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North Lanarkshire Residents must be asking - What's the point of Labour?

In 2019 while still a councillor on NLC, and involved in the budget setting that year, the SNP group I was a part of, wanted to safeguard swimming lessons for Primary 5 Children.

I wanted to do this mainly from a water safety perspective, water we know is dangerous and claims young lives by the score across Scotland each summer.

However, since the NLC Policy and Strategy Committee made its decision to close leisure centres across the authority including the Sir Matt Busby Centre, I cannot help but think that a tactic of ‘managed decline’ has been employed and that the decision taken then to remove swimming lessons from Primary 5 School Children is part of many earlier political choices of the Labour/Tory administration - that has now got us to this point.

I feel compelled to comment on some speculation and conjecture as well, as I have seen countless posts on my own social media pages and others, so I am going to try and set out my view on some of these things.

Firstly, it goes without saying that any personal abuse of an elected Councillor is totally unacceptable, I think any reasonable person would accept that.

I condemn anything like that in the strongest possible terms.

However, political discourse is a part of politics and I have observed Labour Councillors both claim to be bullied and then in the very same posts go on to make outrageous political arguments - blaming the SNP and the Scottish Government for why they voted as they did.

It is those political arguments that they should rightly expect to be challenged on.

As I have tried to stress in every communication I’ve made so far on this matter, it’s not the time for futile political posturing on an issue like this.

The closure of 39 facilities that will affect every person who lives, works, is schooled or plays sports in North Lanarkshire and they deserve better than to be subject to political football between parties.

That is why I wrote to ALL members of the committee as well as the council Chief Exec before the committee sat - asking them, pleading with them (see my letter in previous posts on the website) to reconsider the direction of travel.

I also requested of them that if a vote did go ahead to vote against - to allow for public consultation.

So, to see Labour councillors from NLC indulge in the practice of justifying their vote using political arguments and attacks on the Scottish Government while at the same time calling a bully of those who wish to challenge their narrative is galling.

It is also unsurprising.

They are trying to take the public for absolute mugs and here is why.

They blame the Scottish Government - but there is never a mention of Westminster by any of them, nor is there a mention of the lack of interest or investment in communities like ours from Westminster over many decades.

No mention that we are unquestionably bearing the brunt of being left exposed to persistent Tory Government’s and their austerity agendas.

The same Tory Government’s that all these Labour politicians used to blame week after week and decade after decade as Scotland decayed under Thatcher and Major, but don’t mention the Tory Governments of Cameron, Johnston or Truss or Sunak.

Ask yourself why that is?

When they blame one government but fail to mention the other, they are indulging in constitutional politics - and pretending to be too daft to realise it.

They mention the big bad Scottish Government that gives us no tuition fees, free healthcare for the elderly, the £25 child payment and no prescription charges.

Whilst they make no mention of a Westminster Government that has given us Brexit against our will, the Bedroom Tax and the 2-child benefit clause.

The reason they don’t mention this is because they would lose the support of the Tory Group on North Lanarkshire Council.

It really is that simple.

We know that Labour and the Tories are in bed with one another in North Lanarkshire, we have known that they have a Unionist pact going on since 2014.

Both Labour and the Tories in NLC blame the Scottish Government whose budget from Westminster has been cut by 74 billion, as well as the damage caused to our country rattled with inflation and sky-high food prices thanks to a mixture of Brexit, Boris and Truss.

All at a time NLC received a 3% higher budget for this financial year than it did last year.

It tells us all exactly what we need to know about The North Lanarkshire Labour Party.

Returning for now, to the meeting of the Policy and Strategy Committee, here are two statements that are not political - just factual.

Fact 1, It is for councillors (and MPs and MSPs) to vote for matters as their conscience allows. The only people who have taken the decision to close these centres at this time are those councillors who voted to do so- not the Scottish Government and not Westminster either.

Fact 2, There is very little power MPs or MSPs actually wield here and in matters such as these.

This is a decision that has been taken by a democratically elected sub-committee of the whole democratically elected council of North Lanarkshire.

It was the decision of those elected to the council to take and it is theirs alone to own.

Or to undo.

Simply put, had they not done so and refused to vote for the proposed recommendations as laid out in the policy & strategy paper then these sport centres and swimming pools would not be up for closure.

All SNP voted against it.

All PC(NL) voted against it.

1 Labour voted against it.

All Tories voted for it.

All other Labour voted for it.

These are irrefutable facts no councillor can deny or deflect.

All of the above is one of many reasons why all the MPs and MSPs across North Lanarkshire, (and even the Labour MP candidates for the next General Election) are all making similar statements - advising the public that they are against this decision.

Firstly because of Fact 1 above but also because, and I have no doubt about this, we ARE against these closures.

Fact 2 as outlined is why we are urging the public to come together and protest collectively against the closures.

My reasons for doing this are simple; it’s to urge you to make your local councillors think again and overturn this decision or ask for a pause until a proper scoping exercise can be done, with transparent data captured and public consultation- as well as equality and other impact assessments completed.

As an MP my remit covers political matters that are strictly reserved to Westminster, whereas MSPs are responsible for Local Authority Governance and Councillors for Council Services Delivery.

But as a former councillor, I know very well how these things work - and I also know the power of public and people led campaigns - I’ve seen it in my time served on the council with School Walking Safe routes campaigns and other areas too.

It can work- not always - but it can work.

So, I urge you to all keep going.

Another fact is that over those years I spent on the council, I have seen with my own eyes this type of duplicitous and sleekit behaviour from Labour councillors many times before.

During the time I represented the Thorniewood ward on NLC (2015-2019) I observed this shady way of working up close.

First it was on protecting Douglas Glen, with Labour Councillors claiming to want to save it and then voting against motions that would have protected it from further development.

I then seen it with Viewpark Gardens, when Labour Councillors from the ward voted to close the site for a 20k saving and then a short time later, the very same Labour Councillor and others were in the by then closed greenhouses holding up placards with SAVE VIEWPARK GARDENS emblazoned on them.

That’s what we are dealing with here, this is how the Labour Party in Lanarkshire operate, and let’s face it, it has been very successful for them for a helluva long time.

I saw it once again it with the Viewpark Boxing Club and the Liber8 building.

I’ve seen it with just about everything the Labour Party touched in the Thorniewood ward over many years.

I DO NOT want to see it again over The Matt Busby Centre, or the Iain Nicolson Centre or the Pivot Centre, or Viewpark Library or the Charlotte Toal centre.

I DO NOT want to keep seeing the people be taken for fools by out of touch councillors who then can’t take the heat or stand by their decisions.

Or indeed, the public being guilted into not being able to question their public servants - especially when they take such horrific decisions and then won’t own them.

No wonder folk are furious.

Note – This Blog was written in the hours before North Lanarkshire Council was forced into an embarrassing U-turn on their decision.

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