30 April 2010

Divine Intervention at Auggies

I attended the opening of the new St Augustine's High School this morning. Auggies is my Alma Mater. I endured 6 years there but at least they didn't chuck me out! 

I took the opportunity while touring the school to "shoot a few hoops" in the gym. Auggies was always very strong for basketball. Sadly I wasn't. True to past history every shot hit the board and bounced off. Former athletes Lord Provost  George Grubb and Colin Keir - one of my SNP colleagues tried and also missed -  again and again. 

Then one of the priests present  took a very speculative shot from quite far away.
BOOM - straight into the net!  Divine Intervention? Mind you George Grubb was a minister and he missed!

29 April 2010

Last Debate a Draw

The last of the PM Debates has just finished.  Nick Robinson at the BBC as called it a scoreless draw. The instant polls are all over the place. Which kind of suggests it was a draw. The viewer figures will be just as important  as the instant polls.  No point in coming out on top if no body watched it.

Ultimately the only poll that counts is next week. That being said... politics like rugby is a territorial game. It is easier to score a try from 5 yards out than 50! Postal votes are dropping through letter boxes at the moment so a good rating now is not unimportant.  

Looks like we're on for a roller coaster finish.

Saving Energy in Craigmillar

I spent part of Tuesday launching a housing development outside the former Craigmillar Primary School.


The development is being built by Castlerock Edinvar Housing Association. Castle Rocks CEO Alister Steele had in the past really opened my eyes to the possibilities of energy efficiency.  I was fortunate enough to see with my own eyes exactly what he was getting at. 

The idea is to eliminate drafts as far as possible and to carefully control the flow of air. This involves a heavy duty polythene layer described as sort of boil in the bag! The technology is so effective that  the amount of heating the resident needs is minimal.  This is Scotland and anything we can do to cut the bills of  residents  has to be welcomed. Doing that at the building stage is much cheaper.

The development looks is going to be very attractive as you will see from the image left. Readers with keener eye sight will spot my white knuckles on the photo above. I have no head for heights and am pictured, nervous, at the top of scaffolding! 

28 April 2010

Mourinho's Inter Knock Out Barca'

Well done Jose Mourinho who has pulled off an amazing result . His Inter Milan side knocked a very strong Barcelona team out of the Champions League. This means Inter go into their first European Cup final since they were beaten by Ajax in 1972.

On their way to that final they knocked Celtic out in the semis in the first penalty shoot out in European Cup history. It seems remarkable today to think just how good the Celtic sides of the 60's and 70's were getting to 2 European Cup finals and the Semis on 3 other occasions between between 1966 and 1975. Even more remarkable they won the Cup with a team 10 of whom I understand were born within a very small radius of the Parkhead stadium.

First Council Houses in a Generation Get the Green Light

This morning Planners approved the first Council Houses in a generation to be built in Edinburgh.

The proposal for 99 flats and houses is phase one of the development. These houses include Colony style homes similar to other parts of the City like Shandon and Stockbridge

As the Councillor who has championed building our first council housing for more than 20 years, with some opposition I have to say, I am delighted to see this latest hurdle overcome. I can't wait to see these built but here is an artists impression to be getting on with!

These houses will make a hugely important contribution to our quest to tackle  the Housing shortage in Edinburgh.

27 April 2010

On the Ball with Anti Social Behaviour

Time of an astonishing bit of Bi Partisanship. Not only am I  going to include a link showing 2 SNP councillors but  they are at Tynecastle home of  Hearts rivals of the Mighty Hibernian and they are giving them money! All in a very good cause I have to say. 


I know Norman and David were delighted to be able to present the cheque to Hearts Trust which does excellent work changing the lives of young people for the better. The boys are also ably supported at the event by Jaqui Doig of the City Councils Community Safety  Team. 

From the Porcine to the Ridiculous

Labours hapless campaign has hit more trouble with Pig Gate. Not content with having a fake Elvis serenading Gordy last Saturday the current Party of Government managed to get "stood up" (apologies for the grammar)  by Children's TV character Peppa Pig.

You can't make this stuff up.

I wonder what their motivation for this one was? Does Peppa have a clearer grasp of economics than the current Chancellor? This is a party that claims to be all substance. Which substance is still an open question.

