Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Forever in our hearts

I heard the sirens from my office in the City Chambers, yesterday afternoon. It was hard to make sense of what was going on from a window overlooking George Square. I had a radio on and soon after,  news broke of the horrific tragedy on Queen Street. 

It has been a terrible shock. Today, I attended the service of condolence and reflection at the Tron St. George's Church and laid some flowers at the Gallery of Modern Art as a mark of respect.

I share with others my appreciation of the dedication and care provided by many people involved in responding to events as they unfolded. Thanks go to the Emergency services and Council staff who have assisted and continue to help people caught up in this awful accident.

My thoughts are with people who have suffered distress, injury or loss as a result of this tragedy. 

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Celebrating a creative heritage initiative

In the last week, I visited a special exhibition hosted by Queens Cross Housing Association, called "The Found(ry) Project". It brings together people from the Woodside / Maryhill areas, graduates of Glasgow School of Art, and a Glasgow University's Archaelogist.

The photos show some of the objects that were found within the local landscape next to the Forth and Clyde Canal. I was very impressed to find a display of intact milk bottles.

This project has involved people developing greater understanding of their heritage and new artworks have been produced. There have been a building up of people's confidence throughout the activities and new relationships have been established in the community.

Further details at: www.qcha.org.uk

Monday, 15 December 2014

Fracking and the Proposed City Development Plan (CDP) for Glasgow

In the last week, I have asked for an update on policies referring to Fracking within Glasgow's Planning framework. This follows on from previous correspondence with council officials seeking the inclusion of a policy on fracking. I have been advised as follows:-

"The Executive Committee approved the Proposed City Development Plan (CDP) for Glasgow in April 2014 and it was subject to an 8 week public representation period in May and June. An Examination into objections received to the Proposed CDP is likely to commence around the middle of 2015 and when this is concluded, and the Plan adopted, it will replace City Plan 2.

The Proposed CDP (http://www.glasgow.gov.uk/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=19258&p=0 – policy CDP5: Resource Management) makes specific reference to on-shore oil and gas extraction (which includes hydraulic fracturing or fracking), stating:

“Currently, two very small parts of the City at Milton and Robroyston fall within a Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence (PEDL) area. Given the size of these areas, and their proximity to communities (either existing or proposed), applications for extraction of on-shore oil and gas are unlikely to be acceptable in Glasgow. Should the PEDL licence areas be extended to include more of the City, then the Council will:
  1. require to be satisfied, on grounds of safety (given the extensive undermining affecting many parts of the City), that a proposal would be acceptable;
  2. require to be satisfied that the risks of adverse environmental and other impacts (such as those specified in the SPP and on Climate Change Act targets) have been fully addressed; and
  3. bring forward Supplementary Guidance which provides more detail on how points 1 and 2 will be assessed and planning applications determined.”
An objection to the Proposed Plan’s stance on on-shore oil and gas has been made. It contends that the policy should be reworded to bring it into line with Scottish Planning Policy (see below), and to exclude any suggestion that planning applications for extraction of oil and gas are unlikely to be acceptable within the Glasgow City boundary.

The objections to the Plan, and the proposed responses to them, will be considered by Committee in the Spring of 2015. 

Should Committee wish to amend policy CDP5 in accordance with the objection, then it is likely that such an amendment would be deemed significant, with the result that a new version of the Proposed Plan would need to be prepared and a new public representation period undertaken. Should Committee not agree with the objection, then the objection will be considered at the Examination into unresolved objections to the Plan. 

On the 28th July 2014, the UK Energy Minister invited applications for PED Licences for large areas of the UK, including all of Central Scotland (and Glasgow) not already subject to one. Applications for Licences were accepted up to 28th October 2014. It has not, yet, been announced whether further licences for exploration are to be granted for additional areas of the City. 

Moreover, the Smith Commission has recommended devolving the licensing of fracking to Scotland. Should this happen, then it is not clear whether this would mean the Scottish Government would determine the licenses applied for during the licensing round which closed on 28th October.

Should further licences be granted for Glasgow, then the Council will prepare Supplementary Guidance, to accompany the CDP, which will set out, in detail, how the impact of fracking proposals will be determined in the City, in line with SPP. The content of the Supplementary Guidance would require to be drafted to reflect the position set out in the adopted City Development Plan, including any modifications made as a result of the Examination."

