Thousands rally for pay equality

Glasgow is seeing its biggest equal pay strike in decades as 8,000 march on George Square.

Hundreds of schools, nurseries, and other local government organisations are striking due to a long-running dispute about equal pay for women.

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GMB General Secretary Tim Roache with striking workers at Glasgow City Chambers

Although Glasgow City Council has said the strike is unnecessary, GMB and Unison workers unions note a distinct lack of progress in negotiations over the pay issue.

The problem has arisen from a pay and conditions scheme introduced by Glasgow City Council in 2006. The scheme means that due to differing work conditions, workers in female-dominated industries like teaching, catering and cleaning are receiving up to £3 an hour less than workers in male-dominated industries like refuse collection.

Gary Smith, the Scottish secretary of GMB, spoke to us about the march in Glasgow:

“The Glasgow Women’s strike is the biggest ever strike over sex discrimination and equal pay. 8000 women have downed tools and brought large parts of the city to a halt. This is a magnificent display of solidarity amongst the women of Glasgow.”

Other industries which are unaffected by the pay dispute – or on the other side of it, such as refuse workers – have also been striking to support the female marchers in Glasgow.

GMB European Officer Kathleen Walker Shaw told EN4 News:

“The strike action and demonstration has met with widespread public support in Glasgow, Scotland, the UK and internationally with messages of solidarity pouring in from public service workers across the world.”

These messages included a speech from Rosa Pavanelli, the general Secretary of the 20-million-strong PSI Global union:

Councillors in Glasgow reiterate that there is no need for the strike. Council Leader Susan Aitken spoke to the BBC, stating:

“I’m not entirely sure why this strike is taking place. Negotiations have been continuing. We’ve made considerable progress in a number of areas.”

Over 12,000 claims have been made to the council to alert them of pay issues caused by the 2006 scheme. After pay increases and payouts for backdated claims, the issue could ultimately cost between £500 million and £1 billion.

Final day of SNP conference

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Final day of the SNP conference in Glasgow, Tuesday 9thOctober 2018. Photo by Nick Eardly.

Tensions rise as Nicola Sturgeon paves the way for a second Independence Referendum.

As the final day of the SNP conference gets underway Nicola Sturgeon is set to send a message of hope. Today, the First Minister is expected to declare how independence is the only way forward for the people of Scotland.

The pressure from ‘Yes’ activists have been heightened after protesters took to the streets of Edinburgh on Sunday. Sturgeon is expected to tell delegates that it is up to them now more than ever to offer optimism and hope.

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Audience members today look forward to an inspiring and uplifting speech from the First Minister. An audience member told EN4 News that they were “looking for an affirmation of where most members stand and patiently waiting for the kick off for the second referendum.”

SNP Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Humza Yousaf said today that patience is needed in order to win a second referendum.

“There needs to be patience, there needs to be an understanding that we have to take the Scottish public with us and it has to be guided for when the timing is absolutely right and I don’t have an answer for when that is, I don’t have a crystal ball, but the campaigning for independence should take place just now.”

Calls for Indyref2 comes with the First Ministers announcement that the SNP would back any calls for a second vote on Brexit. During an interview on the Andrew Marr Show, when asked if SNP MPs would back a second Brexit vote, Sturgeon said:

“I would expect the SNP MP’s to vote for that if it comes to a second vote in the House of Commons. A second EU Referendum, the case for that is understandable but we have to be absolutely clear it’s not the clear solution.”

However, the SNP’s stance is not backed by members of the opposing parties. Scottish Conservative MSP Jeremy Balfour told EN4News:

“The people have made the decision to leave and the UK Government need to negotiate the best deal and get on with it. I want the First Minister to get on with the day job and stop talking about independence.”

Scottish Labour MSP Neil Findlay said: “The SNP should be focusing on areas that concern the public. These are our health and social care system, education and economy. We see one million Scots living in poverty, the educational attainment gap growing and a national housing crisis.”

Bike storage costs rocket in the Capital

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Bike storage shelters in Edinburgh.

The price for bike storage is now higher than car parking permits in certain areas of Edinburgh.

New bike storage units have been introduced throughout Edinburgh, meaning it now costs more to park a bike than it does a car in some parts of the city.

Edinburgh city council will build a total of 128 units throughout the city over the next two years, costing the average biker £84 a year to lease.

The subject was first brought to attention in November 2016 when the council proceeded with plans to introduce 20 to 30 storage units to the city over the next 3 years.

The pilot schemes proved to be successful over the years with each unit at maximum capacity with waiting lists for future spaces.

However, many have expressed anger towards the situation, claiming that the high prices will only discourage people from riding bikes.

Spokes is one of Edinburgh’s largest cycling groups. Spokesperson Ian Maxwell has highlighted certain problems with this scheme but insists prices should not be compared with car parking permits.

