07 Jul 2014

John Mason and Alison Thewliss - ClydesidersTwo East End SNP politicians are gearing up to spend part of the their summer recess volunteering as ‘Clydesiders’ for the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.  Glasgow City Councillor, Alison Thewliss, who represents Calton ward, will join her colleague John Mason MSP to work alongside fifteen thousand other Clydesiders who are freely giving their time this summer to volunteer for Glasgow 2014.

Local Member of the Scottish Parliament, John Mason, commented:

“I am thoroughly looking forward to being a Clydesider during the Commonwealth Games.  I previously volunteered as a driver for the 2005 Glasgow Special Olympics and very much enjoyed that opportunity too.

“Like thousands of other volunteers, I am keen to give all our visitors a very warm welcome when they come to Glasgow.  The Games are an excellent opportunity to showcase the fantastic culture, history, and friendly atmosphere that Glasgow has to offer the world.  I hope everyone, whether they are a volunteer or not, will get right behind Glasgow 2014 and offer a very warm welcome to our visitors later this month”.

Calton SNP Councillor, Alison Thewliss, added:

“I remember that day back in 2007 when it was announced that Glasgow had won the bid to host the 2014 Commonwealth Games.  Seven years on now and we’ve come a long way to have the facilities open, on budget and on schedule.  There’s no doubt that our community has been transformed with some excellent local facilities that will leave a lasting legacy for my constituents.  Like John, I too am really excited about being a volunteer for the Games”.


30 Jun 2014

Amid increasing warnings that public services south of the border are on the brink of collapse, the SNP has warned that further years of austerity is all that is on offer from the anti-independence parties.

Former Tory Health Minister Stephen Dorrell warned that the NHS in England could collapse within five years due to a lack of resources if it does not receive a substantial funding increase. Yet despite these warnings, senior Tories are advising that the ring-fencing around the NHS budget in England should be removed after 2015.

Meanwhile, the Local Government Association which represents local authorities in England warned that a funding gap of £5.8 billion over the next two years is threatening severe cuts to frontline services.

With cuts in public services south of the border having a knock-on effect on Scotland’s devolved budget, further years of austerity would only increase the pressure on Scotland’s public finances.

Commenting, SNP MSP John Mason said:

“Despite the warnings being sounded loudly and clearly south of the border, the Westminster parties are still trying to outbid each other on how deeply they can inflict cuts to vital public services.

“The current funding system ensures that those Westminster cuts are passed on to people in Scotland despite being utterly at odds with the priorities of people in Scotland.

“George Osborne has already made clear that he is signed up to a further £25 billion of cuts and it was recently revealed that ‘hundreds of thousands’ of public sector jobs are in the firing line.

“That is the dismal prospect being offered to Scotland by the anti-independence parties – more savage cuts and job losses in order to satisfy Westminster’s damaging obsession with austerity.

“Scotland is a wealthy country – generating more tax per head than the UK as a whole in every single one of the last 33 years, and we are in the top 20 wealthiest nations in the world. We can more than afford to be independent, and these damaging Westminster decisions show why we should and must vote Yes.

“The determination at Westminster to undermine the public sector simply underlines why we need the chance to make our own choices in Scotland – and make decisions that reflect the policies of people living here.

“With a Yes vote in September we can make our own choices on tax and spending, and will gain the tools we need to make Scotland a fairer, more prosperous country.”

John Raises Dalmarnock Disruption In Parliament

26 Jun 2014

John Mason MSP recently asked Cabinet Secretary for the Commonwealth Games, Shona Robison MSP, a question on the subject of Commonwealth Games related disruption in Dalmarnock. Here is an official transcript of both the question and answer:

