Saturday, January 31, 2009


Several colleagues on the Council have pointed out the significant downgrading of Edinburgh's main development areas in the latest version of the National Planning Framework (NPF) currently out for consultation ... the background can be found here.

Following this round of consultation, the next version of the NPF(2) is apparently to be published this Spring (2009).

I guess you can judge for yourself, by following some of the links within those above, but this link provides the current text on Edinburgh ...

... for the Capital City of Scotland, it doesn't amount to much as far as I'm concerned :-(

Friday, January 30, 2009

Full Council papers out ...

Next week's Full Council papers are out this morning ... (all up on CPOL) and the main agenda can be found here.

I'll regret this prediction ... but I reckon it could be quite a prompt meeting??

... can't say I'm as optimistic about the following Thursday (12th February), when the 2009/10 Council Budget will be set :-(

Thursday, January 29, 2009

He's got all the whiskey :-(

Very saddened to hear of John Martyn's death today ... went to see him live in a small Stoke-on-Trent venue (think it was as far back as 1989?) and his solo performance was completely mesmerising.

His 1998 album, 'The Church With One Bell', is still one of my all-time favourites.

What can I say: "He's got all the whiskey, still won't give me none." :-((

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

London bound today ...

Off to London today - Electoral Reform Society (ERS) duties calling ...

... definitely noticing more trips to the 'big smoke' since taking on the Chair's role!

So far, so good though - managing to fit in plenty of other meetings and events whenever I'm in London :-)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

City resilience?

Meant to blog a couple of days ago about some press coverage of Edinburgh being on 'amber alert' as regards the possible impact of the recession on the city ... BBC covered the story here; all based on a report launched by the Centre for Cities.

Whilst acknowledging that things are looking pretty serious for Edinburgh, when you actually go to the full report, which generated this story - it can be accessed directly here - there are quite a lot of underlying strengths within Edinburgh (qualification standards being the one that jumps out) which do hold out some hope of longer-term recovery for the Capital.

... definitely worth a quick read.

Warning to Aberdeenshire

Fairly significant developments up in Aberdeenshire Council being reported this morning ... see the Scotsman article here; and BBC Scotland coverage here.

I've blogged about Martin Ford before - and can only assume he's made a very difficult decision after considerable thought. Shame he didn't do a 'Katie Moffat' :-)

... more seriously, it adds to a growing list of potentially significant changes in Council control since May 2007 - think the rest are encapsulated in this earlier post?

And it does look like Aberdeenshire is now in a fairly similar position to Edinburgh, with all key decisions going to be dependant on the casting vote of the Lord Provost.

Warning to Aberdeenshire - believe me, it's not a good way to do business :-((

Monday, January 26, 2009

Budget, budget, budget ...

Fairly lengthy 'Group Meeting' earlier today ...

... only a few weeks to go now until the Council sets its 2009/10 budget on Thursday 12th February, and our 'alternative plans' are generating plenty of internal debate and discussion!

... has to be a healthy sign?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Budget blackout

This year's Holyrood budget appears to be lining-up as a much more constructive affair than 2008 ... even if just some of today's press coverage is to be believed?

It's a stark contrast - the process of constructing the national budget - as opposed to the process of constructing Edinburgh Council's budget ... sadly, its a good example of the "old politics in a new setting" point that I've been making about Edinburgh City Chambers ever since the last local elections :-(
  • the Political Administration in Holyrood will simply have to make concessions - to various Opposition Parties - to get their 2009 Budget Bill passed.
  • the Political Administration in the City Chambers haven't even bothered to open a dialogue about their 2009 budget with Opposition Groups?
All part of the City's "Bright New Future" ...

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Burns Supper success

Burns Supper this evening was a great success ... venue was super, speakers excellent, and generally good atmosphere all-round.

... and even the veggie haggis (for the apparently diminishing band of those of us who eat it) was good :-)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Heads below the parapet

Tram works start again big-time from this coming weekend ... the relevant Council press release can be found here.

My long-term support for trams is well known - and I do want the tram works to go smoothly - but yet again, we appear to be launching into very significant traffic management changes and not one local politician is quoted on the press release?

... all this despite an apparent recognition back in December that clear political leadership was required - see here??

Not a good omen for the forthcoming weeks of disruption I fear :-(

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Burns mania (this weekend)

Regular readers will know that I attend (and help organise somewhat) an annual Burns Supper event ...