He said, “The price is a bit high. What you can’t do is compare it directly to an on-street parking space because you are actually having a structure built and maintained, so there is an additional cost for that which has to be paid for by somebody”

“That said, there should be a scheme to provide lower rates for people who are unemployed or simply can’t afford it. You shouldn’t be deterred from having a bike and parking it safely just because you can’t afford it”

“What we have been concerned with for a long time is the slow roll-out of this scheme and the continued delays in implementing it.”

New additions come after the council received requests for an increased amount of storage in over 200 different streets across the city.

Despite the price not being Ian’s main concern, Chas Booth, Green councillor for Leith, believes the council are not sending out the right message for sustainable and active travel.

He said, “Green councillors have very real concerns about the proposed costs of the cycle storage. Five pounds a month doesn’t sound like a great deal but when you compare it to an outer zone resident parking permit for a car which comes in at £35.50 a year, I don’t think that the price sends the right message”

“I think the council should be saying loud and clear that we support active travel.”

Travel group, Sustrans Scotland, have agreed to donate half of the project cost in order to support the councils aim for a greater amount of sustainable travel in Edinburgh.

Overall, the project is said to cost around £600,000.

 

Fast fashion, faster damage

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Clothing and shoes collection bins will hopefully encourage people to donate their unwanted items to charity.

Fast food, fast cars and now there is even fast fashion – a contemporary term used for the cheap and trendy throwaway clothes we buy from budget retailers. These garments might be perfectly good at the time of purchase, but they soon both fall apart and out of fashion. According to Fashion Focus, it is estimated that we now buy 40% of our clothes at ‘value’ retailers. These fast fashion suppliers – the majority of whom solely allow online shopping – have not just stomped their stiff, faux-leather boot adorned foot down on the high street, but they have also left a muddy carbon footprint in their wake.

Recent findings from the Environmental Audit Committee show that Britons are the number one consumer of new clothes in Europe, and the number of items we are purchasing has doubled in the last ten years. Campaigners for sustainability Wrap have highlighted that 300,000 tones of clothing are binned every year. Of these easily re-useable clothes, 80% are piled in a landfill and the other 20% are incinerated, releasing toxic chemicals such as azo dyes, chlorinated solvents, lead and mercury into the air.

Last week, MPs reported that they are growing increasingly worried about the UK’s penchant for buying new clothes and the many repercussions this has on the environment. In their report, MPs said the fashion industry was now a leading producer of the greenhouse gases that are over-heating the planet. MPs have since reached out to a number of retailers, urging them to consider the various approaches they can take to drastically reduce fast fashions’ destructive impact on the environment.

Andrew Pankhurst, Re-use Campaigns Manager for Zero Waste Scotland, emphasised the importance of fashion retailers taking immediate action:

“We all know buying brand new products can be tempting, but we have to think about our limited natural resources and the impact of our waste as we fight the ever-increasing threat of climate change.

“With the public and businesses more attuned than ever to the problems caused by linear consumption, there has never been a better time to be making the case for making things last and getting maximum value from our resources.”

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Clothes will a lot of life left in them can be found in charity and vintage shops.

In Edinburgh, steps are being taken to find solutions and alternatives to fast fashion, with its various sustainable fashion choices for shoppers. The capital boasts a vast array of vintage boutiques, natural wool knitwear stores and even shops such as Godiva and Totty Rocks, who use locally sourced fabrics to custom make pieces – which can take up to three weeks – ‘slow fashion’ is more fitting here.

Edinburgh & Lothians’ Regional Equality Council, who work to promote human rights and sustainability, have been hosting weekly clothing repairs and alterations drop ins. At 1:30pm on Wednesday 10th September, they have organised a swap shop event at Kings Church on Gilmore Place and encourage the people of Edinburgh to bring items in exchange for other items of their choosing. They also hope to launch a sewing club in the coming months.

Project Coordinator, Jean-Matthieu Gaunand said:

“The fashion industry is a great contributor to climate change. The industry emits as much greenhouse gas as all of Russia. At Edinburgh and Lothians Regional Equality Council, we encourage people from diverse communities to repair and re-sew their clothes rather than constantly buying them new.

“Our clothing repair service is run by an expert Kurdish tailor who has over 15 years of tailoring experience. She has done wonders and the feedback from participants has been excellent. I invite everyone to drop in.”

