Month: October 2018

Liberal Democrats call on Rutherglen Labour MP to back a People’s Vote

21st October 2018

Following the huge March and Rally in London yesterday demanding a public vote on the outcome of Brexit, Local Liberal Democrats are stepping up pressure on Rutherglen’s local MP to back a People’s Vote on the Brexit terns. In an Open Letter to Ged Killen, Labour MP for Rutherglen & Hamilton West, Rutherglen Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown said that Brexit was an issue which defined a generation and required a national not a party approach from MPs.

Robert said the turnout on the London demonstration had been estimated at around 700,000, much bigger than the 100,000 expected by organisers – and the biggest demonstration for many years., probably since the one against the Iraq War and the anti Poverty march.

The size of the demonstration was a game changer and required MPs to step up to the mark.

Robert Brown said:

“It is clear now that Brexit is undeliverable in practical terms. Every single aspect that has been the subject of dispute would leave the United Kingdom worse off by far than staying in Europe. Nobody voted to damage the economy, make it more difficult for businesses, harm the public finances and put yet more pressure on the NHS. Yet that is what we are getting.

The sensible thing is to say “Stop. Let’s think again. Now we know what’s involved, let the public decide since the Government and the Labour Opposition are making such a hash of it.

Liberal Democrats have campaigned for a People’s Vote from the beginning. But Labour’s position is crucial. If Labour MPs follow what the vast majority of their voters and members want, they will back a People’s Vote – and they would greatly increase the prospect of that happening. They really can’t sit on the fence much longer.

I believe Ged Killen is pro-European at heart. Now is the time for him to stand up and be counted. The huge London demonstration shows that the public mood has changed.”

Open Letter to Ged Killen MP

21stOctober 2018

Dear Ged,

I have written to you before about the unfolding disaster of Brexit and my concern about the vacillating attitude of the Labour Party leadership on the issue.

Whatever the political programme that Labour – or indeed other Parties – wish to implement, it is undermined at the core by the economic and financial consequences of leaving the European Union.

It seems to me that that the political situation is now changing fundamentally, not least as shown by the hugely impressive People’s Vote march and demonstration in London yesterday which is reported to have attracted 700,000 people, far above the 100,000 expected.

The catalogue of difficulties in just about every sector of the economy and every part of our society which is revealed on a daily basis also demonstrates just how damaging Brexit will be for Rutherglen, Scotland and the United Kingdom.

I am writing therefore to urge you, firstly, to stand firm against the truly awful Brexit deal being negotiated by the Prime Minister, and the even worse “cliff edge”, no deal Brexit supported by the ultra-Brexiteers – but secondly to give your immediate backing to a People’s Vote on the Brexit terms – with an option to remain in the European Union.

At present, we are headed for a Brexit that nobody voted for. If a deal is stitched together, we now know it will be one that is a million miles away from what was promised in 2016. It threatens jobs, businesses and hospitals here in our constituency; it will mean no end to austerity for years to come and make it impossible to bring the radical change that many of us, from our different perspectives, would wish to see.

This would not only be hugely damaging for our country but it would do nothing to deal with all the real challenges facing our local area. In fact, it will make dealing with those problems harder.

I was pleased to see Labour moving its position a bit at your recent Conference. I agree you should vote down a bad deal, a blindfold deal, and oppose a catastrophic no deal too. It’s now crucial we don’t fall for the false choice that Theresa May is trying to say that we have to accept her deal or no deal. The clear alternative is to stay in the European Union.

But it does look as if there is no Brexit deal that is capable of attracting a majority in Parliament – indeed that Brexit is in practical terms undeliverable. In these circumstances, it seems to me that the right thing to do is for MPs to return the decision to the public in a People’s Vote, against a background of greater clarity on the implications of Brexit than existed in 2016.

It will probably mean that Article 50 will need to be withdrawn or extended to facilitate such a vote – but even the Prime Minister has hinted that this may be necessary in any event.

It is clear from your earlier votes and statements that you are at heart pro-European. Could I suggest that it is now time to take a national rather than a Party view of this huge issue and recognise the growing strength of demand for a People’s Vote on Brexit as shown by yesterday’s Rally.

Not many issues define a generation – this is one of them.

