Monday 24 December 2007

Merry Christmas

Heading off to my parent's now with a box of mince pies and a sackful of presents. Christmas has snuck up behind me and given me a bit of a surprise this year, but I think I'm just about there.

My highlight of the season was the nativity plays put on by Elba Lane Nursery and Queen Mary Street Nursery and the PEEK singing and guitar group which helped get me right into the festive mood. Less festive, but definitely one of the important tasks was the Friday night I spent in the office hand writing Christmas cards to all the organisations in my ward that I could think of. I hope I didn't miss anyone out, but if I did, you'll get one next year!

Merry Christmas everyone; I hope you have a good time wherever you are.

Saturday 22 December 2007

Principals without principles

I know that there still are a lot of contentious issues to be dealt with in University funding, but this really doesn't help their case. Keeping Sir Muir Russell in the lifestyle to which he has become accustomed does nothing whatsoever to help keep University staff in Scotland or to help those students struggling to make ends meet.

And he's not alone - while Sir Muir Russell takes home a whopping £234,000 in salary and pensions benefits, the Herald article also mentions that other University Principals do fairly well also:

"Last year, the highest-paid principals in Scotland were Professor Duncan Rice from Aberdeen University (£215,000), Dr Brian Lang from St Andrews (£209,000), and Sir Alan Langlands from Dundee (£202,000)."

If these leading voices think that Universities need more funding, perhaps they could start making economies of their own.

Sunday 16 December 2007

Major problem with Labour Sleaze

And now for something completely different - how bad must things be for the Labour Party when John Major is weighing in to slag them off for sleaze?

Former Prime Minister Sir John Major has accused Labour of presiding over "systemic sleaze" during its 10 years in government.

Sir John said the government had become "institutionally careless", citing as examples the Bernie Ecclestone affair and the David Abrahams funding row.

He said Tories had misbehaved when he was PM as individuals not members of government.

I'm sure that makes it all right then...

Independence on the up

I'm chuffed to be able to post with some excellent news - the TNS System 3 poll in today's Sunday Herald showing 40% of Scots would support independence.

As Convener of Young Scots for Independence, I was particularly pleased to see strong support from the younger end of the voting spectrum: 47% of 18-24 year olds and 53% of 25-34 year olds favour independence in this poll. Interestingly, 20% of 18-24 year olds have answered "don't know", the highest of any age group, so there's definitely still a lot of work for the YSI to do in the months and years ahead.

Friday 14 December 2007

L'esprit de l'escalier

Having a bit of the old esprit de l'escalier since yesterday's Full Council meeting - so many things that I wish that I'd put in my speech. It took this morning's Executive Committee to start getting it out of my system. I'm getting a bit more used to standing up and putting points forward, but it's still difficult to fit everything in to the five minutes we're allocated to move a motion. It's very different from my experience at SNP conference, because I know that there you'll at least get a fair hearing; in the cut and thrust of Glasgow City Council, there's at least forty seasoned Labour Councillors baying for your blood the whole time you're speaking!

David McDonald
made his maiden speech in his usual unflappable style, and was able to wind up the Labour Councillors without fear of heckling as custom generally holds them back. Jennifer Dunn also made her maiden speech on lottery funding and the Commonwealth Games, and also did really well.

A good number of our group have now made their first speeches in the Council, and I'm sure we'll get them all through soon. The other parties have given most, if not all, of their members a chance, but Labour (even as the largest group) usually have the same people speaking all the time. It would be interesting to see what some of their members have to say on the issues of the day.

Saturday 8 December 2007

More Labour hypocrisy on Post Offices

I've blogged on Post Office closures before, so please bear with me while I give you an update!

I have finally been able to obtain a copy of the front page from Thursday's Evening Times. It's unusual for the paper to give such strong condemnation of Glasgow Labour MPs, and interesting also that by the final edition of the paper (the one most commuters will buy on their way home) the headline had changed to a picture of a swan shot by an air gun. Wonder what strings were pulled, and by whom?!

It's pretty scandalous that, given the crocodile tears these MPs have cried over the past six weeks, these Labour MPs can't be bothered turning up for this debate in the House of Commons. Given that MPs have a lot less to do these days, you'd think they'd make the time. Where were they? What was so essential that they'd let down their constituents? I think we should be told...

Finnish Independence celebrated in Glasgow

As most folk will know, the City Chambers in Glasgow has a flagpole sitting proud on the top of the building. Usually, it flies the saltire (as seen in this picture from the summer), but on special occasions other flags are flow; for example, the European flag flies on Europe Day, the Glasgow coat of arms flies when full Council meets and, on Thursday this week, the Finnish flag was flying. Why? Because the 6th of December is Finnish independence day.

It's nice to see that the powers that be in the City Chambers like to celebrate the independence and success of other nations, although it's a shame that they don't seem to share the SNP's passion for Scottish independence, and consider such petty things as national self-determination something of a distraction. Just a thought!

Congratulations to the Bambury!

I had the pleasure of being invited along to the SURF awards on Thursday by the Bambury Regeneration Centre in my ward. The Bambury had won the top prize in the Partnership category, and many of the staff and Directors went along to the awards ceremony for their Christmas night out.

It was a lovely occasion and real validation for everyone connected to the centre. They've done a tremendous amount of good work over the years, and they really deserve this accolade. I felt very privileged to have been invited along; the folk at the Bambury have made me feel incredibly welcome and I was glad to be there with them.

It was also nice to see Stewart Stevenson presenting the awards - it's tragic, but I still get a wee shiver of excitement at seeing our MSPs as Ministers!

On Friday, I went along to the visit of people from other award winning, highly commended and short listed organisations to the Bambury. Standing back objectively, I could see that these visitors also shared the view that the Bambury was a great project doing well. The people of Camlachie already know that they're doing great things, but I'm sure it will mean a lot that people on the outside think so too.

Wednesday 5 December 2007

What I've been up to...

Since I've not been blogging, I have been:
at surgeries and carrying out ongoing ward work;
helping at the Lochee by election (which we won);
taking in the Radiance event;
at an SNP St Andrew's Night fundraiser;
at the two-day extravaganza which was the YSI Conference;
at a CHCP meeting;
at the Calton Area Association;
visiting schools and nurseries;
learning more about asylum seekers and refugees in Glasgow;
finding out what PEEK have been up to recently;
at an Executive Committee meeting;
at the Victim Support Glasgow open day;
at SNP National Council;
finding out about financial inclusion in Glasgow;
and attending a meeting in the Calton.

Blogging restricted from the Council

Apologies for the lack of updates recently - I used to be able to blog from the Council, but this has been blocked in recent weeks. It has now been partially reinstated, but I can't access other people's blogs or log in to this one to edit and update. I often get home pretty late, when I've lost the will to blog and just want to have a nap.

I'm sure some will say that updating my blog isn't part of my work (I would argue that it is, as a rolling newsletter to my constituents), but it's more the principle of the thing that concerns me. The internet is huge and diverse, but this attempt to restrict it is impossible. While things with "blog" in the url are blocked, those which are not hosted through blogger or wordpress can still be accessed. So it's not a blanket ban, it's more like a colander.

