Saturday, 28 February 2009

GORDON BROWN IN DENIAL ABOUT RESPONSIBILITY FOR RECESSION.


GORDON BROWN IN DENIAL ABOUT RESPONSIBILITY FOR RECESSION.

SNP LIST EVIDENCE ON BROWN’S ROLE IN FINANCIAL CRISIS.

Commenting on Gordon Brown’s speech today about the regulation of the financial industry SNP Treasury Spokesperson, Stewart Hosie MP said the Prime Minister was in denial about his own responsibility for overseeing the system of regulation that led to the crisis.

Mr Hosie listed the growing evidence which linked the Prime Minister to the lax system that led to the crisis which has revealed:

* Admissions by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) Chairman, Lord Turner, that “the whole system was risky” and “they didn’t focus enough”

* The Bank of England’s Financial Stability Report 2007 which shows the UK Government and the Bank wilfully ignored warnings in the run up to the crisis

* Evidence from the FSA that Brown put political pressure on them not to question banks on risky practices

* The resignation of Sir James Crosby – one of the Prime Minister’s key advisors - followed revelations that when he was chief executive of bank HBOS he sacked a whistleblower who warned that banks were heading for disaster

“ That the Prime Minister knew about Icelandic banks months before the UK Government took any action - and which is now seen as being so heavy handed it precipitated an even more rapid collapse.

Commenting, Mr Hosie said:

“Gordon Brown is in total denial about his own culpability for this crisis. He is responsible for setting up the failed tripartite regulation system, he has borrowed beyond the UK’s means and he even appointed advisors like Sir James Crosby and Fred Goodwin.

“His words ring hollow if he wants people punished. What punishment does he think he deserves?

“Under Mr Brown’s watch the FSA, the Bank of England and the London Treasury disregarded the fatal flaws in the banking system.

“However much he spins the fact remains that the buck stopped with Gordon Brown and he is as culpable for the crisis we find ourselves in as anyone else. The evidence is overwhelming and no amount of denial can hide that.

“This whole fiasco is typified by a failure to respond responsibly to risk. The blame lies squarely at the door of 10 Downing Street – and with Culpability Brown.”

Friday, 27 February 2009

BROWN ON COLLISION COURSE WITH BIGGEST BACKERS.



BROWN ON COLLISION COURSE WITH BIGGEST BACKERS.
SNP Shadow Scotland Office spokesperson, Angus MacNeil MP, has seized on reports that the Labour party is on a “collision course” with its union backers over its handling of Royal Mail and the banking crisis. The Communication Workers Union (CWU) has threatened to withdraw its support for Labour in the forthcoming European elections if it fails to back down over the part-privatisation of the Royal Mail, while GMB leader Paul Kenny has today called on Labour Minister Lord Myners to resign if he knew about Sir Fred Goodwin’s pension arrangements or "even worse" failed to check how much he was going to be paid. Commenting, Mr MacNeil said: “Gordon Brown is on a collision course with some of his party’s biggest backers, and the Labour Party are going to pay the price. ”The CWU and GMB are amongst the most effective campaigning groups and their outspoken attacks underline just how deep in trouble Gordon Brown is. ”It is difficult to imagine how things can get any worse for the prime minister.”

£500 MILLION CUTS FROM SCOTLANDS BUDGET HURTING LABOUR.



£500 MILLION CUTS FROM SCOTLANDS BUDGET HURTING LABOUR.

YOUGOV POLL SAMPLE SHOWS SNP IN LEAD FOR WESTMINSTER £500 MILLION CUTS HURTING LABOUR AT THE POLLS Commenting on the Scottish poll sample from the latest YouGov opinion poll – which puts the SNP back in the lead over Labour for Westminster election – SNP Business Convener and Westminster Leader Angus Robertson said: “These samples may be small but they are significant. It shows only the SNP can beat Labour across Scotland at the next elections for Europe and for Westminster – and by doing so stop Labour’s plans to slash £500 million from Scotland’s budget in their tracks. "Those elections in Scotland are a two horse race between the SNP and Labour, and as Labour faces the consequences of their economic mismanagement, more and more people see the SNP as the only credible alternative in Scotland to tackle Downing Street's Downturn. “The threat of Labour’s £500 million cuts are concentrating minds – they are not only hugely damaging for Scotland's public services and economy but for Labour's poll ratings as well. "It is the SNP in Government in Scotland which is trusted to do everything we can within our powers to help families and business in these tough economic times.”

MSP WELCOMES SNP GOVERNMENTS ACTION ON FUEL POVERTY.



MSP WELCOMES SNP GOVERNMENTS ACTION ON FUEL POVERTY.
SNP MSP Bob Doris - a member of the Scottish Parliament's Communities Committee - has today (Friday) welcomed the announcement from Communities Minister Alex Neil of the Scottish Government’s ‘Energy Assistance Package’.
The £60 million per annum fund – 30% more than the original fuel budget – will be aimed at assisting the most vulnerable members of society, pensioners and low income families. The scheme will take effect on 6th April this year and will include benefit and tax credit and tariff checks to ensure that Glasgow’s residents are receiving the correct income and are paying the correct bill, as well as providing central heating and insulation. Commenting Bob Doris MSP said: "This is a very welcome announcement from the Scottish Government and I am pleased they are continuing to fight the problem of fuel poverty by acting on the Scottish Fuel Poverty Forum’s report so quickly. This will go along way to helping the residents of Glasgow. "I am particularly pleased that this will help Scotland get our fair share of Carbon Emmisions Reduction Target (CERT) cash from energy companies. Currently we receive about £100m less than we should. The Scottish Government's joined up thinking in accepting ther recommendations of the Fuel Poverty Forum could boost the record £60m Scottish Government money by another £100m. "I am also pleased that energy efficiency measures such as new central heating systems will now be open to those on qualifiying benefits that have children under 5, pregnant mothers or disabled children under 16. Together with rolling out insulation this is a step change in addressing fuel poverty. "Fuel Poverty is a serious problem not only in our city but across the whole of Scotland with one in four households now class as fuel poor. During these times of economic uncertainty and job losses, it is good to see a Government acting and attempting to boost incomes, lower fuel bills and improve energy efficiency - London Labour should follow suit."

