Sunday, 31 January 2010

MAJORITY BELIEVE BLAIR STILL LYING OVER IRAQ



MAJORITY BELIEVE BLAIR STILL LYING OVER IRAQ

PUBLIC SICK OF A DECADE OF LABOUR DECEIT

A BPIX / Mail on Sunday poll conducted immediately after Tony Blair's
evidence to the Iraq Inquiry on Friday has found that 8 out of 10 people
surveyed believe the former PM is still lying about the Iraq war.

The poll also found that 78% of people believed Blair lied when he said he
had equipped troops properly.

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

"No matter how skillfully he ducked and dived before the Chilcot
committee, his evidence to the Iraq Inquiry did nothing to restore Tony
Blair's tarnished reputation. The former PM's legacy will forever be that
of the illegal, immoral Iraq war and the spin which accompanied it.

"The Iraq Inquiry has been massively damaging for Labour. Those who lead
should not mislead and the public are sick of a decade of Labour deceit.

"Sir John Chilcot and his team are doing their very best to get to the
truth behind the greatest foreign policy disaster in modern times but
ultimately it is up to the electorate to delivery their verdict at the
forthcoming General Election."

LABOUR MSPS FLEE HOLYROOD FRONT BENCH FOR WESTMINSTER BACK BENCH



LABOUR MSPS FLEE HOLYROOD FRONT BENCH FOR WESTMINSTER BACK BENCH

THIRD MEMBER OF GRAY'S TEAM PREPARES TO JUMP SHIP

SNP MP Angus MacNeil has called on Labour MSP Jackie Baillie to make her
intentions on contesting the forthcoming General Election clear - amidst
suggestions that she may seek the nomination for the West Dunbartonshire
Westminster seat being vacated by John McFall.

These reports come as Ms Baillie's predecessor as Labour Health
Spokesperson, Cathy Jamieson, confirmed her own intention to stand at the
Westminster election in Kilmarnock and Loudoun.

Margaret Curran, another member of Iain Gray's inner circle, announced her
candidacy for Glasgow East last year.

Commenting, Mr MacNeil said:

"Any way you look at this, the Scottish Labour Party is in a bad way.
Either Iain Gray has so little authority over his own front bench that
they desert him or that they have to rely on MSPs to stand as candidates.

"Things just keep getting worse for the Iain Gray. First, Lord Mandelson
positions Tony Blair as Labour's greatest electoral asset and now a third
member of his front bench team hints she doesn't even want to be in the
same parliament as him!

"Jackie Baillie needs to make her intentions clear. Is she behind Iain
Gray or Gordon Brown?"

SCOTTISH FIRMS LOSE OUT TO LONDON ON OLYMPIC CONTRACTS



SCOTTISH FIRMS LOSE OUT TO LONDON ON OLYMPIC CONTRACTS

FIRMS NORTH OF BORDER GET JUST 2% OF CONTRACTS

Questions have been raised over why Scottish, Welsh and Irish firms have
not benefited more from London Olympic contracts after a parliamentary
question revealed just 17 Scottish firms had received Olympic Delivery
Authority (ODA) contracts – in contrast to 1,022 English firms. Wales
received 4 contracts and Northern Ireland 3, while as many contracts went
overseas as came to Scotland.

SNP spokesperson on the Olympics, Pete Wishart MP, said the figures raised
serious questions over whether contracts had been marketed fairly across
the UK to deliver benefits for all.

Mr Wishart said:

“It seems clear from these disappointing figures that Scottish companies
are an afterthought when lucrative Olympic contracts are being awarded.
The imbalance in where these contracts are going raises real questions on
whether they are being marketed fairly across the UK to deliver benefits
for all.

“It is a double whammy for Scotland because we are already missing out on
any consequentials from the massive spending regenerating London's East
End for the Olympics whilst Downing Street deny the same funding to the
Scottish Government for Glasgow which will host the Commonwealth Games.
The Scottish Government are funding 80% of the Games’ costs, with Glasgow
Council funding 20%.

“Spending by the UK Government on regeneration around the London Olympics
should generate £165m - £33m per annum over the five years to 2012-13 -
for Scotland under the Barnett formula. The expenditure is on areas such
as regeneration and there is a strong case argued by all three devolved
administrations that this spending should rightly be subject to the
Barnett formula in the normal way.

“The UK Government is clearly failing to honour assurances that companies
across the country will benefit from the London Olympics, and in the
process, Labour Ministers are failing Scottish businesses.”

PRIVATE AMBULANCES TO FACE REGULATION



PRIVATE AMBULANCES TO FACE REGULATION

MSP WELCOMES ACTION FROM SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT

Proposals from the Scottish Government to inspect and regulate private
ambulance services have been welcomed by SNP MSP Sandra White who first
raised the issue with Health Minister Shona Robison at the end of 2008.

Glasgow MSP Sandra White raised her concerns after being approached by
people working for private ambulance firms over the lack of regulation and
inspection of private ambulances which are often used to transport
patients in need of care and to provide medical services at events such as
concerts, festivals and sports events.

Health Minister Shona Robison has put forward amendments to the Public
Services Reform Bill which will implement the recommendations of a 2005
consultation and bring private ambulances under the regulation of
Healthcare Improvement Scotland.

Ms White said:

“Private ambulances have been missing from healthcare regulation for too
long and I welcome the SNP Government’s proposal to put that right.

“There was unanimous support in the 2005 consultation for regulation of
private ambulances but no action was taken.

"Independent ambulances offer a valuable service but patients using them
deserve to know that the service is subject to the same checks as other
healthcare services. These changes to the law will give people that
confidence and security.

"I hope all members will support this proposal as it comes before the
Parliament in the next few weeks.”

Saturday, 30 January 2010

CHURCH OF SCOTLAND BACKS MINIMUM PRICING



CHURCH OF SCOTLAND BACKS MINIMUM PRICING

'WE NEED TO CHANGE OUR ATTITUDE' - MODERATOR

SNP MSP Michael Matheson has welcomed the support of the Church of
Scotland for the Scottish Government's minimum pricing proposals.

