Robert Brown – “It is time to move on from the divisions of the Independence Debate

18th September 2017

On the 3rd anniversary of Scotland voting to stay in the United Kingdom, it is time to move on to build a new partnership between the nations and regions of Britain. That was the call this week from Rutherglen Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown.

Robert Brown said:

“The independence referendum has left deep scars and divisions on Scotland. Now that the prospect of a further divisive referendum has faded following the General Election, it is time to look forward and develop a new, modern relationship amongst the nations and regions of the United Kingdom which will endure for the future.

Such a relationship has to balance identity and loyalty to Scotland, Britain and local communities like Rutherglen or Glasgow that the vast majority of people feel in different degrees.

Liberal Democrats have always argued for a federal United Kingdom – the same sort of set up which exists in many parts of the Commonwealth like Australia, Canada or South Africa and in many parts of Europe like Germany or Switzerland as well, of course, as in the United States. This is a relationship where people choose to be both Scottish and British and take pride in both.

I think it is the job of Liberal Democrats to lead the way forward just as we were a key part of the partnership which created the Scottish Parliament within the United Kingdom in 1999. Our new UK leader, Vince Cable, is a real asset as the Tory Government drifts rudderless onto the rocks and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party has still not managed to decided its policy towards the European Union.

I worked hard in 2014 with colleagues in other Parties to make sure the threat of independence was defeated and that Scotland stayed in the United Kingdom. Now I want to make sure that the structures of the United Kingdom itself are fit for the future and that people across Britain’s nations and regions are again in family partnership, pulling together for our common UK good, as well as forging Scottish solutions to specific Scottish problems.”

Ellen Bryson demands action on Richmond Drive and Calderwood Road traffic

11th September 2017

A demand for urgent action on traffic hotspots in Richmond Drive and Calderwood Road has come from Ellen Bryson, Liberal Democrat candidate in the forthcoming Rutherglen Central and North Council By election. Ellen Bryson made her call amid concerns about traffic volume and speed in the area which are used as rat-runs by traffic as short cuts, or to avoid traffic lights or other hold ups.

Ellen Bryson said –

“There has been growing local concern about the pressure of traffic in these streets and I am fully behind local residents who want to see action taken to tackle it.

Much of the traffic going through local streets is not local traffic but people looking for the quickest route through the area to somewhere else. Local people want to see streets made safer and traffic speed curbed.

Richmond Drive is astonishingly busy, especially at peak times. It is made worse by the downhill gradient and the difficult junction at the bottom where the traffic calming has created new problems.

Calderwood Road has become part of a regular route from East Kilbride Road via Western Road, Langlea Avenue, Hawthorn Walk and Calderwood Road either through Rutherglen Town Centre or to the motorway. It also has both Stonelaw High School, the back entrance to Calderwood Primary School and the difficult Dukes Road junction on its route with considerable dangers to local children.

Both roads need effective traffic calming measures on them to make them less attractive routes for motorists and reduce the speed of those using them.”

 

Liberal Democrats have been champions of Scotland’s place in a modernised United Kingdom – Robert Brown

11th September 2017

Speaking on the 20th anniversary of the 1997 referendum which led to the setting up of the Scottish Parliament, Rutherglen Liberal Councillor Robert Brown said that Liberal Democrats had been champions both of the Scottish Parliament itself and of Scotland’s place in a modernised United Kingdom. He contrasted the unity and success of the Home Rule movement which had led to Scottish and Welsh Parliaments within the framework of the United Kingdom with the division and discord that later accompanied the independence referendum campaign of 2014.

Robert Brown was himself a Liberal Democrat MSP from 1999 to 2011, deputy Minister for Education and Young People from 2005-7 and has made a major contribution to thinking about how to move to a more federal United Kingdom through the Scottish Liberal Democrats’ Steel and Campbell Commissions.

Robert Brown said:
“The Scottish Parliament itself has been a considerable success and the achievements of Liberal Democrats in government with Labour in Scotland from 1999-2007 were remarkable – a major overhaul of Scottish education, free personal care for the elderly, a fair voting system for local government, the abolition of Labour’s university tuition fees, free eye checks as part of an improved service for sight issues, universal nursery education and many more.

Local people in Rutherglen and Cambuslang along with people across Scotland have benefited from these changes and from innovations in public policy like the smoking ban, now almost 10 years old, which led the way for the whole of the UK.

Liberal Democrats played a major part through the Constitutional Convention in bringing about this successful Scottish Parliament within a decentralised United Kingdom, with decision making closer to people, with a pluralist approach at its heart, reflected decades of campaigning for Britain to become a modern democracy.
Contrast that with the way things have stalled since 2007 as the SNP have been obsessed with the divisive independence campaign at the expense of good government in Scotland. They have rightly if belatedly put independence on the back burner at last. I hope Scotland can again set the paced for the whole United Kingdom from focusing on creating a world class education system to tackling the challenges in mental health provision. I want the next 20 years to be about achievement and success for Scotland as part of a revitalised United Kingdom.”