... well, along with what appears to be half of the rest of the world!, its our big event this coming Saturday night :-)

And being the personal interface with the venue doing the food, I've definitely noticed a significant drop-off in the number of vegetarian haggis' being ordered for these events over the last few years ... it appears my earlier pleas have failed miserably :-(

Not to worry - I'm sure it will still be a good night!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Hope springs eternal ... even at the Council?

In all the hype of 'Inauguration Day' ... I plain forgot to mention something positive that happened at the Policy and Strategy Committee yesterday ... I know, I know, it was a shock to me as well!

I must (slightly) retract my earlier whining about there being little or no chance of the Strategic Partnership monies being used to help ease the transitional period for many Forth Ward FSF-funded projects ...

... because; I verbally moved an additional recommendation, worded thus:

6.2 To instruct officers to bring an update report on transitional funding - including the possible use of further Strategic Partnership funding - to the next meeting of the Policy and Strategy Committee.

And it was accepted!!

Now I know it only says 'possible use' but I will temporarily suspend all criticism and sincerely hope that senior Politicians and Officers do actually apply a little good will, and use the monies available to help ease what could otherwise be a virtually terminal situation for many groups ...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Quite a day

Just watched the US Presidential Inauguration ... possibly prophetically, 'BBC News 24 on-line' seems to have completely collapsed (presumably overloaded?) and I've had to resort to to catch the final parts of the ceremonies ;-)

... CNN has a live Facebook feed and the "What are you doing right now?" comments as former President Bush leaves by helicopter are rather uplifting :-)

... indeed, nearly as uplifting as Obama's own speech :-))

Quite a day.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Budget secrets

Don't think I ever mentioned this at the time ... but several months ago there was a decision taken to consult on the Council Budget using the internet as the primary interface.

We did have some doubts at the time; tried to get the current Coalition to resurrect the 'Citizens Panel' which used to look at these issues in conjunction with all the usual internet-based questionnaires etc.

But no luck, the Libs/Nats ploughed on insisting that the internet-based questionnaires would generate enough feedback for them to gauge public views on their budget plans ...

... well - have a look here :-(

In a city of nearly half a million people, 343 responses were received via the Council web-site questionnaire ... and 1 of them was from me!!

Worse still - I don't think any of this has been reported back formally to the Council and/or Elected Members even informed of the results?

Not good.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Beware the Big Beasts

Back to the future?

... what with Mandelson and now Clarke, it feels just like the early to mid-1990's all over again!

As long as we don't see a repeat of the 9th April 1992 :-((

Sunshine and showers ...

Now that the 1st anniversary of the allotment is imminent, I thought I'd try and get that one job completed which has been bothering me for months ...

... re-seal the shed roof, which has one or two significant leaks :-(

And, the weather this morning looked ideal for the 3-4 hours the sealant needs to dry. I thus duly got myself down to the allotment, applied the sealant successfully over the whole shed roof in glorious winter sunshine ... only for the heavens to open almost immediately that I'd finished the job :-(

Would you believe it - bloody Scottish weather!

No idea if the final product will now seal the leaky shed roof or not - will need to await some suitable dry weather for a formal inspection ... could be some time away, given the cloud-cover over the allotments as soon as I'd put down the brush :-((

Friday, January 16, 2009

Unfair Scotland Fund?

The so-called 'Fairer Scotland Fund' (FSF) saga in North Edinburgh continues to rumble on and on ...

... think I last mentioned it back in December when numerous deputations came up to the Full Council?

In December, what many thought was a bit of a 'breathing space', was achieved by an all-Party agreement to refer everything on until the next Policy and Strategy Committee meeting (on 20th January) ... dialogue could continue and possible transition arrangements put in place?

At least that's what I hoped - but it appears none of that has happened :-(

The promised 'further report' is indeed at next Tuesday's Policy and Strategy Committee (main agenda can be found here and the specific report on FSF here) ... there is no mention of ANY CHANGE in stance or ANY POSSIBILITY of some sort of transitional funding :-((

... yet please do have a look at Appendix 1 of that specific report on FSF - it shows two very clear facts:
  • most of the 12 (geographical) Neighbourhood Partnerships have managed to resolve their 2008/09 and 2009/10 allocations, some even have small 'carry forwards'
  • the Strategic Partnerships (see numbers 13-16 in the Appendix) have also mostly resolved their allocations but have an astonishing total 'carry forward' of over £540,000

Surely, with a bit of political will, some transitional relief could be corporately managed for the many Forth Ward projects who are currently facing complete closure?

