Thursday 30 July 2009

Council report card

I received an email the other day with my “report card” for the end of the term. Like at school, I’m pleased to report that my attendance record was 100%. This record doesn’t tell the whole story though – my dad always told me that it’s the taking part that counts. In committees, it’s what you contribute and how you hold people to account.

Councillors Attendance at Committee meetings between 01/04/2009 and 30/06/2009

Calton Area Committee22010003:00
Finance and Audit Scrutiny Committee22010006:00
Personnel Appeals Committee33010005:40

For every one of the meetings attended, there’s a lot of preparation and rooting out of information. I would estimate that I spend at least the same amount of time preparing for a committee as I do attending it. Committee papers can be quite chunky, and the cynical among us often think they are written in a way to hide more than they show. Furthermore, we tend to receive the papers only three or four days before the meeting takes place.

All Councillors should be interrogating the papers and finding out the truth behind them; it’s particularly important that we do this as opposition Councillors. I have seen some less dedicated (?) members of the Labour group ping the rubber band off their pristine papers at the start and deposit them straight into the recycling bin at the end, but to my mind, that’s really not good enough. It’s our responsibility to ensure the decisions we make are based on the correct information.

In addition to the committees shown above, I’m a member of the Strathclyde Fire and Rescue Board, a board member of the East End Healthy Living Centre, and a member of the East Glasgow Community Health and Care Partnership, all of which come with their own time commitments and paperwork!

I enjoy the challenges of the different committees, and the wide range of issues I get to deal with; this work does always come second though to the reason I’m a Councillor - representing my constituents.

Happy 21st YDance

I was lucky enough last night to be asked along to the 21st birthday celebrations for YDance, the National Youth Dance Agency for Scotland. They put on a performance in four sections at the RSAMD, showcasing the skills and energy that have kept them in the spotlight for all these years.

I have huge admiration for the young people involved - they were all very talented and professional, and had come the length and breadth of the country to be a part of the project. You can catch them at the Eden Court in Inverness tonight, or the Lemon Tree in Aberdeen tomorrow.

YDance have already been part of the Homecoming Launch, but will also be putting together a special performance of Tam O'Shanter at Stirling Castle on Friday 16 & Saturday 17 October and Haddo House on Friday 30 & Saturday 31 October. I'll be making space in my diary when I get in today and booking my tickets!

Tuesday 28 July 2009

Working hard in Glasgow North East

I thought I'd share a couple of snaps from the weekend - on Saturday we had around forty activists out working hard to get David elected. Not bad considering the sun was splitting the sky and the Glasgow River Festival was on! You can never get people in the SNP to stand in the one place for very long, so the photo here shows a few of the activists who were there at 3.30.

People came again from various parts of the country, keen to work and bring about change in Glasgow, and we certainly made the most of the good weather.

David visited the Springburn Gala Day and spent a long time meeting local people and organisations. T
here were great performances from the Maryhill Integration Network, showing off the diversity of the North East of Glasgow.

I notice from Wardog's blog that Labour are setting a new record in anti-democratic behaviour by leaving the people of Glasgow North East unrepresented for 114 days.

This past weekend also marked the first anniversary of John Mason's epic win in Glasgow East. The best way to celebrate is with cake - and although I arrived back too late to get a chunk, I hear it was very tasty!

Tuesday 21 July 2009

Labour candidate in attack on Michael Martin?

While waiting for news of whether the writ will be moved today, I thought I'd take a look at Labour's campaign website for Glasgow North East. I'm not particularly impressed, but this nugget stood out...

"I think too many politicians have lost touch with ordinary people. I promise that if you send me to Westminster, I will never claim lavish expenses and I will never milk the system."

I wonder who Labour's Willie Bain might be referring to? Not former Speaker of the House of Commons, Michael Martin, surely?

You could not have picked an MP further away from the people of Glasgow North East than Michael Martin, or one who milked the system more. This is a man who hired a limo to take him on a visit to the Job Centre for goodness sake. It's not quite spitting on the poor, but it's close... and it's no wonder people have lost faith in politicians.

