Thursday, May 31, 2007

Harrison Gardens - surely not?

Now, I have a terrible confession to make - I quite like the design of the building in this photo-montage ... but for those who know the setting, Harrison Gardens, it's hard to argue it fits in with its surrounding architecture and streetscape!

I've thus, with some careful thought, lodged an objection to the proposed development today. I do like it (as of itself), but think on two counts it's just not acceptable (here's the text of my objection):

FORM - I believe the proposed development does not in any way, in its architectural design, reflect the existing street scene or existing surrounding architecture and contrasts dramatically with the existing character of the area. The proposed development is certainly not in keeping with the established structure and form of the surrounding and adjacent tenement architecture.

DENSITY - The proposal is for 24 flats; this a greater density of dwellings when compared to the existing surrounding accommodation. I believe the proposed development will seriously overshadow and dominate the existing tenement structures. I believe there will be a detrimental effect with regard to reduced lighting and residents privacy for the existing properties on Harrison Place in particular.

I do hope that if this 'version' is rejected, as I suspect it may well be, that the architect will come back with another (more suitable) application as I'm not opposed to a potential development of this site per se.

Local Problem Solving Partnerhsip (PSP)

Local meeting this afternoon (PSP) concerning the ongoing youth issues in part of the Ward ... I've mentioned all of this on several occasions before; here, here & here ... anyhow, does still seem to be the strong probability that a significant programme will be up and running before the start of the Summer holidays.

It has to be said, that Dunedin-Canmore (local Housing Association) appear to have played a pretty pivotal role in pulling things together; finally!

All credit also due to a wide-variety of officers at the Council, the Police, and one of the local Community Councils, as well.

Labour meltdown?

Now, bias openly admitted here ... I'm a Labour politician who supports PR (bizarre I know) ... but I've just added up the Party affiliation of Council Leaders in the 32 Local Authorities in Scotland following the 3rd May elections and subsequent endless negotiations, which do appear to have nearly all been settled now.

Indeed, all but 1 Local Authority (Stirling ... details here) is now working in blissful harmony ;-)

... and the results are:

Labour - 11*
Independent - 8
SNP - 6
Lib-Dem - 4**
Tory - 2

* - looks like Stirling may make it 12 eventually
** - what can I say, one-quarter Edinburgh's fault ;-((

Just a reminder that Labour only had control of 13 Councils before May 3rd.

Now I know that the SNP have most "Councillors" in Scotland, but the political affiliation of the Council Leader does pretty much correlate to the make-up of the largest political Group on 'each' Council.

Interesting ... and, as far as I know, completely ignored in the media?


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Transport crisis ...

No, not the potential cancellation of trams (300+ comments!!) ... but the fact that after I travel home on my regular bus tonight, my annual Council bus pass will be out-of-date and there is no sight of a replacement on the horizon. I'll need to use change tomorrow ;-((

... and before any wag comments - I do pay for it through the taxation system (unfortunately).

Bit of a ramble ...

... bit of a ramble I've just submitted for possible publication ... thought it may be of more general interest to my regular readers?? ...

A New Politics for Edinburgh?

You must have noticed that the political map of Edinburgh has changed significantly in the last few weeks.

Personally, I very much welcome the move to a form of proportional representation for the City Council – I’ve been a long-standing champion of the Single Transferable Vote (STV - the system we all used on May 3rd) and am pleased that it seemed to be used with such ease by most voters a few weeks ago. It is a system that puts ‘voters’ very much in charge, which is why so many politicians and political Parties dislike it!

And ‘voters’ do seem to have found it easy to understand. The number of spoiled ballot papers for the Local Council elections was exceptionally low – unlike the serious problems with the Scottish Parliament ballot paper – and indeed, all of Scotland had a lower % of spoiled STV ballot papers than Northern Ireland did in their Assembly elections in March 2007 … and they’ve been using STV for decades.

But what does it all mean for Edinburgh? Well, the city now has 17 ‘multi-member’ Wards instead of the old 58 ‘single-member’ Wards. There are now 10 Wards with 3 elected Members, and 7 Wards with 4 elected Members … so the total number of Councillors for the city is still 58.

