Friday, 31 December 2010

Happy New Year

Well, 2010 is almost over and 2011 about to begin. Call me a hopeless optimist but I like the sense of renewal at new year, out with the old and in with the new, looking forward after taking a glance at the year past, and all that. We're going to head up to the street party on Prince's Street but we won't stay for the duration. I'll be happy to be back home long before the bells and put the feet up with with some Black Bun and a large dram. Looking forward to meeting some Labour leaning Hibs pals tomorrow before the big match at Tynecastle, always some good banter. Win, lose or draw, 2011 is sure to be packed with challenges ; budget cuts, public services under pressure, unemployment probably on the increase and the Scottish Parliament election campaign to look forward to. Whatever you're planning to do tonight or tomorrow I wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous new year.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Happy 100th, Bloomiehall Park

Christmas Day went well, loads of food left but that's better than not enough. Gradually working our way through the left overs. Hearts game was off on Boxing Day so spent the afternoon ironing instead !

Accepted a very kind invitation to join numerous "Juniper Greeners" on a community ramble around the area and along the Water of Leith Walkway. We met at Bloomiehall Park which will celebrate its 100th birthday as a community asset in 2011. Plently of ideas were bandied about on how to mark such an auspicious anniversary, I suspect something memorable will happen, in the summer perhaps. It was an enjoyable stroll in spite of the cold and damp and still a lot of ice and snow on the ground, particularly along the river walkway. Plenty of evidence too of damage caused by fallen trees brought down by the weight of snow. The walk concluded at Al Borgo in JG for an excellent lunch, washed down by a glass of cheeky red, amongst good company. All in all an excellent community event and many thanks to Cliff and Liz Beevers for making all the necessary arrangements and to Sylvia and her staff for a lovely meal.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Two Ronnies and Tommy

Well, Tommy gets to Christmas at home at least. No doubt the noise and fury will continue to flow for a few weeks yet. Watched the documentary on the Sheridan case last night on BBC Scotland. Because the interviews featured had obviously been filmed prior to the verdict it was a fascinating insight into the thoughts of the main protagonists before the outcome was known. Then watched the BAFTA tribute to Ronnie Barker, presented by Ronnie Corbett. You would think a lot of their material would be dated by now but it really wasn't. Everything from The Two Ronnies to Porridge and Open All Hours is still brilliant.

By this time tomorrow I expect to be up my eyes in carrots, sprouts and parsnips. Got the outlaws coming for Christmas dinner (10 at last count). I'm doing most of the catering, quite enjoy it really, then a few more coming later so no doubt some refreshments will be taken and it will be good to get everyone together. What ever Christmas holds for you, hope Santa is good to you.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Naive, Stupid or Arrogant ?

So, I'm at my surgery the other night, and this couple of good looking girls come in and say they're Labour supporters and will I tell them my views about the Iraq War, cash for honours, Brown, Blair and Mandelsson etc. So I was, like, completely indiscreet you know, blabbed loads of stuff that I probably shouldn't have about how powerful I am in the Party and how my ideas are brighter than anyone else. Oh, I think I declared war on Silvio Berlusconi as well. Well, they seemed really nice.

Aye Right.......

Pull the other one Vince, et al.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

The Bin Challenge

Overflowing bins in Clovenstone last night. Lack of refuse collection, i.e. getting the bins emptied, has become the new big issue. I sought, and was given an assurance yesterday that all areas that had not received a collection for the last 3 or 4 weeks would be cleared before the end of this week. I think that the refuse collection service know that their reputation is at stake here and they need to deliver to show that they can maintain a decent service even in difficult conditions. Reports this morning are promising, receiving a lot a good feedback to say that bins were emptied yesterday for the first time. Good work, boys and girls, keep it going and make the doubters eat their words !
Charlotte Square, Monday morning 20th December 2010

Sunday, 19 December 2010

My Christmas Message

Last year I sent out an emailed animated Christmas card from Unicef and made a modest donation. This year they don't have the same service on offer so I've given them a donation anyway and made my own Christmas message which can be viewed on the clip below. I'm available for contract work, rates very reasonable ......

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Too busy to post ? Poor excuse !

A week since my last post ! I'm so ashamed ! It has been extremely hectic ; still dealing with the effects of the weather, trying to get accurate information out to constituents, preparing for Council meeting on Thursday, enduring Council meeting on Thursday which ran to 11 hours and on top of that caught some bug that kept me off food and drink for 48 hours (probably won't do me any harm if I'm honest).

