another of Westminster’s moves to diminish still further the living
standards of the poorest and most vulnerable, Chancellor George Osborne
has surpassed himself. He wants to charge those whose benefits have been
stopped to be able to lodge an appeal. The Guardian was the first
newspaper to reveal the story:
Chancellor, George Osborne
Imagine your reaction. You are suddenly informed that you have been
stripped of your benefits. You will no longer receive a benefit such as
the Disability Living Allowance which you have relied upon for many
years to make ends meet. This money will have been crucial for you to
meet special costs associated with your disability needs and to allow
you to stay independent.
“Well,” you think, “I’ll appeal against this decision. Surely an
independent judge will see that my position hasn’t changed; that I need
this money as much as I have ever done? There is universal free access
to justice in this country, isn’t there?”
for much longer it would seem. On top of having introduced a charge of
£250 to begin an Employment Tribunal if you feel you’ve been wrongly
dismissed from your job, you may have to pay another £250 to appeal a
decision that stops your benefit.
past year in the UK, nearly 900,000 people have had their benefits
stopped. We’re not talking money to go partying. We’re talking the funds
to heat a home and buy food.
why there is a 170% rise in the number of people in the UK now using
food banks to survive in the last 12 months. The figure has leapt from
128,697 to 346,992. You can’t just drift into a food bank and ask for
items. You have to prove your legitimacy as a recipient first so these
are people, a third of them children, who really need food urgently and
on an ongoing basis. Scotland’s biggest food bank has now run out of
food as the number of poverty-stricken Scots reaches its highest level
Only with independence
can Scotland ensure that we have the powers we need to guarantee that
our most vulnerable families and groups are protected. That this kind of
situation exists in the 21st century in a modern, developed country is
outrageous and profoundly shocking. With Westminster in power, the
situation is going to get worse and worse here in Scotland.
is only one democratic answer to this Westminster-imposed agenda – one
that PM David Cameron describes as a ‘moral crusade’ incidentally – and
that, of course, is a vote for independence.
Scotland generates massive wealth and puts more than its fair share into
the London Treasury but we do not reap the rewards. Instead our most
disadvantaged people are facing the brunt of government cuts through
unfair measures such as this.
Speaking of hypocrisy
will probably be aware of the News International/phone hacking scandal
and the court case going on at the Old Bailey in London. We get the news
from the trial on a daily basis. The latest news is that former Prime
Minister Tony Blair had secretly advised the then editor of Rupert
Murdoch’s News of the World, Rebekah Brooks, to forget about the phone
hacking that had gone on during her watch: “It’ll all pass. Take some
can see the report here:
Former UK Prime Minister,
six days before Ms Brooks was arrested, Mr. Blair was advising her to
set up her own inquiry, likening it to a ‘Hutton-style’ approach. The
Hutton inquiry, you may remember, was the one that looked into the
doctoring of the weapons of mass destruction document issued by 10
Downing Street during Blair’s own watch. It culminated in the tragic
death, allegedly by suicide, of bioweapons expert Dr David Kelly. The
report was widely interpreted as a complete whitewash of the whole
sordid affair and indeed one UK national newspaper famously produced a
white full front page headed WHITEWASH?
Media perception of the
investigation commissioned by Tony Blair
delighted to be able to say that there are a lot of wonderful, inspiring
moments in this job.
most of you will know, Glasgow is this year hosting the Commonwealth
Games this summer and there is huge excitement in the run-up to the
visit by 6,500 athletes selected by 70 organisations. Those athletes
will participate in 17 different sports.
you’ll work out that means a lot of bedrooms and the Athletes’ Village
in Glasgow’s East End is near completion. The village is built to low
carbon and energy efficient criteria and the buildings will undergo a
refit after the Games to convert the athletes’ accommodation into 700
homes and flats for people to live in.
Glasgow Commonwealth Games organisation is running a competition for
primary school children. In each of the athletes’ bedrooms there will be
a piece of artwork selected from the entries offered by each school in
was with some trepidation as well as delight that I went off to judge
which of the 49 pictures from Larkhall’s Robert Smillie Memorial Primary
School should be selected for the next round of judging.
is one of the happiest schools I’ve ever known. Built a few years ago,
it has a fantastic atmosphere and brilliant teachers. The head teacher
is Jean Devlin, a really inspired principal who emphasises every child’s
unique contribution while encouraging collaborative efforts and
creativity alongside the core subjects. Her emphasis on community
exchange is central to the school’s ethos.
Alongside her team of teachers, Robert Smillie primary school is
achieving what the best schools manage. It pays tribute to its own
history but looks ahead and keeps up with technology too. Find out more
about the school here:
So here are all these
young children in front of me, their faces full of anticipation, and out
of the 49 of their offerings I somehow have to pick eight! Well, their
teacher allows me to have the maximum of 10 because it’s so difficult.
Every contribution has
been worked carefully and thought about in detail. There are certain
restrictions: each picture must convey just one of the 17 sports and
must use only crayon, pencils and pen.
For these children,
that’s no boundary and their imaginations have clearly been busy. They
have also learned about different art techniques and have worked to help
I make my choices and we
tell the children. It’s such a mixture of delight and anguish but
everyone claps and cheers for every winner. To me, none of them are
losers. They are all great winners and I hope that Robert Smillie
Memorial Primary manages to land one of its great works onto an
athlete’s bedroom wall during the games!
The 10 children from Robert Smillie Memorial
Primary School whose pictures will go through to the next round of
judging – but there are no losers here