Saturday 25 October 2008

Campaigning goes on - whatever the weather!

The trip to Glenrothes today was a bit more hair-raising than usual due to the weather, and the high winds meant we were diverted from our usual route over the Forth Road Bridge. Huge plaudits must go to our drivers for the day, Grant and Ron, who got us there and back safely despite the storms.

Pictured are some of the hardy souls from Glasgow (along with Councillor Jim Finn, who just wanted to get in the picture!).

Friday 24 October 2008

East End Child Safety Project

I attended the AGM of the East End Child Safety Project today; it was great to catch up on their work in the past year and have a chat with the Project Coordinator, Jackie. Her commitment to child safety is inspiring.

The Child Safety Project aims to prevent accidents in the home by raising public awareness in the community and through home visits. They work closely with Social Work and Health Visitors to help parents child-proof their homes, offering impartial advice and fitting safety equipment (like safety gates, plug covers, and tap guards). They also work with Strathclyde Fire and Rescue to refer clients for free home safety visits. Some of the parents they help are even taken on as volunteers, and get trained to go out and advise others on how to protect their children.

A good number of the things might seem obvious - like keeping dangerous chemicals out of reach - but sadly there are still many preventable accidents in the home, which result in injury or death. As this ROSPA report highlights, there's much work to do.

Thursday 23 October 2008

SNP Conference Roundup

SNP Conference was quite a busy one for me in my final turn as Convener of Young Scots for Independence. I have turned 26, and therefore have to retire at the YSI's conference next month.

Preparations started early in the week with a marathon baking session of millionaire shortbread, fairy cakes and brownies to sell on our stall. Wednesday evening and Thursday morning were spent in Glenrothes, and conference proper started with the traditional smile and clap welcome to our First Minister on Thursday afternoon.

Young Scots for Independence had a number of resolutions on the agenda, including one on destitution and asylum seekers, a constitutional amendment to move the SNP membership age from 16 to 14 and, the thing that most journos had picked up on, an amendment to a resolution on the Scottish Government's consultation on alcohol.

Bailie David McDonald spoke passionately moving the asylum seeker resolution, followed by equally enlightening speeches by Bob Doris MSP and Anne McLaughlin. Our amendment to the constitution unfortunately failed but not without a fight by Alex MacLeod, a (stylish) 16 year old former Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament, who stood up to the onslaught of party stalwarts Lachie McNeill and Gerry Fisher.

And so to the alcohol resolution. The YSI fought the good fight and lost. I was quite nervous and I wasn't particularly pleased with my own speech in the end, but I thought the other speakers in the debate spoke very well. I wasn't aware that I was being watched even when I wasn't speaking - but according to the Scotsman my tense worried face predicted the outcome! The debate itself was mature, interesting, considered; something the party should be very proud of. I know there were many many people who wanted to speak that the constraints of time didn't allow, and many of them spoke to me afterwards. Thanks all! I was proud of the support the YSI had from delegates, and feel that even though the Minister for Public Health didn't agree, she did respect our participation in the wider debate:

"The Young Scots for Independence have gone about this the right way, by responding to the consultation, in stark contrast to the opposition parties, who carp from the sidelines and couldn't even respond to the consultation."

Other highlights and stresses of conference included Friday night's infamous YSI karaoke (this year subtitled "if you can't sing it, wing it!") which raised the roof an a fair bit of cash to sustain the youth wing and the student wing over the year to come. Huge thanks go to Alyn Smith MEP, and to Christine Grahame MSP for her winning bid for the framed Glasgow East campaign photo montage, signed by Alex Salmond and John Mason. The karaoke was expertly provided by Andi Candoo.

The YSI's fringe event on Sunday morning (the unearthly 8.30am slot) was on the topic "Young People and Driving - boy racers or responsible road users". We've had internal YSI discussions on what could be done to reduce the number of young people killed and injured on Scotland's roads, and we felt it was time to air this wider. We had a good turn out and were delighted to have Stewart Stevenson MSP, whose Ministerial portfolio includes Road Safety, and Chief Superintendent Michael McCormick from ACPOS to present their views on the matter. There was no doubt from the statistics presented that young drivers are disproportionately likely to be killed on the road, and there were followed some very interesting suggestions as to how this situation should be addressed. I'm sure this is something we will be hearing more about.

