Category Archives: Nigel Don

Save Our Police Campaign Launch

Angus North and Mearns Liberal Democrats launched a local  campaign to Save Our Police this week-end across the constituency.

Reacting to plans by all three other major parties to centralise the police to a single force, Sanjay Samani, Scottish Liberal Democrat candidate for Angus North and Mearns, commented:

“In my view the fight against crime in Scotland is now under threat from plans by the SNP and the other parties to centralise our police. Under their plans local police forces would be disbanded and every police officer would be allocated according to national directions not local policing need.”

“I am particularly concerned that by creating a national police force, the chief constable will come under the political control of a government minister and will lose their links with local communities.

“In addition, the cost of centralisation, building a new HQ and new IT systems will costs a fortune and will cost police jobs. The SNP has refused to answer repeated questions about how much their plans will cost, fuelling fears that police officers will lose their jobs to pay for the changes. Some chief constables have estimated it could cost the jobs of 4,000 police officers.”

Angus and Mearns Liberal Democrats want to keep policing local, help the local police to work with the local community and to keep the number of officers high.

“In the course of the next few weeks we will be distributing thousands of leaflets about our campaign across the constituency,” Sanjay continued, “and I would urge residents to sign and return our petition by Freepost, so their voice can be heard.”

“You can also support the campaign on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/SaveOurPolice.”

Commenting on the proposals to centralise police decision making, by Holyrood, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Tavish Scott said:

“This is a slippery slope to one police force. For 150 years people in this democracy have worried about the government gaining political operational control over policing. The First Minister refuses to see that a National Police Board, appointed without debate in this Parliament – and with no basis in law – moves us down that dangerous road.”

“We need a police service that is responsive to local needs not subject to central diktat and centrally imposed targets.”

Sanjay Samani visiting Forfar police station with Cllr David May

Noranside Staff Deserve to Know Decision Making Process

I was very disappointed to read of the Scottish Prison Service’s decision not to release information relating to Noranside Open Prions under the Freedom of Information Act, on the pretext that, “it would not be in the public interest”.

It is extremely unfair on the staff at the prison for them to be treated in this way. Staff deserve some certainty and clarity from the SNP government about the future of their jobs. They also deserve to know how the decisions around the prison have been reached.

Not only do they have a right to know how the SNP government came to its decision to close the hugely successful prison, but also why they were assured last year that there were no closure plans, and why the decision has now been delayed until after the election.

The SPS must honour its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act and release details of any documents relating to the decision to close Noranside.

Click here for Robert Brown’s response on The Courier website.

 

Sanjay At Noranside Prison

Brechin Town Centre Regeneration Fund Meeting hijacked by politics

I attended the public meeting at the Mechanics Hall in Brechin to discuss the Town Centre Regeneration Fund project.

I would like to thank Jim Milne for chairing the meeting and Angus Council for organising it, in the hope of giving Brechin residents the opportunity to hear the background and delivery of the project and to raise their concerns.

I was disappointed that so few local residents got the opportunity to air their views.  With Councillors from all around Angus, MSPs and political party activists turning the event into a political circus.

I attended with a view to listening to the views of local people, and hoping to discover what lessons could be learnt.  My fellow candidates for Angus North and Mearns in the upcoming Scottish Elections, Nigel Don and Alex Johnstone, came to be heard, not listen.  Their questions demonstrated either their lack of knowledge of the project, or willful aim at political point scoring.  In particular Mr Johnstone suggested that a Compulsory Purchase Order could have been used when he knows full well that would never have been possible.

It is not surprising that politicians get a bad name, given that point scoring was more important for many who attended, rather than establishing the facts and learning lessons.

It would appear that the SNP in Angus, faced with justifying the SNP Government’s decision to withdraw funding promised to Brechin, have decided that offence is the best defence.  They have tried to throw mud at Angus Council’s handling of the project, which from my 15 years experience as a Project Manager, has been excellent.

In particular I was very disappointed at the deeply personal attacks made on Council officers who have clearly worked extremely hard to bring £1m of investment into Brechin and are clearly deeply personally disappointed at not having been able to secure the remaining £800,000 from the Scottish Government.

I was well aware of the issues in advance of the meeting and was very impressed with the council officers as they presented the facts, and it was very clear to me that they could not have done more to reach a satisfactory conclusion with the property owners involved.  The reality was that they were undone twice by property owners who broke their promises to sell to Angus Council.

Furthermore, it appears that all Councillors had the opportunity to raise their concerns throughout the period of the project, at various meetings both in Forfar and in Brechin, but did not do so.  As was said last night, hindsight is a wonderful thing, and all councillors, as well as those involved in the Brechin Town Heritage Initiative and the Brechin Area Partnership were given regular updates, as well as given the chance to ask questions and make suggestions.

Let us welcome the £1m of investment in Brechin, along with the private investment in the old Woolworths, and learn lessons for the future, rather than take every opportunity to turn Brechin’s economic circumstances into a political football.

