Thursday, January 31, 2008

Architectural theft?

Several people (who really should have better things to do!) have e-mailed me to insist that the chap who designed that Sugar Cube on Grand Designs the other night (see opposite), has clearly stolen his ideas from our own esteemed Waverley Court building (see below)?

... actually, looking at the pictures close together, I think they might have a point ;-))

Forum on Children and Families Estate

Second meeting of the 'Forum on Children and Families Estate Evaluation' earlier this afternoon - variety of 'stakeholders' met with the Forum Members to share their views. Interesting contributions all round ...

... I think (?) an official update should go up on this section of the Council website fairly soon.

Again, no salacious gossip here I'm afraid. Sorry :-((

Population Bombs

George Monbiot has redeemed himself ;-)

... I had a bit of a whinge, a few months ago, about his apparent lack of willingness to tackle the issue of population growth - well, he penned (what I think) is an excellent article in the Guardian a couple of days ago on the very subject.

The version on his own web-site is backed up with a series of very useful reference notes - here.

I couldn't agree more when he says in conclusion:
  • "to suggest ... that population growth is largely responsible for the ecological crisis is to blame the poor for the excesses of the rich" - quite correct
  • but nevertheless - "Stabilising or even reducing the human population would ameliorate almost all environmental impacts"

A global 'Tragedy of the Commons' is not inevitable.

Modernist Sugar Cube?

As regular readers will know, I'm not at all a major fan of TV and most of my 'news and information' comes directly from Radio, Newspapers (yes, I still buy one daily!) and the Internet these days ...

... I do though have a bit of a weak-spot when it comes to Grand Designs on Channel 4 (as well as my already, admitted addiction to ER!) and thoroughly enjoyed last night's episode.

I was strangely drawn to the building featured in the programme - plan as above - and surprisingly warmed to its brazenly modernist design.

Just a little bit beyond my budget, mind you :-(

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Weekly Surgery and healthy eating

Regular weekly surgery in Fountainbridge Library this evening ... here's one of my periodic reminders of when they all are:

Andrew holds regular surgeries, right across his Ward - no appointment necessary, simply turn up:

  • Every Wednesday, 6pm @ Fountainbridge Library, Dundee Street
  • 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month, 6pm @ St.Cuthbert's Primary School, Hutchison Crossway
  • 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month, 6pm @ Craiglockhart Primary School, Ashley Terrace

Had Junior in tow this evening - due to having been abandoned for the week, as earlier mentioned - and highlight of his evening was visiting the chip-shop around the corner form the Library on the way home ;-)

... hope my better-half doesn't read this post :-((

Craiglockhart Community Council and London Calling

Craiglockhart Community Council meeting last night - agenda here - and main topic of discussion was most definitely the glacial pace of progress with the new crossing that was part of the Section 75 planning consent given to the Applecross development at Meggetland.

Several members of the public raised the question as to whether any upcoming Applecross developments could be 'put on hold' until they delivered on their previous Section 75 agreements?

... whilst I'm not sure if there is a 'direct' legal mechanism for doing this - it does appear to me that suitable pressure could be brought to bear??

There does seem to be an appalling delay in sorting it out.

... unfortunately, I had to leave the meeting a little early as my better-half has abandoned me for the sunnier climes of London for the week - needed to get back home and recover Junior from friendly neighbours and locate him promptly in bed!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

It's all a conspiracy?

The blogosphere has been full of how dreadfully 'left-of-centre' the BBC is over the last couple of weeks ... primarily driven by the 'perceived' lack of coverage of Labour donor rows and resignations?

... well, in recent times at least, I've never been convinced that bias actually exists - remembering all too well how I used to periodically feel in the 80's that the BBC was all part of a vast right-wing conspiracy to keep Labour from power :-(

And if ever proof were needed about the fallacy of a 'left-of-centre' BBC, then just have a quick scan at this story which they have led on all evening on most broadcast mediums tonight.

Apparently, and I've no reason to doubt the validity of the figures, when Labour came to power in 1997, the NHS spent around £1bn a year on maternity services. Ten years on, spending has risen to £1.6bn. The tone of the coverage indicates that rise is primarily down to a massive increase in immigrant mothers giving birth in the UK. Really?

What is mentioned nowhere is that £1bn in 1997 is now worth some £1.35billion, so the rise - in real terms - is not £0.6bn but only £0.25bn. That's around a 25% real-terms increase, as opposed to the insinuated 60% increase. Is that bad?

