Tag Archives: North Lanarkshire

Put The Sweet Sherry Down and Step Away From The Keyboard…

Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser, 240517

I was taken aback at the Advertiser editorial this week; it was, on so many levels, weapons grade nonsense. In recent years we’ve become more used to minority governments, coalitions and the like; indeed Scotland’s electoral systems are designed to create consensual governments which reflect the broad picture. So to see the Advertiser paint Labour taking control of North Lanarkshire Council as somehow akin to North Korean politics was utterly jaw dropping; indeed it read more like a drunken late night Facebook rant than an actual newspaper editorial which left me wondering how it actually made it in to print.
Some actual analysis wouldn’t go amiss here, and as The Advertiser has singularly failed to do so, let me help. Labour and the SNP were within one seat of each other, with the SNP having the slimmest of margins over their rival, but far short of a majority. To have a workable authority the SNP would have to rely on support from somewhere, and for that they would have to make concessions. SNP group leader David Stocks said that he had written to Jim Logue offering an SNP/Labour coalition. I’m sure that I’m sure if they had been willing to come and go on the names being put forward then that may have been an acceptable compromise. That offer was not accepted and we are left to draw the conclusion that the SNP’s proposals were so poorly thought out that Jim Logue was left either with the option of taking a gamble that the Tories would back Labour to block the SNP out of hand, or with entering a formal coalition with the Tories. Given that there is absolutely no evidence of the latter, except in the fevered mind of Alex Neil, we have to conclude that Labour didn’t form any such coalition. Pointing to the Tories being given the Audit convenorship as proof doesn’t stack up either. The previous Convenor was David Stocks of the SNP, and this was because the post goes to someone from outside the ruling body and as the SNP refused to take any of the posts offered by Labour they had to be filled by Tories! So Megan Gallacher left the council chambers £30K a year better off thanks to the SNP’s petulance and David Stocks left £30K worse off. Is it any wonder he’s bitterly complaining?

Councillor Stocks was quoted as saying “We won the election but people ask why we are not in power.” That’s a very good question and I’m glad he asked it, however I don’t think he’ll like the answer. The SNP were expected to romp the election, but didn’t. The Labour vote collapsed, but not primarily to the SNP. Hard core British Nationalists were seduced by Ruth Davidson’s rhetoric, abandoned any working class principles and sold out to a party ready to stick the knife into pensioners, the poor and the disabled at the earliest opportunity; never mind the policies, smell the flag. They then used their second and third votes to vote for Labour to block the SNP; quite simply Tory voting strategy was well briefed out to their supporters. But these voters were never going to vote SNP in any case, so what about those who were among those who could be persuaded?

Independent Councillor Alan Beveridge hit the nail on the head when he said that the SNP were fighting like rats in a sack, and it is this reason and this reason alone that the SNP did not gain the convincing win they should have done. Councillor Stocks apparently didn’t campaign at all during the election and actually came second to his novice running mate Nancy Pettigrew who preceded him alphabetically on the ballot paper. That shows a clear lack of voter management strategy. Airdrie South was no better where the Team Coyle leaflet campaign undermined actual SNP candidate Paul Di Mascio. Airdrie North was struck by a social media debacle and Coatbridge was racked by internal disputes too. The only part of North Lanarkshire to deploy an effective voter management strategy was in Cumbernauld, where the SNP swept the boards, and it raises the question: why aren’t they in charge of the group? They know what they are doing, are cohesive and work well as a team, everything North Lanarkshire SNP isn’t under David Stocks.
The SNP now have five years to get their party in shape to win convincingly in North Lanarkshire. It will require them to honestly appraise themselves and they must be prepared to clear out the dead wood and hangers-on who cost them victory. The current plan seems however to be not to carry out that self critical analysis but to fashion a narrative of a secret Tory/Labour coalition and to shout it for the next five years. As a plan of action it is unsustainable and is reveals a complete lack of self belief and vision. If I were an SNP member I would be asking these critical questions at every opportunity, as clearly the elected representatives will not. If they don’t, they’ll be asking in five years time, and that’s five years too late.

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The Elephant In The Corner (Of North Lanarkshire)

Letter from Councillor Tom Johnston; The Herald, 20/05/17

Letter to The Herald, 22/05/17

Dear Sir,

In his letter in Saturdays Herald, Councillor Tom Johnston, Depute SNP Leader alluded that some kind of back room deal had been done between Labour and the Conservatives to block an SNP administration from taking control in North Lanarkshire. His proof was the voting pattern displayed, whereby the SNP were on the losing side of every vote by a margin of 41 to 33. It’s hardly surprising that the Tories would vote against the SNP, considering that across Scotland they are campaigning on a single policy: Stop the SNP. This is not proof of a deal.

