Monday 28 June 2010

More oil found in the North Sea

I noticed, hidden on a wee sidebar on the BBC Scotland website, news of a significant oil find in the North Sea. It wasn't on the BBC lunchtime news. Clearly, with the ongoing BP problems in the US, oil might not be a sexy news story right now, but it's still big news for Scotland!

EnCore, the company involved say that

"Initial analysis of the data indicates that both Catcher East and Catcher are likely to be part of a single significant oil accumulation."


"the surrounding prospects in the block, which have yet to be appraised, could add very significantly to this number. The Catcher drilling programme has to date delivered a truly exceptional result"

It's not too late to set up an oil fund for Scotland, and to prevent the extra revenues flowing to the treasury from this find being used to plug the gaps in the economy. In the 1980s, the Tory government floated along on our oil, and used it to pay for the unemployment of those years: we should not let it slip through our fingers this time. It's still Scotland's oil.

UPDATE: don't know if it made the 6.30 news, but I see the report is on the 10.30 late news. Woo!

Don't believe what you read in the papers....

There was a wee flurry of gleeful excitement among the unionist press last week, suggesting that Alex Salmond had somehow given up on independence. This kind of splash aims to both undermining the SNP's central aim in the mind of the public, and to sow seeds of doubt and disgruntlement among the membership. Various people were called to comment, and advise on where the SNP and the independence movement should go now.

There was a similarly annoying talking heids feature on Politics Now a few weeks ago, with three non-SNP journalists musing on what our party should or shouldn't be doing in the run up to the elections next year. I'm not really convinced of the wisdom of taking the advice of three particular people who have absolutely no interest in seeing the SNP succeed or the independence movement progress! Nevertheless, their views were given the credence which comes with the medium.

The following letter in the Herald this morning from Alex sets the record straight- I wonder if the same newspapers and commentators will give this response equal attention?

Your report on my interview with another newspaper was headlined, in quotation marks, “Independence is not key aim’” (Herald, June 26), despite the fact that no-one – least of all myself – actually said this, and the reference to independence “no longer” being the SNP’s central aim was just silly.

I was in fact making exactly the opposite point – that the centre of gravity in Scottish politics is shifting towards independence not away from it.

A generation ago it was for an Assembly, then for a Parliament, then for Calman, now for fiscal responsibility, which is currently galvanising a range of opinion across Scottish society.

At each stage in that road, the SNP campaigned in favour of more powers for Scotland as well as pursuing the independence campaign. There has never been any contradiction in doing that – nor is there now.

Indeed, one of the essential ingredients of gaining more power for Scotland is the vigour of the independence campaign. It is the engine which fires the debate.

The publication of the Government Expenditure & Revenue Scotland report – showing in 2008/09 a Scottish current budget surplus of £1.3 billion, compared to a UK current budget deficit of £48.9 billion – is a strong illustration of the argument which both increases the urgency of fiscal responsibility as an alternative to a dismal decade of Westminster spending cuts, and also shifts the centre of gravity in Scottish politics towards independence.

Alex Salmond, Edinburgh.

Friday 25 June 2010

Cems and Crems

I didn't think cemeteries and crematoria would be something I would ever get exercised about, but being a Councillor is indeed a strange job.

For some time, the bereavement services which Glasgow City Council provide have been making a loss. Partly, this is due to the opening of new services in neighbouring local authorities, as well as competion from private facilites. Energy and staff costs were also an issue.

At the same time, Glasgow charged a premium for people outside the city to use our crematoria, while these same facilities were getting a bit older and less attractive. People's needs weren't being taken into account either; I had been asked by a minister in my ward whether it would be possible to extend the time allocated for services at our crematoria from half an hour to forty-five minutes to allow families greater time to grieve.

The Council's response to this loss-making but important service was to explore whether a partnership with a private company might turn things around. I had asked a few times at Committee whether we could take any action to improve the service, but on each occasion, I was told that we had to await the end of negotiations.

Today, some two years or so after the Council decided to explore the partnership option, it was decided that this may not be the best deal. Negotiations continue, but at present, it looks like the private company wants all of the profit, the Council takes all of the risk, carries all of the investment, and provides an operating subsidy.

The interim solution is to make those from Glasgow and outwith the city pay the same (incidentally the higher rate!), and offer an extended 45-minute service. I'm really disappointed that it has taken the Council two years to do something they could have easily done in the beginning - continuing to lose money and probably discouraging people from using the facilities in the meantime.

