Wednesday, 31 March 2010

LABOUR and TORIES MISS LAST CHANCE TO DELIVER FAIR FUEL






LABOUR and TORIES MISS LAST CHANCE TO DELIVER FAIR FUEL

SNP's FAIR FUEL CAMPAIGN WILL TARGET CONTINUE

Commenting after last night's budget vote on fuel duty where Labour voted for an increase and the Tories abstained, the SNP MP for the Outer Hebrides, Angus MacNeil, said that only voting SNP in the coming election would send a clear message that people were sick of being ripped off by both Labour and the Tories.

Commenting Mr MacNeil said:

“With the General Election looming, this was a last chance for Labour and the Tories to deliver fair fuel for Scotland. They both failed.

“Across Scotland, many hard pressed families are struggling to cope as fuel prices continue to soar – in some rural areas they are now in excess of £1.25 per litre. This increase will be sorely felt by both hauliers and motorists.

“The SNP’s campaign against these rises will continue. SNP candidates and activists will continue to remind voters that only a vote for the SNP is a vote for fairer fuel prices.

"And at Westminster, it will be SNP MPs who will continue to push for the introduction of a fuel duty regulator which will prevent spikes such as the one we are experiencing.

“With this vote last night both Labour and the Tories have once again shown that they two sides of the same coin. That there is no difference between them."

CONSERVATIVES IN CRISIS






CONSERVATIVES IN CRISIS

LEAKED LETTER REVEALS TORIES TEARING THEMSELVES APART

WISHART: “PEOPLE IN PERTHSHIRE WANT LOCAL A CHAMPION – NOT TORY INFIGHTING”

The MP for Perth and North Perthshire, Pete Wishart, has today [Wednesday] seized on divisions within the Perthshire Conservatives after the dramatic entry of the former Conservative candidate, Douglas Taylor, into the race for the seat.

In addition, Perth SNP has been leaked a letter penned by Mr Taylor, written to a number of Conservative activists, which outlines his many grave concerns about the state of the current Tory party and its failure on key issues. He expressed concern at the fact that those allowed to be candidates for target Scottish seats were determined by a central committee that was made up exclusively of people from south of the border who did not have experience of Scottish politics. He stated that this adversely affected almost all of the experienced Scottish candidates.

Speaking today, Mr Wishart said:

“Douglas Taylor’s entry into the race to become Perth and North Perthshire’s next MP is a fatal blow to the Conservative campaign in Perth and North Perthshire.

“Conservative voters in Perthshire now have a choice between two Tory candidates at the next election. They can support Mr Taylor’s experienced and more traditional view of Conservatism or they can back the vacuous and hollow Cameron agenda of the official Conservative candidate.

“Mr Taylor's devastating critique of the Conservative Party is hugely damaging for the local Conservative campaign and painfully embarrassing for the party nationally. Instead of campaigning on the local issues that matter to people in Perthshire, the Tories appear to be embroiled in bitter infighting and score settling.

“This letter also lifts the lid on the grassroots dissatisfaction with David Cameron’s leadership. The Conservatives are totally divided.

“Douglas was an experienced opponent who had clear views and attitudes that were closely aligned with the traditional views of the Conservative Party. The fact that his experience was rejected by the Conservative Party raises some important questions about the current state of the Tories.

“In his letter Douglas reveals the true extent of the divisions and alienation in much of the Perthshire Conservative party and gives a concise and articulate account of the failures of Cameron’s Conservatives locally, in Scotland and across the UK.

“To come from a former key figure in the Perthshire Conservatives can not be construed as anything other than a hammer blow to their campaign.”

Mr Taylor sets out his views in a clear letter to fellow Conservatives leaked to the SNP. On the selection process Mr Taylor says:

“The candidate selection process in Scotland and the UK as a whole has been biased against experienced candidates”

“The loss of integrity in some of the internal procedures makes it very difficult for honest candidates to proceed on merit”

On the economy:

“The Conservative Party has lost a basic understanding of its own intellectual roots mean it is ill equipped to deal with the economic troubles ahead”

“I don’t think that a Conservative or Labour government will make much difference either way.”

Douglas Taylor then concludes:

“However, I am very clear in my own mind that the Conservative Party does not represent my ideals any longer…..if I was new to politics now I would not join the Conservative Party.”

Commenting on the devastating impact of this letter on the local Tory election campaign, Mr Wishart said:

“Local voters will soon have the opportunity to turn their backs on Tory infighting and support a real, local and experienced SNP champion who will always put the people of Perth and North Perthshire first to ensure that a strong voice is heard at Westminster.”

GLASGOW LABOUR MUST BACK INDEPENDENT INQUIRY






GLASGOW LABOUR MUST BACK INDEPENDENT INQUIRY

KEY QUESTIONS FACING LABOUR LEADERSHIP IN GLASGOW

At tomorrow's meeting of Glasgow City Council the SNP will lead calls for
both a full statement from the council’s Labour leader and an independent
investigation into the recent activities of the council and its agencies -
particularly decisions made during the former leadership of Steven
Purcell. The SNP in Glasgow have focussed on three key issues that must be
addressed in an independent investigation, to ensure full transparency for
council tax payers and the good governance of the city of Glasgow council:

1) Who in the council - at both elected member and official level - knew
that Councillor Purcell had taken illegal drugs and was at risk of
blackmail; why was no action taken and why was this information concealed?
2) Both the SCDEA and Cllr Purcell himself considered there to be a risk
of blackmail. This raises concerns over the decisions made during his
time as leader and the potential of external influence on such decisions.
3) A series of newspaper reports have alleged that subsidiaries of Glasgow
City Council - set up by Stephen Purcell - directed money toward the
Labour party. City Building has admitted making such donations. Newspapers
have also raised questions over the allocation of contracts to Labour
donors. It must be demonstrated to taxpayers that council funds have
always been spent in their interests and not in the interests of
individuals, friends or donors.