I will keep in contact with constituents concerned about the development of this policy.

Protect Buchanan Street Steps

Along with thousands of others, I have written to the Planning Department of Glasgow City Council to strongly object to the applications to demolish the steps on Buchanan Street at the entrance to Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. The reasons to object to the removal of the Buchanan Street Steps include;

1)    The proposal will destroy nationally important civic space The Concert Hall Steps are located within a conservation area and the proposal for their demolition will have a negative impact on the quality of the public realm and historic fabric of the city centre. The steps must be preserved as they are significant landmark and are recognised as having national architectural importance as civic space. The steps alongside the statue of Donald Dewar provide an iconic feature to Glasgow's most prestigious street. The steps provide a unique view of the city centre with a wonderful vantage point looking down Buchanan Street.    The commanding views you get from the steps make them attractive to photographers and artists, as well as residents and visitors who just want to enjoy the view. 

 2)    Demolition will lead to the loss of a culturally significant feature. The plan to replace the steps with an atrium would not make Glasgow more attractive to residents. It will be unpopular with the public. A petition online against these plans has gained over 12,000 signatures. It would make the City Centre less inviting to come into.
There is a dearth of public spaces in Glasgow, and the steps are one of the best. The steps are a hub of cultural activity in a way that this atrium will not be. They are a magnet for buskers, charity events, and rallies. In this way, they have transcended their purpose as a simple flight of steps for people to go up and down. The steps are a public asset which inspires and promotes participation of the general public in the city's democratic and cultural activities. 

3)    The demolition will result in the loss of a visually attractive amenity within Buchanan Street. It would make the top of Buchanan Street look worse. The atrium looks bland and generic, and makes the top of Buchanan Street look like any town centre. The building of this atrium will not improve the quality of life for people living and working in the city. The City Centre is very polluted, and people coming into it need public spaces to sit away from the traffic. It's also a good meeting point and a place where people come to socialise and eat their lunch.

In conclusion, the Concert Hall steps have become something of a Glasgow institution. The plans to demolish the steps must be refused.

Council motion raised concerns about TTIP

The 'Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership' known as TTIP agreement is currently being negotiated between the European Union and the United States. A motion proposed by Green Councillors at a Full Council Meeting on 11th December highlighted the effect it will have on local public services. 

This trade deal has been referred to as the biggest bilateral trade deal in history, and has caused widespread controversy, not least because the deal could hand unprecedented powers to corporate investors at the expense of governments in the EU and US.

Among other proposals, the TTIP gives businesses the power to sue governments inclouding local authorities for profits they might have lost as a result of democratic decision-making on standards and safety.

This increases the potential threat of privatisation of public services including the NHS, and established regulations that protect workers, the environment and food would be undermined. US companies will even have the right to sue governments in secret courts if politicians try to reverse privatisation. TTIP is a huge threat to our high standards for the quality and safety of our food. Under the deal, food products allowed in the US, such as chemically-washed poultry, could be sold in the UK - even though it's been previously banned here. 

On both sides of the Atlantic, elected representatives are only allowed limited access to information about the negotiations. However, about 600 ‘corporate advisors’ have gained full access to the details. We are seeking transparency and a halt to negotiations both in the European Parliament and in the UK House of Commons. 

The following motion proposed by myself and Cllr Kieran Wild was agreed on a cross party basis:-

"Council is concerned about the potential implications of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a proposed free trade agreement between the European Union (EU) and the United States of America (USA). This arises due to the implications of TTIP with respect to the city of Glasgow, with regards to impacts on employment, wages, human rights and inequality, as well as environmental effects such as air pollution, food safety, water quality, carbon emissions, waste management, and environmental agreements. It could have implications across the public sector as it may leave public services wide open to further privatisation.

This Council resolves to request the Chief Executive to write to the Secretary of State for Business and Skill's expressing its deep concern at the developing TTIP, the secretiveness of its processes and its potential impact on public services, social and environmental protection, financial regulation and basic democratic oversight.

