Labour counting on Co-op Party policies

A NUMBER of Co-operative Party policies will form the basis of Labour’s manifesto for the Scottish Parliament elections in May.

A NUMBER of Co-operative Party policies will form the basis of Labour’s manifesto for the Scottish Parliament elections in May.

The policy programme was agreed at the recent Scottish Labour Party Conference in Oban, Argyll. It includes commitments to ensure the development of co-operatives and credit unions, building upon the work of the newly established Co-operative Development Scotland to help new and existing co-ops. There was also a pledge to look at the creation of a co-op investment fund, providing capital to co-operatives and social enterprises.

Co-operative solutions to help people back into work and to create better, more efficient public services are also highlighted, including the role of co-ops in health promotion.

This is an exciting time for the Co-operative Movement in Scotland and this is reflected in the shared policy goals with the Scottish Labour Party.

n For far too long sectarianism has represented a sinister and ugly element in Scottish society. Whether it takes the form of violence in our streets, bullying in our workplaces or playgrounds, abuse in our football grounds or bigoted graffiti, it is completely unacceptable. The First Minister Jack McConnell was correct to call it “Scotland’s secret shame” and I’m proud that we’ve sent out a clear message that the problem needs to be tackled. The Executive has recently convened a sectarianism summit, bringing together a diverse range of influential groups and individuals from Scotland’s religious and cultural communities in a united front against bigoted, sectarian behaviour and attitudes.

Since the first such summit in 2005 we’ve seen the law used to charge more bigots with sectarian offences and authorities given more powers to ban sectarian louts from football grounds and other locations throughout the country. We’ve also modernised the way marches and parades are organised to ensure the views of local communities are taken into account. 

Work has been stepped up in schools and with young people to put the message across that sectarianism has no place in our society. Young people have been quick to embrace the anti-sectarian agenda and this is where real hope lies if Scotland is to become a modern nation of opportunity, mutual respect and diversity. 

n THE Scottish Executive has announced that 16-18 year olds will benefit from cheaper bus and rail travel as part of a new concessionary travel scheme. This is good news for young people and will help them to access education, training and employment, and leisure opportunities.

The wider problems affecting bus transport in Scotland are becoming increasingly apparent. Over recent months I have been campaigning for improvements to local bus services and have already passed a 1,000 signature petition to the Transport Minister calling on him to look again at the way our buses are regulated.

Changes to some bus routes, made by private companies, have left many communities with no bus service in the evenings and at weekends, and inadequate services to vital facilities such as hospitals and health centres. 

The standard and frequency of the bus services available to my constituents shouldn’t suffer because bus companies focus solely on making a profit. I want to see changes to the way in which bus services are regulated so that the needs of the passenger become the priority. 

Bill Butler is Labour/Co-op MSP for Glasgow Anniesland

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