Fans’ act on the agenda
Election season is now well under way in Rutherglen with nominations closing last week for candidates to throw their hat into the ring.
As expected, it is only the four main parties who will contest the seat, with smaller parties concentrating on the regional list votes.
James Kelly is defending the seat for the Labour Party. But with the SNP still riding the crest of a wave following last year’s historic General Election result, he starts very much as second favourite behind Clare Haughey.
With a majority of just 1,779, the seat is 12th on the list of the SNP’s top targets. Taylor Muir of the Tories and Robert Brown of the LibDems make up the shortlist, but anything other than a straight fight between Labour and the SNP is highly unlikely.
Mr Kelly challenged his opponent this week, focussing on the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act Bill, which he opposed as justice spokesperson and this week he asked Ms Haughey to make clear her views on the issue.
He said: “Over the course of the last parliament I was contacted by hundreds of constituents opposed to the football act, and I led Labour’s opposition to it as a justice spokesperson. From my work with antisectarianism charities locally I know how important it is to tackle bigotry in the community. But the football act is not the solution: it is a spin exercise gone wrong by the SNP who will not admit that the law does not work.
“We all know sectarianism goes beyond 90 minutes on a Saturday, yet this legislation does nothing to fix the wider problem and has broken down the relationship between fans and the police.
“On the football act, I have always been against it, and if re-elected, I’ll bring forward my plan to repeal it. I am asking Clare Haughty to spell out her position on the football act – did she agree with its introduction and will she support my plan to repeal the act?”
But Ms Haughey hit back, saying: “As with any legislation, I believe the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act should be reviewed to ensure it is effective.
“A year ago Tom Greatrex, backed up by James Kelly, made the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act a campaign issue. Why has Mr Kelly, the former MSP for the area, failed to bring forward his Private Member’s Bill during his time at Holyrood, waiting until now to make it a campaign pledge?”
With her campaign now well under way, Ms Haughey reiterated her party’s commitment to free education.
She criticised Conservative plans to charge students £6,000, saying: “The Tory scheme is less about funding universities and colleges and more about the Tories’ ideological obsession with introducing fees. It will raise almost nothing in the next five years but what it will do is put poorer kids off going to university.”
Labour of love James Kelly and his supporters are ready for a battle
Support Clare Haughey teamed up with John Swinney
Going live Taylor Muir (right) and DJ Tam Curry
Campaign trail Lib Dem Brown and supporters