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

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Words but no action and even less cash

The SNP/Libdem administration have announced that they are devolving £100,000 for roads and pavements to local Neighbourhood Partnerships. We set up Neighbourhood Partnerships as a way of taking decision-making closer to the people. We believe that devolution does not stop at Holyrood or even the Council Chamber

So you would think that we would welcome this. But as ever, its the SNP/LibDem talking the talk but not walking the walk. £100,000 will get one or maybe one and half traffic calming schemes. It might repair or resurface two or three roads, and not long ones. It will get you 2 and a bit pelican crossings. The 12 neighbourhood partnerships have a population of anywhere between 20,000 and 60,000. I terms of the local road needs for these areas this cash is "buttons" and no more.

Thing is, you see, they don't control the Neighbourhood Partnerships so they don't like them. This is all about power and they don't want to give it up, at any price.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Edinburgh Labour team sheet 2008

The Labour Group AGM has just past. New at Finance is Cllr. Ian Murray, with Cllr. Norma Hart moving to Social Justice and Cllr. Ian Perry talking on the Group Secretary's job as well as his duties as Deputy Leader.

The Full team is;

Group Chair; Ian Murray
Group Secretary; Ian Perry
Group whip; Elizabeth Maginness
Group Leader; Ewan Aitken
Group deputy Leader; Ian Perry

Finance; Ian Murray
Children and Families; Andrew Burns
Health and Social Care; Lesley Hinds
Economic Development; Elizabeth Maguiness
Environment; Maureen Child
Social Justice; Norma Hart
Housing; Gordon Munro
Equalities; Angela Blacklock
Transport; Ricky Henderson
Culture and Sport; Paul Godzik
Smart City; Donald Wilson
Planning/Police; Eric Milligan
Fire/Licensing; Eric Barry

I am grateful to them for their hard work and commitment over the last year and in particular for the support they have given me as we have adjusted to life in opposition. The people of Edinburgh are well served by our scrutiny of an SNP/Libdem administration who have continually failed the city the claim to lead.

Answers on a post-it please

Apologies to regular readers, and even to first timers here at aitkensedinburgh for the last of posting for the last 5 days. Sadly things at home have meant that blogging has had to be on the back burner but I am back now at the keyboard and ready to blog once more.

If I had been blogging over the weekend however, I would have commented on this story about the placing of a lamp--post right in the line of one of the best views of Edinburgh up on Calton hill. I would blame in the SNP/Libdem administration but I know they didn't actually decide to put it there and they have agreed to move it.

But it is a parable for this administration's lack of vision. So concerned with the minutiae that cannot see the bigger picture. All their moaning about the budget, despite the £52m we left them in the back) and their response; no post-its. That's right. Month one of the new budget and already there is a diktat from on high banning staff from buying "non essential" stationary like post-its. Like thats going o shift the budget deficit they have now created by their one off cuts that have now come back to haunt them.

I may be back blogging with enthusiasm, but I do continue to despair at the incompetence of this SNP/LibDem (mal) administration

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Another idea is taken as theirs

I welcome the announcement that there will be a series of sporting activities to inspire people into more active lives. If i was a cynic I would suggest that they have just stolen our idea to have a festival of sport as one of the 2 new festivals we committed to on our manifesto. But hey, the city is going to get more sport. Surely that's what matters...

Still, a new bigger and better stadium capable of accommodating these new sporting event, not a downgraded one as is now proposed for Meadowbank, would have been a better plan. But then joined up thinking and new ideas were never part of the SNP/Libdem world and I don't expect them to be so soon.

