It was reported yesterday in the Paisley Daily Express that despite the opening of the brand new hospital at the Southern General, the children’s ward at the RAH is to remain open. We grassroots activists are happy. I remember attending the very first “consultation” meeting at the RAH and being told the ward would be closed in a year. Here below is a report of the meeting I wrote at that time.


Attended a steering group meeting to save the RAH Kids ward now know as KNOW Kids Need Our Ward. On October the 18th the board will meet in Gartnaval to decide whether to make this preconsultation meeting a formal consultation. This could lead to the closure of the ward in August 2013.. As part of the campaign I was asked to collect some stories and comments about people’s personal stories of the ward. I know everyone probably has one all my friends do. Would you be able to help? Don’t need to give your name just your family’s experience. Renfrewshire Carer’s Centre Parents’s support group have also organised a meeting for Monday the 14th of September between 12 and 2 with doctors involved in the community consultation. Hope you can make it.

It’s so so crucial that we get the campaign going. I would love on the 18th of October that the board votes NO and it’s crucial that they know that everyone in Renfrewshire and beyond will not let the ward be closed.We need a happy ending for this story…This has to be a community effort with local groups offering their support I wondered if any groups I am involved with would offer their support. It’s so crucial that carers and organisations stand up together.. For example the KNOW campaign are in solidarity with Helen McCourt and the carers of the Accord Day Centre in the East End of Glasgow.

My favourite phrase is up and at them…. again this is a raising my head above the parapet moment for me, but we need to stand together to secure the future of ward 15 for all our children.As carers we are exhausted getting through everything life throws at us, but we are also the bestest people in the world with love and compassion in our hearts for others.So please get in touch and if you have any ideas for publicity? Bernie Collins, I wondered if Marie could write a song get it on you tube? use her talents like Dan has contributed his amazing artwork? So Up and At them my friends.

Sandra xxxx

So yesterday we celebrated we had won. I fear however that in an election year would any political party be silly enough to close a   service for children. The 2015 General Election and the Hollyrood elections loom. Many politicians are finding time to visit their constituencies again.The KNOW campaign was truly a cross party group made up of mostly local people but politicians also supported us. It was us who protested at

Health Board Meetings, gathered signatures, organized public meetings. We are grateful for all who helped us we know who you are and thank you. When politicians say they saved the ward we remember who turned up to our campaigns and smile to ourselves. We do not think this is the end. A brand new shiny hospital will be opening in the next two weeks. We may have won the battle but not the war. We will be watching and waiting for the next suggestion of closure. To those who say it was their actions alone who saved the ward, we know differently and if you want our vote in the upcoming election don’t use this as if it was you alone who saved the ward. We who all worked together know better. As your voters we will remind you and let our neighbours know too.

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Sandra’s soapbox tour

Originally posted on Scottish Socialist Voice:

CO-SPOKESPERSONS TOGETHER: Sandra Webster with Colin Fox

by Sandra Webster, SSP national co-spokesperson

You may find this unusual but I have never stood for election before. I have been the leafleter and the canvasser the woman who stood at stalls. I always persuaded myself that I was not a politician just someone who wanted to make a difference. Then I became a member of the SSP and with the encouragement of my branch stood as co-spokesperson of the SSP.

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Independent women

Independent women.

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The Price of Universal Benefits.

First I am not a fan of Katy Price. I have never watched any programme about her so I can make no comment about her character and intend not too. This blog is about why her disabled son Harvey should be able to have the same right to access to services as any other child. Universality must stay.

Apparently Katie Price has been asked recently why she as a multi millionaire should not pay for the taxi to school for Harvey which allegedly costs a 1000 pounds. Don’t get me wrong I am uncomfortable with this as I was uncomfortable with David Cameron receiving care from social services when I know many families struggle. However despite the fact it sucks in my thraw as much as it does yours, I will argue for the right of all children to be entitled to the same as any other child.

Universality is cheaper. All the main Westminster parties want to put an end to universal benefits. The Tories simply blurt out they need to save money while the Labour party talk about “targeting those who need the most help”. By this they mean hardworking families after all not those who the Tories are targeting who because of inability to work are seen as scroungers. One argument used to defend Miss Price is that she has paid her taxes well for me that is forgetting the contribution that unpaid carers contribute to society over ten billion in high quality care.

Just like as back in the eighties single parents who choose to look after their children have become demonized even more. We are all being asked to believe in the myth of so called “welfare queens”. When was the last time you saw on tv a single father on tv being accused of living in luxury of the state? Who asked if father’s should contribute?The truth as research from Oxfam,the Joseph Rowantree foundation is that families struggle to survive and afford the very basics. These include families in work who are the biggest recipient of work aged benefits.

