Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Working at home tomorrow!

Junior in S2 at Tynecastle now, so a third-day off for him tomorrow - but my 'better-half' has to go into work, given the (correct, I think!) decision that teachers should report for work ...

... so, on child-care duty tomorrow and will be working from home!

Can still be contacted by e-mail/mobile if need be --- in between sledge-outings, of course :-))

Schools update ...

Some schools information, in relation to tomorrow (Wednesday 1st December) just announced ... I'll just re-produce the schools info. here (click on link for all details):

The City of Edinburgh Council PR 1316 30/11/2010 [For Immediate Release]

Severe weather update: some schools to reopen on Wednesday

Some primary schools in Edinburgh are to re-open on Wednesday and 4th-6th year pupils at all secondary schools should attend (1st-3rd year should stay at home).

With colder temperatures and more snow expected, the situation remains changeable so parents are urged to continue checking the Council’s website and Radio Forth for updates.

Councillor Robert Aldridge, Environment Leader, said: "I want to thank everyone for their patience. With such a lot of snow falling in such a short space of time, it’s inevitably going to take some time to clear residential streets and restore other services to normal. I also want to thank those people who have been good neighbours to vulnerable people and the Council staff who have been working flat out to keep the city moving.”


All school staff should report to work tomorrow. If staff cannot report to their usual place of work then they should go to the nearest City of Edinburgh Council school.

All secondary schools will be open for 4th-6th year pupils tomorrow – all secondary pupils should bring a packed lunch. Pupils who get transport from Ratho, Kirknewton and Livingston to Balerno High School should not attend as transport is unavailable.

The following primary schools will re-open tomorrow:

James Gillespie's Primary School
Gylemuir (nursery closed)

The following nurseries will re-open tomorrow:


All special schools with remain closed with the exception of the Panmure St Ann's service.

All City of Edinburgh Council community centres will re-open with the exception of Ratho, Roseberry Hall, Inch, Jack Kane, Bingham and Magdalene.


Weather & surgery cancelled again

As regular readers know - all Edinburgh schools shut again today (as well as yesterday), so no local surgery again tonight - many apologies - due to St. Cuthberts Primary School being closed obviously ...

... I should though be at Fountainbridge Library tomorrow (Wednesday) night --- 6pm, as usual --- unless libraries start closing as well :-((

Either way, please don't hesitate to e-mail/call if you need to contact me about anything!

P&S Committee this morning ...

Policy and Strategy Committee met this morning - despite the weather! - and almost all Councillors and Directors were present ;-)

There was indeed a division on the TEL/tie appointment process, between Labour and the Lib-Dems/Tories, with the SNP abstaining ... overall, more heat than light I fear :-(

Brief, but interesting, debate on the "Modernising Pay - Protected Pay" report, which can be found here ... I asked for the report to referred to Full Council with any available update, to no avail when it came to a vote, but ensured it got there under Standing Order 53.

A lot of employees are pretty angry about this issue - which I accept boils down to a difference of view on how the 'Modernising Pay' agreement is interpreted - but given all the challenges about to face the Council workforce, I'd have thought an update report (on this specific issue) to Full Council would be the least the Administration should be doing??

Monday, November 29, 2010

No local surgery tonight

No local surgery tonight - at Craiglockhart Primary School - due to the city-wide school closures obviously ...

... but please don't hesitate to e-mail/telephone if you need to get in touch with any concerns - weather-related or otherwise!

Hutchison fatality

Very sad events in the Hutchison-end of the Ward, in the early hours of this morning ...

... my thoughts go out to all involved.

City Schools all closed today + tomorrow!

Just spotted on the Council web-site that all the City's Schools (Nursery, Primary and Secondary) are closed today - appears to have been announced around 7am ...

... I've already had several constituents in contact (last night) asking why Edinburgh doesn't do what Midlothian clearly did in such extreme conditions, and announce the closure of their schools the night before (at around 5pm Sunday)?

Seems a perfectly reasonable question to me - given the really bad weather last night, and the need for a bit of parental planning ... which we're certainly having to do this morning now that junior's going to be at home all day!

Midlothian have now announced (around 11am) that all their schools will be shut tomorrow ... no such advance planning apparent from CEC at the moment :-(

CEC have now announced (around 3pm) that all schools in the Capital will be shut tomorrow.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Dinosaurs versus The People

Excellent article by Andrew Rawnsley in today's Observer, which sums up the coming battle-lines over the potential adoption of AV, to be decided in the referendum on Thursday 5th May 2011 ...

... it really is The Dinosaurs versus The People, and Rawnsley gets it!

