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.”
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.’
Hyndland Secondary School is the first to get organised for hustings in advance of the Scottish Parliament elections in May. They have a question time programmed for Friday 11 March in the school.
Line-up as confirmed this week, will include MSPs Pauline McNeil (Labour), Bill Aitken (Conservative), Sandra White (SNP) and Patrick Harvie (Green) with a celebratory Question Master awaiting confirmation.
By Erik Geddes
The 2011 Scottish Parliament election is only five months away. The late winter and spring political landscape will be dominated by jostling, posturing and campaigning by all the main parties, and possibly the return of that well known independent, George Galloway.
Glasgow is divided into nine regional constituency areas; Anniesland, Cathcart, Kelvin, Maryhill & Springburn, Pollok, Provan, Shettleston, Glasgow Southside and – despite no longer being in the citiy’s council area – Rutherglen. Each one merits a seat in the Scottish Parliament. On top of this, there are seven Glasgow regional list seats where we will see a greater variation in the parties due to the second choices people make on their ballot papers.
After winning by the slimmest of margins in 2007, the SNP minority Scottish Government had an incredible, extended honeymoon of 18 months. But they have come under fire from all angles recently. If the bookmakers are anything to go by they will lose to Labour on Thursday 5 May 2011.
Despite Nicola Sturgeon’s Glasgow Southside seat being one of Labour’s key targets, the Nationalists have time, yet, to retain their standing and credibility both in Glasgow and across the nation.
Bill Aitken, a Conservative List MSP for Glasgow, who has been in office at Holyrood since the Parliament’s inception in 1999, will be retiring from Holyrood. Bill, a Partick Thistle supporter, is a name and character who will be sorely missed by the Tories who have never polled particularly well in Glasgow in recent times. The next time round is unlikely to be any different. Also calling it a day will be Labour’s Margaret Curran who will focus on her role as Glasgow East MP at Westminster.
The smaller parties, collectively known as ‘the others’ will be hoping to poll better than the three seats they won in 2007. Two of these went to the Scottish Green Party. In 2011, for the first time, the Scottish Green Party will stand on a ticket where the environment is not top of their agenda. Instead they will push for what they describe as ‘responsible revenue streams’ and a reduction in the cuts on public services programmes. They are hoping that Glasgow will not only return Patrick Harvie but also Councillor Martha Wardrop who will be second on the Green regional list.
Rumours of an internal rift at the Glasgow Lib Dems due to Katy Gordon being top of their list, were denied by the careers advisor who is hoping that she will be voted into the Scottish Parliament along with existing MSP Robert Brown. She narrowly lost Glasgow North to Ann McKechin in the 2010 general election.
What could be interesting is if – as expected – George Galloway confirms early in the New Year that he will be standing. Despite dozens of phonecalls and emails over the past couple of months, George hasn’t got back to us at the LOCAL NEWS yet. This may be due to his own busy schedule or his ties with other, far larger, Scottish media organisations. One thing is certain – the other parties won’t be welcoming George back to Scottish politics with open arms.
The return of Galloway won’t help the Scottish Socialist Party as it could split what remains in Glasgow of the left wing vote.
SSP spokesperson Ken Fergusson compared George Galloway’s expected return to the Scottish political arena to a character from Alan Bleasdale’s 1980s Boys From The Blackstuff drama. He said: ‘It looks a bit like ‘Gissa Job’. He tied his wagon to a political career in London – then lost it. His policy is George for Glasgow – but that doesn’t tell us too much about what he wants. I suspect we will be looking at just another Labour MSP if he gets elected.’ In 1987, Galloway won the Glasgow Hillhead seat at Westminster. In 1997 and 2001 elections he won Glasgow Kelvin.
Labour would feverishly refute any parallel between themselves and the former Big Brother contestant who was expelled from the Labour Party in 2003. There will be no love lost between the Labour candidates and George at the hustings, if he stands. And while George clearly has some respect for First Minister Alex Salmond, Glasgow SNP MSP Bob Doris who will stand in Maryhill and Springburn and on the list, isn’t too keen on George.
Bob said: ‘I don’t see George Galloway as a threat. He despises Scottish democracy and offers nothing more than personality politics to the people of Glasgow, who deserve better. ‘The Scottish Parliament is still in it’s infancy and the 2011 term will see the development of our working democracy, the last thing we need is George Galloway using it as a platform for his own ends.’
The LOCAL NEWS GLASGOW will interview all of the candidates standing at the May 2011 Holyrood elections so sign up for your weekly ENEWS by clicking on the last line of this one and entering your details. That way you will receive your weekly ENEWS letter direct to your inbox.
