Write On Renfrewshire
The last few weeks has seen two new Renfrewshire authors make their mark on the Scottish literary scene. The Paisley Daily Express carried the story of Jack Hastie’s new book, “Fraser’s Voices”. Jack has proved at 77, that you are never too old for a first novel. I was also delighted to learn that my old (I use the word advisedly) schoolmate Jimmy Higgins has released his debut novel “Milltown”, set in Neilston at the time of the First World War. I know the book scene is hugely competitive, but I do hope that these two most recent additions to the list of Renfrewshire authors are a real success story. They would be joining the ranks of local authors such as Barrhead's award winning and hugely successful Christopher Brookmyre whose books featuring investigative journalist Jack Parlabane has won him an army of fans around the world; Alex Gray, a former teacher at Park Mains High in Erskine, best known for her books about DCI William Lorimer and his sidekick psychologist Solomon Brightman and novelist Caro Ramsay, a former pupil at Camphill High School in Paisley whose thrilling books have been a big hit.
I was disappointed to learn that Tesco has pulled its plans for a new store in Paisley. The company has cited the economic climate and the changing retail market. I know that Tesco has looked again at its investments across the UK and I was therefore relieved and pleased to be told that the Linwood store will go ahead, albeit on a smaller scale than before. It would have been a disaster for Linwood if they had walked away. The people of Linwood have fought long and hard to see change at the town centre. We’ve seen the eyesore demolished and we can’t wait for the finished product.
I recently spoke in a debate in the Scottish Parliament to mark International Workers’ Memorial Day. I also attended a small event in Paisley to remember those workers killed and maimed while doing their jobs. Thankfully deaths at work are not as bad as they used to be, although 170 people were killed at work last year. The Stockline tragedy in Glasgow was a reminder that poor industrial standards can be fatal for the workforce. But the recent horrendous events in Bangladesh shows that for people across the world, death at work is still an all too common reality. And it is our problem too. These tragic workers were making cheap garments which we are all too happy to buy. Perhaps we need to stop and think of the brutal reality facing thousands, many of them children, working for a pittance in poorer countries. The only reason we have seen any improvements in this country is because workers organised in trade unions to fight for rights and decent conditions. Proposals from the Tories to cut the health and safety service shows that they don’t see safety as a priority. No worker should have to put their life on the line simply for doing their job.
Blacklisting of workers is linked to the whole question of health and safety. Many workers including those in Renfrewshire were blacklisted and refused employment, simply because they demanded proper health and safety in the workplace. For having the temerity to criticise rogue employers, these workers were denied the right to earn a living, with harsh effects on the families. So, well done to Councillor Mark Macmillan and his Labour colleagues on Renfrewshire Council for backing the trade union campaign against blacklisting. It’s good to see the Council take a stand for local workers who are prepared to speak up for decent conditions at work.