Monday, 2 July 2018

Glasgow's 'Quiet Bunch'

I came across a Tweet the other day from James Dornan, the SNP MSP for Glasgow Cathcart, who was having a dig at his Labour rival Paul Sweeney, the Westminster MP for Glasgow North.   

Now I don't carry a torch for either the Labour Party or the SNP although I have tended to support the SNP in recent elections.

But I couldn't resist having my say in relation to equal pay because it's true that all Glasgow MSPs and MPs were invited to attend a special briefing in February this year  and the only parliamentarian who made the time and effort to come along was none other than Paul Sweeney.

Now the SNP hold 8 out of 8 Glasgow Holyrood constituency seats (a clean sweep) and 6 out of 7 Westminster constituency seats which is not a great advert for democracy, if you ask me.

And so far at least, I think it's fair to say that the SNP are living up to their reputation of being the 'Quiet Bunch' when it comes to showing public support the fight for equal pay in Glasgow City Council.

James Dornan MSP
So a politician first elected last year is described as a ‘senior Labour politician’. Either ‘senior’ has a new meaning or Labour have even less experienced talent than I thought.

Mark Irvine
Interesting that Paul Sweeney attended the special briefing on equal pay for all 15 Glasgow MSPs and MPs back in February - yet not one of the city’s 14 SNP parliamentarians managed along to the event.


Glasgow's MSPs and Equal Pay

What impact does Nicola Sturgeon's cabinet reshuffle have on the fight for equal pay in Glasgow City Council?

Not a lot, in all likelihood, because Glasgow keeps its two MSPs with Nicola herself and Humza Yousaf who has moved from the transport brief to become the new justice secretary.

But just like all the other Glasgow's MSPs Nicola and Humza have kept their distance, refusing all opportunities to speak out on the nitty gritty issues such as the 'unfit for purpose' WPBR, the scheme's discriminatory 37 hour 'rule' or the second class citizen status of Cordia staff. 

Which is rather odd if you because these pay practices should all be condemned and could be without attacking or laying the blame at the door of the current SNP-led administration.

To be fair to Nicola she did make a positive intervention at last year's SNP conference in Glasgow when she reiterated her support for the principle of 'equal pay for work of equal value', but Nicola was wearing her First Minister hat at the time.

The more important issue, to my mind, is what Nicola and Humza have to say on behalf of their constituents in Glasgow Southside and Glasgow Pollok, but so far they have chosen to remain as part of the SNP's 'Quiet Bunch'.

I have met some of the other cabinet members during my time - The Herald has a detailed report (below) on who's up or down and who's in or out. 

For example, I went to see Aileen Campbell, the new secretary for communities and local government, during the A4ES equal pay campaign in South Lanarkshire Council - she was broadly in support of equal pay, as all politicians say they are of course, but Aileen was not really interested in getting involved, as her SNP colleague Alex Neil did in neighbouring North Lanarkshire Council.  

Why they are all so timid is beyond me, but maybe things will improve in the months ahead as Glasgow's settlement talks get down to brass tacks. 

I have read that another Glasgow MSP, Ivan McKee, is in line to become a junior minister which would be interesting. I don't know Ivan, but he is one of the 8 Glasgow MSPs (all SNP by the way) whom I am in touch with on a regular basis via email and Twitter - the city's politicians are well briefed, I think it's fair to say.

The biggest winner in Nicola's new cabinet must be Jeane Freeman who, like me, was a member of the CPGB (Communist Party of Great Britain) for a time - a very capable and likeable woman, a former adviser to the Labour First Minister, Jack McConnell, although given her politics I could never understand why she accepted an OBE.

So that's my quick summary of what the cabinet reshuffle means for Glasgow, but the real work will get underway after the summer and the big question is whether the city's MSPs are finally going to find their voice and help bring about a settlement to the long fight for equal pay in Scotland's largest council.

Cabinet reshuffle: Five new faces as Sturgeon presides over dramatic changes
By Alistair Grant - The Herald

Nicola Sturgeon's new Cabinet

FROM the pavement outside, there was little sign of the upheaval taking place behind the black door of number six, Charlotte Square.

A gaggle of journalists and photographers spent the afternoon huddled around the railings of the Georgian townhouse, glued to their phones for the latest updates.

Every time a swanky car drove past, notepads would rustle and microphones hastily assemble. There were a number of false alarms.

But as a string of SNP figures were dropped off and quickly let inside, a picture emerged of dramatic change within the corridors of Bute House.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon – widely known as a cautious politician – was presiding over one of the biggest reshuffles in the history of devolution.

Standing on the steps of Bute House just after 5.30pm, she spoke of bringing “fresh talent” to the table and referenced the looming challenges of Brexit and delivering Scotland’s new social security system.

There were casualties, of course. But around her, five new faces beamed.

Former transport minister Humza Yousaf was promoted to Justice Secretary – a position previously held by Michael Matheson, who will become Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity.

