Saturday, 29 August 2015

SNP re-select Kenneth Gibson in Cunninghame North

Kenneth Gibson has been re-selected to contest the Cunninghame North seat for the SNP at the Scottish Parliament Election in May 2016.

Mr Gibson was the sole-nominee for the candidacy at a meeting of the party’s Constituency Association in Ardrossan.

Now living in Kilbirnie, the current MSP for the local seat grew-up in Glasgow and previously served as an SNP councillor for the Mosspark ward on Glasgow City Council.  In 1999 Mr Gibson was elected to the first Scottish Parliament as MSP for Glasgow Region.

After losing his seat at the 2003 election, Kenneth Gibson returned to parliament four years later, winning the Cunninghame North constituency for the SNP by beating Labour’s Allan Wilson.  The SNP’s winning majority of 48 was the smallest in Scotland.

At the next Scottish Parliament Election, in 2011, the SNP secured a landslide victory across Scotland, with Kenneth Gibson increasing the party’s majority in Cunninghame North to 6,117. 

In addition to representing constituents, Mr Gibson currently serves as Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Finance Committee.

Polls predict the SNP is likely to record another landslide victory at next year’s Scottish Parliament Election, with Kenneth Gibson odds-on favourite to retain Cunninghame North for the party.

At this year’s UK Parliament Election, Mr Gibson’s wife, Patricia, won the broadly-equivalent seat of North Ayrshire & Arran for the SNP, unseating Labour’s Katy Clark and securing a majority of 13,573.

Friday, 28 August 2015

Tale of two governments over Bedroom Tax

Almost 3,500 struggling North Ayrshire families have been hammered by the UK Tory Government’s Bedroom Tax in the past year.

The shocking figure came to light this week when it was revealed the SNP Scottish Government has stepped-in to provide the local families with over £1.5-million to combat benefit-reductions imposed by the UK Department for Work and Pensions.  The Bedroom Tax slashes much-needed benefits if people are deemed to have more bedrooms in their home than the UK Government says they need.

Across Scotland as a whole, 84,000 families hit by the Tories’ Bedroom Tax have subsequently received help from the SNP Government in the current financial year.

Local MSP Margaret Burgess said, “I welcome that the Scottish Government has helped many of my constituents after they have been hit by Tory Bedroom Tax.

“The Scottish Government is providing £35-million to help mitigate against this unfair, deeply unpopular tax through the Scottish Welfare Fund, which is helping those hit hardest by the ideological Tory assault on the least well-off people in society.”

The SNP MSP for Cunninghame South noted, “This week Iain Duncan Smith, the Tory Cabinet Secretary with responsibility for Social Security, has made clear he intends to further cut support for disabled people, so we have a tale of two Governments.  While the SNP Scottish Government works to support the most vulnerable, the Tories are intent on showing they cannot be trusted on welfare.”

Mrs Burgess, who is also the Scottish Government Minister for Housing and Welfare, says the Scottish Parliament needs “full powers over the welfare state to allow us to support and empower people, rather than pushing more into poverty like the Tories have done.”

£10,000 reward for information on Saltcoats murder

One-week since the murder of Saltcoats pensioner Malky Ballantyne (pictured), the charity CRIMESTOPPERS is offering a £10,000 reward for information that secures an arrest and conviction.

Mr Ballantyne, 72, was found dead at around 1:00pm last Friday (August 21) by a member of his family in his Glebe Place home.

Subsequently Police Scotland issued a description of a person they wish to talk to in relation to Mr Ballantyne’s murder - medium build, wearing a black baseball cap and a light-blue waist-length jacket.  The man was seen outside the entrance to the murdered-man’s home at around 2:30am last Friday.

Police enquiries continue and no motive has yet been established for the murder of Mr Ballantyne, who has been described as “well-liked and well-respected”.

Speaking today (August 28), Detective-Chief-Inspector Gary Cunningham said, “It has now been a week since Mr Ballantyne was brutally murdered in his own home.  I am confident that the answers to what happened lie within the local community and it is vitally important that anyone with information contacts us immediately.

“Mr Ballantyne was an upstanding member of the community and his family, as well as those who knew him, have been left completely devastated by this horrendous crime.  They deserve to know who is responsible for his death and why.”

Addressing anyone who may have information, the senior officer said, “You may think what you know is insignificant but let us be the judge of that as no matter how minor your information is, it could be that critical piece that helps lead us to whoever is responsible.”

Now CRIMESTOPPERS has made available £10,000 for information that secures an arrest and conviction.  The charity’s Angela Parker said, “Malcolm was a well-liked, well-respected man within the community and this is why we and the police are at a loss as to why someone would have committed this callous crime.

“I'd ask anyone who may have been in the area at the time of this attack to contact CRIMESTOPPERS on 0800 555 111 if you have any information, no matter how small.”

Information can also be left with CRIMESTOPPERS on an anonymous basis.