Most concerning of all is that when I raised the problem with the IT helpdesk, they said "what's a blog?".

Wednesday 21 November 2007

Unhappy household

Both halves of the Thewliss - Wright household are united tonight in our individual grumpiness and gutted-ness.

Since neither Scotland nor England are going to Austria and Switzerland next summer, perhaps some alternative tournament might be worth having? It would be a useful warm up for the World Cup Qualifiers, and Scotland are now good enough to stand a chance of winning such a tourney... ;-)

Tuesday 20 November 2007

A poisoned chalice?

I had it drawn to my attention by the wonderful Mediawatch that Kezia Dugdale was having a go at the YSI.

I'd considered whether to respond to this on her blog, but as Ms Dugdale moderates comments, I didn't think it would be worth it.

For her, and anyone elses's benefit, the YSI wouldn't be having info on policies like student debt on it's website because it's the youth, not the student wing of the party. Student issues are not our bag. We draw our membership from young people aged 14 - 26, and campaign for things like votes at 16, rights for the children of asylum seekers, and, of course, we take the independence message to Scotland's youth.

Student interests are particularly narrow and selfish interests - which I respect, having been a student - but these interests are much better served by the FSN acting on it's own than a joint organisation trying to meet the needs of very different groups. Not all young people are students, and not all students are young people.

Anyhoo, perhaps Ms Dugdale will have less time to spend slagging off other parties on her blog now she's taken on such an elevated position. Wonder whether she'll manage to do any better in the job than her predecessors...

Saturday 17 November 2007

Scotland - Italy

Gutted about the result today - I was at the game, and the boys played like heroes. I was crying after Italy scored that last minute goal that should never have been. I really believed and hoped there was a chance that we could qualify, so I'm drowning my sorrows tonight.

I suppose the best thing for the team to do now is regroup and work towards the World Cup, but it's still hard to take after such a fabulous campaign. Almost every minute was nail biting, but it's been phenomenal.

Friday 16 November 2007

Unexpected press

I was a bit surprised yesterday to get a call from the Evening Times about Dalmarnock Sewage Works (the majority of coverage this last week has mostly involved one particular Labour Councillor in the ward, so I'd started to think I didn't exist to them!).

I know that that local people have complained about the smells from the plant, as well as issues of river pollution, but I had some confidence that Scottish Water would be fulfilling their commitment to refurbish since the Commonwealth Games bid was successful. This seems now not to be the case, so I've taken the issue to Scottish Water for a reply. I'll keep the blog updated on what I find out...

Glasgow Labour: stifling debate

I'm still mulling over the events of yesterday, where Labour moved to end a Special Council Meeting called by the SNP. The meeting had been called to discussed the motions which had fallen off the agenda at the previous Council meeting.

This included motions on a range of issues, and even a Labour motion. We thought that Labour would at least debate, and out vote us; that's the way things happen in Glasgow after all. Disappointingly, Cllr Colleran simply moved a adjournment under the standing orders of the Council. We voted, along with the Greens and the Conservative to continue the debate, but Labour's majority won out.

I was due to speak at the meeting on services for young people in Glasgow, and had got myself all psyched up. In the big scheme of things it might not seem very important that we sit in a room and speechify on worthy issues, but it's part of democracy in our city, and allows all Councillors the opportunity to try and influence Council policy. An unidentified "source" was quoted thus in the Evening Times:

A source close to Council leader Steven Purcell said: "The council is not a debating club.

"They cannot afford to waste their time on matters that have nothing to do with the council."

Attendance and participation at Council meetings are part of the Councillor's job, and it's disappointing to see that Labour consider that a waste of time.

Wednesday 14 November 2007

Dalmarnock Primary and London Road Nursery

I attended the official opening of Dalmarnock Primary and London Road Nursery today, and was very impressed by the show put on by the pupils. Many of the pupils had been given special responsibilities for meeting and greeting guests, and were a real credit to the school.

All the pupils were involved in putting on performances to celebrate the opening, from the nursery children who opened the event with a song about "people who help us", to the recorder players and the choir, and the very moving song which I was told had been composed in the school. One of the pupils presenting it said that the song was available to download, but I can't seem to find it. Once I track it and the composer down I'll post the details up. The whole school sang it and knew it off by heart; perhaps a replacement for Scotland the Brave?

Every colour, race and creed
May we celebrate indeed
A treasure tae this land
For aw tae see
And may peace and harmony
Keep us all in unity
Let's come together one and all

For this one bonnie Scotland
This bonnie, bonnie land
Let's stand together hand in hand
And may the world it see
We can live in harmony
Working together for this one Scotland

May the Muslim and the Jew
And the Sikh and the Hindu
The Protestant and Catholic one and all
May we build our future high
And we never hear the cry
Of bigotry and hatred never more


Monday 12 November 2007

Planning for Glasgow's Future

I was amused to read an article in The Herald today which frets that "erratic planning decisions ‘may drive away city investors’". The article goes on to warn that personal taste shouldn't come into decisions made by the planning committee of Glasgow City Council. Initially, I was curious about who exactly the "senior Council source" quoted is - perhaps someone who was upset at having a decision rejected at an earlier Planning Committee? I'm not on the Planning Committee, so I would hesitate to guess who...

It made me think though - while the City Plan sets out various planning guidelines and principles, surely aesthetic values must have some place. Everyone has their own personal tastes - and that's a good thing. I'd decorate a room one way, my neighbour will choose something entirely different. So why should the influence of personal taste stop completely at the doors of the committee room? Otherwise, what kind of city will we end up with? If it's a city where buildings are juxtaposed entirely inappropriately, will that not also "drive away city investors"? If some Councillors recognise something is ghastly, hideous or tacky, surely citizens of Glasgow and visitors to our city might just think the same? Much discussion is had on message boards like Hidden Glasgow over the merits of developments in the city, and many good points are raised. Important decisions on the future shape of Glasgow should also be allowed to be made both with the head and with the heart.

This issue also throws up a pet peeve of mine - that the Council is fast becoming (I'll be generous and say it isn't yet!) a rubber stamp for developers and the Evening Times. Decisions should be made because they're correct, not because they're convenient!

Friday 9 November 2007

Glasgow did it!

Nearly there!
Totally delighted by today's news that Glasgow has won the Commonwealth Games bid for 2014. I was at the Old Fruitmarket for the announcement, and I've never been in a room so tense! My hands were shaking as we got closer and closer to the result.

After the result was called, I headed out to the Bambury in my ward to join the celebrations. It's great news for the people of the East End of Glasgow, and the folk at the Bambury were excited for what the future holds. I hope we can all make it live up to their expectations.

Off to work with my fingers crossed...

So today's the day. By lunchtime, we'll know whether or not the Commonwealth Games comes to Glasgow or goes to Abuja. I've got a few butterflies in my stomach; this is such an important decision for the city and for the people I represent. I hope our team in Sri Lanka have done enough to convince the Commonwealth delegates that we're the best choice.

