FULL SOLIDARITY TO THE SCOTRAIL GUARDS STRIKE

FULL SOLIDARITY TO THE SCOTRAIL GUARDS STRIKE

Today the first of six 24 hour strikes begins across Scotland's trains. Scotrail's train guards have voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action due to franchise holder Abellio's refusal to end the continued role out of Driver Only Operation Trains.

This proposal will not only undermine the work undertaken by hundreds across Scotland every day, it will also have a very serious impact on public safety with guards being the only Safety Critical member of staff on board a train other than the driver.

We fully support the industrial action being taken by these RMT members and would urge you to visit a nearby station's picket line  to offer your support, solidarity, and some tea and coffee, to trade unionists who are standing up for their jobs and our safety.

Gary Anderton, RMT and RISE Trade Union Network member said:

"Guards are vital to our rail network. They are responsible for your safety on trains, I fear the consequences should they no longer be there.

"We all must support these strikes as this is more than just a campaign against job loses. This is one which focuses on the most basic needs of passengers. Should Abellio win this fight, our railways will be a completely different place in the years to come."

VICTORY FOR CAMPAIGN TO KEEP CALMAC PUBLIC

VICTORY FOR CAMPAIGN TO KEEP CALMAC PUBLIC

RISE: Scotland’s Left Alliance today welcomes the decision that allows Caledonian MacBrayne to remain public.

This ferry service is one that is vital for Island communities and is often described as a “life-line service” for Scottish communities.  This decision has been well received across Scotland and RISE believe it to be an important victory in the fight for public transport to be in public hands. This moment is one where the people have won against private companies.

The campaign to keep Calmac public has been inspiring.  Not least symbolised by the iconic protests at the STUC conference in Dundee.  The RMT Union led campaign has been endorsed and supported by the Left across Scotland.  This cross party support greatly benefited the Keep Calmac Public campaign and is an example of what solidarity and unity can achieve in Scottish politics.  RISE applauds the brave work carried out by the RMT Union and are proud to have been able to give our support to their campaign.

RISE has worked closely with the RMT Union in the past and will continue to do so in the future to build good relations with our trade unions in our fight against the privatisation of public services and in support of workers’ rights.

We believe that public services should remain in public hands and not be sold to the highest bidder.  This is important to protect jobs, keep prices low and deliver an invaluable service to our communities.  We hope that this decision shall set precedent in years to come in relation to the Scottish Government’s public service policy. 

We shall continue our fight against privatisation and companies who profiteer from public services.


RISE PUBLISHES DAMNING NEW REPORT INTO OBA

RISE PUBLISHES DAMNING NEW REPORT INTO OBA

RISE - Scotland's Left Alliance has today (Tuesday) published a damning new report into the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 (OBA).

You can download it here.

The report, written by University of Glasgow PhD researcher Maureen McBride, shows how the controversial legislation is criminalising young people for actions as minor as swearing, is victimising fans from clubs outside the Old Firm, and is based on a flawed mechanism for identifying of sectarian behaviour. 

RISE opposes the OBA and has called for its repeal. 

Commenting, Cat Boyd, RISE's top candidate in on the Glasgow regional list, said: 

"The OBA is a disastrous piece of legislation and this report demonstrates that. It shows how this misguided law has criminalised young football fans for behaviour that is very far from offensive. 
"RISE stands wholesale against the OBA. If elected to Holyrood on Thursday, we'll do everything we can to overturn it."

Maureen McBride added:

"I wrote this report because it became evident very early on in my research that the Act had indeed ‘grown arms and legs’ and was being used in a worryingly broad manner. 
"I think that the supposedly high levels of ‘public support’ for the Act are based firstly on flawed polls and secondly on a general lack of understanding of what the Act actually is. 
"I hope this report goes some way to raising awareness about a piece of legislation that is effectively criminalising young working-class fans attending football matches."

RISE COMMENT ON LATEST FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REVELATIONS

RISE COMMENT ON LATEST FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REVELATIONS

Commenting on today's revelation, as reported by the Ferret, that Rosemary Agnew, the Scottish Information Commissioner, bowed to Scottish Government pressure to alter one of her decisions, James McAnaney, RISE's education spokesperson, said:

"These revelations are absolutely damning. They show that the Scottish Information Commissioner Rosemary Agnew has not met her own standards of political impartiality.