Its worth more than cash

The announcement that 58.000 people don’t have jobs in Edinburgh sounds dramatic until you look at the vacancy figures, which tell you that there are still many more vacancies than those looking for work. Unemployment is still at historically low levels and 50,000 new jobs were created under Labour in the ten years from 1997-2007. Unemployment in Craigmillar is still lower than it was in Morningside in the early 1990s. Many of these 58,000 folk look after children or elderly relatives or doing voluntary work, all of which all makes a huge contribution to the well being of our city. What is of value in human living cannot always be counted in pounds and pence.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

The answer is blowing in the wind

I heard Jim Mather MSP, Minister for Trade and Energy, speak for the first time recently and despite not agreeing with much of what he said and his reputation for communicating in management-speak, I actually found myself warming to the man. He came across as a straighforward and honest bloke, which was refreshing in some-one I regards as a political opponent.

However, that view has been tarnished with his decision about the Lewis windfarm. Not the detail, as I don't know enough about the case to judge, but the excuse.

He says that its "European Rules " that have scupperd this, Does that mean he liked it but Eupre stopped it. If the rules whad not been there he'd have gone and done it?

Such is my cyniasim about the SNP populism at all costs, that I read this ruling as being an attempt to be green and be populist at the same time. To those who objected he can say, "see I listened". To those who promoted the scheme he can say, "It wasny me, it was a big European rule boy who did it and ran away". either way he wins and we, the public don't. This is becoming a theme of thsi Givernment.

Shame. I'd have liked to have had an honest opponent for change...

The meaning of midges

As the family and I finalise the details of our summer break on Iona, I am intrigued to see this report about the new way of resisting the midge, or at least, it resisting us.

Having face, fought and failed to repel 1000s of midges over the many years I have spend holidaying in Scotland, I will seek this new potion out with some haste.

It has to be said that, of all the deeply theological questions that I have struggled with over the years, the search for meaning and for wisdom into the mysterious, the one answer I have never come close to glimpsing is "what is the midge for". Hopefully this new product will render such debates even more esoteric than before

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Welcome to "Spin City"!

The SNP claim of a new era of new council houses is "spinsville supreme", even for the one trick nats. Housebuilding mean forward planning (even councils need planning permission!) so the new homes being delivered by Mid and East Lothian Labour Councils are the result not of SNP policy but relaxations in borrowing controls introduced by Labour in Holyrood.

This is classic SNP sound “collectivist' but do little to be “collectivist”

Any extra cash for Councils is to be welcomed given the cuts we have had to face so far under SNP, but £25m over 3 years for the whole country is ”

Edinburgh will probably get around £2.5m over the three years. That will build around 25 homes, or, give us the ability to borrow about £25m and so build 250 homes but increase our debt in doing so. We need to build a minimum of 12,000 affordable homes in the next 10 years to meet demand

And what part of the Scottish budget is this £25m coming? There was no ‘line’ in the three year budget announced in November for this expenditure. And we have been repeatedly told that there s no more cash for Councils for other things. So who is losing out here. What new SNP cuts await us?

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Scottish (No) Futures Trust

Once again, the truth is out; the SNP Scottish Futures Trust (SFT), would embarrass the back of a fag packet.

Sneaked out late on a Friday, their consultation about the SFT has been ripped to shreds by all an sundry... no, not their political opponents but experts in the field.

Some comments include

  • Universities Scotland said the plan is so short on detail that it could barely comment on it.
  • Audit Scotland warned of "competing challenges and constraints" which would various risks and raised concern that SFT’s may break accounting rules.
  • The Chartered Institute of Public Finance Accountants said “our view is that the SFT will cost more. We fail to see how, as claimed in paragraph 2.1 of the consultation document, that the SFT will provide opportunities for securing cheaper funding costs." and went on go say said there is so little detail in the plan that it can only point out the gaps.
  • COSLA warned a change in the Scotland Act would be required as it cannot issue bonds as the SFT plan suggests,
The SNP have not told the truth. They claimed that they have given local authorities £3b for new schools over 3 years. Not True. They claimed that the SFT would be cheaper and more efficient than PPP. Not True.

I await their apology to the Scottish people with anticipation but not breath held...

