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, 3 March 2009

Back in 5 mins (or so)

A wee computer glitch meant I was suddenly unable to blog for 5 days. I really enjoy blogging but but this enforced break has been refreshing, let me step back a wee bit and ask not just what will I say but why do I want to say it here, in the blogoshpere?

So I am going to continue that break. Not for long, just enough time to refresh my thinking and replenish my ideas. Don't go far, I will be back, the site will stay up and I will be looking at other site for some inspiration but for now, goodbye and happy blogging.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

The birthday girl!

I had the delightful task this evening of visiting one of my constituent on her birthday.. her 103rd birthday that is! Still sharp in mind and able to "see as far as Arthurs Seat" she struggles to get about these days but is a whole lot fitter than many much younger than her. She still lives in her own home supported by a couple of hours a day home help, but otherwise about as independent as she can be.

She came to Edinburgh during the war to work in a biscuit factory and "just stayed". Its astonishing to think that she is 99 years older than my daughter and seen just so much change, (not all of it for the better, she says!). I hope that I have that ability to be independent when old age comes my way though given my state of health these days, I doubt I'll make it to 103!

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Disaster is looming

The plight of the trams is seriously bad new for Scotland, not just Edinburgh. As rumours fly and opinions form and reform, we need to know who knew what when and what did they d about it.

Here are the 6 questions that we need answers to:

1. Is it true that the project is running 8 months late?
2. If so, why was the Princes Street closure put in when it was?
3. Did BSC warn the Council that there were problems?
4. who did they warn, when and what was the response of those they warned?
5. What are the so called "contractual obligations" that allegedly have not been met?
6. What are the costs of delay?

More than ever, this city needs leadership. It needs the SNP in particular to realise that to pull out now would make Edinburgh a laughing stock with no nerve. They need to get a grip and the Lib Dems need to realise that they cannot avoid the decisions before them nor can they blame someone else.. This is their time and they cannot fail us. Right now, much as I despise much what they have done to our city in the last 2 years, I don't want them to fail on this one, even if it meant that we were to benefit electorally. I am willing them to succeed. This is not about party politics any more, its about our capital city and our nation and we cannot fail or we will reap the pain for years

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Even a cold touchline is a worry

Spent some of today on the touchline watching my son play rugby for Portobello Hornets against Preston Lodge (a good win for the Portie boys). It is difficult to avoid the temptation to live our sporting dreams through encouragement of our children's enthusiasms but despite dangerous temptation I do find watching him play a real pleasure.

Having said that , this was the first competitive game his team has had since early December. I know that there's often a winter lay off but this seasons seems particularly bad. I am not sure of the reasons are as simply as the pitches not being properly looked after or a complex as global warming or somewhere in between but whatever the reason, the consequence is fewer games and the potential of hundreds of young people hindered that wee bit more. I hate to be a prophet of doom but we'll never win the big games if we can't get the wee ones sorted first. Unless we do it won't just be my vicarious dreams that will be shattered, it will be the Nation's.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Another bizarre piece of SNP "populism

Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill's suggestion that killers would pay for their victim's funeral is bizarre. The last thing that a victim's family would want is cash from the perpetrator of the crime that has caused them so much pain but more significantly it could allow those to commit these crimes to feel they had somehow "compensated" for their deed.

It would be a whole new meaning for "blood money" and I don't think we should go there.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Tram brinkmanship is not a new ploy

This is not the first time BSC; the consortium delivering trams in Edinburgh have tried to hold the city to ransom. When the contract was just about to be signed last year, I was briefed as Labour leader along with the leaders of the other groups on the Council that at the last minute that the consortium wanted another huge sum, (somewhere between £12m and £15m), because of alleged "increased steel prices". We all knew it was brinkmanship and officials were encouraged to beat them down hard which they did significantly.

The SNP/Libdems need to face BSC down again. That is what they understand. Stare them in the eye and say no, you can't hold us to ransom and your attitude is unacceptable. That's exactly what they would do where they in our place and we should do the same to them. It's the only language these guys understand. My deep concern is that the Libdem don't have the bottle for brinkmanship and the SNP want trams to fail. These are bad times indeed for our city.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

SNP/Libdems will have to take responsibility for once

The public statement by TIE, the company delivering trams for Edinburgh that it will be the SNP/Libdem administration that decided whether the tram works stop the world famour Festival cavalcade this year is nothing to do with Festival floats and glorious costumes.

