Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Reportage from action around day of remembrance for ATOS victims and Labour's Promise 74

Protesters blast Tory cuts and claim breadline payments cause deaths of 73 Brits every week

THE campaigners held the protest against the Tory cuts at the Cenotaph in George Square, Glasgow,and blamed the Conservatives for causing the death of compassion and decency.
The wreath protesters laid at George Square
The wreath protesters laid at George Square

CAMPAIGNERS laid a wreath yesterday to mourn the death of decency and compassion caused by the Tory-led crackdown on benefits.
The Daily Record has been highlighting the plight of those who have had their disability payments taken off them by medical testing firm Atos.
Yesterday the consequences of the benefits blitz were laid bare as protesters claimed 73 sick and disabled Britons – from the terminally ill to those with industrial injuries – die every week while trying to scrape by on breadline payments.
The demonstration at the cenotaph in George Square, Glasgow, was followed by a protest outside Atos’s office in the city’s Cadogan Street.
It was led by whistleblowing nurse Joyce Drummond and Nick Durie from the Committee of 100 pressure group.
Joyce said: “Today is a mark of remembrance to everyone who has died due to the policies of Atos and the DWP.
“It is fitting that it is International Disabled Person’s Day.
“Now anyone placed in the Workrelated Activity Group by Atos, and sanctioned by the DWP, will have to work for nothing in work placements to get their benefit.
“If you are placed in that group, you are deemed not to be fit for work, so why would you be working for nothing if you can go out and earn a wage?
“All that’s going to happen is that more and more people will be kicked off their benefit.”
Some of the Atos protesters at George Square
Some of the Atos protesters at George Square
Under the Work Programme, disabled people will be told to take unpaid work or risk losing up to 70 per cent of their employment support allowance.
Joyce said the plight of the most vulnerable was being worsened by cash worries.
She said: “I worked for Atos and they are a shambles.
“They are making profits on the backs of sick and disabled people in this country.”
The ex-nurse also slated the response of politicians. She added: “No political party has stood up to them.
“It was introduced by Labour, the Lib Dem-Tory coalition have made it even worse and in Scotland the SNP are doing nothing about it either.
“I know from the inside that people are set up to fail these assessments. It has got worse under the coalition.
“We all know that these assessments are a joke.”
Nick said Labour had failed to live up to their pledge to protect people from the impact of Government welfare reforms.
He told the protest: “Labour made this bold commitment and we want them to live up to it.
“We have found evidence that they are participating in the work programme.”
Nick slated the move to make Atos sponsors of the Commonwealth Games, adding: “It will mar the image of the city.”
Ex-MSP Tommy Sheridan said: “It is important Atos are exposed as rogues. You wouldn’t let them run a bath, never mind part of the welfare state.”
The protest continued outside Atos’s base in Cadogan Street.
David Churchley, 59, of Pollokshields, Glasgow, is waiting for Atos to rule on his case.
He said: “They are not in a position to state what my circumstances might mean despite the fact my right arm and my right leg don’t work.”
David has been sickened by the cases highlighted in the Record. He said: “There are people with cancer who have months to live and yet their benefits are being cut.”

Thursday, 29 November 2012

The image of Glasgow mired? Never. Meet 11:30am, Mon the 3rd of December @ George Square. Say NO to ATOS.

First published:


Nick Durie argues that Glasgow City Council must be held to account for their appalling decision to have Atos as chief sponsor of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014, as well as their support for workfare programmes.