For the city as a whole, the number of Councillors elected for each political Party more fairly represents the percentage of the vote they achieved across the city. And that’s principally why we’ve seen such a significant change in the make up of the Council – we now have 5 main Party Groups, … Liberal-Democrat, Labour, SNP, Conservative and Green. There used to be only three Party Groups on the Council and their numbers of seats didn’t reflect their percentage of the vote.

So since the May 3rd election, no single Party has an overall majority – far from it, with the largest Party only having 29% of the seats on the Council. Thus, the city has a ‘coalition’ in charge with political Parties having to share power. Despite having some critics, coalition local-government has been standard practice in most continental European countries for many, many decades … last time I checked, life was still continuing there! Indeed, essential services in Edinburgh have continued to be delivered since May 3rd and the sky hasn’t yet fallen in.

And what about at a local level – well, to take my own Ward (Ward number 9) of “Fountainbridge/Craiglockhart” as an example … this part of the city now has 3 local Councillors: Gordon Buchan representing the Conservative Party, myself Andrew Burns representing the Labour Party and Jim Lowrie representing the Liberal-Democrats. Despite our political differences, we will have to work and cooperate together to help ensure the best services are delivered for the wider local area we have all now been elected to serve. Instead of having only 1 elected Councillor to address any concerns to, every constituent in “Fountainbridge/Craiglockhart” now has the choice of 3 Councillors – each of us has different strengths and areas of specific interest and over the next four years I’m certain that these will combine to the wider benefit of the larger Ward. And, put simply, if any one of us doesn’t pull our weight it will be very easy for any constituent to speak to another of their local Councillors!

So, changed-times indeed. And I believe the change will be to the long-term benefit of politics in Edinburgh – there will simply “have” to be more cooperation ‘between’ political Parties. Old style, confrontational politics isn’t going to end overnight, but I do think its days are now numbered. Edinburgh will be the ultimate beneficiary.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

I know I'm biased

I know I'm biased, but I enjoyed the Newsnight debate this evening.

Personally, thought Harriet Harman and Jon Cruddas performed best ... still haven't completely made up my mind who to vote for though!

Off to a flying start

First, full Council Executive meeting since the election coming up next Tuesday - thus the papers out today - and as you'll see from the agenda here, the new Administration is off to a flying start with plenty of 'routine decisions' and 'information issues' but absolutely no 'policy and strategic issues' or 'performance management' issues?

Surely it can't be true that absolutely nothing of any strategic significance is going to happen until the Autumn??

Election expenses ...

Every candidate's most-loved job ... except for the dreaded lampost posters! ... must be the completion of the election expense 'return form'.

Well, today is the day that I'm finalising my own - my excitement is barely containable, as I scrabble around my desk at home trying to find every invoice and receipt from the last few months ;-((

Monday, May 28, 2007

Things just got better ...

Re- my Monday mid-afternoon depression ...

... The Daily Mash (see the earlier, related BBC story) has come to my rescue and cheered me up no end ;-))

Maybe, just maybe (see para. 6 of the Daily Mash story!), this is why the Liberals are refusing to consult on their proposed changes to the internal decision-making structures of the City of Edinburgh Council?

Perhaps they're not being dictatorial at all, but entirely rational ...

Bloody Standing Order 58(10)

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when I realised all of this ...

As Council-watchers will know, the City of Edinburgh Council currently has an 'Executive-Scrutiny Process' (it's about to be changed without any consultation whatsoever, but I'm saying no more about that!) ... anyhow, under the Scrutiny process any 5-backbenchers (of which I am now obviously one) have the right to "call-in" a decision of the Executive. In essence, hold-up and properly scrutinise a decision before it is implemented. So far, so good.

Now last Thursday, to my slight annoyance, the new Council Executive met with the sole purpose of appointing the Leader, Deputy Leader and Executive Members so they can be treated as such and start attracting their respective salaries to their bank accounts.

All fair enough really, except that as well as there being an Executive Member for Culture and Leisure (Deirdre Brock) there is also to be a 'Festivals and Events Champion' (Steve Cardownie) ... why do we need these two posts; what's the rationale for this; perfectly valid questions for scrutiny I would say ...

... except we can't call-in the decision because of bloody Standing Order 58(10), which within a section on how to call decisions in, reads:

The "Call-in" Process ...

58. (10) This Standing Order does not apply to decisions to appoint or nominate a member of the Council to an outside body or other office.

