Tuesday, 30 June 2009

GRAY FAILS REFERENDUM TEST TEN TIMES



GRAY FAILS REFERENDUM TEST TEN TIMES

POLL SHOWS INCREASING SUPPORT FOR INDEPENDENCE

Figures released in a BBC ICM poll show an increasing number of voters
favouring Scotland’s independence as a majority of voters call for a
referendum on independence and on full taxation powers for the Scottish
Parliament. The results are released as Labour leader Iain Gray refused
ten times in an interview to support a referendum or to explain his
opposition.

SNP Business Convenor Angus Robertson welcomed the results which show 42%
of people in favour of the Scottish Parliament negotiating on a settlement
with the Government of the United Kingdom so that Scotland becomes an
independent state – an increase of 7% on the same poll conducted in 2007.

The poll also shows a clear majority, 57% in favour of a referendum to
decide Scotland’s constitutional future.

When asked on this morning’s Good Morning Scotland Labour leader in the
Scottish Parliament Iain Gray was asked ten times if the Scottish public
should have the right to decide Scotland’s constitutional future in a
referendum and refused to allow the people their say.

Mr Robertson said;

“Ten years ago the Scottish Parliament reconvened at the wish of the
Scottish people.

“A decade later, for Labour to deny the people of Scotland their right to
decide, not just once, but ten times in one interview shows an appalling
lack of respect for the Scottish public and the principle that Scotland’s
sovereignty lies with the people.

“Today’s poll figures are incredibly encouraging as they show people
increasingly turning toward the SNP and Scottish independence with those
in favour of negotiating for Scotland’s independence continuing to
increase.
“The Scottish Government’s National Conversation has put the public at the
heart of the debate over Scotland’s future.

“As we mark ten years of devolution this poll shows the clear desire of
the Scottish public for the Scottish Parliament to take more
responsibility and for the Scottish people to have their say over
Scotland’s constitutional future.”

NEW FEARS FOR THE FUTURE OF THE RED HACKLE.



NEW FEARS FOR THE FUTURE OF THE RED HACKLE.



New fears for future of the Red Hackle
Friday 26 June 2009
This News Item courtesy of: The Courier

By Chris Ferguson

THE RED Hackle, the most recognisable symbol of The Black Watch, is set to disappear from the cap badges of Territorial Army soldiers.

Instead, it is likely they will wear purple hackles as part of a drive to forge common identities for Scotland’s two TA battalions.

The news has infuriated Black Watch supporters, who fear the identity of the historic regiment is once again under threat.

When The Black Watch was merged with Scotland’s other regiments into the Royal Regiment of Scotland in 2006, the promise given was that the “golden thread” of identity would be retained.

Campaigners now see this as a first step to breaking the golden thread and consigning centuries of tradition to history.

Their concern now is that Black Watch regulars (3 Scots) will be next in line to lose their Red Hackles.

But this was flatly denied last night by Major Alastair Campbell, regimental secretary of the Royal Regiment of Scotland.

He said, “The Red Hackle is safe. There is no long-term plan to replace it, there have been no discussions, it is not on the agenda and there is no aspiration to replace it.

“Everyone is proud of the identities they have got.”

Major Campbell said the idea of a single hackle for the 51st Highland Battalion and the 52nd Lowland Battalion had come from within the chain of command of the battalions.

At the moment, soldiers in the battalions wear a mixture of hackles, reflecting the recruiting areas from where they were drawn such as red (Black Watch), green (Argylls) and blue (Highlanders).

He said, “It is the aspiration of the chain of command within these two battalions and a large number of soldiers to have a single unit identity brand and a single coloured hackle.”

The matter was put to the May meeting of the Council of Scottish Colonels that agreed that the two TA battalions look into the matter.

Purple is the suggested colour, said Major Campbell, but this has yet to be confirmed.

“The commanders of the two battalions have been told to come up with some suggestions, prototypes, and they will be shown to the Council of Colonels.

“Provided they agree, we will then put it to the army dress committee and the aspiration is that it will be in place by June 2011, but it could be sooner. It is eminently sensible to have a single identity.

“There is absolutely no suggestion of this being extended to the Royal Regiment of Scotland.”

But retired TA Lieutenant Colonel Roland Rose (73), of Dundee, said ditching the Red Hackle would prompt a reaction of horror and sense of betrayal among those who cherish the regiment.

“Few if any of those involved in The Black Watch supported the merger in 2006 but we were promised that the golden thread of identity would go on, that it would preserve our history and traditions and be a recruiting tool in our footprint area of Tayside and Fife.

“Its removal under any circumstances will lead many to think this is a precursor to it being ditched completely. And one has to suppose we are seeing the first step down this road.

“On Saturday, our regimental reunion takes place in Perth and this will be one of the talking points.

“The regulars have already been denied the right to wear the Red Hackle with their dress uniform. How long will it be before we are denied the right to wear it at all?”

If you have any views on a future threat to the Red Hackle or what the symbol means to you, contact The Courier newsdesk. Email: courier@dcthomson.co.uk or call 01382 575290.

For more information, check out;

http://www.blackwatchforums.co.uk

SNP DEMAND ASSURANCES OVER CARRIERS CONTRACT



SNP DEMAND ASSURANCES OVER CARRIERS CONTRACT

MOD MUST INVEST IN ASSETS NOT TRIDENT

SNP Westminster Leader and Defence Spokesperson, Angus Robertson MP has written to Secretary of State for Defence, Bob Ainsworth, demanding immediate assurances that the contract for two aircraft carriers scheduled to begin construction in Scotland next week will not be endangered by reports of its increasing cost.

Sections of the carriers will be built at yards in Govan and Scotstoun on the Clyde. Both ships will be assembled at Rosyth.

Commenting, Mr Robertson said:

“This cloud of uncertainty cannot be allowed to hang over Scotland’s shipyards any longer.

