Not all doom and gloom
Last Wednesday’s budget was good news for millionaires (which includes most of
Cameron’s cabinet), and bad news for the millions of us who will be paying more so
that they can pay less.
It was of course pure coincidence that the budget minimised the attention given
to the Scottish Government’s announcements on dodgy waiting list figures and
climbdowns on the Scotland Bill and the timetable for the Curriculum of Excellence.
After that, I was glad that Thursday brought some good news. Barry White of
the Scottish Futures Trust phoned to say that the SFT would be meeting North
Lanarkshire Council soon, and that he was optimistic that the council proposals for
Clyde Valley High School could see construction brought forward by up to eighteen
months, with completion in 2014/15 rather than 2016.
This follows a meeting that I set up last year between the council, the SFT, Cabinet
Secretary Mike Russell and myself, at which I presented Mr Russell with a petition
organised by Sam Love and Frank McKay, and signed by thousands of constituents.
It looks like it had the desired effect, so a big thank you to everyone who signed – it’s
nice to know that your voice has been heard.
Buoyed by that news, I spoke in the chamber, calling for a rethink on the Remploy
When the Minister’s opening statement set the tone of the debate as one of
consensus, looking for solutions, I was disappointed that many of his own
backbenchers chose to speak about the constitution and other issues that had little
relevance to the current situation.
Although the chances of reversing the UK Government’s slash and burn policy are
not great, supporters are rallying and there are some glimpses of light visible through
North Lanarkshire Council has been quick to consider extending its own supported
employment, and others have suggested that there is scope for Remploy workers to
set up social enterprises and community cooperatives.
In my speech, I called for two things that could help make these options more viable.
First, I believe that the physical assets – equipment, land and buildings – should be
given to the council or a social enterprise if they are willing to take on the operation.
Second, I believe that since part of the problem has been lack of orders, there
should be greater use of Article 19 of the EU public procurement rules, which allows
contracts to be given to companies with a majority of disabled workers.
This would have the added advantage of keeping the money in the Scottish
economy, in contrast to a certain steel contract!