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Gender. Unbalanced.

The greatest strength of the independence movement in recent years has been it’s inclusivity and its solidarity. So I was disgusted to see the disgusting and shameful spectacle which unfolded on social media over the weekend as a feminist fundamentalist faction of our movement launched a vicious and uncalled for attack on an event held by Yes East Kilbride on Thursday. The reason for the outpouring of bile was simple: there were no women on the panel. Despite the group having made the best efforts to get a more gender balanced panel this ultimately proved impossible, and the event went ahead with some exceptionally engaging speakers, including David Hooks, otherwise known as the blogger Politics Scot. I had read a tweet from him saying that this was his first public speaking engagement, and after the hail of abuse he received I certainly hope it is not his last.

On seeing the initial tweets I did think that this was merely a number of twitter trolls of a unionist bent who had set out to disrupt a Yes event, but I was utterly astonished to see that I was wrong and the militant women hounding the group included an actual SNP councillor among it’s ranks. I was also disappointed by later less than supportive comments from the likes of Bella Caledonia who continued to do their utmost to insult the very people who keep their website afloat.

The Yes movement is a broad church and these events are run by volunteers and the speakers give up their time generally for no fee. Many groups try to have events that are gender balanced, but with the best will in the world this cannot always be achieved. In fact in the case of Yes East Kilbride their previous event was an all female panel when they hosted WFI. The idea that an event should be cancelled because there are less people of one sex than another on the panel is completely backwards. Sometimes we have things which are a priority for us personally. There are Women for Independence, Pensioners for Independence there’s even a Germans for Independence group. The one thing that units us all is independence! We should be encouraging ANY pro-independence event whether it appeals to our particular area of interest or not.

During the 2014 referendum I was out campaigning on the streets and got speaking to a man, and asked if he would be voting independence. He told me that he agreed with much of what we said, he opposed Trident, he was concerned about poverty and austerity and thought that Scots should control their own affairs. But, he said, we’ll still have the royal family, so I’m voting No. If we as individuals demand independence only on our own personal terms we’ll still be going round in circles a century from now. But hey, we’ll have had a gender balanced debate on the road to nowhere, so every cloud and all that, eh?

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The Power of Advertising

FB_IMG_1510336684297.jpgI went to see a gig by Idlewild frontman Roddy Woomble a few weeks ago in Airdrie Town Hall. Idlwild have a fairly decent following, in fact they have sold out two nights in Glasgow next month, but the crowd was disappointingly small. The sparse crowd was emphasised by the size of the hall, and having seen Midge Ure at the Lesser Town Hall I’d have thought that might have been a more appropriate stage. The small crowd was not only disappointing, it was unsurprising. Looking at that weeks Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser there was absolutely no mention of the gig at all. They don’t have to, but as the local community’s only print media I would say they really should be rooting out what’s going on and highlighting it to make it a success.

Having said that North Lanarkshire Council can’t escape criticism. No local advertising (unless you count a pile of leaflets which are still on display in Airdrie Library) and a solitary tweet is about the extent NLC was willing to go to on this. While Motherwell Concert Hall attracts the bigger acts and the full attention of NLC’s advertising, towns like Airdrie are left to wither on the vine. It’s often argued that smaller community councils are needed to regenerate and improve Scottish society and I have to say in this case that’s bang on. A small community council, having took on an event would work to make it work. It’s success or failure would after all directly reflect on them.

Airdrie Supporters Trust held an evening with Frank Bruno and they noticed similar difficulties in advertising their event. Small groups on low or no budget really struggle to get events advertised. Yet there are groups out there struggling against the tide who are trying to put on events in their community and who could do with the support of the council in doing so. Community billboards and noticeboards are commonplace in many towns. They deliver events to the community, free of charge. You don’t have to buy an ailing and unsupportive local newspaper to find out about what’s happening. You don’t have to go into a small corner of a local shop or go into the library. You should be able to find out what’s happening not only on social media but on the high street of the town. North Lanarkshire Council have the ability to help our community groups grow. So why don’t they? Ask your local councillor…

Moscow Calling?

Screenshot_20171110-143047.pngSince the 2014 referendum campaign many Scots have been using the Russia Today channel to obtain an alternative viewpoint on the news. I don’t think anyone is under any illusions that it exists to counter the news feeds of western governments.  Many people have been happy to share the content shared on RT when it suits their particular agenda. Labour politicians have appeared on it on numerous occasions, and in fact when questioned on their use of this platform stated that “Spokespeople appear on a wide range of outlets with a strong emphasis on domestic broadcasters to present our plans to transform Britain.”

The Tories aren’t immune either, with many Tory MP’s also appearing on the channel and taking the Kremlin’s ruble.  The SNP are also regular guests, much to the chagrin of Tories like Murdo Fraser.

So, to get this straight, Labour, the Tories and the SNP are all to varying degrees against using RT, except when it suits them to actually appear on it.

