The post-independence referendum to do list

Caron Lindsay

Published on Liberal Democrat Voice

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Fri 19th September 2014 – 12:01 pm

I am so relieved this morning. I don’t think I have ever been as scared and anxious about any political event in my life as I was about the result of the referendum on independence. I really do think that a win for Yes would not have brought the help for the most vulnerable in society that was promised.

I don’t feel any great sense of victory. I know that many of my friends, who have the same values and want the same things for our society as I do, are feeling distraught this morning. I’ve been on the receiving end of defeat enough times to know its pain. These are good people and I feel for them.

I need desperately to sleep but before I do, and while I wait for Salmond to make his statement at 10 am, I thought I’d jot down a bit of a to do list for a whole variety of people. It’s ambitious.

1. Deliver on the more powers pledge – putting something like Liberal Democrat policy into practice.

The result was not a massive vote of confidence in the UK as it stands. The union has been put on probation. If people are not given signifiant new powers that make a difference, we’ll be back here in 5 years’ time. Do it quickly and inclusively.

2. Develop a strategy for tackling poverty and inequality at UK and Scottish level

In some ways the “more powers” thing was a bit of a red herring. People wanted more powers but they also wanted to make life better for the most vulnerable people in society. We need a bit of vision on delivering better housing and getting people out of poverty. That will really give the 84% of people who turned out yesterday a reason to do so again.

3. No excuses, no delay: we need votes at 16 now

One of the best sight of yesterday was seeing 16 and 17 year olds heading to the polling station for the first time in a UK election. It worked. They shouldn’t have that vote taken away from them now. Is it possible to implement it for the General Election next May? There is no reason it couldn’t be rushed through Parliament, surely. No taxation without representation, after all.

4. Let’s sort out how we run referendum campaigns

Although the gap was reasonable in the end, there could have been, should have been a bigger margin. Yes gained a lot of ground during the campaign because it ran a  highly effective, creative and emotional grassroots operation. Better Together on the other hand wasn’t so good. I’m not talking about the I’ll go into more details about the respective campaigns later, but for the moment, be worried by the thought that we lost the AV referendum because of a terrible campaign. We almost lost this because of a campaign that could have been a lot better on so many levels. If we have to fight an EU referendum, when the opposition will be well-funded and well-motivated,, we need to sort out how it’s done. Everything, from setting the message, to rebuttal to grassroots organisation has to improve.

5. Labour needs to sort itself out or face further decline

One of the things that the deficiencies in Better Together organisation exposed was the lack of organisation in Labour held seats. Traditionally they haven’t needed to campaign in certain areas because their vote was so strong. Their star has been waning though. They’ve been comprehensively out-campaigned by the SNP in the last two Holyrood elections and their organisation during the referendum showed that they have failed to take the hint. With little polling day organisation outside their most marginal seats, they need to shape up and fast. It’s even more stark for them now as all those registered to vote int he referendum, will still reregistered in May.

6. The nastiness fuelled by senior nationalists need to stop

When you have a survey saying that 46% of No campaigners asked by Yougov said that they had felt “personally threatened” during the campaign compared to 26% of  Yes campaigners, that shows that the bad behaviour was not quite one way traffic, but significantly more of a problem for the Yes side to sort. That involves its leadership showing zero tolerance of any anti-English or otherwise bad behaviour from anyone associated by it. If someone says No voters were bad parents, sling them out. Simple. It’s not an appropriate atmosphere in which to conduct political debate.

7. Change for women too

A few weeks ago I went to an event in Glasgow which sought to look at what we would do post the referendum to improve women’s equality whatever the result. We need to start taking some of these ideas forward.

* Caron Lindsay is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron’s Musings

This week’s Lib Dem Surgeries – Willenhall North

Willenhall North Lib Dem Focus Team members Cllr Ian Shires and Carol Fletcher continue to provide their regular Advice Surgeries. This week we will be at the following locations:

091101 IanCarol Rose 2

This week members of the team will be at the following locations to listen to your views and help you with issues you might have with the Council, Walsall Housing Group and other Public Agencies.

This Friday the venue is The Lighthouse Children’s Centre, Davis Rd, New Invention 7 pm to 8 pm (Joint Surgery with Willenhall Police)
Saturday the venue will be New Invention Library, The Square, Lichfield Road, New Invention between 11.30 am to 12 noon
If you have an idea which would help to improve Willenhall North, problem or want some advice please come along.
Labour’s plan to close Willenhall Police Station

Willenhall Police StnNews is emerging that Willenhall Police Station has been earmarked for closure under plans drawn up by the Police Crime Commisioner for the West Midlands, Labour’s David Jamieson in order to raise £500,000 and cut £170,000 a year in running costs. Under the plans most operations at Willenhall’s John Street station will be transferred to Darlaston. 