The Council meeting may turn out to be one of the most significant in recent years, 12 deputations covering a range of subjects from Advocacy Services to the Assembly Rooms and Winter Weather to Equal Pay. Two further issues addressed were that the Council has had to agree to the Scottish Government's funding settlement which means 4.5% funding reduction as long as the Council implements SNP Government policy priorities, but a much greater reduction if we decline (£34m). A sort of blackmail really and strange behaviour from a party that believes in independence for Scotland but wants to remove independent decision making from Scotland's Councils.
The Council also agreed to take a further step towards privatising three strands of Council services through a process called Alternative Business Models (ABMs) which could see 3,500 Council jobs transferred to the private sector under contracts that will last between 7 and 12 years. The LibDem/SNP Administration don't seem to recognise that they are almost beyond the point of no return and with support from the Tories (no great surprise) they agreed the report and our amendment to suspend the process was defeated.
After a couple of days off colour I was almost back to normal yesterday and got along to the Juniper Green Christmas Farmers Market and then down to Tynecastle to watch a keen fought and entertaining draw with Inverness. Managed to persuade a few pals to head to the German Market after the game where we enjoyed a hot Belgian Cherry Beer before going to the pub.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Hope the Thaw continues

Met Alistair Darling at the Balerno Christmas Farmers Market yesterday. Given the recent weather problems they did a remarkable job to get the market on and it was good to see so many people supporting it and the christmas tree exhibition in the church hall. Even managed to pop in to the Grey Horse for a half pint and see Paul and the guys for a chat. The 44 is almost back to a normal service but we had an anxious 20 mins wait at the bus stop before it eventually arrived to head back in to town. Headed straight for Tynecastle to enjoy a fantastic 5-0 victory over the poorest Aberdeen side I've ever seen. Going to visit Ratho today. Conditions are improving but I want see what signs there are of work being carried out to facilitate the re-instatement of the 48 bus service to the village. Ratho residents are feeling a bit hacked off and I don't blame them.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

The Cavalry are coming - but is it too late ?

Juniper Green Community Council bravely persevered with their meeting last night at the Village Hall and got an excellent turn out. Obviously discussions centred around the current conditions and how this is affecting the local area. As well as expressions of frustration and dismay at the Council's response there were a number of really useful ideas that could help to tackle the current problems and hopefully prevent a re-occurrence in the future. A Winter Code for example, a list of common sense advice points for citizens and businesses that could be formally endorsed and promoted by the Council and other agencies. I think this should be developed further.

Left the meeting at the back of 8 and just missed two 44s charging down Lanark Rd ! Decided I should wait for the next bus rather than attempt to walk. After 40 mins of nothing either way another two 44s passed going west towards Balerno. I reacted by doing what any sensible person would. Marched straight in to the Juniper Green Inn and ordered a half pint and a large Grouse, then caught the bus after it had turned and was heading back to town.

Today, back to chasing up various local issues and trying to concentrate on solutions to get the 33, 44 and 48 buses running their full routes. Have put forward quite a few suggestions and hope they will contribute to a solution. The request for help from the army seems to have been heeded and will certainly be a big help.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

The Crisis Continues

Another few hundred emails and calls later and I'm still trying to impress upon senior people in the Council that we need more resources for the Pentland Hills Ward if we are to have any hope of clearing the snow before next winter ! Was invited to a meeting this afternoon of senior officers and politicians and did at least manage to crystallise the discussion into a few key issues, bus services, schools, availability of grit, resources to clear the snow, priorities and communication. I understand a request has been made for support from the army but this has to be authorised by the Scottish Government. Here's hoping they give the go ahead. There is a lot of good work getting done on the ground but it is inevitably, painfully slow. I hate to nag, I really do, but I will continue to be a pain in the a**e to all and sundry until we get on top of this.

Monday, 6 December 2010

4 Dec 2010

As planned I got the 44 to Balerno on Saturday to see the conditions and make a few visits. Walked up Main St and Mansfield Road, back down through the Threipmuirs and into Deanpark where there were teams of contractors clearing snow and gritting in the streets around the Primary School. Then walked up to Ravelrig Park where residents were gamely shovelling snow. Pavements up there were impossible and pedestrians had walk on the road. After a brief and welcome coffee I walked back down via Cherry Tree Park and Crescent, both of which were horrendous with the snow, and down into Curriehill Castle Drive. From there up to Currievale Park Grove and then through the High School to Thomson Road. Waited 20 mins for a 44 home and then 6 came at once ! My conclusions ? Lots of snow, heaps of community spirit with residents working together to clear what they could and Council staff and contractors working hard with heavy duty machinery. However, with the best will in the world these workers can only do so much in a shift and I still don't think there are enough resources being deployed to make the difference that needs to be made. I'll keep banging on about it within the Council.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Clear roads ahead ?

Having received hundreds of emails and telephone calls from residents of Baberton, Juniper Green, Currie, Balerno and Ratho in the last week about the horrendous conditions they have been enduring I'm going to head for Currie and Balerno today (by bus, wouldn't be clever to have another car stuck in the snow !) and see what's happening on the ground. I hope I will see teams of Council workers and contractors with heavy duty machinery clearing and gritting roads and pavements. That's certainly what I've been calling for all week. There is some evidence that the Council have listened but I want to make sure proper progress is being made. I did invite four (very) senior officials of the Council join me today on site. Two declined and the other two didn't reply. Bit disappointed about that.

Chris Mullin

We were delighted to welcome former Labour MP and minister Chris Mullin to our fundraising event last night. About 60 Labour activists braved the conditions and travel problems to listen to Chris's witty and thoughtful reflections of his own political career and 13 years of a Labour government at Westminster. He sold a fair number of books as well and made a very generous donation to the election campaigns funds for myself and Sarah Boyack who chaired the event. Excellent bloke and a successful night. You can find more info about about Chris at

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Snow place like home.....

