By Bryn Jones
Much of the coverage of the EU referendum has focused on the divisions in the Tory party, Jeremy Corbyn’s lacklustre support for the Remain camp, and the constant accusations of scaremongering from both sides. I want to reflect on what’s at stake in this referendum, and why Liberalism favours sticking it out with Europe.
Our ability to trade freely and openly with others makes our country more prosperous. In difficult economic times it’s tempting to turn our backs on the world and look inwardly, but to do this is to shoot ourselves in the foot. British businesses depend on free trade with Europe. We depend on other countries investing in Britain, buying from Britain and selling to Britain. And being part of the single market makes Britain an attractive country to do business with.
What’s at risk in this referendum is losing our place at the negotiation table for the single market. Some leave campaigners insist we can stay in the single market but leave the EU, but the cost is our ability to influence the rules of the market. We don’t want to find ourselves paying into a system we have no control over.
As a Liberal I believe that if we reach out and work with our neighbours, trade openly with them, and see ourselves as part of the global community, we can all benefit. Businesses benefit from being able to trade freely across borders, without being stifled by restrictions and tariffs. In turbulent economic times, we need to remain in the EU now more than ever.
It has been announced by the Scottish Government today that the construction of the new Forth Crossing has been delayed, several weeks after the election. This has raised concerns of many in Fife after the disaster of the Forth Road Bridge closure last year.
Dunfermline Liberal Democrats Convenor has raised his concerns, commenting, “Last year we saw what happened when the Bridge closed down, and like many in Dunfermline I view this latest development with concern.”
“We need to ensure the Scottish Government explain fully how this has come to place after being assured until recently that the Bridge construction was on time. We also need to make sure the Forth Road Bridge is given the maintenance funding it needs so that we do not find ourselves without a crossing to Edinburgh again.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie also commented, “The long predicted delay of the construction of the new Forth crossing has finally been admitted by the SNP Government.”
“They tell us it is a coincidence that this has been announced just weeks after the Scottish elections.”
“And now they have been unable to explain why just 25 days lost due to bad weather means that the opening of the crossing has been delayed by 180 days. “
“We need the urgent publication of the documents associated with this delay. People deserve answers.”
By James Calder
Last night two of the Dunfermline Liberal Democrats (Aude Boubaker and myself) attended a Q&A event hosted by the European Movement in Scotland. The panel was made up of speakers of various different backgrounds who all were united in their belief that Scotland and Britain are stronger in Europe. The chair was Derek Hammersley, and the speakers included Alyn Smith MEP, Professor Frank Müller, John Purvis CBE and our own Party Leader, Willie Rennie MSP.
The evening began with opening statements from each of the panellists followed by opening to the floor for a Q&A session. One of the themes running throughout the evening was to explain the reasons for staying the EU based on facts and good reasoning, which seemed to resonate well with the audience who wanted to look beyond the increasingly sensationalist media coverage of the campaign.
The first speech came from Professor Müller, a history academic from St Andrews University who originally came from Germany before becoming a naturalised British citizen. He provided a thoughtful speech, showing that his experiences of moving to the UK, marrying a British citizen and raising a family itself showed the benefits of cooperation. His academic focus is on nationalism, which also gave him further impetus to support the EU project which in his view, helped to show that people from the different member states have much in common but not always the same – we share the same tolerances of religion, concern for the environment but we also still have our different national customs which the EU does not seek to change. He also argued against the claims of the EU attempting to be a superstate, in that 99% of UK tax collection is done nationally, and that if it was a superstate, it was a ‘strangely shy one.’
John Purvis came next, providing an insight from a former Conservative MEP. He mentioned the first 7 years of his life were in war, followed by living in Hamburg for 2 years which had suffered from the devastating effects of the war. He argued the EU provided a movement for peace by pooling sovereignty. He recollected his friendship he gained with MEPs from across the EU, making the point “could anyone have imagined this in 1945?” Going on to discuss that the EU is the biggest economy and trading bloc in the world, the UK would have less strength if we left, and could destabilise both the UK and world economy, as well making us weaker compared to adventurist powers in the East such as Russia and ISIS. Finally he showed that the EU has a democratic structure, due to it having elected Ministers and the democratically elected EU Parliament making its decisions.