Commenting on Labour’s plans for local Policing, Liberal Democrat Councillor for Willenhall North Ian Shires said ” Obviously I am disappointed to hear that there are plans to close Willenhall’s Police Station. But the real issue is the way in which this decision has been arrived at. I’m a local councillor and the first I heard of this was via the Express and Star! It’s no wonder people feel divorced from the decision making process!

“Willenhall has an Area Partnership (one of six across Walsall) currently under Labour control. Yet not once has the Labour Police Crime Commisioner (PCC) sought to put options to the people of Willenhall on the future shape of Policing across the area.

“Over the Summer, Liberal Democrats in Short Heath and New Invention have carried out a Summer Survey through their regular FOCUS newsletters. Concerns highlighted in the many responses we had put crime and the fear of crime top of most people’s list. Closing Willenhall’s Police Station in this fashion does nothing to calm those fears.”

The question of how this will affect local policing will be raised by Ian this evening with Police at our regular monthly joint Councillor/Police Surgery ahead of any talks there might be with Labour’s PCC.

So the answer is ‘No’

So what next?

Hopefully it means that devolution in England is back on the agenda. What we don’t need is devolution that misses anyone out.

We in the Liberal Democrats believe that no-one should be a victim of their post-code, yet if you are English at the moment, you are! The last exercise in devolution done by the last Labour Government devolved power in Scotland & Wales but left out England – that was a mistake and had led to a rise in far-right nationalist groups across England.

There has been talk about devolving power to cities or city ‘regions’ – is that word back on the agenda considering its been banned ever since Tory Ministers got into power? I think this kind of devolution would be a mistake if anyone was excluded from its benefits.

We need to learn the lessons from what has gone before – giving more power exclusively to cities could lead to the economic decline of towns and other urban areas, and will create a justified outcry in rural areas – what about us? And even if such areas are covered within ‘city regions’, a lot of people will rightly say, ‘are we defined by our nearest biggest city?’. I can’t see the people of Walsall taking kindly to being part of Greater Birmingham! Sorry to those who have this idea, but you’ve got to respect local differences when it comes to devolution. Just look what happened to Willenhall when the Metropolitan Councils were set up. It was carved up with most of it being subsumed by Walsal and a slice of it (Portobello) being hived off to Wolverhampton to make the numbers up!

No, we need to get regional devolution back on the agenda. Currently Walsall sends 3 MPs to London and each MP’s journey is a cost to the taxpayer – the cost must be far worse for MPs from say Northumberland! Its time to be arguing for sending just one MP to Westminster, and keeping 2 back in the region to sit in a Mercian Parliament. They would spend less time travelling and more time in Walsall seeing what’s actually going on.

Thank you Scotland

A big thank you to the people of Scotland for voting to stay in the Union.

A big thank you also goes out to the people of Scotland for bringing devolution of power away from Westminster to the top of the political agenda. Devolution not just for Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland but also for the regions of England.

It’s no good for political parties just to talk about an English Parliament. Do that and as far as the English are concern power still rests with Westminster.

The debate needs to move on and decide how best we can shift power and spread wealth across the whole of England.

What is needed is to back up what the Scots have started for us with a strong Union based on a Federal United Kingdom. Long live the Union…..

New Invention Health Centre – Lib Dem pressure begins to get results

New Inv Med CentreRecent meetings between Liberal Democrat Cllr Ian Shires and New Invention Health Centre’s lead GP are beginning to show results. That part of the site fenced off for potential future development has been enclosed with a high close board fence reducing the derelict appearance of the Centre and reducing its impact on local residents and the street scene. Further talks are planned to discuss the future of the site.

Ian had asked for a meeting to highlight local concerns identified by responses to the Lib Dem FOCUS Summer Survey. regular readers of this blog will recall that Liberal Democrat Cllr Doreen Shires had raised concerns about the Cannock Road Centre at a meeting earlier this week of Walsall Council’s Health and Social Care Scrutiny Panel.

Plans to build a new Health Centre on the site were first mooted back in 2006. The financial crisis of 2008 prevented progress being made and led to a rescue bid imposed by the NHS earlier this year. Recent feedback has been more positive about the service provided by the practice but people remain very concerned about the condition of the ageing building.

Ed Davey: Britain is getting its energy policy right

Liberal Democrat Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey has welcomed reports that show Britain is tackling climate change and taking steps to break up the Big Six Energy firms.

A study by PwC shows the UK has become one of the world’s eco-friendly countries in the past year after a record 34 per cent jump in renewable energy generation.

The closure of some coal-fired power stations and improved energy efficiency in home and factories has seen Britain rise to second place in a global ranking of green economic performance.

