Sanjay SamaniCampaigner for Angus North & Mearns

Last week I wrote about how the verbal and physical abuse of No Campaigners by Yes supporters had brought a new low. However it looks as if No campaigners are determined the game of stupid one upmanship that has marked the independence debate.

When it was £500 better off, £500 worse, then £600 better, £800 worse, £1,500 better, we can put it down to the fact that there are simply too many variable to reliably answer key economic questions reliably, so politics took over and that’s just to be expected, however disappointing.

However the abuse online demonstrated best by the behaviour of the CyberNats has until now been the ugly underbelly of this campaign.

As we get closer and closer the critical vote – and my postal vote will go into the letter box today – the abuse has spilled into the streets and the meeting halls and the public debate.

Many No supporters are telling us that they feel intimidated and are scared to show their support. Many Scottish companies believe that their businesses will suffer if they declare their position in favour of keeping a stronger Scotland within the UK. We have seen that abuse first hand at the treatment of Willie Rennie, JK Rowling, Gordon Brown and Jim Murphy. None of which is acceptable.

However there are two reports over the weekend of disgusting, stupid behaviour by No Campaigners and supporters, that I utterly condemn. This is the most important debate of our lives and the most important vote. Inevitably emotions will run high. But there is no excuse by intimidating or violent behaviour from supporters of either the Yes or No campaign.

The first is of a man tailgate Alex Salmond’s car and the other is of a No campaigner kicking a woman in Glasgow. Both are completely unacceptable.

The leaders of both the Yes and No campaigns need to come out together and make a stark call to all their supporters to calm the debate down and head into the final fortnight with a positive debate.

We all need to take a tip from these guys who are campaigning in a fun, positive way:

I was deeply disappointed to read today that Jim Murphy MP has decided to suspend his tour of Scottish Towns to take the Better Together message across Scotland.

Reading in The Courier that over the last few days Jim Murphy has received abuse from Yes campaigners in Glasgow, Dundee, Montrose and elsewhere, culminating in the egg throwing in Kirkcaldy has been very troubling.

Supporters of a stronger Scotland within the UK have been attacked viciously online by the CyberNats for a long, long time. The treatment of JK Rowling in particular has been disgusting. With the online abuse, we can at least keep it at arms length and step away from it.

However that nastiness is now being targeted at campaigners in public, with Jim Murphy, Gordon Brown and Willie Rennie all being abused by Yes supporters.

The Yes campaign has repeatedly moaned about bullying when supporters of the UK have simply expressed their opinions. They should have a hard long look a themselves to understand what bullying really is.

We have seen campaigners forced off the street and not allowed to have their say. We have been branded as traitors and second class Scots, which Angus Cllr Bill Duff still refuses to apologise for. We now hear that 100′s of companies are too scared to voice their opinion in case of recriminations from the SNP government.

The people of Scotland deserved a civilised debate that allowed everyone to have their say without intimidation, but many voters are now too scared to admit they are voting No.

Supporters of the Yes campaign have brought the whole debate to a new low this week. It is time they respected that others have a different view and have a right to express themselves without a barrage of abuse being thrown at them.

With less than 3 weeks left, I worry that the abuse will get a lot worse before the referendum is over.

The announcement today that there will be inquiries into historic child abuse allegations is a huge step forward for this country.  It is a real indication that child abuse needs to finally be brought out of the shadows and something we need to listen to, stop hiding, stop being silent about and start challenging.

You can read about plans for inquiry in allegations against MPs and a wider enquiry by clicking here.

You can listen to Tess Munt’s interview by clicking here.

As an adoptive parent and as someone who is deeply aware of the impact of child abuse; whether it be physical, mental or sexual, today’s developments are highly welcome.  It feels as if we have opened a new chapter in bringing justice to the victims of decades of abuse.

If the legacy of the catastrophes of the behaviour of Jimmy Saville, Rolf Harris, Stuart Hall, Cyril Smith and others is a sea change in our attitudes to child abuse and our willingness to discuss it openly, challenge it as unacceptable and also brings forward justice, support and resolution for victims 

The wide ranging needs to have no limitations and investigate what was known and covered up by Government departments, by the BBC, by institutions and by the Catholic Church.  No stone should be left uncovered, no voice unheard.

We need to transform our culture where too many people cannot cope with hearing about child abuse, refuse to believe what they hear or see and are too willing to remain silent.

I highly welcome today’s developments and as an MP would fight to ensure that the inquiry meets the needs of victims who at all times should remain the primary focus. 

The letter below was published in The Courier on Friday, 4th July, which you can find online by clicking here.

