So many people wanted to attend Sunday’s hustings for Glasgow North candidates that the doors had to be closed when the maximum of 150 was reached in Hillhead Baptist Church building. Organised by the West End group of Churches – ACTS – and welcomed by Alison Spurway, the event was chaired by Professor John Curtice whose political commentaries are legendary. He posed the questions which had been submitted earlier.
Each candidate started by setting out their party’s stall. SNP’s Patrick Grady, said he wanted the energy of the Referendum to re-vitalise politics at Westminster. Opposed to austerity and spending on weapons of mass destruction, he said his party would be a strong voice for Glasgow. He said: ‘Glasgow North is a most idverse area of inequality and presents great challenges. The SNP would represet you with heart and passion.’
Simon Bone, the Scottish Conservative and Unionist (CON) candidate for Glasgow Central, stood in on behalf of his party colleague Lauren Anne Hankinson. He said there were three reasons people in the constituency should vote for her on May 7 – ‘We are part of the Union and that was demonstrated by the Referendum. We’re a young party with a growing membership and young leader, Ruth Davidson. And we’re the party for business – especially small and medium enterprises because we’d keep business tax low and opportunities up.’
GREEN Party candidate Dr Martin Bartos, said his party would put public transport back into public hands to keep profit for people not business. ‘We’re the party for people, the planet and peace,’ he added.
UK Independence Party’s (UKIP) Jamie Robertson said this was a most exciting year to have a general election. ‘The Scots always punch their weight in the UK,’ he said.
James Harrison, a candidate in Glasgow North West, was standing in for Scottish Liberal Democrat (LIB DEM)’s Jade Elizabeth O’Neil. He said his Party would promote fair taxes by cutting taxes, raising the tax threshold and introducing new green laws. ‘We’d fight for quality of healthcare and mental health,’ he said.
Ann McKechin, Scottish Labour Party (LAB) – who has held the seat for the past 10 years – said that had been a great privilege and she hoped the electorate would vote for her to continue. ‘I have a strong commitment and am passionate about many things including promoting a living wage, ending the obscenity of fees for industrial tribunals, the future of our young people and social justice.’ She also advocated an end to food banks and stated clearly that she wanted David Cameron out of office.
Angela McCormick of Scottish Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) said the same old voices of the main Westminster parties had ‘made life misery for thousands.’ She said a key election issue should be the plight of the people who had died in the Mediterranean. ‘The denial of action to save them and the racism of UKIP, should make you cry.’ She railed against ‘the rich getting richer,’ sanctions and the vast numbers who didn’t earn a living wage.
Russell Benson, introduced as the candidate for the ‘Cannabis is Better than Alcohol’ Party correct that, amid laughter, to say he was standing for ‘Cannibis Is Safer Than Alcohol.’ He posited that 1 million patients found cannabis an effective medical treatment and that they should not be criminalised. ‘We could save £300m before even considering tax,’ he said.
Asked their position on nuclear weapons, Ann McKechin (LAB) said she had opposed them since 2007 and voted against the renewal of Trident. Patrick Grady (SNP) said he joined the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament before he joined the SNP. ‘Weapons of mass destruction are a moral outrage. Especially when Ed Milliband said he wouldn’t press the button – yet any Government he might lead would cut help for the poor but spend on weapons. I’d vote against them at every opportunity if elected,’ he said. Simon Bone (CON) posed the question: ‘Why get rid of them when North Korea is working to have them and other countries will have them in a year to 18 months? Yes, they are a deterrent and the Americans pay for them.’ He clarified that the UK pays for the warheads. James Harrison said he wasn’t involved in negotiations so couldn’t say if the Lib Dems would ‘draw a red line’ on Trident reduction but he wanted to see a reduction in the weapons around the world. Martin Bartos (GREEN) admitted the topic depressed him and he was utterly opposed to nuclear weapons. ‘If they are a deterrent, then why not arm everyone in Glasgow with knives or guns? It isn’t rational. It doesn’t make the world safer by having nuclear weapons and calling them deterrents. They are as abhorrent as biological or chemical weapons. True leadership would have the moral authority to get rid of them if they don’t want to destroy the planet.’
