Angus & Mearns Liberal DemocratsWorking Year Round for Angus, Mearns & Stonehaven

Oct/14

30

Memorial benches in our area

By David May

phoenix-tm-seat-main

I have had contact recently, from residents who have enquired about a bench, like the one below, they would like to donate often in memory of someone close to them. As a result I have made contact with the local council officer responsible for this and now have met with him and anyone in the Montrose area who wishes information about the benches and costs should make contact with me about this.

From: David May

By David May

Having sent in Freedom of Information requests on the two reports on drugs and legal highs, it is excellent news that the Tories have now allowed the release of the reports which they had previously blocked. It is clear from one of the reports that there is no link between tough penalties and level of drug use in a country. The Lib Dem minister Norman Baker who has called for the release of the report, has commented that treating drug use as a health matter would be much more effective, as shown in Portugal, and in my view the present policy is not working and we should base our policy on evidence of what works and not on prejudice. I believe that we now need to look again at our policy and looking very closely at what seems to be the successful policy adopted in Portugal.

It is evident that in the 1990s Portugal was struggling with a heroin epidemic of almost epic proportions as one person in every 100 was a heroin addict. Not everyone agreed in Portugal agreed with the change in the approach that was adopted to try and end the problem. In fact, many on the right wing of politics were appalled when prosecutions for people using drugs were ended. They didn’t like the idea that addiction would be treated as a health issue, rather than a criminal one, that addicts would be given treatment and healthcare to help them overcome their addiction. Those voices have been silenced now. Fifteen years later, and the number of people hooked on heroin has been halved, and there have been good results in terms of Aids infection, hepatitis infection and the like. Back in the 1990s “we feared that Portugal could turn into a paradise for drug users”, says Dr Jaoa Goulao, Portugal’s national co-ordinator on drugs and drug addiction. Thanks to the policy, that didn’t happen, he says.

On the subject of legal highs I am delighted to see that this report has also been published and more especially that the government is now going to consider legislation that bans the sale of all psychoactive substances, although exempting alcohol and tobacco. I back the Lib Dem minister Norman Baker who has commented “from today we will start looking into the feasibility of a blanket ban such as they do in Ireland, on new psychoactive substances across the whole of the UK, clamping down on the suppliers and head shops rather than the users.” In my view the sooner these substances are banned the better as legal highs have caused fatalities and is a very significant problem for not only Montrose but across Angus and also in our country as a whole.

The remainder is from the BBC web site

There is “no obvious relationship” between tough laws and levels of drug use, a government report has suggested.

The research compared the UK with countries like Portugal, where possession of small amounts of drugs no longer carries criminal sanctions.

Liberal Democrat Home Office minister Norman Baker said the findings should prompt the end of “mindless rhetoric” on drugs with a new focus on treatment.

The government said it had “no intention” of decriminalising drugs.

Let’s look at what works rather than presuming locking people up is the answer”

After examining a range of approaches, from zero-tolerance to decriminalisation, the research concluded that drug use is influenced by factors “more complex and nuanced than legislation and enforcement alone.”

However, the report found there had been a “considerable” improvement in the health of drug users in Portugal since the country made drug possession a health issue rather than a criminal one in 2001.

The Home Office said these outcomes cannot be attributed to decriminalisation alone and the UK government had “absolutely no intention of decriminalising drugs.”

Mr Baker said treating drug use as a health matter would be much more effective in minimising harm.

The divisions within the coalition could not be more sharply exposed.

The official Home Office position is that its drug strategy is working.

Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat minister with responsibility for drugs, says “radical” change is needed.

Mr Baker’s claims have been fuelled by his department’s own report, which finds no link between how tough a country is on drugs and how many people use them.

It’s an important finding, but the study also makes clear that drug policy is highly complex – approaches which may work abroad can’t necessarily be implanted into the UK.

The Home Office barely mentioned the report in its press release, focusing instead on plans to change the law on legal highs.

Mr Baker’s intervention has ensured the report takes centre stage.

“Let’s look at what works rather than presuming locking people up is the answer,” Mr Baker said.

“People are treated as a number, they’re given a fine, they’re given a caution, they’re put in prison and none of that changes their drug habit.

“If we’re interested in changing people’s behaviour then we need to look at it from a health point of view.”

Earlier this year Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg pledged to abolish prison sentences for the possession of drugs for personal use.