Willie Rennie was next on the podium, helping to put forward the strongly Pro-EU Lib Dem position. He indicated his delight that we had a cross-party effort to remain in the EU. He also feels this is an opportunity to express who we are and what we want to achieve in this world. While he mentions the material benefits such as more jobs, the European Health Insurance card, the fact we can move feely across Europe, peace and prosperity as well as the EU arrest warrant, he went on to make the emotional case for us to stay. For him, it is about who we are, whether we are a country looking out and not in. A country that trusts our neighbours, mentioning together we can achieve so much more. Or are we going to hark back to previous generations, to the colonial period? For Willie is about the future. He quotes the late Charles Kennedy, who had multiple identities, a “Highlander, Scottish, British and European.” He also makes the point that there are people in Scotland who are thinking of voting to leave, and we need to do a lot more to get out there and persuade people of why we are better being part of the EU.
The speeches ended with Alyn Smith MEP, who represented the SNP showing that even across the independence divide there is consensus we are better off in Europe.
We then moved onto questions, which broached various topics such as the economy, trade, democracy and bureaucracy. In general there was a fair amount of consensus, although at times some on the Panel (not Willie fortunately) went a bit too Party-political for my taste. I asked a question how leaving the EU would affect our trade both inside and outside the EU, with Willie Rennie answering that it cannot be any better than it is now, and a good chance it could get worse. The Panel were in agreement, with Professor Müller mentioning we will not see any improvements but could also be seen as in break of contracts with our trade agreements with states outside the EU. Aude also asked about EU citizens from other countries like herself, who are excluded from voting, could be affected. The answers tended show the panel were sympathetic to her situation and also that they could not answer her question fully right now as they don’t know.
The evening was an interesting and informative night and certainly provided better information than what the media has been reporting. There is another such evening taking place tomorrow in Dunfermline at 7.00pm at the Dell Farquharson Centre, Nethertown Broad Street. Although Willie Rennie will not be there it should be another interesting and informative evening.
School Meals in Dunfermline and West Fife have found themselves at the brunt of cuts. This includes healthy-eating options such as salad bars being phased out. Lib Dems James Calder and Lauren Jones are campaigning to save healthy school meals.
Lauren Jones commented, “It’s important for kids to learn about eating healthily from an early age, and schools should take a leading role in that education. We all need to work on eating healthier food, but children especially need a good diet to help their bodies and minds develop, and to teach them good habits for later in life.”
James Calder added “Parents are rightly concerned by his cut on school children’s meals and a setback to encouraging healthy living!”
One in every ten UK jobs is linked to our trade with the EU. 200,000 UK businesses trade with Europe.
Being in Europe means we attract investment worth £66 million a day to the UK. Remaining in Europe safeguards millions of UK jobs.
Families save an average of £450 a year because the UK is in Europe.
Everything from food, flights and phone calls are cheaper. We still trade with the rest of the world but we get a better deal by negotiating as part of Europe – strength in numbers.
Criminal gangs and terrorists operate across borders – our police and security services must too.
The European Arrest Warrant means criminals can’t escape justice simply by fleeing abroad. 7,000 criminals have been deported from the UK to face justice at home. Leaving Europe would put that at risk.
The Dunfermline Lib Dems have started a campaign to improve recycling facilities in the centre of Dunfermline. In particular, in areas such as the High Street there is a lack of recycling bins next to public bins.
Dunfermline Liberal Democrat Convenor James Calder has mentioned, “Fife has become one of the best places in Scotland for recycling, but while on the High Street campaigning a few of us remarked that there is an obvious lack of recycling bins.”
“The Kingsgate Shopping Centre has plenty of recycling bins. Other Towns and Cities have bins for both recycling and general waste. We should see the same in Dunfermline and the centres of other towns in Fife and I am happy to support the campaign for better High Street recycling.”
Lib Dem activist Bryn Jones added, “Dunfermline Town Centre should be leading the way on recycling. I’m supporting the drive to bring in recycle bins, and make the town a little bit greener.”
The Liberal Democrats are supporting remaining in the EU and as such we are hosting a competition – whenever you see a sign showing a project that has been financed by the EU, take a selfie with it, tweet it to us (@DunfLibDems) using the hashtag #EUInMyTown or if you don’t have Twitter, you can Facebook it with the same hashtag or email it to us to tweet for you (email@example.com) – The winner will get a yet to be determined prize – and to win you just need to be the one who has tweeted the most pictures! You can see an example here of what to do featuring Aude Boubaker, who suggested the idea! The competition ends when voting starts!
By Councillor Tony Martin
In 1966 the first house in Cedar Grove was sold to the first resident of a brand new estate in Dunfermline, Pitcorthie. Pitcorthie was to become a good place for families to live in and children to grow in over the next 50 years.
