Friday, 25 December 2009
I have hugely fond memories over my years at Carolside Primary, at Williamwood High, with the 128 Boys Brigade, at Giffnock Tennis Club and with family and friends across the district.
Today my wife, Elaine, and I celebrate our first Christmas as parents. Myles is too young to really understand what is happening, although he seemed very excited to meet Santa for the first time earlier this week. While family and friends will undoubtedly spoil him rotten I want more than that for Myles. I am determined to ensure 2010 becomes the year that East Renfrewshire plays its part in sorting out the economic disaster we face as a result of Labour's recession.
Unless we act now our children and grandchildren will be the ones left to pay for the mistakes of today. Every child now owes £23,000 thanks to Labour's debt crisis, and that simply isn't fair on future generations or in the best interests of our country. We owe it to each other to choose a path of stability and responsibility in government and we will get our chance to help make this change at the polls in the coming year, by voting for David Cameron and the Conservatives.
I know just how difficult things are for so many people in these difficult economic times, particularly as unemployment has rocketed across East Renfrewshire over the past year. On behalf of my family and all at East Renfrewshire Conservatives can I wish you a very Happy Christmas and best wishes for 2010.
Monday, 30 November 2009
I met up with Jackson Carlaw MSP and Bill Aitken MSP yesterday with every intention of taking part in the STUC's march and rally against racism in Scotland. Make no mistake, after our participation in the impromptu march against the BNP a fortnight ago, Scottish Conservatives are more than willing to stand up and be counted in the political coalition against racism. However, on our arrival in St Andrews Square it became apparent to us that many of those attending had their own very personal agendas that had little to do with protesting against racism in Scotland.
In particular my comment relates to a banner displayed for all to see at the front of St Andrews Square stating "Boycott Racist Israel" (seen being carried as part of the march between 1 minute 8 seconds and 1 minute 11 seconds of the STV news item at http://news.stv.tv/scotland/140593-anti-protest-rally-takes-place-in-glasgow/). This had nothing to do with the advertised purpose of yesterday's march and rally, as explained in the glossy literature distributed by the STUC to political parties and community organisations, and has everything to do with a political agenda pursued by people who are far from engaged in seeking peace between an Israeli state able to live within secure borders and a viable Palestinian state. Indeed it is often possible to directly link this sort of public statement to anti-Semitic activities in the UK by the minority of mindless idiots who pursue hate based on the Jewish religion or the existence of the State of Israel.
So without hesitation Jackson, Bill and I decided that participation in yesterday's march and rally was inappropriate as it would fail to register our objection to this banner and the sentiment it expressed.
Imagine then our astonishment as we watched the Secretary of State for Scotland and the General Secretary of the STUC set off on the march not 6 feet from, and with a clear view of, this banner - for me an astonishing lack of judgement from the Member of Parliament who represents the largest Jewish community in Scotland.
And that is not the only demonstration of a lack of judgement from our erstwhile MP over the past week.
The Internet is a wonderful forum for communication but must, as with the electorate, be treated with respect.
Today we find that Jim Murphy has had to remove comments from his website after receiving a letter informing him that if he did not remove the item, or if he repeats the claim made in it, he will face defamation action, (read more at http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/scotland/article6936891.ece)
By making statements about your opposition that are untrue all you do is bring politics into further disrepute and the claims Mr. Murphy was making about a split between Tories on schools admission policy could not have been further from the truth.
The truth is you will not find any difference between Conservatives on the issue of St Ninians admission policy. We believe the Council, with a view to future expansion of East Renfrewshire, is right to redraw the catchment area and that this should preserve the principle of East Renfrewshire schools first and foremost for East Renfrewshire residents children. After all it is the East Renfrewshire council taxpayer who paid for the school to be built and who pay for it to be maintained. So committed to this position are we that we included this issue as part of a full page advert in this weeks Eastwood Today before Mr Murphy's claim was made.
But instead of stating his own position, so that the electorate can judge him accordingly, we found East Renfrewshire's MP claiming a split by deliberately misattributing a statement made by Paul McBride QC who represents the Conservative Party in Scotland on law and order issues.
Far from having stated it was "completely unacceptable" to redraw catchment boundaries Paul actually used the words in relation to the way the consultation exercise has been instigated and conducted having been asked for his professional opinion on the facts. Paul is senior counsel to a number of Scotland's newspapers and his opinion, as well as that of another non-partisan QC who has reviewed the legality of the Council's position, is that the process has not been conducted in line with our Council's own policies and guidelines and that this has left the Council taxpayer of East Renfrewshire exposed to potential financial loss. Paul's concern is that consultation should be fair and that the taxpayer should not be asked to waste money settling expensive legal action where it is entirely predictable and avoidable. East Renfrewshire Council has already had to back down on one Court of Session action and I am informed settled legal costs at our expense. This is surely unacceptable at a time when our Council is having to look for voluntary redundancies and COSLA are warning of even deeper cuts and financial hardship to come.
