Thursday 21 March 2013
Glasgow City Council will – today – almost certainly decide to close three of the seven day centres currently used by 520 people with learning needs.
More than 300 angry people who consider the centres vital to the well-being of their families, agreed tactics to persuade the city’s Executive to reverse the expected closures of Berryknowes in Cardonald, and Summerston and Hinshaw Street in Maryhill. Some of them will be at the City Chambers to make their voices heard.
The mass meeting on Sunday elected representatives to continue pressure on the Council. An 11 point action plan was also agreed unanimously.
Dr Christopher Mason, Glasgow’s official Carers’ Champion elected by the Council, admitted his report hadn’t made much impression on the Council decision makers. He had proposed a review of the services for people with learning needs before any decision on closures. ‘There is not enough money to run seven centres. Therefore they need to shut three. But we have to ask the question: ‘After the centres are closed, will the 320 people who attend them, suddenly have got better ?’ The answer, of course, is no.’
SNP Councillor Susan Aitken for Langside Ward said that ‘constructive suggestion, after constructive suggestion’ had been ‘blocked and shouted down’ by the Labour group. ‘They have lost the moral argument and their language has become offensive. It is disgraceful. This decision (to close the centres) was made a long time ago and the administration don’t want to listen. The Labour group are in power and they’ve made it clear they’ll use that power. But their decision on Thursday has no legitimacy. Not one single Labour Councillor is present at this meeting to listen.’
Bob Doris SNP MSP who has presented two motions against the closure of the centres in the Scottish Parliament told the meeting: ‘It is unacceptable that a Glasgow Labour Council is closing these day centres. They are lying when they say they have to do this. They can’t use legislation as an excuse. Other local authorities are doing things better and when the SNP administration in Dundee got it wrong, they had the humility to admit it and start again. Glasgow’s approach is a shambles and an affront. Neither services users nor carers have been asked what they want and that is not acceptable.’
Karin Mc Sherry, a 50-year-old user of one of the centres said: ‘I love my centre. It’s where I see my friends and use the computers.’ Her sister Eileen explained how much the centre meant to her sister. She said: ‘When Karin was five, we were told she’d never learn to read or write. But our mother fought that. The centre has given her a life far beyond what had been mapped out for her. She has friends, goes to college, done drama and computing. The Labour administration does not represent constituents like us. It represents the Labour Party.’
Brian Smith, Secretary of Glasgow branch of UNISON union which helped organise the meeting in the Radisson Blu hotel, said: ‘We are shoulder to shoulder with you in opposing any closures.’
A similar message came from Ian Hood, co-ordinator of the Learning Disability Alliance for Scotland. He gave detailed figures of how spending on learning disabilities in Glasgow was much smaller proportionately than the budget for older people and even less than the rate of inflation. ‘We’re in this for the long haul,’ he said. ‘Glasgow’s action is discriminatory against people with learning disabilities.’
Glasgow City SNP Councillor, Billy McAllister, speaking from the floor of the meeting, said: ‘The people of this city need to waken up. They are being treated with total contempt.’ He recommended that families concerned in the day centre closures should make Councillors’ lives ‘misery.’ He said: ‘Go along to their surgeries. There’s usually no-one there. Talk to them for three or four hours and tell them they were voted in to represent their constituents – not their political party.’
One carer outlined the time when social workers who’d rarely visited her, arrived in force and stayed for three hours. ‘We were exhausted,’ said the carer. ‘But we are still fighting and we won’t go away quietly. We have rights and we can make demands.’
Chairman Tommy Gorman said a carer who was called ‘obstructive’ by social works’ people was actually being ‘protective’ of their family. Later he said: ‘In the short term we’re not going to change the minds of the Councillors but we can vote them out next time round.’
Councillor Matt Kerr, Executive Member for Social Care on Glasgow City Council later said: ‘The way social care is to be delivered will be completely changed by the Scottish Government’s self-directed support legislation and we have to manage that change.
“We believe that a Public Social Partnership offers the best possible way ahead as providers, service users and carers will all be involved in the design of future services.
‘We have also written to the Scottish Government asking for transitional funding to support the Public Social Partnership and to assist with the modernisation of our learning disability day services.
