11 Jan 2012

Paisley Daily Express - 11 January 2012

Independence Referendum

The Scottish Parliament last week returned after the Festive break to an immediate argument about am independence referendum. We know the SNP wants to separate Scotland from the rest of the United Kingdom. It’s also clear that Alex Salmond won an overwhelming victory in last year’s elections. Although many people who voted SNP don’t support separation, they knew they were voting for a Party which promised a referendum on independence. The issue is when should a referendum be held and what should the question be?

Alex Salmond says he has a mandate to hold a referendum in the later stages of this Parliament. But why delay if he is so confident? And also why talk about nothing else for the first 6 months of Government? And what exactly will be asked? Voters deserve to know that the question will be clear and unambiguous. And we also need guarantees that whatever happens, the process will be legal and definitive. If people are to be asked about Scotland leaving the UK, we need to know the exact terms, the costs, and the implications. We can’t take such a significant decision without knowing the facts.

At a time when youth unemployment is going through the roof, and family budgets are being squeezed, we need to focus on what concerns ordinary Scots. Surely it’s time for Alex Salmond to spell out the details and let us decide? It’s time to stop the dithering and uncertainty.
Weather Chaos

The Paisley Daily Express has reported on the damage caused by severe weather, right across Renfrewshire. A year ago we were having to cope with the consequences of snow and ice. This year it was hurricane force winds and rain. The response from power company engineers, and emergency and caring service staff has been fantastic. While most of us were grumbling about the weather, they made sure services were restored and maintained and help given to those who needed it.

Fair pay for teachers

Despite their promises, Alex Salmond and the SNP have cut teacher numbers by around 3, 000. On top of this they forced through a pay agreement to cut the wages of supply teachers who are brought in to cover for sickness and other absences. A supply teacher can earn less than half of a full time teacher they are working beside. As a result, teachers are turning down supply teaching and this is causing problems in Scotland’s schools. At the same time the SNP wants to train more new teachers despite failing to offer jobs to those who have been trained.

There is real anger among teachers about cuts and the slashing of pay to supply teachers is just rubbing salt in the wound. It’s time to play fair by our teachers and pay supply teachers the proper rate for the job.

Smoking cessation

Smokers will tell you just how difficult it is to stop smoking. The chemicals in cigarettes are highly addictive. Apart from the health dangers caused by smoking, the costs are huge and could be better spent. For those who are determined to kick the habit, help is at hand. Weekday and evening sessions are available to help those who want to stop smoking. If you want advice and help to stop smoking call 01505 821316. As well as this, community pharmacies across Renfrewshire are offering one to one support for smokers who want to stop. I know from talking to ex smokers who have given up the habit, that this is a decision they have never regretted. 
Child Poverty

Alex Salmond is so obsessed with the breakup of the United Kingdom and his pursuit for independence that he has taken his eye off the ball with the real issues that matter to Scotland. The new figures from the Campaign to End Child Poverty shows that nearly half of Scottish local authorities now have wards where over 30% of children live in poverty. Here in Renfrewshire it is at 19%. It is a stark reminder of the scale of the challenge we face as a country in tackling child poverty. It should be an urgent wake-up call for the SNP government, that has let child poverty increase on its watch, to redouble its efforts. It is nothing short of a disgrace that one in five children in Renfrewshire has to live in poverty.