So let's be clear, Conservatives support the case for redrawing catchment boundaries for St Ninians in anticipation of East Renfrewshire's increased population as developments like Greenlaw are built and inhabited but this must be done properly and it would be "completely unacceptable" if this was done by exposing the Council taxpayer of East Renfrewshire to financial loss.
Demonstrating good judgement in the way we live our lives and in the campaigns we fight is the only way for politicians to excite and reengage the public we seek to serve. I hope to demonstrate I am ready to serve the people of East Renfrewshire by the decisions I take and the campaigns I fight. Whether the same can be said for my principle opponent only time will tell, but until then I think the evidence of his lack of judgement is clear for all to see.
Tuesday, 17 November 2009
Looking at the list of participants, and understanding they would be supplemented by elements from far left politics, it was with some apprehension that I asked organisers for a speaking slot for the Conservative Party. To my delight they agreed immediately as they understood the need for all main political parties to unite in opposition to the politics of hate and division.
So, on Saturday Annabel Goldie MSP, Jackson Carlaw MSP and I attended the Scotland United rally in Glasgow Green. Annabel spoke from the platform alongside Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon MSP, Mohammad Sarwar MP and Robert Brown MSP - as well as speakers from the Church of Scotland, the STUC and many other organisations from across the UK.
To say Annabel spoke with great passion, following our success in beating the BNP in the Glasgow North East By-Election despite the predictions of just about every pundit on the night, would be to do her a great disservice. She was, in my humble opinion, brilliant. Scotland and the United Kingdom are a great place because we are tolerant of each other, respect our differences and work together to make our communities better.
For me, one lesson for politicians is that individuals and communities seem to have been able to demonstrate this cohesion better than our political parties are able to articulate it.
Marching along Clyde Street, up Jamaica Street, along Argyle Street and then up Queen Street into George Square alongside 3,000 people was a terrific experience. Young and old; black, white, brown and every shade in between; Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Sikh and those of no faith at all - we all marched to the beat of a band of drummers and showed the good in Scotland, while at the top of the town around 80 racist, bigoted thugs were escorted to the City boundaries by Strathclyde's finest and told not to return.
There is no place for racism, fascism and bigotry in Scotland and it is now for political parties to conduct an open and honest debate about our collective failures on policy that have given people a reason to turn to the BNP. While the number of people voting BNP remains relatively small none of us should accept as much as one vote for these people.
My own anecdotal evidence from campaigning in Glasgow North East is that in part people looked to vote BNP to register their displeasure at immigration policy and that this concern about economic migration was not solely directed at people with a different skin colour or religion. I found a number of people concerned at an influx of workers from eastern European countries in an often misguided belief they are "taking our jobs".
No one would like to see our homegrown talent in work more than me. The sad reality is that in many cases domestic workers are not prepared to take low paid roles in less attractive industries and that without some economic migration to fulfil job vacancies our economy would suffer.
In the recent edition of Question Time that featured Nick Griffin a member of the audience asked Jack Straw whether the rise of the BNP was in part due to a failure in immigration policy by the current Labour government. Mr. Straw chose to say he did not believe this was the case when every other objective political commentator would conclude it is not only the case it is the primary reason for their success. The truth is that it is not only Labour who have failed on immigration but it is down to them that the past 12 years has given rise to a belief our borders are like an open door and that people move in and out of our country unchecked.
If you want to know the real truth about the BNP you can find it on You Tube. They would like you to believe they are patriots looking after their own but the truth is they are actually preoccupied by the colour of skin and the religion you follow. From Holocaust denial to compulsory repatriation based on the colour of your skin. If you do even the most basic web search you will find the evidence for yourself.
Last Saturday I was proud to stand up against the BNP, and its offshoots, and to claim the streets of Glasgow, Scotland and the United Kingdom for the law abiding majority who just want to live in peace. For us all to beat the BNP we need to be able to debate issues like immigration in a mature and responsible way and without any fear of being accused of being racist. Our country has so much to offer and that is why people from across the world chose to come here. But, as an island nation, we need to manage our resources wisely if everyone is to get a fair chance to achieve their potential. That is the task in hand for politicians of all our major political parties as we move towards the British General Election - it is a challenge I for one relish and a responsibility I am happy to take on.
