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Frome plane tree saved!

April 11th, 2014 by

38 Degrees Member Julian from Frome heard that a landmark local tree was at risk of being chopped down by developers, so he started a petition on Campaigns by You to stop them. Last week they had some great news, the tree was saved!

Here’s Julian’s story of his campaign:

Photo courtesy Frome Times

“In February this year, a property developer applied for a planning application to fell a mature London Plane Tree in my town – Frome in Somerset. Just 6 months ago, the tree had been granted a Tree Preservation Order, but unfortunately the TPO would not save the tree from Pangmore Development’s application if approved by Mendip District Council.
One of the last trees in the town centre and certainly the last tree of note in the Kingsway precinct, the Plane is a specimen town centre tree and plays a major contribution in the character of the Conservation Area. Its felling would be a major loss to the aesthetic quality of the town.

I was concerned that the tree would be lost, so I set up a petition on the 38 degrees website ‘Save the Frome Plane Tree‘, and publicised it using social media. At first I recognised names on the petition – friends and people I knew around the town – but fairly soon it went ‘mini-viral’ at a rate of knots, and seemed to take on a life of its own. I was hoping for a few hundred signatures of support, but within a week the petition had gained 2,745 signatures – almost exclusively with Frome postcodes – and I realised the strength of feeling for Frome’s green monument.

Around 10% of the town’s population had signed up.

While the petition counted as only one objection to the planning application in the eyes of the council, it raised awareness of the trees plight and prompted 80 people to write letters of objection. I delivered the petition personally to the Council who were visible surprised at the level of support, and I knew then that it had made an impact.

On 3 April, the Council rejected the application to fell, applying a permanent Tree Preservation Order, so the Frome Plane Tree lives to fight another day.

The 38 degrees petition undoubtably went a long way to securing this outcome, it was easy to set up and manage,and I cannot recommend it highly enough as a tool for galvanising local support for campaigns that matter to local people. It works.”

If there’s an issue close to your heart you can start your own campaign here: http://you.38degrees.org.uk it takes just a couple of minutes to get started.

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NHS: What is the Hospital Closure Clause?

February 20th, 2014 by

What is the Hospital Closure clause?

Health Minister Jeremy Hunt is trying to quickly change the law to make it much easier and faster to close local hospitals and A&Es without any proper consultation of local people. This comes off the back of him losing two court cases after trying to illegally shut down Lewisham Hospital. A clause has been added on to the care bill, which will change the law that was used to stop Jeremy Hunt.

The sweeping new powers granted by the clause mean decisions about local hospital provision could be taken in as little as 40 days, regardless of how well hospitals are performing.  If this becomes law then it means that every hospital could be under threat of closure.

Read more on the clause here.

How urgent is this campaign?

The bill started in the House Of Lords and will have its final vote in the House of Commons in early March. This could be the final chance that MPs have to vote on the bill, so it really is crunch time.

You can visit the Parliament website to see how the bill has passed through the Houses of Parliament

What are the papers saying?

NOTE: The Hospital Closure Clause was previously called clause 118, but has now changed to clause 119

The Guardian: Clause 118 of care bill threatens hospitals with downsizing or closure
Public outcry saved Lewisham hospital, now the government wants to change the law to ensure that it can reconfigure hospital provision as it so desires. … read more

New Statesman: Clause 118 would leave no hospital in England safe
The new regulation would allow Jeremy Hunt to close any hospital or department in Britain and rob the public of their right to protest. … read more

What has happened so far?

38 Degrees member Louise Irvine who is the chair of the Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign has started a petition on Campaigns By You, which has already got over 145,000 signatures.

She will be handing in the petition on Thursday 27th February and is asking people to join her at a public rally.

What can I do now?

Spread the word! The more that we can turn this into a big national issue, the more chance we have of pressuring the government to drop this unpopular Hospital closure clause.

Share this blog post using the buttons below:


Comment below on what you think. Are you part of a campaign to save your local hospital?

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Thought for the day

February 7th, 2014 by

Bishop Harries talked about 38 Degrees on his “Thought for the day” piece on the Today Programme on Radio 4 this morning.

You can listen to an MP3 recording of what he said here.