It is, instead, a sign that TIE are finally fed up with being the fall guys for the SNP/Libdem administration total lack of leadership. The SNP/Libdems want to take all the credit for the good things and none of heat for their incompetence. That's why they were posted missing when the closure of Princes Street fiasco happened but why they demand that their names are on plaques on all the new schools for example, (and I mean demand), even though these are schools Labour started and secured the funding for. Their motto is "it wusy me". This time however, it will be them in the firing line and not before time too.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

This is a do-able task, if we are brave enough

The comment that Labour will "fail" to reach the target of having child poverty may prove to be statistically accurate but is another example of how statistics make easy headlines but never tell the whole story. The fact is that Labour alone set the target in the first place. The Tories would have done it ever because their philosophy could cope with that kind of compassion. The Libdems wouldn't have done it because it would have meant making a decision and the SNP say they want to achieve it but want independence more than they want to have poverty otherwise they wouldn't have ripped regeneration funds from poor areas and hurt those least able to help themselves.

That being said, the fact that the Joseph Rowntree Foundation can identify the funds needed to get to where we need to get to as being only around £4.2b when we can find more than £37b for the bank bail out is a serious challenge to the labour Government. If investing in banking capital is worth that kind of cash, then investing our 12% of the same in the social capital of freeing children of poverty is surely a win win for all of us. This is areal chance for Gordon to practice what he preaches.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Its going to take more than a headline and a few easy words

Sir Peter Birt's comments on the "greed culture" are just the latest in a long line of similar comments from folk right across the political and business spectrum. Easy words but what are we now going to do about that culture? How are we going to change it? I have yet to see, for example, any calls by the financial services industry to review the Cadbury Code which is supposed to form the basis of good practice and ethical decision-making in the industry. Whilst legislation would help, unless the mood and the mind of those involved changes dramatically and voluntarily, then we will continue to be creating the atmosphere of decision-making where greed can flourish

Somewhere, somehow, we need to be asking what our economics are actually for. exploring how economics, far from being a morally neutral scientific endeavour is a reflection of human emotions and the quality of human relationships with the self, the neighbour and the stranger.

By defining success as a human being by the accumulation of wealth as had begun to happen, the production of profit moved from the creation of liquidity to being end result and so greed became justified as a means to achieve an idea of success that was then celebrated and affirmed. Far from fulfilling human need it ate away at our very humanness. It is these kinds of explorations that will change the culture that has brought us to the place we now find ourselves in. This has to be a debate and a discourse not about pounds and euros, dollars and yen but about morality, the soul and what it is to be human. Much more difficult to put into words than "its a greed culture" but the end result will be a better place for us all; the self, the neighbour, the stranger.

Monday, 16 February 2009

A sad day filled with tears and laughter

"Since God is of Heaven and earth
how can I keep from singing?"

No politics today as more fundamental things are on my mind. I attended the funeral this afternoon of an old friend and fellow Iona Community member Rev. Richard Baxter. Famed for his ability to have a song for every moment, Richard was a man of contradictions; an ex commando who became a campaigner against trident (including getting arrested several times), an irreverent man who was deeply respectful of tradition and ritual, a brilliant singer who knew the power of silence.

He spent 15 years in Malawi, helping to fight the British Colonial attempts to create a "Central Africa Federation" out of what was then Nyasaland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Instead, Malawi was formed and Richard help create their education system. He hasd such an influence on that country that that a letter of deep sympathy was read out at the funeral written by Malawi's High Commissioner on behalf of the President Bingu Wa Mutharika.

Committed to the Ecumenical movement, Richard believed in the strength of diversity. He was a very serious man, committed to social justice in every action who was always full of fun and laughter. A talented artist he would brighten up many a boring meeting with a wee cartoon quickly sketched and passed round on a scrap of paper!