  • John Mason (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government what its position is on the recent reports of significant levels of disruption to residents in Dalmarnock because of the Commonwealth games. (S4O-03392)
  • The Cabinet Secretary for Commonwealth Games, Sport, Equalities and Pensioners’ Rights (Shona Robison): I am grateful for the patience that has been shown by local residents and, in particular, by the Dalmarnock community. Preparation for the games has led to some unavoidable disruption. Planning has taken place among a wide range of bodies, including Glasgow City Council, the organising committee and the emergency services, to ensure that the effects on the community are minimised as we come ever closer to what will be a hugely successful games for Glasgow that will bring long-term benefits to the city, particularly the communities in the east end.
  • John Mason: When a resident in Springfield Road leaves their house, they pass through a small garden and on to the pavement, and there is then an 8-foot fence immediately in front of them, which is not particularly attractive and will sit there for three months. The residents accept that there will be long-term benefits, but will the minister encourage some recompense or at least an acknowledgement of the fact that the local residents have been put out somewhat?
  • Shona Robison: I am aware that the security fencing, in particular, has caused concern among local residents. That is inevitable, given the close proximity of the venues to the local community. Security is of paramount concern, and the security planning has ensured the best overlay of security to ensure that we deliver a secure games. However, that has meant placing security fencing in close proximity to some residents’ houses.I acknowledged the disruption that has been caused in my previous answer. John Mason will be aware that discussions are going on between Glasgow City Council, the organising committee and local residents about how recompense might be provided. He has been active on the issue and has made a number of suggestions, including the issuing of free tickets. Those discussions are on-going, and the Scottish Government would certainly support the organising committee recognising the disruption through, perhaps, the granting of free tickets and support for community events among other measures. Those discussions will continue, I hope, to a successful resolution

Named Person – Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill

09 Jun 2014

A number of people have asked me what I think of the introduction of the Named Person provision.

In particular a number of church and other Christian groups have wondered if this was an unwarranted interference by the state into family life. My first comment would be that there is no clear cut Christian position on this issue. Some committed Christians believe it is a positive step in increasing protection of vulnerable youngsters. However, other equally committed Christians do have concerns.

This plan to have a Named Person is part of The Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill and will see a named official, such as a health worker or head teacher, available to help with a child’s welfare and liaise with their families. This will mean that there is an independent third party who will be able to help every child in Scotland if problems arise.

A scheme like this is already working in the Highlands and appears to have been helpful. In one sense it is just best practice but the legislation should strengthen provision throughout the country. I myself have seen cases where sadly a child’s parents could not or would not provide the care needed, e.g. taking their child to hospital and the youngster suffered as a result. In some cases it seem that the school left it to the GP, the GP left it to the social worker, and the social worker left it to the school. So in the end no one intervened and the child did not get the help they needed.

Another example of how the named person could be helpful is when parents are wanting to access help for their child. There have been cases where the parents are passed from pillar to post and they have been unable to get anyone to take responsibility. The proposed system should mean it is easier for parents seeking help to know where to go.

However, I do recognise the genuine concerns of some people. Of course, the family is the key building block in our society and of course parents have the primary responsibility for their children. And we should all accept that parents will bring up their children in different ways. Just as well – we don’t want every child or every family to be the same as each other! The state already has the ability to intervene if a child is not being properly cared for in the family and sadly we have all seen cases where the state should have intervened and did not as well as cases where the state intervened mistakenly. My hope is that these measures will clarify the position further. Social workers have a hugely difficult job and I have spoken to Christian social workers who welcome this legislation.

One of the arguments against the legislation has been that it applies to all children and not just to those who need it. However, that is the whole point! We do not know which kids are needing our help. Those already known to be having problems will generally already be getting attention. The concern is for kids who are not known to have problems but where the families are not coping. Therefore, the whole point is to cater for kids who could be at risk but there is no reason to think so at present. And the reality is that headteachers and others could not possibly get involved in every single family. There are not enough resources for that to happen.

I am disappointed that church and other Christian organisations are putting scarce financial resources into a legal challenge on this legislation. Surely it would be better if they invested in helping needy youngsters in both this country and overseas?

Overall we need to get a balance and I have become increasingly convinced that this legislation is helpful and the introduction of a Named Person is a good thing. Of course, any legislation could potentially be misused in the hands of the wrong people. But that should not be an excuse for us to sit on our hands while vulnerable children fail to get the help they need.