Saturday, 13 December 2008

Playing catch up

It's been quite the month. I've been running from meeting to meeting for weeks now, with little time to blog what I've been doing. This week, for example, as well as different things during the day, I was out until after nine at various events on Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday night was my surgery, Thursday was full Council and our work night out, and Friday was spent trying to deal with all the stuff I hadn't managed during the week! Still, nearly Christmas and time for a wee break.

I've flicked back through my diary for the past month, and will now attempt to give you edited 'highlights'! November first...

Monday 17th November - new boiler fitted. We've had no heating since we moved into this flat over a year ago, so this was a wonderful development. Toasty warm.

Tuesday 18th November - was at the relaunch of the Childrens Dental Service at Bridgeton Health Centre. Some wee ones from Bridgeton Family Learning Centre performed a song and everyone '"ahhh'd". The event was both to highlight the service already being provided, and to remind people that oral health, particularly in young children, is really important for general health and development. I remember going to a children's dental service in Wishaw growing up, and was horrified by the gruesome pictures of decayed mouths. It seems that these pictures are still a reality for many children, so the NHS in Glasgow are working with nurseries to make toothbrushing part of the daily routine. There's still a lot to be done in educating parents and working with the nurseries still to fully sign up to the scheme, but progress is slowly being made.

Also on the 18th, I visited the Dennistoun Support Service, which is being threatened with closure. The future of the service was to be considered at the CHCP board the following week and I wanted to see it for myself. It's very important to those who use it, but the physical condition of the one-room centre isn't ideal. Whatever decision is to be taken, the needs of the service users and staff must be paramount.

Wednesday 19th November - I attended the opening of Molendinar Park's new social housing development. This was a really great event to be at, having seen the development rise out of the ground over several months. The homes really are beautiful. The development itself is of great architechtural merit, having been designed by four firms on the one site - Page & Park, JM, Richard Murphy and Elder & Canon. The result is something quite special. What really made the day for me was speaking to one constituent who I had been fighting to get moved from the dismally poor homes further along the Gallowgate. He told me about the difference the move had made to his life; how much happier and more secure he felt. I'm very glad for him, and wish him all the best.

Wednesday also saw my Gran and her friend visit me at the City Chambers, a visit to a community group, and my surgery in the evening. Then I went to the Scotland - Argentina game!

Thursday 20th November - I attended the East End Drugs Forum AGM. This brings together many service providers across the East, and ties them in with the views and experiences of service users and their families. Some service users put on a very moving play, showing how difficult recovery from alcohol addiction can be. The event ran on the previous evening too, (at the same time as my surgery!) and was a huge success with a large turnout.

I had a very thought-provoking meeting in the afternoon regarding how blind and partially sighted people can be hampered by the city centre. More on this to come.

Friday 21st November - catching up with casework, and a visit to the Civic Amenity Site at Dawsholm to see the improvements to the recycling facilities there.

22nd and 23rd November
- there appears to be nothing in my diary, so I may have had this weekend off. I don't remember it!

Monday 24th November - Meeting of the East Community Health and Care Partnership (CHCP). I asked a lot of questions, and got some answers. I stood up for the service users and staff at the Dennistoun Support Service and got support from other members of the committee. I really enjoy the CHCP; there are so many interrelated health and social issues in the east of Glasgow that it can be difficult to see where to start, but the CHCP is certainly a good place to bring things together. I'll be joined shortly on the committee by Bailie McDonald. John Mason previously served on the CHCP and I've been the sole SNP Councillor there since his victory in Glasgow East. Having someone else to share the work of decoding lengthy papers will be really welcome!

After the CHCP, I attended a meeting to discuss our tactics for the following day's Land and Environmental Services Committee, and then SNP Council Group's fortnightly Group Meeting. The day finished brilliantly with some ice skating at the opening of the ice rink on George Square. I love ice skating and used to go every week in my early teens. I'd not been on the ice in years and felt a bit apprehensive in case I fell! I was inspired by 74 year old Mildred (pictured, from the Evening Times) who was whizzing around and I soon found my ice legs. It was totally exhilarating.

Tuesday 25th November - Surgery in the morning, followed by catching up on case work for much of the rest of the day. In the early evening I attended a seminar put on by Glasgow Centre for Population Health. The seminars are very interesting, and always make you pause from life as normal and think of the bigger picture and the reasons why we do things. In this lecture, Professor Avner Offer spoke on the question 'Should Government try to make us happy?'. He believed that it is best to concentrate on the reasons why certain of the populace are unhappy - poverty and deprivation for a start - but gave insight into things like the relationship between GDP and happiness. The lecture was so captivating, I missed body combat...

Wednesday 26th November - today showed one of the annoyances of being only one person. I can't be in more than one place at one time, and found myself double booked twice. Parkhead Credit Union and Pensioners Action Group East both had AGMs at 10am. I decided to go to the Credit Union first but was fairly late for PAGE as a result. I've agreed to to along to their next meeting to make up for it! I did stay for a chat (with tea and freshly baked scones - I took half a dozen back to the office too!) at Calton Parkhead Church. Land and Environmental Service PDS Committee met in the afternoon, and I asked plenty of questions on issues from elected members support to pot holes. Attending this meant I couldn't make a meeting on housing in my ward, which is pretty frustrating. I'm enjoying the committee, and finding ways to root out the important details. More work in the office, then my surgery in the evening.

Thursday 27th November - The last Thursday of the month is a crazy one. Three or four organisations usually hold their meetings, and I have to do my best to get round them all as often as possible. Tonight was Friends of Glasgow Green, the Calton Area Association AGM, and Auchenshuggle Community Council. FOGG was cancelled due to some venue problems, so I headed to the CAA AGM. This was very well attended despite sleet and hail! By the time it finished up, it was sadly too late to make it out to Auchenshuggle. Next time!

Friday 28th November - I had a meeting with the Chief Executive and staff of Clyde Gateway in the morning. Clyde Gateway is an urban regeneration company, charged with the sizeable task of bringing business, jobs and development to the inner east end of Glasgow, and part of South Lanarkshire. It was great to get an update on their work, and see the committment of their staff to improving the area. They also have strong views on how to avoid the disappoinment of previous projects. I'm very encouraged about the progress being made.

Saturday 29th November - Shettleston SNP had a workday in the morning to celebrate St Andrew's day. We handed out leaflets and saltires at the Forge, and were well recieved by shoppers. I think some people were surprised to see politicians and activists outwith an election!

Sunday 30th November - I visited my grandparents. My Gran and Papa Thewliss live in Motherwell and my Gran White in Wishaw and I really don't get out to see them enough. It was a nice finish to the month!

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Terry Waite comes to Bridgeton


At the start of the week, I got an invite I couldn't possibly turn down. Emmaus, a charity which works with homeless people, were inviting me to the opening of their superstore. I had already put the date in my diary, when I finished reading the invitation letter; the official ribbon-cutting was to be done by Terry Waite.