Thursday 1 November 2007

Post offices at full Council

The issue of Post Office closures was under consideration at Full Council today following the submission of an emergency motion by Cllrs Findlay and Braat. This read:

This Council strongly believes that the local post office lies at the heart of the community and condemns the decision by Post Office Limited to propose the closure of a further 22 community post offices in the Greater Glasgow area.

Most severely hit in this wave of closures will be disadvantaged areas and communities with significant elderly populations.

Whilst recognising that Post Office Limited is now run on a commercial basis and that many of its former functions have been overtaken by technology and modern methods of communication, the company is - at the same time - a public service and must recognise that its network is of a significant strategic, economic and social importance to the communities it serves.

This Council, therefore, demands that, as part of the consultation process, an economic impact study be carried out in order to assess the impact of future closures both on rural - and urban - communities.*

All very worthy stuff and sentiments I generally agree with. It misses the point a fair bit though - this was brought about by the Labour Government in Westminster. All the Labour Glasgow MPs voted for it. None of this was mentioned in the debate by the Labour members who moved it.

The SNP's amendment sought to rectify what had been left out by adding:

Council deplores the duplicity of Labour MPs who voted for legislation and government policy to reduce the number and functions of local Post Offices, thereby betraying vulnerable communities. Council further urges all members to campaign for their retention.

This was brilliantly moved by Cllr Duffy, who tore into Labour for their lead role in all this and the hypocrisy in their current position. I seconded, talking about the Post Office in Dalmarnock, as mentioned below.

It came as little surprise that we were defeated 52:21:1, but it was fun to be able to play on the consciences of Labour members and at least attempt to get them to take some share of the blame. While they didn't make the final decision, the failure of the Labour group in Glasgow City Council to influence their MPs on such an important issue is pretty worrying. Perhaps they believed it would never happen to them.

I was patronised later in the debate in the most oily fashion possible by another member from my ward, but perhaps the least said about that the better. Perhaps if that member was true to the principles of cross party consensus espoused by the leadership of the Labour group, he would have been in touch to fight this closure together. Thus far he hasn't phoned, he hasn't written...

*I don't understand why there are so many commas in that last sentence either!

Saturday 27 October 2007

SNP backs Votes at 16!

Really pleased that the resolution that we in Young Scots for Independence put forward to SNP Conference got passed by acclaim today - with the endorsement of SNP conference legend Gerry Fisher no less.

YSI Organiser David Linden proposed the resolution with his maiden speech to conference, seconded by Bailie David McDonald. They both spoke very well, highlighting the unjustness of taxation without representation, and even got on the BBC's conference coverage. I'm very proud of both of them.

Thursday 25 October 2007


Off tonight to SNP Conference in Aviemore. Looks like it should be a good one, with lots of worthy resolutions on the agenda, as well as the chance to celebrate and socialise.

Wednesday 24 October 2007

Save Dalmarnock's Post Office!

I'm a bit late to posting this blog article, but it's not through lack of action - more like doing too much.

After hearing the news about the post office closures on the news on Tuesday morning, I went down to the post office on Springfield Road in Dalmarnock after my surgery. The people I spoke to in the post office were understandably outraged, angry that their local facility might be taken away.

To put things in context, Dalmarnock has a small row of shops - off licence, chemist, doctor's, and a few other businesses, notably a wee cafe that's due to open soon. There's also a community hall. The post office though is an anchor to all of these things, as it helps to sustain other things when people use a core local facility like a post office. The post office is also the only business in the area to give locals access to their money via a free to use cash machine.

Post offices also have a social function. My gran often tells me about the great service she gets from the sub-post office at the bottom of Wishaw; how the staff know all the customers by name, how help out the elderly, and how they ask if someone misses their regular visit. That is often lost if people have to travel somewhere else. This is true of Dalmarnock as well, and customers told me that they have that kind of relationship with staff.

The post offices provided as alternatives should Dalmarnock close are not convenient to locals. At Parkhead, the post office is queued out the door whenever you walk by, and there's nowhere for people to sit. It's also about a mile away, uphill, with only one bus an hour from Dalmarnock. Not ideal if you're elderly or unwell, not convenient if you've got children or a buggy. Bridgeton is about the same distance away, but also not that handy for people to get to. Why can't people drive there? Because according to the Glasgow Centre for Population Health, 78.3% of households in Dalmarnock have no car.

One of the most ludicrous things about this proposal is that the Commonwealth Games Village is to be built right next to this wee row of shops. Over 1,000 houses, and a sports arena to boot. Sportscotland will also be based there, should they still exist by 2014. Given that potential increase in trade, it would be a ridiculouly short-sighted idea to close that particular post office.

I've sent a letter to the consultation, got in contact with local residents, and been in touch with the local newspaper. The campaign to save this facility is just beginning...

The public consultation runs until the 3rd of December. Submissions should be sent to:

Sally Buchanan

Network Development Manager

C/o National Consultation Team



Customer HelplineL 08457 22 33 44

Monday 22 October 2007

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty - document of the looney left?

Since moving house I've been a bit lax at reading the Sunday papers - partly because I no longer live above a 24 hour newsagent, partly because I've been rushed off my feet and partly because Domino's on Ally Parade don't have newspapers to read while you wait... Yesterday, however, I did things a bit better by buying the Scotland on Sunday and reading the Sunday Herald and Sunday Times when I visited my parents.
I was struck in particular by the varying coverage of the story of our First Minister's stance on the Non-Proliferation Treaty; Alex Salmond believes that the Scottish Government should get observer status since the UK's nuclear arsenal is based in Scotland, and has written to signatories of the treaty to seek their support.

The Scotland on Sunday ran with the issue on it's front page, whereas the Sunday Herald had the story a bit further inside.

Reaction to the move from the Labour Government in Westminster was predictable, but worryingly, the Scotland Office appears to have either lost the plot or missed the point of the NPT:

Scotland Office Minister David Cairns said: "Another week, another conflict. Alex Salmond prefers posturing on the world stage to delivering on bread-and-butter issues. He should be funding 1,000 extra police officers and sorting out the mess over free personal care. Instead he seeks to cavort across the world stage with his discredited looney left policies."

A Scotland Office source added: "For Alex Salmond to seek an alliance with Iran and South Korea is an unpardonable folly"

Looney left policies? How is seeking to participate in the NPT "looney"? The text of the treaty is freely available, has stood since 1968 and has been accepted by the nuclear weapon holding permenant members of the UN Security Council. Wikipedia lists the nations who are members of the NPT, which as you can see includes not only the United Kingdom, the nations of the EU, but most of the nations of the world. And South Korea - are they suddenly on the "bad boy list", or did Mr Cairns mean North Korea, who have actually withdrawn from the NPT and wouldn't have been on the First Minister's mailing list as a result? A retraction on behalf of the people of South Korea should surely be issued by Mr Cairns!

Over on the BBC website, Eric Joyce MP singles out Iran and Zimbabwe - again, a political point which ignores the other 187 signatories.

The point of the NPT is clear, and while Alex Salmond's bid to get Scotland involved is a political move, it is not a rash or unreasonable one. Scotland is in an unusual position, where the Scottish Government opposes nuclear weapons, but the UK Government has the right to station them on Scottish soil and in Scottish waters. When Scotland becomes independent, that becomes a more pressing issue, one which last came up when the Soviet Union dissolved. Interestingly, the successor states were not keen to keep these weapons on their soil.

