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.
In August 2014 I wrote this in a letter to The Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser in relation to the just issued infamous Vow :
While it was still to be seen if the Scottish Government would keep their word, there can be no doubt about what Westminster has done. It has stuck two fingers up to the people of Scotland, and said that if our legislation is a stumbling block to the UK national policy then they shall scrap it. We may have limited powers, so long as it suits Westminster, and when it no longer suits those powers will be taken back.
Fast forward just three years and I’m not one bit surprised that the above scenario has been begun being implemented writ large with the UK parliament approving the Great Repeal Bill/ AKA Taking Back Control (Scotland)/ AKA The Enabling Act 2017.
Following successive SNP wins at Holyrood and the ever present possibility of another independence referendum the logical Unionist response if you follow all options to their conclusion is to close down the Scottish Parliament itself. This was a view that has been circulated for some time in British Nationalist social media (see the above tweet by the Stronger United account). The A Better Britain Unionist Party which came second in the Fortissat by-election have proposed the repealing of the Scottish Devolution Bill introduced by the Tony Blair Labour Government.
Aidan Kerr Tweet
What forments around the extremist fringes can however find roots in larger mainstream parties. STV’s political retweeter Aidan Kerr reported earlier this year that a fringe group at the Conservative party conference were discussing the closure of Holyrood as a means to silence calls for Scottish independence.
The message that will now be HAMMERED, HAMMERED, HAMMERED into the brains of the British nationalists.
A recent poll showed that 19% of Scots now want Holyrood closed down entirely. That’s almost a fifth of respondents who want to sell out Scotland and its parliament to ensure the future of the union. This figure did not appear out of nowhere. It’s the result of persistent agitation by British Nationalists in print, radio, television and social media, as well as behind closed doors, in workplaces and pubs. The Tories and Labour have now spent years banging the Unionist drum. They have whipped up these people who are now doing what the Yes movement did- they are moulding the campaign in their image, not merely adopting the messages they have been given, which is why in Fortissat the Tories were beaten into 4th place: their support abandoned them for a more hardcore version.
While many independence supporters remain focused on fighting for and winning a second independence referendum they are oblivious to the fact that the foundations for that are being removed from under their feet and behind their back. The fight is now on two fronts: to protect the very existence of the Scottish Parliament and the fight for an independent nation for it to govern. With an emboldened and unrestricted Westminster let loose on the constitution our workload just got a whole lot heavier.
The Labour Party campaigning wing Momentum released a video yesterday to coincide with Jeremy Corbyns visit to Scotland, calling for Scotrail to be renationalised. The idea of renationalisation of the rail system has broad support with many people now won over to the idea because of concerns about profits being taken out of the system into private hands, which could be reinvested in the system itself.
Mind The Gap
So having convinced the public that the railways should be state owned all that is left to do really is to either pressure the respective governments of Scotland and England/Wales to nationalise the railways or wait until there is a Labour government which could be anywhere from 6 months to 5 years away. This could be done by highlighting safety and performance issues which are directly related to underfunding. With good links to unions like ASLEF and TSSA and a cordial relationship with the RMT that would not be difficult. So what do they do? They follow in the footsteps of the TSSA union who earlier this year issued a video which focussed on the fact that not only were profits from the rail industry going into private hands, but worse than that, they were going into FOREIGN private hands!
Having watched the behaviour of UKIP and the right wing who have railed against all things foreign, both Momentum and the RMT dropped into the gutter of xenophobia with their attacks on the Dutch the French and the Germans; riding on the back of Brexit they insinuate that these people are stealing hard earned money from the British taxpayer. ‘Look at these foreigners, taking your money. We need to take back control and stop them’ they imply.
Xenophobia: Gaining Momentum
In the 1930’s the Nazi regime operated precisely the same tactics to unite their people and stir up hatred against the Jew’s, who they ‘othered’ as a group and blamed for wealth being taken from decent, ordinary, hardworking German families. Momentums message of today would not look out of place on the propaganda of yesterday and it has to be called out as what it is: a cheap xenophobic attempt to gain working and middle class votes.
For many Europeans living and working in the UK, now is a terrible time of uncertainty as to their futures. With the UK government “accidentally” sending out deportation letters and both of the main Westminster parties being less than friendly to them, European citizens both here and abroad must be looking at our government, our political movements and our print media and seeing an overtly hostile picture. If Jeremy Corbyn does not speak out against this type of behaviour in his own movement then he sends out the message that the othering of foreigners is acceptable. Will he speak out against Momentum? It’s highly unlikely, and if so British politics just got a whole lot dirtier.
Mhairi Black, The National, 24/06/17
I recently submitted a petition to the Scottish Parliament, asking for a review of the Holyrood electoral system. This was driven by seeing sitting MSP’s gaming the system in the last Holyrood election by having themselves placed high on the party list so that in the event of losing their seats they still remained an MSP. I found this process to be as unacceptable as having an unelected House of Lords, so when the petition went live I contacted every MSP who is active on social media and made them aware of the petition and asked for their support. Of all of those MSP’s only TWO responded, Andy Wightman and Ross Greer of the Green party responded. Not one other MSP acknowledged this.
