Where we are and where we will be

Where we are and where we will be
The idea of Edinburgh is a combination of place, soul and symbolic leadership of a nation

Monday, 31 March 2008

The Choice is clear

The view seems to be that this weekends Labour conference was a good one and that Wendy Alexander in particular made a powerful speech that laid out where she wants to go next with the party.

I share Wendy's view that you can articulate the difference between us and the SNP as Socialist vs Nationalist. More than anything else about the SNP it is their stealing of "leftwing credentials" that sticks in my craw.

This is a party who have but one policy, the destruction of the Union, for no other purpose that its destruction. All their other policies are seen through that prism. They ask not, will this improve the life of the poor or help the experience of the suffering. No, All they ask is, will this destroy the Union. It is an ideology built on the shifting sands of dislike and distaste. It is a perspective that sees Scottishness as a weapon to bring destruction, not a heritage to share.

Sunday, 30 March 2008

Brilliance and dogged perseverance

It was a real privilege to be able to attend the World Cross country Championships held today in Edinburgh's Holyrood park. I went with my boy and we were treated to some class acts.

The Ethiopians took 6 of the 8 possible Golds and including all the individual medals with only the Kenyans getting in their way for a couple of the team events.

As well as the brilliance of the top runners, what was also nice was the dogged perseverance of some of the slower runners, some of were lapped by the stars. On a muddy track in the cold wind they stuck it out to the end and it was great to see the crowd giving them a big cheers as well.

These events are also a wonderful window on Edinburgh for the world to look in. That's why I was delighted as Leader when it was announced that our bid for thsi event was successful. In terms of promoting our city as a place to work and play, this kind of exposure is invaluable.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

A little national recognition can go a long way!

I was chuffed to hear that Wendy Alexander used the Edinburgh Labour conferences that were my initiative as Labour Group leader as an example of how party members can contribute to and shape party policy in her speech to the Scottish Labour Conference. (See here for agenda)

When the election last May saw us lose power, I knew I had to go back to the beginning and start rebuilding the party from below. People needed to believe in the Party and to believe they needed to feel they belonged. I held the first conference 6 weeks after the May election. It was a great success and I have held two since, both even more successful that the first. One on housing and another on health. In each case the debates have helped form the Edinburgh Labour response to Government consultations. (Firm foundations and Health board elections).

There is a long way to go but I intend to turn opposition into an opportunity and these conferences are the first steps in that journey.

Friday, 28 March 2008

A gubbing is the only way to describe tonight.

Even without a shocking display from the referee Edinburgh would have lost to Cardiff Blues tonight. Although the referee seems to penalise Edinburgh for breathing too hard, we were the architects of our own downfall tonight and there is no doubt that the better side won.

My lad wanted to go with twenty minutes remaining. My Presbyterian genes kicked in and I refused to leave, reminding him that we had paid for 80 minutes and we were staying for 80 minutes. In my mind I was thinking “its character forming for the lad”, but in my heart I wonder if his character needs just quite so drastic a formation. Maybe he was the wise one after all...

Are they just taking us for a ride?

Continuing on yesterdays theme of public transport, I see that our bus company Lothian Buses is putting up fares from April 6th by 10p, which, by my calculations, is a 10% increase.

Now, there are lots of reasons for the increase but I am certain that the Libdem manifesto said that they would ensure rises of no more than inflation plus one per cent. Even in these times of credit crunches and sub prime mortgage problems, inflation plus 1% is nothing like 10%.

Yet another broke promise and its not even 12 months since the SNP/Libdems coalition was formed!

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Another one bites the dust!

So the alleged "resurrection" of Edinburgh's south suburban line, a victim of "Beeching" is a false alarm and sadly, yet another SNP/Libdem broken promise, (see here and here for respective manifestos).

The Libdems were the most explicit in their promise to, and I quote, " we will produce during summer 2007 a business case for the reintroduction of the Edinburgh South Suburb line for passenger services. We would work with the private sector to attract developer contributions to the reopening of stations without softening development control standards."

