Tuesday 7 December 2010

Happy Anniversary to Calton Parkhead Church!

I attended a special service at the Calton Parkhead Church on Sunday afternoon to celebrate it's 75th anniversary. It was lovely to hear a bit of the history of the Church - from the Minister who divorced his suffragette wife to the more recent fireworks at an ordination. I've since found more fascinating information here.

After the event, there was an opportunity to look through the archives - photos of smartly dressed BBs, mischievous school children, dedicated parishioners, weddings and baptisms. I would really have liked longer to pore over all those lives lived! Alexander has been quite poorly with a bad cold, so I couldn't stay long; it was weird to be there without him.

I also learned from the Headteacher at Dalmarnock Primary that, despite last week's weather, every member of her staff team had made it in to work, including a supply teacher who was only in one day. Another member of staff came in voluntarily to help 'just in case'. I don't know how the staff managed yesterday, but their efforts and dedication should certainly be commended.

Monday 6 December 2010

Winter update

I've received the following information from Glasgow City Council. I hope it's of some help.

As you are aware, significant snowfalls have wreaked havoc across central Scotland this morning. Although all our priority routes were in good condition at 0800 hrs this morning, the intensity of the snow meant that they were quickly covered.
The atrocious conditions have resulted in a suspension of all other operations including refuse collection and all of our available resources are currently deployed on arterial roads and footways. Routes to schools and hospitals continue to be treated as a priority.
Most public transport operators have suspended their operations and we are working with them to provide whatever support we can.
Difficulties on the adjacent motorway network have resulted in traffic either queuing within the city or attempting to find an alternative route.
Our most recent forecast suggests that the snow will move away southwards this afternoon, clearing by 1500-1600hrs. Thereafter, it will be dry with long clear periods, although there is the chance of a few freezing fog patches overnight. It will be very cold once again with widespread ice. Tuesday and Wednesday will remain very cold but mainly dry with lengthy clear spells. During Thursday and Friday, a strengthening north-westerly breeze will bring more cloud and eventually slightly milder conditions with occasional light rain and drizzle too.
LES will continue to operate around the clock in dealing with the current conditions and will endeavour to return all services to normal as quickly as possible.
Updated information on the adverse weather conditions can be found here: http://www.glasgow.gov.uk/en/News/adverseweatherupdate.htm

Updated information on school closures can be found here: http://www.glasgow.gov.uk/en/Residents/GoingtoSchool/generalinfo.htm

The Council has also been putting updates on Twitter here: http://twitter.com/GlasgowCC

If you do not have a Twitter account you can still get updates via SMS from Twitter using their Fast Follow service by texting follow GlasgowCC to 86444 in the United Kingdom. To stop following text unfollow GlasgowCC to 86444. Standard messages rates will apply.  More details on the Fast Follow service are available on the Twitter site. 


Monday 29 November 2010

Winter update from Land and Environmental Services

I received the following update this afternoon - if any constituents are experiencing particular problems, please feel free to contact me.

As you are aware, widespread and significant snowfalls over the weekend have resulted in considerable disruption throughout the central belt. This unseasonably cold spell has brought falls of up to 6 inches across Glasgow.

Council staff have been working around the clock in order to keep priority roads and footways open. Around 400 Council personnel have been supplemented by 100 from contractors.

A slight easing in conditions today is allowing us to treat secondary as well as priority routes. The refilling of grit bins has also been prioritised.

The weather forecast for today suggests that there will be a few snow showers around this afternoon, interspersed with sunny spells. By dusk a heavier line of showers is expected to move in from the east and some of this snow may affect Glasgow, giving local accumulations. The very cold weather looks set to continue through this week with temperatures remaining below zero both by day and by night. Many of the heavy snow showers will stick to the eastern side of Scotland leaving a lot of dry weather in the west, however, a few will blow through from time to time and could give local accumulations.

Our salt stocks remain at healthy levels at present although these will continue to be monitored closely.

The severe weather is also impacting on our cleansing operations citywide. Over the course of the weekend around 60% of refuse was lifted as normal. Refuse collection of multi-storey flats remains a priority and wheeled bins left on kerbside from the weekend are being attended to today. Local Area Teams are also attempting to uplift refuse from wheeled bins presented on kerbside and backcourt areas. Due to ongoing hazards presented by the snow and ice, additional parks and street cleansing operatives are being utilised to grit roads and footways to allow safe access in advance of refuse collection teams reaching these addresses.

At the moment, bulk and tenement blue bin recycling uplifts are suspended as these resources have been redeployed to assist with the core priorities of refuse collection. Street cleansing operations are also restricted to clearing shop-front areas and gritting of priority footways at this time.

Wednesday 24 November 2010


I started this post the other day, but it has suddenly become much more topical! The latest news is that although grit has been spread on the major routes around the city, temperatures of down to -8 degrees have made the grit less effective. It should begin to work better as the temperature increases.

I attended a presentation last Friday by Land and Environmental Services on their
Winter Maintenance Plan. This set out the practical steps the Council will take to try and keep the roads and main pavements clear of snow and ice over the months ahead.

The Council bases its actions on weather forecasts, which are received through the day and into the evening. Gritters are then deployed using very high-tech devices - similar to sat nav - which ensure that the gritters stay on their route, don't miss any areas, and even more impressively, don't grit the same areas twice. The technology controls the spreading mechanism at the back of the gritter, so if you see one driving about the city not spraying out grit, it's because it's on its way somewhere else. This means the Council doesn't waste grit and ensures that the stocks we have will last longer. I was reassured to hear though that Glasgow's stocks of grit are high, having been replenished over the summer months.

Councillors were also given a list of frequently asked questions, which I thought would be useful to put on here:


A1 The Council has agreed a set of priorities in the event of snow or ice on road surfaces being forecast.