I worked with him when I was assistant minister at South Leith Parish Church. He was a massive support to me as I struggled with the strictures of church, institution and faithfulness. I owe him a great deal.

There were well over 500 people there today laughing and crying as we laid to rest a great man whom we will all miss terribly. My thoughts and prayers are with Richards wife Ray and their family.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

A good election result

I was delighted to hear the news that Rev Peter Macdonald of St Georges West Church has been elected the new leader of the Iona Community. I have known Peter for nearly 30 years and I feel very confident that he will do an excellent job as leader

I have been a member of the Iona Community for over 20 years and my membership is what keeps me both sane and continually challenges as I struggle with the idea of what it is to be a person of faith in the 21st global village.

Peter will have very hard act to follow in Rev Kathy Galloway who has been a brilliant leader for the last 7 years, (our leaders are only in post for up to 7 years), but he will carry the torch of leadership well.

Friday, 13 February 2009

An apparently smart move might turn sour soon...

It is not a surprise that most councils are setting a 0% council tax freeze. To do otherwise would cost money and set them against the rest of the country. But it is unsustainable. It puts less cash in public services, undermines local democracy and will mean cuts elsewhere. It seems fairer but actually will have unfair consequences and with the demise of the local income tax, simply perpetuates a system it was introduced to remove.

The Council tax freeze, as a precurser to the local income tax (much as I think that was more unfair) was, in itself, a clever political move in the short term. Now the short term is getting longer and longer, it may well come back to haunt the SNP in ways they never imagined.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

A strange idea of consensus

The City Council Budget meeting today could best be described as an example of poor political theatre; no vision from the SnP/Libdem mal-administration and a torrent of personal abuse from those on their benches with nothing helpful to contribute. One wee interesting thing came to light; the SNP/Libdems had had "budget talks" with the Tories and the Greens, but admitted that they decided not to talk to us. Apparently their idea of consensus politics is to only talk with those they agree with....

If they had talked with us they wouldn't have had to push through their cuts; instead they could have done these things;

On Schools - reversed last year’s funding reductions in those budgets giving schools an extra £2.7million; established a ‘£2million revenue’ schools “Energy and Efficiency Fund” for the city – established a ‘£1.2million capital’ school ‘Refurbishment and Upgrade Fund’; to provide funding to undertake the essential works at Wave3 schools; and to establish a new (year 1) £12million ‘capital fund’ with further funds being prioritised in future years to enable development of the remaining Wave3 Schools.
On Economic Development - made an additional investment of some £1.3million in ‘economic development activities’, and established a £5million “Affordable Housing Fund” for the provision of affordable housing across the city.
On Protecting the Vulnerable - invested an additional £2million revenue in ‘Care for the Elderly’ and ‘Respite Care’ services and accommodation services for ‘Young People with Disabilities’; provided an additional £320,000 to towards the provision of 10 new, local Police Officers; and 2 new ‘Care Homes’ for the city.
On Transport -invested an additional £300,000 to protect and enhance all currently ‘supported bus services’ ‘£1.5million capital’ in bus-priority measures and to re-phase all non-essential ‘capital’ roadworks for the duration of the current tram works, prioritising pavement repairs to a ratio of 60%/40% -£8million of capital expenditure in 2009-10 on pavements and £5million of capital expenditure on roads.
On Local Environment - invested £0.6million to provide £50,000 per annum, of new monies, to each of the local Neighbourhood Partnerships. £0.5million per annum to World Heritage Trust to protect the fabric of the city.
On Culture and Leisure - Invested £120,000 towards cultural education and outreach work and to invest ‘£2million capital’ in parks, pitches, pavilions and play areas.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Is this the end of the big (Council Tax) freeze?

I never thought that the local income tax will succeed but i never thought it would falter so quickly. There is no doubt that it was not only unworkable but that it would have cost more and produced less in terms of cash for public services.

