Two Broughton High School pupils will this week get the chance to challenge some of the countries political heavyweight when BBC Question Time is broadcast from Edinburgh at 22.35 on BBC 1 on Thursday evening. This week’s question time is only open to young people aged sixteen to eighteen years old and Broughton pupils Daniel McIvor and Tom Bagshaw, son of Green councillor Nigel, were both keen to get on the show.
Seventeen year-old Tom said:- “When the opportunity came up I was keen to get on the show, I had to complete an application form and this was followed by a telephone interview and I was happy to get a place”.
When asked about his political allegiances Tom was quick to set himself apart. He said “I usually try to distance myself from my dad’s politics. But I am interested to ask the panel questions about the difference in direction between The Scottish Government and the Government at Westminster and how the Scottish vote is often insignificant as for the past thirty years the Scottish vote has made no odds at the Westminster elections and if that’s the case how important is independence”.
Tom is also looking forward to meeting the panel which includes Ruth Davidson, Angus Robertson and controversial MP George Galloway.
Tune in on Thursday night to see how Tom gets on.
Details of the programme can be found on the BBC website.
Scottish Chambers of Commerce have this week launched a survey to members of Chambers of Commerce in Scotland to identify what information the business community is looking for in the lead up to the referendum on Scottish independence – and where or who they are looking to find it from. Working in partnership with eminent economist Professor David Bell of Stirling University, the survey aims to establish a comprehensive picture of information needs across the Scottish business community.
Scottish Chambers of Commerce Chief Executive, Liz Cameron, said:-“The current debate on Scotland’s constitutional future is well underway and there are many voices contributing to the discussions, including the Chambers network. This study aims to capture what the business community in Scotland still needs to know in the lead up to the referendum next year.
“It is vital that the Scottish constitutional debate recognises the reality of the economic context. This debate is not taking place in a vacuum; issues for business before and beyond 2014 need to be considered to encourage economic prosperity for Scotland
“Businesses need facts. Media and politicians must recognise the importance of addressing business priorities and concerns, so that they can make a judgement about which course is best for business growth.
“The survey results will be published and presented to the media and political campaigners to make sure they are fully aware of the issues on which the business community is seeking their engagement. In addition, we at Scottish Chambers of Commerce will also use the survey to shape our work in the lead up to the referendum, ensuring that activity is responding to our members’ needs.”
Scottish Chambers of Commerce are a politically neutral organisation, representing business interests across Scotland.
THE YES Scotland campaign’s use of social media will be under the spotlight at the next Media Monday lecture at Edinburgh Napier University.
The group’s Head of Digital, Stewart Kirkpatrick, (formerly the founding editor of news website Caledonian Mercury) will talk about the key role online platforms have to play in the run-up to the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence, at an event at Edinburgh Napier University.
Kirkpatrick is well-known for his digital expertise. Under his leadership as editor of Scotsman.com, the site became one of Google’s top sources for news. He went on to launch the award-winning online paper, the Caledonian Mercury, before joining YES Scotland in August last year.
The online journalist will speak at the University’s public lecture series on Monday 18th March 2013.
The event takes place at the university’s Merchiston Campus, 1pm-2pm in Room B2 and is free and open to the public.
The University of Edinburgh has launched a new audio series called The Big Idea.
Bringing together Edinburgh’s brightest minds to discuss topical and though-provoking issues, the podcast’s launch show offers experts the chance to discuss next year’s referendum on Scottish independence.
During the show, academics will seek to answer questions about whether the wording of a referendum question can change people’s minds, what the main events of 2013 will be in shaping the independence debate, and whether Scotland will be better off as part of the United Kingdom or as an independent nation.
The Big Idea Podcast is available to download now for free from iTunes and iTunes U:
Taking part in this month’s panel are Dr Nicola McEwen, director of public policy at the Academy of Government, Dr Simon Clark, head of the School of Economics, Professor Stephen Tierney, director of the Edinburgh Centre for Constitutional Law, and Professor Ewen Cameron, the Sir William Fraser chair of Scottish History.
Edinburgh residents and politicians continue to protest about government cuts and benefit reassessments which could lead to 3.5 million disabled people losing over £9.2 billion in benefits.