It's important to listen to what people want, especially when the service is as sensitive as bereavement. For families who have been rushed through saying farewell, this decision has come too late; I hope a better service can be provided in future.

Glasgow Labour think scrutiny is a waste of time

Yesterday's Full Council meeting was always going to be a tetchy affair - since their new leader was elected, Labour have been foutering about with spokespeople, committee places, chairs, and places on arms length organisations. It's all internal stuff, but it has an impact on how the Council operates, and how the administration is held to account.

As the main opposition party on the Council, we were unconvinced by some of the plans - and in particular the decision by the Labour administration to nominate two Lib Dems and one independent to chair the Scrutiny committees. Labour nominations are in practice unchallengeable given the mathematics of the Council.

The principle of freezing out the main opposition (we have 19 Councillors to the Lib Dems 6) is a bit iffy; to add insult to injury, Committee chairmanship comes with extra money. Labour also decided to reduce the size of the Executive Committee, reducing the SNP places to four, while the Lib Dems have two and the Greens (with 5 Councillors) only one.

The SNP group had also been disappointed to learn via the Sunday papers that Glasgow's Lord Provost appeared to have been using Council cars inappropriately.

Our response to these issues was a sensible one - to ask as many difficult questions of the Labour administration as we could. Among these, we asked about the appointees to Committees, we asked why two more Labour Councillors were being given paid positions on the board of Cordia, we asked about contradictions in Council policies (such as the Air Route Development Fund and the Carbon Reduction commitment).

All of this clearly rattled a few cages amongst the administration - and at one point the Lord Provost accused the SNP of wasting everyone's time. Scrutiny is never a waste of time. The point of the exercise is that we don't get answers when we ask them politely elsewhere. I personally feel as though I've been fobbed off in the past on several occasions - more on that in another post.

The issue of the Lord Provost's car bills is not a matter we can easily raise anywhere else - yet Labour took the very questioning of this as an attack on the office of the Lord Provost. They seem to genuinely believe that the Lord Provost's expenses should not be subject to scrutiny. One Labour Councillor was even heard to call us "sewer rats" for asking whether public money had been used appropriately. We seek higher standards - to pull Glasgow out of the gutter. It's disappointing to see that those with the most to lose don't agree.

Tuesday 22 June 2010

David Milliband - campaign fail!

I was pretty amused the other week to receive the following email from David Milliband. A couple of my SNP colleagues in the Council also received it - I wonder if perhaps he thinks Glasgow City Council is still synonymous with the Labour Party?!

Anyway, there's also a link to a survey, inviting me to give my views on the future of the Labour Party... ooooooh, where to start?

Dear colleague

I’m writing to ask for your help, not just in my leadership campaign, but in building our party for the future. It is a strange time – great gains in local government, heroic successes in the general election, but our second worst defeat in 80 years. Learn the right lessons and we can repair and rebuild - and get back to power.

So I'm writing to ask you to complete my local government survey now by clicking here

Many local Councillors know me from my time as Local Government Minister. I believe strong local government is a central part of our mission to spread power and opportunity in our communities. We must be a movement for change across the country, using power at the ward and council level as the basis for being an effective electoral machine nationally.

Last Saturday I set out the steps I think we need to take to achieve this vision of a renewed, living, breathing Labour Movement. I highlighted a number of commitments. If elected leader, I will:

1. Lead with Action, not words: offering training for 1000 party members as community organisers

2. Give a voice for Labour Councillors in the Shadow Cabinet

3. Return democracy to the Party starting with an elected Party Chair

4. Double Labour Party membership

5. Defend the Union Link and recruit trade unionists to Labour

You can read more about my vision at

I believe the ideas in our next manifesto can be road tested in local government and by Labour Councillors. We need to make up for lost time on housing and anti-social behaviour, reclaim ground on education and welfare and forge new ground on jobs and political reform.

And of course I oppose the dangerous politics of the new government.

It’s a big task but a vital one for our country.

Best wishes


Last week, more amusement - a second email! Personally addressed too, I feel quite flattered (not least as I didn't bother to attend the campaign visit).


I wanted to write to thank the hundreds of party members and trade unionists who took the time to talk to me during my visit to Scotland last week.

I came to Scotland because I wanted to learn from your success. Labour had a great General Election in Scotland. We held every seat and achieved a swing towards Labour across the country.

