Tag Archives: expenses

Councillor Sophia Coyle, Her Controversial Views and The SNP Code of Silence

Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser, 02/12/15

Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser, 02/12/15

Dear Sir,

Having seen the Advertiser front page this week I’m sure I’m not alone in finding the views expressed by SNP Councillor Sophia Coyle as distasteful, and I’m sure many people will have possibly decided that they will not be voting for her in next years elections. Unfortunately we don’t get that choice as Ms Coyle is a Holyrood list candidate, and we don’t get a say in selecting her; the SNP does. A high place on the list is a reward by the party for services rendered, the virtual guarantee of a seat with the only requirement that between selection and election that you keep out of trouble and say nothing controversial. Ms Coyle is not the one who must campaign, debate and engage; that’s Alex Neil’s job. Ms Coyle can simply sit back, keep schtum and if the SNP gain enough votes she’s in regardless, and from the tone of your article she intends to maintain a stonewall silence on this issue. Which is ironic as I understand that the Gay rights group Stonewall as well as the Equality Network have expressed their concerns at her comments. Perversely, if we don’t want someone with these views to represent us, the only way we can actually vote against her is to vote against Alex Neil so that he takes the list place! And they say The House of Lords is a rotten system!

With Councillor Coyle gagged, the SNP are now speaking on her behalf, stating she is “comfortable” with equal marriage. But is she? Given that Airdrie SNP were addressed only in the last year by a specially invited guest,  controversial Catholic Church spokesman Peter Kearney (who among other bizarre views states that gay behaviour leads to dying young) I’m wondering when this Damascene conversion took place.

It must be asked; what could possibly have changed those beliefs that she so strongly held? Five years ago she was for lowering the time limit for abortions, she was against gay marriage, against gay adoption, and against the assisted suicide bill, and so firmly did she oppose these she would defy the party whip if it came to it! Now she is “comfortable” with it? The SNP take an extremely hard line on those candidates who defy the party whip, and had these views been known prior to vetting I’d be very surprised if she was selected. I’m even more surprised that the Advertiser editorial “makes no judgement” due to her refusal to respond. Since when did newspapers refrain from having an opinion because the subject of the story refuses to comment? Papers would be guy thin if they did!

Some people would agree with Councillors Coyle’s previously stated views, others would likewise disagree and would not vote for her on that basis. The problem is, we now do not know what her views are and unless Councillor Coyle breaks the SNP code of silence we will not find them out until she is safely seated in Holyrood.

The press have a duty to obtain answers on this very serious matter, and I hope they will not be deflected from that duty, despite her silence. In 2016 we will be asked to vote SNP to get Alex Neil as an MSP, and at least he can be judged on his record. Sophia Coyle’s record, even without this scandal is not impressive. Her high expenses belie her average attendance of 39% of meetings over the last two years, with zero attendance on two of her appointed committees in the same timeframe. This doesn’t signal to me that the people of Airdrie are getting the greatest of deals here, and I have to ask; with the hugely impressive influx of talent to the party, is this best they can offer us?  

Yours Sincerely,

 
James Cassidy

Advertiser Editorial, 02/12/15

Advertiser Editorial, 02/12/15

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Cap In Hand

Letter To The Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser, 11/10/15

Airdrie and coatbridge Advertiser, 07/10/15

Airdrie and coatbridge Advertiser, 07/10/15

Dear Sir, 

If I say something which is patently false over and over does that make it true? This seems to be Anti-Scottish Labours latest tactic, and seems to be working as well as the previous ones, and by that I mean it can easily be disproved by any reasonably intelligent adult within a few minutes.

Ursula Craigs letter in last weeks Advertiser made the claim that because the current Scottish Government had a £350 Million budgetary underspend in the last financial year they are somehow withholding money from areas where it is needed to exaggerate the effects of austerity so that Westminster can be blamed. One of the problems in trying to run a country which voted not to stand on its own two feet in the world is that finances are “pooled and shared” and without real tax raising powers there’s little that can be done to change things. Our wealth goes south to Westminster and we get a bit of it (not all of it mind) back to spend as we see fit. 