In his thought for the day he said

“Public expectations and public pressure can change things for the better.

I’ve been amazed recently by the power of public pressure when it’s exercised through digital communication.

One group which is prepared to campaign on a range of topics … has more than 2 million supporters

Politics is no longer just for politicians, we all have a voice and can bring it to bear in unprecedented ways.”

Listen to an MP3 recording of his thought for the day here .

Bishop Harries was the chaired the The Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement the independent body which carried out a series of countrywide consultations and lobbied to reduce the negative impact of the gagging law.


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2014 New Year poll results

February 3rd, 2014 by

At the beginning of the year thousands of 38 Degrees members completed a short survey to look at the year ahead.

What would be the big issues? What do people value about living in the UK? and what 38 Degrees members should do during elections?

Here are the results from that survey:

The last question was asked before the final vote on the gagging law took place.  Until the law comes into effect, in a few months time, there will be big questions to ask about how 38 Degrees members can campaign on issues, especially around the upcoming election.

However as you can see from the results, 38 Degrees members strongly believe that we should be campaigning on the issues that are important to us all, and making sure we hold MPs and candidates to account on pre-election promises.

So watch this space to help us all decide together on our next moves.

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It worked!

January 16th, 2014 by

Great news. Last night the government was defeated in a crucial House of Lords vote on the gagging law.  A key change which took out one of the worst parts of the bill was voted through. There’s more to do, but this is a huge step forward.

Over 160,000 people signed the last-minute petition to ask Lords to back these important changes. It helped tip the balance and people power worked! The petition was integral in winning the vote and persuading Lords to protect freedom of speech.

Just before the big vote, Lord Harries – who proposed the changes – was handed the massive petition, and he referred to it several times during the debate.

The proposed changes were backed by Lords from across the political spectrum. Lord Tyler, an influential Lib Dem peer, joined with Baroness Mallalieu (Labour) and Lord Cormack (Conservative), to support the amendment.  The government were defeated by 237 votes to 194.

Lord Harries receiving the petition in the House of Lords just before the debate.

Lord Harries said:

“Thank you to everyone who added their name to the petition. It was amazingly powerful that I was able to tell fellow Lords during the debate, that I had with me a petition with the names of over 130 NGOs who had signed up to the petition and a staggering 160,000+ signatures of people who have spoken out about this dangerous law.

This was an impressive achievement which will not have been lost on their lordships. As a result, I am pleased to say that we defeated the Government on some of the worst parts of their proposals.“

The campaign is working and together we’ve got the government on the back foot. But we’re not out of the woods yet. Next week, on the 21st January, the Lords will hold their final vote on changes to the law.

And if we manage to push through further changes, there’s a chance that the government may try to undo our hard work by calling a fresh vote in the House of Commons. So we’ll each need to keep an eye on our MPs!

“Thanks so much to everyone who’s taken action against the gagging law so far. It’s been amazing to see people power in action. We’ve made great strides in protecting democracy, but the fight’s not over yet”
Liz Hutchins – Friends of the Earth

It’s been an amazing campaign so far, with 38 Degrees members up and down the country throwing the kitchen sink at the gagging law. This isn’t the first time that 38 Degrees members have caused a stir on a big vote in Parliament, together we’ve won votes on protecting our forests, stopping Rupert Murdoch and the privatisation of the NHS.

But this is about more than just political point scoring. Some of our core values are around protecting democracy and fairness, 38 Degrees members have shown again that we will stand up and be counted to protect these fundamental beliefs.

Here’s a little more detail on what happened in the Lords last night:

Lord Harries’ amendment (amendment 45) centred on staff costs for charities and campaign groups.

The government wanted the gagging law to place heavy restrictions on how much campaigning work staff at charities or campaigning groups could do. That could have meant, for example, limits on how many public meetings about the NHS 38 Degrees staff could help organise.

Amendment 45 removed most of these restrictions on staff.

You can see the wording of the amendment, and a full list of who voted for it, here

There are still other big problems with the gagging law – such as restrictions on campaigning in individual constituencies, and restrictions which hinder charities and campaign groups working together in coalitions. Votes on these issues were postponed until next week – so there’ll be more to do to make sure they go the right way!

