Author Archives: chrismceleny

What happened to the Scottish Labour Party?

Right some people still don’t know if they should vote Labour or SNP. Growing up all your life in an area that has Labour movement values to its heart it is hard to accept that the party you grew up voting for or the party your parents voted for might just not be the party for you anymore. 

Put it this way, I’ve got Labour members arguing with me on Twitter that we shouldn’t have free school meals for kids or free universal healthcare. 

Everyone remembers the stigma of those in school that had to stand in a queue and wait for their free meal ticket because they were poor. Free school meals for children is the greatest policy in eradicating the stigma of poverty we’ve seen in years. What happened to the Labour Party that they became a party that wants working mums to struggle to pay their kids lunch just because they’re a pound above the fresh hold? A party that thinks you should pay for ill health. 

It’s bereft of intelligent thought. Every pound you struggle to pay for these vital services if you had to is a pound out your local shop.

Seriously is this a party you think represents you still? Choose your vote smartly in May.

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Statement on the Beacon

Today the Council agreed to support the Beacon Arts centre. Below are my closing remarks on why voted to Save the Beacon.

Thank you provost.

As everyone is aware this is a decision that has attracted a lot of attention in the press and online.
In times of plenty it is easy to commit money to projects in Inverclyde. However it is in times such as now when council services face unprecedented pressure that decisions to spend money RIGHTLY come under public pressure.

As we are aware there is vocal public opposition to this proposal. On Tuesday of this week I was happy to receive a petition from the ‘ no to funding the Beacon Campaign’ not because I supported the campaign but I think it is essential for local democracy that when the very people we represent wish us to know their view – considering the effort they’ve went to – it is only right that we listen to every viewpoint we are afforded.

In December the Council were first made aware in writing that the Beacon needed our support. Money could have been agreed to have been handed over there and then.
However, the SNP Group had serious concerns about agreeing to such level of support without carrying out the sort of scrutiny that has been conducted in the last month.

Let it be clear, when we as a council come under pressure from opposing viewpoints on a decision it makes the decision we come to a better decision. Therefore I would thank everyone that has contacted me via email, on facebook or spoke to me in person. A lot of opinions have been expressed.

The SNP Group made the following points of view crystal clear:

• We said that for the Council to consider supporting the Beacon then wholesale change was required to how the Board and the Governance of the Beacon were conducted. This change we called for has happened and we welcome this.

• We stipulated that if the council were to provide such high level support then we must be ensured that the Beacon has a business plan fit for purpose. This stipulation has been met.

• We listened to many people in the community that said the Beacon hadn’t worked for them and that community groups felt excluded and that the Beacon was not all inclusive.

I met with the Chairman of the Beacon and told him that this aspect is key. For the Council to give the Beacon over a million pound then we need to be assured that The Beacon is not just a building for the few but a centre for all of Inverclyde that everyone feels is open to them. It must be seen as a community asset. I am confident this message has well and truly been understood and we will see this happen.

However all that said, I’m sure that questions will be asked; is this value for money? What do the council get out of this? Is this money well spent when vital services are under threat? All good questions.

That is why the SNP group have spent the last month putting a lot of thought into todays decision. In the last 3 years over £1million pound has been leveraged into Inverclyde from Creative Scotland thanks to the Beacon, around the figure being asked for today. Over the next 10 years based on those numbers we could see another £4million of investment in various projects.
Creative Scotland have recently confirmed £600,000 over 3 years. That will be over £2million to Inverclyde over the next 10 years.

So after carefully looking into the whole situation and considering whether today’s contribution being asked for makes sense, perhaps we should consider that if we don’t make it Inverclyde could lose out on over £6million in the years to come if the Beacon isn’t there.

Obviously as a council we must consider regeneration. At this stage can I welcome the approach the council and the Scottish Government have taken and shown again what we can achieve by working in partnership. It wasn’t long ago we came together to help secure the Future of Fergusons shipyard and today thanks to this collaborative approach the Scottish Government are again supporting Inverclyde’s attempts to regenerate the area. I personally think that if the Beacon were to close down it would send out an unacceptable message that our attempt to Regenerate Inverclyde has failed. Just how damaging could this be to future attempts to attract private sector inverstment? We’ve heard from the council’s Director of Regeneration just how difficult this would be.