Writing the Scotsman newspaper today (Saturday), Moderator of the General
Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Rt Rev Bill Hewitt, said:

"The costs of alcohol abuse is not just financial but gnaws at the very
souls of families who have to cope with its effects. It doesn't just
affect the drinker, it affects everyone. So we need to change our
collective attitude to alcohol. That is why the Church of Scotland is
supporting minimum pricing by asking our membership to write to drinks
producers to say that they should work with the government on this issue."

Commenting, Mr Matheson said:

“This is indeed very welcome news. The Kirk joins a host of organisations
and producers who recongise the need to change Scotland’s relationship
with alcohol through sensible and proven means.

“The 3,000 deaths and 42,000 hospital stays linked to alcohol annually are
a massive burden on our public services and create misery for families
across the country. Action must be taken to end this scourge.

“Minimum pricing is a workable approach to tackling the problem and has
drawn support from all quarters. Now, the opposition parties in the
Scottish Parliament must stop playing politics with the nation’s health
and back these proposals.”

Friday, 29 January 2010

BLAIR LEGACY WILL FOREVER BE ILLEGAL IRAQ WAR



BLAIR LEGACY WILL FOREVER BE ILLEGAL IRAQ WAR

ANGUS ROBERTSON COMMENTS ON CHILCOT EVIDENCE

Commenting on the evidence by Former Prime Minister Tony Blair to the Chilcot Inquiry, SNP Westminster Leader and Defence Spokesperson, Angus Robertson MP said:

“No matter how skilfully he ducked and dived today, Tony Blair’s legacy will forever be that of the illegal, immoral Iraq war.

“Chillingly, the ex-Prime Minister showed no regret for his dubious decisions which led us into the worst foreign policy disaster in modern times.

“He directly contradicted the statements of senior officials and politicians who have already given evidence to Sir John Chilcot.

“The Iraq Inquiry has been massively damaging for Labour. Those who lead should not mislead and the lies Labour told have been laid bare today.

“For all of those who opposed the Iraq invasion and for the thousands who lost their lives to it, the sad fact is that the real reasons behind it will probably never been known.

“The truth of the Iraq invasion has been forever lost to the New Labour spin machine.”

Thursday, 28 January 2010

MSPs PRAISE LOCAL BUSINESS, COUNCIL and GOVERNMENT FOR SUPPORTING GLENCRAFT



MSPs PRAISE LOCAL BUSINESS, COUNCIL and GOVERNMENT FOR SUPPORTING GLENCRAFT
Commenting on tonight’s debate on Supported Workplaces in the Scottish Parliament the North East SNP MSPs praised the very generous and constructive support offered by Aberdeen-based energy firm Production Services Network (PSN), and their Chief Executive, Bob Keillor, to help the Aberdeen based Glencraft factory.
Earlier this year the mothballed factory, which employed blind and disabled workers, was saved from total closure after the First Minister negotiated funding and support from PSN who stepped in to help secure the future of the factory which closed its doors in November 2008.
Commenting Maureen Watt MSP said:
“Supported Workplaces are essential for those in our community who may find it difficult to find employment in the wider economy. Glencraft was one of those and its financial problems needed to be addressed.
“I welcome the renewed hope that the Scottish Government-led initiative of a new social enterprise offers Glencraft along with the very generous and constructive support offered by Bob Keillor and the PSN team.”
Nigel Don MSP said:
“Only by working together can the work offered by the likes of Glencraft be secured, It is good to hear that not only will PSN support the venture but that the council have offered new hope for the Glencraft factory.
“Aberdeen City Council have agreed to let Glencraft operate rent free for a year at a cost of £225,000. This was offered to them first time around but the board rejected it – unhappily putting the factory into administration.
“This is how we can save the work of the likes of Glencraft and put it on a sound footing instead of offering false hopes in these financially tight times.”
Aberdeen North MSP Brian Adam said:
“The announcement earlier this month was an excellent first step to getting former Glencraft employee’s back into work. A new company which will use their current skill set will be an excellent way of doing that.
“There is still a lot of work to be done, but I believe we should now be hopeful about the future of Glencraft and I am optimistic that the £500,000 target set by Bob Keiller can be met.”

LABOUR COUNCIL USES SCOTTISH FUTURES TRUST



LABOUR COUNCIL USES SCOTTISH FUTURES TRUST

GRAY ATTACK UNDERMINED BY PURCELL

SCOTTISH CONSTRUCTION “LEADING THE PACK”

Iain Gray’s blunder filled question time has been contradicted by reports from the Construction Skills Network and the news that Labour’s Glasgow City Council is using the Scottish Futures Trust to help increase jobs and investment in the City Centre.

In a revelation which backfires on Iain Gray papers from Glasgow City Council show the Labour leadership is working with the Scottish Future’s Trust to deliver jobs, construction and investment.

Similarly reports from the Construction Skills Network today state that Scotland’s construction industry is faring better than other parts of the UK and is leading the pack across the UK in key areas.

Discussing Future’s Trust involvement in proposals for an extension to the Buchanan Galleries a report written by Labour Councillor George Ryan says

“the Directors of Development in both Cities have met with the Scottish Executive First Minister and his advisors, and the Scottish Futures Trust and been given encouragement to work up appropriate TIF proposals. The Futures Trust has provided detailed guidance on the contents of the Business Case which would be a requirement of any TIF submission to the Scottish Executive.”

He goes on to state:

“4.3 As this is an entirely new funding mechanism it will be crucial for the Council to undertake comprehensive due diligence to ensure that it is not exposing itself to undue financial risk. Advice has been taken from the Scottish Futures Trust, and detailed discussions are underway covering all aspects of the estimated costings for the development, the developers return, the projected NDR income etc as part of the initial work being undertaking to prepare a full business case to submit to Government as a detailed TIF proposal.”

SNP Glasgow MSP Bill Kidd said:

“Gray has been undermined by his own party.

“Labour across the country is working with the Scottish Future’s Trust, to build schools, support jobs and to increase investment.

“With Glasgow facing problems finding funding to extend the Buchanan Galleries it is the Scottish Futures Trust that is helping them explore alternatives to generate jobs and investment.