‘The reform of services would be phased in over a 12 month period and no-one will leave their day centre until they have a personal care plan that details exactly how they will be supported in future.’
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.
Resistance is growing to the fact that as many as 140 asylum seekers will be made destitute in Glasgow in the next few weeks.
This follows a change of provider of accommodation from Ypeople, a British based Christian charity, to Serco an international conglomerate providing essential services in more than 30 countries. In the UK it runs electronic tagging, video surveillance, nuclear weapons maintenance, several prisons and two immigration removal centres.
At a rally of around 200 people on Thursday 12 April 2012, at the foot of the Red Road flats which are home to many asylum seekers, speaker after speaker spoke out against the inhumanity of putting vulnerable people onto the streets.
Chair of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) in Glasgow, John Matthews, told the crowd: ‘In Europe in living memory Jews were first of all refused the right to work, then removed from their homes. I see Glasgow going that way more and more with the asylum seekers. Asylum is a right under the United Nations Convention so don’t be put off by this struggle.’ The NUJ is the first trades union to count journalists who are seeking asylum, as full members of the union and it is encouraging other trades unions to do the same.
Jim Main of UNISON said that Ypeople’s proposal to throw out asylum seekers from their accommodation was ‘outrageous.’ He went on: ‘We will fight this through every trades unions branch. This is a civil emergency and we must demonstrate to prevent this happening. We must show we are a Glasgow that cares. Everyone must ask questions of people in power.’
Speaking as a Justice and Peace campaigner for the Catholic church, Carol Clarke stated: ‘People must be given human dignity and that means a roof over their head.’
College lecturer, Barrie Levine, praised the Scottish Government for its ‘excellent support.’ Both First Minister Alex Salmond and his Deputy Nicola Sturgeon had sent apologies and messages of support to the rally organisers. Said Barrie: ‘That is excellent, but I want to see Alex Salmond make representation to the UK Government which controls UK Borders Agency (UKBA) and I want to see him fully support our protests and make sure civilised values are brought into play. The Big Society should be called the Sick Society. It is a scandal that people are being made destitute and put onto the street. Make no mistake, Serco has this £175 million contract. But the Ypeople’s Board should hang their heads in shame. There is no need to evict anyone right now.’
In her address to the crowd, SNP MSP, Sandra White, said: ‘we have proposed practical ways forward. The Ypeople have a window of opportunity as they do not need to evict anyone till November. We have asked the Scottish Parliament Secretary for External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop, to make our views known at Westminster. We are asking for the people who cannot be returned to places like Iran, Iraq and Somali because of wars, to be granted refugee status.’
Afro-Caribbean centre organiser Graham Campbell said: ‘The Ypeople Board should not be allowed to do this. It is disgusting. We should all tell them that in writing. The Afro-Caribbean Centre charity is refusing to work with Ypeople till it withdraws the threat of making destitute asylum seekers, homeless. It is a UK government issue and we must demand it be stopped.’
In a passionate speech, Angela McCormick of the Stop the War Coalition, declared: ‘We are here today to show Serco, Ypeople, Glasgow City Council, and everyone else that we will stand with those who have fled oppression – usually war. The link between this Coalition and the asylum seekers is that many of them have fled from war zones, bombs, missiles and weapons of destruction. They have come here seeking sanctuary. But how do we treat them? They are made destitute, kept in poverty and now being forced out of their homes.’ She added: ‘I believe we are the sensible majority. We do not want this to happen. Remember the people who fuelled the wars which caused the asylum seekers to flee in the first instance are the very people who make money from selling the missles and weapons of war.’
Organised by the Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees, master of ceremonies, Jock Morris commented: ‘We want to send a statement to the UK Government and the Scottish Government saying lound and clear – refugees and asylum seekers are WELCOME HERE.’ On a show of hands practically everyone in the crowd agreed with the statement.
‘We are now organising another, bigger rally at the STUC in Woodlands Road, on Tuesday 17 April 2012 to decide on the best way forward, together,’ said Margaret Wood of the Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees. Everyone concerned about this issue is invited.’