Jamie Robertson said UKIP would support renewal but admitted the weapons were frightening. His comment: ‘They do support a lot of jobs in Scotland,’ was greeted with groans from the audience. Angela McCormick (TUSC) immediately responded to say the STUC has that week published a report which ‘knocked the myth of jobs on the head,’ and referred people to the STUC’s website.
On the question: ‘Is the financial deficit really important?’ Simon Bone quipped: ‘personally or Government?’ Then revealed that the debts from World War 1 had just been paid back, finally, three weeks before. ‘We’ve got to balance the books. If we borrow, we have to pay back.’ Martin Bartos pointed out that the way you run a nation’s economy is different from how you manage the money in your wallet. ‘When the banks failed, vast quantities of money were printed which went to the banks. But that did not help. We should let this model of austerity go and scrutinise the dogma that has fed it so long. It is better if we think along the lines of a farmer in difficulty needing resources to buy seeds to sow crops to have the hope of harvesting more in the future.’
James Harrison’s response was to end tax evasion. His party would not rectify things by cutting welfare as the Tory’s had done. Instead Lib Dems would grow the economy to grow more jobs. Ann McKechin said far too many people got too little return for their work. With 500,000 working people dependent on housing benefit, the economy was not working. Higher wages and spending on research and development were ways Labour would grow the economy. Russell Benson’s solution was to ‘take the economy out of the hands of gangsters and put into the hands of public bodies.’ Angela McCormick’s answer for TUSC was to highlight trade union protests on the cuts planned for the following week. She said: ‘This is not your deficit. It is the bankers’ deficit. They gambled and lost. It is a sick joke that we are asked to pay when the 1000 richest people in the UK own £500 billion. If the wealthy tax dodgers were taxed that would bring in £100bn.’ And she warned of bigger cuts to come.
Jamie Robertson’s line from UKIP was to come out of Europe. ‘That would save billions.’ Patrick Grady (SNP) also warned of ‘worse to come.’ But he pointed out that Finance Minister, John Swinney had balanced the books of the Scottish Government since 2007.
A questioner from the audience asked the candidates to justify the loss of thousands of further education lecturers’ jobs. Ann McKechin (LAB) said she’s lobbied Glasgow University to pay the living wage as they had some people on zero hours contracts. Labour’s policy was to stop the exploitation of people by forbidding zero hours contracts after 12 weeks. Patrick Grady said it was a free education that motivated him to get into politics. Jamie Robertson (UKIP) said it was ‘a tragedy’ that people were written off and his party would give people a full-time contract after 12 months.
Angela McCormick (TUSC) said the Tory party – supported by UKIP would be too ‘right wing’ and had already attacked the rights of workers. ‘I work in further education and know we need to start to do things differently.’
The next question was on the refugees dying in the Mediterranean. ‘These are Europe’s Boat People,’ said the questioner. ‘Shouldn’t we let them come and bring their assets?’ With Professor Curtis interjecting: ‘Should we take a share of these refugees?’
Answers ranged from Jamies Robertson confirming his party’s policy on more control of UK borders to prevent ‘unlimited immigration.’ Adding that he favoured the Australian points system. to James Harrison (LIB DEM) saying it was ‘a disgrace’ that Europe had reduced the budget (to save those drowning in the Mediterranean) at a time of great need.
Green Party’s Martin Bartos told how his Czech parents came to the UK in the 1980s and he, with them, worked to be good citizens here. ‘We believe immigration helps the economy and enriches culture.’ He also said that as a psychiatrist, he had treated people (asylum seekers) who had gone through torture. ‘But what was worse was seeing them put through unspeakable things in the immigration process. That is our shame.’
