On Wednesday I joined a number of colleagues, veterans and members of the public for the two-minutes silence to mark Armistice Day. This is always a very important day and it is remarkable to watch as the centre of Dundee comes to a standstill for a couple of minutes.
I think that it is important that we remember the impact of war and those who have lost their lives in wars. This is not about glorifying warfare but rather about remembering the impact of war on real people and families in our community. I was reminded of this on Sunday as I stood at the war memorial at St Joseph's Church in Wilkie's Lane. The war memorial there contains 234 names and when it was unveiled in 1924 it was said to be the biggest number at any church in Dundee. It is sobering to think that all of those names are of people who lived and worked in the West End. The congregation at St Joseph's are trying to find out something about all of those named on the memorial in order to tell the stories behind the names.
One of the names on the memorial is that of Fr James Shine, an Irish priest who served at St Joseph's until 1915 who was killed in France in 1918 while serving as a British Army chaplain. I spoke about Fr Shine at a conference at Bath Spa University in the summer. I think that this is a very interesting story which deserves to be much better known.
I am a strong supporter of Great War Dundee which aims to mark the centenary of the First World War in a variety of ways, and reflect the many different aspects of life in the city which were impacted by the First World War. The Great War Dundee project is trying to find the stories behind the city's roll of honour, and has launched an online version of the roll of honour. If you have a story of a family member then Great War Dundee want to hear from you.
On Monday evening Dundee City Council discussed TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. This item had been put on the agenda at the request of Councillor Jimmy Black.
As my awareness of TTIP has grown over recent times I have become more and more opposed to TTIP. For this reason I was pleased to be able to vote on behalf of the Scottish Co-operative Party to oppose TTIP at the recent Scottish Labour Party conference in Perth. It was also clear that there is strong opposition to TTIP from many trade unions.
The committee heard from representatives of Dundee Stop TTIP. It was clear from their contribution that they were opposed to TTIP in its entirety. The motion put forward by Councillor Black talked of the council having 'serious concerns' about TTIP.
TTIP is meant to be a trade agreement. I find the secrecy around the negotiations very worrying. The proposed use of quasi-judicial measures, such as an Investor-State Dispute Settlement system, under which multi-national corporations may sue elected governments whose laws or actions are deemed to be contrary to the operation of the so-called free market and free trade.
TTIP could have a detrimental impact on the environmental protections which we need and which are in place to some extent in the EU. I am opposed to any erosion of environmental standards as I think this would negatively impact on attempts to tackle climate change.
The video at the top of the page outlines some of the arguments against TTIP and is from the Stop TTIP campaign.
My opinion was that 'serious concerns' just did not go far enough. I oppose TTIP and that, in my opinion was what the council should support. As you will see the motion below is in three parts. I agreed with the points put in the first and second part, I just felt that the conclusion proposed just didn't go far enough.
I was pleased to move an amendment which said that we opposed TTIP, the text of the motion is below and my amendment is below that. I am pleased that my amendment was agreed to and thank those councillors who voted for this.
This Council notes:
1. That the EU and USA are negotiating a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
2. That negotiations are underway to determine which goods and services TTIP will apply to and if new rules can be agreed to protect investors, harmonise standards, reduce tariffs and open new markets throughout the EU and USA.
3. That there has been no impact assessment about the potential impact on local authorities.
4. That there has been no scrutiny of the negotiating texts by local government and no consultation with local government representatives
5. That MPs are also unable to scrutinise the negotiating documents.
This Council believes that:
1. TTIP could have a detrimental impact on local services, employment, suppliers and decision-making.
2. A thorough impact assessment of TTIP on local authorities must be undertaken before the negotiations can be concluded.
3. The EU's proposed Investor Court mechanism provides transnational companies with privileges not shared by individual citizens or nation states, and that this is unacceptable, as is the ISDS system of arbitration
4. The EU’s food, environmental and labour standards are better than those in the US and TTIP negotiations must raise and not lower these standards across the EU and USA.
5. Sourcing supplies and employment locally is important to strengthening local economies and meeting local needs. TTIP must not impact on local authorities’ ability to act in the best interests of their communities.
This Council agrees:
1. To write to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, The Right Honourable Greg Clark, MP, the Minister for Local Government and Community Empowerment, Marco Biagi, MSP, local MPs, MSPs and all Scottish MEPs raising our serious concerns about the impact of TTIP on local authorities and the secrecy of the negotiating process.
2. To write to COSLA to raise our serious concerns about the impact of TTIP on local authorities and ask them to raise these with the Westminster and Scottish Governments on our behalf.
3. To call for an impact assessment on the impact of TTIP on local authorities.
4. To publicise the Council’s concerns about TTIP; join with other local authorities which are opposed to TTIP across Europe and work with local campaigners to raise awareness about the problems of TTIP.
My amendment to the last section is below:
1. To write to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, The Right Honourable Greg Clark, MP, the Minister for Local Government and Community Empowerment, Marco Biagi, MSP, local MPs, MSPs and all Scottish MEPs raising our opposition to TTIP on local authorities.
2. To write to COSLA to raise our opposition to TTIP and ask them to raise this with the Westminster and Scottish Governments on our behalf.
3. To call for an impact assessment on the potential impact of TTIP on local authorities.
4. To publicise the Council’s opposition to TTIP; join with other local authorities which are opposed to TTIP across Europe and work with local campaigners to raise awareness about the problems of TTIP.
I was pleased that Councillor Black was prepared to accept my amendments even though, the SNP have yet to make clear that they oppose TTIP nationally. I felt that it was right that Dundee City Council spoke with nearly one voice on this topic.
I will continue to campaign for openness and transparency in world trade and for a trade system that looks after the interests of workers and the environment.