Thursday, March 31, 2011

Edinburgh Labour 2011 team

Think this is the first picture I've seen, in this election at least, of all six Edinburgh Labour Holyrood candidates together ;-)

... wonder how many of those Councillors (over a quarter of our Group!) will have a new job to worry about on May 6th?

All 4 of them hopefully :-))

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tory Councillor defects to Labour

No, not here in Edinburgh --- but over in Renfrewshire: STV News have the details here ...

... really hasn't been the best of starts for their Holyrood campaign: but, I know only too well, its a marathon not a sprint and I'd be amazed if there aren't more such twists-and-turns within many of the Parties before 5th May. Not - I hasten to add - that I have some secret knowledge of an imminent Labour defection!

Ah well, at least those local nomination papers were okay :-))

Audit Committee tomorrow

Councils Audit Committee tomorrow - with the main agenda here and individual reports here ...

... I strongly suspect that most interest will surround the Audit Scotland report on the tram project - although, given the report has actually been in the public domain for nearly 2-months already I'm not convinced there will be any new and unique debate on this topic tomorrow :-(

But you never know?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Committee, Surgery, Community Meetings

Finance Committee as scintillating as predicted :-(

... there was though one very interesting debate about the level of Council debt where I swear the Audit Scotland representatives were 'ever-so-slightly' disagreeing with senior Officers (and Administration politicians!) about the desirability of the current level of Council indebtedness? It does currently stand at some £1.3billion pounds (yes billion - see bottom of page 14 here).

Then this evening, had the usual Tuesday surgery at 6pm, followed by a quick visit to the 'Meggetland Heights Owners Association AGM'; then followed by Craiglockhart Community Council bi-monthly meeting - main agenda for which can be found here; with previous minutes here ...

... never a dull moment.

Finance and Resources Committee today

No dissolution for us lowly Councillors ... no, 10am this morning and it's a meeting of the Council's Finance and Resources Committee for me :-(

... no election leafleting or door-to-door canvassing allowed :-((

My distress at having to leave the campaign trail for a few hours must be palpable ;-)

And for those really interested, the Finance Committee agenda is here, and full set of papers are here. As you'll see - much more exciting than electioneering.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Another one bites the dust?

One, two, now three Tory candidates all standing down ...

... and a Lib-Dem gone last week as well :-(

I know I'm possibly tempting fate - but I certainly do hope I completed those nomination papers correctly last Tuesday :-((

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Out-and-about in Edinburgh Central

Here's somebody much more famous, out-and-about with the candidate in Edinburgh Central earlier this morning ;-)

Actually, weekends are now proving to be "much" more busy than weekdays with an endless array of campaigning activities on the go ... mind you - there are only 5 weekends to go until polling day is upon us!

And, of course, my absolute favourite tasks still await me in the last week of the campaign :-(

The joys of electioneering.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Gardners Crescent

Don't take too many pictures of the candidate with me - don't won't to completely ruin her chances ...

... but here's one from yesterday in Gardners Crescent, were the gardens are about to be re-opened after many months of closure due to a Scottish Power infrastructure renewal project.

Quite a contrast to the 'building site' that the area has been recently!

Friday, March 25, 2011


Junior is in a state of near implosion today - for those of you 'down with the kids' (and that doesn't include me, by the way!) you'll know that the new 3DS is out today ...
... well, we didn't really get junior a Xmas present back in December (evil I know) and instead promised to get him the 3DS when it came out. And it arrived this morning, thus awaiting his return from school this afternoon ;-)
I fear any in-depth discussion about his topic choices for Standard Grades next year could now be relegated to even further down the teenage priority list :-((

Thursday, March 24, 2011

East Lothian Fabian Society

Over in Prestonpans this evening for an AV (or not to AV!) debate with Tom Harris MP, at the East Lothian Fabian Society ...

... enjoyable discussion with the assembled masses, after our opening pitches.

It is noteworthy that at almost every Labour (or Labour-related) debate I attend on this topic, one of the main 'No Campaign' attack lines is "vote no to give Clegg a bloody nose" :-(

Now, personally, I think the Lib-Dems are going to get a bloody-enough nose on May 5th - several hours before any referendum result is announced!

... and, in addition, I just can't see the logic in the 'No Campaign' argument?

If I wanted to be partisan about this - and I don't really - then it's clear to me that a Yes! vote will do a significant amount of damage to David Cameron. I simply cannot see a no vote doing the same to Nick Clegg, who is probably  --- for reasons that have nothing to do with electoral reform --- damaged beyond repair already.