The coverage has also droned on about a 44,000 per year drop in babies born to British mothers, whilst there has been a 64,000 rise in babies born to foreign mothers ... whilst failing to mention that just under 750,000 babies are born every year in the UK :-(

You know, I just can't help wondering how many babies are being born to mothers with green eyes today, as compared to 1997? ... I think we urgently need to know :-((

And the winner is ...

I see that John Loughton won Big Brother last night - well done that man!

... as I mentioned earlier; couldn't watch the programme due to my lack of digital/cable TV, but glad to see John won through ;-)

I see that even my favourite, local paper is covering the story today - here - and couldn't help but notice that apparently a mere 3.4 million viewers watched the opening programme of this Big Brother series on E4 (compared to the usual +7 million viewers on Channel 4) ...

... John should just have started a blog - much better viewing figures ;-))

Mid-life Crisis!

The observant amongst you will have spotted that I turned 44 last month ...

... and I thought all my troubles were over, given I wasn't divorced after all in the last few months of my 43rd year ;-)

But no, it appears - according to the BBC at least - that my troubles are just about to begin as "research suggests that 44 is the age at which we are most vulnerable to depression."

Mid-life crisis could strike at any moment apparently then :-(

... roll-on December 2008 - then again, I wonder what pitfalls my 45th year could hold??

Monday, January 28, 2008

Council Budget explained - really?

They're at it again ... lying about the current state-of-play concerning 2008/09 Council Tax proposals!

Have a look here ... and scroll down to the bit that is entitled 'Council Tax Freeze' where it boldly states that: "The City of Edinburgh Council has committed to a freeze on Council Tax for 2008/09 following extensive analysis of the deal offered to the local authorities by the Scottish Government."

That's a LIE - again.

As I've said before, when the the City of Edinburgh Full Council meets at 10am on Thursday 21st February 2008 (to set it's budget for 2008/09) I fully expect it may well commit to a freeze on Council Tax for 2008/2009 ... but to state as fact that it has already done so is just NOT TRUE.

So now you know - "City of Edinburgh Council = 29 Liberal and Nationalist Councillors" ... at least in some people's minds :-(

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Contact is made?

Spent all day today over in sunny Glasgow ...

... unfortunately I was stuck in a darkened room, in front of a computer screen, being trained in the art of the successful use of Labour's new, up-and-coming, 'voter contact' database system :-(

Actually, I quite enjoyed the day ... sad, I know :-((

Friday, January 25, 2008

No more haggis and whisky

Very successful Burns Supper event this evening ... ticket-sales ended up looking fine and the room at Pollock Halls was practically full ;-)

... rest of the weekend may now be a bit subdued after an extremely late night being forced to partake of far too much haggis and whisky :-(

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Democracy isn't deskbound

New UK-wide campaign launched this afternoon, on the back of the publication of the Ministry of Justice's deskbound review of electoral systems earlier today ...

... does seem a tad ironic to be writing about it from my desk ;-)

Joking aside ... do check out the website.

Oh dear, oh dear ...

No, not Peter Hain's resignation, but the Government's Review of UK Voting Systems announced earlier this afternoon ... Statement here and full report here :-(

Now, my views on this issue are well known, but having very quickly read the report released today I just don't think it matches up to the one produced nearly a year ago now by the ERS ... which can be found in full, here.

Deeply disappointing.

... not that anyone will notice, given Hain's resignation :-((

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Talk about hypocrisy

On a much, much more serious Scottish budget issue - just what the hell are the Scottish Green Party MSPs playing at?

I'm fairly certain most of their supporters will be appalled at their actions earlier this evening.

Do have a quick read at this News Release from the 20th December 2007 ... then make up your own mind about their decision to abstain in the vote today ...

... I simply can't print what I think.

MSP Campbell's soup spill

You really couldn't make this up ... it could only happen in the Scottish Parliament ;-)

I don't know the MSP concerned, and certainly hope she's okay - but really ... I can just see Frank Boyle having some fun with this tomorrow ;-))

The wonders of consultation ...

I think (?) I've solved the dark mystery of the CLD Review Consultation Paper that I was bemoaning easy sight of yesterday ...