I would in summary Provost ask the council to consider a final important issue to me. I recently visited the Beacon and spoke to some of their staff. These are decent hard working people. If the Beacon closes their jobs go. Just how much money does 60 people going to the job centre cost the local economy? These are people that live and work in Inverclyde that spend their money in Inverclyde.

Of course it wouldn’t just be these jobs under threat it would be jobs in related industry who I’ve also spoke to. Local hotels who do well during large productions, local supply chains who work with the Beacon and the various knock on effects there could be.

This has been a tough decision but as I said I welcome the debate, without it we wouldn’t have came to such an informed decision and our decision would have been poorer for it.

Therefore Provost I will be supporting the recommendation before us today from council officers to approve the funding support package.

100 days 100 reasons to vote SNP – 1: Yes we can

100 days 100 reasons to vote SNP

Day 1 – Yes we can

During the last 100 days of the referendum campaign I gave one reason every day for 100 days on why I was voting Yes and why I thought that was best for Scotland.

Today (Tuesday) marks 100 days until the UK general election.

On the 18th of September we lost the referendum. Those of us on the left that voted Yes voted that way to create a better, fairer Scotland for all. When I went to the polling station on the 18th I truly believed that with independence we could’ve created a country based on the sort of socialist values I’m proud of. A country built on Labour movement values, values the Labour Party abandoned.

When I woke up on the 19th of September I still believed in that fairer country. One key arguement of the Yes campaign was never challenged, it can’t be challenged.

– Decisions about Scotland are better decisions when they are made by the people that care most about the people those decisions effect. The people that live and work in Scotland will always make better decisions about what is best for Scotland’s future.

2015 can be the year in which we all ensure that Scotland’s voice is still heard. If a strong team of SNP MPs is returned at the forthcoming General Election we can ensure that Scotland gets the best deal possible, the powers that were promised are delivered and the dream that is independence stays alive.

In May we have the chance to send the Westminster establishment a message that we still believe in a fairer Scotland and demand the powers we were promised.

A fairer Scotland is still possible. However for as long as Westminster retains the power to impose the hated poll tax on us, impose the bedroom tax on us and holds on to the levers that stop us creating jobs to tackle poverty then that fairer country is still a far distance away.

However it’s not just people that voted Yes that want a fairer country, there were many people who voted no that share that same worldview of a fairer society based on the values the majority of us hold dear. The Labour Party have abandoned them. Scotland was promised the powers to end the bedroom tax, tackle poverty and create the type of country based on socially just values we believe in.

Whether you voted Yes or NO the only party that will deliver the powers required to create that country is the SNP.

Can we still create a fairer Scotland?

Yes we can.

Inverclyde SNP Leader will donate salary to charity

Inverclyde SNP Leader will donate salary to charity

The Leader of the SNP at Inverclyde Council has today confirmed that if elected the areas MP he will donate the salary he receives as a councillor to local charities and voluntary organisations.

As reported previously Cllr Christopher McEleny has stated he will be seeking the backing of party members to stand as the SNP candidate in the May Westminster election. If elected the local SNP Leader would be both a councillor and an MP. Commenting Cllr McEleny said:

” since I declared that – after being asked by 100s of people locally – my intention to stand as the areas MP I have been asked by several people what my intentions would be regarding still being paid as a councillor. It is a legitimate question and one that does not require much thought on my part. If given the honour of receiving a dual mandate by the people that live in Inverclyde as being both their MP and a member of Inverclyde Council I would immediately donate the salary I receive as a councillor to local charitable causes and voluntary organisations in the area. It would be wrong to take both salaries and the money would certainly help I am sure the magnificent work we see carried out in Inverclyde by our charities and volunteers on a daily basis. This arrangement would remain in place permanently until I have discussed with my constituents and fellow councillors what course of action would be best in terms of timing for the council and area as a whole.”