Election expenditure?

Mentioned the imminence of dissolution the other day - well, it is now upon us ...

... and I'm slightly surprised to see so much (obviously expensive) glossy materials coming through my letterbox (even if most of it is for the wrong constituency, as I now live in Southern not Central!) which has clearly been dispatched post-dissolution.

Needless to say, am keeping close tabs on it all to make sure that relevant Parties declare this expenditure in their 'short-campaign' returns and not their 'long-campaign' returns?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Candidate nominated :-)

Forgot to mention that I managed to get Sarah Boyack successfully nominated as Scottish Labour candidate for the Edinburgh Central constituency yesterday.
Small - but crucially important - part of any re-election campaign for the election agent :-))
I do believe this will be the 10th time that I've been either an agent, or a candidate, in a public election ... 3 Westminster, 4 Holyrood, 3 Edinburgh Council.
And, of course, hoping to be a candidate again myself next year!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Policy and Strategy Committee today

Policy and Strategy Committee meeting this morning - main agenda can be found here, and the individual papers here ...

... pleased to report that an Emergency Motion we moved on the issue of staff speaking to Councillors was agreed. Not certain what has changed since last Tuesday - but welcome the motion being approved nevertheless.

I'll simply repeat the terms of the motion here:


Constituents’ ability to raise issues with Local Councillors

Following press reports this weekend, and confirmation from a city council spokesman that a "letter was sent to staff as a reminder of their obligations under the code of conduct for employees of the City of Edinburgh Council” ...

... Committee calls for an urgent report clarifying the rights of individual members of the public (as constituents) to raise/discuss any issues of concern with their locally elected representatives.

The report to specifically address:

• The right of all individuals to attend local Councillors surgeries
• The right of all individuals to contact local Councillors in writing and/or via e-mail
• The responsibility of local Councillors to respond to such enquiries
• The restrictions placed on these rights and responsibilities by the ‘Code of Conduct’ for employees of the City of Edinburgh Council

Committee agrees this report to return to Policy and Strategy within one cycle.


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Back in London

Now, I know it seems slightly crazy - but I was back in London today :-(

Don't usually make 2 such journeys in a single week, but circumstances made it unavoidable I'm afraid - I did though use the train/sleeper on both occasions!

Main Council Meeting of the Electoral Reform Society today, so as the current Chair really did have to be there ;-)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Life expentancy on the increase

Was interested to see this story covered on the BBC today ...

... not because I'm verging on the obese, I hasten to add, but simply because I have always found it difficult to grasp that life expectancy is falling in the UK --- which is often claimed by many commentators.

Don't get me wrong; it's clear that life expectancy would be even higher if diets were healthier, but I do hope that studies such as this one put an end to factually incorrect claims that our children are likely to live shorter lives than us. The evidence suggests otherwise.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

London bound

Down in London all day today for two events.

This afternoon I was speaking at a McDougall Trust workshop - a very good debate ensued after a couple of presentations. A pleasant change to be debating the actual implementation of STV (in Scottish Local Government) as opposed to the possible use of AV for Westminster.

Then this evening, I attend the launch of the Labour Yes! campaign - Ed Miliband spoke - which will, I think, be pivotal in helping to ensure a Yes! vote in said referendum to scrap first-past-the-post and move us to AV.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Education Committee today

Education Committee today - I don't sit on it anymore, but thought it was of interest that an emergency motion tabled by my colleague Paul Godzik (on the issue of teachers' rights to raise issues with Councillors) was rejected as an 'emergency' and not allowed to be heard for debate?
I know very well what's in a Teacher's contract of employment, but some of the recent attempts at stopping staff from speaking at Council Meetings, and now approaching their own Councillors, appears way over the top to me.
Indeed, several elected Councillors - from across the political spectrum - are married to teachers ... are they not now allowed to discuss their work with their partners??

Monday, March 14, 2011

Rain, Surgery, Community Council

Out on the doors this afternoon in extremely heavy rain - was so bad, the canvass sheets had to be very carefully separated and laid out on the floor for several hours to dry out, before they were properly intelligible! The joys of election campaigns.

Usual Monday night surgery this evening, followed by Hutchison and Chesser Community Council - was an extremely brief meeting and managed to see junior before lights out ... an increasingly rare event just now :-(

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Endless pre-dissolution activity!