“Similarly today’s news from the Construction Skills network shows SNP investment in capital projects is having an impact in keeping people in work and bringing the Scottish construction industry through the recession.

“The Future’s Trust is not just helping out Labour in Glasgow but is delivering schools across the country, the Borders Rail Link – that Labour want to cancel, and the Forth Replacement Crossing amongst others.

“It is clear Stephen Purcell’s administration welcomes that while Gray stands on the sidelines.”

AFGHANISTAN SUMMIT ‘MUST BE MORE THAN A PHOTO CALL’



AFGHANISTAN SUMMIT ‘MUST BE MORE THAN A PHOTO CALL’

SNP Westminster Leader and Defence Spokesperson, Angus Robertson MP, has welcomed the constructive tone of talks at today’s Afghanistan Summit in London but warned that a fundamental reassessment of the UK’s mission in the region was still massively overdue.

Commenting, Mr Robertson said:

“This show of commitment to ending the conflict in Afghanistan is welcome but warm words on the international stage will not help our troops on the frontline.

“Today’s meeting must be more than just a photo call – it must take the international effort for tackling the conflict in Afghanistan forward with a coordinated and considered approach.

“And the UK Government must re-examine its own action in the region. After eight years of war, there needs to be a fundamental reassessment of the role, mission and strategy in the region. Nothing should be off the table, including the option of withdrawal.

“There is enormous public support for the troops on the ground, but little confidence in the Government's strategy in pursuing the conflict.

“The Taliban has regrouped, the heroin trade is flourishing and we are backing a government with corruption problems. Meanwhile, too many ordinary Afghans are seeing precious little reconstruction and development. With even a cursory understanding of Afghan history it should be obvious that this is a recipe for disaster. We need a major rethink now."

BLAIR TO CAMPAIGN IN ELECTION – MANDELSON MUST HAVE TAKEN LEAVE OF SENSES



BLAIR TO CAMPAIGN IN ELECTION – MANDELSON MUST HAVE TAKEN LEAVE OF SENSES

SNP HAVE SUBMITTED IMPEACHMENT EVIDENCE TO CHILCOT

Commenting on reports of Peter Mandelson’s remarks that Tony Blair will
campaign for Labour in the General Election, Scottish National Party
leader and First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond MP said:

“Peter Mandelson must have taken leave of his senses if he thinks that
this is anything other than a disastrous move for Labour. As Tony Blair
prepares to be held to account for the disastrous war in Iraq, we now have
the full extent of the expert government advice stating in unequivocal
terms that war would be illegal.

“At the request of the Chilcot Inquiry, the Scottish National Party
submitted in December the legal advice which underpinned the case to
impeach Tony Blair, pursued in the House of Commons in 2006. It was
beyond doubt during the impeachment process that Tony Blair had taken the
country into an illegal war, and we now know that this view was shared
before the war by the Government’s own expert legal advisers.

“In these circumstances, for Peter Mandelson to announce that Tony Blair
will campaign in the election shows an arrogance which is typical of New
Labour, and a lack of judgement which is just as extraordinary.”

UK GOVERNMENT LETS GLASGOW DOWN WITH SLC REDUNDANCIES



UK GOVERNMENT LETS GLASGOW DOWN WITH SLC REDUNDANCIES

PM PROMISES JOBS FOR ALL – THEN SACKS WORKERS

SNP MP for Glasgow East, John Mason, has hit out at the UK Government for letting Glasgow and Scotland down after it was announced the Student Loans Company (SLC) was set to make 150 people in the city redundant and move 45 jobs to Darlington.

The SLC is a private company which is formally established as a non-departmental public body of the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills – part of the UK Government.

Commenting, Mr Mason said:

“The UK Government has let Glasgow and Scotland down. Just a few months ago, Prime Minister Gordon Brown was promising ‘jobs for all’ – now his Government is making people redundant.

“These jobs are going because the UK Government altered the agreement between the Student Loans Company and the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills. UK Government Ministers should hang their heads in shame.

“Any redundancies are a blow but this announcement comes at a crucial time - as the Scottish economy is beginning to turn a corner.”

SNP MSP for Glasgow, Sandra White:

"Instead of laying people in Glasgow off, the UK Government should make sure the Student Loans Company transfer jobs from Darlington to Glasgow and not the other way round.

"This is a UK Government agency consigning workers in Glasgow to the dole queue at precisely the wrong time."

MURPHY’S LAW MAKES NO SENSE FOR PUBLIC SAFETY



MURPHY’S LAW MAKES NO SENSE FOR PUBLIC SAFETY
IF HE WANTS TO ACT QUICKLY WHY WAIT UNTIL AFTER ELECTION?
Commenting on remarks by the Scottish Secretary, Jim Murphy, in the Times newspaper where he says Labour would “legislate early in the first year of the next Parliament” to implement the Calman proposals SNP MSP Dr Alasdair Allan said:
“If Jim Murphy was so keen on devolving these powers why has he not done so already?
“There is all party agreement on these powers and the Scottish Parliament supports the transfer of responsibility over airguns, drink driving, speed limits, and electoral administration.
“This should be done now in the interests of public safety and Jim Murphy’s argument makes absolutely no sense.
“Jim Murphy has just confirmed what is becoming increasingly plain, that Labour are back peddling on the transfer of powers and abandoning their own commission’s recommendations.
“Just like in the past, Labour have swindled the Scottish people over their commitment to devolution and the delivery of new powers.”

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

OPPOSITION JOIN BROADCASTERS IN IGNORING SCOTLAND



OPPOSITION JOIN BROADCASTERS IN IGNORING SCOTLAND

FEWER THAN 100 DAYS TO MAY 6th POLL


The SNP has today urged Scots to make their own decision at the General Election after Labour, joined the Tories in disregarding Scots voters, echoing the actions of broadcasters who are currently ignoring Scotland’s views in the General Election debate.


With fewer than 100 days until a May 6th election opposition parties continue to refuse to treat Scotland’s voters with the respect they deserve.