Terry Waite is one of the figures whose very name conjures up a hushed respect. His release after 1,760 days in captivity as a hostage was one of the big events (along with Nelson Mandela, Piper Alpha, Lockerbie and Motherwell winning the Scottish Cup) that I remember from my childhood.

I wasn't expecting Terry Waite to be a giant in a physical sense as well as a figurative sense - definitely a larger than life figure. I was hugely impressed by his kindness and patience. He took time to speak to the many people at the opening, whether they were Companions, trustees, press, politicians or shoppers. Lorraine Kelly, who was due to co-host the opening, somehow failed to show so Terry drafted in a nine-year-old girl to cut the ribbon with him. He then managed to shake the hand of almost everyone who came in. Complete gentleman, and I'm very glad and humbled to have met him.

The store itself is very impressive - as you can see from the picture below. The furniture is of an excellent standard and there are a few pieces I'm hoping to go back and buy later. Emmaus Bridgeton are also hosting reconditioned carpets from Spruce. Both organisations will come and collect from your home, so instead of letting the bin men take things away for landfill please, please give them a call!




Culinary Excellence

I was delighted to be invited to a very special lunch on Friday at the City Inn by the Depute Head of Eastbank Academy. The occasion was the culmination of thirteen weeks of hard work by six senior Hospitality students; an opportunity to show off their skills to assembled guests.

This is part of the Council's Culinary Excellence programme, which gives pupils the opportunity to expand on the skills they learn in the classroom and see how they would cope in the world of work. They are supported by their teachers and by staff at the hotel, both in the kitchens and in the front of house duties. At the table I was at, a Chef from another hotel participating in the scheme told us how much the young people get from the experience, and the difference in their attitudes over the course of the once-a-week placement.

The meal was fantastic - salmon tartare to start, lamb for the main course, and tarte tatin for desert. All delicious and impecably presented. I was very impressed by the professionalism of the young women who were doing the serving duties - far better than the service I've experienced from staff in other eateries.

Certificates were presented to the six participants at the end of the meal, with glowing recommendations from City Inn staff. It's important to recognise the contribution made by the hotels - without them, the scheme couldn't happen, and it's great that they feel it's worthwhile. The pupils seem to have gotten a lot out of their experience and, while they might not go on to a career in this area, they certainly all seem to have gained confidence and learned new skills. I wish them all the best!

Some voters still don't get STV

I've been meaning to blog on this since the night of the Baillieston count, but found myself with far too many other important things to catch up on! Anyway, what better way to spend my first Saturday off in months that musing on electoral processes...

Glasgow City Council seems keen to pursue e-counting, partly as Glasgow didn't have the massive problems experienced at other counts in Scotland on the 3rd and 4th of May 2007. E-counting is actually quite an interesting process, and gives incredibly detailed results showing transfers and stages of election (follow the link at the bottom of the page). As interesting as some of us find these details, the basics of Single Transferable Vote are still lost on a significant number of people.

The voters of Baillieston are the most experienced STV voters in Scotland, having now been through the 2007 election and two by elections. Despite this, my experience at the count at the most recent by election demonstrated to me that electors appear to remain unsure of how to cast their vote in an STV election.

The process at e-count works something like this. Votes arrive in their boxes from the polling station, and are first fed through scanners and checked to ensure the number of ballots in the box matches what ought to be there.

Questionable marks on the ballot paper are then examined on a screen like this (Key Correction). At all stages, computer monitors are positioned back to back so counting agents are able to see exactly what the clerk sees and chip in with their thoughts (a 1? a 4? a squiggle? an arrow? too faint to see?). Numbers are either confirmed or sent through to the next stage where the mark can be seen in context.

At this next stage (Standard Queue), ballot papers are shown in their entirety so questionable marks can be better understood. As you can see from this picture, what would have looked like a faint line on the previous screen is quite clearly a 1.

It's also at this stage where voters' uncertainty about the STV vote becomes obvious.

Lots of voters are still marking their preference with a cross, instead of ranking. This still counts, but means that their vote is only good for one candidate and one stage of the STV count process.

A good number of voters appear to have put crosses next to more than one candidate. This makes it impossible to tell which candidate or party they prefer, so their vote has to be discarded.

Some people also do things like put a 5 next to the fifth candidate; I think the guidelines could be revised to include this vote, as it's the only preference shown.

Any ballot papers still in question (particularly ones with faint marks) are then sent to the Returning Officer's queue, where representatives from all the parties haggle over what exactly the voter meant when they put that smudgy squiggle near a candidate's name.

I am concerned that there is still a lot of confusion and a lack of understanding in the electorate. The Electoral Commission's report highlighted the problems of 2007 - strikingly, most of the 38,351 local government votes rejected last year were due to over-voting or uncertainty. Less than two hundred were rejected due to the lack of an official mark or being able to identify the voter.

In Baillieston 290 votes were rejected in 2007 out of a total of 10,666. Confusion persists. 65 ballot papers were rejected out of a total of 5261 cast in the first Bailieston by election, and 57 out of 4876 in the most recent by election. What if these votes were some of the same people making the same mistake? You could argue that it's natural selection, electoral style but I don't believe that it's acceptable that any vote gets cast aside. All parties work very hard to get voters out to the polls; it's not easy to pursuade people to come out on a cold dark night to take part in the democratic process. Authorities and parties must do more to make sure that every vote cast in good faith counts.

Friday, 7 November 2008

*sigh*

Last night was pretty disappointing; there's no point in denying that.

Baillieston didn't manage to inspire Obama-esqe queues at polling stations. Turnout was only 20.9%. Full results are available on the Council website. I got the feeling that people just weren't that enthused at the idea of going out on a cold dreich night to vote. They got home from work, shut the curtains, settled down in front of the tv and stayed in for the night. Several people I spoke to were ill or looking after their kids, regretfully telling me they couldn't make it to the polls this time. Dark wintry nights are definately a factor, and I recall similar difficulties in a by-election in Renfrewshire a few years ago. It's far easier to encourage people out when it's sunny.

We put a lot of effort into Glenrothes, as you will have seen from my previous posts. Our vote increased, which is always encouraging. I got good, enthusiastic responses from voters. However, there were also places where the people were reticent, where doors went unanswered and clearly Labour managed to prevail.

I really object to references to 'defeat' - Labour had a 10,000 majority in this seat. That does not make them underdogs, it makes them front - runners. Glenrothes was simply a Labour hold, not a win.

Where our campaign was positive, theirs was crushingly negative. Scaremongering, and concentration on non-Westminster issues. People will be disappointed when Lindsay Roy fails to deliver on any of the issues he campaigned on - schools investment, anti social behaviour, and yes, even care charges. As an MP, these are right out of his remit.

