I 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…
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.
The referendum may not have given us the result that we wanted but a happy by-product is that it has completely reinvigorated Scottish politics. Many people have had their eyes opened to the workings of the political system and I don’t think interest in politics, across the spectrum, has ever been higher. I personally am delighted that such an experienced politician as Alex Salmond is not being lost to Scottish politics, but is instead planning to head to Westminster and “hold their feet to the fire”, and I wish him all the best. With hard work from the Yes Alliance he will hopefully be accompanied by a sizeable contingent ready to do battle to get the best deal for Scotland. While I am sure there may be a few old hands there I am absolutely delighted to see so many new people rising to the challenge and throwing their hat into the ring as candidates for Westminster. Philippa Whitford, who spoke so passionately about the threats to the NHS has announced that she is putting herself forward. Former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan and human rights activist Craig Murray announced that he was interested in standing in Kirkaldy and within a few days Gordon Brown had announced he was standing down. Craig has now said that he is willing to stand in Airdrie and Shotts where another candidate, local man Tommy Montgomery has put himself forward. Tommy is no career politician but has a burning interest in social justice and a desire to see the people of Airdrie and Shotts put first, rather than treated in the traditional Labour manner which has put the interests of the party, the MP and their patrons before the people. If the level of interest and the calibre of candidate is replicated across the country as it is here in Airdrie then the people of Scotland will have an amazing array of talent to choose from in May 2015.
So Scotland voted No. 55% of the electorate said they did not think we were good enough to run our own affairs. Or did they? There’s an element in there who would vote No regardless of any argument. There’s an element who voted No out of personal greed, the “I’m alright jack” brigade. There’s an element in there who voted No out of fear of losing their pensions, or out of fear of losing their jobs. I can at least say that the Yes campaign didn’t need to resort to the tactics of fear. We had no need to go to the streets of Airdrie and lie to people that their pensions were at risk if they voted Yes, or threaten activists that they would have their benefits stopped. Over the course of this campaign I have gone from a person who commented by letter or online to someone who started delivering leaflets round the doors, to someone who stood on the streets of Airdrie and told the truth about Labour’s lies, while our MP looked on in silence. Her silence spoke louder than I did, and it’s some consolation that the people of Airdrie and Coatbridge and the rest of North Lanarkshire said Yes. Along with Glasgow, Dundee and West Dunbartonshire, all suffering in part with great social deprivation, we at least can hold our heads up and say we were smart enough to see through the lies, and put working for the common good ahead of personal need or greed. We were smart enough not to believe the “jam tomorrow” promises of the Unionists. Already they have disappeared like a puff of smoke. The Three Stooges, Milliband, Cameron and Clegg vowed that if we voted No on 18th September that they would publish a motion that would go before the UK parliament on 19th September, and that all three parties would agree on that motion. I’m writing this on the 20th. No such motion was forthcoming. Ed Milliband has already backed out of any agreement. Our imperial masters have spoken, we are getting hee-haw.
The actions of 1979 have repeated themselves, and next year Scotland will again punish Labour. David Cameron will go to the polls as the man who saved the union, against an inept Labour leader exposed as a liar who reneges on a deal. More Tory rule and an in/out referendum on Europe await us. Will it take another round of Tory beatings before Scotland finally has the balls to say Yes, or will we instead send them a message in 2015 by winning a majority of Scottish seats and declaring our independence regardless?
Imagine it is the day of a big football match. Two teams are to line up with the result hanging on the outcome of this one game. One player decides he wants’ the day off, and agrees with a player in the other team that he won’t play either, so that it’s still even on both sides. Complete nonsense I know, but that is what Pamela Nash is asking us to believe as explanation for her non-attendance at the vote her own party called to have the bedroom tax repealed. Apparently, she says, this is due to a parliamentary procedure called “pairing”. Even as the “baby of the house” she should be aware that pairing is not permitted at important votes, and she must have been aware that even if this wasn’t deemed important by the Labour Party it was important to the people who put her in a job, the people of Airdrie, and should have attended regardless. Of course, she couldn’t as she had an important meeting in Vienna at the ESPI Conference on Space against Youth Unemployment, no doubt all expenses paid. No need for her to worry about the roof over her head, on that night or any night. I hope she slept easy discussing job options in the stars that some of her constituents will be looking up at when there is no roof over their head and they are on the streets.
The fact there were numerous flights available to get her back to London for the vote has not gone unnoticed, and it seems that this MP who is not unknown for enjoying away days at others expense, such as her trip to Glastonbury, put a free night in Vienna on the taxpayers tab rather than hurry back for the job she was elected to do.
It seems to me that Ms Nash is following in the footsteps of a long line of Labour politicians who see Airdrie as a safe Labour seat, with no effort required beyond polling day. I can only hope that the people of Airdrie get the chance to boot Ms Nash’s career into space before the inevitable Conservative election victory sees them reduce the number of MP’s in Scotland and strip them of powers to solve the West Lothian question at the same time.