10 Sep 2012

Paisley Daily Express - 10 September 2012

Charity Chief’s World Trip

Martin Sime is the Chief Executive of the Scottish Council for voluntary organisations. He has also been a vocal champion of an additional referendum question on more powers for the Scottish Parliament. Some people regard him as playing a useful role for Alex Salmond in the debate on the constitution. He is apparently a voice for “Civic Scotland” and we must listen to him. Willie Rennie the Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats has called for Mr Simes’s resignation because of concerns that his comments were not reflecting the whole of the voluntary sector. We now find out that the SNP Government gave SCVO £10,000 to allow Mr Sime to take a six month sabbatical and world tour. He visited India, Australia, Canada the US and Africa. The SNP Government also gave SCVO £37,873 to “facilitate voluntary sector engagement” in the so called national Conversation about independence.
Many people have wondered why Martin Sime has been so determined to push a political line that seemed to help Alex Salmond. Now we find that he has been a personal beneficiary of the SNP Government using your money for an around the world trip. Is this a priority for Alex Salmond and the SNP, or is it just a misuse of your money to try to ensure political support?

Legislative Programme

Last week the Scottish Parliament met for the first time after the summer break. The main business was the Scottish Government’s legislative programme. Frankly it was a missed opportunity to put jobs and economic growth at the heart of the political debate. Instead, as SNP speaker after SNP speaker spelled out, the constitution is the most important thing to them. The Referendum Bill takes precedence over everything else. This is at a time when the “Save the Children” charity is talking about launching initiatives in Scotland to help children living in poverty. Strange priorities.

Blue Badge clampdown

There is no doubt that some people have been abusing the blue badge scheme which gives disabled people access to priority parking. The problem is that action by the Scottish Government is actually stopping people with genuine need from receiving blue badges. The British Lung Foundation is concerned that people with so called “invisible” disabilities such as acute breathlessness and other respiratory conditions are missing out. The access to parking allowed by the blue badge scheme helps disabled people access jobs, shops and other services. I support action to tackle abuse, but it’s worrying that people with lung disease are being refused disabled parking permits because of what the British Lung Foundation describes as “poorly trained council staff ruling they were not disabled”. The Scottish Government and Councils need to work together to iron out problems.

Linstone Housing Association

Local Housing Associations make a huge contribution to local communities. It’s a shame that they are being denied the funding to help them build the new homes which we need locally. Here in Renfrewshire we have a number of excellent Housing Associations including Linstone which recently rebranded itself. Linstone has been in existence for almost 15 years and it wanted to launch a new phase of its activities. Next year it plans to move into a new purpose built office. When all is said and done it’s not offices or branding which makes the difference. It’s the commitment of staff and the dedicated volunteers like Nanette Reid from Johnstone, who serve on the Board. I wish Linstone well in its efforts to serve our local community.

Local Papers matter

The launch of the new look Paisley Daily Express has generated a huge amount of interest with a significant increase in sales. The newspaper industry is going through tough and challenging times. It would be a shame if in the switch to digital information, we lost our local papers. Across Scotland local papers make a real difference, filling a gap which national papers ignore. I know from talking to local people that they rely on the Paisley Daily Express to find out what’s happening across Renfrewshire. And local papers can make a difference. When SNP Government Ministers and MSP’s were saying there was no problem with blankets at the RAH, it was only when the Paisley Daily Express splashed the real story, that the Scottish Government started to sit up and take notice. The staff at the Paisley Daily Express have done a great job in creating an exciting new look. Good luck for the future.