Saturday, 25 April 2015

Questions raised about copyright policy

Enquiries have been received about the Scottish Green Party's policy on intellectual property law in response to something that the Greens in England and Wales have said about reducing the length of time people can copyright things.

The Scottish Green Party is a separate political party to the Green party of England and Wales. Although we do not have specific policy on intellectual property, our policy reference document does call for reform of the knowledge economy to “prevent knowledge monopolies which might become a barrier to technological advancement”.

We think the proposals for copyright reform put forward in January by the European Parliament rapporteur on copyright reform are reasonable – these include a range of things including a reduction in the copyright term from 70 to 50 years after the death of the author. 

The summary of the proposals are available at:

Reinstatement of swimming sessions for women only.

I have received requests from women for specific swimming sessions at North Woodside Pool. Sessions have now been established on Tuesday evenings and Saturday afternoons. Details are provided on the leaflet that I picked up yesterday. 

Swimming is beneficial as it strengthens a women's heart and can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Thus it is able to reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease. In addition, women can be more susceptible to osteoperosis than men. Swimming provides a low impact workout for women who have weaker bones and joints.

There is a diverse range of women living in the Woodside area and each having different needs and pressures shaping their lives. The women only swimming sessions aim to create an opportunity for involvement in an active lifestyle. There are swimming lessons on offer to help build the confidence of women using the pool.

Useful link: 

Glasgow Club North Woodside -

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Low Emission Strategy Consultation

The following comments have been gathered for the consultation on the Scottish Low Emissions Strategy available at:

Q1 Do you think the Mission, Vision and Objectives for the Low Emission Strategy are appropriate? If not, what changes would you suggest?

The proposed vision in the consultation document needs to be amended to reflect the scientific evidence on the impact of health by being more specific and stating the time when the vision will be realised.The current form of the vision determines success by comparison with the rest of Europe. However, this does not reflect the scientific evidence that clearly shows that it is levels of and time of exposure to harmful emissions that affect health.Therefore the vision needs to based on absolute levels of emissions that will be allowed.  
It is strongly suggest that the strategy  commits to never having emissions above the harmful limits as prescribed by the World Health Organisation.
The vision also needs to state when it will be realised.  Given the developments made elsewhere such as London, we suggest that our proposed vision can be realised by 2020.
The proposed objectives place empowerment under the theme of communication.   However, empowerment across all levels of society will be a important instrument in itself to deliver the Low Emission Strategy.  Therefore it is vital that this consider as a separate objective.

Q2 Do you think the proposed actions will deliver the Mission, Vision and Objectives? If not, what changes to the actions would you suggest? Are additional actions required? If so, please suggest what these might be.

The proposed actions are based on tackling the sources of harmful emissions and not the actual causes of them.   Without tackling the causes, this will render the proposed actions impotent. 
It is clear buses are a significant cause of harmful emissions in urban areas. However, the proposal for issuing grants to Bus operators to obtain low-emission vehicles ignores the wider economic and regulatory drivers which mean operators choose not to apply from the grant.  For example, in Glasgow, no bus operator has chosen to apply for the grants available.
Due to deregulation, buses operators adopt a short-term view to routes and their fleet.   While grants can help to sway an operator’s decision to adopt low emissions, often the grant has to be much more than the simple difference in cost of a standard and low-emission vehicles as operator seeks to achieve the pay-off in a much shorter time period.  It is evident the power to regulate and mandatory standards is much more effective.  For example, the policy of mandatory standards has been successful in Glasgow, where low emission vehicles have been adopted on routes designated as Quality Bus Corridors.
A number of proposals rely on the local authorities to implement, monitor and enforce the Strategy.   The way forward document does not mention what and how additional resources, particularly know-how, will be provided to local authorities to ensure they can deliver their duties effectively. Behavioural change will be key, yet the Strategy relies on communication campaigns; which have been shown to of little value except for immediate life-threatening issues.  There are no proposals on how to ‘nudge’ people to using their cars more appropriately and ultimately less often and use cleaner forms of transport, for example ensure offices in city centres have adequate levels of provision of cycling parking and changing facilities. There has to be acknowledgement of the cumulative effect of breaches. Reference is needed to importance of not just planning policy but also, building control.  There is a need for enforcement action on building standards. 