Mr Clegg challenged David Cameron to look at issues such as decriminalisation, despite the prime minister previously rejecting calls for a Royal Commission to consider the issue.

A man smokes drugs with police officers in the background
Danny Kushlick, the founder of the group Transform, which has been campaigning for the legal regulation of drugs in the UK for almost 20 years, said the report was an important step.

He added: “For the first time in over 40 years the Home Office has admitted that enforcing tough drug laws doesn’t necessarily reduce levels of drug use.

“Decriminalising the possession of drugs doesn’t increase levels of use.”

A separate Home Office report calls for a blanket ban on all brain-altering drugs in a bid to tackle legal highs.

Currently, when a legal high is made illegal, manufacturers are avoiding the law by tweaking the chemical compound and creating a new substance.

The government is going to consider legislation introduced in Ireland four years ago that bans the sale of all “psychoactive” substances but exempts some, such as alcohol and tobacco.

Mr Baker said: “From today we will start looking into the feasibility of a blanket ban on new psychoactive substances across the whole of the UK, clamping down on the suppliers and head shops rather than the users.

“This approach had a dramatic impact on the availability of legal highs when introduced in Ireland, but we must ensure it would work here too.”

Drug laws in some parts of the world have been relaxed in recent years.

Last year, Uruguay became the first country in the world to make it legal to grow, sell and consume marijuana.

From the start of this year, Colorado became the first US state to allow stores to sell cannabis for recreational purposes.

From: David May

By David May

HUME: HIGHEST RATE OF DRUG MISUSE HOSPITAL STAYS SHOWS NEED FOR CHANGE IN APPROACH

Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Jim Hume MSP has said that figures published today recording the highest rate of hospital stays due to drug misuse recorded in 18 years, shows a need for a change in approach to drug policy. As an Angus Lib Dem Councillor “I back the comments from Hume as our drugs policy should be based on evidence and not on what sounds tough. I am waiting for the response from the government on my Freedom of Information requests on what the Tories have blocked being published both with the international comparisons and on legal highs.”

Official figures published by ISD Scotland today showed the rate of hospital stays with diagnosis of drug misuse has steadily increased from 40.5 per 100,000 to 123.6 per 100,000 between 1996/1997 to 2013/2014.

The disparity between Scotland’s most deprived and least deprived areas continues to grow, with 295 per 100,000 hospital stays for drug misuse accounting for those from Scotland’s most deprived areas compared to 16.4 per 100,000 from Scotland’s least deprived areas.

Mr Hume said:

“The steadily increasing rate of hospital stays related to drug misuse shows that we are fighting a losing battle. Over the past two decades the rate of hospital stays related to drug misuse has trebled from 40.5 per 100,000 to 123.6 per 100,000.

“Drug misuse relating to heavily addictive opioids such as heroin remain by far the largest cause of hospital admissions, reflecting over two thirds of all drug related hospital stays. It is worrying that those from Scotland’s poorest communities continue to suffer most from the blight of illegal drug misuse, accounting for 295 per 100,000 hospital stays compared to 16.4 per 100,000 from Scotland’s least deprived areas.

“Each person behind those figures has a life left rocked by drug misuse, which can often deeply affect their loved ones and their communities. If we are to enable more people to get on in life, we need a radical change in approach to drug policy in Scotland and the UK. Our drugs laws should be based on what works, not what sounds tough. Much more needs to be done to concentrate on reducing harm from drugs, decreasing dependency, clamping down on dealers and focussing more on treatment than punishment for those found in possession.

“These are sensible calls which would go some way to building the fairer society we all wish to see.”

From: David May

Oct/14

27

Dog fouling in children’s park

By David May

IMG_0697

In the last week I have received many complaints from parents about dog fouling in Green Park or commonly know as the Butterfly Park in the links area in Montrose. I checked up on this and was appalled at what I saw and call on irresponsible dog owners to take action. There is no excuse for these minority of dog owners not to clean up after their dogs anywhere but it seems even worse to leave dog mess in a park with a considerable amount of play equipment which is used by young children.

I have been in touch with the community wardens and they will now make a point of regularly visiting the area of the park. I have also asked the parents, and indeed call on others in the town, to pass on details of any irresponsible dog owners to me or any of the other Montrose councillors. Contact will be made with the dog wardens to take action and in the past this has led to dog owners facing fines and this has led to a change in their behaviour.