PS: The Sunday Herald mentions that the letter was sent to "the UK ambassadors of 122 countries party to the NPT". Scotland on Sunday claims that "First Minister has written to representatives of the 189 countries who have signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty". Not quite sure who's right there, but I'm looking into it!

Friday 19 October 2007

South Camlachie Youth Project visit the Parliament

I was pleased to give a helping hand on Wednesday to South Camlachie Youth Project from my ward, who are hosting a youth exchange this week with young people from Germany, Poland and Cyprus. They group had decided to visit Edinburgh as part of their activities, and asked if I could assist with a visit to the Parliament.

Things were made a bit trickier as Parliament is in recess this week, with most MSPs away doing worthy things in their constituencies. On the plus side, Parliament was quiet, and we got to have a good nosey round without disturbing people too much. Huge thanks (and many ciders to come) go to ASWAS for providing some very professional tour-guiding.

Monday 15 October 2007

Apple Fuels

Councillor Tartan Hero and I visited biodiesel producers Apple Fuels in Dalmarnock on Friday to find out more about their work.

It was pretty impressive; we were talked through the process of biodiesel production - from leftover oil from restaurants and takeaways right through to the exhaust emissions (a nice smell of chips, rather than the reek of diesel fumes!).

What struck me most was the way in which this way of biodiesel production re-uses products society might consider waste; leftover oil could well be flushed down the drain or dumped, but instead it becomes an alternative to fossil fuels. The cans which the oil came in are recycled as well, and the few by-products of the process can also be used elsewhere. The fuel can be used in diesel engines without modification, so it's readily accessible too. Definately a project to be encouraged...

Sister Belle

Today, I visited the open day for the Glasgow Vintage Vehicle Trust, who are based in my ward and look after a selection of buses greater than the transport museum! The garage where the GVVT is based is currently used mainly to store, restore and exhibit buses, but they aim to become a "working museum" where visitors can see buses being restored.

It was great to see all the buses (some very old, and some more modern) so lovingly cared for and restored. People had even brought buses from other parts of the country to the garage for the open day - I was pleasantly surprised to find a number 20 from Aberdeen, a route close to the heart of every Aberdeen graduate as it ran from Old Aberdeen to the student's union!
I also found this familiar-sounding name...

Saturday 6 October 2007

Saturday - a day to relax?

Today's been fairly productive - on the political side of things, I joined Glasgow YSI, Nicola Sturgeon MSP, and Councillor Allison Hunter for a litter pick on Walmer Crescent in Govan this morning, then headed with the YSI to the Burma rally in George Square (where, unexpectedly and excitingly, I got interviewed by the BBC news!).

After the all that entertainment, I headed off to be all domestic and go in pursuit of a settee for our new flat. As is the practice, I was listening to Off the Ball and the live football coverage all day, so didn't hear the news about Brown calling off the election til I got home and settled. The News of the World are claiming credit, but it's more likely just a case of cold feet (unless this is some stunning double bluff...).

I'm less bothered about the news personally than other bloggers will be - not least those who are selected candidates. Perhaps some in the media and Westminster village allowed themselves to get carried away by election fever, or it could be Brown's cunning plan to distract the rest of the political parties (note to self - must check for "buried" news...). However, I do think that this whole affair has really shown Brown to be weak and indecisive - particularly by allowing the election situation to snowball. The little old ladies (who I believe to be a reasonable disgruntlement indicator in society) interviewed by the BBC weren't impressed by Brown's apparent dithering, and I don't believe the anyone else will either.

Brown's indecision has also left David Cameron massive scope for attack - which he made a good stab at on his News 24 interview. This kind of thing will only help the Tories build up their support.

From the Scottish perspective, this debacle will reinforce the perception of Labour as tired and incompetent. I'm sure most activists up here will be glad not to be campaigning in the wilds of approaching winter, but I suspect that we've not yet heard the last of this election that never was.

Thursday 4 October 2007

Too poor to be the opposition

Hot on the heels of Pauline McNeill's pleas for some speech writing assistance, Wendy Alexander's Head of Research is the next Labour person to bleat publicly about the hardship of being in opposition. Tartan Hero also comments on this latest grumble from the Labour benches. The ongoing review of allowances has been interesting thus far, as it shows up how unprepared Labour are to cope with opposition.

According to the BBC article,

In a submission to the review Sarah Metcalfe, Labour's research and strategy director, said the party was required to hold to account an SNP government which had the entire civil service at its disposal.

For the past eight years, the SNP (and indeed the Conservatives, Greens, SSP and latterly Solidarity) have coped on this allowance and fought the might of the Civil Service. I don't think it's been easy, but it has been done. With an effective team a party can mount a challenge and win, as the SNP has proven. You can even be an effective opposition, picking your issues and playing to your strengths, as the Tories have done.

If Labour can't raise their game, employ better and more effective staffers, then they will flounder for years. It would be all too easy to sit back and watch their discomfort with glee, but I do believe you need to have an effective opposition to be a credible government.

It's also important to note that Labour were instrumental in setting up this system; I wonder if their arrogance allowed them to believe that they'd never have to use it themselves...

On staff wages, Ms Metcalfe also stated that

"The Scottish leader's allowance of £22,466 is insufficient to meet even the full costs to an employer of a private secretary - never mind the public expectations of a leader's office in terms of interest in the party's approach to parliamentary business and associated policy stances"

Wages are an important thing - but that's not why someone should get involved in politics. Getting paid is important, but it shouldn't be the incentive that tempts you in. That £22,466 is still seven thousand pounds more than a Councillor takes home. It's also much much more than I took home in my previous job as a MSP's Researcher.

I do my job because I'm committed to serving the people of my ward, and to winning Independence for Scotland. I feel extremely fortunate to be able to do this, and reflect upon those who have stood for the SNP many times in the past to no avail. Every time I walk up the stairs to the Councillor's Corridor in the City Chambers, I stroke the nose of the lion (which is supposed to bring good luck) but smile to myself and think how lucky I've been already to get here. I hope not to lose sight of that, whatever lies ahead.

Tuesday 2 October 2007

Faslane 365

I spent this morning down at Faslane for the final day of the year-long 365 protest. I'd been before earlier in the 365 campaign, but never with so many people. It was a real carnival atmosphere, with people from all over Scotland, and even folk who had travelled further from other countries. One of my favourite moments was the huge Strip the Willow that I took part in, though I'm not sure that organised social dancing with anarchists will ever take off!

I was impressed by the huge mix of people, and how passionate and committed they all were. The people getting arrested were old, young, male, female, of clearly varying class and backgrounds; but they were all ready to step up and play their part. The police were numerous, but they seemed to be fair enough from what I saw. They lifted people like a leg and a wing, but there was no violence when I was there. I didn't really expect any to be honest, but you never know!

