Friday, 31 October 2014

SNP win Council by-election


The Scottish National Party remains the largest group on North Ayrshire Council after securing a resounding victory in a by-election held last Thursday (October 30).

The poll was necessary following the untimely death earlier this year of North Coast & Cumbraes SNP councillor Alex Mclean, which left the SNP and Labour with 11 councillors each.  The local authority is currently run by a minority SNP administration, but had Labour managed to secure a by-election victory and become the largest group, it was likely the party would have sought to take control of the council.

However, electors in Largs, Fairlie, Skelmorlie and Cumbrae backed the SNP candidate, Grace McLean, Alex McLean’s widow, when the election was held. 

Ultimately, the Labour vote collapsed, with the party falling from second-place in 2012 to a poor fourth this time.  In the first counting of ballots under the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system of proportional representation, the result was:

Grace McLean (SNP) – 2,021
Drew Cochrane (IND) – 1,190
Toni Dawson (CON) – 1,125
Valerie Reid (LAB) – 691
Meilan Henderson (UKIP) – 192

Using STV means that the candidate finishing in last place at each stage (counting) is removed and their ‘second-preference’ votes are redistributed to other candidates, in line with voters’ intentions, until one person secures at least 50% + 1 of all votes cast.  After UKIP, Labour and then the Tories were removed, the final count between the SNP and the Independent candidate produced the result: Grace McLean 2.279 – Drew Cochrane 2,000.

Mr Cochrane recently retired as editor of the local newspaper, the Largs & Millport Weekly News.

Following her election to represent the North Coast & Cumbraes, Grace McLean said she was “overwhelmed” by the support she received from local people, and that she was sure her late husband, Alex, would have been very proud.

When Mrs McLean takes her place on the Council, the SNP Group will be gender-balanced – 6 women and 6 men.  The Labour Group has 10 men and 1 woman.

The turnout at the by-election last Thursday was 37.5%, with a total of 5,219 votes cast.

Sharp rise in families struggling to survive


SNP MSP Margaret Burgess has described as “heart-breaking” news that the number of Scottish households struggling to even feed family members has trebled in the last year.

Mrs Burgess, Minister for Housing & Welfare, revealed that Scottish local authorities spent £9.3m between April and June this year attempting to alleviate the worst effects of UK Government welfare cuts.  In North Ayrshire alone, more than 1,200 Crisis grants and 300 Community Care grants were paid.

Funded by the SNP Scottish Government, the aid scheme replaces Social Fund grants, which were abolished by the UK Government's Department for Work and Pensions.  Crisis grants are paid to help people in an emergency, while Community Care grants are used to help those coming out of care.  Grants totalling £980,000 were given to help cash-strapped households pay for food, which is three-times the total awarded for the same period in 2013.

Community Care grants were most commonly used to pay for household furnishings, such as cookers, washing machines and fridges.  In addition, across Scotland, £130,000 in grants was made to allow people to buy clothes and shoes.

Margaret Burgess, MSP for the local constituency of Cunninghame South, said, “It is heart-breaking to see the impact of welfare reforms laid bare, with people coming forward and applying for help to buy everything from food to shoes to beds.

"It is totally unacceptable that in a country as wealthy as Scotland, people are living in poverty, unable to afford items many of us take for granted.”

Mrs Burgess noted that demands on the Welfare Fund are high as it seeks to help those in the country’s most deprived areas, adding, “That's why it is important we take forward our new Welfare Funds (Scotland) Bill to set-out how welfare funds will operate within local authorities.

"We have already explained in the Scottish Government's submission to the Smith Commission that Scotland needs to have full responsibility over welfare and employment powers.  Only full powers over welfare, employment and social policy will help us tackle poverty and allow Scotland to become a fairer country.”

Bogus-callers in the area


Three Towns residents are being advised to be particularly wary of any unexpected callers to their homes.

The warning comes after local police indicated they had received reports of people claiming to be employees of North Ayrshire Council and requesting entry to homes in the local area.

A spokesperson for the Council said, “Bogus-callers usually turn up at a person’s door unannounced, selling goods or offering services such as gardening or repair work.