Which is why todays Yoonstream meltdown is all the more hypocritical. Former First Minister Alex Salmond has had his chat show optioned by the RT channel and will appear once a week giving his take on the goings on of the day. It’s thought that it will follow in the format of his recent stage show and will be produced by Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh. This has sent unionists into a frenzy, there being much wailing and gnashing of teeth from across the Yoonisphere. One might have thought that this was somehow the end of days and not a chat show.  The Herald, the BBC, Ruth Davidson, Batshit Jill, Uncle Tom Cobley and all have united is despair; the hated Alex Salmond has been given a media platform which bypasses their control, to speak to the people. The campaign to make Ruth Davidson appear a cuddly, chummy figure has nothing on the campaign now running to decry RT as a tool of the Kremlin, Alex Salmond as a mouthpiece of the Kremlin, and Scottish viewers as the enemy within.

It seems to me that the British Nationalists in Scotland having worked together to remove Alex Salmond from politics are now demanding the rights to decide when, where and who this currently unemployed former politician can work for, and while they can cry out as much as they like, the fact is that for may of us it is no big deal. We’ve already started watching RT anyway. No media is impartial, it is simply a tool, and it can be used for you or against you. I’d prefer it to be used for us than agin us, and in the absence of an impartial Scottish broadcast media it would be remiss of Alex Salmond NOT to take the opportunity to use it, and to grab it with both hands and smash the British state media over the head with it.  Убирайся, Алекс!

Reform the Scottish Electoral System: First Committee Hearing

I attended Thursdays Petitions Committee meeting on Thursday for my petition being discussed and was pleasantly surprised that it was not dismissed out of hand.Johann Lamont who chaired the meeting stated that she sympathised with the aim of the petition and that she could see the strong argument for the need for a change.The committee pointed out that the Scottish parliament has called for a review of the Scottish Parliament electoral system and that this is due to take place imminently.Conservative list MSP Michelle Ballantyne did agree that where a sitting MSP lost their seat but remained an MSP due to their placing on the list was clearly undemocratic.

The committee agreed to write to the Scottish Government and the Electoral Commission and seek their responses, and I’ll post an update in due course.

Minutes of the meeting.

Video of the meeting (discussion of petition starts at 09:46

The official transcript will be available from 6pm on 30/10/17

Reform The Scottish Electoral System Petition: To Be Heard On Thursday 26th October 2017

The Scottish Parliaments Petitions Committee will be considering a number of petitions this coming Thursday. One of those petitions is the one I submitted some time back calling for a reform of the Scottish electoral system to prevent misuse and manipulation of the party list system by political parties to ensure that certain candidates are guaranteed a seat.

The papers for the committee meeting can be found HERE.

The meeting will be broadcast live and can be viewed at the THIS link from 0915hrs on Thursday morning.

There has been some very good feedback to the petition and I hope this will be discussed and taken on board when the committee meet. Given that the petition directly affects the electoral prospects of the MSP’s who are deliberating, as well as their close colleagues, I think it unlikely that will go any further, but stranger things have happened. Roll on Thursday!

Reform Scotlands Electoral System Petition: Holyrood Date Confirmed

My petition to reform the Scottish electoral system to prevent parties utilising the electoral list so that certain candidates cannot be deselected by the public will be heard by the Petitions Committee on Thursday 26th October 2017. Time TBC. The petition gained a total of 485 signatures, and I’d like to thank everyone who signed the petition and especially those who took the additional time to leave comments on it.

This will be live streamed and I’ll post a link to it nearer the time.

It’s Airdrie’s Hospital

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To: The Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser

Earlier this week Airdrie MP Neil Gray announced that the Scottish Government had announced that it had instructed NHS Lanarkshire to begin the process for replacement of Monklands Hospital. The SNP have repeatedly committed to keeping 3 A&E equipped hospitals in North Lanarkshire and his should silence all those who have said there are plans in place to completely close the hospital and the A&E, and should be good news for the town. I say should, but one thing did concern me about Neil Grays announcement, and that was the phrase “potential sites for the new hospital”. The people of Airdrie have fought long and hard to protect Airdrie’s hospital and the one commitment that must be made is that the hospital stays in Airdrie. A new build hospital on a greenfield site such as Newhouse would be a gross betrayal of the people of Airdrie. The current hospital has good public transport links and importantly is within walking distance from the town; indeed it’s part of the community. An out of town development would be as difficult to get to as Hairmyres or Wishaw and must be resisted by anyone with the towns best interest at heart. Somewhere within the town must be found, and I believe that Craigneuk Park is an ideal site for this. Often touted around as a potential site for another unnecessary supermarket, a hospital here would finally perhaps prompt the much needed and long promised road improvements which have failed to materialise here in the past. Such a move could perhaps even help relocate the football club to a smaller, more affordable stadium elsewhere back in the town. This venture would not only bring construction jobs directly to the town but would guarantee that there was long term employment in the Scottish health service in Airdrie for years to come.
This project is already looking as though it will fail to meet its initial 2023 delivery date, and it cannot be delayed any further as the current hospital is eating up millions of pounds in repair costs alone. I hope all our local politicians can put their differences aside and agree that whatever happens “It’s Airdrie’s Hospital” and that they fight tooth and nail to ensure that it remains that way.