Monday, August 31, 2009

Spinning out of control?

Please do read the very first sentence of this section of the Scottish Government website, as pointed out to me earlier today --- just click on the image to enlarge and read it ...

... and then contrast this blatant fantasy with the absolute truth that not ONE SINGLE new school contract will be initiated, and then that school built and actually opened, all within this term (May 2007-May 2011) of the current Scottish Government.

Just what else can one say ???

Sunday, August 30, 2009

NEW weekly Surgery arrangements

Well, due to yet another Lib/Nat local budget-cut, I have indeed been forced to somewhat change my weekly Surgery pattern :-(

So, from tomorrow, here are the new weekly Surgery arrangements:

Andrew holds regular surgeries, right across his local Ward -
no appointment is necessary, just simply turn up:
  • Every Monday, 6pm (during school term-time)
    @ Craiglockhart Primary School, Ashley Terrace
  • Every Tuesday, 6pm (during school term-time)
    @ St.Cuthbert's Primary School, Hutchison Crossway
  • Every Wednesday, 6pm (all year round)
    @ Fountainbridge Library, Dundee Street

These details can also be found on the Council's web-site - here.

Apologies for any confusion caused - I'll get all the local posters etc. changed as quickly as I can over the next few days!


The flat has been filled with the strong smell of vinegar for most of today :-(

... after a brief visit to the allotment this morning, we processed the following (all) home-grown ingredients:

- 3lbs of green tomatoes
- 3lbs of apples
- 2lbs of onions
- 6 cloves of garlic

... plus a few other spices, sugar and (a significant amount of!) vinegar, which have all ultimately led to the creation of 5 huge jars of home-made chutney ;-)

And, bias aside --- it does taste delicious!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Group Away Day

Labour Group Away Day (or afternoon, I should say!) later today ...

... this will be the third or fourth over the last year or so - and before you start howling protests about the cost: we're going to Muirhouse and no public money is involved!

Actually - posting this has reminded me that we had a few All-Party Away Days prior to the May 2007 Elections ... in the knowledge that it was difficult to know who would be within the ruling Coalition :-(

Been no hint of such an event since - which, given the finely balanced nature of the Council, is a missed opportunity if you ask me?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

No national symbols here?

The story in this morning's Scotsman about the UK High Speed rail network nearly had me choking on my cornflakes --- nothing to do with the actual proposals, I hasten to add ...

... but have a quick look at the SNP comment about the (supposed?) plans to brand the line the "Union Railway" (fifth paragraph down):

"The name, intended to celebrate the political partnership that has linked Scotland and England for more than 300 years, irritated Nationalists who slated the UK government for politicising the project by making it an overt symbol of the Union".

Politicising a project by using overt national symbols - well, I never!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Policy and Strategy papers out ...

Policy and Strategy Committee papers out today - for next Tuesday's meeting - main agenda can be found here ...

... I suspect there could be quite a robust debate about the 'Carbon Reduction' report - which can be read in full here.

The reality of commitments for Local Authorities in this area (of which I'm generally supportive) are very clearly laid out - and it's certainly not challenge (or potentially, cost) -free!

The future of rail?

Very, very good news on the High Speed rail network - details all now made public this afternoon ...

... all the details can be found here (that's a link to the News Release, but links to all the reports are within the right-hand bar therein) and the 'Summary Brochure' for the proposals can be found here.

There was quite a bit of effort (and political support) put into this project by the last Council Administration, so I am pleased to see some of that coming to potential fruition.

2-hours to Edinburgh indeed ... that really would be a challenge to domestic air travel!

Local amenity diminished

Well, sadly the restaurant application for Dundee Street was approved earlier this morning - I hear the request for a site-visit was defeated by 7 votes to 6?

... not great when a request for a mere site-visit is defeated by one vote :-(

The application report can be found here - and my main point of contention is with the top of page 3 where the report says:

"The concentration of similar uses in this area is not deemed to be excessive with only three of the nine units on the frontage to be occupied by a restaurant or a takeaway. The proposed location is therefore in accordance with Central Edinburgh Local Plan Policy L2, finalised Edinburgh City Local Plan Policy Ret 12, and nonstatutory guidance on Restaurants, Cafes and Hot Food Shops."