Commenting ahead of the debate Cllr Dornan said:

“Labour has dodged the problems facing their leadership in Glasgow City
Council for weeks. It is now time for them to accept open and independent
scrutiny of their actions in relation to Cllr Purcell’s admission of
cocaine use and potential blackmail and the decisions made during that
time.

“The drip drip of scandal and allegation is harming Glasgow’s reputation
and an independent inquiry is crucial if we are to restore the good name
of this great city.

“Labour has its hands on £2.4 billion of public money in Glasgow and the
council tax payers of this city deserve to know this money is being spent
for their benefit and their benefit alone.

“It is only independent scrutiny that can offer guarantees to the public
that the whole affair has been properly investigated. The idea of the
council investigating itself is simply ludicrous - we already have
evidence that it failed to act despite knowing the Council Leader was at
risk of blackmail and, that council subsidiaries like City Building have
donated directly to the Labour party.

“Former Cllr Purcell’s interview has made clear that people within the
council knew of his drug use and of the SCDEA’s concerns.

“For people within the council to be aware that the SCDEA – a body that
investigates drugs and organised crime - was concerned their leader was
exposed to blackmail in this way yet not to act is a very serious matter
and of legitimate concern to Glasgow’s citizens. Taxpayers deserve an
independent investigation so they can be assured there has been no undue
influence on Cllr Purcell or anyone else within the council.

“If Labour is confident they have nothing to hide then there is nothing to
fear from independent investigation and there will be real questions asked
of any party that tries to prevent a bright light being shone into the
corners of Glasgow City Chambers and Labour’s control of this city.”

SNP AND PLAID UNVEIL '4 Wales, 4 Scotland'







SNP AND PLAID UNVEIL '4 Wales, 4 Scotland'

The leaders of the SNP and Plaid Cymru, Alex Salmond MSP and Ieuan Wyn
Jones AM, today (Wednesday) unveiled '4 Wales, 4 Scotland' - the SNP and
Plaid Cymru's joint agreement to secure a better deal for the people of
Scotland and Wales in the event of a hung parliament.

Deputy First Minister of Wales Mr Jones and Scotland’s First Minister Mr
Salmond were joined at the press conference by SNP and Plaid Cymru group
leaders at Westminster, Angus Robertson MP and Elfyn Llwyd MP.

The key elements of the four part programme will be:

1. Fair funding for Wales and Scotland
2. Protecting local services and the most vulnerable
3. Action to help the green economy
4. Support for business growth

Mr Salmond and Mr Jones will sign a large scale copy of the agreement
(attached) at the press conference.

Commenting, Mr Salmond said:

"With the real possibility of a balanced parliament at Westminster, the
situation is redolent with real opportunity for Scotland and Wales.

"Both Labour and the Tories are threatening deep, harsh cuts which will
endanger the Scottish and Welsh recoveries. "Chancellor Alistair Darling
has already admitted that the cuts planned by the Labour Government will
be "harsher and deeper" than those inflicted by Margaret Thatcher.

"Only a strong bloc of SNP and Plaid MPs, using our votes and influence to
win vital concessions, can protect Scotland and Wales.

"As it currently stands, the UK Government can and does slash the Scottish
and Welsh budgets with impunity. The Barnett formula has let Scotland and
Wales down. That's why in Scotland we need fiscal autonomy and Wales
requires a fairer funding deal.

"The cuts proposed by the London parties are a real threat to Scottish and
Welsh schools, hospitals and front line services.This must change.

"Working together, SNP and Plaid MPs will champion fairer funding and
guarantee provision of public services which are vital to most vulnerable
in our communities."

Commenting, Plaid leader Mr Jones said:

"In their race for the keys to Number 10, the London Parties have
forgotten about what really matters to voters in Scotland and Wales but
the SNP and Plaid Cymru have not.

“With the prospect of a balanced parliament becoming more likely by the
day, we believe that an election that gives no single party an overall
majority would be the best possible outcome for our nations.

“A Celtic alliance of Plaid and SNP MPs would be in a position to
negotiate real benefits for the people of Wales and Scotland.

“The greater the vote for Plaid and the SNP – the better the deal for
Wales and Scotland. This is an exciting opportunity to make a real
difference.

“We would demand fairer funding for Wales and Scotland to protect jobs,
our schools, our hospitals and the most vulnerable in society.

"At the heart of our platform there would also need to be a real
commitment to grow our economies through fast transport links and
additional support to create thousands of high-quality jobs in the green
and creative industry sectors.”

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

VALEDICTORY ADDRESS BY ALEX SALMOND MP






VALEDICTORY ADDRESS BY ALEX SALMOND MP

SNP LEADER ADDRESSES HOUSE OF COMMONS

Making his last speech in the House of Commons as MP for Banff and Buchan tonight (Tuesday), SNP Leader Rt Hon Alex Salmond MP said:

“As I argued during this same debate 12 months ago, until there is enough strength in the private sector, it is vital that the fiscal stimulus is maintained.

“I am not alone in arguing this case. The IMF argue that “one of the key lessons from experiences of similar crises is that a premature withdrawal of policy stimulus can be very costly, particularly if the financial system is weak”

“Even the Prime Minister agrees. With his warnings that "recklessly and rapidly" withdrawing government support would "risk driving our economy back into recession”. The Chancellor also argued in his Budget statement that “to start cutting now risks derailing the recovery”.

“However, that is exactly what the Chancellor has done.

“Chart 2.5 of the Red Book clearly shows that the UK’s fiscal stance for 2010-11 is negative. Discretionary fiscal policy will act to tighten public spending and taxation relative to 2009-10. To quote one City analyst: “despite all the warnings about [the] withdrawal [of] support too early, the fiscal stance is being tightened in 2010/11 by 1.1% of GDP.”

“This is the wrong approach. Among the G20, only Argentina and the UK stand apart in choosing to provide no further fiscal stimulus.

“This might have been justifiable if the rate of recovery had exceeded the Chancellor’s predictions.