I'm hoping to manage through the day without too many hefty sighs. This too will pass.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Liveblogging

05:00 Obama's acceptance speech. Unifying. Inclusive. Hopeful.

"Renewing this nation's promise."
"I will never forget who this campaign belongs to; it belongs to you
"
"this is your victory"
"I promise you, we as a people will get there"
"I will listen to you, especially when we disagree"
"democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope"
"yes we can"

I'm crying too now. See you in Glenrothes and Baillieston. Goodnight

04:37 It's 338 to 155 now, Nevada having also gone to Obama.


04:18 McCain concedes defeat. Very magnanimous, generous and complimentary. Not quite sure why he needs a teleprompter for something so simple. Will is right, too. McCain's supporters were quite badly behaved.


04:08 I'm just so excited and overcome, and it looks like I'm the only one in my entire street who's awake! Just send texts to a bunch of people. Fabulous campaign, inspiring man, incredible hope for the future.

Results are still coming in, but at present it's McCain 145 to Obama's 297. Wonder when the speeches start...

04:00 CNN CALL IT FOR OBAMA!

03:59 Virginia took their time, but CNN have finally predicted it as Obama's - the first Democrat to win there since LBJ apparently.

03:41 California, Washington, Idaho, Hawaii and Oregon are next, but there's still eight of the earlier states to confirm. C'mon Florida, pull yourself together!

03.24 CNN give Misissippi to McCain. Wish the other states would hurry it up a bit, getting a bit tired here!

03:01 CNN predict Iowa for Obama, Utah and Kansas to McCain. 89 to McCain, 206 to Obama.

03:00 Right, coming up now: Iowa, Montana, Nevada and Utah.

02:46 The footage from Chicago is truly phenomenal. There are so many people, you can't see where they end. They all look so hopeful.

02:41 McCain takes a chunk back, winning Texas. BBC says McCain 124 Obama 200.

02:29 CNN say Virginia, North Carolina and Florida are close. They only have 15% of the vote in Ohio counted - how can they possibly call it? I couldn't be sure of Glasgow East and I was seeing the votes stacking up in front of me. Feels like they're rushing this a bit?.

02:24 CNBC is projecting Ohio for Obama, Lousiana for McCain

02:15 Slightly worried by the fact that the pundits on the BBC are using twitter feeds too! Euronews continuing to run ahead (180 - 109) but is calling tiny Wyoming (3 votes) for Obama rather than the prevailing view that it's McCain's.

02:00 Fifteen more states rush in - Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, South Dakota, Texas, Nebraska, New Mexico have no date, CNN predict North Dakota and Wyoming for McCain, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Rhode Island and Wisconsin for Obama. CNN now have McCain on 49 and Obama on 174. New Hampshire and New Mexico are Senate wins for the Democrats.

01:45 Is the band at McCain HQ taking the piss? They're playing "Is she really going out with him"? There's something going wrong around here... Euronews says McCain 69 Obama 103.

01:30 BBC calls Arkansas and Alabama for McCain. Frustratingly, there's still a lot of previous states to be announced. McCain 49 Obama 103. It's interesting the difference between the Obama party in the park and the McCain bash in the ballroom; Obama is letting the public own the campaign, and the victory which I hope comes later.

01:08 Florida looking very interesting in the CNN breakdown.

01:05 No, wait, BBC says 103 Obama 34 McCain.

01:00 Polls close in fifteen states - CNN project Massachusetts, llinois, Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland, Maine, and the District of Colombia for Obama, Oklahoma and Tennessee for McCain.

All of a sudden, Obama leaps to 77 - over 43 to McCain. This thing is going fast.

00:51 Hmm, Euronews says McCain 16 Obama 3. They're showing live feed from Phoenix, Arizona of a band playing Nowhere Man.

00:35 CNBC's coverage is pretty amateur in comparison to... everyone. Some guys arguing, that's it.

00:30 North Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia have closed their polls. It's amazing to see the vote totals running up on screen. Perhaps an improvement on ecounting for the next Scottish Parliament elections?

00:27 The CNN touchscreen map is far cooler.

00:16 Why are CNN trialling some weird hologram thing? It looked better on Star Wars. Help me Obi Wan Kenobi, You're my only hope!

00:10 Quite enjoying the twitter feed - it's kind of addictive. Warner takes senate seat from the Republicans in Virginia.

00:01 McCain 8 Obama 3

00:00 Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, Vermont and Virginia are closed. Results a go go!

23:50 Why does the CNN studio need so many tvs behind the presenters and pundits?


Right, I'm jumping right in here with both feet...

23:44 Isn't it terrifying that Obama is going to give a speech behind bullet proof glass?

Election week - election number one

I'm getting increasingly excited about the US Presidential Elections. I love elections; I even started getting into the re-runs on BBC Parliament, but after staying up all night for the disaster that was the 2000 US vote I kind of lost interest in what goes on across the pond. This time, for so many reasons, it's different. Watching the constant coverage is also making my head run off in dozens of different ways.

Can Obama really pull it off? Will there be an earthquake in American politics? Will change really happen?

I was incredibly pleased to see the queues of people waiting patiently to vote, even in the days running up to the election. Good for them. I stood waiting to engage with voters at a polling station in Glasgow East for hours as a trickle of people came in; the ones who came were determined, but they were few. I love the "vote and bring a friend" thing too, though clearly, bringing a like-minded friend is important!

I was fascinated by the stories on the BBC
liveblog of the voting confusion. Fair enough, there was confusion at the Scottish Parliament and Council elections last year, but the principle of how you vote here is fairly simple - how did the USA manage to make things so complicated? Punch ballots, computerised voting, and things like the returning officer equivalent leaving ballot papers in her car. We seem to have this election thing running fairly well - what's wrong with putting a mark in a box on a bit of paper?

I'm hoping to stay up all night to watch the results come in. Then I'll go and campaign in Glenrothes!

Monday, 3 November 2008

What's the point of Sarah Brown?

Or, less specifically, what is the point of sending your spouse out to campaign for you? I've been thinking about this since it was first announced that Sarah Brown was going out on the doorsteps, and I'm still not sure. Her actions have spawned a good many articles, but has she convinced any voters?

Sarah Brown seems to be a very competent professional, and she will have a unique insight into the Labour Government. I don't believe, however, that she should be encouraged to go out to the voters as the PM's wife to defend things her husband's government has done. They are not her decisions, unless she has been secretly pulling the strings all along, and therefore she can't be held accountable.

I do think, however, if she were doing it without the media circus as an ordinary party member, rather than the PM's wife, that's different. In the SNP (I'm sure other parties aren't any different) we go out and take people as we find them on the doorsteps. Ordinary activists don't turn up with tv crews and a crowd of journalists because we're there to engage with people on a personal level. Labour completely mishandled the situation, from Mrs Brown being their secret weapon, to gags and threats to shoot journalists.

