19 Nov 2012

Paisley Daily Express - 19 November 2012

I’ve been angered and saddened at the way the Chair of Stow College in Glasgow has been intimidated into resigning by the SNP’s education minister Mike Russell.

And as Labour’s spokesman on education in the Scottish Parliament I’m now demanding an enquiry into the disgraceful way Kirk Ramsay has been forced to resign from his post.

Anyone who saw Newsnight Scotland last Tuesday would have seen Mr Ramsay reveal the shocking events surrounding his innocent action of recording a speech about college reform made by Mike Russell to a room full of almost 100 people.

The SNP’s Cabinet Secretary for Education took an almighty huff about this and wanted to punish Mr Ramsay for the audacity of taping one of his speeches.

Despite being told by Scottish Government lawyers that Mr Ramsay had done nothing wrong, Mr Russell overstepped the mark by calling the college chief to a meeting and told him that if he could sack him he would do so. The SNP went public with Mr Russell’s criticism of Mr Ramsay who felt he had no option but to resign. Because he didn’t want the college he works for to suffer at the hands of Mr Russell. Staff in Further Education colleges are telling me that Mike Russell is attempting to bully and intimidate them and they are scared to speak out against the SNP cutbacks.

There should be an enquiry into this incident. There are bigger challenges facing Scotland’s colleges than the bruised ego of the Cabinet Secretary. And as an ironic aside to this, why is it that an SNP minister is so quick to seek legal advice on the actions of a chairman of one of our colleges when the SNP Government failed to seek proper legal advice on whether Scotland would get entry into the European Union if it separated from the UK?

Switched on

I had a busy day in Johnstone on Saturday when I joined hundreds of my constituents as they got into the festive spirit when the town celebrated the Christmas lights switch-on. It was great to bump into some familiar faces and old friends as well as meeting some new ones. There was a carnival atmosphere in the town as music filled the air and happy children got the chance to enjoy the fun and meet Santa. St Vincent's Hospice were also holding their popular Christmas Fayre in the Town Hall and when I popped in to see the staff and volunteers it was buzzing with the usual great support from locals. There was plenty of music from the Clyde 1 Roadshow and performers from Johnstone’s own Splash Productions kept the crowds entertained until boyband Supanova were due to hit the stage before the lights were lit.

We will remember

It was a privilege and an honour to be part of four Remembrance Day services this year each with their own unique tribute to those who sacrificed their lives for us in the two World Wars and those in the armed forces still paying the ultimate price today. I was honoured to stand side by side with communities in Paisley, Johnstone and Barrhead at poignant services in each town and saddened to hear just hours later that the conflict in Afghanistan had tragically claimed another life. Captain Walter Barrie from Glasgow was shot dead by an Afghan soldier as he played in a Remembrance Day football match at Shawqat in the Nad-eAli district. He was just 41 years old. I was also moved by the tribute paid by pupils of Neilston and St Thomas’ primary schools when I joined them at their own special remembrance ceremony. The boys and girls had worked hard to research the two Great Wars and understood the significance and consequences of war which was apparent in their work and thoughts they shared. Some of the poems they read out came from soldiers involved in the conflicts and were a vivid reminder of the horror of war and the hope that they had for a better future.