Green MSP Ross Greer has criticised bus company McGill’s for a change that will leave many students paying 50% more for their bus travel.
McGill’s recently announced changes to fares which come into place on Monday (22 January). A minority of adult single and return fares are being increased by 5p or 10p, but the major hike is targeted at students. The bus company will stop offering student all-day tickets, meaning that those students travelling a up to three days a week between most of Renfrewshire and Glasgow will see an increase in fares from £3 to £4.50 (or £4.20 for a mobile phone ticket) each day.
Ross Greer, Green MSP for the West of Scotland, who has lodged a Parliamentary Motion, has invited McGills to meet with himself and local young people and to agree that they will reverse this fare hike.
Speaking ahead of the fare rise Greer said:
“This will be a major blow to students across Renfrewshire, many of whom rely on McGill’s buses to get to college, university or part time jobs. In effect, it’s a 50% hike in their fares overnight. This is a money-grab by McGill’s- I can’t see why else they would have chosen to single out students for fare increases in this way. If you are a young person living in Renfrew and studying in Glasgow, you’re suddenly facing almost five pound more each week just to get to college or university. For many, that just won’t be possible.
“I’ll be joining the local Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament who are calling on McGill’s to reinstate student day tickets immediately.”
Green MSP Ross Greer has called on other politicians and residents to back a change to unfair planning laws following recent controversies in Renfrewshire.
Greer has called for other MSPs to back an Equal Right of Appeal for communities, meaning an end to the current planning rules which allow developers the right to appeal if their application is rejected but doesn’t allow the local community a right to appeal if planning permission is granted against their wishes.
Earlier this year, six appeals to rejected planning applications on greenfield land around Renfrewshire were considered as one, the first time such a collective decision has been taken. This concerned communities who felt the individual applications in their areas would be diluted and important local considerations not taken into account by the catch-all decision making approach.
Green MSP for the West of Scotland Ross Greer has been involved in campaigns against unwanted developments for some years, including as a committee member of We Like Milngavie, who successfully stopped Tesco’s expansion to a town-centre destroying Megastore in the town. He said:
“I hear constantly from communities around the region who are frustrated and left feeling powerless by the planning system. They don’t see why a developer can appeal against a rejection of their plans, but the community don’t have this right when the shoe is on the other foot. We have the opportunity to change this in 2018, if other local MSPs will back an equal right of appeal for communities.
“The current planning system is unbalanced and undemocratic- the developer’s exclusive right of appeal gives them an unfair advantage over communities. A new planning bill will go through the Scottish Parliament in the next few months. I’ll be supporting moves to equalise the right of appeal, but many MSPs and the SNP Government are still to be persuaded. I’d encourage everyone with experience of this unfairness to write to all their MSPs and support Equal Right of Appeal in the planning process.”
Green MSP for the West of Scotland Ross Greer reacted to tonight’s announcement that Coventry was awarded City of Culture status, saying:
“Everyone in Paisley can be proud of the brilliant campaign. Even though the town wasn’t selected, Paisley can rightly claim to be a city of culture. The bid has put Paisley on the map as a cultural hotspot with a proud history of industry and working class radicalism and I know that the hard work of the bid team will continue to reap benefits for the whole community. Congratulations to Coventry on their success.”
Green MSP for the West of Scotland Ross Greer has called upon the Royal Bank of Scotland to reverse plans to close their branch in Renfrew. The closure is one of 62 planned closures of RBS branches across Scotland.
Ross Greer made the call in a parliamentary motion which expressed solidarity with workers whose jobs are under threat and with communities who will lose a vital local service.
“It is impossible that a large bank like RBS can close so many branches at once without real inconvenience and disruption for many of their customers. A bank branch is a vital part of many people’s community. They should not have to fear no longer having an easily accessible banking facility.
“I understand that there’s a move towards more digital banking but there are many people for whom that is not an option and these people need their local branches the most. I have written to the Royal Bank of Scotland with these concerns and hope that, in conjunction with staff and their unions they can work to find alternative solutions which protect local jobs and banking services”
It has been a pleasure campaigning to become your Councillor over the past several months. During the time I have been able to meet so many wonderful people who truly care about their community and want to improve their local area. I have listened to you as you let me know about a range of subjects from littering to the condition of pavements to removal of services including vital personal care to real concerns over road speeds and the possible closure of Ward 15.
