Friday, June 29, 2007

A Fresh Start for Democracy?

To coincide with the establishment of the new UK Government, the ERS have launched a new campaign - click on the banner to go to the main web-site. It's essentially an attempt to move the Westminster voting system AWAY from the majoritarian first-past-the-post to a more proportional alternative.

All the nations and regions within the UK, and local government in Scotland and Northern Ireland, now use some form of PR

... only Westminster, and local government in England and Wales, still use first-past-the-post ...

London, flying and cycling ...

Off to London this evening, for the AGM of the Electoral Reform Society tomorrow.

I'm dutifully using the sleeper as part of my ongoing quest not to fly at all in 2007 - so far, so good ... but I have an even bigger challenge coming up from next week :-(

In a moment of rash madness, I've decided to stop using the bus every day and to start cycling to work from the beginning of July - next Monday!

I recently filled in one of those on-line carbon footprint calculators ... I (and the family collectively) came out of the exercise comparatively well; but two main areas were highlighted for improvement and I can see no good reason NOT to progress them:

HOME - our flat is heated by gas, but we need to switch to a green energy supplier and fit a new (condensing) boiler ... I'll switch to a green energy supplier this Sunday when I have a bit of time; and we'll upgrade the boiler as soon as financially viable.

TRAVEL - using the bus is obviously okay, but I need to walk/cycle more for my main daily journey if I'm to make any significant, further impact. So, from Monday I'm giving it a serious go!

So; watch this space for periodic reports of life as a commuting-cyclist in Edinburgh ...

Lothian Valuation Joint Board

Slightly surreal events at a meeting of the Lothian Valuation Joint Board (LVJB) earlier this morning ... spent half-an-hour contesting who was elected as the two Vice-Conveners at the first meeting a few weeks ago ... to then be told that only one Vice-Convener should have been elected?

So, we duly elected one Vice-Convener - who was not one of the earlier two ;-(

All rather bizarre, given that Vice-Convener of the LVJB is hardly the epicentre of power in Lothian politics?

... maybe it's a nationalist plot to subvert the management of the Lothian electoral register for political gain :-))

Thursday, June 28, 2007

(Very) Full Council meeting

Full Council meeting today, as just mentioned, and it went on until 8pm ... yes 8pm, from a 10am start.

Mercifully, there wasn't 10-hours of debate ... due to two recess periods of around an hour each ... but still a pretty full day clearly!

As expected, the most lengthy debate was on the financial situation of the Local Authority; followed by a fairly protracted debate on educational issues and how best to approach the upcoming school rationalisation programme, which I alluded to earlier also.

I thought I got a sense, by the end of a very long meeting, that the new Administration were just (maybe) beginning to realise that we are serious in our offer/s of constructive (critical when needed, yes) assistance to tackle some of the big city issues over the forthcoming 4-years.

I hope the brief July recess gives some space for a bit more reflection by all on the new situation - no one has a majority; two parties make up half (exactly) of the Council; they've formed an Administration; they'll get precious little achieved though if they don't cooperate with others - some of the tasks are so challenging that they WILL need some opposition votes on occasion ... I guarantee it.

Maybe, just maybe, there's hope for a new politics yet??

Hamster update

I realised at today's Full Council meeting that I've neglected my regular readers terribly - many apologies - by not providing a "Hamster update".

Such an update was actually requested from the main debating chamber of the City of Edinburgh Council today and I was mortally embarrassed when I realised I hadn't mentioned her on these austere pages since May 11th - nearly two months ago.

Well, I'm pleased to report that she is alive and well - having digested no more mattress material - and is fully occupied in her Presidential campaign to run the United States.

I had hoped to assist her in that campaign, but my time is being ably consumed by keeping the shiny, new 'Liberal/Nationalist/Tory coalition' in the City Council on their toes ;-))

New Chancellor

New Chancellor of the Exchequer!

Alistair was promoted earlier today ... I must openly admit not just my political, but personal, bias - having been Alistair's election agent twice now in 2001 and 2005.

It's not going to be an easy job for him - obviously - but if anyone has the skills and talents to undertake the role successfully, it's Alistair. He tends to be portrayed as the proverbial 'safe pair of hands' in the press, a bit reserved and dull.

What can I say ... I know him, and yes, he is a 'safe pair of hands'; the consummate professional but the rest of the press portrayal is far removed from the reality of the man.