But just above (in the same paragraph) it acknowledges that "other restaurants and takeaways are close by" --- well, there are actually numerous other such establishments in the adjoining tenement blocks, and across the road at the Fountainbridge Cinema complex.

The report goes on to justify granting the application by mention of 'Policy Ret 12' --- the full text of which says (see page 30 here):

Policy Ret 12

The change of use of a shop unit or other premises to a licensed or unlicensed restaurant, café, pub, or shop selling hot food for consumption off the premises (hot food take-away) will not be permitted:

a) if likely to lead to an unacceptable increase in noise, disturbance, on-street activity or anti-social behaviour to the detriment of living conditions for nearby residents or

b) in an area where there is considered to be an excessive concentration of such uses to the detriment of living conditions for nearby residents.

Frankly, I think granting of this application breaks both a) and b) above - and at the very least, I believe the Committee should have agreed a site-visit to see for themselves the over-concentration of 'restaurant/takeaway' establishments in the immediate area?

Really not a great decision to reject that request by one vote :-(

2-hours to Edinburgh?

'High Speed rail network' decision due later today ... I know it's just a study by Network Rail, but whatever it says about going beyond the North of England will have a major impact on the future chances of such services actually making it to Scotland ...

... as a complete convert to the train - over the plane - I'd be delighted to see a 2-hour journey time to Edinburgh ;-)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The worth of local amenity ...

Fairly contentious (locally at least!) planning application for yet another restaurant - on Dundee Street - up at tomorrow's Development Sub-Committee ...

... main local complaint is one of existing over-provision of restaurants/takeaways around the Dundee Street area; and I think the objectors have a good point. There's no doubt in my mind that yet another restaurant - and quite a big one at that - will diminish local amenity yet further.

I can't get along to the Committee myself, unfortunately, but hoping that Members will at least agree to a site-visit before any final decision?

Consistent treatment?

Now - I am not defending the content of either of the e-mails that these two local stories (here and here) in today's Evening News are about ...

... but do contrast the fact that over a dozen staff have been suspended for sending these messages, when absolutely NOTHING appears to happen when the current Council Administration:

Pressing the delete button appears to work for some??

And yet rather astonishingly, several people have contacted me since I first mentioned this issue to tell me - in no uncertain terms - that it's not a serious problem?

Well - I beg to differ.

Someone, somewhere, approved those statements going on to the Council's web-site; and someone, somewhere approved them being removed.

And ultimate responsibility for all of this has to rest with Administration politicians - if not, then that's an acceptance that they are simply not in charge.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Recession in Britain 'at an end' ?

I know most media attention has been elsewhere - and quite rightly so - but it does appear that this story failed completely, to make it beyond the 'business section' of the BBC web-site :-(

Possible pattern here --- potential good news, is no news :-((

Trader 'poisoned' by tram works ??

With all due sympathy to those who have been ill ...

... but it does appear that the latest, local story on trams has really stretched the headline-writers' creative abilities ;-)

... and I'm still quite shocked that no one from the SNP has taken the opportunity to have-a-go at the project ;-))

More seriously - do I detect a glimmer of hope that senior, local Nationalists may, at last, have accepted that this project is going to be delivered and should be supported for the remaining duration of the tram-works?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Community Food Event ...

Must mention the 'Community Food Event' I attended locally yesterday ...

... the recently formed Shandon Local Food Initiative organised it, and a very impressive number of folk turned up with a wide variety of 'local food dishes'.

Now, given my well-known proclivity for the consumption of rather large amounts of food - this was an event clearly just made for me!

Can't wait until the next one :-))

And, I'm pleased to report, we also took along:
  • a red-onion quiche
  • lots of potato salad
  • a large apple tart

--- all made from allotment-only ingredients ;-)

Wrong decision

I'm a fairly compassionate person (I like to think?) and - I hope even my political opponents would agree?? - not 'overly' partisan or personal in my political beliefs and/or actions ...