Nick Durie
NIck Durie is a community activist in 'Power in the Community'. He is organising a campaign called 'Committee 100' which aims to hold Glasgow City Council to their 100 election promises.
“Notes the Workfare scheme introduced by the Westminster Government that forces people on welfare to work without payment under threat of loss of benefits; Believes that this undermines paid employment, genuine volunteering and the social welfare system, and does not benefit individuals or communities, but perpetuates poverty; Resolves not to take part in any Workfare or other forced labour scheme.” – Edinburgh City Council motion
Last month Edinburgh decided it was not going to participate in workfare. Labour and the SNP followed up their parliamentary opposition in to the welfare reform bill by backing a Green motion to divest The Council of any relationship with the UK Government’s workfare programme.
I recently went to a conference where both Cllr Gordon Matheson and council executive Liz Cameron stated that Glasgow was “the real capital of Scotland”. Certainly the text of Labour’s apparent opposition to ‘welfare reform’ in Glasgow could not be any clearer if the party’s 100 Promises manifesto is anything to go by.
Promise 74: “Labour will work with social housing, financial advice providers, the third sector and faith groups to protect our people from the impact of the Coalition Government’s unjust welfare reforms.”
Nonetheless Glasgow City Council is participating in the work programme. Evidence is mounting of widespread use of benefits claimants being forced to work as gardeners, drivers, and GCSS security workers, although The Council is anxious to avoid talking about this (presumably because it would look like hypocrisy).
This enthusiasm for workfare is not the only way The Council is in breach of Promise 74, however. As yet there is no sign of the grand coalition Labour bosses claimed to seek to build in May to oppose ‘welfare reform.’ Indeed the visible signs are of an embrace of welfare cuts, at the most public level. No event has come to symbolise the Labour Council’s strategy more than its efforts to secure and deliver the 2014 Commonwealth Games. This event has been central both to the City’s marketing strategy, and to its economic goals. Without getting into whether this is a sensible policy, or whether it is being carried out in an effective or enlightened way or not, the Games has been seen by The Council as a way to revitalise the City’s East End, and place Glasgow on a world stage. Council bosses took no chances, and put Scotland’s most powerful businessman in charge of the Games – Green Investment Bank supremo, boss of Scottish and Southern Energy, asset stripper private equity boss, Robert Haldane Smith (or as the man who lords it over his private island in the Firth of Clyde has liked to style himself since Labour gave him a peerage, Lord Kelvin). He has taken a decision that utterly flies in the face of Promise 74. He has brought in ATOS to sponsor the Games.
ATOS have been administrating the UK Government’s cuts to welfare. They have punitively struck thousands of vulnerable and disabled people off the welfare roll with their fantastic “work capability assessments,” declaring cancer patients, heart transplant patients, the terminally ill, and the mortally sick ‘fit for work,’ sending many to an early grave, and forcing thousands to spend their last living days penniless and starving. There is no greater symbol of what is wrong with this country than what is being done to kick the crutches away from the poor, the disabled and the dying.
The testament of ATOS’ own staff has recently come to light, and it shows the inhumanity of the system that they have put in place. Here is how one ATOS worker describes what goes on:
The staff are broken beyond usefulness. They are too few, with the wrong training, cobbled together from various departments after cut backs and reshuffles, with no direct chain for the administration. Each claim can pass through more hands than a gift at a children’s pass the parcel game. No two members of staff can do each others job and no one person knows how to process the claim from start to finish. The senior management are completely ineffectual.
Meaning that when a member of the public phones to enquire about their claim they cant effectively be dealt with. Every call will get a different result to the same enquiry.
They are under that much pressure to input the data that it doesn’t matter if it’s wrong, who cares if someone gets too much or too little, or lost in the system, they are only a stat. Their life may be ruined, but the staff can’t care, they just have to type, type, type, and hope that someday they’ll get on top of it.
I found a member of staff crying today, they had just processed a claim for somebody who was just about to discover they had been denied their ESA. The client had just survived a heart transplant, an actual full heart transplant. Atos disagree with the surgeons and doctors, and have deemed this person, “fit to work”.
As a result of Lord Kelvin’s brutal decision, this is now Labour’s chosen Commonwealth Games “partner” – the company they have chosen to stand alongside them in showcasing Glasgow to the world. Do we really want the image of Glasgow to be mired in the image of the dead and the callous?
That is why the community campaign (dubbed the Committee of 100) which aims at holding The Council to their 100 Promises is calling on Council leader Gordon Matheson to slap down the jumped up peer. The ‘Laird of Inchmarnock’ has gone too far, and his decision risks tarnishing the image of the City of Glasgow. It also flies in the face of stated Labour policy.
On Monday the 3rd of December across the UK people will be gathering to remember the victims of ATOS. An early day motion in the UK Parliament calls for the day to be an official day of remembrance. The Committee of 100 has called a demonstration to coincide with the day of remembrance. We are asking Gordon Matheson to join with us and to slap down this spiv. We will be meeting, with copies of Labour’s promises, outside the City Chambers at George Square on Monday the 3rd of December, at 11:30am. We would ask everyone who opposes the ATOS regime, and workfare to join with us. We must not allow Glasgow to be tarnished in the eyes of the world.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

The Promise Inspectors

"I've just won a budget vote!" An adrenaline pumped Councillor Matheson beams.  It was the moment many of us realised that the May elections in Glasgow were going to be a cut-throat political contest that would determine the city's future.