You can find it by going to:

  • Edinburgh Grid for Learning at
  • Click on "C&F Organisational Review update" under recent updates
  • Click on the first link, entitled "Consultation Paper"

Simple to find :-(

So ... as far as I can best establish, this Consultation Paper has been nowhere near any Committee of the Council, is not therefore on Committee Papers on Line (CPOL), and I'm left wondering if many of the 29 Administration Politicians even know about its contents - none of us in the darkest recesses of Opposition knew about its existence, that's for sure :-((

Frankly, it's easier to find on my favourite local blog ... second only to this one, of course :-)) ... which just about says all there is to say about the efficient and professional dissemination of this reasonably important information.

What a shambles.

... and it gets a lot worse - if you follow the first two links above to the "Children and Families Organisational Review Update Issue 2", you'll see that:

  • it wasn't published until the 21st January; a full SIX DAYS after the Education Committee met on the 15th January
  • "comments will be listened to and a summary of the feedback will accompany the report setting out the proposals to the meeting of Council on 21 February where final decisions will be made" - my emphasis; yes, no time for any political scrutiny!
  • the deadline for comments is 11th February; giving less than 3-weeks for feedback from anyone who can actually find the document
  • remember that papers for the 21st February Council meeting go out a week before, that's the 14th February ... so feedback on the CLD Review Consultation Paper is going to be "listened to", assessed and written up in no more than 3-days ... because, of course, no one has drafted the final paper yet before the closing date for comments ...

BUT - read on, the best bits are to come under a later section entitled "Organisational Review – Other Areas" where it boldly states:

  • "The options for Departmental Management arrangements, Neighbourhood Services Management arrangements, Working Together Management and Services, Youth Services and Discretionary Services are still under consideration and will go to the Council on 21 February prior to consultation with staff."
  • "A final decision on these proposals is likely to be taken at a Council Meeting in March." - again, my emphasis ...
So, how on earth can we (as politicians) decide on a new structure for the Children and Families Department (the largest Department of Scotland's second largest Council) on the same day we set the 2008/09 next-year budget BEFORE the proposals have even been consulted on?

... and okay, lets be generous here and accept for a second that the "final decision" will not be taken until the March Council Meeting - how on earth can we therefore set the budget for a Department that is about to change shape a few weeks later??

This timetable means that NO (sensible or credible) assumptions can be made about 'efficiency savings' from the main Organisational Review at the Budget meeting in February because the process WILL NOT be finished.

... oh, and can I just remind you of this:

  • I now also think the decision to cancel the Special Meeting of the 12th February is completely contrary to the extant Council Decision of the Education Committee Meeting on 30th October 2007 - have a look at Paragraph 8 of this minute ...
  • for ease of reference, the above decision reads - "To approve the departmental review as detailed in the report subject to the outcomes report being submitted to the Education, Children and Families Committee ahead of the Council budget meeting." (my emphasis)

"Shambles" is being polite.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Merchiston Community Council

Merchiston Community Council this evening ... usual Community Council business was preceded by a talk entitled ‘"Schools in our Area - what is happening?"

The question refers to potential new-builds or refurbishments, of course ... answer, after 45-minutes of debate, er ... virtually nothing :-((

Organisational Review/s

The whole saga over the Children and Families Organisational Review gets murkier and murkier ...

I mentioned last week that I thought there was less than total transparency being shown by those in charge of the process - Convener saying one thing/Trade Unions another?
  • well, now the Trade Unions have sent a letter to all the elected Members on the Education Committee refuting a lot of the points made in the earlier answer to my question of 20th December - see question 8 here - about aspects of the Review process
  • it also transpires that a specific consultation paper on the Community Learning and Development (CLD) part of the Review was only published JUST AFTER the Education Committee met last week - sheer coincidence??
  • I could be wrong here - but I don't believe that consultation paper has been anywhere near a Committee Meeting of the Council - okay, it's CLD and non-statutory (so nothing 'illegal' being done) but we are supposed be in the halcyon days of Edinburgh's Bright New Future when all of us were to "have real opportunity to participate in decision-making"??
  • I now also think the decision to cancel the Special Meeting of the 12th February is completely contrary to the extant Council Decision of the Education Committee Meeting on 30th October 2007 - have a look at Paragraph 8 of this minute ...
  • for ease of reference, the above decision reads - "To approve the departmental review as detailed in the report subject to the outcomes report being submitted to the Education, Children and Families Committee ahead of the Council budget meeting." (my emphasis)
  • well, that's clearly NOT happening now!
I'm of the firm opinion now that taking the Review to the Full Council meeting of the 21st February, when all attention will rightly be on setting the 2008/09 Budget, is a monumental mistake for the Department.