The true face of Lib Dem politics

I just can't work out these Lib Dems. The SNP are easy. They are a one trick pony with right wing tendencies but no real political philosophy so they will do anything to keep power, anything. The Lib Dems however, give out this cuddly, woolly, all things to all people stuff but no substance.

Then I hear this tale. At a recent community meeting (not in my area), a senior Lib Dem was asked why they had cut the funding to the 5 community newspapers that formed the Edinburgh Community Newspaper Trust destroying years of work and a service to 170,000 people in one single act?

His answer: "we didn't like what they were writing". Yes, you read correctly; "we didn't like what they were writing". That's it. The death of the community news papers was because their words were unacceptable to the Lib Dems .

Stalin would have been proud of them, as would all the other tyrants who have believed (wrongly) over the years that power is best kept by censoring criticism.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Great scran, even better community project to support

I had lunch today at wonderful new venture in the Acorn Centre, 1 junction Street, Leith, It is Scotland first social enterprise run by Sikh women; an outstanding cafe and takeway service. Lunch was one of the best curries I have tasted and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

The project is part of the wok of Sikh sanjog, an organisation dedicated to the well being and support of Sikh women. In a world of multi culturalism that is full of potential but also fraught with tensions, this group have grown from humble beginning some 20 years ago to offering a safe and respected place for a group that, by their own admission was once very excluded.

Enough of the polemic, just get yourself down to then Acorn Centre and try those curries. You won't regret it, I promise!

Thursday, 17 April 2008

What planet is this man on?

It was with bemusement that I read Edinburgh Design Champion Sir Terry Farrell (whom we appointed) utter the words vision and Libdem in the same sentence and apparently without irony. I was please however, to see the Edinburgh Evening News, not always our greatest fan, (by the way Sir Terry,, that was irony!) defend our record without necessarily supporting everything we did.

Sir Terry claims that he feels “a sense of failure in the post after working under the former Labour administration” so because things have not happened quickly enough for him, especially in planning. The truth is that Edinburgh, despite receiving over 23.000 applications every year, is no slower than any other city.

In the last twenty years Edinburgh was transformed under our leadership. 12 best city awards in 6 years, £6 billion of development, the Financial quarter (which Sir Terry was involved in), Edinburgh Park, the Gyle, the Biomedical park, RBS HQ, the St James Centre investment and much more. Under labour 92% of its residents were satisfied with Edinburgh as a place to live, the highest for any city in the UK. We made the largest investment in school buildings ever delivered with over 40 new or refurbished schools in 8 years, delivered five park and rides and a tram system so far on time and budget, all of which brought 55,000 new jobs in 10 years and the lowest unemployment ever. Not everything. There is much more to do. But a powerful legacy.

At the last Council meeting I asked The Lib Dem leader what new ideas for the city were in her budget as she had said that it would contain “her vision for the city”. Her reply was that there were no new ideas because in the world of consensus politics, if things are going well there's no need to change them. In other words, her vision is to do things our way!

Sir Terry has done some amazing things in his time, but this "conversion" to the contradiction in terms that is the idea of a "Libdem vision" can only be politely described as something from a parallel universe. I just hope that he recovers soon and rejoins us on Planet Earth.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

"Miracles" do happen

I came home tonight from my surgery and a community council meeting yet again dominated by Meadowbank to news about a close friend and member of my former congregation.

This is a woman who has faced more than her fair share of trauma in her life, but she has done so with great dignity and humour. So when, in 2000, she was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour, the sense of injustice that often is felt at such times seemed even more acute.

As ever however, she faced this new challenge with the same determination as before. Despite the fact that there was treatment but no cure and that she was now carrying a biological "timebomb" deep in her brain that could kill her at any moment, she fought and fought hard.

Early on I spent many hours with her, listening, laughing, crying and being inspired. I was supposed to be supporting her but so often it was me that was being supported.

