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     the3towns archive                                                                                                                                 Campbell Martin Blog

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Edition 367                                                                                                                                                        August 2 ~ August 8 2014

* Local MP questions possible UK role in supporting Israeli military
* YES big-hitters head to North Ayrshire
* Saltcoats Market signs-up to ‘Real Deal’ quality charter
* Royal Mail privatisation: UK Government cost taxpayers £1bn
* Breast Cancer unit receives donation of £15,000
* Kids encouraged to have fun on National Playday

Online: local news - global reach.                                                                      Taking Ardrossan, Saltcoats and Stevenston to the world.

Campbell Martin
The NHS and British Unionist scare-stories




* Then and Now
* They’re grrrrreat
* Parliamentary recognition
* Who stole Arran?
* They tell us we can’t do better than this
* Due to unforeseen circumstances
* Number 1s
* Where am I?
* Where is it?



- News stories throughout the week.

Tuesday, July 29: Killers' appeals dismissed


Local MP questions possible UK military support for Israel

As Israel continues to launch a bloody war against the Palestinian people of Gaza, local MP Katy Clark has spoken of her anger that the UK Government has refused to even investigate whether any British-manufactured weapons or components have been used by the Israeli military.

With the United Nations condemning Israel’s killing of Palestinian civilians, Ms Clark asked that the Tory-Lib Dem Government investigate to determine if Britain had supplied any of the weaponry or military components being used in the Israeli attacks. However, Foreign Office Minister Tobias Ellwood indicated that the government had “no plans” for such a review.

The American administration of President Barak Obama has been heavily criticised for continuing to supply Israel with weapons and ammunition, even after last week’s bombing and killing of Palestinian civilians sheltering in a United Nations school.

In 2009 the then Labour Foreign Secretary David Miliband confirmed to the UK Parliament that British-manufactured components for F16 aircraft, Apache helicopters and Saar-Class Corvette Naval vessels were “almost certainly” used by Israeli forces during a 2008/09 attack on Gaza .

Following yet another Israeli attack against the Palestinians, in 2012, a British government assessment found there was no evidence that UK-manufactured weapons or components had been used. However, in 2013 the UK Government granted 301 Standard Individual Export Licenses to Israel, valued at over £7.8bn, which included components for military combat vehicles, combat naval vessels and military helicopters.

In the current Israeli bombardment of Gaza, more than 1,400 Palestinians have been killed, including many children.

Katy Clark said, “The British public have rightly been appalled at the scale of civilian deaths in Gaza. Hundreds-of-thousands have taken to the streets over the past two weeks to condemn Israeli military action. They now have a right to know the level of support the United Kingdom has provided to the Israeli armed forces through arms sales.”

The Labour MP for North Ayrshire & Arran argued, “By refusing to investigate this vital question the British Government are trying to bury their heads in the sand. This is a shameful approach to take and frankly makes the Government look as if it has something to hide. It urgently needs to face up to its responsibilities. A thorough investigation needs to be established at the earliest opportunity.”

Ms Clark’s call was backed by Andrew Smith, Media Co-ordinator for the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, who said, “The UK has a strong two-way military relationship with Israel, which has lined the pockets of arms companies, but has had a devastating impact on Palestinians. UK companies are working with Israeli drone manufacturers, and UK components were used in the bombing of Gaza six years ago. When governments sell weapons into war-zones they cannot absolve themselves of responsibility for what happens if they are used.”

Sarah Colborne, Director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, added, “We know that UK component parts were used during the Israeli offensive against Palestinians in Gaza in 2008/09, and now – by refusing to investigate whether this is true now - the Government is refusing to face up to its complicity in Israel’s crimes. We commend Katy Clark’s determination to get to the bottom of this and force the Government to face up to their responsibilities.”


YES big-hitters head for North Ayrshire

The campaign for a YES vote in next month’s Independence Referendum has announced another two public meetings in North Ayrshire.

The first will take place in the Brisbane House Hotel in Largs on Monday (August 4th) and will hear from writer and journalist Pat Kane. Mr Kane is possibly still best known for his lead role in the hugely-successful 1980s/90s pop band Hue & Cry.

Also speaking at Monday night’s meeting, which begins at 7:30pm, are Jeane Freeman of Women for Independence and Kat Boyd of the left-wing group Radical Independence. Jeane Freeman formerly worked as an adviser to ex-Labour First Minister Jack McConnell.

YES North Ayrshire, organisers of the meeting, say the pro-independence panel will be happy to address any questions from the audience, and particularly encourage the attendance of anyone who is still undecided on how they will vote in the referendum.

A previous pro-independence meeting in Largs was so well attended that people who turned-up just before the start-time were unable to gain access as the venue’s legal limit had already been reached.

Looking forward to speaking in North Ayrshire, Pat Kane said, “A victory for YES in the referendum rests on a peaceful, methodical mobilisation of several key sectors of Scottish society. Firstly, the women and men of a politically reignited working-class. They will know that the great levers of social and economic progress – productive investment, supportive welfare, greater access to the conditions of a stable life, such as quality employment, affordable housing and improving health and education – have been put in their hands by a YES vote.”

The next YES public meeting – on Monday, August 11th – will see Scotland’s Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon MSP, return to home ground as she speaks at Castlepark Community Centre in Irvine. The meeting, to be chaired by local MSP Margaret Burgess, starts at 7:30pm.

Ms Sturgeon, who grew up in Dreghorn, recently spoke about how Irvine and the wider North Ayrshire community had helped shape her political outlook. She said, “Growing up, I felt the sense of disempowerment that came from having a Tory Government we didn’t vote for.

“When I was at Greenwood Academy, unemployment was very high and I was acutely aware of a sense of hopelessness among a lot of people I was at school with. There was also a very strong fear, particularly among my dad’s generation, that if you lost your job, you might be unemployed for the rest of your life.

“What played on me then, and is still the motivation for my politics today, is that we had a right-wing, uncaring Tory Government that we didn’t vote for doing significant damage to the fabric of our society. That just seemed wrong to me.

“It remains at the heart of what I do now. We should get governments that we vote for – not governments we reject.

“Independence will bring tangible benefits, but my belief in it is as much about the sense of being in charge of your own destiny. It is empowerment, the feeling that we are responsible, accountable and capable of making our own decisions.”

The Deputy First Minister will answer questions from the audience at the Castlepark meeting.






Saltcoats Market signs-up to 'Real Deal' quality charter

North Ayrshire Council has teamed up with Spook Erections, operators of Saltcoats Market, to make sure the public get the ‘Real Deal’ when it comes to bagging a bargain.

The ‘Real Deal’ initiative is a national campaign aimed at signing-up market operators to the National Markets’ Charter, an agreement that sets-out safeguards and standards for stallholders and customers.

A North Ayrshire Council spokesperson explained, “Markets that follow strict Charter guidelines are easily identifiable by the distinct ‘Real Deal’ logo on display at trading locations. The mark affirms that stallholders do not sell illegal items or try to ‘rip off’ customers.

“Spook Erections has signed-up to the Charter and is now working in partnership with the Trading Standards department of North Ayrshire Council to protect consumers. Trading Standards will make sure standards are upheld and, if necessary, enforced.”

The Markets Charter also acts to prevent the sale of dangerous, counterfeit, pirated or stolen goods.

North Ayrshire Council Leader Willie Gibson said, “I am delighted that Saltcoats Market has signed-up to this charter.

“The market has been popular among local people and visitors since the 1960s and has built up a good standing in the community. It is good to see that stallholders are absolutely committed to ensuring shoppers can be confident that anything they buy is sourced legally and is safe to use.”

The SNP councillor for Saltcoats & Stevenston noted, “By signing-up to the Charter, local markets are making an effort to show that they are still a place for a bargain, but not at the expense of quality and safety.”


Royal Mail privatisation cost taxpayers £1bn

Taxpayers lost-out on £1bn because the UK Government underpriced the privatisation of Royal Mail.

That was the major finding last week in a highly-critical report published by the House of Commons committee on Business, Innovation and Skills. The committee concluded that Tory-Lib Dem Ministers had been so determined to push ahead with privatisation as quickly as possible they had failed to get value for money for taxpayers.

Royal Mail was privatised in October of last year when the UK Government sold 60% of the publicly-owned asset. Shares were priced at 330p, giving the company a value of £3.3bn. However, on the first day of trading, shares jumped by 38% and continued to rise. Currently, Royal Mail is valued at £1.4bn above the price for which the government sold it.

North Ayrshire & Arran Labour MP Katy Clark is a member of the committee on Business, Innovation and Skills. Speaking to the3towns, she said, “This report confirms what we have known ever since Royal Mail was first floated on the London Stock Exchange. The government sold Royal Mail on the cheap. Priority investors have made multi-million pound profits purchasing under-valued shares and selling them on: taxpayers have lost around £1billion.”

Of the Committee’s investigation into the privatisation, Ms Clark said, “After hearing from Ministers and representatives from Lazard, the company that conducted the valuation of Royal Mail, it is clear that little, if any, consideration was given to value for money for the taxpayer when deciding the share price. The report backs-up the view that I, and many others, have had for some time that this was an ideologically-driven privatisation in which the interests of city investors were above those of taxpayers and Royal Mail customers. It has been a shambles from start to finish.”

Billy Hayes, General Secretary of the Communication Workers Union, noted, “The Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee's damning report shows the extent of the government's incompetence in the privatisation of Royal Mail.”




Breast cancer unit receives donation of £15,000

The Breast Cancer team at Crosshouse Hospital has received a whopping donation of £15,000 from the charity Breast Foot Forward.

The money was raised by volunteers who took part earlier this year in a sponsored Twilight Walk through Dundee. Last year the charity donated £12,000 to the Breast Cancer unit at Crosshouse.

Philippa Whitford, Consultant Breast Surgeon with NHS Ayrshire & Arran, said, “We are extremely grateful to the Breast Foot Forward charity for this wonderful donation. It will be used towards the improvements we are making to our facilities for patients undergoing breast cancer surgery.”

Breast Foot Forward is a non-profit-making charity set up to raise money to improve the standard of breast cancer treatment and research in Scotland. The charity doesn’t pay salaries or expenses, which, a representative explained, “helps to keep administration costs as low as possible, so money goes to where it is really needed”.

The spokesperson added, “So many wonderful advances have taken place in the treatment of breast cancer but much has still to be achieved - we try to help the work being done in the field and we are especially interested in supporting exciting new developments.

“The money we raise stays in Scotland and supports the work done here by our excellent institutions.”

To help Breast Foot Forward or for more information, visit the charity’s web site here.


Kids encouraged to have fun on National Playday

Children and young people are being encouraged to get out and play at a series of events taking place across North Ayrshire this Wednesday (August 6th) - National Playday.

A Council spokesperson explained, “National Playday is a celebration of children’s right to play, and aims to spread the word about why play is crucial for children and young people’s health, wellbeing and happiness.

“The Playday campaign recognises that play supports children’s physical and emotional wellbeing; promotes children’s development, creativity and independence; and allows children to find out about themselves and the world around them.”

This is the 22nd year North Ayrshire Council has participated in the Playday initiative. The local authority’s SNP Cabinet Member for Community and Culture, Cllr Alan Hill, said, “Playday in North Ayrshire has always been very well-supported by the Council and local families. The idea behind the event is so simple – but so important – and that is to give children the opportunity to play.

“I would encourage parents and carers to take their young ones along to an event and have some fun.”

Activities in the Three Towns are:

Wednesday 6 August:

Time: 10.30am to 11.30am
Venue: Stevenston Library. Telephone 01294 469535
Activity: Family games session
Age Group: 5-11 years

Time: 2pm to 3pm
Venue: Ardrossan Library. Telephone 01294 469682
Activity: Family games session
Age Group: 0-11 years

Time: 2pm to 3pm
Venue: Saltcoats Library. Telephone 01294 469546
Activity: Family games session
Age Group: 5-11 years

Time: 2pm to 4pm
Venue: Heritage Centre, Saltcoats. Telephone 01294 464174
Activity: Messy play
Age Group: 5-12 years

There are also events at:

Time: 10am to 4pm
Venue: Maritime Museum, Irvine. Telephone 01294 278283
Activity: Traditional games
Age Group: 0-14 years (normal museum admission fee applies)

Time: 12.30pm to 2.30pm
Venue: Eglinton Country Park. Telephone 01294 65591
Activity: Various games
Age Group: 0-12 years

Time: 1pm to 3pm
Venue: Harbour Arts Centre. Telephone 01294 274059
Activity: Commonwealth games
Age Group: 5+ years