I make that 3 broken promises; no business case, no private sector work and its long past summer 2007....

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

A great day out for all the familiy

Tonight is one of the highlights of the year for my family and I. It was the opening party for the Edinburgh International Science Festival. I rarely take my family to events I attend as councillor because they tend to be boring for anyone whose not intimately involved with them,. The Science festival shatters that rule; I just say its Science festival time and they are at the door before me!

This event combines creativity, ingenuity, inspiration and scientific understanding in a way that mesmerises all ages. Ok, so I am a member of the Board and so I am biased but if my kids enthusiasm are a benchmark then its a winner.

Its on all this week and most of next week. There's wonderama for kids and some amazing talks for the adults. Try it. You won't be disappointed. My kids certainly weren't and they are not backwards at coming forwards when they don't like something.... take after their mother you see...

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

A moment to enjoy

Every so often you get a moment from an unexpected source that makes this job seem worthwhile.

I went to a meeting of some residents this morning at their request to talk about anti-social behaviour of some teenagers. I was, if truth be told, expecting the usual complaints about the actions of an idiotic few that blight many of our communities.

Instead, I was welcomed by a group of parents and their teenage children. The parents told me that "whilst their children are no angels", they were fed up with them being moved on for just hanging about and what was needed was more and different opportunities for teenagers in the area and they were willing to help me to get them. the teenagers made a similar commitment. Within an hour we had an 8 point plan and I left feeling completely rejuvenated, my faith in local people, parents especially, taking responsibility for their community restored.

Now, of course, I have to deliver for them, but with this kind of head start, anything is possible!

Sunday, 23 March 2008

my favourite moment of the year.

7am on Easter Morning. My favourite moment of the year. The Easter dawn service. A time of reflection, forgiveness and hope even in the most difficult of places. It means so much to me and to Christians over the world.

I am aware that faith is seen by some as irrational. I accept that. I accept that they may even be right! Faith brings many things but certainty is not one of them!

I absolutely make no judgement of folk who have no faith in a divine being. But I know that faith is what helps me make sense of another wise chaotic world as I search in my own way for meaning in my life and in the lives of those around me: family, friends, colleague and even those who seem me as their enemy.

Gods frozen people!

Spent yesterday afternoon at the “Easter Play” in Princes Street gardens. Its the perfect setting for this ancient story, in city gardens outside an ancient city wall. Despite freezing weather an audience of over 1000 walked alongside this open air drama as this group of volunteer actors backed by a professional production team and lead actor did a great job of retelling this tale that changed the world.

Its a script I have read and reflected on many times but once again seeing through the interpretation of others threw new light on it, in particular the demand the Jesus figure made of the those around him not to keep their faith to their own peoples but to preach love, forgiveness and the hope of God to all the world. In a time when racial and sectarian thinking was endemic between nation's and tribes, such thinking was radical heresy. Sadly, to some that remains the case today but I was remained that change, even of such deep rooted prejudice is possible, if we are willing out reach out and love our enemy, no matter the cost.

Another correct prediction!

So I was right! Within hours the administration, or at least the SNP part of it but we all know who runs there coalition show were claiming the credit for saving some of the Edinburgh leisure creches, it was the SNP. That will be the same SNP whose leader said “its not Edinburgh Leisure's job to run creches”, the same SNP whose representative on the Edinburgh leisure board not only voted for the closure but defended them on TV, the SNP who said nothing of the plan at the Council meeting where the cuts were pushed through!

Personally I still think that it was the parent protesters whose hard work brought this victory but I’m sure the SNP will just think I was being cynical!

Saturday, 22 March 2008

A day of doubt and waiting

Today, Low (or Holy), Saturday , the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, is perhaps the least known but yet one of the most significant dates on the Christian calender. If faith is nothing without doubt, the low Saturday is the doubters day. Good Friday, when we remember the death of Christ heralds the time when the disciples, having been taken to the mountain-top of hope, suddenly face the abyss of what now...?

Their leader is gone and suddenly it all seems lost. So they turn in on themselves and ask was it as it seemed?