... yes, you've guessed it; it's a relatively new Standing Order, instigated by the previous Administration (that included me!), a few weeks after Steve defected from Labour to the SNP so that we had no shenanigans around appointments when the Council was, briefly as it transpired, in a tight 29/29 split.

Oh ... poetic justice ;-((

Things can only get better ...

Edinburgh Leisure Board Meeting

Later this afternoon, last Edinburgh Leisure Board Meeting to attend - having now been replaced by one of my colleagues, who will forthwith be our sole representative on the Board.

Have enjoyed my brief spell working in this area - sorry to be moving on ... though on the positive side, should have a bit more time to actually undertake some physical activity! Nothing too strenuous mind ...

Wales showing the way?

And there was I naively thinking that Northern Ireland was showing the way ...

... Wales is obviously were it's at - if the Liberals and Tories can potentially join together in Wales with the Party who came second in the election ... why not in Scotland ;-))

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Back in Edinburgh

Back up to Edinburgh last night ... ERS Council meeting very productive in the sense that a formal decision taken to keep the 'Scotland office' open for the rest of this financial year.

Some debate about how to take Fairshare forward in the new political climate ... meeting of that body coming up towards the end of June, when I'm pretty certain the focus will shift towards a concerted effort to attain STV-PR for the Holyrood elections ... as I was ranting-on about earlier, here.

Friday, May 25, 2007

State of high excitement

Now this will only mean something to those who use ... but there is a state of high excitement at as I am only a few entries away from 300 posts ;-)

This scintillating fact means I will no longer be able to view all my posts on one "edit posts" page, as the maximum is 300 "posts per page", before presumably having to click onto a second page of posts!

Sad I know ... but the small things in life make all the difference ;-))

Bit of a "stooshie" ...

Oh dear ... bit of a "stooshie" caused by a recent entry it appears ... I do so love my local paper.

No more dictatorial references for me ;-((

New Statesman "new media awards"

In a mild state of shock, as the blog seems to have been nominated for this year's New Statesman award in the 'Elected Representatives' category! Bizarre.

Not sure how it all works, but appears you can add comments here - helpful ones only please ;-))

Electoral Reform Society

Regular readers of the blog will know that I'm on the UK Council of the Electoral Reform Society(ERS) ... my backing for such a cause making me hugely popular with political colleagues at the current time. I'm sure you can just imagine ;-((

Anyhow, all will be to the long-term good of local democracy ... I really have no doubt whatsoever.

So, off to London later today for the May Council meeting ... going down by train, in my "2007 quest" to avoid flying completely. Have to say, it's proving pretty difficult, but nearly half-way through the year I haven't set foot on a plane ... which is a huge contrast to last year I'll tell you!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Lots of spare time??

So, a few weeks into the new regime, two Full Council meetings down with around 40 more to go in my new state of "opposition" ;-((

Having thought that things (not that I wished to be in this position I must make clear!) might quieten down being on the backbenches, it does seem the reverse has happened. The new multi-member Wards are one reason why ... much bigger obviously and whole swathes of new territory, different local issues, Community Councils and residents groups to get to grips with.

Add to that; the time 'released' from endless Departmental and Management meetings (as an Executive Member) is quickly being soaked up by endless political meetings about how to deal with not being in endless Departmental and Management meetings ;-) Oh joy.

Actually, I have to admit to quite enjoying it ... rather not be here obviously ... but in addition to the points above I do really feel like I've seen more of my wife and son in the last 4 weeks than I did in the last 4 years.

On a personal level (if not political level!) not all bad then.

Full Council meeting today

Full Council meeting today ... agenda here ... and proceedings totally dominated by the seemingly endless appointments to outside bodies that have to be passed on an annual basis.

One significant item of 'division' did occur twice though - under items 3.1 and 5.3 - which centred around the 'status' to be given to the Conveners of the new Neighbourhood Partnerships. For me, it was really a couple of debates about whether we're serious (as a Local Authority) in devolving significant powers and giving significant status to these new bodies.

