Monday, 28 February 2011

Detoxification ?

So, the Scottish Conservatives think they've been "detoxified" (today's Scotsman ) by the arrival of David Cameron's government and David McLetchie expects to see the tories make gains at the Scottish Parliament elections in May. I think we'll let the Scottish voters be the judge of that David....

Weekend Past

Weekend went well, thanks to numerous willing volunteers, we delivered almost 3000 leaflets in Oxgangs, Firrhill and Colinton Mains and I managed to get through a fair bit of door knocking. Nothing dramatic to report either, the sun shone and everyone I spoke to was very pleasant and positive. Caught the last 30 mins of the Hearts game on TV. Not exactly a classic though Kello did have some outstanding saves. A point at Pittodrie is never a bad result.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Saturday and/or Sunday

Many thanks to everyone who was able to help last weekend in Currie and Balerno. We got through a fair amount of work and the weather wasn't half as bad as expected.

This weekend (26th/27th) we make a much requested return to Oxgangs, Firrhill and Colinton Mains.

Meet at the shops at Oxgangs Broadway at 11am on Saturday (26th) and 1pm on Sunday (27th) for local leafletting and door knocking with myself.

Directions to the shops can be found on this link -

As ever, any questions, please get in touch.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011


Gaddafi is still hanging on but it must only be a matter of time, hopefully with the minimum of violence.

Was delighted to accept an invitation to the launch of a new research facility at Heriot Watt University last night. The Centre for Research on Work and Wellbeing (CRoWW) undertakes projects that shed light on the understandings of health and wellbeing in the workplace and the interaction between workplace wellbeing and the labour market. Some interesting contributions form the guest speakers about wellbeing in the workplace and the effect on the wellbeing of people (and their families) who are unemployed. They also touched on new changes to the benefits systems regarding Job Seekers etc so it all became vaguely political. Don't know if that was the intention but it certainly made for an interesting event. All very academic of course, such is the nature of these things, but if good quality research leads to better informed decisions for government at all levels it has to be a good thing, doesn't it ?

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Interesting but anxious times

Surgeries at Ratho and Balerno last night, quite busy for a change, then off to Ratho Community Council. Arrived late of course but still managed to contribute to a few issues that were being discussed. Watched Col Gaddafi on TV last night with a mixed sense of bemusement and apprehension. His bizarre appearance under an umbrella sitting on what looked like an oversized golf buggy, during a cheesy musical variety show would be funny if it wasn't for the fact that he and his regime appear to be so detached from reality that their resistance to change could mean further bloodshed in Libya. It's quite moving to see ordinary people stand up for themselves and challenge undemocratic, authoritarian regimes (even if some do have the West's blessing) but you fear for those who have to lead and "front up" the demonstrations. Fantastic when the sitting government bow to the inevitable with little trouble, as has happened elsewhere, but will Gaddafi do likewise ? I do hope so.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

The Sun Shines On The Righteous

Well, okay, it wasn't exactly shining but it did stop raining long enough for some leafletting and door knocking in Currie. That makes us officially semi-righteous... It went well, hopefully get another good run at it tomorrow. Off to Tynecastle now, hoping the weekend continues on its positive course.

Friday, 18 February 2011

More Campaigning....

Edinburgh South West Labour Party last night. A lull in parliamentary business and the fact that he is now a back bencher meant Alistair Darling was able to attend. He was in good form and answered numerous questions on his parliamentary Report which sparked some good debate on issues as wide ranging as Youth Unemployment, Local Government Finance and the Alternative Vote referendum. 

This weekend's campaigning is concentrated in Currie and Balerno, meeting at the Scout Hut at the end of Currievale Drive here , 11am on Saturday and 1pm on Sunday. If anyone would like to help they would be more than welcome. Weather forecast isn't very promising but if I know Labour activists we'll bash on regardless ! 

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Just Like Watching Hearts

Very unusually for me, I didn't have any meetings last night so decided to go for a run and then catch up on my ironing while watching the Arsenal v Barcelona game on TV. I don't usually get all that excited about smooth, silky soccer, I'm more of a blood and snotters man myself (Rino Gattusso once played for Auchinleck Talbot you know) however the Arsenal game was fantastic and it was a real joy to see the game played at the highest level of skill and excitement, in front of a packed stadium. Just like watching Hearts actually....

Wednesday, 16 February 2011


Business meeting of the Pentlands Neighbourhood Partnership last night. Not the most exciting of affairs but necessary in making sure that ongoing work is progressing satisfactorily and that relevant items are included on the agenda for the next public meeting. I've asked for a report on how the move to fortnightly refuse collection is going to affect our area. It was an integral part of the Administration's budget last week but there was a distinct lack of detail on how it will be implemented. Monday night I attended and spoke at a meeting of the Co-op Party. Useful discussion about the Council budget and the wider picture for public services in Scotland and the role of co-operatives and mutuals. Credit Unions are another much overlooked resource that can be turned to if you've lost faith with the big banks, and who hasn't ???

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Read All About It

Newspaper editorials often reflect the corporate view of the paper, the editor, or the owners, or a combination of all three, not surprisingly. Being a political anorak I often read the Edinburgh Evening News editorial with great interest because its particularly relevant to the city and my ward. Yesterday's piece asked numerous searching questions about the "big society", public services and what the public really want, need and are prepared to pay. No easy answers there then but certainly some thought provoking questions. Perhaps the coming months will see some mature debate in Scotland about the future of public services and what we, as a nation, believe are our true priorities. Then again.....

