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Austerity lives!

Labour has a Westminster election line that goes 'vote Labour to keep the Tories out.' It's a bit of a quaint idea. As last week's debate in the House of Commons showed, most Scottish Labour MPs voted along with the Tory Coalition in favour of another £30 billion in UK cuts.

Even leader Jim Murphy, who couldn't quite make it to the vote, threw his support behind the Aye walk next day. The Labour party once prided itself upon being the voice of the ordinary working person. Where has that ideology gone when 28 Scottish Labour MPs back the bedroom tax, back benefit cuts and sanctions, prefer to spend millions on Trident than on public services like health, privatises the NHS and backs university tuition fees of £9,000 a year?

Both Tom Greatrex MP and Jimmy Hood MP backed the Government measures with an Aye vote.

The only way to keep this kind of destruction out of Scotland is to devolve all of the powers that allow us to have control over these issues. Are the voters in these two constituencies going to back these two men again this May? If my feedback is anything to go by, then the No is on the other foot this time around.




Jimmy Hood MP



Labour has shown its own true colours in siding with the Tories and it is now clearer than ever that only by voting SNP can we challenge Westminster's obsession with austerity cuts.

Both our MPs were happy to work shoulder to shoulder with the Tories during the referendum campaign - but this vote with the Tories to continue austerity makes it clear that their toxic alliance lives on.

It's vital that come May the two Westminster MPs claiming to represent our area are told by the voters that we don't want austerity, we don't want a Tory government and we don't want a Labour one that follows the same agenda.

Don't forget that it was Jimmy Hood who said he'd rather vote No in the referendum even if Yes meant Scottish people would be better off economically.

No matter how compelling the economic argument and social case is for independence, Mr Hood will still be in favour of decisions for Scotland being made at Westminster.

Polling analysis

I know polls can get a bit wearying but please bear with me. In the week that Labour MPs voted for austerity, a YouGov poll sees the SNP continuing to enjoy a 17 pont lead over Labour when it comes to Westminster voting intentions.


An average of the Scottish subsamples in the last five YouGov pollsputs support for the SNP at 44 per cent, up 24 per cent on the 2010 resul compared to Labour's average support o 27 per cent, down 15 per cent on 2010.

Average support for the Tories is at 15 per cent, down 2 per cent on 2010, while backing for the LibDems is just 4 per cent, down 15 per cent on the last election.


Protecting public services

We had a debate in the Scottish Parliament just recently about protection of our public services. You can see the full official report here:

Keith Brown, promoted by the Frist Minister to take up the role of Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment and Cities, put the motion forward.

The motion says that strong public services are the bedrock of a fair and prosperous society, pays tribute to the people who deliver the services and welcomes continued support including an increase in furnding for all NHS boards.

But what Keith Brown also emphasises is the reality that UK Goveernment austerity will mean real terms cuts of around £15 billion in Scotland. The Office for Budget Responsibiity says this will reduce government spending by almost £1,800 per person. Meantime, Westminster will spend £100 billion replacing Trident.  




The Trident Terror

You will all know, and along with most of Scotland, probably agree, that the notion of building a £100 billion killing facility is abhorrent, it's threatening. It's terrifying when they drive warheads through our biggest city as they did earlier this month, to think about the sheer amount of human devestation this technology is capable of. Scots, 80 per cent of us, don't want the power to wipe out half the world from our backyard. Mr Cameron certainly doesn't want it in his garden. He's more than happy to leave it where it is.

At the weekend, three of us MSPs - myself, Bill Kidd and Christian Allard - relaunched SNP CND at a conference in Glasgow. We wanted to remind people that the Westminster's contentment with Trident here is absolutely immoral and unacceptable to us. the general election in May is a real opportunity for the people of Scotland to force the Westminster establishment into a rethink on their ludicrous obsession with nuclear weapons.


At a time when more and more children are being forced into poverty by Westminster's austerity cuts and the number of people having to rely on foodbanks is rocketing, for the UK Government to even consider spending £100 billion on weapons of mass destruction is nothing less than a moral and economic disgrace.

That the Labour Party under Jim Murphy backs this spending - at the same time as trooping through the lobbies with the Tories to vote for more austerity - shows exactly where their priorities lie and confirms that their toxic alliiance with the Tories is continuing in the aftermath of the referendum.

With a strong team of SNP MPs, Scotland can hold the balance of power and can force Westminster to abandon this disastrous commitment and ensure these immoral weapons are removed from Scotland for good.

But get this - on the only House of Commons day of the years reserved for Scottish debate, Jim Murphy and all his Scottish Labour MPs have decided they won't bother attending the deabte about the future of Trident. They say it's 'a meaningless stunt.'



Turn2us Cut out the Cold Campaign

A huge 78 per cent of low income families in Scotland are struggling with their energy bills. As a result, children's health and wellbeing are suffering.

The findings, revealed by national charity Turn2us, show that 75 per cent of Scottish families are struggling to heat their homes so that no one feels cold. The knock-on effect is severe, with 85 per cent of families saying it is negatively impacting on the health of their children.

As part of its Cut out the Cold Campaign which runs until 14 February, Turn2us has found that the fight to keep the house warm is leading to cutting back on food and making illness more likely.

The charity says many families are unaware of the help available. Som 64 per cent have never heard of the Warm Home Discount, 42 per cent haven't checked their eligibility for benefits while a massive 82 per cent haven't checked out what free charitable grants may exist.

This Campaign is highlighting the problems experienced by low income families and what support is available. During the next few weeks, anyone struggling with rising costs can use the Turn2us free tools and formulation online to see how they can increase their household income and manage their energy costs. These include checking welfare benefit entitlement, searching for grants and schemes to help with bills and getting help with managing debt.


New advances in stem cell technology give fresh insight into MND

Many of you will already know that i've been backing research and development in MND for years- my Dad died from this destructive, degenerative disease.

So I was delighted to hear news from scientists at the Euan MacDonald Centre. The joint research project, led by experts from the University of St Andrews and the University of Edinburgh, has shown that even before they show any signs of damage, motor neurons affected by MND lose their ability to generate the electrical signals required to make muscles contract, due to changes in specialised proteins called ion channels.

The research is using stem cells derived from patient skin samples and has been published in a peer journal.

Dr Gareth Miles from the University of St Andrews is the lead researcher on the project: "Our findings suggest this may be an early step in understanding and ultimately treating the disease process of MND and highlights ion channels as potential targets for future therapies. Our work also demonstrates that studying the function of stem cell-derived motor neurons could be important for the development and testing of new drugs to treat and eventually cure the disease."