I'm looking forward to Conference returning to Inverness next year, not least as I'll be able to enjoy it as a delegate, rather than the YSI Convener. It won't be the same, but I guess I'll have to live with getting older!

Blogging roundup

The last couple of weeks have been hectic, so I'm going to do a quick sum up of the things I've done and the places I've been. Then I'll do conference, then I'll start on this week (Thursday already? You've gotta be kidding!).

Thursday the 9th was a fairly busy - I started by modelling for my good friend Fiona, who designed my wedding dress. My gown had taken a bit of a pounding in the ceilidh but Fiona had managed to put it back together again, and return it to a pristine condition. It's nice to have it, but it's more useful to use it - Fiona is exhibiting in a number of upcoming wedding fairs, and I managed to be pursuaded to pose for her. I've yet to see the photos, but I hope there's something she can use. From there, I had to high-tail it to Hamilton to attend the Strathclyde Fire and Rescue Board, still scrubbing wild makeup from my face!

I'm a substitute member on the SFR Board, so I don't get the opportunity to go to many meetings. It was important to attend this one, however, since the closure of Parkhead Fire Station in my ward was on the agenda. I appreciate things can't stay the same forever, and that the current station isn't ideal, but I don't think the proposal to close it and merge with Cambuslang (on a new site over the river in South Lanarkshire) is the right call. The FBU aren't keen either. With huge change in the area, including the Commonwealth Games arena and velodrome, I think there's more to be considered. The SNP and independent member on the Board all voted against the move, and Labour (including the Glasgow members) voted for the closure. I intend to blog more on this later; as the plans will go out for consultation, there's a lot still to play for.

The evening of Thursday 9th was the annual St Mungo's Academy Awards Ceremony. It's tremendous to see young people doing well and excelling in their chosen subjects, and I was proud to see how well the pupils had done. It's a real treat to attend. The event itself is very slick (as it needs to be when you're giving out so many prizes!), and entertainment was provided by the school orchestra, jazz band and the choir. One of the nicest things was the pupils who left at the end of the school year coming back in numbers to recieve their prizes. At my school, the prizegiving ceremony was at the end of the summer term, with prizes based on prelim results. The hall would be oven-like and everyone wanted to get out to let the summer holidays begin. At St Mungo's, the prizes reflect the actual post-appeal results. There was extra pride when the pupils who achieved 5 A Highers and 8 Standard Grades got up to take their bow. Doing it this way allows those still at the school to see for themselves what opportunities lie before them - work, travel, college, uni.

Saturday 11th - Scotland Norway. Having neglected to get tickets, I watched the game in Coopers with the usual suspects. It was bad. Very bad. There were many sorrows to drown, and there may have been some whisky involved.

Sunday 12th - I attended the Glasgow Vintage Vehicle Trust Open Day, and even managed to get my mum, dad and husband to come along and admire the beautiful buses.

There were a lot of very special and rare buses on show, some the only ones remaining of their kind. A good number had driven to the event especially for the open day, while others are garaged there permenantly. Some vehicles from the Glasgow Museum of Transport are being looked after by GVVT while the preparations are made for the move to the new Riverside Museum.

My parents (who're not that old!) enjoyed seeing some of the buses they used in times past, lovingly and painstakingly restored. A range of trucks, vans, and even a tank were also on show.

As you can see from this picture of the outside of the garage, there were plenty of visitors to the open day. Some of the buses were even running a free hurl to the Museum of Transport, and when I headed off to the Kelvin Hall after lunch, it was quite exciting to see a convoy of vintage buses running along Argyle Street.

The Kelvin Hall was hosting the Acrobatic Gymnastic World Championships. I watched and was impressed by the Gymnastics at the Olympics, but I was totally blown away by the agility and strength of the competitors in this event. You'll be able to see from the video some of the amazing feats, but seeing it in person was breathtaking. The gymnasts, male and female, were able to do the impossible. Flips, tumbles, throws, balancing feats. Huge skill, and I would imagine, massive pain, but truly phenomenal perfomances through it all. Check out the videos and the gallery - you'll be amazed.