"It is now clear that Agnew faced pressure from the Scottish Government to change her decision relating to tuition fees in 2013. The Commissioner initially resisted this pressure and even felt strongly enough to invite the government to pay for legal advice on the matter. She also makes clear her view that acquiescing to the government's demands would compromise her independence.

"But in the end, and under clear pressure from the Scottish Government, she agreed to their demands.

"Given her office's recent correspondence with RISE, which revealed that the SIC intended to observe purdah rules irrelevant to its conduct, serious questions must now be asked about other decisions Agnew has made, including her decision to delay a request for information on national standardised testing.

"There are now real doubts about Agnew's ability to remain impartial and independent in the face of government pressure.

"To be clear, however, this story does not end there.

"Agnew described the Scottish Government's conduct in this matter as as 'inappropriate'. It is vital that we are made fully aware of the nature of that conduct. We also need to know the name of the Minister, or Ministers, on whose behalf this pressure was applied.

"We also need to know exactly why it was so important that the information in question was kept secret, particularly given the controversy surrounding the Scottish Government's claims regarding the application of tuition fees to English students in the event of Scottish independence. Why did the government fight so hard, and put the Scottish Information Commissioner in this position, in order to keep the truth out of  the public domain?

"Given the seriousness of these allegations nothing short of full disclosure is acceptable."

The Ferret's story can be read here: https://theferret.scot/information-watchdog-secrets/

Another Scotland Is Possible - A Report on the Future of Scottish Education

Another Scotland Is Possible - A Report on the Future of Scottish Education

RISE - Scotland's Left Alliance has today released a major new report on the future of the Scottish education system.


Another Scotland is Possible - A Report on the Future of Scottish Education, written by RISE Education Spokesperson James McEnaney, examines existing policy in a range of key areas including: Curriculum for Excellence and the New Qualifications; the issue of teacher workload and Continuing Professional Development; the imposition of National Standardised Testing; the school starting age; LGBTI+ Inclusive Education; Further Education; and private schools.

The report makes a number of specific recommendation for reform, including:

  • A simplified approach to Curriculum for Excellence in order to address the audit-based approach that has come to dominate schools
  • The government should abandon plans to impose National Standardised Testing and apologise to the teaching profession for this misguided proposal
  • An independent enquiry into the previous government's Further Education reforms
  • The raising of the school starting age
  • The stripping from private schools of tax benefits associated with their anomalous charitable status


Commenting, McEnaney said:

"This report is the most detailed look at the Scottish education system to have been published during this election campaign.

"Following on from our manifesto, which outlined a different approach to the problems facing Scottish education, we wanted to provoke a deeper debate about the direction in which we should be going.

"The rhetoric on offer from other parties regarding the so-called 'Attainment Gap' will do nothing to reduce educational inequality in Scotland. We believe - and this report argues - that the key to addressing this problem is to properly recognise its origins in the widespread social and economic equalities that blight our country.

"The report argues that if we are serious about improving Scottish education, we should focus on addressing those aspects of our system which magnify, rather than mitigate, pre-existing problems.

"We are also absolutely clear that placing full trust in the teaching profession is a prerequisite for progress. Unless we change the way we treat our teachers we will continue to fail our children.

"One of the key sections of this report concerns the unacceptable and unsustainable demands being made of the teaching profession. Given that the Scotland's largest teaching union has rejected government proposals to tackle this issue, and is now set to ballot its members on a boycott of SQA-related activity, our call for teachers to be trusted to do their jobs is more relevant than ever. This time the government must take the concerns of the teaching profession seriously."

"The report also considers a number of potential structural changes, the most radical - and beneficial - of which would be an increase in the school starting age from four to seven."

 

DOWNLOAD THE FULL REPORT HERE 

RISE ON LABOUR'S MANIFESTO: 'LAST DITCH EFFORT FROM A DYING PARTY'

RISE ON LABOUR'S MANIFESTO: 'LAST DITCH EFFORT FROM A DYING PARTY'

Commenting on the launch of Scottish Labour's Holyrood manifesto this morning, Cat Boyd, RISE's lead Glasgow candidate, said:

"On the surface, there are elements of Labour's manifesto that RISE welcomes. Ultimately, however, Kezia Dugdale's sudden conversion to socialism represents a last ditch effort from a dying party.