Thought it very interesting (and a sign of changed times for sure!) that the Liberals opposed giving these Conveners any recognition in terms of allocating the posts as "Senior Councillors" ... it was perfectly feasible to do so, but maybe just a step too far at this early stage of the Lib/Nat/Tory hegemony ;-)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Energy crisis solved ;-))

So, Wednesday afternoon and now we have it ... the SNP programme for government - only joking ;-))

Actually, to be fair, Salmond's speech to the Parliament had a bit more in it than bridge tolls and oil transfers ... but I do genuinely feel that the real limitations of minority Government are starting to dawn on everyone.

Looks like they are doing absolutely everything possible to avoid it in Wales ... mind you, they'd better get a move on or there will have to be another election for the Assembly!

Scotland the great?

Bridge tolls and ship-to-ship oil transfer in the Forth are undoubtedly important subjects ... but, for the sake of Scotland, I'm seriously hoping for something a bit more strategic and visionary when the SNP announce their 'programme for government' later today ;-((

Or is the reality of minority Government about to hit us?

Decision-free zone

Transpires that things can only get worse ...

... indeed Edinburgh is apparently a classified "decision-free zone" until August 2007.

Nothing of any strategic importance is going to happen in Edinburgh for months ... here's a brief update:

  • after the very urgent Council Executive meeting this Thursday (agenda here ... if you didn't believe the only purpose of the meeting was to fix pay-grades) there will only be two other Executive meetings before the Summer recess, at which "not much business" will be conducted.

  • the whole Scrutiny Process will, nevertheless, be dismantled forthwith on the grand assumption that the shiny-new, streamlined Committees ARE coming into existence in August.
  • there will indeed be ABSOLUTELY NO public consultation on this (Stalin would be proud) and no room for change/amendment.

  • the new Committees will ALL have coalition Conveners and Vice-Conveners, despite the fact that they are supposedly to perform some sort of Scrutiny role ... I thought that's what the Scrutiny Panels did now? - and several of them were rightly Chaired by the Opposition.

All quite breathtaking.

What happens if the 'coalition of the unwilling' fails to get this all through the Full Council meeting in June - it's their only opportunity if it's to start in August regardless? There will be no Scrutiny for months and that hapless situation will continue for longer if June goes badly ... Stefan Tymkewycz had better get permission from the SNP whip to be absent on that day for his "other job" in Parliament ;-))

Actually, it's hard to make a joke about it all ... 'cause it's not funny.

In essence, all the big decisions facing Edinburgh (capital city of Scotland, in case anyone has forgotten) are on hold until at least August. Our competitor cities probably can't believe their luck.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

"A new era of openness" ??

The Liberals have made great play of this being "a new era of openness" in the City Chambers ... so, a few days into their administration with Nationalist/Tory help, how are things going:
  • first Full Council meeting last Thursday was a bit of a shambles, with Standing Orders being ignored ... or more politely, not understood.
  • quasi-judicial Planning Committee 'stacked' in Liberals favour, so they and Nationalists have an in-built majority. Proportionality completely ignored.
  • first Council Executive meeting called for 9.30am, half-an-hour before the Full Council meeting, this coming Thursday ... all with minimum 7-days notice and no consultation with anyone about the meeting which wasn't in the Council diary.
  • only item on this Council Executive agenda is the appointment of the new Council Leader and Deputy Leader, so they can start claiming their new pay-grades asap.
  • appears to be no consultation planned for any new structures which may replace the Council Executive model.
  • no cross-Party dialogue, to date, about interim decision-making structures and allocation of pay-grades to any elected Members.
  • and finally, no cross-Party policy discussion has taken place on anything since the election.

So far, so bad ;-((

Monday, May 21, 2007

Local holiday

Those outwith Edinburgh may not realise that today is a local holiday (not that I'm complaining about all the phone calls on my mobile!) ... whole thing appears to be one of those relics of a bygone age ... and the Council still recognises it, with most people off for the day - bizarre I know.

Anyhow, making the best of it ... getting the tent and other stuff dried up from the weekend and catching up on mail generally - in-between all the 'phone calls of course ;-((

The kiss of death?

Just spotted that 'The Basa' ... a.k.a. John Wallace ;-) ... has left a short comment on a recent post of mine.

Now, for those who don't know, John runs a website that Councillors in Edinburgh refuse to read ... well, no more than 7-times a week that is ... and he actually calls this a "good blog".

That's it, my time in politics may have had a temporary set-back at the recent local elections; but praise from the author of Edinburgh Sucks means that it's now totally over ;-((

Camping weekend ...

