Friday 25 January 2008

Happy Burns Night!

Just about to go cook my Haggis, so thought I'd wish you all a good Burns night. The Burns supper is an event I really enjoy, and I'll be attending one tomorrow night. Enjoying warm comfort food, a dram, good company and good entertainment is perhaps not particular to Scotland, but the national (and international) celebration of a poet is definitely remarkable.

My own understanding of Burns came from the passion of one particular english teacher, whose enthusiasm for the bard had our Higher class transfixed. He could explain all the nuances, pick out the strengths and weaknesses of each poem, and make Burns' work relevant to a bunch of teenagers from Carluke. I'm incredibly grateful to him for this and always remember his teachings, and in particular his Tam O'Shanter, at this time of year. I hope he's performing somewhere tonight; I'm sure Burns would have liked his rendition.

Thursday 24 January 2008

Politics gets a bit silly

Not being able to blog in the office was really hurting today, as I chuckled over the resignation of Peter Hain, Wendy Alexander remaining "confident" of being cleared and, cleverly picking a day when he's highly unlikely to get much coverage, George Galloway splitting from Respect. All comedy gold.

I wonder a bit about the Wendy situation - clearly £950 isn't quite in the same league as £100,000, but surely the principle should be upheld. Will the Electoral Commission decide that they should be treated differently, due to scale, or treat both equally? Interesting times ahead.

Not blogging did allow me to get a good chunk of work moved from my "to do" pile to my "to file" pile. Progress. I also had cause to be impressed (not for the first time) by the depth of knowledge of our group; it's great to have so many experienced people nearby to call on when you need advice.

Sunday 20 January 2008

Safety on the streets

I was a left a bit bemused by this article in the Sunday Times, which reveals that Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has admitted she would not feel safe walking around London after dark.

Let's firstly get out of the way the major issue here - that if you are a Minister of the party which has governed the country for more than ten years and you don't feel that you could safely walk outside in the dark, that's surely an admission of some kind.
OK, you could argue that London is a very very big city, and that it follows that as a vulnerable solo woman in that city you might feel that you'd be more likely to be a victim of crime.

However, there's also the issue of the Minister being entirely out of touch with reality:

In the interview, Smith, the first woman home secretary, was asked whether she would feel safe walking on her own around Hackney at midnight. She replied: “Well, no, but I don’t think I’d ever have done. You know, I would never have done that, at any point during my life.” Asked why not, she answered: “Well, I just don’t think that’s a thing that people do, is it, really?

People sometimes have no choice; no access to a private car (never mind a Ministerial car!), no trains, no buses, no cash for a taxi, so shank's pony is the only way home. If the Home Secretary doesn't appreciate that, she really has lost touch with the very people she is supposed to be looking after.

I'm perhaps a bit too reckless for my own good but I have wandered home on many occasions on my own at night, most regularly in Glasgow these days, but also when I was at Uni in Aberdeen and when I was an intern in Brussels. I've been lucky, as no harm has come to me so far. I do know people, including my partner, who have been attacked. What reassures me (in a strange way) is that all of the incidents I know about have been random, pure bad luck and the result of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I believe that I'm likely to be a victim at some point, but that there's no point in worrying about it as there's little you can do in that situation.

Since I was elected, I've often walked home from my surgeries, on my own, in the dark. Do I feel vulnerable? Occasionally. There's nothing like a drunken learly football fan to make you want to cross the road and hurry on your way. Do I fold and avoid walking in Glasgow at night? Absolutely not - what kind of public representative, what kind of person,
would that make me? Perhaps one like Jacqui Smith.

One final footnote:
After the interview, a worried aide called The Sunday Times saying the wording had not come out as the home secretary had intended. She said Smith had recently “bought a kebab in Peckham” at night. The south London district is one of the most deprived in the capital.

Aye, right!


I've finally done it - reached 100 posts! I was wondering whether I would make it before the first anniversary of the blog (at the end of the month), but here I am already.

I started the blog genuinely not knowing what the near future would hold. It's been quite a year, with a fair amount of events for me to ponder and commit to internet history. It's satisfying to see that most of the other SNP bloggers who started before and after me have managed to keep their blogs going too. It's a bit of a personal challenge to keep going, but it's something I do take seriously - and not just because Mediawatch keeps score!

What have I learned from the blogging experience? I've learned first and foremost that on a blog once something is out there, it's out there. This has made me a wee bit more circumspect in what I post, but I think that's not entirely a bad thing. If I self-edit when I'm chatting to someone, speaking in a meeting, or writing a formal letter, then there's no justification for splurting every last notion to the world on here!

I hope that what I write helps to keep people, in particular my constituents, updated with some of the many things I do in a week. I can't write about everything (and I wouldn't want to either) due to the very important constraints of constituent confidentiality, but I think I try to highlight what issues I can.

