Friday, July 25, 2008

Going North ...

That's it folks ...

... 'Going North' for a while, from tomorrow morning ;-)

Blogging will thus be light, to virtually non-existent, I'm afraid ... but I will resume normal service as soon as I possibly can. I know you simply just can't wait??

I am obviously hoping that the weather is somewhat better than in this graphic, and that the sun keeps shining ;-))

Back (quickly!) to some local politics ;-)

Okay - enough (if only!) of all this Glasgow East depression ...

... remember that set of Lib-Dem/SNP local parking proposals that I posted about a few days ago?

Well, they are in the local press again today - article here - and it appears there are yet more problems, than even the political-ones, with what's being put forward!

I won't be around when the detailed proposals finally make it to Committee next Tuesday, but I'm willing to bet they'll be pretty-much rejected in their current form at the first hurdle ...

P.S. Why can't some of the SNP Local Councillors start advising Alex Salmond on political strategy??

Thoughts on a roller coaster ride ...

It was indeed a real roller coaster ride last night (earlier this morning!) ... definite echoes of the 4th May last year :-(

... and I do repeat my congratulations to John Mason, the winner.

Now, I did promise some further general thoughts on it all ... so here goes:

As a self-confessed political anorak, I've admitted that I have been variously completely fascinated and slightly aghast at the antics of this by-election.

It has though been a 'relatively' clean-fought contest (just think back to Monklands in 1994 ... and remember I come from Airdrie!), so I wouldn't want to overstate this ... but, Glasgow East has been a VERY traditional first-past-the-post by-election with two large 'Party Machines' slugging it out to the almost total exclusion of all others concerned.

Frankly, and this is not a whinge but a statement of fact, I think the media haven't helped by just-about completely ignoring all other candidates beyond the, so-called, 'four main Parties' ... that categorisation in itself has been woefully incorrect in the context of Glasgow, witness in particular the Greens who have several Councillors and an MSP in Glasgow and were yet 'lumped' in with the SSP and Solidarity as 'also-rans'?

And its true that the nature of the contest did dictate the style of messaging adopted by both main contenders, but lets be honest, it wasn't exactly a feast of well-thought through policy debate ... from either side. And, to some extent, that style of political campaigning will be dictated by the rules of the game.

But the fact is the rules are now very, very different for the Holyrood and Westminster levels of Government. Many have argued, with some justification, that Labour ran a far too-traditional 'winner-takes-all' style of campaign last May ... and that habit (unfortunately for me, politically) continues apace in current contests, no matter what the rules. But both main Parties did revert to that type over the last three-weeks - the SNP more successfully, obviously :-(

Politics has moved-on unrecognisably from the mid-1990's and I just sense, that as is often the case, most of the main Parties are really struggling to actually keep pace with public expectations now that the landscape is so drastically changed ... and, in particular, Labour is struggling with this.

So yes, the Glasgow East campaign has been both uplifting in the sense that it did unquestionably involve hundreds (if not thousands) of Party activists from both the SNP and Labour; but it was also deeply depressing in that it took the shape of such a traditional 'slug-fest' between two main contenders to the exclusion of all others.

It is a truism that 'traditional' politics is in deep, deep trouble in this country. I don't think Glasgow East has helped extract us from that trouble - at all.

None of that should distract from the immediate significance of the SNP victory ... but are simply my thoughts on the longer-term significance for wider-politics - and, sadly, I'm not convinced its the 'democratic' turning-point that some are claiming, and many of us are desperate to see.

P.S. None of that, for one second, is to deny this is a very, very bad result for Labour :-((

Congratulations due to John Mason

Result now in - I'll put a link up here in a few minutes, once I've listened to the speeches :-(

And, first things first, congratulations are due to John Mason and the SNP campaign team ...

... I also think, and hope the SNP would concur this morning, that Margaret Curran should be applauded for putting up a sterling effort in fighting this seat in what cannot exactly be described as auspicious circumstances for the Labour Party.

I know that local debate has been heated at times over the last three weeks (more on that 'much' later today), but I don't think its been truly comparable (by any stretch of the imagination) to previous classic, Scottish by-election 'battles' ... and that has to be to the general credit of all the candidates.