Q3 Does the Setting the Scene section accurately summarise the current policy situation? Please suggest changes if not.

Setting the Scene document section has a number of significant omissions and is based on a very simple narrative of cause of emissions.  The section ignores many historical, economic and cultural drivers that are root cause of high levels of harmful emissions especially in city centres. The section places significant importance of the Scottish Planning Policy lever to deliver the Low Emissions Strategy.   However, the SPP can only influence future developments.  Since 90%+ of stock of developments are already in place, the SPP can only influence a minority of the total stock development by 2020.
In Glasgow, the deliberate policy of moving a significant population from the city to the surrounding new towns, caused an immediate increase in the use of cars and buses for commuting and journeys back and forth the City.  Inadequate improvement was made in the quality and capacity of train services to make them an attractive alternative to cars.  Cars became the main way to travel in them, even for very short distances. The scene setting also fails to highlight powerful economic drivers such as bus deregulation that mean private bus operators have very short time horizons, as they only have to give 56 days notice to alter or cancel a route, which mean they have to offered very large subsidies to switch to cleaner vehicles.  Also, it fails to mention that the current taxation regime positively discriminates diesel domestic cars, a big source of the harmful emissions in urban environments.
The section also fails to mention the powerful social drivers but result in the  overuse of cars.   
For example, the stigma of bus travel plus the ability of cars users to able to display social status ( fuel the increasing trend in the use of cars, even when entirely unnecessary in a city with plenty of public travel provision.Without addressing these historical, economic and social drivers, the Strategy will make the same mistakes as previous initiatives and fail to make a significant impact on reducing harmful emissions.

Q4 Does the Way Forward section give a reasonable outline of what further action is needed to deliver an effective Low Emission Strategy? Please suggest changes if not.

The ways forward section effectively proposes to only modestly ramp-up policies and measures which have had a small impact so far.  We propose more innovative and holistic thinking is required to have a big reduction in the emission of harmful emissions and to give a clean, safe environment to all in Scotland.The strategy relies heavily on the local authorities to implement, monitor and enforce the Strategy.   The way forward document does not mention what and how additional resources, particularly know-how, will be provided to local authorities to ensure they can deliver their duties effectively. The way forwards outline for transport are very reliant on operators of high-emissions switching to low-emission vehicles.  As outlined in the previous sections, the current proposals will be ineffective especially for buses given the economic and social drivers that currently in place.  There are plenty of innovative solutions already in place elsewhere that can implemented in Scotland to reduce the emissions of harmful emission.  For example, proposed levels of freight traffic in areas that suffer from high levels of emissions can be lowered by operating a consolidation freight delivery scheme as the ones operating in Bristol and Bath (   Such a scheme means businesses can continue to operate and thrive in city centre locations while reducing emissions by minimising the number of partially-filled freight vehicles clogging up congested roads.  This should be in addition to re-introducing bus regulation, so that local authorities can control the number of buses especially in high emission areas.
Planning consideration could take note of English Code for Sustainable Homes requirement for all new residential developments to include  provision for a home work-space. Building Control could set energy targets for conversions and major renovations, moving beyond current principle of 'betterment'. Building Control energy section could take note of Code for Sustainable Homes targets to reduce / monitor site traffic, waste and travel distances of materials to site. Planning should seek to reduce insistence upon 100 - 150% parking provision to new developments to encourage and support use of public transport infrastructure. Planning to ensure that large / major scale master plans allow for community facilities and amenity provision to reduce necessity for car journeys.
Funding for electric buses could be developed, extending two buses operating to/from city centre and Riverside Museum, with support from Glasgow City Council.   Cycling initiatives could be developed eg. segregated cycle routes, cycle to work schemes, more showers in office buildings as part of Breaam excellence building standards. Budgets for local authorities need to provide 8-9% of overall funds to cycling and walking annually as has been achieved in Edinburgh, Clackmannanshire. Cycle hire projects could be rolled out, with electric bikes made available.