Imagine if you will that the Scottish Government managed to budget right down to the last penny. What reserves would it have to deal with emergencies? Where would the money come from if there is an exceptionally severe winter and the country grinds to a halt because the grit has run out and there is no cash to procure more? Where would the cash come from if there was a medical emergency which required the purchase of a huge amount of vaccine? Where would the money come from if Labour, the Conservatives and the Lib Dems teamed up to force through a major construction project in our capital city, only to mismanage it to such an extent it needed someone to bail it out? Would people be happy if the Scottish Government had to go cap in hand to Westminster saying “We’ve spent our allowance, please Sir, can we have some more?” Because that is exactly what would happen if every last penny was spent. The Scottish Government, no matter which party controls it, cannot borrow money as other countries do. It cannot create or raise taxes as other countries do. It can simply cut and reallocate its pocket money. 

In it’s time in power Labour managed to create a peak budgetary underspend of around £718 million pounds; that’s over twice the amount of cash that the SNP have in reserve. In fact a smaller underspend indicates that the SNP Scottish Government are squeezing more out of the budget and making sure that more money makes its way to where it is needed than the previous Labour dominated administrations did. Which is why it’s a bit rich to see so called political heavyweights like Jackie Baillie talking mince on this subject to any media outlet which will carry her words. This is the same Jackie Baillie who complained that the Scottish Government would have no money for emergencies “in case Orkney sank”. Only last year was she herself reported to have claimed a whole fifth of the total annual expenses of all other MSPs COMBINED for food and drink for hosting meetings. It would perhaps be more fitting if Ms Baillie stopped talking Scotland down and at the same time reined in her own out of control spending. She campaigned for a pocket money parliament, it’s time she started pulling her weight to make it work. 

Yours Sincerely, 

James Cassidy,

 

Post Referendum Letters: 31/10/14 (Advertiser)

Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser

Dear Sir, 

When the MP’s expenses scandal broke in 2009 the UK public were quite rightly enraged. The level of virtually legalised theft from the public purse was horrendous. The process of switching or ‘flipping’ your designated second home to claim more expenses was endemic, with the then Chancellor Alistair Darling gaining the nickname ‘Flipper’ for his activities in this field. Over the course of expenses revelations it became apparent that some activities fell outside the description of merely exploiting loopholes and were in fact criminal acts. Labour’s Jim Devine was one of a handful who went to jail. Some MPs did the decent thing and resigned, but others simply clung on, vowing to stand down at the next election. This of course meant they would secure a generous parachute payment and protect their pension. What became more than obvious to many was that in most cases it was simply impossible to get rid of corrupt and criminal MPs other than by voting against them at a general election. In the wake of this parliament vowed to clean its act up, and promised all sorts of new legislation, most of which never saw the light of day.

One action that was mooted but was never delivered was the power of recall. This would give the electorate the power to sack poorly performing or criminal MPs between elections. This would appear to be popular with the public and common sense, so it’s no surprise that on 27th October many MPs voted against it. What people may find surprising is that Lanarkshire’s Labour MPs, Tom Clarke, Pamela Nash and Frank Roy all voted against this legislation. I cannot for the life of me comprehend why these MPs, supposedly socialists, supposedly representing the working class, would instead close ranks and vote to protect a system that is rotten to the core. This is the system which allows the likes of Eric Joyce to lurch from one drunken escapade to another, yet cling on to the bitter end to the expenses and status of being an MP. The people of Falkirk must wonder what they have done to deserve someone like Eric. Having been convicted for drink driving, and been exposed for his relationship with a schoolgirl, his only punishment politically has been to be expelled from the Labour Party. Do these people ever put the electorate first? Do they ever do what is morally right, not just what their party tells them to? To be successful as a Labour MP seems to be to follow the mantra of ‘Party, Personal, Patrons and Public’, in that order.