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People can take their clothing to Edinburgh & Lothians’ Regional Equality Council’s weekly drop-in to ve

Elsewhere in the city, one student is pro-active in push against fast fashion. Edinburgh College of Art Jewellery and silversmithing student Daniela Groza is the curator of an annual ethically-conscious

fashion show, R Sustainable Fashion. She has recently been appointed the student ambassador for the Ethical Making Pledge, founded by the Incorporation of Goldsmiths. She explains what the group’s objectives are:

“We want to ensure that the materials used in our workshops not only come from ethically sourced roots, but also that we are creating a safe environment for ourselves, such as eliminating chemicals such as citric acid and finding substitutes.

“Also, thinking about recycling and reusing precious metals – re-melting and turning into a new piece, creating multi wearable jewellery, thinking about the material flow; where it came from, digging to its roots, but also considering where it will end up, putting emphasis on a circular economy.

“As a jewellery student who is interested in fashion, it is my responsibility to take these issues into consideration given the damages produced to our world by both the textile and the extractive industry.”

In the quick isn’t quick enough society of today where everything is available at the simple click of a button, the temptation of ‘buy now, wear tomorrow’ can be hard to resist. However, next time you are about to hit ‘checkout’, perhaps stop to ask yourself – do you really need another Boohoo dress? Your purse and the planet might just thank you for it.

Two homeless deaths per week in Scotland

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Homeless person in Edinburgh. Photo credit to Garry Knight.

A recent investigation has found that 94 homeless people in Scotland died last year.

The findings have called for the Scottish Government and NHS Scotland to launch an urgent probe.

The research, carried out by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and the Ferret, also found that 449 people, living on the streets, in shelters, and in temporary accommodation across the UK had died.

However, it is thought the total is likely to be higher than the reported number, as this is the first time that there has ever been a count of homeless deaths.

Homeless deaths often go unnoticed, and there is rarely an official record. The bureau delved further, publishing their findings to mark World Homeless Day.

They began the investigation last October as part of their Dying Homeless Project. Across the UK, there were 449 deaths recorded.

The investigation has published a first-of-its-kind database which lists the names of the homeless people have died, and tells their stories. Of the 449 deaths, the bureau was able to publicly identify 138.

From their findings, more than half of the people died on the streets. 16 people died in hospitals, and 47 died in temporary homeless accommodation.

Last year, the number of people in Scotland applying to be classed as homeless rose for the first time in nine years.

Many of the deaths recorded in Scotland, happened in Edinburgh, with others from Glasgow, Shetland Islands, and the Outer Hebrides.

Homeless charities have now asked for the statistics to be recorded the same way as they are with drug deaths. The investigation has prompted the Office for National Statistics to start producing its own figures on homeless deaths.

Crisis Chief Executive Jon Sparkes said, “We are deeply saddened and shocked beyond belief to hear of the deaths of all these individuals.

“We know that sleeping rough is dangerous, but this is investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reminds us it’s deadly.

“Those sleeping on our streets are exposed to everything from sub-zero temperatures, to violence and abuse, and fatal illnesses.

“We must all take responsibility to hold society and our system to account, and ensure it doesn’t continue to happen across our country.”

Here is what some Edinburgh locals have to say on the subject.

Paper Review, Tuesday 9th October

Join Denitsa Tsekova and Lauren Walker for a review of today’s papers.

Older people in Edinburgh face loneliness crisis this winter

Yesterday marked almost thirty years of the United Nations’ International Day of Older Persons, and, in a few hours, Age Scotland will hold their 75th anniversary event at Holyrood, with a speech from Christina McKelvie, the Minister for Older People and Equalities.

According to local charity, Vintage Vibes, who tackle loneliness and isolation in the over 60s in Edinburgh, there are approximately 11,000 chronically lonely older people in the capital – less than 5% of these individuals are supported through programmes like the Vintage Vibes befriending project.

In Scotland, loneliness in older people is particularly pertinent. “We’re getting older, faster than the rest of the UK,” Age Scotland states. “Loneliness is a growing public health crisis and is as bad for you as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.”

Earlier this year, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, Jeane Freeman, launched a national draft strategy to address the growing problem of loneliness and isolation. Freeman said: “We are leading the way when it comes to tackling this and will be the first country in the UK, and one of the first in the world, to develop a national strategy to address loneliness and isolation.”

However, nearly six months after the end of the consultation period, Age Scotland claims the project has become “sluggish”.

Today, Conservative MSP Jeremy Balfour, outlined what he believes happened: “I think the strategy was good on paper but has not been followed up properly by Scottish government. I think we need to now go out and actually put some meat onto the bones.

“We can have as many strategies as we want but unless we are actually implementing them in local communities then it won’t work. I think we need to take these ideas an engage people locally and then get on and do it.”

By Emer Harrison

Boris Johnson held anticipated speech at the Conservative Conference

(Photo credit: Arno Mikkor)

On Tuesday, Boris Johnson held a speech at the Conservative Conference in Birmingham, in which he shared his thoughts on Brexit, saying that the idea of a second referendum is ‘infamous’.