“The industry in Scotland faced months of insecurity as the MoD dithered over the original contract to build these aircraft carriers – causing untold worry to the employees of these yards.

“These workers need immediate assurances from the MoD that the contracts will go ahead as planned.

“Scotland's shipyards are amongst the best in the world and will have planned ahead on the promise of this work from the MoD.

“The UK Government urgently needs to reconsider its defence procurement priorities. It is totally irresponsible to waste money on “a son of Trident” system when the construction of these carriers – which are not only an asset to the Armed Forces but an investment in Scottish industry – is cast in doubt.”

ALCOHOL DEATH RATE SHOWS NEED FOR RADICAL ACTION



ALCOHOL DEATH RATE SHOWS NEED FOR RADICAL ACTION

SNP ALCOHOL PLAN CAN TACKLE DRINK-DEATH RATE

Commenting on new research showing that alcohol-related illnesses could be killing one in 20 Scots - twice as many as previously thought – SNP MSP Angela Constance, a member of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee, said it underlined the importance of the SNP Government’s ambitious plan to tackle Scotland’s booze culture.

The figures show that alcohol consumption played a part in nearly 3,000 deaths in 2003.

Ms Constance said these figures provide further evidence of the damaging impact of alcohol at all levels in Scottish society. She said:

"Scotland needs to take a long hard look at our relationship with alcohol and adopt the radical action we need to tackle this problem.

"Alcohol abuse is costing our public services £2.25 billion, and much more in terms of human misery as these figures starkly demonstrate.

“These disturbing figures underline exactly why the Scottish Government have brought forward tough new measures to tackle Scotland’s problems of alcohol misuse.

"It is vital that Parliament back the full range of proposals to tackle Scotland's drinking culture, including minimum pricing, a ban on discount promotions, a duty on licensing boards to consider raising the off-sales purchase age to 21, and a social responsibility fee for some retailers.

"Our society cannot afford for politicians to waste time arguing over this, we need to work together to take radical action now.

“Together these proposals can protect and discourage people from the curse of alcohol misuse and change Scotland’s relationship with alcohol for the better.

“The SNP Government has more than trebled investment in tackling alcohol misuse over the next three years because the SNP recognise the scale of the damage caused by alcohol misuse to individuals, families and communities.

“If we all unite in opposition to the dangers of alcohol Scotland will have what it takes to lift us out of these depressing figures.”

ENERGY INQUIRY BACKS GREEN FUTURE FOR SCOTLAND



ENERGY INQUIRY BACKS GREEN FUTURE FOR SCOTLAND

NUCLEAR POWER NOT NEEDED OR WANTED

LONDON MUST RELEASE £150 MILLION FOSSIL FUEL LEVY

Scotland’s energy future should be based on non-nuclear sources.

The SNP today welcomed a report from the Parliament’s Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee which supported the Scottish Government’s plans for Scotland to build a clean, green and renewable energy future as SNP MSP Rob Gibson called for the UK Government to release £150 million of potential investment in Scotland’s energy future.

The report also calls for action to tackle fuel poverty, to increase energy efficiency and to increase renewable energy production, creating thousands of green energy jobs.

SNP MSP Rob Gibson, Deputy Convener of the Parliament’s Energy committee said;

“There is no desire across the Scottish Parliament for new nuclear energy in Scotland and a real enthusiasm for building a clean, green future with new technologies putting Scotland at the forefront of a European energy revolution.

“This year long inquiry sets a clear path for Scotland’s energy future and supports the Scottish Government’s ambition of building a sustainable economy for Scotland.

As the Scottish Government leads the way it is essential that the UK Government ends it’s lobbying for new nuclear and instead takes effective action to support Scotland’s ambition by releasing the £150 million of fossil fuel levy locked in a London bank account for investment in Scotland’s green future.”

“With Scotland on course to surpass the target of 31% of electricity from renewable energy by 2011 and aiming for 50% by 2050 we are already making strides toward this green goal, and to creating 16,000 green energy jobs over the next decade.

“Alongside Scotland’s world leading Climate Change legislation we must now lead the world on action to cut and clean up our carbon use."

MSP COMMENTS AFTER PRESENTING PETITION TO PROTECT FAMOUS POLICE PIPE BAND'S STATUS



MSP COMMENTS AFTER PRESENTING PETITION TO PROTECT FAMOUS POLICE PIPE BAND'S STATUS

Commenting after taking part in a delegation to present a petition to Strathclyde Police's Chief Constable voicing concerns over planned cuts for the Strathclyde Police Pipe Band SNP West of Scotland MSP, Stuart McMillan, said it had been a positive exercise to raise awareness of the concern about the band’s future as a top level competitor.

The petition which has been sponsored by the Piping Times magazine has attracted over 3000 signatures and was presented to Strathclyde Police at their headquarters on Pitt Street in Glasgow.

Speaking after presenting the petition Mr McMillan, a piper himself who has played at Scottish Parliamentary events, said:

"Strathclyde Police Pipe Band is a national treasure which should be celebrated and promoted. As this is the Year of Homecoming it has been disappointing that its future has been in jeopardy.

“I believe today’s exercise was a positive and worthwhile one. It has helped raise awareness of this issue and the level of feeling about one of Scotland’s world famous bands.

"It has to be stressed that the majority of the band are guest players and not serving police officers who could leave the band at any time. They could easily join any other band in the world.

"If further obstacles are placed in the way of the Strathclyde Police Pipe Band this could leave the band with only serving police officers who because of various shift patters will find it extremely difficult to practice together.

"The result of this would be that the standards would fall and the bands worldwide stature would suffer. This would adversely affect the reputation of Strathclyde Police as well.

"It is imperative that the future of the band is resolved and I would urge meaningful discussion to take place between all relevant parties. I hope today’s presentation has gone some way to lifting the threat of the band being downgraded."

