May 2012, win or lose, I’m proud to be a Liberal

May 5th 2011 was tough for all of us – volunteers and members who gave their all, candidates, MSPs, so many extraordinary people who have campaigned for the Liberal cause for years.

Canada’s Liberals suffered a similar defeat to us in 2011 and just as our new leader, Willie Rennie, is working to earn back the trust of voters so too is Canada’s Bob Rae.

I hope that party members, volunteers and supporters take inspiration from this video from our sister party because we should also be spelling out why we are proud to be Liberals. The SLD, the SCOTTISH Liberal Democrats, are a party that shares most Scots deeply held values: hard work, economic responsibility, fiscal prudence, in order to deliver the prosperity that our citizens want to see used for the common good. As Scotland’s Liberal Party, we are ambitious for Scotland and its citizens, committed to giving maximum powers to our Parliament and also to our Councils and communities.

The SLD have a proud record of scrapping tuition fees, introducing free personal care for the elderly, promoting investment in education, social work and health as well as tackling climate change and championing new green jobs.

Those are values and achievements that I’m proud to be associated with and win or lose this May, I’m proud to be a member of the Scottish Liberal Democrats.


Scottish Liberal Democrats have launched a major campaign to reverse the SNP’s planned £40 million cut to college budgets which threatens 9000 college places across Scotland as well as the number and quality of courses available.

With youth unemployment rising at a faster rate in Scotland than across the UK it clearly makes no sense to limit the opportunities for our young people. But the SNP’s Education Secretary Mike Russell has described his £40 million cut as a “full, fair and final settlement”.

Scottish Liberal Democrats disagree and are calling on the SNP to reverse the cut, a cut they do not have to make because Liberal Democrats in the UK government have helped to secure more than £400 million of additional money for Scotland. We want this money to be used to save college places which are vital to the future prospects of our next generation of Scots.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “Colleges throughout Scotland are extremely concerned about the impact these cuts are going to have, which threaten 9000 places. We should be in the business of creating opportunities for young people, not cutting them. Colleges play a vital role in helping young Scots get the opportunities they deserve, to gain the skills to get up and get on in life. The SNP need to stop the dither and delay, use the extra money that Liberal Democrats in the UK government have secured for Scotland and invest in the taxpayers of tomorrow who will help us get our economy back on track.”

Glasgow’s colleges do great work helping people to get on in life, but the SNP budget cuts will hurt the prospects of staff and students. If the SNP insist on this cut then it could mean the loss of over 1,700 college places in Glasgow.

College SNP budget cut of 6.9%    Estimated cut in student places  
Anniesland College £612,246   178  
John Wheatley College £495,245   131  
North Glasgow College  £576,923   177  
Stow College £512,756   167  
City of Glasgow College £2,103,102   661  
Langside College £661,601   193  
Cardonald College £905,446   270  

I fully back Willie Rennie’s campaign to save these vital college places. It is important that all of our local communities rally around our colleges to help protect student places and I urge people to join the campaign to protect Glasgow’s colleges.

Sign the petition to protect our colleges

Save Our Stations – Save Our Line

The campaign to save the northern Anniesland to Queen Street rail line and stations at Kelvindale, Maryhill and Gilshochill seems to have drawn the ire of my former boss and Glasgow Region MSP, Bob Doris. In replies to constituents, Bob says;

 “Can I take this opportunity to reassure you over the future of our local railway stations. I appreciate that fears have been raised by some politicians in other parties. However let me be clear. The stations on the Maryhill line are NOT under threat.”

Now I’m not looking to fall out with my friend Bob but let’s look at the two consultations currently under way.

Edinburgh Glasgow Improvement Programme

If you look in this document you will see not a word about any impact upon Glasgow local services. So hats off to our Constituency MSP, Patricia Ferguson, who discovered via questions at an EGIP briefing that officials are looking at the upper level platform currently used by the Maryhill line. Let’s be clear there is now a real threat that the Maryhill service will not go direct to Queen Street via Ashfield in order to free up space on the upper platform for the additional Edinburgh Service to be delivered via the £1 Billion EGIP scheme.

And indeed Bob seems to know all about this threat because in a letter on 16th January 2012 to Transport Minister Keith Brown, he says:

“I also appreciated your time in relation to discussing the possibility of an enhanced north Glasgow rail service that would connect the Maryhill and Springburn lines. I note that this may also have the benefit of reducing rail congestion on the tracks at the high level of Queen Street Station where trains enter and exit. I further note that this could be helpful to assist in the desired aims of EGIP, whilst at the same time enhancing north Glasgow rail services.”

