This article appeared in issue 12 (March 2012) of In the City magazine. Pictures to be added soon.
Rebel Labour councillors have launched a new party just weeks after the most dramatic budget vote in decades threatened to oust the council’s Labour administration.
Under the banner ‘Glasgow First’, the new party aims to stand at least 20 candidates in the local election in May.
The group had previously attempted to register with the electoral commission under ‘Glasgow Labour’, but were forced to temporarily adopt Independent status when the name was rejected due to a rival registration bid by Glasgow City Council’s Labour contingent.
The news comes as Labour recovers from a tension-filled 2012/13 budget meeting. It had only scraped a majority of 40 votes to 38 after the opposition put forward a surprise combined budget.
By the end of Thursday February 9 Labour had lost six members and was down to a council majority of just one after 31 years at the helm.
Despite not securing a victory in the budget vote, Conservative councillor David Meikle said: “It will go down as one of the most memorable moments of my five years on the council. It was really really exciting stuff, probably the most exciting meeting I’ve been to.”
Stuart Clay, Green Party representative for Partick West added: “There was excitement and a buzz in the air. We were excited about the idea that we could break the Labour tribalism.”
The internal rebellion had begun when councillors Stephen Dornan and Tommy Morrison had resigned from Labour on the morning of the budget, while Anne Marie Millar and Andy Muir had left the party the night before. Fellow Labour members Ruth Black and Willie O’Rourke were later expelled for voting with the opposition.
Having been deselected in September last year, they said they had lost faith in their party’s dedication to Glasgow when London Labour were allowed to deselect Scottish candidates.
Five out the six Labour rebels will stand for re-election under the Glasgow First banner in May, while Councillor Millar plans to stand as an independent candidate.
Speaking after the launch of the new party, Councillor Muir said: “Glasgow First is a party that’s been born in Glasgow for Glasgow and will make its decisions in the best interests of Glasgow. Just now it’s evident that it’s London that’s running the Labour Party in the city.”
He added: “It won’t be London and it won’t be Edinburgh telling us who should be there and who shouldn’t be there. The best people will come through.”
Councillor Muir said the legacy of cooperation that came out of the combined budget proposal – in which aspects of every opposition party’s policies were represented – would have a lasting influence on Glasgow First.
Opposition parties had largely welcomed the opportunity to challenge Labour with an alternative budget that could have gained a majority vote. But now that Glasgow First is to field election contenders, the opposition’s cautious camaraderie has diminished.
The SNP’s Allison Hunter claimed the attention surrounding the combined budget boosted her party’s profile, but said: “An election is a different thing entirely.
“We support Glasgow First’s right to stand as candidates of course, but we will be fighting them all the way.”
Tory David Meikle said: “I wish the new party well at the election but obviously I will be fighting hard to ensure the Conservative vote goes up in Glasgow and the number of Conservative councillors on Glasgow City council increases.”
He added: “This just shows the turmoil and division within the Labour party in Glasgow. Their campaign will suffer a setback because of this and could cost them the Council.”
Councillors had varying opinions on Glasgow First’s chances in May’s election.
The Green Party’s Stuart Clay said: “I don’t think they’ll convince many voters from other parties. If I was pushed, I’d say they may be a threat to Labour in the wards were they already have sitting councillors, but I doubt they’re influence would stretch much further across the city.”
Liberal Democrat group leader Paul Coleshill agreed. “That their group is going to challenge the whole of Glasgow I find hard to believe,” he said, adding: “The challenge to the Labour administration is one I’m interested in my group mounting.”
But Glasgow First’s Andy Muir said: “We would be willing to work with and help other political parties if it’s in the best interests of people and businesses in Glasgow.
“What came out of the budget episode is we know Labour can’t take Glasgow for granted, we know the opposition parties and ex-Labour councillors are willing to sit down, discuss things, put their best interests forward, and I would say it was a good day for democracy.”
Councillor Muir insisted Glasgow First is in a strong position. He said: “If you’re a person in Glasgow watching things you’ll probably see the Labour Party is on its knees.”
A Scottish Labour spokesperson said: “Being a Labour councillor is not a job for life, and everybody has the democratic right to stand in an election, but it is unclear what these people’s policies are, except that they weren’t selected by their own local party members.”
Speaking at this year’s Scottish Labour Party Conference in Dundee, Glasgow City Council leader Gordon Matheson said: “Labour in Glasgow never takes success for granted, but we have the record, the vision, the passion, and the refreshed team to lead Glasgow through the Commonwealth Games and beyond.”
This article appeared in issue 10 of the Glasgow Journal.
After its own council agreed to keep current laws in place, Glasgow is leading the national campaign against new licensing regulations which could see Scotland’s arts scene damaged.
Under changes to the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act even free and temporary events could be required to obtain a license from April 1. Previously this had only been the case for events to which admission was charged.