Miss Price’s son should not receive help and support and benefits because his mother is a taxpayer but because he has a record of needs which says which school he should attend. What we should be attacking is the system which means that those with wealth and power have better access to local authorities and government departments. That is the imbalance of power we have to tackle head on and ensure every child with similar needs as Harvey gets the same support as Harvey.

At the moment my son is being considered for his transition to High School. There are many children who need the level of support he needs it is a worrying time for parents as there are too few spaces. This is the kind of universality I will fight for that every child regardless of their parents’ background will be equal. This can never be delivered under the current Westminster government.

There will always be those who can be used as an example of the unfairness of universal benefits but for those few, even if it sticks in our thraws let’s remember the thousand who benefit from them. DLA was meant to help with the extra cost of disability. However universal benefits are the best currant solution to means testing and we should all support them for the sake of all our children.

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Tattoed a short story.

  1. Hi I wrote this a few years ago but I think it is relevant for today’s 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auswitch. My great grand father was one of the first soldiers at Belsen. This story was published by From Saturn To Glasgow, Glasgow university’s Literary Magazine in 2012. Let me know what you think

Sandra. x

by Sandra Webster
Gunter Hollinger had many regrets in his life. He had never married nor had children, he had seen little of the world apart from his corner of it.
Now nearing the end of his life he also regretted the time in the camp. Every night when he closed his eyes his dreams were full of the faces of those he had encountered on their arrival at the camp. These were the lucky few who lived to die another day still in shock, half hoping that their mothers, wives and children had been taken to the Kinder camp. That first day, after they had been shaved and deloused and stripped of their humanity, they would offer him their arm and he would record the number by which they would now be known. Gunter was proud he was one of the lowest numbers – 000047. The last one he tattooed was 865879. Between these numbers only 200 survived to tell of the atrocities. Gunter, as one of the survivors, had been a witness at many trials where the guards and Kapos had been brought to justice for their crimes. There was never any doubt that Gunter was a victim too but he always felt responsible. He could have been more gentle, been kinder, not cooperated.
It only seemed fitting that after the war he would continue to tattoo. He opened a parlour in a local town. Some of his first client were the ex camp inhabitants. They fell into two groups. Some, like Gunter, did not flinch from letting others seeing their tattoo as it served as an external mark of the collective guilt of a society. Others wanted to forget the past and Gunter gently covered the numbers with faces of loved ones, or flowers. He looked at each person and gently reflected their soul into the tattoo, trying his best to cover over his own guilt and that of the other tattooists.
Some people who did what he did called themselves ‘tattoo artists’ but to his clients and himself he was always ‘the tattooist’.
Although Gunter never regarded himself as an artist, his reputation grew. Now in his fifties he was the owner of a very successful business. People came from all round the country for one of his special designs. He had a gift for looking into their minds and removing from it the perfect image that would suit only them. No matter how successful he became though, he could never forget the little room in Treblinka where he had first honed his work.
One day a man came into his shop. A decade older than himself perhaps. He looked at the drawing books while Gunter finished the tattoo of his last customer. Gunter thought he didn’t look like one of the clients from the camps but he had the look of a survivor about him. He didn’t seem to be comfortable in his own skin, as if like them he carried an invisible load on his shoulders. When Gunter was finished he asked the man to sit down.
‘Please Sir, take a seat, can I get you a coffee?’
The man looked at Gunter and shook his head.
‘No thank you, I have had so many cups of coffee today. I have been so nervous you know?’
Gunter smiled. ‘Don’t worry Sir. I have tattooed so many people.’ He pointed to his head. ‘And each of them is stored right in here. I have not had one complaint yet.’
‘I like your work,’ the man replied. ‘But I have a special project for you.’
‘All my work is special Sir. Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back, and in thirty years I have never had to make a refund.’
The man shuffled uncomfortably in the chair.
‘I have a secret,’ he said. ‘Something I regret in my youth. It was youthful high spirits – you know how the young are – but I want it covered over before I go to meet my Maker, which will be very soon.’
He rolled up his shirt sleeve and showed Gunter a very old Waffen SS blood group tattoo in Gothic script just above his right elbow. B to show his blood group, in case he required a transfusion. Gunter sucked in his breath and tried not to react. Such Gothic blood tattoos were very rare and among the oldest of the Nazi tattoos he knew of. This meant the man was not just a recruit but a volunteer to the Waffen SS as early as 1937. Well before the rest of the country had jumped onto the Hitler bandwagon.
Gunter was aware of his less rare tattoo and was glad it was cold and he wore a long shirt and coat today.
‘I have never seen one before Sir, how unusual. What would you like me to do?’
‘I want it covered over,’ the man replied. ‘I do not want to go to my grave with this. Can you help me?’
Gunter worried if this was some sort of trap. Did others know about him, was he being threatened? He refused to be frightened of such an old man and took control of the situation.
‘Of course Sir, but it will hurt, being where it is, and will take some time. Do you have a design in mind?’
‘I’ll leave that to you. Just do it quickly so I can leave it behind. I know you are the best so please do this for me.’
Gunter prepared the needles, trying not to tremble. He had waited years for this opportunity to put right the past. This old man was his ticket to karma.
‘My gift is to cover up Sir, never fear. That mark will be obliterated and covered with my art.’
The man was flustered. ‘Yes, yes, I am in a hurry, just get on with it.’
In that instant Gunter knew exactly what he was going to do.
He sprayed the alcohol onto the man’s arm. Felt him shiver with its cool touch. Then he poised with the needles above him. This was going to be his masterpiece.
Being directly on the bone, the needles caused the man severe pain. He held it in, as Gunter knew he would. Gunter enjoyed feeling his pain, causing it. He had not been gentle with his first tattooed ones and now he could inflict a little on the man. Usually he talked and chatted while he worked, but an almost supernatural force took over him and he had no desire to make small talk with a man such as this. Nothing in common but a brand on their skin they had both had to accept.
At last he was finished. He looked at his work and was proud of it. The man looked nervously down.
‘You have finished at last, may I have a look?’
‘Of course Sir, let me get a mirror.’
The man looked in the mirror at the image Gunter had created of his soul. A man in a Nazi uniform, wearing a pair of jackboots, stood on top of a pyramid of small crushed bleeding bodies.
‘I have covered over your brand to your satisfaction?’
The man looked at Gunter and smiled.
‘I have at most a week to live. I hope when I go to meet my Maker he will be satisfied with your work. How much do I owe you?’
‘For this there is no charge Sir, for now we are equals.’ Gunter smiled. ‘Good Day to you Sir.’
He turned his back and when he looked round the man had left the shop.
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Meet MAXIMUS (the new ATOS) and its list of scandals in the US

