‘My Day In The Council Chambers’

Today was a massive day. Today was of significant importance to myself because I had helped these councillors in all types of weather. Leafleting , canvassing and even had the occasional coffee and a bite to eat. I put my family commitments on hold. My Girlfriend and kids saw less of me each night. Today meant more to me than anything. Today at 2pm I attended the statutory meeting for the council to decide who would be leader, provost, deputy provost and most importantly, who would be in power. I felt nervous and anxious at the same time. Knowing that SNP had 11 councillors and labour 11 also. It was neck and neck. I worked out all the probabilities in my head the night before and when I sat in the car in the car park outside the council building. If we get a couple of the independents on our side and the Tories abstain. If we form the best case for a minority administration. If it goes down to a deck of cards and we get the ace in the pack. These were all hypothetical but they kept racing through my mind. My heart was pounding.
For the past few months I have become really close to the SNP group in North Ayrshire. They’re a lovely bunch of people. They share an amazing vision that will help everyone in our area. They set out to help others. These people more than me deserve to get a good result today. I was praying for them. I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best outcome possible. When I read in the paper last week that Marie Burns – our leader of the group and Councillor in Irvine said that she reached out to Joe Cullinane (Labour Leader) to form a coalition.

Her proposal was simple, lets form administration together because that is what the people of North Ayrshire want. Now for me, that is one of a remarkable leader. Someone who despite their differences can put all of that aside to put the people first. When I first read it I was in my Dads. I shouted him over and told him to read it. You could see in his face as he read it that he was proud to have voted for her. He never knew Marie but I had spoken about her often. She’s wonderful, smart and very welcoming. This topped everything.

She was realistic enough to know that both parties had 11 each and she could quite easily of decided to form a minority administration. She chose to put the people first. I will always admire her for that. Unsurprisingly, Joe declined her offer. He refused to negotiate a coalition offer with SNP and try his hand at other negotiations. He would try and get the independents on board, that was a given. Negotiations went on all week and nobody really knew much else on the outside. I tried to ask a few questions here and there but didn’t want to pester anyone.
As I sat in my car outside the council building one and a half hours early. I went through everything in my head. I took the day off work for this and I was ready. I went inside and was the first person to be in the waiting area. I was greeted by the receptionist and was told I was “a little early”. So I decided to wait. Others started tricking in. A couple of labour members who were talking about tuition fees and how it was labours idea came in. A frequent narrative of theirs. I remained tight lipped and focused on the day ahead.

After half an hour Jim Tudhope and John Ferguson came in. I was relieved to see them as they were ‘one of us’. I stood and chatted to them for about ten more minutes when we saw Cllr Christina Larsen making her way into the chambers. This was it. It was finally here. The receptionist told us that we could now follow them in. We trickled in via a side door open to the public. The councillors were all seated in a curved seating pattern. They all had laptops and microphones. The chief executive of NAC Elma Murray took to the panel in front of them.

She announced who she was and asked the councillors if they would mind being filmed live on Facebook. They agreed that it was ok so they went on. A lady came round and handed us an agenda for today’s meeting. It was like a big book with lots of pages. Jim and I had a look through it while Elma was talking and introducing the councillors. The local press were over in the corner, taking notes and pressing play on their recorders. 11 labour councillors on the right of the room, 7 Tories in the middle, 4 independents just behind them and 11 SNP councillors on the left. If the Tories sat with labour it would be earmarked for a perfect political system of right vs left.
One of the first things on the agenda was nominating and voting for a provost and deputy provost. I had never seen this before so I was unsure about what it entailed. Everyone voted for the nominees and it was said that Cllr Ian Clarkson would be provost and Cllr Robert Barr would be deputy provost. The meeting went into a 5 minute recess so that the provost and his deputy could got for a picture and receive their chains. At this point in my mind I was trying to work out if a deal had been made. Pure speculation but my mind was running overtime. ‘So both of them are labour, does that mean we got in because we gave them provost roles’. Every hypothetical scenario was running through my mind.
Elma took to the microphone again and asked the question loud and clear. “Who do you vote for to me the leader and deputy leader of NAC?” The nominations were Cllr Marie Burns (SNP) and Deputy Cllr Alan Hill (SNP) or Cllr Joe Cullinane (Labour) and Deputy John Easdale (Labour). Elma asked for a vote of raising hands. The nominated leader and deputy leader with the most votes wins. She called out Marie and Alan first. All the SNP hands went up. That was 11 to them. I thought to myself at this stage that the Tories would abstain on both because they wouldn’t want to vote Labour in. Elma asked who votes for Joe and John. All of the Labour Councillors put their hands up so that made 11 also.