It's almost certain that almost WHATEVER is in that report will be approved, given the mathematics and dynamics of the day.

And yet, political scrutiny of the whole Review process has amounted to absolutely ZERO.

I'll (sadly) predict that chickens will come home to roost over this in the not too distant future.

Monday, January 21, 2008


No escape from the fray today ... a lot of time spent (again) on budgetary preparations :-(

... and this evening, a special meeting of the Hutchison and Chesser Community Council, who had organised speakers from Applecross - the developers about to start work on the old Fruitmaret (and ASDA) site on Hutchison Road.

It is a pretty significant development - around 500 units - which will undoubtedly have a massive impact on the existing local community.

I sense it's going to be the biggest item of debate in the area for a considerable time to come - and quite rightly so ...

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Slow weekend for Burns

A pretty quiet weekend all-in-all ... first time in a long time.

Perfect for a bit of well-needed reflection.

The slow weekend ended on Sunday night, with the usual last-minute panic to finalise the details (and ticket-sales!) for the upcoming, annual Labour Party Burns Supper.

Thankfully, looks like it should be a good evening ;-)

Friday, January 18, 2008


No escape from the misery this afternoon unfortunately, as a tight deadline had already been agreed on the production of another round of financial figures for our endless discussions on the 2008/09 budget ...

... thank goodness it's nearly the weekend.

Family Funeral

Family funeral today, over near Salsburgh - a Cousin on my Father's side, who was a pretty close family friend as well as a relative. Not a great day obviously.

... just as we all got to the graveside it really started to pour down, making the whole scene like some dark, Dickensian novel :-((

At least the wake afterwards was dry - externally that is; sorrows being suitably drowned.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Neighbourhood Partnership meeting

South West Neighbourhood Partnership meeting this evening ... as usual, the agenda can be found via Committee Papers On-Line.

Plenty of 'robust debate' on a wide variety of issues - I thought that, despite the intermittent tensions, there are the beginnings of a decent local Committee in the making.

Ever-optimistic perhaps ... but what the Partnerships need now is some serious devolution of centrally-controlled budgets.

Circumstances. circumstances ...

I've just read the latest edition of "COSLA Connections" - COSLA's monthly bulletin.

It contains a couple of sentences that absolutely deserve wider attention - you can find them on page 8 in the bottom, left-hand corner here ... I should warn you that you'll need to squint sideways to see it properly, but you'll undoubtedly fall over laughing anyhow ...

... in a two-page spread on the infamous concordat, whilst discussing the overall financial settlement for Scottish Local Government, it boldly states:

"Under no circumstances can the financial position be described as good. However, it has generally been accepted that it is the best deal possible under the circumstances."

Just about sums up the whole sorry-saga really ...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

I smell a rat

Somethings not quite right about the way the 'Organisational Review' of the Children and Families Department is being handled - frankly, I smell a rat.

At yesterday's Committee meeting, we were told by the Convener that the reason the Organisational Review wasn't going to the proposed (and now cancelled) 12th February extra meeting was all down to more time being required to consult the Unions.

I did make my frustration at this clear - 'said Convener' and the Council Coalition are in charge of the Review and if they can't manage the timetable properly to allow decent scrutiny (or is that the point!) then that's entirely their fault. Taking the Review to the main budget-setting meeting of the Full Council on Thursday 21st February is lunacy and will certainly ensure that the Review will be rammed through without any proper consideration - mind you, maybe that's the point once again!!

But to make matters worse (and murkier) I'm now picking up on the 'Union-grapevine' that the reason they haven't yet seen (and I do know that to be true) the draft proposals is because managers are telling them that elected Members haven't yet been consulted?

Well, I can assure you that Opposition elected Members haven't seen any draft proposals. All sort of suggests that some want as little scrutiny of what's going on as possible, which usually only means one thing - a controversial mess.

It's all a classic stitch-up if you ask me ...

... oh, and what about our bright, new future whereupon we were all "to have real opportunity to participate in decision-making"?

Streamlined committee system alright - no one's involved :-((

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Goodbye Wave3 Schools ??

Well, recently it was Goodbye biomass, it now appears that all our fears about Wave3 schools were all too well-founded :-(

Back in October the Council agreed a motion on the way forward and to receive an update report on the various feasibility studies by the end of January ... still haven't seen that report, and now that the 12th February meeting is cancelled, I've no idea when this work will publicly surface - surely not as part of the main budget-meeting when it would have no chance of receiving any 'detailed consideration'?