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Gagging law: It’s crunch time

January 10th, 2014 by

Finally we’re getting somewhere. Yesterday the government announced plans to water down key parts of their gagging law.  It’s not enough, but it is progress. If we keep the pressure up now, there’s a real chance we can get further big changes.

Lords gather for one of their last debates to vote on the gagging on Wednesday. Lord Harries – one of the key Lords trying to stop this threat to democracy - is tabling amendments which would help protect freedom of speech. We need to help him win those votes.

A big petition will help Lord Harries win. He will carry it into the debating chamber – and announce the total signatures – right before the debate starts. Our signatures will prove to wavering peers that the public is against this threat to democracy.

The vote is on Wednesday, so please sign now

Yesterday’s breakthrough shows that it’s worth us keeping on campaigning. People-powered pressure, together with the actions in parliament of some sympathetic Lords, are forcing the government to back down bit by bit. Most notably the efforts of cross-bencher Lord Harries and the Commission for Civil Society and Democratic Engagement, concerned Lib Dems such as Lord Tyler, and opposition parties including Labour.

The risk is that the government will use these partial changes to avoid making bigger improvements. But that’s a risk we can see off. If enough of us sign the petition we can prove to the Lords that we still expect them to vote to protect democracy.

Over 50 charities and campaigning groups, including Hope Not Hate, Friends of the Earth, The Countryside Alliance and Oxfam have already signed up in support of this petition.

Please now help it grow further by adding your signature too

Here’s a bit more detail on the concessions made by the government yesterday. They announced that:

-Certain campaign costs, including translation and accessibility for the deaf or blind people, won’t be restricted.
-The time period which the gagging law would apply for the 2015 election will be reduced from 12 months to 7.5 months
-Some really small campaign groups who don’t spend much money will be exempted.
-The government will have to carry out a review of the law after the 2015 election.

But while these are important there are still some much bigger problems:

-The amount of time that staff working for charities or campaigning groups will be allowed to spend campaigning will still be severely limited.
-There are still big new restrictions on what campaigners can do in a single constituency.
-The rules could prevent different charities and campaign groups from working together in coalition, threatening initiatives like Make Poverty History and Stop Climate Chaos.

Make sure your name is on the petition when it’s presented to the Lords on Wednesday - add your name now


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More gagging law petition hand in reports

December 11th, 2013 by

38 Degrees members up and down the length of the UK have been visiting their MPs to hand in a copy of the gagging law petition.  Over 100 petition hand in events have been organised already, with MPs of every political colour meeting their constituents to discuss the gagging law.  To find out if there is a petition hand in with your MP, or to help set one up if there isn’t yet, just click here and put in your postcode.

Here are some more reports and pictures from members who’ve already met their MP:

Vale of Glamorgan – Alun Cairns MP

Half a dozen 38 Degree members came along and they were all allowed in to the room and sat while Alun and I had a proper debate. He did his usual slippery subject-changing tactics but I managed to pull the conversation bad to the case in hand many times. He’s promised to look into two aspects of the matter for me:

- to find out where the amendment situation is by now (neither he or I had that information to hand) and to see whether they provided clear enough definitions of issue-based and political campaigning that all the charities and organisations that we believe so strongly in their work don’t get “caught up in the coat tails of the bill” as he so eloquently put it.

- to look into the possibility of pausing the bill for six months or so for proper consultation.

I’m not holding my breath (he’s voted against amendments and for the bill before) but he at least conceded that issue-based campaigning shouldn’t be sucked into party political/election rules.

38 Degrees member Donal

Bolton – David Crausby MP

Members of 38 Degrees met David Crausby yesterday and handed over the petition. Whilst declining to write or speak personally to Labour Lords he agreed to speak to Sadiq Khan who is the Commons link man for the Lords. He also said he would try to ensure the petition itself was promulgated further as it was valuable.

38 Degrees member Christine

Kenilworth and Southam – Jeremy Wright MP

I started by giving Mr Wright the letter from David Babbs and the actual petition and highlighting the Commission for Civil Society and Democratic Engagement’s report including the high-profile commissioners and the date that the report was produced.

