31 Dec 2010

As we look back at 2010 and forward to 2011, many of us have mixed feelings about both. I myself started the year as the MP for Glasgow East which was a fantastic job and a tremendous privilege. Then it was disappointing to lose the election in May. Since then I have enjoyed volunteering with Parkhead Citizens Advice Bureau and with Glasgow City Mission. Both CAB and GCM do a tremendous job, helping people in different ways. I intend to continue working with them until at least the end of March.

So what will 2011 bring? We all have hopes and perhaps also some of us have fears. I myself am hoping to be elected to the Scottish Parliament in May. The SNP Government has had a good track record since 2007 with more police on the streets, more cleaners in the hospitals, frozen council tax, and reduced prescription charges all delivered. Of course a minority government is always going to face defeats, such as when Labour and the Tories joined up to push through the Edinburgh tram scheme. That tram system has turned out to be a mess and a muddle; and it has meant there was not enough money left for the Glasgow Airport Rail Link (GARL). Thanks very much, Labour, for putting Edinburgh ahead of Glasgow… I don’t think!

Glasgow East and Shettleston constituencies seem to have benefitted disproportionately from the SNP Government. With the M74 completion expected in 2011, the Commonwealth Games buildings now clearly visible, and the new rail link direct from our six stations to Edinburgh, we have certainly benefitted from more than our fair share of capital projects. On top of that, of course, Glasgow continues to be funded better per head by the SNP than any other mainland authority.

But what surprises may be in store for us (good or bad) that we are not expecting? I face uncertainty about a job and so do many reading this. Should we fear the future? I believe we can face 2011 with hope. Even if there are difficult times ahead, there will be opportunities to find answers, help our neighbours, and reconsider what are the priorities in life.

With all good wishes for the New Year.


24 Dec 2010

At this time of year it is easy to get caught up in all the things that need to be done – shopping, sending cards, preparing meals, nights out, cleaning the flat (my brother and his wife are coming to stay!), etc, etc. Yet as for all birthdays, it is good to spend time with the person whose birthday it actually is.

Presumably, like other people when they celebrate their birthday, Jesus likes to have friends and relations spending time with him. I guess he is disappointed when they are too busy and forget about him, even on Christmas Day itself.

And I confess that I can be guilty of all this too. It’s great to spend time with my family and my friends and even to get time on my own; but it’s all too easy for me to let Jesus himself get squeezed out.

Last Sunday (19th December) was a great opportunity to attend some of the many church services around the east end of Glasgow. First I was at St Francis of Assisi in Baillieston, then Parkhead Congregational, and finally Victoria Tollcross. That mix seemed appropriate as our many churches in the area can be divided roughly one-third Church of Scotland, one-third Catholic, and one-third others.

And are all these churches really so different from each other? Certainly the style varies a bit between them. But the actual message was almost exactly the same in each one: Jesus is God, he came down to earth and was born of the Virgin Mary, he later went on to die on the cross for our sins, rose back to life, and will one day return and everyone will see Him. Best of all, we can have a friendship with him right here and now. That message was present in all the churches.

So my prayer is that you and your family have a tremendous time at Christmas… and that you will also enjoy the friendship of Jesus at this his birthday time.


18 Dec 2010

News that Glasgow is again to be the best funded mainland local authority is again welcome news from the SNP. As usual The Western Isles, Shetland and Orkney get most from the Scottish Government per head of population. This is widely accepted as necessary because of the extra costs they face of being entirely island communities. However, of the remaining 29 council areas, Glasgow has again come out top. It goes to prove the SNP’s huge commitment to our City.

Clearly other authorities are jealous of Glasgow’s position and would like to get their hands on some of the extra cash! But John Swinney and the SNP have made it clear that Glasgow faces great challenges and must continue to be the best funded authority apart from the islands. Glasgow has a much greater proportion of poverty, drug addiction, low life expectancy, and other problems compared to other parts of Scotland. John Mason said, “Glasgow is a tremendous city but we do have our problems. That is why the SNP is insisting Glasgow must remain the best funded mainland local authority. I accept that other parts of the country face challenges too. And Labour have tried to shift funding from Glasgow to Edinburgh by supporting the Edinburgh tram scheme. But the SNP will stand by Glasgow even if Labour abandons it.”

The key figures are that Glasgow is to get £2,617 per head in 2011/12 as against a Scottish average of £2,128 and Edinburgh’s figure of £1,821. Other Scottish cities are getting £2,322 per head (Dundee) and £1,782 (Aberdeen).


12 Dec 2010

The opening of the new rail link from the east end of Glasgow directly to Edinburgh is a huge boost for the area. The first trains with passengers started running today, Sunday 12th December, stopping at six stations in the east end of Glasgow: High Street, Bellgrove, Carntyne, Shettleston, Garrowhill, and Easterhouse.

Along with the investment of £445 million in the M74 completion, the investment of £250 million in this rail link underlines the SNP’s commitment to Glasgow in general and the East End in particular. Both road and public transport need investment and these two projects together show that the SNP is committed to driving Scotland’s economy forward.

John Mason travelled on the first train from Shettleston station at 8.15am this morning. The service left and arrived on time taking about an hour. He returned soon afterwards and again the journey went perfectly. Congratulations are certainly due to ScotRail and Network Rail as well as former Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson. Trains originating in Helensburgh and west of Glasgow used to terminate at Airdrie while those from Edinburgh and the east stopped at Bathgate. But with the Airdrie-Bathgate link opened, direct journeys from Helensburgh to Edinburgh become the norm. The 24 km (15 miles) of new line are the longest domestic rail line with stations to be built in Britain for 100 years.

John Mason said, “There has been a big emphasis on this project benefitting communities in North Lanarkshire and West Lothian as they are getting train services for the first time. And that is great. However, I reckon the east end of Glasgow is a major beneficiary of this new line. Because of the good motorway links, our part of Glasgow has become an increasingly attractive area for people to live and work. But now we also have this excellent rail connection which allows us to travel east without going to Glasgow city centre. We are now much better connected than the likes of Bearsden and Milngavie… I don’t know why people want to live there!

“With the SNP investing so heavily in road and rail to benefit our area, this has to give a real boost to long term jobs. Anyone setting up a new business or factory will find the east end one of the best areas to come to. Rich business commuters may have lost out on their airport rail link, but ordinary people in Glasgow are winning with this great new rail line.”