And now, to make matters a lot worse, it appears that at a meeting of the Portobello High School Parent Council last night the local MSP said something to the effect of:

  • as a result of the local government settlement, Council’s no longer apply to the Scottish Government for additional capital funding
  • they have been allocated additional budget that they can use as they see fit
  • with regard to new schools – or any other capital project - the City Council now needs to work out its priorities and how to use the additional funds that have been provided
  • for a new Portobello High School, the City Council does not need to present a business case or apply for funding to the Scottish Government
  • once its has decided its commitment to a new school, it needs to work out how to fund the project from its own resources

I'll tell you now, that will come as a huge shock to officers working on the feasibility studies ... not to mention the Council Coalition politicians!

As for the money being available in the Local Government settlement ... well, I can only repeat that if the equivalent levels of finance as the first two-rounds of school-building in the City are eventually made available, then I'll be the first to applaud it - remembering that round one in Edinburgh was some £130million of capital investment and round two some £180million.

That level of capital monies is NOT in the current Local Government settlement for the City of Edinburgh Council.

Goodbye Wave3 Schools ??

Children and Families committee

Children and Families Committee earlier this morning - agenda here.

I thought there was nothing desperately seismic up for discussion - until we got to item 8 on 'youngedinburgh' ... the full report is here.

Have a look at paragraph 6.1 in the recommendations, were it indicates that the 'Organisational Review' of the Department (of which 'youngedinburgh' will be a constituent part obviously) is to come back in a separate report in February 2008.

There was to be a special meeting of the Committee set for Tuesday 12th February to consider the output from this Review, so that everyone had time to digest the proposals before the Full Council 'budget-setting meeting' on Thursday 21st February.

It transpires that this meeting has been completely scrapped and that the said 'Organisational Review' outputs are going to the Full Council meeting on 21st February instead ;-(

So; no time to consider the re-organisation of the Council's largest Department in any detail (so much for open-government) and chances of a 'considered discussion' on the proposals as part of the main budget-setting meeting are frankly zero!

All being driven by our Liberal colleagues who said (in their manifesto) that they had "no plans for immediate reorganisation" of the Children and Families Department; and wanted us all "to have real opportunity to participate in decision-making".

Boom, boom :-((

New school for Craigmillar

Details of a new High School for Craigmillar announced today - see the local press coverage here.

Clearly, given the gestation of this whole idea, I generally welcome this development - but it does underline the madness of even considering the 'earlier' closure of Castlebrae Community High School back in August of this year.

Even in July the new school was being seen as a 'replacement' for Castlebrae Community High School, yet by August Castlebrae was to be shut regardless?

As we all know, those plans were thankfully abandoned in mid-September

Now ... new Craigmillar High School seems on track for 2011 and hopefully Castlebrae will be safely open until at least then?

Talk about 'clarity of purpose' ??

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Thinking of achievements ...

Saturday night's celebrations were very, very enjoyable ... quite an achievement for my Dad to reach 80 years of age when I reflect on his background and upbringing ;-)

... thinking of achievements, and being a bit of a part-time walker myself!, was really taken with Jan Morris' article about Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in Saturday's edition of the Guardian.

Thought the picture, as carried in the 'printed version' (reproduced here), was an absolute classic ... no wonder they're smiling - that's Mount Everest over Hillary's left-shoulder and they have just been the first people in the world to stand on it's summit :-))

Friday, January 11, 2008

Friday at last - and a Birthday Weekend!

At last, Friday afternoon! ... and you'll be relieved to hear that blogging my be very light for the rest of the weekend :-((

It's my Dad's 80th Birthday next week!

- so, off to the ever-sunny Salsburgh tomorrow for a bit of a family-celebration over the weekend.

Looking forward to it ... bit of a 'gathering of the clans', so anything could happen :-)

Edinburgh news the press just won't touch?

I have absolutely no idea who is behind this new addition to quality journalism in Edinburgh ... but it is causing great mirth over here at the Really Bad Blog ;-)

Very good.

... could be yet another 'Council-insider' - who else would know about my annoyance at those bloody posh toilets on the 10th floor of the City Chambers ;-))

The Evening News should be worried ... some serious, journalistic competition at last!

Top Secret?

I've had quite a few e-mails/calls ... mainly from several Nationalist colleagues! ... bemoaning my earlier post on the ever-elusive Scottish Futures Trust (SFT).