Last week the Tory leader in Scotland claimed the Conservatives did not need Scotland to govern. This week one of Labour’s leaders added to the disrespect toward Scots voters by telling them who to vote for – rather than putting a choice before Scotland’s voters.


SNP MP and Campaign Manager Stewart Hosie said:


“The attitude of the UK parties to Scottish politics is deeply disrespectful.


“It is typical UK party politics to ignore the views of actual voters in constituencies and to lecture them on how to vote and how they will be treated.


“The General Election should be about the people of Scotland making a choice not Jim Murphy or Annabel Goldie making it for them.


“Scotland is already being ignored by broadcasters with their focus on debates on English health and education systems that will be largely irrelevant to Scottish viewers, now the UK parties are doing the same – even their Scottish leaders have joined in.


“The only party talking about what matters to people in constituencies across Scotland is the SNP.


“This kind of opposition arrogance is simply unacceptable.


“Labour can campaign how they like, but the public will make the decision and this kind of arrogance will find no favour.”

HOSIE WARNS OVER RETURN TO RECESSION WITHOUT STIMULUS



HOSIE WARNS OVER RETURN TO RECESSION WITHOUT STIMULUS

Commenting on news the UK economy has come out of recession, after figures showed it had grown by a weaker-than-expected 0.1% in the last three months of 2009, SNP Treasury spokesperson Stewart Hosie MP warned that growth was still largely driven by government stimulus measures and the UK risked a return to recession if stimulus measures are withdrawn too soon.

Mr Hosie’s concerns echo the head of the IMF, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who warned of a possible double dip recession, particularly if countries exit from stimulus packages too early. He is quoted as saying “for as long as you do not have private demand strong enough to offset the need of public policy, you shouldn't exit”

Mr Hosie said:

“The weakness of these growth figures underline the continued fragility of the recovery, and entirely reinforce the need for further accelerated capital spending in order to protect jobs.

“The Chancellor must heed the IMF warning about the risk of returning to recession if stimulus measures are withheld. Downing Street must confirm that it is prepared to do what is necessary to safeguard jobs and promote economic recovery.

“The Scottish Government’s acceleration of £350 million of capital spending into vital areas such as affordable housing and other infrastructure projects has helped us fight recession, boost spending, and assist the construction sector during tough times. Clearly, these resources have been spent, which is why we need a further acceleration of capital spending into 2010/11, so that we can maintain this enhanced level of spending for infrastructure and investment next year, and support thousands more jobs. Already, the Scottish Government’s recovery plan is supporting 15,000 jobs – despite Scotland’s budget being cut for the first time since devolution by the UK Labour government.”

IRAQ WAR WAS ILLEGAL


IRAQ WAR WAS ILLEGAL

SNP ATTEMPTS TO IMPEACH BLAIR VINDICATED

BLAIR AND BROWN’S SPIN MACHINE IS BUST

One of the Government's most senior legal advisers at the time of the Iraq War believed the war was illegal and repeatedly informed the Government that its invasion was not legitimate.

Sir Michael Wood was the Foreign Office's former chief legal adviser on the run up to the war.

In 2004, the SNP made efforts to impeach then Prime Minister Tony Blair on charges of gross misconduct in his advocacy of the case for war against Iraq and in his conduct of policy in connection with the war.

Commenting, SNP Westminster Leader and Foreign Affairs spokesman, Angus Robertson MP said:

“Today’s we’ve heard that Sir Michael – the Government’s top legal chief - repeatedly made clear that the Iraq invasion was illegal on many levels. This is damning evidence indeed and absolutely vindicates the SNP’s efforts to impeach Tony Blair.

“Tony Blair led this county to war on a march of lies and manipulation and Gordon Brown signed the cheques to make it happen.

“The fact that both Blair and Brown flagrantly and repeatedly ignored the advice of one of the Government’s most senior legal advisers indicates that they had sold their souls to Bush in 2002 and trumped up the evidence at a later date in an attempt to justify this illegal war.

“The public has not forgiven and it has not forgotten. A recent YouGov poll showed 23% of people think Blair should be tried as a war criminal and over half think he deliberately misled the country over the invasion. Today’s evidence just confirms what the public already believes: this war was illegal and Blair and Brown knew it.

“Labour’s spin machine is now bust. Tony Blair has to give some seriously straight answers to some seriously hard questions when he appears before the inquiry this week, not least why he ignored advice and lied to both parliament and country.

“But as Blair lied, Brown backed him all the way. As the man who bankrolled the illegal invasion, based on manipulated and distorted evidence, Gordon Brown must face real scrutiny before the inquiry so the public get the full facts behind an illegitimate war fought in their name.”

86% CALL FOR UPGRADING OPEN CROSSINGS WITH BARRIERS



86% CALL FOR UPGRADING OPEN CROSSINGS WITH BARRIERS

MSP REPORTS ON CONSULTATION FINDINGS

SNP MSP for the Highlands & Islands Dave Thompson today (Tuesday) published the findings of his Highland-wide consultation on the public's perception of safety at open level crossings. The announcement follows a string of recent accidents at this type of crossing, including the tragic crash at Halkirk in September which killed 3 members of the same family and prompted the MSP's action.

Mr Thompson distributed nearly 14,000 surveys to residents across the Highlands in November. Stretching from Halkirk to Dingwall and Fort William, a total of 2,483 consultation responses flooded into Mr Thompson's constituency office throughout the festive period.

86% of those who replied stated they would like barriers installed at open level crossings in order to adequately address public safety. 77% of respondents stated they do not feel safe using open level crossings. Nearly 800 respondents shared with Mr Thompson their personal experiences of a near miss or accident, or details of those they knew who suffered a near miss or accident, while using an open level crossing.

Mr Thompson will be presenting a report on the consultation results to the Scottish Government's Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson in a meeting on Wednesday to press the urgent case for barriers to begin being installed at open level crossings.

Commenting on the consultation findings, Mr Thompson said:

"Although open crossings represent just one in fifty of all level crossings in Scotland, nearly one in three accidents happen at them. When I realised that 21 of the total 23 open crossings in Scotland are located across the Highlands, I knew it was my responsibility as a Highlands MSP to do what I could to represent the local views of those who use these crossings daily and have to deal with the fallout of crossing accidents.

