25 Jan 2012

Paisley Daily Express - 25 January 2012

Bus Fare Worries

Communities throughout Renfrewshire depend on reliable and affordable bus services. So far Alex Salmond has refused to take effective action to guarantee services. The big bus companies don’t want it and Alex Salmond changed his previous policy and now backs the bus companies. Perhaps he was influenced by the £5000, 000 donation made to the SNP by Brian Souter, owner of one of Scotland’s biggest bus companies? Who knows?

I have held talks recently about two concerns affecting bus services in Renfrewshire. McGill’s buses are to take over Arriva in Renfrewshire. At the moment both companies compete on major routes. A number of constituents have contacted me to express fears that the removal of competition might lead to fare increases. I have asked for assurances that this won’t happen.

The second concern is that Alex Salmond’s SNP Government has decided to cut the Bus Operator’s Grant by 20% from April. The Confederation of Passenger Transport has already warned that fares could rise and services could be cut. This will hurt the people who can least afford it. We’ve already seen fares in Aberdeen rise by 8.5% and Renfrewshire could be next.

That’s why Labour forced a debate on this last week in the Scottish Parliament. Unfortunately we heard the usual blandishments and no promises to help areas like Renfrewshire.

The Scottish Epilepsy Centre

I recently attended a briefing by Quarriers about their plans for a new Scottish Epilepsy Centre, based in Glasgow, but also serving Renfrewshire. The centre would be a welcome boost to the NHS and it would help to complement the work being done by Epilepsy Scotland. Forty thousand people in Scotland have epilepsy. Anyone can have a seizure and in fact one in 20 people do. That doesn’t mean they have epilepsy. I hadn’t realised it, but epilepsy can develop at any age. One of the problems which confronts people with epilepsy is the lack of knowledge and sometimes fear, displayed by those who have to deal with someone having an epileptic fit.

If you want to know more about epilepsy the Epilepsy Scotland can provide factsheets and guides to help. Call their helpline on 0808 800 2200

Woodland Primary School
Often we only hear about the things which go wrong. We sometimes don’t take enough time to celebrate achievement and there is plenty of that across my constituency. I recently read the  inspector’s report on Woodlands Primary School in Linwood. All the indicators were either very good or excellent. It was heartening to read that the children are learning very well and are achieving highly. The report talked of a positive ethos in the school. It also spoke of high-quality level of care and education. Well done to everyone at Woodlands Primary.

Unemployment Crisis
Alex Salmond likes to take credit in the Scottish Parliament when things are going well. He is not so keen to take responsibility when things go wrong. It’s always the fault of someone else. Recent figures showed that Scotland has higher unemployment rate than elsewhere in the UK. Unemployment has hit 8.6 % and youth unemployment has increased by a staggering123.3%. Every day for the past three months, 200 Scots have lost their jobs. The figures hide the real human costs brought about by rising unemployment. Last summer Alex Salmond said “the economic policy of the Scottish Government in delivering and is continuing to create and safeguard jobs across our communities”. Well if 200 people losing their job every day is “delivering”, then God help us all if the Scottish Government stops “delivering”. Perhaps it’s time that Alex Salmond put as much effort into tackling unemployment as he is putting in to separating Scotland from the rest of the UK.
Castle Semple – Centre of Excellence
Well done to Castle Semple Centre for receiving recognition as Scotland’s first Royal Yachting Association (RYA) “Sailability” Centre for Excellence in Scotland. The award acknowledges that the Centre has the equipment and trained staff, to accommodate people with a wide range of disabilities. The Centre has received support from local sailing and windsurfing clubs as well as the Rotary Club of Gryffe Valley. It reminds as of the fantastic facility which we have, right here on our doorstep.

Short Changing Renfrewshire

Yet again Renfrewshire Council has received one of the lowest grant awards from Alex Salmond’s Government. Consistently the Council has been at the bottom end of the table as money is given out to Council’s. This money is what pays for the vital services in education and care, and for filling in potholes. We have an SNP led Council that can shout at the UK Government for wanting to close Coastguard Stations (none of which are in Renfrewshire, obviously). Why then is the Council less keen to shout at the Scottish Government for short changing Renfrewshire.