Author: Robert Brown

SNP and Labour out of step as Public call for final Brexit say

21st August 2018

The pressure for the public to have the final say on Brexit is growing by the day, as more and more people recognise just what a hash the Conservative Government has made of the Brexit negotiations. Rutherglen Liberal Democrat spokesperson Councillor Robert Brownsaid he was astonished how out of line with the new public mood were both the SNP and Labour Parties., as a new poll showed overwhelming majorities of current SNP and Labour voters both wanted to stay in the European Union and supported a public vote on the Brexit terms.

Robert Brown said:

“Theresa May’s Government is probably the worst government in modern times and has shown itself divided, leaderless and incompetent in the Brexit negotiations with huge risks to the country’s future prosperity as a result. Yet the dithering by both Nicola Sturgeon and Jeremy Corbyn on the Brexit issue has meant there is no effective opposition to Brexit – not least to the disastrous prospect of there being no deal at all with our European neighbours.

The Liberal Democrats were first to demand a People’s Vote on the Brexit terms and we have now been joined by an increasing number of sensible people in Labour, the Conservatives and the SNP. Yet the leadership of both Labour and the SNP are absent from duty. The SNP are still up an irrelevant independence cul de sac when Scotland is crying out for effective opposition to Brexit. Meantime Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour leadership can only be described as fellow travellers on the Tory Brexit.

Interestingly the public trust neither the Westminster Government nor the SNP Government on Brexit.

Last weekend’s Rally for a People’s Vote in Edinburgh and previous marches across England have shown how the public mood is changing. Now the largest poll of public attitudes to Brexit since the EU referendum has found overwhelming majorities in Scotland for stating in Europe and for a People’s Vote on the terms.

The SNP’s current voters want to stay in the EU by a margin of 83 per cent to 17 per cent, while they back a People’s Vote on Brexit by a margin of more than four-to-one (66 per cent to 18 per cent) once don’t knows have been removed. Labour’s current supporters in Scotland would vote to stay in the EU by a margin of 74 per cent to 26 per cent and support a People’s Vote by 64 per cent to 21 per cent.

It is increasingly obvious that whatever deal can be patched up by the Tories on Brexit will not be anything like as good as the deal we have now as EU members.

Why on earth will the SNP and Labour leaders not do their obvious duty and back the Liberal Democrats in supporting a People’s Vote on Brexit. It is what the vast majority of their supporters want – it is certainly what the country needs. It would actually make it very likely that this disastrous Brexit could be stopped.”

Liberal Democrats call for halt to merger of British Transport Police

21st August 2018

The new Chief Constable, Iain Livingstone, should be allowed to make it his first task to halt the merger of British Transport Police into Police Scotland, according to local Liberal Democrats. The Party believe it is time to learn lessons from the botched merged of the ormer 8 police forces into Police Scotland.

Rutherglen South Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown said:

“The new Chief Constable has a lot of unfinished business on his desk after the numerous problems surrounding the setting up of Police Scotland. The SNP Justice Secretary needs to stop the politically-motivated merger with the British Transport Police – it is the last thing the new Chief Constable needs and it should be scrapped.

The take over of the Scottish arm of the British Transport Police is a deeply flawed project for which there has never been a business case. Iain Livingstone has already had to tell the SNP government that their original merger plan could not have gone ahead “without compromising public safety.”

I have always been sceptical about the value of many of the centralisation projects the SNP Government seem to like. I don’t accept that Ministers in Edinburgh are best placed to direct local services. The problems of the police centralisation are now built into the organisation. It is time for an Independent expert Commission to recommend reforms and repair the damage.”

Nursery New build plans

16th August 2018

Comment by Rutherglen Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown on increases in Nursery School places

“The increase in nursery entitlement to 1140 hours is both long overdue and challenging. The target date is 2020 – only 2 years away – and there is a requirement both to build new nurseries and expand some existing ones. I was glad to support the proposal to build 6 new nursery facilities including a much needed one in Newton – at a total cost of £9million. It is urgent that these go ahead without delay.

Delivery of the 1140 hours depends, as it aways has, on partnership with the private sector nurseries and child care providers. I know from contact with nurseries in this area that there are concerns about the funding arrangements for them and this needs to be sorted out as soon as possible. I have already had correspondence with the Director of Education about this. That is a different issue from the Council’s 6 projects. There will be a huge expansion in nurseries by 2020 and there should be increasing business for the private providers who are a key part off the mix. “

A European perspective on the NHS

Reformer article 10th August 2018 

4 broken ribs after a trip on a pavement on holiday this summer gave me a closer encounter with the Italian health service than I wished!

European Union E111 Card

Fortunately I had remembered to renew my E111 card which covered the costs of health care – a stark reminder of yet another advantage of being in the European Union. Without the E111 card, I would have required to pay.