Alternatively, information can be passed directly to Police Scotland by calling 01563 505172 or texting 07437 942153.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Saltcoats murder update - police issue description of man seen in area

Police Scotland has issued a description of a man they wish to speak to in relation to the murder of 72-year-old Malky Ballantyne (pictured) at his home in Glebe Place, Saltcoats last Friday (August 21).  Mr Ballantyne’s body was found by a family-member around 1:00pm.

As police enquiries continue, Detective Chief Inspector Gary Cunningham of the Major Investigation Team said, “Officers are continuing to carry out door-to-door enquiries as well as examining available CCTV to try and establish the circumstances surrounding Mr Ballantyne’s death.  An incident caravan has been set up in Glebe Street where officers will remain to engage with local residents and to continue to provide reassurance.

“At this time we are looking to trace a man who was standing directly outside the close at Glebe Place at approximately 2:30am on Friday.  This man is described as having a medium build, wearing a black baseball cap and a light blue waist-length jacket.  We would like to speak to that person as he may be able to assist with our investigation.

“Mr Ballantyne was well known in the local community and his family have been devastated by this callous act.

“I would continue to appeal to anyone with information about Mr Ballantyne’s death to make contact with the police.  You may think the information you have is unconnected, insignificant or possibly a waste of police time.  I would say today that this is never the case.  Any information received will be appropriately investigated by officers.”

The senior detective concluded, “As part of our broader investigation your information could prove invaluable in tracing anyone responsible for the death of Mr Ballantyne.”

The public can contact Police officers at the Incident Caravan in Glebe Street or can call Saltcoats Police Office on 101.  Alternatively, information can be given in confidence by calling CRIMESTOPPERS on 0800 555 111.

Body found in Saltcoats flat

Published August 22 2015

Police are describing the death of a Saltcoats man as “suspicious”.

The body of 72-year-old Malky Ballantyne (pictured) was found at his home in Glebe Place around 1:00pm yesterday (August 21).  The discovery was made by a family member.

The cause of death will be determined by a post-mortem.  Meanwhile, police are carrying out door-to-door inquiries in the area and are studying CCTV.

Detective-Chief-Inspector Gary Cunningham of Police Scotland said, “Malky is a well-known character in the area and has a routine where he visits and socialises in various pubs in Stevenston most days, generally in the morning.

“We are keen to find out if anyone saw Malky between 10:00am on Thursday [August 20] and 1:00pm on Friday [August 21].”

Police Scotland can be contacted by telephone on 101.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Tag and ban for death-crash driver

A 77-year-old man who knocked down and killed an 80-year-old woman in Stevenston’s Boglemart Street has been ordered to wear a tag for four months and has been banned from driving for five years.

Irvine-man Alfred Brand (now aged 79) was sentenced today (August 19) at Kilmarnock Sheriff Court after an earlier hearing heard his car had struck Dulcie Richards as she crossed the road on her way home following a shopping trip in April 2014.

James Irvine, solicitor for Mr Brand, said his client had not seen Mrs Richards on the road, despite her wearing a pink coat and visibility being described as “good”.  The lawyer also indicated Mr Brand was “devastated” at having caused the death of Mrs Richards and that he had shown “genuine remorse and distress” since the incident.

The elderly Stevenston woman was treated by paramedics and a local GP at the scene in Boglemart Street before being taken to Crosshouse Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

Record-breaking Gold for Danielle

Stevenston swimmer Danielle Joyce has won Great Britain’s first gold medal at the World Deaf Swimming Championships in the United States.

The 19-year-old also broke the world-record as she triumphed in the 100-metres backstroke.

Taking place in the searing heat of Texas, the championships bring together the very best hearing-impaired swimmers from around the world.

Danielle, who is 6’ 4”, already holds two gold medals from the 2014 European Championships and has competed in mainstream (non-deaf) swimming events, but this is the first time she has taken part in a World Championship. 

After her stunning victory, an excited Danielle Tweeted, “No way has that happened, deaf world champion and broke the Russians deaf world record for 100 back, AHHHHHH.”

Currently studying Sport and Exercise at Stirling University, Danielle was born with moderate hearing loss and the condition deteriorated as she got older.  Her impairment is now described as severely deaf in one ear and profoundly deaf in the other.

The World Deaf Swimming Championships run until August 22nd.

Friday, 7 August 2015

McDougall to stand-down

Margaret McDougall, Labour MSP for West Scotland Region, has announced she will stand-down at the Scottish Parliament Election in May 2016.

Mrs McDougall was surprisingly elected to Holyrood in 2011 after Labour lost most of its ‘big-hitter’ MSPs in that year’s SNP landslide victory.  The former North Ayrshire councillor had been seen as ‘making up the numbers’ on Labour’s regional list – the Proportional Representation element of Scottish Parliament elections – but when the party began to lose constituency members, candidates from low positions on lists unexpectedly found themselves as MSPs.