He'll be a good Chancellor, and I wish him the very best in the challenges that he'll undoubtedly face over the coming months and years.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

New Prime Minister

Well, the UK has a new Prime Minister.

Having just watched most of the BBC News 24 coverage on my computer, one thing really strikes me ... it has been a comparatively smooth transition. Just think back to the last few changes of PM - not pleasant events at all.

Quite a contrast.

Saughton Cemetery

Site visit to Saughton Cemetery this morning ...

... now, before my political opponents get too excited ...

... I wasn't choosing a 'plot' for imminent use - merely meeting some constituents and officers to discuss boundary fence issues ;-(

Seemed to have reached a consensus on a set of actions to resolve the immediate problems/concerns.

My visit down there, along with Sunday's trip to the nearby Allotments Association ... have reminded me afresh just how pleasant the area is, yet it's a mere 2-miles from the west-end of Princes Street.

It is such a contrast to most other British cities ...

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Neighbourhood Partnership training

Spent most of today out at Murrayfield on a Neighbourhood Partnership (NP) induction training day. I've mentioned the ongoing development of NP's recently - here.

I enjoyed the event. Some repetition of old-ground, but that's just because I was interested in their development pre-election, and for most present - mainly Community Councillors (very few elected Councillors worryingly!) - I'm sure it will have provided plenty of food for thought as we move towards the formal launch of NP's in the early Autumn.

Still convinced they could mark a quiet revolution in the way that the Council does business.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The end of the world is nigh ...

Now, I don't want to make light of this ... it IS a significant year-end overspend ... but you'd think from the reaction of my Liberal colleagues that the end of the world was actually nigh.

I'm talking about a couple of reports going to the Full Council meeting this coming Thursday - a 2006/07 year-end financial report here ... and a first 2007/08 financial monitoring report here.

Taking these one at a time:

2006/07 - we were in charge, and yes there is a significant year-end revenue overspend. But, it is adequately covered by the (unallocated general) reserves that were budgeted to be in place and the Council IS NOT in the red at the year-end. Indeed it still has £0.762million in those reserves after the over-spend has been dealt with.

Add to that, we started the year with the reserves overdrawn to the tune of some £2.508million. So, situation was pretty difficult at the start of 2006/07 - we didn't have any positive reserves - situation at the end of the year; we have £0.762million (positive) in the reserves and everything on the revenue account is paid off.

Okay - without building up the reserves, you couldn't continue on the same 'trend' of revenue spend, but hey ... welcome to the real world. Difficult decisions to make about potentially permanent 'revenue savings' (service cuts) or somehow building up the reserves again. We faced similar situations on numerous occasions and always found a way of building up reserves to cover difficulties. Any cursory glance at previous years accounts will show how this can be done - I'm not about to spell it out for the new Administration here.

So, fast-forward to 2007/08 (second report link above) - Liberals/Nationalists in charge and the Council is projecting a year-end overspend on the revenue account. Sound familiar? That's because it is - it happens most years ... officers are almost duty-bound to make it sound as bad as they can, so that elected Members take it seriously and respond accordingly. Worth remembering that the reserves are starting off in a better state this April 07 (+£0.762million)than they were in April 06 (-£2.508million). Also worth noting that no Political Group put more into Children's Services (the most under-pressure area of the budget) than the last Administration in setting this year's budget.

When presented with these pressures, it's ultimately up to elected Members whether they permanently curtail the revenue spending or try to replenish reserves ... or do a bit of both, using Council Tax and Scottish Executive grant-levels to help along the way. It's called being in charge and having to make decisions.

You crucially need to direct officers financially and not have them direct you. This is obviously NOT happening and the level of service cuts being proposed in this second report are simply unacceptable, and show a complete lack of lateral thinking by the new Administration. We won't be accepting them on Thursday - you'll be shocked to hear - and trying to blame it "all" on your predecessors is easy, cheap and untrue. There are ways of addressing these situations - as we've shown on numerous occasions in previous years.

And just to put all of this in context - the Council's revenue budget is well over £600million and the capital budget close to £400million ... a billion pounds. So, plenty of scope to make adjustments according to priorities and no ... the end of the world is not nigh.

Time to stop opposing and to start making decisions. It's called being in power.

Harrison Playgroup

Local childcare facility, Harrison Playgroup, 40-years old this year ... was along at their 'Teddy Bear's Picnic' this morning to draw the fundraising raffle.

