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Dundee Labour news digest Friday 30th. November 2012

Jim McGovern calls for action over east coast rail links Dundee West MP Jim McGovern has called on the UK government to take action to improve rail links between Dundee and Aberdeen and the rest of the United Kingdom. Questioning the Department for Transport ministers in the commons Jim McGovern asked what immediate steps the government were taking to improve rail connections between the Scottish east coast and England, particularly London. Mr McGovern pointed out that efficient and affordable rail links were essential for the economy of Dundee.

Mr McGovern was assured that High Speed Rail 2 would benefit Scotland in the long term, as would plans to electrify the lines into Scotland from England. He also pointed out the Intercity Express Programme, which will see a new fleet of rolling stock introduced to routes to Scotland, would cut journey times. However, doubts over the immediacy of the benefits of these projects have been raised. High Speed 2 will not be operating between London and Birmingham until 2026, with the second phase earmarked for Manchester and Leeds, meaning any future connection to Scotland is likely to be decades away. The latest plan put forward by the Scottish Government and Network Rail to electrify rail lines in Scotland did not include Dundee and Aberdeen, and included the possibility of direct services between the east coast cities and London ending altogether as a result. The rollout of the new fleet of faster trains on the East Coast Mainline, which would service long distance routes from London to Dundee and Aberdeen, is not projected to be operating until 2018. Jim McGovern said, “While I appreciate the government cannot improve transport links overnight, the people of Dundee do expect a timelier programme of improvements to those currently on offer.” “The UK and Scottish governments must realise that ignoring cities like Dundee and Aberdeen while focusing all of their attention on Glasgow and Edinburgh is not good enough.

“The Scottish Government effectively wrote the east coast out of their plans to electrify and improve the rail lines last year, and the UK government can only offer a timescale going into decades for high speed rail to benefit Scotland.” Mr McGovern concluded, “The government must come to see that efficient and affordable rail links within Scotland and between Scottish cities and England are essential for our local and national economies. “The SNP in Holyrood and the Tory-led government in London must change their tact and put the east coast higher up their list of priorities.” Web links : Jim McGovern

Lesley Brennan : Gender pay differences in Dundee - and beyond Over 40 years since the Equal Pay Act was introduced, on the whole, women in full time employment in Dundee are now earning around £3,500 a year less than their male counterparts. The Office of National Statistics reveals that men in Dundee in full-time employment earn £23,288, women £19,740. The difference between them is 15 per cent . Ironically, the difference has declined slightly in the past year only because men’s pay fell further than women’s pay did. In the UK 88 per cent of men employed work full time compared with 58 per cent of women

12 per cent of men work part-time compared with 42 per cent of women. Such considerable differences establish the greater likelihood of women’s lower rates of pay. Caring duties, lack of affordable childcare and a more limited choice of jobs than men have all converged to make gender pay differences an issue of lifetime consequences for women . Women go into part-time employment to allow them to balance their work-life divide to raise a family or to care for elderly relatives. Good quality high-earning part-time work is scarce, and thus careers are affected to a far greater degree than when men become fathers. The TUC has demonstrated the gender inequality present in the unequal distribution of income and occupations. The five highest earning careers are those of aircraft pilots, chief executives and directors of advertising and PR, marketing and sales, and telecommunications firms. Such jobs are male-dominated with very few part time posts available. At the other end of the earnings table are the lowest paid jobs where four of the five worst paid occupations – waiters and waitresses, bar staff, catering assistants and launderers These are are overwhelmingly the realm of women and parttime work.

And in retirement the effect of gender pay differences still exerts its adverse influence with women likely to receive lower pensions. This is why more women are at greater risk of an elderly life of poverty than men. Equality at work between men and women has advantages not just for society but for the organisations and the companies involved. They benefit in terms of the retention of good employees, a better work environment , better use of employees’ abilities and a better public “brand” image Women’s work and skills can be undervalued and underused , attitudes that contribute to gender pay differences. If we want gender equality to be a goal rather than a slogan much needs to be done, and if done, the advantages are potentially striking. A European Union study undertaken in 2009 concluded that the elimination of gender gaps in employment in the EU member states could lead to a 15% - 45% increase in Gross Domestic Product. The UK Government Women and Work Commission estimated that closing the gender pay gap would provide a £23 billion increase in GDP while the TUC estimates that the under-utilisation of women’s skills, partly due to the lack of suitable part-time work opportunities, costs the economy £11bn per year.

