Thursday, 5 March 2015

The Big Bethany Sleepout

In a recent interview on STV's Fountainbridge Show I agreed, in principle, that I would sleep out to raise funds for one of our local homelessness organisations. 

As expected, I received an email shortly after taking me up on the offer. Therefore, I have agreed to give up my bed for the night on Friday 20th March and attend the Bethany Christian Trust Big Sleepout 2015.

The event is to raise funds funds which will help homeless and vulnerable families. I understand that Ewan and Hayley from the Fountainbridge Show have agreed to join me and give the event some much needed coverage.

Last year in Scotland it is estimated that there were around 70,000 homeless individuals and families living without a permanent home.

Bethany works with homeless and vulnerable people across the whole of Scotland giving them practical help, accommodation, equipping them with skills and supporting them as they move on. They help around 6000 homeless people each year but I want to support them to reach out to even more. There are currently around 38 people using the Bethany emergency winter care shelter in Edinburgh every night.

Please consider a modest donation and help me to raise vital, live-saving funds. You can donate on-line through this link -

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Learning the Six Ways

It was a great privilege to say a few words before the performance of "A Clean Sweep" by the Pluto la Vie Theatre Company at the Festival Theatre this week. The performance was part of the Council's ongoing work to make Edinburgh a Dementia Friendly City. There's lots of good work going on involving businesses and communities, more details can be found via the Council website on this link. 

There you will find out more about the six ways to help a person with dementia and help them to feel included, -
  • Learning more about the facts 
  • Show patience, for example if someone is having problems with their words 
  • Include them in conversations 
  • Being kind and show respect 
  • Helping them to join in 
  • Be a friend
The performance itself is a visual Clown play. Dustin and Walt live in an absurd world full of brooms and brushes. They try their best to understand and control this world. They fail - but, as clowns do, in their generosity they share their failure with the audience.

People with Dementia still have a personality, a sense of rhythm, music and humour. A Clean Sweep engages on these levels. With simple objects and a simple activity, Dustin and Walt reveal their dreams, passions, obsessions, disagreements and above all their humanity.

The audience loved the play and after we adjourned for tea and a scone in the magnificent glass fronted first floor bar area of the Festival Theatre to chat and enjoy each other's company. The actors Ian Cameron and Tim Licata (above) and their musicians very generously joined us and helped to serve tea and keep the entertainment flowing.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Broon, HRH and Queen of Hearts

Ann Budge & Robbo unveil an unlikely free transfer signing...
What an interesting few days ! I imagine the rest of the campaign won't be as exciting but this Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday has been memorable on lots of levels.

On Monday I attended the Scottish Labour Press Event / manifesto briefing. It quickly became clear that the mystery guest speaker was none other than former PM Gordon Brown. After opening contributions from Kez Dugdale and Jim Murphy, Gordon provided more detail on the latest commitments for providing more powers to the Scottish Parliament. Among other things, I think the proposal with the most potential is to devolve Housing Benefit. It makes sense to have housing policy and investment decisions in the same place as the main benefit source (1.8bn in Scotland) and I think it's possible that more progress could be made in accelerating the provision of affordable housing across Scotland.

On Tuesday I made my apologies and left the Finance and Resources Committee slightly early to head for our Technology Hub Centre at Firhill where new technology is made available to people with disabilities and those recovering from strokes, brain injury and other conditions. The occupational therapists there do some wonderful work with some mind boggling kit. HRH Princess Anne was paying a visit in her role as Patron of the College of Occupational Therapy. The visit went very well with staff and service users meeting HRH and discussing how different devices had made a real difference to their lives.

Yesterday saw a joint business breakfast, hosted by the Council and Heart of Midlothian FC at Tynecastle. The aim was to make the case for payment of the Living Wage by local employers. Keynote speakers included Ann Budge, Chair of Hearts and Cllr Frank Ross, Convener of the Economy Committee. 

