Author: Robert Brown

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.


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.”

SNP and Brexit – Letter to Reformer

23rd September 2018

Dear Sir,

It does appear that the growing demand for a People’s Vote on the terms of Brexiit is causing a lot of confusion in the ranks of SNP/Independence supporters – as evidenced by the letter from Robert Brennan (Reformer 12th September 2018).

The SNP are now the only anti-Brexit Party who have not backed giving the final decision on the Brexit terms to the people. The People’s Vote is now backed by the Liberal Democrats, the Greens, many people in the Labour Party like Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, and increasing numbers of pro-European Conservatives like Justine Greening and Sarah Wollaston. More importantly it is now increasingly backed by the public in opinion polls.

Robert Brennan says that this is because Nicola Sturgeon “understands the complexities and dangers in this regarding any future independence referendum”. He is undoubtedly right because the SNP view absolutely everything through the prism of how it affects independence.

However the SNP position is neither very noble nor very sensible in Scotland’s interests. This is not the time for such narrow, partisan considerations. Every day that passes demonstrates more clearly just how disastrous Brexit will be for Scotland and for Britain. More and more people are recognising that a People’s Vote on the terms is the only democratic way out of the mess. Time is running out for the SNP and I suspect that Scottish voters will not forgive them if they let down Scotland on Brexit.

Let me also respond briefly to John Reilly (Reformer 19thSeptember 2018)who thinks it is undemocratic and a sell out to the elites to take the final decision on Brexit back to the people/ I couldn’t disagree more. The political elites in Parliament – particularly the Prime Minister, the hard Brexit ex Tory Ministers and the Labour Opposition – have totally failed to find a way forward out of what is clearly a looming disaster. Now the only way out is to let the people make the final decision.

Yours faithfully,

Robert Brown

Liberal Democrat Councillor for Rutherglen South

Post Office closure symptom of a wider High Street problem

14th September 2018

Rutherglen Reformer article

Concerns over the future of Rutherglen Post Office have been mounting amid a wall of silence from the Post Office organisation. The Reformerhas an in depth article on the issue this week.

But the Post Office issue follows bank closures in Cambuslang and Burnside, reductions in police offices and a long list of high street closures and cost pressures on major national stores like Frasers, Marks & Spencer and now John Lewis. Problems in suburban centres are now being followed by decline in big city centres too.

It is easy to blame the Post Office, the banks and the retailers – and indeed they have too often shown a woeful lack of interest in their customers and local communities. But Rutherglen and Cambuslang Main Streets and others like them across Britain have been in decline for many years as a result of changes in shopping practice – not least the growth of out of town shopping malls and now of online services.

Most of us now very rarely need to go to the post office, bank or police station; we patronise the convenience of Kingsgate, the Forge or Silverburn rather than the local butcher, baker, grocer or toy shop we remember from our youth. Life is much more rushed for young families.

There are advantages in the “new” shopping – everything under one roof, cheaper prices, more choice, greater convenience. But there are major downsides too – the seeming inability of Amazon and Starbucks to pay a proper level of tax, despite hyper profits; a drabness and lack of choice in local high streets, unnecessary dependence on monopoly retailers, reduction in local and regional specialities and empty, unproductive shop units in both Rutherglen and Cambuslang centres.

The solutions are not easy. There are more coffee shops, takeaways and restaurants – but also more bookies, charity shops and pound shops.

The previous Rutherglen Town Centre Forum was not successful but perhaps it is time to establish a powerful Town Centre Action Group able to look at the whole picture – nurturing local entrepreneurs and social enterprises, one shop council/post office/advice centres, local transport, tourism, events and financial support.  Above all, can we bring in people with ideas and expertise – perhaps from a Housing Association, Clyde Gateway or innovative planning background to provide dynamism? There must be many local people with skills to offer.

Rutherglen’s historic Main Street remains a superb asset. What is its potential in the 21stcentury?

Post Office must act now on Rutherglen branch

12th September 2018

Commenting on the continued lack of progress on re-establishing a Rutherglen Post Office, Rutherglen Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown said:

“The Post Office seem to have forgotten their primary obligation to the public. Rutherglen has now gone over 3 months with no post office service where there used to be a Crown Post Office. This causes inconvenience to local customers, not least the elderly, who have to travel to Burnside or elsewhere for a post office service. It also sends out entirely the wrong signal, namely that the Post Office is no longer interested in its customers.