Action on Violence

This morning I  opened the Edinburgh Violence Reduction Conference at the Assembly Rooms. The Violence Reduction Strategy  does exactly what is says on the tin! It is targeted at three main areas - 

  • Violence against Women
  • Alcohol and the night time economy
  • and lastly other street violence.
Today was all about early intervention and we have various people along from many agency's. I am appalled at the number of young people of both genders who think it is all right for a man to slap a woman. We have to change that attitude or we will never tackle domestic violence properly. Today was an important step forward in making that happen.

25 April 2010

A Different Kind of Solar Eclipse

Eleven or so days until Polling Day and we're still hanging in there. You Gov has us up one to 30%.

The talk of the Steamie has all been about Labour coming third and whether Gordon Brown could credibly serve as PM if he emerged with the largest number of seats in those circumstances. Lots of hypothesis but Labour does seem to have thrown in the towel. I wondered if it is deliberate their campaign has been so astoundingly incompetent. Cameron refused to rule out electoral reform in an Observer interview. Game on.

An interesting side effect of the 30%+ rating for the Lib Dem's is how it totally locks Rupert Murdoch out of control of the election.  

For the first time in 30 odd years  Essex man is not going to swing the election. Other voters will and they don't read the Sun!

More Misery for Alastair Campbell

Spare a thought for poor Alastair Campbell. Not content with having organised the tacky Elvis press event yesterday and Labour free falling in the polls his beloved Burnley were relegated this afternoon after only one season in the top flight. Up here Rangers won the League Title - again - beating the Mighty Hibernian 1-0 at Easter Road - the Home of Football.  I really feel for Burnley. They stared so well beating Man Utd but they lost their inspirational Manager Owen Coyle to local rivals Bolton mid way through the season and they never really recovered.

Gordon Has Left the Building...

Top Prize for the most surreal press event of the election goes to the Elvis impersonator who dropped into the Labour campaign this afternoon.


I am amazed any professional Press Officer allowed this to go ahead. It is such a gift for the headline writers.

Are You Lonesome Tonight? (snap of Alistair Darling)  We Can't Go On Together With Suspicious Minds (snap of the PM and, well, any  member of his cabinet).  Heartbreak Hotel. Mustn't forget  - All Shook Up -  and then there is  - Way Down -  which looking at the polls this week seems apt!

Headline for  May the 7th - Gordon Has Left the Building!

24 April 2010

Voters Have Long Memories

I spent the afternoon campaigning in Clerwood and Drum Brae. Not long in I have just switched on the TV  and  the image of  Charlton Heston playing Gordon of Khartoum flicked up onto the screen.  It reminded me of the  lady encountered by a canvasser during David Steel's winning by election who would not vote Liberal because Gladstone had failed to rescue Gordon of Khartoum! The by-election was in 1965!

I was amused to read David Milliband taking a swipe at anti war demonstrators yesterday saying apparently that they had already punished Labour enough.  I am sure he is hoping  they have shorter memories than the Empire Loyalist in the Borders.

Walls Come Tumbling Down for Gordon

I, sadly, missed Samson and Delilah  recently shown at the Filmhouse. This is the Australian drama not the Cecil B DeMill epic starring Victor Mature (left).  It reminded me of the hilarious Matt McGinn tale of and encounter between a wee boy at a school in Lanarkshire and a Schools Inspector. Well worth a listen!


Two things spring to mind - Samson's  beef was a bad hair cut! Oh to have other peoples problems! 

Secondly being stuck in a room with the walls falling about you must be what it feels like to be in the Labour Party at present.

23 April 2010

Delivering a Bright New Future for Edinburgh

Listen to Edinburgh City Council Leader Jenny Dawe explain to Guardian listeners how we are delivering "A Bright New Future" for the people of Edinburgh.http://www.guardian.co.uk/edinburgh/2010/apr/21/edinburgh-council-leader-jenny-dawe-readers-questions-trams-airport

Britain Need Inspired Leadership

After Last week’s debate slam dunk Nick Clegg’s job tonight was simply not to blow it. Expectation was sky high. In the face of the smear campaign by the Tory press which kicked in this morning a lesser person would have buckled under the pressure. Nick won 4 out of 5 polls of viewers.

Clegg was attacked over Europe, Immigration and Trident. I am proud that he stuck to his guns and didn’t take the populist line. It was great to hear the EC properly championed. It is clearly in our national interests to be at the heart of Europe. For too long Euro sceptics have won the argument by default because no one else has put up the defence.

Leadership is all about championing necessary, but often, unpopular causes and changing people’s minds. That is what we are getting from Nick. No pandering to deep rooted prejudices: No scaring the electorate with bogeymen. Just inspired leadership.