“But since the crisis peaked in Autumn 2008, the Chancellor has delivered two Pre-Budget Reports and now two Budget statements. And each revision has seen his forecasts for economic growth been revised downwards.

“Just 18 months ago, the Treasury was forecasting a fall in output of between 1¼ to 1¾% in 2009 and growth of between 1½ and 2% in 2010. Now it forecasts a fall in output of 5% in 2009 with growth in 2010 of only 1 to 1½%.

“Mr Speaker, the evidence is clear – to support recovery and ensure sustainability in the public finances, we must invest in our economy.

“This is why we called for a further, targeted but cost effective stimulus, focusing on bringing forward a proportion of our capital budget into 2010/11.

“Compared to the package the Chancellor delivered, this action would have supported some 4,000 more jobs in Scotland – the majority in the construction sector.

“The benefits are not just limited to the short term. Such investment, be it in housing, schools, transport or in Scotland’s vast renewables potential, create a positive legacy for long-term growth. Faster growth, makes lowering the burden of debt so much easier.

“Put simply, you can’t cut your way out of a recession, but you can cut your way into a double‑dip recession. Yet despite this is precisely what the Chancellor proposes.

“We are already living with the experience of a 1.3% real cut to the Scottish Budget.

“And despite repeated requests, the Chancellor has failed to commit to no further reductions in 2010-11 post General Election.

“And despite the UK Government’s rhetoric about its ambitious efficiency programme, they have taken two years to achieve savings worth 3.1% of their budget – a target we achieved in just 12 months.

“A more radical plan is needed. Fundamental choices about what is vital and what is simply no longer affordable.

Not the 50% cut in public sector net investment over the next three years but – cuts in those things that matter least – the £100,000 million replacement for Trident, the £5,000 million for the remnants of the ID card scheme – or indeed the near £10 million cost of the Scotland Office or the £100 million for the ‘Other Place’. We can cut these and instead protect local services.

“In these difficult times, for the economy and those delivering vital public services, we need - as a minimum - some degree of certainty of plans and purpose for this year.

“Without such clarity, we are left to speculate about his future intentions and what lies hidden within the detail of the Red Book. But one thing is certain, it is not as the Prime Minister has argued about investing in public services.

The detail, scrutinised by the IFS, shows planned annual real terms reductions of over 3% in departmental budgets through to 2014/15. Cuts which will reverse almost all of the increase in public spending since the current Government came to power.

“Analysis suggests that in just 12 months time the Scottish Government budget could be cut by £1.5 billion under these projections.

“Little wonder the Chancellor has now admitted to planned cuts that are ‘deeper and tougher’ than those under Mrs Thatcher. In Scotland we remember all too well the deep and damaging impact on our communities of those Thatcher cuts and so today, to have a Labour Chancellor, a Labour Chancellor, promising cuts that are “deeper and tougher” beggars belief. And of course the Shadow Chancellor agrees – for Scotland Labour cuts and Tory cuts are now effectively one and the same thing. They will be savage, if I can borrow the description used by the Liberal Democrats for their own budget plans.

“Certainly, the Chancellor will need to face up to some tough public spending decisions.

“But in making those decisions, he must prioritise recovery, he must protect vital public services, such as health and education, and he must scrap vanity projects like the replacement for Trident.”

CAUTIOUS WELCOME FOR BENEFITS U-TURN AFTER SNP PRESSURE






CAUTIOUS WELCOME FOR BENEFITS U-TURN AFTER SNP PRESSURE

SNP WILL REMIND VOTERS OF LABOUR'S PLANS

SNP Work and Pensions Spokesman, John Mason MP, has given a cautious welcome to an apparent u-turn by Labour over the Attendance Allowance and Disability Living Allowance.

The announcement follows the passing of a motion at the SNP Campaign Conference in Aviemore condemning Labour's plans to scrap Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for the over 65s and Attendance Allowance (AA) across the UK to fund a new care service for England.

Now in the White Paper, Labour has said that they will no longer be looking to change neither AA nor DLA in the next Parliament.

Nevertheless Mr Mason says the very fact Labour considered scrapping the benefits will be highlighted to voters in the coming election.

Commenting Mr Mason said:

“This u-turn cannot come too soon. Whilst I welcome it I am cautious about Labour's intentions since it has come on the eve of a general election.

"Labour's proposal would have impacted on 145,000 elderly people in Scotland, pushing 58,000 vulnerable Scots into poverty and adversely affecting carers looking after those in receipt of the allowance.

“These people are all either disabled or over the age of 65, the groups least likely to be able to live on their own and look after themselves.

"That Labour even suggested such cuts in the first place is an indication of how they cannot be trusted and the very fact they proposed this will be an issue in the election.

“The SNP fought these cuts since they were first suggested by Labour in their health green paper last year.

“It is clear that the pressure disability and pensioners support groups have put upon Labour - including a motion at the SNP conference - has helped them reach this sudden change in their stance for the election.

“However what is needed is a system by which these benefits can be decided in Scotland rather than left to governments in Westminster."

SNP AND PLAID TO UNVEIL JOINT PRIORITIES IN HUNG PARLIAMENT







SNP AND PLAID TO UNVEIL JOINT PRIORITIES IN HUNG PARLIAMENT

The leaders of Plaid Cymru and the SNP, Ieuan Wyn Jones AM and Alex
Salmond MSP, will today (Wednesday) join the Plaid Cymru and SNP group
leaders at Westminster, Elfyn Llwyd MP and Angus Robertson MP, to unveil a
joint list of priorities for negotiations in a hung parliament.

At a press conference in London, the group will set out the key areas
where Plaid and the SNP, working in partnership can secure a better deal
for the people of Wales and Scotland in the event of a hung parliament
after the General Election.

SNP Westminster Leader Angus Robertson MP said:

"With the real possibility of a hung or balanced parliament at
Westminster, the situation is redolent with opportunity for Scotland and
Wales.