The SNP point to the convenorship of the Audit Committee and it’s £29,000 salary going to the Tories, yet Labour Group Leader Jim Logue twice said during the meeting that he had not only offered the post to SNP group leader David Stocks, who refused to take the position he had held until the elections, but that he was disappointed that he wouldn’t reconsider his decision. It seems to me that the SNP had realised before the meeting that the game was up and that with victory clearly out of their reach they would go down a petulant road of not co-operating, refusing to take places on committees and refusing to even pose for a group photograph, all so they could fashion a narrative of a Tory and Labour stitch-up.
Councillor Johnston noted that there was one independent Councillor who voted against the SNP, Councillor Alan Beveridge. In 2015 Councillor Beveridge resigned from the SNP citing a “climate of fear, bullying and intimidation”. Perhaps if Councillor Johnston’s group had dealt with the issue back in 2015 it would not have snowballed into the Monklands McMafia fiasco, they would have retained the huge number of members who joined in 2014 and would have gone on to hammer a final nail into North Lanarkshire Labour. Instead they gained a pyrrhic victory, gifted the Audit Convenors job to the Tories and have in all likelihood blown their last chance to take control in North Lanarkshire. With such a level of ineptitude it appears the voters of North Lanarkshire may well have dodged a bullet.

Yours,

James Cassidy

The Council, The Budget and The Black, Black Hole…

Letter to The Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser, 22/11/15 (Edited at Editorial Request)

Dear Sir,

Last week I received North Lanarkshire Council’s “Our Budget Challenge” booklet; a mixture of misdirection and spin and it’s a wonder it can be passed off as a council publication, as it reads like a Labour Party one. It attempts to show that NLC’s budget is being cut and tries to lay the blame fairly and squarely at the door of the SNP government, while all but ignoring Westminsters role. It is illustrated with a graph showing funding being cut by £2.5 billion, hoping that people won’t notice that this refers to Scotland as a whole, not NLC, and this doesn’t reflect that in the same time period the Scottish Government has taken over funding of police and fire services, so local authorities no longer have to fund these from their budgets, and available funding has remained broadly the same. In September 2015 the Daily Record reported that impartial researchers stated the Scottish Government actually OVERFUNDED the council tax freeze and had put in £165 million to compensate local authorities. The booklet asks us to go online and indicate which budget cuts we support. Removing four posts from the Chief Executives office would save £170,000. Which posts? It doesn’t say. Approving a ‘review’ of community learning and development services saves over £3 million and sees 85 souls hit the dole. The list goes on and on but cynical NLC have thought of a way to help spread the blame; they are asking YOU to make these decisions. When the cuts start to bite they can turn round and claim that ‘the public endorsed these cuts’. The answer then is NOT to endorse the cuts. Go online and vote no to every last one and make these councillors take responsibility for what they are about to do. The most important point of all this debate goes almost unnoticed: these £45 million of cuts follow hard on the heels of North Lanarkshire Council losing a £70 million court battle over equal pay. Surely this explains the black hole in the budget? In any other walk of life the people responsible would be sacked, in Iceland they would be sent to jail; in North Lanarkshire they retire with huge pensions. The final and most cynical of all the questions on NLC’s budget challenge is a simple and innocuously worded one that asks if you would be willing to pay more council tax to help protect public services. Who wouldn’t? But the question doesn’t say how much extra they want you to pay, or which services would be protected. This is part of a co-ordinated effort against the council tax freeze by a bitter Labour opposition. This week a group of NLC Labour councillors are to protest outside Holyrood calling on them to end the council tax freeze, a move that would be completely unnecessary if they themselves had not lost £70 million! It’s the people of North Lanarkshire who should be protesting about NLC’s scandalous management and demanding that those incompetents be sacked instead.

Yours,

Jim Cassidy

 

 

Complicity

Complicity: the fact or condition of being involved with others in an activity that is unlawful or morally wrong.

If someone becomes aware of unsavoury activities within an organisation which they have responsibility for and does nothing to prevent those activities, are they as complicit as those actually carrying out those actions?

I’ve had no response from the SNP since my letter to Patrick Grady, where he replied to my Open Letter To Nicola Sturgeon. His acknowledgement of my concerns may be written off by some, but it is an acknowledgement nevertheless. They are aware.

If they were aware of the concerns of current and ex SNP members in North Lanarkshire and did nothing then they may as well have participated in the culture of bullying and intimidation themselves.

On Monday 14th September 2015 Nicola Sturgeon and her Cabinet will be in Coatbridge for a meeting with members of the public to discuss current and local issues. I have every expectation that the venue will be packed out with the happy clappers and true believers, who will see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil of the SNP, and will loudly shout down anyone who tries to go off message. I was unable to obtain a ticket, but I hope that someone will be there to ask those difficult questions which need answering: what are you going to do about the SNP in North Lanarkshire?

http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/ministers-touring-scotland-coatbridge-tickets-18308455082

I’m hearing rumours that the Coatbridge SNP group is massively split with the Convenor and Treasurer retaining their posts on a technicality after losing a vote of no confidence, and the press being slipped potentially information about members, apparently not by Labour, but from within the SNP itself:

http://www.heraldscotland.com/politics/referendumnews/13620777.SNP_members_demand_inquiry_into_MSP_Richard_Lyle/#comments

http://aidankerr.com/2015/01/07/the-plot-thickens-first-swords-drawn-in-scottish-ge2015/

 

Sunday Herald. 9th August 2015

Sunday Herald. 9th August 2015

Turning a blind eye is no longer an option for the high-heidyins in Edinburgh. Acknowledgement of complaints is an admittance of an awareness  of the situation. The question now is, how long shall they keep up the pretence that everything is fine and dandy. I’m hoping for Monday at the latest. To come to the heart of darkness and say nothing would be just another act of complicity: to allow anyone who tries to raise concens to be shouted down is even more so.