I look forward to your reply.

best wishes,

 

Robert

 

(Cllr Robert Brown)

Liberal Democrats

Rutherglen South Ward

Wreath Laying Ceremony and Guided Tours of Rutherglen Cemetery War Graves

20th October 2018

A short wreath laying ceremony is to be held at the “other” Cenotaph at the Mill Street entrance to Rutherglen Cemetery on Friday 9thNovember 2018 at 2pm in commemoration of those who suffered and died in the First World War. There will also be two guided tours of the numerous war graves in the cemetery, the first at 11am and the second following the Wreath Laying at about 2.15pm.

Rutherglen South Councillor Robert Brown, who has organised the event, said:

“The main Cenotaph is of course the one in the West End of Rutherglen at the junction of Mill Street and Burnhill Street near the West Parish Church. In this Centenary year of the Armistice which ended the Great War, we are looking for a tremendous turn out for the Remembrance wreath laying ceremony there on Sunday November 11that 12.30pm which is Rutherglen’s main commemoration of those who suffered and died in war. The Cenotaph event will be attended by civic, community and religious leaders, the uniformed youth organisations and representatives of many local organisations including the secondary schools.

However the Council is also keen to hold appropriate ceremonies at all the 44 Cenotaphs throughout South Lanarkshire so we have organised this smaller event at the Cenotaph in Rutherglen Cemetery, associated with 2 guided tours of the war graves there conducted by Jane Barton of Turnstone Geneology who has researched the history of many of the graves. The Wreath laying ceremony will be conducted by Rev Alistair May, Minister of Stonelaw Parish Church.

Unlike the main Cenotaph, the memorial in Rutherglen Cemetery contains no names. It is a Sword of Remembrance memorial and the inscription on 3 sides of the structure reads –

THIS CROSS OF SACRIFICE IS ONE IN DESIGN
AND INTENTION WITH THOSE WHICH HAVE
BEEN SET UP IN FRANCE AND BELGIUM AND
OTHER PLACES THROUGHOUT THE WORLD
WHERE OUR DEAD OF THE
GREAT WAR ARE LAID TO REST

THEIR NAME LIVETH FOR EVERMORE

Members of the public interested in one of the tours or in attending the Wreath laying should meet at the Cemetery Cenotaph at 11am for the guided tour or 2pm for the wreath laying and 2ndtour.  The Cemetery is quite steep in parts and one of the more interesting graves is located at the top so people should be prepared for a bit of a hike.

Many of the war graves in the Cemetery are of service personnel who came home but died after the War, perhaps of their injuries. For most of the war soldiers killed on the Western Front were buried there.“

NHS Assessment shows harsh reality of Brexit for the Health Service

17th October 2018

Commenting on the news from NHS Lanarkshire that Brexit would have a “high impact” for the NHS, Rutherglen Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brownsaid:

“I am totally fed up with Theresa May and the supporters of Brexit dismissing all these things as scare stories. The information from NHS Lanarkshire on the health service consequences of Brexit is a cold, factual, professional identification of the “high impact” problems for the NHS. Brexit means that the country will have to pay more for drugs and treatment and they will have staff problems in hospitals and in community care. In other words the NHS will be unable to deliver the same device for the same money as before.

We all remember the Brexit bus advert that promised £350 million a year for the NHS from Brexit. They forgot to tell us that would be a cost not a benefit!

The trouble is there are similar assessments for just about every sector you can think of – University research – international crime – British citizens travelling in Europe – financial services – manufacturing – Scottish food products – space exploration – the list is endless and they all report that Brexit will make things difficult sand more expensive for their sector.

The reality is Brexit is undeliverable – on every front it is a rolling disaster. It is time to halt Brexit and let the public decide through a People’s Vote on the terms.

No one voted to make the country worse off and bankrupt the NHS.”

 

Robert Brown welcomes work of Alcoholics Anonymous

14th October 2018

Rutherglen Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown has praised the work of Alcoholics Anonymous after a briefing and presentation from the organisation at an event in Hamilton last week.

Robert Brown said:

“Alcohol addiction remains one of the biggest social problems in Scotland – it is a “progressive illness” which destroys individuals, damages families, contributes to violence and crime in society and adds immensely to the demands on the Heath Service. The work of Alcoholics Anonymous has beenn responsible for helping many thousands of people to tackle their alcohol problem with the aid of fellowship of other AA members and a structured programme of recovery.

Alcoholics Anonymous work on the basis of anonymity and confidentiality so I was fortunate to be able to listen to a presentation along the lines of a real, normal AA meeting where people were brave enough to tell their stories – some of them very harrowing – and their insights. It is not uncommon for people with alcohol addiction to lose contact with families, partners, children and grandchildren and friends. But there were also many stories of problems overcome, lives rebuilt, contacts re-established.

