Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sunday campaigning

Great turnout this afternoon for yet more door-knocking with Karen Doran, our intrepid candidate in the upcoming City Centre by-election ...

... she really is putting in a super-human effort to speak to as many voters as possible in the run-up to the 18th August.

I'm confident it will pay off :-)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Auchterarder today

Managed a visit to a very sunny-Auchterarder this afternoon ... bit of a family barbecue, and the weather really was remarkably good.

Didn't stay too late - always a bit dangerous to do so! - and managed to get back to Edinburgh late evening, in preparation for more City Centre campaigning tomorrow.

Friday, July 29, 2011

By-election mania

Local by-election campaign keeping me "extremely" busy at the moment - and consequently way behind with the blog :-(

Bit of a catch-up in process just now ...

... spent today catching up on Council-work, after those couple of days down in London --- I have never known as steady a flow of regular constituent-work throughout a July summer-month as this year?

It's a healthy sign, I'd say.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Electoral Reform Society elections this year

As mentioned yesterday, the Electoral Reform Society's AGM is coming up on 3rd September ...

... and a new Council will be elected this year: ballot papers go out on 4th August with voting running through until 26th August - more details here.

Of course, you need to be an ERS Member to vote --- and don't forget that there are only 2-days of that 'free ERS membership' offer left: see here.

If you join, you can obviously take part in the ERS Council elections and even consider giving a high preference to those Scots standing!

It is, of course, important that Scotland has strong voices on the ERS Council ;-)

Back in Edinburgh and candidates confirmed

Managed (just!) to get back to Edinburgh this morning ... sleeper was unable to get directly to Waverley, so had to get off at Motherwell and then catch a regular train through to Haymarket ...

... seems to be the most extraordinary amount of disruption to all east coast services, due to the derailment near Waverley yesterday evening?

Does strike me as surprising that the derailed train still hasn't been moved - but I'm sure there's a perfectly logical reason why not??

Anyhow, onwards with various City Centre campaign jobs today - with all six candidates now confirmed ;-)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

London today

Down to London today for the monthly ERS Officers' Meeting ... so no allotment fencing for me in the next 24-hours :-(

... AGM fast-approaching (in early September) so an even busier agenda than usual awaits in Chancel Street.

Back up to Edinburgh overnight tonight, so not escaping that fencing - or the Campaign Trail! - for too long ;-)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Low growth again

Fairly low growth figures, for the UK economy, out this morning ...

... plenty of political commentary across the internet about the significance (or not?) of today's statistics, so think I'll just post up the main graph from the BBC website and let readers make up their own mind whether they believe current economic policy is working?

I know what I think.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Allotment project!

Took most of today off work, and started my summer Allotment-project!

... looking to renew most of the fence around the plot, which is now pretty dilapidated and in serious need of repair.

Will be a long-term job, but made a good start this afternoon, completely re-arranging one corner of the plot to allow me to start working round in a clockwise direction ... got to about 5-past the hour by the end of today!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Allotment produce but thoughts elsewhere

Well, I did manage to survive Airdrie last night, and got back to Edinburgh in time for some more door-knocking this afternoon ...

... Karen receiving a very good reception on the doorstep.

Got over to the Allotment early evening and now have a good crop of very healthy red onions drying in our hallway :-)

Weather glorious, allotment as therapeutic as ever, all my thoughts elsewhere really :-((

Saturday, July 23, 2011

City Centre campaigning and Airdrie

Wonderfully hot day for a bit of City Centre campaigning in The Cowgate (and surrounding area) ...

... here's Sheila Gilmore MP, and the candidate, with me doing our best to keep in the shade ;-)

After several hours of hard-work, sneaked off and escaped to visit some old friends in Airdrie for the evening. Not expecting to be at my best tomorrow!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Taking Edinburgh forward?

I know that a political defection on a Local Council isn't as earth-shattering as recent events at Westminster ...