Was he what we though he was?

Were we really deluding ourselves that God was amongst us, real and human as we are?

It is Easter, much more than Christmas, that both challenges and keeps me in the faith. I live with doubt all the time and low Saturday reminds me that I am not alone.

And I wait, wait in prayer and reflection, for the hope that is the empty tomb, the new dawn of Easter day. The time when I am reminded more powerfully than anything else no matter how bad life is, there will always be hope if we search hard enough and are will to do as we are called to do, to love not just our friend or our neighbour, but the stranger and even our enemy, love and forgive, impossible as at times that seem to be.

A great night's rubgy to warm a cold Friday at Murrayfield

At half time at Murrayfield, with Edinburgh a lucky 10-8 ahead against a robust Connacht, and a man down, (though the wrong man at that, Ben Cairns having sent to the sin bin for a Simon Webster misdemeanour ), I was bracing myself for another tough and tight tussle with an uncertain outcome. But if Andy Robertson could bottle what he said in the dressing room, he would be a rich man! For the first 20-25 minutes we played like a dream, passing, tackling and hitting hard. what a joy to watch.

Things began to crumble when the inevitable changes came with 20 minutes to go and the team began to loose it shape, but hey, who cares, a 38-8 win on a freezing Friday in March is a great result in anyone's book!

As one Christian to another..

I have cone to know Cardinal Keith O’Brien reasonably well over the last 6 or so years and I hold him in high regard. he is deeply faithful man who is able to be both a pastor and a leader of those who hold allegiance to him and his church. But on the issue of embryo research and his comments about Gordon Brown and the up coming votes on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill he is wrong. wrong because this work values human life and is a real response to human suffering, This work will help heal and save lives not destroy humanity as he suggest.

I do not believe , as he does, that human life as we understand it begins as the point of conception, nor do I attribute a soul as he and I would understand such a thing to that same point of conception. A 14 day old embryo cannot survive as a viable human life, but yet by being used for research it can bring renewed life to others whose suffering will otherwise continue until their death.

I understand why, given his world view, that the Cardinal says what he says. But, as Christian and as a fellow human being, I have to say that on this at least, he is wrong.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Still no answer from our political masters...

Today schools minister Maureen Watt once again reiterated the claim that the SNP Government has given Councils £3b over three years for schools refurbishment and rebuilding. On that amount, Edinburgh would expect to get around £300m. I asked the Director of Finance today if we had received anything like that amount. He just wearily shook his head.

So I ask once again, where is the money? The SNP said they would match us "brick for brick". A year in, they have not even managed to commission one new school, (their claim of 100 projects are projects already under way when Labour was in power), Well, here’’s my brick- where is theirs? I am not holding my breath!

The People have been heard!

STOP PRESS! I am told that Edinburgh Leisure's board has gone some way to responding to the please by protesting parents to keep open the creches at sports centres that were the victims of cuts to Edinburgh Leisure brought on by the City Council's SNP/LibDem administration. I understand that the Board has agreed to keep 4 of the 8 creches open.

The women who led these protests should be very proud of themselves. They have maybe not got everything they wanted but its a whole lot more than would have been the case had they not stood up and been counted. The Labour Group and wider Party was pleased to support the campaign and offer some help, which was well received , but the truth is, these women did it for themselves.

The Edinburgh Leisure board should also be congratulated for listening to those protesting. The Boards actions are in stark contrast to the SNP/LibDem administration for whom listening is a foreign concept. They have to realise that their “a big boy did it and ran away” style of political excuses has worn so thin it is more than see through. I will lay bets however, that the SNP/LibDem administration will instead soon be claiming the credit themselves, but we know the truth

I am personally pleased as I had previously defended the creches back in 2001 in my role as the then Convener of the Social Justice and Older people scrutiny panel when they were previously under threat.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Its so old its new

Spent most of the morning at the acupuncture clinic getting treatment for my trapped nerve which is still with me.

