Category Archives: SNP

Labour Hypocrisy on Lobbying

In the wake of the Adam Werritty scandal surrounding Liam Fox MP, the Labour party are apparently demanding a lobbying register.  It might surprise you to know that such a bill was introduced to the House of Commons by the Lib Dems in 2006 and it was voted down by 284 Labour MP’s.

You will be pleased to know that just such a register is in the Coalition agreements from 2010, as demanded by the Lib Dems.

Gareth Thomas MP, Shadow Cabinent Office minister said:

“David Cameron has still not introduced the compulsory register of lobbyists he promised.

“In the wake of the Adam Werritty and Atlantic Bridge activities it is now essential we have greater transparency.

“The government should bring forward as a matter of urgency plans for a compulsory register of lobbyists with records being kept of meetings between lobbyists and ministers.”

Read the full article on the BBC by clicking here.

Every Lib Dem member, supporter and MP agrees.  Which is why we have been calling for regulation of lobbying for years.  In fact we introduced a bill to the House of Commons calling for a reporting of corporate expenditure on lobbying and putting a cap on their lobbying expenditure.

Remember, this is all before the Stephen Byers “Cab For Hire” incident.

Any guesses for Labour MP’s who voted against the motion?  You guessed it Ed Milliband, Ed Balls, Yvette Cooper, and one Gareth Thomas.

Also of note, the Conservatives did not bother to vote.  And 5 of the 6 SNP MPs also voted against the Lib Dem bill, including Angus MP, Mike Weir.

You can see full details of the Bill and all those MPs who voted against it by clicking here.

Image courtesy of BBC

Image from BBC.

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

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.

Scottish Government needs to reform procurement process

I noted an article in the Forfar Dispatch about Angus Council contract for new housing stock last month. I agree with “An Angus Employer” who complained in a letter [4 November] that the contract was not awarded to a local Angus business. 

Unfortunately Councils in Scotland are tied to the procurement policies of the SNP government. They have centralised the process and made it extremely difficult for smaller local businesses to be approved to even bid for contracts. The approval process and level of paperwork is beyond local builders and service providers. I have discussed this very issue with builders in Angus before and after this year’s General Election.  

That is why I was delighted to be able to support a new procurement policy for the Scottish Lib Dems at their recent Autumn Conference. This calls for a replacement for the SNP’s procurement body, Scotland Excel, in favour of a unified body that will make local and central government contracts accessible for smaller local businesses. 

I know that local Councillors are as frustrated about the issue as local businesses and have strived to help them meet the arduous requirements imposed on them by the SNP’s simplistic one-size-fits-all procurement policy. 

After next year’s Scottish election, the situation will hopefully change.  Let us hope it is not too late for local firms struggling to stay afloat during the recession.

You can read more about the situation by clicking here for an article in The Courier.

Angus Lib Dems renew calls for Government support to halt coastal erosion in Montrose

Following the recent bad weather, Angus Liberal Democrats have renewed their calls for the Scottish Government to do more to help protect Montrose from coastal erosion.  There has been further erosion at Montrose Golf Course, which is the 5th oldest in the world and will celebrate its 450th year in just two years time.

Reacting to news of further erosion at the Golf Course and along the coast, Sanjay Samani, Lib Dem campaigner for Angus and Mearns said:

“I was shocked to hear from Montrose Cllr David May this morning that there has been further erosion at Montrose Golf Course.  I visited the course with Alison McInnes, Lib Dem MSP for the North East, just three weeks ago to inspect the damage.”

“The SNP have scrapped a special flood funding scheme introduced by the previous Lib Dem / Labour administration.  They have largely left Councils to fund such schemes from their own budgets.”

“With both coastal erosion and flooding, the SNP Government have focussed on funding warning systems.  While the new warning systems are worthwhile, they do not replace the need for investment to protect our coastline”

“The SNP have not allocated enough money to properly tackle coastal erosion and so risk losing an important part of Scotland’s sporting heritage.  The golf course is all that stands between Montrose and the risk of damage to the town.”

Montrose Cllr David May commented, “This morning, I inspected the impact of the recent bad weather on the coastline at Montrose Golf Course. There has been further erosion, especially at some of the more vulnerable holes.”

“I call on the Scottish SNP Government for help, so that hard cash is allocated to help deal with coastal erosion.  And furthermore, the SNP needs to change policy on the way it allocates funding.”

“With more bad weather forecast for the coming weekend, there are obviously concerns about the impact on the course if there is further erosion.”

Sanjay visiting Montrose Beach with Alison McInnes MSP