21 Mar 2012

Paisley Daily Express - 26 March 2012

Last week I received news of another blow to Paisley Town Centre. The WRVS Information Centre and Community Café is to close from 30 June 2012 because of the increasing financial deficit. I know the centre well and I have held a number of surgeries there. It is a welcoming environment and is a real asset to the town centre. I know how hard WRVS and the dedicated staff have worked to make the centre a success. WRVS invested a lot of money and it’s a real shame that there was not sufficient support to help keep the centre open.
This is the latest blow, coming hard on the heads of the decision by the Paisley Daily Express to move its offices to Glasgow. Despite the promises of the last few years from the Council, Paisley now has one of the worst records in Scotland for empty shops. It’s not just the people of Paisley who suffer as a result. All the neighbouring communities which I represent need a vibrant and healthy Paisley.

RAH blanket problem
My colleague Jackie Baillie MSP is Labour’s Health spokesperson in the Scottish Parliament. She also represents Dumbarton and the Vale of Leven. So when she was contacted by constituents with complaints about the lack of blankets at the RAH, she had every reason to act. Unfortunately some members of the SNP tried to make this a Party political issue and weighed in to defend the Health Board instead of standing up for their constituents. Indeed local MSP George Adam said that my colleague Jackie Baillie should apologise for making “false statements”.
Well the readers of Paisley Daily Express know who was making “false statements”, and it certainly wasn’t Jackie Baillie. Readers have spoken out about their experiences and they all back Jackie Baillie. Indeed this is just the tip of the iceberg. And it’s not just a problem about blankets. Neil Bibby, the Paisley based MSP, quizzed Alex Salmond about the experience of Maureen Leckie from Glenburn. Because no clean towels were available, Maureen had to dry herself with pillowcases.
Johann Lamont, the Scottish Labour Leader was asked by George Adam to apologise for what Jackie Baillie had said. Jackie Baillie has nothing to apologise for. She was doing her job speaking up for patients at the RAH.
And above all, my thanks to the readers of the Paisley Daily Express who did us all a favour by speaking out.

SNP Tax Cover Up
Alex Salmond spent £103,000 of your money trying to keep secret his local income tax plans. Just before last year’s elections, Labour said that Alex Salmond’s tax plans would raise taxes by 4.5p in the pound to try to fill an £800 million blackhole. Alex Salmond refused to publish the details despite being ordered to by the Information Commissioner. Indeed he went to court to delay publication until after the elections. Documents now released, show that Alex Salmond and his Ministers decided just before the election to go to Court to prevent the information from being published. I am told that civil servants told Alex Salmond and his Ministers that their appeal was unlikely to succeed but still they pressed ahead squandering your money.
Finally, with the election over, our First Minister decided it didn’t matter if the damaging information was published. But even at that stage, one document shows that Alex Salmond interfered to rewrite the press release in a way that suited him. It’s bad enough when the SNP use the courts to hide their tax plans. What’s worse is when they use our money to do so.

Tesco won’t meet
Councillor Anne Hall from Linwood has been working with myself and Jim Sheridan MP, to try to force Tesco to start work on the Linwood Town Centre. We asked Tesco for a meeting with ourselves and Renfrewshire Council to try to resolve issues of ownership and responsibility. We also wanted guarantees about when the work would start. Tesco decided that they couldn’t meet with us and the Council. Now we find out that in fact they did meet with the Council and community members from the Linwood Community Development Trust (CDT). I have a high regard for the CDT, but why did Tesco refuse a meeting with elected representatives? Yet more excuses and more delays. It’s not good enough.

Consultants’ Benefits
Nicola Sturgeon has gone back on her word to tackle excessive bonuses paid to top NHS consultants. In 2010 she said she would freeze the value of all awards, and block bonuses for new entrants. Now we find the system has remained almost untouched. Distinction awards can give a consultant an annual top up of between £31,959 and £75,880. Remember, this is over and above their annual salary. Front line nursing jobs are being cut yet Nicola Sturgeon can still find money for those at the top. Yet another promise made to get elected, and quickly broken afterwards.