Tuesday, 3 November 2009
It's time for individuals to tackle the MP expenses fiasco to restore faith in politics and politicians
David Cameron has made it clear every Conservative MP will have to conform to a standard higher than that currently imposed by House of Commons authorities. I am happy to go along with this and to go further so that the people of East Renfrewshire can have faith that if they elect a Conservative MP the highest levels of probity will be adhered to in their name.
Friday, 30 October 2009
These two men have been found guilty of a string of child pornography and abuse crimes, including sexual assault of a three-month old baby. Neil Strachan is to serve a minimum 16-year term and James Rennie a minimum 13-year term before they are eligible to be considered for parole.
I thought long and hard about posting on this issue because it is no longer politically correct to talk about jailing people for life without the possibility of parole. I disagree and it is time we had an open and honest debate about the way sentencing policy in Scotland's courts is failing the test of public opinion.
For me, that our criminal justice system seems incapable of sentencing criminals to prison terms that enjoy public support suggests our legal system has not kept pace with the changing world in which we live. There are some crimes and some criminals for whom life imprisonment should mean they never see the light of day as free men or women again.
Police killers, some murderers, serial rapists and paedophiles capable of this sort of systematic abuse of defenceless children should all know that there crimes could enable Judges to pass down life imprisonment terms that mean they will spend the rest of their lives in jail.
I concede this will not stop the most determined criminal from committing these crimes but it will serve as a deterrent to some and as a guarantee to the rest of our society that once caught the most serious of criminal will never be free to hurt them, their families and their friends, again.
The prosecutors of Strachan and Rennie are to be commended for having successfully convicted these beasts but it beggars belief that they are quoted as saying the "severity" of the sentences would "act as a warning to others" when I believe most ordinary Scots would have hoped they would have been sentenced to life imprisonment without the prospect of parole.
So let's have an open, honest and constructive debate about the failings of our criminal justice system, sentencing policy and when life imprisonment should mean convicts never walk our streets again. In a mature democracy this should be something we do as a matter of course but in today's Britain I fear the human rights of the criminal will be put ahead of those of the victim.I for one am not prepared to allow this to go unchallenged and I know, from my experience of listening to local people on the doorsteps of East Renfrewshire, so many people feel the same.
Wednesday, 28 October 2009
Labour led East Renfrewshire Council administration miss yet another opportunity to do right by local residents
Saturday, 24 October 2009
Baroness Warsi on her recent visit to Mearns Castle Golf Academy
In contrast Jack Straw tried to squirm his way out of a question put to him by a Mr. Lisle who asked, 'Can the recent successes of the BNP be explained by the misguided immigration policies of the Government?'.
Thursday, 15 October 2009
(watch my question at http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00n8ttw/Conservative_Party_Conference_2009_08_10_2009/ from 44 minutes 50 seconds)
Such was the enthusiasm and anticipation of David's speech that queues for the afternoon session started forming from 11am for a scheduled 2pm start.
A few kind Scottish gentlemen who came down to Manchester to lobby Conference had managed to get near the front of the queue and very kindly let Peter Lyburn and I nicked in near the front - only for us to be sat in the Conservative Future section when we finally got into the hall.
For me the speech I heard today from David Cameron was every bit a speech from a Prime Minister in waiting but more importantly a speech that clearly defined the man, his principles and the type of country he wants to fashion under a Conservative government.
Three things stood out for me starting with David putting our armed forces at the very beginning of his speech in committing our Party to giving them all the equipment and support they need. Whether you agree with the military action the current government has committed our troops to or not the one thing we all agree on is that it is a scandal they are not properly equipped to protect themselves and those they are being asked to fight for.
The next memorable moment was David's reference to his family year and to his wife in particular. The things politicians partners have to put up with are above and beyond any call of duty and we don't thank them enough. Our partners don't choose a public life but they put up with calls to the house at ungodly hours and us simply disappearing at a moments notice when someone asks for our help. I must admit to shedding a tear as David described the painful year his family had experienced before paying paid tribute to Samantha.
And I think the most memorable passage of his speech was the one that dealt with the scandal of those left in poverty by Labour's complicated systems. That a young mum working part time, trying to earn something extra for her family, pays 96 pence in every pound in tax and benefit reductions is simply scandalous. In Gordon Brown’s Britain if you’re a single mother with two kids earning £150 a week the withdrawal of benefits and the additional taxes mean that for every extra pound you earn, you keep just 4 pence. What kind of incentive is that? As David said, "Thirty years ago this party won an election fighting against 98 per cent tax rates on the richest. Today I want us to show even more anger about 96 per cent tax rates on the poorest."
Today I heard a speech from a man ready and able to be my next Prime Minister. The Conference slogan was "Ready for Change" and David Cameron is both ready and capable of proving our country with the change we so desperately need!
