Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Local MP opposes Iraq attack

Katy Clark, MP for North Ayrshire & Arran, was one of just 43 members of the UK Parliament to vote against British forces joining attacks against the terrorist organisation ‘Islamic State’ in Iraq.

The Labour Party’s position last Friday (September 26) in the House of Commons was to support a Tory-Lib Dem Government motion endorsing UK involvement in ongoing airstrikes by American forces.  However, Katy Clark broke with her party-line and voted against military action.  All five MPs from the Scottish National Party also opposed the UK Government motion.

Explaining why she opposed UK airstrikes, Ms Clark told the3towns.today, “I have been horrified by the brutal actions of ISIS [Islamic State], but I do not believe that UK air strikes will improve the situation. They will, however, increase the risk of terrorist bombings in the UK and are likely to act as a recruiting-sergeant for the fundamentalists.

“These air strikes lack United Nations backing and are not part of a coherent strategy.  The military action agreed by Parliament last Friday is open-ended with little, if any, consideration given to an exit strategy.  The overall plan is unclear and the Government’s past record does not inspire confidence that they understand the implications of what they are doing.  Only last year they were unsuccessful in trying to persuade Parliament to take military action in Syria, which would have been likely to strengthen the very forces they are now taking action against.”

Ms Clark who is on the left of the Labour Party said, “There is no question that the brutality ISIS has shown is horrifying.  The conduct of our allies in this initiative is also terrible.  The sectarian approach of the Iraqi Government against the Sunni population has been a major factor in creating this problem and needs to be addressed.

“The Saudi Arabian regime has a poor track record in relation to human rights but also to ISIS. Saudi Arabia has the military might to make any air strikes yet is failing to, despite the fact that military action would be best carried out by regional powers which have the military strength to do so.  Most importantly, there needs to be a political strategy that addresses all these issues, which are of course complex and difficult but the UK taking part in air strikes will not resolve them and indeed may simply make the situation worse.”   

Appeal to trace bogus caller

Officers from Police Scotland are appealing for witnesses after a 70 year-old man was the victim of a bogus caller last Friday (September 26).

The incident happened around 6.30pm in Barrie Terrace, Ardrossan.  The elderly man answered a knock on his door and allowed entry to a woman who claimed to be a volunteer from North Ayrshire Council’s Social Work Department.  The woman managed to distract the householder during conversation and, when she left, it was discovered that a two-figure sum of money missing.

Police say the woman is white, aged approximately 35 and is around 5’9” in height with brown shoulder length hair.  In addition she had a piercing through the left side of her nose and is described as having “bad teeth”.  At the time of the incident in Barrie Terrace the woman was wearing a grey waterproof jacket and dark trousers.

Area Commander Chief Inspector Brian Shaw said, “This type of crime is carried out by cowardly individuals who have absolutely no respect for others.  It is totally unacceptable to have elderly people feeling vulnerable within their own homes.

“I would urge anyone who saw this woman or recognises her description to contact police.  There may be other people in the Ardrossan area who have been approached by this woman and haven’t yet come forward.  If you have had someone at your door recently that you were unsure of, or if an elderly relative has informed you of an incident, I would like to hear from you.

“Extra officers will be in the area to provide further assistance to the enquiry and offer public reassurance.  In addition, door to door enquiries will continue.”

Anyone who can assist with this investigation is asked to contact Police Scotland at Saltcoats on the non-emergency number 101.  Alternatively CRIMESTOPPERS can be contacted on 0800 555 111, where information can be left on an anonymous basis.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Good news on employment

A response to a Parliamentary Question from Cunninghame North MSP Kenneth Gibson (pictured) has revealed employment in North Ayrshire has risen by 5% in the past year.

Angela Constance, the SNP Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Training, Youth and Women's Employment confirmed the rise in local people in work during Question Time in the Scottish Parliament last Thursday (September 25).

Mr Gibson asked the Cabinet Secretary to confirm that “in North Ayrshire, capital projects such as the new Garnock Academy, Ayrshire Central Hospital and Brodick harbour will help to create and sustain employment, and that participation by women in modern apprenticeships is above average while youth unemployment is falling faster than anywhere else in Scotland.”

Replying to her party colleague, Angela Constance said, “I am pleased to be able to confirm that the number of modern apprenticeship-starts in Mr Gibson’s constituency has increased over the year.

“There is other substantial investment in North Ayrshire, particularly through the youth employment Scotland fund, whereby the Ayrshire councils work collaboratively and put forward the most ambitious bid. They are taking that forward very successfully.”