The current conditions certainly are "unprecedented" at least in my life time, and I've been around for a while. Haven't seen so much snow, so quickly before and its caused widespread havoc. I've received numerous complaints from constituents who are basically snowed in and upset as they feel they have been forgotten by the Council. The policy of prioritising main roads and bus routes is fundamentally sound but existing council workers and vehicles can only do so much in a working day (plus overtime). That's why I called for additional resource to be employed, "unprecedented" conditions demand an "unprecedented" response and it looks like my nagging may not have been in vain. Extra contractors armed with JCBs are to be brought in. They've got a big job ahead of them but at least its a start.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Snow and Ska

The Skatalites and Bombskare were both excellent last night, good crowd and a great atmosphere. If the video works you should get a little blast of "Message to you Rudy". Click on the small triangle, bottom left hand corner.

Heavy snow last night, heavier than last winter perhaps ? The forecasters are saying it will be with us for a few weeks yet.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Saturday Night is Ska Night !

Going to see the Skatalites, supported by Bombskare at the Picture House tonight. Looking forward to it. Its thought that the Skatalites were largely responsible for creating what we now know as Ska, they played with Bob Marley and the Wailers, among others, in the 60s and 70s and merged reggae with other music to produce Ska. Madness and the Specials have much to thank them for. Bombskare are an Edinburgh band and play regularly around the city. Well worth checking out.

Winter arrives ....

Well, the snow set in overnight but the Juniper Green Farmers Market still went ahead as planned. Bought a jar of Bucks Fizz Marmalade ! Very indulgent.
After carrying out the standard Labour Party risk assessment i.e. it was too cold and slippy, decided to abandon any notion of delivering leaflets. Good decision. We can resume deliveries when the weather is better (end of February probably !)
Popped in to the Balerno Christmas Fair at the High School, numerous stalls selling all things festive and all things not. It was heavin', going like a fair, you might say.... Bought some cakes, raffle tickets and bid £30 for a weekend in Largs in the Silent Auction !

Friday, 26 November 2010

The Happyometer

Campaigning in Kingsknowe and Currie this afternoon. Went well but it was bloomin' freezin' ! Off to an exhibition of cartoonist Frank Boyle's work this evening. I've only ever featured in one Boyle cartoon to the best of my knowledge. Don't know if I should be pleased or upset about that fact ! Juniper Green Farmers Market tomorrow, followed by campaigning in Wester Hailes, followed by Balerno Christmas Fair at the High School. Better get an early night !

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Broomhouse loses a long serving friend

It was a pleasure last night to attend a retirement bash in the Broomhouse Centre for local Community Police Officer Neil Doig MBE (Member of the Broomhouse Executive, apparently). Neil has been a well kent face in Broomhouse and surrounding areas for the last 23 years and made a major contribution to various streams of partnership working in the area dealing with young people. He supported the local community when they stood up against some serious anti social behaviour a few years ago and can certainly be credited with making Broomhouse a better place to live for many people. His presence will be sadly missed and I understand he would have stayed on of it wasn't for current budget pressures. Chiefs and Indians spring to mind....

Talking of budget pressures, attended a couple of briefings today on the Council Budget and Alternative Business Models which are now intrinsically linked with hopes pinned on the ABMs delivering significant savings going forward. We shall see...... both reports will go to the next Council meeting on 16 December.

Pentlands Campaign Committee meeting tonight, hoping to plan the next phase of the parliamentary campaign and build on what has been a very promising past two months of activity.

Monday, 22 November 2010

A wet, but productive, weekend

Campaigning this weekend in Currie and Balerno. I didn't think we'd get much done this week due to the weather but a small, and perfectly formed, team of volunteers braved the elements to deliver 2000 leaflets and get through a bit of door knocking. One gentleman in Currie, after a brief chat and obvious, careful consideration said to me - "Aye, I'd vote for you, you look normal."...... People say the nicest things !

Hearts game on Saturday wasn't great but if you're a connoisseur of great goals and penalty saves Messrs Skacel, Templeton and Kello certainly delivered the goods. Nice tribute to Jim Cruikshank as well with a perfect 1 minute silence and a yellow (Cruikie's colour) Hearts goalie top hung in the net behind Marian Kello.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

WHEC International Award

Was delighted to accept an invite to the WHEC recently for the presentation of a British Council award in recognition for their international work and particularly their twinning relationship with Barkly High in South Africa. We were treated to some wonderful photographs of the last visit to South Africa as part of a presentation about the link and various projects connected to it. Four young people from the WHEC are due to make a nine day return visit in February. I'm sure it will be fantastic experience for them and I hope they bring back many happy memories.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Fair Treatment at Work ?

Both surgeries last night at Ratho and Balerno and then on to Ratho Community Council which was busy as usual. Didn't manage to get to Currie Youth Club management committee. Must try harder to be in more places at once!

Labour Group meeting tonight to go over the Council Agenda for Thursday, including the proposal to close Blindcraft.