“Often these people can be very persuasive in their attempts to trick their unsuspecting victims and will use official looking identification in order to back up their phony claims.  However, any work carried out is frequently of a poor standard and vastly overpriced.  The arrangement usually leaves residents with little recourse.”

Describing other tactics used by bogus-callers, the Council spokesperson said, “Other cold-hearted criminals may try to trick their way into someone’s property before stealing from their victims and then quickly escaping from the scene.

“Residents who are in any doubt whether or not someone who turns up at their door is genuine should not let them in - under any circumstances - and should, instead, contact the police by dialling the non-emergency number 101.”

Friday, 24 October 2014

Anger over Labour councillor's comments

An ‘official’ North Ayrshire Council Tweet acknowledging the award of a medal to a Stevenston woman in recognition of many years community service was removed after a Labour councillor hijacked the thread to launch a party-political attack on the SNP.

Provost Joan Sturgeon used the Twitter account run by the Council – not her personal account – to highlight the award of the British Empire Medal (BEM) to Mrs Jean Robertson.  Cllr Sturgeon posted a photograph of Mrs Robertson at last Sunday’s (October 12th) ceremony where she received the BEM.  Also in the photo were John Duncan (Lord Lieutenant of Ayrshire), Angela Dunbar (Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Ayrshire), Provost Sturgeon and local councillors Willie Gibson and Ronnie McNicol.  Accompanying the photograph, the North Ayrshire Provost posted, “Congratulations to Mrs Jean Robertson who received the British Empire Medal today.  Well deserved.”

However, Labour councillor Alex Gallagher (pictured) then added a comment to the Provost’s post, which read, “That’d be the British Empire Medal.” 

Provost Sturgeon and Cllr Willie Gibson (Leader of North Ayrshire Council) are both members of the SNP, which led the pro-independence movement in the recent referendum campaign.  The outcome of the referendum was, of course, that Scotland should remain part of the British Union. 

A member of the public replied to Cllr Gallagher’s comment, saying, “You really need tae move on m8 [mate]”, to which the Labour councillor Tweeted, “I’ve no problem with the BEM.”

In response, the member of the public stated, “Hurrah! All hail yer GLORIOUS Empire.” 

Alex Gallagher then appeared to confirm his original comment had been targeted at the attendance of SNP councillors at Mrs Robertson’s medal ceremony: he posted, “That’s what Cllrs Joan Sturgeon and Willie Gibson appear to think. Makes you wonder...”

The member of the public then drew Cllr Gallagher’s attention to what Provost Sturgeon’s post had actually been about, saying, “Not really though, the wee woman being given the award won’t care who gives it.  It’s HER award.  Labour’s obsession with the SNP will be its downfall.”

In response, Cllr Gallagher stated, “Quite happy with our victory.  Maybe it’s you that needs to move on...”

The following morning (Monday, October 13th), the Provost’s Tweet recognising the award of the BEM to Mrs Robertson was removed by the Council.  A North Ayrshire spokesperson explained to the3towns.today, “The picture was taken on October 12 at Ardeer Parish Church after Provost Joan Sturgeon had been guest of honour when Mrs Jean Robertson collected her British Empire Medal for Services to the Community.

"The Provost Tweeted the picture to acclaim Mrs Robertson, who has been a pillar of her local community for a number of years.

"The picture was temporarily removed following some comments, which drew attention away from the good work undertaken by Mrs Robertson.

“The Provost decided to remove the tweet and re-post it at a later date - to acknowledge Mrs Robertson and her achievement in receiving the British Empire Medal.”

the3towns.today contacted Alex Gallagher regarding his posting of what appeared to be party-political comments on an ‘official’ Council Twitter post about the recognition of many years community service by a Stevenston resident.  However, the Largs-based Labour councillor failed to respond.

Election posters banned "forever"

North Ayrshire Council has voted to continue a ban on political posters being fixed to lampposts and other council-owned ‘street furniture’.

At a special meeting of the Council last Friday (October 24) a Motion by the district’s only Tory councillor, Tom Marshall, received the backing of most Labour councillors and secured an extension to an earlier ban covering this year’s European Election and Scottish Independence Referendum.