AA has been on the go for 83 years and began in Scotland in 1949. In Lanarkshire alone there are now around 102 AA groups serving both men and women, young and old alike. The main message I picked up was that AA offers hope to people who had thought they were alone with a unique problem but who can be helped by others in a similar situation. The key thing is to want to stop drinking – AA had an interesting saying – “if you don’t lift the first drink, you can’t get drunk”.

What impressed me most was the quality of the support. When people make contact through their Helpline or otherwise, there is a close contact to welcome them into the group, usually at an initial Care and Share meeting and by personal contact from AA – and no judgement if people backslide as sometimes happens. This is very important because alcoholism is a “lonely disease” requiring the fellowship of support that AA offers.

The message from AA is that “you are no longer alone” and that there is hope.

 

 

The AA national free number is 0800 9177 650 and covers the whole of Great Britain. There is also help by email at help@aamail.org and lots more information at www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.ukincluding where to find meetings. There is also a Chat Now facility on the website.

There is a full section for newcomers including a questionnaire on drinking habits at:

http://www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk/About-AA/Newcomers/Starter-Pack

People’s Vote on Brexit moving closer

8th October 2018

It is time for everyone who opposes a hard Brexit and supports a European future for Scotland and Britain to stand up and be counted. Brexit can be stopped and the People’s Vote in the terms is the way to do it.

This was the assertion by Rutherglen Liberal  Democrat Councillor Robert Brown following comments by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at the SNP Conference that the SNP would vote in Parliament for a People’s Vote.

Robert Brown said:

Recent polls have shown that 89% of SNP voters support a People’s Vote on the Brexit terms and 86% of Labour voters held the same view.  It is not surprising that both the Labour leadership and the SNP have moved- albeit agonisingly slowly – towards backing the Liberal Democrats longstanding and consistent demand for a People’s Vote on Brexit.

However Brexit poses a huge threat to people’s livelihoods, security and public services – and I am bound to say I am struck by the half hearted way both Labour and the SNP have approached this. They both have other agendas – the SNP want to use the Brexit debate to push independence and Labour want to use it to push for a Labour Government. Brexit is however a unique national issue and it is time to put aside these other agendas in the interests of the country. Theresa May’s government has made an unprecedented hash of the whole thing – the negotiations have clearly been unsuccessful, the Government are left with a wide range of vital unresolved issues like Northern Ireland and the future relationship with the Single Market and the Customs Union, and we seem to be heading driverless towards a No Deal or cliff edge Brexit.

The case for a People’s Vote is moving closer and I welcome the SNP”s leadership belated support for it. It is though time for the SNP and Labour leadership to stop dithering, stop manoeuvring for party advantage on the issue  – and campaign wholeheartedly for the People’s Vote on the terms. It is coming closer – but only if the politicians speak up for the people and fight for it.”

Time for Third Party Right of Appeal for Local People in Planning cases

28th September 2018

Local people and communities should have a right of appeal against planning decisions they disagree with – if the decision is not in accordance with the Development Plan. Rutherglen Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown supported the call for what is known as “third party right of appeal” in a debate at South Lanarkshire Council on Wednesday

Robert Brown said:

“I have long thought the planning system can be unbalanced in favour of developers. I was involved in the introduction of compulsory pre application consultation on major developments by Liberal Democrats in the Labour/Liberal Democrat Coalition in Scotland in the Planning etc (Scotland) Act  2006 – and that has been an improvement.

However it is entirely unsatisfactory if the views of local communities can be overridden by breaching the framework of the Development Plan. The Scottish Parliament are looking at planning legislation just now and I think this issue should be looked at again. It is not satisfactory if only developers can appeal decisions they don’t like but local communities never can.

There seemed to be broad support for this in the Council, although the SNP Administration rather watered down the motion.”

 

Notice of Motion

Motion received in terms of Standing Order No 19 on 10 September 2018, proposed by Councillor Graham Scott, seconded by Councillor Walter Brogan, as follows:

“That South Lanarkshire Council:-

  • ¨Notes the progress of the Planning (Scotland) Bill through the Scottish Parliament
  • ¨Notes that the draft Bill makes no provision for reforming or equalising rights of appeal, despite

this being a key concern for local communities and key groups engaged in the planning system

  • ¨Acknowledges that Planning Democracy Scotland advocates equalising rights of appeal by extending a limited right of appeal to communities in certain circumstances where developments are approved which are not in accordance with the development plan, and

limiting the developer right of appeal to ensure a plan-led system

  • ¨Believes that such an approach would help ensure that the voice of communities is strengthened and that the planning process operates in the wider public interest

¨Council therefore commits to write to the Minister for Local Government and Housing and to the LGCC of the Scottish Parliament urging them to support amendments to the Bill which would bring about more equal rights of appeal.”