... but, personal interest admitted, do have a read through the ongoing coverage in today's local paper about the defection of a local Lib-Dem to the local SNP - you can see it here. I do find the comments from the Council Leader fairly astounding.

Given all that's happened over the last 4-years, especially added to these events in the last few days, it really is difficult to contest that the current Council Leadership is the right one to take Edinburgh forward?

It's obvious that the local SNP/Lib-Dem Coalition is bitterly divided, is collectively weak, and simply unable to provide the leadership that the Capital City of Scotland so urgently needs.

Next May's Local Government elections just can't come soon enough.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Good old political prinicple ...

There's just no doubt that the Evening News has the scoop of the day!

Elaine Morris' defection puts the SNP Group back up to 12 Members, given the earlier departure of David Beckett ... so, current Elected Member numbers are:

Lib-Dem - 16
Labour - 15
SNP - 12
Tory - 11
Green - 3

Makes the result of the upcoming City Centre Ward by-election ever-more interesting ;-)

I'm currently aware of 6-candidates standing:

John CARSON - Independent
Karen DORAN - Scottish Labour
Alistair HODGSON - Lib-Dem
Melanie MAIN - Green
Iain McGILL - Tories
Alasdair RANKIN - SNP

All assuming that Alistair Hodgson doesn't jump ship before 18th August??

More seriously, one noteworthy point about Elaine Morris' defection today is the reported comment that she had been in discussions with the local SNP for more than a month - so when she voted on Thursday 30th June to press ahead with the tram project as far as St. Andrew Square, she knew that she was going to abandon the Lib-Dems ...

... that decision on the 30th June was carried by a single vote.

Nothing like a bit of political principle.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wednesday surgery and political choices

Schools are off on holiday just now obviously - so no surgeries on Monday/Tuesday evenings for a few weeks - but the Wednesday night Surgery at Fountainbridge Library still on this evening ...

... can't help but give one more mention to the ongoing hacking-scandal: was it just me, or did Nick Clegg really look like death-warmed-up as he sat next to the Prime Minister as he defended his decision to appoint Andy Coulson, in the Commons debate earlier this afternoon?

It looked like the true political reality (and gravity) of Clegg's decision, back in May 2010, was only just coming home to him :-(

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Today's Westminster Culture Committee

Probably like most political anoraks, I couldn't stop myself watching much of the Westminster Culture Committee proceedings this afternoon ...

... clearly the internet is completely awash with commentary on all of this, and I'm certainly sticking to my earlier belief that it's only going to get a lot worse for some ---

--- but I have to say, that I do believe this afternoon's proceedings were the most classic example of just how illusory power really is.

One can but hope that the politicians around that Committee table (and all of those watching!) don't forget the lesson, as they personally strive for the very thing that right before their own eyes was so evidently of no true value?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Defence Review implications for Edinburgh

I'm fairly stunned at the Defence Review (as announced this evening) implications for Edinburgh ...

... with both Dreghorn and Redford barracks closing, it's hard to under-estimate the impact this will have on the local community: for one thing, I'd have thought there will be a serious question mark over the long-term viability of Colinton Primary School? --- not to mention a myriad of other local services :-(

I obviously include myself in this rhetorical question; but did no-one in Edinburgh see any of this coming?

Sadly, it appears not.

Who will be next?

I hope regular readers would agree that I'm not usually one given to undue hyperbole ...

... but I've spent most of this afternoon catching up on mail etc. and have had the BBC News running on the computer and one can't help feel that the current 'phone hacking scandal has several more senior scalps to claim yet - and some of them are undoubtedly going to be political and not just 'press/police'.

The whole saga has the feeling of a 'total vortex' and I really don't think that it has yet dragged down all those at its edge.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

City Centre campaigning and well done Japan!