If you need an explanation of why this Labour politician - who isn't exactly the Lib-Dems number 1 fan - will be unequivocally voting YES! next May, then have a quick read at that article.

Sunday snow!

Well, the snow did indeed fall last night ...

... this picture was taken just up the road from the flat, at the Union Canal / Harrison Park - and gives a good idea of the amount of snow that's actually fallen!

We were due to drive over to Coatbridge, to visit some relatives, which was hastily cancelled --- and given how the weather has progressed for the rest of the day I'm very glad we didn't go anywhere near the car :-(

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Strictly and snow ...

Couldn't resist this evening and watched the next episode in the Strictly-saga ...

... glad to see my predicted winner is still going strong ;-)

A real heavy downfall of snow also started late this evening - lets hope Edinburgh doesn't end up in the same state as last year :-(

Friday, November 26, 2010

Just say YES! Michael

Can't say I'm currently much of a Michael Gove supporter, especially when it comes to his education policies ...

... but - they don't apply here in Scotland - and after today's news, if he comes out in favour of AV I think I may just have to get a small supporters-club up and running North of the Border ;-)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Committee division?

Supplementary agenda now out for next Tuesday's Policy and Strategy meeting - here - and the specific report on the tie/TEL appointment of a permanent Chair can be found here ...

... I do expect that this report will generate most debate next week?

Not sure I can remember the Lib-Dems and SNP (who jointly run the city supposedly) dividing at an actual Policy and Strategy Committee meeting but I suspect they may do so on this issue next week :-(

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tax lapse

Glad to hear that an apology was eventually forthcoming from the Finance Secretary this afternoon ... it was the right thing to do.

Mind you, the tone of the debate was as robust (from all sides, it has to be said!) as I think I've heard it throughout this whole Parliamentary term and couldn't have helped any calm consideration of what's gone wrong here :-(

Let's hope that tempers calm-down in the next few days and that a proper investigation can get under way to ensure this can't happen again.

Policy and Strategy papers out

Well, most of the reports for next Tuesday's meeting are out - main agenda here, and individual reports can be found via CPOL as usual ...

... the reports that are most likely to generate significant debate are still marked 'to follow' but they should be up on CPOL in the next day or so.

I'll be sure to post further when they are ...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Neighbourhood Partnership meeting

Main Edinburgh South West Neighbourhood Partnership meeting this evening ...

... very low turnout from members of the public, and one can't help wonder if the removal of 'Committee Services' support from the Neighbourhood Partnership is already showing a negative dividend?

I'm convinced that it was a completely false economy and won't help, only hinder, the development of neighbourhood working :-(

Monday, November 22, 2010

It's all Westminster's fault??

I really think that this 'defence' just won't wash with most people in Holyrood ...

... frankly, I think its an uncharacteristic misjudgement by the Finance Secretary and that he really should just accept that nearly two-thirds of people in Scotland voted for the Parliament (not the Executive!) to have a tax-varying power and that the Parliament should therefore have been informed of its lapsing.

Last time I checked, budgets (and all other taxation matters) need the approval of the Holyrood Chamber and are not in the gift of the 'Executive' ... the Scottish tax-varying power surely falls into the same category?

Policy and Strategy meeting next Tuesday

Policy and Strategy Committee meeting coming up next Tuesday (30th) - last one before the end of the year, and I expect a few significant reports to be up for debate ...

... specifically, there should be further information on the permanent appointments for tie/TEL and Lothian Buses: don't forget that all the fuss last week was over mere 'interim' appointments :-(

I can see this whole issue running for a long time yet!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Campaigning Day

No rugby, or dancing, flights of fancy today ... very sadly :-(

... just endless leaflets, letters and envelopes instead!

Still, looking on the bright side, it's now less than 18-months to the May 2012 local elections and then there could be no further election for another 2-years thereafter ;-))

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Scotland defeat the World Champions!

After last week's woeful performance, who would have thought it ... Scotland have just defeated the current Rugby Union World Champions.

Mind you, was just as well that Dan Parks was on form!

... all we need now is another stunning performance from Kara Tointon later on this evening ;-)

Luckily its a campaigning-day tomorrow, so back to reality with a vengeance :-(

Friday, November 19, 2010


COSLA Leaders' Meeting this morning ... sadly (no laughing at the back please!) I don't actually get to go to the Leaders' bit, but just the pre-meetings :-(

... anyhow, there was a pretty robust debate around the offer on the table from the Scottish Government, to Local Government; and I reckon the subsequent main meeting may well have been fairly lively!

I suspect there'll be more in tomorrow's press - and the Scotsman clearly had a taster of the debate-to-come in print earlier this morning ...