I wonder what Sarah Brown says to voters on the doorstep? "I think my husband's doing a great job, you should vote Labour". That's hardly a reason! Perhaps she excuses herself thus: "Sorry Gordon couldn't be here, he's sent me instead". Or is she best placed to take news of the failings of Labour back to the boss: "I'll let the Prime Minister know personally that you feel hugely disappointed that the Labour Party has sold out it's values". Given that it seems that the Labour spin machine is targeting specific voters, I wonder whether she'd even get the chance to really win anyone over or speak to anyone that hasn't been hand picked.

From a personal perspective, I can't imagine sending my husband out to campaign for me. Obviously, the situation is very different, but I wouldn't put him under pressure to do something he's not comfortable with. Also he's not a member of any political party and, at present, doesn't see the need to be. I had him out leafleting a few times before the 2007 elections and he comes to the occasional SNP event, but politics is my thing as much as all things computery are his. As I've argued before, we're allowed to have differing opinions too!

I very much hope Sarah Brown volunteered to help rather than being forced, but I still don't think that voters would find much comfort in finding a substitute on the doorstep.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Campaigning goes on - whatever the weather!


The trip to Glenrothes today was a bit more hair-raising than usual due to the weather, and the high winds meant we were diverted from our usual route over the Forth Road Bridge. Huge plaudits must go to our drivers for the day, Grant and Ron, who got us there and back safely despite the storms.

Pictured are some of the hardy souls from Glasgow (along with Councillor Jim Finn, who just wanted to get in the picture!).

Friday, 24 October 2008

East End Child Safety Project

I attended the AGM of the East End Child Safety Project today; it was great to catch up on their work in the past year and have a chat with the Project Coordinator, Jackie. Her commitment to child safety is inspiring.

The Child Safety Project aims to prevent accidents in the home by raising public awareness in the community and through home visits. They work closely with Social Work and Health Visitors to help parents child-proof their homes, offering impartial advice and fitting safety equipment (like safety gates, plug covers, and tap guards). They also work with Strathclyde Fire and Rescue to refer clients for free home safety visits. Some of the parents they help are even taken on as volunteers, and get trained to go out and advise others on how to protect their children.

A good number of the things might seem obvious - like keeping dangerous chemicals out of reach - but sadly there are still many preventable accidents in the home, which result in injury or death. As this ROSPA report highlights, there's much work to do.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

SNP Conference Roundup

SNP Conference was quite a busy one for me in my final turn as Convener of Young Scots for Independence. I have turned 26, and therefore have to retire at the YSI's conference next month.

Preparations started early in the week with a marathon baking session of millionaire shortbread, fairy cakes and brownies to sell on our stall. Wednesday evening and Thursday morning were spent in Glenrothes, and conference proper started with the traditional smile and clap welcome to our First Minister on Thursday afternoon.

Young Scots for Independence had a number of resolutions on the agenda, including one on destitution and asylum seekers, a constitutional amendment to move the SNP membership age from 16 to 14 and, the thing that most journos had picked up on, an amendment to a resolution on the Scottish Government's consultation on alcohol.

Bailie David McDonald spoke passionately moving the asylum seeker resolution, followed by equally enlightening speeches by Bob Doris MSP and Anne McLaughlin. Our amendment to the constitution unfortunately failed but not without a fight by Alex MacLeod, a (stylish) 16 year old former Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament, who stood up to the onslaught of party stalwarts Lachie McNeill and Gerry Fisher.

And so to the alcohol resolution. The YSI fought the good fight and lost. I was quite nervous and I wasn't particularly pleased with my own speech in the end, but I thought the other speakers in the debate spoke very well. I wasn't aware that I was being watched even when I wasn't speaking - but according to the Scotsman my tense worried face predicted the outcome! The debate itself was mature, interesting, considered; something the party should be very proud of. I know there were many many people who wanted to speak that the constraints of time didn't allow, and many of them spoke to me afterwards. Thanks all! I was proud of the support the YSI had from delegates, and feel that even though the Minister for Public Health didn't agree, she did respect our participation in the wider debate:

"The Young Scots for Independence have gone about this the right way, by responding to the consultation, in stark contrast to the opposition parties, who carp from the sidelines and couldn't even respond to the consultation."

Other highlights and stresses of conference included Friday night's infamous YSI karaoke (this year subtitled "if you can't sing it, wing it!") which raised the roof an a fair bit of cash to sustain the youth wing and the student wing over the year to come. Huge thanks go to Alyn Smith MEP, and to Christine Grahame MSP for her winning bid for the framed Glasgow East campaign photo montage, signed by Alex Salmond and John Mason. The karaoke was expertly provided by Andi Candoo.

The YSI's fringe event on Sunday morning (the unearthly 8.30am slot) was on the topic "Young People and Driving - boy racers or responsible road users". We've had internal YSI discussions on what could be done to reduce the number of young people killed and injured on Scotland's roads, and we felt it was time to air this wider. We had a good turn out and were delighted to have Stewart Stevenson MSP, whose Ministerial portfolio includes Road Safety, and Chief Superintendent Michael McCormick from ACPOS to present their views on the matter. There was no doubt from the statistics presented that young drivers are disproportionately likely to be killed on the road, and there were followed some very interesting suggestions as to how this situation should be addressed. I'm sure this is something we will be hearing more about.

I'm looking forward to Conference returning to Inverness next year, not least as I'll be able to enjoy it as a delegate, rather than the YSI Convener. It won't be the same, but I guess I'll have to live with getting older!

Blogging roundup

The last couple of weeks have been hectic, so I'm going to do a quick sum up of the things I've done and the places I've been. Then I'll do conference, then I'll start on this week (Thursday already? You've gotta be kidding!).

Thursday the 9th was a fairly busy - I started by modelling for my good friend Fiona, who designed my wedding dress. My gown had taken a bit of a pounding in the ceilidh but Fiona had managed to put it back together again, and return it to a pristine condition. It's nice to have it, but it's more useful to use it - Fiona is exhibiting in a number of upcoming wedding fairs, and I managed to be pursuaded to pose for her. I've yet to see the photos, but I hope there's something she can use. From there, I had to high-tail it to Hamilton to attend the Strathclyde Fire and Rescue Board, still scrubbing wild makeup from my face!

I'm a substitute member on the SFR Board, so I don't get the opportunity to go to many meetings. It was important to attend this one, however, since the closure of Parkhead Fire Station in my ward was on the agenda. I appreciate things can't stay the same forever, and that the current station isn't ideal, but I don't think the proposal to close it and merge with Cambuslang (on a new site over the river in South Lanarkshire) is the right call. The FBU aren't keen either. With huge change in the area, including the Commonwealth Games arena and velodrome, I think there's more to be considered. The SNP and independent member on the Board all voted against the move, and Labour (including the Glasgow members) voted for the closure. I intend to blog more on this later; as the plans will go out for consultation, there's a lot still to play for.