Powers over Pensions must be delivered to Scotland

Powers over Pensions must be delivered to Scotland

The need for full control of welfare and pensions to be in Scotland’s hands has been highlighted again this week – as George Osborne launched his latest attack on poorer pensioners by announcing an above-earnings increase in the threshold for Savings Credit. Inverclyde Council’s SNP Leader and prospective Westminster candidate Cllr Christopher McEleny has said today that “pensions will be one of several priorities for him if selected as SNP candidate.”

As announced last week, the UK Government has increased the threshold for Savings Credit by 5.1 per cent – abandoning the previously held principle that the threshold should always increase by earnings.

The number of recipients of Savings Credit has already declined massively – falling by more than 60,000 since May 2010 – and the UK Government has announced that the benefit is set to be scrapped for all new pensioners from 2016.

Savings Credit is paid to poorer pensioners who have saved for their retirement. A single pensioner could receive up to £16.80 per week or £20.70 per week for a couple – compared to the 2011-12 figures of £20.52 for single people and £27.09 for a couple.

Commenting, SNP Leader at Inverclyde council and prospective Westminster candidate Cllr Christopher McEleny said:

“This is just the latest example of Westminster’s systematic and sustained attack on the poor – and this time it is poorer pensioners who are the victims.

“This latest cut will hit poorer pensioners in Inverclyde who have planned ahead and worked hard for their retirement – and the fact that the latest hike in the threshold is above the rate of earnings is a further insult and is typical of Westminster’s attitude to our older people.

“It is cuts like this which show exactly why full control over welfare and pensions must be in Scotland’s hands, rather than in the hands of a Tory chancellor who seems intent on balancing the books on the backs of some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in Inverclyde.

“If I have the privilege of being selected the SNP candidate for Inverclyde better pensions will be one of several key priorities I will set out. I will promote the case at next year’s general election that full welfare and pension powers must be transferred to Scotland – to ensure our older people get a fair deal.”

” with the power to have a Pension model that suits the needs of Scotland certainly one thing I will be pushing for is a reduction in UK state pension age. Young people today are being asked to work until they are nearly 70 before they get a state pension. That’s simply unacceptable.”

My remarks yesterday on why I said Yes to the Corlic hill windfarm.

Thank you Provost

This of course is a decision I’m sure elected members are unable to keep everyone happy with regarding how they will vote.

I have considered the various representations and I would like to make the following points:

Firstly I fully respect everyone’s opinion and welcome that so many have taken part in this process.

However I would say in respect of some of them-

In terms of Lurg Moor Roman Fort and Road. Absolutely I accept that this development would change how the area would change how the area would’ve looked in Roman times. I consider though that when I turn around and look towards the Clyde and ask myself would I have objected to our once famous shipyards being built as that’s not what the Clyde would’ve looked like from the Moor in Roman times? How many 10,000s of jobs would that’ve cost Inverclyde over the years?

If I move onto Clyde Muirshiel park. This is a great facility on our doorstep. I have had the privilege that I’ve been able to visit it 100s of times over the years. However one thought that I find inconsistent is the park is objecting to a scheme that promotes renewable energy – ergo protecting the natural Enviroment – but the park has a nuclear power station on its boundary. Of course I am not passing comment on the power station but pointing out an inconsistency in what I would’ve thought a regional park preferred on its doorstep.

Another Representation or objection to consider is Glasgow Airport’s. Now this is probably the most crucial in terms of planning grounds. I should add and regardless of this councils decision this is an objection that will have to be judged at a place further from here.

However to me the most important objection is that that has come from the people that live near the area. Their views must always be given the respect they deserve. I can understand completely that people who have built up a home in this area and have decided to raise their family in this area and stay there afterwards in some cases will have concerns about their area changing. Their concerns are valid and I have listened to them. Their objections are what have made my decision today a hard one.

However it is only right to recognise the positive aspects this development can bring to Inverclyde.

