John Mason MSP

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Meeting of the Parliament 17 December 2014 : Wednesday, December 17, 2014
John Mason (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)

I thank Paul Martin for bringing this motion to the chamber. As he will realise, the Fort is not currently in my constituency, but once upon a time it was, when I represented Glasgow East at Westminster. In fact, it holds a very special place in my memory. In summer 2008, both of the main parties did a lot of campaigning there for the by-election, and I especially remember the morning of Friday 25 July 2008, when we met the media there to celebrate the Scottish National Party winning the by-election.

Over the years, I have seen the Fort develop from its early days when, as I remember, some local people did not even like the name because they felt that it was overly warlike and not good for the Easterhouse area. However, we seem to have got over that problem. Being on the motorway into and out of Glasgow has also been an advantage for Easterhouse, certainly with regard to this particular development. In fact, Easterhouse has benefited from its location in comparison with some of Glasgow’s other post-war peripheral housing schemes such as Drumchapel and Castlemilk, and it is now very much at the centre of things.

At the beginning, there were delays in attracting to the Fort some kind of leisure facility, even though that had been a commitment from the beginning by the developers and Glasgow City Council. I am glad that, as well as the shopping experience, we now have a Vue cinema and a whole range of eating places.

From the early days, there was a realisation that many shoppers would come from a distance by using their cars and the motorway, but there was also a commitment to providing as many jobs as possible for local people. Presumably the situation varies slightly from employer to employer but, to be fair to the Fort as a whole, I think that a serious effort has been made to fulfil that commitment. Indeed, as Paul Martin has eloquently pointed out, the same will be the case with the present expansion.

One of the reasons why I enjoyed using the Fort at first was that it had a really good bookshop in the shape of Borders. Of course, Borders is no longer there, and I think that its story paints a picture of the retail sector and, frankly, the jobs that can go with it. When I was younger, the place to buy books in Glasgow was John Smith & Son in St Vincent Street—I suspect that other members remember it, as well. However, Borders and the other big chains went into Glasgow city centre and to the out-of-town shopping centres such as the Fort, and John Smith & Son and many smaller shops got squeezed out. Over time, of course, Borders has been squeezed out by the likes of Amazon.

My memory of Borders is that, as well as being a good bookshop, it had a name for being a somewhat poor employer and very much anti-trade union. That raises the question of some jobs being better than others and some employers being better than others. I very much welcome the expansion of the Fort and the new jobs that come alongside that, but are they really new jobs, or are they in effect a transfer of jobs from smaller shops that have been squeezed out by the big chains that inhabit retail parks?

I guess that it is a mixture of both. These days, people do not have a lot of extra money to spend, and they can spend each pound only once in one shop. On the other hand, I hope that people are being attracted to Glasgow from other parts of Scotland and beyond and that the number of retail sales is increasing.

The motion mentions the wider east end. There has been a lot to welcome in the east end this year, not least with the Commonwealth games, which brought both temporary and permanent jobs. Clyde Gateway has done great work with regeneration, and the new police building at Dalmarnock will increase footfall, even though many of the jobs are transferring. That will have a knock-on effect.

I hope to be at the Fort tomorrow evening rather than this evening, as I hope to take part in carol singing at Morrisons. I am sure that Mr Martin, the Presiding Officer and any other members would be very welcome to take part in that, as well, if they would like to do so.

17:16  

Meeting of the Parliament 17 December 2014 : Wednesday, December 17, 2014
John Mason

Does the cabinet secretary agree that Westminster’s methods are outdated theatre, that they are not fit for a modern democracy and that they make it extremely difficult for the Scottish Parliament to plan ahead?



Meeting of the Parliament 17 December 2014 : Wednesday, December 17, 2014
17. John Mason (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)

To ask the Scottish Government what its position is on how the Scottish budget method of consultation and committee deliberation compares with that of the United Kingdom. (S4O-03837)



Meeting of the Parliament 16 December 2014 : Tuesday, December 16, 2014
John Mason (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)

I thank the members who signed the motion, which enabled the debate to take place. I realise that the subject is very much a local issue in one sense; indeed, the Bellgrove hotel is located in my constituency. However, I lodged the motion because the issue has wider significance for Glasgow and beyond.