We need to understand your success because, in truth, we had a really bad election result elsewhere in Britain. In the southern regions of England we won just 10 seats out of 212. We have now lost 4½ million votes and 180 seats since 1997.

Scottish Labour has rebuilt itself since 2007 as a community party and as an effective opposition exposing the broken promises of the SNP. I believe that is the way back for Labour across Britain: renewing our ideas, rebuilding ourselves as a mass movement that can resist the Tory Liberal coalition. That is why I have put such an emphasis on renewing our organisation with ideas like an elected Party Chair and it is why I have committed to train 1000 members in community organising techniques during this leadership contest.

The Scottish parliament elections are the biggest electoral test next year for our new Leader and our party. Defeating the SNP and Scottish Labour winning again is a priority for me. We have a strong team around Iain Gray and I am committed to doing everything I can to ensure that we return to power in Holyrood is the first step towards a return to power in Westminster. To win we will need the whole party pulling together. Scottish politics has been transformed since 1999 but our party’s structures haven’t kept pace. That is why I have said I will support the creation of a specific place on the NEC for Scotland.

I have appointed Jim Murphy and Douglas Alexander as Joint Chairs of my leadership campaign - I will keep working with, and listening to Scottish voices if you choose me as your leader.

You can listen to my thoughts on my visit, recorded as I travelled around Scotland, here. I would really like to continue the discussions that we started last week and would encourage you to visit

Finally, I would like to ask for the support of your CLP. Your local party will have the opportunity to support one of the candidates for Leader. You have until 26th July to return a supporting nomination from your CLP. I would be honoured to have the support of your members. Copies of of a leaflet I have prepared can be found here. I would be grateful if you could send forward this email onto friends in local parties.

Whoever you, and your CLP decide to support I hope we can work together to build on Scotland’s success and to rebuild our movement.

Best wishes,


Who will I support? Well, I think despite his overtures, I'll still be backing the SNP government and an independent Scotland!

Sunday 20 June 2010

Planning for the weeks ahead

Regular readers will that know I'm pregnant and, all being well, due on the 27th of June. I've still been doing my best to make it to events in my ward and committees, and hope to continue to do so until the baby arrives. Clearly, it's impossible to tell when that will be, but I will put the news up on here (or at the very least on the twitter feed in the wee box above my photo) as soon as I can!

Afterwards, I hope you'll not hold it against me if I'm not able to deal with your enquiries personally and instantly - I will however have support from a secretary in the City Chambers, who can help with most Council matters. I'll still be able to respond to emails and calls on my blackberry, and will have a laptop set up so that I can work from home. I hope to pursuade some of my colleagues to help with surgeries in the first few weeks til I find my feet.

I don't intend to take 'formal' maternity leave -
I just can't imagine taking six months away from the hustle and bustle of the Council. There's also no-one to cover for me in my absence as there would be in a 'normal' job, and I don't want to let my constituents, my colleagues and my party down.

It might help if I explain that
Councillors aren't 'employees' in the normal sense, in that we're not technically required to turn up to work every day. Obviously, a Councillor would be doing a pretty poor job if that were the case, and I can't think why in the normal course of events you would do that. The penalty for not showing up for an extended period of time is disqualification - dealt with in Section 35 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, which states:

"if a member of a local authority fails throughout a period of six consecutive months to attend any meeting of the authority, he shall, unless the failure was due to some reason approved by the authority, cease to be a member of the authority."

The Council seem to be quite prepared to allow me to work flexibly, bringing the baby in with me to work, and I hope that community organisations will allow me to do the same.

I want to be available to my constituents, and I would like to reassure people that I'm not going anywhere - I live in Dennistoun and will still be out and about!

Tuesday 15 June 2010

World Cup

At the last Full Council meeting, we agreed to fly the South African flag for the start of the World Cup. The motion agreed read as follows:

“Council notes that this week marks the sixteenth anniversary of the inauguration of Nelson Mandela as South Africa’s first democratically elected President and welcomes the achievements of South Africans since 1994 as they have worked to overcome the legacies and injustices of apartheid.

Council recognises the very important links that exist between our city and the South African people, reaffirms its commitment to the work of Local Authority Action for Southern Africa (LAACTSA) and applauds South Africa as it prepares to play host to the 2010 Football World Cup, the largest international event ever to be held on South African soil.

Council hopes that the focus of the World Cup will lead to a continuation of the South African Government’s commitment to an open, fair, free and democratic government, to freedom of the press, opposition to human rights abuses in the region, and the equality of all South Africans.