To those who say that we cannot afford to address these gender differences, the reply is that we cannot afford not to. web links : Lesley Brennan m

Richard McCready

Legal Loan Sharks : Dundee City Council Action At the Policy and Resources Committee there was a report about what the report called High Interest Rate Lenders - I call them Legal Loan Sharks. I was pleased to see the report before us as I have been campaigning about this issue for some time. The report before us last night contained 3 recommendations I sought to amend the report to add a further two. The original recommendations were: It is recommended that Committee instructs the Chief Executive to :

a) write to the UK Government recommending that it introduces regulations to cap the interest rates charged to borrowers by high interest lenders b) write to the Scottish Government requesting that it investigates whether there is any action it can take within its existing powers to assist people in debt due to the policies of high interest lenders c) write to both Governments encouraging them to maximise support and investment in the expansion of the credit union movement The two further amendments which I added were: d) to bring forward an action plan to promote Credit Unions within the City of Dundee. e) write to the Scottish Government requesting that it examines its policies in relation to planning matters and whether it is possible to use planning legislation to prevent high interest rate lenders opening shops and if not to consider changing legislation to prevent the spread of high interest rate lenders' shops. The report before us was welcome as far as it went I sought to make an amendment which I believe makes the report more powerful. I was pleased that my amendments were accepted. We need to ensure that we take action which protects the people of Dundee from High Interest Rate Lenders. These companies trade on the misery of others and we should be looking to bring in a cap on interest rates.

We should be looking to develop policies which help anyone in debt. We should be calling on both the UK and the Scottish Governments to do all that they can to promote credit unions. I am normally against censorship but I did think that it was interesting idea that the council should look at blocking access to Legal Loan Sharks from any council computer. My amendments would ensure that the City Council also does everything in its power to promote credit unions. Credit Unions are important and they can provide a means by which people can help themselves. In Dundee everyone can be a member of the Discovery Credit Union. We should be promoting membership and we should be working with them to develop services for everyone in the city. Credit Unions can and should provide services for everyone in the city. In Ireland membership of a credit union is something like the same as the population. In North America in New England the main financial institutions are credit unions. We should be looking at ways of levelling the playing field between credit unions and high interest rate lenders. How can we get to the situation where it is credit union shops which are to be found on our high streets?

Some of these Legal Loan Sharks are within a couple of hundred yards of the council chamber. How can we ensure that credit unions offer a full range of banking services? How can we ensure that people understand that credit unions offer the best option, the more ethical option in financial services? I think that the City Council could do more to promote credit unions. I also think that we should be looking at ways of limiting the number of high interest rate lenders in our shopping areas. I think that we should look at ways of doing this through our planning system. Council officers are worried that we cannot do this, then I think that we should at the very least ask the Scottish Government to look at how this might be done. I think that the Scottish Government should look to assist us by amending the law if need be so that we can either limit the number of high interest rate lenders on our high streets or better still prevent them. I know that we want our high streets and shopping areas to be vibrant but I would ask if we mean that to be at any cost? We should be sending out the message that we don’t support Legal Loans Sharks in Dundee and that they are not welcome to come here and trade on the misery of people here.

We can all do our bit by supporting credit unions and we can do our bit by calling on the UK and Scottish Governments to deal effectively with Legal Loan Sharks and promote credit unions.

Web link :

Jenny Marra MSP Music Tuition : Speech in the Scottish Parliament Why is music tuition important? It is for the simple reason that music and sport give children options. On a recent visit to my old high school in Dundee, I was told by one teacher that it is music and sport that our kids need. For some who will not achieve academically and for those who do not want to, sport and music provide the chance to find a path, and they open up a myriad of opportunities. Anyone who has played in a band, orchestra or sports team will know how much of a leveller music—or sport—can be. People who were born with privilege and wealth occupy a level playing field with those who were born without, because as soon as they lift their bow to their fiddle or have the ball at their feet, all that matters is what they do with it—the sound that they produce or the pass that they make.