COUNCIL TAX INCREASES UNDER LABOUR WHILST FROZEN IN SCOTLAND.



COUNCIL TAX INCREASES UNDER LABOUR WHILST FROZEN IN SCOTLAND.

Commenting on today’s news that council tax south of the border will increase by an average of 3% compared to Scotland where it is frozen SNP MSP Joe FitzPatrick - a member of the Scottish Parliament’s Finance Committee – pointed to the difference as an example of how the SNP Government is delivering for Scotland whilst Labour’s government fails south of the border.
The figures for south of the border were revealed in a survey of councils in England by the Local Government Association.
Commenting Mr FitzPatrick said:
“This survey highlights Labour's lack of answers when it comes to helping people in these hard economic times. It also stands as an example of how things could have been if Labour were still in power in Scotland.
“Thankfully we have an SNP Government delivering another council tax freeze for the people of Scotland and to freezing council tax for the next two years as well. A freeze that will help them keep more of their own money in these uncertain economic times .
"Since the SNP came in to Government we have seen council tax frozen after years of increases under Labour. News that it continues to rise south of the border show s a Labour government failing to meet the needs of people south of the border.

“This survey just shows the benefits voting SNP has brought to people in Scotland and that Labour is out of touch.”

SHETLAND COUNCIL CALLS FOR DEVOLUTION OF OIL AND GAS.



SHETLAND COUNCIL CALLS FOR DEVOLUTION OF OIL - GAS.

Highlands & Islands SNP MSP Dave Thompson has welcomed news reports today (Friday) that Shetland Council has called for the consideration of the devolution of control over oil and gas within Scottish waters to the Scottish Parliament. The call was made in their submission to the Calman Commission.

Commenting on the call Mr Thompson said:

“This is a very welcome and positive contribution to the debate. Not only does it show the need for Scotland to benefit from the huge resource of oil and gas off our coasts, but it also shoots another of the London parties’ foxes.

“No longer can UK governments try to divide and rule Scotland in order to hang onto all the oil wealth in London. It shows their attempts to manipulate the position of Shetland and Orkney – as recent secret documents showed – have been rumbled.

“Shetland is an excellent model of how Scotland can benefit from Scotland’s oil and gas wealth.

"As official figures showed, an independent Scotland with our oil and gas reserves would move from being Europe's 10th wealthiest nation to Europe's third wealthiest nation.”

HOSIE DEMANDS ANSWERS IN RBS PENSIONS DEBACLE.



HOSIE DEMANDS ANSWERS IN RBS PENSIONS DEBACLE.

‘SPECULATION DETRACTING ATTENTION FROM ISSUES THAT MATTER”

SNP Treasury Spokesperson, Stewart Hosie MP, has written to Lord Myners demanding answers over the Sir Fred Goodwin pension debacle after it emerged that UK Ministers had apparently approved the pension arrangements at the time they were agreed by the RBS Board.

Commenting, Mr Hosie said:

“The implication of the UK Government in approving Sir Fred Goodwin’s pension package is simply breathtaking.

“Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling have been in and out of television studios wringing their hands in condemnation, and then we find out a Labour Minister allowed the package to go through.

“This whole affair has descended into farce with claim and counterclaim about who knew what and when – we need all the facts on the table.

“It’s time for the UK Government to be straight - regardless of how embarrassing that might be – and focus on action and answers which will help the country through this Downing Street depression.”

SNP WELCOMES LIBDEM MSP’s CALL FOR SCOTTISH REFERENDUM.



SNP WELCOMES LIBDEM MSP’s CALL FOR SCOTTISH REFERENDUM.
LIBDEMS ALL OVER THE PLACE ON REFERENDUM SNP MSP Dr Alasdair Allan has today (Friday) welcomed comments, from LibDem MSP John Farquhar Munro, calling for an Independence referendum. The LibDem MSP said in a interview on BBC Scotland that he backs a straight yes/no vote to be held in as soon as possible. Dr Allan also said the comments from the Highland MSP would call into question Tavish Scott’s ability to lead his party and showed confusion within the party on the right of the Scottish people to decide their constitutional future. Commenting Dr Allan said: "These comments from John Farquhar Munro are indeed a very welcome development. The people of Scotland deserve the right to decide the constitutional future of the nation and John Farquhar clearly holds that opinion. "It also shows the LibDems are all over the place on the issue with John Farquhar reflecting a similar call by Paddy Ashdown recently. "Tavish Scott now has to decide where he wants to take his party. His inability to lead his party on this issue is beginning to show. It’s becoming obvious that standing in the way of the Scottish people’s right to decide their constitutional future is not popular. "The SNP Government will bring forward a Bill in 2010 for a referendum, and challenge the London parties not to stand in the way of the people's right to choose Scotland's future. Obviously, considering today's comments, John Farquhar Munro will be voting in favour of that referendum."

Thursday, 26 February 2009

SCOTLAND'S SNP DELIVERS WHILST LONDON LABOUR FAILS ON APPRENTICES.



SCOTLAND'S SNP DELIVERS WHILST LONDON LABOUR FAILS ON APPRENTICES.