40 prizes for the 40 years, so took a few minutes ;-))

I live just around the corner, so do know some of the parents and kids ... was a really good atmosphere and the children were obviously having a great time.

The Playgroup is housed in the 'Phoenix Centre' on Harrison Gardens - the one of ongoing development-interest ... see here ... but still no sign of the application being on the relevant Committee Agenda. Need to watch it doesn't suddenly appear during the quieter summer months when no one is paying proper attention :-(

Harriet Harman it is!

Harriet Harman it is ... heard the result yesterday (Sunday) when I got back from the Allotments meeting.

Seems I actually backed a winner - after days of rain, sun immediately began to shine ;-))

Only wish I'd put some money on the result :-(

Saughton Mains Allotments

Saughton Mains Allotments Association meeting yesterday (Sunday) afternoon ... was a little bit late in arriving, which I really hate ... but hopefully I was forgiven by the end of the event?

There have obviously been fairly significant vandalism problems (thus my invite!) around the perimeter of the site - which bounds onto the Water of Leith Walkway - and there definitely need to be improvements made to the quality of the perimeter fence.

Will pursue the relevant officers and bodies next week.

I liked the atmosphere of the meeting - despite the negativity of the main subject at hand, plenty of humour and self-deprecation. Obviously no Liberals in the room :-))

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Another 'Party' event and Auchterarder

Yet another Party Political event this morning ... weekend meetings go down so well at home, as I'm sure all normal people out there can appreciate :-(

Actually, it was a very good post-election gathering which didn't descend into fits of despair, yet was realistic in its assessment of May 3rd ... i.e. we lost ;-(( ... need to learn and move on ;-)

Easily said, but practical actions now beginning to come forward ...

Anyhow; on a much more serious note ... up to Auchterarder later this afternoon to visit my brother. Stayed the night; and had a very unhealthy amount of 16-year old Lagavulin. He's a distinctly bad influence on me, practically forcing it down my throat :-(

Friday, June 22, 2007

Food day!

Now, regular readers will know that I do have one serious weakness - food.

Actually, as I type this, I can already see the comments flooding in listing many others ... but, nevertheless, my inclination to consume huge quantities of food at every opportunity is certainly not something I could deny ;-)

And today, I've had a very food-orientated 24-hours - all prompted by saying some good-byes to various work and campaigning colleagues. They're leaving ... not me, I hasten to add before the rumour mill starts!

Lunch time saw one of Edinburgh's Howies Restaurants being the frequented venue - very pleasant indeed - and this evening a Thai restaurant I hadn't been to before; Muang Thai - very enjoyable food.

I may yet get back to my pre-election weight at this rate? And the company wasn't bad for both events either ;-))

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Busy local Surgery

Local surgery at St. Cuthbert's Primary School attracted several constituent queries this evening - hasn't taken long for the word to get round re- the change in Surgery venues etc.

And, later this evening yet another Party Political meeting - seem to be back in full swing now ... my joy is simply overflowing ;-(

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Fountainbridge Parking

Short site-visit this afternoon, to Fountainbridge, with controlled parking being the subject ... the Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ) is about to be extended in mid-July to cover most of the Dalry and Fountainbridge areas of the city. All the details can be tracked down here.

Meeting today came about at the instigation of the local Police beat-officer, who had picked up a several views on some very specific line-marking (which are now down on the road, in preparation for the scheme going live in July) issues. Couple of officers from the Transport section of the Council came along and there did seem to be agreement on making the small amendments suggested.

Now hoping the changes can be implemented before the scheme goes live obviously!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Merchiston Community Council this evening

Merchiston Community Council meeting later this evening ... more details on topics to be discussed here.

Hoping for the same co-operative tone that was struck at Tollcross the other night ... would also make a change from the distinctly un-conciliatory tone of the Education Executive meeting earlier today ;-(

Schools in Edinburgh

Education Executive meeting earlier this morning ... agenda here. Item 4 - a deputation concerning potential school rationalisation - caused a bit of a stir.

Not the deputation I hasten to add, who were balanced in what they had to say, but a motion that I moved in conjunction with the item being on the agenda. I'll produce the whole motion below, for ease of reference.

In essence, I simply don't understand why the new Administration hasn't re-formed the old 'Cross Party Steering Group' that was looking at the overall school estate issues? It's going to be one of the most difficult issues for the new Council to face; school rolls are falling and some action is definitely going to be required to address that.