Currently around half a dozen destitute asylum seekers are given overnight accommodation each night in a safe, warm place, with an evening meal, a full breakfast and a takeaway lunch pack. But that number is expected to increase dramatically as soon as Ypeople start evicting asylum seekers.
Following a request to the bottled water supply company Eden Springs for a comment on our story that the University of Glasgow was not renewing their £200,000 contract, the company has sent a statement:
‘Eden Springs UK is aware of the campaign and is taking steps to address inaccuracies contained within it.
‘We have a well established customer network across Scotland and the UK, supplying spring and mineral water directly to consumers in their homes and offices, using water coolers and bottles.
‘Water supplied by Eden Springs in the United Kingdom is sourced, bottled and distributed entirely in the UK. The Scottish water supply is sourced inAyrshire.
‘The long running campaign against Eden Springs’ Scottish operation by the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign has been discredited on many occasions, including the official dismissal by MSPs of a petition to the Scottish Parliament due to the campaign’s flawed and inaccurate assertions. Across all the countries we operate in, the company strictly complies with all laws and legislation as required by national and local government.’
Southside communities, fearing they’ll be trapped when left without a bus service, turned out in force to a public meeting at Tinto Primary School, Hillpark on Thursday 8 March.
More than 160 people crowded into the school dining hall to hear Glasgow Cathcart MSP James Dornan, who had called the meeting, say he was hugely disappointed in First Bus for withdrawing the 29 bus route from 29 April. ‘My office has been innundated with people made anxious by this decision. I believe First Bus has a social responsibility to provide a service in areas like Hillpark and Mansewood which would be devastated if this goes ahead. I am hugely disappointed in First Bus for withdrawing this service without any consultation with the local community or passengers. Cutting off vital services to some of the most needy communities in Glasgow is not the way to respond to the tough economic background.’
In a civil but unswerving meeting, the two First Bus representatives heard the concerns of local residents.
Said 81-year-old David Boyd who lives in one of the Hillpark tower blocks: ‘I’ve no way of getting up the hill without a bus and there are 500 households in Hillpark to be considered.’
Lynn Campbell who works for Glasgow Old People’s Welfare Association and whose elderly father lives locally, asked: ‘Was a feasibility study done? Has the route made a profit in previous years? What about the families you rely on the bus to get to work?’ She also commented that there was no additional security by way of police presence or CCTV despite the high percentage of elderly people in the area. Addressing the bus company representatives she added: ‘What you are doing is WRONG! There is a bigger social picture than the economic picture you see.’
Glasgow City Councillor Colin Deans said from the floor of the hall: ‘the company should take a holistic approach. They could cut the number 38 bus service which has one bus every six minutes and serves an area with a much higher percentage of car ownership.’ He added that in fairness to First Bus, it wasn’t all their fault. ‘The fuel duty rebate will be going to rural bus companies now.’
One local resident told of an encounter with an elderly neighbour: ‘She can’t walk far and uses a walking stick. She told me she won’t be able to get out if the 29 bus is withdrawn. This is her only means of getting to the supermarket which is also her social outing. But she was prepared to wait an hour in a cold bus shelter to get a bus back as she couldn’t afford anything else.’
Two mothers also explained that the 29 was the only bus they could use to take their children from Shawlands where they lived, to Tinto Primary School which they attended and where the meeting was being held. ‘There is no other bus. So how do we get our children to school?’ said one mum.
Josephine Docherty of the Community Council, said there should have been a consultation meeting and that the Community Council should have been involved.
Emma Gillan, Labour candidate for Glasgow City Council commented that she was disappointed that no ideas were being presented at the meeting. ‘There is no reason why re-routing cannot be done.’
Councillor Stephen Curran who attended the meeting which was on his ‘patch’ urged the communities to ‘stick together’ to win the case: ‘We did this before when the ‘wee happy bus’ was removed. All parties need to work together on this through Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Parliament and we are willing to do that.’ He said that while one in five residents in Glasgow was elderly, there was a much higher proportion in the Hillpark and Mansewood areas. ‘There are also families to be considered. If the 29 bus service is withdrawn there will be an area of five miles left with no bus service.’ He said there had been no ‘joined up’ thinking because bus shelters had been erected only two weeks ago.
