Well, a bit of an epic branch meeting last night, with a packed schedule and a very well attended Golden Lion Hotel meeting room.
Branch business was dealt with earlier than usual due to the busy schedule for the evening. We had reports from Jim Thomson from the council group perspective, and Steven Paterson gave us an update from Westminster. Work for the forthcoming council bi-election in Stirling East was discussed and candidate nominations discussed. Members wishing to know the full details are asked to contact the Branch Convener or Secretary via our contact us page.
Our first guest of the evening was Jamie Szymkowiak from the cross party one in five group, promoting inclusion of disabled people in political life. Jamie got the attention of the assembled branch when he announced he was a member of Scottish Labour….you could have heard a pin drop……but he was joking!! He did say however that he visits branches of the Conservative and Labour Party in Scotland in his campaigning for one in five. ( We wondered what it must be like talking to so many empty rooms 🙂 )
It is estimated that 1 in 5, perhaps as many as 1 in 4 if people out with the working population are factored in, harbour some form of disability. This may be minor, impacting their mobility in some small way ( less able to walk a distance for example), invisible conditions like mental health issues, through to severe, requiring round the clock support. For such a large proportion of the population, in political circles these groups are poorly represented. Stigma associated with disability are thought to discourage many from openly declaring their disability in public life. In Westminster there are only 4 members openly declared to be disabled in some way though it is thought there may be more in actuality. The 1 in 5 campaign aims to knock down the barriers of stigma and bring inclusion of the disabled into the political sphere. This is being done at the grassroots and branches like ours here in Stirling are being encouraged to open up positions on the executive to the disabled, while accepting for example that disabilities may limit the full range of activities that a position holder may be able to take part in. This in turn may lead the branch to offer a role sharing an executive position. In fact Stirling are ahead of the curve here as we already have the equalities and disabilities position shared! Accessibility to branch meetings and activities, and making branch communications available in formats that assist those with difficulties, Braille for instance, or captioned video where this media is used.
Jamie asked the branch if we would sign up to the charter of the 1 in 5 group and of course we did!
Following Jamie we had a presentation from Professor Andrew Watterson who is a researcher in Public Health at Stirling University. Prof. Watterson spent an informative 25 minutes explaining the history of public health issues surrounding unconventional oil and gas extraction, activities which date back to the 1930’s in the central belt of Scotland. Some of the then considered safe limits to exposure to certain chemicals and compounds both extracted from the earth, and used to gain access to the resources, have with hind sight been proven to be many thousand’s if not millions of times too lenient and as long as 25 years passed before the health issues in workers were becoming apparent. Prof. Watterson was making the argument that self regulation and reporting of the industry around unconventional resource extraction, is not good enough, and that more rigorous independent studies are needed over a longer time frame before any body, governmental or industrial, can make the claim that the technology used and its after effects can be fully understood and risks quantified. The cost to public health networks might massively out weigh the national or community benefits of such extraction processes. He ended his presentation with the questions that need to be asked of governmental bodies in assessing fracking and it’s related industries before the current moratorium can be lifted in Scotland.
Prof. Watterson was followed with another fracking related presentation by CCoF ( Concerned Communities of Falkirk) a campaign group opposed to unconventional resource extraction from the central belt, which in particular looks to be targetting the Falkirk/Alloa/Bannockburn area as it’s first exploration/recovery phase.
The speakers were Maria Montinaro and Carol Anderson and they brought with them lots of resources to back up their arguments to oppose unconventional recovery near populated areas and also impressed upon the branch the number and density of the drilling sites in the area. An exploration/recovery licence covers an area 6 miles by 6 miles and would consist of 10 football pitch sized areas which would contain up to ten well heads. ( If I have got this wrong please feel free to email me and correct me!). Studies concluded independently, requested of Government, that drilling be forbidden within 2000metres of any dwelling house as a public health risk avoidance measure based on the experiences from the USof A where fracking has been used for several years. However recommendations made by the oil recovery firms themselves, primarily DART Energy and INEOS in this case, have settled on 400metres, and even then purely on grounds of noise pollution and apparently taking no notice of the health issues surrounding the chemicals and methods employed. Add to this the risks to the environment from these substances both going in and leaching out over time ( even after the well is finished with ) and you have a toxic mix ( pun intended).
Some leaflets on the CCoF campaign and on the less widely known UCG ( Underground Coal Gasification) projects have been attached here for download.
The Branch thanks all our guests for attending and making an informative and interesting night with much to consider.