I know it seems counter-intuitive, when the city population is rising, but it is a fact that - in terms of school-age children - there are fewer and fewer projected for the next decade or so. Much better, I would have thought, to try and get a degree of cross-Party and professional (not to mention parental!) buy-in to the whole process? But no, instead the motion was rejected out-of-hand by the Liberal/Nationalist Administration with a bit of a verbal tirade about finances being in such a state and it was all the fault of the previous lot who ran the Council (that included me of course!).

Now, I may be missing something, but potentially closing schools should have nothing to do with finance (or has it??) and should only be contemplated due to falling school rolls - that's certainly were I had always come at this issue from.

So, although it's perfectly fair to have a go about overspends and finances from the previous Administration ... linking that to why you have to close schools - well, it's frankly a smokescreen for having to face-up to difficult decisions which need to be taken due to school-age population decline. They can't blame us for that; surely?

Welcome to the real world of decision-making ...



Item 4 – Deputation – Grassmarket Nursery Parents Committee

1. To note that, during 2005, an ‘all Political Party’ agreement led to a ‘Cross Party Steering Group’ being formed to consider and review the strategic management of school rolls. The Steering Group comprised 3 representatives from the Consultative Committee with Parents (including the Nursery sector), 1 teacher's representative, 1 religious representative and 5 political representatives from Labour, Liberal-Democrat & Conservative Groups.

2. To further note the principal aims of the review of school places across the City were directly related to demographics - to match the number of school places in an area to the local population size – and also to providing the greatest level of parental flexibility (at no loss of quality) in educational service provision.

3. To finally note that, due to the withdrawal of one Political Party in late 2006, the ‘Cross Party Steering Group’, which was reviewing the strategic management of school rolls, was disbanded.

4. To agree that the time is now right to re-form such a ‘Cross Party Steering Group’ to ensure ‘all Political Party’ input into any review of the strategic management of school rolls; and more crucially, to ensure full parental and professional input into the process before any final decisions are arrived at.

5. To thus instruct the Director of Children and Families to re-form a ‘Cross Party Steering Group’ comprising representation from:

· All Political Parties
· Religious Groups
· Teaching Unions
· The Consultative Committee with Parents
· All ‘Head Groups’ – Nursery/Primary/Secondary & Special School Heads

… and for the first meeting of this new ‘Cross Party Steering Group’ to take place before the Summer 2007 recess.


Monday, June 18, 2007

Neighbourhood Partnership meeting

Neighbourhood Partnership (NP) informal meeting this afternoon ... I've mentioned these new bodies before - here - and despite the lack of any seniority being given to the Convener, the 12 NP groupings are now pressing ahead and trying to set up formal meetings etc.

Personally, I really welcome this - I do feel the NP's could be a bit of a quiet revolution in the way the Council does business.

The one I'll be involved in covers both the Fountainbridge/Craiglockhart Ward and the Sighthill/Gorgie Ward ... thus, 7 elected Members and (I believe?) 7 Community Council representatives - along with partners from Police, Health and Voluntary Sector.

Anyhow, informal meeting of the NP this afternoon has now agreed an outline timetable for a Business Meeting - involving all the Partners mentioned above - and then a first, full Public Meeting in August.

All cannot happen soon enough as far as I'm concerned.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Father's Day :-)

Father's Day today and had a very pampered morning with Junior providing an excellent fry-up for breakfast, followed by presentation of some Leffe Beer (I didn't drink it with breakfast - honest!) and a very impressive home-made card :-)

Spent the rest of the afternoon stuck in a Games shop on Princes Street, were Junior extracted a heavy price for being so angelic earlier in the day ;-((

I'll need that Leffe Beer later to calm me down.

St.Cuthbert's School Fayre

Local Primary School, St.Cuthbert's, is 50-years old this year and Saturday (yesterday) saw their Jubilee Summer Fayre.

The weather, I'm afraid to say, was pretty atrocious ... but, it didn't seem to dampen local spirits in any way! I was hugely impressed with the numbers that turned up and the obvious determination of everyone present to make the very best of the day, despite the weather.

Great atmosphere in the school and all concerned in organising the day deserve many congratulations.

Friday, June 15, 2007

They just don't get it ...

The Liberals that is ... they really don't get it.