From: David May

By David May

NE Lib Dem MSP and Justice spokesperson Alison McInnes MSP today called on SNP Ministers to help protect Scots from so-called ‘revenge porn’.

Ms McInnes was speaking after the House of Lords backed new UK government proposals that will see people posting private intimate images without consent face criminal sanctions in England and Wales.

Earlier this year, Scotland’s Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland QC called for new laws in Scotland to deal with individuals who post explicit images of others online without permission. Following the vote yesterday, Ms McInnes has written to Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill calling on SNP Ministers to follow the lead that the UK Government has taken on this issue.

She has also tabled a Parliamentary Motion at Holyrood calling on the Scottish Government to bring forward legislative proposals to help tackle revenge porn.

In a letter to the Justice Secretary, Ms McInnes said:

“The House of Lords this week unanimously agreed to amend the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill to make revenge pornography a criminal offence in England and Wales. I am writing to urge the Scottish Government to follow its example and introduce specific legislation to tackle these vile and damaging acts.

“The Lord Advocate, Frank Mulholland QC, has expressed concerns that there is significant under-reporting of this issue. It is important that victims don’t suffer in silence and know that they have done nothing wrong. I believe that introducing specific legislation to tackle these despicable and cowardly acts will give victims confidence that such violations of their privacy are unacceptable and illegal.

“In addition to empowering more people to seek justice, creating a specific criminal offence would help overcome any archaic attitudes towards the use of revenge pornography as a cruel tool to distress, embarrass, manipulate or humiliate someone.”

From: David May

By David May

Scottish Liberal Democrat Justice spokesperson Alison McInnes MSP said new figures showing an increase in the number of drug and weapons confiscations in Scottish prisons underline the scale of the challenge facing prison service staff as they work to keep inmates safe.

Cllr David May added “The information gained by Mrs Mcinnes reinforces the need for the need for the Tories to back the call not to block the information on what other countries do in their drugs policies, as it is is clear our present policy is a failure and the need to look at best practice elsewhere in the world and change what we in Scotland and the UK do.”

Ms McInnes was speaking after new figures obtained by the Scottish Liberal Democrats showed an 85% rise in the number of weapons confiscated from inmates between 2012 and 2013.

Statistics revealed in Freedom of Information requests also showed a 15% increase in the number of drugs confiscations over the same period. In 2012, 1328 articles of contraband were confiscated from prisoners. In 2013 this increased to 1538 articles.

Alison McInnes MSP commented: “The fact that more weapons and more drugs are being taken out of prisons is welcome. But there are serious questions over how these items found their way into cells in the first place.

“It is hard to see how inmates can commit themselves to rehabilitation programmes if they are living under the threat of violence. Similarly, it will be hugely challenging to help inmates overcome addiction if drugs and alcohol are freely available.

“These stark figures underline the scale of the challenge that our prison service staff are facing. The Justice Secretary needs to ensure that prison officers are getting all the support they need to help keep inmates safe as they serve their time.”

From: David May

Oct/14

20

Carrier Bag charge introduced.

By David May

I welcome the fact that a carrier bag charge has been introduced in Scotland for the first time. This means that all shoppers will now have to pay at least 5p per bag with the net proceeds going to local good causes. This applies not only to supermarkets but also all retailers across Montrose, Angus and Scotland. Scotland follows this being introduced in Wales 3 years ago and then last year by Northern Ireland.

According to the Scotland government our supermarkets last year issued 800 million plastic bags. It is clear to many of us that large numbers of these bags end up as litter in our area and we can see that in our towns,, the beach and countryside affecting many sorts of wildlife and marine species in particular so this move is to be welcomed.

The next step for our Scottish Government should be to meet the supermarkets to get them to take action on packaging, as this would massively cut back on the need for recycling and help reduce what is put into landfill.

From: David May

Oct/14

17

Angus and Mearns Lib Dems fund raiser

By David May

Last night at Brechin’ s excellent Northern Hotel, Angus Mearns Lib Dems held a meal and then a fund raising auction of promises for the party. There was attendance from NE MSP Alison McInnes, local councillors as well as members and friends from across the constituency. The evening was hosted by non party member Joe Wishart who was in his usual sparkling form and there was a large range of promises from party members. These promises included a self catering apartment in Alyth for a week, a guided tour of St. Andrews, soup, vegetarian meal, golf at local courses, language lessons, a meal for 6, and baking lessons.