MPs in Westminster and Holyrood are fighting for human rights in the Gambia. The tiny West African country is known for the sunshine holidays it offers UK citizens
. But it has recently activated the death penalty and is the subject of a report from Amnesty International which says abuses include arbitrary arrests, torture, incommunicado detention, unfair trials, rape, disappearance and extra-judicial executions.
In the House of Commons, Glasgow Central MP Anas Sarwar’s Early Day Motion has attracted at least 24 cross-party signators. It calls on the coalition Government to place international pressure on the Gambian government to uphold fundamental human rights.
The motion applauds members of the Scottish Campaign for Human Rights in the Gambia for continuing to raise awareness of the issue. Said Labour MP Sarwar, who sits on the Commons International Development Select Committee: ‘I was pleased to facilitate a meeting with the Foreign Office, the all -Party Parliamentary Group on Human Rights and representatives of the Scottish Campaign for Human Rights in the Gambia.
‘That Campaign is doing great work to draw attention to a government that rules by intimidation, torture and killing. It is crucial that the Coalition Government does everything it can to place international pressure on the Gambian government. I have asked questions about challenges facing Gambian citizens in their country and abroad and I will continue to press the coalition government.’
In Edinburgh, the Scottish Parliament passed a motion condemning the catalogue of human rights abuses in Gambia. Proposed by Green Party MSP, Patrick Harvie and supported by more than a dozen others from all parties, it highlighted the case of missing journalist Ebrima Manneh who disappeared after allegedly attempting to publish an article criticising the Gambian Government for violations of human rights.
Expressing support of Gambians who are resident in Scotland but who might feel unable to speak out about the situation in their country for fear of the consequences, the motion urges the UK and Scottish Governments to ensure that international pressure is put on the Gambian Government in defence of human rights. For further information check website: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/Apps2/business/motions/Default.aspx?motionid=20216
In a whirlwind day in London, representatives of the Scottish Campaign for Human Rights in the Gambia made ‘useful progress’, according to Vice Chair Austin Sheridan.
Through Westminster MP Anas Sarwar, who has kept his pre-election promise to support the Campaign, Austin Sheridan, Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament (MSYP) and committee members Alieu Ceesay and Grace Franklin met with Parliamentary coordinator for Human Rights, Nicole Piche, Paul Welch who is team leader for the West Africa desk and Agnes Annels from the Foreign Commonwealth Office Human Rights department.
The Campaign updated the officials on their events, past and future, to tell people in Scotland about the increasing number of Gambians ‘disappearing’ in the Gambia, or who are imprisoned and tortured because they say something which offends the President.
They include journalists, opposition party leaders and many ordinary citizens.
The Scottish Campaign is backed by the National Union of Journalists and Amnesty International which has published a report on the situation in the West Africa country which is a popular holiday destination.
A further meeting in the offices of Amnesty International enabled the Scottish Campaign to see where their work fitted into the 17 cities around the world which are also active in pressing for Human Rights to be restored in the Gambia. Until recently, Gambia had a Constitution and a Legislature which protected its citizens. But increasingly draconian laws and edicts from the President’s Palace – including the activating of the death penalty this month – have brought fear to the nation. The legal system has been corrupted with mercenary judges from Nigeria hired by the President to impose his will.
Currently the President Yahya Jammeh, is encouraging hereditary Chiefs to campaign for him to be made King of Gambia.
The Scottish Campaign’s next public meeting will be in Edinburgh on Thursday 16 December at the Justice and Peace Centre and hosted by that organisation.
In the Scottish Parliament, Patrick Harvie MSP has put forward a motion condemning the catalogue of human rights abuses in Gambia including the case of the missing journalist Ebrima Manneh and urges government pressure to be put on the Gambian Government in defence of human rights. By Thursday 18 November, fifteen MSPs had signed the motion.
Patrick Harvie, Scottish Green Party leader and MSP for Glasgow, has pledged to support the newly formed Scottish Campaign for Human Rights in the Gambia (SCHRG).
Patrick met SCHRG Chair Arthur West, and other campaign members, in his Glasgow office on Monday 1 November. Arthur told Patrick that the the campaign was set up in September this year ‘in response to a critical human rights situation in Gambia where problems include enforced disappearances, extra-judicial execution and detention without trial.’
He added: ‘We are currently affiliating with Trade Unions and voluntary organisations as well as contacting MPs, MSPs and MEPs to solicit their support about the the situation in Gambia. We are anxious to get as much support as we can.’
Patrick, Vice Convenor of the Cross Party Committee on Human Rights in the Scottish Parliament, pledged to put a motion to Hollyrood concerning the plight of Gambia and its people and to push for the issue to be raised in Westminister.