We're all "supposed" to be in a new political era - having moved away from majoritarian-style governance to a more consensual-style of governance. Moving from first-past-the-post to STV-PR was to have been the electoral mechanism which allowed this long-overdue change.

And so it could be ... but, here in Edinburgh, the Liberals and their SNP partners (with tacit backing from the Tories) are ploughing ahead with a 'winner-takes-all' mentality within a proportional setting.

Early drafts of their "new streamlined committee structure" are, frankly, a bit of a dog's breakfast, with no real thought having been given to the way that any scrutiny is actually going to work; no proper explanation of how proportionality is going to be applied to the crucial Policy and Strategy Committee; and Standing Orders being abandoned briefly for a few months.

To be honest, some of this I could live with, if only it was based on some sort of proper consultation and subsequently thought-through a bit more - but, as mentioned on several earlier occasions, its based on ZERO (yes, absolutely NIL) consultation.

So, serious and major changes being made to the Council's democratic decision-making structures, far too quickly and based on little - if no - evidence.

And all the while, no policy decisions of any significance being debated and decided.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Branch Meeting this evening

Now one up-side of elections is that all Political Party Meetings are suspended for the duration of the election campaign ...

My joy is almost uncontainable this morning at the prospect of that run of boredom being broken by a Local Branch Meeting taking place this evening ;-((

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Local Surgery this evening ...

Local surgery this evening ... starting to pick up in numbers now, with a few constituents turning up at Fountainbridge Library. Just a reminder of when they all are:

Andrew holds regular surgeries, right across his Ward - no appointment necessary, simply turn up:
  • Every Wednesday, 6pm @ Fountainbridge Library, Dundee Street
  • 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month, 6pm @ St.Cuthbert's Primary School, Hutchison Crossway
  • 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month, 6pm @ Craiglockhart Primary School, Ashley Terrace
Further details here; and there is a permanent link on the side bar!

Elections Consultative Group

Elections Consultative Group meeting later this morning - mentioned here before.

Should be a fairly robust meeting, given that it will be discussing how the 'count' was handled on the 3rd/4th May. I've mentioned before how almost all of the counting-problems were related to AMS (and not STV) but there is also the broader issue of how the whole process was managed over the two days.

In Edinburgh, the way the Local Government results were managed - and announced - was shocking as far as I'm concerned. There wasn't a huge issue with the STV 'count' as regards spoiled/rejected papers - but there certainly was an issue with how the results were communicated, and prior to that how information was made available (or not!) to all those present at the count.

The first Council meeting on 17th May (full minute here - see item 11) passed a motion on this - text below - and I'll certainly be pursuing completion of this work which has now been requested as an "Act of Council":


1. Following the elections to the Scottish Parliament and Councils on 3 May 2007:
a) To express the Council’s thanks to the Election Team and election
staff for their hard work and perseverance in carrying out the election
count in very demanding circumstances.
b) To note that serious difficulties were encountered across Scotland
and that damage had been done to the public’s confidence in the
electoral system.
c) To note that a national review, under the auspices of the Electoral
Commission, into the conduct of the Scottish Parliament and Council
Elections, with special reference to the number of spoilt papers and
the timing of the arrival of postal ballots, was now under way and to
ask the Returning Officer to keep the Council advised of progress
and opportunities to contribute to the review.
d) To note that, in line with previous practice, the Returning Officer had initiated a post-election review for Edinburgh and to ask him to ensure that the Elections Consultative Group and political groups on the Council were fully involved in the review process.

2. Given the difficulties which were encountered at the end of the local government count, in terms of the arrangements for providing information and announcing provisional and final results, to ask the Returning Officer to bring forward specific recommendations to avoid problems with the process for the election count in the future.

3. Following consideration of the Returning Officer’s report and of the national review, to ask for an independent review to be carried out in order to address the difficulties on the night and to bring forward recommendations for the future, the review to focus on the responsibilities of Edinburgh’s Returning Officer, including the timing and speed of counting in Edinburgh as well as the information available to those attending the count.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Tollcross Community Council

As a proponent of STV, I can hardly complain, but one of the joys of the new electoral set-up is the large increase in the number of Community Councils that elected Members are having to attend ... I was at Tollcross Community Council this evening for the first time, as a part of it's territory is in the new Fountainbridge/Craiglockhart Ward.