(watch David Cameron's full Conference speech at http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00n8pyz/Conservative_Party_Conference_2009_David_Cameron/)
Monday, 12 October 2009
Missed the entire morning of Conference to accompany Annabel Goldie MSP and David Mundell MP to the Conservative Social Action project.
Social Action is at the heart of the modern Conservative Party and for me defines what it is we offer Britain at a time of great social and economic uncertainty. By involving ourselves in projects that are at the heart of our local communities and which deliver tangible benefits to local people we demonstrate the true nature of conservatism in the 21st century. Having travelled to Bosnia earlier this year to participate in one of our international Social Action Projects it was good to get stuck into a project closer to home and which clearly meant so much to the children who looked on as their Club was transformed.
This year's project was renovating Radcliffe Girls and Boys Club. This small Club sits at the heart of a community with its fair share of difficulties. Through its events it offers a community resource that pulls the local community together and although it can't be described as modern it is much loved and valued by those who use it.
After a morning of painting fascia board (filmed by BBC Scotland when I wasn't exactly looking too gainly) and tidying up grounds it was time to hop into a taxi back to the Conference secure zone for meetings with a variety of lobbyists and environmental groups. Having been coated in paint the smell of turpentine certainly makes you stand out in a crowd of people hoping they are preparing for Government.
Of particular interest is the sheer number of people lobbying on sustainable energy solutions - highlighting once again the threat to Scotland that the lights might start to go out unless we take immediate action. It is also good to hear from our international, blue chip companies who want to play their part in a cleaner, more sustainable planet by evolving their business model to ensure optimum levels of recycling and energy recovery.
By mid-afternoon I become acutely aware that while everyone else is in suits I am in my jeans and social action t-shirt - sticking out like a sore thumb. The Scottish Chairman's wife very kindly proclaimed it made me look more human than the assembled throng but it was time to nip back to the Premier Inn for a shower and change into a suit - very kindly no mention of the odd smell from Mary.
On the eve of David Cameron's speech, to what will be the final Conference before a General Election where we hope he will be elected Prime Minister, it is hardly surprising the main topic of conversation is what we will hear from him tomorrow. What will it include? How will he play it? Should he take risks? All subjects discussed at length while David and his core team prepare for a day of vital importance to the fortunes of both the Conservative Party but probably more importantly our country!
But sometimes it all becomes a bit much (even for the most dedicated of Conference goer) and time to take a break from the Conference village. So I join Peter Lyburn, Hamira Khan, Marilyn Orcharton and a select group of others nipping out of the secure zone and down Manchester's "Curry Mile" to the self-proclaimed world famous Sanam Restaurant. Wonderful food to match the company and then back to the Conference Hotel to attend a Candidates Reception before an early bed having been asked to speak in the "Great Britain" debate that opens Conference tomorrow.
There really is a genuine excitement about tomorrow's leaders speech. Britain needs a leader to take it from its broken state to one of optimism and confidence and I am in no doubt David will show tomorrow that he is that man!
Wednesday, 7 October 2009
We all know our nations finances are in a mess thanks to a reckless Labour government and that radical measures are required to bring our budget into balance and to build a better Britain for future generations. The problem is how to communicate this to an electorate already feeling the pain of Labour's recession and yet to feel the even greater pain of their massive public debt.
George was at pains to remain serious throughout and to stress "we are all in this together". Just how bad things are we can only begin to guess, so his speech was a finely balanced attempt to be honest with the public about just how difficult the choices made by a Conservative government would be.
The following are examples of specific savings that should be made in addition to the tens of billions of pounds of efficiency savings and productivity improvements that the Conservatives would deliver throughout the public sector over the next Parliament in order to reduce waste, deliver more for less, and protect front line public services.
The measures would save more than £7 billion a year in government spending by the end of the next Parliament, or more than £23 billion over the Parliament. These savings come on top of the longer term savings from raising the State Pension Age.
These measures could all be implemented without harming front line public services, and show how the burden of dealing with Labour’s debt crisis should be shared fairly while protecting the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.
Reduce the cost of government without harming front line services:
· The Government should recommend no headline increase in pay for all public sector workers in 2011, except for the lowest paid one million who should be protected. Military personnel on active service overseas should be more than compensated by doubling the Operational Allowance to an average of £4,800 for a six month tour of duty. Altogether this would reduce government spending by £3.2 billion a year from 2011 onwards, or more than £12 billion over the next Parliament. These savings are equivalent to protecting more than 100,000 public sector jobs.
· The Government should set out plans to reduce the administrative costs of Whitehall bureaucracy and Quangos by at least one third. This would reduce government spending by £3 billion a year by the end of the next Parliament, or by more than £7 billion over the Parliament.