Speaker Martin claimed for luxury items like chauffeur driven limo's to Celtic Park. He used air miles gained at the taxpayer's expense to send his family on trips. He claimed for a constituency office which is in his own house (designated as his second home, naturally) and not actually in his constituency. He has pocketed £44,753 in allowances for his Glasgow (second) home since 2004, which is not far off buying you a flat in Springburn. Talk about out of touch.

Michael Martin will now go off to snooze in ermine robes for the rest of his days. His home in Glasgow has been refurbished at the taxpayer's expense, but to add insult to injury, he will continue to take money from the pockets of his former constituents. There aren't many people in Glasgow North East (or anywhere, really) who have a taxpayer-funded, index-linked, inflation-adjusted pension, worth in the region of £1.4 million, consisting of half his MP’s salary and half his Speaker’s salary.

The people of Glasgow North East should not let Labour off the hook by ignoring this kind of behaviour. Labour have wiped their feet on the people of Glasgow for generations, and it's high time to kick them out. Only the SNP will stand up for the people of Glasgow North East; it's time for a fresh start.

Monday 20 July 2009

Cakes and canvassing

I meant to blog last night when I got in. I closed my eyes for what seemed to me to be a few minutes, but Joe assures me he watched two episodes of Voyager while I'd been snoozing. You'll gather that the SNP's campaign for Glasgow North East is running at full pelt!

I notice that Scottish Tory Boy
has heard rumours that the election will be called tomorrow before Westminster goes on recess. I do hope he's correct - October/November is too long to wait and I loved the excitement/exhaustion/adrenaline of Glasgow East last year.

I've been canvassing lots of people and have been getting a generally positive response. People have been welcoming, keen to chat and discuss politics and independence. There's certainly been no great affection for Labour - the only problem has been a scepticism about politicians among a few of the voters. We are all working to turn that around and give a positive account of the changes we can bring.

This afternoon, I was canvassing with David in the part of my ward which falls into Glasgow North East. It's a nice part of the world, with an excellent housing association which looks after it's tenants. The people we spoke to were aware of the election and glad to see David on their doorstep*. I also met people who already knew me as their Councillor and I'm very appreciative of the positive feedback I got.

In addition to the canvassing, I've been whipping up some tasty treats to keep our footsoldiers going. Thanks to Esther for the photo! Dozens of lemony SNP fairy cakes and slices of millionaire shortbread have been doled out so far, and I'll continue to bring more along. Our members don't need an incentive to come out and work, but it's nice to have a small reward for all their efforts.

*apart from the two residents we woke up - really sorry guys!

Saturday 18 July 2009

Glasgow North East Campaign Launch

Back home after today's Glasgow North East campaign launch for David Kerr. It was a super turnout today - well over fifty activists came out from constituencies across Glasgow to support David, as well as members from Renfrewshire, East Ren, Dundee, and Cumbernauld and Kilsyth (if I've missed you, let me know!). The student and youth wings were also well represented. Since I couldn't be in two places at once, I've taken the pic below as part of the crowd - I'm sure there'll be better ones in tomorrow's papers.

David was out and about meeting voters, shopkeepers and businesspeople, and was very well received.

The people he stopped and spoke to were impressed with his warmth, enthusiasm and professionalism, and there were a fair few won over for the cause.
Many were enthusiastically embracing the SNP as a vibrant alternative to the old, tired, shadow that the Labour party has become. One woman on Duke Street, who wasn't even registered to vote, will now be taking up her democratic right for the first time in many years after realising that she can vote to move her country forward to independence.

I intend to keep blogging on the progress of the campaign in addition to the usual political and ward news. If you'd like to help, information is available on the blog or join the facebook group.

Incidentally, Calum has a good post on Labour Party's fear of elections.

Friday 17 July 2009


Our candidate for Glasgow North East, David Kerr.

This evening's selection meeting in Milton was a very pleasant affair, certainly not the picture of life in the SNP that certain uninformed outsiders would have you believe. After a speech, David answered questions and took on board contributions made by party members. Some stayed long enough to pose for a photo, and others went straight home for an early night to prepare for a busy few days ahead.