Traditionally the local council in North Ayrshire has allowed political parties to fix posters to lampposts during election periods.  However, in April this year opposition councillors united to defeat a proposal that would have allowed this practice to continue.  Councillors from the local authority’s SNP administration backed officials who recommended posters should be allowed.  The opposition victory meant no lamppost posters were allowed in North Ayrshire during the Euro Election and September’s referendum.

Speaking to the Largs and Millport Weekly News, Tom Marshall said the intention of the Tory/Labour motion was clear – “no more campaign posters forever”.

In addition to lamppost posters, the new Council decision bans all campaign materials “affixed or displayed on any property under the Council's control,” stating, “For the avoidance of doubt this includes any area adopted by the Council as Roads Authority and any street furniture thereon, whether installed by the Council or other bodies. Campaigning materials on telecommunications or power poles or apparatus or bus shelters situated on road verges or other areas owned or adopted by the Council...[and] parks and Council buildings etc., regardless of whether these are owned, leased or adopted by the Council.”

Council tenants will still be able to display political posters in the windows of their homes.

In 2008 when two Liberal Democrat councillors moved a motion to ban election posters in North Ayrshire, the then Labour-run Executive of the Council threw-out the idea, arguing, “The display of posters by political parties has been an accepted part of election campaigns in North Ayrshire for a considerable period of time,” and that the policy allowing them “introduces an element of control and ensures that local political parties, candidates and agents are aware of their responsibilities in terms of when and where they can erect posters and when posters must be removed.”
The then Labour administration’s position concluded, “Overall, the policy has worked satisfactorily over the years and goodwill between the Returning Officer and local political parties has ensured that the policy is adhered to. Any change in policy would have implications for political parties and independent candidates during election periods. Moreover, changing the existing policy...could prove counter-productive by leading to avoidable ‘policing’ problems for the Returning Officer during the busy period in the run up to the date of poll.”

Opponents of the ban on fixing election material to street furniture argue the move is motivated by the Labour and Tory parties no longer having sufficient numbers of activists to put posters on lampposts at election times.

Ready for winter

As clocks go back an hour, signalling the official beginning of winter-time, North Ayrshire Council has set aside almost £1m to ensure the area is ready for any weather problems over the coming months.

Ardrossan councillor Tony Gurney, the Council’s SNP Cabinet member for Environment and Infrastructure, said, “Winter throws-up many challenges for us all but we can overcome these by working together.

“I am confident North Ayrshire Council has the right resources and the necessary experience to tackle the worst of the weather, and I would urge motorists and householders to take heed of the very sound advice issued by the Council and the Scottish Government.”

After two relatively mild winters in a row, research is showing many members of the public have become more relaxed about potential weather-related problems.  A Council spokesperson said, “Taking precautions now can save a lot of trouble should temperatures plummet in the months ahead – from having an emergency kit in the car to preparing an evacuation plan for the house or noting down emergency numbers.

“The Council’s roads team will be on weather watch from October 24th until April 10th next year, or even longer if the winter drags on.”

A squad of 40 drivers will be on-call 24/7 during the cold spell to keep gritters and snow-ploughs on the road, working to a detailed plan designed to keep priority routes open.

Some 9,000-tonnes of road salt will be stocked at North Ayrshire’s two main storage depots – 7,000-tonnes at Goldcraigs in Kilwinning and 2,000-tonnes at Brodick on the Isle of Arran.  Salt is also stored at strategic points throughout North Ayrshire for use by residents, with 400 street bins and 13 larger community bins from which people can collect salt for personal use on roads, driveways or footpaths.

The Council spokesperson explained, “Weather forecasts are relayed three times a day - literally morning, noon and night – to the roads team who use the information to determine whether or not a snow and ice alert is issued.

“Householders should also take certain measures at the start of winter to avoid severe weather problems and North Ayrshire Council now has a one-stop helpline number that tenants can use for information and to report emergencies - 01294 310000 - and it operates day and night, every single day of the year.”

