Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Ed Balls

Had great visit in Pentlands yesterday with Iain Gray and Ed Balls where we visited the Peoples Ford dealer in Sighthill.  Ed Balls has got a lot of coverage in the papers today for pointing out just how daft the SNP's desire to join the EURO currency is.  Can you imagine how much damage that would do to our economy right now ? It would make our exports to the rest of the UK more expensive, it would make it more expensive for tourists to come here, and we would have higher mortgage rates under the EURO.  Totally Crackers was the expression that Ed used - think that summed it up nicely!

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Just what we need, more Lords...

David Cameron has ennobled 117 people in less than 1 year creating more peers, more quickly than any of his post-war predecessors as reported by the BBC here - he must have owed a lot of favours !  There are now 792 Lords, all totally unelected of course !  This is all a bit ironic considering the coalition government is committed to reducing the size of the House of Commons from 650 to 600 MPs at the next election and go on about generally reducing the size of government. All seems a bit hypocritical and elitist to me but what would you expect from the Tories ?

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Page 3 in today's Sun

Courtesy of Frank Boyle, Edinburgh Evening News, 20 April 2011

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Tory tuition fees at £4,000 per year

From Oxgangs to Currie, from Ratho to Redhall parents of teenagers have been inundating me with phone calls to express their shock that the Scottish Tories want to charge up to £4,000 per year for students.  I suspect this will put off hundreds of middle-income families sending their children to university and that's certainly what some people are saying.  The cuts this will mean to Napier uni, Edinburgh Uni, QMUC and Heriot Watt is deeply, deeply concerning - not only as centres of educational excellence in Edinburgh - but also as major employers in our city.  Edinburgh deserves better than this.  A lot better than this.  Why David McLetchie supports this is hard to fathom.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Professor Pongoo's on the dole now

Me and Prof Pongoo, in happier times.
Unemployment stats came out yesterday. Still higher in Scotland than elsewhere in the UK and youth unemployment continues to concern. One stat that wasn't reported though was that of Professor Pongoo, aka Mike Ferrigan, who had been delivering fine work in the Pentlands area, through his PIPER project, working with schools and Parent Councils to take the message of carbon reduction and energy efficiency into local communities. His alter ego, the Professor, was especially good at delivering the message to children and was a popular sight from Oxgangs to Balerno and Currie to Fairmilehead. Unfortunately, some bright spark within, or attached to, the Scottish Government decided that the latest round of Climate Challenge Funding would be prioritised towards new projects rather than existing ones and Mike's PIPER project was binned. Anyone with any experience of these smaller projects will be aware that a lot of time, energy and cost is required to get the thing started and hopefully it then goes on to prove its worth, exactly what PIPER had done. But instead of developing a model that was so obviously successful, funding is now directed to projects that have to start from scratch. It seems a bit counter productive to me and has resulted in Professor Pongoo getting his P45. If anyone is able to offer a job to a 6ft penguin please let me know.....

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Tory tax on cancer patients

Voters across Pentlands have been emailing asking me to support various cancer charities election campaigns.  I am more than happy to do that - the work of the CRUK and Macmillan amongst others is well respected.  What I was surprised to hear was the Scottish Tories want to re-introduce prescription charges at £5 per prescription. For a woman in Colinton, recovering from breast cancer, this could mean a multiple prescription each week for five years until they get the all clear.  That is thousands of pounds that the Tories want to charge people in Scotland with cancer - despite the fact prescription drugs are free for cancer patients in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.  Shocking.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

The Great LIT Cover Up Scandal

More door knocking yesterday and was slightly surprised to receive so many comments about yesterday's story in the Telegraph regarding the large increase in tax that people in Edinburgh would pay under the Local Income Tax favoured by the SNP and LibDems. You can read the article here . The plans would mean that income tax in Scotland would be 25% & 45% whilst the rest of Britain would still be 20% & 40% - but we would be getting no more services as the very wealthy would shift their pay to other parts of the UK and second home owners who live outside Scotland would pay nothing for services.  Don't take my word for it here is what our local papers said last year:
Evening News Editorial 5 May 2010
"a local income tax which would hurt the middle classes"   
Scotsman Editorial - 5 May 2010
"Alarm bells should sound about some of the key Lib Dem policies, most notably local income tax, a double whammy for the wealth generators already braced for a tax hit."

Of course the SNP have gone to great lengths to conceal this information. You can see why....