Ms Constance noted, “The annual population survey, which was published just this week, confirms other good news for Mr Gibson’s constituency. For example, over the year, the employment level in North Ayrshire has risen by 5 percentage points, which is an increase of 4,700 jobs. There is a similar trend with young people, with 1,000 more young people in work in North Ayrshire.”

Damaging impact of UK welfare cuts

Local MSP Margaret Burgess has spoken of the increasing number of Scottish children living in severe poverty as a result of policies imposed by the Tory-Lib Dem UK Government.

Mrs Burgess was answering Parliamentary Questions last week in her capacity as the Scottish Government Minister for Housing and Welfare when she was asked about a new report – Challenges From The Frontline – in which charity Bernardo’s reveals it is increasingly having to deal with children and families suffering extreme levels of destitution.

 Mrs Burgess said, “The wellbeing and safety of Scotland’s children and young people are a key priority for the Scottish Government.  All children and young people have the right to be cared for and protected from harm, and to grow up in a safe environment in which their rights and needs are respected.

“I heard the concerns that are expressed in the report from Barnardo’s and the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children at the Ministerial Advisory Group on Child Poverty.  There are concerns that a combination of the United Kingdom Government’s welfare reforms, low wages and rising living costs are significantly contributing to the number of children and families living in poverty in Scotland.  That is unacceptable, and I am concerned that, at a time when we continue to work with the Advisory Group to improve children’s wellbeing and life chances, it is estimated that UK Government welfare changes will lead to around 100,000 additional children in Scotland living in poverty by 2020.”

SNP MSP Christina McKelvie enquired, “The minister mentioned the prospect of up to 100,000 more children in Scotland being pushed into poverty as a result of Westminster welfare reforms.  Welfare and benefit caps were proposed this week at the Labour Party conference, which would be applied in the unlikely event that it was elected at the next election.  Will the minister outline what steps are being taken to mitigate that impact?”

Mrs Burgess, MSP for Cunninghame South, which includes Stevenston, replied, “I reassure the member that reducing poverty and inequalities is a priority for this Government, and our child poverty strategy sets out our preventative approach to tackling poverty.  However, the cumulative impact of the UK welfare reforms over six years to 2015-16 could result in the Scottish welfare bill being reduced by around £6 billion, and more than £1 billion of that reduction relates directly to children in Scotland.

“We are doing what we can to mitigate the impact of the reforms, and our current and planned spending will invest at least £260-million over the period 2013-14 to 2015-16 to limit the damage of Westminster welfare policies in Scotland.”

North Ayrshire woman could lead the country

With the resignation of Alex Salmond following the ‘No’ vote in last week’s Independence Referendum, it is almost certain that Scotland’s next First Minister will be North Ayrshire’s Nicola Sturgeon.

Ms Sturgeon, MSP for Glasgow Southside, was born in Irvine and grew up in Dreghorn, where her parents still live.  Her mother, Joan, is SNP councillor for Irvine East and Provost of North Ayrshire.

Currently Deputy Leader of the Scottish National Party and Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon is likely to be the only candidate to succeed Alex Salmond.  She would become the first female First Minister of Scotland.

Ms Sturgeon is acknowledged, even by opponents, as being a top-level politician whose reputation was further enhanced by very strong performances throughout the recent referendum campaign.

Speaking as she launched her campaign to replace Mr Salmond, Nicola Sturgeon said, “To be the First Minister of my country, especially at this exciting and optimistic time, would be both a great honour - without doubt, the greatest honour - and an immense responsibility.

"I am putting myself forward for two simple reasons: I want to serve my party and my country; and I believe I am the best person for the job.”

The woman whose first political involvement was supporting the SNP’s Kay Ullrich during an election campaign in the local seat of Cunninghame South noted, “I also hope that my candidacy, should it succeed, will send a strong message to every girl and young woman in Scotland - no matter your background or what you want to achieve in life, in Scotland in 2014 there is no glass ceiling on ambition.”

Ms Sturgeon praised Mr Salmond who will stand down as SNP Leader and First Minister in November, saying, “Alex Salmond transformed the SNP and as First Minister he has made Scotland a better place.  He also helped to make me the person and politician I am today.

“His are big boots to fill, but if given the opportunity to lead, I will wear my own shoes - and they will certainly have higher heels.  I will be my own person and set my own course.”

Nicola Sturgeon joined the SNP in 1986 at the age of 16.  She now lives in Glasgow with her husband, Peter Murrell, who is the Chief Executive of the Scottish National Party.