"While the London Parties are racing for the keys to Number 10, the SNP
and Plaid are focussing on the support for Scottish and Welsh communities.

"Working together, we've identified the areas where Wales and Scotland
needs to be heard - and a strong block of SNP and Plaid Cymru MPs will
make Westminster listen."

Plaid Cymru’s Westminster Leader Elfyn Llwyd MP said:

“With all the polls showing that a hung parliament is the most likely
outcome following this election, we believe that a strong Celtic block of
Plaid and SNP MPs could have a once in a generation opportunity to secure
the best deal possible for the people and communities of Wales and
Scotland.

“We will set out the joint priorities of Plaid Cymru and the SNP later today.

“These priorities will shape our actions in the next Parliament and give
the people of Wales and Scotland a real alternative to the cosy consensus
that has developed between all three of the London-based parties.”

MAXWELL BLASTS LIB DEM HYPOCRISY ON A and E KNIFE REPORTING CALL






MAXWELL BLASTS LIB DEM HYPOCRISY ON A&E KNIFE REPORTING CALL

PILOT SCHEME SCRAPPED WHILE LIB DEMS WHILE IN OFFICE

West of Scotland SNP MSP Stewart Maxwell has accused the Liberal Democrats of hypocrisy after they failed to support proposals to share knife assault data between police and hospitals while in office.

Mr Maxwell has campaigned for a reporting system of knife-related assaults within hospitals for a number of years, which would give police a far greater knowledge of where and when knife attacks are taking place. The number of knife-related assaults fell by 40% in Cardiff after such a scheme is introduced. However, a pilot project in Strathclyde was scrapped while the Liberal Democrats were in power, and a parliamentary motion laid by Mr Maxwell in support of a reporting scheme attracted the signature of only two Liberal Democrats. Commenting, Mr Maxwell said:

"I was frankly astonished to see the Liberal Democrats calling for A&E units to share information on knife assaults with the police. I raised this issue repeatedly with the Labour/Lib Dem Executive during the last parliament, but my calls fell on deaf ears.

"The Lib Dems are right when they say this information is essential to allow police to map out violence hotspots, but it was essential five years ago as well when I first raised this in Parliament. And it was essential in 2007, when the scheme at the Royal Alexandra was scrapped under the Lib Dems' watch."

"Given that Robert Brown couldn't bring himself to sign my motion about this, why has he suddenly become so interested? Has he only just woken up to the extent of the knife crime problem in Scotland?

"The fact is, it is the SNP who are committed to the idea of closer collaboration between hospitals and police, with pilots being carried out in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Fife and Lanarkshire. It is our focus on early detection and greater discretion over sentences that has seen an 11% reduction in the number of offences of handling an offensive weapon since we took office.

"Of course, if anyone in the Lib Dems has spent an evening shadowing police in Paisley on a Saturday night as I have done, they'll know that booze and the blade go hand in hand. If they're really serious about cracking down on knife assaults, maybe they should listen to the overwhelming support of the healthcare workers and the police and support the SNP's plans for minimum pricing for alcohol."

MINISTRY OF ANTI-SCOTTISH PROPAGANDA REVEALS ITSELF






MINISTRY OF ANTI-SCOTTISH PROPAGANDA REVEALS ITSELF

MURPHY'S SCOTLAND OFFICE ON THE ROPES OVER DODGY DOSSIERS

A Parliamentary Answer received by SNP Mike Weir has revealed that the publication of economic dossiers since Jim Murphy took office do not meet National Statistics classification. The answer also fails to answer if the actual direct question of whether the Scotland Office discussed the methodology and presentation with the National Statistician.

Commenting Mr Weir said:

“This blows a hole in the credibility of Jim Murphy’s attempts to talk Scotland down. By evading the actual question and having to admit that the dodgy dossiers are not classified as National Statistics places a huge question mark over everything he says.

“The Scotland Office should change its name to the ‘Ministry of anti-Scottish propaganda’, given that its sole purpose these days seems to be issuing fantasy figures that do Scotland down.

"Since devolution the remit of the Scotland Office has shrunk but its budget has spiralled out of control. All it does these days is find ways to undermine Scottish self-confidence. It’s time the department was scrapped altogether

“As the Office of the Chief Economic Adviser to the Scottish Government has shown the Scotland Office’s analysis has ‘a number of methodological errors’. Now we know from this Parliamentary Answer that there is little rigour put into these documents – they are solely for propaganda purposes.

“Jim Murphy and the Scotland Office’s spurious claims about Scotland’s true position are exposed by the UK Government’s own figures. These statistics prove, beyond any doubt whatsoever, that Scotland has been outperforming the UK, not just in recent months and years, but over a prolonged period of time.

“The Scotland Office’s smears about Scotland cannot be allowed to stand, and this Parliamentary Answer exposes how the Scotland Office is performing no legitimate part in government and should be abolished.”

CALL TO IDENTIFY VETERANS IN PRISON






CALL TO IDENTIFY VETERANS IN PRISON

MSP ARGUES FOR STUDY TO FIND VETERANS IN SCOTTISH PRISONS
An MSP has called for the Prison Service and Ministry of Defence to work together to discover how many armed forces veterans are currently in Scotland’s jails as part of efforts to support those leaving the services.

SNP MSP Angela Constance, who recently chaired a summit in the Scottish Parliament looking at how veterans in the Criminal Justice system can be supported and ways to minimise the number of veterans in prison, has written to the Scottish Justice Secretary and the Ministry of Defence to call for Scotland to conduct the same survey of prisoners as has been undertaken in England, which revealed that 3% of prisoners in England and Wales were forces veterans.

Ms Constance wants to discover the number of veterans in prison to ensure that appropriate services are available to those leaving the services to minimise the risk of them turning to crime or violence.