Yes, despite my years ... I do still (only once or twice a year now!) pack up our tent, stove and sleeping bags and we all head off for a camping weekend ;-)

It's been a 'get-together' tradition for decades now; and nearly 30 of us met up at a camp-site near Pooley Bridge on Ullswater this weekend. A sure sign-of-the-times, is the fact that there tends to be nearly as many kids as adults these days!

Anyhow, great weekend had by all - with an incredible variety of weather ... Friday night there was a real storm, and bits of the campsite resembled the picture above (I kid you not) by early Saturday morning. Saturday remained pretty wet, so Keswick swimming pool came to the rescue but by the afternoon the sun was blazing and the late evening and all-day Sunday we had really glorious weather.

Kids thoroughly enjoyed a beach-fire on Saturday night, and a leisurely walk on Sunday - with a pub at destination-point obviously - was appreciated by all ;-))

Just look at the contrast in the weather - this picture was taken on the Sunday afternoon ... by the way, that baby on my back was just 'borrowed' for the day and is not mine ... don't want any unfounded rumours now ;-))

Back up to Edinburgh Sunday evening ... washing machine now working on overtime to try and get all that gear cleaned up!

Friday, May 18, 2007

What a good idea ...

Good STV news-story on the BBC Scotland web-site today ... although I very much welcome the debate on this in Scotland, it has to be remembered that only the Westminster Parliament can change the voting system of the Scottish Parliament - quite different from the electoral system for Scottish Local Government, which is wholly devolved to Holyrood.

It will take quite some effort to affect such a change!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Shock, Horror ...

Well shock, horror ... as predicted, at today's Full Council meeting the Tories did indeed shore up a Liberal/Nationalist coalition by sitting on their hands when it came to the vote for the Lord Provost - who will now have a casting vote on most matters before the Council.

I've absolutely nothing against the new Lord Provost, George Grubb - he undoubtedly is an honourable man - but the way he's been installed is all to do with the leader of the Tory Group being 'promised' Chair of the Police Board ... basically giving control of the Council to a Liberal/Nationalist coalition for the sake of around £30K as Police Board Chair. Now, deals like this are not uncommon - under any system - but to accept such a deal and automatically throw away control of the Council seems pretty breathtaking to me ... especially from the Tories.

And the meeting got worse ... the paragons of proportionality - the Liberals - ignored proportionality completely when setting up the 'quasi-judicial' Planning Committee, denying the Labour Group a fourth seat on the Committee and 'stacking it' to themselves just so they have an in-built majority along with the Nationalists.

"Say one thing ... do another" - why I should be surprised at today's odious display I'm not entirely sure, but a lack of principle does simply offend me ;-((

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Local coalition deal is hit by 'bust-up'

See from The Scotsman today that a local coalition deal in the Borders has already fallen apart ... link here.

Did make me wonder whether I should urgently press the Chief Executive of the City of Edinburgh Council to organise a similar "training seminar" for the Lib/SNP Groups in the capital ;-))

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Council result makes easier reading than Holyrood

STV-PR again I'm afraid ... interesting article in the local paper today.

Makes the very clear point, which I was banging on about earlier, that the vast, vast majority of problems with spoiled papers on 3rd/4th May was with the AMS election to the Scottish Parliament ... the level of spoiled papers for the Local Government elections was actually lower than in Northern Ireland back in March, when they also elected their Assembly with STV-PR.

Northern Ireland have been using STV-PR for decades ... Scotland obviously had no problem in adopting it and clearly it would result in far fewer problems for the Scottish Parliament elections if adopted for 2011 ;-)

Just in case ...

If you're a lapsed Labour Party Member (or have been thinking of joining?) then don't forget that you can still have the opportunity to vote in Labour's Leadership and Deputy Leadership contests if you re-join/join the Party by the 1st June 2007.

Do consider it - it is, after all, the first time in history Labour Members will have the chance to choose the next Prime Minister ... with immediate effect!

If you want to re-join/join and vote, or know someone who does, then more information can be found here.

Not until Thursday ...

I see that my favourite local paper is reporting that everything is now stitched up (almost!) and 'Lord Provost and all' are decided ... they could well be right, but it is worth remembering that none of this is actually approved until the Full Council meeting (agenda here) has finished on Thursday this week.