Liberal Democrats demand halt to merger of British Transport Police

11th September 2017

Rutherglen Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown has backed calls for a halt to the merger between Police Scotland and the British Transport Police being imposed by the Scottish Government. He described the plan as “another SNP police shambles” following the ill-fated centralisation of the Scottish police forces and after the enforced leave of absence taken by Chief Constable Philip Gormley who is under investigation for gross misconduct.

Robert Brown said:

“British Transport Police provide an independent and specialist service keeping people safe on our railways. While clearly there is and should be co-operation with Police Scotland, the merger is another ill thought out centralisation being rushed through by the SNP. It makes no sense at all to go forward with this at a time when the police organisation is still trying to digest the original centralisation – and when there are problems with the top management in both the police and the Scottish Police Authority, the police oversight body.

British Transport Police should be left alone and the merger put on hold. A merger like this requires strong leadership and with both the Scottish Police Authority and Police Scotland without any permanent leadership it would be irresponsible to allow it to proceed.

There has long been concern over this merger and just a few days ago an HMICS report showed the merger to be seriously flawed. Now with Police Scotland in the midst of a power vacuum such a merger could be disastrous.”

Residents demand action on Broomieknowe Road traffic

11th September 2017

Local residents in Broomieknowe Road are demanding action over traffic using Broomieknowe Road as a ratrun. The volume and speed of traffic on the street has been a growing problem for some time.

Rutherglen South Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown said:

“”The problem of traffic using residential streets as rat runs to avoid traffic lights and shave a few seconds off journeys is an issue across Rutherglen and Cambuslang – but Broomieknowe Road is one of the worst affected.

I am fully behind local residents in looking for action on this and have already raised various aspects of it with the Council.

There are two things I want to see done as soon as possible. One is to install an island in the middle of the road near the sheltered houses at the top of the hill to help older residents cross safely. The other is to put in a right turn filter from Blairbeth Road to Mill Street which I have been pressing the Roads Department to do for many months – at present their position is they will review it at the end of the year. Frankly that is not good enough as the problem had been obvious from the beginning.

But we also need a longer term solution to reduce unnecessary through traffic on Broomieknowe Road. There are various possibilities which I have discussed with local residents and we will be trying to persuade the Council of the need for effective action. The traffic survey done by Brian Shields is very helpful to this.”

Liberal Democrats launch Council By Election campaign

3rd September 2017

Local Liberal Democrats have announced that former Stonelaw High School teacher Ellen Bryson will be the Liberal Democrat by election candidate for the forthcoming Rutherglen Central & North Council By Election to replace Gerard Killen who is standing down following his election to Parliament in June.

Ellen Bryson is a longstanding Liberal Democrat activist and well known to many local people following her 17 year service as Geography teacher at Stonelaw High School. She was also active in the Fair Trade group at Stonelaw. Brought up in Croftfoot and Rutherglen, Ellen graduated with honours in Geography and Economic History from Strathclyde University. Prior to her period at Stonelaw, she taught at schools in Hamilton and in Malawi.

Married with 2 grown up sons, Ellen now acts as a Volunteer guide at the David Livingstone Centre and at the Kittochside Museum of Country Life.

Rutherglen South Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown said:

“I am delighted that Ellen Bryson has agreed to fight the by election for us. She is already proving a great candidate for the Liberal Democrats and is very much a local community campaigner who is in it to get things done for local people. We had a good base in May when our vote increased substantially in Rutherglen Central and North and we are finding that people like our community politics style of campaigning for local people.

Liberal Democrats across the country have had some tremendous Council by election victories over the last 18 months in particular and have made more gains than any other Party. I think we can do very well in this Rutherglen by election – particularly in a ward where people remember how well they were represented previously by former Liberal Democrat Councillor Gretel Ross.

Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader in Rutherglen to support Ellen Bryson

3rd September 2017

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie MSP was out on the doors in Rutherglen last week meeting local residents along with Liberal Democrat Council by election candidate Ellen Bryson, Councillor Robert Brown and the local Liberal Democrat campaign team.

The Liberal Democrat team were out in Rutherglen Central and North Ward in support of Ellen Bryson who is bidding to replace Gerard Killen as Councillor for the area following his election to Parliament.

Ellen Bryson said:

“It was great to have Willie Rennie backing our campaign and he was very well received by local people in Bankhead and the West End. It’s not often you get a Party leader knocking your door – most of them seem to want to stay cooped up with their own supporters! Willie is very much a “people person” though and likes meeting local people and hearing about their concerns.

As far as I am concerned, local council elections are all about local issues and we got a lot of matters raised ranging from traffic and parking issues, graffiti and overhanging trees to dog fouling and the maintenance of houses. This is the sort of thing on which people want to see action to improve their local area.