Two days in an Italian hospital were interesting. The care and food was excellent – and there was a high emphasis on thorough cleaning of the ward.

NHS needs change

The National Health Service is rightly regarded as one of Britain’s key institutions – providing free health care (unlike the USA for example where poorer people can be left with very limited health care).

But the NHS is struggling with growing demand – with Government waiting times targets frequently broken, the stress of delays in seeing specialists, repeat visits for different tests, poorer outcomes than some other countries.

The Netherlands have one of the highest rated systems, funded by a compulsory health insurance – but with a separate social insurance fund from general taxation to cover mental health, elderly care and end of life care. The German system is funded by payments of about 13% salary, while the Swedish system is run by the 21 local Councils – but charges people for seeing the GP or for prescriptions, albeit with a yearly cap.

Long term NHS funding

More funding is vital. A high level Report, commissioned by the Liberal Democrats this year, proposed replacing National Insurance by a dedicated Health & Care tax to ensure sustainable long-term funding of the NHS.

But money is not the only thing. The NHS also needs more local accountability, rapid and comprehensive access to diagnostic tests, a greater priority on mental health services and to become a national health service rather than a national sickness service to counter pressures from growing obesity and life style issues.

The NHS has been a valued friend for 70 years. The time is right for a comprehensive reassessment of the NHS, its role, funding and priorities to ensure it does the job for the next century.

Parking congestion requires urgent action

14th July 2018

Rutherglen South Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brownsaid this week he was hugely concerned about the problem of access by emergency vehicles to Drumilaw Way, Blairbeth reported in last week’s Rutherglen Reformer. He said the issue was now a pressing one, affecting many streets across Rutherglen and Cambuslang.

He has called on the Council to carry out a survey of the worst access “hotspots” across South Lanarkshire.

Robert Brown said:

“This is a problem which has been getting steadily worse over the last 5 or 10 years as levels of car ownership increase in areas which were never designed for this. It is not just access by emergency vehicles, it is also routine use of pavements by elderly people, parents with prams and young children and disabled people who all have to risk their lives by stepping on the road because selfish parking has blocked the pavement,

There are proposals in the new Transport Bill lodged before the Scottish Parliament on June 8thto ban pavement parking and double parking and ensure pavements and roads are more generally accessible. Whilst this is welcome, it will be a number of months before it passes into law and, after that, there will probably be a need for detailed guidance as to how it would work in practice.

It will be up to Councils to look at their areas and produce solutions that tackle the problem whilst still allowing people to park their cars in their local areas.

There is no easy answer but I think the Council should start the process by looking at the worst hotspots and identifying what action is needed so they can be ready both to make sure the Transport Act does what it should, and that effective action can be taken across the board as soon as possible. Of course not everything has to await the new Act and any action that can be taken now should be considered.

There are many areas across Rutherglen and Cambuslang that have the same congestion problems experienced by Louise Spring in Drumilaw Way. Blairbeth and Spittal have particularly narrow streets, Fernhill Road has cars parked on both sides making through access more difficult, parts of Cathkin, Springhall and Burnside have similar problems.

Time for Post Office to Act on Rutherglen closure

14th July 2018

The continued closure of Rutherglen’s Main Street Post Office requites urgent action by the Post Office organisation, according to local Liberal Democrats. The Post Office facility at 217 Main Street was run under franchise by a local shopkeeper in the Premier Convenience Store until the business closed down in June.

Rutherglen Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brownthis week demanded that the Post Office took urgent action to restore a service for people in the Burgh.

Robert Brown said:

“The Post Office, despite recent reorganisation, is a public service in a privileged position. It has public responsibilities to the local community. Liberal Democrats campaigned against the original closure of the Crown Post Office in the historic Post Office building next to the Town Hall. Closing the Crown Post Office has proved to be a big mistake which has left regular uncertainty in its wake.

Like others I have made representation to the Post Office about the situation but have only had bland replies. The Post Office is understandably tight lipped about its arrangements with the previous postmaster. Whatever the background to that, Rutherglen now lacks a main post office in the town centre which is an unacceptable position.

It is time for the Post Office to step up to the mark, identify a new location for the main Post Office and get the facility up and running again. There is no obvious reason why the position could not be advertised now or approaches made to some of the other shops in the Main Street area or the Arcade to provide the Post Office facility.

I know anecdotally of older people having to trail up to Burnside or to one of the other Post offices. Rutherglen is the main local centre – most of the buses feed into it; it is the most convenient location for many people from around the area. It is high time local people in the Royal Burgh had a Post Office again.”