Interesting story on the BBC Scotland website tonight - - Pay freeze in return for no compulsory redundancies at the Parliament. How strange, when we proposed that some cuts be supported in return for a commitment to no compulsory redundancies at a Council meeting a few weeks ago we were treated with contempt by the SNP/LibDems and Tories. Its the right thing to do at Holyrood but the wrong thing at the City Chambers. Council workers obviously don't merit that level of respect or security.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Tynecastle Remembers

For the second year the annual Hearts Remembrance Service was held at Tynecastle. This of course is a temporary arrangement until the Memorial Clock is reinstated to its rightful place at Haymarket. It was an excellent service with the right balance of remembrance, history, tradition and even some gentle humour. Jim Jeffries read a couple of poignant letters from and to the Hearts Manager of 1914 corresponding with the young widow of one his players. The rain was incessant but there a huge turn out (2,000?) for this fitting tribute. I know the memorial and the service must return to Haymarket but the Tynecatle events are well managed and have all necessary elements that allow more people to attend and pay their respects than is possible when huddled round the clock, in between the traffic at Haymarket. It would be good if someone could find a way of combining the best elements from both experiences......

Community Award

As expected, the Currie & Balerno News 3rd Community Award evening at Currie Rugby Club was again a great success. I'm delighted to report that Phyliss Tait (pictured with her award and me and husband Jim) was the judges' choice in recognition of her many years of work with numerous groups in and around the Balerno area. The identity of the winner is not revealed until it is announced at the event so it came as a great surprise to one and all, particularly Phyliss !

It was good evening too for networking with representaives from local schools, churches, clubs, community councils, police and many, many more. The C&B News are to be congratulated on their initiative that recognises local contributions but also brings people together in a social setting to celebrate all the good things that do happen locally. Congratulations again to Phyliss, I'm sure the award will have pride of place on the mantlepiece.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Longstone War Memorial

I joined Veterans, serving soldiers and community representatives attending Longstone War Memorial this morning. This service unusually takes place on the Saturday before Remembrance Sunday. The service was short, simple and excellent.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Recognition and Remembrance

Campaigning in Broomhouse again this afternoon. Leafletting and door knocking, if we don't get blown away, that is ! Tonight is the Annual Currie and Balerno News Community award ceremony which recognises someone from the local area who voluntarily commits lots time and energy to supporting local community activity. The winner isn't revealed until the event itself and its usually an excellent night with a healthy social element i.e. I won't be taking the car ! Balerno Farmers Market tomorrow and I'm also going to attend the annual service at the Longstone War Memorial at 11.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Supermarkets and local Co-ops

The meeting on Monday night went very well, lots of concerns were raised about the possibility of a new supermarket being located on the Curriehill site and far from adopting a NIMBY, anti-development stance, most people actually expressed a desire to see housing for older people here as a way of allowing older people to stay in the area while helping to encourage more turn over of family homes locally. Since the developers declined to attend it hasn't been possible to convey the concerns or discuss other options. Hopefully that will happen soon.

At the other end of the "retail foodstore" spectrum, I visited the Broomhouse Fruit & Veg Co-op the other day. Excellent local project with superb staff and a committed band of dedicated local volunteers. The shop is the obvious, visible presence in the community (at Broomhouse Market) but they also deliver a range of other service such as working with local schools to discuss healthy eating and making children more aware of where our food comes from. In common with other voluntary sector organisations, concerns about funding make it difficult for them to plan for the future but they're certainly worthy of support and promotion.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Back to Business...

Yesterday was brilliant, but its back to business today (albeit with a spring in the step :o)).
Most of the day has been spent in the City Chambers meeting with Labour colleagues to formulate our position on the massive "Package 2" budget cuts proposals put forward by Council officials as part of the budget process. Wading through figures can be dreary at the best of the times but this is real services and real jobs we're dealing with.
Tonight I'm heading to a public meeting at Currie to discuss the recent decision to sell the former Curriehill School site to developers for a supermarket. I'm told that the developers have pulled out of the meeting due to their negotiations with an operator being incomplete. Don't think that's going to go down well but we'll see....

Saturday, 6 November 2010

A day of two halves

It was beautiful this morning when we got campaigning underway in Whitson and it was still okay when I headed for Ratho for some doorknocking and to carry out my survey on the Council's proposal to change the Local Lettings policies. All was going well until the heavens opnened and the I had to abandon the exercise. Such is the Scottish climate I suppose.... Never mind, we can pick it up again next week.
Derby Day tomorrow....

Friday, 5 November 2010

There will be Fireworks tonight

Yes, I know, a blindingly obvious headline and photo, but I was too lazy to be more original...
Last night I underestimated the resilience and determination of the good folk at Clovie who did manage to stage their fireworks display after the poor weather subsided for a couple of hours. When I left it was in full swing as I headed for Balerno and then the Labour Party meeting in Pentlands Community Centre in Oxgangs. Got home around 10pm. Spent most of today in the Regulatory Committee, licences for HMOs, street traders etc. Tonight we're going to head to Currie for the annual fireworks display staged by the Currie and Balerno Round Table. Hope it stays fair.
Tomorrow is campaigning in Whitson and Ratho and then Derby Day on Sunday. Even after all these years I love the tension of a Hibs Hearts game and, unlike many fellow jambos, I actually enjoy going to Easter Road. Looking forward to seing their new stand. Hope they're able to fill it !

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Busy Evening Ahead

Am heading up to the AGM of Clovenstone Community Centre Management Committee this evening. Great wee community centre with loads going on and a fantastic band of local volunteers.