21 April 2010

Tough Fight for Lib Dem Autism Champion

Yesterday I popped into the Scottish Parliament to touch base with my pal Hugh O’Donnell. Hugh is a Liberal Democrat List MSP for Central Scotland. He is trying to get a Bill through Holyrood calling for the Scottish Government to produce an Autism Strategy.

The consultation responses have been very encouraging with 87% in favour. 19 respondents oppose the Bill believing “that singling out one group of people with a disability would disadvantage other groups of people with disabilities and was contrary to the aims of the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004.”

Here in lies the rub. While many people with an autistic spectrum disorder have a learning disability and/or mental health problems others do not. Autism is neither a learning disability nor a mental illness. For that reason this condition falls between two stools and as a result services Scotland wide are under developed particularly for people who have high functioning autism or Aspergers Syndrome.

Once in every ten years or so someone puts forward a Members Bill, or Private Members Bill, on a subject. If it fails then it is a long time before someone else puts their head above the parapet on that topic.

I fear that if the groups who oppose this bill are successful in undermining it then the opportunity to develop services Scotland wide for Autistic people will be lost for a decade.

20 April 2010

Vote Clegg. Get Clegg!

The usual wasted vote tripe is emanating from the tired old establishment parties. It’s a Pavlovian response to our existence but there you go. Last week we had Lord Adonis calling for Lib Dems to tactically vote Labour but no sense of reciprocity. It is this the arrogance of the Establishment that really disappoints me and lots of voters out there. We have poll after poll saying that Labour are in third place and that we are the principle challengers to the Tories.

Gordon Brown is saying that Clegg is having a honeymoon period just like he did. Well Gordon's honeymoon lasted much longer than the 16 days we have until polling day. I am sure he is justifiably afraid!

What is becoming evident is that no one is going to win a majority and that if you vote Lib Dem you get more Lib Dem influence.

Yesterday Carol Cadwaller of the Observer pointed out that Cameron was the Emperor with no clothes with his stance on Immigration. No immigration – No NHS! The Lib Dems want to allow in migrant workers who have already arranged jobs. Cameron wants a crude limit on numbers probably worked out on the back on an envelope.

Noting that in a few years that every school leaver in  Tayside will have to work in the care industry in order to look after the frail elderly of that region, what happens when you reach the cap?

Do we turn our nose up at the nurses we need from abroad (currently 1 in 4 of the NHS) or do we take a sensible needs based approach. Liberal policies are eminently reasonable but as is often the case with complex issues of with real substance they take more than a sound bite to explain. If there are dangerous and dogmatic policies they are coming from both Labour and the Tories.

18 April 2010

Marathon Man

Thursday’s leader’s debate has led to a massive surge in the polls for the Lib Dems at the expense of both establishment parties. This presents the old guard with a dilemma. What to do about the Lib Dems? If they crudely attack us then they lose the pro-Lib Dem floating voters that each badly needs to squeeze in order to win marginal’s. If they ignore us then they lose votes to us almost by default and we win our target marginal’s and a tranche of their as well.

Andrew Rawnsley summed it up perfectly in this morning’s Observer commenting on the Tories attacking the Lib Dems on crime and immigration...

“The risk for the Tories is that this lures David Cameron back on to Michael Howard territory and will look like a lurch to the right which is repulsive to the liberal, centrist voters that he needs. Michael Gove has already experimented with one line of attack by patronising the Lib Dems as "outside the mainstream and a little bit eccentric". The trouble for both the Tories and Labour is that being "outside the mainstream" does not look the least bit "eccentric" to the many voters distrustful of and disillusioned with the old duopoly. It looks jolly attractive”

Labour for their part started by attacking Clegg’s line on Trident. Here in lies the dilemma for Labour. If they vilify Clegg for wanting to rid us of Trident then they risk losing the support of Labour voters who agree with Nick on this. They will de-motivate those party activists who held their noses during the Gulf War but whose tolerance and morale must be wearing very thin.

A panic stricken Gordon Brown is saying that this election is not a sprint. Well Gordon I’ve watched enough track and field over the years to know that even in a marathon there are athletes with sprint finishes!

16 April 2010

Reactions to Debate

The press coverage of the debates has been really interesting. The consensus has been a big win for Clegg. We will have to see how that is reflected in the polls though, politician’s cliché number one of the day, the only one that matters is on the 6th of May!



