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A big thanks to the Labour Campaign for International Development for organising such a great meeting this evening.

Paisley Daily Express Column 23/01/13

23 January 2013

The Local Impact of the Algerian Hostage Crisis.

In last week’s column I wrote about the importance of an integrated approach between our local college and local businesses in providing the training opportunities, work experience and local jobs that will help bring economic growth back to Renfrewshire.

I had intended to meet with the Renfrewshire Chamber of Commerce last Friday specifically to discussion these issues however, the hostage crisis in Algeria – which directly impacted on the community of Howwood, as local resident Iain Strachan was among those being held – prevented me from returning to the constituency.

As you will have seen in the news reports the crisis demanded urgent action, and as both Shadow Foreign Secretary and a local MP with a constituent’s life in danger I was in the House of Commons on Friday for the Parliamentary Statement from the Prime Minister and remained in constant contact with the Foreign office throughout.

I know the whole of Renfrewshire will be relieved that local man Iain Strachan made it out safely but that all our thoughts and prayers will be with those families who lost loved ones during the terrorist attack at the In Amenas gas facility.

Recent events in Mali and Algeria raise deep concerns surrounding the expansion of a loose network of terrorist groups connected with Al Qaeda in North and West Africa and last week reminded us all of how these seemingly remote threats can affect our local community.

I will continue to call on the UK government and international community to work in collaboration with regional governments to advance diplomatic and development efforts to promote stability and security in North and West Africa.

It is only through a coordinated approach, with countries working together, that we will contain, confront and defeat terrorism and keep local people, whether here at home or working abroad trying to earn a decent living, safe from the threat of future attacks.

A Cause for Concern

This coming Friday we can expect the release of new figures on the country's economic performance and, worryingly, the consensus from the financial and business community is that these latest numbers will be further cause for concern regarding the levels of economic growth.

In the past few weeks we've heard how famous high street names, like Jessops, HMV and Blockbusters have all been forced to close their doors and go into administration and we know from the shop closures on our local High St how tough the past few years have been for businesses.

However, despite all signs pointing to failure in the austerity-only approach taken by the Government, Tory Chancellor George Osborne still refuses to accept a change in strategy is needed.

It's vital that we get our economy moving in the right direction but that requires a change in priorities to growing our economy for everyone - not just for those at the top.

It is even more concerning that at a time when our economy is still so fragile the Prime Minister has chosen to spend the past few weeks fostering uncertainty about our country's place in Europe.

Having damaged relationships with allies across the EU, having flounced out of meetings instead of negotiating a better deal and now introducing the uncertainty surrounding our future as EU members David Cameron has shown he's more concerned with the politics of the Tory party than with policies that would benefit Britain and our communities here in Renfrewshire.

Last week I spoke about the need for us to reform Europe while maintaining our EU links that allow us to trade effectively and benefits businesses.

I'll continue to call for the Governments both in Westminster and in the Scottish Parliament to take the action we urgently need to protect and support local businesses and employers here in Renfrewshire and encourage growth in our economy.

Patients Deserve the Truth over Mortality Rates at the RAH.

All of us either use or have had family members use the RAH. So I am deeply concerned that following revelations in the Paisley Daily Express of increased mortality rates at our local hospital during weekends health bosses have now been caught out on the figures.

Clinical statistics originally released seemed to indicate that patients admitted to the RAH were more likely to die at the weekends with death rates doubling on Saturdays on Sunday to 4 per cent.

But last week the SNP Health Minister had to come clean and admit that the figures provided by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde were wrong. So what are the real figures and why were the original percentages inaccurate?

This inconsistency does nothing to give patients at our local hospital or their families the confidence they deserve.

When any of us go into hospital we are often apprehensive and it is important that we can feel reassured that the standard of care we receive has nothing to do with the days of the week.

The confusion over the figures risks leaving local people not knowing which findings to believe and I'm determined that RAH patients have peace of mind.

My colleague Hugh Henry MSP has rightly raised this issue in the Scottish Parliament and he deserves all our support in trying to get to the bottom of these worrying inconsistencies.

We need definitive answers so that local patients can focus on getting better rather than being worried about how their recovery might be impacted as the working week moves into the weekend.


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