Further to this, Council requests assurances from the Secretary of State that the Government will seek full openess to TTIP position texts and that he will endeavour to ensure access to TTIP documentation and development by the UK public including concerned residents of Glasgow".

Bhopal 30th Anniversary

There was a wreath laid at the new Workers Memorial on Glasgow Green for the Victims of the Bhopal disaster on Wednesday 3rd December. This is the world's worst industrial accident which occurred on the night of 2–3 December 1984 at the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) pesticide plant in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. Over 500,000 people were exposed to toxic gases and other chemicals.

Nina Baker, Green Councillor and Representative from 
Shanti Bhavan Social and Cultural Centre

Cross party support with councillors from the SNP and Labour Groups, 
with much appreciated contribution from Ian Tasker of the STUC 

In 2015, we hope to develop activities in support of the Bhopal Medical Appeal. Details available from http://bhopal.org/

Friday, 28 November 2014

A Walk through Old Station Park.

After attending a Carers Event at the Pond Hotel, I took a walk through Old Station Park, in Hyndland today. It was really enjoyable to spend time in the park.

The garden area is full of plants established by a group of volunteers from Friends of Old Station Park. Their dedication and creativity have provided a lovely place to visit.

Women’s safety on Campus

Yesterday, I joined the Glasgow's Reclaim The Night March and Rally hosted by the Rape Crisis Centre.  This is one of many events happening across the city as part of the 16 Days of Action for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The route of the march went from Botanic Gardens corner of Great Western Road and Queen Margaret Drive down Byres Road, University Avenue, Gibson Street, Eldon Street and ended with a rally in the STUC.

Taking part in the Reclaim the Night March.

The theme for this year's event was Women’s safety on Campus. This was identified as a priority as in the last five years, the Rape Crisis Centre has seen a year on year increase in the number of young women who are sexual violence survivors accessing support at the centre. 

The majority of these young women are students and their attempts to cope with the sexual violence, and their experience impacts on their studies. Evidence suggests that young women are having to take time out, have difficulty completing their assignments on time or need extensions for projects, and it may be that women leave their studies early. 

Women's lives are dramatically affected with consequences for career plans and future work opportunities. It is recognised that women need support to achieve their potential and realise their ambitions.   Women should not have to restrict their movements or behaviour whilst studying within Glasgow. Clearly, violence against women has to stop.

This is only possible if men stop committing crimes of sexual violence and abuse, as well as them contributing to a society that condones and colludes with violence against women and girls and speaks out against and challenges other men who do behave in this way.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

No corporate power grab. No to TTIP.

There is a trade deal - the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership - being negotiated between Europe and the USA.  It is known as TTIP. Private corporations have been shaping this deal in discussions with unelected European officials behind closed doors.
The #noTTIP Times published by World Development Movement

This trade deal would result in big business gaining new powers over our society and wider democracy. It threatens our public services, workers rights, food safety and our environment. It would "lock-in" privatisation of public services, encourage fracking, and promote fossil fuel production. 

Opposition to TTIP is growing across Europe. The Green Party in Europe is the only party to oppose TTIP. Scottish Greens have launched a campaign to protect our public sector, food standards and workers rights from corporate attack.

Useful link:

Scottish Greens say no to TTIP - www.scottishgreens.org.uk/noTTIP

European Citizens Initiative Petition Against TTIP - http://stop-ttip.org/sign/

Sunday, 16 November 2014

We didn't vote to die at work

In the last week, I had the privilege of meeting people involved in the Scottish Hazards campaign. This brings together local groups and trade unions campaigning for better health and safety with workers' health at the centre.

The UK Government has conducted "red tape" reviews which have undermined our limited protections. Campaigners have pushed the fact that good regulation, strictly enforced, saves money for business and the overall economy, as well as protects wellbeing of workers.

There is now more occupational ill-health than ever before, with much stress, but also musclo-skeletal disorders, and exposure to cancer-causing chemicals. The new workplace culture with targets, is supporting "lean management", and "doing more with less".

An entirely ideological plan to privatise the Health and Safety Executive has been pursued by UK Government Ministers. Attempts were made to abolish it altogether, but was prevented by European law. Instead, the budget was cut by 35% and a ban was placed on proactive inspections in "low risk" workplaces, including such areas as quarries, manufacturing, air and road transport, hospitals and school. However, 53% of health and safety deaths occur in "low risk" workplaces. The cost of bad health and safety practices is estimated at between £30 - £60bn a year. In addition, workers/families of more than 90% of workers injured or killed at work get no compensation at all.