LACK OF FUNDING REVIEW ‘AN EXERCISE IN IRRESPONSIBLE POLICY MAKING’



LACK OF FUNDING REVIEW ‘AN EXERCISE IN IRRESPONSIBLE POLICY MAKING’

UK GOVERNMENT DISOWNS CALMAN BEFORE THE INK ON PROPOSALS DRIES

SNP Treasury Spokesperson, Stewart Hosie MP, today (Monday) blasted the UK Government’s legislative programme as ‘an exercise in irresponsible policy making’ as the Prime Minister confirmed he would proceed with a raft of new policy measures but would not undertake a financial review.

Commenting, Mr Hosie said:

“Today’s programme has all the hallmarks of the on the hoof policy making we have come to expect from this Labour Government: it is rushed, ill considered and spun to the media long before it was presented to Parliament.

“Crucially, this initiative is not accompanied by a financial review - the UK Government is refusing to undertake a real consideration of how this programme will actually be funded despite the state of the UK’s finances.

“There is widespread agreement that the UK Government’s funding priorities are all wrong with unnecessary vanity projects such as Trident and ID cards receiving huge amounts of public money while front line services suffer.

“Gordon Brown must reconsider the swingeing cuts to the Scottish Government’s Budget. It beggars belief that he will claim to rearrange funding to protect jobs in the rest of the UK whilst inflicting a £500m cut on Scotland which will endanger 9000 jobs without a second thought.

“If the UK Government was committed to preserving jobs across the UK, they would accelerate funding to the Scottish Government enabling it to invest in and support the Scottish economy – taking forward a range of measures already proven to work instead of throwing cash at his cobbled together legislative programme.”

Commenting on the omission of any mention of the Calman proposals from the draft programme, SNP Constitutional Affairs Spokesperson Pete Wishart MP added:

“Last week, the SNP Scottish Government published the Draft Legislative Orders to implement key proposals from the Calman Report. This week, Gordon Brown has produced a draft legislative programme which does not even mention the recommendations of the Commission he helped set up!

“In drafting these legislative orders, the SNP Scottish Government indicated its clear commitment to working with others to take forward those elements of Calman which are good for Scotland. It would appear the UK Government have abandoned the proposals before the ink was even dry.

“There is only one announcement the country wants to hear: that Gordon Brown is calling a General Election immediately.”

SNP WESTMINSTER LEADER GIVES EVIDENCE TO KELLY COMMISSION



SNP WESTMINSTER LEADER GIVES EVIDENCE TO KELLY COMMISSION

SNP PROPOSE AMENDMENT TO PARLIAMENTARY STANDARDS BILL

SNP Westminster Leader, Angus Robertson MP, today (Monday) gave evidence to the Committee into Standards in Public Life where he advocated a system based on that currently in operation at the Scottish Parliament.

The session comes ahead of the Commons debate on the Parliamentary Standards Bill tomorrow, where the SNP Westminster group will present an amendment making it a criminal offence not to declare a relevant interest when speaking in the Parliament.

Commenting, Mr Robertson said:

"Westminster has been dragged kicking and screaming towards reform. We must not stop until we have trustworthy and transparent system in place - the Scottish Parliament sets the benchmark on how that should be done.

“Throughout the all-party talks preceding the Parliamentary Standards Bill, the SNP have consistently argued for legislation which will match that in operation at Holyrood. Tomorrow, the SNP Westminster Group will push forward an amendment which will make it a criminal offence to conceal a relevant interest when speaking in Parliament – ensuring practice in Westminster meets the Holyrood standard.”

Angus Robertson MP the only Scottish politician to give oral evidence to the Committee and – despite travelling to Belfast and other locations in London – there is no scheduled evidence session north of the Border. Mr Robertson added:

“Until Scotland secures independence, Holyrood may have fewer powers than Westminster, but it is abundantly clear that the Scottish Parliament provides the gold standard in setting new standards of democracy.

“A few years ago, when faced with its own difficulties over Members’ conduct, the Scottish Parliament took decisive action and now, Holyrood is a beacon of good practice.

“I find it incredible that, despite a first rate system operating just a few hundred miles from London, the Committee have neglected to conduct an in depth survey. Surely, the point of this exercise is to establish the best possible framework, to restore faith in the fractured UK Parliament.”

SINGH CASE: ‘UNDERLINES NEED FOR GREATER FLEXIBILITY IN IMMIGRATION SYSTEM’



SINGH CASE: ‘UNDERLINES NEED FOR GREATER FLEXIBILITY IN IMMIGRATION SYSTEM’

SCOTLAND NEEDS A BREAK IN IMMIGRATION BUREAUCRACY

SNP Home Affairs Spokesperson and MP for Perth and North Perthshire, Pete Wishart has called for a break in bureaucracy and an increase in sensitivity to be applied to immigration cases.

Mr Wishart made his comments as he intervened in a constituency case which saw a Perthshire mother and two young children forced out of Scotland following the unexpected death of her husband.

Mr Navjot Singh and his wife Nidhi came to Perth in 2004 and their first daughter, Kashish (8) was enrolled in a Perthshire primary school. Their second daughter, Tanisha, was born in Scotland. Under immigration rules they would have been eligible to stay in the UK indefinitely next month, however Mr Singh died early this year. Now his widow and children are being forced to leave. Mrs Singh agreed to return to India with her children earlier this year, because she did not want to remain in Scotland illegally.

Mr Wishart has actively worked on behalf of many constituents who have had difficulties with the Home Office and who have much to contribute to the local economy and community life. He intervened in the case of Swarthick Salins, who was denied the right to stay in Scotland due bureaucratic difficulties.

Mr Wishart said of the case:

"The Singh family are in a dreadful situation. I am appalled by what has happened and this shows how bureaucratic and rigid the rules are.