I appreciate that there may have been confidential issues with the previous postmaster. That is now entirely irrelevant. The issue now is putting in place an alternative Post Office location. It is astonishing that the Post Office has made no announcement saying they are doing this, nor, as far as I know, have they advertised for interest from local businesses. I cannot believe there would not be an interested shop or retail premises in the Arcade or up and down the length of the Main Street.

I have myself just written further ton the Post Office about the unacceptable delay in going forward on this.

The Post Office should sort this out without further delay and let Rutherglen know what they propose to do to resolve the situation.”

Council are failing local people on tenement planned maintenance and environmental work

22nd August 2018

South Lanarkshire Council are failing local people over flawed plans for tackling tenement close painting, gutter maintenance and environmental upgrades in the area. This was the view of Rutherglen Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown following discussion of the issues at the Council’s Housing Committee on Wednesday.

The Committee heard that the Council had had to revise its plans for planned maintenance on gutter cleaning, painting of tenement closes and other painting because of difficulties in getting sign up from private owners in the tenement buildings. In addition, spending on much-needed environmental works in areas like Springhall was low down the priority list as against new house building, central heating and energy improvements to houses.

Robert Brown said:

“I know of tenement closes which have not been painted for 40 years. There are also gutters which, as someone observed, can be like rooftop gardens with the amount of weed growth on them.

I accept there are sometimes problems with buildings where individual flats have been bought under the Right to Buy or are in the hands of absentee landlords. The Council must find ways to tackle this, both by looking at how maintenance can be done more economically and by investigating improved ways of helping owners to afford or spread out the costs.

It is also high time that the environmental improvement programme for Springhall was speeded up. The work done on certain areas like Ross Place and Slenavon Avenue makes a great deal of difference but the condition of close mouths, slabbing, bin areas, back courts and greens across much of the rest of Springhall needs urgent attention. People pay significant rents and should be entitled to a reasonable standard of environment outside their doors.”

Radiology scans farmed out to external providers 400,000 times

22nd August 2018

An enormous increase in the number of scans being sent outside the NHS for analysis is a “stark warning” of a crisis in radiology within the Health Service, according to local Liberal Democrats.

Figures uncovered by the Party through a series of Freedom of Information requests reveal that on 398,000 occasions scans have been sent to external providers for reporting over the last 3 years. The number has risen from 121,000 in 2015/16 to 144,000 in 2017/18.

Greater Glasgow & Clyde Health Board sent scans to providers elsewhere in the UK on 24,199 occasions during 2017/18. However no information could be obtained from Lanarkshire Health Board who replied to the FoI request by saying:

“I regret that I am unable to provide the information on the number of scans sent to external radiology providers in Scotland and the rest of the UK. Scans are sent via Medica which covers both Scotland and the UK…I can advise that no scans have been sent outside of the UK.”

Rutherglen Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brownsaid there could hardly be a clearer indication of a crisis in recruiting and retaining radiological staff.

Robert Brown said:

“Many people who undergo scans fear they have a serious illness. The NHS should have as a major priority the ability to carry out scans and identify the results quickly. The reality is there can often be a significant wait which is hugely worrying for people.

Now we know the huge number of scans going outside Scotland for analysis, it is clear what part of the problem is. It is incidentally quite astonishing that Lanarkshire Health Board, alone amongst mainland Scottish Health Boards, is unable even to provide the figures. If others can do so, why can Lanarkshire not even track the figures?

There is clearly a staffing shortage of radiologists and support staff in Scotland. It is only last week that the chair of the Royal College of Radiologists warned that the NHS was on “red alert” due to a shortage of qualified doctors.

This is a failure of workforce planning by the SNP government – something we have also seen in teaching and other professions too. It is time the Scottish Government published an annual report on workforce planning to allow a radical improvement in forward planning. Meantime radiology departments and patients suffer from the shortage.”

Notes to editors:

Total 2015/16120,533
Total 2016/17133,812
Total 2017/18143,983
Total (2015/16 – 2017/18)398,328

The Scottish Liberal Democrat freedom of information request broken down by health board can be found here.