I have the longish weekend to look forward. The weather is fabulous. Not a sign of an Icelandic ash any where! Must be awful for those poor people who have been stranded. As well as doing my bit in super safe West Edinburgh I will be heading off to Edinburgh North and Leith, a knife edge marginal, where Lib Dem challenger Kevin Lang is so close to wresting that seat from Labour.

The other highlight of last night was that the Council hosted a reception where the Health and Social Care Department was presented with their Investors in Volunteering Award. This is the first Council Department in Scotland to win this accolade. Well done to the Volunteer Development team and of course to the volunteers involved.

15 April 2010

Only One Winner In TV Head to Head

Debate night! I bumped into Sir David Steel at Waverley Station this lunchtime. He was on his way to do the post debate TV. He had just wandered past the Lib Dem Battle Bus which was minus Vince Cable a result of flights being cancelled due to the fallout of an Icelandic volcano! David was absolutely certain that Nick Clegg was going to perform really well tonight and he was, as usual, right - Nick won hands down. I have Newsnight Scotland on while writing this and I am struck that all the Pundits from other parties speaking at present are all saying Nick won by a mile. Added to this is the fact that all the early opinion polls are saying that he won easily.

All Liberal/Lib Dem Leaders struggle for national recognition until their first election. Tonight Nick has received a massive boost in exposure and in credibility. An encouraging night for the Lib Dems and a good few collywobbles for Cameron’s Tories who see their chances an election win disappearing fast. Labour seemed totally out of it.

12 April 2010

Progress in Northern Ireland

The weather today was perfect! I spent the best of it out and about in my ward leafleting Craigleith and Ravelston. I can’t stand too much heat on my head and last year about this time I managed to get bad sun burn in the first warm day. A friend suggested yogurt as a cure for sun burn. I smeared it over my head and it cooled me down better than any other after sun treatment. The only downside was I looked like a giant ice cream cone!

Progress in Northern Ireland

Congratulations to David Ford and the very best of success to him. David is the leader of Northern Ireland's non sectarian Alliance Party. He has just been appointed Justice Minister at Stormont and is the first Justice Minister since direct rule was imposed in the early seventies. Northern Irish politics has got refreshingly boring. Law and Order has always been a very divisive issue in Ulster with the traditional Unionist domination of the RUC. David’s appointment is to be welcomed. He will act as an honest broker and is in a unique position to represent the interests of all of Northern Ireland not just one community.

Legal Aid for MP’s

I am dumbfounded that three former Labour MP’s will receive legal aid to fight criminal charges arising from the expenses scandal. This move comes under an “interest of justice” test.

According to the BBC website “The test says if a defendant is at risk of losing his or her liberty - that is, they could go to prison if convicted - then they are entitled to legal representation paid for by the state.” Well doesn’t that happen with large numbers of people who may be up on criminal charges? I understand that there is a means test being phased in down in England but it has yet to happen in the area where these MP’s are being charged. Nick Clegg is “dismayed” by this. David Cameron thinks it is a “complete outrage” and again on a national controversy Gordon Brown did not comment.

Cup Upsets

This weekend had another couple of cup upsets both north and south of the border. Portsmouth knocked Spurs out meaning that they will finish their miserable season at Wembley facing double chasing Chelsea - I suspect that all neutrals will be backing Pompey!

Up here Ross County, conquerors of the Mighty Hibernian in the Quarter Finals beat Celtic in the Semis and now face Dundee United who dispatched Raith Rovers in their last four tie. If any team deserves a trophy this season in Scotland it is Dundee Utd. In spite of losing their charismatic manager to the Scotland job halfway through the season they have managed to play effective and very attractive footie.

It takes me back to the 80’s when under Jim McLean they made it to the European Cup semis and UEFA Cup final and on their way there hammering a Barcelona side which counted both Mark Hughes and Gary Linekar amongst its numbers! Oh and they were managed by Terry Venebals at that time and United totally stuffed them in the Nou Camp - more than Arsenal managed last week.

11 April 2010

Questions Questions...

There are various theories that abound regarding election victory. There is the Big Idea theory – a party has an attractive big idea such as founding the NHS which sweeps them into power on a wave of euphoria. Then there is the view, much more likely, that it isn’t parties who win election but governments who lose them; Callaghan in 1979 and Major in 1997 are clear examples. A third theory is that after you have been in a while the electorate gets sick if the sight of you and just wants a change. Less personal is the theory that once in every so many years that the Britain wants a total change of direction. Again 79 and 97 are examples of this generational shift.