The AGM is to be followed by their annual community fireworks
display, however I suspect the weather may throw a spanner in the works.

In any event I won't be able to hang around for the fireworks, or lack of them, because I'll need to head for Balerno Community Council's meeting for a 7.30pm start.

Then I've been invited to talk to the Colinton Fairmilehead branch of the Labour Party and hope to be with them by half eight. Don't ususally like to jump from meeting to meeting but its just the way things have worked out.

Last night I attended a workshop at Ratho as part of the Council's consultation on the Canal Strategy. Its in its very early stages and a draft won't be produced until next summer but they're trying to gather as much info and ideas as possible. It was a really useful session with loads of ideas coming forward. The document can be viewed via the Council's website.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

November arrives ....

Surgeries were quiet on Monday. No great surprise, it was a shocking night, wet and windy. Managed to get to Deanpark Primary School Parent Council meeting where, in common with every other school in the city, they are trying to plan for expected budget cuts and understand what impact this might have.

Yesterday afternoon I attended a briefing hosted by the Council Solicitor about Regulatory functions but appeared to be primarily aimed at advising councillors about conflicts of interest in connection with Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs) including the advice that, due to consultation being an integral part of the TRO process, that deputations (from community groups or businesses etc) could no longer be heard at Committee as this could be viewed as a "hearing" and that should only be held by a Scottish Government appointed Reporter. Lawyers, eh ? What would we do without them ?

Last night I accepted an invite from Murray Estates to view a presentation about their proposals for a substantial development on the west of the city, effectively between the bypass, RBS HQ and Heriot Watt Uni. Its attracted a fair bit of media attention, partly due to the possible inclusion of a 25,000 stadium that could be shared by Hearts and Edinburgh Rugby. It was a very interesting session and I listened politely and asked a few questions. I await further developments with interest and expect there to be a great deal of debate within the Pentland Hills ward and beyond.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Big society and small communities

Accepted an invite yesterday from MacKay Hannah Ltd to chair one of their conferences about measures to tackle Anti Social Behaviour and the potential impact of impending budget cuts. The event began with a bold and thought provoking address from Bill Aitken MSP, who basically attributed the rise in antisocial behaviour and petty crime over the past 30 years or so to the decline of manufacturing and other manual industry. "Work works" as Bill said and it was difficult to disagree that young people with jobs and spending power are less likely to be attracted into a life of petty crime. Difficult to reconcile the views of this prominent Tory MSP with the actions of Margaret Thatcher who actively pursued a policy of dismantling the UK's manufacturing and manual industries in favour of an over reliance on the service and financial sectors. Add to that the actions of the current Tory LibDem government which will undoubtedly increase unemployment, particulalry among the young, and one can see where we are heading, again.

The afternoon session was a much more positive affair with presentations from projects who are actively working with younsgters around Scotland and getting really positive results. There was originally meant to be a panel of MSPs debating ASB and budgets but they had to call off to attend parliament to debate emergency legislation. Personally, I barely noticed their absence and appreciated learning more about the practical work that's actually happening throughout the country.

The early evening was spent at Wester Hailes Community Council's meeting in the local library. They've struggled a bit to become properly established following the demise of the former Rep Council but there are some promising signs for the future. The meeting was also attended by a deputation from the local Youth Forum which ensured a useful and productive debate about numerous local issues.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Successful Weekend.....

Myself, and Cllrs Bill Cook and Ewan Aitken enjoy a chat before joining 20,000 others on the STUC "There is a Better Way" march and rally yesterday in Edinburgh. It really was a fantastic turn out and demonstrates the strength of feeling against the quick, deep cuts being made by the ConDem coalition at Westminster. The march was noisy, colourful and good natured, everything that is good about the labour and trade union movement in Scotland. Of course, muggins ended up on one end of the Edinburgh Labour Councillors' banner. I never manage to move quickly enough on these occasions !

Then, as arranged, off to Save Dalry Baths with Sarah Boyack and the local group campaigning against closure. They've done a really good job and rallied a lot of local support. Here's hoping the campaign is a success. They're doing more for local facilities than the SNP/LibDem Council.

Then down to Tynecastle for a memorable Rudi Skacel hat trick and a satisfying 3-0 victory over St Mirren.

Stuffing 5,300 envelopes today with a band of willing volunteers for the Pentlands campaign. Going well, might even manage to make a start on the deliveries this afternoon.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Big Weekend ?

Met a couple of pals in the "Diggers" last night. Haven't been there for a while but its still a really good, old fashioned pub. Specialises in malts as well these days so of course I had to try a couple ! Hic !

Just heading off for the STUC "There is a Better Way" march and rally. Hope its a good turn out, meeting some Labour Group colleagues for a coffee first. Looks like the poor weather may be lifting (ever the optimist !). Then plannning to join Sarah Boyack at a Save Dalry Baths demo at 2. Apparently, the LibDem SP candidate is planning to turn up in support of the campaign. What a brass neck ! They're the ones who are cutting the budget !

Then off to Tynecastle, where our home form is beginning to be a cause for concern. I would predict a victory but you can't take anything for granted with Hearts these days.....