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Bookies Say its a Two Horse Race in Pentlands !

I'm not a betting man as such, but well respected book maker Victor Chandler has put prices up today saying Edinburgh Pentlands is between the Tory and me - and the SNP and LibDem candidates are such outsiders that there are three legged horses in the Grand National on Saturday with shorter odds ! We've always known that Pentlands is a two-horse-race between Labour and the Conservatives - now the Bookies have confirmed it  Have you ever met a poor bookie ?? Check out the prices at Victor Chandler's web site.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Scottish Labour's Manifesto

The Scottish Labour Election Manifesto was launched today. Wasn't there personally, far too busy, but it was quickly made available electronically and can be accessed on the Scottish Labour website on this link . Haven't read every word of the 98 pages yet, far too busy, but it looks good at first glance and will be my permanent companion as I knock doors over the next 4 weeks and will hopefully help me answer any and all relevant questions. Managed to get 1200 newspapers out in Stenhouse and Whitson last night. Not bad for a blustery Tuesday evening and even had to nip back to the house to get more copies to keep all workers fully supplied. 

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

One rule for them....

Oliver Letwin, centre, on holiday ?

Not normally renowned for diplomacy or sensitivity, even Boris Johnson was offended by Oliver Letwin's throw away comment that he didn't want  "more families in Sheffield able to afford cheap holidays" as reported in the Independent yesterday. Why he is quite so against more Sheffield residents being able to afford cheap holidays isn't clear and his spokeswoman has refused to comment. Now, I'm sure we've all said things in private that we wouldn't want to see in print but government ministers are expected to be a bit more responsible and it does give us an insight to the type of warped personalities currently inhabiting David Cameron's cabinet.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Unfare ??

Bus fares in Edinburgh went up yesterday for the third time in four years. Its now 30% more expensive to travel by bus in Edinburgh since the SNP came to power at Holyrood and the SNP/LibDem coalition took over at the City Chambers, both in May 2007. 10p each way increase might not sound like much but if you get the bus to and from your work every day that's £4/month more out of your pocket. Part of the increase is due to fuel prices but Lothian Buses have also confirmed in this Evening News piece that its also due to reduced support from the SNP Government in funding the Concessionary Fares Scheme. The SNP have been making great play recently of the Council Tax freeze, which is all well and good but if you reduce support for other services to the extent that we all have to pay more for the basics, (special uplifts, Garden Aid, travel from home to school for certain children) and pass on the costs to ordinary families it results in indiscriminate tax rises by the back door to those who can least afford it. Not very fair in my opinion.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Sweet and Sour

Popped along to Ratho Primary School Spring Fair this morning. Met up with former Labour Councillor for the area, John Longstaff. After a brief tour of the arts and crafts stalls and some chat with a few weel kent faces we headed straight for the home baking table to make a generous donation to the Fair's proceeds. It was busy, going like a fair in fact.... Then  off to Westburn for newspaper delivery and door knocking. Went well but I was struck by how many people were quite open about their own circumstances, low paid, part time workers trying to get more work but can't, overcrowded housing but no options to move and some with literacy problems and trying to get support to enhance their work chances but struggling to access the right services. Cuts to public services are really hurting these people. No icing on the cake for them.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Edinburgh Labour Team 2011

Edinburgh Labour candidates join Ann McKechin MP
Joined Iain Gray, Ann McKechin MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland and other Labour candidates and activists at the top of Calton Hill (great venue, great views, but blinkin' cold!) yesterday for the unveiling of  a campaign poster highlighting a number of Tory/LibDem benefit cuts that will come into force today. A baby born into a family today under the Tories will be £1,295 worse off than they were under Labour a year ago.

· £250 child trust fund cut
£545 baby element of Child Tax Credit scrapped
£50 reduction due to child benefit freeze in two child family
£450 extra costs due to VAT rise

Total: £1,295 worse off

Nothing New

Busy week campaigning, door knocking and getting the campaign newspaper delivered in Sighthill, Parkhead, Redhall and Whitson. Really good to find that people are happy to chat about the election and associated issues, provided the weather's okay and it has been this week. Also attended the Council's Finance and Resources Committee on Tuesday and the Audit Committee on Thursday. Not a huge amount worthy of mention here. Council debt is steadily increasing and this has been remarked upon by Audit Scotland, who also made a presentation to the Audit Committee on their interim Trams report and recommended a review of the project's governance arrangements. Same old, same old, really.