For eight years I and many others have walked with her, prayed with her, hoped with her, discovered and experienced the power of friendship and love with her. The congregation have prayed for her every Sunday for those 8 years. But I always knew that one day I'd get a call.

Tonight I got the call.

But as is so often the case with my friend, it wasn't what I expected. She called to tell me that, against all medical predictions and despite our deepest fears, she had been told today that the tumour is gone! The consultant can't explain it.. It makes no medical sense. "A miracle" the consultant called it.

I cannot tell you the utter joy I felt when I heard her say "my tumour has gone!" I was lost for words. It is absolutely unbelievable. It gives me hope again about other challenges in a way I had perhaps forgotten was possible.

I had a whole bunch of angry politics to write tonight but that can wait for another day. My friends phone call reminded me once again that there are much more important things in life to feel and to celebrate and I want to savour them instead.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

And from nowhere they agreed to what we wanted!

Well, well, despite my despondent comments yesterday and just when I though I had a handle on this mob, the SNP/Libdem administration surprise me. We put up 3 amendments to recommendations by the administration at the Policy and Strategy committee, and amazingly, they accepted two and a half of them! (you can see the amendments in full on www.edinburghlabour.org from tomorrow)

We persuaded them to ask for more powers for local government to deal with climate change and to, amongst other things, have an "environmental impact statement" as part of every Council report. They also agreed to include a call for more councillors on health boards to improve democratic accountability if directly elected boards don't happen, (which seems likely, despite it being an SNP pledge, but we know how meaningless they are!).

Interestingly however, the body language of the Lib Dem leadership was such that despite this outbreak of consensual politics, they only said yes once they had the nod from the SNP, so we know who is still in charge and it ain't the Lib Dems!

The mole resurfaces!

My wee mole has been very quiet recently, almost avoiding me as the SNP went through their re-selection process. I think they were nearly caught out on one occasion and so have since been very cautious.

Still, their description of SNP discipline is very reminiscent of ours, regular meetings, a strong whip and party line held, although in their case it is held at all costs, for the party is all. Mind you they are led by a former Labour Party whip who is on his third, (or is it fourth party?), so no surprises there.

Its all a far cry from the Libdem group experience whose office bearers, my mole informs me somewhat scathingly, have not met for months and whose group meetings are more a gathering of anarchists. But given they are wreaking anarchy across the city as they are led by their junior partner into more and more playground style politics, an attribute matched only by their indecision, such descriptions would fit the bill

Monday, 14 April 2008

Once again into the breach...

Tomorrow I face yet another SNP/libdem contradiction in terms, the Policy and Strategy committee which provides neither policy nor strategy.

There are two Climate Change items, (see here and here) which are of huge importance and I am glad to see them on the agenda. Both draw heavily on the work we began.

I am going to ask for the following changes.

That we note that the Council was one of the first to sign the Scottish Climate Change Declaration in January 2007, (not a peep on this in either document, thy just cannot admit we did anything worthwhile but yet steal all out ideas)

agrees that a top priority for the Sustainable Development Project Board and Team must be training for neighbourhood partnership members in incorporating sustainable development objectives into their community plans, (the plan says local decisions are crucial but I will be interested to see if they will invest in local people)

agrees that all council reports should have an paragraph included that articulates the "environmental impact" of the policy being reported using a template to be agreed by the Sustainable Development Project Board and Team, (this would demand all officers think about climate change in every aspect of their work.. will they take that risk?)

I am also going to call for more powers for local government to make our contribution. Imagine if we had powers to vary council tax of individuals or businesses that recycle, or produce carbon neutral homes, or to vary car parking for gas guzzlers ((up) and low emission cars, (down), or a myriad of other incentives so our carbon action is positive as well as negative.. imagine.. but will this lot be brave..? I shall let you know!

Another exciting meeting...

I told you last month of an exciting meeting with local folk about action for young people.

Well tonight was the follow up and it was even better. Around a dozen parents and a similar number of teenagers turned up along with folk from the Youth Buzz, Northfield Community centre, the Police and Edinburgh Leisure.