"After reading through the personal stories of accidents and near accidents, declaration after declaration that crossing users don't feel safe, and response after response opting for barriers there is no denying that something needs to be done.

"No one denies that accidents commonly come down to user error, but is that any reason for any more people to lose their lives? You cannot put a price on safety and I've got hundreds of replies from constituents stating they do not feel safe using open level crossings.

"I not only intend to present these findings to the Minister for Transport, but also Network Rail and the Office of Rail Regulation to push for the installation of barriers. If there were a 5 year programme of upgrades, averaging the estimated £1M for each installation, it would be a commitment of £5M a year for five years.

"That is not just reasonable, but a valuable use of tax payer's money and would also diminish the knock-on effects to our health services, police, ambulance and fire services as well as the rail regulators who all have to deal with the repercussions of a collision.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Former Labour Defence Minister blames Brown and Blair



Former Labour Defence Minister blames Brown and Blair

Brown failed to act on helicopter shortages

Before the Chilcot inquiry today (Monday), former Labour Defence Secretary Des Browne has admitted that military chiefs were concerned about a lack of helicopters in Iraq but refused to accept responsibility for the shortage and pointed the finger of blame directly at the those in power before him.

Browne, who was also Scottish Secretary at the time, further admitted it was unprecedented for a Defence Secretary to manage another portfolio and that his deputy was largely left to handle the Scotland Office.

Commenting, SNP Westminster Leader and Foreign Affairs spokesman, Angus Robertson MP said:

“By washing his hands of responsibility for helicopter shortages the former defence secretary is pointing the finger of blame directly at those in government before him - including Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

“This is utterly damning stuff. Here we have a former cabinet minister shifting accountability for the shortages faced by the our troops on the frontline to the portfolio he inherited from Blair and Brown’s Labour Government

“This is the strongest indication yet that Brown knew exactly the difficulties facing our brave servicemen and women as early as 2005 but failed to act on safety concerns. As Chancellor, Brown was there every step of the way, not only privy to information but actually actively involved in bankrolling the worst foreign policy disaster in modern times.

“This is exactly the reason why Gordon Brown must face thorough and searching questioning when he appears before the inquiry. The public deserve to know the truth about a war fought in their name. “

Shadow Spokesperson for the Scotland Office, Angus MacNeil MP added:

“Des Browne’s admission that he neglected his work in the Scotland Office comes as no surprise.

“Throughout his time in office the people of Scotland failed to see what role he possibly played in governing the country and this scrutiny has become even more intense since Jim Murphy took over. The job of Secretary of State for Scotland isn’t just a part-time job – it’s a non-job.

The Scotland Office is as irrelevant now as it was then. It costs more than £8m a year to run and the number of staff has increased by 300% yet its actual remit remains unclear. This money would be better spent providing front line services or protecting frontline troops than funding a department which is neither use nor ornament."

FIFE LICENSING BOARD SUPPORTS SNP GOVT’S MINIMUM PRICING



FIFE LICENSING BOARD SUPPORTS SNP GOVT’S MINIMUM PRICING

SENIOR LIB DEM COUNCILLOR BACKS SNP PROPOSALS

Today (Monday 25th January) Fife’s licensing board has backed proposals for minimum pricing on alcohol following a motion by the SNP’s David Mogg and seconded by Liberal Democrat William Sangster. The news comes the same day as drink giant Tennent’s also announced its support for plan.

All 14 directors of public health in Scotland have backed the plan and now the pressure is mounting on the opposition parties in the Scottish Parliament to stop playing politics with the nation’s health.

Commenting, the MSP for Falkirk West, Michael Matheson - a member of the Scottish Parliament's Health Committee - said:

“This is, again, very welcome news. I am delighted that Councillor Sangster has risen above party politics and backed these proposals for the good of the nation’s health.

“Tavish Scott has been under pressure with the Liberal Democrats in Westminster calling for minimum pricing to be introduced in England and Wales whilst, simultaneously, dragging heels here in Scotland.

“The proposals have received backing from numerous companies, organisations and medical professionals who say that this will go someway in combating the country’s relationship with alcohol.

“I recognise that this won’t completely solve the problem, but it will help shift the culture and make Scotland a healthier nation.”

PM’S ECONOMIC LECTURE ‘THE HEIGHT OF HYPOCRISY’



PM’S ECONOMIC LECTURE ‘THE HEIGHT OF HYPOCRISY’

BROWN PUTS SCOTTISH RECOVERY AT RISK

SNP Treasury Spokesman, Stewart Hosie MP, has seized on comments made by the Prime Minister Gordon Brown at his monthly press conference today (Monday) where he warned that removing stimulus from the economy risked a double-dip recession.

Commenting, Mr Hosie said:

“It is the height of hypocrisy to lecture on the dangers of withdrawing fiscal stimulus while denying Scotland continued accelerated capital spending.

"The Scottish Government's Economic Recovery Plan is making a real difference - supporting 15 000 jobs across Scotland. The Scottish economy is showing signs of resilience and outperforming the UK as a whole but recovery is fragile.

“By cutting the funding stream off as the Scotland’s economy begins to turn a corner, the UK Labour Government is putting Scotland at risk of a double-dip recession.

“It’s time for the Prime Minister to practise what he preaches and reinstate the capital spend in the 2010 – 2011 Budget.”

TENNENT’S BACKS SNP GOVT’S MINIMUM PRICING PLAN



TENNENT’S BACKS SNP GOVT’S MINIMUM PRICING PLAN

SCOTTISH GOVT ‘COMBATING’ ALCOHOL CULTURE

SNP MSP Michael Matheson has today (Monday) welcomed the news that Tennent’s, one of Scotland’s leading alcohol brands, supports the Scottish Government’s minimum pricing plan.

Commenting, the MSP for Falkirk West, Michael Matheson said:

“This is indeed very welcome news. Tennent’s understand that responsible producers have nothing to fear with minimum pricing and that only low-end, dirt-cheap alcohol will be affected.

“Minimum pricing is drawing support from a host of companies and organisations, all wanting to change Scotland’s relationship with alcohol through sensible and proved means.