Top priority is given to:-

· Major Bus Routes;

· Junctions;

· Emergency Facility Access Routes.

      Lowest priority is given to:-

· Parks;

· Private Roads.

      A list of agreed precautionary treatment targets can be found in our Winter Maintenance Plan along with treatment priorities in the continued presence of snow or ice on the City’s roads within normal working hours.


A2. Land & Environmental Services has a contract with the Metreological Office to supply weather forecasts for Glasgow each day from the beginning of October until mid May.

The Service has also installed ice stations at 5 selected locations within the City which, together with the facility to access 15 other stations in adjacent authorities, help to improve the accuracy of forecasts. Staff can access information from these stations via portable computers.

Pre-gritting operations are undertaken from the beginning of November until the end of March on a standby arrangement. Ad hoc gritting is done outwith this period.


A3. Yes. A list of our footway treatment priorities can be found in our Winter Maintenance Plan.


A4. You can visit a Land & Environmental Services’ Depot and pick up some salt (maximum 10 kgs) or take salt from one of approximately 500 bins located around the City.


A5. Grit bin locations have been agreed with local communities. Further details of the Council’s policy on grit bins can be found in the Council Minutes.

If you want to request that a bin be relocated, please contact Land & Environmental Services.


A6. Check if your road is covered by the criteria for pre-gritting as per Section 3 of the Winter Maintenance Plan. Roads outwith the priority criteria will be treated in accordance with Section 3.3.1 in the Winter Maintenance Plan.

Tuesday 23 November 2010

Living Streets

I participated in a 'Living Streets' audit in the Calton area last week - it was interesting to hear all the views of a range of local residents about the problems they perceive in the streets where they live and the improvements they would like to see. From my point of view, this gives me a far better understanding of where resources and assistance should be targeted.

I walk about in my ward on a very regular basis - only yesterday walking with the pram from my home in Dennistoun to my surgery in Bridgeton library.
I report potholes and other problems with the fabric of the area when I see them, and I hope that this is helpful in improving the area. The issues I see on my travels however might not be the same as those local people notice, and everyone sees the world in their own way.

Problems can be obvious, like the absence of footpaths and the blind corners in Millroad Drive, or
really quite specific to particular groups. One example from the walk where I didn't realise there was a problem was a rut in the road next to St Mary's - elderly and infirm people crossing Abercromby Street to go to the Chapel had tripped on this. It had been reported to the Council but, because the Council staff didn't make that journey regularly themselves, they couldn't identify the rut and it hadn't been repaired. I've taken a photo, and will make sure LES staff know where it is!

While there isn't money to do everything residents would like right now, activities like this will help to form a wider plan which can be implemented as and when resources become available.

Papa Thewliss is 95

I'm very lucky to have three of my grandparents around - the eldest of the three is Papa Thewliss, who turned 95 last Monday.

Alexander and I popped round to bring him whisky, cake and balloons.

Belly dancing in the Winter Gardens!

Friends of Glasgow Green have organised a display of belly dancing in the Winter Gardens in Glasgow Green this Saturday between 1.30pm and 2.30pm.

I'm advised that members of the public are invited to enjoy and take part in the music and dancing, and have a coffee and a snack. It sounds like a lot of fun, and I'm sure that bellies of all shapes and sizes are most welcome!

If belly dancing isn't your scene, FoGG are also hosting a return visit by the Parkhead Salvation Army Band, who will be in the Winter Gardens on Sunday 19th of December, also between 1.30 and 2.30. Last year's event was just wonderful, a perfect oasis of joy to escape the Christmas shopping rush! It's a really lovely event, free and open to all!

Dalmarnock Cross consultation

I've received the following information from Clyde Gateway about the consultation events happening this week about Dalmarnock Cross. If you're interested, please do pop along!


Clyde Gateway is seeking the views and opinions of local residents and businesses on proposals to redevelop the area around Dalmarnock Railway Station.

The proposals involve the creation of a central area, similar in feel to Bridgeton Cross and Farme Cross, around which shops, offices and businesses would be located alongside a reveloped station and within a wholly new road layout.

Three days of community consultations will take place as follows:-

Wednesday 24th, Thursday 25th and Friday 26th November : from 10am – 4pm at the Clyde Gateway Offices, Bridgeton Cross

Wednesday 24th November : from 10am – 1pm at the Bridgeton Community Learning Campus, Dale Street

Thursday 25th November : from 4pm – 7pm at the Dalmarnock Centre, Lily Street.

Staff from Clyde Gateway and the Design Team will be at all of the exhibitions to talk through the various details and to answer any questions.

All are welcome to attend, and further information is available from Alison Brown on 0141 276 1579 or by email to alison.brown@clydegateway.com

We shall remember them

I was proud to be invited to attend the inaugural Bridgeton Victoria Cross Memorial Dedication and Remembrance Day service at Bridgeton Cross on the 11th of November.

When the Cross was being improved, a local history group had asked if a memorial could be laid to local servicemen Major John Simpson Knox, Piper John Clelland Richardson and Pte. Henry May who had been awarded the VC for their service in the First World War.

Charlie McDonald did a fine job of organising the event, and bringing together local politicians, school children, Priest and Ministers, and the fascinating Gordon Highlanders 1914-1918 Living History Group.

Reverend Howard Hudson, Father Stephen Dunn and Reverend Adah Younger all participated in the Ecumenical service. There was a great turnout of local people, and when the bell in the Bridgeton Umbrella struck 11, the buses coming through the Cross also stopped to mark the time.

I attended the ceremony at the Cenotaph in George Square last year, and while that had a great deal of significance, I felt that this local service made the act of remembrance a more poignant and personal one. The Umbrella and buildings around the Cross were standing when local men went off to war, never to return to their homes. It seemed quite appropriate to remember them there.