... and also worth repeating that it will take the Tories (or at least one of them?) to abstain for the Liberal Lord Provost nominee to be successful ... and even if that happens, thereafter the arithmetic is 29/29 with the casting vote likely to be required on many, many occasions. None of it can happen though unless one Tory (at least) decides to initially prop up, even if for one vote only, a Lib/SNP coalition.

It won't be a dull 4-years that's for sure ...

The Daily Mash

Courtesy of The Daily Mash, I've realised were we went wrong in our 2005 traffic reduction proposals ... it's clear now they were basically too cautious ;-)

Monday, May 14, 2007

Opposition spokesperson for ... ?

Opposition Spokesperson for ... ?

All to be decided later today, and more formally at a full Group Meeting tomorrow evening. Whatever brief; I have every intention of being 'constructively critical' ... I'm going to enjoy it, but I'm determined to make sure it will not be fun for the new rapier-like Administration ;-)

Sunday, May 13, 2007


Well, there was nothing for it - after the travails of the last week - but to escape Edinburgh for the weekend.

So, we all rushed down to the Lake District on Friday evening ... stayed in a really excellent B&B ... and had a thoroughly relaxing two days, right on the edge of Lake Windermere. Bit of walking and lots of 'doing-nothing-in-particular' ... just what was required.

Talking of 'doing-nothing-in-particular'; we made it back to the UK's epicentre of rapid, political decision-making on Sunday evening ;-)

Friday, May 11, 2007

Ah well ... Canter Cookie for President!

Ah well ... I'll just need to put all my energies behind the election of my hamster (see the comments!) for President :-((

... further details at:

And yes, she really is called Canter Cookie ... don't ask.

Order of the day ... indecision

Actually - I'll safely predict that weak and indecisive local government will be the order of the day for the next four years ... nothing to do with 'coalition' per se but the fact that the Liberals are just going to be hide-bound by TWO other political Groups ...

... and they're far from the most decisive bunch at the best of times.

Politically I'm sore - of course. But trying to be dispassionate, I do feel it will be bad for Edinburgh ... and that's not good for anyone.

Vote Lib-Dem; get the Tories!

It's very, very tempting just to shout TOLD YOU SO ... but I really should resist ;-((

As far as I can make out, this arrangement has nothing to do with policy and everything to do with position and money:
  • Lib-Dems (17 seats) support trams
  • SNP (12 seats) oppose trams
  • even so 29 seats don't make a majority of the 58 total seats
  • so, Tories (11 seats) take chair of Police Board and will use their casting vote

... problems resolved? I think not!

... and I suspect nothing much of a radical nature (or even close to it) is going to happen in Edinburgh for the next 4 years.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

More interminable meetings

More interminable meetings about any potential coalition for the City Council ... a very, distinct air of absolute indecision in certain quarters.

Almost certainly an omen for the next four years I fear ;-(

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Sarah sworn in

Down at Holyrood this morning to see Sarah sworn in ... third time I've attended this event with her, but first time in the new building.

Not quite as emotional as 1999, but still a tremendous occasion to be present at.

Fascinating to watch the body language down in the Chamber - personally, I think any finalisation of a Government for Scotland is a long way off being secured ;-(

... I'd better unpack those damned lampost posters ;-((

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Northern Ireland showing the way?

Well, if this lot can get together in Government, should be relatively easy to sort out the Scottish Executive and City of Edinburgh Council ...

... if only that were true ;-((

Joking aside ... pretty impressive achievement for Northern Irish politics.

First full day back ...

First full day back at the City Chambers today ... endless (and I do mean absolutely endless!) discussion and debate around any formation of a coalition for the Council.

Now I could divulge all the details on my blog, right here and now ... but ... sorry to disappoint - I'll have to leave all of that until any ink is dry ;-))

Monday, May 07, 2007

Hamster missing!

After the seriousness of the last few weeks; a bit of light-hearted chaos broke out in the flat tonight as the damned hamster escaped from its cage - don't ask how?

Eventually (after much searching) found it behind one of the beds, in the initial stages of digesting the outer mattress and entering said-mattress, probably never to be seen again ;-(

Now safely returned to its cage, I swear it has a look of smug satisfaction on its face, having managed to escape its usual confines ... no Nationalist political analogies intended ;-))

Spot the problem?