In her letter Ms Constance, the Livingston MSP who is a former prison social worker and a member of the Scottish Parliament’s
Justice committee states: “gathering reliable data regarding the extent of this problem is a vital first step in any efforts to reduce the number of veterans who offend and become
embroiled in the criminal justice system. Repeating the study carried out in England and Wales in Scotland would give decision makers north of the border the accurate data that is
needed to underpin effective policy solutions.“

Commenting on her request Ms Constance said:
“No person is above the law. Veterans, like anyone, end up in our prison system for a variety of reasons and must face
punishment but as part of the debt we owe our service personnel and as we put in place support services for veterans to help
them return to civilian life it is important we understand the interaction of some veterans with the criminal justice system.

“I am concerned that we do not know how many veterans are in Scotland’s prisons and whilst SPS estimate 1.6% of prisoners may have been in the service our strong
military traditions suggest that this may be an underestimate.

“There have been concerns in the past that those struggling to readjust or suffering from stress or mental health problems related to their time in the forces may find themselves in conflict with the law - but that in many cases these circumstances could be avoided.

“To ensure we are providing the right services to minimise the number of veterans in prison in Scotland we must start by
knowing the scale of the problem we face and I hope SPS and the Ministry of Defence will work together to discover this information.”

ENDS
1. Estimates of veterans in Scottish prisons
Determining the number of veterans behind bars is not straight forward. Information on offender’s pasts is not always
forthcoming, and when it is provided it is not always accurate. The result is that estimates regarding the exact extent of
this issue have varied considerably, as the below figures demonstrate:

    Ø Scottish Prison Service (SPS) figures state that there
    are 121 veterans in Scottish prisons – or
    1.6% of the total population.
    Ø Research undertaken by the National Association of
    Probation Officers (NAPO) in England and Wales concluded that
    8% of the prison population were veterans.
    Ø Veterans in Prison estimated in 2007 that 9.1% of the
    prison population had a service record.
    Ø A recent study by the MoD and MoJ found that 3% of the
    prison population in England and Wales had served in the armed forces

The final study was the most comprehensive as it matched a MoJ database of prisoners in England and Wales with a database of service leavers held by the MoD. Given that Scotland traditionally supplies a proportionately higher number of personnel to the UK armed services, it is reasonable to assume that the figure is similar, perhaps even higher, north of the border:

    Ø If 3% of Scotland’s 8100 prisoners are veterans, then
    around 240 Scottish veterans are incarcerated.
    Ø If 3% of the 17,000 Scot’s serving community sentences
    are veterans, then a further 510 ex-service personnel are in
    the criminal justice system.
    Ø Altogether, this would mean there around 750 veterans
    in the Scottish criminal justice system.

To put this figure into context, it is useful to look at the number of Scot’s currently serving in Afghanistan:

    Ø In January 2010, the MoD announced that 1000 Scottish
    troops would be deployed to Afghanistan.

BLAIR’S RETURN TO EMBARRASS BROWN






BLAIR’S RETURN TO EMBARRASS BROWN

Blair’s return to UK politics on the same day a poll shows voters do not want Brown as their Prime Minister after the next election is an embarrassment to Labour, said SNP Westminster Leader, Angus Robertson MP:

“Tony Blair has cast a long shadow over Gordon Brown’s time as Prime Minister and now he is coming back to do the same in the election campaign.

“Bringing back a man who faced police questioning over cash for honours and is widely reviled for taking the country into an illegal war in Iraq at a time when we need to rebuild trust in politics is a disastrous move for Labour.

“What Scotland needs at this election is not more of the same old spin from Labour but a strong group of SNP MPs elected as local and national champions to fight for Scotland’s communities and Scotland’s constituencies.”

SNP COMMENT ON ASK THE CHANCELLORS DEBATE






SNP COMMENT ON ASK THE CHANCELLORS DEBATE

SNP Treasury Spokesman, Stewart Hosie MP, has branded the contributions of
the London parties appearing on Channel Four's Ask The Chancellors Debate
as "a tedious race to the bottom".

Commenting, Mr Hosie said:

"Tonight was a tedious repetition of what we've already heard from the
London parties who are in a race to the bottom with their cuts agenda.

"There was little from any of the three participants which would inspire
confidence that they are committed to growth, protecting recovery and
securing a sustainable economic future for Scotland.

"Alistair Darling, in particular, has a brass neck to claim premature cuts
could tip us back into recession. The UK Labour Government have inflicted
the first real term cut on the Scottish budget since devolution - risking
the Scottish recovery.

"The Chancellor himself has already acknowledged Labour's cuts will be
'tougher and deeper' than those implemented by Margaret Thatcher."

Monday, 29 March 2010

FORMER TOXICOLOGIST WELCOMES BAN ON MEPHEDRONE

FORMER TOXICOLOGIST WELCOMES BAN ON MEPHEDRONE

BRIAN ADAM MSP SAYS ‘TIME TO END LEGAL HIGHS’

SNP MSP for Aberdeen North, Brian Adam has today welcomed the news that the drug Mephedrone is to be made illegal.

Mr Adam asked Alex Salmond last week at First Minister’s questions if the Scottish Government would support such a move, and the Scottish Government has been in contact with the Home Office to call for a ban.

Mr Adam, a former toxicologist, said:

“There have been reports of a worrying number of deaths related to Mephedrone.

“We must get this drug off our streets as soon as possible.

“I asked the First Minister last week if he would support a move to ban the so called ‘legal high’ at the earliest opportunity.

“I welcomed his response then and I welcome the news from the UK Government today that Mephedrone is indeed to be made illegal.

“I also welcome the proactive approach taken by Scotland’s Police forces in the fight against this drug, particularly in Aberdeen where measures have been taken to ban anyone taking this drug in pubs and clubs.

"It is disappointing that the poor relationship between the UK Government and the Drugs Advisory panel has prevented this decision being made sooner, but it is the right decision and the UK Government must now act quickly to put this ban in place.

“Reacting to these "legal highs" is not enough and we now need to investigate ways in which we can ensure drugs like these never reach the market."