The Scottish Hazards Campaign is vital to ensure that people are fully protected against work related injury and ill health.

Useful link:

Scottish Hazards Campaign - www.scottishhazards.co.uk

Bhopal - Still No Justice

On Thursday, I heard about the plans for a commemoration of the Bhopal Disaster, 30 years on. The World's Worst Industrial Disaster took place on the early morning of 3rd December 1984. There was gas leak from a Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India. The gas had a catastrophic impact, with many dying in their beds. There is an estimated of between 8,000 - 10,000 deathes within 72 hours. Another 15,000 have died since the disaster and 120,000 have chronic medical conditions as a result.

The site of the pesticide plant has never been cleared of the toxic waste from the gas leak The toxins are in the soil, plants, animals and drinking water. This devastating tragedy could have been averted. The Bhopal gas disaster was preventable. Trade unions had raised health and safety concerns about the plant. However, these were not acted upon. The management and company have obstructed any rehabilitation and prevented any liability.

For the 30th anniversary of the disaster, memorial gatherings in solidarity with the victims of Bhopal are planned on 3rd December.

Useful link:

Scottish Friends of Bhopal - http://sfobhopal.org/

Saturday, 8 November 2014

New pedestrian crossing supported at Maryhill Road

During the last year, I have supported the development of plans to improve road safety at the junction of Napiershall Street and Maryhill Road. Ways to address safety concerns were discussed at meetings involving Woodside Community Council, council officers from Land and Environmental Services and police officers. Fears were raised by residents about pedestrians facing an increased risk of injury or accidents when crossing at this busy junction.

View of the junction from Napiershall Street Park.

In September, funds were approved by Land and Environmental Services for an road safety improvement scheme on Maryhill Road and the Napiershall Street junction. 

The programme of works includes a new traffic signal controlled junction with a full pedestrian green man facility.There are minor alternations to the existing waiting and loading restrictions that will be required to complement the scheme.

The works will take place from 1st November 2014, with anticipated completion by 31st January 2015.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Future option for Kelvin Park Early Years Centre

Today, I visited Anderston Primary School, 3 Port Street, G3 8HY and saw the space currently occupied by the Psychological Services Unit. 

The site has classrooms and an outdoor area that could accommodate the Kelvin Park Early Years Centre. There is an existing entrance for the Psychological Services Unit which is separate from the primary school and could be adapted to suit the needs of Early Years provision.

View of classrooms occupied by the Psychological Services Unit

Newly resurfaced playground
Greenspace with trees surround the primary school

Existing play area nearby to the primary school

The primary school is surrounded by trees and greenspace. In addition, there is well maintained fencing around the school site. A play area is available for use within the curtilage of the site. It does appear to be possible for all the services provided at the Early Years Centre at Hillhead Primary to be relocated to this site. In my consultation response about the future option for Kelvin Park Early Years Centre from August 2015, I will be supporting its relocation to the Anderston Primary School's Psychological Services Unit.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Support for community planters

Within the Woodlands area, on West Princes Street and Montague Street, a series of community planters have been established. These planters were paid for by public subscription. 

In the last three months, concerns have been raised about the graffiti on the planters and general maintenance of the plants has been requested. Watering of the plants has been essential due to the lack of rainfall.

Two planters in West Princes Street after clean up and weeding.

Thanks to the efforts of local residents with support from Land & Environmental Services, Community Safety Glasgow and local businesses, the planters have been cleaned and weeded this month. I will continue to provide ongoing support to the maintenance of the planters.

A Just Scotland March and Rally

On 18th October, I met up with other members of the Scottish Green Party and took part in the Just Scotland March and Rally in Glasgow. This provided an opportunity to support campaigns by trade union members and community activists from across Scotland for decent work and provide dignity for those who cannot work. It was part of Challenge Poverty Week.

Scottish Green Party members at Glasgow Green.