Another busy afternoon campaigning in the City Centre Ward with a very healthy number of activists out on the campaign trail ;-)

Managed to stop for a few hours this evening and actually watched most of the Women's World Cup Final ... now, as friends know, I'm no football expert: but I was pretty impressed by the standard of play and thoroughly enjoyed seeing Japan (as evident underdogs) defeating the strongly favoured USA in a penalty shoot-out!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Allotment pear and City Centre leaflets

Despite the atrocious weather this morning, spent several hours down at the Allotment ... and here's photographic proof of that elusive pear ;-)

Its taken 4-years to arrive and I'm really looking forward to eating it very soon!

And the terrible weather couldn't dampen a large teams' spirits this afternoon as we leafleted and canvassed around the City Centre ...

... only 4 weekends left, after this one, before polling day on Thursday 18th August.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Back in Edinburgh

Back in Edinburgh after a very enjoyable 7-days in, and around, Selkirk ... managed - just! - to survive a whole week with both my parents, both my sisters, my 'better-half' and junior :-)

And if that wasn't bad enough, bumped into a fellow-Edinburgh Councillor whilst visiting Melrose!

More seriously, was very impressed with all the Borders had to offer, and remain surprised that it doesn't attract more attention given its incredible proximity to Edinburgh ... we were blessed with a reasonable week of good weather, but even if it hadn't been so, there was no shortage of good days-out to keep three generations of Burns' happily occupied for the whole week.

Anyhow, now need to work off all that Selkirk Bannock by hitting the City Centre Ward by-election trail - less than 5-weeks to go to that confirmed polling day!

Friday, July 08, 2011

Break in transmission

So, I'm afraid, there's going to be a short break in blogging transmission from today :-(

I will resume normal blogging service as soon as possible ...

... I am contactable by mobile if anyone needs to speak to me urgently: that's assuming I have a signal of course :-)

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Selkirk here we come ;-)

Usual mad-panic today to try and catch up on everything at work before I escape the metropolis for a few days ...

... big family-holiday this year, with a significant gathering of Burns' in sunny-Selkirk - no mad train journies this summer: just a leisurely stroll to the Borders ...

... still hoping to sample a few local delicacies nevertheless :-))

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

2-year long resfuse dispute!

Managed to survive the in-laws ... only joking of course :-))

- and now back up in sunny-Edinburgh this evening. It was considerably hotter down South I have to say!

Also; thought London was looking just a shade cleaner than Edinburgh - which is not the usual state of affairs! - and probably just confirms the ongoing deterioration in street cleanliness up here in the capital, which those in charge continue to simply deny outright despite the independent evidence to the contrary?

Better - surely - to admit there is indeed a problem; to solve that 2-year long resfuse dispute; and to get things back on an upward trend?

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Back in London for a couple of days

Back in London today, and tomorrow, for a series of ERS meetings ...

... usually manage to avoid overnight stays - been successfully using the sleeper for years now - but meetings across two days this week mean a short visit to the in-laws tonight ;-)

Monday, July 04, 2011

Tram correspondence and Council debt

Busy day - still catching up on all the tram-related communications from last week ... I think every piece of correspondence (and there have been hundreds of them) has now been duly replied to: I'd say there's been generally (though not universal) positive feedback on the position that Edinburgh Labour took on last week's debate.

With nigh-on £1.3billion of current debt, costing us 10% of our existing revenue budget in repayments, it simply seems unacceptable to me to commit ourselves to another +£200million worth of debt ... because that, in effect, is exactly what the Council has done :-(

In case you missed it, I'll simply repeat our Full Amendment below:


City of Edinburgh Council Labour Amendment

Item 8.2 Edinburgh Tram Project

1. Council notes the report’s recommendations but does not agree them.

2. Council also notes that this is a project which Audit Scotland gave a clean bill of health in June 2007. Since then it appears to have totally unravelled.

3. Council further notes that the original Tram Project, and the subsequent contract sign-off on 1st May 2008, were predicated on the tram connecting Edinburgh’s Airport with Edinburgh’s Seaport/s and that the original project-scope is clearly no longer being delivered.