"Labour were in government for eight years at Holyrood and burdened Scotland with massive PFI debts and crumbling schools. During the 2014 independence referendum, they stood side-by-side with the Tories, putting the Union before the working people of Scotland.

"Dugdale presents herself as a late convert to Corbynism, but less than a year ago she argued that his leadership would leave Labour 'carping from the sidelines.' Her new-found socialists rhetoric is further undermined by the fact that Anas Sarwar, a Blairite millionaire, is currently measuring the drapes in her office.

"RISE, by contrast, has set-out a clear and consistent socialist programme.

"A £10 per hour minimum wage, higher taxes on the rich, universal free public transport, and a living income for Scotland's carers - these policies would have a transformative effect on the lives of thousands of Scots.

"Dugdale is desperately trying to rescue her disastrous campaign with a few token leftwing gestures. It won't work. Yes voters and independence supporters can’t trust the party of Anas Sarwar, Jackie Ballie and Blair McDougall.

"Scottish Labour politicians know they are on the way out and will say anything at this stage to avoid finishing third to the Tories.

"We are making a direct appeal to Labour voters to give their second votes to RISE, Scotland's real socialist alternative.

 

RISE STATEMENT ON HILLSBOROUGH DISASTER INQUEST

RISE STATEMENT ON HILLSBOROUGH DISASTER INQUEST

RISE is delighted to note the verdict delivered yesterday at the Hillsborough Disaster Inquest, confirming to the world what everyone else already knew to be fact – that 96 football fans were unlawfully killed, through no fault of their own.


The 27 year long campaign for ‘Justice For The 96’ has been an outstanding testament to the courage of the campaigners. Despite the outrageous lies, smears, media slander and disgraceful establishment cover-ups, the victims of this greatest miscarriage of justice have never wavered in their pursuit of the truth. RISE takes immense inspiration from all the campaigners in their unrelenting and unbroken spirit.

RISE stands fully behind the exonerated in their endeavour to bring forth formal criminal prosecutions. Those who have lied, misled and deliberately covered up the events of Hillsborough that day, must be held fully accountable for their actions.

Throughout these 27 painstaking years, police and state collusion has reinforced the misguided view that somehow Liverpool fans were culpable in the death of 96 of their own. RISE hopes that the verdict from yesterdays inquest can offer some form of closure for the families, and that their courageous campaign for justice is almost at an end.

RISE STATEMENT ON SCHOOL MEALS

RISE STATEMENT ON SCHOOL MEALS

Glasgow City Council last week implemented a shocking 100% price rise for use of their school breakfast club facilities, increasing the price from £1 per day to £2. This is yet another move which is certain to hit working class families hard, especially those whose wage lifts them just out of the bracket for free school meal entitlement.


Breakfast clubs are an essential service for the modern workforce, allowing parents to drop their children off for school at 8am, all the while knowing they will be safe and will receive a decent breakfast to start the day.

To increase the cost of this by 100% is potentially devastating for the thousands of families across the city who rely on this service, and who have already been hit hard by years of austerity.

RISE stands firm behind the belief that school meals are a right, not a privilege, and that access to them should be universally accessible to all. It is outrageous that Glasgow City Council continues to deem it appropriate to pass the burden of austerity to working class families, as part of a budget which sees £130 million cut from public service funds.

So much of the education debate in Scotland focuses on short-sighted and misguided ideas around reducing educational inequality. That's why cuts to breakfast clubs - which help to mitigate the impact of poverty upon young people - are so utterly shameful.

At a time of increasing austerity which has put incredible pressure on working people all over Glasgow, a Labour-run council elects to punish them even more. Labour have brazenly claimed to be the real voice of the Scottish Left - the actions of Glasgow City Council show us just how hollow that claim really is.

SCOTLAND'S UNPAID CARERS DESERVE A LIVING INCOME

SCOTLAND'S UNPAID CARERS DESERVE A LIVING INCOME

Following the launch of its manifesto this morning, RISE - Scotland's Left Alliance has published additional details of one of its key policy pledges.

In a briefing document, RISE argues that Scotland's growing army of unpaid carers are an indispensable part of Scottish society and should receive significantly more support than they do at present.

