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.

Monday 11 June 2007

Back home...

I got the chance on Saturday to go back to my roots - Carluke SNP were hosting a celebration party for the many Councillors they got elected to South Lanarkshire Council, and for the election of Aileen Campbell MSP.

Carluke is my home town, and where I first joined the SNP at the age of seventeen. I was only able to attend a few branch meetings there before I headed off to Aberdeen for Uni, and I wasn't back in Carluke for long before I headed off to Brussels, and then later Glasgow. Despite that, the branch members in Carluke welcomed me in on Saturday, and treated me as if I'd never been away. I even got to participate in the frog race twice! It was great to see everyone again.

I always feel like the SNP is like a family - people care about each other. I hope that never changes.

Monday 4 June 2007

Call that a logo?!

I had a quick swatch of the BBC site today, to see this jagged wee monster staring back at me. I'm sure the person (although, I suspect it was a committee) who designed it is very proud of their work, and me trashing their design is just another shovel of dung on a Everest of other criticisms they've received since the launch earlier today.

But really. It doesn't say anything. And to demonstrate how little the logo says, politicians have been queueing up to spout nonsense over it. Tessa Jowell, for example, gushed:

"This is an iconic brand that sums up what London 2012 is all about - an inclusive, welcoming and diverse Games that involves the whole country."

"It takes our values to the world beyond our shores, acting both as an invitation and an inspiration.

"This is not just a marketing logo, but a symbol that will become familiar, instantly recognisable and associated with our Games in so many ways during the next five years."

Iconic Brand? Sums up London? Values? Get over yourself guys, it is just a logo. I'm not really sure it does need to "say anything", other than to get across is that the Olympic Games are in London. A simple message. The one from the 1948 Olympics in London is maybe a bit on the drab side, but at least you know it's in London. The 1948 one uses a real iconic image of London, and has the rings right to the fore. Simple, straightforward, and I bet they didn't have to endure a shiny press wankathon.

The Glasgow Commonwealth Games logo is far nicer - at least it suggests some tartan at the top (cheesy yes, but it's one of the things that makes Scotland distinctive), and ties into a kinda torch like image. It's nice, easy on the eye. Don't suppose it says much about Glasgow (you'd have to know your Mackintosh to pick up on the O), but it's not bad. It's simple and crisp, and I hope it's not dumped if we win the bid.

Anyway, I'm not feeling any sense of inspiration or connection to the meaningless scribble of the London 2012 logo. It's a million miles from the simple branding used for the initial bid (sorry about the cheesiness of the picture, but it's the best I could find!). That was all over London last time I was there, so for additional expense, they're now going to have to take all that down and replace it.

I've had a look about - below are ones from recent games... they don't "say" much, but they stick to a simple formula - get some Olympic rings in there, make it a bit about your country (red white and blue stars for the US, yellow and red stripes for Barcelona).