To celebrate this passing of time South Dunfermline Community Council have organised a couple of events. On April 20th this year the John Marshall Community Centre held an event with memorabilia, photographs and a short history of the area over previous centuries. The event was well attended with some residents giving more information and interesting recollections. A second event will be held during the Gala on the 13th August which hopefully there will be more information to celebrate this anniversary.
As a more permanent memorial of 50 years the fence on Laburnum Road has been replaced with a more contemporary looking structure and the Pitcorthie wall is to be replaced with a larger one with Pitcorthie 1966 written in gold letters. Fifty years is a long time but the estate still looks good with nice gardens and well maintained houses . Over the next few years the resurfacing of the top of Pitcorthie Drive must be finished and pavements and the Groves brought up to standard. Given the Council’s reducing budgets this will take longer than envisaged but Pitcorthie looks forward to another 50 years.
Dunfermline and West Fife has benefited in a number of ways through membership of the European Union. This includes direct funding from the EU, including a recent grant from the European Structural and Investment funds of £4.5 million to boost employment and overcome barriers to finding work to the Fife region.
The funds that have been awarded will help Fife Council run programmes to grow small and medium-sized enterprises as well help get people back to work, and will have wider benefits as a result on the local economy. This is just one example of the huge level of support Fife has received over the years, evidenced by the numerous signs showing EU support across the area such as the one that James Calder and Bryn Jones are pictured next to above.
Dunfermline Liberal Democrats Convenor James Calder has said, “A lot has been said by the Leave campaign about how much we pay in for our membership of the EU, but they neglect to say how much we get back. It is estimated for every pound we pay into the EU we get £10 back.”
“In West Fife there have been many examples of direct spending by the EU locally over the years. This recent tranche of European funding to help boost employment locally will be a welcome boost when local jobs are lost in places like Longannet.”
“What the backers of the Leave Campaign also don’t want you to know is also all the indirect benefits of being in the EU for the local economy. Not only do British businesses have access to a Single Market of 500 million people to sell their goods to, but the EU has also negotiated Free Trade Agreements with over 50 countries. It would take the UK years with much less clout to negotiate the same and would almost certainly result in damage to the economy.”
“For a stronger economy to ensure more jobs and investment in Fife and across the UK, I am strongly support the campaign to remain in the EU and would urge others of each political persuasion to do so too.”
By James Calder
This week is Mental Health Awareness week, and I think those involved in Scottish Politics should take time to reflect on this as we go forward with the new Parliament. With us now having a minority Government, this gives us an excellent opportunity as a country to have a cross-party consensus on how to move forward and ensure that Scotland has the best possible mental healthcare.
Many people that I care about have suffered from mental health issues, and these are incredibly common for the population as a whole. Mental Health issuer could have affected yourself and almost certainly someone you know. There are a few key facts we must be aware of when looking into Mental Healthcare:
- 1 in 4 of us will suffer from a mental health problem this year
- An average of two people each day in Scotland die by suicide
- Half of adults who are mentally ill experienced the onset of their problems by the age of 15
- 79% with severe and enduring mental health problems are not in work
(Source: SAMH Scottish Manifesto for the Scottish Parliamentary Election 2016 – link)
These are startling statistics but unfortunately they do not surprise me. We as a society have not done enough yet to ensure mental healthcare is at a standard that is fit for purpose and all too often there is a stigma attached.
Fortunately there seems to be some green shoots for the future. One of the things I was happiest about from a political point of view is how prominent mental health has been in shaping Liberal Democrat health policy on both sides of the border. Willie Rennie has taken a particularly strong stand and I was proud to stand as a candidate with a manifesto that looked to ensure mental healthcare is given parity with physical healthcare
Indeed I have noticed that across the political spectrum, not just in the Lib Dems but with other parties as well, there is increased awareness as well as support for action to improve mental healthcare. This should be welcomed, it can only be a good thing if more is done at Holyrood to improve on Scotland’s mental health record.
Now there is a minority Government, consensus is now key again in Holyrood. Now is the time to work together on an issue that matters to so many of us. We may share our differences between the Lib Dems and SNP (as well as with the other Parties), but this should be an issue to unite us all. Willie Rennie and the Scottish Lib Dem Team must keep fighting for mental healthcare to be given the support it needs and he is in an excellent opportunity to do so.
My message to everyone in the Scottish Parliament, not just to the Scottish Liberal Democrats is this: Let’s do something that has a positive impact on the lives of so many. Let’s make Scotland have the best Mental Healthcare.
James Calder is the Dunfermline Liberal Democrats Convenor and stood as a Candidate at the Holyrood Election