The document outlines a number of proposals that would dramatically improve the lives of Scotland’s unpaid carers, including:

  • The creation of a Living Income for Unpaid Carers (LIC), set at £200 per week, for all those caring for 35 hours a week or more.
  • The provision of this income regardless of whether recipients have any other earnings or are in full time education.
  • The provision, guaranteed in law, of free annual health checks to all registered carers.
  • The introduction of a mandatory right to paid care leave of 10 days enforceable on all employers.

RISE estimates the LIC would cost £1.78bn annually. This would be funded by a combination of tax changes, including a higher rate of tax on the richest earners in Scotland, a new income-based Scottish Service Tax to replace the Council Tax, and the introduction of a Whisky Tax on whisky manufacturing companies.

Commenting, Deborah Waters, a RISE Glasgow candidate and long term unpaid carer who spoke at the manifesto launch, said:

"Carers are so essential to Scotland's economy. It's a scandal in modern Scotland that the carers' allowance is the lowest benefit in the UK at just £62.10 per week.

"Carers often ignore their own health problems to care for someone they love. Unfortunately the UK government ruthlessly exploits this.

"The Scottish Government now has an opportunity to radically improve the lives of unpaid carers throughout the country."

NHS research suggests that it takes an average of two years for unpaid carers to acknowledge their role, given the difficulty in separating their caring role from their relationship to friends or family. RISE plans to meet with local carer groups across the country to discuss the policy and find out how they can assist with raising awareness.

Deborah Waters added:

"Many carers that they can't go on as things are.

"The harsh reality is that many more carers are reaching breaking point with their own health breaking down.

"The cuts by national and local government mean that services used by those we care for are being decimated.

"Carers should be appreciated so they can feel more human again. Caring is at the heart of what makes us a decent society

RISE LAUNCHES MANIFESTO WITH RALLYING CRY FOR CHANGE

RISE LAUNCHES MANIFESTO WITH RALLYING CRY FOR CHANGE

'Scottish politics has changed. It's time for the parliament to change with it.'

RISE - Scotland's Left Alliance launched its first election manifesto this morning at the Science Centre in Glasgow.

The event was attended by dozens of RISE activists and by print and broadcast media from across the country.

The manifesto details key election policies, including a commitment to a second independence referendum within the lifespan of the next Holyrood parliament, a living income for Scotland's carers, and a new 60 per cent rate of tax on the richest people in Scotland.

The launch represents a milestone for RISE, which was formed in August of last year, and adds to the growing momentum of its inaugural campaign.

Commenting, RISE National Organiser Jonathon Shafi said:

"In 2014, as a result of the independence referendum, Scottish politics changed fundamentally. It is time for the Scottish Parliament to change with it.

"RISE embodies the spirit of grassroots radicalism that gripped progressive Scotland two years ago. If elected to office on 5 May, we will take that sense of radicalism into the corridors of power."

Colin Fox, RISE's lead candidate in the Lothians, added:

"At this election, RISE is the only organisation with a clear strategy for independence. We support a second referendum within the lifespan of the next parliament, with or without Westminster's consent.

"Independence supporters face a choice next month: do they want intransigent unionist politicians sitting on the opposition benches or RISE MSPs ready to chart a path to independence?"

And Cat Boyd, RISE's lead candidate in Glasgow, said:

"Today we set-out a strong set of policies designed to tackle some of the most urgent problems Scotland faces. A living income for Scotland's carers, a higher rate of income tax on the richest, and a new £10 per hour minimum wage - these proposals would transform life for millions of Scots.

"RISE is a socialist organisation. If you want socialist voices in parliament articulating socialist ideas and socialist arguments, vote RISE on 5 May."

RISE STATEMENT ON ERS RESEARCH

RISE STATEMENT ON ERS RESEARCH

Commenting on today's report in the Sunday Herald which suggests that voting twice for the SNP in the upcoming Holyrood election could help the anti-independence parties, Cat Boyd - RISE's lead Glasgow candidate - said:

"This report makes a compelling case for pro-independence voters to back RISE with their second votes.

"The Scottish Parliamentary electoral system is designed to guard against the dominance of one party. If the SNP sweep the constituency ballots, the system will compensate other parties.

“This election is important. Independence supporters will decide whether there are more diehard unionist politicians at Holyrood or whether there will be RISE MSPs ready to chart a path to independence. This hinges on how pro-independence supporters vote on the second ballot paper.

"In some respects, RISE represents the heart of the independence movement. We are a diverse alliance of forces fighting for change in Scotland now and a radical vision of independence in the future.

