8 Oct 2012

Paisley Dailey Express - 8 October 2012

Let’s tackle these legal loan sharks

Families in Renfrewshire struggling to make ends meet are so desperate for money to buy food, pay bills or heat their homes they are turning to payday lenders.

I would describe companies like Wonga.com – who made record-breaking profits of £46m by cashing in on hard up families who agree to take a short-term loan with average interest rates of 4,200 per cent – as legal loan sharks.

Ordinary people sign up because they think have nowhere else to turn and agree to pay these obscene charges, which get them even further into debt and trapped in financial misery.

But they do have somewhere else to turn – right here on their doorstep. We have excellent Credit Unions all over Renfrewshire and East Renfrewshire and I would urge anyone who has hit hard times to make the credit union their first port of call.

They offer a safe way to save money with affordable rates of interest

Both the Scottish and UK governments and local councils should be doing more to help protect our families from falling into the trap of going to these vultures who make profit from misery. They have to boost the contribution of the role credit unions can play.

I know of the excellent work done by Johnstone Credit Union and the Renfrewshire Wide Credit, Union, which has branches in Paisley, Linwood, Erskine and Renfrew.

And then there’s East Renfrewshire Credit Union in Barrhead where there’s always a willingness to help.

For Renfrewshire Wide based on High Street, Paisley please just ring 0141 889 7442 for advice. Johnstone Credit Union on Church Street can be contacted on 01505 327148 and East Renfrewshire on Main Street Barrhead is 0141 881 1353.

Strictly a Winner

Congratulations to everyone involved in staging Strictly Come Prancing – a fantastic fun evening organised to boost the funds of such a worthy cause as St Vincent’s Hospice.

The dancers who volunteered to take to the floor to raise cash were the real stars of the show. Special mention must go to the coaches who put in so many hours to make sure they were on top form. And we can’t forget the staff and volunteers who worked so hard behind the scenes to make the evening such a memorable occasion.

An incredible £20,000 was raised and I bet there will be a queue for tickets if it is held again next year. Well Done All.

Whooping cough vaccine

Pregnant women here in Renfrewshire are being offered the chance to be vaccinated against whooping cough to protect their unborn babies. And I would urge everyone to take up the offer.

Every expectant mum in Scotland should think seriously about the risks they could avoid by taking this simple step.

Cases of whooping cough in Scotland have soared from 61 in 2011 to 1,037 so far this year, including 65 infants who were under three months old.

As a dad and granddad I am, well aware of the stress and worry you feel when a child is ill. Don’t take any chances – get the jab.

A drop in the ocean

The latest round of cash from the Scottish government's Creative Breaks programme is just not enough to help the unsung heroes in our community who are full time carers for a loved one.

The £1m will be used to give carers the chance to enjoy activities such as residential weekend stays and daytime breaks but how far will it go and who will decide who gets to benefit?

In Scotland, an estimated 650,000 people look after a family member, partner or friend.

I have met many people who selflessly devote their lives to looking after

We’re still waiting, despite SNP promises

If we were waiting for a bus operated by the SNP, then we’d be waiting a long time for it to arrive.

In fact, we’d all have to get on Shanks’s Pony if we wanted to go anywhere!

Nicola Sturgeon recently launched the SNP's proposals for a Saltire Card, designed to provide integrated cashless travel across Scotland.

But the card - allowing passengers to pre-load money which they can then use to pay for journeys on trains, buses, ferries, subway and trams throughout Scotland – has been a long time coming.

The SNP first talked of these plans in 2008 and their ambition was for a seamless, integrated transport network in Scotland. Commuters will know we are still a long way from that.

This card has still to get off the drawing board, with no concrete proposals, timescales, coverage or agreement amongst Scotland's transport providers.

A similar scheme has been up and running in London since 2003 and it shows how little progress the SNP has made on this in the last five years.

Whether it's cashless, integrated ticketing or Wi-fi on our main commuter lines, it seems that what is taken for granted elsewhere in the UK seems to take forever to deliver in Scotland.