News that fifty new modern apprenticeships are to be created by the SNP Government for Scotland's creative industries is a stark contrast to Labour’s failure south of the border to meet their apprenticeship targets says SNP MSP Christina McKelvie - a member of the Scottish Parliament's Education Committee.

This afternoon the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, Fiona Hyslop, announced that fifty new modern apprenticeships are to be created in Scotland's creative industries to help address skills needs in the performing arts, music, cultural heritage, literature and visual arts.

Coming on the back of 1000 additional apprentices in Glasgow – some of whom will work on delivering Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games in 2014 – this contrasts with news this week that the London Labour government has failed to deliver.

On Monday it was reported that the Labour government would miss its target of 130,000 apprenticeships being completed every year by 2010-11; and on Tuesday it was also reported that only 30 of 3,000 workers at the London Olympics site are apprentices despite vows it would boost youth training.

Commenting Ms McKelvie said:

“This is excellent news for Scotland’s creative industries and shows how the SNP Government is adding even more value to apprenticeships after its announcement for 1000 apprentices for Glasgow and £5.8 million for Skillset's Screen and Media Academies.

"Creative industries are a key economic sector for Scotland and I look forward to these apprenticeships adding value to our economic potential for future growth.

“What a contrast with Labour’s record south of the border where they are failing to meet targets.

“It puts into context what we would be facing if we did not have an SNP Government and the previous Labour-led Executive had continued.

“It is yet another chapter in the take of two governments and shows that voting SNP works.”

ROBERTSON RESPONDS TO RENDITION ADMISSION.



ROBERTSON RESPONDS TO RENDITION ADMISSION.
Commenting on the UK Government’s admission, contrary to previous assurances, that two suspected terrorists captured by UK forces in Iraq were subsequently transferred by the US to Afghanistan, SNP Westminster leader and Defence spokesperson, Angus Robertson MP, said “From day one Labour Ministers seem to have misled us on every aspect of the Iraq war, and these revelations about rendition add to the pressing need for a full inquiry into the UK Government’s conduct. “Given the ongoing dispute over the suppression of evidence on UK collusion in the alleged torture of former British residents, including Binyam Mohamed, this admission is extremely grave. “John Hutton says that the individuals involved in this extraordinary rendition have been treated humanely, but the sad fact is that it is increasingly difficult to accept Labour Ministers at their word. ”Labour’s manifesto pledge that it would conduct an ethical foreign policy, such as it was, is now in complete tatters.”

GRAY BLUNDERS INTO BANKING.



GRAY BLUNDERS INTO BANKING.
HAS HE FORGOTTEN HIS ROLE AS ENTERPRISE MINISTER? Commenting on Iain Gray’s attack at First Minister’s Questions today SNP MSP Joe FitzPatrick - a member of the Scottish Parliament's Finance Committee - said the Labour leader had blundered badly with his choice of subject since Fred Goodwin had been closely associated with Gordon Brown for over 10 years and it has even been reported that Fred Goodwin was knighted on the advice of Gordon Brown. He also failed to realise that his former boss, Alistair Darling, accepted in the House of Commons that Fred Goodwin's pension was considered by the Government but that it did not understand the arrangements. Commenting Mr FitzPatrick said: “This was an incredible own goal by Iain Gray. In his attempts to smear he forgot about his party’s open flank as concerns Fred Goodwin – namely the close links between Gordon Brown and Fred Goodwin. “By taking this tack Iain Gray has just shown how Westminster has a great burden of responsibility for the financial crisis we face. “If Iain Gray wants people to resign over Fred Goodwin perhaps he should look to Gordon Brown who appointed him as an advisor and reportedly suggested Fred Goodwin for a knighthood? “Perhaps he can also explain why his former boss – Alistair Darling – admitted that Fred Goodwin's pension was considered by the Government? “Iain Gray hasn’t got a leg to stand on concerning the financial crisis. Since Gordon Brown is so keen to say it all started in America does Iain Gray regret inviting American financial businesses to invest in Scotland in 2002? "It seems strange that Iain Gray and the Labour party are trying to re-write history when last October their financial mismanagement once again implicated them in the arrangements that have led today’s reports about Fred Goodwin."

UK GOVERNMENT CUTS WILL STALL RECOVERY IN WALES - RHODRI MORGAN.


UK GOVERNMENT CUTS WILL STALL RECOVERY IN WALES - RHODRI MORGAN.

TIME GRAY & MURPHY JOINED CAMPAIGN AGAINST CUTS.

Reports in today’s Welsh press show Labour’s First Minister in the Welsh Assembly Government, Rhodri Morgan, has warned that Westminster’s planned cuts will choke off the economic recovery in Wales before it gets going. Quoted in the Daily Post Mr Morgan said: “It could result in money being taken out of our public spending programme before the private sector is able to come in and take over the burden ... choking off the economic recovery before it gets going. Commenting on yet another warning about London Labour’s planned cuts – which could total £1 billion over two years – SNP MSP and Chief Whip Brian Adam said: "With Labour’s First Minister in Wales echoing Scotland’s First Minister about the threat of huge cuts to public spending Iain Gray and Jim Murphy have nowhere to hide. “Jim Murphy and Iain Gray have been defending these cuts whilst the leader of the Labour party in Wales has admitted what his party's plans mean. They’re position is untenable and they are acting as representatives for London in Scotland and not standing up for Scotland. "It would be madness, in the deepest days of the Downing Street depression, at a time when we need to support the economy, to slash spending. "The Scottish Government put forward responsible plans to win parliamentary approval to spend Scotland's budget allocation over three years. "For the UK Government to then come in and plan to chop £1 billion off is totally unacceptable – especially at a time when Scotland is in budget surplus, contributing far more to the UK exchequer than we get back in return. "Only SNP success in the European and General elections can stop Labour's billion pound cuts in their tracks.”