Firstly it brings another bit of industrial work back to the area. A key part in reindustrialising an area which has witnessed it’s industry being wiped out in the 80s and 90s.

Furthermore I previously mentioned our shipbuilding heritage. To this councils credit people of all cross sections came together to safeguard the future of Fergusons shipyard. I believe in the future the renewable sector will be key to the long term growth and sustainability of that workforce. I fear what message we may send out to that sector in terms of Inverclyde’s attitutde in welcoming renewable projects and jobs to the area.

Of course construction of the project will give that sector a boost which it needs. It will bring money into the area in terms of supply chain and materials during the project that will create jobs. I would be keen to see requirements placed on the contractors involved to provide local young people with apprenticeships during the construction phase.

To me though there is another issue that is important with this project. I was touched by a recent article I read in which former Morton player Warren Hawke – now a club consultant – spoke of the difference this project can make to community groups across our area.

I believe the phrase for those of us that aren’t planning experts is that this isn’t a material planning consideration but to me surely the wider community is a crucial consideration ? This project will see £120,000 go to community groups and projects for the next 25 years. I can only imagine the great work that our magnificent community groups and voluntary organisations could do with that. Could this help make Inverclyde a better place ? Could it help poverty projects reduce the need for foodbanks ? Could it be used to target projects that reduce anti social behaviour in the area ? Could it create a better community ? I think the answer is yes.

I genuinely believe this project is good for all of Inverclyde.

Good for future jobs.

Good for the people that need the support it can bring now.

Therefore provost I will be supporting this application and move that it is granted.

Breaking: Politician sends email about politics

You may have read today in the Greenock Telegraph that I’ve allegedly infringed rules regarding email use. Below i will set out the facts of the situation.

I was made aware in November that Labour’s MP for Inverclyde was emailing and writing to constituents telling them that the NHS in Scotland was under threat from the SNP. You will remember that Labour campaigned during the referendum telling us that a no vote was the only way to ensure the safety of the NHS.

Therefore when I was informed by constituents that our local Labour MP was now campaigning on the exact opposite I thought it was my duty to highlight this to the wider Inverclyde public who aren’t active on social media. Labour were either lying to us during the referendum or lying to us now.

On 25th November 2014 I issued a press release to the Greenock Telegraph highlighting the hypocrisy of the local Labour Party pertaining to a service everyone in Inverclyde holds close to their hearts – that is the NHS.

The Greenock Telegraph forwarded this press release to the office of Labours Iain McKenzie MP for Inverclyde. Our Labour MP was given the opportunity to defend his outlandish claims regarding the NHS. It is believed that he passed this email onto our local Labour Leader to scrutinise. At this point Labour have deemed that the email breaches a section of the councillors code of conduct and reported me to the councils monitoring officer.

Now those that are IT literate will be aware that an email costs nothing to send. As the leader of the opposition in Inverclyde council when I receive overwhelming representations on social media I believe that I am duty bound to highlight these concerns to the wider public in our area. This was the course of action I undertook.

However in the event that I did breach a part of the code of conduct – a code that perhaps no longer reflects the nature of modern political life – then I apologise and endeavour not to do so again.

So to summarise the local Labour Party have reported me for sending an email that was of a political nature. It is nothing more than a stunt to distract from their own record in office. Let’s remind ourselves for the benefit of doubt:

– our MP renting a property from a fellow Labour MP at the cost of £1000s to the tax payer.

– a kitchen upgrade at a cost of £3000 to the taxpayer.

– Travelling expenses claimed by our Labour council Leader since 2008 of nearly £10,000 ( compared to my £0)

– The council leader using his council mobile phone as an official phone of the better together campaign.

Labour are a party in Inverclyde who have no policy issues to attack the SNP on as they are the ones in control of the council. Therefore what we are seeing on a more regular occurrence is personal attacks (verbal+written)on members of the SNP locally.

You will be well aware of the massive budget black hole Labour run Inverclyde faces. Perhaps Labour should put more effort into working with the SNP to ensure our frontline public services are protected and provide an administration people want and deserve!