We want to continue to help shape Scotland’s constitutional future and ensure that changes result in a more equal and socially just Scotland

Useful link:

A Just Scotland - http://www.ajustscotland.org/

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Fire-raising in derelict buildings

On a monthly basis, I receive updates on fire incidents across the Hillhead ward. This month, my attention has been drawn to the empty building on Baird's Brae, near the Forth and Clyde Canal. 

Damaged office building on Baird's Brae.

This building has not been secure in recent weeks. It would appear from reported incidents, this empty property has been a target of fire-raising during 2014. 

A plan is needed to ensure the site is made safe and efforts are focused on the prevention of any further fire-raising. In the long-term, I would hope the site can be regenerated as part of the Canal Quarter.

Useful link;

Fire & Rescue Service Campaigns - http://www.firescotland.gov.uk/your-safety/deliberate-fires.aspx

Sunday, 12 October 2014

The Struggle for Equality

I have returned home after a weekend attending an historic conference for the Scottish Green Party in Edinburgh. It brought together over 400 members to share ideas, debate policies and plan for the future.

The highlight of the conference was meeting Beatrix Campbell and hearing her speak about her new writing, "End of Equality-The Only Way is Women's Liberation".  I am looking forward to reading her latest insights into gender issues and what is termed 'a new sexual settlement'. Of real importance to me,  post independence referendum, is that men recognise that more women are joining political parties and want to engage in Scottish Politics. I just hope that in this new era of increased participatory democracy, men commit to a power shift that enables women to have more influence in our public life and access better pay.

In the past, Beatrix has been inspiring through her research, most notably for "Goliath - Britain's Dangerous Places" written in the 1990s. She explored offending, policing and life in cities during the Thatcher era. This book investigates the issues facing local neighbourhoods in economic crisis and refers to the impact of disengagement from political parties.

My signed copy of the "End of Equality".

Another must-read, promoted by Sally Foster-Fulton of the Church of Scotland, at the conference, is the report, "The Lies We Tell Ourselves - Ending comfortable myths about poverty". In an age of austerity, we have to challenge the misrepresentation of people living in poverty in our everyday conversations. This report helps us to understand the reality of people experiencing poverty.

Useful Link:

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Glasgow University Fossil Free!

Today, a special event organised by Glasgow University Climate Action Group called for Glasgow University to DIVEST its endowment fund in the fossil fuel industry and re-invest in more sustainable practices. I took part in the gathering of activists at the Library Hill.

Students involved in the Glasgow University Climate Action Group
List of actions to promote GU Fossil Free.

The University Court are making the decision on the 8th of October about whether it will divest or not. Glasgow University can be the first University in the UK to divest from the fossil fuel industry.

The University can join a growing global initiative of 180 institutions which began on university campuses several years ago.This initiative is supported by the Rockefeller Family who decided to cut their links with oil and this gives the divestment campaign huge symbolic importance because of their family history. Stephen Heintz, president of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, indicated that "everyone noted the irony that a foundation built on oil wealth would now be leading the charge out of fossil fuel."

Also, the World Council of Churches which represents some 590 million people in 150 countries also pulled its investments from fossil fuels. About 30 cities have also chosen to divest, including Santa Monica and Seattle.

There is a clear economic argument for divestment. While fossil fuel companies do generate a return on our investment, cities will suffer greater economic and financial losses from the impact of unchecked climate change. Our infrastructure, our businesses, and our communities would face greater risk of damages and losses due to turbulent weather events such as flooding or heat waves that climate change causes.
For Glasgow, although increased rainfall is likely to be our biggest challenge, the climate projections also indicate that by the middle of this century an average summer is likely to be drier as new weather patterns are established. If not carefully managed, this could have implications for our water supply and the needs of residents, key services and businesses. The River Clyde is the heart of this region and it is Glasgow’s connection to the sea. It has potential to cause flooding and increase pressure on drainage systems. These risks will be exacerbated by sea level rise which has been accelerating in recent decades.
We have the support of Desmond Tutu. He has said;Climate change is the human rights challenge of our time. We can no longer continue feeding our addiction to fossil fuels as if there is no tomorrow, for there will be no tomorrow.”

Reinvestment would involve financing of solutions to climate change. More specifically, investment in the technologies and infrastructure that will allow us to meet our energy needs in a way that improves community health, supports local democracy, and mitigates the impacts of climate change globally.