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

One-in-three local children in poverty

New figures released by the End Child Poverty campaign have revealed a shocking level of deprivation in the Three Towns.

Across North Ayrshire as a whole, 27% of children are living in poverty, one of the highest-levels in Scotland: only Dundee and Glasgow record higher numbers at 28% and 30% respectively.  However, when the figures are broken-down to reflect the areas covered by North Ayrshire Council Wards, Saltcoats and Stevenston are recorded jointly as having 35% of children growing up in households living below the poverty line.  Shockingly, this represents every third child living in poverty.

The figure for Ardrossan is affected by the town being linked in a Council Ward with the more affluent Isle of Arran.  However, the Ward still records a relatively high figure for child poverty at 22%.  With Arran stripped out, the figure for Ardrossan is likely to be nearer that of neighbouring towns Saltcoats and Stevenston.

Recently, the3towns.today revealed the North Ayrshire Foodbank, located at the Church of the Nazerene in Ardrossan’s Glasgow Street, has seen more and more local people asking for emergency help to stave-off hunger.  Across Scotland over the past 12 months, foodbanks have seen a 400% rise in the number of people referred for help by frontline care professionals, such as doctors, social workers, health visitors or the police. 

One of the factors contributing to the sharp rise in foodbank use is the growing number of those caught in the poverty trap despite being in employment.  The UK’s low-wage economy, with hundreds-of-thousands of workers on the minimum wage and zero-hours contracts, which do not provide any guaranteed hours, has seen soaring numbers of those in work but paid so little they need to claim benefits and turn to foodbanks for emergency support in order to feed their families.  The new figures published by the End Child Poverty campaign show that, across North Ayrshire, there are currently over 3,000 children living in poverty despite at least one adult in the household being in employment.

Local politicians united in condemning child poverty levels in the Three Towns and calling for action, but have differing opinions on who is to blame for the situation.

Katy Clark MP said, “The last Labour Government made real progress in reducing poverty across the United Kingdom, taking 1.5-million children out of absolute poverty.  Sadly, this progress has stalled since the current [Tory-Lib Dem] government took office and we can now see the devastating impact that this has had on children in North Ayrshire.”

Although the UK government retains powers over the economy, employment, taxation and social security, Ms Clark, Labour MP for North Ayrshire & Arran, also hit out at the SNP Scottish Government, saying the new child poverty figures demonstrate that “the Scottish Government have failed to give Scottish families the support and protection which they require... Scottish Ministers should be using the powers that they already have to provide effective assistance to those on low-incomes.”

However, Margaret Burgess, SNP MSP for Cunninghame South, explained what the Scottish Government has actually done to help mitigate UK Government cuts that are a major factor in the increasing numbers of children and families being forced into poverty, “Despite only having the limited powers of devolution, we have already spent millions-of-pounds directly helping people affected by UK welfare reforms, but we will not rest at that.  We are determined to put in place preventative measures to stop future generations from feeling the effects of Westminster’s unfair reforms.”

Mrs Burgess noted, “Westminster has an absolutely shameful record on poverty, and with more Tory welfare cuts and austerity measures coming down the line, the situation is only going to get worse.
“Independently compiled international data shows the UK is already the fourth most-unequal society in the developed world, while current projections indicate that proposed Westminster cuts to welfare budgets could push up to 100,000 more Scottish children into poverty.”

Council strike averted

Strike action that would have closed schools and council facilities on Tuesday (October 21) has been averted after the local government employers’ association – the Confederation of Scottish Local Authorities (CoSLA) – put forward new proposals to trade union UNISON.

Senior management at North Ayrshire Council had been preparing for disruption to services across the district, including informing parents of the possibility that schools would not open on Tuesday.  However, following UNISON’s decision to call-off strike-action and consult its members on the new CoSLA offer, the Council began getting-out the message that it would be business as usual on the 21st.

A UNISON spokesperson said, “The new proposals represent a significant change to the current award.  In line with our agreed procedures, UNISON is consulting members on the revised pay offer from the employers and a full consultative ballot will now take place.  The ballot will open on Monday, October 20th and close on Monday, November 3rd.”