The former foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, began his speech by expressing worry about the Tories losing their basic belief in freedom.

He then continued to address what happens if the UK leaves the EU on wrong terms.

“Do not believe that we can somehow get it wrong now and fix it later – get out properly next year, or the year after. Total fantasy,” he said.

Johnson also expressed critique against Chequers claiming that, if it is agreed, it will support those people who are calling for a second referendum.

“These are the same people, incidentally, who explicitly told the electorate that there was no going back, that voting leave meant leaving the customs union and the single market, and that there was no way they would be asked again.”

Johnson finished his speech at the press conference by urging ‘our friends’ to support the Prime Minister, Theresa May.

“I urge our friends in government to deliver what the people voted for, to back Theresa May in the best way possible, by softly, quietly, and sensibly backing her original plan. And in so doing to believe in conservatism and to believe in Britain.

“Because if we get it wrong we will be punished. And if we get it right we can have a glorious future,” he continued.

 

Alcoholics Anonymous celebrates 70 years in Scotland

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Leaflets aimed to make people consider their drink consumption

2018 marks 70 years of Alcoholics Anonymous helping people overcome their dependency in Scotland. To honour this anniversary, MSP Monica Lennon is sponsoring an event tomorrow evening at the Scottish Parliament.

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) in Scotland has changed the lives of thousands of alcoholics who have bravely battled their addiction and have continued to lead a sober life. AA provides free drop-in group meetings all across Scotland, which are non-compulsory, and members are not required to disclose their identity.

At the event, AA members will share their personal experience with alcoholism and their journey to sobriety with the guidance of AA. One such member, Martin B, will be part of the presentation at the Parliament tomorrow. He previously represented AA by helping to curate an exhibition at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow that showcased the history of AA as a service in Scotland. 

Martin said of AA’s impact in Scotland, “It’s been the best thing that’s ever happened for many, many people. There are nearly 1000 groups in Scotland and you can go to AA seven days a week.”

Throughout the years, AA has worked to ensure that alcoholism is recognised as a mental illness. Martin said,

“The idea that the alcoholic is the person with the raincoat and bottle has long been superseded by the fact that any social class in Scotland is affected by alcoholism. Its helped people from all factions of life.”

Martin has been a member of the AA for 28 years, and believes AA will carry on its essential support for alcoholics and their recovery. He said, “AA will continue to grow, there are younger and younger people coming to AA now which is a real blessing, so they don’t have to go down the road I went down.”

Central to the presentation at the event will be remembering pioneer Sir Philip Dundas. He is credited for establishing Alcoholics Anonymous in 1948 after becoming familiar with the group in America; he then travelled across Scotland setting up meetings. The first meeting was held by Dundas in a church in Perth and was attended by six men.

The 12-step programme is still an integral part of AA’s recovery programme for its members. ‘The Big Book’ details these 12 steps was first published in 1938 and has since sold more than 35 million copies and been translated into 68 different languages.

Although the AA in Scotland has external partnerships with the Scottish Health and Prison Services, they are financially independent and refrain from being affiliated with any outside organisations.

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Man drinking in the street – alcoholics often suffer alone

 

The Scottish government has said that the general consumption of alcohol has seen a gradual decrease of 9% since 2009, however levels are still of concern. The latest figures for 2016/17 show there has been a 33% reduction of alcohol-related deaths since 2003. However, a fifth more alcohol is purchased per adult in Scotland than in England and Wales.

Alcoholics Anonymous say there is an increased number of young people attending meetings. They aim to introduce AA meetings at every university within the UK in order to reduce the number of people suffering with alcoholism throughout their lives.

By Rachel Lee

‘Jeremy Corbyn is a threat to our national security’ – Home Secretary Sajid Javid holds speech at the Conservative Conference

(Photo credit: Richter Frank-Jurgen)

During the third day of the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham on Tuesday, Home Secretary Sajid Javid held a speech addressing immigration and security.

During the press conference, Javid said:

“Home is where you feel safe, comfortable and in control. That is exactly what we want the UK to be.”

He also mentioned the Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, saying that he is a ‘threat to our national security’ and that it is ‘our duty to stop him.’

During the press conference, he spoke about the safety of the country, saying that ‘we will fight fear with optimism.’ He announced a new £200 million endowment fund, which will target young people who may risk starting a life of violence and crime.

“We know that one of the causes of the rise of serious violence is changes in the market for illegal drugs. We need a much better understanding of who drug users are, what they take, how often they take it, and so much more. So I will launch a major review of the market for illegal drugs.”

Javid also expressed his thoughts on Brexit: “If Brexit feels like a dividing line in our country now… just imagine what it would feel like if we didn’t follow-through with the result of the referendum.”

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