Campaigning on policy, not personal attacks

in a recent article in the Brechin Advertiser about Kevin Hutchens writing to the disbanded City of Brechin and District Community Council, I was reported as being “unavailable” for comment.  I should have stated clearly to Brechin Advertiser reporter Steve Mitchell that even had I not been away on a family break, I would have chosen not to comment in any case.

Whilst Mr Hutchens should really have known about the very disappointing demise of the Community Council, I would not take the opportunity, as my SNP and Conservative opponents, Nigel Don MSP and Alex Johnstone MSP, have done, to stick the knife in to a fellow candidate.

That is because I believe that the Scottish Elections should be about local issues and policy, not about personal attacks.  There are far more pressing concerns for people in Brechin, not least of all the lack of a Community Council.

The town is still reeling from the loss of the Town Centre Regeneration Funding promised by the SNP Government, just as the town had lost its voice through the Community Council. Also, Brechiners will still want to know whether the Scottish Government will help to prevent further flood damage in the town.

I will be focussing, in my campaign, on local issues, not on taking cheap shots at my opponents.

Examing site of Brechin Flooding

Lib Dems back Save Noranside Petition

Local Lib Dems have backed a petition to save Noranside Open Prison to be submitted to the Scottish Justice Secretary.

Cllr David May commented:

“The SNP Minister’s decision to close Noranside will hugely affect the staff and their families from across all of Angus.”

“Whilst they have been offered choices to transfer to other prisons, prison officers may simply not be able to afford the extra travel or disruption to their family life.  Some may even be forced to move home, out of Angus.”

“The decision may also limit their career prospects as more prison officers compete for fewer senior positions.  The impact of this poorly thought through decision will be long lasting.”

Angus and Mearns campaigner, Sanjay Samani, added his support for the petition, saying:

“It is welcome that Nigel Don MSP and John Swinney MSP, have backed Lib Dem Justice Spokesman, Robert Browne MSP in his criticism of Kenny MacAskill’s decision.”

“However, it is entirely within Mr Swinney’s power as Finance Secretary to provide the funding to save Noranside.  So the question has to be asked why he has not done so.”

“It is vital that Noranside Open Prison, and its staff continue their excellent work, rehabilitating criminals, giving them real prospects and minimising reoffending in the area.”

Cllr May also raised concerns about a bonus culture within the prison service, wasting funds that could be better used to keep Noranside open.

“Reports suggest that overcrowding payments, totalling millions, are encouraging prisons to hold on to prisoners that should be released to open prisons like Noranside.”

“There are questions that need to be asked about bonus payments to top officers.”

“In addition, there are plans to pay huge sums to repair Castle Huntly’s roof.  How can that make economic sense, whilst closing Noranside.”

 

Transport Minister’s renewed interest in Laurencekirk welcome

With Keith Brown MSP’s visit to Laurencekirk junction, the SNP’s governments renewed interest in building a flyover is welcome

I was delighted to hear that the new SNP minister saw the junction for himself and this was a huge step forward. The news that he has asked for more detailed costs is also great news. His predecessor seemed to suggest that the cost could be £23 million, which would make it the most expensive flyover in Scotland!

In my view the flyover should be added back into the Strategic Transport Project Review immediately.  The sooner the junction is built, the better. It is great to see road safety back as the top priority for transport policy.

North Angus and Mearns residents, from Forfar, Brechin, Montrose and Laurencekirk see no reason for any further delay. They will be relieved to know that there is now hope for a successful end to the superb campaign led by Jill Campbell.

She should be commended for carrying on the fight, and forcing the Scottish Government to rethink their decision not to build the Laurencekirk flyover.

Read more about this story by clicking here for “A90 Marykirk junctions improvements to be costed” at the Montrose Review

New Transport Minister must take action on Laurencekirk flyover

Supporters of the Laurencekirk flyover campaign are delighted that a new minster has replaced the heavily criticised  Stewart Stevenson MSP.

Angus and Mearns Lib Dem campaigner, Sanjay Samani commented:

“Laurencekirk junction has been the scene of several fatalities and many serious accidents in recent years, but has been ignored by the previous SNP minister.”

“This is a great opportunity to restore credibility to Transport Scotland’s road safety reputation. The previous SNP minister claimed flyover decisions were made on the basis of safety, but when forced to reveal accident figures by Laurencekirk campaigners, it was clear that congestion was of higher priority to Mr Stevenson.”

“A Transport Scotland spokesperson has stated that the new minister, Keith Brown MSP, will be reviewing all issues under his new portfolio, including  Laurencekirk junction. This is welcome news but Mr Brown needs to take action quickly to prevent further accidents at the junction.”

“Supporters of the campaign, like myself, will be bitterly disappointed by any further delaying tactics. As one MSP on the Petitions Committee put it, Mr Stevenson treated the Committee with “contempt”.  Mr Brown needs to distance himself from his predecessor, by being open and decisive.”

Angus Councillor David May has joined Mr Samani in inviting the new minister, Keith Brown MSP, to see the crossing at rush-hour when it is at its busiest.

Cllr May commented

“I will be writing to the petitions committee to make the offer of that meeting and would be delighted if the new minister would accept. Perhaps I am being a little cycnical but I am concerned that this will once again be kicked into the long grass by the SNP.”