It was a very constructive discussion about how we can make better use of the resources we do have and how young and old can play their part in creating more opportunities for teenagers.

We have devised a 6 point plan;

  • Midnight football
  • a new chill out space
  • between communications of what is available
  • A sports coach course and Duke of Edinburgh Course
  • A monthly local disco
  • and a football game between the police and the local teenagers

We all have our jobs to do and we'll be back together in about 6 weeks to see how we have all got on.

It was a joy to be part of this and remind me once again just how much delivering for my constituents is both the most important and the most satisfying part of the job... so I had better get on and deliver for them,!

I will keep you up to speed on progress

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Walking on the other side of the road

The Edinburgh refugee Centre is closing down. Why, well they are one of the many many victims of the SNP/Libdem administrations vicious cuts to those who can least help themselves.

This is not news in itself. this has been known about for some weeks now. What is news to me is that I now hear that those involved in the centre (I chaired the group that set it up some years ago), lobbied the administration and were told by senior figures that they were "very supportive" and would "do all they could to keep it going". Yet when those same folk who run the Centre met Council Officers, the message was, its all over and there is no change of funding.

Who is in change here? Who is running this Council? It is certainly not those elected to lead.

Or was it that the decision had been taken but the administration were to scared to tell the Refugee Centre (and the thousands of others they have hurt), and got officers to do their dirty work instead

It is an absolute scandal, a travesty of our name as a city of hospitality that millions of pound s are being put onto tourism promotion but a few thousand has been cut from the refugee centre with the consequence that those who end up here because of trauma in their own country, will be turned away . Our so called city leaders offered nothing but warm words and insincerity and then made these cuts. Their hypocrisy knows no bounds and our city continues to suffer at their hands.

Size does matter but not for everything

I spent yesterday morning at a wonderful community conference in the amazing 16th century "castle" that is Craigentinny Community centre, to celebrate the results of 4 years work on community regeneration. 50 folk turned up which for a cold and damp Saturday was a good result.

It was an inspiring event if for no other reason that people were ken to talk up the positive and not dwell on the negative. We looked at the many ways in which we had spent the £1m we received for community regeneration and many tales of real life transformation. Real stories of real people whose quality of life is now unrecognisably improved from when they first came to our notice.

In the end that's what regeneration is about, real people, real communities and real lives. There is much more to do, but I left feeling we had done a great deal in the last 4 years. yes we might be changing lives one person at a time but hey, who says that we have to be big to be successful.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

An other defeat down the wrong end of the M8

I had hoped to go through to Firhill to watch the Glasgow-Edinburgh game last night... but I am glad now I had something else on. A 23-14 defeat, only one try for Edinburgh and Dan Parks scores all the Glasgow points does not sound like agood night our for an Edinburgh fan!

It may sound like sour grapes but how I wish he played with that kind of skill and tenacity when in a Scotland shirt. I accept that I have absolutely no idea what its like to step up to that particular plate but still, when you compare some of his performances for Scotland with what I have read about last nights game, it does seem like he is at his best when not playing for Scotland.

Another day, another inspection

Interesting difference of views over the Social Work inspectors report for Edinburgh published yesterday.

Talk107 was upbeat although acknowledging there were issues, or at least that was the case when I was being interviewed, but the Scotsman focuses on the overspend which, the report says, didn’t produce improvements whilst the BBC focused on “low morale” though interestingly it also identified comments that suggested there was also a mood of optimism for the future which does seem to contradict the previous comment,

There are many reasons for this variations on focus, not least of which is the huge breadth of activity that is covered by the report covering all types of social work and social care. It is good that so much of what we did and what has happened since then has been affirmed by this report.