... but having kept quiet on the Megrahi decision since the whole episode burst into the news last week, after some serious thought I now find myself - whilst having personal sympathy for the position Kenny MacAskill found himself in - having absolutely no sympathy for the way the ultimate decision was arrived at and eventually communicated.

A man (Megrahi) who is legally guilty (put aside the arguments over his conviction - they shouldn't apply to this moment) of murdering 270 people was released from jail last Thursday, and allowed to leave the country of his crime, where he was being held for his actions on a life-sentence.

I just can't find any justification for what's described above?

Look at the statement on this issue from the Scottish Government (and the relevant legislation) - it is obvious that Scottish Ministers have the power to release on 'compassionate grounds', but the relevant Minister has only 'guidance' to follow and has to be 'satisfied' of any case made. There is no reading of the legislation (not in my mind) that says: if this and this applies, then the prisoner must be released ...

... ultimately it's a subjective process, which clearly relies on some objective facts - such as the prisoner is dying - but nowhere can I see any set of objective facts that must inextricably lead, in law, to prisoner release?

MacAskill was right to say, "these are my decisions and my decisions alone" ... that's correct ... but, for me, he arrived at the wrong decision and released (not just from custody, but from Scotland) a man who is legally guilty of the worst crime committed on Scottish soil, in living memory.

A compassionate decision - just maybe?

The right decision - certainly not.

Ashes victory

I've listened to quite a bit of the cricket on the 'radio/ computer' today ...

... have to say that I thought it was completely gripping towards the end and there's no doubt England deserved to win this 5th Test.

... but if you look at the other 4 test results, there is no doubt that Australia will be kicking themselves this evening ;-)

Blogging-on ...

Little bit of blogging recognition added to the side-bar ;-)

... the Councillor-one is (for me) particularly pleasing, as it covers the whole of the UK.

Mind you, probably just shows how few local Councillors keep blogs :-(

Saturday, August 22, 2009


Back up in Edinburgh now - and true enough, the rescue-cat is securely installed in our flat ...

... indeed, I think he's already wondering what the hell I'm doing wondering around 'his' new domain :-(

That said, he is rather cute - as you can see :-))

He's been called 'Smithy'.

Friday, August 21, 2009

"When the cat's away" ...

I've mentioned before that our home flat used to be a bit of an alternative to Edinburgh Zoo ... well, I haven't posted much about the hamster or cats for a while because, as many will know (especially if you're sad enough to read the blog comments regularly!) there have been a few natural fatalities over the past 12-months :-(

... but, fish are still in abundance and the stick-insects just seem to multiply exponentially!

... and today, so I've just been told on the mobile, junior has taken advantage of me being in London by going to a cat-rescue home and recruiting a new moggie for the Burns' household: I'm told by my better-half that said-cat is now in-situ and it's all a done-deal !

"When the cat's away" indeed ...

Southern sunshine

Down in London today for an Electoral Reform Society meeting ... not certain what the weather has been like up North, but London is basking in glorious evening sunshine just now ;-)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Full Council today

Full Council today - amazingly finished at 3.30pm ...

... doesn't mean there was no controversy; and I did at least manage to remain in the Chamber for the whole meeting today ;-)

Main point of contention ended up NOT being trams ... the SNP did back an all-Party motion, and it'll now be interesting to note the content of their immediate press comment on the issue? ...

... but the bin dispute did indeed dominate most discussion, with the Administration repeatedly denying that a statement has ever been made indicating that the dispute was over?

Really quite stunning .

They are patently in some kind of parallel universe when it comes to this subject.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Star struck - me?

I have to admit to accepting an invitation to a civic-event at the City Chambers today - as friends and colleagues know, this is something I rarely, if ever, do ...

... of course, rumours that I was somewhat star struck are totally outrageous - but I was a bit disappointed when Ms. Lennox refused to autograph my Eurythmics Album collection ;-)

scandal in Shandon

Bit of an 'alternative take' on the ongoing bin dispute from the second-most famous blog in Shandon ;-)

First day at school

Also juniors first day of the new term at his high school today --- but, very thankfully, all seemed to go really well.

Again - both his parents were far more nervous than he actually was ;-)

A difficult day

Funeral of a local constituent, whom I've known for all my years in Edinburgh this morning/early afternoon ...

