the Scottish Parliament
all back in Edinburgh
www.scottish.parliament.uk after a summer recess packed with events,
canvassing, the normal constituency work and a great sense of
anticipation as we move so close to the Referendum vote on 18 September.
There’s a sense of electricity in the air everywhere in Scotland, from
the pubs in Govan to the sea fishermen in Peterhead; the Highlands and
islands to the folk here in Hamilton. The referendum debate is in every
sitting room, café, train, bus, taxi. It’s exciting to see so many
people getting politically engaged.
doorsteps around my constituency, we’ve been talking to literally
thousands of people, listening and asking for their views. I’ve been out
pounding the pavements every one of the last 10 days and I’m hugely
encouraged by what I’m hearing from the ordinary residents.
released a few days back confirms what we’re finding anecdotally. Across
Central Scotland, the backing for Yes is now running two points ahead of
No. Of those most likely to vote, 44.8 per cent say they will be putting
their ‘X’ in the Yes box. 42.8 per cent say they will back No and 12.4
per cent remain undecided. And we still have some weeks of campaigning
can see the full Survation poll here:
The Commonwealth Games
The mantra, ‘People Make
Glasgow’ is everywhere in the city, on buildings, projected in lights,
at the different games venues, on posters, leaflets, T-shirts,
sweatshirts and every imaginable object.
The Games have
transformed the city, breathing a great blast of cultural, social,
linguistic and fashion features. Walking along one of the city’s main
shopping streets, Buchannan Street, it’s been tremendous to see and hear
all those different people.
Our local Hamilton
sporting heros – by the way, it was Hamilton, Canada, that hosted the
first Games in 1930 –Margaret Letham, Grant Sheldon and Kirsty Gilmour
really did us proud.
Gilmour, who won a silver medal and was the first Scottish woman to
reach a commonwealth badminton singles final, has been a participant in
the ‘go for gold’ scheme from Hamilton International Sports Trust.
Kirrsty Gilmour from Hamilton with her silver medal
Margaret Letham led her team of four to the semi-finals of the lawn
bowls fours and just missed out on a bronze medal, and 19 year old Grant
Sheldon finished 14th in the individual elite men’s triathlon at
Strathclyde Park. He also helped Scotland to a seventh-place finish in
the Mixed Team Relays.
As for the 72 countries
who fielded more than 1000 athletes, they had a great time enjoying our
renowned goodwill and friendliness as well as the superb facilities
constructed and used for the games.
Aussie star Kylie Minogue
captivated the crowd for the closing ceremony. Some 7.7 million people
watched the show around the world, 2.5 million more than the entire
population of Scotland in all! You can see the show here:
I’ve loved the games, the
buzz they’ve brought to Glasgow, and the legacy that now brings more
sporting opportunities to Scotland’s aspiring starts. As it all closed,
it was Dougie Maclean singing his familiar song, Caledonia, that really
sent out that message from Scotland to the world: this is a very
special. You can watch Dougie sing the song here:
fundamental commitment by this SNP Government is that independence means
the end of Trident nuclear weapons in the backyard of Scotland’s largest
It was good to see the
motion reinforcing this position put to the Scottish Parliament earlier
this week. You can watch the motion put forward by Transport and
Veterans Minister, Keith Brown, followed by the full debate. You’ll find
me about half an hour in:
Trident is an assault on Scotland. The Scottish Government has no
control over its presence whatsoever. The USA and Westminster between
them manage these weapons of mass destruction. Only with independence
can we say: “No more. Get them away from our city and our people. We
want no part of nuclear weapons, of the power to wreck the globe, or of
the £4 billion cost over the next few years.”
I want the secret night-time convoys of nuclear warheads that pass along
the main motorways and carry with them a multitude of serious risks. In
the last five years, there have been 70 safety lapses. Vehicles have got
lost, a fuse box failed, fuel has leaked, brakes have overheated, alarms
have malfunctioned. The gun flap of a vehicle “opened inadvertently.”
Westminster’s PM, David Cameron, doesn’t want these weapons in his own
backyard either and I sincerely hope he doesn’t move them there. But he
thinks it’s fine for them to sit in Glasgow’s backyard. Could that have
anything to do with the fact that the Conservative Party doesn’t win too
many votes in Glasgow anyway? In fact, they have just one MP in the
whole of Scotland, out of a total of 59 members.
