Glasgow City Council continues to have a Labour Party majority following the local government election.
It has 44 seats compared to 47 after the previous election. The SNP have 27 seats compared to 19 before. The Green Party have five seats which is the same as before but with a couple of new people. The Tory Party still has David Meikle flying the flag in Pollokshields. There is one Independent – Stephen Dornan who won Govan as a Glasgow First candidate.
He is a disenchanted Labour Party Councillor. The Liberal Democrats – who held six seats in the previous administration – returned only one person – Margot Clark in Linn Ward which was the first to be called on the day.
Commented Labour elder statesman Mohammad Sarwar who was the first Muslim to become an Westminster MP: ‘When the Labour Party is united across all levels – Westminster, Hollyrood and Local Authority –it is unbeatable. If the SNP had won Glasgow they would have claimed that as a victory for independence. But people are too frightened to separate the UK. And it must also be said that the Labour team put in a lot of hard work and effort.’
Said Gordon Matheson who was Labour Group leader last time round: ‘I’m delighted personally and delighted for all the candidates. We will work with all parties and draw strength from others. Our priority is the people of Glasgow so it’s back to work for them, now.’
Youngest of the new SNP Councillors is 18-year-old Austin Sheridan,
elected in Baillieston. He was an active Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP) – and said: ‘I’m absolutely thrilled. The fact that we had two SNP seats in Baillieston in 2007 at the last council elections and we’ve won two today, shows that we can hold a seat once we’ve gained it.’
Said Green Party Councillor Dr Nina Baker: ‘We are very pleased and have done better than all prediction. We have two great, new Councillors in Liam Hainey in Langside and Martin Bartos in Partick West. With Martha Wardrop re-elected in Hillhead, Kieran Wild in Canal and myself in Anderston/City we are well pleased with our five.’
In the warm and peaceful setting of the Winter Gardens at the People’s Palace, George Galloway and his Coalition Against Cuts set out their campaign on Wednesday 6 April before an audience of more than 100 people.
‘We are exactly that,’ said George who was a Glasgow MP at Westminster for 18 years, ‘We are fighting against the savage cuts. The SNP and New Labour are all different cheeks of the same backside and I’d be surprised if any Labour Councillor or MSP who walked into this room tonight could be named by anyone here. They are not even legends in their own street!’
Explaining that his Coalition Against cuts had eight people on the Regional list, but three front runners: himself, Angela McCormick a college lecturer and long-time campaigner and Brian Smith a local government worker and trade unionist, he said: ‘We only need 12,000 votes to get one person elected and 30,000 would get all three elected. That is possible out of half a million people eligible to vote. It is more like a Ben Nevis than a Mount Everest of a climb. But we must get people out there and casting their votes.’ He promised: ‘If we get all three of the Coalition into the Scottish Parliament it will never be the same again.’
Angela, who is a member of the national executive of EIS/FELA teachers and lecturers trade union and a member of Solidarity and the Socialist Workers Party, told the attentive audience: ‘I am a single parent and 20 years ago I went to university. I was the last generation to receive the full grant and that is why I’m standing for election. I want the students who come after me to have the same opportunities.’ She instanced the head of a Glasgow college who recently retired receiving a package of £384,000 and compared that to the fact that 1000 college lecturers and support staff are facing redundancy. ‘Those who are left are being told to work harder. These cuts are idealogical. If we – the people in the majority who are suffering the cuts – come together, we can win.’
Turning to big business, she claimed that companies like Boots – registered in Zug – a known low-tax region of Switzerland and Vodaphone – dodged paying millions of pounds of tax. ‘I don’t want my money paying for trident and bombs for Libya,’ said Angela. ‘I want it paying for my son to get the same free university education I had.’
Brian Smith is the branch secretary of the 11,000 strong Glasgow City Unison Branch and co-ordinator of the Defend Glasgow Services Campaign. He is a member of Solidarity and the Socialist Party Scotland. He said that the cuts would take away 10,000 jobs in Glasgow in two years. ‘One in two youngsters will have no work. The reduction in services will be serious as people go out the door. I am surprised that public anger is not greater.’