· The Government should find ways to cap the biggest government pensions, including those for senior civil servants, local council executives and Quango managers. This cap should prevent any taxpayer-funded increase in senior government pensions already worth over £50,000 a year, and stop all taxpayer-funded pensions for these groups in future exceeding £50,000 a year. This would reduce the growth of public sector pension liabilities by hundreds of millions of pounds over the next decade.
Concentrate benefit spending on the poorest and most vulnerable:
· The Government should stop new spending on Child Trust Funds for better off families. Disabled children and the poorest one third of families should continue to receive both new Child Trust Funds at birth and top-up payments. This would save £300 million a year or £1.5 billion over the next Parliament.
· The Government should stop paying tax credits to households with incomes over £50,000 by starting to means-test the Family Element of the Child Tax Credit at a lower threshold. This would save £400 million a year or £2.0 billion over the next Parliament.
· The Government should cut benefits by up to £25 a week for anyone currently receiving Incapacity Benefit who fails a new work test and is therefore entitled only to Jobseekers Allowance. This would save more than £1 billion over the next Parliament, of which £600 million should be used to help get the unemployed back into work.
Ensure that the burden is shared fairly:
· The new 50p tax rate and associated changes to the taxation of higher earners should be kept in place for at least as long as the public sector pay freeze, in order to ensure that the richest in our society pay their fair share of the burden of tackling Labour’s debt crisis.
· We hope the new international rules on bankers’ bonuses work – that is the best solution. But if we find the money that should be going into stronger bank balance sheets is being unreasonably diverted into bigger pay and bonuses, we reserve the right to take further action and that includes using the tax system. We believe in the free market not a free ride.
Tackle the pensions time bomb while ensuring a decent standard of living in old age:
· The Government should announce an updated review of the state pension age, as recommended by Adair Turner’s Pension Commission. Given the state of the public finances and rapidly changing demographic projections, the review should consider whether the increase in the pension age from 65 to 66 should be brought forward from 2026, but starting no earlier than 2016 for men and 2020 for women.
· This should be combined with a renewed commitment to re-link the state pension to earnings growth in the next Parliament in order to ensure a decent standard of living for all in retirement, halt the spread of means-testing and restore incentives to save.
· According to the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, every year by which the pension age is increased reduces government borrowing by about two thirds of a per cent of GDP. Once the pension age for both men and women increases by a year there will be a saving of around £13 billion a year.
So, no matter how good a time you have catching up with old friends and sharing ideas with new colleagues you can't help thinking about the problems that lie ahead for our country. Serious times demand serious men and women ready to make serious decisions and today I think we saw George Osborne is ready to be one of them.
Tuesday, 6 October 2009
The venues themselves are far better, more open and an all round more comfortable experience. The down side is that a number of our best volunteers are deterred from coming to conference at city centre venues by the extortionate cost of hotel rooms - many costing twice as much this week as they did last week or next.
Our conference agenda yesterday was altered so that David Cameron and his team could promote new policies. They did so in a collegiate form with George Osborne, Ken Clarke, Michael Gove, David Willetts and Baroness Warsi all taking to the stage in an extraordinary example of teamwork.
So what did David Cameron say?
He outlined plans for a massive programme to "Get Britain Working".
If you were to summarise this programme you would simply say David Cameron's plan is to simplify Labour’s numerous and piecemeal programmes into one single back-to-work programme for everyone on out of work benefits.
The Work Programme will include support back into work for the 2.6 million people claiming Incapacity Benefits currently excluded by Labour. David confirmed we will abolish the Treasury’s rule that prevents the Government paying work providers using the benefits saved once someone has a job. This will allow us to offer support to the 2.6 million people on Incapacity Benefit.
We will offer greater support to the young unemployed by referring them on to the Work Programme after 6 months of unemployment compared to a year under the Flexible New Deal.
Under this scheme we will pay providers by results with a focus on truly sustainable outcomes and bigger rewards for getting the hardest to help into a job.
And our plans do not stop there:
David Cameron confirmed that 50,000 work pairing places, on average, each year for young people, who will be assigned to sole traders for six months of meaningful work experience and mentoring would be created by Conservative policy.
Then there are the 100,000 additional apprenticeships and training places each year, as well as the 50,000 additional training places at FE colleges each year that are being created for next year.
Finally there is the distressing news of Gary's death. Expansion of the government’s Young Apprenticeship (YA) scheme, from the current 10,000 to over 30,000 each year.
David Cameron said the measures were essential to tackle the problem of two and a half million people unemployed, with one in five young people unable to find a job, and he added: "Labour are now the party of unemployment, I want the new Conservative Party to be the party of jobs and opportunity and at the heart of it is a big, bold and radical scheme to get millions of people back to work."