I won't be holding my breath ...

A Leaky Chanter?

New blog discovered this week, which could well be worth checking out on a more frequent basis ...

... the 'FM Twitter' feed in the right-hand side-bar is very, very funny :-)

Holyrood was supposed to be different?

Given my ruminations on this issue over the last couple of Thursday's - here and here - does appear that the FM is also a keen 'really bad blog' reader, as he's quite clearly getting his retaliation in first on the whole saga ... Scotsman reports this morning that:

"Last night Mr Salmond welcomed the (Committee) inquiry, and (also) referred a row which began last week over the Inter Faith Council to George Reid and Lord Steel, the former parliamentary presiding officers, to independently scrutinise matters relating to the ministerial code."

If all this frantic activity serves to ensure a bit more civility and straight-answering of questions at FMQ's, then it will have achieved something worthwhile.

Currently, as I said a couple of week's ago, FMQ's is beginning to resemble its Westminster cousin in style and character ... not what many of us who campaigned long-and-hard for devolution were hoping for :-(

Thursday, January 15, 2009

More FM bluster ...

Watched FMQ's (in retrospect on the computer!) again this week ... not only was the First Minister up to his usual bluster and failure to give a straight answer - he even started actually 'asking questions' of some of the Opposition Group Leaders?

... not sure that's quite what was envisaged by those who wrote the Standing Orders for the Scottish Parliament? I'm sure they thought FMQ's was supposed to be about the Legislature holding the Government to account??

So ... following yet another half-hour of complete bluster and the total avoidance of giving answers to serious questions ... I am completely unsurprised at developments later this afternoon after FMQ's had finished.

This motion seems to have brought things to a head ... but personally, I think the Presiding Officer is secretly reading this blog ;-)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


The Standards Commission 'appears' to have now reported on the long-running "incontrovertible proof" saga ...

... hope the Lord Provost remembers that very public statement he made - back during the October Council Meeting - guaranteeing that the whole saga would come back before the Full Council after the Standards Commission had duly reported.

Should be on the agenda for the next Council Meeting on Thursday 5th February then??

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

+67% increase in schools revenue funding

There was a point during the December Council Meeting where the Convener of Education tried to claim that school revenue budgets had been reduced over recent previous years - she even went so far as to put it in black and white in a motion (not on CPOL yet - but it will be eventually I'm sure!) ... all related to item 10.11 on the agenda here.

... our side of the Chamber was pretty incredulous at such an insinuation - not just because its a pile-of-arrant-nonsense, but because its nothing short of a blatant mis-truth.

... and I've now unearthed the 2004 briefing note from Officers which confirms in black-and-white:

"The Education Budget
A budget breakdown for the past five years (Revenue and Capital) is enclosed. Key investments are as follows:

  • Revenue has increased by 67% over the past 5 years
  • Capital Investment over 5 years £301.96 million"

Yes - that's a 67% increase in Revenue Budget from 1999 through to 2004 ... given that Revenue Budgets CONTINUED TO GO UP in the following 3-years, then it is perfectly correct to state that revenue expenditure on schools increased by over 67% throughout the previous two Labour terms of office (1999-2007).

But hey, portraying a '+67% increase' as a 'reduction' is all part of a days work for the current Council Administration :-(

Frankly - I struggle to believe a word they say.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Credit Union support

I want to welcome a Scottish Government funding initiative ... yes, I know it's a shock ;-)

... seriously, as someone who, as I've mentioned before, is both a member of a local credit union (and the Co-operative Bank), I do very much welcome the announcement today to set up a £250,000 fund to help credit unions grow and weather the current global downturn.

I hope Edinburgh's Capital Credit Union gets their application in quickly ;-)

Flying statistics

Would really be something if the 'flying statistics' reported in today's Herald were due to a positive choice to stop using aircraft ...

... but, it does appear to be mostly down to economic circumstances?

Does therefore seem to me, that these figures will rise significantly again in due course until a really constructive alternative is offered - and yet, a truly high speed rail link between 'Edinburgh/Glasgow' and London seems as far away as ever :-(

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Christmas trees everywhere!

