Sunday, January 30, 2011

Only 13-weekends left!

Only 13-weekends of Holyrood campaigning left after today!

So - no rest for the wicked, and most of this afternoon spent on the doors. I swear the boundary-changes to Central appear to have made door-knocking harder --- more likely I'm just getting older :-(

Anyhow, very good turnout of Party activists and all seem up-for the next few months of extremely hard work.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Burns Supper 3

Burns Supper number three tonight!

No speeches to give this evening though - was asked to simply 'Chair' the Tynecastle High School annual event ... first one in the new school actually, as they had only 'just' moved into the new building this time last year and had a break.

Very enjoyable evening, with excellent addresses (Immortal Memory, Toast to the Lassies, and the Reply) from three members of staff at the school.

More generally, glad to hear (and see) everyone still being so positive about the new building and facilities - they still feel brand new and look as if every care is being made to keep them so ;-)

Glasgow today ...

Over in Glasgow most of today - no respite from the Holyrood campaigning though!

.... attending a brief training-event for the Party's Print Scheme for the upcoming election. I used the package for Alistair's re-election last May and was hugely impressed with it - looks even better this year ;-)

Friday, January 28, 2011

More interesting AV polls

More interesting polling on the AV-referendum reported today ... you can see all the details here ...

... once again, were the 'actual question' is being asked then the YES-vote looks a likely winner; but not with the question as posed by YouGov.

How long can YouGov carry on 'not asking' the actual referendum question? Surely someone in their organisation must just bite-the-bullet and move on to the actual question soon - when the Bill is finally passed in the next couple of weeks possibly?

Burns Supper 2

Asked to stand in (just yesterday!) at another Burns Supper this evening - and give the Immortal Memory :-(

... actually - was a very enjoyable evening: 'Scottish Labour Students' main annual event, with a very welcoming atmosphere, good food and good company.

Not sure how good the speeches were mind ;-)

... and I can't possibly comment on the 'reply from the lassies' which was as blue as they come: the offending female MP must remain nameless.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Audit Committee

Audit Committee this morning - main agenda can be found here ...

... pretty light load for this Committee actually: usually never enough time to cover every report in serious depth: but today, only 3 substantive reports!?

The one that caught my eye - even if it didn't spark a huge debate this morning - was the 'Energy Efficiency' report from Audit Scotland: you can see it here.

I don't think it portrays a very positive picture (at all) about the state of preparedness of many public bodies for the new regulations coming into force this year and next ... if you look at paragraph 70, on page 19, you'll see that just under half of public bodies are compiling the two main pieces of work to take these regulations seriously ...

... relieved to say that, under questioning, Officers were able to confirm that Edinburgh is in that slight-minority of those being reasonably well prepared.

I'm convinced this will become a much more serious issue in the months to come - especially when the Council has to start 'buying' those Carbon Allowances!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I've succumbed to Twitter

Couple of days ago, I succumbed to Twitter :-((

Using it pretty much like I use 'facebook' and it will principally feature a feed of this blog ...

... I am, after all, receiving many, many more readers through 'facebook' than directly to the blog - and I've reluctantly come to the conclusion that I'm quite probably missing a whole other (large) audience by not being on Twitter?

I hope to avoid the well-reported pitfalls of 'tweeting' on impulse :-(

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Too far, too fast?

There's just no denying that the release of today's quarterly GDP figures has taken everyone aback ...

... I swear that Radio5 Live reported them as a 0.5% growth, before realising their mistake and quickly changing the narrative to a 0.5% contraction :-(

Now we've had one-quarter of contraction, the UK-Government (even a Tory-led one!) will surely reconsider the use of all the powers at its control, to try avert this from being repeated in 3-months time?

It's not as if they haven't now been warned?

Craiglockhart Community Council

Craiglockhart Community Council this evening - you can see the agenda here, and previous minutes here ...

... meeting very much dominated by a wide variety of planning issues!

Slightly more off-beat --- it was reported that British Waterways are about to put ground-based solar-lights, de-marking either edge of the canal, all the way from the Lochrin Basin out to the bypass!

As someone who frequently cycles a section of the canal at night, I personally think this would be a great development ;-)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Local Budget for 2011/12

Nearing the end of our 2011/12 local Budget preparations now ...