There's an excellent article covering the service in the Evening Times.

Thanks to George Parsonage for his photos of the ceremony.

Answer Time

I got this response on the 16th of November, only just getting the peace and quiet to post it! Interesting I suppose that it's from an actual person this time. I also noted during last week's show in Wales that there seemed to be a softening of the stance taken on the Glasgow show. Progress, I hope, but too late for Scotland!

"Dear Ms Thewliss

Reference number: CAS-390462

Thanks for contacting us regarding ‘Question Time’ broadcast on the 4 November.

We understand you were concerned that the programme discussed American politics after David Dimbleby reminded Scotland's Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon about the programme’s wider UK audience.

‘Question Time’ approaches every edition with a broad and wide-ranging remit, covering the major events in the political landscape during the week. We travel across the UK, and local examples are often cited by audience members to highlight a wider point. However this does not mean that the programme seeks to discuss only regionally-specific matters.

On this occasion the panel were expressing their sentiments on the announcement of the most recent GDP figures for the UK. During this discussion Deputy First Minister Sturgeon said “there’s another point on growth, it’s important for a Scottish audience”.

David simply interjected to remind Deputy First Minister Sturgeon that not only was she speaking to the studio audience in Glasgow but also to viewers across the UK.

One of his key roles as chairman is to keep panellists to the specific question under discussion and not to potentially divert to other party political points. He was not stopping her from raising a regional/national point - as has been heard in recent weeks with the al-Megrahi case or the Corus steelworks matter - but simply reminding her of the core programme need for this point to resonate with and be relevant to a UK-wide BBC One audience.

We would like to assure you that we’ve registered your comments on our audience log. This is the internal report of audience feedback which we compile daily for all programme makers and commissioning executives within the BBC, and also their senior management. It ensures that your points, and all other comments we receive, are circulated and considered across the BBC.

Thanks again for contacting us.


Gemma McAleer"

Saturday 20 November 2010

Playing catch up

Been too busy to blog this week, so will do a few posts to catch you up on what I've been doing!

Wednesday 17 November 2010

Road repairs

In order to undertake carriageway repairs, Gallowgate (both sides) will be reduced to one lane 50 metres in each direction of junction with Melbourne Street.

During the works road users should expect delays. The work is weather dependent and information will be updated as required.

These works will commence on Friday 19th November 2010 from 09-30 until 16-00. These works are expected to be complete on the same day. (16.00)

In order to undertake carriageway repairs within London Road, it will be reduced to one lane eastbound between junction with Graignestock and No.543

During the works road users should expect delays. The work is weather dependent and information will be updated as required.

These works will commence on Sunday 21st November 2010 from 09-00 until 16-00. These works are expected to be complete on the same day. (16.00)

Friday 5 November 2010

Question Time again

Well, since I'm in the mood for such things, I sent in a complaint on this evening's Question Time. I thought I might as well be consistent!

"During last week's edition of Question Time, Nicola Sturgeon was reminded by David Dimbleby that the programme was for a UK audience. This week University funding in England was discussed at length and it was not made clear that the discussion had no relevance to Scotland, where tuition fees have been abolished.

Later in the programme, there was a discussion on the politics of the USA. While this may have been topical, it certainly would not have been directly relevant to the daily lives of the UK audience. It seems entirely nonsensical to deny debate on Scottish issues, where this is at present a constituent part of the United Kingdom, but then debate at length the implications of the midterm elections in another nation some distance from our shores.

I look forward to your explanation for pursuing these issues in your 'UK-wide' programme."

Reidvale Cafe

I had my surgery this morning at the Reidvale Neighbourhood Centre, and as has become a bit of a habit, had lunch in their lovely cafe.

The cafe employs several members of staff with learning disabilities, who always make you very welcome. The food is very tasty, and they do wonderful home baking which I try hard to resist! Today they had cheesecake, carrot cake, shortbread and scones (I resisted!).

I can confess to a slight obsession with club sandwiches, and as you can see from the photo, Reidvale's cafe produces a particularly fine example. Even better - it's only £2. Really! Worth a visit for this alone, and just the thing for a Councillor-with-baby constantly on the move.

New boundaries

I had a question from a constituent about the new boundaries for the Scottish Parliament elections next year.

The regular changing of boundaries is pretty confusing for the electorate - particularly as there are now larger Council ward boundaries, Scottish Parliament Constituencies, Westminster Constituencies, and the odd notion (as far as campaigning goes) that the European Parliament has no individual constituencies within Scotland at all.

There's a bit of a change for Shettleston - the Govanhill section south of the river is lost from the new constituency, but it now runs from High Street and the Saltmarket out to Baillieston. It has Duke Street and then the railway line as most of it's northern-most boundary, and the Clyde to the south. It takes in the whole of the Calton and Shettleston Council multi-member wards, and some of the Baillieston ward. Quite a size! A map can be found by following >this link<.

As most people will by now know, former Glasgow East MP John Mason is the SNP candidate for the new Shettleston constituency - we're working hard for him already!

Friday 29 October 2010

Questioning Question Time

I was so irritated by Question Time last week, I actually took the bother of emailing them rather than just grumbling as usual.

"I was deeply offended and disappointed by last night's edition of Question Time, in particular by Mr Dimbleby's quite deliberate marginalisation of issues of importance to Scotland.

It seems to me that by moving Question Time to various locations allows viewers to gain an insight into topical debates in the Nations and regions which make up the United Kingdom. I would find it interesting to hear what is going on in Wales, for example, and feel that for viewers elsewhere, it might be interesting to hear what is being debated in Scotland.

