30 Jul 2012

Paisley Daily Express - 30 July 2012

Minimum Pricing of Alcohol

Last week the Scotch Whisky Association announced that it is challenging the SNP’s policy on alcohol minimum pricing. I have previously said that I agree action needs to be taken to tackle Scotland’s alcohol problem. I just don’t think SNP Ministers have got the legislation right. Now the Scotch Whisky Association has lodged a formal complaint with the European Commission in Brussels. It has also filed a Petition for Judicial Review of the legislation with the Court of Session in Edinburgh. Their argument is that the SNP measures contravene EU trading rules and also overstep the competence of the Scottish Parliament.

SNP Ministers will only have themselves to blame if this action is successful. They have been repeatedly warned but chose to ignore the warnings. Their actions, if they are allowed to go ahead, will hit sensible drinkers in the pocket and have little impact on problem drinkers. SNP plans will also provide a cash windfall for large supermarkets but put no money into health or policing. It’s a shame that SNP Ministers would not co-operate on sensible measures which might actually have impact.

Con Dem Recession

The Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition has been consistently warned that its actions would harm the UK economy. Despite these warnings, the UK Government has persisted with austerity policies which have failed to deliver growth. Wages and living standards are being slashed. Now we hear that we are in the longest recession for 50 years, in fact the worst recession since the Second World War. It’s time that David Cameron and Nick Clegg took action to stimulate growth. If they refuse they will condemn millions to long term unemployment and they will impoverish ordinary families across the country. It’s time this Government of millionaires started to look after the little people and not just the rich.

Scottish Government Salaries

Times are tough for most people, but not apparently for those appointed to senior posts by Alex Salmond and his Ministers. They have just advertised for a new Police Chief for Scotland at a salary of £208,000 per year plus perks. And Alex Salmond has decided that in his desire to be a global statesman, he needs a new Director for External Affairs at a salary of £162,500 per year. While services are being cut to the bone, it would seem that there is still enough cash for some people.

Big Lottery Fund

The Big Lottery Fund continues to be a major supporter of local initiatives across Renfrewshire. Recent awards include funding to Johnstone High school for netball and basketball clubs. Howwood Primary school also received money for playground improvements to encourage physical activity among pupils. And Clippens school in Linwood has received an award to fund sailing and kayaking instruction for young people with additional support needs. These are just a few examples of how the Big Lottery Fund is making a real difference to the local area. Well done to all the successful applicants.

ASDA Barrhead

East Renfrewshire Council has been working hard to improve Barrhead Town Centre. The new Health Centre is a visible and imaginative demonstration of those efforts. A key part of the Council’s strategy is a proposal for a new store for the Town Centre. Despite the downturn in the economy, the Council has been successful in reaching an agreement with ASDA to develop a new store in the Town Centre. ASDA hopes to invest £20 million in the new store, creating up to 200 local jobs. Local people can see for themselves what’s on offer at www.asdabarrhead.co.uk. Last Saturday ASDA organised a community engagement event at the Sports Centre. If you missed this, another one is organised for Saturday 25th August between 11am and 4pm again in the Sports Centre.

Fair Play for Renfrewshire

I notice that the Scottish Cabinet will be holding a meeting in Renfrew during August. I hope that the Cabinet will discuss the funding it gives to Renfrewshire Council. Consistently the SNP has put Renfrewshire down at the bottom of the funding awards to local Councils. This is despite local MSP Derek Mackay being a Government Minister and Convenor of the SNP in Scotland. It’s time that our local SNP members in the Scottish Parliament started to demand a better deal for Renfrewshire.