Then as I look over to the middle of the room I saw Cllr Angela Stephen, Cllr Scott Gallagher, Cllr Todd Ferguson and Cllr Timothy Billings raise their hands. Along with a former Tory councillor who is now an independent. It shouldn’t of shocked me, it shouldn’t of made me mad or upset. But it did. I shook my head in disdain. I had saw on the news just two hours before Kezia Dugdale saying she would suspend any Labour members going into coalition with the Tories. Now this was not the case. This was not a coalition between Labour and Tories. It may have well been though. This was a minority administration propped up by the Tories. It was deceiving, conniving and a massive faux pas from both of them.

It will come back to haunt them. I hope sooner rather than later. I turned to look at Jim and we both never said a word. We had a look of disbelief. It was now evident that Joe and his colleagues had infiltrated ranks with the Tories and they had put local issues aside to stop the SNP at every turn and to stop independence. A very transparent move but a move that sneakily got them to power. When the Chief executive confirmed that Joe Cullinane was now leader and that Labour had formed a minority administration by being propped up from the austerity ridden Tories. I looked over at him. He had a massive grin on his face. This man knows no bounds. He is an opportunistic, careerist. He will fling anyone under his municipal bus just to be the leader of the council. It doesn’t matter how he gets there or what route he has to take. As long as his career is first then the people of North Ayrshire will always come second.
As the meeting drew to a close. Elma was giving councillors opportunities to nominate for posts and duties. I saw Tory councillors reject nominations at every opportunity. It made me realise that they just didn’t care. They had no interest in today other than to stop SNP and effectively stop independence. But I have news for them. They won’t stop The SNP and they won’t stop independence. Because we don’t lie down to opportunistic careerists or part time councillors that just do enough to get by. We’re in this for the long run, we’re resilient in our vision for a fairer, more prosperous society for all. We will close the attainment gap for our kids.

We will shout from the rooftops that we will double childcare and oppose Tory cuts to our elderly and disabled. We got the most votes out of all the parties sitting in that chamber today. That is what keeps me going. We have amazing councillors in place to hold this Labour administration to account at every turn. We will keep going against the hatred towards us. We are SNP and this is our time!

featured image Red Raiph

You can follow David Patterson on twitter at @DavidPee29 or at his webpage davesworld

23 Days to Build an Anti-Tory Alliance and Save the Welfare State – vote SNP in Scotland and Labour in England

Now that we actually have the Labour manifesto, we can see a wide and unquestionable band of clear blue water between Labour and the Tories, but when it comes to social security there is nothing but the proverbial cigarette paper between Labour and the SNP.

However, Salmond’s suggestion that Labour has copied SNP policies is more rhetorical than serious. Both the SNP and Labour are essentially social democratic parties.

We do not, as a matter principle, support any one party, but have called for tactical votes for the SNP in both last General Election and this, as the best, indeed only, vehicle for advancing working class interests. Whilst the SNP Government is far from perfect, they have protected us in Scotland from some of the very worst excesses of the Tory Welfare cuts. They have already mitigated and promised to scrap the bedroom tax, mitigated housing benefit cuts for under 21s, and promised that the Scottish disability benefit that replaces PIP will take account of doctors’ reports of people’s needs and not depend on assessments carried out by private companies. They have promised that the training schemes that they will run will be voluntary and unsanctionable, and they have provided vital short-term help through the Scottish Welfare Fund. Only a small portion of the benefit system is being devolved, but the Scottish Government has promised that Scottish Social Security will have a completely different culture from the current punitive UK regime. At the same time, the SNP has consistently campaigned in parliament against sanctions and benefit cuts, including leading the campaign against the two children (rape clause) policy.

