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.