"John Curtice has made the case that we need to vote with our heads as well as our hearts.

"I'd rather people voted for RISE on the second ballot than let unionist parties in by the back door. Labour and the Tories have done nothing to earn the respect of ordinary people, nor can they represent the aspirations of millions of voters.

"RISE, by contrast, is working hard in communities across Scotland. In recent weeks, our campaign has picked-up real momentum, both in the media and on the ground.

"I hope that the pro-independence movement will be pro-active in this election, and I hope that they're inspired enough to vote for RISE on the second ballot.

"A vote for RISE can appeal to both the head and the heart. It will keep the unionists out and it keep our fight for change alive.

“Put simply: we’re asking people to vote for what they believe in. If you still believe that another Scotland is possible, then vote for RISE."

TRADE UNION SUPPORT FOR RISE GROWS

TRADE UNION SUPPORT FOR RISE GROWS

RISE has today welcomed the decision of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers' Union (RMT) to back the Left Alliance in the West of Scotland for the upcoming Holyrood election.

The news confirms growing levels of support for RISE in the labour movement. In February, leading UNITE officials publicly endorsed RISE as the Alliance that best represents workers' interests in Scotland.

Colin Turbett, RISE's lead candidate in the West of Scotland, said:

"I'm very proud that the RMT have agreed to back RISE West Scotland's bid for election to Holyrood.

"Our supporters have been very active in their brilliant campaign to keep CalMac public and we shall continue that fight.

"The ongoing PFI schools fiasco shows what happens when profit drives public services.

"Our commitment to reverse the damage of such policies is absolute."

COUNCIL LEADER BURNS MUST GO OVER EDINBURGH SCHOOLS SCANDAL DEMANDS COLIN FOX

COUNCIL LEADER BURNS MUST GO OVER EDINBURGH SCHOOLS SCANDAL DEMANDS COLIN FOX

RISE Lothians candidate Colin Fox has demanded the resignation of Edinburgh council chief Andrew Burns over the closure of 17 city schools as too unsafe to be used.

Fox said:

  “ Andrew Burns hand wringing about the revelation that 17 city schools, built under the notorious PFI scheme which have been found to be too dangerous to use, rings hollow.

“Burns was centrally involved when these discredited PFI deals were struck and has, with his colleagues, supported their use despite warnings that they were both hugely expensive and took school building outside council control.

“Now we discover that not only  is PFI a rip off it but it has saddled parents, staff and students  with unsafe buildings that look like being closed indefinitely.

“Councillor Burns cannot duck this issue by blaming ESP  since they were appointed by councillors who accepted that the PFI process  involved secrecy and a loss of council control with the results we now see.

“Faced with the monumental crisis his policies are now imposing on Edinburgh schools Cllr Burns should take the only honest course and resign as council leader.”

 

RISE CALLS FOR TOUGHER ACTION ON SCOTTISH TAX AVOIDERS AFTER PANAMA PAPERS

RISE CALLS FOR TOUGHER ACTION ON SCOTTISH TAX AVOIDERS AFTER PANAMA PAPERS

RISE - Scotland's Left Alliance has called on the Scottish Government to establish a system of penalties for tax dodgers and to increase resources to Revenue Scotland for a crackdown on elite tax avoidance and evasion in light of the Panama Papers leak, which has exposed a global network of elite tax avoidance.

With the establishment of Scotland's own tax agency, Revenue Scotland, which has a limited remit to tackle avoidance and fraud (1), RISE is calling on the Scottish Government to step up efforts to crack down on wealthy Scottish tax avoiders.

RISE is calling for:

  • A new system of penalties for those found to be avoiding taxes by Revenue Scotland, a proposal supported by tax expert Richard Murphy (2).
  • The establishment of a special anti-tax avoidance squad within Revenue Scotland specifically focused on tax avoidance and evasion among the richest one per cent.
  • An end to 'one rule for them and another for us' politics and renewed commitment to fairness and equality. Tax policy should be based on economic justice, not whether it will encourage the super rich to avoid paying their fair shares of taxes.

Cat Boyd, lead candidate for RISE in Glasgow, said: 

"The Panama Papers have shown beyond doubt that the UK is a world leader in and enabler of elite tax avoidance. The question is whether we in Scotland are any different.

 "The people of Scotland don't want politicians to pander to the super rich. A crack down by the newly established Revenue Scotland on elite tax avoidance would be highly popular as well as just. 