Tuesday 7 October 2008

Throwing out traditions

It's nice to see that Gordon Brown will be making his own personal contribution in this time of flux by dispensing with old traditions which have lasted... oooh, since about 1999. Because, as we all know, Prime Ministers haven't campaigned in a by election since Uxbridge, Eddisbury, or Hamilton South.

It's up to each individual Prime Minister whether they want to campaign in a by election. There are quite a lot of by elections over the course of a Parliament (12 Westminster by elections since 2005), and I guess it's not feasible that they'd have time to come to them all. Most aren't even that close and the incumbent doesn't face much of a challenge. Perhaps a convention did grow up through this frequency - the BBC article on Uxbridge refers to a thirty year tradition of Prime Ministers not appearing at by elections, but internet links to back this up are a bit scarce previous to '97.

Things have changed dramatically in those thirty years. The reaction of the media to by elections can be incredible, and it's increasingly important for the parties to get a piece of the action. Why else would smaller parties bother with the expense of fielding candidates? I caught a wee bit of the 1964 General Election coverage on BBC Parliament the other day, and it's a world away from the media circus now surrounding elections.

The claim that Glenrothes is different has some merit. The Prime Minister's own constituency is next door; having lost Dunfermline and West Fife as recently as 2006, Mr Brown won't want to lose the constituency to his East. This is probably the most compelling reason for his appearance. Unlike Glasgow East, it is his back yard. Furthermore, it's a bit cruel but probably true that both the new Leader of Labour in the Scottish Parliament and Secretary of State for Scotland are still too anonymous to make any kind of impact on the good people of Fife.

While Glenrothes might be a campaign Gordon Brown can't shy away from, I wonder whether the suggestion in the Sunday Herald Editorial from during the Glasgow East campaign still stands, and what the implications will be this time around;

"He is being kept away from Glasgow, not because prime ministers don't do by-elections, but because this Prime Minister can't do elections.

Monday 6 October 2008

It's on!

After all the flirting, it's nice to see that we finally have a date! Remember remember, the 6th of November...

Sunday 5 October 2008

A tale of two Johns

I was out with a group of activists at Central Station today to cheer Scotland's newest MP off to Westminster. Although the Glasgow East by election seems so long ago now, Westminster has been in summer recess all this time. The break hasn't meant John has had time to twiddle his thumbs, but it's about time he got sworn in and made his maiden speech!

There was a good turnout of supporters at the station to wave him off - a fair number of slightly bemused passengers too! One woman, who turned out to be a constituent of John's, was delighted to meet him and have a chat. Another passenger, however, wasn't quite so polite.

I'm not sure what brought former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott to Glasgow for the weekend, but he certainly didn't seem to be happy to see us. Perhaps he didn't see the BBC camera, or perhaps being on his way out means he doesn't care. With the wave of two fingers, he managed to upgraded our wee photo call to a high billing on the BBC Scottish news!

Glenrothes again

Another Saturday, another trip to Glenrothes! This weekend, I had the massive responsibility of driving the minibus, and I had a blast. I've never driven anything bigger than a Renault Scenic (the car my dad had when I was learning to drive), so it was a wee bit daunting at first. My glamourous co-pilot/navigator Anne managed to keep her heid and mine, and I got us there and back without need for further by elections. I even got cheered as we got back to Glasgow!

I've been thinking about the comment left anonymously on my last post, saying most people do things "not related to work" at the weekend. I'm sure they do, but for me, there doesn't seem to be much of a boundary between "work" and SNP/YSI stuff. I think I need some kind of hobby, but I don't know if I'd have time for it!

Abercromby Street Clean Up

I had the pleasure of helping out Friends of the Calton Weavers and the children of St James Primary in my ward with their clean up in Abercromby Street cemetery on Thursday morning. It was a clear bright day, and the kids were very enthusiastic and keen to learn more about the history of the area.

The clean up was supported by Clean Glasgow and Land and Environmental Services, and covered in Saturday's Evening Times.

Wednesday 1 October 2008

Saturday fun

I meant to post this earlier (sorry Anne!) - this is Saturday's campaign team heading out to Glenrothes from Glasgow to join those who were spending the whole holiday weekend.

I get very confused when I have a Saturday off; what do other people do at the weekend?!