More information here.


Underneath the headline '£300m budget cuts will stall our recovery in Wales' Rhodri Morgan is quoted as saying:
“It could result in money being taken out of our public spending programme before the private sector is able to come in and take over the burden... choking off the economic recovery before it gets going. http://www.dailypost.co.uk/news/north-wales-news/2009/02/26/300m-budget-cuts-will-stall-our-recovery-in-wales-55578-23013823/

CULPABILITY BROWN ' PRESSURED FSA NOT TO QUESTION BANKS' RISKY PRACTICES.



CULPABILITY BROWN ' PRESSURED FSA NOT TO QUESTION BANKS' RISKY PRACTICES.

SNP MP QUESTIONS £21 MILLION BONUSES FOR FSA

Evidence from the Financial Services Authority (FSA) chairman Lord Turner that Gordon Brown pressured City watchdogs into not questioning the banks' risky practices has been described by SNP Treasury spokesperson Stewart Hosie MP as further proof that the trail of responsibility for the banking crisis leads direct to Downing Street.
Mr Hosie said:
“Lord Turner’s testimony is devastating proof that the trail of responsibility for the banking crisis leads direct to Gordon Brown’s door. It is looking increasingly like the financial crisis started in Downing Street, and not in America as the Prime Minister keeps protesting.

“Allegations that Gordon Brown pressured City watchdogs into not questioning the banks' risky practices and exerted political pressure, are absolute dynamite.

“The evidence is stacking up against Culpability Brown.

“Just last week we learnt that one of his key advisors, Sir James Crosby, sacked a whistleblower who warned that banks were heading for disaster. And that followed revelations about how Downing Street failed to take adequate action in time concerning Iceland's banks when he was given warnings months in advance.
"Until recently the main charge against Gordon Brown was his role as Chancellor in the decade when many of the cracks in the financial sector developed. But the evidence stacking up over recent weeks casts real doubt over his government’s responsibility for the financial crisis.”

Mr Hosie also questioned reports that staff at the FSA are to share in £21 million of bonuses.

Mr Hosie added:

"With public anger over banking bonuses and pensions growing this will just add to that feeling. Many people will be asking why the FSA deserve bonuses at a time the industry they were regulating is now going through huge changes."

CANAVAN REFERENDUM CALL WELCOMED.



CANAVAN REFERENDUM CALL WELCOMED.

OPPOSITION SHOULD LEARN FROM CANAVAN CONTRIBUTION

Dennis Canavan’s comments to the Calman Commission have been welcomed by SNP MSP Alasdair Allan who has said they should serve as a lesson to the Lib Dems who have today suggested they will try to deny the people of Scotland a referendum on their constitutional future.

Former Labour MP and Independent MSP Mr Canavan has warned the Calman Commission that it must “accept the right of the people of Scotland to determine their destiny” if it is to have any credibility.

Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan said;

“Dennis Canavan’s contribution is welcome. He has called the Calman Commission and the opposition parties – including the Lib Dems - out on their fatal flaw.

“No matter what else they put in their final report excluding independence and failing to recommend a role for the people of Scotland in choosing their constitutional future will cast doubt on the Commission’s credibility.

“Tavish Scott has asked for an end to the speculation over Scotland’s future – he can end that speculation by passing the referendum bill and putting the question to the Scottish people in 2010.

“The Lib Dems, the Calman Commission and the other unionist parties should learn a lesson from Mr Canavan’s contribution and accept the right of the people of Scotland to determine their own destiny.”

WELCOME FOR CROSS PARTY SUPPORT TO BLOCK DISABLED PARKING ABUSE.



WELCOME FOR CROSS PARTY SUPPORT TO BLOCK DISABLED PARKING ABUSE.

Glasgow SNP MSP Bob Doris has welcomed the cross-party unity and consensus in the Scottish Parliament today (Thursday) for Labour backbencher Jackie Baillie’s Bill, which will see drivers who misuse disabled parking places fined up to £60.

Commenting Mr Doris said:

"The unity in the chamber today was a great advert for the Scottish Parliament and showed how we can all work together in the common interest.

“This is an issue that has brought consensus across the parties and I hope its successful passing into law will see an end to the abuse of disabled parking spaces by people who should know better.

“It is an essential and necessary requirement considering the abuse of disabled parking spaces and the imposition of these fines will be the only real way to prevent to prevent their misuse.

"This shows how Scotland’s politicians can work together in the common interest in order to improve the quality of the lives of Scotland’s disabled and making the abuse of disabled parking
bays socially unacceptable."

SNP CONDEMN LORD MANDELSON ROYAL MAIL CONCESSION CON.


SNP CONDEMN LORD MANDELSON ROYAL MAIL CONCESSION CON.

LORD MANDELSON REVERTS TO TYPE WITH BULLY BOY TACTICS.

Commenting on the publication of the UK Government’s controversial plans to part-privatise the Royal Mail, SNP Postal Affairs spokesperson, Mike Weir MP, dismissed assurances by Lord Mandelson as “desperate concessionary con”.

Mr Weir said:

“Lord Mandelson’s assurances are nothing more than a desperate concessionary con designed to save the Labour government's face, rather than save Royal Mail.

“Backbench Labour MPs must not be bought-off by Peter Mandelson’s bizarre mix of concessions and threats.

“Assurances that there could not be any further privatisation without new primary legislation, and setting out the Universal Service Obligation in legislation, are simply worthless.