I am sure there is a queue of folk willing to stick needles in various parts of my anatomy but fortunately from me the acupuncturist kept her political views away from her needle use.

It does fascinate me that, for all our progress in medicine and constantly improving understanding of the body and how it works, a 6000 year old method using a concept (meridians) that still cannot be fully explained is still so effective and able to do things modern medicine still struggles with.

Nearly doing what you said you would do is still a broken promise

The SNP nationally are struggling to live up to another pledge. This time to increase fourfold the support for renewable energy production.

They have increased the support by 3 times that of the previous administration but 3 is not 4 and whilst I welcome the increase its not what they said they would do. Yet again a promise broken.

Mind you, its not helped when their colleagues on the Council back down on the commitment of the previous Labour administration to make all 7 of the 8 news school heated by biomass boilers. They claim it was for health reasons but I believe that it was for financial ones and they were not smart enough to see it.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

who runs this Council that does not listen?!

A group of very annoyed mothers protested outside Alex Salmonds announcement on early years investment today at the creche closures instigated by the SNP/Lib Dem administration. This cut will affect literally thousands of families as many will simply not be able to use the facilities. As one woman put it," how can I go swimming with my 5 year old as the regulations say i can't be in the pool with her and my baby".

The Leader of the Council was present. Remember the one who claims to lead a "listening council". Well I am told by one observer that she came over to the protesters and said "I am only talking to you because the first minister told me to"! And she wonders why we have concluded that its the SNP in charge on this Council.

Lib Dems to stand firm!?!

I hear that the Lib Dem side of the administration is standing firm, (there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write!), on the issue of putting a new school for Portobello on the park. that is once we get the money of course!

On this one, the Lib Dem's will have my full support.

the words chickens, roosting and home all spring to mind

My mole tells me that all is not well between the partners of our administration over schools. The Lib Dems, it appears, are as unconvinced as we are that the money the Council received from Government includes enough for the building of the 5 schools we planned to build, (the so called “wave 3”schools, being the 3rd wave of school building which saw us deliver over 40 new and refurbished schools in 8 years).

The SNP, worked from behind as they are by their MSPs are getting seriously annoyed at the LibDem demands for more support from Government for school buildings. Once again, the sound of chickens, home and roosting is in the air, as the matching our plans “brick for brick” is fast becoming a hollow boast.

Monday, 17 March 2008

Something smells rotten here...

In the Sunday herald yesterday, a Scottish Government spokesperson claims that the SNP have invested £3b in school building programmes over the next 3 years

If that were true, then Edinburgh would be getting around £300m for school building projects. i can say with absolute certainty that Edinburgh is not getting that amounts... unless... the SNP are counting the money already committed by Labour for the level playing-field money for the 300 new schools built under the Labour administration.

Which means that not only are the SNP now without question not keeping their "brick for brick promise" but they are claiming credit for spending money committed by Labour for PPP projects!

Oh the sour smell of hypocrisy is rancid in the air

Sunday, 16 March 2008

We'd have taken a draw if we could have

The Pars managed yet another draw this time against Queen of the South. This keeps them in 5th place in the league although even a win against the "doonhamers" would have not seen them move above their opponents who hold 4th spot but with a better goal difference.

I guess Frank Haddons Scotland team would have taken a draw in Italy but it was not to be. We are so good at this, beating teams like England with sheer passion and then screwing up against teams we should walk over. Still, at least we avoided the wooden spoon, but only by points difference and just 5 at that.

The NHS, 60 years old and still going strong

I spent most of yesterday chairing the Edinburgh labour conference to celebrate the NHS's 60th birthday. A gathering of over 50 party activists heard speakers from the Unions, the voluntary sector, patients advocates and finally Shadow heath secretary Margaret Curran MSP. Each of the speakers reminded us that health isn't just about hospitals and that the NHS speaks of more than the logistics of healthcare, it epitomises about Labours values.

This is the third city conference that I and colleagues from the Group and the City party have organised since May. If I am to achieve anything as leader it must be to give the many activists we have a real sense of participation in the party and in the way policies are developed. It also allows us the time to celebrate the many great things Labour has done for this city and the country. There's nothing like a party to help rebuild a Party.