The evening of Thursday 9th was the annual St Mungo's Academy Awards Ceremony. It's tremendous to see young people doing well and excelling in their chosen subjects, and I was proud to see how well the pupils had done. It's a real treat to attend. The event itself is very slick (as it needs to be when you're giving out so many prizes!), and entertainment was provided by the school orchestra, jazz band and the choir. One of the nicest things was the pupils who left at the end of the school year coming back in numbers to recieve their prizes. At my school, the prizegiving ceremony was at the end of the summer term, with prizes based on prelim results. The hall would be oven-like and everyone wanted to get out to let the summer holidays begin. At St Mungo's, the prizes reflect the actual post-appeal results. There was extra pride when the pupils who achieved 5 A Highers and 8 Standard Grades got up to take their bow. Doing it this way allows those still at the school to see for themselves what opportunities lie before them - work, travel, college, uni.

Saturday 11th - Scotland Norway. Having neglected to get tickets, I watched the game in Coopers with the usual suspects. It was bad. Very bad. There were many sorrows to drown, and there may have been some whisky involved.

Sunday 12th - I attended the Glasgow Vintage Vehicle Trust Open Day, and even managed to get my mum, dad and husband to come along and admire the beautiful buses.

There were a lot of very special and rare buses on show, some the only ones remaining of their kind. A good number had driven to the event especially for the open day, while others are garaged there permenantly. Some vehicles from the Glasgow Museum of Transport are being looked after by GVVT while the preparations are made for the move to the new Riverside Museum.

My parents (who're not that old!) enjoyed seeing some of the buses they used in times past, lovingly and painstakingly restored. A range of trucks, vans, and even a tank were also on show.

As you can see from this picture of the outside of the garage, there were plenty of visitors to the open day. Some of the buses were even running a free hurl to the Museum of Transport, and when I headed off to the Kelvin Hall after lunch, it was quite exciting to see a convoy of vintage buses running along Argyle Street.

The Kelvin Hall was hosting the Acrobatic Gymnastic World Championships. I watched and was impressed by the Gymnastics at the Olympics, but I was totally blown away by the agility and strength of the competitors in this event. You'll be able to see from the video some of the amazing feats, but seeing it in person was breathtaking. The gymnasts, male and female, were able to do the impossible. Flips, tumbles, throws, balancing feats. Huge skill, and I would imagine, massive pain, but truly phenomenal perfomances through it all. Check out the videos and the gallery - you'll be amazed.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Throwing out traditions

It's nice to see that Gordon Brown will be making his own personal contribution in this time of flux by dispensing with old traditions which have lasted... oooh, since about 1999. Because, as we all know, Prime Ministers haven't campaigned in a by election since Uxbridge, Eddisbury, or Hamilton South.

It's up to each individual Prime Minister whether they want to campaign in a by election. There are quite a lot of by elections over the course of a Parliament (12 Westminster by elections since 2005), and I guess it's not feasible that they'd have time to come to them all. Most aren't even that close and the incumbent doesn't face much of a challenge. Perhaps a convention did grow up through this frequency - the BBC article on Uxbridge refers to a thirty year tradition of Prime Ministers not appearing at by elections, but internet links to back this up are a bit scarce previous to '97.

Things have changed dramatically in those thirty years. The reaction of the media to by elections can be incredible, and it's increasingly important for the parties to get a piece of the action. Why else would smaller parties bother with the expense of fielding candidates? I caught a wee bit of the 1964 General Election coverage on BBC Parliament the other day, and it's a world away from the media circus now surrounding elections.

The claim that Glenrothes is different has some merit. The Prime Minister's own constituency is next door; having lost Dunfermline and West Fife as recently as 2006, Mr Brown won't want to lose the constituency to his East. This is probably the most compelling reason for his appearance. Unlike Glasgow East, it is his back yard. Furthermore, it's a bit cruel but probably true that both the new Leader of Labour in the Scottish Parliament and Secretary of State for Scotland are still too anonymous to make any kind of impact on the good people of Fife.

While Glenrothes might be a campaign Gordon Brown can't shy away from, I wonder whether the suggestion in the Sunday Herald Editorial from during the Glasgow East campaign still stands, and what the implications will be this time around;

"He is being kept away from Glasgow, not because prime ministers don't do by-elections, but because this Prime Minister can't do elections.

Monday, 6 October 2008

It's on!

After all the flirting, it's nice to see that we finally have a date! Remember remember, the 6th of November...

Sunday, 5 October 2008

A tale of two Johns

I was out with a group of activists at Central Station today to cheer Scotland's newest MP off to Westminster. Although the Glasgow East by election seems so long ago now, Westminster has been in summer recess all this time. The break hasn't meant John has had time to twiddle his thumbs, but it's about time he got sworn in and made his maiden speech!

There was a good turnout of supporters at the station to wave him off - a fair number of slightly bemused passengers too! One woman, who turned out to be a constituent of John's, was delighted to meet him and have a chat. Another passenger, however, wasn't quite so polite.

I'm not sure what brought former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott to Glasgow for the weekend, but he certainly didn't seem to be happy to see us. Perhaps he didn't see the BBC camera, or perhaps being on his way out means he doesn't care. With the wave of two fingers, he managed to upgraded our wee photo call to a high billing on the BBC Scottish news!

Glenrothes again

Another Saturday, another trip to Glenrothes! This weekend, I had the massive responsibility of driving the minibus, and I had a blast. I've never driven anything bigger than a Renault Scenic (the car my dad had when I was learning to drive), so it was a wee bit daunting at first. My glamourous co-pilot/navigator Anne managed to keep her heid and mine, and I got us there and back without need for further by elections. I even got cheered as we got back to Glasgow!

I've been thinking about the comment left anonymously on my last post, saying most people do things "not related to work" at the weekend. I'm sure they do, but for me, there doesn't seem to be much of a boundary between "work" and SNP/YSI stuff. I think I need some kind of hobby, but I don't know if I'd have time for it!

Abercromby Street Clean Up

I had the pleasure of helping out Friends of the Calton Weavers and the children of St James Primary in my ward with their clean up in Abercromby Street cemetery on Thursday morning. It was a clear bright day, and the kids were very enthusiastic and keen to learn more about the history of the area.

The clean up was supported by Clean Glasgow and Land and Environmental Services, and covered in Saturday's Evening Times.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Saturday fun

I meant to post this earlier (sorry Anne!) - this is Saturday's campaign team heading out to Glenrothes from Glasgow to join those who were spending the whole holiday weekend.

I get very confused when I have a Saturday off; what do other people do at the weekend?!

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Common Wealth?

I recently attended the showing of a 'rough cut' of a video, and am pleased to be able to link to the finished version below. It illustrates local people's hopes and fears about the Commonwealth Games. I think it's a very important and well-considered work, and have put it up here for people to have a look at. Comments would be most welcome. Please pass on the link http://vimeo.com/1605372 to anyone you think would be interested!