Previously, UNISON members voted for industrial action, up to and including strike action, in pursuit of an improvement on the pay offer made by bosses.  The UNISON spokesperson explained, “Our ballot called for fair pay - an extra £1.00 per hour for all workers in local government.  UNISON members in local government had a 1% below-inflation pay-rise imposed on them.  Members have seen their pay eroded by 14% since 2007.
“We also called for an end to low pay, with the consolidation of the Living Wage and deletion of spinal column points below the level of the Living Wage.  Some councils make up the Living Wage through a low pay bonus: and we called for the bosses to get back round the table.  UNISON members have had decisions on pay imposed on them in 2013 and 2014.  Employers refused to negotiate, going against agreed protocols between UNISON and CoSLA.

“We have now made significant progress on two of those demands - on low pay and getting back to the bargaining machinery - and we will use that commitment to get back round the table to continue the fight for fair pay.”

Threat to local tax office

Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has announced that the North Ayrshire tax office is to close.

Currently, 28 members of staff are employed at the facility, which is located next to the headquarters of North Ayrshire Council in Irvine.  The plan to close the office is part of a cost-cutting exercise by the UK Government, which would see a total of 14 closures across the country.

However, local MP Katy Clark has condemned the move, saying, “I have no doubt that the decision to close these offices is a huge mistake.   I have recently lodged Parliamentary Questions regarding the viability of the office in Irvine on behalf of North Ayrshire members of the trade union PCS.  The union believes that this office is still financially viable and would be able to bring-in significant levels of tax.  Nationally, PCS have drawn attention to the fact that, today, HMRC have confirmed that £34-billion in tax was uncollected last year.”

In addition to the uncollected revenue, tax consultant John Murphy estimates that as much as £120-billion is illegally evaded every year by companies and individuals.

Ms Clark, Labour MP for North Ayrshire & Arran, said, “At a time when we are being told there is no alternative to cuts to public services, these further attacks on HMRC staff are economic madness.  The only outcome of these closures will be even higher sums of tax going uncollected and increased levels of tax evasion as there are fewer resources to pursue those who seek to avoid paying their share.   The beneficiaries of these closures will not be the majority, but the large corporations and wealthy individuals who will be able to afford specialist accountants and lawyers to hide their wealth. 

“I will continue to work with the union and press for staff to be redeployed.  With the office due to close in December, this will be a worrying time for all the staff in the run up to Christmas, and the decision could not have been made at a worse time.”

Consultation on rent levels

Council tenants in the Three Towns are being encouraged to have their say by responding to a consultation on proposed changes to rent levels.

A spokesperson for North Ayrshire Council said, “We recognise that many people are feeling the pressures of the current economic climate and the UK Government’s Welfare Reform changes.  It is therefore more important than ever that tenants have their voices heard on which of the two proposed rent increases they would prefer to see.”

A decision on rent levels for 2015/16 will be taken by the Council in December.  The spokesperson explained, “The Council is looking to get the balance right between making sure residents have affordable rents while ensuring the high-quality services and improvements tenants demand are delivered.”

Cllr Ruth Maguire, SNP Cabinet member for Finance, Corporate Support and Housing, said: “I would urge as many people as possible to take part in the consultation.  This is the perfect opportunity for the people of North Ayrshire to tell us what they think before any decision is taken.”

Top award for Council catering

North Ayrshire Council’s Catering Team has shown it is the cream of the crop by scooping a top UK award...again.

The Council’s Facilities Management Caterin Team was last week named the Local Authority Caterer of the Year at the annual EDUcatering awards.  Staff were also shortlisted for the Corporate Social Responsibility award and Ken Campbell, Facilities Manager, reached the final three in the category of Newcomer of the Year.

A Council spokesperson said, “An EDUcatering award is the prestigious accolade for top achievers and is one of the most sought-after merits in the UK’s school meals industry.

“Local Authority Caterer of the Year is given to the council that has made significant progress or advancement in the education sector by introducing new concepts, people development and showing growth in the sector due to an innovative and professional approach to school catering.