"RISE is calling for the Scottish Government to do the right thing: end 'one rule for them, another for us' politics, make the super rich abide by the same laws as ordinary Scottish people, and improve tax collection resources to ensure that the richest one per cent pay their fair share north of the border."

(1) http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/S4_Bills/Revenue%20Scotland%20and%20Tax%20Powers%20Bill/b43bs4-aspassed.pdf
(2) http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2014/08/26/scotland-has-a-general-anti-avoidance-rule/

RISE: GROWING CONFUSION OVER CONDUCT OF FOI WATCHDOG

RISE: GROWING CONFUSION OVER CONDUCT OF FOI WATCHDOG

Responding to the news that the Scottish Information Commissioner (SIC) has ordered the release of Prince Charles’s correspondence with Scottish Government ministers (1), James McEnaney, RISE education spokesperson, said:

“I welcome the decision of the SIC to order the release of Prince Charles’s correspondence with the Scottish Government.

“As the May election approaches, it is vital that voters know whether the heir to the throne has been lobbying Scottish minsters or attempting, in direct violation of his constitutional role, to influence Scottish Government policy.

“However, the decision raises certain questions about my own pending Freedom of Information (FOI) request regarding the SNP’s policy on national standardised testing in schools.

“Two weeks ago, I was told by the SIC that a decision on my request would be delayed until after the election due to the potential political ramifications of releasing information relevant to Government ministers during ‘purdah’ (2).

“But as we have now established, ‘purdah’ does not apply to the SIC. Indeed, the SIC has a responsibility to order the publication of information regardless of its political content. Anything less runs contrary to the spirit and the letter of FOI legislation.

“Explaining her decision on the royal correspondence, the Information Commissioner Rosemary Agnew dismissed suggestions that the release of the letters would prompt political speculation as “wholly unrelated to nature of the information withheld”.

“What, then, is so special about my case? Surely the potential political consequences of making a decision on my request are also “wholly unrelated to the nature of the information” I have requested? Why is the SIC going to such great lengths to keep my request out of the public domain until after the election?

“Last week, the SIC made an effort to repair some of the damage done to its reputation for impartiality. Since then, Rosemary Agnew has refused to answer any further questions and, as I understand, turned down an invitation to discuss the issue with me in public.

“But this controversy is not going away. Following its latest decision, confusion over the increasingly erratic and inconsistent conduct of Scotland’s FOI watchdog will only grow.”

Sources:

(1) https://theferret.scot/ministers-prince-charles-freedom-of-information/

(2) https://theferret.scot/information-watchdog-bid-to-defuse-purdah-row/

RISE: UK AT HEART OF GLOBAL TAX EVASION SCHEME

Commenting on the publication yesterday of the Panama Papers, Cat Boyd, RISE's top Glasgow candidate, said:

"The publication of the Panama Papers feels like a watershed moment.
"It has given us an extraordinary insight into the world of elite tax evasion and avoidance - practices that we now know for certain occur on an industrial scale.
"It has also shone a light on the central role that Britain plays in helping the global one per cent conceal their wealth.
"Shell companies throughout the UK's crown dependencies and overseas territories, notably the British Virgin Islands, hide billions of dollars in offshore capital for clients across the world. And more than 50 per cent of the companies cited in the Papers are registered in British administered tax-havens or in mainland Britain itself.
“UK banks HSBC and Royal Bank of Scotland have been found to be complicit in this process, as well as Prime Minister David Cameron’s late father, proving that dodgy tax practises go right to the top of the British establishment.
"In other words, the UK actively facilitates a giant, stunning fraud by the global rich on the rest of us.
"This makes a mockery of the Tories' claim that 'we are all in it together' and confirms that austerity is a political choice, not an economic necessity.
"As David Cameron and George Osborne slice disability benefits and impose punitive sanctions on welfare claimants, they allow billions of pounds to flow out of the country untaxed.
"RISE believes that global action is needed to make tax avoidance illegal and shutdown offshore tax havens. All law firms, banks and clients found to be involved in using avoidance measures to hide tax liabilities should be prosecuted, with a tax system based on the principle of full disclosure established internationally.
"A first step must be to end all cuts to HMRC, which according to Richard Murphy of the Tax Justice Network has led to a reduction in tax collection of up to £700m. The UK Government should re-hire the sacked tax collectors and mandate HMRC to re-focus its efforts away from benefits and towards tax avoidance and evasion of the richest one per cent.
"In addition to a radical programme of land reform and redistribution, RISE supports a wealth tax - a one-off twenty per cent levy on the assets of the richest one per cent of people in Scotland.
"If any further evidence was needed that Britain's free market economy is rigged for the rich, this is it."