Thought I would, unusually, just re-produce some information I received this evening by e-mail ... have a look at this and no prizes for spotting the electoral problem ;-))

"Using data from the Glasgow City Council website, have now completed the analysis of the spoilt papers for the Scottish Parliament elections and the City Council elections in the Glasgow Electoral Region.

Have used the totals given for spoilt papers, nearly all of which were classed as "Voting for More Than One Candidate" or "Unmarked or Void for Uncertainty". Most of the spoilt papers in the Constituency elections were classed as "Unmarked or Void for Uncertainty", which suspect means mostly blank.

Scottish Parliament Elections 2007
Ten Constituencies in Glasgow Electoral Region
============ ========= ========= ====
Regional Vote
Total: 215,667
Spoilt: 9,000
% Spoilt 4.2%

++++++++++++ ++++
Constituency Vote - ten constituencies
Total: 215,667
Spoilt: 16,933
% Spoilt 7.9%

++++++++++++ ++++
10 individual Constituencies
4.8% 5.4% 5.8% 7.3% 7.3% 8.8% 9.7% 9.8% 10.2%12.1%

Do not have access to the Constituency breakdown of the Regional vote data.

Local Government STV Elections 2007
Glasgow City 21 Wards
============ =====
Total 192,881
Spoilt 4,505
% Spoilt 2.3%

++++++++++++ ++++
21 individual Wards
1.5% 1.5% 1.6% 1.6% 1.8% 1.8% 1.9%2.1% 2.1% 2.2% 2.2% 2.4% 2.6% 2.6% 2.7% 2.7% 3.0% 3.1% 3.3% 4.0% 4.2% "

These figures (for the AMS Scottish Parliament election) are a lot worse than I had earlier mentioned for Edinburgh - here.

Understatement of the week

Just re-read the BBC piece - here - and Robin Harper says ... "We will need further discussions on transport and other aspects of our policy differences before we come to a conclusion."

Understatement of the week for sure.

Robin - don't do it ...

Just read this (link here) on the BBC website.

Robin - don't do it ...

what more need I say ...

Office move

Back in the City Chambers today - despite it being a bank holiday! - and quickly moved office to help make room for the new SNP Group on the City Council ... I could hardly complain given my personal stance on all-things electoral ;-((

Anyhow, gave me a great opportunity to chuck out (recycled of course) a shed-load of stuff that's been sitting on shelves for years without ever having been read or referred to. So much needless paperwork ... a reminder of how shocked I was at this facet of Local Government when I first got elected in 1999 - prior to that spent many years in the private sector and had never seen anything quite like it in terms of sheer volume of paper.

Political realities

I think the political realities of trying to govern - a country or a city - are slowing dawning on numerous, new MSPs and Councillors today.

A long weekend of dialogue has failed to deliver a coalition deal for Holyrood - and also for many Scottish Council Chambers - and the luxury of opposition must seem like a distant memory to many politicians today.

Personally, I think it's a very, very positive development. You can sense an element of political maturity creeping into many minds where before it was broadly absent.

This type of transformation does take years, but the seeds are clearly there today, and one thing is certain - none of it would be taking place under First-past-the-post.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Spoke too soon ...

Spoke too soon about the weather ... heavens opened not long after the teams started taking down the posters ;-((

Anyhow, all now completed - I hope!

Lampost Posters again!

It's that absolutely dreaded job of every election campaign today ... taking down the lampost posters ;-((

At least it's dry and not pouring with rain - better get on and get it done quickly.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Spoiled ballot papers

Now, my frustration at the 'First Minister' saga is as nothing compared to the issue of spoiled ballot papers ;-((

Yes, it was high in the Scottish Parliament elections - that was the election under the Additional Member System (AMS) that had absolutely NOTHING whatsoever to do with STV-PR (as was used for the Local Authority elections).

As indicated earlier, the number of spoiled ballot-papers under STV was fairly standard - around 1.3% for Edinburgh Council as a whole, and as low as 0.6% in some Wards. The large increase in spoils came under AMS for the Parliament - 3.1% on the left-hand side of the paper and a shocking 5.1% on the right-hand (constituency) side of the paper ... that's 1 in 20 votes!!