In Glasgow the new legislation could have meant non-commercial events having to pay a minimum of £124 for a license; or up to £7,500 for commercial events, based on last year’s figures.
Campaigners claim the cost and bureaucracy involved in the new licensing regulations will stifle the vibrant arts culture of Scotland’s cities. Concerns have also been raised that artists might leave council areas in which the new laws are applied.
Francis McKee, Director of Glasgow’s Centre for Contemporary Arts, said Scotland’s creative economy could be ‘cut off at the knees’ by the new legislation.
“If you look at the way strategies work in Scotland, it’s all been based around large-scale cultural events that can bring people to the country and put money into the general economy,” he said.
“In a business sense it’s really short-sighted.”
Ashley Holdsworth, owner of textile studio Make it Glasgow, empathised with art enthusiasts whose licensing regulation is still uncertain. She said: “The money side is alarming, but to think that any exhibition I were to hold would potentially have to be approved by a politician from the city council is something I find deeply troublesome.”
Members of Glasgow City Council’s Licensing and Regulatory Committee voted unanimously not to require temporary and non-commercial events to purchase a license last Thursday.
The committee’s chair, Councillor Frank Docherty, said Glasgow City Council had objected to the new legislation from the start, and encouraged other councils to follow suit.
He said: “Every other council is big enough and hopefully brave enough to take the same stance as Glasgow. I think they would be making a big mistake if they do not do what we’ve done.”
Edinburgh have now joined Glasgow’s online petition against the ‘arts tax’, which has attracted support from national bodies such as Creative Scotland, and gathered over 14,000 signatures in the three weeks since it was launched.
Glasgow campaign organiser Kris Haddow confirmed he is currently in talks with North Ayrshire council to do the same.
He said: “We have written to all councils asking them to clarify their position asap and hope to collate all the responses on to one central campaign website as soon as we can.”
Written on October 23 2011. Last updated November 1 2011.
- Occupy Glasgow ‘the 1%’ poster
This weekend saw the one-week anniversary of Occupy Glasgow. It officially kicked off last Saturday October 15 when individuals descended on George Square to protest against the monopoly of the 1% over contemporary decision-making and wealth.
David, a freelance writer and charity-worker in “normal life”, has been camped out at George Square since the occupation began. He explained: “This is happening in 2000 cities just now around the country – around the planet – and one thing we’ve agreed globally is that we want to move the money out of politics.” He added: “We want to rescue our government from these corporations and actually have them start dealing with the problems instead of furthering the agendas of whoever’s got the biggest bank balance.”
The ‘occupy’ movement claims to have been inspired by the Arab Spring. It utilises a ‘people’s assembly’ to expose “how the richest 1% of people are writing the rules of an unfair global economy. And the 99% is big. The Occupy Wall Street movement in Manhattan’s Liberty Square regularly sees upwards of 2000 people peacefully protesting. On October 17 BBC news reported about 250 people were camped outside St Paul’s Cathedral in a sister protest in London.
Occupy Glasgow is also gaining momentum, with an estimated 500 people attending the camp’s first weekly assembly on Saturday October 22.
Despite the level of support that the movement has enjoyed, there has been criticism that it doesn’t really know what it’s about. David disputed this: “What we’re trying to do is create a platform for dialogue, a platform for discussion about the problems and the solutions. Really it’s that simple. We’re a democratic movement for change.”
“As for how long we’re going to be here I really couldn’t say”, said David. Those involved are however negotiating with Glasgow City Council regarding pre-planned events in George Square – such as the Christmas lights switch on – and have even been in touch with the British Legion about laying an Occupy Glasgow wreath on Remembrance Sunday. David said: “We’re here to make the council listen to us and we’re here to engage the people of Glasgow, and this is really the best place to do that. It is clear that Occupy Glasgow are in it for the long haul.
Since this post was written a 28-year-old has been raped in one the tents situated in George Square. A police spokesperson confirmed: “Police received a report of a serious sexual assault on a 28-year-old woman in George Square.” The assault occurred at approximately 12:45am on Wednesday October 26. Strathclyde Police believe the victim was a homeless woman who was not involved in the protest, but who had been at the camp for the previous few days. A police spokesperson said: “We do not believe it was a random attack”.
Strathclyde police are looking for two men aged between 20 and 30 years of age in connection with the assault. No arrests have yet been made (November 1 2011).
Glasgow City Council also issued the camp with an eviction notice on Thursday October 27 due to concerns over access to George Square. A hearing was held at Glasgow Sheriff Court on Tuesday November 1 and was continued until the afternoon of Thursday November 3 to allow Occupy Glasgow to seek legal representation. However, protestors voted to leave George Square prior to Thursday’s hearing, and will move their camp to Kelvingrove Park.