Pictured are Margaret Curran MSP cutting the birthday cake and me in full flight introducing her earlier in the day.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Its true, Janus is the patron saint of Lib Dems

At the Council meeting on Thursday I asked the leader if she believed the SNP version of the Government grant Edinburgh recieved this year, (which has risen by 5.2% or £37.5m for this year), which is that this is the best ever local government settlement or the version of one of her senior councillors who sent a e mail to staff talking of a "tight financial settlement". "Who was telling the truth?," I asked.

Like a true Lib Dem she said they both were!

Trouble is, the whole SNP/Libdem administration applies the same philosophy to any decision they face. For every question they have at least two, often opposing, views. Might be populist but doesn't make for good, clear leadership and decision-making

It is a disgrace to treat citizens in this fashion

The really big issue was the grants budget. The thing that made me really angry was the secrecy and lack of information being provided by the SNP/Libdem administration.

They only showed around £780k worth of cuts. The other £1.7m, (which rises to over £2m when you take the removal of inflation uplift), is hidden away in off line decisions. My colleague Andrew Burns has a very clear explanation of all this here

The other, and equally distressing aspect was how those groups who were being cut were being treated. Again and again we heard of groups having no indication that they were to be cut until after the papers were made public and then it was by embarrassed phone call or impersonal e mail, (with no explanation or apology), just a link to the committee papers!

Let me quote you from the Lib Dem manifesto

“we want you to be kept properly informed and have a real opportunity to participate in decision-making”

Yet another broken promise, one of so many that I am loosing count rapidly.

The truth will out! There is £52m in the councils bank account

At the same meeting I asked the SNP/Libdem administration if they could confirm that on March 31st last year there was £52m in reserves. They said yes but that it was allocated to various headings. Your can find the report by going to here and putting in the date of the meeting (21st February 08), its report 4.2c

I agreed but pointed out that on at least 3 occasions that I could identify, the money had been moved from one heading to another. In other words, it can be moved from "allocated" headings to the "unallocated", infact that has already been done.

Given that fact, why does the administration continue to accuse us of lying when we point out that, far from being broke, there are £52m of reserves. Who is telling the truth here?

Friday, 14 March 2008

They have seen the light: Labour works!

I haven’t posted as I was recovering from an 11 hour Council meeting, yes 11 hour, yesterday. The long agenda, 14 delegations (representing 20 groups), and loud protests at the door were hard evidence of this SNP/Libdem administrations incompetence.

They also have no vision. I showed the Council the “Budget headlines” page from her leaders report and I asked her asked what, if any, of those items constituted a new or original idea. Silence, a sigh and then the immortal words; “do we need to have new ideas, in this time of consensus politics, surely if things are working we should just carry on doing them”.

So despite promising at the previous Council meeting that we woulds “see their vision in the budget” and condemning everything we ever did, the SNP/Libdem administration have now admitted that their vision is to do what we did because its works! I am delighted for the city but if that's the case, why did the libdems not join us in coalition, or was that really just about power and nothing to do with policies.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Tories by any other name

Alistair Darlings first budget was summed up by one commentator as “Booze and gas guzzlers pay to cut child and fuel poverty.” As a principle its a good one and as a budget, given he had little room for manoeuvre, I think he did very well

What he did in spades however, was remind us just how bad life was under the Tories. Do you remember 4m unemployed, interest rates at 15% and a driving principle of “there is no such thing as society”.

Which is why it's a scary thought to think that these days Scotland is being run by a bunch of tartan Tories, a one trick pony of a party who can’t see past the border at Carlisle. Remember, this is a party led by a man who said that if we left the union we would iimmediately go up the table of riches countries. So we improve our quality of life as a nation by walking away from the poor. Don’t tell me they are not tartan Tories.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

They can't make me, or my children, do it

I know that its being suggested by my party, or at least by some-one who chairing a commission set up by my party, but I join the long queue of people saying that the idea of compulsory citizenship ceremonies is bonkers.