Of course there are some Labour plans that the SNP could do well to copy, especially a stronger focus on public ownership – but Labour’s continued commitment to Trident cannot be hidden behind the novelty of a Labour manifesto with some left-leaning policies.

bairns not bombs

And then there’s Independence, where the manifesto writers appear to have handed the pen to Kezia Dugdale’s Scottish Labour Party. Perhaps this is their return for backing a manifesto that is considerably further to the left than the Scottish leadership and most of the Scottish party is comfortable with. But since when did Unionism become the touchstone of Labour policy, and how can they justify not only campaigning actively against Independence, but even opposing letting us decide our own fate in a second referendum?

Blair McDougall

The Labour manifesto, despite its Trident-sized problems, has caused a flurry of interest among the Scottish left, but when it comes to choosing who to vote for, that shouldn’t cause us any problems. The only way that manifesto has a hope of becoming UK policy is by maximising the anti-Tory vote.

Here in Scotland, especially if polls are correct about former Labour voters moving over to the Tories, any significant shift of votes from the SNP to Labour risks letting in Tory MPs. If you want to avoid letting the Tories in by the back door, you should vote SNP.  If the seemingly impossible occurs, and Labour support rallies and grows in England and Wales, the very possibility of a minority labour government might be jeopardised by voting for Scottish Labour. And, despite Labour’s pre-election protestations, we can be sure that if SNP support was needed for a minority Labour government, it would not be turned away. This would pave the way to negotiations for a second Independence referendum; and the process of any future separation would be more constructive. For such a development to occur, the zombie Scottish Labour Party, with their bitter Britnat stance, has to be seen to die conclusively and make room for new beginnings. They have fallen far, but they must be seen to fall even further on June 8th if we are to see any chance of a radical reformed Scottish Labour Party that can provide a socialist, pro-Indy force, and can, again, seek to represent Scottish working-class interests.

You can follow the Scottish Unemployed Workers Network on facebook and on there webpage click here

 

Damned Lies and Statistics

Scotland’s local council elections went just as we had all expected. Unionism never increased while support for the pro-independence parties did, but the shift in the unionist vote to the Tories is all the BBC can talk about.


According to the spin from BBC Scotland Nicola Sturgeon should now be reflecting on the lesson her Scottish National Party has been taught from a “Tory surge” in Scotland. We have been told that the SNP have lost 7 councillors and that the dubiously victorious Conservatives have swept the board, picking up a staggering 164 extra seats as Labour collapsed across the country. Certainly, when the ever biased unionist state broadcaster puts it like this, we have to concede that the SNP were utterly and humiliatingly trounced in the Scottish local elections. There is, however, a fly in the ointment of the British propaganda.

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Kezia Dugdale apparently delighted with her party’s humiliating defeat. Picture by @carrolce

Yes, the Tories did gain those 164 extra seats – giving the Conservative and Unionist Party 276 Scottish council seats, but when we factor in the loses sustained by the other unionist parties and ‘independents,’ and the changes to the electoral boundaries since 2012, it becomes clear that on the whole the unionists have lost rather than gained ground. In 2012 the SNP won a total of 425 seats and today won 431 – a difference between then and now the BBC count as a loss of 7 seats. I’m no genius, but we can be pretty sure that is a gain of 6 seats. Much the same can be said of the SNP share of first preference votes. In 2012 it won a 32.3 per cent share, and has now increased that to 35.4 percent – compared to the measly 22 per cent won by the Tories. Add to this the pro-independence support of the Greens and things for the independence movement are looking rather rosy.

So where did this “surge” for the Conservatives come from? Well, to begin with – as this blog said yesterday – this was not a vote for the Tories. This was the consolidation of unionism, and the numbers bear this out. Labour, now in actual freefall over the whole of the United Kingdom – lost a whopping 133 Scottish council seats, the Liberal Democrats lost 3, and independents are down 26 – bringing the total loses across the other unionist factions to 162 seats. The Tories gained 164 seats. Uncanny, isn’t it? What we see is a total unionist gain of 2 seats, an anomaly that has to be explained by the shifting of electoral boundaries – as the total pro-independence vote increased.