I was quietly glad to have the chance to vote on our candidate, as I was away visiting Joe's family in Derby last week and missed the previous selection ;-)

David will be a great candidate - he's personable, smart, and thoughtful. I have no doubt that he'll be an excellent MP, giving the people of the North East of Glasgow a fresh start after generations of stagnation under Labour. I look forward to campaigning with him in the weeks and months ahead.

Saturday 4 July 2009

Labour smears on my doorstep

Daft wee article in the Herald today with mock outrage from assorted Labour people after an unconfirmed number of John Mason's Parliamentary leaflets strayed into Dennistoun.

"One of the newsletters was received by Labour councillor Elaine MacDougall, who said: "I couldn't believe it. My whole street had this leaflet delivered."

I stay in the same street at Elaine McDougall, just across the road. I often see her emptying her dogs on the grass outside my flat, ensuring no one can actually use that area without risk of Toxocariasis. Anyway, it seems unlikely that she would get one of John's leaflets and I didn't. And I didn't.

I know of other people who live in Dennistoun who also didn't receive a leaflet, all of which suggests that Labour are (of course!) blowing this whole thing out of proportion. If some leaflets did get get delivered it's simply a mistake on the part of the distribution company, who should have had details on the Parliamentary boundaries. Some boundaries are a bit weird, and the Glasgow East ones are odd in places; they don't work strictly to logic or postcodes and G31 does cover a wide area. It's hardly a big deal, and certainly not the conspiricy Labour's fevered imaginations are leading them to believe.

As mistakes go, it's not even in the same league as Margaret Curran's, which actually did hit her constituents directly in the pocket - her unstamped unsolicited mail cost each constituent who recieved it £1.30. People turning up at the sorting office to pick up this mail were rightly angry that they were having to pay to collect something they never asked for in the first place. At the time, a Labour spokesperson said: "This is a typical SNP smear story." And it's not as if they would ever do the same...

This article did make me think though how jealous residents of Glasgow North East must be to recieve a newsletter from a hard working MP. I have lived here for two years, and have never had a newsletter from Michael Martin. Which leads me on to the real scandal.

It has been reported that the people of Glasgow North East are to be left unrepresented until November. People who vitally need assistance on tax, benefits, asylum and passports, or wish to influence Westminster on issues like Trident renewal, ID cards, welfare reform or the future of the Post Office will have no representative and no voice.

I am disgusted that Labour see fit to use smear tactics to distract from the reality that John is a hardworking MP doing his best for his constituents, while in a neighbouring constituency Labour are too feart to go to the people and ask for their vote. I don't wonder why.

Wednesday 1 July 2009

Fun fun fun, in the sun sun sun...

I was moved to post on this by Yousuf's rather one-sided political polemic on tennis courts. Of course it would be nice to have loads of local facilities available at low or no cost. The reality is that there is a cost in providing services, and most likely this cost would be met by Councils, not the Scottish Government. I'm not going to defend any Council's record, but a bit of understanding that "free to use" does not mean "cost-free" would be helpful.

On a slightly more political slant, I would point out that Labour have an abysmal record in selling off playing fields and pitches across the country. In Glasgow, the cost of hiring facilities in PFI schools is prohibitive to many community groups. The need for form filling and applications for funding also puts off informal users. There are pitches all over the city in disrepair due to lack of maintence over the years.

I hate to go to a in my day type rant, but I spent huge chunks of my summer climbing trees, playing with friends, exploring, and injuring myself in new and creative ways (concussion and hospitalisation from falling from the monkey bars being a particular high point). There was no tennis, no swimming pool in my town (it got built mid-high school), and where I lived was miles away from the fairly limited sports centre the town had. It sounds archaic, but we made our own fun.

The spirit of this seems to be alive and well in the children in my street who, after finding chalk inadequate, have gotten hold of some masking tape and lined themselves a tennis court. I'm very impressed! It's gotten a wee bit squint since the bin lorry ran over it this morning, but you get the point.

Grampa Simpson style rant over, there are loads of organised activities going on in the East End of Glasgow, provided by a number of organisations funded in a multitude of ways. The East End Youth Network has a programme of events, with all manner of sports and arts activities for young people. The organisations involved have worked really hard to put together programmes of events, so there's always something to do! I wish I was still young enough to take part, but I hope as many young people as possible take up the opportunities open to them this summer.