The SNP showing was ok - MSPs in the form of Sandra White, Jamie Hepburn, Bashir Ahmed and Gil Paterson, Councillors in the form of David McDonald, Colin Deans and I. A few had called off with appointments and illness, which was a shame, but I was glad to have been there. There were a fair few YSI and FSN members there too. Although Sandra was interviewed, advertising the SNP wasn't really the aim of the day for me.

One of the most interesting things was the statement of support from Alex Salmond - that would never have happened in the past, and it sends out a really strong message that Scotland is different, distinctive, and opposed to illegal weapons of mass destruction on our soil and in our waters.

More money, but for what?

It's taken me a while to get round to blogging on this - but I feel I must. I was in the pub on Friday night, and shouted out loud when I saw this article in the Evening Times. It's one of these stories that just makes you think "those politicians don't know they're born".

Kelvin MSP Pauline McNeill, who is paid £53,000 a year, told him: "Up until now I have written all my own speeches for Parliament, I have organised all my committee papers (filing and preparation) I attend meetings at night on my own as I cannot pay very much overtime to staff to attend with me."

As a former researcher to an MSP, I'm amazed on a number of fronts.

1) An elected MSP wants her staff to go along and hold her hand? Why? I believe I saw a member of Ms McNeill's staff with her at the Council's Botanic Gardens call in, where she and said staff member sat at the back of the room and did nothing for two hours (they were not permitted by the chair to participate in the proceedings). If she needed staff to come with her in the evening, why not arrange flexitime of some sort? Not exactly hard to arrange, and without the need for overtime at the public's expense.

2) What it is Ms McNeill's staff members are paid to do, if not carry out research, assist in speech preparation and do the filing? Recalling the nauseatingly sycophantic "reelect my boss" facebook page set up by Ms McNeill's staff prior to the election (which sadly has disappeared since May 3rd), perhaps they have too much free time on their hands... All MSPs employ staff, and the roles they carry out vary widely. Should particular tasks need done, that's up to the MSP to sort out.

3) Having been an MSP since the opening of the Parliament, Ms McNeill should surely be well able now to deal with the set up of her office, and her responsibilities as an MSP. Why start girning about it all now?

I personally believe there's a lot of room for refinement of the MSPs allowance system - for example in the staff wage structure and the accommodation allowances. Ms McNeill should perhaps focus on these more significant areas, rather than asking for more cash for a job she's already doing.

Thursday 20 September 2007

Does it matter what Borg thinks?

OK, so back to my thoughts on EU Commissioner Borg's thoughts on why Scotland would have to apply to join the EU.

To set this in context, this Commissioner is from the EU's smallest Member State, Malta. Malta has a population of 0.4 Million - roughly the size of Edinburgh and representing 0.1% of the EU's population. Mr Borg is a former Foreign Minister of Malta. Mr Borg is appointed by his Government to work in the interests of the EU as a Commissioner, and is responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, issues of vital importance to Scotland.

You would think, as someone who has come from the perspective of a very small nation in Europe which successfully acceeded to the EU, Mr Borg would be far less sceptical of the probability of Scotland's membership. It may have taken the accession countries some time to join, but many were coming from a very different position than that of Scotland for a number of historical reasons.

Scotland is already subject to EU laws and is a constituent part of an EU member state. There would not have any significant adjustments made to prepare for membership; we are in a sense already there. In addition, Scotland would is of significant value to the EU in terms of land mass, industry, oil and security. In reality, on what grounds could an independent Scotland see EU membership withheld or delayed?

Wednesday 19 September 2007

Busy times

Apologies for the lack of updates - I've been incredibly busy with surgeries, meetings, turning 25 and packing to move house on Friday.

It feels like I've hardly spent any time in the office for the past couple of weeks, as I've been out and about in my ward. It's good for people in the ward to see their representative, but not so good when that creates a backlog of casework. I may need two of me!

Anyway - more later on why this article in the Scotsman has wound me up, and some of what I've been up to since I last blogged...

Sunday 2 September 2007

Executive no more!

Very chuffed to read in the Sunday Herald, the Scotland on Sunday, the BBC's website that the "Executive" will now be the Government. I know some people in the SNP who don't believe it should be changed until Scotland has the full powers of a Government, but I think it's a step in the right direction. It might sound like semantics, but I think it's important for a number of reasons.

Firstly, the term "Executive" means nothing to ordinary people. The only people I hear referring to the "Executive" are public sector and voluntary agencies. So many folk - even intelligent people who really should know better - seem to think that "Executive" "Government" and "Parliament" are synonymous. Oddly, their confusion doesn't extend to Westminster - they wouldn't blame the Parliament there for something the Government has or hasn't done. While you could always pin the blame on the public for not taking an interest in their political system, my view is that the lack of vision and personality of the previous "Executive" has pretty much bored people into submission. A change in name and, more importantly, in attitude ought to help turn things around.

Secondly, renaming is a big decision - one Labour in London wouldn't let Henry McLeish (remember him?!) take. I think it's telling that the SNP Government has done so, and that there - at least so far - seems to be no move from Westminster to stop the change. Does the Labour Government in Westminster believe that to intervene would be unpopular or play directly into the SNP's hands? Are they playing a longer game? I'm not sure it matters - once we are called a Government, act like a Government, people will begin to demand the powers of a Government.

Lastly, it's a change that the Unionist parties in Scotland will have to take heed of - and a change they'll find it hard to reverse. We're in a period where they have to react to the SNP's agenda, and this is something they're finding it hard to do. Labour, for example, have shifted already from saying the Scottish Parliament shouldn't have any more powers, to saying they'll reconsider. The Tories are dead on their feet in Scotland - could a distinctively Scottish Conservative party change their fortunes. And the Liberals... well, they're increasingly irrelevant under their current leaderships. These three need to decide within their own party membership what the direction should be. Playing constitutional musical statues isn't going to work.

As for the SNP - we need to be careful not to lull ourselves into a false sense of security - we may now be the Government, but we're not yet the Government of an Independent Scotland.

Wednesday 29 August 2007

Football not Newsnight?!

Just realised that Newsnight Scotland isn't on tonight; instead we have last weekend's Scottish football highlights. I'm not pleased at this sacrificing of what limited political coverage we have, and particularly because I'm not entirely convinced that the football coverage is worth it.

I love football; watching it live, on tv, and occasionally playing (despite the fact I'm pretty poor at it!). I also love politics, news programmes, and debate. Why does BBC Scotland appear to have such little control of the schedules that they have to sacrifice one for the other? Is this a one-off, or indicative of the recently bemoaned state of Scottish television coverage?

BBC Scotland's football highlights show fits poorly on a Wednesday night in any case. By this point in the week, I've practically forgotten about last weekend's matches, and I'm looking forward to the upcoming fixtures. Monday night is a better timeslot, but Scotsport's coverage is pretty dire.

Match of the Day and MotD 2 are in my view the kings of football highlight shows. They do replays, analysis with fairly knowledgeable pundits, and high quality camera work. I enjoy watching it, and wouldn't want it removed from the schedules, even in an independent Scotland (if we had the same situation as in Belgium, we could continue to watch BBC anyway). I'd also like to see more football from the rest of Europe, and I'm pleased to see that Channel 5 have now started showing Italian games. Perhaps in the interim, we could have a BBC sport digital channel?