Originally posted on Pride's Purge:

(not satire – it’s the UK today!)

The coalition government has chosen a VERY controversial US private company to run its new health assessment service to be called the Health and Work Service.

In march, a US firm called Maximus will take over from discredited French firm ATOS to carry out fitness-to-work assessments for disabled and sick benefits recipients.

And from this month any employee who is sick enough to have to claim sick leave from work for more than 4 weeks will be assessed – mostly by phone – by employees of MAXIMUS.

Apart from the ludicrous assumption that sick people can be assessed over the telephone, for some reason, when the UK government decided to hand the lucrative contract to run the service over to MAXIMUS, they also decided to ignore the numerous scandals that have embroiled the company in the US.

Here are just a few examples:

Lawmakers lash out at Maximus for questionable…

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Christmas in a cold climate

For many of us 2014has been a year we will happily say goodbye too. Friends have lost those they hold so dear. In the words of Depeche mode. “I don’t want to start any blasphemous rumours but I think that God has a sick sense of humour and when I die I expect to find him laughing.”I just have no words for the grief my friends live with. Grief is such a personal thing we can only  observe and mumble some reassuring words. Am thinking of you all.

Yes my name is Sandra and I am a bit of a humbug. As well as personal grief I grieve for the country, which seems to be slipping so much more to the right. Malthus has been mentioned a few times during this festive season with cold calculations about mouths to feed and I realise things haven’t moved on so far. So many families arefacing  a heat or eat Christmas. This is not absurd nonsense or a moral tale laughed at by Ian Duncan Smith but a harsh reality. Poverty is cruel and cold at any time of the year but it especially bites harder now.

Those who have the most are the greatest advocates of a simple Christmas but we all have been sold the capitalist dream. Those of us who because of the day to day struggles of prepayment card energy and food poverty feel guilty that we can’t provide for our bairns but we are all jock Tamson’s bairns.

I fear what is coming to my friends’ and my own family next year. Things are going to get much worse. The continual cuts which are having the most affect on people with disabilities, the swinging benefit reforms and sanctions are hitting us hard. Self Directed Support being enforced. Don’t get me wrong it should be a good thing but not in it’s present state which means the poorest families are being bullied into accepting packages which do not meet their loved ones needs. In a past life I worked as a day centre officer offered a good service loved my job but what happens when you pay mickey mouse wages? Winterbourne.

We will be having a lovely wee Christmas though and I wish everyone well. I promise I will be there at your side next year in every way I can. That is why I am a socialist and most importantly a member of the human race.

Much Love

Sandra. x


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