It comes as a report by an independent group Cornwall Energy shows Big Six energy companies are losing market share to smaller suppliers.

The latest figures show that customers have 3.8m accounts with the smaller suppliers and 45.9m with the Big Six firms.

Ed Davey said:

“These two reports show that with Liberal Democrats at the helm Britain is getting its energy and climate change policy right.

“The PwC study is a vindication for the Liberal Democrat belief that you can grow your economy while cutting carbon dioxide emissions. Green growth is a reality.

“And the news that millions of energy customers are now signed up to independent suppliers shows that people are increasingly benefiting from the new competition in the market we have championed.

“These two reports are further proof that the Liberal Democrats are building a stronger economy and fairer society.”

LibLink: Shirley Williams: How Scotland could lead the way towards a federal UK

Published on Liberal Democrat Voice By  | Wed 17th September 2014 – 12:38 pm

Shirley Williams

The Guardian posted an article by Shirley Williams yesterday, in which she writes:

The referendum decision will come at the culmination of a long period of disillusionment with politicians. The SNP, like the other mainstream parties, has attracted its own share of public frustration about centralisation and the excessive rule of Edinburgh over other regions of Scotland. Nationally, the disillusionment began with the poll tax, the decline of manufacturing in Scotland, Wales, the Midlands and the north of England during the Thatcher years, the failure of our interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan and the financial crisis in 2008 which loaded on taxpayers the huge costs of bailing out the banks.

Her solution is:

It demands a radical response, not only devolution of more powers, including in areas of taxation and public expenditure, to Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, but also a willingness to devolve power within each country to the great cities as well as to local communities – in short, acting on the principle that decisions should be made at the level of those affected by them. The digital revolution makes that easier than ever before.

She refers to the West Lothian question, and also discusses the need to build infrastructure in Scotland.

Finally she mentions:

… the kind of intense open public discussion that characterised the Scottish constitutional convention in the early 90s. That convention produced a blueprint for devolution and a new Scottish parliament.

Scotland gave us a model then. These are steps on the way towards a federal United Kingdom. We should be grateful to the Scottish people for opening the way to a democratic destiny grown from local roots. That can only be realised if we work together.

* Newshound: bringing you the best Lib Dem commentary published in print or online.

Unemployment falls again

The latest unemployment figures from the ONS have been released showing a fall by 146,000, lowering the total unemployment count to 2.02 million.

The figures released today show that unemployment has fallen to 6.2%, the lowest rate in six years.

Business Secretary Vince Cable called today’s positive labour market figures “no accident” and said that the Liberal Democrats in Government were delivering the recovery fairly.

Creating jobs is central to the Liberal Democrat plans to build a stronger economy and a fairer society and we have worked to create over 1 million jobs for people across the UK.


Vince Cable commented:

“The Liberal Democrats have taken steps to ensure our labour market is fair and flexible – delivering opportunities for everyone and preventing exploitation of the most vulnerable.

“The employment growth that we are now witnessing is one of this Government’s key achievements.”

The Office for National Statistics figures also showed that the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance in August fell by 37,200 to 966,500.

And average weekly earnings, excluding bonuses, in the May to July period, rose by 0.7% from a year earlier.

Vince added:

“Today we’ve had another remarkable set of labour market figures, which show that the recovery in the labour market has been broad based.

“In the past twelve months alone, employment has increased by 774,000, with private sector employment rising by 794,000 on the year.

“This has led to an almost record share of the UK working age population being in work.

“The fall in unemployment is the largest in over 25 years with the number of people claiming Job Seeker’s Allowance below one million for the first time since the recession.”

Gallery Garden a hive of activity for youngsters

Published by Walsall Council: Last updated: 17/09/2014 22:00:05

flowersYoung visitors to Walsall’s Gallery Garden will find plenty to do on a September Sunday thanks to a Children’s Art Activity Afternoon.

Organised by the Arboretum Garden volunteers Jackie Cocken and Jo Lester, the session will run from 2pm-4.30pm on Sunday 21 September 2014.

Activities include painting, cake decorating, and knitting. And young nature lovers will also be able to try their hand at making bird boxes, flower arranging and weaving bird feeders.

Jackie said: “The Gallery Garden is a wonderful setting and we’ve got plenty lined up to keep us all busy.

“While children are surrounded by Play stations and Xboxes and all sorts of gadgets they really enjoy leaving all that behind and exploring their creative talents.”

Jo added: “We are really proud of the Gallery Garden and keen to attract new visitors through events such as this. We’re really looking forward to next weekend and teaching children new skills.”

The event, at the Gallery Garden just off Lichfield Road, Walsall,  is free of charge. Children should be accompanied by an adult.