We did a huge amount in bringing about change, not least of which was the creation of the two new, integrated departments, (Health and Social Care and Children and Families), decisions which were controversial at the time but have stood the test of inspection at least. I hoe that, whatever teh present SNP/Libdem administration decided to do, (if that is a concept they understand), they don’t go for more structural change. Instead they focus on supporting staff who do an amazing job under often very difficult circumstances.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

A wee reminder of the fundamentals of being a ward councillor first

I spent much of the morning discussing a gap site in my ward, in Restalrig Crescent to be exact, which has been an ongoing saga for nearly 5 years.

Originally allotments, it was used as the site office for refurbishments in the late 80s and early 90s and was never returned to any real use. Since then it has become a focus for activities that don't make for a quiet neighbourhood.

In 2004-7, I had a go at getting a youth club built there there along with some social housing. I got a group of young folk and a housing association and got detailed plans and a full funding package in place but I was but was beaten by planning.

So now I am looking at getting "sheltered" housing. though that seems to be a broader term than I first realised. I assumed that meant housing for pensioners but with the advent of individual care packages that allow folk to stay at home longer, "sheltered" housing now means "fully accessible" and could mean folk of varying ages who need a bit of support in a smaller home.

As ever, nothing is ever straightforward with these things but I will persevere. I am determined that one day that patch will be better used.

Its about more than just money

I am fascinated by the debate about house prices and their significance. They are a crucial barometer for the economy, of that there is no doubt, but given that they are unlike virtually any other purchase we make, they can also justifiably be taken out of economy analysis. But they are significant and problematic in a very different way.

Although many Tory council had sold council housing prior to her legislation, Thatchers “right to buy” had a deeper significance than simply the increased moving of public equity into private hands. It placed owning our house at the heart of what we began culturally to understand as success; that it was about what you owned and in particular that you owned your own house.

So anything that is seen as cutting the value of our houses (even though its an estimated value and not “real” money unless we are selling) is perceived or felt to be a challenge to our sense of success. Thus sadly it gains a significance far greater in our minds than simply the possible pounds and pence value of our houses. And that is one of the most damaging of all Thatchers legacies//

Its not the politcial x factor we need

I found myself on Newsnight Scotland last night arguing against directly elected Mayors for Scottish cities. The principle of devolution does not stop at Holyrood, nor at the door of the City chambers. If we want more participation in politics we need to grasp the opportunity consensus politics gives us to devolve more and more power to local communities not place it in the hands on one individual.

Yes we need leadership but I would rather see that leadership come from some-one who has name consensus politics work (as the present administration are failing miserably to do).

I also think that it is in some senses allow a participatory cop out as directly elected mayors allow folk to say “I voted for him/her. its their responsibility to do it all, not how can I be more involved”.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Danger! Lib Dem health and Safety executive at work!

I thought this objection by a leading Lib Dem to a tattoo parlour because it was "fairly close to two schools" was very revealing.

It would appear that the Libdems think all children should be cocooned from all possible temptations and that they cannot think for themselves. As one of the scotman bloggers (this is worrying, as that's the second time I have agreed with one of them!), put it, do we then remove chip shops, bookies, pubs, bakers, dangerous roads, bikes shops, (they might fall off one!) or anything else that might in some small way be seen as dangerous.

Is this their long awaited vision for the city....?

Monday, 7 April 2008

When is a promise not a promise?

I spent a boisterous evening at the local community council tonight. The subject matter was Meadowbank Stadium, something that did not always make me feel very comfortable given the demise of our plans for a new stadium for the city and beyond at Sighthill with replacement facilities at Meadowbank were dumped post election.

Trouble is, though many folk didn't like our proposals, at least we knew what we wanted to do and how we would fund them. The Lib Dems and the SNP promised to provide the same as us but at Meadowbank and without selling part of the site, (which was a significant part of our proposals).

What was interesting for me tonight was that the SNP/Libdem proposals (to build a smaller stadium on Meadowbank and fund it by a land sale of part of Meadowbank, (ie get less than we promised by the same funding method), is being seen for what it is, not a promise kept but another promise broken.