SNP AND PLAID CYMRU UNVEIL JOINT PRIORITIES

SNP AND PLAID CYMRU UNVEIL JOINT PRIORITIES

When: Wednesday 31st March 2010 at 11h00

What: Leaders of the SNP and Plaid Cymru, Alex Salmond MSP and Ieuan Wyn
Jones AM, will join SNP and Plaid Cymru group leaders at Westminster,
Angus Robertson MP and Elfyn Llwyd MP, to host a press conference
unveiling a joint list of priorities for negotiations in a hung
parliament.

Where: Central Hall Westminster; Storey's Gate; London; SW1H 9NH

Location: http://bit.ly/clE0Y3

SLEAZE AND SCANDALS AS BAD AS THE TORIES

SLEAZE AND SCANDALS AS BAD AS THE TORIES

BROWN’S DYING DAYS SAME AS MAJOR’S

Sleaze and scandal are continuing to rock Labour as Parliament draws to a
close.

After the latest allegations of cash for access facing Scottish MP Adam
Ingram, who already earns considerable sums from outside employment with
an organisation working in Libya and as a consultant to a Ministry of
Defence Contractor SNP MP Angus MacNeil, who blew the whistle on the cash
for honour scandal, questioned Labour’s record in office:

Some of the low lights of the last five years include
• Prime Minister Tony Blair is interviewed by Police over Cash for Honours
• Illegal donations from David Abrahams
• Three Labour MPs including Livingston MP Jim Devine face criminal
charges over expenses claims
• Former Labour Ministers caught out attempting to sell access and
connections
• Deselection of Anne Moffat
• Ongoing questions over the operation of Glasgow City Council under what
Brown described as the “visionary” leadership of Steven Purcell.

Commenting, Angus MacNeil, the SNP MP who blew the whistle on the cash
for honour scandal, said:

"With a Labour MP from Scotland involved in this latest episode of
cash-for-access, Labour in Scotland is now drowning in a sea of sleaze
reminiscent of the dying days of John Major’s administration in the 1990s.

“The cash for access issue is not new with the second jobs of MPs like
Adam Ingram and Patricia Hewitt opening them up to serious questions over
their allegiance – is it to their constituents or their clients.

“We must see this fully investigated and Adam Ingram must make clear which
other ministers he planned on involving.

“From cash for honours to cash for access Labour has presided over one of
the most corrupt parliamentary terms as they have treated the system as if
it was there to serve them, not there to serve their constituents.

“With Labour now as sleazy as the Tories voters across Scotland have a
real chance to clean up the system and elect MPs who will work for their
constituents first and always with a vote for SNP candidates who will
champion local and national causes ."

PURCELL INTERVIEW LEAVES UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

PURCELL INTERVIEW LEAVES UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

MASON WRITES TO POLICE - STRATHCLYDE MUST INVESTIGATE PURCELL CONTACTS

GLASGOW’S PROBLEMS GO BEYOND PURCELL

Former Labour rising star Steven Purcell’s interview in the Sun, 4 weeks
after he resigned as leader of Glasgow City Council has left more
questions for Labour and the Council to answer said Glasgow East MP John
Mason and Council Opposition leader James Dornan as it emerged others in
the council were told of Cllr Purcell’s drug use but took no action.

Mr Mason has repeated his call for a full independent investigation into
the council’s dealings and has again written to the police following
confirmation of supply and use of illegal drugs and confirmation by former
Councillor Purcell that he was believed to be at risk from blackmail.

The two also said that recent revelations over behaviour at Labour’s
quangos in Glasgow, expenses, questions over contracts and concerns over
relations with Labour party donors showed the Labour run council faced
questions going far beyond Steven Purcell.

In the interview The Sun says Purcell “suffered the emotional breakdown
amid fears gangsters had a video of him snorting cocaine”

Following a visit by the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency
Purcell adds “I told close colleagues at the council about it because I
think it is important to be honest. They were happy for me to carry on –
with the strict condition it didn’t happen again.”

Glasgow East MP John Mason said:

“There is no doubt Steven Purcell is facing difficult personal problems
and I hope everyone will give him the time to recover, but his interview
has left more questions than answers for the rest of Glasgow Labour.

“Strathclyde Police must now investigate who Mr Purcell was in contact
with and if the council or any individuals were exposed to undue influence
at any point. I am writing again to the police to ask them to investigate
this matter.

“This interview confirms not simply that he used cocaine but had a very
real fear that gangsters had a video of him and could blackmail him.

“There are real questions over who he had been spending time with and what
they wanted with him that the police must investigate.

“This goes beyond the individual and brings in questions of propriety in
the council that are of genuine concern to my constituents.

“Continuing concerns in the newspapers over council contracts, connections
to city businessmen and now gangsters are legitimate points that should be
investigated."

Glasgow Opposition Leader James Dornan said:

“Cllr Purcell’s resignation has simply exposed the cracks in Labour’s façade.

“The questions facing the Labour administration go well beyond Steven
Purcell’s personal situation.

“The council and the Labour party must tell us who was told about the
SCDEA visit, who knew that Steven Purcell was taking drugs and on what
grounds did they decide to take no further action.

“If Steven Purcell’s council colleagues had acted properly he may have had
the opportunity to get help for his problems rather than face the
situation he and Glasgow are now in.

“As Scotland’s largest authority with the largest mainland budget there
are billions of pounds that must be properly accounted for and it is
essential for Glasgow that we know council money is being spent properly
not lavished on champagne lifestyles and luxury lunches.

“This week councillors will have the opportunity to open the council up to
real scrutiny by voting with the SNP for a full statement and a full
investigation. If Labour are so sure there is nothing wrong then they
should have nothing to hide.”

STEWART MAXWELL WELCOMES FINNISH PLANS TO INTRODUCE RIP CIGARETTES





STEWART MAXWELL WELCOMES FINNISH PLANS TO INTRODUCE RIP CIGARETTES

FINNS LEGISLATE AHEAD OF EU IN BID TO CUT FIRE DEATHS

West of Scotland MSP Stewart Maxwell has welcomed plans by the government of Finland to introduce Reduced Ignition Propensity (RIP) cigarettes ahead of other European countries in a bid to cut the number of smoking-related fires.