In that election, an embattled Labour Party launched a campaign that would see it spend money it barely had in a defensive fight to retain control of its heartland city from a bullish SNP. No expense was spared in campaigning, and the Labour Party came out fighting, promising to build publicly owned wind turbines to fund district heating (like in Scandinavia) for working class communities (eliminating fuel poverty) - a huge capital works programme.  It didn't end there.  Health inequality would be eliminated in five years.  The coalitions benefit cuts would be fought tooth and nail with all the Party's powers, building a grand coalition.  1000 new jobs every year would take the recession head on - part of a "Glasgow Guarantee" to provide every young person with a job, education or traing.  Loansharks, landlords, privatisers, Tories - Glasgow would take them all on.

And then stop.

So Labour won the election, and its 100 Promises now comprise its mandate for action.  Too bad then the party chose to celebrate its victory by breaking six promises in six months.  A councillor is an illegal landlord, a councillor has breached licensing laws designed to tackle problem drinking, the council is actually sacking hundreds of people, and all the while it has been taking part in the work programme attacking the unemployed.  ATOS - the company widely credited with killing disabled people by removing their benefits in punitive assessments - is chosen as the Commonwealth Games sponsor.  The party has abandonned the council tax freeze.  A high profile new 'combined heat and power' gasification plant is instead to be simply a privatised power station, spilling toxic chemicals out into a poor community.  There is something wrong with Glasgow politics.  The rot has set in again already.

"I recall Glasgow Labour saying that Glasgow children were exceptional.  I remember it.  I think it typifies everything you need to know about Glasgow politics," Community Organiser Nick Durie explains. "Unlike weans in other parts of the world apparently Glasgow's bairns learn better in class sizes over 35."  The anecdote tells the story of how the council explained its plans to cut over a dozen schools - the second such closure programme in the years of the previous Labour administration.  "People in this city are treated with contempt and taken for fools.  That's why we have to preserve and extend the changes we have started to see in Glasgow politics."

Nick is helping to organise a campaign - which has been given the working title of the "Committee of 100."  The fledgling coalition met on the day of US President Barack Obama's re-election in the Quaker Meeting House in the city centre.  A smaller affair, the launch was nonetheless attended by four of the city's commmunity councils, as well as dozens of concerned citizens.

Speakers talked about the need to uphold promise 74, which commits the council to opposing workfare and welfare cuts, of the need to insist on the council upholding its promise number 17 which states that the council will only take action with the agreement of communities, and will be led by their desires; campaigners rallied to take action on the ATOS sponsorship of the Games, with a promise to take part in demonstrations set to mark the deaths of all the people the UK welfare cuts have killed (currently 73 a week die after having been found 'fit for work' - their benefits cut off).

As community campaigner Emma Nicol ended her speech outlining the approach the new coalition would take (to be expressly non-party political, and to hold the council - regardless of political persuasion - to account on its 100 Promises), the meeting then adjourned for citizens to meet each other and exchange stories and contacts, after which strategy groups were formed to discuss how to take forward holding the council to account on three general themes.

As the meeting drew to a close and sponsorship was collected for the film about the campaign to hold the council to account, those in attendance each returned feedback forms detailing what they would do as a result of the evening's meeting.  Many promised to take further action, becoming 'Promise Inspectors' for the Committee of 100.

If the evening's events were anything to go by, had Labour expected that they might be able to quietly file away their manifesto into some dark recess, never to be leafed through again, it looks increasingly likely that they have been badly mistaken.

Further details of how individuals can get involved are available at:

Monday, 15 October 2012

UNITE Community - Forthcoming meetings

Unite is the biggest trade union in the UK and Ireland, with 1.5 million members and over a century of experience in organising to stand up for our rights at work.