The 3,000 deaths and 42,000 hospital stays linked to alcohol annually are causing misery across the country and cost ever taxpayer £900 a year – this is a real burden on our public services and underlines the need for change.

“Minimum pricing is a workable approach to tackling the problem and has drawn cross-party support in Westminster. Now, the opposition parties in the Scottish Parliament must stop playing politics with the nation’s health and back these proposals.”

SCHOOL PLEDGE DELIVERED IN ABERDEEN



SCHOOL PLEDGE DELIVERED IN ABERDEEN

251st NEW SCHOOL OPENS WITH MORE TO COME

The SNP today surpassed an election pledge to match the previous Executive’s plans for school building “brick for brick” as the First Minister opened Cults Academy in Aberdeen.

The SNP manifesto promised to “match brick for brick current plans for improvements in our schools”, which according to the previous Executive’s school building programme was 100 schools between 2006 and 2009 and according to Labour’s 2007 manifesto would be 250 in this term. Cults Academy is the 5th new school is two years in Aberdeen and the 251st new school across Scotland.

The state of the art school building, which also houses a range of community facilities and has been awarded green flag status as a eco-school saw it’s funding and contracts approved in December 2007 and the first pupils moved into the new building in October 2009.

SNP MSP for the North East Maureen Watt said:

“Cults Academy pupils join the 110,000 pupils across Scotland who have been lifted out of poor school conditions into new or refurbished buildings since May 2007 and is the fifth new school in Aberdeen to open since 2007.

“The SNP committed to meet the previous Executive’s plans for school building and we have surpassed them, building more schools at a faster rate.

“There are even more schools to come, with the Government’s £1.25 billion package building 55 new schools including a new primary school in Aberdeen.

“Despite the collapse of Landesbanki who provided initial financing for the not for profit building project, with the assistance of the Scottish Futures Trust Aberdeen Council were able to get the project back on track and deliver not only Cults Academy but more new schools for the city.

“In tough financial times this project not only helps those pupils and teachers who now have a new building to learn in and the community who will benefit from the great new facilities but has provided crucial work over the last few years for all those involved in the building process.”

SURVEY SHOWS BACKING FOR DRINK-DRIVE LIMIT CUT



SURVEY SHOWS BACKING FOR DRINK-DRIVE LIMIT CUT

POWERS ‘TO SAVE LIVES’ MUST BE TRANSFERRED WITHOUT DELAY

Welcoming research which reveals four out of five people back a cut in
the drink-drive limit, Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Dave Thomson
repeated calls for the immediate transfer of powers to control drink
driving and speed limits to be transferred to the Scottish Parliament
– as recommended by the Calman Commission.

The Scottish Government-commissioned research found that 79% of those
quizzed want to see the current drink-drive limit reduced from 80 mg
per 100 ml of blood to 50 mg.

Mr Thomson said:

“These findings must sober minds at Westminster so that powers to cut
the drink drive limits, and save lives, can be transferred to Scotland
without further delay.

“There is a clear correlation between cutting the drink driving limit
and cutting the numbers of road accidents. When the limit was cut in
Switzerland, from 80mg to 50 mg, alcohol related road deaths fell by
44% in the first two years. That can not be ignored.

“It is time to lower the drink driving limit, to bring Scotland into
line with the rest of Europe and to take real action that saves lives.

“The Labour Government seem determined to push the transfer of powers
into legislative long grass after a general election – and the
Conservatives say they don’t want to act.

“All Scotland’s unionist parties supported the Calman Commission, and
all say they support the recommendation to transfer powers on drink
driving. So let’s get on with it.

“A transfer of powers now could see Scotland forge ahead to make our
roads safer rather than leaving our lives in the hands of London
legislation.”

PROBLEMS FOR GRAY PILE UP AFTER MP DESELECTION



PROBLEMS FOR GRAY PILE UP AFTER MP DESELECTION

Labour’s leader in the Scottish Parliament is under pressure to say
where he stands on the deselection of East Lothian MP Anne Moffat by
local Labour activists. Iain Gray represents the equivalent
constituency in Holyrood, and is already embroiled in a scandal over
the use of local council facilities for party fundraising.

Calling on Mr Gray to clarify whether he supports Labour activists’
vote to deselect Ms Moffat, SNP candidate for East Lothian Andrew
Sharp said:

“Iain Gray has been conspicuously quiet over this selection saga and
he should say whether he is behind Anne Moffat or whether he is behind
her deslection.

“The whispers surrounding Gray’s awful performances at Holyrood are
growing louder with each passing week and speculation is mounting over
whether he can survive as Labour leader.

“He is clearly unable to organise a faction in his own constituency.
Labour were defeated by the SNP in East Lothian at the European
elections last year, are struggling to explain why for years council
facilities were illegally used for party fundraising, and have now
rejected their own MP. Gray’s constituency is a complete shambles.

“People in East Lothian are fed up hearing about Labour’s internal
squabbles and just want an MP who will put the community first. After
their relentlessly negative campaign in Glasgow North East, Labour
appears to have now turned its attack on themselves in East Lothian.

“Labour’s infighting has become increasingly bitter and will further
isolate the party from voters who are fed up with the community being
overlooked.”

LABOUR HYPOCRISY ON PRESCRIPTION CHARGES



LABOUR HYPOCRISY ON PRESCRIPTION CHARGES

BROWN SHELVES PRESCRIPTION PROMISE

The SNP have rounded on Labour hypocrisy on prescription charges after
it emerged Gordon Brown is set to shelve a promise made in 2008 to
give people with long-term health conditions free prescriptions.

Earlier this week Labour’s Health spokesperson in the Scottish
Parliament, Jackie Baillie, attacked the Scottish Government over
prescription charges saying that patients suffering from a
debilitating long-term illness have to pay for prescriptions in
Scotland when they are free in other parts of UK. However patients
with long-term conditions in England are in fact paying more than
double the cost for a 12-month pre-payment certificate than in
Scotland.