The members were delighted to hear off a record sum raised for the party at a one of event and the money will help to future party activities.

From: David May

By David May

At the Lib Dem conference last week, I attended a fringe meeting on drugs and it was made clear that the Tories are blocking the reports on international comparisons of drugs policies and another on Legal Highs. I cannot understand why the Tories are doing this because drugs policy should be based on evidence and not on prejudice.

Due to the fact that the Tories are refusing to release these reports I have sent in Freedom of Information requests on both reports and there is no reason these reports should not be made public. As a Montrose councillor and member of the Montrose group against legal highs it is clear that that both drugs and the so called legal highs are causing huge problems in our country and in Angus. It is also evident that the present drugs policy is not working as we are losing the war against drugs and release of these reports is essential.

Sanjay Samani, Lib Dem campaigner for Angus commented, “Countries across the world are experimenting with new approaches to tackling the problem of drug abuse. Evidence is emerging that some of these approaches are producing real results and we need to be investigating which would work in this country.”

“Treating drug abusers as criminals without understanding the causes that lead to them turning to drugs fails the victims of drug crime and the families and children of drug users.”

“Reports into methods being used around the world should be published as soon as possible to identify the best approach for Scotland and the whole of the UK.”

Danny Kushlick, spokesman for the Transform Drug Policy Foundation who was a key speaker at the Lib Dems fringe meeting said “Both Tory and Labour governments have a long and shameful history of withholding drug policy analysis that contradicts the prohibitionist orthodoxy.

“Yet again they are playing power politics with the lives of ordinary people in order to maintain an illusion of safety and security. It is citizens’ right to see the evidence and it is the right of all of us to have policies that are genuinely effective, just and humane, and that provide health and security.”

Liberal Democrat Norman Baker, the drugs minister last week commented that the documents were gathering dust despite being ready for publication since July. There are concerns that the reports are being sat on because the department does not want to be seen to endorse less hardline drugs policies.

He blamed the Conservatives for blocking the reports and accused his Coalition partners of playing politics with addicts’ lives.

From: David May

By David May

I am totally supportive of our council’s new household kerbside recycling service which will very soon be in operation in the Montrose and Brechin area. I back not only the need for environmental reasons of recycling but also know that the cost of seining waste to landfill is very high and the more we can recycle the less we will have to cut from other much needed services.

I am aware that householders are being sent information about the new system and the new bin collection calendars. As a councillor I have already had some householders getting in touch with me as they have raised concerns about what has been suggested for their particular household and I have been in touch with council officers and when needed organised a site visit with them. This has led to some changes for the collection point following suggestions from the householders.

The timescale for the new system is that the new bins will be delivered over a four week period starting on 20 October and the first collections using the new system will start in the Brechin/Edzell area on 27 October. There are information displays about the new system in the libraries and ACCESS offices in Brechin and Montrose this week.

Anyone keen to find out more about how the system works is invited to drop in to one of the local roadshows next week and speak to the team. The roadshows are taking place between 10.30am – 12.30pm and 2pm – 4pm at the following venues:

Monday 13 and Tuesday 14 October: Co-op, Trinity Road, Brechin

Wednesday 15 October: Tesco, Western Road, Montrose

Thursday 16 October: Co-op, Basin View, Montrose

Friday 17 October: Tesco, Western Road, Montrose
The new household recycling collection service comprises of:

a fortnightly collection of a new smaller purple bin for general waste
a fortnightly collection of the current grey bin, which becomes the new recycling bin for cardboard, paper, cans, plastics and glass
a weekly collection of the new indoor and outdoor food waste caddies
a fortnightly collection of the green garden waste bin

From: David May

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Published and promoted by Sanjay Samani on behalf of David May, Alison Andrews, Kevin Barthorpe, Lorraine Barthorpe, Avril Simpson, Elizabeth Petrie, Jennifer Graham and Janet Cowan, all at Viewpark, Meethill Road, Alyth, PH11 8DE.

Published and promoted by Michael Reid on behalf of Peter Bellarby and David Fleming, all at 4 Robert Street, Stonehaven, AB39 2DN.

Published and promoted by Tom Fleming on behalf of William Howatson, both at Ramsay Place, Fettercairn, Laurencekirk, AB30 1XX.

© Angus and Mearns Liberal Democrats 2011-present.

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