Monday, 14 February 2011

Valentine's Day

Good weekend of campaigning in the Calders. Delivered 1100 leaflets and got through a good bit of doorknocking, thanks to numerous volunteers giving freely of their time and energy. We met outside the WHEC on Saturday and it was going like a fair, mostly families and children. And to think the Council tried to close the WHEC in 2007. Just managing to get over the intensity of the Council budget process although now we have to deal with the impact of the cuts. Relatively quiet this week due to the half term break. School breaks seem to be faithfully followed by Council business managers for some reason. At least it means I can catch up with the back log of emails and correspondence without too many distractions.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Council Budget decisions

They didn't unfortunately

As below, the Council Budget meeting yesterday was memorable for many reasons, some good, some bad. It was my first Labour Budget as Finance spokesperson and the first time in living memory that our budget was supported by the Conservatives and the Greens (with minor adjustments). But it also saw the LibDem/SNP Administration take the decision to close Blindcraft making it a very sad day for the city indeed (more details as reported by the Evening News here ). It also saw £45m worth of savings implemented including significant cuts to front line services, including schools, libraries, refuse collection and the voluntary sector. The full list of cuts can be viewed here . Our proposal for no compulsory redundancies was also rejected and I'm seriously worried that we could now see P45s used as a blunt instrument to achieve the savings targets. As reported earlier in the week we published our budget proposals a good week ahead of the meeting to allow for a bit of public debate around the issues and hopefully encourage the Administration to be a bit more open about their plans. It didn't work. Our budget amendment and spreadsheet are available on these links and I can email more background information to anyone who's particulary interested in the fine detail.

Weekend Campaigning

This weekend the Pentlands Campaign Team are heading for the Calders. The usual leafletting and door knocking will be carried out and all are welcome. Post leafletting coffee also guaranteed ! Meet at the WHEC car park at 11am on Saturday and 1pm on Sunday. Budget meeting yesterday was memorable for lots of reasons, some good, some bad. I'll post more on this soon.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Budget Day Approaches

Surgeries last night, quiet at both Clovie and Currie High. Then attended a meeting of the Ratho Environment Group in the Bridge Inn. They are obviously, primarily, interested in the environment but this extends to basically any physical aspect of life in the village that could be improved and detailed discussions ensued on a wide range of subjects from litter picks to bus services and house boats to planning applications.

Regular pre Council Labour Group meeting tonight with the Council Budget (see below) and all associated reports as the only business that will be dealt with on Thursday. As reported previously our budget proposals and amendment are pretty much complete and may just be subject to one or two refinements tonight. It promises to be an interesting day in that the Conservative and Green Groups have indicated that they won't move a budget and may seek to amend either ours or the Administration's. Hasn't happened before in all my time on the Council so we'll see what unfolds.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Edinburgh Council Budget

Some productive campaigning this morning in Saughton Mains, and it stayed fine, which was nice....
Next Thursday is Budget Day and, after the usual set piece political theatre, the Council's spending plans will be set for at least the next 12 months. With Edinburgh's funding reduced by £45m (plus £7m pressures) next year there will be some difficult decisions to take. In the Labour Group, we've been wading through budget info since last September and think we've put together a set of proposals that recognises the harsh reality of the situation while prioritising front line services as much as possible and protecting them from the worst of the cuts. We've also taken the rather unusual step of publishing our budget in advance in the hope that we can generate some constructive debate around the central issues rather than just have our amendment voted down having been tabled on the day, as usually happens. If this sort of thing is of interest you can read drafts of our proposed amendment and background figures on this spreadsheet . There's even more info on Andrew Burns blog at 

Thursday, 3 February 2011

2nd Post

As anticipated Council meeting today didn't last too long though, as also predicted the Administration pressed on with their plans to tender for advocay services. Lots of assurances about service quality to be maintained, minimal disruption to users and our obligation to comply with European Procurement rules etc. We'll see what happens, there's a few more stages to be completed yet. Last night's meeting at Ratho went well and a good turn out too from local residents. Managed to iron out a few issues and a few more came up that need to be tackled. Must do the minutes asap as well ! Should have been at Balerno Community Council tonight but submitted apologies so that I can deal with a few constituency items that are pretty urgent. Looks like Andy Webster has signed for Hearts again. Personally, I think the past contract issues should be forgotten. Webster arguably played the best football of his career with Hearts and let's hope he can reach those standards again.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

New month, new discipline

New month's resolution is to be more disciplined about blog posts, little point otherwise... Full Council meeting tomorrow, not a particularly heavy agenda but the report recommending that the Council puts advocacy services out to tender will be very contentious. You would have thought that they'd learned the lessons from the Care and Support debacle wouldn't you ? Labour Group meeting last night was addressed by new Chief Executive, Sue Bruce. She has a reputation for being hard but fair and was certainly very open about her first impressions having been in the job for a month now. Time will tell, and one has to judge on actions not words or reputations. Latest meeting of the Freelands Road development sub group in Ratho tonight. Given that Cala have had to close the main road into the village for a week to allow work to tie in new sewers I am hoping that all the alternative arrangements for buses and traffic diversions have gone smoothly. If not, it may be a more lively meeting than I have prepared for !