Said Patrick: ‘Major international human rights organisations have highlighted the catalogue of human rights abuses in Gambia, including torture, secret detention, lack of fair trials, and more. It’s vital that we in Scotland should support people from Gambia who are living here, as well as put pressure on the UK Government to make sure that international concern is brought to bear in defence of human rights.
‘We wouldn’t accept harassment of democratic activists, killing of journalists, threats to kill people for being gay, or any of these other abuses in this country – we should be equally unwilling to accept them around the world.’
Alieu Ceesay, SCHRG Information Officer and exiled Gambian Journalist, told Patrick of human rights violation, torture, and unexplained dissapearancs in the Gambia. SCHRG believes that the Gambian Government are implicit in these crimes. Said Alieu: ‘In Gambia today, fear rules and all public protests have stopped. Self censorship of the media has become the rule rather than the exception.The human rights community in the country is very weak and opposition voices, though once vibrant, have been silenced by threats and violence.’
SCHRG has appealed to the Scottish Government to call on the Gambia government to protect and respect the human rights of the Gambian people.
By Stuart Maxwell and Elyas Hussain
An award winning Post Office in the heart of Glasgow’s Southside is poised to be shut down despite fierce community opposition who see the service as vital.
There are plans for Crosshill Post Office, Victoria Road, to be closed and relocated to 540 Cathcart Road- where it will be a hybrid service, integrated with another retail venture. This comes a little over a year after the branch was awarded ‘Best Town and City’ Post Office in Scotland.
Fiercely opposed to the relocation, Iain MacInnes, Govanhill and Crosshill Community Council secretary, has headed a local campaign. Said Iain: ‘We have nearly 700 signatures from the local community in opposition to this. People are showing great displeasure. Post Office provisions have cut heavily all over the Southside. All such cuts are morally bankrupt. It is an iconic building to all cultures. They see it as part of their community being taken away.’
Iain’s campaign has been supported by Nicola Sturgeon, local MSP and Government Minister. In a letter to Post Office Ltd. Nicola wrote: ‘Many in the area doubt the business viability of such a ‘dual purpose’ branch and fear that if it wasn’t successful, it would not be too long before a proposal was forthcoming to close the branch altogether.’
Govanhill resident Brian Rowinson is one of many angry at the proposed closure. The 39 year-old told LOCAL NEWS: ‘If they close this post office it will effect the elderly community because Crosshill is within walking distance. The new premises are smaller- how will they possibly accommodate all the customers? It’s horribly ironic that Crosshill Post Office won the Post Office of the Year and is being closed?
The LOCAL NEWS has been told by Post Office Ltd that the decision to advertise the franchise was taken after the business went in to receivership in December 2009, and that the sole applicant wants to move the service to Cathcart Road. Julie Morrison, Head of External Relations for Post Office Ltd said: ‘She (the applicant), wants to relocate to Cathcart Road. Rents and rates on Victoria Road make it an nonviable option. This is the best solution available to us.’
Iain MacInnes is not convinced: ‘As a community we have seen no evidence to show that there were proper procedures for other people to put their names forward to run this post office.’
The period for consultation, allowing the public to respond to the proposal, ended on October 26. Julie Morrison has pledged that Post Office Ltd ‘will take all all submissions into consideration before making a final decision.’ Patrick Harvie, Green MSP for Glasgow, who has presented a motion to the Scottish Parliament against the relocation, fears community views will be shelved
Said Patrick: ‘The decision to close and relocate has been taken too early.. I don’t think the Post Office have explored all options for maintaining the service on Victoria Road. The branch on Victoria Road is clearly more accessible for the local community. There have been many reductions to Post Office services in the Southside and there comes a time when you have to say enough is enough. The peoples’ wishes tend to be ignored but this decision has stirred enough reaction to make the Post Office think again.’
In 2007, David Meikle, Councillor for Pollokshields, led a protest against Post Office plans to close a branch on Kildrostin Street. 1300 signatures were gathered but the closure went ahead. David told LOCAL NEWS: ‘At the time, the Post Office cited a new service on Shields Road and Crosshill itself as alternatives. We were promised two counters in the Shields Road hybrid, but have only one. To now hear that Crosshill is to close is really a piece of nonsense. You get the impression there is no real consultation period and that it’s a done deal. This will be another nail in the coffin for the vitality of Victoria Road.’
A day after crippling cuts were announced in Westminister, a protest group of local people occupied a Lloyds TSB bank in Glasgow city centre, forcing the branch to close for an hour.
