By Martin Graham
Youth Community Services Association and radio station Awaz FM held a pre-election information evening on Wednesday, 10 February at Pollokshields Burgh Hall to give people the chance to question political candidates about their manifestos and policies.
On the podium were Osama Saeed, the SNP’s candidate for Glasgow Central; Shabnum Mustapha, Lib Dem candidate for Glasgow South; Anas Sarwar, Labour candidate for Glasgow Central, and Richard Cook, the Conservative candidate for East Renfrewshire.
Each speaker gave a brief introduction and then the debate was opened up to questions from the floor.
It was interesting to see how Labour’s Anas Sarwar and Tory Richard Cook supported each other, with Mr Sarwar even defending Conservative leader David Cameron at one point.
They seemed united against Mr Saeed and the SNP. Despite the much vaunted ‘two-horse race’, it would appear from the candidates’ performance that there is very little difference between the Labour and Conservative parties.
When asked what they had done personally for their communities, Mr Cook said that he had helped clear snow from the driveways of older people, and sought to develop community leaders.
Mr Sarwar said that he had campaigned against gang masters in Govanhill exploiting workers, and had sought to restore flights from Scotland to Pakistan.
Ms Mustapha said that she has helped with the Save Pollok Park campaign and also campaigned to save a post office in North Glasgow.
Mr Saeed said that he had been holding local surgeries to hear people’s concerns and had organised anti-war protests.
On the subject of auctioning lunches at the Scottish Parliament, it was pointed out that David Cameron had done the same thing at Westminster. Mr Cook said that it was unacceptable to use Parliament for this purpose.
Mr Sarwar pointed out that Mr Cameron had apologised for his lunch scandal, but Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond had not apologised for his.
Ms Mustapha stated that access to Parliament is not freely available, and that it should be treated with respect.
Mr Sarwar was asked about his father’s expenses history and his attendance record at Westminster, but he declined to answer questions about Mohammed Sarwar.
One audience member asked the panel if they would support restricting homosexuality to limit the spread of AIDS and HIV. Every panel member rejected the suggestion.