The main gist of the 'moans' have been - "the SFT is definitely coming", and "it has to be better than that secretive and expensive PPP option that's been used for the last decade or so".

Well, what can I say but repeat myself ... if the SFT does eventually come along and provides Edinburgh with equivalent levels of finance as the first two-rounds of school-building in the City, then I'll be the first to applaud it. Remember though that round one in Edinburgh was some £130million of capital investment and round two some £180million.

And as for 'secretive and expensive', I can only assume nobody knows about this section of the Scottish Government website?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

One swallow - MUST be summer :-)

Have a look at this STV news report from earlier this evening!

It's a brief piece on a new opinion poll that's out - now, just forget about all that New Hampshire polling-stuff for a second and concentrate on this:

Voting Intentions for Holyrood - Constituency:
SNP 36%

Voting Intentions for Holyrood - Regional List:
SNP 34%

Projection based on these figures:
LABOUR: 53 seats
SNP: 47 seats
OTHERS: 1 seat

One (very early!) swallow - MUST be summer already :-)

Forum on Children and Families Estate Evaluation

First meeting of the newly-established "Forum on Children and Families Estate Evaluation" earlier this afternoon ... not before time, but enough said of that ;-)

The Convener, quite rightly in my view, asked for a bit of a 'public vow of silence' on the detail of what's being worked on - so, no salacious gossip here I'm afraid. Sorry :-((

Any ultimate proposals will have the usual statutory processes to go through - plenty of time for open and robust, public debate then I'm sure.

But very good to see this change of approach at last - I welcome it.

Good old political spin

Classic example of some good old political spin emanating from the Council Administration today ... we're all being boldly told (yet again, via an official News Release?) that "The City of Edinburgh Council today committed to a freeze on Council Tax for 2008/2009"??

... er, sorry - that's a LIE.

When the the City of Edinburgh Full Council meets at 10am on Thursday 21st February 2008 (to set it's budget for 2008/09) I fully expect it may well commit to a freeze on Council Tax for 2008/2009 ... but to 'spin' that it has already done so is just NOT TRUE.

And read that official News Release again ... don't you just love the bit where our esteemed Deputy Leader tries to have a pop at the previous Administration's projected increase for this year, whilst failing to point out that it's exactly the same projected increase that his current partners (the Libs) had in their budget last year as well :-(

It's just the same old politics (as ever) in a new setting.

A bright new future for Edinburgh? ... if only.

No more re-branding?

On the whole, I thought Stewart Maxwell did a reasonable job yesterday of coping with a pretty bad set of cards that had been dealt to him via the SNP national manifesto:

"We will abolish sportscotland and establish the 3 national centres currently run by sportscotland as not-for-profit trusts." ??

... I hope he's had a word-in-the-ear of whoever wrote that !!

I know Stewart of old - through Fairshare - so do have to admit to a slight 'personal bias' in his favour, nevertheless I couldn't help but have a wry-smile to myself when I heard him say in Parliament something along the lines of ... "we'll be keeping the name of sportscotland as it would be a waste of time and money to go through a re-branding exercise". Really?

That, from a Scottish Government Minister ;-)

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Health Board elections?

I'm not against having direct-elections for Health Boards in Scotland - personally (I would say this, wouldn't I), I do believe the best solution would be to transfer all health functions that are truly local back to Local Authorities (who are, after all, directly elected!) and to have all national functions under a 'National (yes, elected) Board'.

That type of solution would certainly be more 'accountable' than some of the ideas mooted in yesterday's consultation paper, which it has to be said is a bit light on actual detail despite it's 23-pages.

It is though only a consultation paper (submissions requested by 1st April 2008) and I do hope that the SNP actually listen to some of the submissions they'll undoubtedly receive on this issue ...

... unlike the definite (and obvious) urgency that is needed over the Scottish Futures Trust, I think taking some time over this one could actually lead to longer-term benefits for all concerned - especially patients, who should remain the focus of this process.

Trustworthy Polls?

Those very recent American Poll results appear to be have been about as trustworthy as the SNP national manifesto from May 2007 ;-)

Hats off to Hillary Clinton - I reckon that's an impressive result given the huge onslaught she has faced, on the ground, within New Hampshire over the last 5-days.

