12 May 2011

Paisley Daily Express - 12 May 2011

Election Outcome
I am pleased to have been elected as the MSP for the new Scottish Parliament seat of Renfrewshire South. The Scottish Parliament elections on May 5th were an outstanding success for the SNP – much as I hate to say it. No one believed it would be possible to obtain an outright majority given our electoral system, yet the SNP managed to achieve it. Locally it has meant that we now have two SNP constituency members for the first time, and I wish Derek MacKay and George Adam well in what is a truly privileged role.
I am sorry to have lost so many good and experienced colleagues and I am sorry that Stuart Clark and Evan Williams did not win, despite their hard work. The SNP ran a well organised campaign that clearly resonated with many people. While Labour’s vote in many areas held up, we were not able to persuade people who were switching their votes. Lessons need to be learned and the time taken to do this properly.
In the meantime I intend to do what I have done for the last 12 years, and that is represent my constituents to the best of my ability.

Presiding Officer
I had been asked by MSP’s of various parties, to put my name forward for the position of Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament. I was unsuccessful in this bid. This post is politically neutral and the Presiding Officer has the task of acting on behalf of all members, as well as chairing sessions in the Parliament.
In the past three sessions, SNP, Tory and Lib Dem members have filled the post with cross party support. This time the SNP with an absolute majority in Parliament decided to deny a Labour member the opportunity to hold the post. Instead SNP members decided to vote for one of their own and voted for Tricia Marwick MSP.
I wish her well on her post, but along with Annabel Goldie from the Conservatives, and Tavish Scott from the Lib Dems, I do worry about the decision of the SNP to take control in a way that has never been done before. I hope that we are not heading towards an elected dictatorship.

Independence Referendum

I know a number of people who voted SNP but who do not believe in Independence. Nevertheless Alex Salmond and the SNP were elected on a clear mandate of having a Referendum on Independence later in the life of this Parliament. It is absurd for politicians in other parties to demand an early Referendum.
Alex Salmond has been rightly criticised in the past for breaking promises he made. Why then should we demand that he immediately breaks the most significant promise he made in the last election, namely that on an Independence Referendum?
We need to accept that the SNP has a clear mandate to govern and we should concentrate on making sure we create jobs and opportunities for Scots of all ages, but particularly the young. Labour will co-operate on issues on which we agree, but it is still our job to hold this new majority Government to account. I hope that Alex Salmond will now deliver the promises he made on jobs and services and not try to blame others for things which go wrong.

Leisure Charges

The campaign by local groups against the excessive charges will continue. Just before the election I held a meeting with a number of local groups. I was horrified to learn that many football clubs are now having to cancel lets for pitches because they cannot afford the new fees. We keep talking about how we need to encourage youngsters to become fit and healthy. How can we do this if we make it too expensive to use our leisure facilities? Do we honestly want to see young people hanging about street corners and causing bother, rather than participating in sport?
And it’s not just football. Dance groups are facing problems, senior citizen clubs and many more. The Council needs to think again. I hope the SNP will use its majority in the Scottish Parliament and the Council to make sure the public can afford to use publicly owned leisure facilities.