But lets look at whats happened here. A minority Government has admitted it can''t build a consensus in parliament so it has dropped a manifesto promise (a pretty major one at that). It is at least honest; " we can't build a consensus so we won't waste time trying any more" but that does also mean that immediately others get the blame rather than any real analysis of why the policy couldn't get support. "the unfair tax remains because others would not help get id of it"

It means getting bad news over and done long before an election so any "broken promise" opportunities have lost their edge. But it also begs the question "what about the council tax freeze?" It was an interim measure for a policy that won't now be implemented. It will, by 2011, have removed £240m from the public service budget but not removed the tax it was introduced to help shift. So the question becomes, will it stay? If the SNP removed the freeze next year that would do two things; first give them an addition £70m to play with, (a tiny amount in the whole Scottish budget but hey, was the price of the Tory votes on the budget), but it would also allow them to argue that the Council tax rises have returned because the other parties wouldn't let the SNP get rid of it; "they wanted to keep it so let them pay the political price if it being used again"

It would be a risky strategy but would mean that the locus would shift from a broken promise (and a big one at that) to look what these nasty opposition parties have done to you....call me a cynic if you will but....

Monday, 9 February 2009

Kez is back!

Just delighted to see Kez Dugdale back in the blogosphere! Kez is the reason I started blogging again after my post election blogging break became a habit that needed breaking. She tells me that she is also now a convert to "twitter" which I have not yet mastered but life should be an adventure so maybe soon I shall be also in the world of the twitter!

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Diversity is our strength

I never had the opportunity to meet SNP Bashir Ahmad MSP. who died this weekend and, as is the custom of his faith, was buried within 24 hours. Nor did I know to much about him but those who spoke of him we fulsome in their plaudits and praise.

What I do know is that he achieved two important firsts; first Asian MSP and first Muslim MSP. That is a record to be proud of in any ones book and the Parliament will be the poorer until the 2nd (and more), of each is elected. Diversity is a strength and he gave the Parliament some of that strength in, I am told a quiet, unassuming but powerful way.

What will be a true tribute to him and those who hopefully follow him in being other ethnic and/or faith community first would be when the time comes that the ethic and faith (including those whose faith is not in a divinity), diversity of our parliament is such that no one is counting and there's no need to herald firsts.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Another fine mess you've got me into

Regular readers will know that I have been banging on about the fiasco that is the junction project at the Kings road roundabout. Having produced a plan that was "dangerous" (their words), the SNP/Libdem administration the signed off a plan B that was uncosted and is now 6 months late. I called for an investigation. The report is probably the most damning review of any council project I have ever seen. It includes the immortal line that traffic planners had "failed to predict driver behaviour!" I thought that was what traffic planners did for a living!

Thursday, 5 February 2009

the truth is out!

Today's City Council meeting only lasted about 2 hours. Thank goodness for small mercies though it was mainly because the big debate is next week on the budget

There were some highlights though;

When challenged about a broken promise, one leading Libdem admitted that their manifesto was "mostly aspirational" rather then promises they had made to the electorate! It would have been nice if they had made that clear to the voters

The SNP/Libdems admitted that, despite claiming that the new Scottish budget was a potential "lifeline" for Edinburgh schools, there is no new money in the budget for school buildings. Not much of a lifeline then..

The SNP said that to ask for a sustainable approach to air travel was unacceptable and madness...that will be the Green vote grabbed then!

Roll on next week and the budget meeting; that is going to be soooo much fun! I will lay money that it will last a whole lot longer than two hours.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Not a vote winner

The proposal to separate council election from Scottish parliamentary elections is one of those things that seem blinding obvious, so much so that it blinds us from the fact that it is an unnecessary and unhelpful move.

There is no evidence that peoples clear confusion with the Scottish parliamentary elections was in any way caused by having the election on both days, evidenced by the fact that the new system introduced for council elections caused far fewer spoilt ballot papers.

The idea that Councils will be called to account on their own record has to be countered by the clear evidence that midterm Council elections are always seen as a opinion poll on the Government.

If this is a response to what happened in 2007 then its the wrong target. The solution lies in having the ballot paper as it was before, with the list vote second.

If it is about making Councils more accountable then it will not achieve that to the extend that might be assumed and there remains the issue of voter fatigue. There are better things for Parliament to to be doing with legislative time and resources.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Another Libdem (and SNP) U turn

Its good news that the Budget will get through the Scottish Parliament tomorrow. After what was probably a helpful shot across the SNP bows, the time for working together was now and it would appear all have heeded the call.