Everything else pales. That is why such chances are so important and why, in a time of recession when 100,000 young Scots of working age are sitting at home today, wise investment would be to equip children with the skills that they will use to forge their own paths, make their own money and create new and different careers for themselves. The Government should consider that as much an economic argument as a cultural one. As Iain Gray said, our education is for equipping children with the skills that they need to go out and make their way in the world. From the young Dundonian who paid for his trip round Venezuela by beating old men at chess for money in pavement cafes, having learned chess in his Dundee primary school, to the inimitable Gary Clark, the lead singer of the Dundee band Danny Wilson, who learned music in his community of Douglas, in Dundee, and is now a songwriter in Los Angeles for the likes of Natalie Imbruglia, the economic and life opportunities that are offered by those socalled extracurricular activities know no bounds. When our children‟s commissioner conducted his “right blether” throughout Scotland recently, he heard the same message from children the length and breadth of the country. They said that chances always go to children from families with money. That came from the mouths of under-10-year-olds. it is enough to make you weep.

They know that educational opportunities are not blind. In Dundee, in Sidlaw View primary school in Kirkton, four children are learning to play musical instruments. Down the road, in the affluent area of Broughty Ferry, 83 children in Forthill primary school are learning to play instruments. In other areas of deprivation, the story is the same; in Charleston primary school, six children get instrumental tuition and in Lochee primary school, the number is eight. The cost of lessons is not the only barrier, although it is a significant one. In Dundee, the council charges pupils ÂŁ132 per year for lessons and another ÂŁ83 to hire their instrument. Children who qualify for free school meals or a clothing grant are exempt from those charges but face other barriers. At a time when an increasing number of school children in Dundee are turning up at school without having been fed, when the number of people seeking help from food banks is on the rise and as fuel bills go up and people are having to make the choice between heating and eating, instrumental fees are about the last thing that families can afford to pay. A couple of weeks ago, we had a debate about universalism. Labour argued that a mixture of universalism and targeted benefits or spending priorities should be based on evidence. Here, the evidence is overwhelming and has been very well articulated by the Scotland on Sunday campaign. The Scottish Government has accepted the evidence of the big

noise intense music instruction programme in Stirlingâ€&#x;s Raploch to the extent that it has given more than ÂŁ1 million to another big noise project in Govanhill. For music tuition in all our schools to resemble a map of deprivation, as it does in Dundee, is not good enough for an ambitious, cultured and civilised Scotland. Let us be bold and ambitious; let us feel the incredible inspiration of the musical heritage of our country, and let all our children play. web link :

Marlyn Glen Support Rhoda Grant’s Bill to criminalise the purchase of sex Rhoda Grant MSP is holding a consultation on the introduction of a Bill to make it a criminal offence to pay for sex in Scotland. It targets only those who purchase sex, not those who sell. This is because its business is not regarded as a commercial transaction of merchandise in the classical demand-and-supply chain because one of the partners, the female, is unequal, and likely to be the victim of violence and exploitation, without the power of free choice to walk away from the act. Ranged against Rhoda’s proposals is outlandish economic commentary such as : “ Sex work earns people money.

“This means that unless your proposal is to give every sex worker in Scotland enough cash to retire, sex work is not going away. “ Rhoda has a wealth of evidence on her side, principally the 2010 report from Sweden “The Ban against the Purchase of Sexual Services: An evaluation 1999-2008” In 1999 Sweden became the firstly country in the world to ban the purchase, but not the sale, of sexual services. This was intended to tackle prostitution by reducing its market and so reduce the numbers forced into it. It was also intended to change attitudes with the moral thesis that “it is shameful and unacceptable that, in a gender equal society, men should obtain casual sexual relations with women in return for payment” According to subsequent surveys, up to 80 per cent of the public supported the legislation. The 2010 report examined its effectiveness , reporting that street prostitution was cut by over half in Sweden’s three main cities, Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö. The report made Scandiniavian comparisons. It observed that the incidence of street in prostitution in Stockholm, Oslo and Copenhagen at the outset of Sweden’s ban were broadly comparable. Over the next 9 years, while the numbers involved in prostitution in Sweden fell the numbers in Norway and Denmark rose significantly.

