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 !