This week Scotland saw a significant change in the law, arguments over priorities in education, the proposed closure of military bases and maintaining of aircraft carrier contracts; meaty issues all. None of these were discussed.

Furthermore, hosting Question Time around the UK gives an opportunity to hear from Scottish politicians from a range of parties (including the Greens, who have been represented in the Scottish Parliament for eleven years now) and from the Scottish Government.

Quite disgracefully, Nicola Sturgeon was consistently interrupted by David Dimbleby, and was not allowed to present the positions of the SNP and the policies of the Scottish Government. The SNP have a serious contribution to make, which was not reflected in the manner in which Nicola Sturgeon was treated by Mr Dimbleby. Comments by other panellists also struck me as having more than a hint of patronising sexism, which went unchallenged by the host.

The issue of Megrahi was dropped into a debate quite purposefully and deliberately by Mr Dimbleby, who then called for comment by the four other panel members but not Ms Sturgeon, whose Government took the quite legally and morally correct position to release a dying man. The last time Question Time was in Scotland, the issue was also raised, seemingly with the purpose of attempting to embarrass the Scottish Government. It was not a 'current' issue in the press, or a matter which required further debate; the decision has been made and is final! I find it quite unacceptable that your programme makes it seem as though this is the one and only issue significant in Scotland.

I find it unacceptable that Scottish issues have no outlet in UK-wide programmes such as Question Time. Scottish issues are never debated when programmes are held outwith Scotland, and when the programme is held in Scotland, apparently we're not allowed to debate Scottish issues then either.

Health, education, crime, and a whole host of other issues irrelevant to devolved parts of the UK are debated week in week out on Question Time without proviso or clarification. It's about time that the rest of the UK got a proper opportunity to glean information about what is important in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and each of the English regions. If hosting in different locations is not to be an opportunity to do this, there's little point in the show moving from London at all.

I hope for better, but thus far and increasingly more often, I am left disappointed.

Kind regards,

Alison Thewliss"

The response just arrived, looking remarkably similar to that issued to Joan McAlpine:

"Dear Ms Thewliss

Thanks for your feedback regarding ‘Question Time’ broadcast on 28 October 2010.

We appreciate some viewers felt chairman David Dimbleby showed anti-Scottish bias by reminding Scotland's Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon about the programme’s wider UK audience.

‘Question Time’ approaches every edition with a broad and wide-ranging remit, covering the major events in the political landscape during the week. We travel across the UK, and local examples are often cited by audience members to highlight a wider point. However this does not mean that the programme seeks to discuss only regionally-specific matters.

On this occasion the panel were expressing their sentiments on the announcement of the most recent GDP figures for the UK. During this discussion Deputy First Minister Sturgeon said “there’s another point on growth, it’s important for a Scottish audience”.

David simply interjected to remind Deputy First Minister Sturgeon that not only was she speaking to the studio audience in Glasgow but also to viewers across the UK.

One of his key roles as chairman is to keep panellists to the specific question under discussion and not to potentially divert to other party political points. He was not stopping her from raising a regional/national point - as has been heard in recent weeks with the al-Megrahi case or the Corus steelworks matter - but simply reminding her of the core programme need for this point to resonate with and be relevant to a UK-wide BBC One audience.

Thanks for taking the time to contact us.

Kind Regards

BBC Audience Services"

I despair.

I spoke to Tory Councillor David Meikle yesterday, and he described the long conversation he had with a member of the Question Time team before getting selected to attend. He's not a nat by any stretch of the imagination, but felt there were plenty of Scottish issues to discuss, all of which were ruled out by the member of BBC staff he spoke to. A letter in today's Herald describes a similar conversation.

This evident anti-Scotland bias is unacceptable, and it has to stop.

Wednesday 27 October 2010

Another good reason to get out of the UK

There are many many good reasons to get out of the UK, but another one emerged today, with the release of the 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index. Following the expenses scandal, the UK has dropped to 20th and now rates at 7.6.

By contrast, a group of relatively small, independent states, where elected representatives are closer to the people have come out on top:

"Denmark, New Zealand and Singapore are tied at the top of the list with a score of 9.3, followed closely by Finland and Sweden at 9.2."

I wonder how Scotland would fare if taken out of the UK - i's certainly a shame that our reputation around the world is being tarnished by association with the Westminster regime.

Tuesday 26 October 2010

Battling the booze

I attended a meeting last week which was rounding off a local alcohol campaign in my ward. There was a lot of partnership working between GCSS, Strathclyde Police, Land and Environmental Services, Health and Licensing Officials and youth providers to crack down on public drinking and youth disorder. The results of the work are quite impressive.

Over the period of the initiative, from April to October, there was a reduction in anti-social behaviour by 11%, and a reduction in youth disorder by 22%. Sixty-eight drinking dens were identified and removed, and over 450 visits were made to licensed premises to ensure that under-aged and agent selling was being challenged and shop staff were aware of their responsibilities.

Most impressive of all was the haul of alcohol confiscated from people drinking in the street - a total of 467 litres! This was broken down as over 250 litres of cider, over 100 litres of beer/lager, over 90 litres of wine (of which, I understand, a particular tonic wine forms a part), and over 30 litres of spirits.

I wouldn't want to claim that my ward is representative of Scotland as a whole or al fresco drinkers as a group, but it certainly seems that of those people likely to be caught drinking outside and causing anti-social behaviour, most are drinking low cost, high volume drinks - cider and beer. These are the drinkers and the drinks that minimum pricing would target, and by this evidence rightly so. That particular wine is a problem but, in the inner East End of Glasgow, it's certainly not the problem Labour claim it is.

Partners are now discussing the actions which were taken over these past months, and what aspects they can afford to pursue. There is still much work to be done.

Saturday 16 October 2010

SNP conference

Lack of much phone signal in Perth Concert Hall has put the hems on my idea of live tweets from SNP conference, and despite being told that there was wifi signal in the hall, my laptop isn't really entertaining the idea of connecting to it. So much for politics in the web age!

Anyway, I'm now into my second day of conference, having been to the Strathclyde Fire and Rescue Board on Thursday instead. There were a few important papers on Finance coming to the Board, which I felt warranted some questions. While we all know that cuts are likely, I felt that taking any decisions before the full implications are known is a wee bit rash. The (Labour) majority on the Fire Board were differently minded.

Yesterday was pretty good - excellent speeches by John Swinney (more of which later) and Kenny MacAskill, and some interesting resolutions on PFI, Business Rates, Banking Reform, Public Finance, Languages, Diego Garcia, and Afghanistan, and topicals on Royal Mail, pensions and the Commonwealth Games. I was hoping to speak on the latter but time was getting tight and wasn't taken. Hopefully will get to speak at some point during the weekend!

I also got to see the new party broadcast, under the slogan bepartofbetter.net Funky music, encouraging and positive concept; negativity is not going to inspire the Scottish people, but the idea of pulling together to work our way out of cuts is one I believe has some traction.

Saturday 2 October 2010

Iain Gray - not a statesman!

Something to consider for the Scottish Parliamentary elections next year: Iain Gray isn't much of a statesman.

Regardless of whether the Scottish Parliament is independent or not, it's surely a matter of common courtesy and respect not to demean other nations for party political gain. Again and again, Labour politicians are more than happy to slag off other nations in order to demonstrate how poor, wee and stupid they believe Scotland and her people really are.

The trouble is, these other nations might hear Mr Gray. They might not be too impressed. If Mr Gray was in charge of Scotland, such public denouncements might even result in damage to Scotland's trade and diplomatic relations. After all, would you want to deal with a man who clearly has no respect for you?

Mark Coleman, the Economics Editor with NewsTalk in Dublin and columnist with the Sunday Independent, can be heard on the iPlayer (around sixteen minutes in) giving his rather pointed reaction to Iain Gray's comments at this weeks FMQs. He says:

"...Looking at 10 years of Labour leadership has left Scotland unfortunately with a GDP per capita that's significantly lower than the EU average and the EU, so perhaps the credibility of that remark should be filtered through that simple fact.

"All I will say is that Ireland's population is a million higher than it was 14 years ago; we have a quarter of a million more employed, a quarter of a million more in work than we did a decade before; we have a quarter of a million people in Ireland now working from other EU countries, a GDP per capita 30% higher than the EU average...

"...Have we taken a blow, we certainly have. Are we still standing, we absolutely are."

Labour's argument is painfully backwards - it's obvious that despite their current difficulties, Ireland isn't interested in rejoining the UK, Iceland isn't going back under the wing of Denmark, and for that matter none of the small successor nations of the former USSR are looking to cede their hard-won sovereignty back to mother Russia. Yes, some nations are facing hard times but none of them are questioning their independence.

Managing your own finances is just one of the many things that normal independent nations do every hour of every day. Scotland is not uniquely incapable of doing the same, despite what Labour would have us believe. The main barrier to independence is Scotland's own self-doubt.

Until independence comes around, we need someone to fight Scotland's corner, to win friends and gather as much support for the development of our nation and our economy. Building solid relationships with our neighbours and other smaller independent states is a good start.

I've decided to reproduce Iain Gray's questions from FMQs. You can judge for yourself whether this man is capable of leading Scotland.

Iain Gray: It was one of those clear autumn mornings this morning when we feel like we can see for miles. Where should we look for the First Minister's arc of prosperity today: Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Iceland or Ireland?

The First Minister: I think that we should take a variety of international examples in following best practice in Scotland. As Iain Gray knows, I recently visited Norway and made a number of announcements about renewable energy and collaboration in Scotland. One thing that particularly impressed me as I visited Norway was the £200 billion oil fund that that country has accumulated by having access to its own natural resources. Would that Scotland had been in the same position over the past 30 years.

Iain Gray: The fact of the matter, of course, is that Norway's oil fund has been built up because Norway—

Members: Is independent.

The Presiding Officer (Alex Fergusson): Order.

Iain Gray: It is because the Norwegian state still owns its oil and gas industry. If the First Minister is proposing to nationalise the oil and gas industry, he should probably tell us. [Interruption.]

The Presiding Officer: Order.

Iain Gray: It is no surprise that when the First Minister is asked about Ireland nowadays, he talks about Norway. The First Minister once said:

"I am sure that most of Europe's Finance Ministers would give at least one limb—possibly more—to have Ireland's problems".

Today, the cost for Ireland of bailing out the Anglo Irish Bank reached €34 billion. The finance minister warned that its failure would destroy Ireland's economy.

Which limb would the First Minister give to have that problem?

The First Minister: Iain Gray will forgive me if I correct him on his understanding of the Norwegian oil fund. The Norwegian oil fund was built up from

Col 29153

revenues from oil—not just from Statoil, the Norwegian state oil company, but from all the major oil companies exploiting oil in the Norwegian sector. It is unbelievable! I thought hitherto that Iain Gray opposed the concept of Scotland benefiting from its own natural resources because he wanted Westminster to have them. I now realise that it is because he did not even understand the proposition. I will send Iain Gray a paper on the Norwegian oil fund. Given that so much is changing in Labour and given that new Labour is buried, despite Iain Gray's attachment to it, if all the policies are changing, who knows, maybe Labour will be in favour of an oil fund before long.

I point out two things to Iain Gray. First, on direct capital investment in the Scottish banks, currently the Treasury is making a profit, given the current share price of Lloyds and the Royal Bank of Scotland. [Interruption.] That is a fact nonetheless. Secondly, Ireland, like many countries, has substantial economic problems at present, but I note that its wealth per head is actually higher than that of the United Kingdom.

Iain Gray: It was an Irishman who said that there are none so blind as those who will not see. Ireland is teetering on the edge of collapse, and Scotland's banking sector is 10 times the size of Ireland's. The Royal Bank of Scotland alone had a balance sheet 15 times the size of the Scottish economy. The investment in saving those banks was £470 billion. Will the First Minister admit that, in an independent Scotland, RBS and HBOS would have collapsed and the Scottish economy would have collapsed with them?

The First Minister: Just as Iain Gray confused Statoil with the Norwegian oil fund, he is confusing capital injections into banks with general support for the financial and monetary system. The capital injection into the Scottish banks is now making a paper profit for the UK Treasury.

Iain Gray says that the Irish economy is on the brink of collapse. Judging from Labour's conference, I thought that it was the UK economy that was on the brink of collapse. The Labour Party has argued, with some justification, that the UK Government is risking a double-dip recession because of an approach to an austerity programme that goes too far and too fast in its cuts in public spending. I agree with that proposition on the basis of the evidence from Ireland. If that is the argument that Iain Gray is putting forward—that, unless an alternative policy programme is agreed, the UK risks moving into a double-dip recession—does that not support the argument that we should look to European countries such as Norway, which have avoided that by mobilising their natural resources to power

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their economy forward? I would that we could do the same in Scotland.

Iain Gray: Support for the Scottish banks was £470 billion—£70 billion capital injection, £100 billion special liquidity scheme, £100 billion credit guarantee, £200 billion asset protection scheme and £10 billion in fees. The Government may get some of that back, but if it had not had it at the time when it was needed, we would have suffered the consequences. Everyone in Scotland knows that, in a separate Scotland, our two biggest banks would have gone and, with them, all the jobs, savings, pensions, mortgages and salaries. Everyone in Scotland knows that we would have tipped over the edge on which Ireland teeters today. Is Alex Salmond the last man in Scotland who does not realise that his personal obsession with independence is daft, deluded, deranged and downright dangerous for this country?

The First Minister: Alex Salmond realises that it is only with economic powers for this Parliament and this Government—the economic powers that would be delivered by independence—that we will have an alternative to 10 years of despair and public spending cutbacks in the United Kingdom.

As they also say in Ireland, if I was going there, I would not start from here. That applies to Iain Gray's questions. He has confused the capital injection into the banking sector that is taking place in Ireland at the moment with general financial support for a monetary system. The two things are entirely different. It is not me who claims that there is a profit to be gained from the capital injection into Lloyds and RBS; that is in the Treasury documents—not just the Treasury documents of the new coalition, but the Treasury documents that were produced by Iain Gray's old boss, Alistair Darling.

Ed Miliband evoked a new atmosphere of consensus at the Labour conference when he said that he would not attack policies to restrict short-term sentences and say that people were being soft on crime. As Ed Miliband moves in a sensible political direction and supports the SNP Government's policy on crime, which has been so successful, will not Iain Gray eventually realise, in that changing atmosphere, the obvious, inarguable point that only in our having economic powers and growing the Scottish economy is there any alternative to being at the mercy of coalition cutbacks, two thirds of which were started by his own party?

Thursday 23 September 2010

Changing the City Chambers

When I've popped into work with Alexander thus far, I've changed him in my office (sorry colleagues!).

It was because of this that I only realised a couple of weeks ago that the Glasgow City Chambers complex had no baby changing facilities whatsoever. None!

I was pretty surprised - the City Chambers is a sizeable building, with public tours twice a day and a range of events held in the Banqueting Hall and Satinwood Suite. Mothers and babies often visit to have documents witnessed in the Councillor's corridor, or to visit their elected representatives. I immediately took the matter up with the City Chambers duty manager, who admitted that it was probably something they should consider.

The Duty Manager quickly sourced a fold-down changing table, and I can confirm it is now installed in the disabled toilet - located on the ground floor entrance hall, next to the front doors. As you can see, Alexander approves!

I also asked for a chair to be placed in the 'outer room' of the toilet so that those who wish to breastfeed more discreetly can do so - although if people prefer to use the nice sofas in the lobby, that would also be absolutely fine!

If there are any other Council facilities that aren't up to scratch, please let me know and I will pursue the matter with officials.

Sunday 19 September 2010

Aileen for Clydesdale!

Joe, Alexander and I went across to Lesmahagow last night for the adoption of Aileen Campbell as the SNP candidate for Clydesdale.

It was a lovely night - the most fantastic buffet was laid on by the wonderful Linzi, and there was entertainment from some very talented young musicians.

I've spoken before about Maryhill's fluffy dice race night. Clydesdale has it's own quirky alternative - puddock racing.

As you can see from the photo, this involves pulling frogs along on strings, and is a difficult art to master! Much fun and interaction though, and the very last race of the night was won by Aileen herself. Hopefully a good omen for next year!

Saturday 18 September 2010

Public Service Announcements

The street light replacement scheme in the Calton area had reportedly ground to a halt. I investigated, and the response from LES stated that:

"while the installation phase of the project has been finished for some time, completion has not been possible due to Scottish Power not providing supplies to the new control pillars.

As of this week, these connections have now been carried out and completion of the installation can begin. I will liaise with our subcontractor and request a programme of works for these operations forthwith."

Meanwhile, in another part of the ward, the street lights on Dalmarnock Road at Dunn Street haven't been on for a few nights - I have reported this, and hope to have an answer soon!

The problem may or may not be related to the following road works in the area:

"In order to undertake carriageway repairs within Dalmarnock Road, Dalmarnock Road will be reduced to one lane at various points between No.811 and at the junction with Baltic Lane.