Monday, 18 October 2010

October Week

Campaigning went well again yesterday (a bit cold though). About 2000 leaflets delivered over the weekend and quite a few doors knocked in the Oxgangs area. Not too many Council meetings scheduled this week, mostly due to the school holidays I think. Means I don't have surgeries tonight but will get to the Ratho Community Council (definitely got the date right this week !) and possibly the Currie Youth Club meeting after. Managed to tackle the ever growing pile of e-mails in my inbox so if you did get a reply from me today apologies for the delay.

If you weren't already aware, today (18 October) is the UK's first Anti Slavery day. Its being promoted by a leading children's rights organsation called ECPAT who work to highlight issues around child trafficking and exploitation. You can find out more and sign their on-line petition at and look for the logo above.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

We are the Champions

Don't know how but our team, the Sou Westers, won the first round of the Edinburgh Labour Gavin Strang Quiz Trophy last night at Rannoch Centre in Clermiston. It was a really good night, excellently organised by Lesley Hinds and her campaign team. Must have raised a few quid for Lesley's election campaign in Edinburgh West, where it looks like she could win the seat from LibDems. Looking forward to the next round, if I'm going to make any useful contribution to the team's efforts I'd better read a dozen encyclopedias in the next few weeks !

Campaigning this afternoon in Oxgangs, Firrhill and Colinton Mains. Really pleased again that so many people are coming out to help. Back out again tomorrow. No rest for the wicked.

Deanpark Primary

Well, Scotland surprised us after all, although as predicted, I didn't get to see any of it. Next qualifying matches aren't til next September I think.

Juniper Green Community Council meeting on Wednesday night was brisk and business-like, as usual.

I was delighted, and honoured, to accept an invite to present the Rights Respecting Schools Award to Deanpark Primary at their Rainbow Assembly on Friday. They are the first school in Edinburgh to gain this recognition which is a fantastic achievement. For the last year or two the children have been learning about their own human rights and the rights of others and extending this to look at how children live in other countries. Its made them think more deeply about their role in society and their presentations, from all parts of the school, clearly demonstrated their keen awareness of the wider world. The work also supports their links with a school in Malawi, which is now well established. Lovely atmosphere, with the children in bright rainbow colours for the occasion, and I got a cup of tea and a scone as well !

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

nil nil would be a good result

Went out to Ratho Community Council meeting last night, only to discover I was a week early ! Oh well, it meant I could then get to Currie Community Council without the anticipated delay and catch the whole meeting, which finished at 10pm. Covered a huge range of issues, as usual, including a possible Farmers Market in Currie (a few challenges to be overcome there) and the public meeting on 8 November to discuss the Curriehill School site proposals.

Labour Group meeting tonight ahead of Full Council on Thursday. Clashes with the Scotland v Spain game so I don't suppose I'll get to see much of the fitba'. Might be a blessing of course, early reports suggest Scotland's formation will be 11 - 0 - 0 - 0. Bet the SNP aren't having a meeting tonight.....:o(

Monday, 11 October 2010

Productive & Entertaining Weekend

Busy weekend. Balerno Farmers Market on Saturday morning, few more stalls that normal with one actually smoking fish in a wooden barrell, very impressive.

Then off to a Co-op party hosted debate about Alternative Vote (probable referendum next May). George Foulkes vs Andrew Burns, excellent debate conducted in a robust but comradely manner. Contact me if you want to know who won !

Saturday evening was the Gala Concert of the Balerno Music Festival, now in its third year. A wonderfully entertaining evening of music and song, string quartet and opera. Not usually my cup of tea but thoroughly enjoyed it.

Campaigning yesterday in Stenhouse. Great turn out, we delivered about 1600 leaflets and Sarah Boyack and myself knocked a few doors. Good reception. Many thanks to all those who helped. Oxgangs, Firrhill and Colinton Mains next weekend.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Mixed Bag (one with toiletries)

Second meeting of the Freelands Rd Sub Group last night in the church hall. Very constructive again with a few local issues raised by local residents and dealt with by the developers. A long road ahead but with continued engagement like this we should manage to resolve any problems that do arise. Just got to type up the minutes now ...... next meeting in January.

Managed to catch the end of the regular meeting of my local Labour Party branch in McLeod St who discussed the sudden announcement that Westfield Court nursery, after 50 years of operation, is no longer safe for the children.

A mini fund raising auction was then held and I succesfully bid for a real flame garden torch and bag of toiletries. No..... I don't why either !

I see from the papers this week that while the Tory conference was in full swing in Birmingham two tory MSP candidates managed to insult the majority of Scots, the first by saying that we were "thick" to not like Margaret Thatcher and the other who mocked carers in a TV documentary as looking like "the great unwashed". The first has resigned, the other hasn't. Yet.

They just don't get it......