The SNP Government has been reducing prescription charges year on year
since it took office and plans to abolish them completely for ALL
illnesses by the end of the Parliamentary session. In contrast Labour
has only abolished charges for cancer sufferers, a move which has
alienated sufferers of other long-term conditions who have questioned
why they are not given parity of treatment.

Commenting Dr McKee, a former GP, said:

“News that Gordon Brown is now set to shelve his promise on
prescription charges is not just a betrayal with patients, but
underlines the total hypocrisy of Labour in the Scottish Parliament.

“In contrast the SNP Government are abolishing prescription charges
for all conditions and we will thankfully see this tax on ill health
abolished next year.

“The early evidence of the first reductions show that it is those with
long term conditions who have to live with the cost of medicines who
have benefited most from these cuts.

“Prescription charges are a tax on ill health and are unacceptable in
a modern society. It is only the election of an SNP Government which
is bringing about their abolition.”

Saturday, 23 January 2010

CONSERVATIVE CONFUSION GROWS OVER ALCOHOL PRICING



CONSERVATIVE CONFUSION GROWS OVER ALCOHOL PRICING

IDS “COWARDICE” ATTACK REBOUNDS ON SCOTTISH TORIES

Calls by Conservative policy coordinator Iain Duncan Smith for an
increase in alcohol pricing to defy ‘immoral’ supermarkets and crack
down on nuisance drinking have added to the confusion surrounding the
position of the Scottish Tories who oppose action on alcohol pricing.

In an attack which will be deeply embarrassing for Scottish Tory
leader Annabel Goldie, Mr Duncan Smith – the former Tory leader - says
that the political parties are “in the grip of cowardice” for failing
to advocate a jump in the cost of alcohol for fear of alienating the
voters before the general election.

Mr Duncan Smith also says: “We are into unpopular territory, but to
deal with something like alcohol that is damaging the fabric of the
nation we need to raise prices. There is a direct connection between
the price of alcohol and consumption.”

Commenting, SNP MSP and member of the Scottish Parliament's Health
Committee, Michael Matheson, said:

“Iain Duncan Smith’s contribution to this debate is welcome and
underlines the growing recognition that we need action on alcohol
pricing.

“The frankness of the former Tory leader is in stark contrast to the
muddled and opportunistic position taken by the Conservatives in the
Scottish Parliament. Indeed politicians who oppose action on alcohol
pricing now look increasingly irresponsible.

“If the Tories are serious about taking action then they should
support the Scottish Government proposals.

“The scale of Scotland's alcohol misuse problem is shocking: 42,500
alcohol-related hospital discharges; 1,500 deaths per year; soaring
rates of liver cirrhosis; the eighth highest consumption in the world,
and a £2.25 billion annual cost in public services and lost
productivity.

“It’s about time they addressed those issues instead of shallow
populism that even their own colleagues down south have now rejected.”

MSP ‘DELIGHTED’ OVER SAVIOUR OF POLICE PIPE BAND



MSP ‘DELIGHTED’ OVER SAVIOUR OF POLICE PIPE BAND

STRATHCLYDE POLICE PIPE BAND SAVED

West of Scotland SNP MSP Stuart McMillan has today (Friday) spoken of his delight at hearing that the Strathclyde Police Pipe Band is to be saved. After months of uncertainty for the Band, the official announcement that they are to continue comes as they prepare for the coming piping season.

Mr. McMillan campaigned from the outset with the College of Piping to save the Band.

Mr. McMillan said;

“I am absolutely delighted the band has been saved. I know the band members are thrilled to know their future is secure and thank Strathclyde Police for listening to the views put to them and reaching this positive decision.

“The tireless campaigning by the College of Piping and other band supporters is to be commended and I’m pleased it all paid off.

“I hope the band can now go from strength to strength with their new members and hope old members consider rejoining now the future is stable.

“The band are ambassadors for Scotland and are now able to put the uncertainty of the past few months behind them and concentrate on the upcoming piping season, which I am sure they cannot wait to get underway”.

Friday, 22 January 2010

LABOUR VOTE TO CLOSE DOWN RENFREW FERRY



LABOUR VOTE TO CLOSE DOWN RENFREW FERRY

LABOUR HYPOCRISY IN FACE OF LONDON GOVERNMENT CUTS

SNP MSPs have today condemned Labour for hypocrisy after their councillors voted to close down the Renfrew Ferry in a vote taken today by the Strathclyde Passenger Transport – a body dominated by Labour councillors.

The decision - by 14 votes to five with all SNP councillors voting against closure - means that the two passenger-only ferries operating on the route, will finish their service at the end of March.

The 29 member board has 20 elected councillors on it, 12 of whom are Labour including the Chair and two vice chairs.

The SNP MSPs also highlighted Labour hypocrisy since their MPs were trying to mislead by claiming it was the fault of the Scottish Government despite their councillors voting to close down the ferry and councils receiving record levels of funding from the SNP administration.

Commenting Glasgow MSP Bill Kidd said:

“There can be no doubt that the fate of the Renfrew Ferry lay in Labour’s hands and they voted to close it.

“Their councils and councillors dominate Strathclyde Passenger Transport and today’s vote exposes the hypocrisy of their MPs and MSPs who were criticising the proposed closure.

“There is no reason for this supposed shortfall. Council’s have received more funding than ever from the Scottish Government –with Glasgow receiving more than any other mainland council. And this at a time when Labour are cutting Scotland’s budget by over £800 million.

West of Scotland MSP Bill Wilson challenged Labour MPs who are trying to dodge responsibility for SPT services to face up to their party’s responsibilities. He said:

“It seems Labour at every level of government have problems facing up to the financial future they have created for this country. They are deliberately trying to mislead people whilst voting for unwarranted cuts.

“With Labour building record debts for the UK which are already leading to savage cuts it is the Labour Chancellor and the spending priorities of Labour councils these redundant MPs should be questioning.

“SPT is effectively run by Labour – this was their decision and their responsibility.

"The Renfrew ferry is a vital transport link for Renfrewshire, cutting this ferry shows the contempt Labour councillors hold for the transport needs of Renfrewshire.”