After becoming what one senior Labour source described as the party’s “accidental MSPs”, Margaret McDougall established an office in Irvine – the West Scotland Region also includes Ardrossan, Saltcoats and Stevenston. 

As a backbench Labour MSP Mrs McDougall held a very low-profile until an investigation by the3towns revealed she had charged her evening meals and drinks to the public purse.  Despite receiving a salary of £58,000, the Labour member had taxpayers fork-out almost £600 for meals and £120 for ‘refreshments’ in just one financial year.

Previously, the3towns also reported that, while serving as a Labour councillor in North Ayrshire, Margaret McDougal charged the public for attending services to remember the dead of two World Wars.  The then councillor for Kilwinning submitted two mileage claims of 10 miles, pocketing £4.00 on each occasion, in relation to attending the town’s armistice parades in 2009 and 2010.

This week Mrs McDougall announced her intention to stand-down as an MSP, saying, “It has been an honour to have represented people in this local community for over 16 years.  During that time I have seen many positive changes in the area and I feel it is the right time for me to take a step back and pass on the baton.

“Scottish Labour faces a period of renewal following May’s General Election result and I feel our future electoral prospects are best served by a new generation of Labour politicians.

“Whilst I will remain an MSP until next May’s election and will continue to represent my constituents to the best of my abilities, I will be doing all I can to help elect [Labour candidate] Joe Cullinane as the next MSP for Cunninghame South.  Joe replaced me as a Councillor in Kilwinning and his campaigning since then has shown that he would make an excellent MSP for this area.”

Cunninghame South’s SNP MSP, Maragret Burgess, has already announced she will not seek re-election next May and the party is in the process of selecting a candidate.

The SNP won the broadly-equivalent seat of Central Ayrshire with a majority of over 13,000 at the recent UK Election and is firm favourite to retain Cunninghame South in May 2016.

Exam results on the rise

Senior school-pupils from across North Ayrshire have been celebrating this week after receiving exam results from the Scottish Qualifications Authority.

A spokesperson for North Ayrshire Council said early analysis of the results showed that, in almost all areas, “S4 pupils have performed as well or better than in previous years with a significant increase in attainment of National 5 qualifications”.

The performance of S5 and S6 pupils in Higher exams was described as “exceeding previous performances in almost every measurement”, with achievements at the level of Advanced Higher also showing improvement.

John Bruce, the Council’s SNP Cabinet Member for Education Attainment and Achievement, said, “I would like to congratulate all of our young people who have shown a great deal of effort and commitment throughout the year to achieve the results they have received this week. They should all be very proud of their efforts.”

Cllr Bruce also praised the “significant contribution” of teachers, school staff, parents and carers.

“This year’s exam results are very positive and show that we are continuing to make progress following the recent changes to the qualifications system,” said the Ardrossan & Arran councillor.  “We are now determined to continue the good work and build on this success in the future.

“I know that waiting for exam results can often be a stressful time for our young people. However, they should remember that regardless of the outcome, a wide range of support is available to help them into future employment, education or training.”

An Exam Results Helpline, run by Skills Development Scotland, is available between 9:00am and 5:00pm until August 12th.  Calls are free on 0808 100 8000.

S4 to S6 pupils can also speak with a senior member of staff regarding option choices when they return to school later this month.­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­

Council staff in running for awards

North Ayrshire Council’s most senior official has been nominated for ‘Chief Executive of the Year’ in prestigious national awards.
Elma Murray (pictured) has been shortlisted in the Human Resources Network Awards in recognition of her contribution towards “transforming the Council and raising ambition within the authority”.  According to a spokesperson, Ms Murray’s “leadership style, appreciation of staff and ability to innovate with reduced budgets has resulted in a higher-performing Council delivering excellence across its public services”.

North Ayrshire’s Human Resources department has also been nominated for awards, including ‘Best Workplace of the Year’, ‘Organisational Development’ and ‘Employee Engagement’.

In addition, the Council’s Organisational Development Manager, Fiona Walker, has made the final cut in the category of ‘HR Manager of the Year’.

Elma Murray said, “I feel very proud that Council staff have put me forward for Chief Executive of the Year.

“I’m equally delighted that we are also in the running for four more of these prestigious and credible awards, which cover both the public and private sectors.

“Being shortlisted reflects the focus, passion and inspiration that comes from a workforce committed to delivering excellence to our communities.  The creativity of our staff never ceases to amaze me and their confidence to take ownership of pursuing new ways of improving what we do is truly inspirational.”

The Council’s Leader, SNP councillor Willie Gibson, noted, “Our ambition is to be the best Council in Scotland and with excellent staff, excellent public services and excellent leadership, we are well on our way to achieving that ambition.

“Elma Murray has empowered Council staff to be creative and unafraid to put forward their ideas for improving service delivery.  Since her appointment in 2009 the Council has become award-winning, sector-leading and is the authority others often look-to in pursuit of excellence.”

Shortlisted candidates will be interviewed in mid-September, with winners announced in November at the HR Network Awards in Glasgow.