The report concluded, “In light of the great economic and social similarities that exist among these three countries, it is reasonable to assume that the reduction in street prostitution in Sweden is a direct result of criminalization.” Norway subsequently followed suit with a similar ban in 2009 including an additional offence against Norwegians purchasing sexual services abroad. Iceland passed a similar law in the same year. The report stated that no increase in indoor prostitution had been found Sweden since the ban , no increase in women formerly engaged in street prostitution now involved in indoor prostitution. It conceded that while it was difficult to measure and corroborate levels of access to prostitution via the Internet , there was no indication that it was any greater than in neighbouring countries, indicating that street prostitution had not migrated to go online. Swedish police authorities had indicated that the ban had helped to put a restraint on organised crime networks involving themselves in prostitution through human trafficking If we want to follow the Swedish road to ridding our society of prostitution, Rhoda’s Grant’s Bill will be a worthy beginning. To claim prostitution as an act of “freedom to choose” is wrong. Prostitution results from poverty, degradation and exploitation. No one chooses to be poor, degraded or exploited.

Freedom from prostitution means freedom from these three desperate states.

Rhoda’s consultation is at : 54314.aspx and at :

web link :

Laurie Bidwell 10.5 per cent Fall in University Applications from Scottish Applicants UCAS, the organisation responsible for managing applications to higher education courses in the UK, has just reported their latest application figures for courses starting in Autumn 2013.

Up to mid-November there were were 145,000 applications, compared with 158,000 at the same point in 2011 and 182,000 in 2010. That works out at 13,000 fewer applications in the UK, which is a fall of 8% compared with the same point last year and these are apparently the lowest figures for at least six years.

Many commentators had anticipated a reduction in applications to Universities from students living in England because of the introduction of much higher Tuition Fees with many Universities charging the maximum of ÂŁ9000 per year.

While this is the case, this doesn't explain why the reduction in applications in Scotland, where the Scottish Government pays the student's tuition fees, is larger than in England. Percentage Fall in Applications to UCAS Scotland - 10.5% UK - 8.0% Behind these statistics there are clearly many individual applicants in Scotland who are holding back from applying to University. This is a disturbing trend. It means that there are other factors, most probably economic which are putting off well qualified potential applicants from taking the next step to improve their qualifications. This trend is also likely to reduce the demand for places at our two Universities in the City and might lead to empty places and a loss of income to the Universities. I think the Cabinet Secretary for Education, Mike Russell MSP needs to tell us what he is proposing to do to help reverse this trend?

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Kevin Keenan Lower Wages are bad for Dundee’s Economy Lower wages are bad for the Dundee economy, said Kevin Keenan, Labour group leader on Dundee City Council. He was responding to the publication of official figures showing that Dundee was at or very near the bottom for pay when compared with other areas of Scotland. Councillor Keenan said, “ Dundee has a very skilled workforce, but they are not all using these skills to their full potential. “ Lower wages are bad for Dundee’s economy.

“They reduce the money spent in local shops, and on local firms and services , particularly amongst small private sector businesses, putting jobs there at risk. “ The Scottish Government needs to produce more than a ‘Memorandum of Understanding ‘on jobs for Dundee containing the First Minister’s signature . “This is a poor compensation for good, well-paid jobs. " The Office of National Statistics has compiled data from across Scotland on the median ( middle of the range) gross annual pay for those in full time employment Dundee was found to be second lowest in Scotland . Only Dumfries & Galloway is lower. For males in full-time employment, Dundee is in lowest place. For women in full-time employment, only Dumfries & Galloway , Moray and Clackmannanshire are lower .

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