Sunday, 4 October 2009
For months I have been canvassing doorsteps and have been asked "when will Conservative policy be announced?". People have understood the need to ensure policy announcements are relevant to the timing of a General Election and I have been telling them I believed this coming conference would see the beginning of policies being rolled out in advance of a General Election.
So I am delighted to see Annabel Goldie has announced two new policies for Scotland today, just as David Cameron and his team have released details of plans to get Britain back to work, by enabling millions on welfare to access training, as well as announcing plans to open luxurious grace and favour residences – currently lying empty or little-used – to charities and voluntary groups to support good causes. This follows hard on the heels of Andrew Lansley announcement of a scheme that would end the scandal of forced house sales to pay for care - offering elderly people across England & Wales an escape from Labour's forced sale crisis.
Annabel's announcements today include measures to support NHS workers who have the courage to Whistleblow and a demand in our budget negotiations with the SNP Scottish Executive that they create a Business Dividend Fund in order to turn Scotland into a real Enterprise country.
All these policy announcements, for Scotland and the rest of the UK, demonstrate very clearly that it is the Conservative Party who are in touch with the priorities of the public and who have practical solutions that will deliver real benefits to those most in need.
I am going to blog every day this week with my Conference Diary and reflections on policy announcements and hope this help inform those who want to know what a David Cameron led Conservative Government will mean for them and their families.
After all, people are "ready for change" and need to have faith they are voting for it. Constituencies like East Renfrewshire, which is a straight Labour -v- Conservative contest, offer people an opportunity to "vote for change" and that is what I hope to be able to encourage you to do!
Saturday, 5 September 2009
From left to right - Richard Cook, Lesley Love, Corin Ling and Jackson Carlaw MSP at Rouken Glen Park. Next Stop Central Park!
In fact, I am not sure too many local people are actually aware we have our own, very local, charity prepared to help those in need when they need it most.
That is why I am donating my fee to local charities.
Saturday, 22 August 2009
Scenes of the Saltire being waved on the tarmac at Tripoli Airport, in celebration at Mr. Megrahi's return, were sickening to me particularly as Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill MSP, confirmed in his statement that Mr. Megrahi had expressed no remorse or compassion for the 270 victims of the bomb he was convicted of planting on Pan Am Flight 103.
These scenes brought shame on our national flag
More conceerning to me is the revelation that East Renfrewshire Council are now expected to monitor Mr. Megrahi while he is in Libya to ensure he adheres to the terms of release that have been agreed. Our officials are to receive regular medical reports and are reported to be establishing a satellite link to Libya to maintain communication.
That the hard pressed Council Tax payer of East Renfrewshire is expected to pay for this is completely unacceptable to me and the SNP Scottish Executive who took this perverse decision must immediately indemnify us against any loss.
As equally unacceptable is the silence of our local MP, and Secretary of State for Scotland, Jim Murphy. Scotland's name is being dragged through the mud internationally and the man empowered with representing our country through our UK national parliament remains silent.
His own constituents face the prospect of financial loss simply because we had the good grace to host Mr. Megrahi's family while he served his term in Greenock Prison - and that is completely unacceptable to me. Despite the difficult circumstances under which the Megrahi family came to live in Newton Mearns they lived in peace and were accepted by our local community. That we are now open to financial loss as a result is unacceptable.
In the modern day when most politicians have blog sites and/or Twitter it is easy to register what you believe on any issue, even if the media do not report what you say. Jim Murphy's blog remains as silent as his burgeoning press office on an issue that affects Scotland as a whole but more particularly his constituents in East Renfrewshire and that is an abdication of responsibility for which he must be held to account.
Monday, 27 July 2009
Myles is now just 12 days old and I already know I will miss him and Mum immensely. But opportunities to make a difference don't come along often and it is with Elaine's support that I join Project Maja to deliver real benefits to a community dealing with so much distress.
Some will say the Conservative Party has never really changed and this is a publicity stunt to pretend you have changed, but the truth is Conservatives have always believed in giving people the opportunity to help themselves. That is exactly what we will be doing in Bosnia. We are helping school children, a family and a community to rebuild their lives.
The Conservative Party is also actively involved in Rawanda where Conservatives are helping to train nurses and teachers and in Sierra Leone where we are trying to improve the justice system, human rights and the role of women in society.
Giving people the opportunity to help themselves has always been at the core of Conservative beliefs.
Perhaps what we haven’t been so good at in the past is projecting that image but this is not about a publicity stunt.
Conservatives supported Nato’s intervention in the Balkans in the mid- nineties and we have always supported the rebuilding programme. What we will be doing is a small attempt to help but it is also about not forgetting what happened in Bosnia.
