Monday, April 30, 2012

Craighouse development

I've had quite a few constituents asking about my personal position on the proposed development at Craighouse - its a lively topic of discussion on the doors/phones!

The Friends of Craighouse Grounds and Wood have a website that did put up a joint-statement from myself and colleague Paul Godzik (the proposed development potentially affects both Wards 9 and 10 - if not the whole city!) and you can see that here ...

... and a further, very recent, post (see here) has repeated those points and also summarised the statements from across the political spectrum.

I've tried to be as supportive and helpful to the campaign as possible, and hope whoever is ultimately going to make the final decision on any application (who knows what individuals will be on the Planning Committee after Thursday!) will take note of the breadth of concern being expressed about aspects of the current plans.

Less than 3-days to go

Less than 3-days to go now until the polls open ...

... its a bit of a standing-joke amongst my colleagues about how many times I've reminded everyone of the "days left until Polling Day" over recent months :-(

Well, I'm certain that all our early preparations will help with the eventual outcome this week --- here's a brief reminder of how we went about constructing our local manifesto ...

... and if given the chance after Thursday; that inclusive, cooperative approach will be a common-thread in everything we do.

The political culture in the City Chambers needs to change - everyone knows it! - and I'd absolutely relish the chance to make sure that change actually happens.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Spoke too soon ...

Spoke too soon about not having shared many platforms with the Deputy Leader of the Council ... had to sit in a TV studio with him today!

We're good friends really ;-)

Anyhow, all meant I had to travel over to Glasgow, and thus took the opportunity to stop off and visit my folks (briefly!) on my way back to the Capital ...

... as they say, every cloud has a silver lining :-)

Back in Edinburgh this evening, and last mailings being prepared and dispatched. That's pretty much it now for any 2nd-class mailing to arrive in time for Polling Day.

Its mass delivery of the 'Get-out-the-Vote' cards from now on :-(

Turnout, and who does so, will be crucial this Thursday.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Super Saturday!

Last weekend of the campaign ... and yes, it must therefore be a Super Saturday!

Don't you just love elections ;-)

Spent a (thankfully) sunny day campaigning in several Wards across the city ... and the main messages within our local election manifesto continue to receive a really positive response on the doors (interesting summary of all the main Party manifestos here actually).

Exhausted tonight!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Hustings over (for me!)

Hustings now over, for me, for this election campaign ...

... last two have been enjoyable events, especially tonight's earlier EUSA-organised one which was lively, with lots of good-natured political banter, without any descent into pointless personal or political acrimony. Just the sort of debate I like ;-)

Given that was the last one in my diary, I can now report that sight of both Administration Party Leaders (local SNP and Lib-Dem) has been pretty rare :-(

To their credit, the Tories have ensured their Group Leader has attended almost every city-wide event; and the Greens have had either their Group Leader or a Senior Councillor at every one ...

... but I've only shared a platform with the Council Leader a handful of times, and with the Deputy Leader just once!

Maybe I should be grateful for small mercies ;-)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Last Full Council Meeting of this term

Last Full Council Meeting of this term now over :-(

Apart from Portobello High School, there wasn't much else of huge contention --- and, for the main part, the meeting was conducted in a good political-spirit!

There are 17 Councillors 'standing down' voluntarily next week; and several others who are contesting a seat but who will not be re-elected, I'm sure ... so, I reckon we're looking at a turnover of at least 20+

That's taking it close to the turnover of 29 (half the Council!) back in 2007, and I wouldn't be totally shocked if it reached or surpassed that figure.

Interesting times.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Two more hustings to go this week ...

Still two more city-wide hustings to go this week:
  • Thursday night (tomorrow) - UNISON organised hustings, at 6pm in St. Augustine's Church on George IV Bridge
  • Friday night - Edinburgh University Students' Association (EUSA) organised hustings, at 5.30pm in Teviot Row House, Bristo Square
Looking forward to both :-)


Here it is - a scan of the actual Ward 9 ballot paper (marked as SAMPLE, I hasten to add!) ... as now dispatched to Postal Voters.

