2 Nov 2011

Paisley Daily Express - 2 November 2011

Stop Knives, Better Lives
All too often we hear of the consequences of knife crime in Renfrewshire and across Scotland. We know the tragedy and grief which knife crime causes.  Carrying a knife is not a badge of honour - and it’s not a way to protect yourself. For too many people, the idiotic mistake of carrying or using a knife because you think it makes you hard or invincible has a huge impact on those attacked and on the families affected. It can blight local communities.
The Paisley Daily Express has been at the forefront of the local campaign to warn young people about the consequences of carrying a knife.
I was also delighted to see the initiative from the Johnstone Burgh FC. Their under 14 strip features the paisley Daily Express. “Stop Knives, Save Lives” logo. Craig Donohue, the club manager, and all those involved in the team, are to be congratulated for convincing the football authorities that the message should be displayed on the jersey.
I welcome the recent news that the Scottish Government’s anti knife campaigning is having an impact. Here in Renfrewshire there has been a reported drop of 29% knife crime over the last year. I hope that similar results will be produced as the scheme is rolled out across Scotland.
Nevertheless there is no doubt that we need to take tough action to tackle knife crime and the Government needs to remain vigilant. But we can all do our bit to highlight this problem. The commitment of local papers, like the Paisley Daily Express is invaluable. Hopefully, together, we can see a lasting improvement. 

Postcode Health
Recently published figures show that on average,  life expectancy in Scotland continues to be the lowest in the country. It’s a damning indictment that seven of the ten areas with lowest life expectancy in the UK are in Scotland. But even within Scotland there are huge variations.
Men and women living in Glasgow City continue to have the lowest life expectancy in the whole of the UK.   There are parts of my own constituency where life expectancy is lower than the national average.
How long you live should not be determined by the postcode you are born into  or live in. It’s scandalous that health inequality remains so stubbornly linked to income levels, poverty and deprivation.
Poverty traps too many too early. It remains too persistent to be tolerated in a country that aspires to be “healthier and fairer”. These figures should serve as a wake-up call to all politicians to redouble efforts to tackle poverty and healthcare. We are seeing a steady drift of public money to the better off areas of Scotland, just at a time when communities in Renfrewshire are facing cuts.   
The SNP must move on from the constant bickering about the constitution and start delivering on what Scotland really needs, now.  That means stimulating growth and creating jobs to tackle Scotland’s rising unemployment. It also means investing in our young people and ensuring a Living Wage for all.
But above all we need concerted action at an early age to stop more generations of Scots being born into health inequality and lower life expectancy.

Apology to Parliament
Alex Salmond has apologised to the Scottish Parliament for misleading  MSP’s. He said it was the fault of his most senior adviser who made up a false statement purporting to come from a renowned academic. But it’s not good enough just to offer a glib apology. We need to know why Alex Salmond’s senior advisor thought it was acceptable to make up such a statement. I have written to Scotland’s most senior civil servant to urge a full investigation of the facts. The issue related to Alex Salmon’s pursuit of an independence referendum. The people of Scotland need honesty and the full facts before any decision is made to break up the United Kingdom

The Big Lottery
The Big Lottery continues to deliver for Renfrewshire. It’s good to see local organisations receiving help, particularly when Council funding is being squeezed. Congratulations to Johnstone Senior Forum, Walking Tour, Wheels, 2nd Johnstone Boys Brigade, Scottish Wheelchair Dance Association and Linwood High School Parent Council.
If your organisation needs financial help, it might be worth making an application. For further information about the Big Lottery contact  the enquiries team  on 0141 242 1400 or go to www.biglotteryfund.org.uk (link also on this blog under ::community:: tab)