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30th December 2018

2018 in review

AUOB Stirling

In a year dominated by the ongoing Brexit Omnishambles, it would be hard to write a review of the year without mentioning it. But being such a collosal catastro-fudge (it is hard to find suitable descriptives without inserting the odd sweary or two but I will gamely keep trying!) has it become, that it warrants a few paragraphs all of it’s own later on.

Universal Credit

Halt Universal Credit in Stirling
Stop Universal Credit
Cllr Scott Farmer
Stirling Council leader Scott Farmer

In any normal scenario the unfolding Universal Credit car crash, in which UK Government minister continue to look the other way lest be witness to the carnage they created, would be top of the heap as a recurring news item here on the site. Campaigning which started in mid 2017 continued in 2018 with the leader of Stirling Council, Scott Farmer writing to the then Work and Pensions Secretary, David Gauke asking for it to be halted. The revolving door of Cabinet positions in the UK Govt has spun so fast this year that many of the names mentioned in our posts may have moved several times since the original posts was made.

Bruce Crawford MSP also welcomed the money from the Scottish Welfare Fund to support vulnerable families, set up by the Scottish Government in its attempts to mitigate the problems caused by years of Tory Austerity and now the roll out of Universal Credit.

Mhairi Black MP
Mhairi Black – UK Parliament official portraits 2017 licence

In Westminster Mhari Black MP called out Tory hypocrisy on the impacts of UC noting that Stirling Council had had to call for an additional half a million pounds of funding to deal with issues arising from its catastrophic roll out.

For it’s part one of the mitigations taken by the council was to extend the amount of funding to the Footwear and Clothing Grant scheme partially funded by the Scottish Government in line with recommendations made by the Poverty Truth Commission.

Cllr Maureen Bennison
Cllr Maureen Bennison

Cllr Maureen Bennison tore a strip off Tory Council Group leader and Chief of Staff to MP Stephen Kerr, Neil Benny for admitting he was “proud of Universal Credit”. Councllor Bennison said “Tory Councillor Benny should have nothing to be proud of. Report after report from a number of organisations, including the UK Government’s own National Audit Office, have found that Universal Credit is a failing system which is flawed to the core. “

In November Bruce Crawford MSP reported on the statistics backing up the assertions continually made by the SNP, locally and nationally of the harm being done by Universal Credit with a 15% increase in foodbank use in one year since it was introduced, and 111 families in the Stirling area being hit particularly hard by benefit caps.

Universal Credit will continue to be an area the SNP in Stirling, in Holyrood and in Westminster will continue to push the UK Government hard on as we provide the real opposition to the Tories.

Equalities

Stephen Kerr fails to sign support to LGBTI rights
Steven Kerr has not signed LBGTI pledge despite several requests
Lee Robb
Deputy Convener Lee Robb

Equalities has also been an area of some focus this year with first, the Labour Group in Holyrood, appointing an anti- gay marriage campaigner , Elaine Smith MSP to the position. Branch Deputy Convener Lee Robb gave us his views in a comment piece. Also later in the year, City of Stirling SNP branch pointed out concerns too, that Tory MP for Stirling Stephen Kerr had not signed up to the Equality Network Pledge nor the TIE campaign, both prominent campaigns for equal rights for the LGBTI community.

This is in stark contrast to support for LGBTI rights shown by Bruce Crawford MSP and his backing of the TIE campaign.

Holyrood Business

Bruce Crawford MSP welcomed the 2018 Budget agreed in the first quarter of the year, noting that 70% would pay lower taxes and that it provides a pay rise for Public Sector workers. He declared that Scots got the best deal in the UK. It was also noted that there was strong support from the Scottish public on the plans.

Birkan, owner of Mint Patisserie
Bruce with Birkan, owner of Mint Patisserie in a Small Business Saturday campaign

Bruce also provided support to numerous campaigns throughout the year, including the In Town, Slow Down campaign, Childrens Mental Health week, Safer Internet, Slow Worm Conservation, Walk to Work Day, Small Business Saturday and the National Cycle Network.

It wasn’t all good news on the transport front though with Bruce getting involved in bringing pressure to bear on Scotrail over new timetables, and the electrification work by Network being undertaken that resulted in the closure of the bridge at Springkerse for 6 months though at least this was completed on time. There was also concern over proposals to change Glasgow airport flight paths.

Bruce Crawford MSP at Bannockburn RBS
Bruce outside RBS Bannockburn, which he campaigned to have retained.

Locally also was a campaign to prevent the closure of the Bannockburn RBS branch, which did result in a delay to the process but closure continued much against the will of many locals who use the bank branch regularly. The only branch of RBS is now in the centre of Stirling.