“It is absolutely crucial that this junction is in the 20-year strategic plan — the evidence for the need for the flyover is all there.”

Cllr May added, “Unfortunately the fatalities and the accidents are here and now, this should have been addressed by now.”

SNP in a mess over Noranside Prison

The Scottish Government are in a mess over the closure of Noranside Prison.  SNP Finance Minister, John Swinney MSP has promised to fight the closure, criticising the decision of his own cabinet colleague, Kenny Macaskill MSP.

The SNP need to get their story straight on Noranside.  On the one hand you have the Justice Minister deciding to close the prison and on the other, you have the Finance Minister and colleagues saying it should stay open.

The decision to close the prison makes no sense given the good work done by the prison and the impact on local jobs and the local economy.  The SNP should be supporting local people and businesses in Angus.

Noranside is currently underutilised purely as a result of Kenny Macaskill’s own decisions.  Long term criminals are being released directly from closed prisons without any transition or preparation for a completely changed environment.  Noranside provides an essential service for cutting re-offending rates.

Yet again, we have a simplistic solution from the Scottish Government, who cannot see the wider picture.  And in fact, it seems as if the SNP’s left hand can’t see what the right is doing.

Angus Cllr David May also called for Noranside to remain open, commenting:

“It is clear that the SNP are now totally split over what to do with Noranside. Kenny McCaskill needs to do a U Turn, as Noranside is a vital part of the justice system.  The Angus open prison has an excellent reputation for the rehabilitation of its prisoners.  I have heard that they get their parole and do not return, which is surely what we want from all of our prisons.”

“Furthermore, at a time when a recently released  Scottish government report shows that the prison population is growing, it is astonishing that the SNP Justice minister has announced plans to close what has been described by many as the hugely successful Noranside open prison.”

“In addition it is an open secret that there is still overcrowding in other prisons, as I have heard that one prison governor asked for ideas on how to spend the money he gains from overcrowding.  If this is true and the prison population is rising it really is absurd that Mr Macaskill plans to close Noranside.”

“I am also concerned about reportsof a bonus system in operation in our prison system which only applies to the best paid staff.  If this is the case the SNP Justice and Finance ministers need to explain why they support this especially at a time of cuts and what is the basis for the bonuses.  Surely it is not based on overcrowding?”

SNP’s withdrawal of TCRF cash a bitter blow for Brechin

The Scottish Government’s decision not to release the remaining Town Centre Regeneration Funds for Brechin is a disappointing decision

The SNP Government has really let down people in Brechin again.  By denying them access to over £900,000 of funding, it will be a bitter blow for attempts to give Brechin’s town centre a much needed boost.

Given that the money was already budgeted, the SNP must explain where the money has gone and where they have spent it instead of Brechin.

The whole Town Centre Regeneration Fund has been handicapped by the SNP from the start.  A sensible proposal for investment in town centres across Scotland by Conservative MSPs, has been hobbled by a poor implementation by the Scottish Government.

With short deadlines, poor communications and no committment to make the funds available when needed, the government has made the process as difficult as possible and clearly begrudged creating the fund in the first place.  It is yet another case of the SNP’s ‘Not Invented Here, We Know Best’ attitude.

The Town Centre Regeneration Fund is precisely the sort of investment that towns like Brechin desperately need during difficult economic times.

It is little surprise then, that people in Brechin will see this as just another broken SNP promise.


What a Christmas Present for Noranside staff

SNP Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill’s decision to close Noranside Prison is badly thought out and must be reconsidered.

Rumours of the planned closure of Noranside had been rejected as “groundless” by the SNP Government in late November. Now we hear the opposite is true.  This is the worst possible Christmas present from the SNP Government for the 55 employees at Noranside and their families.

It will also be a blow to the many shops and businesses in Forfar and Angus who supply the prison.  To hear this in the week leading up to Christmas could hardly be worse.

Noranside has been underused recently, purely because of Mr MacAskill’s own decisions. We are now hearing that many long term prisoners are already being released directly to the community, rather than via open prisons such as Noranside.  There has to be a real worry about public safety following this ill judged decision.

Angus Cllr David May also commented:

“It is all very well for the SNP minister to say there will be no compulsory redundancies but it is a fact that either the staff will have to move and leave Angus or they will lose their jobs. So much for the assurance that they will be redeployed as the minister is really giving those at Noranside the worst possible Christmas present”

Local Cllr Alison Andrews is on the visiting committee of the prison, and was told recently that there was no chance it was in line for closure.

“The work that goes on at Noranside is absolutely brilliant. Some of these prisoners have been locked up for 20 years or more and it’s vital that we give them some preparation and training before they go back to life outside.”

“If that layer is removed from of the justice system, prisoners will be released directly from closed institutions after years and years, straight out into a completely different world for them.  Their chances of coping with these huge changes are much better if they have had the excellent support, training and preparation from Noranside.”

“I know for a fact that reoffending rates are not as high among those who have had the opportunity to be in an open prison.”

Mrs Andrews is also worried about the future of civilian employees and the way this  directly affect them.