At around 11.30 am on Thursday 21 October a group of 16 people from across Glasgow, banners in hand, walked into Lloyds on St Vincent Street and announced they were occupying the bank in protest of the cuts. Staff quickly closed the doors and called police after protesters refused an invitation to leave.
The protest- Citizens United Against Cuts to Public Services- was led by Glasgow’s Sean Clerkin. Said Sean, inside the bank: ‘We are opposed to the cutting of Public Services in Glasgow. The banks are the cause of these troubles yet it is the poor people of the city that have to foot the £200 billion they got from taxpayers.
‘We are saying to all political parties- No Cuts!’ All protesters joined to chant ‘No Cuts, No to Cuts!’
Sean continued: ‘The Public Sector is being robbed blind by casino capitalism that banks like Lloyds support. It is torrid and sick.’
Cuts announced by Chancellor George Osborne on Wednesday 20 October pulled £7 billion from the welfare state. Glasgow’s MSPs have told the LOCAL NEWS that these cuts will particularly hit Glasgow.
Said Green MSP Patrick Harvie:’ For Glasgow in particular, taking away the welfare state is stealing from the poor to fund the lifestyle of the wealthy.’
The Police arrived in Lloyds just after 12 noon and asked the group to leave. This request was refused and Police relayed to Sean Clerkin that the group may be arrested if they did not comply.
Ainsley O’ Reilly, 36 from Glasgow, was part of the protest. Ainsley, an unemployed hairdresser, speaking inside the bank: ‘I’m here today because the cuts are going to effect those on benefits, people who do not matter to the elite of society, people who to many are invisible.’
A spokesperson for Lloyds, in response to the occupation, said: ‘We understand the potential difficulties our customers and the communities in which we operate may face. We are actively playing our part in Scotland’s economic recovery and we are proud of our record in supporting customers throughout our relationship with them’
Dominic Ferry, a member of Fight Racism Fight Imperialism, also joined the protest. Said Dominic, from Govanhill:’ This is only the beginning. We need action against these cuts in Glasgow. So far reaction has excluded the poor and been all about public service workers- a middle class minority. We need the people from Castlemilk, from Govan, from Govanhill and from all over Glasgow to get involved. These people are the heart of resistance.’
The heart of the resistance on Thursday 21 October was 16 people who occupied Lloyds bank. They left at around 12.30, of their own volition. ‘We support the police’, Said Sean, ‘after all- it’s their jobs on the line as well.’
By Stuart Maxwell
The axe has descended in Westminster and the UK is facing the most severe cuts to public spending since World War 2 and, with the blade falling firmly on welfare, Glasgow may suffer more than most.
George Osborne outlined the cuts in the Commons on Wenesday 20 Octber- the £900 million reduction to the Scottish budget was better than warnings offered by Scottish Finance Secretary, John Swinney, who predicted that Scottish cuts could reach £1.2 billion
Labour MP for Glasgow Central, Anas Sarwar released a statement in the aftermath, attacking the Tory Party:
‘Instead of coming forward with proposals for the banks to make greater contribution, the Tory chancellor has decided to force working people to shoulder government debt which was taken on as a direct result of the failings of the financial sector.
‘The Tory Chancellor has unveiled a programme of cuts that will penalise hardworking people and the poorest and most vulnerable in Glasgow and across the country. Scotland’s block grant will fall by 6.8% by 2014-5, which means Glasgow City Council will have less to spend.’
‘The Tory Chancellor would like you to believe that ‘we’re all in this together’ but it’s ordinary people in Glasgow that will pay the price: the elderly couple in Anderston; the public sector worker in Pollokshields; the school leaver looking for work in Toryglen; and the baby born to parents on modest incomes in Bridgeton.’
Robert Brown,Glasgow’s Liberal Democart MSP, believes the reaction to the cuts may be ‘exagerrated’ saying ‘The Labour Party will try and black out what happened during their regime. Glasgow, because more people are on benefits, may be affected more than other areas.
‘The possible gains of the cuts could be getting people who are able back working again. It is all about getting the balance right and we’ll have to wait to see if these cuts achieve this.’
Patrick Harvie, the Green MSP for Glasgow, believes Osborne’s blue print for a £7 billion cut on welfare could be disastrous for Glasgow’s future.
Said Patrick: ‘It was pretty nauseating listening to George Osborne today. He sounded like he was giving some present away. For Glasgow in particular, taking from the welfare state is stealing from the poor to fund the lifestyle of the wealthy. Glasgow, because of its higher levels of poverty and unemployment, is going to suffer more than most.
‘We are witnessing the Tory Party using this financial crisis to ruin a welfare state and impose a right wing ideology. This is more vicious than the Thatcher Government.’