”Such legislation could be introduced or amended at any time in a future parliament, and part-privatisation is the start of a slippery slope towards full privatisation – bringing job losses, service cuts and a deterioration in the working conditions of postal workers.

“Lord Mandelson is bounding where even the great privateer Mrs Thatcher feared to thread and it is utterly extraordinary to see a so-called Labour government taking the knife to such an important public service.

“As for his threats over the pensions of hard working postal workers to try and push through this legislation, it seems Lord Mandelson has reverted to the same sort of bully-boy tactics he used over the takeover of HBOS by Lloyds when he refused to bail out the bank separately. We can all see how well that turned out.

“The interim report from Richard Hooper made clear that only big business had benefited from previous liberalisation of postal services. It is difficult to see how privatisation will benefit any others. It is also, frankly, difficult to see why any private company would want to get involved in this unless they can see the way to greater privatisation and the slashing of services and workers in the future.

“The future of Royal Mail as a public service is a vital interest to Scotland and every community and small business should make known their outright opposition to this crazy scheme.”

CIGARETTE VENDING MACHINE BAN BACKED BY SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT.

CIGARETTE VENDING MACHINE BAN BACKED BY SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT.

Proposals from the Scottish Government to ban the use of cigarette vending machines as part of a package of measures to reduce the display and availability of cigarettes have been welcomed by the MSP who first proposed the ban.

Kenneth Gibson, MSP for Cunninghame North, won cross party backing for a parliamentary motion calling for a ban on vending machines to control sale of cigarettes to under 18s as part of a campaign alongside ASH, the BMA, Asthma UK, Cancer Research and the Royal College of Physicians.

Mr Gibson also raised the issue with Public Health Minister Shona Robison who agreed to consider his proposals.

Welcoming today’s bill Mr Gibson, who also put forward the initial proposals behind the ban on smoking in public places said;

“Vending machines – no matter how well policed – left people of all ages – particularly those under 18 with easy access to cigarettes.

“Banning vending machines removes temptation from many people and will help to restrict access for underage smokers.

“Today’s proposals are a step forward in controlling the sale of tobacco products – a national register of tobacco retailers is a major step in stopping unlawful sales and in policing tobacco sales.

“Removing cigarettes from display and taking away the temptation of vending machines in Scotland’s pubs, clubs and public spaces will bring a real change to the culture of smoking and hopefully see Scotland take the next step in breaking our cigarette habit and improving our young people’s health.”

The background to this interesting news story from the Scottish Government.

1. Figures from ISD Scotland show that 1 in 10 13-15 year old smokers use vending machines for regular purchases.
Evidence compiled by the British Heart Foundation shows

      · 1 in 6 children and young people in England buy cigarettes from vending machines
      · Test purchasing in Solihull discovered that vending machines were the easiest place for children and teenagers to buy cigarettes.

2. In a letter to Kenneth Gibson, Public Health Minister Shona Robison stated;
“As I made clear in my statement to the Scottish Parliament on 21 May 2008 when I launched the Smoking Prevention Action Plan "Scotland's Future is Smoke-free", issues surrounding vending machines sales are to be addressed in the review and update of tobacco sales law to reduce the availability of cigarettes and other tobacco products to our children and young people. It is clear that there is a need for further controls on the sale of tobacco from vending machines to restrict access by children and young people and I can confirm that further controls on the sale of tobacco from vending machines will be included in the provisions of the proposed Health (Scotland) Bill which is to be introduced in 2009.

3. Kenneth Gibson’s Parliamentary Motion – lodged on 20th November is below
S3M-02936 Kenneth Gibson (Cunninghame North) (Scottish National Party): Ban Tobacco Vending Machines— That the Parliament welcomes the British Heart Foundation’s campaign for a ban on tobacco sold from vending machines across the United Kingdom; notes that one in 10 under-age smokers in Scotland regularly buys tobacco illegally from vending machines and that this proportion could increase following the rise in the minimum legal age for purchase of tobacco; warmly welcomes the developments on tobacco control in recent years in Scotland, including the particular focus on young people in the Smoking Prevention Action Plan, and urges the Scottish Government to continue to lead the way in the United Kingdom on tobacco control by legislating for an outright ban on the sale of tobacco from vending machines in the forthcoming Health Bill.

Supported by: Dr Alasdair Allan, Bashir Ahmad, Christina McKelvie, Dr Bill Wilson, Dr Ian McKee, Robin Harper, Jamie Hepburn, Gil Paterson, Stuart McMillan, Hugh Henry, Tom McCabe, Dr Richard Simpson

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

POLICE NUMBERS CUT SOUTH OF THE BORDER WHILST AT ALL TIME HIGH IN SCOTLAND.


SNP MSP STUART MCMILLAN.

POLICE NUMBERS CUT SOUTH OF THE BORDER WHILST AT ALL TIME HIGH IN SCOTLAND.
TALE OF TWO GOVERNMENTS SHOWS SNP DELIVERING Speaking after today’s debate on community policing SNP MSP Stuart McMillan - a member of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee – highlighted a report on police numbers being cut south of the border, where the London Labour government has responsibility, and said it was a timely reminder of how the SNP Government is delivering more police officers to keep Scottish communities safe. According to a report in the Times large numbers of police forces are planning to cut thousands of officers with one of the UK’s most experienced chief constables saying that forces were being dangerously weakened. Commenting Stuart McMillan said: “This report just highlights how Labour does not have the answers to ensuring we have enough police on our streets. It is also an indication of how things could have been in Labour were still in Government in Scotland. “Thankfully we have an SNP Government delivering an all-time record number of officers on our streets. "Since the SNP came in to Government we have seen a more visible police presence on the streets, deterring crime and reassuring our citizens. "The SNP pledged to hire 1,000 additional police recruits – that’s 1,000 more than there would have been under Labour. “This report from south of the border is an embarrassment to Labour and shows they do not have a leg to stand on when it comes to the issue of increasing a police presence on our streets.”