Advocating a general strike he said: ‘There is a community campaign, an industry campaign and the Coalition is the political campaign against these savage cuts. But we need to get everyone affected by the cuts, actively involved and out, casting their vote.’ To great applause he added: ‘If George Galloway is the only one of us elected to the Scottish Parliament that will shake it up.’
In his turn, George referred to the last time he had been in the People’s Palace. ‘Oliver Tambo, the African National Congress leader in exile during the apartheid years was speaking here. We, the believers that apartheid could be and would be ended in South Africa, were listening. We believed then, that the seemingly impossible would happen and it did. Today, we see how one young man in Tunisia who set himself alight because of his bitter frustration with that country’s secret police, has spread flames which have ignited so many Arab nations. People are standing up to take action in these countries. We in Scotland have never been on our knees before those who appear to be great. We can fight the cuts. And if we believe – we can win!’
A jobs scheme that was scheduled for the chop has been given an extension following political pressure on the Westminster Coalition government by Glasgow Central MP, Anas Sarwar.
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Ian Duncan Smith, planned to scrap Glasgow’s Employment Zones on 31 December last year – at least six months before the replacement Work Programme was scheduled to be up and running.
The Employment Zones scheme offers specialist support to long-term unemployed and lone parents in employment blackspots. Following pressure in Parliament, the government has extended it to June 2011.
MP Sarwar quizzed the Secretary of State in the House of Commons twice in November and tabled a question in December.
He said: ‘The Minister was ready to write off Glasgow’s jobless by withdrawing help six months before his new Work Programme was to be ready.
‘I refuse to allow the Tories to consign another generation of Glaswegians to the scrapheap, just like they did in the 1980s under Thatcher.
‘I’m pleased that Ian Duncan Smith has now seen sense and performed a U-turn, but I simply can’t understand why he even considered axing support six months before his Work Programme was ready – our city deserves better.’
Chris Grayling, Minister for Employment at the Department of Work and Pensions, said in the House of Commons: ‘We are determined to ensure that there is continuity of provision, and that the transition to the Work Programme does not leave any customer unsupported.
‘Therefore, Employment Zone contracts will be extended until June 2011, ensuring that customers referred to these programmes in March will be supported until the summer, by which time the Work Programme will have been rolled out.’
Reed in Parnership are one of the key agencies that deliver employment and skills sevices in Glasgow.
‘Over 5000 people in Glasgow have been claiming JobSeekers Allowance for over a year and the DWP decision to extend the contracts means unemployed people in the city will continue to receive the support they need to find employment.’
A campaign to highlight human rights abuse in the sunshine West African country of the Gambia was launched last night in Glasgow.
Backed by Westminster MP Anas Sarwar and the President of the National Union of Journalists( NUJ) Pete Murray, the new group will bring the issues to a wider audience.
‘I didn’t know about people disappearing, being tortured and murdered in the Gambia till I heard details at a vigil two years ago,’ said Austin Sheridan a 17-year-old, elected member of the Scottish Youth Parliament. He has brought the situation and an Amnesty International report ‘Gambia: Fear Rules’ to the attention of that Parliament’s International Committee.
Anas Sarwar, MP for Central Glasgow, said when he was campaigning to be elected, he had attended the same vigil and met an exiled Gambian journalist. ‘I promised him then, that if I was elected I would do all I could to highlight the human rights issues in the Gambia. I am keeping that promise,’ he told the meeting in the STUC.
He went on to offer the NUJ the opportunity to hold a meeting at the House of Commons to inform even more people.
NUJ national president Pete Murray, said his union was proud to support the campaign. ‘Not just because journalists are affected by the abuse of human rights but because they are being detained and tortured simply for doing their job and are being forced to flee their country and seek asylum here.’ He outlined the NUJ’s campaign to persuade the UK government to allow asylum seekers the right to work and the right to stay.
. ‘Hundreds of people are incarcarated,’ he said, ‘Not just journalists.’ He said the new Scottish Campaign for Human Rights in the Gambia would press for an end to human rights violations in his country and for those responsible for such violations, to be brought to justice in fair trials.
Westminster MP Ian Davidson, Glasgow South West, has been elected Chair of the Scottish Affairs Committee. Mr Davidson will take up the position formally when the remaining members of the Committee are nominated by the House in the coming weeks.