Going against his party’s policy, Conservative Simon Bone declared there wasn’t enough immigration. ‘We forget the numbers we export to Spain, for example. I’d encourage more immigration.’ Patrick Grady (SNP) supported more immigration. ‘We support the right of people to move and be global citizens. Scotland would be a welcome beacon and this would be to our well-being.’ Angela McCormick (TUSC) said the present government had made a conscious decision not to help the asylum seekers and so, in her view, they had murder on their conscience. ‘We take nowhere near the number of refugees we should . This is a humanitarian crisis.’
She added that Dungavel was ‘Scotland’s shame’ and should be closed down. She highlighted an STUC sponsored protest there on Saturday 30 May in solidarity with the asylum seekers detained in Dungavel who are on hunger strike because of the conditions and the unlimited time they are kept there. Russell Benson considered there was a link between people being trafficked, illegal immigration and the unregulated drugs market. ‘We have an archaic policy in the UK.’ Simon Bone (CON) said the UK had a moral duty to help: ‘We were partly responsible for the conflicts that caused people to migrate.’
On the local issue of the future of the North Kelvin Meadow – wild green space wanted by local people for children to play in and by developers to build flats – all candidates were against the commercial development of the space.
Asked by Professor Curtis what aspect of their Party’s policies they were least comfortable with, there was a wide range of answers. Patrick Grady (SNP) said he’d prefer an elected head of state instead of retaining the Queen, though he’d stand by the promise to abolish the House of Lords.
LIB DEM’s James Harrison admitted abandoning tuition fees had been a mistake and cost votes. GREEN’s Martin Bartos wished his party had a much cleverer way to get more people standing as candidates. Russell Benson said that Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol was a single issue party. ‘We could fight on more issues – for example safer alcohol. It can be used as a safe relaxant but it is also tearing communities apart.’
Conservative’s Simon Bone said he was a bit embarrassed by members with extreme views going to UKIP. On the bedroom tax, he didn’t think people should be punished for having an extra room. ‘We should be able to manage the situation better by allowing people to rent out the spare room and make some income.’
Ann McKechin (LAB) admitted it was ‘a very difficult question.’ She said she’d like an MP to interpret issues according to their own constituency and their own principles. ‘Some were opposed to the war in Iraq or to Trident and are prepared to take the consequences.’ Angela McCormick said she had no difficulty with anything in her party’s manifesto: ‘I helped write it!’ She added that the most uncomfortable thing for her was to ‘stand here’ at the hustings meeting.
UKIP candidate Jamie Robertson raised a laugh when he said with hesitation: ‘I’d need to read the manifesto (again) but…I support it all.’
Lynne Chalmers voted today for the first time in her life. She’s 50. ‘I’m a mother and I’m doing this for my daughter,’ said the Glasgow resident. ‘She encouraged me to vote and she’s voting for the first time because she’s 16.’ ‘I’ve voted Yes because if we’ve been better together for 300 years I don’t see it! I think we should be responsible for our own purse strings.’ She added that since her childhood she’d heard that oil was running out. ‘But there’s still oil there and that will do us for a while yet.’ Said Lynne: ‘There was something spiritual inside me saying – stand up and be counted. I don’t trust any politician and think we’ve been treated like peasants all this time. But even peasants have voices.’ And Lynne made her voice heard today.
Shortly afterwards, Ruth Davidson, Leader of the Scottish Conservative Party arrived at the polling station to cast her vote. ‘I don’t think I’ve changed my mind,’ she said to the assembled media who’d circulated rumours she was going to vote YES!
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.’
Ruth Davidson has been voted leader of the Scottish Conservative Party. The former BBC journalist won by 2983 votes over Murdo Fraser’s 2417. The MSP has campaigned across Scotland among Party members. She said on being elected: ‘A political party is not a leader. A political party is its membership and I want to bring our members at all levels much closer together to take our party forward in unity.’ She also said that communication of the Party’s vision has to be better. Within minutes of the announcement she had been congratulated by Prime Minister David Cameron. She said: ‘I’ve been cheeky enough to ask for some things already,’ but she didn’t say what she’d asked for.