"Mrs Singh has a degree in electronics and communications and has a useful contribution to make to the Perth community. Her children have started their education here and know no other country. Mrs Singh should be allowed to come back to the UK without being subject to this officious nonsense. What we need is a system that works on behalf of families placed in this particular and unusual situation.

“The new Australian-style "points system", which has been recently brought in by Home Office, requires new immigrants to amass enough points, based on factors such as a employment, skills shortages and community links to gain entry to the United Kingdom.

"The points-based system has made the situation worse for the type of people we want to attract to Scotland. Under the old system, it was based more on the merits of the case and there was more discretion.

“I have, for many years, been calling for immigration powers to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament to reinvigorate the initiative. The current system is suited to the south of England, where there is no shortage of immigrants. In Scotland, we have problems attracting suitably qualified people."

TRIDENT’S FINANCIAL FOLLY COMES INTO FOCUS



TRIDENT’S FINANCIAL FOLLY COMES INTO FOCUS

FORMER NATO GENERAL SECRETARY'S CALL TO AXE TRIDENT

Newspaper reports today (Monday) have brought the financial folly of replacing the current Trident system into focus with even the former secretary-general of NATO – Lord George Robertson – co-authoring a report calling for the re-placement system to be scrapped.

The report in the Financial Times details how Lord Robertson has co-authored a report along with former LibDem leader Lord Paddy Ashdown and Lord Guthrie – former chief of the defence staff.

In addition the Daily Mail also reports that plans are being drawn up by the government in Westminster to scrap the Trident replacement, and Scotland’s Cardinal Keith O’Brien has penned an article for the Times highlighting the immorality of nuclear weapons.

Commenting on these rush of developments, SNP Westminster leader and party defence spokesperson, Angus Robertson MP, said:

“With the debate about Westminster government cuts raging, these reports are very timely and lay bear the incoherence of spending plans that include Trident.

“It is even more embarrassing for the Labour government considering that Lord George Robertson is reported as one of the authors.

“The position of Labour and the Tories in arguing for Trident is untenable in these difficult financial times.

"Trident is frankly obscene, and in the current economic climate it must be obvious that these resources should be better spent.”

Bill Kidd MSP, an active campaigner against Trident, also said:

"To dump a 'son of Trident' on Scotland would be an act of immense irresponsibility - particularly when Westminster parties are planning cuts in Scottish public spending.

“And it is not just former defence chiefs like Lord Guthrie who think the UK Government is wrong to waste tens of billions replacing Trident. It is a view shared by governments around the world, the people of Scotland and the Scottish Parliament.

"Civil society, trade unions, religious organisations and the Scottish Government are working together to keep a new generation of Trident missiles out of Scotland, and today’s reports reinforce that argument."

Monday, 29 June 2009

ROYAL MAIL PLAN SHELVED.


‘UNWORKABLE AND UNPOPULAR’ ROYAL MAIL PLAN SHELVED.

SNP Postal Affairs Spokesperson, Mike Weir MP, has described Lord Mandelson’s admission that the UK Labour Government will not progress legislation to part-privatise Royal Mail as a humiliating climb down and warned that similar plans introduced in the next Parliament would be disastrous for the postal service.

Commenting, Mr Weir said:

“After months of trying to ignore the mutiny on its own backbenches, the Labour Government has finally admitted that its absurd plan for the part-privatisation of Royal Mail is both unworkable and unpopular by kicking the legislation firmly into the long grass.

“This climb down is humiliating for Gordon Brown but a victory for Royal Mail employees and service users across Scotland.

“Privatisation would spell the beginning of the end for Royal Mail, and open the door to job losses, service cuts and a deterioration in the working conditions of postal workers.

“Instead of wasting time in the next Parliament pursuing these ludicrous privatisation schemes, MPs must focus on solid, workable measures which will ensure a successful, long term future for Royal Mail.”

LEAKED ARMY REPORT SAYS BLAIR and BROWN TO BLAME FOR IRAQ QUAGMIRE



LEAKED ARMY REPORT SAYS BLAIR and BROWN TO BLAME FOR IRAQ QUAGMIRE
Commenting on an army report leaked to the Sunday Mirror which blames not only Tony Blair but Gordon Brown for the botched occupation of Iraq the SNP Westminster leader and Defence spokesperson, Angus Robertson MP, said it indicated unease at senior army levels about the inquiry being held in secret.
According to the secret report by senior Army officers which was to be presented to the Iraq war inquiry it criticises the then Chancellor Gordon Brown for withholding funds to rebuild Basra for FIVE months after troops went in. The 100-page document also attacks Tony Blair for "uncritically" accepting the flawed US plans for the March 2003 invasion.
The report - Stability Operations in Iraq - is not meant not be officially made public because the inquiry's head, Sir John Chilcot, ruled all documents will remain secret.
Commenting Mr Robertson said:
“This leaked document would appear to be a damning critique of the two most senior members of the Labour government at the time - Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.
"It also suggests that there may be great unease about Gordon Brown's decision to allow the inquiry to be held in secret when it wished.
“The whole point of this inquiry was to get to the truth about the Iraq war. People wanted an open and honest inquiry, not some establishment stitch-up.
"This leak would appear to support the fact that by every measurement the Iraq war has been the biggest foreign policy disaster in modern times, and those responsible for it have never answered the most fundamental questions about why we were led into this mess."

CAMERON IGNORES MAJORITY IN SCOTLAND AGAINST TRIDENT



CAMERON IGNORES MAJORITY IN SCOTLAND AGAINST TRIDENT

MAJORITY AT ALL LEVELS AGAINST WASTING MONEY ON WMD

Commenting on David Cameron's remarks about the SNP and replacing Trident Glasgow SNP MSP and anti-Trident campaigner, Bill Kidd said the Tory leader had learnt nothing about why his party had become so unpopular in Scotland.

Mr Kidd pointed out that a Trident replacement was opposed by a majority of MPs, the Scottish Parliament, civic Scotland and the Scottish public and any attempts to foist it on Scotland were anti-Scottish.

