Sunday 28 June 2009

East End 5k

Today was the East End 5k, and as last year, I never quite got round to doing any kind of training before the race.

My running buddy from last year, David Linden, was determined to prove that a diet of kebabs, chips and cheese was no hindrance to a faster time and sprinted off into the distance. I was delighted to finish in 31 minutes, an improvement on last year's 37 minutes. I didn't think it possible!

I was also mildly chuffed to find that I'd come in ahead of my ward colleague, George Redmond, and his running buddy Frank McAveety MSP. They finished well ahead of me last year, and since I hadn't seen them on the run, I reckoned they must've been further up the field. I'd collected my banana and goody bag, found Joe (who had given up his Sunday lie-in to cheer me on!) and David, and settled down for a wee rest when I heard their name called crossing the finish line. George is claiming a niggly Achilles' problem, but I'm not so sure! The challenge is on for next year ...

Well done to all who took part - it was an ace day, with lots of people, stalls, entertainment and fun. I chatted to lots of people, and bought some beads from the Happy Club, lovely soap from a lady called Angela who runs "Bubble Beauty", and enjoyed a smoothie and a fruit kebab from East End Kids and Co.

PS - George and Frank chickened out of swapping their football shirts! Sorry to disappoint those who requested photos - you're stuck with my before and after shots!

Friday 26 June 2009

Sing Out For Peace

Last Saturday, I joined others from the SNP on the Scotland's for Peace march in Glasgow.

I've been to various demos, in Glasgow, Edinburgh and at Faslane, and recently joined Scottish CND.

Trident never made a lot of sense to me in the first place, but in these times of belt-tightening, it's crazy to be splashing out millions on a new nuclear missile system. It disgusts me that at the same time they aim to cut public spending, Labour want to press on with this unnecessary prestige project, renewing a relic of the Cold War. When even Generals are saying it's daft, Labour should be thinking again!

There's a chance to put the brakes on and a good few MPs have now signed an Early Day Motion to that effect. The Scottish Parliament has a majority against nuclear weapons, but the ability to reject them will only come with independence.

If you feel that spending our money on weapons of mass destruction is wrong, please sign the Covenant for Peace: We desire that Scotland should be known for its contribution to peace and justice rather than for waging war.

Tuesday 23 June 2009

Firefighters - invite them round!

As regular readers of the blog will know, I’ve been supporting a lot of the work done by Strathclyde Fire and Rescue. While I was visiting Calton Fire Station to see Firereach in action, I offered up my flat as a means of promoting Home Fire Safety Visits, an offer which was met very enthusiastically by the new Area Commander Frank Waters and Stephen McKee, Community Safety Co-ordinator for North East Glasgow.

White Watch came to my flat (as they do with any other Home Fire Safety Visit), along with a journalist from the News of the World and a photographer. The team ran through the Home Fire Safety Visit as they would with any member of the public, checking each room for fire risks such as overloaded plug sockets, candles, and other flammable items.

I live in an older tenement building and a lot of the plug sockets are single ones, so I do use a lot of extension cords. I was reminded that they can overheat, particularly when devices like hair straighteners and hairdryers are plugged into the same one. I learned that the old style plug adaptors are more hazardous than the new bar ones, and I now switch all adaptors off when they’re not in use.

A significant risk factor is of course smoking – cigarettes left burning when people nod off in their armchairs or in bed can quickly cause a fire to break out. I don’t smoke, or allow people to smoke in my flat, so that wasn’t directly an issue for me. It could be an issue for me though if it happens to one of my neighbours. I live in a close with ten other households, and I’m sure a few of them smoke. The fire fighters told me a recent fire where the person had fallen asleep, but the neighbours heard the smoke alarm going off, and called 999. If they hadn’t, their neighbour could have died, and the fire could easily have spread to other houses in the street.