It turns out that there has indeed been a Tory surge in Scotland, with traditional Labour voters the length and breadth of Scotland more than delighted to trade in their socialist values to support the party of austerity and the rape clause in their vain hope of saving the Union. None of this is any skin off the National Party’s nose, and everyone in Scotland hoping for independence can take courage in this result. It was a win. With the general election next – in a first past the post voting system – things are looking set for another astounding victory for the SNP. Once we have that out of the way we can turn our attention to securing another independence referendum.

 


Local Elections 2017 Nicola on BBC News


You can follow Jason Michael at his twitter page @Jeggit or at his webpage The Random Public Journal
Jason Michael is a  Scottish journalist and blogger based in Dublin. Writing on politics and society. Columnist for iScot Magazine and author of the Random Public Journal.

The SNP Way

I was never really in to politics as a kid. I did the usual things and went out with my friends and played football etc. The thoughts of policies, inflation, austerity or tax rates never crossed my mind. When I first got involved with politics, it was really through my dad, he would shout at the tv whenever John Major, William Hague or David Cameron was on. He would go in a rant about how they were talking rubbish and my Mum would tell him to be quite and stop going on as he was ‘doing her head in’. And god forbid if you asked him about the Thatcher years. My Dad is the smartest man I know and as I got older I started to make my own decisions. Further down the line I began to feel the passion my dad had for a fairer and more understanding society for all. I see a lot of my friends dads saying to their kids on matters like immigration and the union saying things like ‘get them out’ or ‘send them back’ which is a very inward outlook on the country and indeed the world. I couldn’t understand how people could be like that. I started to grow and become more aware of the things around me. Ive always had that little voice of my dad in my head saying “always do the right thing” and that sticks with me throughout my life. I have 2 beautiful, amazing kids. And I want whats best for them. I want them to have a say what goes on in Scotland and the rest of the world. I will speak for them until they’re old enough to voice their concerns on the world. So I hope I do the right thing by them.

 

I first took the step to visit my local branch meeting for Cunningham South. Unaware of what I was getting in to or where this journey would take me. As I walked through the door, no one knew who I was. I was welcomed with open arms. As I sat down and listened to Marie Burns and Robin Sturgeon speak about things concerning North Ayrshire I knew I was in the right place, I knew these people were people I would get on with. As time went on I was sporadic in my approach to being an activist. My shift patterns at work got in the way etc and it was hard to find the time. I picked up the paper one day and I saw the Cunningham south team had nominated their candidates for the wards of North Ayrshire. I decided to take action. I didn’t care if I would be tired from work and then having to go out and deliver hundreds of leaflets or chap doors, I decided that the vision for a fairer society for everyone was not going to be achieved if nothing was done. I decided to get out there and get involved. I messaged Scott Davidson, local firefighter and candidate for Kilwinning, one of the nicest guys i’ve ever met. He shares the same views as me and has that drive to help others and with that we became good friends. With the local elections coming up, he asked me to go over to Kilwinning to help out. I used to live there and I fell in love with the people and the area. For me, being an activist is not about helping out when I can its about playing my part in helping candidates get elected because these people are ordinary people fighting for the same thing I want, a fairer, understanding, more prosperous society for all. A society where the low income paying mum or dad get a helping hand to support their kids, a society where you know that your government has your best interests at heart, an outward looking, understanding society.

 

This SNP is important to me in many ways, I know what it feels like to go without food. To have nothing for a few days and struggling to get by from one day to the next. Im not ashamed to admit that. Ive been down to foodbanks on occasions. Fortunately things are a bit better now but there are thousands in North Ayrshire and in Scotland still the same. They see no light at the end of the tunnel. When the SNP brought in the Scottish Welfare fund in 2013 it meant people with low pay or people on benefits could phone up the Council, tell them your situation. They would send a code to your phone and you would take the code to your local shop and they would give you some money to buy nappies, food, electricity, gas etc. It makes me so proud to be a member of a party that implemented this as it reaches out to 230,000 people, the people that don’t ask for much, just a little help when the going gets tough, the people that look after others but never ask for help in return. The SNP wants a fairer society and a vision that we leave no man, woman or child behind. We look after everyone in their time of need. This is the SNP way!

Featured image of Nicola Sturgeon by Red Raiph

You can follow David Patterson on twitter at @DavidPee29 or at his webpage davesworld