4. Council additionally notes that all political parties originally supported the principle of developing the Tram Project; and at the Council Meeting of 1st May 2008 all five political parties on the Council agreed to the final sign-off of the current Tram Contracts.

5. Council acknowledges that the city urgently needs certainty on this project and that Scotland - and its Capital city - should see benefit for the money thus far invested.

6. Council thus agrees:
• That no commitment to additional Council funding, beyond the existing contractual commitments, is entered into
• That additional funding will be provided via the disposal of equipment that is no longer required for the reduced scope referred to below
• That the proposal with least construction risk, is to build from the Airport to Haymarket as phase one of a longer-term, strategic plan only should funding become available
• That prior to final commissioning of phase one, the Business Case for Airport to Haymarket is reassessed in the light of economic circumstances at that time
• Thus to review and revise the business case for phase one so that it can be assessed whether it can be delivered without requiring an operating subsidy; ensuring that Lothian Buses are not at risk of having to cover such subsidy
• That Lothian Buses are given a primary role in reassessing the Business Case, to ensure maximum operational income and public transport service integration
• That these measures will ensure a fully operational tram line from the Airport to Haymarket (as phase one of a longer-term, strategic plan) by mid-2014
• and the Chief Executive is thus instructed to seek to finalise such contractual requirements as necessary with this:
- certainty of destination
- certainty of price
- certainty of delivery date

7. Council also instructs:
• That the finalised terms of the Settlement Agreement should be delegated to the Chief Executive to take forward, following consultation with political group leaders. The Chief Executive is thus authorised to enter into the Settlement Agreement substantively on the terms set out in the Settlement summary, contained in the confidential appendix, with such amendments as may be necessary to reflect the above and as may be considered appropriate and following consultation with political group leaders
• That the Chief Executive explores whether or not it would be possible to obtain an option, exercisable by the Council, for proceeding with Haymarket to York Place once more information is confirmed about the risks and funding involved
• Further, to authorise tie Ltd to progress the priority works, in accordance with MoV4, and incur expenditure as referred to in paragraph 7.8 of today’s report
• The Director of City Development to finalise, in consultation with political group leaders, revised governance arrangements for the final delivery of the project
• That, as shareholder, Lothian Buses is asked to assist in preparing for operations, by accepting a share transfer of ETL, subject to staff consultation, as soon as possible.

8. Council finally notes that as at March 2007 some £44million had been expended on the Tram Project and, by that time, two full Parliamentary Bills had received formal approval and were on the statute book. Expenditure on the Tram Project today (30th June 2011) stands at over £460million, indicating that some £100million per year has been expended, for the last four years (2007-2011), yet still no trams run on the streets of Edinburgh.

9. Council deplores this apparent failure, to date, of the SNP/Lib-Dem Administration to successfully deliver any operational element of the Tram Project for Edinburgh.

10. Council therefore confirms it has no confidence in the current SNP/Lib-Dem Administration; and calls for the Council Leader and Deputy Leader to consider their positions and resign with immediate effect.


Saturday, July 02, 2011

Election Planning Day

It might be the weekend, but no rest for some - bit of an Election Planning Day event this morning, held up on Johnstone Terrace ...

... after all, there are less than 44-weeks to go until that crucial polling day on Thursday 3rd May 2012 ;-)

Mind you, small matter of an intervening by-election on Thursday 18th August 2011 to deal with first ...

... we do now have our candidate in place - Karen Doran - and I was pleased to see her playing a full-part in our proceedings today. She's definitely planning to be a part of the Edinburgh Labour Group long before 3rd May next year.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Fourth Parliamentary term opened

Well, despite the late hour last night - I did manage to get to the formal opening of the Scottish Parliament today (as a guest of Sarah) ...

... and despite my strong republican tendencies, I thoroughly enjoyed the morning and it was good to see the fourth term of the Parliament being formally opened - and then the session being promptly put into recess ;-)

Shame about those numbers mind you :-(