Interestingly however, there's a wee twist to this tale. According to the BBC, one of the parts of the deal that brought the Libdems to the table was an agreement that some schools will be commissioned under PP/PFI because the Scottish Futures Trust remains a chocolate teapot.

But isn't that the same Lib Dems who on Edinburgh Council voted and campaigned against PPP. Will they now bid to be amongst the Councils to have school under PPP (and will there be level playing field support as there was under Labour...)

Sunday, 1 February 2009

In the name of God!

Two prayers for comment. First is the sad story of the nurse who's been suspended because she offered to pray for client. From what I have read she probably wasn't wise to make that offer in that context but what annoyed me is the comment of the woman who complained, saying that she wasn't offended but was worried that some-one else might be.

The offer to pray would have been no more than a statement of concern for another human being who was ill. Who is this mythical person who "might be offended" by what was a misguided act of compassion? If they do exist and are offended, let them speak up for themselves. Would we suspend anyone else to investigate the speculation that some-one "might be offended" by a nurse who in the course of conversation with a client who happened to be a Christian said, "I don't believe in God". No chance. This was an unwise expression of care, not a hanging offence. We need to get a grip here otherwise, in the name of equality, the Christian community is being treated unequally.

And the other prayer? It is the allegedly "long lost second verse" of Burns Selkirk grace which I was given a copy of by the Portobello Burns club who invited me to give their immoral memory this year. I will tell you it as long as you promise not to be offended by a prayer or on behalf of those without their own teeth;

"some hae teeth to eat the meet
whilst others o' this nation
rely on gums and porcelain
to aid their mastication!"

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Church speak with one voice on homelessness and recession

I was pleased to see that at the opening of Poverty & Homelessness Action Week, leaders of 12 Christian churches and communities in Scotland have called for intensive investment in affordable housing

They have endorsed a call from Scottish Churches Housing Action for a return to post-war levels of affordable house-building as a way of avoiding the worst effects of the recession.

The call comes in a paper which Scottish Churches Housing Action has sent to First Minister Alex Salmond MSP, Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling MP and other political leaders which calls on the administrations at Holyrood and Westminster to get together in facilitating a massive boost to public investment in affordable housing.

The church leaders’ argue that building affordable homes for rent and for sale will have a triple impact: it will help those who’ll be made homeless in the recession; it will keep people in jobs in the property, building and related industries; and it will keep tax revenues from those jobs flowing to the exchequer, while avoiding unemployment pay-outs. It just takes a wee bit of political will. The full text of the statement can be downloaded from www.churches-housing.org

The Poverty & Homelessness Action Week partnership comprises Church Action on Poverty, Housing Justice and Scottish Churches Housing Action. The week runs from Saturday 31 January to Sunday 8 February, and includes Homelessness Sunday (31 Jan) and Poverty Action Sunday (8 Feb). www.actionweek.org.uk

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Lets try and see this differently

The failure of the SNP minority administration to get its budget passed was a momentous day for Scottish Politics, but not as some might think. It does not mean the end of the SNP Government. That will not happen. They still have time to bring back another bill, but more significantly its difficult to think of an occasion when a party who brought down a Government, especially a minority party, have benefited. The SNP know this from bitter experience, dropping from 11 in 1974 to 2 in 1979 having brought down Jim Callaghan . So the Greens will not, if they have any sense, put themselves in that position, and for the Government to fall, they would have to be so.

No the significance is that there is now a real opportunity to again grasp the nettle of consensus politics. I was in the public gallery today and the debate was not a pleasant experience. I am used to the hurley burly of politics and we need to know the differences between parties. But we need to put energy not into scoring debating points but discovering what it will take to find common ground which will allow us to have grown up conversations about whats possible, plausible and frees the potential of the people (I really do sound like a politician don't I!). We don't need to agree with everything to find common cause.