... a difficult day.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Full Council this week

Full Council Meeting this coming Thursday - papers can all be found here, and the main agenda here ...

... trams and bin dispute look set to dominate!

Monday, August 17, 2009

more on trams ...

Promised to post a bit more on the tram saga - and since that last entry I've subsequently had quite a few SNP contacts suggest to me that they will indeed support the project this coming Thursday??

Well, forgive me for my scepticism - but just look here and here and you'll realise that it's well founded :-(

Back to the grind ...

Currently suffering a complete deluge of e-mail and paperwork - and I've only been away for a few days :-(

... and Rome already seems like a journey from another lifetime :-((

Sunday, August 16, 2009

BBQ Summer?

Managed a very, very quick visit to the allotment this evening ... our sunflowers seem to have gone completely ballistic!

... several of them are currently well over 7-feet tall, and dwarfing the greenhouse/shed :-)

... all we need now is a bit of actual sunshine, and they might actually develop some proper flowers :-(

Formal strike action from tomorrow

Appears that local ballot result has now been confirmed as leading to formal industrial action - which will commence tomorrow morning ...

... Council Administration seem to be claiming that nobody will notice? Another piece of hard, factual analysis??

I suspect hundreds of local authority employees and their families may just differ on the Administration's latest, rather bold assertion!

Tram decisions already taken??

I'll probably post more on trams in the next few days - once I've caught up on all the mail at the start of next week ...

... but, one thing that I thought I would quickly flag up is the completely preemptive (and not strictly true!) assumption that the City Council has already backed the latest moves in the ongoing tram saga??

The Full Council doesn't meet until Thursday 20th August, so how anyone can claim that the Council has already taken a decision on this (which the News Release certainly does!) is quite beyond me?

One has to assume that the SNP will vote against - Tories/Labour/ Greens: who knows yet what they will definitely do? So only 17 Lib-Dem votes (out of a total of 58) are 'guaranteed' to be backing the latest moves ...

... yet more spin over substance, with due-and-proper-process being seen as an annoying hurdle.

40th Birthday ...

... no, not mine - unfortunately :-(

Apologies for the lack of posting this last week ... but I managed to escape Edinburgh for a few days to celebrate my brother-in-laws' 40th Birthday: down in Norfolk!

Now back in civilisation, having managed (just!) to survive said-gathering of 10 in-laws ;-)

Work again tomorrow for a well-deserved dose of sanity ... well, maybe not :-((

Friday, August 07, 2009

A tale of two cities ...

Hailing originally from the West Coast of the country, I may be just a little bit biased ...

... but I can't help but hope that where Glasgow appear to have led on the topic of averting bin strikes, Edinburgh will soon follow ;-)

In all seriousness - take a look here and you'll see just the type of pre-prepared, joint-statement from 'Council & Unions' that was so evidently missing in Edinburgh on Monday.

A tale of two cities indeed!

Local ballot result announced

Appears that the ongoing bin dispute is just that - ongoing ... and certainly not successfully resolved ...

... all somewhat further confirmed by the ballot-result of the Unite workforce, which is out this afternoon - two questions were asked:

1. Are you prepared to take part in strike action?

YES - 67.9%
NO - 32.1%

2. Are you prepared to take part in industrial action short of a strike?

YES - 93.5%
NO - 6.5%

Of course, such action does not have to automatically follow if a negotiated settlement can still be reached meantime --- but the results above clearly indicate the current feelings of the local workforce.

Egyptian Belly Dancing?

Attended the opening event for the Edinburgh Mela last night ...

... very enjoyable evening - although there were some pictures of me taken with an 'Egyptian Belly Dancer' as she made her way around the tables as part of the show?

I safely predict that said-pictures will soon be available on some disreputable web-site or blog :-((

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Electoral reform shootings!

Talking earlier of things going wrong ...

... I should report that on my trip to London yesterday, a large section of Blackfriars Road (just off of which, the ERS Office is located) was closed due to an attempted shooting of a couple of Police Officers :-(

... the actual meeting thereafter was obviously relatively tame by comparison to events right outside the window!