Mr Kidd said:

"It is this sort of arrogance that has led to to the marginalisation of the Tories in Scotland. They ignored majority opinion then and it led to them being wiped out at Westminster. David Cameron seems to be making a blithe assumption that he will be Prime Minister, but the people of Scotland will have their say at the General Election.

"There is clear opposition to the grossly expensive replacement of Trident in Scotland – up to £100 billion of taxpayers money would be spent on it over the next 30 years. The Scottish Parliament have overwhelmingly voted against the son of Trident, a majority of Scottish MPs reject it, and there is widespread opposition to Trident and its replacement.

"Civil society, trade unions, religious organisations and the Scottish Government are working together to ensure a new generation of Trident missiles is kept away from Scotland's shores.

“David Cameron isn’t even in office and he is picking fights with Scotland - he should stop treating Scotland like a county and realise it is a nation.

"With David Cameron demanding investment cuts in public services, it is utterly astounding he is planning to waste even more on Trident. The money should be invested in protecting and creating jobs in these troubled economic times. With the Labour UK Government running up debts of £1.4 trillion, it is clear that we can’t afford to waste such an obscene amount of money on unwanted, unnecessary weapons of mass destruction.

"Instead of squandering billions on these devastating and dangerous missiles, David Cameron could have taken the lead in calling for an end to nuclear weapons by bringing an end to this shameful waste of resources."

SNP PUSH WESTMINSTER REFORM TO HOLYROOD STANDARDS



SNP PUSH WESTMINSTER REFORM TO HOLYROOD STANDARDS

The Scottish National Party (SNP) has tabled an amendment to the Parliamentary Standards Bill making it a criminal offence for a Member of Parliament to fail to declare a relevant interest in parliamentary proceedings.

The SNP Westminster group will push for the UK Parliament to emulate Holyrood standards of transparency in the Parliamentary Standards Bill which will be discussed in the House of Commons early next week.

Under the proposed legislation as it currently stands, MPs could only be found guilty of a criminal offence if they fail to register an interest - but there is no requirement similar to that which exists in the Scottish Parliament to ensure MPs make reference to this interest when speaking in Parliament.

The SNP Westminster Group has advocated working to the Holyrood standard in a series of all-party meetings, chaired by Justice Secretary Jack Straw, aimed at pushing forward parliamentary standards reform.

Commenting, SNP Westminster Leader Angus Robertson MP, said:

“The Scottish Parliament has shown the way with legal sanctions that can be applied against wayward parliamentarians.

“By including this proposal in the Parliamentary Standards Bill, Westminster can send a clear signal that it is unacceptable for MPs to put their own pecuniary advantage before the interests of their constituents.

“The public are quite right when they say that MPs should not be exempt from serious consequences if they break the rules. Politicians make the laws – they are not above them.

“The SNP Westminster Group will push for Westminster to emulate Holyrood standards on this matter, as it has already done over the publication of expenses.”

Sunday, 28 June 2009

POLL SHOWS POSITIVE BACKING FOR SCOTTISH SELF-GOVERNMENT.


POLL SHOWS POSITIVE BACKING FOR SCOTTISH SELF-GOVERNMENT.

CALMAN CONFUSION CONTINUES FOR OPPOSITION PARTIES.

A BBC Scotland survey has revealed that 41% of people in Scotland believe devolution has been good for Scotland compared to only 9% who thought it was bad Commenting, SNP MSP and Minister for Parliament Bruce Crawford said it was an indication that people felt positive about the Scottish Parliament and, given the rise in support for the SNP, reflects the increasing support for the Parliament assuming more responsibilities.

The survey also found similar results on the issues of health and education.

Commenting Mr Crawford said:

"These results are very positive, and show that Scots have a high level of satisfaction in having more responsibilities for our affairs even when those are limited by the current constitutional restrictions.

“Given the SNP’s emphatic victory at the recent European elections, success in by-elections and soaring poll ratings for Holyrood and Westminster, it is clear that there is growing support for the Scottish Parliament to assume greater responsibilities

“The devolved Parliament has been a success and with the responsibilities of a normal, independent parliament, we will be able to deliver far more.

“The backdrop of the National Conversation also shows how the SNP’s clear policy of a referendum on independence is popular compared to the confusion in the Calman parties’ ranks.

“We saw that again today on the Politics Show with Labour’s Lord Foulkes disagreeing with his own party leader over immediately devolving the powers Calman suggests and also not supporting the Calman tax proposals; whilst the Tories’ Margaret Mitchell opposed even devolving the Calman powers at all.

“There are obviously not only deep divisions between the Calman parties but within the Calman parties.

“In short, the entire constitutional debate is being fueled by SNP petrol and the SNP’s proposals are leaving the other parties trailing.”

Linda Scott Of Inverness is also following this story.

LOCAL BY-ELECTION ANALYSIS SHOWS SWING TO SNP INCREASING.


LOCAL BY-ELECTION ANALYSIS SHOWS SWING TO SNP INCREASING.


SWING FROM LABOUR CONTINUES TO INCREASE IN THIRD YEAR INTO GOVERNMENT.


Following the Monifieth and Sidlaw by-election - which the SNP won with the biggest vote share in any ward since PR was introduced - the party has published an analysis of all local council by-elections held since May 2007 which shows that the swing to the SNP from Labour is increasing as the SNP enters its third year in Government.

In 2007 the SNP enjoyed a swing of 2% in all three local by-elections held in that year. This compares to a swing of 5% to the SNP from Labour in all 12 local by-elections held in 2008. Now, halfway into 2009, the swing to the SNP from Labour in all by-elections has increased further. With 9 by-elections held so far the SNP has secured a 6% swing from Labour.