I then asked Mr Wright if he could commit to reading the report and, if his stance changes upon reading it, whether he could then speak to any Lords he knows to propose the necessary amendments and then support any amendments that return to the Commons. Lastly I did ask if he felt strongly enough if he would write to any Lords calling for the bill to scrapped or fixed, however I qualified that with an understanding that as a Minister that might be difficult.

Mr Rukin was then able to clearly demonstrate the impact this bill will have directly on campaigns like StopHS2 and I felt that Mr Wright’s understanding of the issues this bill will cause was improved by Mr Rukin’s account. I won’t attempt to give you a detailed account of Mr Rukin’s argument, but will be interested if he would like to outline it in a response.

Mr Wright highlighted that Part 2 is attempting to prevent political parties from circumventing the main thrust of the bill by campaigning via proxy. I agree with him that this is something that needs to be included, but not in the way in which it is currently worded and not without proper consultation. I felt Mr Wright was sympathetic to this view.

Mr Wright committed to reading the report and I felt that he would give it a truly unbiased reading and I now have a hope that he will change his stance on Part 2. Mr Wright was very clear that he was only committing to reading the report.

38 Degrees member Colin

Bury South – Ivan Lewis MP

Six 38 degrees members, Neville, Paul, Vicki, Brian, Maria and Brian handed a copy of the Gagging Law petition into Ivan Lewis the MP for Bury South on Sunday 8th December at Ivan’s constituency office (see attached picture). In addition 5 local councillors and the local labour party manager also attended as they had signed the petition and were concerned about this bill becoming law. The group talk in depth for almost an hour about the bill and the implications it would have if the bill went through in its present format. Ivan Lewis assured us that both he and the Labour party will do everything they can to ensure that the bill continues to be paused until Part II of the bill is rewritten and scrutinised to ensure that it does not impact on individuals and groups democratic rights or until the bill is scrapped.

38 Degrees member Maria

Stone – Bill Cash MP

We arrived in good time for our appointment, luckily, as it was market day and the town was full and car parking a premium.
We were greeted by an enthusiastic group of 38 degree members 30 in total, who spotted us by our large orange box with the 38 degree poster on the front, they quickly rounded everyone up for photos. Which should already be with you.
Our appointment was late, but finally we were able to present him with the petition, the letter and disk.
He said he was in-favour of campaigning, and had in the past par-taken in many.
He said he would support this campaign by using the petition to lobby the relevant people.
He was in agreement regarding the second part of this Bill, but had reservations about some charities that may be political. I think he was surprised at the size of the petition.
Hope this action helps and well done to the 28 other 38 degree members who supported us, after struggling to park and attend.

38 Degrees members Helen & Harry


You can read about more gagging law petition hand ins here

If we work together, we can make sure every MP is visited by a group of 38 Degrees members in their constituency with a copy of our massive petition against the gagging law. And if MPs are convinced their constituents are against it, they’ll be putting pressure on the government to pull the plug on the gagging law.

So could you book an appointment with your MP for 38 Degrees members in your constituency to give them the petition? All you have to do is click this link and enter your postcode. Then you’ll get their phone number and be guided through making the call.

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Gagging law petition hand-ins across the country

December 9th, 2013 by

38 Degrees members up and down the length of the UK have been visiting their MPs to hand in a copy of the gagging law petition.  Over 100 petition hand in events have been organised already, with MPs of every political colour meeting their constituents to discuss the gagging law.  To find out if there is a petition hand in with your MP, or to help set one up if there isn’t yet, just click here and put in your postcode.

Here are some reports and pictures from members who’ve already met their MP:

Yeovil – David Laws MP

yeovil hand in
… 25 people turned up to help me hand in the petition to David Laws – I thought I would be doing it on my own!  I attach a photo of the event.  David Laws was quite put out and unprepared by the number of people and the anger they felt and kept waffling on about campaigning in the US and how they didn’t want that to happen here etc. and that the bill was about controlling campaign expenditure so that  in effect buy the election cannot be brought.  Many members of the crowd expressed their anger to DL at this bill.  DL said that the bill was not aimed at charities and campaigning organisations like 38degrees.  It was all very interesting and very heartening.  I had no idea so many other people in the sleepy little market town of Ilminster, Somerset agreed with me.  So thank you for the opportunity!  I collected the email addresses of everyone at the meeting so that I can thank them and David Laws wants to write to us all!  It was surprising and very satisfying to be in a crowd who all felt the same way …