Now Unite wants to take the unions beyond the workplace and into the community. Community membership offers the chance to join to people who wouldn’t otherwise get the chance to be part of a union because they’re not working – unemployed people, disabled people on benefits, retired folk or students for example.

Members get the support of the union with things like free legal advice and access to training and education. But being part of the union is about being part of a movement to build a better society. We want to bring people together who want to change something, and are want to work with others to make their community a better place to live. It could be something local, like saving a library that’s closing, or it could be a national issue like defending disabled people losing out through welfare cuts. Unite will give you the support you need to build successful campaigns and groups, and make change happen.

To get things going in Edinburgh and Glasgow, we’ve organised our first meetings. We want to bring together everyone who’s interested in organising and campaigning out in the community, and has ideas about what we should do. The meetings are open to all, so please come along and find out more:

Glasgow                                                              Edinburgh
6.30 – 8.30 p.m.                                                2 – 4 p.m.
Mon 29th Oct                                                      Sat 27th Oct
Unite offices                                                     St John’s Church
John Smith House                                           Princes Street
145 – 165 West Regent Street
Jack Ferguson
Scotland Community Coordinator
0845 604 4384

Friday, 7 September 2012

Community Campaign Aims To Pile Pressure On Glasgow's Labour Run Council

Labour needs to be held to account for its promises in Glasgow.

Many people thought that Labour would lose control of Glasgow during the local elections, this May.  They didn't.  Part of the reason was that Labour was able to win the support of different interest groups and communities with a range of promises contained in a manifesto document, called Labour's 100 Promises.  The early indications, as revealed on Newsnet Scotland, that Labour's Commonwealth apprenticeship scheme is not delivering the jobs which have been promised, are not convincing.

During the election community leaders from across the city launched a campaign, to win commitments from each of the political parties standing for election, on what they would do if they were elected.  This was an expressly non-party political campaign, aimed solely at winning commitments on a range of community issues.  Many councillors who were later elected committed to meet with community leaders to discuss their concerns, but one commitment which stood out at this time was Labour Councillor Mohammed Razaq's promise to up the number of socially rented homes at Maryhill Locks from 143 to over 400.  He was re-elected.

Labour's manifesto too contained a number of high profile promises.  In a make or break election for the party they gave some commitments which were very bold indeed.  Consider that in 2009, Labour closed over a dozen schools and a dozen nurseries, in a second round of school closures.  The party's promise then that, "Labour will rebuild or refurbish your local primary school," Was a marked change in tack.  Dozens of schools had been closed by the last Labour administration, and yet here Labour promised to rebuild them all.  Equally, Glasgow's sick man of Europe health record was to be eliminated with the party promising to eradicate health inequalities.  Given that a man in Calton in the East End of Glasgow can expect to live to 54, yet the city's average life expectancy for men is 71.6, that particular promise is of huge significance to lots of people.  If they meant it.

It has become popular in recent times to say "all politicians are @&!"(&(," and to leave any explanation for a lack of political integrity with a kind of 'plague on all their houses' mentality.  It is certainly true that Labour in the past have been found to have lied on important matters.  And it is equally true that all politicians are wont to be economical with the truth.  That is how politics works in this country unfortunately.  However it is also very important not to let politicians off the hook.  Too often cynicism has actually allowed politicians to get away with uncosted promises, to ditch manifesto commitments, and to slough off accountability.  However politics being what it is, at some point politicians have to be held to account for their actions.  If nobody was paying attention, because everyone assumed that political promises are just sugar coated lies, then this makes life easy for those who would take the citizens of this country for fools.  We need to ensure that if politicians are found to be lying that we pile on the political consequences for doing so.  We need to shout from the rooftops wherever politicians are found to be lying.  This is the only way we are going to be able to restore power to ordinary citizens.  It is not on that a group of creeshy wheeler dealers can play fast and loose with our democracy.

This takes us to another point, about Labour's campaign in Glasgow.  The party which was fighting for its political life during the local elections did something unusual during that election: it made some very serious promises and commitments which it believed set it apart from the opposition.  The SNP argue that these promises were uncosted, and that they were essentially a bunch of fibs which Labour used as a springboard to cling on to power.  But Labour promised to wipe out health inequality, a very serious issue, and a personal and tragic issue for the families of those in Glasgow whose lives have been cut tragically short from ill health and poverty.  If Labour were just shooting their mouth off with that commitment, I'm sorry, but how dare they?  That would be an absolute scandal, to use the rotten life chances of the poor like that for narrow political advantage.  