... several meetings later today should help us reach a conclusion on the 'numbers and text' behind our upcoming Opposition Budget.

Main debate, and the vote which ultimately counts, all starts at 10am on Thursday 10th February - public gallery open as ever ;-)

Please don't hesitate to keep getting in touch beforehand, as many issues may well not be finally decided until the very last few days.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Campaigning Sunday

Campaigning afternoon today - good turnout of activists and endless tenemental stairs climbed and doors chapped ...

... good response overall and a thoroughly deserved coffee for everyone afterwards ;-)

Three more months of tenemental stairs lie before us!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Ed Miliband and the Burns Supper

Well, yesterday was completely frantic - in a perfectly good way ;-)

Ed Miliband was up in Scotland - mostly Edinburgh - for a series of events, and fronted (along with Iain Gray) a whole series of meetings and visits throughout the day ...

... all culminating in the famous (annual) Edinburgh South West Burns Supper :-)

Ed Miliband, Anas Sarwar and Pauline McNeill, all spoke really well and kept the gathered crowd very well entertained.

But the highlight of the night had to be (unfortunately for me as chief-organiser - supposedly??) when Alistair Darling ended his brief introductory talk and invited the haggis to be piped in ...

... unfortunately, the haggis was nowhere to be found and several minutes of Alistair attempting to ad-lib followed (yes, you can just imagine it!) before the haggis (and piper) eventually sprung into tune and were paraded into the hall :-(

Very, very funny - well, everyone except Alistair thought it was very, very funny :-))

Needless to say, I expect never to hear the end of it.

More seriously - an extremely successful night, thoroughly enjoyed by all present.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

London today

Down in London the whole of today, for a series of meetings at the Electoral Reform Society ...

... including a very successful evening reception, focusing on the upcoming AV-Referendum and ERS plans beyond.

Now booked on the sleeper back up to Edinburgh overnight - and I've got a hugely busy day coming up tomorrow! I will certainly need a quieter Saturday :-(

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Elections Consultative Group

Elections Consultative Group met for the first time in 2011 this morning ...

... you can definitely sense the impending 'electoral event' (remember, it's not just a Holyrood election but a referendum as well!) is now starting to seriously weigh on the minds of the senior staff involved. And they do have a pretty daunting task in front of them:
  • Holyrood poll on Thursday 5th May, with the count probably overnight - though this is still to be 'finally' decided?
  • AV-Referendum Poll on Thursday 5th May
  • AV-Referendum count to start at 4pm on Friday 6th May
I must make sure the following weekend is completely free of any commitments :-(

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Policy and Strategy Committee

Policy and Strategy Committee this morning - not as lengthy as usual: all the reports can be found on CPOL, with the main agenda here ...

... forgot to mention earlier, that CPOL now up-and-running again for all 2011 papers etc.; so you can at last find that previous Finance Committee agenda here, and papers (by searching) here.

All scintillating stuff.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Tynecastle Parent Group

Tynecastle High School Parent Group meeting tonight.

Plenty of discussion about the impact of potential budget reductions to front-line teaching ...

... as well as some planning for an upcoming Burns Supper, which the school seem keen to run after a break last year.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Budget meeting and a quiz

Successful budget-event held yesterday --- good attendance at an open-meeting we'd organised to try and get some 'external' input to our final budget plans for Thursday 10th February: which is not that far away now!

And, last night, second-round of the Gavin Strang Trophy quiz contest took place --- tragically, Edinburgh South West came a poor 4th: but Edinburgh West (who won) are under official investigation for rumours that not all of their team came from within their constituency?

Outrageous behaviour ;-)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Congratulations Debbie Abrahams!

Personal bias admitted, of course ... but many congratulations to Debbie Abrahams ;-)

Not the most ideal of local circumstances to be a candidate in a by-election ...

... but she appears to have fronted a very successful campaign and came across - I thought - extremely well upon her victory.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

16-weeks today!

A mere 16-weeks from today and it'll be the 5th May ...

... needless to say, as an Election Agent once again, my diary is now starting to look 'somewhat full'!

I have a sense that blogging won't be as regular for the coming weeks - but I will keep trying to update as-and-whenever I can.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

More referendum polling

Some more very interesting AV-referendum polling out today ---

--- Political Betting site has all the details and links to the latest poll conducted by Angus Reid.