Now I don’t know how making passengers from Gilshochill, Maryhill and Kelvindale travel to Springburn, change and then wait for another connecting train is an “enhanced service”. I’m not even sure it could be delivered which is why Transport Officials are looking at diverting the service back through Partick. But what I do know is that any Glasgow MSP worth their salt should be honest enough to advise residents in Maryhill and Kelvindale that they are going to lose the service to the upper platform in Queen Street.


The SNP Government, like Bob, is hiding behind its statement that it has no proposals to close Glasgow Stations. They say that the consultation” does not offer a position on stations, nor set out any plans or proposals. We are consulting on the principles, rather than the specifics..”

Problem number one for the SNP Government is that their consultation is consulting on closures.

7.11 “We would welcome views on what locations may be more appropriate for stations and which current stations are no longer required.

Problem number two is the hit list (sorry Factsheet) which contains the names of fourteen stations.

STVlocal quotes the Transport Minister Keith Brown as saying:

The fourteen stations don’t actually appear in the Transport Scotland consultation. There is a factsheet and that is where people have got this information from.” He added: “People have asked us can we list these stations. Somebody has responded to the consultation and has asked for the stations within an area and that’s why these stations have appeared on this sheet.

But here’s why I’m confused. Transport Scotland and the Minister say that the 14 named stations are provided because someone asked for a list of stations in Scotland that are in an area one mile from another. So in the Factsheet accompanying the consultation they say:

“There are some areas where there are rail stations that are located in close proximity. In the Glasgow commuter area there are 11 stations located less than one mile from another rail station offering similar services and there are three other stations in other parts of Scotland.”

But there aren’t just 14 stations within a mile of another in Scotland. In fact there are 60 and the Transport Minister should know this as he provided that detail in a written response to Labour MSP John Pentland.

So let’s be clear there is now a direct threat to the northern line from both the Edinburgh Glasgow Improvement Programme and from the Rail2014 Consultation. Constituents need to respond to both.

Save Our Stations – Save Our Line.

Maryhill Town Centre Gets Green Light

Maryhill's Historic Burgh Halls at Gairbraid Avenue

I was delighted at this morning’s Executive Committee to support the approval of the Maryhill Town Centre Action Plan. This marks yet another step in Maryhill’s regeneration and follows on the success in securing over £20 million in Council investment for Maryhill over recent years.

A visible first step in the plan is the agreement to proceed with the design works for the Gairbraid Avenue Public Realm project.

As residents know, Maryhill Burgh Halls benefited from an allocation of £1.8m from the Government’s Town Centre Regeneration Fund. To complement that investment Glasgow City Council allocated £500,000 towards production of a Maryhill Town Centre Action Plan and delivery of a public realm project to boost the area’s attractiveness for the existing community and for potential new residents, visitors and investors.

In April 2010 Development and Regeneration Services initiated preparation of the Maryhill Town Centre Action Plan. Community and Stakeholder engagement took place over a period of approximately a year, with suggestions for further consultation emerging at each step.

Residents made their view clear that the boundary for the TCAP should not be confined to the area currently defined as Town Centre in City Plan 2 but should be extended to stretch from Maryhill Railway Station in the north to the junction of Maryhill Road and Queen Margaret Drive in the south.

The result of consultation with residents, local business and other key groups is the Maryhill Town Centre Action Plan which was approved today an offers a real community led vision for Maryhill’s future.

The first step is Gairbraid Avenue and this work will be carried out by Rankin Fraser (co-designer of the award-winning Phoenix Flowers at Garscube Road). Having consulted with the community via Maryhill Burgh Halls Trust and the planning application process, the planning consent has been granted and construction should start on site early in 2012 with a six month contract.

Save Our Stations

Kelvindale Station opened 2005

The SNP Government says it wants a passenger-centric rail service so why are Kelvindale, Gilshochill and Maryhill stations now threatened with closure and the very existence of the entire line under threat?

In the Transport Scotland document ‘Rail 2014 – Public Consultation’, launched by SNP Ministers Alex Neil and Keith Brown, Glasgow is singled out as having 11 stations located less than one mile from another rail station offering similar services. The lease costs associated with these 11 stations total £208,000.

The alternatives suggested for Gilshochill and Maryhill stations therefore are that passengers go to Summerston and that Kelvindale passengers go to Anniesland. This of course completely ignores the location of these communities, the geography of the area and the added costs of getting to these alternative stations. Why take a bus from Cadder or Maryhill to Summerston, or Kelvindale to Anniesland in order to get the train into Queen Street?