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Dove Centre AGM

Was delighted to accept an invitation to be guest chair at the Dove Centre AGM today. The Dove is a dedicated centre for the over 50s in the Wester Hailes and surrounding areas, supporting older people to remain as independent as they can be through a variety of socially inclusive transport, learning, social welfare, activities, health and volunteering opportunities. Last year they provided 8272 meals, 17360 passenger trips over 2343 journeys, 25 summer trips and 22 other trips. They've been remarkably resilient over the years having come through some difficult times but continue to thrive against all the odds, largely due to the tenacity of the volunteers and staff members who have a strong commitment to providing local people with a friendly environment and a bit of support when needed. They also do a lovely cup of tea and a nice lunch... well, I don't chair meetings for free do I ???.... Good to see a few well kent faces, all the best to them for the year ahead.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Busy Week

Been a bit too busy this week to post regularly so here's a summary of what's happening. Busy surgeries on Monday for a change, good to see people though. Health, Social Care and Housing Committee on Tuesday, possible changes to Local Lettings Policy (Council houses) which could affect Ratho. I'm not convinced the changes are necessary and will carry out a wee local survey to see what the views are. Labour's Local Government Committee last night, good discussion on various issues including the Council's budget process. Regulatory Cttee this afternoon (taxi licences mostly) and a Neighbourhood Partnership Funding Panel meeting tonight.

I don't usually feel sorry for Theresa May but she did get a bit of a kicking from Jeremy Paxman last night on whether or not she had advance knowledge of the Child Benefit cut announcement. She clearly didn't but couldn't admit it which was an open invite for Paxman to jump all over her. I know I'm biased but they did make a bit of a pig's ear of it, didn't they ?

Monty's Major

I was genuinely chuffed for Colin Montgomerie when Europe won the Ryder Cup on Monday. His career was going to be forever remembered for not having won a "major" but I definitely sensed that this victory more than made up for it and for Monty this Ryder Cup is his major. It made for good TV too, not that I saw much of it with a cominatuion of it being on Sky, frequently rained off (Wales in October ?? hello ??) and concluding on Monday when I was working. Did catch the end of the highlights on Monday night though and there was some fantastic golf played, particularly by the Americans who were obviously still smarting from Sunday's results. One aspect of the Ryder Cup that I am uncomfortable with is the increasingly jingoistic atmosphere among the spectators. I know this has been developing over a number of years and appears to be relatively good natured but when golf spectators start to behave as if they were at football match it jars with me. Golf (including the Ryder Cup), to my mind, doesn't need to whip up that type of fervour to remain an excellent sport that will continue to attract TV and live audiences and I hope it doesn't lead to other problems or a devaluing of a magnificient event that has lasted the best part of a hundred years. Oh dear..... I think I may be becoming a boring old fart !

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Local Accountability ?

What was I saying about misplaced optimism ?..........
Anyway, attended the Pentlands Neighbourhood Partnership (NP) meeting last night. Nothing unusual or earth shattering about that, however, they briefly discussed an update on how Fairer Scotland Funding will be dealt with in future. In summary, FSF is used to target specific priorities, ususally in areas of deprivation, such as access to jobs, health inequalities, Early Intervention etc and until now this has been handled and monitored through the NPs, thereby creating a local view and a line of accountability for what local priorities are set, how money is spent and what services are delivered and how successfully.
Apparently, FSF is to be reduced (by the Scottish Government) by 30% next year, will no longer be ring fenced and will be absorbed into Council departments who will also be given the responsibility to deliver on the priorities.
I am not impressed with this change at all, for numerous reasons. Lack of local accountability, reduced ability for local areas to set their own priorties and finally a reluctance by some Council departments to be accountable to the NPs. I understand the proposals are being re-examined but if they press ahead with anything like what I've outlined above I shall be reporting further and in more detail.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Juniper Green Farmers Market

The inaugural Juniper Green Farmers Market this morning was a great success. Eight stalls, plenty of people, a piper, a fiddler and a splash of sunshine all combined to ensure that this venture has got off to the best possible start. Still a lot of work to do of course but the initial signs are very positive. Hopefully it will become a regular fixture. The Kinleith Arms also seemed to be doing a roaring trade in coffee and bacon rolls. My hi-vis jacket might look official but I could probably have made a better contribution by emptying the bins rather than standing about drinking coffee ! Off to Tynecastle now and hope that Hearts can continue their relatively good start to the season and that my eternal optimism is not misplaced....

Friday, 24 September 2010

WHEC & Columba 1400

Was delighted to accept an invitation last night to attend a presentation at Wester Hailes Education Centre by students who had attended the Columba 1400 Leadership Academy on Skye. Brilliant to see and hear young people who had obviously benefited greatly from an experience that builds self confidence and team working skills. The object of the exercise, apart from expanding the horizons and aspirations of the youngsters involved, is to make WHEC stronger as a school through the leadership and confidence of its own students. We also heard about some fantastic other projects supported by WHEC including their South African connection. Sometimes this great school doesn't receive the recognition it deserves but hopefully initiatives like Columba 1400 will challenge some outdated perceptions.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Audit Committee

Just spent 4 hours in the Council's Audit Committee, hearing evidence from various senior officers / Directors regarding the collapse of the Council's tendering exercise for Care and Support Services and the subsequent reviews and "Lessons Learned" reports. This morning's experience shows that proper, robust scrutiny by elected members can be a very effective way to add value to the Council's business and possibly even policy development. Wouldn't be appropriate to come to any consclusions yet as we've still to hear from more officials and Councillors before considering what recommendations should be progressed.

What are they for ?

Didn't manage to catch much of the Lib Dem conference apart from the analysis and interviews on Newsnight etc. An interesting spectacle with Clegg and cabinent colleagues seemingly pulling one way and Cable and conference pulling the other. I'm sure their confusion will be cured once Nick gives them a sharp tug to the right. Best pre conference comment I read was Iain MacWhirter's piece in the Sunday Herald and the photo, left, apparently adorning a former LD member in Liverpool .....