PRISONER SURVEY HIGHLIGHTS ROLE OF ALCOHOL IN CRIME



PRISONER SURVEY HIGHLIGHTS ROLE OF ALCOHOL IN CRIME

TIME TO STOP PARTY POLITICS OVER MINIMUM PRICING

Commenting on the results of a survey by the Scottish Prison Service which has revealed that half of all inmates in Scotland's prisons said they were drunk at the time of their offence, SNP MSP and Health Committee member Michael Matheson said it only added weight to the argument that a wide range of measures, such as minimum pricing, were required to address the problems arising from alcohol misuse.

The survey was published on the same day as official statistics show that that the average daily prison population will increase from 8,100 in 2009-10, to 9,600 by 2018-19.

Commenting Mr Matheson said:

“This survey, coming on the day that statistics how much the prison population is rising, demonstrate why we need to take urgent action on alcohol misuse and need to keep open all options – including minimum pricing.

“That alcohol plays such a role in criminality surely must focus the mind of the opposition parties. It is not only costing Scotland millions in terms of health but also to pay for the associated criminal activities as well.

"There is a very real connection between the ridiculously cheap price of alcohol and criminal behaviour. We urgently need the option of minimum pricing to address this scourge.

"It's time for the opposition to face up to these problems society is facing and to forget their resistance to minimum pricing – which is nothing more than cheap and irresponsible party politics.

"There are many in the opposition parties who support minimum pricing and I hope they will now stop listening to supermarkets and alcohol lobbyists and start listening to them.

"It is utterly ridiculous that we will be going into the Westminster election with Labour, LibDems and Tories all proposing to target the price of alcohol in England and Wales whilst refusing to vote for the same measures in Scotland. Today’s survey and prison statistics will only draw attention to their failure to address what is obviously a major issue affecting safety on Scotland’s streets."

PM 'HAS MUCH TO ANSWER FOR' AS HE FACES CHILCOT INQUIRY



PM 'HAS MUCH TO ANSWER FOR' AS HE FACES CHILCOT INQUIRY

MAN WHO BANKROLLED WAR TO BE HELD TO ACCOUNT

Commenting on the confirmation that that Prime Minister Gordon Brown is to
give evidence to the Chilcot Inquiry on his role in the Iraq invasion -
before voters go to the polls later this year, SNP Westminster Leader and
Defence Spokesperson, Angus Robertson MP, said:

"The net is closing in on Gordon Brown.

"As other senior, serving members of the UK Government give evidence to
the Chilcot Inquiry, it is only right and proper the Prime Minister is
held to account for his role in the invasion.

"Tony Blair led us into the worst foreign policy disaster in modern times
and, as others involved in the run up to the conflict have already told
the Chilcot Inquiry, Gordon Brown was part of the inner circle - he knows
exactly what happened.

"Recent opinion polls show people still believe they are being deceived
over the war in Iraq and we cannot know the full facts until all the major
players - including Gordon Brown - give their evidence. Only then can the
public reach their own conclusions and deliver their verdict at the
forthcoming election.

"Gordon Brown has much to answer for - not least why he as Chancellor
could agree to an illegal and immoral invasion but lacked the courage to
stand up for our troops and provide the right equipment as they were put
in harm way.

"There must be no delay in setting a date for this hearing. Gordon Brown
must be held responsible because responsible he is.”

CHILCOT NET CLOSING IN ON PRIME MINISTER



CHILCOT NET CLOSING IN ON PRIME MINISTER

MAN WHO BANKROLLED WAR TO BE HELD TO ACCOUNT

SNP Westminster Leader and Defence Spokesperson, Angus Robertson MP, has
seized on reports that Prime Minister Gordon Brown is to give evidence to
the Chilcot Inquiry on his role in the Iraq invasion - before voters go to
the polls later this year.

The announcement comes just one day after Mr Robertson challenged Gordon
Brown to give evidence in public before the General Election at Prime
Minister's Questions.

Commenting, Mr Robertson said:

"The net is closing in on Gordon Brown.

"Despite all his efforts to force the Iraq inquiry behind closed doors,
the case for the man who bankrolled the illegal war in Iraq to give full
evidence in public is overwhelming - and now even he has acknowledged
that.

"Tony Blair led us into the worst foreign policy disaster in modern
times and, as senior figures involved in the run up to the conflict have
already told the Chilcot Inquiry, Gordon Brown was right beside him all
the way.

"The truth of illegal invasion must be known before voters goes to
the polls at the General Election. The people deserve the whole truth
about a war fought in their name but the full facts cannot be known until
Gordon Brown is held to account for his actions.

"There must be no delay in setting a date for this hearing."

Thursday, 21 January 2010

LABOUR’S WMD LIES “undermined trust”



LABOUR’S WMD LIES “undermined trust”

We can’t trust a word labour says

Former Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, the first serving Labour Minister to appear before the Chilcot Inquiry, today (Thursday) admitted that the failure to find weapons of mass destruction - the justification for the invasion - had "undermined trust" in the UK Government.

As the revelations from the Chilcot Inquiry continued, SNP Westminster Leader and Foreign Affairs Spokesman, Angus Robertson MP said, it was impossible to believe a word Labour says.

Commenting Mr Robertson said:

“Here we have the former foreign secretary himself admitting that the inability to find weapons of mass destruction “undermined trust”. It’s no wonder the public can’t believe a word Labour says.

“Jack Straw is a still a Cabinet Minster. If, as he says, the public lost confidence in Labour years ago, why should we presume it is any different now?

“This weekend’s damning poll - which showed over half of people believe Tony Blair deliberately misled the country over the war and 23% think he should be tried as a war criminal - is proof the public aren’t prepared to tolerate Labour lies any longer. They deserve to know the truth about a war fought in their name.

“So far before Chilcot we’ve seen Alasdair Campbell spinning himself in circles and various advisers who weren’t there when the big decisions were made. Now we need to hear from Tony Blair, the man who made the decision to lead the country to war, and from Gordon Brown, the man who signed the cheques to make it happen.

“The Prime Minister has now put on the record that he has no objections to appearing at anytime - there must be no delay in setting a date to ensure that Gordon Brown accounts for his actions before the election.

“Can the public trust Labour’s word on this at least?”