We are represented at Westminster by a political class so out of touch they have no concept of real life. We have Tom Clarke who had his office contact Ed Milliband to source an actual copy of the Vow made by Milliband, Cameron and Clegg, only to be told it was mocked up and didn’t actually exist, and who recently stated he would never have voted for a council tax freeze. Then we have Pamela Nash who vote for a Tory welfare cap knowing just how hard it would hammer her constituents.

So long as we are represented by people who are interested in their party first then the people of Airdrie and Coatbridge will be treated as second class citizens. Time and again it has been proven that loyalty by the electorate is never rewarded. Marginal seats are the ones where resources are poured into, and according to a recent BBC report Essex is where the next election will be won. Airdrie and Coatbridge don’t even figure on the radar and won’t unless we are willing to do something about it. Occasionally you have to give MPs the boot to get them to change their ways. With only seven months until the general election it’s time we put our current MPs under intense scrutiny, and websites such as What Do They Know which record all parliamentary activity are ideal for this. It’s time for all of us to carry out due diligence on Pamela Nash and Tom Clarke and see if they are fit for purpose beyond 2015. Their records speak for themselves. 

Yours Sincerely, 

James Cassidy,

 

The Post Referendum Letters: 25/10/14 (Advertiser)

Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser

Dear Sir,

The article in this weeks Advertiser about MSP’s expenses in this weeks Advertiser was a timely one. As one who regularly criticised our former Labour MSP Karen Whitefield for her expenses claims, I thought it only right to check out Alex Neil’s expenses as a comparison. A common criticism I made of Ms Whitefield was that living less than an hour from Edinburgh she had a habit of making overnight stays in Edinburgh when a taxi home would have been far cheaper. As the people of Airdrie have elected an MSP from outside the constituency it stands to reason that Mr Neil’s claims will be higher, and as anyone can see if they go on to the parliamentary website the majority of Mr Neil’s claims are travel and accommodation based. It’s also worth noting that his claims for a hotel are on average £20 per night less than his Coatbridge counterpart. Living less than an hour from Edinburgh, surely she could get a train or taxi home for far less than £115?

This should also apply to MP’s. During the recent referendum campaign I finally met our local MP, Labour’s Pamela Nash. When I complained about her expenses her reply was that perhaps I should “spend less time online looking at her expenses.” This is a bit rich coming from a woman who voted in Parliament to support the security services being given more powers to snoop on our private emails and retain electronic information about us. Prior to writing this I checked her expenses again, just to get my facts right. It seems our MSP’s claims in Monklands, Labour and SNP alike, pale into insignificance when compared to Ms Nash’s. £1516 a month for the rental of a house in Lambeth, council tax, gas, electricity. That’s over £19,600 a year! Coatbridge’s MP Tom Clarke may be living the high life in a hotel at around £150 a night, but he still manages to come in at around £3600 a year less than Ms Nash. Taxis to Edinburgh airport are another stand out on Ms Nash’s list, with claims made due to there being “no direct public transport available.” Here’s a thought, get the train to Haymarket and catch the airport bus or take the tram, like normal people have to.

What really makes this all the more galling is that as Scottish MP’s they have far less responsibility than MP’s from the rest of the UK. Health, education, sport, transport, housing, agriculture and more are devolved. Scottish MP’s are virtually part time. They should be on half a salary, never mind the full salary, and they certainly don’t need to employ more staff to do work they should be doing themselves. More powers are supposedly going to be devolved, but here’s the problem. The “more powers” we are promised are now tied to limiting Scottish MP’s ability to vote on English only matters, and these powers are now being put at risk by Labour who as usual are putting their party first. The SNP do not vote on matters which have been devolved. Curiously the Blue Tories, one of the main complainants in this matter allow their one MP to vote on English only issues. Anyone outside of Labour would see it as right and proper that if a power has been devolved that Scottish MP’s do not vote on it, yet Labour who are putting forward a weaker “Devo Max” package than even the Tories are willing to scupper these powers simply to retain power in England. It looks as though this very thing may have forced the resignation of Johann Lamont who now complains that her party in Scotland is having to dance to London’s tune.