Bruce also campaigned and will continue to do so on the provision of better mobile phone – in particular 4G and broadband services to the Stirling area, in particular the rural areas of the constituency. Telecommunications is a reserved area to Westminster but the Scottish Government has been working to improve services through its Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband scheme. There was concern however in Stirling Council in the activities of the Tory chair of the Broadband Delivery Group which turned “rogue” making promises and offering funding that was not to hand.

Bruce Crawford
Bruce Crawford MSP winner of the Committee Politician of the Year 2018

Bruce also chaired the longest ever Finance and Constitution Committee meeting at Holyrood in an area that has been particularly busy due to the constitutional impact of Brexit. The work that Bruce did in this area saw him winning the Committee MSP of the year award in November.

In Other news….

Both the Council and Bruce raised objections to the Tory Government reneging on a promise to decontaminate the MoD land at Forthside and turn it over to the council at nil cost. The Forthside area also saw the closure of the MoD maintenace facility operated by Babcock DSG which resulted in about 50 redundancies while Stephen Kerr MP promised to “save jobs at Forthside”.

Stop the Tory Rape Clause

Further condemnation of Tory MP Stephen Kerr came from the SNP Council group with Maureen Bennison hitting out at his support for the Rape Clause. This is another Tory plan which is soon to be rolled out in the Stirling area and you can support us in our fight against the Rape Clause by signing our petition online.

Kerr was also the subject of much ire, in his support for taking devolved powers back to Westminster and talking down the performance of the Stirling shopping centre which has much higher utilisation than most.

And Finally

Stirling4Europe
Stirling4Europe with Alyn Smith MEP at the Smith Museum this year

Yes, you thought you had escaped it, or we had forgotten, but no, saving the best ( ?) until last, who could reflect on the year without mentioning the calamitous Brexit process which continues to overshadow all in UK politics. There has been little or no “Day job” done in Westminster for months as the “Strong and Stable” Theresa May runaway Brexit train continues to hurtle down the tracks out of control ,taking all in it’s path with it, and throwing the Cabinet member passengers aside with abandon, while simultaneously throwing the Scottish economy under a passing bus.

Steven Paterson
Former MP for Stirling Steven Paterson

Our very own former MP Steven Paterson has been commenting regularly for us on the Westminster Brexit carnage. A Government that owes its existence at all to the support of the Unionist extremists of the DUP and the clear lack of direction of the Labour Party who often might as well not turn up with their rate of abstentions on key votes.


Where Next?

Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon

Where will it all end, who knows? Scotland clearly voted to stay in the EU by a ratio of 2:1 so arguably a people’s vote proves nothing north of the border that we didn’t already know, that likely even more Scots want to stay in the EU and/or tear away from the UK and finally be a small, prosperous and successful Independent Country. Nicola Sturgeon has been by far the most rational and competent party leader during the entire Brexit mess and continues to play a key role is showing just how abysmally poorly led we are by the remote, Westminster “elite” cattle market.

AUOB

Without doubt the support for independence increases day by day, and we saw in Scotland this year a number of very high profile ( much as the Unionist media likes to ignore it) marches with All Under One Banner, ( AUOB are not affiliated with the SNP) which culminated in a huge march of over 100,000 in Edinburgh but which also saw as many as 20,000 marchers take to the streets of Stirling and rallying at Bannockburn.

AUOB Stirling
All Under One Banner, Stirling

Where will this lead? we can only hope that This Time Scotland is ready to step from under the shadows of Westminster domination and finally claim its rightful, fully independent nationhood on the world stage. It will take a lot of work and effort ( and funds? did we mention funds?… let’s not forget our great organisers and fund raisers, in particular Melanie Cowie and Sharon Gallacher who have done brilliant work this year) but the end results will be worth it. City of Stirling SNP Branch has campaigned relentlessly through 2018 and we have topped the branch activity boards for canvassing this year, a huge acheivement, well done to everyone who turned out and keeps turning out.

Our Political Education Officer Joy McNaughton has continued also to get lots of great guests and speakers ( get along to our Branch meetings to see and hear them) , and we hope to have regular “at the Smith” events like the recent one, Nation: Norway which was sold out, which was introduced by Lesley Riddoch. ( don’t mention the projector!)

Finally, thanks to everyone that’s contributed material to the website.
We want to thank our members and supporters for all their hard work, enjoy the seasonal break as it seems likely we will be back on the campaign trail from the off in 2019.

A Guid New Year from Convener Gerry Mclaughlin and all at City of Stirling SNP.