Apart from the fact that I would have to ask my children to take a vow I would not be prepared to take myself, I can tell you from having presided over literally hundreds of rites of passage ceremonies they only work if those present want to be there.

I was cynical about the citizenship ceremonies for immigrants becoming citizen but I changed my view on them once I had the opportunity to take part in the. They work because those folk want to be there. To force some-one to take a vow is to render that vow meaningless and I think this idea is doomed from the start.

Who's talking you home tonight?

Saw this press release today and I though it was worth a wee punt on my blog.

Could you care for a disabled child?With around 50 disabled children needing care in Edinburgh we urgently need more carers. The two types of care most urgently needed are: - Specialist Disability Foster Care: Caring full or part-time for disabled children with complex needs. - Share the Care: Caring for disabled children with less complex needs for short, regular periods.If you, or someone you know, are interested in find out more, visit www.edinburgh.gov.uk/fostering or get in touch by calling 0800 174 833.

I have done the initial fostering course. It is a real eye opening and a powerful education in the lives of some of the most vulnerable young people but also showing how folk can help them in a very practical way. My personal circumstances meant I wasn’t able to take fostering further but it was an amazing experience and I know from talking to foster carers that the benefits felt by both the child and the foster carer are life changing in magnitude.

Monday, 10 March 2008

There's always a positive side if you look hard enough!

The talks between the SNP administration and the Libdems on local income tax, (LIT), raises a couple of interesting issues beyond the proposal and cons of the tax itself.

It is a bad policy that will mean less money for public services that will cost more to collect, be less secure and mean job losses,. But this process is, ironically, a good example of why minority government is good for Scottish democracy! Whatever the result of this process we will will know the who, the how and the why and can hold those involved to account at the next election. Despite my aversion to the policy being discussed, it is transparent politics at work.

I dearly hope however, that the Libdems discover some backbone for once and stop the SNP version of LIT. A nationally set rate is not in any way local, but it also reduces local government to being merely a service delivery arm of national government and undermines that same Scottish democracy.

If we have got to have LIT and lets be clear, I don’t want it, we have to have at the very least locally set rates. Otherwise we will loose much more than simply cash for local services.

Saturday, 8 March 2008

O "me" of little faith!

Confession time! Despite my talk of dreaming of victory I bottled it today! I was so lacking in confidence at Scotland's ability to win that when my wife suggested that, as my daughters Godfather had taken her and her brother out for the afternoon, instead of watching the game this afternoon we go to the cinema that I said yes!

It was an lesson in lack of faith that the film we saw, (Vantage Point), wasn’t much cop and we go and beat England! I’m told the game wasn’t pretty, but a result is a result! Well done to Frank Haddon and the lads who gave their all.

Friday, 7 March 2008

We can still dream

I remember Duncan Hodge scoring all 19 points against England when wee beat them 19-13 in 2000. I remember it because I was there.

I met him once and was struck by just how unassuming he was and yet when he spoke to the young people we had asked him to address, he was outstanding and had them listening to his every word.

We won that day when no-one expected us to win.

How I hope that one day I will meet another such individual who scored the winning try when Scotland unexpectedly beat England in 2008. Or is that just one dream too far...

Its not just getting them here, its what we do once they have arrived that matters

The idea that Edinburgh needs a new single promotion body is flawed on two counts. That's before the problem of the money we would spend on creating a new body which could be spent on things we really need for the tourist industry.

We don’t need a new body because visitscotland already have more than 20 post dedicated to that task. Even after their restructuring caused by their alignment with the new economic bodied created by the restructuring of Scottish Enterprise (oh how we love a good restructure to make us feel we are doing something) there will be the same amount of staff time dedicated to promoting Edinburgh.