Cllr Gordon Munro, Vice Convener of the Economy Committee, chaired a panel discussion with Ann Budge and local businesses Standard Life, Bluebird Care and Rabbie’s. All speakers made a compelling moral, social and economic argument in favour of the Living Wage but all also stressed that they felt it had been beneficial to their business.

Gordon's Q&A session was very interesting and there was some good natured banter in view of his well known allegiance to Hibernian ! I was chuffed to get my photo taken on the pitch after with Ann Budge and John Roberston.

By the way, the current UK Living Wage is £7.85 an hour (minimum wage for 21 years and over is £6.50).

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Ready To Go...

I am delighted to have been selected as the Labour candidate for Edinburgh South West in this May's General Election. I consider it a great honour to represent the Labour Party in any capacity so I'm delighted and eager to get the campaign underway.

Alistair Darling will be a difficult act to follow but with hard work and a team effort I am confident that we can keep this seat Labour and help to evict David Cameron from Downing Street.

I'd like to reiterate my thanks to the many members who I spoke to over the selection process, we have a great mix of talent and enthusiasm throughout the constituency, and to everyone who took part in yesterday's final hustings meeting.

I also want to record my thanks and best wishes to the other candidates, who all ran impressive campaigns and will continue to contribute to Labour's cause.  

The meeting itself was pretty nerve wracking, hustings always are, but there was a great turn out and a good atmosphere. After 5 minute speeches from each candidate we took questions from the floor and then the business concluded and ballot papers were issued (to add to the postal votes already submitted).

After a nervous wait, I was delighted to be declared as the successful candidate.

Photos and phone calls followed and then a positive avalanche of texts and tweets and, - eek ! - I'm already being followed by the Labour Whips office at Westminster!

Very grateful for all the messages of congratulations and support and its been a busy day today talking to party colleagues and starting to make plans.

I'll do my best to update the blog regularly although I am expecting to be quite busy in the next few months !!

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Drink, Drugs and Committee Business

Health, Social Care and Housing Committee this morning. Busy agenda and some serious items issues were considered. The full meeting papers are available on this link.

Most discussion centred on two specific reports. Firstly, New Psychoactive Substances , sometimes referred to as Legal Highs although "Legal" should not be misinterpreted as safe, quite the opposite in fact. We heard that many of these substances, whose ingredients are not always clear, have been implicated in recent deaths and other incidents that are causing great concern to the Police and NHS. Bizarre and dangerous behaviours can follow their consumption / injecting leading to harm to the user and others. Some of the anecdotal evidence is truly frightening. Committee agreed an addition to the recommendations as follows –

“ Committee is concerned about the harmful impact of NPS in Edinburgh.

In addition to the ongoing work being carried out by Police Scotland, NHS, EADP and other agencies, Committee requests that the Leader of the Council writes to the Scottish and Westminster Governments seeking meetings to discuss the legal framework within which public agencies are operating and looking at ways of overcoming existing legal barriers to controlling NPS and preventing harm.”

The second report referred to a strategy being produced on behalf of the Edinburgh Partnership looking at reducing the negative impact of alcohol in the city. One of the headline stats was "Approximately 7,000 children in Edinburgh live with parents with some level of problematic alcohol use" - a sobering thought, no pun intended. Committee agreed the recommendations and added - 

“ Committee supports the work of the strategy group established by the Edinburgh Partnership to produce a higher level strategy on alcohol to underpin the delivery of the SOA 2015-18 and requests that the group’s findings be shared across all relevant service areas within the Council to ensure an effective Council wide approach.”

Drink, drugs and growing demands on public services is not a good combination. Further work to follow and solutions need to be found.

Juniper Green Community Council this evening at the Village Hall. Going to keep one eye on the weather, snow is forecast overnight that might make travelling tomorow difficult.

Only 70 Years Ago....

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Back to it.... and upsetting Boris

Well, the New Year derby wasn't a classic but we'll take a draw and happy to remain the only unbeaten senior team in the UK ! 

I held a brief, informal event at St Martin's Community Resource Centre in Dalry on Sunday for Labour members who are eligible to take part in the Edinburgh South West selection process. It went well and I was delighted to receive so much support and encouragement. 