Secondly, I wouldn't expect any immediate, or dramatic response, to what's happened this morning from the UK Government ... I wouldn't want to diminish the significance of what's occurred - but it has been a by-election and not a General Election.

Thirdly, there's just no denying this is a very bad result for Labour as a political Party.

Not good at all.

Looks like a re-count :-(

Looks like a re-count in Glasgow East :-(

The BBC have just reported an SNP majority of 354 on the first-count ... if true, that IS pretty close and 'any' Party would be well within their rights to call for a re-count in such circumstances ...

... still, its going to mean a longer night (morning!) than anticipated.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Exit polls?

Just after 10pm, the polls have closed, and - guess what - early indications are it will be very, very close!

No exit polls - as far as I know? - but I think this graphic may reflect somewhat how the next few hours go ...

It does seem the turnout has been relatively low - well, well down from the 48.2% turnout in the General Election of 2005.

... I'm going to try and keep blogging right through until the result comes out - given the turnout, I'm assured it should be called around 2am.

Its all being streamed live onto the main BBC News website as well, which you should be able to find here.

Happy viewing!

... but guess that will depend on your politics - and the final result of course??

UPDATE: Now hearing that some are predicting turnout could actually be just above 45% ... I'd be very surprised if that's true, but we'll know soon enough ...

UPDATE 2: The BBC are now confidently predicting the turnout at 42.25% ... that's a good 5-6% higher than I'd anticipated - what the final impact will be, we should now within the hour.

He's nearly there ...

No - hopefully not John Mason ;-) ... but Barack Obama does appear to be dominating the news agenda again, almost as if HE IS the President of the United States?

Less than 2-hours before the Glasgow East polls close and the UK mainstream media is covering Obama's speech in Berlin more than that 'much closer to home' potential political 'earthquake'??

I'm no betting man, and certainly haven't put any money on that Glasgow East contest! ... but I am tempted to break a habit over the Presidential contest this November in the States ...

What do you REALLY make of this?

I've just caught up with yesterday's local press coverage of those parking proposals I posted about a couple days ago ...

... and, what do you know, they appear to be as good as 'dead-in-the-water' politically - all within hours of being thrust into the public domain.

I know plenty of politically experienced people read this blog ... so do have a read at that press article; check out those named (and unnamed) quotes; and then tell me the current Council Coalition isn't a political shambles?

Being uncharacteristically partisan for a second, its 'manna from heaven' for Edinburgh Labour politicians watching all of this ...

... but, there's a distinct trend forming here of no difficult decisions being taken on almost any subject matter.

Ultimately, that's not good for the City of Edinburgh.

Sunshine on Glasgow

By-election Day - and the sun is shining ;-)

... has to be good for a higher turnout, but who will it benefit most??

We'll know soon enough ...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Pond life!

No - the post title has nothing whatsoever to do with by-election candidates some 50-miles to the West ;-)

... enough (for now) of all things 'Glasgow East' - I was very briefly down at the allotment today, as we're away soon and it was the last chance to get over there before we all escape for our main summer break ...

... AND - wait for it - the pond,which as regular readers will know is literally only a few weeks old, already has a resident frog!!

Of course, the photographic proof is above :-))

Junior has already named him "Kero-chan" ... doesn't mean a lot to me, but apparently its after a Manga character out of a book entitled 'Sergeant Frog'??

I (obviously!) immediately tried to canvass his political views, but he appeared entirely dis-interested ... maybe a 'Glasgow East' message today after all?

NP website now live!

The Neighbourhood Partnership website, whose lack of existence I was bemoaning a few weeks ago, is now up and running!

It can be found by going here.

... it does appear to have lots of good content - some progress at last!

Lets hope it helps towards better attendance at forthcoming meetings?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tribalism running riot

The Glasgow East by-election appears to be getting more and more partisan by the second - frankly, tribalism is now running riot across the blogosphere :-(

... I don't have to provide the links to prove it (I don't want to anyhow!) - you know its true.