... the whole situation really is a grim low-point for Scottish Local Government as far as I'm concerned :-(

It's not so much the financial-side of the settlement --- but the way its been given as a complete 'take it or leave it' package with truly punitive consequences for any refusal: 'agency-model' indeed :-((

Thursday, November 18, 2010

"No choice" for Edinburgh

Mentioned the so-called 'spending review' yesterday ...

... well, this is not something I say too often, but I agree completely with Edinburgh's Convener of Finance!

Local paper reports this afternoon that:

Finance Secretary John Swinney told councils they had a choice between a 2.6 per cent funding cut under an agreement to deliver government objectives or a 6.4 per cent cut if they decided not to sign.

The Government said councils which opted out of the deal, announced as part of Mr Swinney's budget yesterday, would effectively have to raise council tax by around 18 per cent.

Edinburgh's finance convener Phil Wheeler said: "That's not really a choice, is it?"

What can I say - it really is 'gun-to-your-head' territory ...

... and is as clear an indication as you'll ever get, of the level of respect that local government currently has in modern Scotland :-(

Full Council report ...

Hard to know where to start, with what turned out to be the most farcical Council Meeting I think I've attended in my 11-years on the Local Authority :-(

First of all, the rumours were true and the local Administration changed their minds and decided to vote to keep Blindcraft open - I welcome that.

What I cannot welcome is the appalling way this has been handled over recent weeks ... with the report being published; the clear recommendation being closure; staff being formally briefed on this likely outcome; and the press being allowed to believe that closure was indeed going to happen.

To reverse all of this at the last minute is, yes, welcome, but cruel indeed in the way it's been managed --- or I should say mismanaged. The Evening News seemed to know of the deal - they go to print before 10am remember! - before the Council Meeting even started ... it really is no way to treat some of the most vulnerable people in Edinburgh :-(

Anyhow, well done to all the campaigners who made sure their voice was heard on this issue - I'm entirely convinced that without their input the factory would have been closed today.

So --- on to bus/tram appointments (report here) and, as mostly expected, there wasn't really any great difference of view on the actual appointments, but to help the Nats avoid voting for the Chair of tie the Lord Provost made a complete dogs breakfast of handling the issue ...

... have a look at the Council's Standing Orders here - check out paragraph 32 in particular, which reads:


32. After the Head of Legal and Administrative Services has started to take the vote, no member will be allowed to offer an opinion, ask a question or interrupt the proceedings until the result of the vote has been announced."

Well - the Lord Provost had started taking a roll call vote on the appointments within the report, and Councillor Ewan Aitken had actually even verbally voted, when the Provost summarily stopped the meeting for a 5-minute recess??

When we returned he tried to suspend Standing Orders (having realised his mistake I assume - or someone having told him!) but didn't have the required 2/3rds of Council ... and Labour/Tories/Greens left the Chamber in protest at the blatant abuse of Standing Orders.

Frankly, the Lord Provost of Edinburgh cannot start a Council vote and then suddenly decide to stop the vote because he'd spotted possible difficulties with the outcome!

It was a truly outrageous abuse of Council Standing Orders and the fact that all 29 Labour, Conservative and Green Councillors left the Chamber in protest underlines the seriousness of this abuse of local democracy.

  • good day for Blindcraft
  • bad day for consultation/communication
  • very bad day for adherence to basic local democratic standards

Things can only get worse as we approach next May :-((

Full Council Meeting today

Full Council Meeting today - mentioned the likely main issues last week, and no reason to believe they won't still be so ...

... blogging may well be light for the rest of the day, but I'll try and report back on the two main topics of 'Blindcraft' and 'Bus/Tram Appointments' as soon as feasible after the meeting ends.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Blindcraft to stay open?

Very strong rumours swirling around the City Chambers this evening that Blindcraft will potentially not be closed and the Lib-Dem/SNP Administration will back the alternative three-day a week option (details in the report here) ...

... if that turns out to be true, then it is surely to be welcomed; but why on earth was the report allowed to be made public (and Blindcraft staff formally briefed!) still containing the clear recommendation that outright closure was on the cards??

It is just no way to run a capital city.

Scottish Spending Review?

Actually, it's not a 'spending review' at all; but merely another 12-months allocation of finance ...

... okay, significant for its reduced stature, but to have dressed this all up as a 'spending review' is stretching credibility to the limit.

And, as for the deal on the table to Local Government:
  • a 2.6% funding cut if you say yes to all our conditions
  • or a 6.4% funding cut if you say no to ANY aspect of our conditions

So much for partnership and parity of esteem.