Of course, I'll be voting BURNS 1 --- and I hope you'll consider the same, but if you can't give me your first preference then I'd still welcome a later preference ;-)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Weekly surgeries continue!

As mentioned yesterday, Council business does continue - regardless of the election ...

... and that includes my 3 weekly surgeries!

Was at Craiglockhart Primary School last night, and will be at St. Cuthbert's this evening - and at Fountainbridge library tomorrow.

6pm each evening - no appointment necessary; just turn up ;-)

And - I'll repeat that pattern next week, as I have done right across the last 5-years.

The week after? - well that'll be up to the electorate!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Full Council Meeting this week!

The Polls might open in a matter of days time, but Council business trundles on!

This Thursday, we've actually got the final Full Council Meeting of this 2007-2012 term ... the agenda can be found here, and the individual reports accessed via CPOL (Committee Papers On-Line) from here.

Portobello High School (item 8.1) is likely to be the main topic of debate - although, there may actually be no political division on the substance of the report? Not certain at the moment.

Unbelievably, this issue has remained unresolved for the whole of the 5-year term of this Council ... check out my post here, from way back in December 2006 :-(

Bit of a metaphor for the last 5-years perhaps?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Gala Dinner this evening

Edinburgh Labour's fundraising, Gala-Dinner this evening ...

... been several months in the planning, and relieved to report that all went smoothly and everyone present (it was sold out!) seemed to enjoy the evening.

Bit of a relief for most, after pounding the streets all weekend ;-)

And, most crucially, we raised some much needed campaign funding!

Just one more weekend to go until Polling Day.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Penultimate weekend!

Penultimate weekend before Polling Day, on Thursday 3rd May of course ...

... and all that leaflet, and letter, preparation yesterday put to good use right across the city.

Turnout is a worry for these Local Council elections - first time they have been 'stand-alone' since 1995, so any 'turnout-comparisons' with 1999, 2003 or 2007 will be slightly false.

Turnout in 1995 was 44.9% across Scotland ... but that was 17-years ago, and I think most people would acknowledge that the general trend for election-turnouts has been downward across those years?

But the 1995-comparison is probably the best we have to go on!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Postal Vote applications now closed

Massive leaflet, and letter, drive over the next few days ...

... Postal Vote applications now closed (on Wednesday 18th) and Postal Vote packs will go to the Royal Mail next Monday, so important to ensure a good level of communication in the upcoming 36-hours!

There are still a few days to apply for a Proxy Vote (if you missed the Postal Vote deadline) ... applications accepted up until next Wednesday (25th April).

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Edinburgh City RC Justice and Peace Group Hustings

Another city-wide hustings tonight - hosted by the Edinburgh City RC Justice and Peace Group.

Took place in St Mary's Metropolitan Cathedral Hall, Little King Street ...

... debate was again dominated by transport issues (mainly - but not exclusively - tram) and also by significant concerns around voter-apathy and disengagement with the political process.

Good discussion and some important points aired.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

FSB Hustings

FSB (Federation of Small Business) Edinburgh Hustings this evening ...

... believe it or not, despite having done numerous city-wide hustings in recent months, this was the very first one where I actually had the honour of sharing a platform with the Leader of the local SNP Group ;-)

Lively debate/s ensued - dominated by transport issues and city centre trading concerns.

I enjoyed the evening.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Putting you First

Scottish Labour launched its country-wide Local Government campaign in Edinburgh this morning ... a full month since we launched our own Local campaign, of course ;-)

BBC covered the event here, and yours truly chaired the Q&A Session with Johann Lamont MSP.