Q5 What are your views on the proposals for the National Modelling Framework?

The air quality model only concentrates on urban areas which is fair enough for small to medium-sized developments in those areas but it does not appear to demonstrate what the cumulative effects of developments will be on rural areas outside the modelled areas. 
Granted the most severe concentrations of pollution will be in those areas, but the issue is raised in the introduction to the consultation.

Q6 What are your views on the proposals for the National Low Emission Zone Framework?

As Strategy shows, Low Emission Zone Frameworks are not new and well tested models already exist.  Although we need to ensure suitability for Scotland, valuable time and resources should not be spent on re-inventing the wheel.   If we acted now, a Low Emission Zone Framework should be in place by start of the next Parliament.   The framework is fair enough as applied to vehicles, but it does not address emissions from buildings or mitigation of emissions by road planning and traffic flow optimisation. A large amount of the consultation document addresses the need to include emissions in the planning process, but the implementation of the framework appears to only be regulation of vehicles.

Q7 What are your views on the proposed Key Performance Indicators? Are any different or additional Indicators required?

The KPIs as set are good and we would not change them.  We would add possible indicators of economic impact, e.g. footfall in shopping districts and turnover of businesses in the LEZ.  It could also add another health indicator, regarding illnesses and time off work attributable to particulate air pollution.


Cycling Hub at Hughenden

I gave my support to a cycling hub at Hillhead Sports Club today. There was a junior obstacle course and play on pedals for pre-school learners. It was a sunny afternoon which encourages families to come along and get involved in cycling activities. 

 Bike racks are available.

There were a variety of stalls including information on Sky Ride Groups supported by Glasgow Life and Dr Bike Cycle Repair offered by the Bike Station.

My bike got a safety check from Dr Bike Cycle Repair.

There are plans to develop regular cycle rides and cycling activities at Hillhead Sports Club. This should encourage residents to get their bikes out of the attic or garage and back in to use. 

Useful links:

Sky Ride Update -

Plan your bike journey at Cycle Streets -

Hillhead Sports Club -

Bike Station -

International Day of Action on Trade

Today, 18th April, is an International Day of Action against all of the unjust, free trade agreements.  I joined activists campaigning to stop the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) gathered at the Buchanan Street Steps in Glasgow to hand out leaflets and gather signatures for a petition.

No to TTIP Banner at Buchanan Street Steps.

The latest TTIP update states that the European and External Relations Committee of the Scottish Parliament published its report on the TTIP Inquiry at the end of March. It is anticipated that the Scottish Parliament will debate TTIP in the next few months.  Further questions can be raised about TTIP's impact on local government services.

Useful Links:

Global justice Now -

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Review of vision for Libraries

Glasgow Life consulted on a new vision for Glasgow Libraries and this ended on 30th March. In my submission, I stated that it is recognised that Glasgow Libraries are a much loved and much needed local service.  The process of review and engagement with stakeholders to identify the best ways to develop and support our Libraries services is welcomed. 

The network of libraries is a vital access point to books, council services and web access for many people. Whilst the use of space within libraries is changing, they provide convenient locations within local communities where people can reach out for assistance. Some branch libraries may need to be upgraded to ensure they are more accessible and fit for the future. This needs to be budgeted for in the Glasgow City Council’s spending plans.  

Underused locations should be subject of a much more determined exercise to find potential users, trial new activities and attract community initiatives that could support new uses. The need for services should take account of multiple social deprivation across the city with such neighbourhood's prioritised.

Local services including books, web access, trained library staff and toilets are a priority; support for job searches or information on welfare benefits are crucial. Provision of research facilities and resources for finding trusted information, whether for study or hobby, or to deal with institutions and personal needs, is a key service that must not be compromised. 