We don’t need a new body because the issue is not promoting ourselves to others, though that's important. The real challenge is promoting oursleves once folk are here. Its the difference between destination marketing, of which we have loads and destination management, which is where we need to do better. That's making sure people who come here are made welcome, given lots of good advice about what to do, where to eat and how to get to where they want to go quickly, cheaply and comfortably. More marketing won’t do that. Trouble is, what will do that will take some tough decisions and printing some new brochures is a much easier task.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

What does really matter most...?

The row over whether GPS should or shouldn’t work evenings is a sign of something much more significant than whether or not we, the public, want to see a GP at 8pm or whether or not GPs think it will even be deliverable

The debate the both the Scottish and British government needs to have is not one of targets

I know that I am not just disagreeing with the SNP but with my own party here but why we have got ourselves into a situation where we are prioritising wealth over health? The fundamental question is not “can GPs be organised in such a way that 8pm weeknight appointments are deliverable?", but "why our employment (which is the main barrier to getting to a GP during the day) is seen as so sacrosanct that our health needs come second to it?"

I know employers can’t have people running to the doctor every 5 minutes and there would be those who would play the system but them aside, why is it that most folk believe that their employer would not let them off their work to see a doctor? Or is that just what they think rather than what would actually be the case? I know many employers who are smart enough to see that facilitating things like GPs appointments means both healthier and happier employees who feel that they are being cared for as people.

Wealth creation is a necessary part of how we organise ourselves in society, But our health is more important, Surely it would cost less in what little might be lost to that wealth creation by letting folk go to the GP during the day than what it will cost to offer an evening service that does not reduce the day time service. More importantly, it would state clearly that our health is really more important than the creation of wealth

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Do these people not talk to each other?

Yesterday I was praising our SNP led administration on the Council for continuing with 20/20 vision programme and then today the SNP led Government pull the rug from under the whole thing.

Can this lot not organise anything in a joined up fashion.

Trouble is, this will come on top of the £50,000 plus cuts in secondary school budgets that this administration has imposed for little reason other than to show that they are tough. Its hard enough being a head teacher without having your school accounts pillaged by politicians who have no idea what they are doing as well.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

The splits are once again appearing

My mole let slip an interesting piece of information today though I couldn't tell if it was deliberate or not..

It appears that in preparation for committees, or at least for the Health, Social care and Housing committee which met today, the coalition parties have separate briefings from officials. It seems that they are divided enough on some of the big issues for their suspicion and paranoia about leaks to include each other.

The really big issue is the review of home care which is the thin edge of the privatisation wedge. I am aware that the unions, at least the grassroots elements, are fundamentally against this but the libdem part of the administration plan is to play the union leadership off against their membership, whilst the SNP, though pro privatisation generally, given their more Thatcherite leanings, are struggling with the problem that their main objective is crass populism.

Hence the separate briefings. Mind you, that's better than no briefing which is what we were treated to, on the instruction, I hear, of the Leadership. And they were going to be so much more transparent that we were...

Monday, 3 March 2008

Time for a change, but when?

I attended one of the regular briefings with Edinburgh MSPs and MPs today along with councillors from all Parties. The SNP/Libdem administration showed their usual brilliant organisational ineptitude by inviting some folk for 9am and others for 9,30, They want to run a city but can’t even agree on the time for a meeting!

I was fascinated to see in one of the presentation that one of the objectives for Princes Street was for “Upper floors of Princes Street to be “unlocked” for prime residential and hotel space”

Well mercy me, maybe they really are listening to others, they just can’t bring themselves to admit it. The question is, I suppose, are they willing to do what it takes to make sure that happens. I won’t be holding my breath...