Common Wealth? - East End hopes & fears for the 2014 Games from Peter Gerard on Vimeo.

Inner East End – Common Wealth?

This DVD was produced through a partnership with Faith in Community Scotland, Glasgow Council for the Voluntary Sector (GCVS) and The Village Storytelling Centre in Glasgow. Our plan for this project was to produce an 8 to 10 minute video exploring the aspirations and fears of local people from Glasgow's Inner East End with relation to the upcoming Commonwealth Games in 2014. Many of the local communities in the East End of Glasgow fall within the poorest 5-15%, according to the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD), it is important to us to ensure local people can express their views in relation to the legacy of the games.

We interviewed people from the Inner East End with the aim of covering a range of different backgrounds and experience to express the diversity within the communities. The number of participants was kept low so the video maintains focus and the individuals are able to speak freely.

Approach
The approach to interviews was designed to stimulate free-flowing conversation, hoping to get to the heart of people's feelings about the Games and their dreams and fears for the future of their community. Each interview was conducted in an exterior location relevant to the interviewee and the issues being discussed. Interviews began by showing the subject a video clip of the announcement of the success of the Bid and the excitement of crowds in Glasgow. This "trigger" encouraged those interviewed to react to the clip and begin talking about his or her own feelings.

What Now?
The DVD will act as a ‘discussion starter’ for an event which will bring together both local people and strategic partners to sit together and discuss how people’s hopes can be realised and how their fears can be addressed.

It is hoped that further funding can be secured to re-interview some of those who participated in this DVD, alongside some new faces, as the years roll forward to 2014. This will allow us to monitor progress on the original hopes and fears as well as keep in touch with new ones which will naturally evolve as the games approach. It is also hoped that a similar exercise can be carried out after the games to measure the impact the games have made in the local area.

Directed by Peter Gerard
Interviews & Research by Julie Dawid & Peter Gerard
Camera by Leo Bruges
Editing by Andy Green
Music by Mick Cooke
Story Consultation by Rachel Smillie

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Dennistoun runs dry

Consternation this morning when I went for a shower - there was no water. Some skilful contractors managed to hit a 24 inch water main just over the river next to the College of Nautical Studies, swiftly depriving homes and businesses in the Gorbals, Rutherglen, Oatlands, Port Dundas, Carntyne, Dennistoun, Royston, Firhill, Possilpark and Springburn of water. I don't quite understand how they could manage to do this, but I hope it's fixed soon.

With strike action preventing me from going into the City Chambers today, I was hoping to run some errands then head over to Glenrothes to help out with the by election. I ventured out to do what I had to do, and unexpectedly got to view some beautiful new homes for social rent in my ward. I'm not really sure that the voters of Fife would appreciate my unwashed state, so I guess I'll be staying in this afternoon. Hmph.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Bye bye David Cairns

I'm very disappointed. No more Cairns on Newsnight endlessly defending the indefensible; instead, we're being inflicted with Ann McKechin. It's interesting that while failed Glasgow East candidate Margaret Curran is incredibly gifted an important gig as Labour in the Scottish Parliament's policy development guru, her Campaign Manager feels he can no longer handle being in the same cabinet as his boss...

I do wonder - is this a more about arrogance and bitterness on Cairns' part? Does he believe Labour lost Glasgow East because of Gordon Brown, rather than due to the campaign that never quite got off the ground?

Happy 100th, Mary McCabe*

I had the pleasure of attending the 100th birthday party of one of my constituents on Friday, in Carmichael House care home. It was a lovely occasion and a rare one too, as stats generally tend to show.

It was great to be there to share in the day, and see Mrs McCabe open her card from the Queen. Regardless of anyone's views on the monarchy, it's quite a touching thing. I'm not sure if that kind of thing is done in other countries - perhaps the First Minister could start it for Scotland?

The majority of the residents had turned out to celebrate, and a crooner, buffet, bar and cake was laid on. There was even some dancing led by some of the sprightlier residents and the very enthusiastic members of staff. I had a nice chat to some of the ladies, and I hope to return for another visit soon.

The experience also made me think quite a lot about how we care for an ageing population. I'm extremely fortunate to have three of my grandparents, all of them in good health and living at home in their eighties and nineties. In Carmichael House some of the residents were in their early seventies. If they live to 100, they will have been in a care home for a substantial portion of their lives. Are they being kept stimulated, and do they enjoy being there? One lady told me it took her a few years to adjust and get used to living there. She still looked a wee bit lonely, and I hope she's ok.

There was a proposal a few months ago that the future of care homes in Glasgow was a change from the current small localised centres to 120 bed homes divided into smaller sub-units. Would this allow for the same friendly atmosphere that I saw on Friday? Can economies of scale balance with personalised service? It's a huge challenge for the Council, and one we need to get right for today's pensioners and tomorrow's.

*SNP folks - no, not that Mary McCabe.

Monday, 8 September 2008

If you were really annoyed, you'd stop giving Labour money...

I was watching a bit of the TUC conference on the news. I feel I'm missing something. I appreciate that strike action is a dramatic last resort. It is not and should not be undertaken lightly. I appreciate also that the Trade Union movement has very close and historic ties to the Labour Party.

If unions really, really, wanted to make the Labour Party sit up and take notice, why don't they stop funding them? From the start of 2008, Trade Unions have given the Labour Party an astonishing £2,545,043.48 in cash and £20,949.18 in non-cash donations. This even in a non-election year. If you give that kind of money to a party and still end up having to go out on strike, the money you're giving is not being appreciated. Trade Union members should expect better.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Married bliss...

It's been an exciting month. I've gotten married, been to Florence (fab surprise honeymoon location!), received many beautiful gifts and good wishes from lovely generous people (thanks everyone), and then got stuck back into Council work.

I would like abuse blogging for just a sec to say a massive thank you to my dress designer and bridesmaid Fiona Dewson
, and to photographer extrordonaire Stu.

Things wedded-wise are going well so far, although I hope all the by-electioneering to come won't put a dampner on things. As you can see below, we did include my other extended family in the wedding photos though, so Joe can't say he wasn't forewarned! ;-)



Friday, 8 August 2008

Reflection following an absence

Blogging has been non-existent of late for two reasons - catching up with case work after the stunning Glasgow East By Election and the relentless whirl of satin, net and glitter involved in preparing for my wedding day tomorrow.

The 24th of July was phenomenally exciting - I couldn't quite believe what was unfolding before my eyes, and my stomach was doing flips. I didn't want to take my eyes off the ballot papers, even when John Mason arrived at the count! I found myself fixated by the boxes where the ballots were stacking up, trying to discern exactly how many bundles were in the Curran, M and Mason piles. When the result came, I couldn't have been happier and more relieved (as many people saw from my reaction on various news programmes!).