Clean renewable energy technology, energy efficiency, and other sustainable technologies are a growing market.

Update on 8th October: The University Court decided to divest Glasgow University from the fossil fuel industry over the next 10 years. This is really wonderful news.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Feedback on the Forth & Clyde Canal Action Plan

In the last week, I have provided comments on the proposed action plan for the Forth & Clyde Canal.

In reviewing the vision, I believe that the importance of the canal corridor as a heritage asset should be incorporated as part of the statement. The themes include “quality” and there is consideration given to place and design. There is a need to recognise the distinct identity of the Forth and Clyde Canal as a scheduled monument which has been given legal protection under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. Reference can be made to the vision of the heritage strategy of Scottish Canals 2013-38.

The impact of climate change on the canal should be considered as part of the future vision. It is essential that within the section on “focus”, there is a reference to key issues including:
  • protecting structures from more severe weather events and sea level rise.
  • ensuring sustainability of water supplies in the long-term.
  • positive opportunities for the canal to contribute to protecting biodiversity from changes in climate by providing a network of green corridors across Glasgow.
  • through reducing energy use and improving energy efficiency of operations and supply-chain.
  • by offering and promoting 'low-carbon' leisure and recreation opportunities.
In the section, "Connectivity & Movement", there is reference to “Roads” and an indication of a key issue being “the ability of these radial routes to accommodate further traffic from future housing development”. The environmental impact of road building should be acknowledged as a key issue for the canal’s regeneration. The roads have implications for noise, water pollution, habitat destruction/disturbance and local air quality; and the wider effects linked to climate change from vehicle emissions. The action plan has to provide a informed view of how roads impact on residents including community cohesion, public health, and accessibility. The emphasis should be on investment in improving routes for cycling, and walking. 

With reference to Speirs Locks, there are a list of proposed actions to be welcomed. Improving security along the towpath across Speirs Locks is required in response to concerns of residents. As you may be aware, there has been a request for additional security measures from a resident who has lost two friends, as they drowned in the canal. It is essential that the further loss of life is minimised. Measures needed as part of the action plan include installation of new fencing, warning signs and lighting around the Forth and Clyde canal. Along the canal at Speirs Locks, there are sections with no barriers in place between the canal and the pathway.

Barriers are discontinued opposite Speirs Wharf.

Further updates on the development of proposals for the Forth and Clyde Canal will be provided at their website: http://www.scottishcanals.co.uk

Peace and security needed in Iraq and Syria

In considering how best to help close down the cycles of violence in the Middle East, which are taking so many lives, there are no easy answers. However, there is the certainty that killing people rarely kills their ideas. I joined an anti-war rally organised by Stop The War Coalition, yesterday, in support of calls to stop the bombing of Iraq and Syria. 

We must continue to condemn the atrocities threatened or committed by ISIS against various groups not sharing their convictions. These include all religious and ethnic minorities such as Christians, Yezidi, Shabak and Turkmen, but also Shiites and Sunnis.

The odious assassination by ISIS of two American journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and British aid workers, David Haines and Alan Henning are denounced. Our thoughts are with their families and for the release of all innocent people being held hostage in the Middle East and around the globe.

In the UK Government's recent debate, the Green MP Caroline Lucas did not support the decision to carry out air strikes in Iraq against the so called Islamic State (ISIL). The focus is best place not on whether to bomb but how we can intensify work politically and diplomatically to address the fundamental hostility between Sunnis and Shias – with regional powers such as Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia centre stage along with support for a fledgling new Iraqi government.

Ongoing support is needed for the Iraqi Government and its Parliament to ensure that an urgent review of legislation and legal practice, as well as reform its judicial system and security apparatus is undertaken. In Iraq, there is a need to implement inclusive policies towards all Iraqis to end the policy of discrimination against, notably, the Sunni population.

The activities of those countries and/or their citizens who have given ideological or material support to IS or other extremist Islamist groups, notably Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar and Kuwait, as well as Turkey and Syria should be condemned. All those states have to take concrete measures to stop all support, whether state-sponsored or sponsored by private individuals, for IS- and Al Qaeda affiliated groups.