The three Fountainbridge/Craiglockhart Councillors - myself, Gordon Buchan and Jim Lowrie - now have 4 Community Councils that are either wholly or partly contained within the new Ward.

And whilst it may initially seem problematic that several Councillors, of different political persuasions, turn up at each Community Council meeting ... I actually think it's a positive strength. I've noticed already that when Council officers get complaints from 3 elected Members, from 3 different parties, they are taking much quicker 'note' and bringing forward action fairly promptly.

The honeymoon may not last of course, but I'm trying to make the best of this new officer-attentiveness at the moment!

Road Fatalities

I'm willing to forget their opposition to any form of road-pricing, removal of tolls from the Forth Road Bridge, and animosity to trams for a second (just for a second, mind!) ... and give due praise to the new SNP Government for the way they handled the extremely regrettable rise in road fatalities that was announced today - BBC coverage here and Scottish Executive response here.

It really is a depressing picture - 314 dead people every year in Scotland; that's more than one every working day ... 1 road death in Scotland every Monday to Friday of every single week. And that's all part of an even more shocking 10 deaths a day at the UK-level.

I've mentioned before how I feel it pretty incredible that this doesn't get more political attention ... and broadly I welcome what was announced in terms of setting up an "Expert Panel", to include "the police, advanced driving experts, road safety organisations, the Children's Commissioner, youth groups and others".

I do hope the others will include ALL forms of road users ... and when it looks at 'driving culture' it simply has to address advertising. Advertising plays a significant part in 'forming' driving culture; everybody knows it; nobody talks about it; the "Expert Panel" must face up to it.

Monday, June 11, 2007

More outrage ...

Appears I was grievously mistaken about ER being delayed due to Big Brother - this week, it's delayed by over an hour for no good reason at all as far as I can see.

Just what is the world coming to ;-((

Local Community Council meeting

Local Community Council meeting this evening - ongoing development of Youth Programme bound to be a key topic of discussion ... does seem to be some real, positive progress in both the development of the nearby PSP but also the probable use of the local Community Centre for a complimentary programme for a slightly younger age-group.

Other heated-issue continues to be the "hole-in-the-wall" as it's locally known - basically, the recent demolition of the wall that separates the two halves of Hutchison Crossway. This 'barrier' stops any through traffic from Slateford Road onto Gorgie Road - it's been replaced by temporary 'blocks' but getting agreement on a permanent replacement for the wall is proving annoyingly difficult. Hopefully, some matching bow-top fencing (as recently placed throughout the rest of the Estate) will be agreed very soon!

The wall was removed partly due to endless complaints about 'bits' of it being used for ammunition by a variety of passing youths - a classic 'solving of one problem', leading to yet another local conspiracy-theory that it's all being done to open the road up ;-((

REALLY, there is absolutely NO possibility of Hutchison Crossway being opened up to through traffic.

Consultation, consultation, consultation?

If I'm honest, during the recent election campaign, I got pretty tired of hearing the Liberals moaning on about how 'consultation' would be at the heart of everything they would do ... well, 'chickens' and 'roost' come to mind.

I've already had a bit of a whinge on how they're going about the dismemberment of the current decision-making structures in the city ... with no consultation WHATSOEVER.

That's bad enough but how do you square these two positions - here and here? Just what is the point of bothering with the Working Group when everything appears to be decided already?

As I've said before ... old politics in a new setting. It really is deeply disappointing; and we're only 1-month into the new Council ;-((

Sunshine on Glasgow!

Well, delighted to report that the weather in Glasgow on Saturday was absolutely tropical ... seriously - and the theatre show was pretty entertaining. Nothing too challenging, it has to be said, but enjoyable nonetheless.

Managed to spend a bit of time at the recently refurbished Kelvingrove Museum - very impressive indeed. And despite being a devout atheist (pun intended!) I'm always really struck by Salvidor Dali's Christ on the Cross painting ... last time I saw it was several years ago at St. Mungos Museum of Religion, also in Glasgow.

Other highlight of the weekend had to be rediscovering just how good Byers Road is for local shops and great atmosphere, both night and day. Very enjoyable weekend all-round.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Glasgow weekend

Now for those that don't know me personally, I've a terrible admission to make - I'm not from Edinburgh!