I have campaigned the way I would work as a Councillor if elected- by putting you at the heart of decision-making and putting the power in your hands. You are the voices which should be heard and you should be the people making the decisions. I would be ensuring that happens by having weekly meetings with individuals in every area of my ward and ensuring your views are heard at Council meetings. Too many decisions are taken by too few people completely removed from public scrutiny. This is not ok and I will ensure I work tirelessly to ensure it does not happen with myself in your Council.
During my campaign I have also pledged to support many campaigns including Age Concern, Diabetes UK, Obesity Action Scotland, Plan For Children, Inclusion Scotland and Walk, Cycle, Vote. I have listened to what concerns you and have promised to work closely with expert organisations to ensure your wishes are heard and acted on.
I have run on 3 main promises:
Connecting Communities – ensuring a broadband action plan and working towards free access in every public building and improving public transport services and cycle routes with many of these being at threat in our local area.
Protecting Services – ensuring our vital services including personal and social care are reinstated together with a real living wage for our carers and looking after our unpaid carers, campaigning for Ward 15 to remain open and ensuring your voices are heard when decisions are taken which impact on your services.
Creating homes – we have so many brownfield sites which can support better and rent controlled homes ensuring more accessible homes while protecting our environments and greenbelts. We need to ensure that our homes are affordable and we need to ensure that those with extra needs are not being punished for the failings of Councils – including those requiring an extra room for support staff and equipment not being financially penalised or moved from their homes.
I have also been involved with writing and have signed up to several manifestos:
I hope I have shown I am a strong candidate who wants to listen and work with you as your Councillor which I will continue to do over the next several years. I look forward to hearing from you further if you would like me to help with any issue and I promise if I am elected as your Councillor to take the most important action – listen to you and act by your wishes.
Emma McShane has the kind of experience of community campaigning and voluntary work which would put most councillors to shame.
Having graduated with a degree in Scots Law, specialising in social housing, the 23 year-old went straight into working and volunteering for housing associations.
Emma said: “When you’re working in social housing, you’re seeing people day in day out- especially in community-based housing associations- because you’ve got a core group of people that you’re seeing all the time, so you build a good relationship. It’s not just issues with housing that you hear about, it’s issues with everything. The common themes that often arise in social housing, especially in Paisley Southeast, is that there is a lack of sufficient housing.
“Whilst there are a number of socially rented homes available, they can be unsuitable for people’s needs. There is a lack of family homes. There are lots of neglected tenements in the area that, for a variety of reasons, aren’t being maintained. Some because there are owners living there who cannot always afford to pay for major repairs, and that’s the price we’ve paid for ‘right to buy’- mixed tenure closes.”
We don’t need more mortgaged homes; we need more socially rented homes that are fit for purpose.
Emma is keen to put the issue of housing at the forefront of this election. She said: “We need to be renovating the housing stock that we’ve got just now in our ward because you look at areas like Fairway Avenue where some tenements are still getting developed, some are just being left, but they are focussing their energy on supporting expensive newbuild projects in green spaces that are not meeting the housing need of the people who live here. We don’t need more mortgaged homes; we need more socially rented homes that are fit for purpose.”
Emma is passionate about bringing change to her local community in other ways. From arguing against building on green spaces, such as at Caplethill Road, to maintaining vital local services like the children’s ward at the RAH, Emma has taken forward the concerns of local residents about the actions of a local council which does not seem to listen.
“I am standing because I am completely disenchanted with the quality of councillor that we’ve had, particularly in this ward. From what I’ve seen over the last few years I think councils need a Green voice to stand up for what people want. A lot of parties are dictating from their head offices rather than governing as part of a functional local democracy. In Labour-run councils you see common themes across the country, so I think there needs to be a voice to challenge on these issues.”
In places like Glenburn, there are projects doing phenomenal work – at the resource centre, at the libraries
The Scottish Greens have always stressed the importance of local democracy. From participatory budgeting to community ownership, Greens across the country have pioneered new ways of putting power into the hands of ordinary citizens.
Emma said: “I think we need to see more activities like participatory budgeting. You see it in Glasgow. They do it very well. They have huge open meetings, and it is broadcast to the community and they’re engaging with the right people, but we’re just not getting it Renfrewshire. In places like Glenburn, there are projects doing phenomenal work – at the resource centre, at the libraries. There’s all these little pockets of communities working and the job of local councillors should be to ensure that these groups are communicating and working towards common goals, alongside being supported by the local authority.
“If you get something like participatory budgeting in place then you give these groups money and support which are distributed according to the needs of residents of the community enable them to work towards bigger project goals.”