Back to work now though and other than popping in during the holidays to clear the decks, my first task was to head for Our Dynamic Earth to hear Jim Murphy's first speech of the new year on Monday, effectively the opening contribution of the General Election campaign. It was a steady, confident start in my view and I'm looking forward to the debates ahead. One announcement that did cause a bit of a stooshie after was Jim's confirmation that one of Labour's manifesto commitments would be to use the Scottish share of the proceeds from a Mansion Tax to fund the recruitment of 1000 NHS nurses. Decent headline grabber one might think, but also seemed to provoke Boris Johnston into a lather accusing JM of "punishing" the south east of England, - by redistributing conspicuous wealth into front line public services, presumably. I thought Jim's response that the strength of the UK was all about pooling and sharing resources was sound and why Dianne Abbot decided to weigh in is not entirely clear. You can see the speeches and get more detail on the Scottish Labour website.

Then back to the City Chambers, via the Serenity Cafe, for the usual run of Monday meetings and confirmation that the long awaited draft Health and Social Care Integration Scheme will go to the next meeting of Policy and Strategy on 20th January. The clarification we were seeking from the Scottish Government has now been provided and makes for interesting reading. I'll post the report here once it goes public. 

Both surgeries at Clovenstone and Currie were quiet apart from one case that I thought had been resolved. Further work required...

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Happy New Year !

Happy New Year to one and all. We ventured up town last night to experience the Edinburgh New Year Street Party. Great atmosphere, cosmopolitan and good natured. The music stage at the top of the Mound was particularly popular and resembled an outdoor club night. As is our tradition, we left way before the bells to head home and watch the remainder of the celebrations from the safety of the armchair !

Man in a kilt !
Thirty minutes on the treadmill this morning (I promise !!) and now looking forward to the challenges of 2015. I sent out the message below to Labour members in Edinburgh South West as part of my campaign to be selected as the candidate for the general election. Work on that will continue apace for the next few weeks.
The Apple Beggars are playing later at Tanners so we're going wander up there for some new year Beatles style covers.

The New Year is the perfect time for reflecting on the year just past and looking forward to the year ahead. For me, it is always a positive time and I feel a real sense of renewal. It’s a good time for planning ahead but this year more than most, there are real grounds for looking forward to the future and very good reasons for putting plans in place. Eighteen weeks from today – May 7th 2015 – the General Election takes place. And Labour has to win, particularly in Scotland.
It would be a huge mistake to think that Edinburgh South West is a safe Labour seat. If the recent opinion polls are correct and remain unchanged in the weeks ahead we will lose Edinburgh South West to the SNP.
While the Nationalists may have more money to spend, more activists to call on, we have the values and policies that will make the UK and Scotland and Edinburgh South West fairer and better, especially for the most vulnerable people in our communities.
I believe that we need a credible local candidate with a strong track record of success to retain this seat for Labour. I have lived, worked and brought up my family in this part of the city for the last 35 years. In addition to the dozens of organisations I have worked with and the hundreds of constituents I have helped through being a local Councillor for 16 years I also have a campaigning record to be proud of.
•Between 2007 and 2012, I increased the Labour share of the vote in my ward by 9%.
•Even in 2011 (not a good year for Scottish Labour) as the Scottish Parliamentary candidate in Pentlands I increased the Labour share of the vote by 2%.
We can and must hold this seat and help return a Labour government. But we can only do it if we do it together: your contribution, whether that’s time, campaign ideas or both, will be vital. The General Election is going to be as hard, maybe even harder, than the referendum. But we pulled together and we got a good result. We can and will do it again this May. That’s why I am optimistic going into this new year.
I hope that you had an enjoyable festive season and that you too are starting 2015 with the same sense of optimism and determination that I feel.
Best wishes,
Ricky Henderson
p.s. I hope you can make it to our idea-sharing session on Sunday. If you can't make it along I'd be happy to chat any other time and can be contacted on 0771 549 0859 or on this email address -

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