An RIP cigarette has a reduced tendency to burn when left unattended and the most common fire-safe technology used by cigarette manufacturers is to wrap cigarettes with two or three thin bands of less-porous paper that act as ‘speed bumps’ to slow down a burning cigarette.

In Scotland, 41% of fire deaths are caused by an unattended cigarette and long-time RIP cigarette campaigner Stewart Maxwell believes that Scotland should follow the lead of the US, Canada and now Finland by immediately introducing the cigarette.

The SNP MSP said:

The European Union has realised that it is now time to act on cutting the number of fire deaths. Along with Fergus Ewing, the Minister for Community Safety, I have pressed the UK Government to work with the EU in speeding up the process of finding an agreed European standard of RIP cigarette.

Finland however has decided that it cannot wait and that it is morally obliged to immediately act in cutting the number of deaths through the introduction of ‘fire-safer’ cigarettes.

From the 1st April 2010, Finland will introduce potentially life-saving technology to its cigarettes; meanwhile the UK Government is waiting on the European Commission to determine when the number of fire deaths can be reduced in this country. I have been campaigning on this issue for a number of years and the evidence is clear, these cigarettes prevent deaths and injuries and it is high time that the UK stopped prevaricating and follow the lead of Finland.”

Commenting on behalf of the health and fire safety campaigners of the RIP Coalition, Martin Dockrell said:

"There really is no time to lose. Every year the Europe-wide legislation is delayed hundreds more Europeans die and thousands are injured in these completely avoidable household fires. It is the poor, the elderly and the infirm who are most at risk. All over North America these new style cigarettes are now sold as standard and Finland has shown that they can be introduced in Europe very quickly. If the tobacco industry cared at all about their customers at all they would stop the delay and act now."

Stewart Maxwell has also sought support from his parliamentary colleagues in congratulating the actions of the Finnish government by tabling a parliamentary motion.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

LABOUR'S KNIFE CRIME POLICY FULL OF HOLES






LABOUR'S KNIFE CRIME POLICY FULL OF HOLES
SNP SLAMS LABOUR FOR 'MISLEADING' VOTERS
SNP MSP Stewart Maxwell has today written to Labour's Justice spokesperson Richard Baker calling on him to explain why his party are misleading voters with their supposed knife crime policy. Despite publicly proclaiming 'carry a knife - go to jail' they have admitted to Justice Committee witnesses that judges will still have the final discretion on sentencing.
They have also failed to produce any evidence that mandatory sentences would reduce the level of knife crime, and - perhaps most seriously - have been running TWO versions of their petition which call for different outcomes.
Mr Maxwell, who as a member of the Justice Committee heard evidence this week on Labour's proposed amendments, commented:
"Labour are claiming that, under their plans, everyone caught carrying a knife will go to jail and that this will reduce knife crime in Scotland. On both counts, they are misleading voters.
"They use the slogan 'carry a knife - go to jail' and then concede that it will still be up to judges to impose sentences? That doesn't sound very mandatory to me. What would the exceptions be? Labour need to make this clear.
"Just this week the Chief Constable of Lothian and Borders Police told the justice committee that it was 'misleading' to try and persuade people that mandatory sentences will have a big impact.
"His counterpart from Strathclyde Police, the head of the Violence Reduction Unit and Victim Support Scotland are equally sceptical.
"What Richard Baker know that these experts don't?
"He can't produce any evidence that mandatory sentences would actually reduce knife crime.
"The priority must be catching as many knife carriers as possible - that's why the SNP has invested in record numbers of police officers. And that's why the number of knife crime offences has fallen by over 11% since the SNP took office.
"In reality it is Labour who are soft on knife crime. They continually claim that they doubled the maximum sentence for carrying a knife - but this was only down to the amendments that I lodged to the Police, Public Order and Criminal Justice Bill that made this available in all cases.
"They attack the SNP's record in Scotland whilst south of the border where Labour is in power the proportion of those locked up for knife crime is far, far lower.
"Until Labour can explain the numerous inconsistencies in their proposals, they cannot seriously expect Parliament to vote for them."

BROWN FAILED TO HONOUR PROMISE ON PURCELL INVESTIGATION






BROWN FAILED TO HONOUR PROMISE ON PURCELL INVESTIGATION
YET MORE QUESTIONS ON LABOUR-RUN GLASGOW CITY COUNCIL
Commenting on the Prime Minister's interview on the Politics Show where he indicated that he has not looked into whether a Downing Street staffer took part in a conference-call in July 2008 which discussed the suitability of Stephen Purcell as a candidate in the Glasgow East by-election, SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson MP, who asked the question at PMQs on 17th March, said:
"Gordon Brown today said he would "investigate" whether a Downing Street staffer took part in a conference-call to discuss the suitability of Stephen Purcell as a candidate.
"However that is exactly what he said he would do nearly two weeks ago in reply to a question at PMQs.
"He now has questions to answer on this matter. Why has he therefore not launched this investigation already? When will he do so? Why is there a delay?
"The Prime Minister's evasiveness in this only raises questions of how much he knows about what has been going on at Labour-run Glasgow City Council."
The SNP MP for Glasgow East, John Mason, also commented on the the fresh set of newspaper revelations to arise from the resignation of Steven Purcell as the leader of Glasgow City Council and said it only raised further the need for a full inquiry into how the council was run.
The latest revelations include champagne bills being billed to the taxpayer, Labour councillors using the council chambers as a party political postal address, the salary of the head of Strathclyde Public Transport still being paid despite the fact he stood down a month ago, and a Labour quango set up by the council awarding lucrative contracts to yet more companies donating to the Labour party.
Commenting Mr Mason said:
“As each week goes by, the questions keep piling up for Labour, and we have had no answers. With Alistair Darling threatening cuts worse than Thatcher, these reports about how Labour politicians use public money are astonishing.
“With more revelations about City Building (Glasgow) LLP – the quango set up by the Labour Council –awarding a lucrative contract to Labour party donor AS Scaffolding, Glasgow City Council must endorse the SNP call for an inquiry when it meets this Thursday. Many other contracts involving taxpayers’ money are suspicious and should be fully investigated.
“There are now too many questions flying around in the wake of Steven Purcell’s resignation - Labour should welcome the chance to prove they have not acted improperly and support SNP calls for a full investigation of the council.”
The SNP's group leader on Glasgow Council, James Dornan, added:
"Glasgow's voters are being treated with contempt. The receptions, paid for by the public purse, raises a number of questions.
"Who attended it? What was it was for? And was there any relation between this event and the famous Friday lunches attended by Steven Purcell and his mates?
"We need assurances there have been no other instances of Labour councillors not declaring receipts of gifts from Labour donors."