With all the talk of independence and Brexit there is concern is some quarters that local issues might be overlooked, but this is something that the Greens are keen to address. Speaking at the Scottish Greens’ local manifesto launch in April, candidate for Victoria Park in Glasgow, Allan Faulds, said: “Those parties that are trying to make it about constitutional issues are doing a great disservice to their communities.” Emma concurs: “I think there can be a theme in local elections that certain parties don’t take it as seriously as they should.
She said: “There’s a lot going on nationally in politics but there has to be a local focus because this is really the day-to-day stuff that affects people’s lives. People are upset by not having the correct parking in place, by hospitals not having the right facilities, by community centres going under and by a genuine lack of cohesive services. These issues matter massively to people but are not always thought of as a political problem. We need to change that perception so that people are empowered to hold their local council to account.
“I can’t tell people what issues they should be voting on, but I hope they will recognise that what the Greens are putting forward in Renfrewshire is an appetite to listen and to act on their concerns to protect our environment, connect our communities and protect our local services.”
The Greens are looking on course for what party co-convener, Patrick Harvie, hopes to be: “more people elected to public office in May, in the local council elections, than have ever been elected as Greens at any level in our history as a party.” The skills and experience of candidates like Emma are the backbone of a diverse party on the rise in Scottish politics.
Council elections take place this Thursday 4 May, and polls stay open until 10pm.
The Scottish Greens have highlighted the silence of other parties on how they will protect Renfrewshire’s green spaces if they are successful in Thursday’s local elections.
They have pointed to concerns raised by local residents that other parties are not taking their concerns seriously. Local planning is a key responsibility of councils and has important consequences for the quality of life in Renfrewshire’s towns and villages.
Graham Batin, Green candidate for Renfrew South and Gallowhill, attempted to seek assurances via email from local SNP MP, Mhairi Black, that greenbelt development would cease under an SNP council. After two months he finally received a response after posting on the Renfrewshire Greens Facebook page.
Ms Black wrote: “I have contacted Kevin Stewart MSP, Minister for Local Government and Housing in the Scottish Government, and am awaiting a response from him regarding the points that you and several other constituents have raised.”
Sarah Anderson, Green candidate for Johnstone North, Kilbarchan, Howwood and Lochwinnoch, said: “The SNP claim to be protectors of the greenbelt. They could, if they wanted to, put Renfrewshire residents’ minds at rest right now and announce that Renfrewshire greenbelt will be safe under their stewardship. SNP ministers are not bound by any recommendations of the Reporter (for example, they overruled the Reporter over the M74 extension) so it will be entirely the SNP’s fault if we find, after the elections are over, green spaces between our towns and villages disappearing under concrete.
“I call on all elected SNP members and candidates at every level to state, before we choose our representatives, that there will be no building on Renfrewshire greenbelt.”
Emma McShane, Green candidate for Paisley Southeast, agrees, saying: “There are more than enough brownfield sites in Renfrewshire to meet local housing needs. In any case, most of the housing planned will not be affordable to locals on an average wage. Developers are only interested in making money from luxury developments. If other parties want to show that they are on the side of Renfrewshire’s citizens, all they need to do is publicly say no to greenbelt development in Renfrewshire.”
Renfrewshire greenbelt is under severe threat. Developers have appealed against numerous refusals to allow greenbelt building and now, in an unprecedented move, five appeals are being considered as one by three Reporters, the people the Scottish government appoint to advise them on such cases.
Sarah Anderson further commented, “The Scottish Green Party are committed to protecting the greenbelt and keeping services local. It is essential that we have Green voices in elected positions. It’s time for election hopefuls from the other parties, in the SNP, Labour and the Tories, to show their true colours. If they won’t answer these important questions before May 4th, I urge their supporters to consider giving their first preference vote to a party which will, the Scottish Greens.”
The Scottish Green Party have raised concerns about driving speeds in Renfrewshire’s residential areas.
Vehicles driving at 30mph through busy urban areas have been highlighted by local residents, particularly in the villages where there are narrower pavements.
Scottish Green policy is for 20mph limits in residential areas to improve safety and reduce pollution. A consultation earlier this year with councils to discover how many roads in their jurisdiction showed a very mixed picture across Scotland. Renfrewshire Council failed to respond. (1)
Sarah Anderson, candidate for Johnstone North, Kilbarchan, Howwood and Lochwinnoch, said: “As I speak with my neighbours to ask what their concerns are for the upcoming elections, many have complained about the condition of our roads and pavements. We are being put at risk by drivers going faster than conditions allow, while remaining within the speed limit.
“Given the Council has failed to respond to a basic question over how many roads in the area had 20 mph limits there is a real problem over how we protect our children and combat pollution in the area.”