During the works road users should expect delays. The work is weather dependant and information will be updated as required.

These works will commence on Monday 20th September 2010 from 09-00 until 16-00. These works are expected to be complete on Thursday 23rd September 2010. (16.00)"

Baby on Board!

I've not disappeared, and the Total Politics blog awards hasn't been an excuse to rest on my laurels - although any kind of rest would be nice. In general, things have been too hectic to be able to compose my thoughts and get them into the blog. I've been trying instead to update my twitter feed as much as possible, so you can get a flavour of what I've been up to in the absence of a blog post.

Anyhow, I'm very chuffed to have been voted number 25 of the top 50 Scottish blogs in their annual awards, particularly as I didn't ask for any votes and I didn't even vote for myself! Thanks to all readers of Bellgrovebelle, I'm very grateful for your support.

Despite aiming to take things a bit easier since Alexander arrived at the start of July, I feel like I've still been running around as much as usual, only with much less sleep. I've still been attending my surgeries (times and places to your right...) as well as various things in the Council and in my ward.

Alexander has had a very interesting first twelve weeks, now having been with me to three football matches (two Motherwell, one Scotland), a Full Council meeting (he was better behaved than most of the Councillors!), the Calton Area Committee and Strathclyde Fire and Rescue Board. He attended an SNP branch meeting, the regional list hustings and a Maryhill race night. He's been to the opening of the refurbished Bridgeton Cross, the new shop for Starter Packs Glasgow, a meeting of Pensioners Action Group East and a public meeting about the Olympia in Bridgeton. On Thursday he came along with me to attend the Papal Mass in Bellahouston Park and yesterday we visited the City Building Glasgow House project.

All of which events were very interesting, and worthy of blog posts in themselves. I will endeavour to update you as I'm going about, but please be assured that even if I don't have time to fit in regular blog posts, I'm still out there working hard!

PS - this blog post should've had photos, but photobucket isn't cooperating. Hopefully, normal service will be resumed!

Friday 3 September 2010

Let them eat cake?

Not only are Glasgow Labour getting rid of free fruit to save cash, they now want to bring back cake in school canteens. Mixed messages? Undermining their own public health initiatives? That'll be Glasgow Labour at work...

Monday 30 August 2010


I was disappointed to see reported in the Evening Times that Glasgow Labour intend to cut free fruit for school children. Glasgow's health problems are well known, and this initiative was a positive step to try and turn things around.

I know from visiting schools and nurseries in the city, and from the various gala days over the summer that children in the East End are now getting used to the idea of eating fruit regularly; they know and like the taste. Organisations like East End Kids 'n' Co, who provide fruit kebabs and smoothies at fun days, could barely keep up with the demand!

There are always new mouths to feed though, and while this current crop of youngsters have adopted healthier habits, those who follow need to be encouraged too. Sadly, not every parent will choose to have fruit at home, or can afford it; parents might not be in the habit of eating fruit themselves. Schemes such as this can make a difference, and use the 'pester power' of children for good.

The really frustrating thing is that, according to the Herald this morning, the SNP Scottish Government, anticipating that free oranges could be squeezed by budget cutbacks, applied to the EU to be part of a free fruit programme. Success looked likely until Westminster indicated their intention to claw back 72p of every £1 we would save by participating. This is absolutely farcical; in these circumstances, the Scottish Government is penalised for trying to be innovative and fiscally efficient. EU money is out these, but under devolution it doesn't pay us to apply for it.

Independence would allow us the freedom to manage our economy - from school fruit to high finance - for the benefit of our people. We shouldn't have to ask permission for this basic principle.

Monday 23 August 2010

Bridgeton Cross

I attended the formal re-opening of Bridgeton Cross this lunchtime - the rain stayed off just long enough for the Lord Provost to give his speech and cut the ribbon laced around the umbrella.

The civic realm works have been done in cooperation with a group of local residents, so as to create a space the community actually want and can be proud of.

The improvement is really amazing, and very high quality. There are quotations from the works of Burns engraved in the pavements, reflecting the connection with the Bridgeton Burns Club. Young people from Dalmarnock Primary marked the occasion by signing a few of Burns' songs.

Interestingly, when the umbrella was being refurbished, the workers discovered that there was a bell up in the top of it. This has now been brought back into use, and will chime on the hour during the day.

Saturday 21 August 2010

Shopping local

I'm pretty lucky to live within walking distance of Duke Street and Alexandra Parade, home to lots of small independent shops - butchers, bakers, candlestick sellers(!), card shops and cafes.

In the normal course of a working week it's difficult to make it to these shops to buy fresh local produce and, like most people, I would usually end up buying food at the supermarket. I've really been enjoying being on more flexible hours in the past few weeks as I've been able to buy more of what I need locally instead.

Shopping locally is great but it really just caters to people who can be at home during the day, and local shops thereby lose a significant customer base. It makes me wonder if local shops might consider opening just a wee bit later to catch people coming home from work. If you're off to work before they open and back after they shut, you'll never get the chance to see what local shops have to offer. Supermarkets can open 24/7 and small businesses can't possibly match this, however an extra hour or two might make a difference.

Celino's deli and restaurant on the Parade seems to have realised this and now open later on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. If you haven't been, you should; the staff are enthusiastic, ambitious, and the food is fantastic. It's always nice to go in for dinner, but there's also the option of getting some tasty ingredients to cook something or picking up one of their nice takeaway meals (which are made on the premises). Much healthier than going home and nuking something tasteless made in a distant factory.

I feel a question to the Council coming on - is there some way of encouraging later opening, to make our local shops and communities more sustainable and our people healthier?