In Srebrenica it is just over a decade since 8,000 innocent civilians, many of them children, were brutally murdered by paramilitary units commanded by alleged war criminal General Ratko Mladic. And yet it seems a lot longer. Iraq and Afghanistan are at the forefront of people’s minds at the moment but we must never forget what happened here.
I could go on and on about why we need to remember the past so as to not make the same mistakes again and to talk about Conservatives Social Action at home in the UK - and I probably will soon. The fact is that Project Maja will make a difference to those it touches and everyone involved will be richer for their time in Srebrenica.
Wednesday, 15 July 2009
Despite the rumours, Myles Andrew Cook was not born by caesarean section because Elaine is "too posh to push", he was actually facing the wrong way - clearly having inherited his mothers sense of direction - and what Elaine calls a "sunroof job" was the safest way to ensure both mother and child remained healthy.
The staff at the Queen Mother's Hospital have been quite simply fantastic all day, helping us to get used to one another and sorting out Big MAC's low blood sugar level. If anyone ever questions the capabilities of our NHS they need only speak to anyone who has experienced the dedication and professionalism of midwifes up and down the country as a testimony to all that is best in our health service.
It will be a few days before I get mother and baby home and I can't wait to introduce him to the dozens and dozens of people who have been so eager to meet little Cookie. Elaine is insistent on a "no canvassing with the baby" clause until he is a little older but I think I might manage to cart him around for leaflet delivery when the weather suits.
Today's events put everything I do into perspective and fill me with a sense that it has never been more important to campaign for a new government in order that Myles and his generation grow up with hope for the future. If my generation fail generations to come we will leave them paying off the massive national debt being incurred today to pay off current generations greed and stupidity. Holding your own baby just a minute or so after his birth really is a bewildering experience that it is difficult to put into words. So here's to Myles and Elaine with all my love and adoration - I just never thought I would blog on such a miraculous event and thank God I am able to do so today.
Friday, 10 July 2009
We have all heard the phrase "the lunatics are running the asylum" or a variation of it, but very rarely do you get tangible examples of it to report. So, if your target is to find examples of lunatics running something you should thank your lucky stars for East Renfrewshire Council.
Only East Renfrewshire Council believe the Land Reform Act, and Right to Roam legislation in particular, should take precedence over action to tackle anti-social behaviour. Now if this was simply an error in interpretation it might be forgivable but in this instance the Scottish Parliament has written to the Council of several occasions telling them to support local residents blighted by youth disorder and not to use "right to roam" as an excuse for doing nothing and yet East Renfrewshire Council continue to stick to their own flawed interpretation of a law they did not create.
And then there is East Renfrewshire Council's prioritisation of spending that does not mirror the priorities of the Council Tax payer. I am inundated by people complaining about the new landscaping and hanging baskets at Eastwood Toll when the money would be better spent on improving local roads or putting more police onto local streets when we need them most. Worse still they wasted a huge amount of money on some cobbles outside shops through Giffnock when local shopkeepers believe they could have spent it better and in a way that increased the number of people actually shopping locally. Possibly the best example of money wasting came recently when during a downpour Council workers were out watering plants in hanging baskets in front of shopkeepers who looked on incredulous to the very public waste of money none of their businesses would dare sustain.
I have numerous other examples of how lunatics are running the East Renfrewshire asylum at Eastwood Park and know people out there have many, many more examples to share. Thankfully, I believe there is a group of people capable of running the asylum sensibly, prudently and with a vision as to how East Renfrewshire Council could better serve local people. That is why I will be doing everything I can to support Councillor Jim Swift and his Conservative Group as they seek to build on their numbers and take control of East Renfrewshire's administration.
When any government body forgets who it serves there is surely cause for concern, but when the same body forgets time and time again it is surely time for, top down, route and branch reform.
Empower local people and they will get on with things and deliver fantastic results for their family, their neighbours and their local communities. Treat them with a lack of respect and they will do nothing for you. It is time for us all to stand up and be counted in the battle for common sense in the running of East Renfrewshire. I have great confidence in the ability of local people to win this fight and deliver a brighter future for us all.
Sunday, 5 July 2009
Tuesday, 16 June 2009
For example, it was terrific to see the Commission take forward David Cameron's suggestion that Ministers from Westminster should appear before the Scottish Parliament and, in particular, that the Scottish Secretary should appear before a Scottish Parliament committee immediately after the Queen's Speech in order to explain the impact Westminster's legislative programme will have on Scotland.
It is also good to see the Conservative Party committing itself to taking a long hard look at implementation of the Calman Commission's recommendations, including those relating to tax raising powers, through involvement on a cross party steering group.