Council resolves to fly the South African flag over the City Chambers on Friday, 11th June, the opening day of the World Cup, as a show of our solidarity with the South African people.”

Litter and bugs

I went along to London Road Nursery School last week to join the children in a litter pick of the area.

Whilst there, I had the honour of hanging the sign on their new 'bug mansion', part of their eco-initiative to improve biodiversity. It's a big concept for nursery children, but they seemed to get the basics - bugs like plants and that's a good thing!

The children were very enthusiastic about the litter picking too, using the pickers provided to fill quite a few black backs. It's a shame when you have to count on nursery aged children to take a pride in the area, but I'm sure they'll be quick to tell their bigger brothers and sisters and their parents not to drop litter in future.

Thanks go to the nursery staff for having me along (and making sure I didn't leave with any bugs!), and to Colin from Local News Glasgow, who took the photograph.

Thursday 10 June 2010


I've receieved a notification from Scottish Water regarding works they'll be carrying out from this week. Residents should have recieved a letter, but if not, it reads as follows:

Scottish Water, in support of the Glasgow City Council East End Regeneration Route initiative, will begin water main and sewer diversions from 14th June 2010 for approximately 18 weeks. George Leslie will be carrying out this work on our behalf.

When carrying out water mains diversions there may be some disruption to your water supply, however we will give you at least 48 hours advance notification. During the works you may experience low pressure and discoloured water. Please do not use any water for washing clothes during this period. Instead, you should turn on your cold tap in the kitchen until the water runs clear.

During our sewer improvements there may be some low-level noise from our specialised equipment. It is possible that this will have to work into the night. All equipment used is silenced and falls within acceptable levels.

There will be some local disruption to traffic movements during our works. This may include temporary traffic lights or narrowing lanes. We will make every effort to minimise the impact of this disruption.

We apologise for any inconvenience that this essential work may cause. If you have any questions about Scottish Water or the project, please contact our Customer Helpline on 0845 601 8855 quoting “East End Regeneration Route” and the reference at the top of this page”.

Yours faithfully

Caroline Taylor

Project Communications Adviser

The streets affected are:

Reid St

Norman St

Poplin St

Dunn St

Springfield Road

Springfield Street

Swanston Street

Barrowfield Street

Davaar St

Nuneaton St

Janefield St

Bartholomew St

Holywell St

Camlachie St

Bogside St

Arrol Place

Society Street

Baltic Lane

Coalhill St

Dunrobin St

Mordaunt St


Playfair Street

Newhall Street

Main Street

Dora Street

Mordanny St

Baltic Street

Shawfield Drive

Trafalgar Street

French Street

Dalmarnock Road

Saturday 5 June 2010

Jazz night at St Mungo's

I've blogged before about the talent on show at St Mungo's Academy, so you'll understand that I was delighted to receive an invite to Jazz on a Summer's Night.

St Mungo's jazz band has been on the go for about eighteen months, and I very much enjoyed their toe-tapping performance at the school Awards Ceremony.

The Calton Area Committee was recently approached for funding for some additional instruments*. Since I loved my time playing the trumpet in my own school's jazz and wind bands, I enthusiastically supported their application! The school's business manager, Margaret Summers, was congratulated last night for making the application, and I wholeheartedly concur - the performance was worth every penny, for the glowing participants and their very proud parents and friends.

The vocalists, Claire Magee, Honor Logan and Megan Flynn could have held their own on any stage - they sang with commitment and passion. The band itself were more than worthy to the singers, playing some eighteen different tunes during the night. I was tickled to hear Mercy Mercy Mercy, one of my favourites from my jazz band days, along with some I itched to play like Soul Bossa Nova (better known as the Austin Powers theme tune!) and Feeling Good. The bump clearly liked it too, as it wouldn't stop jiggling around to the music. I can't wait to hear them again!

The young people really looked as if they were enjoying themselves; my own experience was a lot of hard work, and a lot of joy in performing. I'm thinking of looking out my trumpet and getting some lessons... wonder if they need an extra player?

*if you have a project you would like funding for, there's more information on this link. No project too small!

M74 visit

Yesterday afternoon, I joined my colleagues George Roberts and David Turner to visit works on the M74 extension.

I've been watching the
progress as everyone else has so far, from a distance - it was nice to get the opportunity to see it up close and learn more about the challenges and technical aspects of this massive engineering project.