There were a number of promises Labour made which it would be utterly inappropriate, wrong and completely corrupt for the party to have made, had they never intended to implement them.  Indeed community leaders met after the election to assess how our campaign to win promises from politicians had impacted the city.  We knew, given that Labour had made a bunch of commitments and had been re-elected that our job in our accountability campaign was not over once the ballots were cast.  And so we assessed what we had won, and we looked at Labour's manifesto.  One of the leaders involved drew up a shortlist of manifesto commitments which Labour made and put that shortlist to a meeting of residents association, community council, and local campaign group community leaders as the key promises in the Labour manifesto.  We voted unanimously to campaign around 40 of Labour's 100 promises, to hold the party to account on these promises over the next five years.

How do we do that?  Well, we all know Labour's stance on the referendum: jam tomorrow.  Whatever you think about jam tomorrow as a political position, it relies primarily on trust.  In their Better Together campaign Labour will be asking Scots to believe that they will provide greater devolution to Scotland to meet Scotland's aspirations.  So one of the things in our accountability campaign which community leaders are currently focusing on in Glasgow, is to produce a documentary film of our efforts to hold Labour to account.  We will show how they do, whether they have been honest and are keeping to their word, or whether they have cynically taken the people of Glasgow for a ride.  

We are currently looking for sponsors to make this film a reality, but, should we be successful in meeting our funding target, we will be releasing that film online, on DVD, and in screenings across Scotland, in September 2014, showing just exactly how Labour have implemented their manifesto in Glasgow.  We will shout it from the rooftops, and we will use that film to make our voice heard, loudly and clearly.  We know that will raise the political stakes.  More fool the Labour Party if it allows its narrow self-interest in Glasgow to undermine its 'Vote NO' referendum campaign.  We know that this will raise the stakes for Labour very significantly, as ‘Vote No’ is something that the Labour Party leadership genuinely cares about.  We hope that folk will agree that this is the right time to be applying pressure on Labour to show us whether they have integrity.  Their political message at this most significant of debates will rely on people believing they do.

We will be launching our campaign in a very public way this autumn, but in the meantime, please consider giving community leaders in Glasgow your support.

Friday, 6 July 2012

The Constitutional Debate: How can we reach out to marginalised communities?

How can we reach out to marginalised communities?  — Power In Community's Alistair Davidson asks panellists at The Scottish Parliament, for the event, A State fit for the 21st Century, event by the Constitutional Commission.

 Each of the panellists commits to taking part in a 'constitution roadshow', engaging communities in the challenges and opportunities posed by the debate around Scotland's future.


Tuesday, 26 June 2012

The Nordic Model Cometh?

By Alistair Davidson 
I felt a growing sense of trepidation as I entered the Edinburgh University Old College, which hosted this week’s Nordic Horizons talk. Like so many of Scotland’s public buildings, its tremendous archways seem almost intended to confront the newcomer with their own insignificance.