Actually originate from Airdrie (someone has to come from there if you think about it hard enough) and I did spend my whole childhood over on the West coast ... only ever came to Edinburgh to visit the zoo or the castle - Edinburgh was like that before 1984 of course, and may be going back that way I fear :-((

Anyhow, always gravitated to Glasgow during that time and still love visiting. So; very much looking forward to spending a whole weekend over there from this evening ... but just to keep a slight 'Edinburgh-theme' to the weekend, we're going to see "Sunshine on Leith" at the Kings Theatre on Bath street tomorrow night ;-)

And who knows what might follow on a Saturday night in Glasgow ... so, roll-on 5pm, and the end of the 'Away Day', and we'll be off as quick as possible to the sunshine capital of Scotland ;-))

Opposition Away Day!

Now before any wags out there comment - we're only going to Pollock Halls in Edinburgh ... a sign of the times maybe ;-(

Looking forward to it actually ... been pretty flat-out since May 3rd, despite thinking it may be a bit quieter given circumstances, so an afternoon away from the 'phones can only be welcomed ;-)

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Booze Culture

Now it won't come as a huge shock to my regular readers that I think, on balance, the current UK Government registers in the positive ... but I did think the announcement a couple of days ago about tackling "middle-aged, middle-class drinkers" was pushing it a bit ;-((

I know the story relates to England, but same debate applies right across the UK ... more so here in Scotland possibly?

The actual, full report - "Safe.Sensible.Social. Government alcohol strategy" (there's a PDF link within the BBC News story above) - is extremely laudable ... so it may just have been the way it was reported? I really struggle to see how home-drinking is the major problem here; I thought it was part of the solution in tackling the 'booze-culture' ... which I agree is pretty appalling in the UK.

As usual, The Daily Mash, had a side-splittingly funny take on the whole issue - here. A very astute assessment of the whole situation I thought, that I couldn't possibly comment any further on ...

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

New office!

Finally; just about into the new office.

As if the (frequent!) moving hasn't been bad enough ... I'm now sharing with Ewan and Ian


"Face what?" amendment

That "Face what?" post has caused some annoyance!

Apparently, you have to search through pages of 'Andrew Burns' to find me - and there was I thinking I was completely unique ;-)

Anyhow, you just have to go straight to here:

... and you can Poke me ;-))

... it's a different world in there.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Musical offices ...

Another office-move for me tomorrow ... a complete pain in the derriere.

Packed; unpacked; now packing again; ... only to have to unpack once more.

If I never see another one of these plastic packing crates, it won't be too soon.

... ever so slightly fed up and definitely not moving again before 2011 ;-(

... oh, unless the "coalition of the unwilling" collapses of course ;-))

New, local Ward surgeries

Local Ward surgeries now all set up and will start this week (tomorrow!) ... all the details are here and I've put a prominent link on the side-bar also.

Just for the avoidance of doubt:

Andrew holds regular surgeries, right across his Ward - no appointment necessary, simply turn up:
  • Every Wednesday, 6pm @ Fountainbridge Library, Dundee Street
  • 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month, 6pm @ St.Cuthbert's Primary School, Hutchison Crossway
  • 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month, 6pm @ Craiglockhart Primary School, Ashley Terrace

Monday, June 04, 2007

Outrage as ER over an hour late ...

Think I should be a headline writer for the Evening News ;-)

... seriously though, just what is Channel 4 playing at? ER delayed by over an hour because of bloody Big Brother??

If ever proof were needed that the world's 'going-to-hell-in-a-handcart' this is surely it!

National political debate ...

Main Welsh politics story on BBC Wales today makes a glaring contrast to a slightly earlier one on the BBC Scotland site a few days ago ... I'll leave you to decide which Church Leader makes the most considered and thoughtful contribution to their national political debate?

Face what?

Now I've had loads of regular readers of the blog comment with some incredulity that they can't find me on Facebook ... exactly, "so what" is just what I originally thought ;-)

But it seems that if you really want to be 'anybody' in the new cyber-world, you just 'have to have' one of these networking pages?? As you can tell from my tone - I remain to be convinced ... bit like the Aldi proposal really ;-))

Anyhow, this "Facebook" thing is all the rage apparently ... I had a quick look some time ago, and everyone on it appears to be under 19-years of age (not that that's a bad thing in itself I hasten to add!) ... but nevertheless, always one to try anything once, I thought why not. So, having 'logged' a page ages ago, I've now actually had some time to update it and fill in some details.