FRASER OF ALLANDER INSTITUTE REPORT BACKS CASE AGAINST CUTS.


FRASER OF ALLANDER INSTITUTE REPORT BACKS CASE AGAINST CUTS.

Commenting on the latest report by the Fraser of Allander Institute on expectations for Scotland during the upcoming recession SNP MSP Brian Adam said;

“This report supports the case being made by the First Minister to Gordon Brown that cutting public spending in Scotland is not the way to solve the recession.

“If the UK’s stimulus package is “too little, too late” then cutting £1 billion from spending in the heart of Gordon Brown’s recession can only make matters worse.

“The Scottish Government’s action to boost the economy has been shown to be valuable but for the Scottish Government to continue to use its influence on the economy it is essential that public spending on goods and infrastructure in Scotland is maintained. Cutting the budget risks choking off any recovery.

“With the full fiscal powers of a real Parliament, including the power to borrow now supported by a clear majority of MSPs in the Parliament, Scotland would be even better placed to respond to the specific needs of Scotland’s economy."

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

NORTHERN IRELAND JOINS CHORUS AGAINST UK GOVERNMENT CUTS.


NORTHERN IRELAND JOINS CHORUS AGAINST UK GOVERNMENT CUTS.

SCOTTISH LABOUR MUST GET THEIR HEADS OUT THE SAND.

SNP Treasury spokesperson Stewart Hosie has welcomed the intervention of Northern Ireland’s Finance Minister on the issue of the UK Government’s planned spending cuts for the devolved administrations. Northern Ireland Finance Minister Nigel Dodd’s echoed the concerns of the Scottish and Welsh administrations over UK Government plans to cut public spending in 2010/11 and 2011/12.

Finance Minister Nigel Dodds said: “it is completely wrong and unjust that that level of funding should be reduced at this time . . . the situation is serious, and we are actively resisting it, along with the devolved Administrations of Scotland and Wales.”

Last week Labour’s Finance Minister in the Welsh Assembly Government warned that Welsh public services face an 'unprecedented' £500m budget cut in 2010 as a result of Westminster cuts. To date the Labour party in Scotland have either been defending the cuts or refusing to admit they will happen.

SNP Treasury spokesperson, Stewart Hosie MP, said:

”Nigel Dodd’s intervention completes the chorus of opposition to the Prime Minister's irresponsible spending cuts in the face of recession.

”Despite their political diversity, the governments of Scotland, Wales and now Northern Ireland can all see the danger and foolishness of the Treasury’s planned cuts, why on earth won’t the prime minister recognise this.

"It would be madness, in the deepest days of the Downing Street depression, at a time when we need to support the economy, to slash spending.

"The Labour party in Scotland has no place to hide now on this issue and must now get their heads out the sand and oppose these cuts."

More information regarding this interesting story can be found below.


1. A transcript of Nigel Dodd’s comments are set out below:

Lord Morrow: I thank the Minister for his reply; however, I want to hear from him further. In his pre-Budget report, the Chancellor announced plans for further cuts in 2010-11 of approximately £5 billion. I would like to hear the Minister’s assessment of how that will impact on Northern Ireland.

The Minister of Finance and Personnel: (Nigel Dodds, MLA): I thank the Member for his question, because he raises an important issue, which I flagged up in last week’s debates. Discussion on that took place with the Scottish and Welsh Governments and others at the British-Irish Council meeting in Cardiff last Friday. The issue affects all Whitehall Departments, but it also affects all of the devolved Administrations because it is, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer has indicated, a UK-wide efficiency-savings target.

Of course, he describes them as efficiency savings, but the difference, I think, is this: true efficiency savings release money to be recycled and put back into budgets; what we appear to be hearing from the Chancellor of the Exchequer are so-called efficiency savings that will not be recycled back into spending plans. That is a very serious situation. That is an issue on which, as I have indicated, we will fight with regard to its impact on Northern Ireland. The Assembly and the Executive were given a settlement under the comprehensive spending review of 2007, and it is completely wrong and unjust that that level of funding should be reduced at this time.

As I have already flagged up, that is a serious issue, because there is a clamour in Whitehall, by not just the Government but by the Opposition as well, as to which of them can cut deeper with so-called efficiencies and when that should happen, and not in just 2010-11. Indeed, the Opposition at Westminster has said that the cuts should happen from this April. One can imagine the impact that such cuts would have on the Budget of Northern Ireland without any preparation or time even to plan for that. Therefore, the situation is serious, and we are actively resisting it, along with the devolved Administrations of Scotland and Wales.

2. The remarks by Rhodri Morgan are reported here:

http://www.thisissouthwales.co.uk/news/Low-growth-public-spending-10-years-says-Rhodri-Morgan/article-566970-detail/article.html

A taste of the harsher times will come when Wales shoulders its share of £5 billion of efficiency savings being sought by Chancellor Alistair Darling.

In a worst-case scenario, the Assembly will lose £292 million if all the cuts are made in devolved departments such as health and education.

In an interview with the Press Association, Mr Morgan said the UK Government could not yet tell him where in Whitehall the axe would fall.

"It's going to be tough. There's no doubt about that," he said.

"It's not looking terribly promising on that point."