I aim to keep going, and see whether I can reach 200!

Congratulations to St Mungo's!

St Mungo's Academy in my ward are this year celebrating their 150th Anniversary. To mark this milestone the school are planning a year of special events, and I had the pleasure of attending the first of these, a Civic Mass and celebration, on Thursday night.

The mass was held in the very impressive setting of St Andrew's Cathedral - a place I have been past many times but have never had the chance to visit. The event was very well attended, with past and present teachers and pupils, and teachers from the associated schools in the learning community. The Mass was taken by Archbishop Mario Conti, but it wasn't as formal as I had feared and, even as someone who doesn't often get involved in religion, I took a lot out of it.

I'm sure I'll blog more about the celebrations as the year progresses.

A motion has also been lodged in the Parliament to mark the occasion:
S3M-984 Sandra White: Saint Mungo’s Academy—That the Parliament congratulates Saint Mungo’s Academy, Glasgow, on its upcoming 150th anniversary; further congratulates staff, pupils and parents, both past and present, for the excellent record of attainment and community involvement achieved by Saint Mungo’s; wishes all those involved well during their anniversary celebrations, and hopes that the caring ethos of St Mungo’s continues.

Friday 18 January 2008

Post Offices in Evening Times

I was pleased to get a bit of coverage on the Post Office issue in tonight's Evening Times. Would appreciate it if anyone who got a copy could pass it on to me, as I've not had time today to get to the shops!

Monday 14 January 2008

Dalmarnock Post Office closed

I was very disappointed, but not entirely surprised to hear the confirmation that the Post Office on Springfield Road was indeed one of the ones to be closed in Glasgow. While a few were saved, others have been chosen to stand in their place, due to the crazy position where a certain number (44) have to be closed in this area, come what may. Operating in this fashion really gives no certainty and no confidence in the manner in which Post Offices are selected for closure. If the original 44 were supposed to be chosen with particular criteria, why were they even allowed to be "saved"? And if a certain number must be closed, does this not completely undermine the concept of consultation?

Aside from the immediate Post Office issue, I'm really worried that the people of Dalmarnock are being left with fewer and fewer facilities. It almost seems as though they are being fobbed off with the big bright hope of the Commonwealth Games; "sit tight, it'll all be fine by 2014". That's just not acceptable to me, and I really hope I'm not proved right.

Friday 4 January 2008

Goodbye to a legend

I'm sure I'm not the only blogger who has been saddened by the death of Motherwell Captain Phil O'Donnell; however, I thought I should wait 'til today to commit my thoughts to the internet. I was down at Joe's parents in Derby when I heard the news. I was all chuffed about what sounded like a thrilling game 5-3 win against Dundee United at Fir Park, and had been watching the result come in on the tv. My brother texted me from the game to say Phil had collapsed, then phoned when the news of his death emerged.

People who know me know I'm a Motherwell fan. I was at the famous Cup Final in 1991, when Phil O'Donnell scored his first goal for the club. I was eight. I was pleased to see him come back to the club, lending experience to our young side. At any game I was at, he always made a significant contribution, no matter the end result. I was at Fir Park for the game against Aberdeen a few weeks ago, and could see what a great role he was playing as club Captain. I've rarely seen such a well organised 'Well side, playing remarkably good football. It looked as though he was having a good time out there, which makes it all the more unexpected and tragic that Phil O'Donnell's life was cut short.

He will be missed.

Thursday 3 January 2008

Time moves fast in this new year

It's been a great year in many respects, so much so that I wasn't quite sure that I wanted to leave 2007 behind. The calendar had other ideas though, and I'm not quite comprehending the fact that it's the third of January already. My achievements so far for the year have been messing up my body clock by taking in the festivities round at IndyGal's house, purchasing a new pyrex bowl and making a rather tasty spaghetti carbonara (none of those relating to one another). It feels so strange for me to be away from work, SNP and YSI stuff, but it's very nice to be spending some time just being with Joe.

Joe's put up with a lot in the past year - living on his own while I campaigned in Stornoway and the North East, explaining to his family why I had to leaflet rather than go down south to visit them, my being too tired to actually engage in conversation when I got home in the evening. He's been supportive though and even after all I put him through, he still asked me to marry him back in August. Wedding plans, much to the frustration of our families and my very talented dress designer, are still in their infancy, but we are at least going to see a potential venue next week. Here's hoping they can fit us in...

Resolution-wise, there are three things I'd like to achieve in the coming year:
- I'd very much like to be married before my birthday in September;
- I hope, like Mark, to establish myself as a good Councillor (perhaps a longer-term general aim, but one I intend to work on every day);
- I would like the YSI to grow and flourish, building on a pretty good 2007.