The trouble is that all parties are still obsessed with power and hanging onto it rather than letting it go and having influence instead. The opposition, (even the descriptions of our political roles are confrontational), need to let the largest party take the lead. The SNP, as the Government, need to have conversations with the other parties that are not couched, as the recent ones were, in terms of "what will it take to buy you off"..."but what can we do together" Then a consensus can be created that respects difference but finds a way through for the people instead.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

A day to never forget

I was very interested and please to hear that Ann Franks Sister will be talking with school pupils this week as part of the marking of Holocaust Memorial Day. Anything that will help young people dig under the words and see the real human consequences of the Holocaust is to be welcomed. To say that we must never forget what humanity is capable of doing is to vastly understate the case

I think that Holocaust Memorial day is one of the most significant in the political calender. It is a stark and deeply powerful reminder to all nations, and I mean all nations, of the consequences of choosing war based on religious belief, prejudice and/or assumed superiority. It not only causes huge suffering, it damages the whole of humanity and its collective soul. No-one exempt from that lesson. even those who have been victims themselves.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Inching forward to victory

I had a very helpful meeting today with Lothian buses and Council officials along with two stalwart bus campaigners about the No 12 bus, one of the many victims of SNP/Libdem cuts.

It appears that our campaign has had two effects. First a new turning circle is proposed at the old Eastern General site (at a cost, not of 20k as first estimated, but 80k), which will allow the No 12 to service the care home and Craigentinny Avemue North. This would not have happened without the campaign led by local people but still leave a large section of the ward without a bus service.

Secondly, the administration have put several options out to tender to get costing for a number of routes, including one that would make use of that turning circle to re-introduce another of the routes cut by the SNP/Libdems, the No 13 and in addition provide a service to the area isolated by the cuts to the No 12.

However, this will only happen if the SNP/Libdems put the money in their budget. So the campaign is far from over. Much is to be done. But at least the SNP/libdems will have to final admit what they have been denying for so long; this is all down to their decisions. The future of these bus services is in their hands. The campaign continues!

Sunday, 25 January 2009

I shouldn't be shocked but I can't help it

I was bemused by the support from the SNP/Libdem administration for the the announcement that there there is a plan, to convert un-used upper floor space Edinburgh's iconic Princes street. into housing. I am bemused because I proposed the very same thing last year and was shot down by the same SNPLibdems who now, suddenly, think its a great plan! I should not be surprised given their clothes stealing track record, but it is astonishing all the same.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

This could be an immortal memory for all the wrong reasons!

Help! Its Burns time again and I am doing speeches at three dinners, two immortal memories and a toast to the lassies. Why did I say yes to these !

Two are to adult audiences, one in Portobello for the Burns club there and one in Glasgow for the Scout Associations annual fundraiser. They will be difficult enough but the one on Saturday night is the hardest one of all. Its for a group of 8-12 year olds who are part of a sports club my boy attends. Seemed like a good idea at the time but now I am panicking. Anyone got any ideas for an "immortal memory for 8-12 year olds.....

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

A great day for us all

Great swathes have already been written and will be written about Barak Obama's inauguration. It is an astonishing moment for the world that a man whose father would not have been served in restaurants 60 years ago in Washington because of the colour of his skin was sworn in as president of that same nation.

I offer simply this thought. What struck me about President Obama's speech was that it was rooted in values and offered something deeply spiritual to a hurting nation (and world). It said simply, times are tough and he and the nation he now leads need to dig deep into their souls as they struggle to find solutions to their challenges, domestic and international. He said;
"in the words of scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness".

and; "This is the source of our confidence - the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny".
I don't pick this out to make a theological or a "pro-God" point. Nor do I suggest that some-one without faith in a divinity couldn't do the job. This is not a man who says "God told me what to do because he's on my side but instead asks what do I need to do to be on God's side".

I do think that it is interesting that what met the need of a broken nation was a language that has been sometimes despised in political circles on both sides of the language. I know that he will need to find policies that match those words but at least we will know what drive the man, what he depends on and why he might have the stamina to make it through the pain that he faces. Faith itself will not bring the hard political answers he needs. But knowing what he believes to be true about the nature of world is a good starting point.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Barak McObama?

On the week of Barak Obama's inauguration as the 44th President of America I offer this interesting take on how Barak is really Scottish in heritage...