 

The Electoral Commission Report into the Referendum Vote (The National, 18/12/14)

Published in ‘The National’

Dear Sir,

I was surprised to read in the article on Wednesday’s National that the referendum was a ‘model for future campaigns’ and that 94% of voters and 98% of postal voters were happy with the process. It was however no surprise to see those figures came from a report commissioned by the Electoral Commission themselves, and I’d be interested to know just what group was polled as it doesn’t quite ring true. At present there is an ongoing criminal investigation into postal voting irregularities. I raised the issue of electoral fraud with the Scottish Government prior to the referendum who at the time were confident in the process. As a polling agent on the day and as a counting agent I was lucky enough to see first hand the count take place in North Lanarkshire. This has given me some insight into the process, certainly enough to discount some of the more ‘tinfoil hat’ variety of claims which were prominent on social media immediately after the referendum. But that is not to say there are no problems. I have submitted letters to Alex Neil MSP asking that the Scottish Government hold an inquiry into voting practices, and I have submitted freedom of information requests to the Electoral Commission at both local and national level. As yet the Scottish Government has no plans to hold any inquiry, but I am pleased to see that the Electoral Commission is looking at introducing the requirement for secondary identification for voters to prevent personification. This is for me too little, too late though. Transportation of uncounted ballot papers, allowing polling agents to also be counting agents, and the many cases of people turning up to vote in person who were told they had already voted by post, all of these point to a system riddled with scope for error and manipulation. Similarly the Commission’s reply to me regarding postal voting, stating that ease of voting was a higher priority than the integrity of the system, is one the Scottish Government should be challenging.

Whether for a local government election, Holyrood, Westminster or a referendum, our electoral system should be transparent, fair and secure. At present, despite the Electoral Commission’s self satisfaction, it clearly is not.

Yours Sincerely,

James Cassidy

 

 

Post Referendum Letters: 22/12/14

Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser

Dear Sir,

Last week I wrote to the Advertiser trying to raise awareness of the issue of fracking, and I pointed out that sitting Labour MP Pamela Nash had failed to vote against the Infrastructure Bill which gave companies the right to frack under other peoples land without their permission. Ms Nash used her own Advertiser column to defend herself, claiming she had voted against it. In the real world Ms Nash voted not to allow the final part of the bill to be read, and her vote failed. The motion was then read and voted on, whereby she and every one of her Labour colleagues failed to register a vote of any kind. That is a matter of public record. Voting against a bit of a bill is not the same as voting against all of it.

Following publication of my letter I started a public petition put in place a ban on fracking within 2km of any inhabited dwelling . In addition to taking to the streets for public support I also emailed every councillor in North Lanarkshire to support my petition and to ask them to actively oppose any fracking application in the Airdrie and Coatbridge area. A few days later I learned that on 18th December there were two motions going before North Lanarkshire Council calling for a moratorium on fracking in North Lanarkshire.

Rather than commit to a ban on fracking in North Lanarkshire, the Labour Party united against the Greens, SNP and independent councillors, and instead voted to call on the Scottish Parliament to ban fracking instead. They voted for something they have no power over. North Lanarkshire Council had the chance to protect the people in this area and send out a message to other local authorities and to the Scottish Government. Instead it played politics and passed the hot potato back up to Holyrood. Jim Murphy, the new branch leader in Scotland has repeatedly called for more power to be devolved down to the councils, yet North Lanarkshire Labour are trying to devolve it back up. What do we pay them for exactly?

After the vote I was contacted by Labour Councillor Barry McCulloch in a reply to the email I had sent to all councillors. He wrote that “NLC decided on a moratorium on unconventional gas extraction at its meeting yesterday and called on the Scottish Government to do likewise. I made a contribution to the debate and made my opposition to fracking clear to the meeting.” This is an amazing email to have sent out, as it is patently untrue. NLC did NOT implement a moratorium on fracking yet I have a NLC councillor stating otherwise. As yet he has not replied to my email requesting clarification of this. There seems to be a culture embedded in the Labour Party that on contentious subjects you can make statements completely at odds with the record.

I also wrote to our elected representatives in Airdrie, Alex Neil MSP and Pamela Nash MP asking for their support in the petition. Alex Neil of the SNP replied that as Planning Minister he is not allowed to sign any petitions of this nature. As yet I have received no reply from Labour’s Pamela Nash. There are times when political differences must be put aside for the common good. The Labour Party’s unwillingness to support the SNP on any matter is putting our health and safety at risk here and now. It is time they picked up the teddy bear they threw in the corner when they lost Holyrood, grew up and started acting like the mature politicians they claim to be. 

Yours Sincerely, 

James Cassidy