And, personally, I think there's only going to be one 'long-term' loser come Friday morning: and it won't be either the SNP or Labour :-((

Now, I wasn't expecting weeks of detailed policy discussion and debate - its a by-election after all! - but, the fever-pitch I mentioned earlier, just keeps rising relentlessly.

I'll be sure to post more on this once the dust has settled ...

... meantime, I was sorry to hear that the Lib-Dem candidate had to pull out of the race - for today at least - due to a 'family emergency'. I don't know any of the details, but it must have been pretty serious to remove him from the campaign - I hope he's able to re-join the contest tomorrow and Thursday.


Well, its after 3pm now and still no sign of any Transport Committee papers?

... bizarrely, some 'background papers' for the Committee Meeting next Tuesday have just been delivered to our Group Office, but no agenda or reports :-(

... none of the 'background papers' relate to the parking proposals :-((

... and still absolutely nothing up on CPOL!

Ah well, its undoubtedly all part of the "Bright New Future" master plan?

UPDATE: Just after 4pm and here we finally have it!

Unacceptable ...

My last post mentioned that there has clearly been political briefing of the press, before a report has been made public. As at typing this post (just before 12noon) the report in question is still not up on CPOL.

... okay, not ideal, but I'm not going to complain vociferously about the practice of politically briefing the press - I think previous Administrations occasionally adopted this tactic :-(

... but what is totally unacceptable is that a formal Council Communications News Release is now up on their website and the report is still not public. That's paid officers publicising an official Council report BEFORE its in the public domain.

Simply unacceptable ... not to mention damned unprofessional.

Tax parked cars to improve air quality?

A fairly significant report has been leaked (on purpose I have to presume?) to the Scotsman this morning ... it concerns the potential use of differential charges for parking permits across the city.

Unfortunately the actual report, which is going to the Transport Committee next Tuesday (29th July), has not yet been made publicly available and has not yet been discussed within the Council.

Not a great start in trying to reach any sort of consensus on such a contentious issue :-(

The principle of what's being suggested does deserve investigation, but without access to the details of the report, its almost impossible to conclude whether what's being proposed is sensible, fair or reasonable?

One thing does stand out, even from the leaked proposals, and that's the issue of air quality. One justification for the proposals seems to be that we need to take this 'type' of action to help meet air quality targets?

It is true that the city faces tough EU targets for air quality, the first of which become mandatory in 2010 - and that deadline isn't far away now! But, I fail to see how these proposals will have any radical impact on air quality - 'commuting' vehicles are the challenge here, and not 'residential' vehicles.

And will there be any consultation on the proposals ... nothing in the coverage of the leaked report confirms or denies this issue? Frankly, it would be unacceptable to proceed without a full (local) public debate about what's being put forward here ...

P.S. I'll put a link up to the report as soon as it becomes available on the Council site.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Labour support grows in latest opinion poll

No - not yet another rise in Labour support in the last few days of the Glasgow East by-election. If only, if only :-(

... but from the latest Guardian/ICM Westminster poll (out today), with Labour up a huge 3-points and the Tories down a disastrous 2. Now, if that general trend continued for around three more months, the two major UK-Parties would be level-pegging at 37% each ... and still leaving over a full year to run until any UK General Election ;-)

... as they say, 'hope springs eternal' ;-))

Sunday, July 20, 2008

... back from Glasgow (2)

Back from Glasgow (2) ... gloriously sunny 'morning/afternoon' and one can only hope its like that on Thursday, as it does seem a lot will depend on getting the core vote out (for all the parties, but obviously for Labour/SNP in particular).

Still very hard to be completely certain about any outcome on the 24th July from the evidence of my time in the constituency ...

... one prediction only: it'll be close!

Vanishing poll lead?

Don't get too excited ... all you SNP blog-fans ;-) ... I'm just referring to some strange goings-on at the BBC Scotland web-site in the last 12-hours?

Before hitting the sack last night, this story had the absolute top slot on the 'BBC Scotland Politics' section of their website. I'm assuming it was referring to this poll from the Sunday Express today.

Now, I don't want to put too much significance on the content of another poll giving a lead to Labour ... as many have pointed out about last Sunday's Telegraph poll, the samples for these recent efforts have been only just over some 500 voters ...