Our best hope of reducing the numbers radicalised would be to champion a new foreign policy doctrine based on clear, consistently applied principles.  This should include not selling arms to brutal regimes like Saudi Arabia and Qatar. In view of the thousands of Europeans reportedly being recruited as fighters by ISIS, support can be given for a policy change in European Union Member States that stresses the need to develop policies to actively combat social exclusion and lack of prospects, particularly in the case of the second- and third-generation immigrant population;

A campaign to enhance the notion of Islam as an integral part of European culture can be supported and also, the condemning of the intention of several European Union governments to revoke the citizenship of dual citizens who might return from the Middle East battlegrounds has to be maintained.

The European Union and other international leaders can identify and focus on the profound socio-economic, cultural and political roots of the ISIS phenomenon. ISIS has emerged from a bedrock of protracted human rights violations, marginalisation and discrimination of entire groups, notably Sunnis, as well as a long history of external manipulation and intervention by regional and Western governments.

Continued support has to be expressed for the peace, security and development which has been achieved in the Kurdish autonomous region, which should absolutely be preserved, and appeal to the Kurds to pursue their right of self-determination in a negotiated manner;

An increase in the number of refugees from Iraq and Syria granted stay in Europe, including the Yezidi, who constitute a particularly fragile and often persecuted minority should be a priority. The coordination of the reception of refugees should be organised with all urgency and that the European Union needs to set up an emergency programme to this end.

Useful Link:

Situation in Iraq and Syria and the ISIS offensive - Greens/EFA motion for resolution

Sapphire Gymnastics 4th Birthday Festival

Sapphire Gymnastics Club held their 4th Birthday Festival, involving teams from Donegal, Yorkshire, Hartlepool, Shetland, Irine, Deeside, and Glasgow, in Scotstoun Leisure Centre on the 4th and 5th of October. 

Recognition as a Clubmark Club

I attended when the Sapphires performed in the main competition on 4th October. Over the weekend, there are 18 teams, 71 displays and 583 gymnasts attending.

View of Scotstoun Leisure Centre as the gymnasts line up.

Further information about the development of Sapphires Gymnastics is on their website www.sapphire-gymnasticsclub.webs.com

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Scotland's links with the Commonwealth

Yesterday, I visited the exhibition "Scotland and the Commonwealth - 400 years in the making" at the Mitchell Library. This is showing until 4th October 2014. It explores early trade, slavery, missionaries, industry and emigration.

At the exhibition, there is a treasured ‘bible’ loaned to the city by Sonny Venkatrathnam who was a Robben Island prisoner at the same time as Nelson Mandela. The book is in fact a copy of the The Complete Works of Shakespeare which Sonny Venkatrathnam kept in his cell.

Poster for conference on slavery on 3rd October 2014.

It is Black History Month in October, and as part of the events programme, a conference on slavery is taking place at the Mitchell Library.

Useful link:

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Future use of former Willowbank Primary School

This week, I met with residents to discuss the planning application with reference numbers 14/01839/DC and 14/01841/DC which propose 178 units on the site of former Willowbank Primary School, 2A Willowbank Crescent, Glasgow, G3 6NB.

The plans are seeking permission for student residential accommodation (sui generis) including demolition of detached outbuilding and substation, external alterations and repairs to listed building, erection of side and rear extensions to listed building, and erection of student residential accommodation block fronting onto West Princes Street, with associated landscaping, car parking and alterations to boundary treatments. Various concerns have been raised about the plans and these can be listed as;
  • Loss of Residential Amenity
With reference to City Plan 2: Development Policy - Residential (DEV2), the proposal will result in a development which does not protect a C listed building’s appearance, character and setting. This application is seeking the removal of natural habitat and wooded area which forms a visually attractive setting for the building and therefore, enhance the appearance of the access route at West Princes Street. This proposed development to replace trees and natural habitat with a 6-storey block will have a negative impact on the natural environment for the local community located within households along West Princes Street and the surrounding streets.

