Full text of Scottish Catholic Bishop’s letter urging Scots to vote

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ

On the Seventh of May the people of Scotland will vote in what may be the most unpredictable General Election in generations. While each of us alone will decide whom to vote for, the teachings of the Church can offer us a guide as we attempt to reach an informed judgement that advances the common good. 

Casting a vote is both a civic duty and a Christian moral obligation. The huge turnout at last year’s referendum was an exemplary exercise in peaceful and participatory democracy and showed how much the Scottish people care about the future of our country and its wellbeing.  It was also a reminder of the power that every citizen has and the obligation upon us to use our vote.

For centuries Christian values underpinned our laws and customs but for Christians today the political complexion of Parliament is secondary to the values and beliefs of those who sit in it. The candidates we send to Parliament go there as our representatives. The values they hold will shape their understanding of what is good for our country.  

Our Parliamentarians must discern priorities in many ethical and moral matters from Welfare to Defence, not to mention our relationship with Europe. Before casting our vote, we have a duty to inform ourselves of the moral values of our candidates.  We should think and pray before we choose, considering especially the following points:

1. Life: The dignity and value of every human being should be at the heart of politics.  The sanctity of human life, protected from its beginning to its natural end, is not a single issue.  It is the fundamental issue. It demands that we proclaim the Gospel of Life in all places and at all times, for if human life is not sacrosanct then no other human right makes any sense at all. Laws which permit abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide are profoundly unjust.  We do not want to accept the continued existence in our society of such fundamental violations of human rights and we commit ourselves to work peacefully and tirelessly to oppose and to change them.  

2. The Family: Common sense and much research tell us that children do best when they are raised by a mum and dad who are married to each other.  This ideal is not always possible in reality and we applaud and support families who achieve remarkable things in the most difficult of circumstances. In recent years, both the UK and Scottish Parliaments have enacted legislation re-defining marriage. Together with others we argued that marriage is a union uniquely of a man and a woman and feared that legislation allowing for same sex marriage represented an unprecedented threat to the public understanding of marriage and the family. Once again we should encourage our politicians to defend the institution of marriage and the family as the basic unit of society on which so much depends. Pope Francis has also reminded governments not to require poor countries to introduce laws redefining marriage before they can get financial aid, because this is unjust and unfair.

3. The Economy:  The first consideration for any economic policy should be the dignity of the person, not the pursuit of profit. We urge candidates to endorse the living wage campaign, giving people the opportunity to provide for themselves and their families. In these turbulent financial times Pope Francis has been a prophetic voice, warning that economies stripped of ethics trample human dignity. “Unbridled capitalism,” he says, “has given us the logic of profit at any cost, (and) of exploitation without looking at the person.” The existence of so many food banks in our country offers a depressing vindication of the Pope’s warning.

4. Human Freedom: Across the globe, the right to religious freedom and freedom of worship are under threat.  In some countries, Christians are put to death simply for professing faith in Jesus Christ. In this country, an intolerant form of secularism wants to remove religion from the public square, despite recognition in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. True human dignity involves the freedom to assemble, to worship and to manifest our beliefs openly.  Religious liberty must be non-negotiable in a free society and we should make sure our candidates support it.

5. Peace.  Successive UK Governments have made plans to replace and upgrade our nuclear weapons capacity.  This is despite the considerable costs involved and in the face of persistent moral objections, to say nothing of international agreements we have entered into which commit us to work against the proliferation of such weapons.  While recognising each country’s right to defend itself, the existence of nuclear weapons, and their possible proliferation, continue to represent a grave threat to the human family. Pope Francis reminds us that peace is better fostered by greater equality – not least by fairness towards the poor, refugees and migrants – rather than by increased spending on arms.

6. Evangelisation: The Gospel compels us as a Church and as individual Catholics to engage actively in the world and convert human affairs. Voting in the election is the least a committed Christian can do.  Our politicians enter public service with good hearts and give of their best to build up our lives and our country.  Sadly, however, on serious issues, some politicians who profess a Catholic faith remain silent – or even surrender – in the face of grave ethical injustice.  As Catholics, we can never separate how we act from what we believe without undermining what we believe and damaging who we are. The time has come for a new generation of Catholics to join political parties and to dedicate ourselves to political service in a way that remains faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, laying the foundations for a new Civilization of Love that serves the common good of all, especially the most vulnerable in our society.  

Conclusion: 

As we prepare to cast our votes, the Bishops invite all of us to pray for our country, our Parliamentary candidates and our fellow citizens.  With our votes we help set the direction of our society for years to come and it is right that we ask for divine assistance that we may be guided in our choices and that our nation may flourish.

The Bishops’ Conference of Scotland,

The Second Sunday of Easter, 2015.

+ Philip Tartaglia, President, Archbishop of Glasgow

+ Joseph Toal, Vice-President, Bishop of Motherwell

+ Hugh Gilbert, Episcopal Secretary, Bishop of Aberdeen

+ Leo Cushley, Archbishop of St.Andrews and Edinburgh

+ Stephen Robson, Bishop of Dunkeld

+ John Keenan, Bishop of Paisley

+ William Nolan, Bishop of Galloway

V.Rev.Mgr James MacNeil, Diocesan Administrator, Argyll and the Isles

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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.

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.