3. Gordon MacKenzie, Lib Dem Finance Convener Edinburgh City Council (Scotland at ten, 12th Jan)

"I don't know if it'll last another year frankly because the budget Alistair Darling has trailed the extra 5 % saving on public expenditure will have a massive effect on local government if that comes through it'll cost Scottish local government about £130 million."


4. Professor David Bell, in his evidence to the Finance Committee, stated that the UK government's plans could see the Scottish Budget fall by £380m in 2010/11 alone.

Combined with the £126m that is set to come out of the health budget as a result of Barnett consequentials, this equates to half a billion pounds a year - £1 billion over two years. Prof Bell concluded:

"…with the "value for money savings", the Barnett consequentials and capital reprofiling, there will be a possibility that real public spending in Scotland will fall during 2010/11 for the first time since the early 1990s."

http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/s3/committees/finance/budget/documents/adviserPBR.pdf

CABINET COVER UP OVER IRAQ MINUTES CONDEMNED.


CABINET COVER UP OVER IRAQ MINUTES CONDEMNED.

SNP RENEW CALLS FOR INDEPENDENT INQUIRY.

The SNP have renewed calls for a full independent inquiry into the Iraq war, including disclosure of Cabinet minutes, following news that Justice Secretary Jack Straw has vetoed the release of minutes of meetings in the run-up to the Iraq war.

SNP Westminster leader and Defence spokesperson, Angus Robertson MP, said:

”The public feels it was lied to about the reasons for going to war in Iraq, and those responsible must not be allowed to hide from an inquiry.

”This Cabinet cover up is typical of the Labour government’s attitude to freedom of information.

”We must learn the lessons from the worst UK Foreign policy decision in living memory. Our brave troops have had to pay the price of an illegal conflict forced by Tony Blair, paid for by Gordon Brown and supported by the Tories.

”Those responsible have never answered the most fundamental questions about why we were led into this war.

“The claim that the war was about weapons of mass destruction was a lie, a mere cover story unsupported by the facts, which has cost the lives of thousands of civilians and hundreds of our brave soldiers.


“As an MP representing a military constituency, nobody supports our courageous forces more than I do.

”However, the UK Government that put our troops in the face of danger must not be above question, and today, the families of those who have paid with their lives, those people who protested, and all of us who are paying for it, still demand and deserve answers.”

REAL HELP NOW WEBSITE WHITEWASH HOURS AFTER PM LAUNCHES SITE.

REAL HELP NOW WEBSITE WHITEWASH HOURS AFTER PM LAUNCHES SITE.


(Click the above image to enlarge.)

PETTY PM IS “MORE WINSTON SMITH THAN WINSTON CHURCHILL.”

Efforts taken by the Scottish Government to help the economy through the recession have been “airbrushed” from a UK Government website less than twenty-four hours after they were listed on a site launched by the prime minister.

Yesterday (Monday) the UK Government’s “real help now” website highlighted SNP Government action, such as the Council Tax freeze and flexible business support, as key efforts being taken to combat the financial crisis – today the items have been removed and replaced with a link to an out-of-date Scotland Office statement.

Commenting on the change, SNP shadow Scotland Office spokesperson, Angus MacNeil MP, said:

”Just hours after launching this website and Gordon Brown has already had it airbrushed. He is now looking more like Winston Smith than his spindoctors' preferred role model of Winston Churchill.

”Apart from making Gordon Brown look incredibly petty, he has replaced the real economic action taken by the Scottish Government with a link to a department which is all but irrelevant in tackling the financial crisis.

”Instead of website whitewashes, if Gordon Brown is serious about tackling the economic crisis, he should rule out Labour’s planned cuts to public spending in Scotland which would be so damaging in the teeth of recession.

"For the UK Government to slash Scottish spending by £1 billion is totally unacceptable – especially at a time when Scotland is in budget surplus, contributing far more to the UK exchequer than we get back in return.”

IMPROVED VALE OF LEVEN HOSPITAL PROPOSALS WELCOMED.


IMPROVED VALE OF LEVEN HOSPITAL PROPOSALS WELCOMED.

LABOUR SLAMMED ON VALE “HYPOCRISY.”

Speaking after a decision by Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health board on services at the Vale of Leven Hospital SNP MSP for West of Scotland Gil Paterson highlighted the greater commitment to services under the SNP than under Labour’s plans and recent statements from Labour that would have seen emergency services completely closed.

Labour had previously planned to slash services at the hospital – today Labour MSP Jackie Baillie is demanding they stay open.

Mr Paterson, who is attended today’s meeting of the health board said;

“The SNP is committed to keeping the health service local wherever possible. That’s why A & E services at Monklands and Ayr along with specialist child care services around the country have been saved from Labour’s knife .

“That’s why Nicola Sturgeon put plans to close services at the Vale of Leven on hold and an independent review panel was brought in.

“Jackie Baillie’s claims today are utterly hypocritical. The salami slicing of services at the Vale of Leven by the previous Labour administration would have left us an empty hospital. Now after action from the SNP those cuts have been pulled back.

“Not only that – even once Labour were out of office their health spokespeople have supported calls for services at the Vale of Leven to be shut down.

“The proposals for emergency care will allow all services that don’t require anaesthetic cover to continue at the Vale of Leven – a situation the local MSP supported as part of the integrated care pilot. Ms Baillie’s position is unsustainable.

“Today’s proposals are far better than those put forward previously – seeing services retained and around 20,000 elective procedures delivered locally rather than transferred to Paisley of Glasgow.

“I will continue to work with the Health Secretary to ensure that services at the Vale of Leven are safe and secure.”

RADICAL ACTION ON ALCOHOL DAMAGE NEEDED.


RADICAL ACTION ON ALCOHOL DAMAGE NEEDED.