PS The photo comes courtesy of a new fruit shop - Fruit on Parade - which opened recently. My gran fell and broke the top part of her arm a couple of weeks ago, and I'd been thinking of sending her a fruit basket. Most of the ones I've seen online were pretty expensive for what was in them, so when I saw one outside the door of the fruit shop, I just had to pop in and ask how much it was. For the bargain price of £10, I bought the lovely basket in the picture! My gran was delighted, and the very enthusiastic shopkeeper was chuffed to make a sale (apparently £10 was considered too dear by the wee wifies of Dennistoun!). It would make a nice gift if you're visiting at the Royal Infirmary too!

Thursday 19 August 2010

Edwin Morgan

Grim times indeed - my favourite poet, Edwin Morgan, has passed away.

My wonderful high school English teacher Mr Poyner was a Morgan enthusiast, and introduced us to his work. It felt like a privilege, something that other pupils in other classes weren't doing. We analysed, broke things down, and even tried to imitate.

In the Snack Bar was the first poem we studied; a short episode in life, described in almost painful detail. It still leaves me with strange feeling reading it now.

I quickly found the range of Morgan's work and the subject matter intriguing - the forensic detail of his instamatic poems, the playfulness of the concrete poetry, the brutal and continuing reality of the Glasgow Sonnets, and the dreamlike and mysterious worlds beyond.

I have taken Selected Poems down off the shelf to reacquaint myself with the great man's words, and hope you'll do the same. I can't reproduce my favourites on here; best perhaps to share the words he composed for the opening of the Scottish Parliament's in 2004. They are a fine reminder for what and who the institution should be for.

Open the doors! Light of the day, shine in; light of the mind, shine out!

We have a building which is more than a building.
There is a commerce between inner and outer,
between brightness and shadow, between the world and those who think about the world.

Is it not a mystery? The parts cohere, they come together
like petals of a flower, yet they also send their tongues
outward to feel and taste the teeming earth.
Did you want classic columns and predictable pediments? A
growl of old Gothic grandeur? A blissfully boring box?
Not here, no thanks! No icon, no IKEA, no iceberg, but
curves and caverns, nooks and niches, huddles and
heavens syncopations and surprises. Leave symmetry to
the cemetery.
But bring together slate and stainless steel, black granite
and grey granite, seasoned oak and sycamore, concrete
blond and smooth as silk – the mix is almost alive – it
breathes and beckons – imperial marble it is not!

Come down the Mile, into the heart of the city, past the kirk
of St Giles and the closes and wynds of the noted ghosts of
history who drank their claret and fell down the steep
tenements stairs into the arms of link-boys but who wrote
and talked the starry Enlightenment of their days –
And before them the auld makars who tickled a Scottish king’s
ear with melody and ribaldry and frank advice –
And when you are there, down there, in the midst of things,
not set upon an hill with your nose in the air,
This is where you know your parliament should be
And this is where it is, just here.

What do the people want of the place? They want it to be
filled with thinking persons as open and adventurous as its
A nest of fearties is what they do not want.
A symposium of procrastinators is what they do not want.
A phalanx of forelock-tuggers is what they do not want.
And perhaps above all the droopy mantra of ‘it wizny me’ is
what they do not want.
Dear friends, dear lawgivers, dear parliamentarians, you are
picking up a thread of pride and self-esteem that has been
almost but not quite, oh no not quite, not ever broken or
When you convene you will be reconvening, with a sense of not
wholly the power, not yet wholly the power, but a good
sense of what was once in the honour of your grasp.
All right. Forget, or don’t forget, the past. Trumpets and
robes are fine, but in the present and the future you will
need something more.
What is it? We, the people, cannot tell you yet, but you will know about it when we do tell you.
We give you our consent to govern, don’t pocket it and ride away.
We give you our deepest dearest wish to govern well, don’t say we
have no mandate to be so bold.
We give you this great building, don’t let your work and hope be other than great when you enter and begin.
So now begin. Open the doors and begin.

Edwin Morgan

Wednesday 11 August 2010

Jimmy Reid

I was saddened to hear this morning about the passing of Jimmy Reid, Trade Union activist and legend in his own lifetime. He was a truly great and inspirational man.

I met him on a few occasions, first when I worked as a researcher for Bruce McFee MSP - we were running a campaign to save the threatened Ferguson's Shipyard in Port Glasgow and Jimmy had gotten involved. He came into the office, and shared some tales and advice with us. It was a treat to be in his presence, although he felt my tea-making skills weren't up to scratch!

Later, he spoke at a meeting at the Pearce Institute in Govan - at length and without notes. My mum and dad had come along (unusually for them) to hear him, and were as captivated as the rest of us. His stories at times seemed to be a series of anecdotes, but by the end, he had gathered all of them elegantly together to illustrate the central thrust of his argument. It was quite an experience.

It was mentioned by one of Jimmy's close friends on the radio this afternoon that he often 'held court' after meetings, and SNP campaign conference in Glasgow in 2007 was such an occasion. He had been looked after at conference by the Trade Union Group, but found himself in the wee small hours surrounded by members of the party's youth and student wings. It was quite something to sit near this great man and listen to his experiences, asking questions and soaking up his wisdom. He was principled but realistic, explaining to us his place in the SNP had come by understanding that Labour was no longer the party he had joined.

At the time, he said:

"I have waited a long time to see forces emerging within the New Labour Party that would bring the party back to its roots, "

"But I have been waiting in vain and with every year that passes, Tony Blair and New Labour move further to the right. They are now indistinguishable from the Thatcherite Tories."

He made a great contribution to our cause in the relatively brief time he was a member, making the trip up from the Isle of Bute to give of his precious time despite his age and failing health. The most recent contribution I recall was during the Glasgow East by election.

I feel incredibly fortunate to have met Jimmy. Scotland is a greater place for having had him, and a di
mmer place tonight.