A u-turn I'm glad they have taken

This press release was issued by the SNP/Libdem administration today

20 20 Vision: Launch of the New Vocational Curriculum

As more and more employers look for school leavers with work experience, giving pupils the opportunity to take vocational courses in addition to their regular study seems like a bright idea. Three schools in Edinburgh – Castlebrae Community High School, Craigroyston Community High School and Wester Hailes Education Centre have received funding through the 20 20 initiative to develop vocational courses. This initiative is a three year partnership project which is funded by the Scottish Government and the Hunter Foundation. The project aims to trial a range of innovative work programmes within the schools with the aim of making improvements to the students current and future opportunities. As part of the initiative all three schools are extending the vocational curriculum they can offer to students. The launch will see the formal opening of the four new curricular areas at Castlebrae which have been developed in partnership with Telford College and supported by the school’s business partners. These areas are: automotive, supported by Ford, construction crafts, supported by Sharkeys and PARC/EDI, childcare, supported by the Castlebrae Family Centre and the East Neighbourhood Early Years Team and finally hairdressing, supported by Charlie Miller. The plan for the future is to have other schools using the resources and at present Portobello High have students using the hairdressing salon. The launch will provide an opportunity for the media be shown these vocational courses in practice and meet and photgraph some of the students involved. During the morning breakfast will be served by the Red Bistro which is operated by senior pupils at Castlebrae.

This is great news. This is a deal that I and Andrew Burns put in place with the Hunter Foundation and the then Scottish executive before the election. Its the kind of revolution in education that we need to have if we are to make real inroads into the low achieving 20% that has been difficult to reach.

I am delighted that the SNP/Libdem administration has been willing to make sure this deal was not lost. Well done to them for doing so. Mind you, they nearly did loose it when they suggested closing two of the three schools involved, but no surprises there. All it took was a U turn and they do that to Premier Division standard.

Welcome back to the days of Thatcher

The demise of Community learning and Development in Scotland’s capital city, which will be the consequence of the SNP/Libdem administration's £833,000 cut and removal of 16 posts was commented on in tonight's evening news by Dr Jim Crowther, programme coordinator in Community Education at the University of Edinburgh.

His view of these cuts is that “During (the) Thatcherite years, marked by extreme hostility to public services, the worst of cuts paled in comparison to what is now being perpetrated”.

I couldn’t have put it better myself though its amazing that its only taken this lot 9 months to get a reputation Margaret Thatcher took years to nurture. They must be so proud of themselves!

Sunday, 2 March 2008

We didn't let it spoil our day but...

Mothers day began with breakfast in bed for the whole family, church and then a trip to my sister in laws for my nephews 1st birthday once my son had finished rugby practice.

Seems a normal enough day and it was except en-route to the party we (the family) were, for the first time ever, threatened in a road rage incident that shook us all.

My wife was driving along the dual carriageway overtaking some-one and in doing so was not breaking more than the speed limit when and this idiot in a soft top Saab raced up behind her, allowing his car to be within inches (and I mean inches, I do not exaggerate), flashing his lights and gesticulating rudely that he wanted through.

When my wife didn't immediately speed up to let him through, his hand gestures got worse. Having got ahead of the car she was passed, she pulled over into the nearside lane. This numpty then pulled over into the lane in front and started to slow down as he wanted us to stop. he then raced off to the next roundabout where he stopped and got out of the car and started to come across the road to us, as if ready for a fight.

Fortunately the road on the roundabout was clear and my wife was able to keep driving and we didn't have to stop.

Where do these guy learn that this kind of behaviour is acceptable? If he really was in a hurry why did he have time to stop? what is it about young men and cars? Is it really a substitute for some other kind of inadequacy, (physical or otherwise)?

My two kids were really shaken by the incident, really shaken. He could have killed us with his driving yet he wanted to attack us as if we had done something wrong. Yet that moron is probably in some pub right now, mouthing off as if he was in the right and his bullying and dangerous behaviour was acceptable. There's something really wrong with who we are as a nation if some people can somehow conclude that that kind of behaviour is acceptable.

Surgery Times

1st Wed @ Piershill Library, 30 Piershill Terrace.
2nd Wed @ Craigentinny Community Centre, Loaning Rd.
3rd Wed @ Duddingston Primary School, Duddingston Rd.

All 7:15pm -7:45pm

and the last Sat. Lochend YWCA, 198 Restalrig Road South
12noon -1pm

(no appointment needed, all during school terms)
Printed and Published by Ewan Aitken on behalf of the Edinburgh Labour Party, 78 Buccleuch Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9NH