Now, I have been receiving a few complaints from my regular readers about too much American politics (yes, I know they clearly need to get a life ? ) ... but fear not, it's a week now until the next US Primary, Michigan state (which won't really count for the reasons explained here) and then nothing until the 19th January! So, I promise to ease off for a few weeks and concentrate again on Edinburgh/Scotland :-)

But, I'll leave the 'American-anoraks' out there with this link - here - do have a quick look ... some of the language is very American (certainly not English!), but it is a good analysis of the Super-Tuesday situation.

It's a blog by an admitted Obama-supporter, and I assume that "Leans" equates to 'likely', or 'leaning towards' ... and if you scroll down and look at the total projections, it does strike me that an awful lot hinges on who actually wins California. With 370 delegates up for grabs, that single state could make or break either the Obama or Clinton overall totals.

Roll on the 5th February ...

... right, back to Edinburgh-politics :-(

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Waiting for all our futures ...

The Scottish Futures Trust that is ... I posted about all of this some time ago and argued then that I felt the Scottish Futures Trust was nowhere near delivery.

That was over three months ago; we're a good eight months after the election now and it transpires that there is to be NO development of a Scottish Futures Trust until at least March 2008.

Frankly, it will be a year (post-2007 election) at least before anything is developed and I still have serious doubts that any such Trust will be up and running this side of 2009. I'll repeat that I'd love to be wrong.

Why my renewed depression over all of this - well, have a look at this ... a consultation document launched a few days before Christmas (by co-incidence, of course) which asks for views on a Scottish Futures Trust to be submitted by March 14th 2008.

And if you think I'm being unduly pessimistic, then please do read paragraph 7.1 ... we're talking LONG GRASS here :-(

What a contrast with the SNP national manifesto from May 2007 ... have a look at PRIORITY bullet-point 7 in the 'Department of Finance and Sustainable Growth' here.

Some priority :-((

Monday, January 07, 2008

American obsession continues ...

Amazing set of poll results for Obama out in America today - see opposite!

I do think something quite extraordinary is happening in The States at the moment ... if he keeps up the momentum tomorrow in New Hampshire, he must go into Super-Tuesday (5th February) as clear favourite to sweep the board?

... I wouldn't put money on John McCain being able to stop such a juggernaut (if it happens!) in November. The Republicans need to damage him now, preferably for them before 5th February - unfortunately, I rather suspect they know that :-(

OKAY - no more posts about America until the New Hampshire results are in ;-)

No Big Brother here

I appear to actually "know someone" on the current Big Brother show ... bizarre, but true!

I have to say, it's NOT a programme I watch and would struggle to rate it in a full, round-number, in marks out of 10. Then again, apparently lots of people watch it ... so it must have something??

And, tragically, I won't be able to watch John Loughton's progress this time around, as the programme only appears to be running on E4 and not Channel4 ... for those that don't know, despite being 'reasonably' computer literate; when it comes to TV, I don't even have digital never mind satellite/cable :-((

John is the current Chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP) and is an all-round excellent chap ... in spite of his politics :-))

He's written an open-letter explaining his decision to go on Big Brother - you can read it on the SYP web-site here.

I do hope he's correct and that the experience is positive for both him and the SYP ... I have to say, I have my doubts and am not at all convinced that mixing reality TV and politics can be to the good?

I hope I'm wrong.

Knocked-out cold

Well, it's the start of a New Year and what's on many of my readers' minds - yes, you guessed it ... the bloody hamster!

I've had several e-mails asking for an update on her Presidential Campaign now that there appears to be a serious challenger ... honestly.

It's bad news I'm afraid - her campaign for the Presidency is all but dead-in-the-water and she is (politically) knocked-out cold ... why?; well even Janet Daly (at the Telegraph) is today predicting that Obama will get the Democratic nomination. She can't quite bring herself to foresee that he'll beat McCain (see her last couple of paragraphs) but in that I suspect she may well be wrong?

Either way, the hamster's run for the Presidency is looking at 10 very difficult months ahead :-((

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Decorations all down :-(

That's it - decorations all down for another year, Christmas Tree put out for collection/re-cycling ...

... and the flat is looking amazingly tidy once more - it won't last!

Back to work/school for everyone in the family tomorrow :-(

Saturday, January 05, 2008

America again

If you've got 20 minutes to spare (I know, I know!) do watch these two videos from Obama and Clinton as they respond to that result in Iowa a couple of nights ago.

Easy to overstate these things - but don't think I've heard such impassioned oratory as that from Obama for a very, very long time. For me, it's in a whole different league from Clinton's speech. Totally uplifting, positive and forward-looking.