Monday, 20 September 2010

Curry and dough for 2 good causes !

Abdul and me at Kebabish last night
 My idea of a perfect night ; a good curry in good company and a charitable contribution into the bargain. Brilliant night to celebrate Eid, hosted at Kebabish in Dalry Rd, included wonderfully diverse entertainment and a meal with proceeds going to Children First and the Pakistan Flood Appeal. Was delighted to share a table and chat with Labour stalwarts Cllr Angela Blacklock, Amer Masood, Abdul Quadar, George Foulkes MSP and Sarah Boyack MSP. A good night was had by all.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

A Poor Result

Sad to report that, after a long and fraught Council meeting today our amendment calling for the Council not to use compulsory redundancy to save money was defeated. As the post below explained we were prepared to accept almost £16m of savings on condition that there would be no compulsory redundancies. I think we won the debate but lost the vote, as usual. The LibDem/SNP Administration have missed an opportunity to reassure hundreds of Council workers who are feeling very vulnerable right now.

Cuts, Cuts and Consultation

Was at the first budget public consultation meeting last night at St Bride's. Public meeting but attendance was by invite only ! :-/  Members of the public (40) were probably outnumbered by Councillors and Council Officials. The event was meant to be "led" by senior Administration (LibDem/SNP) Cllrs but this actually meant a brief intro by the Convenor of Finance who promptly left the stage to a solitary official and volunteer facilitator ! Very quickly became apparent that the set questions to be asked had been simplified to the point of being slightly patronising. The intelligence of the audience had clearly been underestimated and the ensuing contributions would appear to confirm this. Subsequent votes (by electronic keypad) went directly against current Council proposals. Indeed, many chose not to vote and voiced their view that the exercise was loaded.

There are further severe cuts on the way although the initial Phase 1 "back office" / "management delayering" proposals can be read in this report which will be debated at today's full Council meeing. We (the Labour Group) intend moving that the majority of the savings are achievable with minimal impact on services but that a commitment should be given not to use compulsory redundancy. I'll try to post the outcome later today.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Manic Monday

Spent yesterday in Glasgow at Employment Tribunal training on discrimination legislation. Fascinating subject the more you learn about it although it does become more and more complex. Pouring down in Glasgow all day, very wet journey home on the train.
Managed to get to both Ratho and Currie Community Council meetings last night but had to submit apologies to two other Parent Council meetings. Can't be in four places at once ! CCC have agreed to hold a public meeting in November to discuss the proposals for the Curriehill site and to invite the developer to make a presentation. Good idea, we need much more detail on what they are planning.

Elected Members of the Future

Cllrs Norma Hart, Lesley Hinds, Andrew
Burns and myself get some advice from
David Hop of the LGC
Labour's Local Government Committee held an event on Saturday morning to inform and advise members interested in standing for election to the Council in 2012. Really good turn out and a good discussion on what's involved in becoming a Councillor, the various duties and responsibilities, and our own internal selection procedures. While our event was taking place a rather noisy Orange march paraded down George IV Bridge, which created a sightly surreal atmosphere.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Was at Carrickvale Community Centre in Stenhouse (brilliant facility) last night for a CLD (Community Learning & Development) Service Redesign Workshop (No, I don't know what it means either !) but I do hope "Service Redesign" doesn't mean "Service Reduction" and that my cynicism is unfounded.

Then off to Juniper Green Community Council who have only been in existence for around 9 months but get through a phenominal amount of work and are already planning their first Farmers Market which will be held on Saturday morning 25th September in the Kinleith Arms car park. Hope its a great success, I'll certainly be there.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Sarah Boyack's campaign launch on Saturday morning. Couple of fine contributions from Sarah and Iain Gray to get the campaign off to a flyer. The activists then hit the streets brimming with enthusiasm. Must confess I had other business to take care of then the afternoon involved helping my eldest move into a student flat in Morningside. Great adventure for him, mixed feelings for us. Sure he'll be fine. Leafletting in Liberton/Gilmerton by-election yesterday. They say that "the sun shines on the righteous" and it did ! Campaigning is so much more enjoyable in fine weather !
Both surgeries tonight, at Clovenstone and Currie, then a couple of local meetings in Ratho.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Pentlands selection

After a very nervous and tense selection meeting last night, and an extremely close result, I'm delighted to report that I was selected as the Labour candidate for the Pentlands seat for next year's Scottish Parliament elections. I'm extremely chuffed and quite humbled that so many folk have supported me throughout and have faith in my ability to run a good campaign and hopefully deliver a significant victory next May. Looking forward to the campaign ahead and hoping to have a bit of fun along the way.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

A wise investment ?

The Guardian reports today that the Government are set to make a profit of up to £30bn from the money invested to bail out the banks a couple of years ago. Its an interesting contrast to the continuing message that deep cuts are necessary across a whole range of public services. It would be understandable if Alistair Darling was feeling vindicated while enjoying his cornflakes this morning ! If this projected windfall does come to pass let's hope that the UK Treasury will allow it to be reinvested in services that benefit local communities.