Through collaborative working with partners and stakeholders, as well as engaging with the local community, the Council’s Catering Team has introduced a number of successful initiatives, including the hub and spoke school catering operation; extensive involvement in the Council’s modern apprentice programme; and a holiday time school meal service.”

SNP Cabinet Member for Environment and Infrastructure, Cllr Tony Gurney, noted, “I am delighted to see our Catering Team once again being recognised as the shining light in the catering industry.  To be shortlisted in three diverse categories highlights the tremendous quality the team delivers right across the board.”

The councillor for Ardrossan & Arran commented, “Reaching the final of three categories is a success in itself.  However, being named as Local Authority of the Year is on a whole other level.”

Sunday, 12 October 2014

More locals need foodbank help


The extent of deepening poverty in the Three Towns is being reflected by the increasing number of locals turning to the North Ayrshire Foodbank to stave-off hunger.

The foodbank, based at the Church of the Nazerene in Ardrossan’s Glasgow Street, provides sufficient food for three-days to people identified by frontline care professionals as being in crisis.  The non-perishable, in-date food is normally donated by individuals, local organisations and businesses.  People given a ‘food voucher’ by their doctor, health visitor, social worker, Citizens Advice Bureau representative or the police can then collect desperately-needed food from the Ardrossan facility.

Tory Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne recently announced the UK Government will implement a further £3bn of cuts to already-slashed Welfare budgets, which will inevitably impact further on the poorest members of society.  Mr Osborne indicated the cuts were necessary to deal with the national deficit, which was largely created by UK governments using public funds to bail-out private banks and financial speculators in the City of London.

Recently, the Scottish Parliament’s cross-party Welfare Reform Committee carried out an investigation into UK Government welfare reforms and foodbank usage.  The committee found there had been a 400% rise in the use of foodbanks in Scotland over the past 12 months.  One of the conclusions in a subsequent report published by the committee stated that “people are struggling to meet their basic need for food” due to the “direct action” of the UK Tory-Lib Dem Government.

The Scottish Parliament also calculated that the UK Chancellor’s further cuts to Welfare budgets will affect around 900,000 Scottish households, including many where at least one adult is in work but low-pay means they have inadequate income to survive. 

The Ardrossan-based foodbank, run by the Trussell Trust, always needs donations of food to meet the demand of local people plunged into crisis.  Non-perishable, in-date food can be dropped-off at the foodbank between 11.00am and 1.00pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  There are also permanent ‘donation trolleys’ at the Asda supermarket in Ardrossan and Sainsbury’s in Saltcoats.

The local foodbank can be contacted on 07411 113126 or by e-mail at nafoodbank@btinternet.com

Post Office reviews two local branches

Katy Clark MP is urging constituents to get involved in a Post Office consultation affecting two local branches.

Ms Clark says a current Post Office review looks to ‘modernise’ services provided at the Central Avenue Post Office in Ardrossan and the Hayocks Road facility in Stevenston.  While the Post Office indicates its review could recommend additional services being provided, the local MP has concerns some current provision could be removed if people don’t support their retention by responding to the ongoing consultation.

The Labour MP for North Ayrshire & Arran said the review “means the branches themselves [will be] refurbished and some new services provided, [but] there is also the possibility of certain services being stopped and so constituents may have to travel to other Post Offices for them.

“It will also result in these Post Offices being closed for at least two weeks at some point between November and January, so it is important that people who rely on the Post Office are made aware of this likely disruption.  Local residents should take the opportunity to feed-back on the suggested changes and process.”

The Post Office review can be accessed online.  To respond in relation to Central Avenue the branch code is 16184399: for Hayocks it is 15184399.  Alternatively, the Post Office helpline is 08457 22 33 44.

SSP condemns Labour over Poll Tax debts

The Scottish Socialist Party has criticised a former Labour Leader of North Ayrshire Council after he defended the right of local authorities to pursue 25-year-old debts from some of the poorest members of local communities.