The pub afterwards was sweatier than... I can't describe how sweaty it was
actually, but bear hugs for those returning victorious from the count were still mandatory. You could've lit up the city from the energy in the Barrachnie. So many deliriously happy people, basking in the knowledge that all their hard work had been worth it.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Glasgow East By Election

Apologies for the lack of updates - I've been incredibly busy juggling work and the by election, as well as trying to throw together a wedding!

As
Indygal so nicely reported, I also spent two nights in hospital after a dog bite went nasty. It was a disruption I could have been doing without! After a lot of IV antibiotics, the infection stopped tracking back along my hand and my finger returned to it's normal size. The staff at the Royal Infirmary were great, and made sure I was fighting fit before they let me go.

I'm not the only one who's been bitten during the campaign - four of us were swapping stories yesterday afternoon - so you could surmise it's a risky business delivering leaflets! I've had a lot of narrow misses during the campaign so far, so I'm certainly wary when I'm out working.

I wish more dog owners would think of the risks posties and activists take just a wee bit more and install an external letter box. We don't get our fingers chewed, people get their mail in one piece. I could put a picture of my finger up to make my point, but I don't want to put you off your dinner...

Sunday, 29 June 2008

East End 5K

I surprised myself today - not just by getting out of bed at 7.30am on a Sunday, but by completing the East End 5K in 37 minutes. I'd not had time to do any training whatsoever, and the last time I did anything like this was a schools cross country in sixth year (an experience I'd rather put out of my mind!). Thanks go to my co-runner David Linden, who stuck with me during the run, despite my suspicion that he could have achieved a slightly better time otherwise!

I was quite sporty at school, playing hockey and taking part in various events at the school sports, but these days I really don't have the time to do much and I really don't consider myself fit. My only exercise is running for buses in high heels! I hope that next year I'll be able to do some training and improve on my time.

There was a really diverse mix of people on the run, from people with buggies and dogs to competitive athletes. Everyone seemed to be having a good time, regardless of where they finished. There was a goody bag at the end, which featured two "export size" caramel wafers - a real treat! Runners did also get a banana, but I'm a big fan of Tunnocks and easily impressed that way.

Gossip wise, there was a bit of an animated Labour confab between a few East End Councillors and the MSP for Shettleston... I wonder if this news has anything to do with it?

Thursday, 19 June 2008

The Hills Are Alive...!

I couldn't go to sleep tonight without blogging on the absolutely phenomenal performance I saw tonight at St Mungo's Academy.

As the title suggests, their school show this year is The Sound of Music. I was blown away by the quality of the performances and the professionalism of everyone involved - from the extras to the stars, the stage crew and lighting to the orchestra. The singing, even the diction, of the performers was amazing. All the hard work of the past ten months or so was completely worth it, for the whole thing was perfect.

It was an absolute pleasure, and I'm strongly contemplating going again for the last night tomorrow. If you're after a great night out, head to St Mungo's!

Friday, 13 June 2008

Votes at 16 gets Scottish Government endorsement

I was on the train to the Electoral Reform Society's STV: One Year On conference in Edinburgh yesterday when I got an email from ASWAS letting me know that Bruce Crawford MSP, in his opening speech at the same conference, had given the Government's backing to Votes at 16. I was actually so excited I shouted out on the train, and was almost glad I wasn't at the conference yet as I might have jumped up and hugged the Minster for Parliamentary Business!

It's always nice to see things that you believe in carried through. As I'm sure you'll remember, the SNP backed the YSI's resolution on votes at 16 at Conference last October. Everyone knows the arguments for votes at 16 - democracy, fairness, no taxation without representation - but it's interesting to look particularly at the Local Government level. Young people are closest to many services provided by the Council, but it's often the case that they have little say in how they are run or when they operate. Youth services, for example, don't tend to provide services over the weekend, which is precisely when they're needed most. Because under-18s aren't electors, they have been overlooked. I don't believe that should be the case but it has been the reality.

When the franchise is lowered (and I'm getting more convinced it will be), parties will have to listen to young people rather than demonising them; that's definitely a step in the right direction.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Recycling, reclaiming, reusing

Tuesday is bulk uplift day in my street, and on a Monday night, everyone start putting out their junk. Some items are more junky than others - boxes and things which have clearly broken - but other items could be re-used. I often feel like adopting some of these unloved pieces of furniture as some of them are in quite good condition, but I know I don't have the room.

In my living room, there's a prime example of what can be saved - it came from the bins near Partick Station. I was going back to the City Chambers that day after dropping off some shoes at the cobblers on Dumbarton Road, and there it was. I stopped for a minute and stared at it. Oval, sixties, with a glass top. Pretty thing. Did it belong to anyone? I was looking around, trying to decide if I could lift it and if I could how I would get it home, when a van drew up next to me. A guy jumped out and said "I just threw that out this morning hen, if you want it, take it!". It turns out he was from the second-hand furniture shop across the road, and couldn't sell it. I picked it up, and took it back to the office on the train. After a brief stay there, it is now in my home, and very lovely it is too. Cleaned up nicely, and I'll re-varnish it when I get time. Absolutely nothing wrong with it, but if I hadn't picked it up it would most likely be in a landfill site.

This morning, I saw two lovely dining chairs among a big pile of stuff outside my flat waiting for collection. Solid wood, just in need of a varnish and maybe being re-covered. I couldn't bear the thought of them being chucked, so I dragged them up the stairs to my flat. I don't know if I'll have room for them or not, but the bin lorry has just been and I feel I did the right thing.

I understand that people's tastes and needs change but there's no need for good furniture to be thrown out like this, none at all. Glasgow City Council have recently supported the Glasgow Furniture Initiative to pick up and prepare furniture for re-use. This furniture can then be sold on at reasonable prices to people on low incomes. There are lots of other such schemes in the city, such as those listed on Glasgow Greenmap. This is good for the environment and good for society; I very much hope it's a success.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Missing

Apologies for the lack of blogging. I've been very busy with Council, SNP, YSI, and wedding stuff, but I hope to get back in the habit. I still have a lot to say, but less time to say it! Everything is going along fine, but more often than not lately I end up coming home late, having tea and going to bed, getting up and doing it all again for the rest of the week.

Outside office hours so far this week:
Monday night: reception for Community Councils
Tuesday night: Calton working group
Wednesday night: surgery
Thursday night: meeting with the GHA, then preparations for future mother and auntie in law coming to stay
Friday night: dinner with said future relations
Saturday: SNP National Council
Sunday: Wedding dress fitting

Conclusion: proper, real, time to myself doesn't exist.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Full Council

I ended up keeping a fairly low profile at Council, asking a question regarding provision of crossing patrollers and giving my support to a motion on heart screening for amateur athletes. The mosquito device motion unfortunately fell off the end of the agenda, along with other SNP motions on Steven Purcell's support for the independence question being asked and the 10p tax rate. I was disappointed not to have been able to raise the issue, but I will bring it back if I can.