Endless ... and I do mean endless ... pre-dissolution campaigning activity this weekend ... culminating in more bits of paper and envelopes than I want to see again in a long time!
Mustn't grumble - marginially less stressful than climbing all those tenemental stairs ;-)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Quiz victory - again :-))

Another of those Gavin Strang Trophy quiz contests last night - and once again, Edinburgh South West were triumphant ... not only hosting the event, but both the winning, and runner-up, teams coming from home territory!

At this rate, there will be no one else in the eventual final :-)

Of course, it's the taking-part that counts - not the winning :-))

Friday, March 11, 2011

COSLA Convention meeting

Brief visit up to a very sunny St. Andrews this morning for a COSLA Convention meeting ... ... all scintillating stuff, as usual :-(

For those interested, the relevant papers can be found here.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Nursery closures and Gathering saga

APOLOGIES to my regular readers ... election-mania has well and truly set in, and I'm way behind with the daily blogging :-(

... should be up-to-date now though :-))


As predicted, the Council Meeting was indeed dominated by Nursery closures and the (seemingly) never-ending "Gathering Saga".

The overall debate on the two Nursery School closures frankly swept aside the strong views of the many eminent practitioners who had submitted evidence against moving to closure ... not the most shining-example of how to respond to a consultation; if that's what you could really call it :-(

But most time was taken up (sadly when you think of the importance of the above) with the "Gathering Saga". No apologies were forthcoming and a very acrimonious debate led to a very split-chamber on a vote of no confidence in the Council Leader and Deputy Leader.

To be honest, it wasn't the Council's finest moment and not sure either side handled it with the gravity it should have warranted.

But - and it is an important but - the Council Leadership continue to fail to take any responsibility for the mess that this whole issue has become. Until they stand and and admit mistakes were made and apologise, I just can't see this going away :-(

Full Council today

Full Council Meeting later this morning ...

... blogging may well be non-existent for the rest of the day: although I'm sure there will be plenty of others tweeting from within the Council Chamber :-(

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Tollcross Community Council

Tollcross Community Council meeting this evening - all the papers can be accessed from here ...

... early part of the meeting very much dominated by Licensing and Planning issues and, very unfortunately, I had to leave before what looked like an interesting presentation on transport :-(

But every minute (literally) is occupied at the moment and I had to get on to meet the next set of impending deadlines!

Roll on May 6th :-)

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Election Briefing ... as easy as 1,2,3

Briefing session for 'Candidates and Agents' in the upcoming Scottish Parliament and Referendum election-events, this evening!

All scintillating stuff - local elections staff seem somewhat worried about the organisational challenges ahead of them?

Well, the Electoral Commission has published a 36-page list of directions --- as long as local staff follow that, what can possibly go wrong ;-)

Monday, March 07, 2011

YouGov says YES!

YouGov have, at last, asked the actual referendum question and the result is YES!

Specific YouGov details can be found here - with some further analysis on the blog here ...

... it's close, but all the major polling companies are now showing a lead for the Yes! Campaign.

Please listen

Good to see that the issue of the proposed Nursery School closures got some reasonably prominent coverage in today's Evening News ...

... I know, only too well, that 'the hour is late' for these proposed closures to be stopped; but the arguments are overwhelmingly in favour of doing just that - any cursory glance at the consultation submissions makes that abundantly clear.

It's not just about any quantity of submissions, but the quality of what has been submitted in this case - is it too much to hope that the local coalition might just listen for once?

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Curry, tenements and allotment!

Survived the outing to Airdrie - just ;-)

... and a busy Sunday subsequently spent on the doors back in Edinburgh!

And as if that wasn't enough physical exertion for one day, even managed a quick (very late afternoon!) visit down to the allotment just before it got too dark ...

... everything still looking in reasonable order. No more planting, but sure to be plenty coming up soon :-)

Saturday, March 05, 2011


Busy afternoon out campaigning in Edinburgh - now off to darkest Airdrie to visit some relatives/friends ...

... rumour has it, that an evening visit to the famous Cafe Spice could be in order ;-)

Pity I have to get back to Edinburgh tonight for yet more tenemental stairs tomorrow :-(

Friday, March 04, 2011

Asking the correct question?

Details of the latest AV-referendum polls (by four of the main pollsters) contrasted over at here ...

... interesting that YouGov continue to ask a question that's at variance with the actual ballot paper question?

Come on YouGov; surely now time to ask that actual question:

“At present, the UK uses the first past the post system to elect MPs to the House of Commons. Should the Alternative Vote System be used instead?”

Wales says Yes!

I think today's result in Wales is pretty impressive - full details here ...

... shame about Monmouthshire: if only another 161 people had voted Yes! ;-)

I know the turnout was relatively low, but just contrast today's figures with those that were achieved in 1997.

