scotland’s Relationship with Alcohol: A Framework for Action.’ Research shows that since 2000 enough alcohol is sold annually in Scotland to enable every adult aged over 16, to exceed the sensible male weekly guideline of 21 units every week. Scottish per capita alcohol sales are now almost a quarter (23%) higher than in England and Wales. While sales have fallen by around 8% from a 2005 peak in England and Wales, there has been no similar decline in Scotland.
In 2009-10 more than 100 people were discharged from hospital each day following alcohol related illness and injury. These discharge figures have more than quadrupled since the early 1980s.
Mortality figures, based on cases where alcohol use is considered to be the direct cause of death, may significantly underestimate the true scale of the problem. Now it is estimated that 1 in 20 deaths in Scotland is alcohol linked. This is almost twice as many as previously calculated. A quarter of male deaths and a fifth of female deaths in the 35-44 year age group, are thought to be alcohol attributable.
Scotland has one of the fastest growing rates of chronic liver disease and cirrhosis in the world, leading the Chief Medical Officer to add alcoholic liver disease to the list of ‘big killers’, alongside heart disease, stroke and cancer.
But for the fire and safety regulations, it would have been standing room only on day one of the SNP’s conference in Glasgow. More than 2000 people attended and the overspill for key speeches from Leader Alex Salmond and Deputy Nicola Sturgeon were accommodated in four additional conference rooms at the SECC.
In the initial speech from Nicola Sturgeon, she recapped on the euphoria of the SNP win as it was played out last year at the count in the very same location. ‘That night will live long in our memory,’ said the politician. ‘It is a huge pleasure to be back here in the SECC.’
In a rallying call to members she said: ‘ These are exciting times. We are working to make Scotland a fair and progressive place. We want to make an election breakthrough and control Glasgow City Council. Labour is crumbling before our eyes. For the first time the SNP will have candidates in all 32 local government constituencies – including Orkney and Shetland. We need local councils to work hand in hand with the Scottish Government. We are ambitious. We want this country to be independent. But the future is in our own hands. We are masters of our own destiny. So let us work hard at persuading the people of Scotland to win the local elections in May and the referendum YES vote in 2014.’ She concluded: ‘Let’s get to work. Let’s get on with it!’
The two day party political conference will boost Glasgow’s revenue by an estimated £1million.
Scottish Asian men and women were recognised for their business achievements at the Scottish Asian Business Awards on Wednesday 23 November at the Thistle Hotel.
Irfan Younis, Director for the event organisers, Oceanic Consulting, said: ‘This year the competition was exceptionally strong. We had some truly inspiring winners and finalists and they should all be incredibly proud of themselves.’
John Rendall, CEO of HSBC in Scotland, said: “HSBC is proud to be supporting these awards and it was fantastic to see the achievements of Scotland’s thriving Asian business community being recognised. At HSBC we continue to see innovative Scottish businesses making strides and we’re well placed to help them realise their potential. I was impressed by the high calibre of nominees. The winners should all be very proud of their personal achievements and the spirit of entrepreneurship they are fuelling in Scotland.’
The keynote speaker was the Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon who said: ‘This is a great opportunity to recognise the major contribution the Scottish Asian business community makes to Scotland.’
The event also raised money for The British Asian Trust. Set up by the Prince of Wales, the charity serves as a ‘social fund’ to support high impact charities in education, enterprise and health. Since it was formed in 2009 the charity has helped over 350,000 people in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the UK.
AWARD winners were:
Young Achiever of the Year – Ricky Singh, owner of Team Singh, a personal fitness training company based in Ayrshire. A talented boxer, he is aiming for a gold medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. His website is http://www.teamsingh.com
Franchisee of the Year – Kumon Educational, Glasgow (Saima Afzal). The company offers English and maths tutoring to children of all ages and abilities; instilling lifelong study skills and boosting children’s confidence. The Glasgow franchise is located at 15 Kenmure Street, Pollokshields. Its website is: http://www.kumon.co.uk/
Small Business of the Year – Khan Autos – is a family run business which has been going for 32 years. It is located at 23-25 Garturk Street, Govanhill. The website is: http://www.khanautos.co.uk/
The Community Award – E Waste Solutions – This not for profit organisation aims to help disadvantaged people learn computer skills. The company recycles used equipment and has a zero landfill policy to ensure they are as environmentally friendly as possible. They have donated several computers to the village of Samundri in Pakistan, where company director Zahid Rafiq’s late mother came from. The website is http://www.ewastesolutions.co.uk/index.php
Businesswoman of the Year – Preet Sandhu – founded a Glasgow based residential letting and property management company, Happy Lets. Preet works alongside her husband Bobby in running the company. A graduate in business management, Preet is also the daughter of curry king (and winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award) Charan Gill. Happy Lets website is: http://www.happylets.co.uk/
Businessman of the Year – Asim Sarwar – managing director of United Wholesale (Scotland) Ltd, a wholesale cash & carry operation in Glasgow, trading in tobacco, alcohol and grocery products predominantly to the traditional independent retail market in Scotland’s central belt. A family business, Asim has worked for Wholesale (Scotland) Ltd for 11 years.
Business of the Year – Perfect Glazing (Glasgow) Limited – it manufactures Rehau units on-site in their own Scottish factory. It is the only double glazing installer in Scotland that has a toughened glass plant on-site producing toughened glass to certified British Standards. Clients include the Royal Navy and Strathclyde Fire Brigade. Website is http://www.perfectglazingscotland.com/
Entrepreneur of the Year – Samrat Sarkar – owner of Sarkar Defence Solutions Ltd, a company specialising in the manufacture of ballistic and tactical body armour for police and military. An ex-Royal Navy Officer, Samrat founded the company four years ago. His clients now include the US Army, Italian Special Forces, the Peruvian Army, the Spanish Navy, the UN and many others. Samrat sources as many of his materials as possible, locally and transferred manufacturing to Scotland. Sarkar Defence Solutions website is: http://www.sarkardefence.com/
Lifetime Achievement – Charan Gill MBE – The man is credited by many in making the curry a staple of the Scottish diet. Arriving in Scotland from India at 9 and leaving school at 16 he worked his way up from cleaning toilets and peeling onions to being the owner of a chain of 17 restaurants. He now concentrates on building links between Scottish and Indian businesses. Last month he raised £1 million for the Prince & Princess of Wales Hospice.
The Hillhead by-election was a close run thing with Ken Andrew for the Scottish National Party (SNP) winning the Ward 11 seat by 81 votes over Martin McElroy of Labour.
That margin rose to 110 at stage six of the Single Transferable Vote (STV) when the count was taken in the new Hillhead Primary School last night, Thursday 17 November.
Said Glasgow City Council’s Labour leader, Gordon Matheson, afterwards at the count: ‘There’s all to play for in May.’ And SNP Deputy Leader, Nicola Sturgeon used exactly the same phrase when she issued her congratulations.
In a shockingly low turnout of 3172 voters (13.65%) of whom 40 managed to spoil their voting paper, the SNP took a 44% share with Labour not far behind with 40%.
Newly elected Councillor Ken Andrews said:’I’m privileged to have been elected for Hillhead and I’m looking forward to going straight to work with people across the area, building on the work done by my predecessor George Roberts. SNP Councillor Roberts died in September after a short illness.