As previously-reported by the3towns.today, Irvine councillor David O’Neill, in his capacity as President of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (CoSLA), said he was ‘furious’ the SNP Scottish Government intended to introduce legislation to finally kill-off the hated Poll Tax, which was implemented by the Tory Government led by former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.  The Poll Tax meant multi-millionaires only paid the same rate for local services as people on the lowest incomes.  As a result, many poorer families were unable to meet the charges, resulting in debts being accrued.

Since the Poll Tax was finally ended – due mainly to public protests and direct action – historic debts have largely remained uncollected.  However, when thousands of people re-registered on the Voters Roll, after many years absence, in order to take part in the recent Independence Referendum, some councils indicated their intention to cross-reference ‘new’ names with 25-year-old lists of Poll Tax debtors.

Labour’s David O’Neill described the SNP move to prevent some of Scotland’s poorest people being pursued for historic debts they couldn’t pay 25 years ago as “the oddest decision ever to come out of the Scottish Government”.

Now, the local branch of the Scottish Socialist Party has linked Cllr O’Neill’s support for the Tory Poll Tax with Labour’s recent partnership with the Conservatives in the Better Together anti-independence campaign.  Prominent socialist activist Colin Turbett said, “The Labour Party locally sided with all the traditional enemies of working class people to gain a narrow win in the referendum: this was achieved through false promises,  appeals to greed and selfishness, and downright lies.
  
“In the the parts of Ayrshire that are suffering most from the austerity policies that Labour support, a majority turned against them and voted YES, and these voters will not forgive them when it comes to the General Election next year and the Holyrood election in 2016.”

Mr Turbett noted, “We are particularly disgusted with CoSLA President David O’Neill who represents one of the poorest council wards in North Ayrshire.  He was quick to condemn the proposed amnesty for those who still owe Poll Tax, some 25 years after its divisive and disastrous introduction in Scotland.  

“You cannot get blood out of a stone, and that is what councils have been doing for years in chasing the very poorest people for money they could never afford in the first place.  The cynical use of the vast engagement in the referendum smacks of punishing the poor for voting YES.”

SSP Organiser Richie Venton revealed the party has been joined by 150 new members in Ayrshire since the outcome of the Independence Referendum.  Mr Venton said, “These people have found their natural home in a party that throughout its history has stuck by its socialist principles of democracy, equality, redistribution of wealth, independence and internationalism.

“We still champion the goal of an independent socialist Scotland, and there is no way we will sit back and leave Scottish independence off the agenda for another generation, as some politicians have stated.

“The struggle continues, and with our flood of new members locally we plan to be on the streets campaigning in the immediate term for the Scottish Parliament to be given the powers to resist the war on the working class launched by both the Tory and Labour conferences.

“We demand that Holyrood has the power to implement a £10 national minimum wage for all at 16; to raise the state pension; to reverse the assault on benefits and welfare; to tax the rich and big business to fund our NHS and other public services; and to ban fracking and take the ‘Big Six’ profiteering energy companies into democratic public ownership.”

'Aye-pad' winner as SNP membership soars



Cunninghame South MSP Margaret Burgess this week presented constituent Irene McKenzie with an ‘Aye-pad’ as a winner in the national raffle organised by the pro-independence campaign YES Scotland.

Presenting the local woman with her ipad, Mrs Burgess reflected on the “enthusiasm and energy” of the YES campaign in North Ayrshire, and revealed that the SNP has seen “an incredible influx of new members in Irvine, Kilwinning, Stevenston, Saltcoats, Ardrossan and across the rest of the district” since the referendum on September 18th.

Nationally, the SNP has seen its membership grow to over 80,000, making it the third-largest political party in the entire UK.

Margaret Burgess said, “I was very pleased to present Irene with her ipad from the YES campaign draw, and I’m hopeful she’ll use it to keep in touch with the growing ranks of new SNP members and to encourage others to join. 

“The YES campaign locally spoke to and inspired so many people who had never been involved in politics before, and I’m absolutely delighted that this new spirit of democratic participation is carrying on, with hundreds of new people joining the SNP in my constituency and across North Ayrshire.”

The local MSP says the massive influx of new members “puts the SNP is in a strong position to get the best deal for Scotland – and hold the Westminster parties to account on their vow of substantial new powers.”