Emma McShane, candidate for Paisley Southeast, said: “Having the speed limit at 20 rather than 30 mph would ensure we are able to enjoy our communities without risk of being hurt by traffic. There have been too many near-misses in our communities and residents are becoming concerned.
“We are not suggesting that drivers are at fault as they are sticking to law as it stand. However, we believe that those laws require updating to protect us all. With local elections only days away and many people focussed on national or international issues it is important to remember to vote for Green candidates who will prioritise local issues when you are voting on 4 May.”
Sarah Anderson, Scottish Green council candidate for Johnstone North, Kilbarchan, Lochwinnoch and Howwood, has highlighted the need for more consideration of the needs of disabled people in local politics.
Sarah, who is herself disabled, spoke after attending three events in the past week, all aimed at increasing political participation among disabled people.
Sarah comments “I am lucky to be standing in one of the most beautiful areas in Scotland. However, there are many issues which disproportionately affect disabled members of our community. Campaigning in these elections has brought home the scale of the task.
“Issues ranged from bins being in the middle of the pavement which would have been impossible to pass had I been alone, bank ATMs being too high up for wheelchair users to access and no local taxi firms able to take a wheelchair.
“Although taxi firms are incredibly helpful and polite I had to call over 20 companies and still could not find one able to take my wheelchair. Given that councils are largely responsible for allocating taxi contracts this is an area we can definitely improve on.”
Only 30% of candidates in the upcoming local elections are women, while disabled candidates are estimated to number less than 10%, far below the 20% of citizens who have some form of disability.
Inclusion Scotland operate a programme called Access to Politics which has assisted Sarah to use enhanced computer equipment, personal assistants and wheelchair taxis to be able to actively campaign and encourage people to vote for her.
Sarah continues “When I lost ability to walk and developed a hearing impairment late last year I had no way of knowing how much my disability would impact on daily decisions. I think putting disabled people at the heart of our community improves it for us all.
“There is no substitute for lived experience and as the only disabled candidate standing in my ward I feel that I am ideally placed to represent my neighbours. Councillors must deal with issues from schools to building access to lighting, all of which impact disabled people.
“When I attended an Enable Scotland hustings early this month it became clear that disabled people do not feel that they have a voice in their communities or within our political worlds. Only by listening to disabled people and acting with them in mind will we be able to change our communities for the better.”
Sarah spoke after attending two Inclusion Scotland events in Edinburgh, aimed at encouraging disabled women to get involved in politics and to encourage parties to engage with the concerns of disabled citizens at the local level.
She also attended the manifesto launch of the Glasgow Disability Alliance which put forward several proposals to help councillors to put disabled people at the heart of decisions making.
Sarah said: “Given that disabled people are affected by many issues within the scope of a council’s daily responsibilities- such as lighting, access, pavements and roads- it is high time we followed the advice of the Glasgow Disability Alliance and started to put disabled people at the heart of the local political agenda. As the only disabled candidate standing by electing myself you will enable this to start immediately and progressively.”
The Renfrewshire Green party claim that the Tory campaign for the local elections is being “run from Tory HQ” after it emerged that the candidate for Renfrew North and Braehead was nominated without being informed by the party. (1)
Jane Strang, Conservative candidate for Renfrew North and Braehead, revealed on Facebook that she had no idea she had been selected as candidate for the area until she saw her mother’s postal ballot paper.
Nath Rosset, Green candidate for Renfrew North and Braehead, said: “It is good to see women getting involved in local politics, no matter where their political allegiances lie. However, as in all other matters regarding their lives, it is wrong that women should be made to stand for election without their knowledge, as has happened here.
“This mess indicates the complete contempt in which the Conservatives hold voters in our ward. They deserve strong, committed local candidates who are keen to make a difference to the area. Not a campaign run centrally from Tory HQ.”
Emma McShane, Green candidate for Paisley Southeast, said: “We all know that the Tories are already looking past the council elections in May, but how can voters really trust that any of the Tory candidates in Renfrewshire, and across Scotland, would make suitable councillors who will stand up for their constituents and not slash public services at the command of their party’s HQ?”
Sarah Anderson, Green candidate for Johnstone North, Kilbarchan, Howwood and Lochwinnoch, said: “Tory candidates cannot be trusted to deliver for the people of Renfrewshire when they are openly admitting to being unaware of their own selection. While they harp on about referendums, Green candidates will be strong voices for maintaining vital local services, connecting our communities and creating affordable homes in our communities.”