It still astounds me that the very Party of Independence has taken that very thing away from the tier of government for which it is currently responsible ...

... you can just see local authorities queuing up to agree that 6.4% cut, eh?

Royal boredom

As a committed republican, I have to say I'm already thoroughly - and deeply - bored of the endless Royal newsfeed of the last 24-hours ...

... there are surely more intrinsically important issues to report from today's world :-(

Accompanying all the news furore, has been the inevitable political speculation about what it may all do to the landscape of politics in the coming 9-months?

Well, the last such big event made hardly any political impact whatsoever, as this 1981 graph illustrates ...

... shame that ;-)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


I know I shouldn't get too excited, but there is a slight feel of a 'turning-point' in the latest polling figures out today ...

... will be very interesting if the same pattern is repeated one-month after the Scottish Government's own 'spending review' moment: coming up tomorrow, of course.

And needless to say, our Government here has a much smaller chronological-buffer between decisions it has to make now, and its required need to next seek election.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Tynecastle Parent Council meeting

Tynecastle High School Parent Council meeting this evening ...

... lots of ongoing, constructive developments happening at the school and a very positive feel to the meeting. HMIE Inspectors back soon, and I do hope they pick up on all the good progress.

And all such a pleasant contrast to current meetings held in the City Chambers ;-)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Dance addiction

Strictly addiction still afflicting me this Saturday night I'm afraid :-(

It's not good, I know! And just how Scott & Natalie edged out Kara & Artem in this week's scoring is simply beyond me??

I desperately need to ensure a few Saturday nights nowhere near a telly :-((

South West NP Transport Forum

Wall-to-wall meetings yesterday ...

... one I meant to mention, and the least stressful, was the mid-afternoon South West Neighbourhood Partnership Transport Forum: nothing to do with the Chairing of course ;-)

But seriously, I do think the sub-groups of the Neighbourhood Partnerships (or at least in South West?) are becoming, by far, the best forums for getting very localised action on very localised problems.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Blindcraft to close

Full Council Papers now out - main agenda can be found here ...

... and the two reports I referred to earlier are here and here.

The former report on the appointment of interim bus and tram Chairs will certainly not create as much outrage as the latter report on Blindcraft, which recommends its outright closure :-(

The world's oldest foundation devoted to the welfare of the blind to be closed - and 217-years of social inclusion grinds to a halt.

What a shameful moment for Edinburgh :-(

Glasgow managed to find a solution to the financial challenges this type of facility involves; and even Lib-Dem/SNP run Aberdeen eventually managed a rescue-package.

Shame on their Lib-Dem and SNP colleagues here in Edinburgh. As I alluded to back in September ... their minds were already clearly made up on this issue :-((

10million people laughing at Edinburgh :-(

8.50am Friday, and I've just listened to a 5-minute package on Radio 4 which was enough to make you weep ...

... Radio 4, at this time of the morning, has an audience-reach of some 10million people - that's right: 10million people!

And, you've guessed it - why would Radio 4 be talking about Edinburgh at this time on a Friday morning - well, it could only be the tram project!

And the presenter, James Naughtie - and who can blame him - introduced the whole sorry saga as if it was some sort of joke ... followed by the journalist - Colin Blane - actually including an excerpt from an upcoming Leith panto that is indeed making a real joke of the tram project :-(

What an advert for Edinburgh :-((

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Buses, trams and Blindcraft

Forgot to mention the upcoming Council Meeting next Thursday (18th) - papers will be out tomorrow morning and I'll put links up as soon as I can ...

... having seen a draft agenda, seems to me there will be two main issues of contention: interim bus and tram appointments and the future of Blindcraft.

I actually suspect the latter could be more contentious than the former :-(

Statutory Repairs Service?

Audit Committee this morning (main agenda here) was totally dominated by a couple of linked reports on the Council's Statutory Repairs Service - you can find them here and here ...

... there are quite clearly some very serious issues that require to be addressed in this section of the Council - I know from my own local mail-bag the level of frustration with this aspect of work that the local authority undertakes.

More to follow, I'm sure.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The meaning of "verbrecher"

There's not much else you can say about today's instalment of the ongoing tram-saga ...

... if it wasn't so deeply serious for Edinburgh, the misinterpretation of a single word could be comical :-(

Alcohol Bill (etc.)

What a difference 18-months can make?

There are undoubtedly some positive measures contained within the Alcohol Bill (etc.) passed this afternoon; but I can't help thinking (personally) that it's all been a bit of a missed opportunity :-(

Neither of the main Parties in Holyrood come out of this whole episode well - and it surely provides a very clear lesson about the 'timing' of trying to put into legislation any such controversial proposals?