Both Johann and Anas present this morning - they do seem to be spending a considerable amount of time in Edinburgh ... which is most welcome :-))

Monday, April 16, 2012

Laichpark Residents meeting

Laichpark Residents meeting this evening ... ongoing concerns about boundary issues and property owners' responsibilities for aspects of the surrounding estate.
Was good to see a well prepared, and Chaired, meeting with unanimity around a potential way forward.

The upcoming election may well intervene somewhat, but I'm confident that the issues raised can be resolved in the coming months ... by whoever are the Local Councillors ;-)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Allotment Update!

Amidst the endless campaigning, the growing season hasn't stopped ...

... so, late this afternoon managed to steal a bit of time down at the Allotment and got the first bed of potatoes planted! Here's the photographic proof of the moment the 'Duke of Yorks' went in  :-)

Also got the onion-bed fully planted up and put some new netting around the site ... that shipping-rope isn't going to deter the local foxes, no matter how good it might look :-(

A productive few hours, then back to the leaflets and envelopes ... there's just no end to the joys ;-)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Postal Vote deadline imminent

Postal Vote application deadline now pretty imminent - its this coming Wednesday 18th April ...

... so; as well as the door-knocking and leafleting sessions going on across the City, quite a bit of postal vote activity also dominating this weekend!

If you need any of the relevant forms, they can be easily downloaded from here - and you just need to ensure they are back at South Gyle Crescent by 5pm on Wednesday :-)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Campaign Friday

Another busy campaigning day ...

... Anas Sarwar spent the whole day in Edinburgh; starting in the Drumbrae/Gyle Ward this morning, here he is out with our candidate Karen Keil (on her birthday!) ---
--- and finishing up in Corstorphine/Murrayfield with our Ward candidate there, Tom McInally, who is fast becoming known as the James Bond of the Edinburgh Labour Team ;-)

Then, earlier this evening, a brief training-event for all activists and candidates in preparation for the election-count --- an event which really isn't that far away now ;-)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The political manifesto does matter

I've got a lengthy piece over on the main Edinburgh Labour site today, outlining my old-fashioned view that the political manifesto matters.

You can read the article here - and for more specific policy content, then please do have a look though our main manifesto document here ...

... and/or quickly scan the last few months of news entries on the Edinburgh Labour site, where many of our Spokespersons have expanded on our core pledges, a summary of which I'll re-produce below:

Labour's 'Co-operative Council'

A big idea for difficult times. It’s more than simply listening. It’s joining forces with the people who use what the Council provides – the local park or home care for disabled people – to do things better and make the money go further. Sharing real decisions with the people who know best in Scotland’s first ‘co-operative council’.

For children and their education that means
• we'll work to set up a city-wide ‘childcare co-op’ to provide affordable child care for working parents in all communities, starting where the need is greatest
• and we will give Parent Councils the right to share in city-wide decision-making on schools by nominating a member of the Council’s Education Committee.

For transport in our City that means
• we will set up a city-wide Transport Forum of experts and citizens to think through our modern transport needs
• but meanwhile, we’ll pay proper attention to the everyday things – bringing roads and pavements to a good standard especially in busy areas and controlling the work standards of the utilities who dig up our roads

For health and social care of our elderly and vulnerable that means
• we’ll bring the Council, care staff and the users together into cooperatives to decide on and provide the means to make life better for both the care users and the care providers
• and, of course, we’ll never seek to privatise or sell off these services to the lowest bidder.

For jobs in Edinburgh’s economy that means
• we’ll work with local firms to encourage them to offer real apprenticeships to young people
• and we will strive to support local business by tipping the balance against unfair competition from big outsiders.

For people in need of a home of their own that means
• we’ll set up a city task force to find fair ways to bring empty homes into use and to build useful developments on derelict land
• and we’ll press the Scottish Government to release money for Edinburgh to build new high-quality and affordable homes for rent and work with land owners to free up the urgently needed land.

And for our environment that means
• we’ll protect our green spaces from development, establish more when the right opportunities arise and place decisions about their care into the hands of local people
• and because, through co-operation, residents could save energy and up to 20% of their bills, we’ll consult all our tenants about ‘bulk buying’ gas and electricity for their homes through an energy co-op.