Saturday, 17 January 2009

An unacceptable price tag

I am a sports fan. I watched Edinburgh beat Castres 32-14 in the Heineken Cup at Murrayfield last night in a superb match with 4 excellent Edinburgh tries. I encourage my kids to play sports and I know what a successful team can do for the mood and the soul of a community and even the economy.

But sometime we forget that sports are just that, sports. Which is why I find the idea that a football team, in this case Manchester City, can even contemplate handing over £107m for one player morally repugnant. We are in a time of financial crisis, people are loosing their jobs, debts are growing and families are hungry. across the world, poverty grows and the poor are dying. And then a sports team spends £107m on one player. This cannot be right. I know that that £107m would be available for other purposes, nor would it solve all the poverty in the world. But is deeply sadness me that we have created such a system that means it can, even at a time when others are starving, produce sums of that quantity for the sole purpose of buying a footballers talents.

This isn't Manchester City's fault as such. They are simply part of the system. Something is not right with the system itself. These price tags for players demean sports and demeans all of us as human beings and that means no-one wins.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Listen to the Generals...

It is not often that I find myself with senior generals but I do today. This letter, publsihed in the Times today, is written by Field Marshal Lord Bramall, General Lord Ramsbotham and General Sir Hugh Beach. It is one of the best critiques of nuclear weapons I have ever read. Even the most ardent pro nuclear nutter would struggle to withstand this onslaught from my new, multi-pipped friends with whom, on this issue at least I find myself standing shoulder to shoulder.

It is easy for me to speak about being "anti-nuclear, I have been for years and so the words come easily to me. I have never heard of these three generals before before but I now hold them in high esteem because it must have been a hugely difficult task to be who they are and say these things out loud. Brave men, all three.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

We use what we have to stand for justice, even our wallets

Whilst I think that George Foulkes' view in the Guardian that;
"the drive, inventiveness and initiative of the Palestinian people needs to be given an opportunity to flourish. And for that to have half a chance, the conflict must stop and it must do so now. That is the message that should be sent from us all, including all real friends of Israel, to its government".
I still believe that it does not go far enough. I think we need to act in support of a people suffering at the hands of a nation apparently intent on ethic cleansing. So I would add my support to Palestine Israel ethical shopping initiative. (piesi). Having called once for a boycott, I reiterate that call now as do the folk behind piesi. In a world where much of our individual power lies in our consumer choices so we should put that power to good use.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Dubya's top ten

When some-one leaves a job, especially one as high profile as President of the United States of America, it is usual to acknowledge their finest moments. With thanks and credit to talkshow host David Letterman, I am pleased to bring you Georges Bush's top ten finest hours...

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Useless doesn't really tell the story

I have blogged before on the disaster that is the changes to the Kings Road roundabout at Seafield Road. This was an excellent scheme that we got the money for that has be turned into an utter disaster area by the SNP/Libdem administration.

I asked officials for more information about the lack of progress. They have now told me that the completion date is 3rd April (6 months late) and that they still don't know how much the delays will cost or what other work won't be done because of the overspend on this project.

I know that I said I wanted to find a new language for my comments about the SNP/Libdems, but I struggle to so what other words I can use than completely incompetent on this one

Monday, 12 January 2009

Trams, trams everywhere

We need a new bridge across the Forth and it does not matter who delivers it, it just needs to be delivered. That means that the meeting this week with interested parties which appears to be at least hosted by the Scottish office is vital, not for who gets credit for sending the invites making the coffee but so that the bridge gets built.

That being said, we don't need any old bridge, we need to use this opportunity for grasping at the nettle of radical thinking on transport. A new bridge should be so designed create the capacity to massively increase public transport, including the potential of trams from Edinburgh connecting with all of Fife. It should include even more park and ride and dedicated bus lanes and not actually increase overall car capacity. Infact, if we do this right, the new bridge could actually decrease car use, not increase it.