RISE CALLS FOR INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION OF FOI CONTROVERSY

RISE CALLS FOR INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION OF FOI CONTROVERSY

RISE - Scotland's Left Alliance has today called for an independent public investigation into the ongoing controversy surrounding the Scottish Information Commissioner.

Last week, RISE Glasgow candidate and education spokesperson James McEnaney received an email from the SIC which revealed that the FOI watchdog was delaying decisions on political grounds during the election period.

In a series of subsequent emails, the SIC confirmed that it was factoring the risk of releasing information critical ministers into its decision-making process.

On Wednesday, the SIC then admitted that it had delayed three decisions during the independence referendum 'purdah' period and is delaying a further two, in addition to Mr McEnaney's, in the run-up to the May election.

Commenting, McEnaney, said:

"Given recent developments, the time has come for a full and independent public investigation into the ongoing controversy surrounding Scotland's Information Commissioner.

"It is not appropriate or acceptable for the Commissioner to delay decisions because of their potential political ramifications. That runs contrary to the spirit and the letter of Freedom of Information legislation.

"One of the key questions raised by the SIC's rhetoric is whether this issue would have presented itself had the information in question not been critical of ministers. If it had lead to a 'positive' view of ministers, would it have been released?

"The SIC is ultimately accountable to the Scottish Parliament and it therefore falls to the Parliament to investigate the conduct of the Commissioner. A simple complaint into the SIC would not be sufficient because the SIC cannot investigate itself.

"Two things are very important. First, voters need to have all information relevant to their interest available to them at all times. This is especially important in the run up to an election.

"Second, voters must have confidence in the absolute impartiality of the Information Commissioner's office. Given the events of the last ten days, that impartiality may well be in question.

"We hope the establishment parties will support our position."

RISE: SIC STATEMENT 'COMPLETELY UNSATISFACTORY'

RISE: SIC STATEMENT 'COMPLETELY UNSATISFACTORY'

Responding to the Scottish Information Commissioner's statement this afternoon, James McEnaney, RISE education spokesperson, said:

"Today's statement confirms that the SIC delayed publishing a decision on my appeal because of the potential political consequences of that appeal.

"In doing so, the SIC has acted politically, effectively shielding the Scottish Government from criticism.

"As has been established, purdah rules are irrelevant to the SIC. They do not apply. And simply being seen to be impartial is not a good enough reason to delay publishing information clearly relevant to the public interest.

"The SIC does not seem to understand that impartiality works two ways. By protecting the Government from the release of damaging information - and therefore trying to void accusations of 'bias' - Rosemary Agnew is keeping voters in the dark. She is restricting their ability to make a fully informed choice ahead of the election.

"That is against the spirit and the letter of Freedom of Information legislation. Indeed, it defeats the very point of that legislation.

"The SIC has attributed this controversy to a single badly worded email. But today's statement confirms beyond all doubt that the problem extends well beyond miscommunication.

"We now know that the SIC is basing some its decisions, and the timing of the release of those decisions, on political - not public interest - grounds.

"She has also acknowledged that she delayed three decisions during the independence referendum purdah period on the same basis.

"This is not only completely unsatisfactory, it is deeply worrying, and calls into question the role of the SIC.

"Importantly, we can now also be fairly certain that the contents of my appeal, which relates to the Government's policy on national standardised testing, are very significant.

"We hope that the SIC will make those contents known quickly."

RISE: FOI Questions Remain Unanswered

RISE: FOI Questions Remain Unanswered

RISE - Scotland's Left Alliance has today reiterated its call for the Scottish Information Commissioner (SIC) to clarify her approach to 'purdah' rules governing civil servant impartiality during the election.

At the weekend, RISE Glasgow candidate James McEnaney revealed that he had received an email from the SIC which suggested that the Freedom of Information (FOI) watchdog had - citing 'purdah' - delayed an FOI request until after the election in order to protect Scottish Ministers from criticism.