This was quite different to the kind of townhall campaign meetings I’m used to, full of angry Glaswegians; instead it was a gathering of the sort of people who dress “smart casual” in the evenings. Later, fully half the room would reveal themselves to be members of political parties! I began to worry that I would look a bit daft, sitting in the stands in my Debenhams t-shirt.
I needn’t have - the atmosphere inside was relaxed, friendly and welcoming, in no small part thanks to Lesley Riddoch, our genial host. The first thing that struck me was how good the gender balance was, compared to other political lectures I’ve attended. The deliberate intent to involve women was reiterated by various speakers, and demonstrated by the majority-female platform.
The talk itself was a fascinating tour through Norwegian history and social democracy. Norway, like Scotland, is a small Northern European nation traditionally dominated by larger neighbours. Unlike Scotland, it has a high level of civic engagement - four out of every five Norwegians is a member of some form of organisation - and low rates of social exclusion and structural unemployment.
Over the two hours, Oivind Bratberg regaled us with tales of Norwegian social democracy based around the three pillars of strong trade unions, a comprehensive and universal welfare state, and market interventions that support private industry. This is a partnership approach, successful in several small countries, where social peace is secured through the incorporation of business, state and civil society into common structures.
The strength of the trade union movement and civil society more generally stood out for me as a source of social democracy. Again and again it was emphasised that mass grassroots mobilisations kept the people of Norway engaged in their society. It helps too that there is a state apparatus designed for engagement - Norway has over ten times as many municipalities as modern Scotland.
This level of social connectedness and organisation gives the average Norwegian far more power than the average Scot, and as a result Norway has escaped the worst ravages of neoliberalism. With either independence or a new devolution settlement seeming likely, it is important that we learn their lessons. It is all too easy to imagine a small Scottish state being bullied by multinational investors into ignoring the will of its own people.
As a community organiser for Power in Community, my own interest is in how we can empower Scotland’s marginalised people to make social change. Organising in Glasgow, I’ve seen the underconfidence and disengagement that comes from long-term unemployment or a lifetime spent working poor, with no savings to show for decades of effort.
The decline of manufacturing in this city robbed us of more than just jobs; it stole our solidarity, our connectedness, and the power that they bring. The Scots who need change most rarely believe that change is possible.
Nordic Horizons is a fascinating project to remake Scotland in a Scandinavian image; for this is to happen, we will need to find new ways to reach out to and engage the forgotten people of Scotland’s estates, schemes and new towns.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

#TheEventTheyTriedToBan in the Glaswegian

See for context.

Video report:

Maryhill Sports Fans Serve Up An Ace With Tennis Courts Restoration

Maryhill tennis courts Image 1
SPORTS enthusiasts turned out in force to help restore outdoor tennis courts to public use at the weekend.
The grounds, in Maryhill Park, also include a running track and campaigners wanted to increase sports provision for young people.
Initially, Glasgow Life – who run sports facilities in the city – had suggested they would report any damage to the site to police. But they later opened the gates to allow about 60 people to help with the clean-up.
Two courts should now be open for use by the end of the week.
Stephen Koepplinger spearheaded the clean-up drive. But he admits relations with Glasgow Life are still
strained. He said: “I don’t really understand what their problems are with us using the facilities.
“I want to reach out and engage with as many organisations as possible. I had all five courts looking beautiful last year but as soon as I got them done, they locked them up.
“Glasgow Life don’t want me using these facilities because I’m not a member of the Lawn Tennis Association.
“It’s very hypocritical for the Commonwealth Games host city. We already pay for the service and facilities through council tax but nobody uses them.”
Glasgow Life insist the city has invested £17million in sports facilities in six locations within walking 
distance of the Maryhill site – including a new £8.3 million leisure centre at Maryhill Park and numerous indoor and outdoor pitches.
A spokesman added: “Over the coming months, planned investment work will be carried out to upgrade the tennis courts and specialist work is planned for the running track.
“We allowed the group access to the site, to allow for a spring clean of the surrounding areas.
“Glasgow Life, in partnership with local clubs and other agencies, are looking at future plans for investment at the site.”

Friday, 4 May 2012

It's a victory!

For community! 

The candidates commit to meet with community, and to make their views plain on the community agenda. Mhairi Hunter, Jehangir Hanif, and Soryia Siddique were all duly elected. We recognise their commitment.


 Elected candidates for Canal Ward made prominent pledges to defend North Kelvin Meadows. We recognise their commitment. Save North Kelvin Meadows interviewed on this commitment at #TheEventTheyTriedToBan The event itself led to park maintenance that community leaders had been calling for, as part of our Glasgow Won't Be Fooled campaign. A great step forward. Thanks for listening, Glasgow Life. We recognise your efforts.

Hillhead ward was also the scene of another local victory when QMU student leaders got candidates to commit to meet student leaders to discuss ongoing housing problems, to tackle anti-social landlords in the area. But perhaps the biggest news of all was re-elected Cllr Mohammed Razaq committing to up the number of socially rented homes in the Maryhill Locks development from 143 to over 400. A very significant commitment, and one we want to recognise, which tops off a great election for organised communities!


Community leaders will be meeting to discuss the results of the local election for Glasgow on Sunday, the 20th of May. If you want to be part of our process of holding councillors to account for their community commitments please get in touch with our organiser, at: