Author: Robert Brown

Reformer Article – “Time to see the other point of view!”

30th November 2018

This last weekend saw the switching on of the Christmas lights in Rutherglen, Burnside and Cambuslang. We are already into December, another festive season upon us, dark and wet weather the order of the day.

The darkness of the season is matched by the darkness of the political world. The Prime Minister has spent the last week touring the UK, telling everyone that her Brexit “deal” is the only game in town. 

Yet, at the same time, official studies from the UK and Scottish Governments, the Governor of the Bank of England and others all point out that all forms of Brexit are worse economically than staying in the European Union. No wonder so many people are now joining the Liberal Democrats in calling for a People’s Vote on the Brexit terms.

So I am glad that I was able to persuade South Lanarkshire Council to back a People’s Vote with an option to stay in the EU. A People’s Vote is becoming increasingly likely – and may be the only way to resolve the obvious stalemate in Parliament. 

But reversing the European referendum decision of 2016 would not solve all problems. Politics has been dominated for far too long by the divisions of Brexit and the independence referenda – both fuelled by dissatisfaction with current political parties, by lack of hope of a better future after the financial crisis, by a sense of being let down by our leaders.

Brexit has already been enormously costly – but it has produced a close examination of many business sectors and many issues as part of the negotiation. We know that London and the financial services industry are too dominant in the political and economic life of our country, that free movement across Europe is vastly more important than it was made out to be, that too much power has been scooped away from local communities by the Scottish, British and European governments, and that lack of business investment, gross inequality of reward, and inadequate research and development continue to hold back our economy.

So the People’s Vote we want on Brexit should be rather more inspiring than the grim referendum of 2016. It might help if we each tried to understand the perspective of those who take a different view to our own. 

Rutherglen Liberal Democrats out in streets with Brexitometer

19th November 2018

Local Liberal Democrats were hitting the streets in Rutherglen on Friday in support of their campaign for a People’s Vote on the terms of Brexit. The Party ran a street stall in Main Street, Rutherglen with a Brexitometer survey on public attitudes. The results showed an overwhelming majority of people in the Rutherglen area supported both a People’s Vote on the terms and stating in the EU.

Rutherglen Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown said:

“Our Street stall was part of a Scottish Liberal Democrat Action Weekend across Scotland in support of a People’s Vote. It was by chance well timed as it followed shortly after the Prime Minister announced her newest proposals for a Brexit deal with the European Union – which has been roundly condemned from all sides. Our Brexitometer was very popular with lots of people keen to express their views.

Brexit threatens to cause huge damage to our economy, security and environment and the deal Theresa May has secured has utterly disintegrated. Brexit will hurt the pockets of ordinary people and leave the United Kingdom weakened.

This is not inevitable. Liberal Democrats demand better. There is a growing tide of public opinion in favour of a Peoples Vote and of staying in the European Union. Only last week, Liberal Democrats got the Scottish Parliament to back a People’s Vote for the first time. Last month, there was za huge March I London which attracted about 700,000 people in support of a People’s Vote.

MSPs and MPs who back the People’s Vote are fast forming the biggest and most cohesive bloc in British politics. Every day, more and more people are coming to the conclusion that the public should have their say on the final Brexit deal.”

Council Transparency – Letter to Editor

The Editor,

Rutherglen Reformer

4thNovember 2018

Dear Sir,

I think Dorothy Connor (Letters 31stOctober 2018) rather misses my point in her comments on the issue of the transparency of South Lanarkshire Council.

The central problem is that most key decisions are delegated to the Council’s Executive Committee rather than being decided by the full Council. In my view the full Council should be the main democratic forum for debate and decision on important issues – partly because it gives all Councillors a voice, and partly because it will attract greater publicity and therefore the issue is more likely to be heard and seen by the public. As Dorothy Connor rightly says, Councillors are responsible to the public.

I was in fact the first Councillor, as far as I am aware, to make a fuss about this and to call for the Council to be opened up to public accountability in a more effective way. The key Budget decisions should certainly be made by the full Council but that is only the start. There should for example be a proper Question Time – as there is in many other Councils – where the Council Administration can be properly questioned on how they are carrying out their functions. I think too the public would be interested in “town hall” accountability meetings in local communities on issues of concern to them.

The SNP Administration did not cover itself with glory by rejecting the modest and reasonable proposals in the motion from Labour group Leader Joe Fagan and myself for the Liberal Democrats. However it is fair to say that the current arrangements where the full Council is too often a formality were established in the many years during which Labour ran the Council. It was only when Labour were put out of office last year that they had a ‘road to Damascus” moment. 

The reality is that the public are not effectively engaged in key Council decisions. This must change and a wholesale review of how the Council operates is long overdue.

Yours faithfully,

Robert Brown

Liberal Democrat Councillor for Rutherglen South

Robert Brown welcomes Cathkin Tenant Co-op agreement

4th November 2018

Cathkin Braes Tenant Management Co-operative has won a renewal of its agreement with South Lanarkshire Council to manage over 200 council houses in Cathkin for a further 5 year period. The Co-op – run by a tenant committee from the area – has managed the properties for over 30 years. The new agreement was approved by the Council’s Housing Committee at its meeting on Wednesday.

Rutherglen South Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown who represents the Cathkin area gave a warm welcome to the decision.

Robert Brownsaid:

“I am delighted that Cathkin Braes TM Co-operative has won such a vote of confidence from the Council – based not least on the high satisfaction rates it gets from local residents.

Cathkin is the only Tenant Management Co-operative which remains in South Lanarkshire but I would like to see the Council look at this idea in other areas, particularly ones with a lot of tenement houses. The Council told me at the Housing Committee that they were supportive of future Co-ops but that initiatives to start them needed strong support from local residents.

Cathkin Co-op is successful because it is run locally by local people and is responsive to local needs.

The Council report commented: “Cathkin Braes TMC is  successful, tenant led organisation that performs well, delivers good outcomes and is well regarded by tenants living in the area.” There was a satisfaction rating of 98% in an independent survey. That speaks for itself.”

Robert Brown: Budget is a “treading water” Budget, overshadowed by Brexit

28th October 2018

Commenting on the Chancellor’s Budget, Rutherglen Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brownsaid:

“This was largely a standstill Budget with some giveaways funded by statistical errors in the forecasts. It failed on 2 main tests:

  • It is totally overshadowed by the threat of Brexit to the public finances. These costs could reach £80 billion a year if there is no deal with the EU. Even the Chancellor has found it necessary to squirrel away £15 billion towards paying for Brexit
  • It doesn’t end austerity – that could only be done by raising taxes. As we know, schools, hospitals, council services are all under pressure – as are the wages and incomes of many families.

Liberal Democrats demand better than this. We needed a Budget that gave people fairer taxes and better public services, and a final say on the Brexit deal. Today, we got none of that with Philip Hammond’s ‘treading water” Budget”. 

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.”