I'm convinced that thousands and thousands of people voted on the left-hand side and thought "job done" and ignored the right-hand side ... the conjoining of the (previously) two ballot papers has been very badly managed. Again, nothing whatsoever to do with STV.

Whether I'm right or wrong on the detail, the solution is not to blame PR, but to change the Scottish Parliament electoral system from AMS to STV ... it should have been used from the start (in 1999) and if ever you needed evidence that it's a better system, just have a look in detail at the wide range of analysis that will inevitably come out over the coming weeks.

I sense that my Fairshare activity is about to be re-invigorated!

National election results

Needless to say, my elation (and it's an apt adjective for how happy I feel) about Sarah's re-election has been slightly tainted by the overall SNP majority of 1 in the Parliament - but that's politics, and I'm not complaining ... just a bit sore!

What I do find a bit objectionable is the automatic assumption that the leader of the SNP will become First Minister - this is simply arrant nonsense. If it happens, that's life - but it will 'only' happen if 65 MSP's elect him as First Minister and NOT because his Party have got 1 more MSP than anyone else.

Everyone involved in Scottish politics knows this; and it thus makes it all the more annoying that some politicians were running around the media, in the run-up to Thursday, saying that the largest party would have the moral authority to form the Government and elect the First Minister ... it's simply NOT true.

Have a look at what happened in Sweden recently, a country run by the equivalent of 'Labour' for decades - 'Labour' were the biggest Party in the September 2006 national election, but the 'Tories' form the biggest coalition and lo-and-behold the 'First Minister is a 'Tory'. It's absolute standard practice on the continent in all countries with PR and political activists in Scotland know it fine well.

Needless to say - exactly the same principle applies to Local Authorities as well.

Elected - eventually!

Eventually got the Ward 9 Fountainbridge/Craiglockhart result about 6pm Friday - and was very relieved to be successfully re-elected. Results here.

Pleased to have received so many 1st preferences - nearly cleared the quota at first count - not quite, but surely next time!

Congratulations to Gordon Buchan (who did clear the quota at first count!) and Jim Lowrie (who benefited from a healthy influx of transfers) which enabled him to secure the third elected spot. Many commiserations to Denis Dixon, who just missed out - I'm sure he'll be back again.

I have to say, knowing both Gordon and Jim, I'm looking forward to working with them in the new three-Member Ward ... despite the fact that they are a Tory and Liberal respectively ;-))

Very important to add here that only 0.86% of the ballots cast (87 of 10,057) in Ward 9 (under STV) were spoiled ... more about that later - right now, I need a bit of rest ;-((

... and thank you to everyone (of whatever political persuasion) who supported me, and helped me get through the election - you can be certain I'll do my very, very best to repay your trust in the next four years.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Keep Sarah in Central

Successful day for Edinburgh Central Labour Party ... result here.

Everyone genuinely delighted to have kept Sarah in Central - there's just no doubt a huge, personal vote played a massive part in her success ... not to mention a rather slick and professional campaign, of course ;-))

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Before you vote ...

... one last, subtle reminder ;-))

(comes up clearer if you click on the image)

Wallpaper paste everywhere ...

Well, we've had the 'lamppost poster' trauma - now it's wallpaper paste (and staple guns!) everywhere as we try and get the election A-Boards pasted up for tomorrow morning.

Election campaigns just get more and more fun, the closer you get to polling day ...

... it's the 4am rise tomorrow morning that we're all really looking forward too ;-(

... followed by trying to stay awake until probably 4am (at least!) on Friday morning; and then having to get up again at 11.30am to make the 12.30pm Friday Local Government count ;-(( ... oh joy!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Only one poll that counts ...

Yet more polls out late this evening (featuring prominently in tomorrow's press) which indicate any gap between the two main parties is closing somewhat.

I'm not convinced personally by any of the national projections - all the parties have run very, very 'locally-focused' campaigns and I just can't see how a poll of one or two thousand people can be accurately extrapolated across the whole of Scotland with any degree of certainty whatsoever.

Maybe 10 years ago it was an accurate predictor, when tribal loyalties were much stronger ... but that's simply not the case now and I think the only safe prediction about Thursday is that there will be some very surprising local results that bear no resemblance to what's 'supposedly' happening nationally.

... we'll all know in two days time!