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.

Sunday 8 August 2010

Pipes on the Green

Friends of Glasgow Green and the Saint Francis Pipe Band teamed up again on Sunday to put on a performance next to the People's Palace on Glasgow Green. They got perfect weather and a nice gathering of locals and tourists.

Congratulations to Margaret Hattie and her fellow members for another successful event!

Calton Fun Day

The Calton Area Association put on a great fun day on Saturday - they got the sunshine, a lot of people came.

The photo is from the raffle drawn at the end of the afternoon - sadly, I didn't get a photo of the belly dancers, who were a star turn!

Betty Cosgrove and her team have really done themselves proud; there was a lovely feeling of community spirit and people told me they'd had a great day.

Time Capsule

On Friday afternoon, I attended the placing of a time capsule on the Glasgow 2014 NISA and velodrome site.

Local children had chosen a number of items, including the t-shirt from Dalmarnock Primary School you can see in the photo, to put in the capsule. The staff from contractors McAlpine had inserted a concrete shaft with a lid to make sure it'll be kept safe and dry until the day comes when it is rediscovered.

I read recently about a time capsule being recovered almost one hundred years since it was placed. The idea fascinates me, that these children have created their own small piece of history. They were keen to tell their own story of Dalmarnock now, and their hopes for the future.

I wonder if they'll be around when the capsule is re-discovered, and what will have changed.

Response from Cameron House

Thought people might be interested in the response I received from Cameron House, to the letter I sent after this visit.

I'm not sure quite what to make of it!

Thursday 5 August 2010

Piping on the Green

Following on from their very successful event last summer, Friends of Glasgow Green will again be playing host to the Saint Francis Gorbals Pipe Band, this Sunday 8th of August at noon at the pergola next to the People's Palace. It's a free event, and a nice wee taster for the upcoming World Pipe Band Championships.

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday 3 August 2010

He will be missed!

I popped into the City Chambers last Thursday to attend the retirement do for Steve Inch, Director of Development and Regeneration Services.

Steve has served in Glasgow longer than I've been alive, and his leaving do was a fitting tribute - as you can see from the photo, many people came to see him off.

Since I came into the Council, I've been hugely impressed with Steve's warmth, professionalism, and deep knowledge of everything going on in the city. I really enjoyed the occasions where I got to meet with him; he was generous with his time, and you always went away knowing more, feeling that your opinions had been listened to and your questions answered.

I understand that Steve will now be able to dedicate more time to his family, but will also be getting more involved in the projects he feels are important to him and to Glasgow. His retirement doesn't mean he won't be busy, but I will certainly miss having the benefit of his advice in the Council.