Liberal Democrats slate SNP administration on blocking moves to open uop Council meetings

28th September 2018

South Lanarkshire people have been badly let down by the SNP administration’s broken promises of greater Council openness, according to Rutherglen Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown. Robert Brown made his criticism after a move to strengthen the full Council meeting as the place for big decisions to be made, particularly with regard to the Budget was narrowly defeated at Wednesday’s meeting of the Council.

The motion, jointly put forward by Labour Group Leader Joe Fagan and the Liberal Democrats, called for the full Budget to be decided by all Councillors at the full Council meeting, rather than by a smaller group of senior Councillors in the Executive Committee.

Robert Brown said:

“I have been dissatisfied with the way South Lanarkshire Council works since I joined the Council in 2012. Most people would expect key decisions, not least about the Budget, to be taken by the full Council in the Council Chamber after a decent debate about the different options. Instead many full Council meetings are a formality where the roll call of attendance is taken, the minutes are formally approved and nothing much else of significance happens. The key decisions are made instead at Committees which are much less low key and which do not involve all Councillors.

The result is that there is little public interest in the Council, no awareness of the different views of the political parties or of different Councillors and far less democratic scrutiny than there need be.

My view is that the full Council should make the final decision on key matters – whether it be the Budget, the closure of care homes, the shape of nursery provision or other major decisions. The setting up of the Petitions Committee has been agreed and will be a positive step. However other Councils have a proper Question Time when Committee conveners can be questioned and challenged on any issues of concern. I think South Lanarkshire should consider that too.

There was great dissatisfaction with how all this worked at the time of the last Budget in February and I took the matter up with the Chief Executive and the Leaders of the other Parties at that time with a number of proposals about how things should change. I must say I felt this was something on which there should be common ground so it was a big disappointment when the minority Administration with the curious support of the Independent group decided to block any real change. The SNP Group have talked about the need for greater transparency but they have let people down badly by this partisan closed-shop approach. Instead of a real opportunity to modernise the system and restore much greater democratic control, they have preferred to play machine politics.

The Council currently has a minority SNP Administration and it is obvious that there needs to be a much more open process of Council decision making. Our proposal for change was backed by the Liberal Democrat, Labour and Conservative Councillors – unfortunately there were some unexpected absentees for a variety of reasons – so I expect we will see further moves to make the Council more open and democratic. I really don’t think the SNP can continue to thwart moves for change indefinitely.

Appendix:

Motion received in terms of Standing Order No 19 on 10 September 2018, proposed by Councillor Joe Fagan, seconded by Councillor Robert Brown.

“That the Council asserts the importance of openness, transparency and democratic accountability in our political management and decision-making arrangements; believes that full meetings of the Council should be strengthened as a forum for political debate and decision and, to that end, agrees:

  1. 1)  That, as a priority, Officers be asked to review the Terms of Reference for Council, Committees and Forums and other procedural documentation and advise of any changes which would be required in order to reserve the power to approve the annual savings package to the Council in addition to all Revenue and Capital Budgets. This advice to be provided in the form of a report to Council by December 2018 for formal determination.
  2. 2)  That the Standing Orders, Terms of Reference for Committees and Forums and other procedural documentation be reviewed, including any enhancements to the role of the Council, by the Standards and Procedures Advisory Forum and its recommendations be reported in the first instance to the Executive Committee, as parent committee of the Standards and Procedures Advisory Forum, prior to any referral to Council.
  3. 3)  That, as part of said review, recommendations be made on how the Standing Orders, Terms of Reference for Committees and Forums and other procedural documentation be amended to enhance the role of the Council on key policy initiatives and other issues the Standards and Procedures Advisory Forum considers appropriate.”

Rutherglen Councillors visit to Recycling Resource Centre

23rd September 2018

Two Rutherglen Councillors have been marking Recycle Week properly by visiting the Levenseat Recycling and Resource Centre at Forth to see how the process works. Levenseat are a Recycling and Resource Management Company who have a contract with South Lanarkshire for recycling and disposal of “grey bin” waste – bottles, plastics, metals, cans etc.

Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown and Labour Councillor Margaret Cowie– who both represent Rutherglen South ward – were given a tour of the facility which also has facilities for disposal of garden and food waste, road grit, paper and other items.

Robert Brown said:

“Recycling is hugely important to stop the sheer waste of throwing useful materials away and avoiding putting it in landfill which can take many years to decompose. The Council have made big strides to increase recycling rates- and this is really a significant local step towards helping save the planet.

The company have contracts with Councils and other customers across Scotland. It was fascinating to see all the lorries coming in from South Lanarkshire, Glasgow, West Lothian and other places and disgorging the contents.

The grey bin stuff goes through a conveyor belt process which pulls off metal cans by magnets, then separates plastics from bottles and other tins by a shaking process which brings the heavier items to the bottom. The glass eventually gets crushed and the metal and plastics get bailed before being sold on to companies who can reprocess it. However there are a lot of staff whose job it is to handpick unsuitable items from the conveyor and send them off in the right direction.

We picked up lots of ideas about what can be recycled and what can’t. The Council has a problem with contamination of recycling materials when people put the wrong materials in the recycling bins. This costs a lot of money and sometimes means the stuff can’t after all be recycled.

It is not so much a problem with the odd item going in the wrong bin – it is when it is all mixed up with food waste, black bin bags or things of that sort.

I had always wondered about plastic bottle tops. Apparently these can go in the grey bin providing they are taken off the bottle.”

Margaret Cowiesaid:

“I welcome Recycle Week and found the visit a great opportunity to understand better how it all works. We picked up all sorts of things about how to recycle better at home. For example, most plastic food containers can be recycled providing they are properly washed out. I always thought you couldn’t recycle plastic bleach bottles and the like but apparently you can if they are washed out.

I was impressed with how big the whole operation is and how important to the local economy – they employ around 100 staff of various kinds. Some things like paper and metal tins can sell well but plastics don’t produce as much and overall there is still a significant cost to the Council.”

(See Recycling note below)

South Lanarkshire Council encourages recycling in households – you can find more information about what should go in grey bins and blue bins on our website. A new video is available on the web page explaining what happens to the waste going into burgundy bins.

SNP have lost the plot on independence referendum

20th September 2018

Rutherglen South Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown commented on stated views of South Lanarkshire Council Leader on independence as follows:

“I am astonished at John Ross’s comments. The SNP have clearly lost the plot entirely and seem obsessed by some sort of conspiracy theory. This sort of nonsense will put off most reasonable people in Rutherglen and Cambuslang who will not take the SNP seriously. It is hard to believe that we are getting such comments from the Leader of our Council.

The SNP wanted the independence referendum and duly got it. They lost it by a substantial margin in 2014 when Scotland decisively rejected independence. All the SNP spokespeople said it would be a “once in a generation” referendum.

The big threat to Scotland is not conspiracy theories about the “British state”. It is the looming disaster of Brexit. Why don’t the SNP come off the fence and back the Liberal Democrats in demanding a People’s Vote on the Brexit terms?”

John Ross had tweeted:

We need to realise that the British state has already started it’s campaign to thwart Independence. Bold measures need to be considered, we need to start acting as if we are already independent. More walkouts at WM and more acts of civil defiance are required”. 

Post Office apology is “mush and PR gobbledygook”

23rd September 2018

Following the extensive coverage in the Rutherglen Reformer last week about the continued closure of the Rutherglen Post Office, Rutherglen Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Browwas highly critical of the official statement put out by the Post Office Spokesperson which he described as “mush and PR gobbledegook”.

Robert Browsaid:

“I have re-read the Post Office statement in the Reformer. It is certainly in the English language but I struggle to take any real meaning out of it. There is no indication at all of what steps are being taken to replace or re-open the Rutherglen branch; no undertaking that the Branch will be re-opened, and certainly no guarantee to Rutherglen customers o what is planned, if anything, or how long it will take to put in place.

Actions speak louder than words and there has been no public advertisement of the opportunity in the local press, nor is anyone aware of any approaches being made to local businesses in the Main Street or the Arcade to see if they might be interested in taking over the Post Office concession.

Quite simply, this is not good enough and the Post Office need to act right now to ensure a post office service in the Royal Burgh in the future. Every das this goes on, local people, not least the elderly and disabled, are inconvenienced by having to go elsewhere for their pensions or post office services.”