MSP James Dornan who chaired the meeting said in summing up: ‘I’ve been extremely encouraged by (SPT) Strathclyde Partnership for Transport’s willingness to recognise the impact of losing the 29 bus service. It may be possible to re-route another service.’ He emphasised that SPT considered it would be illegal for funding to be set aside for specific routes. ‘But we can lobby hard for a re-allocation of funding as SPT is keen to see a solution.’ He added that Glasgow City Council funding might be found to bridge the gap in service. At the end of the meeting he told this website: ‘I’m much more hopeful we will be able to arrange something to keep the 29 running through Hillpark and Mansewood. I’m also hoping to meet with First Glasgow’s managing director to take this forward.’
For First, Chris Carberry the company’s Network Planner said: ‘Never say never! We want to work in partnership and as a commercial company don’t want to be left behind.’ But he explained that there had been major changes in how the Scottish Government’s transport subsidy now had to be allocated and that there was competition from other companies which hadn’t been there before. He also emphasised that ‘for years the 29 route has not made money.’ In the past, revenue generating routes were able to subsidise loss making ones, but competition now made that impossible.
After the meeting he said that under company policy he was not permitted to speak to the press and a statement would be issued by the company. When that statement is received it will be put up on this website.
From 1 April this year the Scottish Government’s grant to bus companies will total £50 million for the year 2012-13 – a reduction of 17% on previous funding. This will be allocated on distance travelled in an attempt to help rural areas and to encourage fuel efficiency. Previously the funding allocation was based on fuel used. Funding for concessionary travel will be capped at £187million from now till 2014/15.
Two contemporary films, shot by the only crew to be allowed into the Upper Clyde Shipyards during the Work-in are to be screened in Glasgow next month. And one of the original filmmakers, Ann Guedes, is flying in from Lisbon to take part in a series of panel discussions around the showings. This is the next event marking the 40th Anniversary of the famous Work-in.
The radical film collective, Cinema Action, formed by Ann, her deceased husband Eduardo Guedes and Gustav Lamche, followed the action around the Work-in as the Stewards took over the yards and prevented their run-down and butchery planned by the then Tory Government. The result was two unique films from the struggle. UCS 1 – a short (23 min) film depicting the workers strategy, how they gained community support for their campaign and took the fight right to the door of the Heath government; and Class Struggle: Film from the Clyde, a longer (83 min) documentary study of the Work-in, concentrating on the workers and shop stewards and their activity, running the yards and highlighting their fight to ‘keep what is keepable’.
The films will be shown, along with a short history UCS 40th Anniversary , produced by Kevin Buchanan of the STUC written by historian John Foster, and narrated by prominent actor and director, David Hayman, over three nights 21-23 March 2012 in Glasgow’s Mitchell Theatre. Tickets are available via the Glasgow Concert Halls website – www.glasgowconcerthalls.com
David Hayman will also be taking part in one of the panel discussions (on Friday 23 March) along with Ann Guedes. He said
“These films remind me what an extraordinary time it was. Suddenly a new way was possible in our world due to the courage of a group of hard-working men and women who seized the day with boldness and imagination. People power in action.”
Jimmy Cloughley, was one of the UCS Joint Shop Stewards committee, and had special responsibility for Communications both inside and outside the yard. He said that allowing the film crew in, paid off.
“We wanted to ensure that the viewpoint of the workforce was recorded, and Cinema Action did that job admirably. It was an historic struggle and an historic victory, and these films give a real flavour of the times. They are truly unique.”
Stephen Farmer was an apprentice during the Work-in. He was given the job of taking the crew around and got to know them very well. He says: “Ultimately I was laid off once my apprenticeship finished, but Cinema Action kept me on to continue working with them! Too often with working class history things aren’t well recorded, and I’m proud that I did my bit, both in taking part, and in helping to ensure this one was recorded.”
The Work-in lasted 16 months from July 1971-October 1972 and finished when all four of the yards threatened with closure won a future. The 40th Anniversary celebrations have involved two sell-out concerts, an exhibition, a lecture by Professor John Foster and receptions given both by Glasgow City Council and in the Scottish Parliament. The events have been funded by UNITE, the union, who are one of the main inheritors of the unions involved in the Work-in.