... but, what is slightly odd is that this morning (before I head off to sunny Glasgow East itself!) I can only find the BBC story by googling it, as it appears to have been removed from the main links on their 'BBC Scotland Politics' section front-page?


Friday, July 18, 2008

Do the right thing ...

Today is the closing date for the consultation on plans for the so-called 'Local Income Tax' ... and although I'm not expecting the Scottish Government to publish the actual consultation submissions before next Thursday (for obvious reasons!), the Aberdeen Press & Journal is running a prominent story today that basically sums up what many key stakeholders think.

Its well worth a quick read.

These plans, as I posted about a few days ago, are to my mind unworkable and should simply be dropped in the Autumn and replaced with a sensible alternative ...

... it would be madness to press ahead with the proposals as they currently stand.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


One week to go until the Glasgow East by-election ... I have to admit that I'm fascinated by the absolute fever-pitch it all seems to have generated within the political corners of the Scottish blogosphere :-(

... I reckon it must be the first such by-election event that has had such an intensity of 'blogging-activity' - just too many links to put up.

... I certainly can't remember such a furious level of posting (and such posting fury!) for the 2006 'Dunfermline and West Fife' by-election??

Anyhow, back over to Glasgow this coming Sunday myself - so more thoughts will follow thereafter no doubt ...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Oooops ...

No - this post has nothing to do with the Glasgow East by-election :-(

... its just about an appalling personal gaffe two posts ago, that has ruined my relationship (for what it was worth!) with my favourite local newspaper :-((

Just received a searing riposte, via e-mail, pointing out that said local paper had indeed run the 'cost of dying' story the day BEFORE the BBC ... oooops.

... and what makes it even worse, is that Iain Whyte (the only politician quoted in the story) didn't accuse Edinburgh Labour of being responsible for it all ... or, if he did, they cut that bit of his quote out ;-)

Well, I suppose, my factual transgression does at least prove that not all local politicians are obsessed with the Evening News - reading it cover to cover every day ... at least not on a Tuesday anyhow ;-))

Congratulations LB

Many congratulations are definitely deserved for Lothian Buses (LB) who have just won the top award as Britain's best public transport operator - topping the poll for the fourth year since 2000!

Pretty impressive.

Having lived in numerous British cities over the years, and putting any political bias to one side, I do actually appreciate just how good LB are in comparison to a lot of their peers ...

... even if I have, in the main, abandoned their services for a superior form of transport ;-))

Don't die just yet ...

BBC Scotland website is running a "don't die just yet ..." story about the cost of funerals in Edinburgh.

... putting any dark-humour to one side, they do appear to be pretty expensive when contrasted to almost anywhere else in the UK?

I'm willing to take any bet that if this story gets some local coverage then, despite earlier avowed intentions, we'll get the blame :-(

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Local taxation ...

I've posted extensively about my fears over the future health of Scottish Local Government, all of which is potentially about to be further compounded by what is erroneously being called a 'Local Income Tax (LIT)' ...

... others can judge for themselves, but my worries in this area are generally apolitical - if the Scottish Government were devolving real, autonomous powers to Local Government and were about to bring forward a genuinely, variable Local Income Tax then I would not be voicing such outright opposition to what's been happening to Local Government post-May 2007.

There are plenty of local activists and politicians, across ALL parties (including the SNP), who privately agree with me.

Given that Single Outcome Agreements are now with us - for the foreseeable future at least - then I'm left wondering if there is yet some room for redemption in the LIT plans currently out for consultation?

And, to be honest, I can see few sensible outcomes (short of them being abandoned, or voted down in their current form) - but one solution just could be Land Value Tax (LVT - which does get a mention in the Scottish Government consultation)?

LVT has a long pedigree and there is a wealth of material available on the internet explaining it - I like Mark Braund's writing in this area as he makes plain the links between LVT and the (potential of) wider social and other economic benefits.

Its the Scottish Greens who have made some headway in getting LVT on the Holyrood agenda ... but whether the SNP will be willing to back away from their flawed LIT-plans and opt for something completely different is still pretty unlikely from where I sit ...