Moves to make the Scottish Parliament accountable for the money it spends, by making it responsible for taxes that directly contribute to at least a proportion of its budget, will go some way to addressing allegations of subsidy from England and will ensure MSPs are held to account for their decisions at the ballot box. Implementation of devolution of tax raising powers must, however, mean the Scottish Parliament is forced to take the element of fiscal responsibility devolved to it by compelling it to use such powers. After all it has had powers over taxation for the past 10 years and has failed to use its ability to vary income tax up or down 3%.
A large number of questions about how devolved tax powers can be implemented remain to be addressed and that is why it is right for the Conservative Party to be involved in a cross party steering group to see which of the Calman Commission's proposals can practically be adopted.
The Calman Commission has been a very worthwhile review of devolution after 10 years. I believe we should make devolution work for the people of Scotland in the way they clearly believed it would when they voted for it back in 1998.
If devolution is not to prove to have been a series of stepping stones on the way to an Independent Scotland the application of recommendations put forward by this Commission must be carefully thought through and some may have to be discounted to protect and maintain the United Kingdom as a social and economic union through which we benefit no matter where we live. I am proud to be British and want to see devolution work properly for future generations.
Monday, 8 June 2009
Clearly the Conservative Party is the only party that can mount a realistic challenge to Labour. A vote for any other party may well allow Labour to win the seat by the back door. The SNP did well to come second and to deny Labour any comfort from the result of this election. Indeed, to find the last time Labour finished third in East Renfrewshire you have to go back to SDP days and 1987.
Thank you for your support. My campaign team and I will continue to work hard to earn your trust and to ensure that East Renfrewshire becomes a Conservative seat again.
Friday, 5 June 2009
An early start for the whole Conservative team, under slightly gray skies, was followed by a lot of hard work manning polling stations, knocking out pledge voters and providing lifts to polls. Ultimately this all proved very worthwhile - with positive feedback from those we met and a great deal of encouragement from the statistics we gleaned from ballot box voting numbers.
And today provided so many people in East Renfrewshire with a golden opportunity to pass judgement on the attitude and failures of a Labour MP, MSP and Council administration who are completely out of touch with the mood and attitudes of their electorate. In Clarkston, Carolside parents were able to protest about Labour increasing class sizes. In Giffnock, Woodfarm and Thornliebank residents vented their fury at a Labour Party prepared to continue to propose selling off parks for residential house building in the Local Plan. In Eaglesham & Waterfoot we found continued opposition amongst voters to the Council proposed Eaglesham Hub. While in Netherlee there was a massive increase in voting between 6pm and 10pm, during which time in some cases the number of votes cast doubled, as local people were motivated to get out and vote.
From our own figures it is clear that, excluding postal votes, Netherlee won the prize for the area with the largest turnout while Neilston surprised us with the lowest turnout after a very promising start.
Whatever Sunday evenings result holds in store the one thing that won today was the democratic process of the UK. I have a number of concerns about the way the election was conducted today but in the end it is not about those of us in political parties it is about the people we entrust to use their vote wisely. Thank you to everyone who took the time to vote and let's hope that the six MEP's we return from Scotland do us proud no matter which political party they represent!
Wednesday, 3 June 2009
Monday, 25 May 2009
Over recent weeks, and in the eye of the storm that is the MP expenses furore, it has become increasingly difficult to get any message across to ordinary members of the public. Instead, (almost to a man, woman and child), everyone wants to vent their anger on the disgraceful action of MPs who have cheated the expenses system of taxpayers money.
As an ordinary member of the public and taxpayer - I agree!
To start the process of restoring faith in our political system I believe that all those who have made fraudulent claims on their expenses MUST be prosecuted without delay. It is simply not tenable for people who have claimed mortgage interest on expenses when they don't have any mortgage to pay interest on to claim they are within the rules and anything other than dishonest.
These people must be thoroughly investigated and, if the Daily Telegraph are right, charged with having committed fraud.
Such action is long overdue and should be just the start of action against those who felt able to make expense claims that were not "wholly, exclusively and necessarily" incurred in service of their constituents.
Simply paying back money or paying back capital gains tax is not good enough! If a member of the public is a day late in their personal tax return or pays up late they have surcharges, penalties and interest to pay HM Revenue & Customs - so why do these MPs think they should be treated any differently?
David Cameron has called for a General Election so that the public can decide the fate of those implicated in this saga and I am happy to support his "Sign For Change" initiative so that ordinary members of the public are able to register their desire to shape our democracy. Put simply, David gets it in a way that Gordon Brown is simply unable to fathom.
The rules the public have to abide by should be good enough for MPs or they are not honorable members. So let's see the guilty treated the same as everyone else for the sake of fair play and let's have a General Election so everyone can vote for change and a better UK democracy!