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.