The 32-year-old takes over from Annabel Goldie and was only elected to the Scottish Parliament in May.
First Minister Alex Salmond was among the first to congratulate her on becoming Leader. He said: ‘ I wish her well. My own view is that Annabel Goldie was a highly successful leader for the Conservatives in Scotland, and maximised the Tory vote here. That merely underlines the scale of the task for Ruth Davidson in motivating her party – as does the number of Scottish Tory members who actually voted in this contest, and the fact that her main opponent proposed winding up the party.
‘Hopefully, under Ruth’s leadership, the Tories will change their attitude to Scotland and start to work in the country’s best interests.’
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.’
In an extraordinary night which changed the political landscape of Scotland, Glasgow voters rejected long established Labour Party names: Charlie Gordon, Pauline McNeil, Patricia Ferguson and Frank McAveety.
Instead the Scottish National Party (SNP) was able to declare: ‘It’s a stunning night.’
Nicola Sturgeon was returned to the Scottish Parliament for the newly configured Glasgow Southside with 12,306 votes to Labour Stephen Curran’s 7957 votes.
SNP gained Anniesland constituency by seven votes for Bill Kidd who polled 10,329 votes to Labour Bill Butler’s 10,322.
In Cathcart Constituency James Dornan took the seat for SNP with 11,918 compared to Labour Charlie Gordon’s 10,326
Kelvin Constituency was won by Sandra White with 10,640 compared to incumbent Labour’s Pauline McNeill who polled 9,758.
Glasgow Shettleston went to SNP’s John Mason with 10,128 compared to Labour Frank McAveety’s 9,542.
The only seats to stay in Labour Party hands were:
Newly aligned Maryhill and Springburn constituency with Patricia Ferguson polling 9884 compared to SNP’s Bob Doris on 8592.
Glasgow Pollok seat stayed with Labour’s Johann Lamont with 10,875 compared to SNP Chris Stephens’s 10,252.
Paul Martin kept Glasgow Provan with 10,037 in contrast to SNP Anne McLaughlin’s vote of 7,958.
As other wins for SNP were being announced during the Glasgow count, Nicola Sturgeon said: ‘The SNP is now a force to be reckoned with across Scotland. This is a triumph for our Positive campaign. Our job now is to unite Scotland and to lead.’
In a bitter response at the podium her opponent, Labour’s Stephen Curran said: ‘The SNP will never get away with this in Glasgow.’
Sandra White commented later: ‘The SNP has broken the back of Labour in Glasgow with our Positive campaign.’
Labour’s Pat Ferguson said: ‘I’m proud and privileged to have served this constituency. I was the first Labour MSP for the former Maryhill/Springburn constituency and do not take one single vote for granted for one second. I am there to fight for every sector of the community in this new constituency and to make sure they are dealt with fairly.’ Her SNP opponent, Bob Doris, announced his wedding in his speech. ‘Four years ago I didn’t mention Janet my girlfriend in my thank you speech. Today I’m mentioning my fiancee Janet and soon she’ll be Mrs Doris!’ He also said the overall results in Glasgow and Scotland were ‘staggering’ for the SNP. And in an impassioned plea he asked for ‘even more positive results next time.’
John Mason who won and later lost the Westminster seat in the city’s East End, and secured the Shettleston constituency for SNP at Holyrood, first praised the outgoing Frank McAveety who had been the Labour MSP for the area. ‘We must thank him for all the work he’s done in Glasgow’s East End.’ But he went on: ‘The SNP ran a positive campaign – securing the M74 completion work, the Commonwealth Games and the rail link to Edinburgh as well as the council tax freeze. But Labour ran a negative campaign, running down the SNP and running down Scotland. The Labour Party must take a long, hard look at themselves.’ In promising to have a visible presence with a shop in Shettleston and being easily contactable by his constituents he added: ‘It is an incredible privilege to be trusted by the voters to serve this constituency.’