Present Scottish football coverage, and often Scottish football in general, can't hold a candle to MotD, and that's a real shame. It may be a funding issue; it may be a demand issue (would most lovers of the game rather watch Caley Thistle and Gretna, or Chelsea and Arsenal?), but Scottish fans (and Scottish politics enthusiasts!) are losing out.


For those readers who are also my constituents, I've put my surgery times and contact details on the side bar. Feel free to pop by and see me!

Working weeks, and a weekend off

Apologies for not having updated my blog - I've been a bit busy for deep thoughts on the world - or at least too busy to write these thoughts down!

I spent last week running around chasing up constituent casework and meeting organisations (including a visit to John Wheatley College's impressive new Haghill Campus, the employability and training organisation Right Track, and a meeting at the East End Healthy Living Centre).

So far this week, I've attended a meeting of the East End Drugs Forum, popped in to see the folk at Parkhead Credit Union, attended a public meeting in the Calton, and had a briefing from East End Community Homes on their plans for the Gallowgate. I've had surgeries too, as well as trying to get answers on constituency cases. I'm pleased to say that I've used public transport to get to the majority of these meetings (even taking my shopping to the public meeting!).

The weekend, of course, saw two of my fellow SNP colleagues Councillor Jennifer Dunn and Councillor Craig Mackay get hitched. They had a beautiful wedding down in Girvan, and I think it's fair to say a fantastic time was had by all. I'm sure they're going to be really happy together.

Tuesday 21 August 2007

Should Scots withhold the licence fee?

The call for broadcasting to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament has recently been superseded by the Independence White Paper, but in Wales, their parallel debate on broadcasting just seems to be getting warmed up. Adam Price MP, backed by new Bethan Jenkins AM, has threatened to withhold some of his licence fee as he believes Wales is not adequately covered by the "national" BBC news.

He has a very valid point - when was the last time you heard about anything that the Welsh Assembly did? You have to hang around on the BBC Parliament Channel for even a glimpse of proceedings in the Assembly, squeezed in somewhere between some obscure Westminster Committee and coverage of old men in the Lords having a snooze. Why should this be?

Surely the development of Digital TV should lend itself to increasing the diversity of news available? When I attended the Board of Governors meeting in Glasgow last year, the talking heids of the BBC said it was both possible and desirable, but since then nothing seems to have changed.

It really seems that the only way we'll get decent coverage is to push forward with the independence cause.

Monday 20 August 2007

What's wrong with this picture?

Being someone who doesn't photograph so well, I'm currently feeling some empathy for Wendy Alexander. Her leadership bid seems to have given every newspaper an excuse to wheel out shockingly bad pictures of her in assorted open-gobbed glaikit looking poses.

Whether she's any good or not, it's hardly fair to undermine a politician in this way. Furthermore, it's a bit less likely that this kind of tactic would be employed for a male candidate. Journalists often use "controversial" pictures, like Brown looking grumpy during a Blair speech, but these are different. It adds nothing to a story to show a female politician's back teeth. Get a grip, political editors, and leave such pictures for the diary page.

Thursday 16 August 2007


More than a few people (far too many to list, so I'll leave it for the Roundup: they'll do a far better job than I will I'm sure) have already blogged about the launch SNP Government's National Conversation on independence; I've not had time to commit my own thoughts to the internet due to a busy weekend, many many thought-provoking meetings with voluntary organisations in my ward, flat hunting, and the very poor excuse of gazing deeply into the new sparkly engagement ring on my finger...

Anyway, at last I've found a few minutes to spare.

I'm unbelievably excited by the news on the Choosing Scotland's Future White Paper; I was cheering and clapping at Newsnight on Tuesday (nearly burning my ironing in the process). I wasn't, however, cheering only at Alex or Nicola - I was delighted to see the Lib Dems and the Tories enthuse about more powers for the Scottish Parliament. Even Labour, despite Cathy Jamieson's grumpy protestations, have made a monumental shift away from their conviction that every aspect of the Scotland Act ought to be set in stone for eternity.

To give some credit to the Tories, Murdo Fraser and Malcolm Forsyth admitted that, from their ideological perspective, a Parliament should raise the money it spends. To take that concept to it's conclusion, such a Parliament should also be more responsible for that spending, and take on the burden of social security and defence. Then, that Parliament might as well take on the rest of the things Parliaments do, and by that point, whaddya know, you're independent. That's perhaps not what they intend, but that to me is where that will take us (obviously I'd prefer it a bit quicker and more open though, but more on that later).

Cathy Jamieson meanwhile continued her rant that "fiscal autonomy is just independence by another name". I suppose that Labour wouldn't want to undermine their own team in Westminster. After all, to ask for repatriation of financial powers from the Chancellor hardly endorses the job he's doing! It'd be interesting, however, to see whether this position would change if the Tories were running the Treasury...

Lord Steel of the Lib Dems also argued for more powers for the Scottish Parliament, although preferring a more formal federal structure. I'm not convinced by this at all - it seems to me as much as a half-way house as Devolution. In addition, it wouldn't be possible or fair without similar structures in England being put in place, which doesn't seem to have wide support in Westminster by anyone other than the Lib Dems.

Unpicking the Union thread by thread, issue by issue, could be a very time consuming process, and a route I'd rather we didn't take. The idea of a gradual generation-long process leaves me cold and not a little frustrated. We should be bold, but we should always have the people with us. Something more conclusive, preferably via the democratic mandate of the Scottish people in a referendum, would settle the matter.

While done without a referendum, the velvet divorce happened quickly over a period of six months, from the Slovak declaration of independence in July, to the dissolution of Czechoslovakia on the 31st of December 1992. That gives me hope that, should our conversation convert the public, we could be independent sooner than they think.

Monday 13 August 2007

Smoke Free Homes and Zones

Today, I had the privilege of attended the Prize Draw Ceremony for Smoke Free Homes and Zones at Parkhead Fire Station.

The Smoke Free Homes and Zones scheme encourages smokers not to smoke in front of their children, and either to make their homes completely smoke-free (the "Gold Pledge") or to reduce smoking to a single room in the house (the "Silver Pledge"). Those who sign up to the pledges get a certificate and a goody bag with things like stickers and magnets. There was also entry into a prize draw for £100 of DIY vouchers. More than 300 households in the East End of Glasgow have now signed up to the scheme.

The presentation was at the Fire Station, because as well as the obvious health benefits of reducing smoking, there are safety benefits too - because there are a higher number of smokers in the East End, there are a higher proportion of fires in the home started by cigarettes.

The £100 DIY vouchers were presented to Gold Pledge winner Christina Raeburn at the ceremony, and she and their family were given a tour of the Fire Station, including getting a demonstration of Parkhead's new Fire Appliance.

It was interesting to hear Christina's story - she said that she'd made the decision some years ago never to smoke in front of her grandchildren. Christina also said that their nagging had helped her to reduce the number of cigarettes she smoked over time. She'd signed up to the Smoke Free Homes and Zones scheme, and felt that she was now almost ready to give up smoking for good.