The proposed removal of the trees is contrary to planning policies as its location and nature does not respect the architectural heritage and the historic context of the area. It is my understanding that the location of the substation and the wooded area has never been built upon. The trees should be retained as a natural habitat and important feature of the pedestrian access to the building from West Princes Street.
  • Contrary to policy on Sustainable Design and Construction
The proposal has features which are not in keeping with the conservation area status. The 5-storey and 6-storey blocks are not acceptable as they will be overlooking the existing neighbours and the upper rooms will directly look in to the windows and backcourts of adjacent properties in Willowbank Crescent, Willowbank Street, West End Park Street and West Princes Street. The design of the new blocks will create a visual intrusion which diminishes the design quality and privacy of neighbouring tenemental properties.

Throughout the proposal, there is use of white brick and concrete material arrangements, vertical zinc bands and coloured cladding panels (red) which will not enhance the architecture of the neighbourhood. The proposed window design is not in keeping with traditional tenement windows adopted for neighbouring four storey tenement properties in the locality. Of particular concern is the replacement roof using zinc cladding and lightweight glass panels to rise above the existing eaves and parapet walls. This is not preserving the existing building design as required of any proposals for a listed building.
  • Contrary to DES3 Protecting and Enhancing our City’s Historic Environment
The proposed development does not maintain the character of the historic area of Woodlands. The whole site is within Woodlands Conservation Area and surrounded by listed buildings. The change of use of this C listed building and its surrounding grounds, which include trees and open space, would change the character of the building and its curtilage, which is supposed to be protected by the Conservation Area. The planned development fails to maintain the layout characteristic of the area, introducing a block structure within a tenemental neighbourhood.

Within the City Plan, DES 3 states there is a presumption in favour of protecting conservation areas from inappropriate new development. This proposal is not accepted as it will compromise the quality of a listed building and this neighbourhood of outstanding character bounded by Willowbank Crescent / Willowbank Street / West Princes Street / West End Park Street / Street and its environs.

The proposal will not comply with the general policy as it will compromise the character of the former Willowbank Primary School as the three new blocks will dominate this original property. This former School is a significant landmark within the Conservation area and is of importance to the heritage of the neighbourhood and its surroundings. The development brings three new blocks of a size, pattern, building depth and layout which is overdevelopment. This proposal is detrimental to the character of the area.

The character of local housing is one of bay-windowed tenements with deep undulating facades. The 5-storey and 6-storey blocks are of a design that is not sympathetic to the character of neighbouring buildings in this Conservation Area.
  • Contrary to Woodlands Conservation Area
With reference to City Plan 2: Development Policy - Residential (DEV2), the proposal will result in a development which does not protect a C listed building’s appearance, character and setting. The removal of roof to accommodate new additional storey will compromise the design and integrity of the building. The former Willowbank Primary School is a significant landmark within the Conservation area and is of importance to the heritage of the Woodlands.

With reference to the policy HER1, the proposal is not accepted as it will not improve the quality of a C listed building and areas of outstanding character of Willowbank Crescent, West Princes Street and its environs. This proposal will be visible from surrounding streets and impinge on the public streetscape to the detriment of character of the area.

Trees on West Princes Street to be removed by the proposal.
  • Contrary to policy protecting Natural Habitat, Trees, Woodlands and Hedgerows
This proposal is developing on an area of wooded landscape and there is no evidence of a Tree or Wildlife survey being carried out by the developer. The proposal will destroy and result in the loss of significant trees. The trees are protected by an existing tree preservation order (TPO) (see Woodlands Conservation Area), and are located on Council owned land, and are of significant ecological, recreational, historical, shelter or landscape value. The land currently acts as a sink for rainwater, if developed this advantage would be lost. The presumption is in favour of retaining such trees as part of the Council’s requirements under Climate Change legislation for protecting our natural resources for future generations and retaining our city’s biodiversity.
  • Traffic management and parking
The proposed development proposes to provides limited parking for the site. The plan takes no account of the effect of visitor parking, taxis drop-offs and deliveries on Willowbank Crescent and Willowbank Street. This will have an impact on the flow of traffic, causing severe strain on the local road network. The main flow of traffic to and from the development will go past a community garden and children’s play area. There will be a risk of road accidents, noise intrusion and general nuisance from additional vehicle movements within the neighbourhood due to the development.

This proposal should be refused due to its over development of the site and consequently, negative impact on the architectural heritage of the Woodlands Conservation area.