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

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