In this time of greater austerity we should be looking at cutting the costs generated by Parliament, and I think it should be uppermost in all MP’s and MSP’s minds that their allowances should always be thought of as other peoples money, and that when claiming for rail travel, meals and hotels and hiring staff that they should be out to get the best value that they can find for the taxpayer. When they believe that they are entitled as a right to first class travel and 5 start hotels then they have lost the right to represent us. They are not finding a solution, they are simply part of the problem.

Yours Sincerely, 

James Cassidy,

Post Referendum Letters: 25/10/14

To: Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser

Dear Sir,

The article in this weeks Advertiser about MSP’s expenses in this weeks Advertiser was a timely one. As one who regularly criticised our former Labour MSP Karen Whitefield for her expenses claims, I thought it only right to check out Alex Neil’s expenses as a comparison. A common criticism I made of Ms Whitefield was that living less than an hour from Edinburgh she had a habit of making overnight stays in Edinburgh when a taxi home would have been far cheaper. As the people of Airdrie have elected an MSP from outside the constituency it stands to reason that Mr Neil’s claims will be higher, and as anyone can see if they go on to the parliamentary website the majority of Mr Neil’s claims are travel and accommodation based. It’s also worth noting that his claims for a hotel are on average £20 per night less than his Coatbridge counterpart. Living less than an hour from Edinburgh, surely she could get a train or taxi home for far less than £115?

This should also apply to MP’s. During the recent referendum campaign I finally met our local MP, Labour’s Pamela Nash. When I complained about her expenses her reply was that perhaps I should “spend less time online looking at her expenses.” This is a bit rich coming from a woman who voted in Parliament to support the security services being given more powers to snoop on our private emails and retain electronic information about us. Prior to writing this I checked her expenses again, just to get my facts right. It seems our MSP’s claims in Monklands, Labour and SNP alike, pale into insignificance when compared to Ms Nash’s. £1516 a month for the rental of a house in Lambeth, council tax, gas, electricity. That’s over £19,600 a year! Coatbridge’s MP Tom Clarke may be living the high life in a hotel at around £150 a night, but he still manages to come in at around £3600 a year less than Ms Nash. Taxis to Edinburgh airport are another stand out on Ms Nash’s list, with claims made due to there being “no direct public transport available.” Here’s a thought, get the train to Haymarket and catch the airport bus or take the tram, like normal people have to.

What really makes this all the more galling is that as Scottish MP’s they have far less responsibility than MP’s from the rest of the UK. Health, education, sport, transport, housing, agriculture and more are devolved. Scottish MP’s are virtually part time. They should be on half a salary, never mind the full salary, and they certainly don’t need to employ more staff to do work they should be doing themselves. More powers are supposedly going to be devolved, but here’s the problem. The “more powers” we are promised are now tied to limiting Scottish MP’s ability to vote on English only matters, and these powers are now being put at risk by Labour who as usual are putting their party first. The SNP do not vote on matters which have been devolved. Curiously the Blue Tories, one of the main complainants in this matter allow their one MP to vote on English only issues. Anyone outside of Labour would see it as right and proper that if a power has been devolved that Scottish MP’s do not vote on it, yet Labour who are putting forward a weaker “Devo Max” package than even the Tories are willing to scupper these powers simply to retain power in England. It looks as though this very thing may have forced the resignation of Johann Lamont who now complains that her party in Scotland is having to dance to London’s tune.

In this time of greater austerity we should be looking at cutting the costs generated by Parliament, and I think it should be uppermost in all MP’s and MSP’s minds that their allowances should always be thought of as other peoples money, and that when claiming for rail travel, meals and hotels and hiring staff that they should be out to get the best value that they can find for the taxpayer. When they believe that they are entitled as a right to first class travel and 5 start hotels then they have lost the right to represent us. They are not finding a solution, they are simply part of the problem.

Yours Sincerely, 

James Cassidy,