There really is quite a contrast between the recent Angus Reid/ICM polling and the YouGov polling, on this issue.

Both Angus Reid/ICM are using the actual referendum question (as recommended by the Electoral Commission):

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

YouGov isn't using that question but a much longer piece of text ...

... would indeed be interesting if YouGov did a poll asking the proper question??

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Finance Committee

Finance Committee today not as interesting as first thought :-(

CPOL still seems in collapse for 2011 I'm afraid, so I can't yet link to any of the reports - but will do eventually, once CPOL is up-and-running again ...

... Council seems to be struggling with electronic media at the moment :-((

Brown Bin mystery?

More internal briefings doing the rounds today - you guessed it; all about bins :-(

You can find the latest epistle here ...

... I'll take at face-value the assertions about the number of complaints etc. although it just doesn't accord with many residents who speak to me about endlessly calling the contact centre and asking for an uplift and getting absolutely nowhere. They invariably only get an uplift once a Councillor complains and/or the local press get involved :-((

Anyhow, that aside, thought I'd try and find out - as instructed in that Briefing - about the next Brown Bin collection date for my own street (the tenemental part of Cowan Road), so:

I seriously doubt if Cowan Road is the only street in Edinburgh where it appears impossible to find out proper collection schedules on-line?

This is pretty basic stuff - it really is - and someone, somewhere needs to get a grip.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Finance Committee tomorrow

Finance Committee meeting tomorrow morning - unfortunately, Committee Papers OnLine (CPOL) isn't working for any meetings in 2011 at the moment :-(

Shame, as there are quite a few interesting reports up for decision - I'll be sure though to feed back from the meeting, and hopefully the papers will indeed be available on CPOL in due course?

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Allotment snow!

Very (and I do mean very!) brief visit to the allotment this afternoon, which - like most of the rest of Edinburgh - is once again covered in a pretty deep carpet of fresh snow!

Not much growing-action at the moment unfortunately :-(

Friday, January 07, 2011

Well done England!

Well done England - and Andrew Strauss in particular ...

... I'm not a huge cricket fan, but one can't help notice the relatively mature and professional manner in which England have won these last two Ashes series when contrasted to the alcohol-induced hysteria of Vaughan and Co. back in 2005.

The current crop seem like far better role-models to me ... or maybe I'm just becoming middle-aged :-(

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Bins (again)

Sorry to hark back to the bins ... but many, many residents remain deeply unhappy at recent service levels!

... and it's compounded, from my perspective, when we (as Elected Members) receive an electronic briefing today which categorically states:

• The festive season collection schedules are in operation and all households should have received at least one collection over the Christmas and New Year period.
• As part of these arrangements, which were notified to residents before Christmas, households due to receive an uplift on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week will be collected on those days next week. The normal schedule of uplifts for today (Thursday) and tomorrow will proceed as planned.
• Brown garden waste bins can continue to be used for excess domestic waste and will be collected along with green wheelie bins up until Friday 21 January.
• All other bin collection services will run as normal.

Well - that is just not true.

In my very own street the communal bins, which should have been collected today (Thursday) were not collected and rubbish is once again overflowing onto the street. Not to mention the numerous Xmas Trees now littering the road as well :-(

Why put such a briefing out when it's patently NOT CORRECT.

And I'm 100% certain that more streets than mine were not collected today when they should have been :-((

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Back to the grindstone :-(

Back to the grindstone this morning ... first full day in the Office :-(

Actually, it's 4-months to the day before the Scottish Parliament elections, and that referendum on the UK voting-system ...

... I do sense the most frantic 17-weeks imaginable!!

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Happy New Year!

Back in Edinburgh now - and a Happy New Year to one and all ;-)

Survived a family Christmas-dinner for 10, and spent a very enjoyable few days up at Gairloch Youth Hostel for Hogmanay: large group of friends and their families had booked the whole hostel for the New Year.

Unbelievably, there was less snow 5-hours North of Edinburgh than in Edinburgh when we left it!

Anyhow, plenty of New Year celebrations undertaken and even managed to fit in a reasonably serious walk and a bit of sea-fishing ... what more could you ask for :-)

Highly amused, on my return to Edinburgh, to see that my robust defence of Conservative colleague Alistair Paisley formed part of a front-page Evening News story yesterday ... my Labour Group colleagues will never forgive me :-))