My personal blog

Time to help the SNP find a policy for Glasgow?

Labour's candidates campaigning to put Glasgow firstI spend a lot of my time at the moment out on the doorsteps of Glasgow talking to Glaswegians about the local council elections which will take place in May.

My aim is to support as many of the Labour candidates for the Council as I can, so campaigning has taken me to almost every part of the City.

The response from most people is much more positive than the newspapers might have you imagine. The biggest issue so far is that May still seems a long way away to a lot of people who need to be a bit more focused on the day-to-day.  So despite the brouhaha we saw over the Glasgow budget and the mud-slinging that the Glasgow SNP indulge in and infer with negativity around the City Council, I think Glasgow’s voters want something different and deserve something a bit more.

When as one woman, answering her door to me near Queen’s Cross, said on her doorstep last week, ‘I haven’t really thought about it, it’s still a way off’, I take it as the cue to talk about where we are as a City, what the Council is actually trying to do to improve things and vitally what our priorities and policies are for the next term.  Then I can simply say, ‘That is where we’re coming from, this is where we want Glasgow to go.  If no one from another party comes to your door before May and gives you a better explanation than simply “the cooncil is rubbish, we would dae better”, then please consider giving your preference for Glasgow Labour when polling day does come.’

Glasgow City Council is award-winning in its approach to social work, particularly work with troublesome kids and persistent offenders.  Not a lot of people know that, but I do because I’ve taken the time to visit the projects and speak to the staff and the service users.  It is often interesting what you can find out if you look beyond the headlines and forget about some of the received wisdom of Scottish politics.

The challenges we face in terms of poverty, worklessnesss, skills, maintaining and upgrading our school, library and community building estate, pot holes, litter, making tenement recycling work and ensuring that sustainability isn’t just an add on in well to do areas. These are substantial issues.  The ones I have listed are themselves just a sample, but in every one, Glasgow Labour is working day on day to answer each.  In contrast the SNP, from the vantage of government, attack the chance of a college place, threaten the housing budget, oppose bus regulation – which would help us get people around this city better and more cheaply – and most recently their own transport minister continues to moot the possibility of train station closures.

When the SNP came to power in Edinburgh, Glasgow’s school building programme stalled.  The rail link to the airport was cancelled and bus fares are rocketing right now at the same time as services are to be cut.

Glasgow has always fared badly under Tory governments but the cuts we have seen in this recession have been made even worse by the SNP’s attacks on the City, and the unfair budget cut to the Council. This is not because they dislike Glasgow – although you do still hear some of their activists elsewhere blame poorer people for poverty, whereas the local ones just tend to say the problems must all be Labour’s doing.  Yet we are told that the SNP need to win in Glasgow to finish Scottish Labour off, so the theory goes, and advance into the Sun-lit uplands of independence.

Well, as Gordon Matheson has said, Glasgow shouldn’t be stepped on, and it isn’t a stepping stone.  If you want to run Glasgow then tell us what you will do, not what you won’t.

Over the past few weeks, Glasgow Labour has set out an already comprehensive policy vision for what we would do if we are given the trust of Glaswegians again.  Our policy platform is firmly rooted in Labour’s historic vision of ‘cradle to grave’ protection for people.

Further investment in support for vulnerable two-year olds, continuation of our nurture classes, scrapped in the rest of Scotland by the SNP.  Alongside Harriet Harman and Johann Lamont, Glasgow Labour have announced the single biggest investment in childcare to be proposed in any part of Scotland.  We have also now pledged to follow-up our rebuilding of the secondary school estate with a guaranteed rebuild or refurbishment of every primary, unfinished business so far as Glasgow Labour Party is concerned – but remember the SNP’s promise back in 2007 to match our school building programme ‘brick for brick’?  Glasgow Labour were the first to advance the Living Wage in Scotland and it is Glasgow Labour who are committed to using the opportunity of the Commonwealth Games, not to flag wave for the next election or referendum, but to provide work and beat the worst of Scotland’s youth unemployment crisis with the Commonwealth Apprentices Scheme, the Commonwealth Jobs Fund and most recently the Commonwealth Graduate Fund.  These make up the ‘The Glasgow Guarantee’ and all are focused on getting young Glaswegians into and staying in work, while the downturn continues to leave so many others behind.

Two weeks ago, in Shettleston, I handed out dozens of Glasgow Labour’s application forms for the Warmth Dividend which offers a £100 fuel payment to every 80-year-old in the city at the same time as the SNP have let the fire go out in the fight against fuel poverty.

And so what of the Glasgow SNP?  People who have been rather uncharitably described in the past in the newspapers by their own former members as more interested in clambering onto pub tables to cry ‘freedom’ than debating ideas.  In this, the big push to win Glasgow, what policy have the SNP announced?  I am a great believer in the saying, ‘If you can fix Glasgow, you can fix Scotland’ and I hope and believe that there must be some in the SNP who agree and want to do just that.  But other than the indications we have from the their budget amendments that they would actually slash spending on schools and the dear green place’s parks, what do we know about their priorities?  Well its still only that Scotsman interview with the SNP’s Glasgow leader:

The Scotsman – How will you get more money for Glasgow?

Alison Hunter – “Independence.”

The Scotsman – If you seize control of the council, are there two or three policies you would be keen to push through?

Alison Hunter – “We haven’t actually thought about that yet.”

There is a difference between a carer who looks after her disabled daughter telling me she hasn’t thought about May yet when I unexpectedly knock upon her door, to the SNP’s own Glasgow leader sitting down to an interview with a national newspaper and saying there is no need to worry about what happens next, so long as the SNP win.  Regardless of whether you support independence or not, it seems clear that the SNP need to put their thinking caps on and find something they actually want to say about Glasgow that isn’t based on hearsay or Labour bashing.  Glasgow is the best city in Scotland, but it is also the biggest challenge in Scotland.

What would the SNP actually do?

It would genuinely seem that they would welcome some suggestions or they might just find that Glasgow is more a step back than a stepping stone, come May.

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