It is the flame of protest that must be kept alive

The protests against the Olympic flame are both welcome and a huge success. they are a sign of a healthy democracy and a chance to put the suffering of a long oppressed people of Tibet on the world stage.

Its for that reason therefore, that whilst I would encourage the protests, I am not convinced that boycott of the games themselves is the best course of action, for three reasons

1. Why do we ask our sports men and women to give up something precious to them for which they have worked incredibly hard, when I hear no calls for a boycott of all things Chinese or, for example, for a reduction in trade links with the worlds fourth largest economy

2. By staying in we can continue to embarrass China about its human rights record, by not going, we are seen to be looking from the sidelines in a fit of pique

3. The Dalai Lama has not called for a boycott and its his lead we should follow, for its his people we are trying to support.

This is not my natural instinct. Boycotts can and do work. But here I am letting my head rule my heart. But we should protest, again and again, we should protest, because that's a fundamental of democracy

Pontius Pilate is alive and well

I went to the celebration service for the Princes Street Easter Passion Play tonight where I say pictures of all the action, including the famous handwashing scenes with Pontius Pilate.

I returned home to find word of his modern day successors alive and well and in Government.

I said that the "blame game" between The Scottish Government and Councils would be the consequence of the Concordat signed between CoSLA and The Scottish Govt last year. And lo.. I was right! Thousands march in Aberdeen against the SNP/Libdem cuts there and the SNP say, its not us its the Councils".

We have 3 more years of this. The SNP giving us less money and more to do but demanding a Council tax freeze, Councils not being able to deliver but knowing they must freeze council tax or theyw ill get even less and then Pilate like, Swinney and co washing their hands and/or blaming Westminster. (though quite how the Libdem Leader of Aberdeen can take part in a march against cuts she has voted through, leaving her chief exec to front the defence of the Council is beyond me. The Libdem ability to look both ways at once is beyond all normal rational thought!

This is not a new relationship, it is a dysfunctional one with one partner taking no responsibility for their actions and as is always the case in dysfunctional relationships, the people who will suffer most are the vulnerable. This may sound strange coming from a cleric just home from church but it is time we considered divorce, and quickly.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Are Daleks and the back of the Sofa really no longer synonymous?

A win for Dunfermline against the Jags, and away from home as well and--- Dr Who is back. Its been a good day today!

There is something quite wonderful seeing my lad as excited as I ever was at the sound of the Dr Who theme tune. I really did hide behind the sofa (who was that comedian who said "we were too poor to watch Dr Who because we couldn't afford a sofa to hide behind?) but whilst he really likes the show, he is not so scared. Are the shows less scary or is it just because the Daleks are no longer so out of the ordinary in the average school-kids experience of scary monsters? Has Harry Potter or Nintendo 2 made Daleks and Cybermen second division scary?

Friday, 4 April 2008

"It is for the likes o' us!"

It was a joy to be at the opening of the St Andrews Square Garden today. After 230 plus years this piece of green space is now open to the public allowing Edinburgh loosens her corsets a wee bit more. Its bizarre to think that such spaces were once exclusive and even more so that there still remains huge swathes of space still kept private. But one step at a time.

It's taken 5 years, (that's the subliminal message to say that we started this process, beginning as it did from an idea from Donald Anderson and a few others that pedestrians should be able to walk in a straight line from George Street through to Multrees Walk, the first new street in the city centre for many years!), to get the 20 plus owners, ( and their lawyers), to agree to open it up but today was good progress. There will be much more to come but that's for another day, today was just about the open gate and the people getting back a wee bit of their city

Another one bites the dust!