As far as I am aware, the Bellgrove hotel is the largest remaining homeless hostel in Scotland. It also has conditions that, generously, could be considered unsuitable, and less generously, grim, Dickensian, like a Soviet gulag or similar such descriptions.

Key facts about the establishment include that it is, in a legal sense, a private hotel on Glasgow’s Gallowgate; it is an art deco building that was built between 1935 and 1937; and it was originally used by long-distance drivers and suchlike. As a result of that history, it has a house in multiple occupation licence. That might be suitable for a student flat, but it is not suitable for a hostel for 140 vulnerable men.

Some years ago, Glasgow City Council correctly came to the conclusion that such large hostels are not the right place for homeless men who may be continuing to use alcohol and other stimulants. As a result, traditional hostels such as the Great Eastern hotel have closed down and alternative uses have been found for the buildings. The council and others have found alternative accommodation, often in partnership with organisations such as Loretto Housing Association, which, for example, runs the Fordneuk centre in Bridgeton, which, somewhat strangely, is only 500m away from the Bellgrove hotel. That caters for up to 42 men and women who have indicated that they wish to continue to drink. It has a similar number of staff to care for and support the people in what is reasonably modern and—I think—suitable accommodation. Other people, instead of sharing joint accommodation, live in individual flats or supported accommodation.

Despite all the progress, the Bellgrove hotel continues. That is largely because it is in private hands and not subject to the same regulation as other organisations by, for example, the Care Inspectorate, the Scottish Housing Regulator or other regulators. The owners and Glasgow City Council seem to have expected that the Bellgrove would gradually decline and fade away when referrals stopped, but that has proven not to be the case. The Bellgrove continues to be registered for 160 residents, and it normally houses around 140 people.

I visited the Bellgrove some time ago. The conditions there are not acceptable in this day and age. When I visited Shotts prison and Low Moss prison recently, I found conditions in both prisons to be much better, with en suite facilities. That is something to which residents of the Bellgrove can only aspire; they must make do with a communal shower room, which I suspect that many members would refuse even to think of using.

Who is responsible and how can things be improved? In a sense, everyone is responsible and no one is responsible. The owners are clearly responsible but they have failed either to improve the physical conditions or to increase the support for residents to any great extent. The Department for Work and Pensions is responsible, because it pays the housing benefit without attaching any real conditions to that. The DWP points to Glasgow City Council, which pays out the housing benefit, issues the HMO licence and can provide some support if residents ask for it. The council might point to the Scottish Government, which could strengthen the regulatory framework.

I am grateful to the many people who have engaged on the issue. The HMO staff have been helpful and arranged for me to visit the Bellgrove. The council licensing committee listened to me and probably went about as far as it could do. The Care Inspectorate sought to engage but was warned off by the owners. The minister met me and provided a helpful explanatory letter.

Despite all that, we do not seem to be moving forward. In 2000, the BBC made a documentary on the Bellgrove, but when the Daily Record recently put in an undercover journalist, very little seemed to have changed.

The Smith commission suggested that some control over housing benefit could come to this Parliament. Maybe then we could impose more conditions on accommodation standards. However, if we must wait until 2020 for that to happen, that is not an acceptable timescale.

What should happen? It seems to me that there are two clear needs. There is a need for alternative accommodation—obviously there is a cost to that. There is also a need for further regulation, to prevent such a scenario from recurring.

There would be little point in the council, the Government or both providing accommodation that might or might not be used, depending on the incentives that were on offer to residents to stay on at the Bellgrove. However, I would not want sanctions that would close the Bellgrove overnight, given that we must find alternative places for people to stay.

We need the council and the Government to work together. I do not know whether it is possible for both to engage with the owners. The quickest solution would be for the owners and management to agree to a voluntary upgrade and a reduction in numbers, but I fear that I should not be overly optimistic about that.