... yet, you never know - the consultation closes in a couple of days and there is the promise of imminent legislation thereafter. By the time that legislation gets to the Holyrood debating chamber, there will be (at least!) two new Party Leaders in post, who between them will lead 62 of the Parliaments 129 votes.

Along with the 2 Greens and Margo MacDonald they could all just surprise me ;-)

Monday, July 14, 2008


That's the "Federation of Edinburgh and District Allotments and Gardens Associations" ... and they have a new website: here!

... and for all you 'allotmenteers' out there, do check the website if you haven't already looked - loads of useful information, especially for us novices ;-)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

... back from Glasgow

Back from Glasgow ... and, to be honest, hard to be completely certain about any outcome on the 24th July from the evidence of my day :-(

Leafletting in a pretty strong Labour area of the constituency in the morning, and canvassing what can only be classed as 'not fertile Labour territory' in the afternoon ... so, pretty mixed views and one can only conclude that it is indeed going to be a tight result!

... so, to the few Labour Party members who read this blog - get over to Glasgow East in the next 10-days; and to the legions of Nats who follow my on-line ramblings - just stay in front of those computer screens until 25th July ;-))

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Poll disparity

A mere couple of day ago the Daily Telegraph (ignore the bit about Independence!) had the SNP ahead of Labour for 'Westminster voting intentions' by a clear 4-points ... yet, I've just spotted this Glasgow East poll, which is being run in tomorrow's Sunday Telegraph which has Labour ahead of the SNP by 14-points ...

... now, I know the first is a generic poll on Scottish UK-voting intentions, and the second is a Glasgow East specific poll - but the disparity in the figures is just huge!

Well, as mentioned earlier, I'm off to Glasgow tomorrow so will let you know what I experience - but one of those polls surely has to be very, very wrong ... no prizes for guessing which I'd prefer to be accurate ;-)

Inaccurate speculation ...

The venerated Shandon Mince - mentioned on these pages before - had indeed better have good lawyers after their last piece of inaccurate speculation surrounding the development of a canal 'slipway' in West Harrison Park ...

... there is NOT but one new slipway in Harrison Park - there are in fact TWO; one in the West part of the Park and another in East Harrison Park.

Rumours that one slipway is for my private yacht are entirely unfounded - everyone, who is anyone, knows full well that the leaders of the Council Coalition partners (Libs and Nats) have each had one built for their personal use.

Absolutely nothing to do with me and my lawyers will be in touch with "The Mince" very soon ;-))

Friday, July 11, 2008

Permissive localism ... not here thank you :-(

You won't be surprised to hear that I don't always agree with the Guardian columnist, Simon Jenkins ... but today, he has a pretty good article on the Communities White Paper that I mentioned a couple of days ago ...

... he may not debate the use of electoral reform, but the other criticisms he levels at the current state of English Local Government are (sadly) fairly applicable to Scotland as well.

STV-PR, up here, may change things over time (its not though, a panacea), but currently there appears to be no further, associated moves to devolve further powers to local people ... quite the opposite!

... indeed, I would contest that the last 14-months have seen more control removed from a local level than since the onset of devolution in 1999. We're pretty much nothing more than a 'delivery-arm' of national Government now.

All pretty ironic when you consider that many anti-devolutionists thought that the Scottish Parliament would lead to the 'immediate' emasculation of Scottish Local Government (it didn't happen) ... so, even more incredible when you think that its actually taken the Party of "Independence" to remove that very thing from the tier of Government they now control :-(

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Badger watch!

No, this post has nothing to do with Alistair Darling ;-)

Went on a "real" badger watch this evening out near Ratho ... details at the bottom of this page.

It was really mesmerising - had to sit quietly for over an hour (junior did very well!) before the badgers emerged from their set, but thereafter it was an absolute pleasure being able to watch them play and run around the surrounding area.

The evening ended with the complete family of badgers - six in total I think? - bounding across the neighbouring field, and into the adjoining section of wood :-))

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Power shift to local people?

I see the Department for Communities and Local Government (down South) have published their long-awaited White Paper on empowering local communities today ...