38 Degrees member Ry

Bambury – Tony Baldry MP

Various people from different ages, backgrounds & political affiliation went to see Tony Baldry today to hand in a petition to pause or scrap the Government’s controversial gagging law, soon due for its 3rd Reading. One petitioner wore an elastoplast over her mouth to symbolise the gagging we fear will result from the passing of this bill. Mr. Baldry arrived just on time but did not want to go indoors to his office as he deemed there were too many people to accommodate. When asked if he would answer our questions he curtly refused, saying the appointment was booked for a petition hand over & nothing else.

However, his opening statement, assuring us that the proposed bill did not, in fact, gag anyone was met with disbelief & we asked him questions relating to his stand on the bill, & his voting record. We asked him to lobby the Lords as well as the Commons to at least pause to consider the wording of the bill as we felt it was too vague & open to a very elastic interpretation. Mr. Baldry then became quite agitated & said he was surprised that any of his constituents could be against a bill restricting the amount of money third parties could contribute to a political party’s election campaign & that we were being undemocratic. We responded that democracy was what we cared about, not money & asked again why the bill had been rushed through with no consultation of the groups affected by the proposed legislation, why he would not respond to various government & non-government bodies that have been severely critical of the way in which it has been drafted & the uncertainty it would create. Unfortunately, he could do nothing more than repeat himself, accusing us again of undemocratic behaviour.

We tried again to get a commitment to action asking him to at least read the report by the Commission on Civil Society & Democratic Engagement on Non-Party Campaigning Ahead Of Elections which we presented to him on behalf of 38 Degrees, along with a petition signed by 118,179 people (“not all MY constituents ha, ha” he quipped). Mr. Baldry seemed in a hurry to depart & gathered up his bags & scurried off after only 12 minutes of our allotted 30 minutes time.

The general feeling was that Mr. Baldry had already made up his mind (or his whip had) but we hoped that the size of the petition & the arguments therein might just give him pause for thought.

38 Degrees member Ian 

Maida Vale & North Kensington – Karen Buck MP

Attached is a photo of a group handing over the petition to Karen Buck, MP for Maida Vale and N Kensington, today.

She was very receptive, described the bill as a pile of rubbish and said it would be chucked out by the Lords. She also wanted to be sure that 38 degrees planned to hand over the petition to Parliament.

38 Degrees member Caroline 

Bristol South – Dawn Primarolo MP

Please find picture of me presenting petition to my MP Dawn Primarolo.
38 Degrees member Paul

South East Cornwall – Sheryll Murray MP

This morning I set out, petition in hand and I was at the allocated meeting place on time. I was not there long before I was met by the first person to join me. And they kept coming! I was expecting no more than 10 but half an hour later 25 concerned citizens had arrived, willing to put aside some time on their Saturday to register their disapproval to the proposed “Gagging Law”. Illness and disability were not enough to deter a couple who attended; they were determined to see their MP and demand that this proposed law should not be accepted in its current state.

I highly recommend that you take part in such and event. The people I met were and eclectic group from all parts of our society. Drawn together under a single common cause. This was not a politically united group and I have no doubt that any of the current political questions would find us happily divided.

Sheryll Murray MP was unavoidably delayed and she had a very busy schedule so maybe that was the reason that she was so dismissive. We handed her the petition and clearly articulated our objections. However she had been poorly briefed and was confused as to what or petition was for. Once she understood our cause she cited the “problems highlighted in Falkirk” and how this must be avoided in the future. We re-iterated our objection to a restriction on free speech and our concerns that even charities may be gagged. Once she understood that we were simply concerned citizens who had been pulled together by social media she dismissed us and suggested, to our horror, that we were “being manipulated”. She swept away to her next meeting while we were still spluttering in outrage.