As instructed - see all the details here - I, along with 100's of other residents in South West Edinburgh dutifully put my Christmas tree out for collection (and recycling) on Thursday 8th January ...

... don't know if anyone else has noticed, but there appears to have been NO collection of trees in South West Edinburgh on Thursday 8th January - and the local area now has dozens of trees blowing around all over the place (especially given the very high winds over the weekend).

If the Council website is correct, these trees will now lie around until this Thursday, and maybe even next??

There does appear to be a growing pattern of simple basics just not being attended to right across the city ... not good at all :-(

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Con-trick appears to have worked?

Sadly, it appears my hope just yesterday that local Lib-Dems would have the guts to speak up about the low level of the so-called 'Capital City Supplement' has already been shattered :-(

Scotsman has a brief piece on all of this today - here - wherein:

The council's finance leader (who is a Lib-Dem) said: "We're not disappointed at all; this was broadly in line with what we expected. We will continue to argue for more, as we believe Edinburgh has a very strong case for additional support, but this is £3.5m more than we had last year and is certainly very welcome."

If its what was expected, why did we ask for ten-times that amount?

... and sorry, we received more money under the 'Cities Growth Fund'; and this is an overall funding reduction :-(

I despair, I really do :-((

Friday, January 09, 2009

New local food initiative?

Spotted that a very local (Shandon!) food initiative is being punted via a new (I think?) website ...

... sounds like a throughly sensible idea - maybe I should offer to provide some produce from the allotment ;-))

Capital City con-trick

I see its been 'unofficially' confirmed today - Evening News has the story here - that Edinburgh is to get some £3.5million per year as a 'Capital City Supplement' ...

... now, I don't blame the Nats for trying to portray this as a stunning success:

"An aide to Mr Swinney said: "For the first time, a Scottish budget is making provision for a capital city supplement."

i.e. this is the first time specific funding for the Capital is being provided ... problem is, its a lie.

Not only is it a lie, its also a lot less money than was provided under the previous Scottish Executive from 2004-2007 ... that funding was called the 'Cities Growth Fund', it no longer exists, and it gave Edinburgh £24.2million over three years. Just have a browse through some of these links:

Now, I'm not one to say no to £3.5million per year - I was entirely supportive of the current Lib/Nat Council Administration's efforts to extract a 'Capital City Supplement' from the SNP Scottish Government - problem is, this is an overall reduction in funding from previous Capital City programmes (such as the 'Cities Growth Fund').

It is another Scottish Government con-trick ... I can only hope, probably in vain, that senior Lib-Dems in Edinburgh's local Administration will have the political gumption to say so??

Thursday, January 08, 2009

SFT a total failure

Forth Road Bridge again I'm afraid ... watched FMQ's this afternoon where the Bridge featured in questions and, acknowledging my own political bias, I think the whole FMQ process is becoming incredibly predictable in that the First Minister simply never answers a question :-(

... bluster, shouting, bit more bluster, then some raucous back-bench applause - becoming more and more like Westminster every week; which is rather tragic when you consider the present Scottish Government's view on the workings of Westminster :-((

Anyhow, back to the Bridge - absolutely no answers as to why the fabled Scottish Futures Trust (SFT) was supposedly 'good' for such a project, as confirmed by various Cabinet Secretaries (on numerous occasions) back in 2008, but now 'its not an appropriate vehicle for such a large project'?

The whole SFT saga now reeks to high heaven and its obvious to anyone that its becoming a complete farce ...

... it won't play any part whatsoever in funding a new Forth Crossing and much, much worse there is still as yet NOT ONE SINGLE NEW SCHOOL CONTRACT been initiated by the SNP Government since May 2007. It is a total failure.

All the FM bluster in the world can't hide that simple truth.

Allotment update

Been a while since I gave any update on the allotment :-(

... my better-half was down there today and we subsequently had brussel sprouts, leeks and spinach for our dinner this evening - all straight from the plot!

Only a few weeks now until the 1st anniversary of our tenancy ... and looks like we'll be cropping vegetables right up until that date :-)

London calling ...

Been down in London yesterday/today (still sticking to that no-flying pledge ... 2-years and counting now!) to catch up with some colleagues ...

... and it has to be said that London was actually MUCH colder than Edinburgh. Very strange?

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Yet more funding fears ...