Ines Paterson whose family hails from Broomhill, was part of the St. Charles Primary School team which won the Renfrewshire Schools Euroquiz heats against 10 other teams on Friday 17 February.
The team of four 10-year-olds will now compete in the Scottish final against 30 other teams on Monday 14 May in the debating chamber of the Scottish Parliament buildings.
The Crown Office has instructed Strathclyde Police to carry out a fresh investigation into the unsolved murder of Surjit Singh Chhokar in North Lanarkshire in 1998 following new ‘double jeopardy’ laws.
The waiter was stabbed to death outside his home in Overtown, Lanarkshire on 4 November 1998. No conviction was ever secured despite three men being charged in two separate trials.
Humza Yousaf, MSP for Glasgow who has championed the case, said: ‘I welcome this announcement. It is a big step in the fight for justice for Mr Chhokar and his family. I have no doubt that Strathclyde Police will work tirelessly on the investigation, however, we need members of the public to do their bit too. If you have any information you think may be useful, regardless of how insignificant it may seem, please contact Strathclyde Police who can deal with people on a confidential basis. For 13 years the Chhokar family has been searching for answers. Every time they have left disappointed and despondent. By opening up an investigation into the murder I am hopeful that justice for Surjit Singh Chhokar and his family is closer than it has ever been before.’
Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland, met with Mr Chhokar’s family on Thursday 26 January to inform them of the re-opening of the murder inquiry.
Solicitor Aamer Anwar, speaking on behalf of the Chhokar family, said afterwards that: ‘significant hurdles have still to be cross. But the family now believes there is a determination to fight for justice.’
The Solicitor General, Lesley Thomson said: ‘The prosecution service is committed to making use of the powers under the new double jeopardy legislation. The Scottish Parliament, in passing the Act, has clearly stated that the passage of time since an acquittal should be no protection for those for whom there is new and compelling evidence of guilt. We hope that our commitment to the new legislation will give reassurance to victims and their families.’ Other cases are under review for possible action under the new legislation which came into effect last November.
In an emotional press conference recently, Mr Chhokar’s sister, Manjit Sangha said all the family ever asked for was justice.
Following a meeting at the Scottish Parliament with MSP Humza Yousaf, the Campaign for Human Rights in the Gambia is gaining support among Members. At the time of writing, 16 MSPs from various parties have signed a motion MSP Yousaf launched.
Having heard Gambian exile Alieu B. Ceesay speak at a fringe meeting at the SNP conference in Inverness recently, Humza invited him to Edinburgh to discuss the issues in detail.
Said journalist Alieu: ‘There was an election last month in The Gambia. The President was re-elected as expected. Opponents were not allowed to campaign except for 11 days before voting. Some opponents were jailed in advance of the election. In recent times people have disappeared, been tortured and killed if they displease the Government. People are afraid even to talk about the election result because they don’t know who might be listening.’
According to Amnesty International there is a ‘climate of fear’ in The Gambia. They recently updated their report on human rights abuse in the sunny, West African country and said the situation was getting worse.
MSP Yousaf commented: ”I will support the call for Human Rights in the Gambia. The country is a part of the Commonwealth and also receives financial support from Europe. It must observe the conventions it has signed and its international obligations, that is why I have put forward this motion. Scotland should be a beacon for human rights across the world and we owe a duty to those who seek asylum in our country.’
The motion reads: ‘That the Parliament expresses concern at what it considers the dire human rights situation in Gambia; understands that the Gambian Government refuses to abide by its international human rights obligations, with cases of enforced disappearance remaining unresolved, perpetrators of unlawful killings not being brought to justice and torture still widely used by security forces; further understands that those who report such abuses, particularly in the media, are in grave danger, and expresses solidarity with the human rights defenders of Gambia, many of whom have been granted asylum in Scotland, in their struggle for basic human rights.
To follow the progress and see who has signed up to this motion check out the following website and insert reference number S4M-01460 or Humza Yousaf’s name: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/28877.aspx