Commenting on the analysis the SNP's Business Convener and Westminster Leader Angus Robertson MP said:

"These are excellent results for the SNP. Not only was securing the largest vote share in any ward in Scotland a triumph in Monifieth and Sidlaw but for the swings from Labour to be increasing year on year shows that the people of Scotland support the SNP Government, and back the SNP’s record of delivery.

"For the swing from Labour to the SNP to increase over three years shows that trust in the SNP is actually increasing.

"The reality is that people like what they get from the SNP – in local communities and across Scotland – and they like what the SNP Government is doing by freezing council tax and investing more to help the construction sector. In these tough times that is what people want, and they are repaying the SNP with ever growing levels of support both locally and nationally.

"People like our message of confidence in Scotland and the people of Scotland, instead of the tired old scare mongering from the London parties. People believe Scotland has what it takes to get through this recession and are rejecting Labour's message of doom.

"That swings to the SNP are also greater in supposed areas of Labour strength further shows that we are breathing down their necks in what used to be their heartlands.

"And that the swing is INCREASING from 2007 when the SNP ended Labour's dominance in Scottish politics shows that Labour's position in Scotland is getting weaker – and that it is the SNP which is moving even further forward from our high point in May 2007.


"And it will be SNP success in the Westminster election that will stop Labour's planned £500 million of cuts to Scotland's budget in their tracks."




1. BY-ELECTION ANALYSIS

i. The results of all three local by-elections in Scotland in 2007 were:

Party: Votes - % (% Change from 2007)

SNP: 3,236 - 35% (+1%)

Labour: 1,913 - 21% (-3%)

Tory: 1,602 - 17% (-1%)

LibDem: 1,770 - 19% (3%)

Others: 656 - 7% (0%)

Swing from Labour to SNP = +2%

The following 3 local by-elections took place in 2007:

Midstocket/Rosemount (Aberdeen Council) 16th August 2007

Helensburgh and Lomond South (Argyll & Bute Council) 4th October 2007

Lochee (Dundee Council) 22nd November 2007

ii. The results of the local by-elections held in Scotland in 2008 were as follows:

Party: Votes - % (% Change from 2007)

SNP: 15,215 - 36% (+6%)

Labour: 13,402 - 32% (-4%)

Tory: 5,933 - 14% (0%)

LibDem: 3,014 - 7% (1%)

Other: 4,388 - 10% (-3%)

Swing from Labour to SNP = +5%

The following 12 local by-elections took place in 2008:

Kilsyth (North Lanarkshire Council) 31st January 2008

Elgin City South (Moray Council) 14th February 2008

Highland Ward (Perth & Kinross Council) 21st February 2008

Lerwick South (Shetland Council) 28th February 2008

Cambuslang East (South Lanarkshire Council) 6th March 2008

Troup (Aberdeenshire Council) 1st May 2008

Abbey (Dumfries & Galloway Council) 1st May 2008

Baillieston (Glasgow Council) 18th September 2008

Forth (Edinburgh Council) 6th November 2008

Baillieston (Glasgow Council) 6th November 2008

Ballochmyle (East Ayrshire Council) 11th December 2008

Kilbirnie & Beith (North Ayrshire Council) 11th December 2008

iii. The results of the local by-elections held in Scotland in 2009 so far are as follows:

Party: Votes - % (% Change from 2007)

SNP: 10,795 - 35% (+4%)

Labour: 8,358 - 27% (-8%)

Tory: 3,698 - 12% (-2%)

LibDem: 4,886 - 16% (5%)

Other: 3,319 - 11% (1%)

Swing from Labour to SNP = +6%

The following 9 local by-elections have taken place in 2009 so far:

Maryfield (Dundee Council) 12th March 2009

Inverness West (Highland Council) 23rd April 2009

Aboyne, Upper Deeside & Donside (Aberdeenshire Council) 23rd April 2009

Bannockburn (Stirling Council) 30th April 2009

Coatbridge North and Glenboig (North Lanarkshire Council) 4th June 2009

Drumchapel Anniesland (Glasgow Council) 4th June 2009

Bishopbriggs South (East Dunbartonshire Council) 4th June 2009

Inverclyde South West (Inverclyde Council) 18th June 2009

Monifieth and Sidlaw (Angus Council) 25th June 2009

2. MONIFEITH & SIDLAW BY-ELECTION

i. The result of the by-election held yesterday was:

SNP: 2,486 - 69%

Tory: 698 - 19%

LibDem: 439 - 12%

SNP win on first count with majority of the first preference votes.

69% is the highest share of the vote for any party in any ward since the current proportional representation voting system was introduced. That covers 377 contests - 353 wards that elected in 2007 and 24 by-elections since.

ii. The previous result in terms of first preference votes in 2007 was:

SNP: 4100 - 54%

Tory: 1396 - 18%

Labour: 1040 - 14%

LibDem: 544 - 7%

Other: 473 - 6%

MSP TO PRESENT PETITION TO PROTECT FAMOUS POLICE PIPE BAND'S STATUS.


MSP TO PRESENT PETITION TO PROTECT FAMOUS POLICE PIPE BAND'S STATUS.


Tomorrow (Monday 29th June) SNP West of Scotland MSP Stuart McMillan will take part in a delegation presenting a petition to Strathclyde Police's Chief Constable voicing concerns over planned cuts for the Strathclyde Police Pipe Band.
Concerns have been raised for several months after it was discovered that the future of the world famous Pipe Band was uncertain when it was announced the band would only play at two of the five main piping competitions of the year.
The petition which has been sponsored by the Piping Times magazine has already attracted over 3000 signatures.
Speaking the day before presenting the petition Mr McMillan, a piper himself who has played at Scottish Parliamentary events, said:
"I am deeply concerned about this issue for what is one of Scotland's most famous pipe bands. The band have been at the top of their game for years and it would be a terrible mistake to see them downgraded.
"Not only are they top class players but they serve as ambassadors for the Scottish Police, Scotland and piping when playing here and abroad.
"The presence of the band has also undoubtedly increased good relations within the communities they work in.
"In essence it is a matter of confusion as to why the largest force in Scotland is not willing to continue the important work their band do.
"This is why I am helping present this petition and hope that the Chief Constable will help facilitate a reconsideration.
"There has been great concern across the piping community and further afield and I hope that the Chief Constable will take heed of these concerns."