POLITICAL GAMES MUST STOP TO SAVE SCOTLAND’S HEALTH.

SNP MSP Michael Matheson has today called for serious action on alcohol in Scottish society as new figures show the number of patients treated for alcohol related issues in Scottish hospitals has increased 20% over the last 5 years.

With over 100 alcohol related cases a day Mr Matheson said;

“These figures alongside recent information showing the high numbers of alcohol related deaths in Scotland and the news that we are the world’s eighth biggest drinkers only reinforces the need for real action to be taken to tackle Scotland’s alcohol problem.

“The personal, emotional and economic costs of Scotland’s drink epidemic damage our society.

“It is time for all parties to get on board and join the Scottish Government in it’s commitment to tackling Scotland’s relationship with the bottle.

“It is no longer acceptable for MSPs to use this issue for the political point scoring. When the government’s proposals come out in the near future all parties must show their real commitment to tackling this problem.

“Simply checking ID cards as Labour want is not enough to address the very real damage alcohol is doing to people across Scotland.

“The cheaper alcohol gets the worse Scotland’s problems become. We can not fiddle at the edges as opposition parties would have us do. We need a radical approach to Scotland’s alcohol problem and it’s time for all parties to get on board.”

SMALLER CLASS SIZES ACROSS SCOTLAND SUCCESS FOR SNP GOVERNMENT.


SMALLER CLASS SIZES ACROSS SCOTLAND SUCCESS FOR SNP GOVERNMENT.

WEST LOTHIAN PROGRESS SHOWS COMMITMENT CAN BE MET.

Figures on class sizes released today show councils can make real progress to reduce class sizes in P1-P3 to 18.

SNP MSP for Livingston Angela Constance today highlighted the significant progress made in West Lothian as evidence that councils can meet the targets.

West Lothian has increased the number of P1-P3 children in class sizes of 18 from 10% in 2007 to 24% in 2008%.

Across Scotland the number of P1-P3 pupils in classes of over 25 has fallen from 38 per cent in 2006 to 23 per cent in 2008

Ms Constance said;

“West Lothian has made a major step forward with a 140% increase in the numbers of P1-3 children in class sizes of 18 or less and is an example of what can be achieved by local councils.

“With 7 local authorities having an average P1 size of under 18 progress is being made with two more years to go.

“While it is disappointing that the previous Executive’s target of 25 was not met during their term the fall in the numbers of P1-P3 pupils in class sizes over 25 shows councils are now taking this issue seriously.

“The SNP Government has provided the funds – it is now for local authorities – as West Lothian has done – to make the difference and cut the class sizes.

LORD MANDELSON MUST FOCUS ON “ROYAL MAIL NOT BLACKMAIL.”


LORD MANDELSON MUST FOCUS ON “ROYAL MAIL NOT BLACKMAIL.”

PENSION PLOT REINFORCES CASE AGAINST PRIVATISATION.


As postal workers protest at Westminster over the UK government’s controversial plans to part-privatise Royal Mail, SNP Postal Affairs spokesperson Mike Weir MP has reacted with anger to the publication of a letter warning that the Royal Mail pension fund is at risk.

With massive opposition to the proposals amongst Labour MPs, UK Ministers are relying on Conservative and Liberal Democrat votes to get the bill through. The SNP is the only mainstream Scottish party who oppose the privatisation plans.

Mr Weir said:

”Lord Mandelson is on a collision course with his own party over these privatisation plans, and thinly veiled warnings over Royal Mail’s pension fund will backfire badly.

”This debate is about Royal Mail, not blackmail, and if anything the situation with Royal Mail’s pension fund actually reinforces the case against bringing in a private partner.


”The pension situation will have to be dealt with regardless, and if that is left to a private firm it will mean job losses, service cuts and a deterioration in the working conditions of postal workers.

"A private partner will only be concerned with profit, and Royal Mail must not loose its social focus which would impact disproportionately with rural areas.

”By inviting in a private partner Lord Mandelson is opening the way for full privatisation, and he must be stopped in his tracks.”

KERR CONCEDES ON BORROWING POWERS FOR SCOTLAND.


KERR CONCEDES ON BORROWING POWERS FOR SCOTLAND.

CONSENSUS GROWS EVEN FURTHER FOR FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

Commenting on Labour finance spokesperson Andy Kerr’s interview on Newsnight Scotland last night where he said he was in favour of borrowing powers for the Scottish Parliament SNP MSP Rob Gibson – a member of the Scottish Parliament's Economy, Energy & Tourism Committee – said Mr Kerr’s concession showed that the case for borrowing powers was now overwhelming.
Mr Gibson said:
"With Labour now joining the campaign for more borrowing powers for the Scottish Government the case is now overwhelming and there is little reason for further delay in extending this responsibility to Scotland in these troubled economic times.
"There is a compelling case for greater fiscal autonomy for the Scottish Parliament and opposition to borrowing powers has little to no grounds to stand on. With John Swinney's announcement on fiscal autonomy today it will be interesting to see positive engagement from Labour on that wider issue.
"As we face Labour's recession and Brown's billion pound spending cuts having the responsibility to manage our own budget is vital in ensuring we are able to respond swiftly and effectively to changes in economic circumstances.
"The Scottish Government must have the powers to take the right decisions to reflate the economy according to our own distinct circumstances.
"The examples of Northern Ireland and local councils having the power to borrow shows that the case against borrowing powers is fundamentally weak. In addition the UK Government's refusal to work with the Scottish Government on planning long term finances for projects like the Forth Bridge exposes the ludicrous situation Scotland finds itself in.
"Scotland needs additional borrowing power to allow greater flexibility for the Scottish Government in these difficult economic times."