This story doesn't apply specifically to Edinburgh, but is sadly another example of the significant (and potentially very serious) flaws inherent within the whole "concordat/SOA" approach to the delivery of local services ...

... I know I've banged on about it all at length, but please do read this short BBC Scotland piece and tell me honestly that all is well with current arrangements?

No ... I'm afraid it's a microcosm of all that's gone wrong.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

"The genius of evolution"

There is an absolutely fantastic four-part series on Radio 4 this week (running at 9am every morning) - all the details here - marking the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin ...

... if you've missed any so far this week, you can listen to all the programmes from the link above ;-)

Such a simple, yet startling idea for its time, and it has explained so much. Does anyone know of an idea that has a bigger ratio of 'what it explains' divided by 'what it assumes'?

I certainly don't.

Monday, January 05, 2009

"Schools to go greener" - except in Scotland's Capital City

Absolute classic of a News Release out today from the Scottish Government - see it here ...

... nothing wrong with the content whatsoever - indeed, the aspiration to "maximise the uptake by authorities of the UK Low Carbon Building Programme (LCBP) which provides 50 per cent funding for the installation costs of a range of renewable technologies" seems eminently sensible.

One slight problem when it comes to Edinburgh though - just have a look at the UK Low Carbon Building Programme (LCBP) web-site ... here and here ... then contrast it with what happened last year in our fair Capital City - here :-(

As I said at the time; "each and every Lib-Dem and Nationalist Councillor in Edinburgh should truly be ashamed if this decision goes ahead (to cancel Biomass Boilers in 7 schools). Weren't they being serious when they said that our environment had to be "protected for future generations"?

A truly shameful episode - all to save a bit of initial capital outlay ...

... and sadly, I still don't think the current crowd in charge really know that at times they just need to tell officers where to get off.

Too late now for those 7 schools though :-((

'Labour Council delivered for Edinburgh' claims current Lib-Dem Council Leader!

I mentioned yesterday how much I was looking forward to reading all my e-mails upon my return to work today ...

... well, the one I've enjoyed most is the 'New Year Message' from our dear Council Leader wherein she boldly proclaims:

"The Council, and its staff, has already proven its ability to deliver for Edinburgh. As Scotland's most improved urban authority we are leading the way in providing the services our residents want."

What she fails to mention is just what that claim is based upon - so I'll tell you instead:
  • it comes from Audit Scotland, the public spending watchdog, who recently identified Edinburgh as Scotland's most improved urban council
  • in fact, I blogged about it when the report came out in November 2008 - see here
  • the actual Council report, which summarises all this can be found here, and paragraph 5.2 has the 'most improved urban authority' statement
  • the whole assessment upon which this claim rests is contained within Appendices 1 and 2 of the report - PLEASE have a quick look at pages 6 through to 14 here
  • you'll see the three years upon which the claim is based are;
  • 2005/2006 - Labour in control, and Labour set the budget
  • 2006/2007 - Labour in control, and Labour set the budget
  • 2007/2008 - Lib/Nats in control, but Labour set the budget!

Totally outrageous - a politician taking the credit for something which they played no part in delivering ... indeed, they actually opposed all three budgets upon which this success is based.

I've never heard the like of it ;-)

Sunday, January 04, 2009

London stole our bridge?

I sadly thought this would happen :-(

... and mentioned such at the start of last month - see here (read past the 'Glasgow trams shocker'!) ...

My one and only New Year prediction is that 2009 will see lots and lots more of this nonsense ...

... blaming London for just about everything seems to be the current favourite political pastime of the Scottish Government, alongside promoting the "Year of Homecoming" :-(

Welcome to modern Scotland :-((

Happy New Year!

Well, I have survived the traditional family-Christmas (just!), and am now safely back in sunny Edinburgh after a few days up in Aviemore to celebrate Hogmanay ... a very similar trip to last year, but much, much more snow this time around :-)

Believe it or not, this is Loch Morlich (above) - totally frozen and with a fresh covering of snow!

Four families braved Aviemore Youth Hostel this time around ... 8 adults and 8 kids in total ... and a good time was had by all.

Cairngorm Reindeer Herd was a firm favourite with the older kids, and some of the adults managed a bit of winter walking again ... but just look at those conditions :-))

2009 can only get better ... surely?

... once again, definitely a case of "back to work for a rest"!

... I am so looking forward to getting back to all those e-mails tomorrow :-(