Many other activities and facilities are also available and these need to be publicised effectively. Services in the Mitchell Library are a magnet for a great many users. This is a world class collection which requires substantial investment to ensure that it can reach a wider audience. There is also an opportunity to showcase local libraries there as many users may not know what is available nearer them or what activities go on. 

Any local innovations and variations that meet local needs better should still remain part of the complete city-wide network integrated into technology and standards of the core, free offer. 

Non users can be attracted to expand the reach of the service.  Access to other council facilities and services is a priority eg contact points within libraries; careers services or youth facilities co-located with libraries; a health centre alongside a library; a senior citizens club sharing space with a library. Opportunities for community facilities and centres to share library buildings and space should be explored. Making libraries community hubs will strengthen them.

Refreshments and other services that generate revenue for the libraries service should be developed in conjunction with users. Any revenue earning options must not damage other local traders but be developed in conjunction with the community to ensure they meet local needs. 

The web offering from Libraries needs to be promoted and integrated so that users can order and collect via branches more readily. This could be combined with ‘click and collect’ facilities for other e-commerce sites to attract their customers to visit libraries eg for parcels.

Quiet and noisy uses need to be accommodated so that families, those seeking peace or studying or job search, and others can share buildings.

Community users and potential community users, from local groups to societies, clubs, artists, entertainers and others can all be accommodated in some places and times if the facilities are reviewed. We'd like to see libraries attract many new users from all sections and cultures in the city. This development is likely to bring much diversity to the library services. Volunteering cannot be a substitute for trained staff. It can be encouraged through development of partnerships with local voluntary organisations, and community councils. There are opportunities to expand the role of volunteers building on the success of Macmillan Cancer Support to include a city literacy campaign and learning linked to local heritage. 

The legacy of Andrew Carnegie is highlighted in the vision document. I hope that stronger connections could be developed with the Carnegie Trust and similar Trusts to support investment in our libraries and development of access to the City Archives.

Useful link:

Glasgow Life -

Support for Bairns not Bombs

On Saturday 4th April, I joined thousands at a demonstration and rally to protest against Trident Nuclear Weapons.

Speakers included Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland; Patrick Harvie MSP, Co-Convenor, Scottish Greens; Katy Clark MP (Labour); Cat Boyd, Radical Independence Campaign; Sasha Callaghan, Disability History Scotland; Nuala Watt, Human Beings on Benefits; Ann Henderson, Assistant Secretary, STUC; and singers Karine Polwart and Penny Stone.

Scottish Greens gathered in George Square to 
call for a stop to renewal of Trident nuclear weapons.

This event highlighted the opposition of the SNP, Greens, Plaid Cymru and a handful of Labour rebels to the main UK parties plan to replace Trident at a cost of £100Bn and keep nuclear weapons in Scotland for the next 50 years.

Keeping Hillhead Cleaner

Between 28th March and 5th April, there were organised volunteer clean ups across Hillhead. On 1st April, I supported the removal of littering from Belgrave Terrace and surrounding streets. There was a good turnout of local residents coordinated by Action Hillhead.

Action Hillhead is a voluntary group which aims to create and to demand a higher standard of cleanliness and far more pleasant environment within Hillhead. It works with Land and Environmental Services (LES) Cleansing Department, Community Safety Glasgow, Hillhead High School, Students and Estates Department Glasgow University, and Glasgow Academy.

After the clean up on 1st April, the various streets and lanes next to Belgrave Terrace were litter-free. This area is regularly cleaned up by residents. They have been involved in maintaining the cobbled lane and ensuring the open spaces are looked after.

Volunteer clean up of Belgrave Lane.

Openspace at Belgrave Lane.

The efforts of Action Hillhead have supported an improvement in the appearance of many streets. There have been social benefits as people involved have had an opportunity to meet up with neighbours to share their concerns. 

Useful link: