Highland Councillors hands are tied
27 November 2013
New betting shop in Merkinch
Highland Council’s south planning committee has approved another betting shop in Merkinch, a deprived Inverness neighbourhood and one of the most deprived in Scotland.
William Hill plan to turn the Lochiel Arms Bar, 1A Pumpgate Street, Merkinch into a Class 2 betting office.
The area already has two betting shops with eight gaming machines, but over-provision is not “a material consideration” in determining whether to grant planning permission.
The decision for change of use was made at the South Planning Applications Committee on 26/11/2013.
Three councillors, Richard Laird, Donnie Kerr and Allan Duffy, withdrew from the south planning applications committee because they had previously expressed their opposition to gambling machines. Richard Laird also resigned from the Highland Licensing Committee after it was forced to reverse its decision to refuse a gambling licence. He felt that it impacted on his ability to represent his community, and he feels the same is developing with the planning committee.
Inverness culture is going in the wrong direction. Inverness has one library, one museum, one theatre, five secondary schools, nine GP surgeries and 12, going on 13 bookies, not to mention the city’s recently acquired lap-dancing establishment. In spite of expressed concerns, the Highland Licensing Committee is powerless to comment on adult entertainment and to refuse a gambling licence. It had previously refused a gambling licence on the grounds of the proximity of the new betting shop to For the Right Reasons, which helps addicts to recover from their addictions. Richard Burkitt of Merkinch Action Group continues to campaign against more fixed odd betting terminals (FOBTs) in the area.
Gambling is a tax on the poor, and like alcohol it raises the spirit for a short period of time before casting it down further.
Highland Council is consulting about its Licensing Board’s Gambling Policy Statement. Those who are concerned can obtain the documents in order to respond by clicking the link. If you have already responded, or if you have an expertise in this area, the Inverness branch of the SCP will be pleased to hear from you. Please call us on 01463 796952.
Building a head of steam
There could be a head of steam building to review the regulations that are supposed to deliver unbiased planning and licensing committees, but which are actually delivering loaded committees. If a councillor expresses an opinion against, say, wind farms, or gambling, then they are excluded from considering such applications. This does not deliver unbiased committees, but simply committees that are positively discriminated towards the flavour of the month in terms of political correctness. If planning permission is now simply ticking boxes against a pre-determined list of policies, where does human input impact on this? Only in manipulating an application to tick the right boxes; but are the boxes right and sufficient? It is better to have councillors whose views are public and known, than those who conceal their views but may vote according to them. Councillors are not trained like professional judges to exclude bias from their judgments. Good government requires strong opposition, which is being excluded a priori from committees on a principle that is at least open to debate. The council votes for the composition of its committees, and it is at this stage that councillors’ views on particular matters should be considered with a view to the composition of the committees. At least, some councillors feel that current regulations are interfering with their ability and responsibility to represent their constituents and speak to the issues that they think are relevant. This is what the public wants councillors to do.
- 27 Nov 2013: not many people realise that there was a National Lottery many centuries ago, and William Wilberforce who campaigned to have slavery abolished also campaigned to abolish the state lottery for its negative effects upon the poor. In October 1826 the last state lottery was drawn and immediately afterwards an Act of Parliament came into force making all forms of lotteries unconstitutional and illegal. This lasted for about 150 years until the downturn of the permissive 1960s. “If to be feelingly alive to the sufferings of my fellow-creatures is to be a fanatic, I am one of the most incurable fanatics ever permitted to be at large.” William Wilberforce.
- 28 Nov 2013: it transpires that there may be a motion before the next meeting of Highland Council to approach the Westminster Government to make changes in the Gambling Act. This is progress.
Highland MSPs as silent as Highland MPs
21 November 2013
Highland MSPs had a very mixed voting record in Holyrood on Wednesday over the SNP Government’s Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill.
Just as there were no MPs from the Highlands and Islands who spoke to represent nor defend traditional marriage during the Westminster debate, similarly no Highlands and Islands MSP spoke in the critical debate in Holyrood yesterday.
The main speakers against redefining marriage did not come from the Highlands and Islands. There were not many MSPs to speak anyway, as only a total of 15 MSPs voted against the measure.
Those Highlands and Islands MSPs who voted in favour of changing the definition of marriage to include homosexual couples were:
John Finnie, former SNP List MSP, now Independent MSP: he spoke in favour of the change, dismissing conscientious objection by Registrars
Rhoda Grant, Labour List MSP.
Mike MacKenzie, SNP List MSP.
Mary Scanlon, Conservative List MSP
David Stewart, Labour List MSP
Jean Urquhart, former SNP List MSP now Independent.
Richard Lochhead SNP, Moray constituency.
Liam McArthur, Lib Dem Orkney constituency.
Tavish Scott, Lib Dem Shetland constituency.
Those who voted against change were:
Fergus Ewing, SNP, Inverness and Nairn constituency.
Jamie McGrigor, Conservative List MSP.
Alasdair Allan, SNP, Na h-Eileanan an Iar constituency.
Rob Gibson, SNP, Caithness, Sutherland and Ross.
Dave Thompson, SNP, Skye, Lochaber & Badenoch constituency, was absent through illness, but is believed to be against redefining marriage.
It is interesting to see that the strictly Highland constituency MSPs, who are dependent upon being directly voted into Holyrood tended to vote against the Bill, whereas on the other hand the list MSPs, who are dependent upon their Party for their position in the List, tended to vote in favour of the Bill, except for Jamie McGrigor.
This highlights the growing problem that in some circumstances elected politicians are more beholden to their party machine for their election than to the electorate, and so they are more likely to listen to their party whips than to the electorate. This is all the more so if they are List MSPs. Of the seven List MSPs only Jamie McGrigor voted against the Bill. Of the four Highlands and Islands constituency MSPs (excluding Orkney, Shetland, Moray and Argyll and Bute), none of the MSPs voted in favour of the Bill.
Dr Donald Boyd, Leader of the Scottish Christian Party, commented: “Yet again the Highland electorate have no effective political voice. No MP from the Highlands and Islands spoke to represent nor defend traditional marriage in Westminster, and this is repeated in Holyrood. We have dogs that cannot bark, and it is time that Christians in Scotland voted for a distinctive Christian voice in our Parliaments. The Scottish Christian Party has been warning for years that this change in the law was likely to happen.”
The six main speakers against the Bill were:
John Mason, SNP, Glasgow Shettleston; John.Mason.email@example.com
Nigel Don, SNP, Angus North and Mearns; Nigel.Don.firstname.lastname@example.org>
Margaret Mitchell, Conservative, Central Scotland; Margaret.Mitchell.email@example.com
Alex Johnstone, Conservative, North East Scotland; Alex.Johnstone.firstname.lastname@example.org
Richard Lyle, Conservative, Central Scotland; Richard.Lyle.email@example.com
Elaine Smith, Labour, Coatbridge and Chryston; Elaine.Smith.firstname.lastname@example.org
Their emails are supplied for those who wish to email them to thank them.
Of the 15 opponents to the Bill, eight were Conservative, six were SNP and one was Labour. There were no Lib Dems, Greens nor Independents against the Bill. Jim Hume, MSP, quoted the Lib Dem constitution to suggest that redefining marriage, by his understanding of it, is a constitutional matter for Lib Dems. Certainly, the Lib Dems have been drivers in persuading David Cameron to take on this issue and now the Scottish Parliament. This led to Lady Johnston’s resignation from the Lib Dems. She is the widow of a former Scottish Leader of The Liberal Democrats, who wrote to Nick Clegg to intimate her resignation because of “the way The Party is promoting gay ‘marriage’.”
Fergus Ewing will not support the SNP Bill to redefine marriage
16 November 2013
Fergus Ewing, MSP
A senior Highland MSP will not support the SNP Government’s Bill to redefine marriage.
Fergus Ewing, MSP, is the Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism and he has indicated that he will not support the SNP Government’s Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill. He is likely to be the most senior minister to break ranks in the Government.
The SNP Government’s Bill to redefine marriage was introduced on 26 June 2013 and has been discussed in various committees. It will now come before the Scottish Parliament next Wednesday 20/11/2013, which will debate the Bill at Stage 1.
The Bill proposes calling homosexual partnerships “marriage” and makes various changes to the law on marriage and civil partnerships.
Mr Ewing has written to one of his constituents: “I do not believe that there should be nor can there be a redefinition of marriage, and shall not be supporting this Bill. It is also the case that I am aware of very strong opposition to this Bill amongst my constituents, a great many of whom have taken the trouble to write to me expressing their views, and concerns.”
The lead committee is the Equal Opportunities Committee. In an extraordinary example of the tail wagging the dog, the Committee advises the Parliament in its Report: “We recommend to members of the Parliament to approach the Stage 1 decision with the same dignified tenor as our evidence sessions and with due respect for a diversity of views.” Evidently it does not have confidence that the Scottish Parliament will debate this issue with suitable decorum.
Will it be a fight, a skirmish or a walkover?
The Scottish Christian Party welcomes Mr Ewing’s position and commitment to real marriage.
Last year, the SCP called for the organisation of stronger opposition among MSPs. Instead, most MSPs opposed to redefining marriage have been distinctly mute, with notable exceptions such as John Mason, the SNP MSP for Glasgow Shettleston and a member of the Equal Opportunities Committee.
In its Autumn Newsletter, the leader of the SCP writes: “Some eastern European countries, on leaving the USSR, drew up new constitutions. Seeing the writing on the wall, they took the opportunity to write into their constitution that marriage is between one man and one woman. On the other hand the SNP wants to redefine marriage and to have a nuclear weapons ban written into Scotland’s constitution. The first purpose and duty of government is the defence of the nation, but marriage is under attack from our own government, and our defence strategy needs more than Alex Salmond’s smile to ward off our enemies. We need the smile of heaven, but we are doing much to elicit God’s displeasure. The European Parliament, like Holyrood, will be the battleground for redefining marriage. Will it be a skirmish, as it was in Westminster? “The children of Ephraim, being armed, and carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle” Psalm 78:9. We need to train an army of Christian soldiers who know how to stand in the day of battle, Ephesians 6:11,13,14.”
It is one thing for MSPs to vote against a Bill, but the SCP looks for serious opposition. In the absence of public organisation by opposing MSPs, Mr Ewing gives little hope of serious opposition. He writes: “The Bill will I suspect receive majority support when it is considered on Wednesday next week, but I myself shall not support this bill either then or at the final stage, called stage three, when it comes back to the full chamber of Parliament.”