It has been years, maybe decades since I have been so summarily dismissed. If an MP can disregard her own constituents so easily is it any surprise that the comedian Russell Brand can get so much airtime on political issues? I suspect that many of those who gave up their time to protest have been left disillusioned and humiliated by the experience. Personally, I am resolved to campaign more on this issue and also support 38 Degrees further. It seems that our MPs need to wake up to their responsibilities to their constituents. Whilst I am sure that the games in Parliament are much more entertaining for them, they definitely need to be reminded that they are not allowed to play unless we, the voters, let them!

38 Degrees member Simon

If we work together, we can make sure every MP is visited by a group of 38 Degrees members in their constituency with a copy of our massive petition against the gagging law. And if MPs are convinced their constituents are against it, they’ll be putting pressure on the government to pull the plug on the gagging law.

So could you book an appointment with your MP for 38 Degrees members in your constituency to give them the petition? All you have to do is click this link and enter your postcode. Then you’ll get their phone number and be guided through making the call.

Posted in 38 Degrees Blog Posts, Gagging law

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Member meet-ups in Brighton Kemptown and Hove

November 20th, 2013 by

38 Degrees members in Hove

Last night 38 Degrees members in Hove and Brighton Kemptown met up to discuss the gagging law.

Two successful meetings happened, with 32 members meeting in the Stoneham pub in Hove and another 25 meeting up in the Royal Oak pub in Kemptown.  We discussed plans on how to put pressure on Mike Weatherley and Simon Kirby over the controversial law, which could massively restrict charities and campaign groups for a whole year before elections.

Members from all political persuasions and backgrounds came along, and had a great discussion about the passage of the law through parliament and what we can do to help fix or scrap it.  Several people mentioned how it was really nice to meet up with other local 38 degrees members from where they live, some of whom they may walk past in the street every day.

Ideas from writing to local papers and charities through to holding public stalls or publicity stunts to raise awareness were discussed.

Watch this space to see what happens next…

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Gagging Law: Orkney Update

November 12th, 2013 by

image of Orkney

38 Degrees members in Orkney held an important meeting about the gagging law with Lord Jim Wallace of Tankerness, the leader of the Liberal Democrats in the house of Lords. Here’s what Gill had to say:

Orkney Campaigners score a first

An unusual meeting took place on Saturday 9th Centre – local Members of 38 Degrees who have been campaigning to change the “Anti-Lobbying Bill” (full title The Transparency in Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning, and Trade Union Administration Bill) sat down to discuss their concerns with Lord Jim Wallace of Tankerness.

Despite major issues being raised by a wide and diverse range of charitable and campaigning groups, large and small – from the RSPB and Friends of the Earth to the Countryside Alliance, Save the Children, the Royal British Legion and the Womens’ Institute to MIND Scotland – the Bill completed its first passage through the House of Commons. However, following a highly critical report from former Bishop Richard Harries’s Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement, the House of Lords has agreed to delay consideration of Part 2 of the Bill, which deals with restrictions on campaigning by non-party political groups. The government has now promised to consult widely and declared its willingness to look at amendments to the proposed legislation.

There are only a few weeks left for consultation; having already had two meetings with Alistair Carmichael, MP, Orkney campaigners were among the first in the queue, and the only local group so far to have the rare opportunity to meet directly with a Member of the House of Lords. From the outset, Lord Wallace described himself as “in listening mode”, wanting detail of peoples’ concerns, and a lively meeting rehearsed some of the key issues. The Bill’s combination of a loose definition of “political campaigning”, a wide range of restricted activities, tight spending limits and burdensome administration, was said to be likely to prevent many groups from getting on with their normal business. Human Rights and Equalities issues were also raised, and Lord Wallace was interested to hear about the worries about the particular impact in Scotland, where disproportionately low spending limits are proposed and where more frequent election periods may restrict charities’ campaigning much of the time.

Lord Wallace promised to raise these issues with the government sponsors of the Bill, and to keep campaigners informed of progress. Gill Smee, who organised the meeting, said: “People are really alarmed about how this Bill could restrict campaigning by charities and small groups, tying them up in red tape and threatening them with costly legal action. Lots of people have strong political views, and want to be able to influence what happens, but don’t want to join one of the traditional parties. 38 Degrees has brought a surprising number of people in Orkney together to raise these concerns. I was really pleased that we were able to have a constructive meeting with Lord Wallace, and that the government is at last prepared to listen and look at changing this Bill”.

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