Commenting, McEnaney said:

"The SIC still has key questions to answer.

"On three separate occasions, and in writing, SIC officers confirmed that they factored the risk of releasing information critical of ministers into their decision making process.

"This clearly violates the spirit and the letter of FOI legislation.

"Moreover, purdah rules are completely irrelevant to the SIC, which is not a civil service organisation, and have never before been invoked by the SIC to delay an appeal. So why now? What is it about this particular request, at this time, that provoked such an unusual reaction?

"In an attempt to clarify this situation, we have submitted an FOI request to the SIC asking that material relevant to this decision be released.

"To be clear, we are not claiming definitively that Rosemary Agnew has done anything wrong at this stage. It looks as though a decision has been taken which is inappropriate and unjustifiable, and we'd like to know why.

"There may be a perfectly good explanation for the SIC's behaviour.

"But if there is, it hasn't been provided yet.

"With the Holyrood election less than six weeks away, it is a matter of democratic urgency that this issue is comprehensively addressed."

The text of James McEnaney's opinion piece in today's Daily Record.

IN JUST 37 days Scotland goes to the polls to choose its new government. Of course, the whole electoral process depends on one, utterly vital commodity – information.

We need to know who is standing and what they stand for to select our next batch of representatives but we also need to be able to hold the existing government to account. If we don’t know how our government conduct themselves, then no amount of campaign slogans or glossy manifesto pledges will fill the democratic void we’re left with.

Fortunately, we have laws which exist to facilitate this process – Freedom of Information (FOI). FOI allows us to ask official bodies – including the Government – to release information we consider to be in the public interest. Often such organisations attempt to block the publication of material and, if an initial appeal fails, it falls to the Scottish information commissioner (SIC) to decide if the information should published.

In recent years, FOI disclosures have shone a light on the £7million of bonuses paid by public sector bodies in Scotland, the extent of corporate interest in fracking, serious concerns over safety at the Faslane nuclear base, and the fact the Fife police division being investigated over the death of Sheku Bayoh faced assault allegations almost every fortnight. SIC interventions have also ensured that a number of extremely serious stories – such as government “feedback” leading to changes in a Scottish Police Authority report on officers carrying firearms – could not remain hidden from the people.

The SIC is, then, a hugely important feature of Scottish public life, charged with protecting the interests of the people and ensuring that government cannot prevent us from accessing information to which we are entitled. But what if the opposite happened? What if the SIC hindered rather than helped accountability, openness and, ultimately, democracy?

In an extraordinary turn of events, that seems to be precisely what has happened.

In November, the website CommonSpace revealed that the SNP’s plan to impose standardised testing on schools was based on just four emails from two individuals. This information was given to me after an FOI request to the Scottish Government. Unfortunately, the emails were censored as the Scottish Government attempted to keep the contents secret.

The case was therefore taken to the SIC, who accepted the legitimacy of my appeal and a final decision was expected within weeks. But then everything changed.

Last Tuesday morning, I received an email informing me that the SIC had “decided not to issue any decisions that might put forward a critical view of the ministers” prior to the Holyrood election. The email continued: “In discussion with the head of enforcement, it has been decided to delay the issue of the decision on your case until after May 5, 2016.”

Put simply, the information I have requested may be uncomfortable for the Scottish Government so, even if the SIC agrees that it should be released, she intends to withhold it until after the votes are counted. It doesn’t matter which political party you support – this is serious.

The people of Scotland need more information during an election campaign, not less, and it is clearly unacceptable for the SIC to initiate a policy that could lead to important information being withheld until it’s too late for voters to consider it. FOI is vital to the functioning of our democracy, as is the absolute impartiality of the SIC.

In this case, however, it at least appears that the SIC has made a political decision and, in doing so, potentially protected the Scottish Government from criticism during an election period. This is made all the more serious by the knowledge that purdah rules, which impose impartiality on civil servants during an election, do not apply to the SIC and have never before been invoked to delay the publication of material, critical or otherwise.

We must, therefore, ask: why now? What is it about this request that provoked such an unusual reaction? We must also guard against any attempts to normalise this sort of situation or dismiss it as “typical politics”.

FOI is supposed to protect citizens from secretive governments and unaccountable public bodies, not shield politicians from difficult questions in the weeks before an election. It is a right we must defend, even if that means scrutinising the very people who should be on our side.