... when you read the Press Release, its all decent stuff - hard to disagree with - but not a single mention of the one thing that would completely transform local government in England in one stroke? Electoral reform, of course.

Have a look at the contrasting facts contained within these two ERS Press Releases:

A "power shift to local people" ... well, you can make up your own mind?

... despite my deeply-held (political) concerns around the so-called "historic" single outcome agreements, I do know which part of the UK has given real power back to 'local people' - and its not England I'm afraid :-(

April 1st?

I know I shouldn't - but I defy you to read this story on the BBC-site today, whilst keeping a perfectly straight face ;-))

I had to double-check it wasn't April 1st ...

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Glasgow East

I've had loads of folk asking what my views are on the contest currently underway (just!) in Glasgow East ...

... well, I'm off over to my 'home city' this coming Sunday, to lend some assistance to local campaigning efforts, and I will indeed report back in due course ;-)

Monday, July 07, 2008

"Work in progress"

Back to the grindstone today, and awash with mail - mostly the inevitable flood of e-mails having been away for a week :-(

One piece of 'snail-mail' awaiting me, was the new-look "Edinburgh Council Services A-Z" ... I've no doubt that the new (smaller A5) format will grow on me, but its truncated size does surely mean it contains a lot less information than previously?

... one page that did catch my eye was the full A5 spread on 'Neighbourhood Partnerships', which boldly directs you to a new website for further information:

- as you'll see, if you follow the link above, Neighbourhood Partnerships (in more ways than one) are still "work in progress" :-((

Why members of the public couldn't just be re-directed here I don't know? ... most of the relevant information is all contained therein!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Challenging time ahead ...

Back to work tomorrow ... and, as everyone keeps telling me (thanks!), there is undoubtedly a challenging 4-years ahead for Labour in Edinburgh :-(

Well, that fact you cannot deny!

... but - just to be clear - in my new role I will be concentrating remorselessly (although not exclusively) on local politics in Edinburgh's City Chambers, and I have every intention of holding the current Council Coalition to account for their actions.

... their record of the last 14-months suggests they can expect some very difficult times ahead.

The best man won

I'm no tennis-expert, but I would say that the best man (on the day) won Wimbledon this evening ... and what a match!?

... don't know about anyone else, but I feel a bit of a nervous wreck having watched the majority of the last three sets?

And just imagine what Nadal must have been going through, having lost three match-points before clinching it??

An absolute classic.

Allotment update

Spent a lot of the morning, and the early afternoon, down at the allotment today ... such an incredible amount of growth in only one week - just look at the size of those cabbages!

... and we managed to take a whole box-load of veg. back to the flat, as you can see from the second photo here ;-))

We'll certainly need to share some of the allotment-produce with numerous friends and family over the coming weeks ;-)

Rushed back home to try and catch the men's tennis final!

Glorious Galloway ...

Have spent the last week down at the very southern end of Galloway - second time this year - and have to admit, that we're now a little hooked on this particular part of Scotland.

It is so pleasantly quiet in comparison to many other areas of the country and definitely seems relatively undiscovered.

This time we shared a lighthouse cottage, right at the tip of the Mull of Galloway, with another family of friends ... accommodation was great, and the surrounding area was really stunning - even during the one-day of rain we had ;-)

... and regular blog readers may recall I'm not much of a freshwater fisherman, well I'm pleased to report (its the 'taking part' that counts!) that I'm now an equally unsuccessful seawater fisherman ;-)

... but we're up in Orkney later this summer - so there is hope yet for success with my new "beachcaster" ;-))

Wonderful Radiohead ;-))

Back from a week-long break ... and what a week to be away :-(

... anyhow, before I report on the holiday (and I suppose I'll have to mention national politics again at some stage?) - I must just say how absolutely, bloody marvelous Radiohead were on Friday 27th June, on Glasgow Green ;-))

... to say the weather was far from ideal, would be an under-statement - but it didn't dampen the impact of the concert in any way, shape or form ... the stage show was stunning, and the music was just simply ethereal.

If you EVER get the chance to see Radiohead live, don't miss them!