I was shocked to find that my own smoke detector, which had been in the flat since I moved in two years ago, was found to be faulty. The fire fighter who checked it reckoned it was a loose connection. As part of the service, Strathclyde Fire and Rescue will fit a smoke alarm for free. It has a ten-year lifespan, and is smaller and neater than most I’ve seen. You can also press a button to turn off the beeper if it goes off by accident (I set it off soon after while cooking bacon!).

I feel a good deal safer knowing that I now have a properly installed, functioning, reliable smoke alarm, and I would recommend the Home Fire Safety visit to anyone. The fire fighters carrying out the visit encourage you also to make an escape plan, to think about what you would do in a fire, and to make your own home safer. They pointed out things I wouldn’t have thought of,
like the importance of having well-fitted doors to prevent the spread of smoke. It’s also worth recommending to family and friends – we could all be victims of fire, and it’s clear that the best early warning is a smoke detector.

Book your Home Fire Safety Visit today. Call 0800 0731 999, text "Check" to 61611 on your mobile phone or follow the link to fill in the request form.

Photos by Carol McCabe Photography
35 Summertown Road
G51 2QA

Sunday 21 June 2009


I mentioned in my earlier post about refugee week that Iyad Hayatleh had read his very moving poem Appeal at the launch event.

Graeme Corbett from the Refugee Council has very kindly sent me a copy of the poem and Iyad is happy for it to be posted up. I hope you enjoy it.


Leaving my soul behind
my very first step
very first lisping
my first alphabet
mother’s tears
father’s supplications
the familial taste of chestnut in wintry evenings.

Escaping death - maybe – for another death
armed with my heart
my passion
my giving
my pride
spreading my sails for art
my wings for poetry
my appetite for love.

I’ve come looking for a new dream
I’ve come to bury the darkness that covered my heaven
in a happy pink morning
to re-sketch my path far away
thousands of songs filling up my eyes
and the lovers longing for kisses
flowing out of my lips.

Oh, land of wind
land of persistent uncompromising rain
land of castles
and the brave heart who never goes astray
grant me a fresh chance
to live
to sing
to restore my broken poem.

Friday 19 June 2009

Payback time?

I'm absolutely astounded at the news that MPs have paid back nearly half a million pounds, for expenses they shouldn't have claimed. That's even MPs, that's 182 of them.

According to the BBC:

The figures published by the Commons Members Estimate Committee on Thursday also reveal that Barbara Follett - the tourism minister - has repaid £32,976.

It is one of the largest single sums repaid by any MP - the largest is £41,709 by care services minister Phil Hope, who had already publicised the fact he was repaying it in the light of constituents' anger.

Ms Follett, married to best selling author Ken Follett, had defended claiming £25, 411 for security patrols at her London home after she was mugged, saying it was within the rules.

The figures also show for the first time, that cabinet minister Douglas Alexander has repaid more than £12,000.

My own expenses in the Council for last year totalled £1,058.50. I have just enough money in the bank to pay that back if I had to. I can't get my head around people signing over cheques for thousands of pounds as if they were paying for their weekly messages. Is this what real, grown ups can do in their life? Or is it just certain MPs who have been creaming off money from the state for all these years?

My expenses in the Council were for telephone bills - £310.58 for the year - and an annual zonecard - £748.00. I was given the option of a zonecard or a parking space in the City Chambers. I don't think it's fair that while other workers have to pay a premium for city centre parking, we get it for nothing. I also haven't claimed for mileage or taxis.

So you can get a bit of a comparison, I've listed my expenses alongside my ward colleagues.

NAMESimpson, Ruth*Redmond, George**Thewliss, Alison
TELEPHONE & ICT£505.91£514.88£310.58
TOTAL EXPENSES£4,681.07£1,160.71£1,058.58

*Executive Member for Land & Environment/Councillor (wef March 2009)
**Planning Committee Convenor/Executive Member for Health & Wellbeing (wef March 2009)

PS - sorry, no idea why that's jumped down the page. Thought I was doing well Html-ing myself a table!

