21 Feb 2012

Paisley Daily Express - 21 February 2012

Tesco action needed
The eye sore of the shopping centre at Linwood continues to anger Linwood residents. For years local people have had to put up with a series of excuses from developers while having to live with the decay and blight. Local Councillor Anne Hall, along with myself and Jim Sheridan MP and the Linwood Development Trust, met with Tesco. We all made it clear to Tesco that further delay was unacceptable and we wanted immediate action.
Tesco yet again, said work would start “soon”, although we have heard that before. Now we hear that Tesco has started to clear their site at Wallneuk in Paisley, despite plans for Wallneuk being approved AFTER a commitment was made to Linwood. The local community in Linwood deserves to see something better that the current eye sore. Linwood is a proud community and it deserves better. It’s time for Tesco to get the finger out.

Chinese currency?
Alex Salmond used to say that an independent Scotland would ditch the pound and join the Euro. He said this because he wanted no control from the Bank of England or influence from the UK Government. Now he tells us that he wants to keep the pound, but with no influence over monetary policy or the pound. A strange kind of “independence” surely? Now a senior SNP MSP has said that an independent Scotland could adopt the Chinese yuan as its currency. Now I know that China is an economic power house, but are the SNP so desperate to separate Scotland from the rest of the UK that they would allow the Chinese authorities to control Scottish monetary policy? Why for the SNP, are currency links to China a better option than staying in the UK?
It would appear that senior SNP members seem to be making up policy on the hoof. Unfortunately it’s the rest of us who would pay for their determination to break up the UK.   

Education victory for parents and teachers
Last year the Paisley Daily Express reported on plans by Renfrewshire Council to replace teachers with unqualified staff for up to 10% of the school week.
SNP Councillors and the Director of Education missed no opportunity in promoting this as the way forward for Scottish education. Local parents and teachers saw this as a crude cost cutting measure which would damage the education of Renfrewshire’s children. Their fury was channelled into the most effective community campaign seen in this area for many years. Using Facebook and Twitter, as well as traditional methods of communication, the campaign culminated in a packed rally at Paisley Town Hall with hundreds left standing outside.
Such was the scale of the protest, that local SNP councillors were forced to pull these daft ideas. But Renfrewshire Council and the local SNP did not give up. They submitted proposals to a Scottish wide review of education, called the McCormac Review. They wanted the Renfrewshire model imposed across Scotland so that Renfrewshire would not be left isolated to face the wrath of parents and teachers.
But the Renfrewshire campaign did not go unnoticed. SNP Ministers realised what they could face across Scotland if they attempted to impose this unpopular proposal. I welcome the recent announcement from the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning that he was ruling out the Renfrewshire proposal or any variant of it. This is a real victory for parents and teachers, and a slap in the face for Renfrewshire Council, its Director of Education, and Derek Mackay MSP, who was then the Leader of the Council and the leading advocate for the most destructive proposal to face Scottish education in a generation.
It’s still not too late for an apology from those concerned for causing such fear and anxiety to Renfrewshire’s parents and teachers.

Domestic Violence
When I was a Justice Minister, I was involved in the decision to set up a specialist domestic abuse Court in Glasgow. Far too many woman and children suffer violence and abuse in the home, and any initiative to speed up the justice system is to be welcomed. I am pleased that the Scottish Government is now running a similar one year pilot in Edinburgh.
But women and children need more than specialist Courts, welcome though they are. They often need an immediate refuge and support to help them through the crisis. Women’s Aid across Scotland do a fantastic job in providing accommodation, advice and counselling. It’s depressing to hear that local Women’s Aid are having to cut service because of budget cuts. Vulnerable women and children need the support of Women’s Aid.