A Public Meeting is being held at Portobello Town Hall on Friday 7 September 2012 at 7.30pm to consider the effects of The Welfare Reform Act. The meeting is open to everyone who thinks it is important to tackle these issues and who do not want to stand by while people suffer.
‘A dramatic restructuring of our welfare state’ is how Sheila Gilmore, Labour MP for Edinburgh East, describes the coalition government’s Welfare Reform Act, passed in March of this year. Ms Gilmore is one of the speakers at what is expected to be a widely attended public meeting on the social effects of the Act.
The MP stressed: ‘What is happening in our social security system is not just “more spending cuts”. Throughout all the debates in parliament it was clear the government want a “welfare” system which provides only for those in the greatest need, not a social security system to which all contribute and all can rely on in times of unemployment, illness or disability.
‘We need to be out there restating the importance and the need for a comprehensive system of social provision’, she added.
Councillor Norman Work, SNP group spokesperson on Health, Social Care and Housing, is also speaking at the meeting. He said: ‘I have concerns that the poorest, most vulnerable and weakest in our society will suffer as a result of the welfare reforms being driven by a Westminster government that Scotland did not vote for. Reforms to housing benefit could lead to homelessness, fuel poverty and mental health problems. Councils will have to pick up the pieces with reduced budgets and services will suffer as a result.’
Sasha Callaghan of Disability History, who will also join the platform, commented: ‘The Welfare Reform Act is going to take us back to the days of the Poor Law. Once again it is a crime to be on a low income and the very poorest are being expected to pay for the mistakes of a failed banking system.’
The meeting is being organised by East Edinburgh Save Our Services in response to deep public concern and anger about the implications of the Act. This local residents’ group was at the forefront of the recent campaign to expose and defeat Edinburgh City Council’s privatisation plans.
For further information: East Edinburgh Save Our Services: www.
Isimeli Baleiwai faces deportation, and separation from his wife and children because he is not a British citizen.
13 years service in the British army with the Edinburgh-headquartered Royal Regiment of Scotland has not entitled him to the citizenship promised to Commonwealth soldiers because of a bureaucratic loophole. Baleiwai is the subject of an online Meadowbank-based campaign to have himself and other ex-soldiers recognised as citizens, which was launched this week.
Lance Corporal Isimeli Baleiwai fought on behalf of Britain’s interests as part of the Royal Regiment of Scotland and the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. He served the Queen, paid taxes and national insurance on his earnings and risked his life on the battlefields of Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan during his 13 years in the British army. He is now afflicted with post-traumatic stress disorder from his tour in Afghanistan, but with his uniform off and his service behind him, Baleiwai is no longer entitled to live, work or claim benefits in Britain and must leave the country by 9 August 2012.
In 2010 another soldier picked a fight with him, which is said to have lasted but a minute and the summary hearing in front of his commanding officer lasted ten. The former soldier says he had no legal representation and no witnesses were called. Baleiwai was told he had broken the other man’s jaw, and that five fellow soldiers would attest to his acting in self-defence. Baleiwai accepted his punishment, thinking the small incident would be a minor mark on his record, but under new Home Office rules, any punishments incurred during military service are considered equivalent to a criminal record, and Baleiwai is now considered to be a person “not of good character” by the Borders Agency.
Baleiwai’s case is being used as an example of how the new rules are failing Britain’s Commonwealth soldiers. The campaign to let him stay in Britain with his family is quickly gathering place, with 11,000 signatures on the petition within a week. Baleiwai is gaining some high-profile supporters, including comedian Eddie Izzard.
A scathing report from members of the Home Affairs committee today has said there is a backlog of 275,000 immigrants who should be removed from the country, an estimated 4,000 of whom are criminals and 57 are convicted criminals released from prison and not yet deported. Baleiwai is one of this number. His wife and two children hold UK passports, but he does not.
The Sunday Telegraph exposes the loophole of which Baleiwai claims he is a victim. Commonwealth soldiers recruited to bolster British army numbers were promised British citizenship after four years service, but under new rules, military punishments are considered equal to a criminal record, negating a soldier’s right to citizenship. Veterans groups have criticised this change to regulations, and report “dozens” of cases like Baleiwai’s every month.
If you would like to support the campaign to help Isimeli Baleiwai and others like him, follow letbaleiwaistay on Twitter.