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Slow train to ??

Borders Railway pretty prominent in the news this morning ...

... sadly, the story has all the hallmarks of yet another capital infrastructure project becoming somewhat unstuck :-(

I'm really left wondering just what piece of infrastructure (of any description?) the current Scottish Government or local Edinburgh Council will have actually initiated and thereafter delivered within their 4-5 year term?

Locally - can any one add to the Skateboard Park (which is great, by the way!) or Colinton Toilets?

I can't think of anything else they've actually initiated and seen to completion??

Strictly addiction :-(

As friends and colleagues know, I'm not a huge TV fan --- never around a TV much during the week --- but I've a terrible confession to make about a dreadful Saturday-night habit I've picked up over the last few weeks ...

... yes, I've rather tragically become addicted to the latest series of Strictly Come Dancing :-(

I do realise that what little (if any) street-cred I had has just flown out of the proverbial window, but I've been getting a bit of flack about not owning up to my Saturday night habits on the blog ... so there, I've now done it!

And by the way - I personally think that Kara Tointon is the absolute sure-fire winner ;-)

Monday, November 08, 2010

Hutchison/Chesser Community Council

Hutchison/ Chesser Community Council meeting tonight ...

... speakers came along from both local Police and local Fire services: good to thus see a slightly higher than usual turnout for the evening.

Earlier part of the day dominated by a endless series of meetings ... November Council Meeting now only a week or so away :-(

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Allotment Update - autumn leaves

As mentioned a couple of weeks ago, we've now used up all our leaf-mould on this year's potato beds ...

... so, was pleased to see a new delivery of leaves down at the Allotment late this afternoon!

Several barrow-loads later and the leaf-bin is now practically overflowing and happily decomposing in preparation for use next autumn :-)

Job was made much easier by having some additional nieces visiting us today - who were very keen to help and put to good use to assist in the mammoth 'leaf-collection' operation :-))

Saturday, November 06, 2010

The most popular phone in the world!

My old Nokia mobile does struggle at times - and is often the butt-end of many a joke because it doesn't do e-mails or have a camera ... errr, that's because it's a phone (not a computer or a camera)!

Well, imagine my delight when a friendly source pointed me in the direction of this little article ...

... what can I say, except that I do indeed own the most popular phone in the world :-)

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Tram woes continue

Tram woes continuing to totally dominate the local press today ...

... for better or worse, these recent events - for me - create a bit of a space which should be used constructively - and I tend to agree with those who are urging that the vacant posts should not be filled in haste and on a permanent basis?

Interim-appointments are needed, for sure, but they must be seen to be just that --- time limited and with an absolute clarity that they must eventually be filled through an open and transparent appointment process.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

A coalition divided

As mentioned yesterday, down in London today ... and the tram project seems to be totally dominating the local press up in Edinburgh :-(

If ever there was a time for some clear political leadership, then surely now is it ... sadly, the undeniable truth is that the Council Coalition is deeply divided on this issue and no matter what the other Opposition Groups do, nothing will change that fact.

A fact that contractors - and everyone else involved in the project - have been all too aware of since May 2007 :-((

Tuesday, November 02, 2010


Down to London tomorrow for various Electoral Reform Society meetings ...

... rather depressingly, East Coast trains have started charging for internet access, so blogging may well be non-existent!

Not that I'm tight with my money or anything ;-)

TIF confusion

Pleased to report that the Audit Committee's recommendations were pretty much accepted in full this morning - with only the timeline being delayed slightly from January ... but the spirit of what was requested, was accepted.

Most debate, somewhat surprisingly, actually centred around the use of Tax Increment Finance (TIF) for trams - or not?

Frankly, there appears to be a degree of confusion (I'm being polite!) around this issue and one can only hope that someone, somewhere, provides a bit of a clear lead in the not-too-distant future :-(

Monday, November 01, 2010

Policy and Strategy meeting tomorrow

Policy and Strategy Committee meeting tomorrow morning - main agenda can be found here, and all the individual reports are on CPOL as usual ...

... those earlier Audit Committee decisions on the 'Care and Support Services Tender' are up for agreement (hopefully!) and I do hope that the local Coalition accept these unanimous (all-Party) views of the Audit Committee?

Interestingly, the Learning Disability Alliance Scotland (LDAS) campaign around the 'Care and Support Services Tender' won the "Herald Society Awards 2010 Campaign of the Year" at the end of last week - further details here ...

... one can but hope that similar recognition is notionally allowed in Committee here in Edinburgh tomorrow!