Charities such as Salt and Light and the nearby Gallowgate church engage with individual residents and seek to help them. In addition, staff from social work, the wider medical services, Cordia and elsewhere go in to help individual residents, in quite difficult circumstances. Mental health services staff often have to pick up the pieces when life at the Bellgrove becomes too much for an individual, but they can then only watch as the person drifts back to living in the same place, in the same conditions.

I know that the minister does not have a magic wand with which to sort the problem immediately. Glasgow City Council does not have a magic wand either. However, this is 2014 and something has to happen. I have a lot of constituents who are vulnerable in different ways, but surely the 140 constituents at the Bellgrove deserve help from someone.

17:08  

Equal Opportunities Committee 11 December 2014 : Thursday, December 11, 2014
John Mason (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)

I am the MSP for Glasgow Shettleston.



Meeting of the Parliament 11 December 2014 : Thursday, December 11, 2014
John Mason (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)

Can the cabinet secretary confirm that the local authority distribution formula is the one that was agreed by COSLA last year as a result of its internal deliberations on that matter?



Finance Committee 10 December 2014 : Wednesday, December 10, 2014
John Mason

No, I did not, because I take the view that I am here to listen to surveys and not to take part in them.



Finance Committee 10 December 2014 : Wednesday, December 10, 2014
John Mason

I have noticed that there is less time to sit around here than there is at Westminster.

Do the other two witnesses have any comments on the points that have been raised?



Finance Committee 10 December 2014 : Wednesday, December 10, 2014
John Mason

My final point is about the section of the ICAS submission on constitutional issues and scrutiny. In paragraph 4.4, ICAS talks about the fact that there is a majority party in the Scottish Parliament and the need to ensure that there is a satisfactory quality of legislation. Does ICAS feel that there has not been a sufficient quality of legislation since 2011? For this committee, SDLT and landfill tax are examples of the legislation that we have dealt with.

11:00  

Finance Committee 10 December 2014 : Wednesday, December 10, 2014
John Mason

As I understand it, HMRC is going to play around with the codes in the meantime, rather than having a separate system with different rates or bands. If we did something dramatic, such as have income tax rates of 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60 per cent, that would be very different from what is happening down south. Could HMRC cope with that?

Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

S4M-11901.3 Neil Findlay: Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce—As an amendment to motion S4M-11901
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NoDefeated

S4M-11901.1 Mary Scanlon: Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce—As an amendment to motion S4M-11901
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-11830.2 John Swinney: The Smith Commission—As an amendment to motion S4M-11830 in the name of Ru
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-11830 Ruth Davidson: The Smith Commission—That the Parliament welcomes the publication of the Sm
>> Show more
YesCarried

Amendment 6 moved by Dr Richard Simpson on motion S4M-11826 Maureen Watt: Food (Scotland) Bill—That
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-11825.3 Claire Baker: End of Year Fish Negotiations—As an amendment to motion S4M-11825 in the n
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-11825.2 Jamie McGrigor: End of Year Fish Negotiations—As an amendment to motion S4M-11825 in the
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-11825.1 Tavish Scott: End of Year Fish Negotiations—As an amendment to motion S4M-11825 in the n
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-11825 Richard Lochhead: End of Year Fish Negotiations—That the Parliament welcomes the successfu
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-11763.3 Margaret Burgess: Private Sector Rent Reform—As an amendment to motion S4M-11763 in the
>> Show more
YesCarried

Search for other Motions lodged by John Mason
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-11953: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 18/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11899: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 15/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11876: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 11/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11829: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 08/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11787: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 02/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11723: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 26/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11679: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 25/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11652: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 21/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11399: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 03/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11364: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 30/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Search for other Questions asked by John Mason
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S4O-03837: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 08/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23508: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 03/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23495: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 02/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03753: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 18/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03695: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 04/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03652: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 27/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22768: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 07/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22752: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 06/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22753: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 06/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22751: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 06/10/2014 Show Full Question >>