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.