POVERTY in Glasgow ensured that what was once "the second city of the empire" now had worse health outcomes than overseas territories which have been ravaged by war, George Galloway declared yesterday as he launched his manifesto to become an MSP.
The former Glasgow Hillhead MP returned to his former seat to launch his manifesto with a pledge to oppose all government cuts, reintroduce student grants and retrieve 100 million of cash "stolen" by the Con-Lib Dem coalition to pay for improved services in Glasgow.
Noting statistics which show that men in the most deprived parts of the city can expect to die aged 53.9 years, he compared it to the life expectancy in the war-torn Palestinian city of Gaza, where men are likely to live for 70 years.
Condemning the state of public services in the city, he claimed there are "potholes that a Chilean miner could climb down". He added: "The level of deprivation in this city is a national scandal and a national disgrace."
He said that, if elected, he would campaign to end the council tax. "We would be for scrapping the council tax and having a system which is directly related to the ability to pay, so that the more you earn the more you pay," he said.
Other commitments in Mr Galloway's Respect manifesto include backing for a new grant for students "paid for by taking the money from the rich elite through progressive taxation".The politician said he would also back the full retention of the Educational Maintenance Allowance, which pays students a sum to stay on at college.
Insisting he would "noise up" Holyrood if elected in May, he appealed to Labour and SNP voters in particular to back him on the regional list vote, saying that around 11,500 votes throughout the city would be enough to win him a seat.
In a typically outspoken press conference, he claimed that Labour was now heading for almost certain defeat on 5 May, as a consequence of what he described as their "dull and negative" campaign. He added: "The situation we appear to be finding is that the SNP is going to win and win very comfortably."
Mr Galloway said that, as a consequence, his chances of holding sway over any post-election negotiations were receding. However, he said that he and fellow independent Margo MacDonald would seek to "metaphorically hold hands" in pursuing initiatives from the back-benches.
He said he had also agreed to tone down his attacks on the standard of MSPs, as a result of contacts with Ms MacDonald. "Margo has persuaded me that the standard of MSPs is not so universally low as I had been making out," he said.