CASH FOR ACCESS SCANDAL HITS LABOUR IN SCOTLAND – INVESTGATION NEEDED






CASH FOR ACCESS SCANDAL HITS LABOUR IN SCOTLAND – INVESTGATION NEEDED
"HOW MANY OTHER FORMER LABOUR MINISTERS?"
“BROWN’S DYING DAYS SAME AS MAJOR’S”
Commenting on the latest cash-for-access revelations, which implicate Scottish Labour MP Adam Ingram, the SNP MP who blew the whistle on the cash for honours scandal, Angus MacNeil, has said the cocktail of scandal and Thatcherite cuts could engulf Labour in Scotland and is reminiscent of the dying days of John Major’s administration.
Today's Sunday Times reports that East Kilbride Labour MP Adam Ingram, the former armed forces minister, has been been secretly recorded saying he could draw on a pool of out-of-work ministers who could be used to harness government contacts.
Another ex-Labour minister, Richard Caborn, the former sports minister, was also recorded saying he may be in line for a peerage that would boost his chances of extracting valuable information from the corridors of Westminster.
These revelations follow reports last week on an undercover investigation by Channel Four's Dispatches programme and the Sunday Times which revealed that three former Labour cabinet ministers — Stephen Byers, Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon — also offered themselves for lobbying work at rates of thousands of pounds a day. All three have been suspended.
Commenting, Angus MacNeil, the SNP MP who blew the whistle on the cash for honour scandal, said:
"With a Labour MP from Scotland involved in this latest episode of cash-for-access, Labour in Scotland is now drowning in a sea of sleaze reminiscent of the dying days of John Major’s administration in the 1990s.
"The Prime Minister must now properly investigate fully the Cash-for-Access issue, last week he dismissed such an investigation but we need to know if government decisions have been taken due to any nefarious influences.
“There are also serious question marks over the way Labour has been running Glasgow City Council and using taxpayers’ money. There has been no proper investigation there either.
"Two big Labour problems and two situations where Labour are dithering about investigating in the public interest.
“It is an affront to democracy that several former Labour ministers are either profiting or attempting to profit from the contacts they made when supposedly working for the people of this country. It is clear many of them have been preoccupied with lining their own pockets instead of helping the people.
"One fundamental question that arises from Adam Ingram's comments is who are the other former ministers he is referring to? That is a question he must answer.
""For decades Labour MPs have been serving themselves instead of serving the people. MPs should be putting their constituents first - not their own business interests."
"At the forthcoming election, voters across Scotland will have a straight choice between SNP candidates who will champion local and national causes and Thatcherite cuts imposed on them by either Labour or the Tories."

EAST LOTHIAN NEEDS A LOCAL CHAMPION, NOT LOCAL INFIGHTING





EAST LOTHIAN NEEDS A LOCAL CHAMPION, NOT LOCAL INFIGHTING


CHAOS CONTINUES FOR LABOUR IN EAST LOTHIAN


Following the news that Anne Moffat is to sue her local Labour party, the SNP's candidate Andrew Sharp has criticised the Labour party for putting party politics before constituents.


The news comes after Moffat finally lost her battle to retain the candidacy of Lothian's seat, following months of disarray in the seat. Moffat has been critical of both Gordon Brown and Iain Gray over the handling of the whole fiasco, in which she claims she had been bullied.


Commenting, the SNP's candidate in East Lothian, Andrew Sharp said:


"All this shameful Labour infighting does nothing for the people of East Lothian.

"They are in complete disarray, it just seems to get worse and raises more questions about what sort of operation they have been running for years in East Lothian.


"This crisis just further exposes the sad fact that they are more concerned with internal party politics than with cutting a better deal for the area. The trust in Labour around East Lothian has just disintegrated, from 'Cash for Peerages' to Anne Moffat's 'gold plated safety net', they have lost the respect of the electorate.


"This whole debacle has been immensely embarrassing for Iain Gray. He has been completely silent on the issue and appears just to be hiding away from it all, pretending it isn't happening. His constituents are not impressed."


The SNP's Campaign Coordinator Stewart Hosie added:


"This whole mess just seems to escalate week after week and the people of East Lothian are suffering as a consequence.


"With the General Election not far away, what the area needs is a local SNP champion to work hard for East Lothian at Westminster by standing against Labour squabbling and standing up for Scotland - someone who will champion local priorities, not their own priorities."


Labour in Scotland is now drowning in a sea of sleaze reminiscent of the dying days of John Major’s administration in the 1990s.


“There are serious question marks over the way Labour has been running Glasgow City Council and using taxpayers’ money, Scottish Labour MP Jim Devine has been charged with false accounting over his expenses, Labour MP for East Lothian Anne Moffat has been controversially deselected but will pocket £30,000 a year in a pension despite only being an MP since 2001, and another former Labour minister, East Kilbride MP Adam Ingram, has been caught trying to gain financially by using his ministerial contacts. Labour have badly let down the people of Scotland.”