Hopefully, many other families can take inspiration from Christina; she put the health of her grandchildren and first, and set them a positive example.

Sunday 12 August 2007

Small rewards

I blogged back in June on the subject of sprinklers, and I was delighted to recieve an unexpected letter in the post at the end of last week from John B Walker, the Assistant Chief Officer (Strategic Planning) at Strathclyde Fire and Rescue.

The letter thanked me for my blog post, and mentioned that some 2256 referrals to the Fire and Rescue website had come from my blog. So I'd like to extend his thanks to all of you who clicked the link. Here it is again, for those who missed it!

Saturday 11 August 2007

Piping Live

I attended the World Pipe Band Championships today, and was unbelievably impressed by both the standard of the piping and the way the bands kept going even in the pouring rain. Most of the pipers seemed to have huge raincoats, but these were taken off when they performed in the arena. There was a great turnout by the crowd, and the finale where all the bands filled the arena and played was just amazing.

What also struck me was the distance bands had travelled - from England, Northern Ireland and Eire, North America, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, Belgium, Sweden, Italy, even Pakistan Brazil and Oman! It made me really proud to see how Scots heritage and culture was being celebrated around the globe. Although other nations and regions have piping, there's surely not anything quite like this.

The Worlds will be broadcast on
Sunday 19th August on BBC 1 Scotland at 17:45 - I'll definately be tuning in!

Tuesday 7 August 2007

YSI - making a difference

It's taken me a while to get round to blogging about this, but I was chuffed to the gutties on Friday to see that the new SNP Government had taken a YSI proposal on board.

The YSI submitted a resolution to the SNP’s National Council in June to ask that the new SNP Government to do all they could to resolve the unfair practice of charging the children of asylum seekers full overseas fees to study at Scottish Universities. We don't believe that, if you've gone through your higher education in Scotland, worked hard and passed your exams, that you should be denied the same opportunity for further education as your classmates. Bailie David McDonald spoke passionately on the subject, and the resolution was passed by acclaim.

Lots of very worthy resolutions get passed by acclaim. In the past, the SNP in the Parliament only had limited means to bring these ideas to fruition; now, things have clearly changed. I'm delighted that David, who has in the past brought other resolutions on asylum seekers and dawn raids to Conference and National Council, has seen something tangible in return for his commitment. But I'm even more over the moon that we in Scotland have taken this radical, egalitarian step. It's the right thing to do, and we did it. Hopefully, moves on dawn raids and detention will follow soon.

The YSI resolution to SNP National Council read as follows:

Council instructs SNP ministers to encourage Scottish Universities to afford children of asylum seekers the same rights to university education as other Scots and to bring to an end a system of discrimination which sees the children of asylum seekers who have gone through the Scottish Secondary school system unable to take their education to the next level.

Thursday 2 August 2007

Art and Sectarianism

I attended the launch of an exhibition on sectarianism at the Gallery of Modern Art this evening. As most people will know, I don't originally come from Glasgow, and I don't support either Rangers or Celtic. I'm not much into religion either. So why the interest in the exhibition?

A part of the exhibition (on the first floor balcony if you have time to pop in) is a series of photographs taken by boys from the South Camlachie Youth Project, as part of Sense Over Sectarianism. That particular area is in my ward, and sits in the shadow of Celtic Park. I've learnt a lot about the rivalry and tribalism in the East End of Glasgow in the past few months, but I get the impression I'm only starting to scratch the surface. The SCYP and SOS are working to break down some of the barriers between people in Glasgow, and seem to be making some progress.

The youth worker who was supervising the boys told me how they've been working with Rangers and Celtic, and trying to challenge the attitudes of young people in the area. For example, they've taken the boys to tour Celtic Park and Ibrox sit in the home end of both teams during games. This seems to have been hard for some of them at first, but a bit less so over time. It would be hard to roll out to every group of kids in Glasgow, but I think more education programmes like this would be a positive step - different perceptions, breaking down barriers, changing the way people see the world - it can only help.

Wednesday 1 August 2007

Best wine name ever?

Richard Thomson claims to have found the best shop name, so I thought it was time to post possibly one of the best wine names ever. Will report back on what it tastes like at a later date.

Monday 30 July 2007

Nearly independent already!

According to the BBC, Scotland is to be largely exempt from Broon's flag waving exercises. If the Union Flag only flies from UK Government buildings, that's going to look gloriously Imperial...

Thursday 19 July 2007

Did you miss me? Thought not....

I wouldn't expect many people to have noticed, but I've been off on a few days holiday - the first real time off I've had since November (constant leafleting, Council work, and YSI and SNP engagements since then!). I've been in France, down near Carcassonne, which was nice but pretty windy due to the place I was staying apparently being in the course of the Mistral. It was unbelievably windy, except for the last few days when it turned eerily still.

I caught some sun, visited Toulouse, Carcassonne, Narbonne, Andorra, and a few wee villages besides. I did some wine tasting and ate lots of bread and cheese. I avoided the Cassoulet because I'm just not convinced it's going to be that tasty.

I saw some political posters (completely different from ours as you can see!), and some pro-Occitania graffiti and t-shirts.

I did take my Blackberry with me; I did emails from the side of the pool. I am either dedicated, or I am truly tragic. You can decide...

Sunday 8 July 2007

Look at this picture: what do you see?

I know, I know. This picture from the BBC website is related to a terrorism story and shouldn't be made light of. There's few things that worry me more than polis with guns.

Yet, the thought which popped immediately into my head was "you can't smoke in here"...

Saturday 7 July 2007

Some thoughts on flying the flag

I don't really see myself as a small minded, narrow, flag waving nationalist - for a start, I don't own any flag bigger than the wee paper ones from Letham SNP (as stylishly modelled by my potplant!). I do, however, get some satisfaction from seeing the Saltire flying in the breeze above the City Chambers in Glasgow as I walk across George Square. It makes me think that, as in other independent nations across the world, a flag flying above a public building is a subtle sign that you exist.

I don't think we in Scotland should take the whole flag-flying thing too far, nor do I think we actually need to, because we have a fairly strong sense of who we are. I feel when nations have to continually wrap themselves in the flag, there's some latent doubt in society over identity. The United States is a prime example - a society which is huge and diverse, where children salute the flag each morning at school, and ordinary citizens take incredible pride in flying flags from their homes. When I was last down in England, the Flag of St George was flying from nearly every car and window - which is a real sign that people there are starting to think of who they are and who they want to be as a nation.

At a debate in the Council last week, many Labour Councillors were queueing up to say how proud they were of British institutions like the BBC, and how they felt equally British and Scottish; yet I don't see them falling over one another to hoist the Union Flag up the City Chambers flag pole. Gordon Brown, on the other hand, believes that the Union Flag should be flown from public buildings as often as possible, and has changed some old rules to let this happen. It might win him some votes in Middle England, but falling back on to the flag smacks of desperation to me.