A day for a poem

My better-half needed to go to work today ...

... so Junior, who is still on holiday, had to seek refuge with some ever-helpful neighbours :-)

As for me - no respite from the election campaign-trail ... after all, there are only 3-weeks to go until Polling Day!

And whilst I know its not yet National Poetry Day ;-)

... its still, most definitely, a day for a poem:

Love while you can

Another Edinburgh sky
As the door opens on the day
Full of potential
Awaiting the unknown

The ride along the canal
Still water eases the commute
The park and path bustle
All the way to the bridge

Then lifted back to tarmac
A circle of local culture
Meadows that forever inspire
To the Capital’s heart

Each and every contact
That follows through the day
Affirms that heroes all
Are those who last till dusk

Too many questions asked
So little truly seen
Just never enough
Simple thoughtfulness

But every day, of every week
Of every year, over these decades
Forever clear to me
The truth of it all

Everything matters
Each detail
Sharp and sweet
Infusing our soul

Then later, home
In every way possible
To everything that matters
Love while you can

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Audit Committee and ongoing business

Well - there might be just a day over 3-weeks until the Polls Open, but Council business trundles on ...

... Audit Committee coming up next Thursday (19th April); and this afternoon sees the agenda pre-meeting.

Not anticipating anything too controversial - and was hoping the same may have been the case for the last Full Council Meeting on Thursday 26th April; but the ongoing saga over the siting of the new Portobello High School looks increasingly likely to feature on that day?

Evening News reported the latest developments in yesterday's paper - here.

I do hope a clear conclusion can now be reached as quickly as possible - yet further years of delay would appear, to me, to be in no ones interest.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Only 23-days to go

Well, next Tuesday was today! - and very unfortunately our main speaker didn't make it to the 12noon event, due to a fatality on the East Coast mainline and all trains being stopped at York for several hours :-(

So - yours truly had to give the main speech to the assembled masses ... and despite the change in format, all seemed to go well with a healthy level of debate ensuing after the opening contribution.

Second part of the day included a visit to the Broomhouse Centre where its only ever possible to be hugely impressed with the sheer scale of the valuable work they undertake. And they even provided us with coffee and cake ... made up for earlier disappointments ;-)

And this evening saw some truly atrocious leafleting conditions - very, very wet.

Only 23-days to go :-))

Monday, April 09, 2012

Edinburgh a "Cooperative Council"?

I've got a piece up, over on the main Edinburgh Labour website this morning, which outlines why I think Councils matter and just what being a "Cooperative Council" could mean for Edinburgh. Do please have a read through it.

This type of transformation really could happen here.

Just spend a few minutes looking at what 'Brixton Energy' have achieved:

... have a look at a few of the sections within their website ... if Brixton can do this, then why not Edinburgh?

Why isn't this type of service-transformation happening in our Capital City?

Spend a few moments looking at some of the early examples (and successes) of cooperative model developments in Lambeth:

Again - if this can all happen in Lambeth, then why not here?

The answer is simple - it's all down to political will and the choices we make ...

... and, if Edinburgh Labour have influence after May 3rd, then as our manifesto (written with Edinburgh residents' input) makes clear - there will be a "Cooperative Council" right here in the Capital City of Scotland.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Allotment 'shipping rope' in place :-)

At long last!

As first mentioned back in February, and alluded to again in March, an April Easter Sunday morning has finally seen the completion of the 'shipping rope' perimeter fencing project :-)

How long it'll last in this pristine condition is rather debatable?

But, I think anyhow, it looks great at the moment - and is a huge improvement on the very dilapidated fences we had just a few months ago.

Need to get this year's spuds planted pronto now :-)

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Sharing co-operative council ideas

I'm really looking forward to next Tuesday ... Steve Reed, the Leader of Lambeth Council, is up in Edinburgh and will be speaking about his experiences of developing and leading a Cooperative Council ...