Get to, search for my page, and you can Poke me if so inclined ;-))

Sunday, June 03, 2007

It's Harriet Harman for me ...

I'm Supporting Harriet Harman for Deputy Leader

Finally decided ... after a little bit of prevarication (not like me I know!), I'll be casting my personal vote for Harriet Harman to become Labour Deputy Leader.

Don't agree with 'everything' that any one of the six candidates believes in (would be pretty strange if I did) but after much deliberation, and debate with friends and colleagues, I simply think she presents the best array of talents and beliefs to ensure Labour remains in as strong a position as possible ... thus enabling it to positively influence people's life chances.

Birthday Party and Pirates

Family Birthday Party yesterday (Saturday) ... good that the weather held, as it centred around a bit of a barbecue!

Today, off to see Pirates of the Caribbean 3 with junior ... great special effects, but a pretty convoluted plot-line. Enjoyable film none-the-less.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Another local development ...

Another potential Ward development that's at the 'submission-stage' at the moment is a proposal to site an Aldi store right in the field which is at the front of the Corn Exchange on Chesser Avenue ... drawings here.

Not been a huge reaction to this application locally yet ... unlike the Harrison Gardens one! ... but I still remain to be entirely convinced that 'yet another' supermarket is needed in the local area.

And how long the adjoining field in front of the next-door ASDA will remain just that, a field, if this gets the go ahead I think is debate-able?

Any other local views out there??

Roy's last day ...

"Director of Children and Families" last day today!

Spent an 'all-too-brief' 9-months working directly with Roy, which I thoroughly enjoyed ... hope he has a long and happy retirement.

Shockingly, the Senior Management team at the Council now has a female Director (Roy's replacement) ... surely some mistake ;-)

Another depressing contrast with Glasgow comes to mind ...

Well done Sarah

Bit of a thank-you event for Sarah later this evening - after all the hard work of the last year, looking forward to it.

The more I reflect on Sarah's result, the better I think it was ... just contrast that "swing-from-Labour" to almost any other seat in Scotland ;-))

Trams - to be or not to be?

Trams - should they go ahead or shouldn't they?

I do think they should ... "well, you would say that wouldn't you" I hear you scream!

Well, as dispassionately as possible, I'll try and explain (as briefly as I can) why I think they should:

  • both tram bills spent 2-years (yes, 2- years!) before the Scottish Parliament and relevant Committees in the last Parliamentary term (see here and here).

  • I do really think it's thus facile to argue that the "case for trams" hasn't been properly explained or scrutinised.

  • I fully accept that a new National Government will want to be sure of costs before pressing ahead and don't disagree with a quick re-appraisal of the proposals.

  • but is there really a need to 'completely re-open' the whole detailed debate, unless you simply want to change the decisions already taken?

And with less than one-third of the popular vote, I just don't think there is a mandate for anyone to - in effect - completely repeal previous legislation without any resort to the legislative process.

Old politics in a new setting?

Several regular readers have e-mailed to say there is surely a contradiction in my slight annoyance at the Liberals style of governance since the election ... isn't it the same style that Labour operated before the election?

So, ever-willing to try and respond (I'll probably regret this!) I'll try and outline why I think it's quite simple really ...

  • before May 3rd we all (at Local Government level anyway) operated within a "winner-takes-all" electoral system. That means that the winner, if they had an overall majority, took all.
  • I've never liked that system, I think my long-term support for Fairshare and the ERS surely makes that abundantly clear?
  • we don't now operate within a "winner-takes-all" system, we're operating within a 'proportional' system where power has to be shared.
  • to be fair, power has been shared to some extent "within" the Liberal/Nationalist/Tory coalition now running Edinburgh.
  • but the Liberals haven't truly adapted to the new politics - they simply have not given any real role to the main opposition Groups ... in essence, taking a majoritarian stance within a proportional system.
  • PLEASE, do contrast this with Glasgow where their Council Executive could legitimately have been dominated by one Party (as even under STV they got an overall majority) but recognising the new politics, there is a 13/7 Administration/Opposition split within their Executive.

Now, all is fair in love, war and politics ... and the Liberals have done nothing 'illegal' but the spirit of their first few weeks of tenure in Edinburgh has fallen way, way short of their rhetoric.

That may change (I hope it does) ... but it's not - as far as I'm concerned - a good start.

"Old politics in a new setting" ... deeply disappointing.