Not any other acknowledgement of any kind. Our MSP’s in the main make great show of the fact they operate their own Twitter accounts. They’ll post pictures of themselves at surgeries, or meeting with residents, or any other activity that presents a photo opportunity. Seldom do they respond to genuine queries, especially contentious ones. It’s almost as if they are stuck on transmit and the receive setting is broken.
I also contacted some MP’s such as Mhairi Black who has herself written at length in this paper about politicians sneaking in the back door to the unelected House of Lords, also to no response.
Clearly turkeys do not vote for Christmas, and I have to ask, if our elected representatives won’t do anything about a system which they themselves are abusing, just who will?
My petition is available for signing or for comments on the Scottish Parliament website until the 28th August, at http://www.parliament.scot/GettingInvolved/Petitions/reformthescottishelectoralsystem.
So far I’m around 3/4 of the way through contacting every MSP on Twitter, asking them to sign my petition to reform the Scottish parliamentary electoral system. So far I’ve had exactly TWO responses from the individuals I have contacted, Andy Wightman and Ross Greer, both of the Scottish Greens. Not any other acknowledgement of any kind.
Our MSP’s in the main make great show of the fact they operate their own Twitter accounts. They’ll post pictures of themselves at surgeries, or meeting with residents, or any other activity that presents a photo opportunity. Seldom do they respond to genuine queries, especially contentious ones. It’s almost as if they are stuck on transmit and the receive setting is broken.
Our MSP’s clearly are of the mind that if they ignore the issue it will go away. One phrase I’m repeatedly told about this is that “turkeys don’t vote for Christmas”. So who exactly will push for electoral reform in Scotland if the beneficiaries won’t?
So far my petition has been covered by the following print and new media sites:
Scotland On Sunday
The petition closes for responses on 28th August 2017.
For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.
The revelation in last weeks Advertiser that Labour outspent all the other candidates combined for the recent Westminster elections in both Airdrie and Coatbridge raises an interesting question about the funding of political parties. In Airdrie and Coatbridge both Labour candidates represent trade unions, and it’s likely that those unions gave considerable financial backing to them. The same can’t be said for the SNP, the Conservatives or the Lib-Dems. The latter are treated as a major party and they are given airtime on political debates on equal footing with the three other parties, but their combined spend in Airdrie and Coatbridge amounted to an insulting £88! That speaks volumes and tells us that they have a greater desire to appear on the ballot paper than to win, and that in future elections there is little or no point in voting for them.
If I were an SNP member I would be extremely concerned at the paltry £2980 spent by Neil Gray as he saw his majority drop from almost 10,000 to under 200 votes. The last I recall, membership of the Airdrie and Shotts SNP was over 1100, but it appears that between them they were unable to rustle up the equivalent of £3 per member! As the saying goes, for want of a nail the kingdom was lost; Neil Gray’s lack of investment in his re-election very nearly cost him his seat, and as we see, Jeremy Corbyn now has him in his sights as a target for the next election, whenever that may be. It is ironic that had it not been for Ruth Davidson and the Tories using Jeremy Corbyn’s apparent support for the IRA to recruit hard core British Nationalist voters from their Unionist Labour rivals, then Labour would actually have taken Airdrie from the SNP! It will be interesting to see how this affects a future vote.
So far there appears to be no effort at all from Neil Gray to fire up the SNP in Airdrie and Shotts, while Labour already have Jeremy Corbyn lined up to visit Airdrie later this month. The strange thing is that both the Scottish Labour leadership and many of the local Labour party have publicly slated Corbyn and are only supporting him through gritted teeth. It will be worth watching to see which local Labour councillors don’t attend Mr Corbyn’s visit: their absence will speak volumes about just how dedicated they actually are to the policies spouted by their present leader. My guess is, not much.
Mhairi Black, The National, 24/06/17
Recently Mhairi Black MP wrote in her column in The National of the scandalous decision by the Tory party to appoint rejected Westminster candidate Ian Duncan to the House of Lords so that he could take up a position in the Scottish Office. Ms Black said this of the House of Lords: “They are handpicked political cronies who don’t have to worry about being elected or even being kicked out when they perform poorly – it’s a secure job for life with no danger of redundancy or the sack.”
I agree. I also think that when political parties game the Holyrood list system so that their chosen placemen (and indeed women) can never be removed from office then that system is also in need of radical reform. As it is, it is in danger of becoming every bit as undemocratic as the UK government’s unelected second chamber.
I have begun to share my petition to reform the Holyrood electoral system with MSP’s and some MP’s. As yet (and as I expected) it has been by and large ignored by almost all who I have so far contacted, with the exceptions of Ross Greer MSP and Andy Wightman, both Green MSP’s.
If you agree with me that the Holyrood electoral system is in need of reform then please sign my petition which is currently lodged with the Scottish Parliament. It can be found HERE. You can also leave your comments which will be seen by the Petitions Committee. Additionally you can contact your own MSP and ask what they are doing to make our electoral system to make it more accountable and democratic. While you are waiting you can watch this…