Brown also talks of wanting to "take on" those people who don't conform to his sense of what being British is. He talks of terrorists, and of extremists. Does this mean me? I would never claim to be British, not out of any sense of animosity, but because I don't identify with the concept or feel I belong. When ever I go to London, I feel like a tourist in another land. Even small towns in England feel foreign to me: people don't understand me, I have to speak slower and more clearly. They reject my currency, they don't know anything about my politics (one friend of my boyfriend's parents asked me "what's an MSP?").

One of the positive things I did take from the BBC article linked to above was that David Cameron has come out with an unexpectedly sensible take on the matter:

In a speech last year, Conservative leader David Cameron accused Mr Brown of wanting to "institutionalise" being British, arguing it was possible to feel "multiple patriotism" with loyalties not only to where you live, but also to where you were born.

"I think we should realise that Britishness is a concept that, if grasped too hard, slips away," the Tory leader added.

I wouldn't deny that there are some people who have attachments to the Union flag, just as there are people who have attachments other flags or none. None of us should be forced, however, to fit into a stereotype of subjects in Brown's green and pleasant land or be branded terrorists.

Thursday 5 July 2007

PQs on Defence and Scotland dual role

Today's Scotsman included a report on Parliamentary Questions asked yesterday by Robert Wilson, Reading East MP, and James Gray, a Scots-born Wiltshire MP regarding the "part time" Defence/Scottish Secretary. Now it seems that Des Browne's "two jobs" won't be part time at all - he'll be giving over his Scottish Secretary duties to David Cairns.

Why bother with the title, if the role means nothing? Does Gordy not trust David to do the job without having someone to hold his hand?

The report also stated that:
"A source close to Mr Browne dismissed the concerns about the dual role as unjustified. They added that the Cabinet minister had already made clear he would work as hard as he had to to take on both roles "even if he has to get up an hour earlier".
A whole hour? Lucky us!

Tuesday 3 July 2007

Different attitudes?

New York tells terrorists "united we stand"

London tells terrorists "we are not afraid"

Glasgow tells terrorists "we'll set about ye"

Friday 29 June 2007

Is Gordon Brown trying to tell us something?

I was listening to the radio news while heading to a meeting in my ward, when I heard that Des Browne is to take on the role of both Defence Secretary and Scottish Secretary.

Maybe it's just the way things connect in my head, but I immediately wondered whether this new joint role makes it easier to roll the tanks up to the border in the event of the independence referendum going our way...

Joking (and yes, dear Labour readers, that wasn't a serious statement) aside, I do feel it's a bit unfortunate that the two roles are now combined, particularly in light of the raw deal the Scots regiments have had from previous Defence Secretaries. Others have quite rightly pointed out that the dualling could make Defence a "part time" role, and are concerned given the current situation in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, I'm not sure it's the Defence aspect that will suffer most.

Now that we have a very different Government in Scotland, the role of the Secretary of State for Scotland should become a very significant one from the Westminster perspective. They surely need someone to be their eyes and ears in Scotland, and to try and keep relations smooth. If it looks like the Scottish Government is being frustrated and undermined by Westminster, I believe it will damage the Westminster administration and the Union, rather than the SNP Government in Holyrood. If the relationship is fractious and uncooperative (and not from Holyrood), this could well sway doubters towards an independent Parliament with full powers.

Sunday 24 June 2007

Blog in tabloid shocker!

So, apparently a few throwaway comments on a blog is considered newsworthy these days.

Well, putting aside my disappointment at modern standards of investigative journalism, I would like to invite any sensitive souls who I appear to have indavertantly reduced to tears to please get in touch. If my words offend, please, please let me know. I wouldn't want anyone to have to go running all the way down to Central Quay for tea and sympathy; I'm in the City Chambers regularly, so it would be nice if an apology was sought in person, directly, rather than through the pages of the tabloid press. Because that would surely be "grown-up".

Wednesday 20 June 2007

Sprinklers save lives

I hadn't thought much about sprinklers until today - well, other than reckoning they're a good idea and generally thinking that they should be fitted wherever possible. At lunchtime, I attended a presentation by Strathclyde Fire and Rescue, who have recently been stepping up their campaign to have sprinklers fitted in homes.

They showed a video of the outcome of a fire in two very similar rooms; one with a sprinkler, one without. The temperature in the rooms rose quickly with the fire, but the sprinkler detected this and went off automatically at around seventy - seventy-five degrees centigrade, doused the fire and the room was saved. Without the sprinkler, the fire in the other room spread, and the room very quickly got destroyed. No prizes for guessing which room on the left was which!
What really struck me was the speed that the fire spread, and the Fire and Rescue officers I spoke to reinforced this point to me after the presentation. By the time a fire crew gets to a house fire, it could easily be too late. A sprinkler could intervene and prevent a fire - the system on display today showed that it could also have flashing lights and alarms to alert neighbours in a tenement of block of flats.

It was also mentioned that lots of new houses come with burglar alarms as standard now, but not with sprinklers. I suppose people tend not to think about fire prevention when they buy a property, but given the risks and the statistics, fire is probably more likely to happen.

I came away from the meeting thinking that it's time to actually force house builders to take fire safety into consideration through legislation. You could ask them to do it voluntarily, but I'm not sure that that's working thus far. Interestingly, pie-eating former Minister Frank McAveety spoke at the meeting, and was still swithering over whether he favoured voluntarism or enforcement through legislation; he talked about Cross - Party Groups and Petitions as a means of bringing this forward. I think an SNP government could to better than that, and I hope the Fire and Rescue services get serious and get chatting to the government on this issue pronto.

Tuesday 19 June 2007

Nice to meet you!

I wrote out to all the schools in my ward a few weeks ago, and last week I wrote to all the voluntary organisations in my ward (with the help of the very wonderful infobase); since then, I've been filling my diary full of lots of appointments. The people I've met and spoken to so far seem to be pleased to hear from me, and I'm really looking forward to working with them in the years ahead.

Friday 15 June 2007

The end of a long week

It seems as though this week has been going on for ever, so I'm glad to be enjoying a wee drink and a chance to watch First Minister's questions.

I finally moved into the new office I'll be sharing with Bailie McDonald, Cllr. Mackay, and Cllr. Dunn today. In shifting the piles of bumpf I've acquired from the north side of the west building to the south side of the east building, I discovered that gallantry is dead among certain members of the Labour group. It took a couple of trips, and on my first and second trips, I was clearly struggling to open a security door; they stopped, looked, and walked on. I always hold doors open for people, and help when people look as though they need a hand. On my last trip, Councillor McAllister was kind enough to hold open the door for me, so at least I know the SNP guys aren't lacking in manners!

The first of the culprits was nice enough to compliment me on my letter in today's Scotsman in the Executive Committee later in the day, but I would rather have had a hand with the door! Also, does that mean he knows who I am and didn't help me as a result, or he only knew who I was in Committee because my name was on a card in front of me?

Incidentally, the Executive Committee meeting this fortnight was a bit of a marathon - more than thirty points on the agenda, some pretty contentious issues which required debate and others which went through on a mere nod. It lasted for three and a half hours, and Labour's majority meant they never got close to losing a vote. It's frustrating that no matter how convincingly we put a point, however correct, logical and passionate we might be, we're unlikely to change the decision. Perhaps as time goes on, things will change - I gotta hope.