I'd class that as a 'devolutionary success' - and good to see all the main parties putting aside the arguments about gradualism and coalescing around an achievable development ...

... wonder if Scottish Labour and the Scottish National Party might ever manage to do such again??

Council reports now online

Council reports now up on Committee Papers on Line (CPOL) ... bit late in being posted on the Council site this morning :-(

Anyhow, main agenda here and the rest of the individual reports can be accessed from here.

I strongly suspect that Nursery closures, The Gathering and a Lothian Buses appointment are all set to dominate the day!

Congratulations Dan Jarvis!

I'm not one to read too much into by-election results (I hope!) ...

... but I couldn't help a wry smile when I heard various Liberal Democrats this morning stating (correctly) that Labour lost it's deposit in several by-elections whilst in Government form 1997 to 2010.

What they all failed to mention, strangely enough, was that those deposit-losing by-elections came MANY years into Labour's 13-year spell in Government, whilst this Liberal-Democrat deposit-losing by-election has come just 10-months into them being in Government :-(

They need to be very careful - as with power can often come delusion.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Full Council next week ...

Full Council meeting next Thursday - papers should be up on CPOL tomorrow.

Very unusually, don't think the Opposition Groups have been given a 'draft agenda' in the run-up to this meeting - can't recall that happening in recent times; and only serves to fuel my suspicion that agenda-management isn't one of the local coalition's strong points :-(

More seriously, there will be quite a few controversial reports up for decision, not the least of which will be the proposed closure of 2 Nursery Schools - and various motions (it appears?) on 'The Gathering' fiasco.

Note to self: don't buy any evening theatre tickets for Thursday the 10th March :-((

Wales goes to the polls?

I've been amazed at just how little general coverage the referendum in Wales today has received here in Scotland ...

... and it's not just the 'fact' that a referendum is taking place, but there's been practically zero-discussion about 'why' it's actually taking place --- and, the bottom line has to be, that it is only happening because of the so-called "One Wales" coalition that has run Wales for the last 4-years. That coalition being between Labour and Plaid Cymru.

That no one (apparently?) seems to think there are lessons or parallels here for Scotland to learn from is beyond me?

And that no one seems to be actively discussing such a possibility post May 5th, right here in Scotland, also seems somewhat bizarre :-(

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Nursery closures 'mystery' submissions?

Back to the upcoming, proposed Nursery closures I'm afraid - and I really do not like what I'm about to describe ...

... have a look at this document - here - it's basically ALL of the consultation submissions to the proposed closures, and is one of the documents that should go before the Full Council on the 10th March.

Councillors received this document, along with the other formal paperwork, in mid-February --- apparently because of the need to publish consultation outcomes at least three-weeks before any decision is actually taken.

All fair enough, but take a quick glance at pages 39 through to 50, all of which are individual submissions opposing the closure of High School Yards Nursery School in particular:

  • page 39 is anonymised
  • page 41 and page 42 is anonymised
  • page 43 and page 44 is anonymised
  • page 45 and page 46 is not anonymised
  • page 47 is anonymised
  • page 49 and page 50 is anonymised

Now, I can see the rationale in anonymising some of the earlier pages - where 'current parental/child' details have been redacted ... but I can see NO REASON why these latter submission have been anonymised: indeed one (pages 45-46) is not?

I had many of these submissions copied to me, as Opposition Group Leader, and know who most of these letters are actually from ... and all have been sent in by very prominent Early Years' specialists.

So just why have they now been anonymised in the public release of these documents?

Personally, I can see no reason other than to avoid embarrassment for the City Council.

If that is proven to be the case, then it's nothing short of a disgraceful set of actions.

Neighbourhood Partnership meeting

Edinburgh South West Neighbourhood Partnership (NP) meeting last night ...

... reasonable attendance from actual Partnership members, but a pretty low (to say the least!) public attendance :-(

There's just no doubt, in my mind, that removing the support which was previously provided by Committee Services has been a significant mistake.

Don't get me wrong; I know there are efficiencies that could be made to the NP-structures, but taking away their recourse to professional clerks who know how to advertise, minute and structure public meetings should not have been one of them :-(

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Get on your scooter?

Can't resist a brief mention of this News Release put out today by the Council ...

... I guess I'm okay with the Council trialling electric scooters: but really; just what is wrong with Council staff using a bike instead?

Zero emissions; no electric batteries to charge; and a lot better for your personal health-and-well-being than sitting on an electric scooter.

Seems a no-brainer to me.