With less than a week to go until the polls open, the Glasgow North East by-election campaign has gone into overdrive. The entire team here is working the sort of hours that would make the bureaucrats behind the European Time Directive choke into their cappuccinos. But we are definitely getting our message across.
The media has also started to notice that there’s a by-election on. Every time I go to an event, visit a community group or stop-off with a member of the shadow cabinet we get reporters, photographers and journalists of all stripes joining us and asking questions about the campaign – or any other issues is running that day. What I hope to use this attention for is to shine a light on some of the great projects that are running in Glasgow North East.
Too much is written about the bad things in our community – the recent deprivation index is just the latest set of statistics to show that (in this case) Possilpark has serious challenges. I know that there are problems, and so does the rest of the Conservative Party. And we have the policies that could make a difference to Glasgow, with our plans to get a grip on the economy, promote growth, cut joblessness and get Britain working again. However just because there are problems doesn’t mean that we should be blinded to all that is good about Glasgow North East.
People rightly decry the collapse of the locomotive industry, which once employed thousands in Springburn. North British Locomotive Company – the most famous firm – supplied engines to the world in its day. Rail manufacture and fit-out has not completely left the area, though, which is why I wanted George Osborne to visit Rail Care, which is still based at St Rollox, and still does heavy engineering work as well as electrical, electronic and cosmetic upgrades. The company is growing and takes on local apprentices so it can train up the next generation of rail engineers. The Shadow Chancellor was impressed with what he saw – a company which had been struggling but which had turned its fortunes around in just a couple of years.
There’s concern for local high streets, from Springburn to Possilpark to Dennistoun and all points in between. The smattering of empty shop fronts and the number of ‘sale’ stickers show that Labour’s recession is hurting people hard. So when the shadow Scottish secretary, David Mundell, visited last week, we visited shopkeepers up and down Duke Street. Florists, cafes, card shops, hairdressers, corner shops, travel agents and even a radio-controlled plane– they all had a story to tell about how they were surviving the longest and deepest recession since records began.
These may be small businesses, but they are crucial to their communities and are valuable local employers. Nearly all had benefitted from the cut or abolition of local business rates, which the Conservatives pushed through at Holyrood. The Federation of Small Businesses estimates one in eight of Scotland’s smallest firms have been saved from going under because of that Conservative policy. Take away one in eight shops along Duke Street and you’d have a very different atmosphere from the bustle that greets me every day as I go into my campaign office.
With crime and anti-social behavior high on most people’s lists of issues, I wanted to show Annabel Goldie, the Conservative Leader at the Scottish Parliament, one group of people who had found a way of making their community safer. Reidvale Housing Association residents had trouble with a bit of rough land near a railway line where teenagers were making trouble, drinking and fighting. They converted it into allotments and included raised beds so that disabled members could garden from their wheelchairs. So it was that Annabel and I got our wellies on for a tour by Laurence Duff, the chairman of the allotments and even did a wee bit of digging. There’s no problem with behaviour at the site now and people are getting out and growing their own fresh fruit and veg.
Just three of the many success stories across the constituency. I’ll be highlighting more before the election is done and dusted. Journalists, take note…