First given a ministerial role under Alex Salmond, Mr Yousaf is among Holyrood’s most high-profile figures.

As transport minister, he faced down calls to quit over ScotRail’s performance, and survived a blizzard of criticism over winter storms and “snagging” issues with the £1.35bn Queensferry Crossing.

Another big name given a boost was former Brexit minister Michael Russell. Previously Education Secretary between 2009 and 2014, Mr Russell has burst back into the political limelight in his role representing Scotland in the Brexit negotiations.

He will become Cabinet Secretary for Government Business and Constitutional Relations – a newly created role focused on protecting Scotland’s interests as the UK leaves the EU.

Another new position reflecting the Scottish Government’s shifting priorities was given to Shirley-Anne Somerville.

The MSP, who has been minister for further education since May 2016, will become the Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People.

This will give her responsibility for overseeing Scotland’s new social security system following the devolution of 11 benefits, worth around £3.3bn a year.

Elsewhere, Jeane Freeman will replace embattled Health Secretary Shona Robison.

Elected in 2016, Ms Freeman is a former Labour special adviser who converted to the independence cause and previously co-founded the campaign group Women for Independence.

She is well respected among backbenchers, but came under fire last year over her alleged role in “smearing” a nurse who challenged Ms Sturgeon during a TV debate. False claims the NHS worker was the wife of a Tory councillor were traced back to Ms Freeman and SNP MP Joanna Cherry.

Finally, Aileen Campbell will take on the role of Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government, tasked with reforming councils and tackling poverty.

Previously public health minister, Ms Campbell has led calls for the creation of “safer injection” centres, allowing heroin addicts to take the drug in specialist clinics aimed at preventing deaths.

At the end of a tense day, only three positions remained unchanged. Education Secretary John Swinney, Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham and Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop will all remain in their current posts.

Meanwhile, on the lower rungs, Joe FitzPatrick was announced as the new public health minister last night, having previously served as business minister.

Jamie Hepburn was given the expanded role of minister for business, fair work and skills, and Paul Wheelhouse will become minister for energy, connectivity and the islands.

Glasgow's MSPs and Equal Pay (25/06/18)

A regular reader has been in touch to ask what role, if any, MSPs have to play in helping to bring the long-running equal pay dispute in Glasgow to an end. 

Now some folks will tell you that MSPs have absolutely no formal say which is correct and that the only people who matter are the ones who have a 'vote' - the 85 elected councillors of Glasgow City Council.

But as everyone knows who knows anything, there is a whole lot more to politics that just voting, not least because local councillors are part of a much wider political network involving MSPs, MPs and their political parties.

Nicola Sturgeon doesn't have a vote, for example, but Nicola is easily the most influential politician in Glasgow and if she decided to speak up on her constituents' behalf over equal pay or the WPBR's bogus 37 hour 'rule', for example, I have no people would listen.

So the views of local councillors and which way they will eventually jump or 'vote' on the big issues are influenced by the political party machines, by Westminster MPs and, most of all, by Holyrood MSPs.

Not least because local councils (including Glasgow) receive most of their funding from the Scottish Parliament and, even more importantly, Scotland's 32 local councils don't have the power to borrow money on their own.

Local councils have to seek permission from the Scottish Government before they can borrow money - they are tightly regulated - 
which means that Holyrood and its MSPs hold the purse strings at the end of the day.

Here's a letter from the Council leader to one of Glasgow's equal pay claimants which skirts carefully around the issue of the Scottish Parliament and its MSPs, but I think it's fair to say that the Glasgow contingent of MSPs are trying to keep their distance over equal pay - they have largely been posted 'missing' up until now.

Which is shame if you ask me because they speak out on all kinds issues, on a daily basis, via facebook and Twitter.   

Dear M

You have sent this to me, not to someone called Chris. I have already sent a full response to an email I received earlier today, which said it was from your daughter. I have nothing further to add to that except to say that the equal pay issue has nothing to do with MPs or MSPs, it is entirely a Council matter. The First Minister has made very clear what the SNP’s policy position is on equal pay more generally, and the approach being followed here in Glasgow is entirely in line with that.


Councillor Susan Aitken
Leader of the Council
SNP Councillor for Langside


The Quiet Bunch (19/06/18)

I came across this Tweet and photo from Bob Doris on Twitter the other day which speaks about him catching up with a local Glasgow councillor, Allan Casey.

So I took the opportunity to respond to Bob by asking him if, by any chance, the two Glasgow politicians discussed emergency weather payments and the City Council's 'second class' treatment of Cordia staff.

I haven't heard back from Bob, as yet, but the important thing is not so much for me to be contacting Glasgow Councillors, MSPs and MPS about equal pay - though I do on a very regular basis.

The important thing is for equal pay claimants to be raising these issues directly with local politicians - and ask what they are doing by way of making representations to Glasgow City Council on behalf of local constituents.