Reflexions on summer, football … and Landemer

6th July 2018 Reformer Column

Landemer wins the prizes

Another successful Landemer Festival has been and gone, bathed in the sunshine of the best summer on record. Landemer is not just a Saturday occasion with stalls, entertainment and the Landemer Queen. It is a festival stretching over more than a week with events like the Fun Run, Art competition and music in hospitals as well. Its origins are obscure although, like Lanark’s Lanimer, it certainly has mediaeval origins, connected with the protection of the Royal Burgh’s boundary stones.Curiously there is a town called “Landemer” in Normandy – the Germans built a “Gun Battery Landemer” there as part of their Atlantic Wall defences in World War Two. Clearly there is a subject here for more research.

The World Cup

Sport is very much in the news this summer – with Wimbledon, a unique Scottish victory over England at cricket, and the football World Cup. I am not sure my blood pressure can take any more penalty shoot outs though!

Many politicians feel it necessary to have a football team they are passionate about. It is part of their image! Some SNP politicians however make it a point of honour never to support England – and went so far as to call votes in Parliament precisely when England were playing Columbia. Most people thought the stunt a bit pathetic – the SNP described it as “fighting austerity”.

 Prime Minister Harold Wilson boasted in 1966 that England only won the World Cup when Labour were in power. In 1970, England lost at the quarter finals – and Wilson lost the General Election a few days later. Football can bite back at politicians!

Today few of the leading Brexiteers seem to be football fans. Her advisers hinted that Theresa May might support Norwich City  but it is clear that the PM is not inspired by the game. Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg are too busy plotting to have time for the distraction of football.

I rather think it might be good for the country if they lightened up a bit, found a football team and took the occasional day off from “negotiating” Brexit – the worst deal in history since the Americans elected Donald Trump!

Robert Brown backs Scottish Youth Parliament Declaration

29th June 2018

At the Council meeting on Wednesday, a motion was passed recognising the importance of young people’s rights and endorsing the Scottish Youth Parliament’s “Right here Right now” campaign.

A declaration to this effect was supported by the leaders of the political groups including Rutherglen South Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown.

Robert Brown said:

“The Scottish Youth Parliament has done a tremendous job in empowering young people to have an input into National and community affairs. It is important that the council takes every opportunity to involve young people in decisions which affect them. This is what today’s declaration was all about.”

Community empowerment must be done properly – Robert Brown

28th June 2018

Proposals by South Lanarkshire Council’s SNP Administration for a new approach to community participation have been criticised by Rutherglen Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brownas “disappointing” and “not thought through properly”.

The Council’s Executive Committee agreed to appoint 7 new officers to a new Community Participation and Empowerment Team. An “Awareness Session’ for Councillors has been arranged to brief them about the new proposals.

Robert Brownsaid:

“I am strongly in favour of empowering local communities and groups but much of what is done at the moment doesn’t work very well. There doesn’t seem to be much that is particularly new in the proposals.

One of the big problems is that “consultation exercises” are shot through with jargon so that people feel left out. The traditional tenants and residents groups have also declined or disappeared.

I want to see a much more radical approach. The Council’s Area Committees should be much more at the heart of decision making so they can be real champions of local communities.

A yearly or twice yearly “Town Hall” type meeting in local areas like Spittal, Burnside or Cathkin chaired by the local Councillors could have reports on all Council services in the area including plans for housing regeneration, road and pavement resurfacing, Parks and facilities and transport.  That could give local residents real engagement – with scope for a public Question Time session and effective accountability from elected representatives.

It is entirely unclear what the proposed new community development officers would do. I think they should be linked to local halls or facilities with the job of supporting new local groups and helping reinvigorate older ones.

It would have been far better if Councillors had been able to discuss the new arrangements before they were taken forward.”

South Lanarkshire Council sets up Petitions Committee

29th June 2018

A Petitions Committee is being established by South Lanarkshire Council following a report by a Group chaired by Rutherglen South Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown. The Committee will commence work after the summer recess. The proposal of the Task & Finish Group was approved by the Council at its meeting on 27thJune.

Petitions will require at least 50 signatures and relate to matters within the Council’s control. Individual complaints and matters being heard through normal planning or licensing processes will not be competent petitions.

Robert Brownsaid:

“I have long thought that there needed to be a direct line for citizens of South Lanarkshire to put their ideas, concerns and grievances directly into the decision making process at the Council. A process for people to lodge petitions with the Council and have them heard by a Council Committee could be a major step in giving local people more power.

I am glad that the Petitions Committee has now been approved by the Council with the support of all Parties. That gives it strength and standing. We were also insistent that it should be independent of the Council administration and chaired by an Opposition Councillor.

The Council will now be publicising the arrangements for the new Committee so that local people and community groups are aware of it.

I believe this is a major step towards opening up the Council and making it more accountable to the public.”