... all the details of his talk are over on the main Edinburgh Labour site, here.

I met Steve a few months ago, when I was down in London, and some of my colleagues also met up with other members of Lambeth's team last year ... they've all been hugely supportive of our efforts in developing a cooperative vision for the City of Edinburgh Council.

Lambeth has been pursuing this agenda for several years now - some further information on their work can be accessed here - and I'll be keen to hear Steve's reflections on how its progressing, and potential lessons for Edinburgh? He's also taking the time to visit a couple of Wards in the city as well.

I'll be sure to post my thoughts on the events-of-the-day, after Tuesday!

Friday, April 06, 2012

Less than 4-weeks to go - but even fewer manifestos?

Good Friday today, and less than 4-weeks to go until Polling Day on Thursday 3rd May ...

... and I'm astounded that, this close to the election, so few of the local Political Parties have produced their local manifesto?

As regular readers will know, Edinburgh Labour have made a huge effort to publish draft plans; engage with the wider Edinburgh community; take feedback; publish a re-drafted document; take more feedback; and incorporate it all into our final manifesto which was launched at the start of the campaign.

And, we have had really positive feedback - not just about the content of the document, but about the process we undertook (follow those links in the paragraph above!) in producing the final version.

To be fair, at least the Conservatives have also now produced a local manifesto, which you can access/read here.

But, as of today, with less than 4-weeks to go ... there is no publicly available set of ideas from either of the two Parties who have run this city for the last 5-years: the local SNP and the Lib-Dems?

And when they do publish - assuming they do soon?! - I wonder just what 'outward-facing' process will have been undertaken to ensure their ideas are fully considered and duly reflect local concerns?

Frankly, I've seen no hint of any public consultation, on any draft document/s, from any of the other Parties.

Its all quite a contrast.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Council business continues ...

Unlike other arms of 'government' (Westminster and Holyrood), local Councils' business continues apace right through to election day ...

... there is a purdah-period of sorts, but the Committees and Meetings keep on going right through to Polling Day!

Indeed the last Full Council Meeting is still to come, taking place on Thursday 26th April, just a mere 7-days before the Polls open :-(

Anyhow, I did spend most of today in a series of Council-related meetings - every one a joy, of course - before starting to distribute the vast bulk of those final Election Address leaflets around my hardy bunch of local volunteers ...

... never a dull moment.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Fountainbridge Canalside Initiative 'Brewing New Life’ report

I mentioned the Fountainbridge Canalside Initiative (FCI) event back in February, which I managed to briefly attend ...

... well, they published their report this afternoon - it can be found here - and there are wider details about the Fountainbridge Canalside site on a new website the Group has set up, which is here.

I managed to get along to the report-launch, and was very impressed with the grounded-optimism that all those involved appear to be displaying: yes, lofty ambitions for the site, but also a recognition that there will be elements of commercial development alongside the residential.

Getting that balance right will be the challenge - but the FCI Report provides some first-class input for that ensuing debate.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012


Leaflet-mania has well-and-truly taken a grip now :-(

Having safely ensured all 23-candidates have been duly nominated, focus now shifts to the the receipt and (most importantly!) the delivery of our main 'Election Address'; or Manifesto leaflet ...

... my colleague Lesley Hinds has shown the patience of a saint in ensuring all 23 of our candidates have the relevant materials for this last stage of the campaign!

I think there's a good balance of city-wide information/pledges, and local Ward content, in these materials ... will be interesting to see how they go down on the doorsteps in the coming days?

Monday, April 02, 2012

Home alone

Safely back in Edinburgh, but now abandoned for the week and left "home-alone" ;-)

Of course, my better-half and Junior are presently 'on holiday' for 2-weeks and have decided to head for the Lake District this morning ... leaving me to fend for myself until this coming Friday!

Need to urgently find that microwave instruction manual.