Now the purpose of this exercise is not to be rude or objectionable, or turn what is a serious issue into a party political football - the purpose is to ask politicians 'where they stand' and what they are doing to support the people they represent.

So go to it Glasgow - keep your cool, remain reasonable and refuse to be fobbed off.

Bob Doris MSP for Maryhill and Springburn

Joint advice surgery with @AllanCasey89 earlier. Was good to catch up with Cllr Casey on Royston/ Germiston matters also @Maryhill_SNP\

Mark Irvine
Did you discuss Glasgow City Council’s behaviour over Emergency Weather Payments, by any chance?


The Quiet Bunch (16/06/18)

I sent the following message to Glasgow MSPs and MPs via Twitter the other day, in an effort to rally support from the city's politicians in the ongoing fight for equal pay. 

Mark Irvine
What do the politicians - Councillors, MSPs and MPs - have to say about the fact that some workers are being treated as 'second class' members of the Glasgow City Council Family?

Now I think it's perfectly fair to point out that Home Carers who battled through the 'Beast from the East' to support their vulnerable clients are being treated as 'second class citizens' compared to other members of the Glasgow 'Council Family'.

But there's not been much of a response from Glasgow's MSPs and MPs which I find rather odd - not one question, comment, Like or Retweet - so far at least.

Yet the city's MSPs have lots to say about other issues and here's a random sample of what they were Tweeting and Retweeting about yesterday.

Lots of topical and important subjects for sure, but not a word about the shameful treatment of Glasgow Cordia workers and is you ask me, this 'lack of engagement' from the politicians is something the claimants are going to have to address in the weeks ahead.

Nicola Sturgeon
First Minister opens Meet the Researchers, a community science day organised by Glasgow Caledonian University held at The Barn Youth and Community Centre in the Gorbals.

Sandra White

What justification could have for objecting to being made a criminal offence? I hope he might come on to explain to us all why he derailed a bill preventing people taking pix up women's skirts...

Ivan McKee

Pleased to get the chance to thank the massive crowd who turned out today in solidarity with our MPs and to support the message Hands Off Our Parliament after the week's extraordinary goings on in Westminster

Humza Yousaf

To all my fellow Muslims celebrating across the world - Eid Mubarak for tomorrow! Enjoy your day folks

Bill Kidd
Active Seniors Day in the Park 2018 via

Bob Doris

I raised issue of unhealthy fast food shops near schools whilst seeks 2 promote healthy food in schools

John Mason

Pretty fabulous production of 'High School Musical' School, Coatbridge. Great singing, acting, and dancing by pupils. Well supported by staff. Great atmosphere. One of their best shows yet.

James Dornan
Great crowd full of optimisim and energy today at the Scottish Parliament. Delighted to show them my support.


Glasgow's Councillors, MSPs and MPs

Earlier today I sent a copy of my 'We Are Family' - 'Are We Family?' blog post to all Glasgow Councillors, MSPs and MPs.

What do the politicians - Councillors, MSPs and MPs - have to say about the fact that some workers are being treated as 'second class' members of the Glasgow City Council Family? 

A quick look on Facebook and Twitter will show you that Glasgow's politicians have lots to say, on a daily basis, on all kinds of topical issues in their local constituencies and beyond.

So let's see what they have to say about the latest revelation about Glasgow pay arrangements for the second class members of the City Council 'Family'.

I've have re-published below contact email addresses for Glasgow's constituency MSPs and MPs and here is a link to the City Council which will allow readers to find an email address and contact details for their local councillors:

Keep me posted on any responses you receive - good, bad or indifferent - and bear in mind that you have every reason to expect help and support from your Councillors, MSPs and MPs.

So don't be fobbed off and ask what they are prepared to do on your behalf.  


Glasgow's MSPs and MPs (01/05/18)

Here are the email addresses for Glasgow's 15 constituency MSPs and MPs which readers can use to raise issues and ask for support in the ongoing fight for equal pay with Glasgow City Council.  

Now I would just ask politicians if they support equal pay, because they all say they do even when there is little visible sign of support - or 'close engagement' as some might say.

So I would raise specific issues or questions which put the politicians on the spot to explain where they stand on:
  1. Replacing the City Council's discredited WPBR pay scheme which has been condemned as 'unfit for purpose' by Scotland's highest civil court, the Court of Session
  2. Introducing a new Job Evaluation scheme which is open, transparent and commands the support of the workforce
  3. Ending the WPBR's 37 hour 'rule' which was designed to disadvantage the City Council's largely female workforce
  4. Apologising for the creation of Cordia which has treated thousands of Home Carers and other staff as second class citizens for years 
  5. Condemning the less favourable treatment of women workers in relation to overtime working and holiday pay
  6. Demanding openness and transparency over the introduction of the WPBR and the role played by the City Council's senior officials
If people keep me posted about how they get on, I'll share their experiences  on the blog site - good, bad or indifferent.

Glasgow MSPs (Scottish Parliament)

Glasgow MPs (Westminster Parliament)