Dear Sir,
I was very disappointed to hear your report about the behaviour of Kathy Wiles, Labour’s candidate for Angus for the General Election next year.  Comparing the children of Yes Scotland campaigners to Hitler Youth and calling for Jeremy Clarkson to be shot are unacceptable.  It is welcome that she has resigned as candidate and apologised for her comments.
Angus Labour and the Scottish Labour Party need to be open about how Kathy Wiles was selected as their Westminster candidate, what vetting process was in place and whether they had made even some basic checks on her opinions and behaviour.  It seems they have had little regard or respect for Angus voters by selecting someone with such nasty views.
We have seen similar actions by the notorious CyberNats, such as the horrendous treatment of J K Rowling since her decision to back the Better Together Campaign and the heckling down of Willie Rennie MSP at a debate in Dunfermline.
The tone of the Independence debate has plunged in recent weeks.  Both Better Together and Yes Scotland should strongly condemn any personal attacks on supporters of the other side of the debate.  Angus and Mearns Lib Dems have maintained a positive, friendly approach to the debate throughout.
It is time we stopped the nastiness towards our neighbours and accept that we are all trying to find what is best for Scotland.  We may have a big difference of opinion on whether that is to stand united or split up our family, but we are all striving for the best outcome.
Angus voters deserve a better level of debate from both sides of the Independence debate and they deserve Westminster candidates who will respect all sides of the political debate.
Sanjay Samani

The Low Pay Commission’s proposal announced today encouraging the government to pay the living wage to direct employees and encouraging businesses to adopt the living wage is something we can all get behind.

Living wage ‘should go to one million more workers’

I fully suppor this proposal.  I think encouraging companies to pay the living wage is a sensible option, and perhaps could even be encouraged through corporation tax credits.  Concerns over employment were unfounded with the introduction of the minimum wage, and I believe, as the Low Pay Commission does, that these concerns are unfounded for the living wage.

There will inevitably be some companies that the impact on costs will require an increase in prices to remain profitable. Whilst we should be aware of the impact on consumers and inflation, we should consider that we increasingly feel uncomfortable about cheap products being produced by cheap labour in the Far East. We should feel no differently about

Paying a living wage up front makes more sense to me than topping up income through Working Tax Credits, or benefits. There is also a huge psychological benefit of giving workers a sense that they are being valued for the work they do and that they are not dependent on welfare. This is particular the case in an age when Labour and the Tories are hell bent on demonising anyone on welfare, even if they are in work, disabled or elderly.

One issue discussed which is of concerns is whether there will be a ratchet effect to maintain pay differences between pay grades in an organisation. For example, a supervisor will get paid more than one of their staff, but if the staff get a rise to the living wage, the supervisor may not be earning significantly more and there will be a pressure to increase their wages as well. This may then cascade up the management chain.

There needs to be some in depth analysis to understand whether this will be an issue, and the Low Pay Commission seems to have concluded that it will not.

Where I do have a concern is the caveats for some industries, where it is felt that the living wage will have a significant impact on profitability, and hence the recommendation that the Living Wage be advisory, not mandated for private companies. I worry that this will mean that the targetted 1 million to move onto the Living Wage will be the low hanging fruit – those that are earning above the minimum wage, but below the living wage and who will not need much of a rise to bring them on the living wage.

There is a risk that those who are struggling the most on the minimum wage will be left without a rise and a gap develops between them and those on the living wage. Our focus should always be on those that are least well off.

That is why I am delighted that the Lib Dems have delivered those on the minimum wage a £800 tax cut and why we are committed to ensuring that they pay no income tax at all. What is deeply disappointing is the welfare cuts that the Tories have imposed on the least well off who are now bearing a greater share of the burden of recovery than most other groups except the very wealthy.

The news that Angus Council are applying for a £12m grant from the Scottish Government for flood defences in Brechin is highly welcome. However the SNP Government needs to change the funding formula for flood defences and Angus Council need to reconsider their recent decision to cut funding for flood defences for Edzell.

Responding to the decision, Lib Dem Cllr David May commented,

“This is a positive move by Angus Council and there should be cross party support for the application for funding from the Scottish Government. As a member of the Angus Council administration in 2009, I called for financial aid from the SNP Government for the Brechin Flood defence scheme five years ago. It is welcome that a formal application has now been made.”

“Having visited the site of flooding in Brechin in 2009, I expressed my frustration at the time about the SNP Government’s funding formula that left Angus at a severe disadvantage. At the moment the Scottish Government uses a crude formula based on population, that boosts funding for big cities at the expense of rural communities such as Angus.”

“Angus Council should also work with the River South Esk Catchment Partnership to ensure that the flood defence schemes are sustainable and do not simply transfer the problem from Brechin to Montrose.”

From my perspective, this news is very welcome. However I do wonder whether it would have been necessary to apply for such a large grant, if the SNP Government had not changed the way flood defence funding is distributed in Scotland in 2009.

Had the SNP Government responded to our calls to change the funding formula, Angus Council may have had substantially more funds to deal with flooding in Brechin and elsewhere in Angus quite some time ago.

We now have detailed maps of the whole of Scotland showing where risks of flooding are the greatest. It will come as no surprise that rural communities in Angus are some of the most at risk. We therefore repeat our call on the Scottish Government to change the flood defence funding formula to be based on need not just a crude headcount.

Both Cllr David May and I have also called on Angus Council to reconsider their decision to cut funding for a flood defence scheme in Edzell.

Cllr David May said,

“Flooding in December 2012 left well over £1m of damage to homes and property in Edzell. I voted against the decision to cut the £600,000 scheme that would have prevented this from happening in Edzell again.”

Across Angus, in Brechin, Montrose, Arbroath and elsewhere, flooding has had a devastating, expensive impact. The SNP administrations on Angus Council and in the Scottish Government should be working together to ensure that Angus receives the funding it needs to address funding across the whole of Angus, as well as Brechin.

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