15 Mar 2011

Paisley Daily Express - 15 March 2011

Election Changes

This is my last article as MSP for Paisley South. Because of boundary changes, I will be a candidate for the new seat of Renfrewshire South which covers Johnstone and Elderslie, Barrhead and Neilston, along with Linwood, Craigends, Kilbarchan Howwood and Lochwinnoch. It has been a privilege to have been the MSP for the majority of the town of Paisley since 1999. During that time I have made many friends and I have been supported by many fine people at all levels. The forthcoming elections are important for the whole of Renfrewshire and East Renfrewshire. The Liberal Democrats have sold their soul and are the cheer leaders for Tory attacks on ordinary people and ordinary families. Alex Salmond has reneged on promises on class sizes and dumping student debt. He has been supported by the Tories every step of the way. Locally the SNP and Liberal Democrats have made a mess of Council services. They have rewarded the top Directors with huge pay rises, while cutting terms and conditions of the lower paid. They tried to replace teachers with unqualified staff, but only the opposition of parents and teachers stopped them. The next few years are going to be difficult no matter who is elected. I hope that I will be able to continue as an MSP representing the new Renfrewshire South seat. Whatever happens there is still a need for a campaigning local paper like the Paisley Daily Express to keep politicians on their toes.

Alcohol Failure

Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond have said they will try to introduce minimum pricing of alcohol, a policy rejected by all the main opposition parties. Why has Nicola Sturgeon failed to use the powers given to her to ban discounting for alcohol? According the Scottish Government’s own study, a ban on discounting would have as much impact on problem drinking as minimum unit pricing. The legislation was passed months ago but Nicola Sturgeon has failed to act. It looks like she is more interested in political posturing rather than taking effective action.

Fuel Prices

Recent world events have pushed up the price of petrol and diesel. The Tories and the Liberal Democrats have added to the problem by hiking up VAT. This has increased prices by at least 3p per litre. Labour is calling on the Chancellor to cut the VAT rise and to look again at the fuel duty rise due in April. Ordinary families are struggling to cope with job losses, pay freezes and increases in the cost of living. It’s the right time to give people a break and I will be campaigning on this over the next few weeks.

Anti Social Behaviour

In my previous article, I pointed out that the SNP were more intent on tackling badly behaved dogs rather than badly behaved humans. I’m pleased that the Scottish Labour Leader, Iain Gray, has promised a crackdown on anti social behaviour across Scotland. I’ve had numerous complaints from constituents whose lives are being ruined by anti social behaviour. Among the new proposals are two which are badly needed in Renfrewshire. The first is a crackdown on problem neighbours. Labour wants to give Councils and Housing Associations the power to impose behaviour contracts to stop nuisance neighbours. Over the last few days I had more complaints about this from Paisley and Johnstone and I know other areas are affected. The second is a promise of new laws to force private landlords to act against anti social residents. We are seeing more and more private lets in our communities. Most landlords are responsible. The irresponsible minority allow their tenants to cause havoc, and they hide behind the rules and regulations. I want them to act on complaints about nuisance tenants not wait on formal notices. Why should the lives of decent people be ruined by a thoughtless minority?

Home Safety

I recently visited the Home Safety Scotland (HSS) display in the Scottish Parliament. Unintentional injury has a significant financial impact on the economy. It also has a human cost with the misery and grief that come from injuries in the home. In 2007/08, there were 224 deaths in Scotland and 16, 308 hospital admissions. From what I can gather, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Taking preventable measures can save lives and reduce horrific accidents. House builders can play their part by looking at design and construction. Everyone can do their bit by thinking carefully and acting responsibly. It really does make sense.