Monday 15 June 2009

Second homes and new opportunities

Tonight, I attended the launch of Refugee Week tonight at the Tron. I've attended every year since I was elected, and really enjoy celebrating the contribution those coming to Scotland make to our society. It's important to take the time to celebrate, as well as protest when things go wrong. The theme this year is Home, chiming with the year of Homecoming.

There were speeches by the head of the Scottish Refugee Council and Alex Neil, Minister for Communities and Housing. There was a reading by a wonderful poet, Iyad Hayatleh, who spoke movingly in Arabic and English. There was a snippet from the play Home Sweet Home, and a musical and dance performance by Maryhill Integration Network.

The speech which brought tears to my eyes was made by Amal Azzudin, one of the Glasgow Girls from Drumchapel High who stood up against dawn raids. What moved me was that she spoke about the Scotland I want to see, the experience I wish people coming to this country to have. She's been living in Scotland for ten years, and has seen a great deal in that time. Amal spoke about how her life had changed, how different her life had been if she wasn't here, and about the sense of hope that children of asylum seekers and refugees now have; she said that the places they had come from was their past - Scotland was their future.

The Scotland I believe in is welcoming. It's about learning from each other, and building together. It might sound corny, but I was glad to hear it said out loud at a public event, by a non-political figure I have a huge amount of respect for. I want all citizens of Scotland to feel that Scotland can be like this: make time to go to an event this week. Enjoy.

Wednesday 10 June 2009

Friends of Glasgow Green AGM

Quick post to promote FOGG's AGM tomorrow. All welcome!

The Friends of Glasgow Green AGM (Annual General Meeting) will be held in the Winter Gardens of the People's Palace at 3pm on the 11th June 2009.

Notifications of any motions or nominations for Committee appointments should be lodged in writing with the Secretary Mr. Martin Dean at 59 Monteith Row Glasgow G40 1AU, or, by e-mail through

Prior to the meeting, arrangements have been made for the Glasgow Green Heavy Horses and Dray Cart to be available for trips round the "Green" from 2pm.

Tuesday 9 June 2009

Euro Elections

The Euro Election Count at the SECC on Sunday evening was a bit of a strange experience, not least as I'm not used to such a time lag between election and result! There's a couple of phases of the count that people outside of the process might not know about, so I thought I'd give everyone a wee bit of a run-down of what actually happens at an election count.

I arrived at the count promptly at 5.30. The hall at the SECC was set up with separate areas for each Westminster constituency - despite the reality that this is the Euros and the result will be declared by local authority. It's useful for us as parties, as it gives us an indication of where we're doing well. Westminster is also the next election, so it's the most useful data we can get. For me as a Councillor, it makes things tricky. My ward is divided between three Westminster constituencies - Glasgow East, Central and North East - so I found it difficult to keep an eye on the ballot boxes from my ward at different ends of the hall!

It's important to watch the ballot boxes being opened for a couple of important reasons. You want to ensure that the boxes have arrived from the polling station sealed and untampered with until they are opened. You obseve that that there are no ballot papers left in the boxes. You check the box number, the polling district and the location, which are printed on the box. Oddly, ballot boxes are not a standard shape and size - when I was in Aberdeen, they were squat and square - Glasgow's are taller and look a bit like pedal bins.

The boxes are emptied onto a table with two or three counting officials, who begin the job of unfolding and piling up the ballot papers. The Euro ones are pretty big, and I saw a couple of them tear. This stage is important to political activists - we do ballot box sampling, which gives an indication of our support in each box. I was very pleasantly surprised by the level of SNP support in my ward. The ballot papers from each box are counted, totalled, and verified against the ballot papers issued. They then go to a central pile, and the process continues until all the ballot boxes have been counted. During this, we sample, we monitor, we ensure that the count is being carried out properly.