Equality campaigners lobbying for gay marriage and equality in society yesterday took their petition to Holyrood. There, in front of the parliament building, they held a staged ceremony for Jay and Ruth Richards-Hill with supporters looking on. Speaking afterwards, the couple said they believed that it was wrong for them to be able to be married in Cape Town, but that the marriage is not recognised when they stepped off the plane in Edinburgh.
Adding that equality cuts both ways, they said that The Scottish Government should not be swayed by one religion but all voices.
The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, who play a part in educating the LGBT community in safe sex, said that it was about equality recognition. They maintained that “it is crazy that if someone wants to change their gender and is married, they must get divorced first before remarrying.”
The measures currently before the Scottish Government to introduce gay marriage have broad support, with a ratio of 8 to 1 MSPs promising to vote for it. Polls suggest a high percentage of the Scottish people are also in favour, although the results of the Scottish Government consultation will not be released until later in the month.
Tom French, Policy Co-ordinator of the Equality Network, said that this was an important time for the Scottish Cabinet about to make a decision. He explained the drive to put together a petition containing 10,000 signatures and also 25,000 signed postcards.
Photos by Thomas Haywood Photography
SNP AND GREENS WELCOME £1.8M FOR GREEN BUSES
A £1.8million investment that will see a further 26 low carbon vehicles added to the Scottish bus fleet including Lothian Buses has been welcomed by an Edinburgh MSP.
Other firms include Henderson Travel, National Express Dundee, MacEwen’s Coach Services and Deveron Coaches Ltd who will all benefit from the cash as successful bidders from the second round of the Scottish Government’s Green Bus Fund.
“This is fantastic news that underlines the SNP’s commitment to green travel. This latest round of funding, which comes in the backdrop of huge cuts to our budget from Westminster, shows the Scottish Government’s dedication to ensuring our bus industry gets the support it needs. This will also help us reach our target of reducing carbon emissions by 42 per cent by 2020 and cuts fuel costs for the bus industry.
These vehicles are saving companies huge amounts of money on fuel prices, with Lothian Buses saying they increase fuel efficiency by over 50%. Last year the Scottish Government funded 48 new low carbon buses and today we have backed a further 26. I’m also pleased to see many of the buses will be manufactured at Alexander Dennis in Falkirk, supporting Scottish business. Low-carbon buses produce 30% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than a current diesel bus of the same capacity. This latest round is building on the good work already made in helping bus companies, passengers and the environment.”
Edinburgh Greens have also welcomed the news of further hybrid vehicles for Lothian Buses, but say that The Scottish Government money must be seen in the context of their significant cuts to bus funding overall.
The Greens estimate that after this second round of funding from the Green Bus Fund, around 74 of Scotland’s 5400 buses will be hybrids.
“The number 10 hybrids have been very popular and I congratulate Lothian Buses on securing another ten green buses for the city. This is good news for cutting climate-changing pollution and good news for air quality on our busy streets.
“Buses have been a very low priority for the SNP Government and this money needs to be seen in the context of cuts to their funding of bus services. We need a far more ambitious approach if we are going to make our public transport system both greener and more affordable.”
These flats are residential properties rented out for a short period of time – often to large groups such as stag and hen parties over weekends.
This has caused an unbearable level of stress for residents of neighbouring properties who have frequently reported extreme cases of noise disruption, concerns over safety and damage to common property .
In March last year, following a long-running campaign which I supported with local residents, The Scottish Government introduced new rules allowing landlords to be served with anti-social behaviour notices. However, incidents continue to occur while the Council and Police put systems in place to deal with complaints and to enforce the order.
Residents across the city affected by party flats are growing increasingly exasperated at the lack of regulation of these businesses and in particular the fact that operators do not need to seek planning permission to use a residential flat for a commercial venture.
Time and again, the Council have told me that they don’t consider party flats to constitute a change of use to a property, and have cited planning regulations and case law to back up that view.
However, I’ve been made aware that Glasgow City Council have introduced regulations which could hold the key to addressing Edinburgh’s problem. It is clear from Glasgow’s policy that there is scope within existing regulations to tackle this issue.