Rutherglen Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown said:

“We had a great team out and met a lot of local people. This by election is a great opportunity to get a second Liberal Democrat Councillor in Rutherglen working for local people. Ellen Bryson is well known in the area and will do a tremendous job.”

Local Councillor warns of need to tackle structural and environmental issues in older council housing

30th August 2017

South Lanarkshire Council’s Local Housing Strategy 2017-2022 was approved by the Council at the Executive Committee meeting on Wednesday.

However Rutherglen South Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown took the opportunity to press the case for more investment in the older council housing stock in the area which, he said, had sometimes been left behind when new houses were built or areas regenerated.

Robert Brown said:

“Areas like Springhall have major environmental problems with things like back courts, close mouths, slabbing, bin shelters and lock ups as well as some structural issues like roof or balcony problems. Throughout areas like Fernhill, Blairbeth, Spittal and Cathkin, there are pockets of older houses – tenements particularly but also other house types – which need investment. The outside appearance of the houses looks tired with old roughcasting, long-term lack of painting of closes, railings and panels and so forth. The Council’s plans for planned maintenance on things like painting and gutter repairs seem to have slipped badly.

My view is that this is about people’s homes and that tenants are entitled to expect the Council to keep them in a good quality condition. We all know the pressure for building new houses and that is important – but it is no use if the older houses are not attended to.

In fairness, some work is being done on these things – both environmental works in Springhall and roof and roughcast works elsewhere such as the recent work done in Spittal or the work currently happening in Quarryknowe, However the pace needs to speed up if the houses are to remain popular.”

Time for Cathkin Relief Road land maintenance arrangements to be in place

30th August 2017

It is time for the longer term arrangements for finalisation of the Cathkin Relief Road landscape work and the details of the 5 year post-completion maintenance regime to be in place. This was the view of Rutherglen Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown who raised the matter at Wednesday’s meeting of the Council’s Executive Committee.

The plan had been for Land Engineering, the contractor who built the road, to finalise the landscape work and undertake maintenance for the 5 year period following completion. This was thrown into confusion when the firm went into administration earlier this year.

Robert Brown said:

“Land Engineering’s demise was unfortunate and threw the numerous problems connected with the landscape completion and maintenance back on the Council. It was inevitable that there would be a period of time before alternative arrangements were put in place. In the meantime the Council’s Land Services Department have done some basic grass cutting and similar work but it is now time to see a proper regime in place to sort out the remaining issues and maintain the landscaped areas going forward.

I had previously been assured that Land Engineering had not been paid for work not done and there were also sufficient retentions on the contract. In other words, finance is not a problem in doing what is necessary.

However I am receiving increasing complaints about things like the condition of the verges around the site and the need for thorough attention to the various remaining snagging issues which would normally have been dealt with by this time. Local residents want to see the landscaping finished and properly cared for.”

SNP’s Education centralisation a threat to local democracy

30th August 2017

South Lanarkshire Council seem likely to take part in an a joint arrangement with other councils in the West of Scotland with a view to sharing best practice in schools across the area. The move has come as part of a response by Scottish Councils to the SNP Government’s proposals for a compulsory government-led Education Regional Improvement Collaborative. The matter led to a heated debate at the Council’s Executive Committee on Wednesday which resulted in the Council’s partnership initiative being approved in principle subject to the details being further developed. The Councils’ move follows detailed discussion in COSLA, the Scottish Local Authorities body, and was designed to keep effective control of education with locally-elected Councils and avoid a centrally-imposed bureaucracy run by Ministers in Edinburgh.

Rutherglen Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown said:

“The Scottish government have come in for a lot of stick because of difficulties in education performance with Scotland slipping down international league tables since the SNP came to power. Most schools do a great job but have been held back because of a drop in teachers numbers of 4,000 since 2007 and a fall too in support staff, all of which makes the job of schools more difficult.

The SNP’s answer appears to be fiddling about with the structures and handing increased power to Scottish Ministers in Edinburgh. This proposed Regional Collaborative in education follows on the unsatisfactory centralisation of the police and emergency services. In my view, it is a threat to local democracy and will divert attention away from the real challenges in the schools. It is almost always a bad thing when Ministers in Edinburgh try to micro manage everything centrally.

It is ironic that 6 of the 8 West of Scotland Councils involved in the so called Glasgpw City Region Educational Improvement Collaborative are SNP led – and they are unanimously signed up to doing their best to thwart the centralisation plans of John Swinney, the SNP Education Secretary.

Everyone wants to see our schools thrive and give the best start in life possible to our young people. Sharing best practice locally is a good thing – but having the Scottish government doing a power grab would be a terrible mistake. I hope John Swinney ands the SNP government will back down and accept the approach being pioneered by the local Councils.”