1. The petition can be read here:
2. Stuart will be handing in the petition to Strathclyde Police HQ in Glasgow on Monday 29th June.
Full details are:
When: 1.55pm, Monday 29th June
Where: Meet outside Hotel Ibis, 220 West Regent Street, group will then be "piped" up to Strathclyde Police HQ on Pitt Street where Stuart and other representatives will hand in the petition.
3. Stuart McMillan's Parliamentary motion reads as follows:
Short Title: Don't Silence the Pipers S3M-03525 Stuart McMillan (West of Scotland) (SNP): That the Parliament notes with concern that the future of Strathclyde Police Pipe Band is in jeopardy; acknowledges that the band has origins in 1883, was set up by public request and was endorsed by an act of Parliament; further notes that the band has been a regular feature at the five major events of the pipe band calendar, the Scottish, British, European and World Championships, as well as the Cowal Highland Gathering, but that this will be cut to playing at only two this year; congratulates the Strathclyde Police Pipe Band for continued success in the prize list at these major competitions and for being outstanding ambassadors around the world for Strathclyde Police, Scotland and piping; notes the record attendance for the band's performance at this year's Celtic Connections; welcomes the increasing investment in other Scottish police force pipe bands, and calls on the chief constable to consider carefully the move to silence the Strathclyde Police Pipe Band.

YOUGOV POLL SAMPLE SHOWS CONSISTENT SNP WESTMINSTER LEAD.

YOUGOV POLL SAMPLE SHOWS CONSISTENT SNP WESTMINSTER LEAD.

ELECTION A CLEAR TWO HORSE RACE BETWEEN SNP AND LABOUR.

The Scottish sample of the latest YouGov opinion poll from the Daily Telegraph shows that the SNP is maintaining a consistent lead over Labour in voting intentions for the Westminster Parliament with a 4% lead over Labour.

The poll – which has a Scottish sample of 221 people – puts the SNP on 32% to 28% for Labour. This is consistent with the recent YouGov poll by the Sunday Times which had the SNP leading Labour by 31% to 28%.

Commenting on the figures, SNP MSP and Minister for Parliament Bruce Crawford said:

“These results are a very positive indication for the SNP with a lead in Westminster voting intentions. They may be small but they are significant. They clearly indicate what we all know – that the coming Westminster election is a two-horse race between the SNP and Labour.

“This poll shows people like what they get from the SNP – in local communities and across Scotland – and they like what the SNP Government is doing by freezing council tax and investing more to help the construction sector.

“In these tough times that is what people want, and they are repaying the SNP with ever growing levels of support both locally and nationally.”

1. YouGov poll for The Telegraph conducted on 23rd - 25th June 2009 sampled 221 people in Scotland.

Questioned on voting intentions for the Westminster Election respondents expressed the following preferences (change from 2005);

SNP 32% (+14%)
Labour 28% (-12%)
Tory 15% (-1%)
LibDem 16% (-7%)

2. The latest Scotland-only poll by Sunday Times Scotland by Yougov resulted in the following:

Sample Size: 1048
Fieldwork: 2nd - 4th June 2009

SNP 31% (up from 18% in 2005)
Labour 28% (down from 40% in 2005)
Tory 17% (up from 16% in 2005)
LibDem 16% (down from 23% in 2005)

SNP ON ARMED FORCES DAY.


SNP ON ARMED FORCES DAY.


Speaking about Armed Forces Day the SNP Westminster Leader and the party's defence spokesperson, Angus Robertson MP, spoke of the extraordinary and critical work that the armed forces are involved in both in Scotland and throughout the world.

Mr Robertson represents the most service personnel in Scotland with both RAF Lossiemouth and RAF Kinloss in his Moray constituency.
Commenting about Armed Forces day Mr Robertson praised the service community but warned against further military cuts in Scotland by the UK government: “Our service personnel and their families, have made and continue to make huge personal sacrifices to ensure that our rights, freedoms and way of life are defended and maintained.

"Armed Forces Day is therefore a perfect opportunity to say "thank you" for the sacrifices made on our behalf. "My own constituency has and will continue to have a strong connection to the armed forces.


This was well demonstrated by the fact that there were more than 500 veterans who applied for a Veterans Badge when the first event happened last year.


“It is also very encouraging that the SNP Government is also playing a full part in Armed Forces Day with SNP Government Ministers joining celebrations and showing support in recognition of the contribution our Armed Forces make to our society.

"It is also important to recognise the work that is being carried out by members of the three services as we speak and the risks that they are expected to take on our behalf.

“Armed Forces personnel serve our country in all parts of the world, often under very testing and dangerous circumstances and, regretfully, occasionally at terrible cost. "The challenges they face and the roles they play are made a little bit easier when they know that their communities back home are proud of them and wish them well."

“At this time we should also be aware of the threats to the Armed forces and military footprint in Scotland. It is not right for the UK Government to consider further amalgamations and cuts to the Scottish infantry and closure of facilities such as the missile testing facility in the Western Isles.”

SNP PRESSURE EXTENDS MoD UIST JOBS DEADLINE.


SNP PRESSURE EXTENDS MoD UIST JOBS DEADLINE.

The Ministry of Defence have agreed to extend the consultation period over proposed cuts to defence jobs in Uist. The decision follows a request from SNP MSP Alasdair Allan with the support of the Uist Taskforce and Scottish Government.

Minister for Defence Equipment and Support, Quentin Davies MP, has agreed to Mr Allan’s request and announced that the consultation period will be extended by 15 working days to end on the 20th August 2009 instead of the 29th July.