I'm now entirely convinced that if he wins New Hampshire his campaign momentum will be nigh-on unstoppable.

By the way, you may spot on YouTube that over 300,000 people have watched the Obama video; as compared to some 3,000 the Clinton one. Might just say all there is to say?

Friday, January 04, 2008

More mis-use of Council resources?

Having recently applauded the local Nats for NOT following the same blatant mis-use of Council publications as their Liberal colleagues, I have to say I was somewhat surprised to have just spotted this Council News Release from 31st December.

Now, the actual content is fair enough (even though I do not agree with it!) - and I assume it all relates to this story in the Evening News of the same date? But it's the title of the Council News Release that frankly troubles me - have a look at it again.

Is responding "to Labour Party in Scotland Press Release" really what Council officers are paid to do ... shouldn't such blatant Party politicking be done by Party politicians or officials?

I distinctly remember several occasions between 1999 and 2007 when I was explicitly advised that I should NOT use Council press officers to respond to other political Party news releases, and even having to organise several 'Press Briefings' (mainly about Transport issues!) under my own Party banner (and at Party cost) because Council officers considered it too 'political' to be involved. All that despite the clear majority of the Council (albeit a one-Party majority) supporting the position I was trying to promote.

Oh how times, and standards, appear to have changed :-((

Huckabee and Obama

There's no doubt that American politics (and foreign policy) generates a disproportionate interest in the UK when compared to our much closer, continental European politics ... a continent (and political unit) that now unquestionably defies the size and economic (if not military) might of America.

The European Union (EU) now contains some 500million people compared to America's some 300million, making it the third largest population block in the world after the People's Republic of China and India. The EU also now has the world's highest overall GDP (Gross Domestic Product) - an oft-overlooked fact - with GDP here being close to $14,000billion per year compared to America's $13,000billion per year.

Yet, despite my frequent frustration at the blatant 'overlooking' of the economic and political might of the modern EU, I have to admit to finding myself completely and totally engrossed in the upcoming US Presidential Election in a way that EU politics just never 'grabs me' :-(

And last night's first round of nominating caucuses for the Democrats and Republicans in Iowa has only deepened my fascination :-((

And as with the recent Australian election, the BBC's chief US-reporter blog does seem to be shaping up to be a fascinating read over the coming months.

Now, it won't come as a shock to you that I'm principally interested in the Democratic race - I don't have a firm favourite! - and am amazed at the size of last night's Democratic turnout ... some 240,000 Iowans packed into (no doubt) cold, drafty halls and living rooms to choose a Presidential hopeful. That contrasts to some 120,000 in 2004!

Iowa (population wise) is about the size of Wales ... I just could not see 240,000 Welsh (or Scottish or English or Irish for that matter!) voters packing town halls and living rooms on a cold January night to discuss their preferred candidates?

I know the electoral, and nominating, processes aren't really directly comparable ... but what happened last night in Iowa must surely lift the spirits of depressed democrats (small d!) across the world?

If that's not exciting enough for all you political anoraks, I reckon that ... and here's my only New Year's prediction! ... if Clinton loses New Hampshire on 'Tuesday night/Wednesday morning' the first black President of the US will be elected in November of this year.

And he's a Democrat (capital D!) :-))

Thursday, January 03, 2008

New Year, less consumption?

I see the first few days of the 'New Year' press are full of all sorts of dire predictions of financial doom-and-gloom for 2008 ... apparently we are all destined to suffer from the 'Credit Crunch' and subsequently not be able to spend as much on consumables.

Oliver James has an interesting take on all of this in the Guardian today - here - it's well worth a quick read ... and do note the huge number of strongly-opinionated comments his article has generated; always a sure sign that an an author has hit the nail well-and-truly on the head!

I've touched on aspects of this debate before and do feel Oliver James has got a pretty strong point when he contests that our material needs as a nation are clearly being put (long) before our psychological needs.

... as many have said before; DOING WELL is now so much more important than BEING WELL :-(

It's a state of affairs that I'm certain will be seen as a huge, historical cul-de-sac.

Reindeer and mountains


Now back from Cairngorm Lodge Youth Hostel - great time had by all, with the kids especially enjoying all the activities on offer!

I'd highly recommend the location to any 'hostelers' out there - good accommodation and an excellent location for accessing a whole host of outdoor activities.

In no particular order:

Definitely another case of "back to work for a rest" :-))