The sound of yet another broken pledge from the SNP is ringing round our nation. This time its the promise to give new home owners a £2000 handout to get them a leg up. Its another promise that clearly they had no idea how to implement or even if it would do what they claimed it would do. On the contrary, most folk think that it would have negative consequences

Whilst I am not usually a fan of the comments posted below these articles, (too many of those posting confuse opinion and fact), the comment made by one that we are obsessed with home ownership is right. trouble is, that is the legacy of the Tory disastrous "right to buy" policy which in a stroke defined success as owning your own home. Thatcher even spoke of Heaven being "a place where you owned a fridge, a TV and a home to have them in".

Council homes, for all their faults, gave security of tenure and did not define success with what we possess. Sadly I doubt that we can, certainly in the short term, go back to a place where renting a home was not just what you did before you owned one. Instead we will continue struggle to deliver a basic human need through a market system that is both fragile and cannot deliver for those who need it most.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

The city, our city, is already suffering

In England the Labour Goverment today announced details of ‘myplace’ – a £190 million investment over the next three years to deliver new and exciting places for young people to go to take part in a wide range of activities after school and at weekends, such as music, sport, dance and drama.

‘myplace’ will help deliver Labour’s ambition – set out in the ten Year Youth Strategy and re-affirmed in Labour’s Children’s Plan – for new and improved places for young people to go in all areas of the country.

The £190 million will be channelled through the Big Lottery Fund and invested in ambitious projects – all of which must be driven by the active participation of young people.

The Government knows that giving young people more positive things to do is an important tool in tackling antisocial behaviour, as well as helping young people to re-engage in their communities.

Lets compare that to the £2m plus cuts in voluntary sector cuts by the SNP/Libdem administration which will include many facilities for young people. Ok, lets not, its just too sad to contemplate.

The blame game hots up

It would appear from this article in the Herald today that I am not alone in thinking that the concordat between CoSLA and the Scottish Government is not all it is cracked up to be.

I have no doubt that the CoSLA leadership thought that they were doing the very best for local government but they were duped by an SNP leadership whose whole political philosophy is built on conflict and so were always going to create a relationship that was predicated on them blaming others for things that did not happen despite promises being made.

I have said it before and i will say it again, this thing will come back to haunt us big time and we will be portrayed as moaning and griping when the reality is we are being painted into a corner where we are forced to do the SNPs dirty work for them. This is not good news and I fear for local government as a consequence

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Who are we any way?

The annoucement that this years Edinburgh Festival will look at the challenges of a changing Europe is good news, very good news. Antipodean Festival Director Jonathan Mills has that brilliant ability to be both total engrossed in the world of the arts and yet still have his feet set firmly on the ground. His appointment may have "shocked" some, but it was the right one.

The £6m announced for promotion of Scottish talent by the Scottish Government a short while ago, (yes, credit where credit is due for the SNP, even from me!), could well be good news too, as long as its real and will let folk take risks with creativity and not be benchmarked solely by bums on seats or cash brought in.

Creativity is the heartbeat of a nation. It also is the place where we can, perhaps if even for a moment, "see oursels as ithers see us", if of course, we are willing to take that risk

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

One thing does lead to another

The proposal to fine parents if their kids get drunk in public and/or commit crimes as a consequence seems like a good plan but actually epitomises the problem of being run by a one trick pony Government as the SNP are.

This proposal comes from the right wing philosophy of "hit 'em hard and hit 'em long" school of justice which believes that persuading citizens to confirm to social acceptable behaviour is best brought about by the implementation of hard hitting punitive measures no matter the context. The "lock 'em up forever", "three strikes and you are out", and most extreme, the death penalty lobby all fall into that category, none of which have ever either reduced crime or changed behaviours.

The irony is however, that I think MacAskill is trying to do something creative here, which is get parents to take more responsibility for their children which is something I would support. but eh is limited by a dearth of imagination amongst those who aer advising him, and more importantly, a large right wing support base to appease but also the left wing groups who took their anti Labour perspective to the SNP after the SSP imploded following Tommy Sheridan's demise. So we end up with the worst of both worlds; more punative sentences but no real support or help for parents to take that responsility.

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)
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