Properly grasped, this nettle could be an opportunity to make the kind of regional connectivity for the Edinburgh City region that is vital for its survival and in some parts, regeneration, but in a very different way. A new bridge yes, but not for cars, now there's a plan worth breaking out the Governmental hobnobs for.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

In 9 days there are no more dress rehersals

The run through of Barak Obama's inauguration is a salutary reminder that soon enough it won't be the dress rehearsal, it will be for real, the Bush Presidency will be over and we can see if America really has changed,

I think that, in the main, it has, or at least it wants to. But so much depends on this one guy who holds on his shoulders the expectations of literally billions of people to get it right, first time, every time, with no more dress rehearsals. This is no longer the West Wing or the trail run. it is for real. I would not want his in tray for anything....

Friday, 9 January 2009

Its a start but its not enough

The announcement that Edinburgh is to get £3.5m for its capital city status is bittersweet in the extreme. It is, I believe, John Swinney trying to deliver on a promise but it is a 10th of what we need. So whilst the principle is good and one I argued for when I was leader, it suggests to me that once again the SNP/Libdem mal-administration have failed to stand up for Edinburgh.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

The politics of go'an in the huff

The claim that the SNP "will resign if their budget is not passed is not a clever tactic. It tells us three things; that unlike last year, they do not yet have the Tory vote, that independent Margo Macdonald, quite rightly, is hanging out for all she can for Edinburgh and that, as ever, their focus is not on the needs of the Country in a crisis but their own political futures. Is this game of political chicken what Alex Salmond really meant when he call us all to "pull together" in his new Year message; that's pull together as in "do what I want or I'll stomp off in the huff!

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

We all believe something even if its that there is nothing out there

The so called "atheist bus adverts" which proclaim that "there probably is no God" will paradoxically probably get more folk talking about the possible existence of God than might others wise have been the case, but not for long, I fear!

The truth is that whilst this campaign will be little more than a one day media wonder with little real furore, had it's promoters really wanted to make controversial statements about what people believe or don't believe and what that might mean for others, they would have had more luck with ads that announced that "there probably is no Santa"!

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

I thought I'd seen it all....

Its been a bizarre few months, arch capitalists becoming market interventionists, the banks nationalised to save them from timeservers and now a local Tory arguing for low paid workers to keep their tips. to, and I quote, "protect vulnerable low paid workers"! Very commendable and not, in itself, to be disagreed with, but given the Tories long time opposition to the minimum wage, whatever they will tell you is policy, is this a sign that they would go back to the times when their leader was campaigning against it on the basis that, with tips, who needs a minimum wage...

Monday, 5 January 2009

Art for arts sake, schools for people sake...

Art helps us see who we are as people individually and collectively. A constantly regenerated national art collection helps fill the soul of the nation. Art nurtures our sense of belonging and our search for being as a nation. I get all that.

But I also get that political spending choices are made based on the priorities of a given moment. That mean the same politician may make a different decision on the same subject in different situations. There are always competing moral goods and judgement calls need to be made based on what is needed most.

Which is why the decision by the SNP Government to spend (allegedly) £17.5m on a painting by Titan painting at this moment in time is ill-judged in the extreme. At a time when every politician is saying that what we need to is to spend money of public works to keep the economy going, to choose to spend what could build a primary school on a painting that, for all its merit won't, in itself create one new job nor keep one job safe is can only be described as a seriously bad political judgement call.....but then that's the first of these that we've seen from the SNP

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Another, much more serious New Years resolution...

So here's another New Years resolution...I will boycott all Israeli goods until the Israeli Government apologises for its actions against the Palestinian people and I call on all those who believe that all peoples, not just Israelis, are entitled to peace, tranquility and freedom, to do the same.

Hamas have done some utterly unacceptable things and they continue to be their own worst enemy, but the actions of the invading Israelite forces, bringing mayhem and death to the Palestinians of Gaza, are so disproportionate as to be almost at the level of ethnic cleansing.

I know that my calling for a boycott of Israeli goods will not exactly have the Israelis quaking in their boots as they trample over the human rights of the Palestinians in Gaza, but given the immorality of the Israeli actions we all have a moral duty to do what we can, no matter how apparently insignificant, to stand up and say no, this is wrong and we will not support it or anything else associated with a state prepared to inflict such untold death and devastation on others, no matter the alleged provocation.

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