Frank McAveety in his farewell speech said: ‘I’ve served the East End of Glasgow for 22 years – as a teacher, a city councillor and as MSP. I care passionately about my city and its problems.’ Amid shouts and boos from the assembled crowd at the Glasgow constituencies’ count in the city’s SECC, he went on: ‘This country is now polarised. The Commonwealth Games was a Labour led initiative as was the National Indoor Sports arena. We made the largest investment in schools and education and I will work tirelessly to win this seat back for Labour.’
At 4am when it was clear that SNP had made remarkable gains in Glasgow, Nicola Sturgeon told the LOCAL NEWS: ‘I’m thrilled. There are quite stunning results across Scotland.’
In Cathcart were Labour’s sitting MSP Charlie Gordon lost the seat to SNP’s James Dornan, James Dornan said: ‘Charlie conducted his campaign in a gentlemanly fashion.’ In an emotional speech he went on to say: ‘I will represent everyone in this constituency. It is the area I was brought up in. I raised my kids here. We have worked hard day and night for the past three months and I thank all those who worked like Trojans to secure this positive result for the constituency.’
A sombre Charlie Gordon responded: ‘I’ve been a Labour Party activist for 42 years. I leave this stage tonight a wealthy man. Wealthy because I have my health and a wonderful family.’
Paul Martin who retained Glasgow Provan for Labour ranted about the SNP cuts. When his SNP opponent, Anne McLaughlin took the podium, a re-count was in process for the Anniesland Constituency where initially one vote appeared to be the difference between the lead candidates. She forecast: ‘These successes in Glasgow and across Scotland are not a one-off for the SNP. By electing SNP in force in Glasgow, the city has broken the link of people’s dependency on Labour for ever. If Labour continue their scurrulous attacks on Scotland, their lies will be found out and the people of Scotland will stop listening to them.’
In Glasgow Kelvin where SNP’s Sandra White took the seat from Labour’s Pauline McNeill, Sandra paid tribute to Pauline’s hard work in that community and said: ‘The SNP have aspirations for the people of Scotland. We believe every person deserves to have aspirations.’
In her turn, Pauline McNeill said: ‘I represented the area for 12 years. I did my best for everyone and I’ll miss them. I’m proud of what we achieved and hope that whatever happens with the government of Scotland that everyone will unite on the issues in the Scottish Parliament that will take the country forward. The UK coalition is wrecking our lives.’
As the night wore on a two party state emerged in Glasgow’s voting between SNP and Labour.
The Scottish Liberal Democrat’s highest vote was in Glasgow Kelvin where Natalie McKee got 1900 votes. In Anniesland, Lib Deb Paul McGarry got 1000 votes. In Cathcart, Eileen Baxendale got 1118 votes. In Maryhill and Springburh, the Lib Dem candidate, Sophie Bridger, got 833 votes. In Pollok, Isabel Nelson got 490 votes. In Provan, Michael O’Donnell got 413 votes and in the Southside constituency, Lib Dem’s Kenneth Elder got 612 votes.
Conservative Ruth Davidson became an MSP on the List vote. She said: ‘I’m pleased the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party will continue to have a presence in Glasgow. It’s needed with the SNP being rampant! ‘
The last vote to be announced around 6am in Glasgow was the Anniesland constituency where a recount had taken place because of the narrow margin. The final result was: Bill Kidd, SNP, took the seat with 10,329. Bill Butler, Labour was close behind on 10,322. Next was Matthew Smith of the Conservatives who polled 2,011 and Lib Dem’s Paul McGarry received 1000 votes with the Communist party of Britain’s candidate, Marc Livingstone taking 259 votes.
In a victory speech, Anniesland constituency winner by seven votes, Bill Kidd said: ‘My opponents behaved in an exemplary fashion and the outgoing Bill Butler has done fantastic work in the constituency. I and the SNP will work hard for the next four years to ensure carers are treated in the manner becoming to a civil society and that our country is not despoiled by Trident – British weapons of mass destruction.’