The result would be that passenger numbers would significantly drop on the line; the threat to close Ashfield on the same line underlines the threat.

At the same time, as our constituency MSP, Patricia Ferguson, has highlighted, the Edinburgh/Glasgow Improvement Programme threatens to end any remaining Queen Street, Summerston, Anniesland service by terminating the existing northern service short of Queen Street and forcing passengers to travel to the city centre via the Anniesland, Partick route instead.

Our Community Councils will be campaigning against these threats as will Maryhill Kelvin Councillors and our constituency MSP. You can also help by letting friends and neighbours know about the threat and encourage them to support the campaign to save our stations.

Let the SNP Government know you oppose this threat to our stations and rail line by sending your views on the consultation to:

[email protected]

Postal submissions should be sent to:

Rail2014, Transport Scotland, Buchanan House, 58 Port Dundas Road, Glasgow G4 0HF

The closing date for the consultation is 20 February 2012

Equal Marriage – let’s be on the right side of history.

One of the campaigns I’ve been supporting over the last year has been the campaign for equal marriage. It’s one where emotions run high and too often politicians, especially in an upcoming election year, run shy. I’m therefore proud that Glasgow City Council unanimously agreed at our full meeting to support my resolution stating that our Council is backing the equal marriage campaign. 

The consultation period is over and the SNP Government will now consider their response. However there is speculation that they may seek to do a deal that would accept the campaign to prevent religious groups from carrying out equal marriage ceremonies on any religious premises even though this would prevent the Quakers, Liberal Judaism, Metropolitan Community Church and other s who wish to perform these celebrations in their own places of worship.

Scottish Liberal Democrats support the SNP Government’s effort to bring fairness and equality to marriage and we urge the First Minister to stand firm against this campaign. The leader of our Scottish Party, Willie Rennie, has said “What I find difficult to understand is why those opposed to equal marriage want to impose their views on everyone else when we are not seeking to impose our views on them. If two people want to get married and a church wants to conduct the service why should anyone stop them?”

Scottish Liberal Democrats want a tolerant and fair society and equal marriage is a key part of that.

It also seems timely therefore that US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, reminds us all in her speech celebrating International Human Rights Day “that leadership by definition means being out in front of your people when it is called for, it means standing up for the dignity of all your citizens and persuading your people to do the same.” 

Like her I hope that our government will be on the right side of history. 

Given the First Minister’s love of quoting Lib Dem blogs and tweets I’m happy for him to use this 🙂


Family homes confirmed for Valley site

I’ve had quite a few enquiries about the mix of the social housing I blogged about when we broke ground on the Valley site. Most people have been interested in whether we would finally see some new family sized properties being built and I’m delighted that both the Maryhill Housing Association and Glasgow Housing Association elements have done just that.

The development was originally split between 53 units for GHA reprovisioning and 53 for Maryhill HA all for social rent.

For the Maryhill HA units the following housing mix was approved. There are 26 larger houses (4, 5 or 6 apartments). 

2 Person Flats 1
4 Person Cottage Flats 2
4 Person Flats/ Common Access 20
4 Person Townhouse/ terraced 3
4 Person Terraced House 1
5 Person Cottage Flat 3
6 Person House (Detached/ Semi Detached/ Terraced House) 21
8 Person House 2
TOTAL   53

The GHA housing unit mix approved is as follows: 

4 Person Flats 19
5 Person Houses 10
6 Person Houses 13
7 Person Houses 1
8 Person Houses 2
TOTAL   53

Glasgow agrees new waste strategy

Last Thursday saw some good news on finally tackling Glasgow’s poor record on waste management which has seen our city bottom of the league in terms of recycling performance.

The project will mean:

  • 250 new jobs created
  • Household recycling rates increased to 50%
  • 90% of contract waste diverted from landfill
  • Production of renewable energy supplies for up to 22,000 households

Last year, Glasgow City Council achieved a 24% recycling rate. With the introduction of managed weekly collection, improvement in Household Recycling Centres and collection of additional recyclate material, the recycling rate is expected to reach 32%. However the Viridor solution will now complement Glasgow City Council’s existing recycling and recovery activities and raise the household recycling rate to 50%.

The new facility which we approved will be created in the Polmadie area and will create 250 new jobs and save the council £10m a year. It will combine a Smart Material Recycling Facility with an anaerobic digestion combined heat and power plant to deliver heat and power for the local community.

Full details of the proposal can be found here.