Bin dispute remains unresolved

I have to say that, in my humble opinion, the BBC headline writers seem a little more reflective of the current situation than some versions of reality I've seen recently ...

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Famous last words ...

Famous last words:

"Things can only get better --- I'm attending my local Neighbourhood Partnership 'business meeting' this evening: I mean, what could possibly go wrong there?"

--- well, it went on until 9.15pm :-((

Wednesday (now today!) just has to be better ... off to the metropolis for an ERS meeting - surely even discussing electoral reform for several hours has to be refreshing after the Tuesday I've just been through??

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Wonderful day??

Well - just to top off a wonderful day - I should report that:

Things can only get better --- I'm attending my local Neighbourhood Partnership 'business meeting' this evening: I mean, what could possibly go wrong there?

Bye-bye Sybil

Talking of important details --- appears I missed the death of the Chancellor's cat a few days ago :-(

... I'm personally assured there is no truth whatsoever in the rumour that the Prime Minister had anything to do with the cat's demise :-))

All is not what it seems?

Things are bad when you have to resort to 'screen-shots' of the Council's website to make your point :-(

Here's the headline from last night (as I referred to in an earlier post yesterday) - it clearly states "Successful resolution of current dispute".

You'll notice my earlier link to it is now broken??

Well, this morning the Council headline reads differently, as you can see in the second screenshot (not sure there's much point in putting up a link, as it will be taken down in due course, no doubt?!) - it clearly states "Resolution of current dispute likely".

This might not all seem earth-shattering to some of my readers ... but for me, its just yet more evidence of the complete malaise at the heart of the current Lib/Nat Council Administration ...

... where's the truth; who has authorised all of this; who is in ultimate charge; does nobody care about these constant mixed messages; is it acceptable to alter the second largest Council in Scotland's website in such a fashion???

It is indicative of a swaggering arrogance that no politician-in-charge appears to care about these important details ... and it's details that make the bigger picture.

NB - you can click on the screenshots for better definition ...

Low-order issue ...

I know Paul Hucheon may not be every Labour MSP's favourite journalist --- but some of them (at least!) should pay attention to his piece in last Sunday's Herald newspaper ...

I'm a devolutionist, one who campaigned vigorously to see the Scottish Parliament come into existence, and I remain convinced of the worth in its current powers. But Holyrood Parliamentarians (and yes, local politicians like myself!) need to constantly defend and define that worth ...

Just 'using' the powers that the Parliament has will not do that of itself - there simply needs to be that broader (more widely debated) narrative underpinning the existence of the institution. For me also - the actual 'identity' of the people whom are represented therein still remains a very, very low-order issue.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Bin dispute over??

I posted just a few days ago about the current Lib-Dem/SNP Administration's startling communication skills throughout this whole dispute ...

... well, tonight we've got this (successful resolution of current dispute!) from the Council: the bin strike is off?

... and this more qualified statement (see announcement column for 3rd August) from the Union: indicating that it all depends on whether proposals stack up?

And as far as I understand it, nothing has changed in terms of the actual Council offer ... there have simply been yet further talks to clarify what is actually on the table; but obviously the Union still believes that the offer (and its implications) have not been properly explained.

From the 25th June (the start of the current action) to the 3rd August, and we still have no clear communication from those in charge - to those affected by these proposals - stating without any dubiety just what is on offer ... meantime, six weeks of disruption to the residents of Edinburgh have ensued :-(

I'd love to be wrong - but I'll wager the two sides left the room today without agreeing a joint written-statement which was to be released to the press, and then one side (the Council) has gone to the press with their version of events?

Frankly, I hope that the Council version of events is correct - but it does appear to me to be somewhat premature to claim that the Union have agreed to recommend to their members that the current action should be called off.

And worse still, if that's not actually true then emotions will only be further inflamed by the Council Leader claiming today that the dispute has been successfully resolved ...

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Bumper harvest!

Another bumper harvest down at the allotment yesterday afternoon - two (very big) bags of potatoes; many more broad beans and peas; some onions; and two small beetroots --- not to mention the numerous bunches of flowers ...

... there was so much produce to carry that we had to use the wheelbarrow to get it off the site ;-)