Glasgow’s policy aims to ensure that residents within a block are not adversely affected by the introduction of flats used principally as a form of short-term accommodation. It does so by creating a presumption against granting planning permission for a change of use to short-stay accommodation, within existing blocks of residential flats.
The policy highlights problems of noise, over-crowding and lack of care for common areas as justification for the presumption against permission – precisely the problems people in Edinburgh are being forced to live with.
I know councillors are sympathetic towards the plight of residents and I want to turn that to action by following Glasgow’s example. I have lodged a motion in Parliament which I hope will be debated to highlight this important issue.
By requiring operators to seek planning permission, residents would be given the opportunity to have their say on how these businesses impact on their day to day lives.
I have written to the Council to ask them to look at the Glasgow policy and to ask them to consider following its example to protect residents from party flats.
Sarah Boyack is Labour MSP for Lothians.
The motion which she lodged in Parliament read as follows:-
That the Parliament expresses concern at what it believes are the continued problems experienced by Edinburgh residents in relation to party flats; understands that such flats are commonly let to large groups over weekends and that this causes considerable disruption to residents in terms of noise, antisocial behaviour and damage to common areas; further understands that the City of Edinburgh Council’s position is that the operation of a party flat does not constitute a change of use for a residential property and that, as a result, providers are not required to seek planning permission for their activity; notes that Glasgow City Council, under its City Plan 2, has a provision related specifically to this type of property, which states that planning permission will not be granted for a change of use to short-stay serviced apartments in an existing block of flats where it would result in mixed use; believes that Glasgow has set a good example in order to protect residents from the acute problems that can be associated with party flats, and notes that the Antisocial Behaviour Notices (Houses Used for Holiday Purposes) Order 2011 gives local authorities the power to issue antisocial behaviour notices to landlords of party flats where persistent problems have occurred but that, despite this, issues continue to be experienced by residents in Edinburgh.
Labour’s credibility is severely in question after the party MPs abstained in a vote, forced by the SNP and Plaid Cymru, opposing Tory plans to cut the top rate of tax for the highest earners, according to the SNP.
The party say that despite vocal opposition and several pledges from shadow chancellor Ed Balls to vote against the measure, in an embarrassing no-show Labour MPs failed to vote against the measure in the Commons. The Government won the vote on the 45p rate by 319 to 22, a majority of 297.
All four Edinburgh Labour MPs: Sheila Gilmore, Mark Lazarowicz, Ian Murray and even former chancellor Alistair Darling failed to turn up to vote against the millionaire’s tax cut on Monday evening.
“After claiming they opposed the Tories tax cut for millionaires and tax hike for pensioners, Labour’s MPs have gone AWOL as soon as a vote is called.
“Since the Budget, Ed Balls has been in and out of television studios blustering about the Chancellor’s tax plans and promising to oppose them – but at the first opportunity to vote against this unfair Tory plan and Labour abstain. Edinburgh Labour MPs are letting the Tories off the hook. Yet again they have put their tribal dislike of the SNP ahead of the interests of the people they are supposed to represent.
“While Labour capitulate, the SNP will keep working for a better way than the Tories’ unfair Budget, which punishes pensioners and public sector workers and does nothing to deliver jobs and recovery.
“This was not a budget for Scotland and is proof of the urgent need for Scotland to have control over our own finances with independence.”
But when The Reporter contacted one of the Edinburgh MPs mentioned, Ian Murray MP for Edinburgh South, it seems that this is not what actually happened yesterday.
Ian Murray said:-“This is typical from the SNP. They were absent from the whole of the budget debate and made no contribution whatsoever, whilst Scottish Labour MPs defended Scotland by expressing their strong views against the millionaires tax cut.
“Former Chancellor Alistair Darling made a significant contribution to that debate. The SNP turned up at the very last minute and proposed a vote on all personal allowances, including the 20p and 40p rates. There was no procedural mechanism to vote against a specific measure like the 50p tax rate last night. For avoidance of doubt, Labour voted against the whole Budget.
“But there was no opportunity to have a vote specifically on 50p tax cut. Scottish Labour will ensure there are amendments made in the Finance Bill where it is possible to place amendments, and vote against. The SNP really need to start standing up for their constituents and Scotland against this Tory Government, rather than this constant politics of grievance and political games. They are plain wrong.”