The project is at different stages of development along the route - some parts are actually having tarmac laid at the moment, some of the viaducts are still being launched on others. The scale is impressive; at Carmyle, the world's biggest crane is preparing to shift chunks of steel across the Clyde. At Rutherglen, the viaduct is inching it's way across the railway line. At Kingston, work is going on high above the ground, with sections rolling into place. The prefabricated parts have been slotted together perfect to the millimetre.

It's also worth noting that the project is worth £445m - with 87% of the cost being met by the Scottish Government. It has kept apprentices and workers in employment, and is a significant investment in Glasgow and the wider west of Scotland. I found out also that a lot of the rubble for the road is coming from demolitions around the country - materials which would normally have gone to landfill. So, while road building isn't usually great news for the environment, the M74 does involve some recycling.

I've posted a few pictures below to show the scale of the development.

Thursday 3 June 2010

PFI costs continue to rise

Labour are constantly bleating these days about jobs in the NHS and teacher numbers. The truth behind the stories, however, reveals Labour's complete and utter hypocrisy.

Labour choose to ignore the impact of their profligate PFI credit card spending on education and health budgets.
Figures released in March demonstrated quite clearly that the more Councils have to spend on paying their PFI costs, the less they have in their education budget to spend on teachers.

In Glasgow, PFI payments represent 8.6% of the Education budget for the city - and considering that budget is around £515m, that represents quite a wadge of cash. How many more teachers could be employed for that sum? How many more nursery places could be provided?

I'm not in any way arguing for the closure of schools, but
the PFI contracts in Glasgow were so ill-thought out that they have also had the effect of the forced maintaining of secondary schools which have so few pupils that key subjects like history are being dropped. When Primary Schools in the city were described as being 'half empty' plans were brought forward to close them. The Council can't possibly do this for secondaries, as we're still paying for their refurbishment. Primaries and nurseries have been moved into schools to mitigate the effect of this, but in reality, the Council has been tied to the dead weight of the PFI deal and can't do much about it.

Today, I see that Tris has a
blog post showing that the NHS are facing a similar problem.

Kenny Gibson MSP puts it well when he says:

“PFI is typical of Labour’s irresponsible buy now, pay later approach to public spending.

“The NHS will pay more to banks in repayments over the next five years for three hospitals than those hospitals are actually worth. That is an example of the profligacy and incompetence that characterised Labour’s financial management and that Scotland’s public services are now paying for."

The really frustrating thing is that we're tied into these contracts. Our health boards, Councils and Government have to pay over the odds for something that we don't want and even warned wouldn't work. We must strive to remind the voters of this truth, whenever Labour trot out lines on cuts. The SNP are fighting to keep jobs in Education and the NHS, despite having to cope with the consequences of Labour's buy now-pay later policies.

Tuesday 1 June 2010

Shining more light on the Calton

It's taken a long, long time, but I finally recieved confirmation this morning from Land and Environmental Services that the crumbling street lights in the Calton will be being replaced.

This issue started for me with the election campaign in 2007, where local people identified the dim lighting in the area as a problem. People didn't feel safe walking about at night, as they couldn't see other people, or indeed the ground beneath them, clearly. Older people had tripped and fallen, and for my own part, I kept getting my heels stuck in the cobbled bits!

I managed to get the more modern street lights in the Millroad Drive and Chalmers Street areas upgraded with brighter bulbs, but improving the older lights in Stevenson Street, Green Street Millroad Street and Tobago Street has been more problematic.

During the storms at Christmas 2007-January 2008, a street light was brought down on Millroad Street. Luckily, it fell on to the road, so no-one got hurt and no property was damaged. Nevertheless, I asked officials in LES if it would be possible to replace the lights in the area as a result. They're all of a similar age and condition, so I reckoned it was a fair bet that if no action was taken, this could happen again. I got agreement for the works to be carried out, but due to various budget issues (and despite my chasing LES on the matter), nothing happened between then and now.

Out of the blue this morning, I recieved an email saying that works will start next Monday, 7th June, in Stevenson Street, Green Street, Millroad Street, Tobago Street, Tobago Place, Drake Street, and Arcadia Street. These works will result in new white light sources being deployed as outlined in the Council’s lighting strategy and the Lighting Network Renewal (LNR) project framework.

I just called one of the community activists who had been calling for this, and she's delighted.
It's been a long time coming, but the new 'white lights' will definitely be an improvement in the Calton area.