In his turn, Bill Butler thanked his team ‘We fought hard and I don’t think we let the party down. This is not my farewell to politics where I’ve been for ten and a half years. I will continue to campaign for social justice – socialism as I know it – I will renew my opposition to the new Trident and will be on any platform with those who do that too.’ He singled out his mother, Patricia Ferguson who retained the Maryhill and Sprinburn seat, for special thanks for her support.
The only other candidates in Glasgow’s eight constituencies were Tom Muirhead an independent in Kelvin where he polled 405 votes and John McKee, an Independent in Cathcart where he polled 450 votes.
Willie Bain was returned as MP for Glasgow North East with an improved majority. Willie, who was elected as successor to Michael Martin after the Westminster expenses scandal, wore his New Labour colours on his sleeve in his victory speech, lavishing praise on Gordon Brown.
On a turnout of 49%, Willie Bain polled 20,100 votes; Lib Dem Eileen Baxendale won 2262 votes; Jim Berrington of Socialist Labour – 156 votes; Graham Campbell, Solidarity/TUSC 187 votes; Ruth Davidson, Conservative, 1569 votes; Walter Hamilton, BNP, 798; Billy McAllister, SNP, 4158 votes; Kevin McVey, SSP, 179 votes.
Willie Bain has officially become the Labour Party’s candidate for the Glasgow North East Parliamentary seat and claims to be the first Glasgow candidate from any party to complete the nomination process.
Willie, who is fighting the seat for the second time in seven months, succeeded former Speaker, Michael Martin as MP last autumn in the wake of the Westminster expenses scandal.
‘I am pleased to get the formalities of the nomination process out of the way. I can now focus on campaigning on the strength of Labour’s record in government for Scotland, and on our vision for the future,’ the candidate said on his Twitter network page.
Eileen Baxendale (Lib Dem), Graham Campbell (STUSC), Ruth Davidson (Conservative), Walter Hamilton (BNP), Billy McAllister (SNP) are also expected to stand for the seat.
Labour’s Willie Bain was elected MP for Glasgow North-East at last November’s by-election following the resignation of House of Commons Speaker Michael Martin. Willie was a law lecturer in London till then. He spends much of his time at his parents’ house in Springburn, where he grew up and attended St Roch’s Secondary.
He said: ‘When you bring a social mix into a constituency it changes it. Compared to the demographics of maybe 12 years ago, Robroyston shows a massive expansion. Dennistoun is now, effectively, an overspill of the West End. The constituency, in many parts, is becoming a bit more middle-class.’
Bain admitted his victorious night in November was slightly soured by the low turn-out – 20,595 people – ie: less than one in three of those who could have voted. But he got 12,231 votes – 59.4% with a majority of 8,111 and he expects a better response this time round.
‘When we get to a general election, people see the bigger picture and a national choice, and I think they will consider coming back.
‘If it is seen to be close, then that will boost the turn-out. Realistically, if we get about 50% that would show progress.’
Bain’s main challenge will come from SNP’s Billy McAllister whose selection was exclusively revealed by www.localnewsglasgow.co.uk. Speaking then, he said: ‘We need more jobs, better housing, increased investment and a crackdown on crime. This city and its people are wonderful. We have great potential. But, after 13 years of ineffectual UK New Labour rule and decades of a heartless New Labour City Council, the people of North East Glasgow are crying out for change.’
Also standing is Ruth Davidson, Conservative Party. An intelligent, new-generation Tory, she said: ‘This is a straight choice between the Conservatives and Labour. Only we can sort out the debt, the jobs and the NHS. Only we can get this country’s house in order and the people of Possilpark, Dennistoun and Springburn are responding to that.’
Others candidates include: Eileen Baxendale – Lib Dem, Charlie Baillie – BNP , Graham Campbell – STUSC and Kevin McVey – SSP.