Dr Allan commented:

“I made the point to the MOD in a letter of the 17th June that the consultation period proposed, ending on 29 July, was unacceptably short for the various interested agencies to formulate as in-depth a contribution as they would wish under the circumstances.

“This is a point which has similarly been made by the Uist Taskforce and by Finance Secretary John Swinney who wrote to the Ministry of Defence about this subject this week.

“While there is still a big campaign ahead of us this small but significant step shows what the community can do when acting together and allows us all time to make an even stronger argument for the retention of these jobs.”

Friday, 26 June 2009

SNP MPS EXPRESS CONCERN OVER SCOTTISH MILITARY FUTURE



SNP MPS EXPRESS CONCERN OVER SCOTTISH MILITARY FUTURE

‘WESTMINSTER SHOWS NO REGARD FOR SCOTS TRADITIONS’

More information from this excellent Blackwatch website.

SNP MP for Perth and North Perthshire, Pete Wishart, has warned any attempt to replace the distinctive red hackle of the Black Watch regiment of the Territorial Army would be another blow to Scottish military tradition.

Mr Wishart issued the warning as reports suggested the Territorial Army is considering substituting the variously coloured hackles from the caps of TA soldiers for a single, unified badge.

Commenting, Mr Wishart, who campaigned against the amalgamation of the Scottish regiments, said:


"To abolish the famous red hackle from part of the Black Watch is incredible as we approach Armed Forces day. Very few wanted to see the amalgamation of Scottish regiments – it was a small comfort that the unique identities of the battalions would be preserved. Just a few years later and it is unacceptable that this is already cast into doubt.

"I will be seeking immediate assurances that this proposal will not be approved and that no further efforts will be made to dilute the identity of the Black Watch in any way.

The report comes amid further concern that the UK Government is considering scrapping a battalion from the Royal Regiment of Scotland.

Reducing the sole surviving Scottish regiment by 600 soldiers has reportedly been mooted in private discussions as a possible way of achieving an overall reduction of 1800 personnel.

Commenting, SNP Westminster Leader and Defence Spokesperson, Angus Robertson MP added:

“Any further cuts to the Scottish infantry would be a severe mistake.

“In these times of global instability, it would be an extremely damaging course of action and would further undermine the recruitment of the Army in Scotland.”

SNP WELCOME CONCORDAT COMMITMENT



SNP WELCOME CONCORDAT COMMITMENT

The leader of the SNP Group on COSLA Cllr Derek MacKay (Renfrewshire)
today welcomed the unanimous decision of Scotland’s Councils to renew the
historic concordat between the Scottish Government and COSLA.

Local Authorities also reaffirmed their commitment to work with the
Scottish Government to reduce class sizes.

Speaking after the meeting Cllr MacKay said;

“I warmly welcome the unanimous decision of COSLA to renew the historic
concordat with the Scottish Government.

“The Convention today agreed to “renew, refresh and refocus” our efforts
with Government on the outcomes agreed in the concordat.

“COSLA today recognised that we all need to do more to achieve lower class
sizes and agreed that working together local authorities, COSLA and the
Government will re-invigorate our efforts to cut class sizes in accordance
with the concordat.”

SNP VICTORY IN ANGUS WITH SENSATIONAL BY-ELECTION WIN



SNP VICTORY IN ANGUS WITH SENSATIONAL BY-ELECTION WIN

RECORD SHARE OF VOTE FOR ANY PARTY SINCE PR INTRODUCED

THE SNP have recorded a huge victory in the Angus Council Monifieth and Sidlaw ward by-election where the party increased its first preference votes by 15% to 69% - the highest share of the vote for any party in any ward since the current proportional representation voting system was introduced.

The victory saw Jean Lee elected as councillor for the seat with swings from all parties. Labour failed to field a candidate, despite leafleting the ward, after it was discovered their candidate didn’t qualify for the by-election.

Dundee East MP Stewart Hosie whose constituency includes a sizeable portion of the Angus Council ward of Monifieth & Sidlaw, today congratulated new SNP Councillor Jean Lee for her stunning by-election win.

Stewart Hosie said:

"Jean Lee will be a first-class councillor for Monifieth & Sidlaw and I congratulate her on her tremendous victory, taking over 69% of the first preference votes. That is the highest vote share for any party in any local government election since PR was introduced.

“The SNP are the party of government in Scotland, and our victory is a positive endorsement of the SNP and a positive vote for our record of policy delivery. In by-elections, the European elections, and opinion polls for Holyrood and Westminster, the SNP have the support of the people of Scotland.

"The SNP Government are focussed on helping families and business during tough times – the Economic Recovery Programme is supporting 15,000 jobs, and we are freezing the Council Tax freeze, slashing business rates, introducing free prescriptions, and delivering 1,000 additional police officers in Scotland’s communities. These are the SNP policies that are winning elections across Scotland – and in spectacular style in Monifieth & Sidlaw.”

Angus MP Mike Weir added:

“To have secured an even greater share of the vote since 2007 – which was a high watermark year for the SNP – is a stunning achievement.

"In Jean Lee the people of Monifieth & Sidlaw have elected an excellent and dedicated local campaigner who will represent their interests in the council.

”I look forward to working with her and Councillor Rob Murray on behalf of constituents of Monifieth and the Sidlaw villages."

Commenting on her victory Cllr Jean Lee said;

"It is an honour to have been elected to represent Monifieth & Sidlaw on Angus Council.

"I look forward to working with my SNP colleagues on the council, in Parliament and in the SNP Government to put forward a positive vision for Monifieth & Sidlaw, and to fight for the interests of the area.

"The sad death of well-known local councillor Frank Ellis was a loss to Monifieth & Sidlaw because he had contributed much to the area.

"I will work hard to ensure his legacy continues to show that it is the SNP which represents the best interests of all the people of Monifieth & Sidlaw."