Following this, the process of separating the pile of papers from each ballot box into piles for each party begins. With so many parties on the ballot paper, this took quite a while. It's important at this stage to ensure that there are no stray SNP votes going missing into the piles of other parties. It sounds simple, but the vote counters get increasingly tired and mistakes can happen.

The piles are then collected into bundles of 100, and placed in a tray by party. It's really exciting to watch the votes literally pile up in front of you, but frustrating as you can't tell exactly how many are there.

Before the end, candidates and election agents get called over to go through the spoiled and invalid ballots. At the Glasgow count, there was enough room for hingers oan like me to peer over shoulders and have a look at these. Sometimes, people don't cast a vote. People make mistakes and vote twice. Some put their cross in an odd place which can be overlooked - for example, someone had circled a number next to one of the Green candidates, rather than crossing in the box. Since that was agreed among candidates and agents to be a clear preference, the vote was counted. What was striking was the number and the manner in which ballots were spoiled; I'm sure the number of deliberately spoiled ballots have increased. A good number of people had written things like "none worthy of my vote", "general election now", "corrupt". It's a clear message, and one no politician should ignore.

After this, all that remained was the declaration, and it was a long time coming! The result for the whole city was declared, and the constituencies distributed. They're now up on the the Glasgow City Council website if you fancy a bit more information. I was really pleased to see how close Glasgow Central had run (very tight, as you can see from the final picture!), delighted about Glasgow South and Glasgow North, and a little disappointed by the rest. It's a huge difference however from previous elections in Glasgow. The majorities for Westminster were eye-watering, but they vanished in the course of this election. This is more than just protest votes; people are switching, and when people switch, it changes the way they think about voting in every election after.

I'm delighted by the overall result for Scotland - as the Herald said this morning, this was no fluke.

Five years ago the SNP polled 231,505 votes in this election. This time round the figure was 321,007. For Labour to imagine that this was achieved simply by their own vote staying at home, or that switchers came only from the ranks of Tories and Liberal Democrats using the SNP as a protest vote, seemed fanciful.

Monday 8 June 2009

Thrills and Spills at the Calton Fun Day

I attended the Calton Fun Day on Saturday, organised by the Calton Area Association. There was a great turnout of local people and agencies, and fun for everyone - plants, food, face painting, dancing, massages, and even a bucking bronco!

The day brought the community together for some fun, but also involved people in a Planning for Real exercise. This allowed people to put markers in a 3D map of the Calton area to show where there are issues and problems. Once people got the concept, it really seemed to take off, and coloured markers were getting planted all over! The issues will be gathered together, analysed, and I hope real change and improvements will follow.

Huge credit must go the the Committee of the Area Association, who put a massive amount of work into making the Fun Day happen. They pulled off something quite special.

Thursday 4 June 2009

Euro Elections today

I'm up early today, having a coffee and preparing for the long day ahead. I love the buzz of elections, so the caffeine's not even that necessary! The only frustration is that we have to wait until Sunday for the count, and until Monday for the full result - the Western Isles don't conduct their count on the Sabbath.

There's also a couple of by elections today in Anniesland-Drumchapel and Bishopbriggs, and I wish our two great candidates, Martin Docherty and Denis Johnston all the very best.

I always feel the European elections are a great time to talk about independence in Europe, and how Scotland should be making it's mark on the world. Other independent nations around our size have double the representation we have, allowing them to do even more to represent their citizens.

Independent nations also have the huge advantage of being able to fight their cause in the Council of Ministers, being a full party to the important discussions which effect us. At present, the UK Government gives us no entitlement to even be on the delegation. This means Scottish interests can be neglected and traded off for the 'greater' UK interest - and since a lot of powers are devolved to the Scottish Parliament, I feel that the Scottish interest is something some UK Ministers will know little about in the first place. We need to be in the room, fighting our corner, as every normal nation state does.

I look forward to seeing you at the polls today - if you want to help, give me a call or email!