On crossing patrollers, I was asking whether the Executive Member for Land and Environment, Ruth Simpson (my Labour ward colleague) thought that there should be crossing patrollers on busy city roads. I knew already that the Council policy at present is against having crossing patrollers where there is also a pedestrian controlled crossing in place, except in exceptional circumstances. I know that the Council has had problems in recruiting and retaining crossing patrol staff, but I also feel strongly that where there is a primary school next to a main road like the Gallowgate, there should be a crossing patrol also in place. The answer I got didn't suggest that there would be any change, but I intend to keep looking into the issue and will blog more on it also.

The rest of the Council meeting seemed to be taken over by football (Tommy Burns, Rangers and Phil O'Donnell), but there was some good debate on the natural disasters in Burma and China, nursery education (which I personally didn't go through as a child, so always find slightly intriguing) and a principled debate about victims of miscarriages of justice. I have a sneaking suspicion of some filibustering going on, and there was certainly no acceptance from Labour of Cllr Mackay's suggestion for a suspension of standing orders so we could complete the agenda.

It seems sometimes that there's not enough public debate; we only have full Council (the plenary session of the Council) every six weeks, and Labour still said several times today that the things other parties had raised were not appropriate for full Council. A lot of what we do in the Council is not visible or easily accessible to the public, but it affects everyone in this city. I don't know what the solution is, and perhaps it's also about apathy and getting decent standards of coverage for all levels of politics in the media. Suggestions on a postcard please...

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Finding my voice

Tomorrow is full Council, and I'm starting to worry - not because the Chamber is any more daunting than usual, but because the cold which started in my throat on Sunday morning is still with me. I'm hoarse, squeeky and keep having coughing fits. I'm also down to my last sachet of Max Strength Lemsip. The motion I'm moving on Mosquito devices is last on the agenda, so I hope I can last 'til the end of the afternoon. I'll let you know how I get on!

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Strange times

I've just been watching tonight's Newsnight Scotland, and I can't decide whether I'm more amazed at the strange leap the Labour party has taken from "no new powers" to "bring it on", or that David Cameron picked independence as his main issue for Prime Minister's Questions.

Wendy Alexander's comments, you could put down to blind panic and a desperate attempt to win back ground from the SNP. David Cameron was more considered however - I imagine that for the PMQ circus questions are more carefully considered. It's an easy hit look to highlight a split, but it also puts the issue of Scottish independence on the news agenda in London (or at least on a couple of blogs. Is it just this week's news, or will it run til we're independent? Hmmm...

(incidentally, while googling, this turned up. Wonder how they're getting on?)

Monday, 5 May 2008

Super Saturday

It was great to take to the streets en masse on Saturday. I've been doing this plenty with the YSI of late, so seeing some older faces was a nice change. ;-)

I don't know if other people in other parties would say the same of their colleague, but I love this happy, confident group of people. Sorry for being so soppy...

Sunday, 4 May 2008

One year on

Just about everyone I know has now posted on how they feel one year on, so I thought I'd jump on that bandwagon. I waited 'til today because Councillors in Glasgow didn't find out their results until the afternoon of the 4th of May.

When we left the SECC, squinting into the sunshine, we didn't know whether there would be an SNP government. We knew that our numbers in Glasgow City Council had gone up from four to twenty-two, that every candidate we had stood had made it and that was amazing enough. In the weeks and months before the election, even that had seemed unlikely - I remember my boss of the time looking at previous election
results in the old wards with me and saying it was a long shot. Nevertheless, we'd all made it.

We were all in the Ben Nevis when I got a call from my dad. He was driving home from work and had just heard on the radio that we'd won the election. I went back into the pub, not quite believing and not sure whether to tell everyone in case I'd got it horribly wrong. I told them. We were all nervous. And then, in this age of instant news and global communications... the result came up on ceefax.

It's been a short year - I can't believe how quickly it's flown past. It's also been a learning curve. It's not for me to say how I'm doing, but I do hope that the people that I've helped feel that I'm making a difference for them. I'm still as excited and proud today as I was on the 4th of May 2007.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Calman - what's the point?

I've been wondering what the Calman Commission really hopes to achieve. It's a bit limiting to start off with such a limited position, and not even take the tiniest, slightest, attempt at a consideration that independence might be best for Scotland. When they talk of the future of devolution, I have to think: how long a future does devolution in Scotland actually have?

It's also curious that Labour, the Lib Dems and the Tories, despite having varying positions (even within their own parties) on devolution and independence have come together in this way.
When the Prime Minister says the review is not a "one-way street", can other parties have confidence in the direction of the Commission? Will they be able to come to an agreement? What kind of outcome will satisfy all of them? Surely it's just a total waste of time if it doesn't actually propose much in the way of change?

Pete Wishart addressed both of these points well in a recent debate in Westminster:

The Liberal party must make it abundantly clear to Labour Members that it is not prepared to go through with the process unless it gets a cast-iron commitment and guarantee that there will be no taking away of powers from the Scottish Parliament to Westminster. We all look forward to hearing that from the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Mr. Reid), who will be speaking for the Liberal party. No one believes that there is any requirement for a return of powers to Westminster: it exists only in the fevered imagination.


The biggest problem with the commission—there are many—is what I would call the democratic deficit. The only thing that it will not consider is independence. If it is to consider Scotland’s constitutional options, it is absurd and inconceivable that independence should be left out of a review of further powers for the Scottish Parliament. What are Labour Members afraid of?


What indeed. Perhaps losing their lovely Westminster privileges...

Ahem.

The Commission, is made up of the following carefully selected individuals (I would go into details, but I see that Jeff and Calum have beaten me to it):

Sir Kenneth Calman, Chancellor of the University of Glasgow (Chair)
Colin Boyd, former Lord Advocate, member of the House of Lords (Labour)
Rani Dhir, Director Drumchapel Housing Co-operative
James Douglas Hamilton, former Scottish Office Minister, member of the House of Lords (Conservative)
Professor Sir David Edward, retired Judge of the European Court
Lord Elder, member of the House of Lords (Labour)
Audrey Findlay, former Leader of Aberdeenshire Council, now Convener of the Scottish Liberal Democrats
Jamie Lindsay, former Scottish Office Minister, member of the House of Lords (Conservative), Chairman SAC (Scottish Agricultural College)
John Loughton, President of the Scottish Youth Parliament (serving in a personal capacity-that would be because the SYP doesn't allow for party politics...)
Murdoch MacLennan, Chief Executive, Telegraph Media Group
Shonaig Macpherson, Chair of the National Trust for Scotland and of the SCDI (Scottish Council Development and Industry)
Iain McMillan, Director, CBI Scotland
Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic Studies, University of Glasgow
Matt Smith, Scottish Secretary , UNISON
Jim Wallace, former Deputy First Minister and former leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats


At least we have the good manners to invite some of their lot over to play...