Ahead of the debate,
former Mayor of Hiroshima Tadatoshi Akiba said that the removal of
Trident after a Yes vote would be a major boost to the campaign for
nuclear disarmament across the world – saying that: “your successful
effort in Scotland would tell them and the world that citizens round the
world have won this historic and monumental and humanitarian battle over
Scotland’s chance to make
a powerful statement on nuclear weapons was also highlighted by Ward
Wilson, Director of the Rethinking Nuclear Weapons Project. Mr Wilson
has said that Scotland’s rejection of nuclear weapons “will have an
enormous and beneficial impact on the safety of civilisation.”
Mr Wilson also said that:
“at key moments, small nations can have a profound and powerful impact
on world conversations. They can clear away the dust and cobwebs of the
past. This is one of the moments.”
This came after prominent
peace campaigner Bruce Kent, Vice-President of the Campaign for Nuclear
Disarmament, backed a Yes vote as it “would lead to the removal of
immoral and illegal Trident from Faslane and Scotland”.
In fact, most of the
Scottish Parliament’s MSPs back the removal of Trident but politics
being what it is, the opposition felt compelled to vote against the
Government even though they had backed removal four years ago. We won
the vote with a comfortable majority but it continues to depress me that
politicians will vote against what they believe in just to score a point
against the other side.
Nuclear weapons don’t
stop wars. We’ve seen than sadly and repeatedly everywhere from Vietnam
to Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Israel, Palestine. No, wars are created by
extremists of different kinds, misguided by a fanaticism that sees them
reach some kind of spiritual perfection. Think 9/11. Think Taliban,
ISIS, Sunni and Sh’ite. These are not wars about nuclear weapons. These
are wars about terrorism, religious fanaticism and internal civil
tensions. Having the power to obliterate half the world doesn’t impact
on those wars.
suppose we shouldn’t be surprised by political expediency. It’s what
political groups do – they back the position that most hurts the
opposition, regardless of whether that’s actually the morally right
position to take.
I’ve already said above, Labour voting against the removal of Trident is
a perfect example of this. They don’t want Trident either – but they
aren’t prepared to back the Scottish Government committed to removing
it. Is that intelligent, joined-up thinking? Doesn’t seem like it to me.
We agree in the principle – No to Trident – but we can’t both back the
same motion. Now that’s silly politics.
Scottish Government has been very active and determined about giving the
people who work here not just a so-called ‘minimum wage’ but in fact a
‘living wage.’ That is one that does what it says: provides a working
person with enough money to live on.
Minimum Wage, introduced in April 1999 at £3.60 an hour. It now sits at
£6.30 an hour providing you are over 21. It hasn’t kept up with
inflation. The Living Wage, on the other hand, sits at £7.65 per hour –
in other words, some £1.35 hour higher than the minimum. If you
calculate that out across a month, say, that could mean a pay
improvement of about £270.
Minister Alex Salmond wants to make that Living Wage the standard in
Scotland. Yes, he meets resistance from some businesses but we believe
that our workers are worth backing and that’s just what we’ve been
doing. We can only seek the Living Wage from the public sector – and
we’re assessing our potential contractors with that in mind – but we
want the private sector to follow our lead.
what we’re doing is initiating a fair pay commission. We’ve already
implemented the living wage in all the government departments over which
we have control – but we can’t dictate what the private sector decides
was with the same depressing sense of how political party is more
important than the right policy – or even, actually, the facts – when
South Lanarkshire Deputy Council Leader, Jackie Burns (Labour), decided
to have a go at me in the local newspaper.
Mr Burns doesn’t seem to have grasped is, well, European Law. I suggest
he reads up a bit on it. It may be rather dry but it’s a very necessary
part of ensuring that we comply with that broader EU legislation. Our
policy may be in breach of European Law and we need to check that out
first. That’s sensible research.
be explaining all that to him, hopefully in the next edition of the
As Deputy First Minister,
Nicola Sturgeon, explained: "We're the first Scottish government to
adopt the living wage for all of our employers and we encourage all
other employers, public private, third sector, to pay their staff the