In this morning’s Observer Andrew Rawnsley expounded a new one to me which I think may have some resonance. It’s not the answers that will win the election it’s the questions. Rawnsley's rule is that victory goes to the party which makes its question most resonant with the voters?


So here are a few questions.
• Based on past experience who got it right on the economy Darling, Osbourne or Cable?
• Noting that who do you trust to get us out of the economic jam we are in?

10 April 2010

Thoughts on Coalition

The election campaign is well and truly underway. The polls are as tight as can be. The Lib Dems are at a respectable 20%. The Labour and Tory votes are split in such a way that a hung Parliament looks more and more likely. Coalitions or junior parties supporting minority governments were frequent in the first half of the 20th Century. We have experience of coalition here in Scotland between 1999 and 2007 and it really made for better administration than either the uncertainly and torpor of minority rule or narrow sectional interests domination that you get under one party administration.

Nick Clegg will, as we get closer and closer to polling day, get repeated questioning about who he would favour as a coalition partner. It is seen by pundits to be extreme folly to actually answer! Not least as it isn’t a straight forwards choice. A lot depends on numbers. The whole idea of forming a coalition is to form a majority. Not much point of saying that you want to go in with one lot if the result doesn’t allow that. Then there is the issue of being seen to shore up a losing government. How much that could be finessed by insisting on a change of PM is an interesting and, in modern times, an untested question. An awful lot may depend on personalities. Never underestimate the influence of the personal relationships of politicians when it comes to divvying up power. It might be different at Westminster from Holyrood with such high stakes but generally you want a good working relationship and a win-win coalition for both partners. If you can’t stand each other, or trust each other, then your chances of holding it together are slim.

Edinburgh’s top Hairdresser Charlie Miller is heading to the North Pole in aid of a good cause. He is going to cut the hair of Edinburgh entrepreneur and philanthropist Sir Tom Farmer in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust. I wish both the very best of luck. As you can see from my picture I don’t have much use for Charlie’s services.


9 April 2010

A word of praise for British Democracy

A study just out says that the 5 portions of fruit and veg day thing will only arrest 2.5% of cancers. It won’t cut 50% of cancers as some seemed to think. Even so 2.5% is hardly worth ignoring and with any study the devil is in the detail. Experts do say that there is a link between eating plenty of fruit and veg and other conditions.

I don’t subscribe to Sky so missed the annihilation of the mighty Arsenal by Barcelona. Four goals from the amazing Lionel Messi against a side of Arsenal class was really going some. I think that the team for neutrals to follow at this summers World Cup will not Brazil as normal but Argentina if the other 10 they field have a tenth of his talent.

The various party leaders clashes in the last PMQ's before the elections arguing no doubt over which end of the egg is the top. Meanwhile in Kyrgyzstan there are riots with 40 deaths as anti government protests grow. A pal monitored 2 elections there in the last few years. It is an amazing country and had the potential to be a demicratic beacon in central asia a bit like Botswana in Africa. Sadly the last election she monitored the preseident fixed it even though he had no need. These things unravel so quickly. Such a pity but it reminds me just how lucky we are in this country.

7 April 2010

New Standards for New Houses

Homes for Scotland, the body which represents Scotland Private House builders, have been attacking the new building standards due to take effect in October. These standards will improve the energy efficiency of new build homes. Lobbying groups for private sector interests usually don’t like any regulation which ties their hands but much as I empathize with the plight of our building trade, and I have campaigned for measures to get the building industry moving again, the houses they build are for life – sometimes several lifetimes.

This is a nation with a “purgatorial “climate (according to RLS). Let’s not build houses which waste energy when the technology is there to build more energy efficient houses. The economy will pick up but we mustn’t saddle people with avoidably high heating bills for years to come when we can relatively, cheaply design it out from the outset.

Where I do have some sympathy for HoS is their call to tackle existing properties energy efficiency. The Council has an obligation to meting the Scottish Housing Quality Standard by 2015 but private houses do not. Most of the SHQS obligations relate to energy efficiency. Lib Dem Housing spokesperson at Holyrood Jamie Stone MSP has rightly called for an Eco Cash Back scheme giving home owners the cash to install energy efficiency or micro generational measures.

6 April 2010

Lib Dems off to a flying start as election gun fired

Gordon Brown has called the general election. I will avoid tub thumping about the PM prerogative to call it when it suits him. We are where we are and where we are is very interesting. It is a very tight race with the Lib Dems on one of our highest starting gun poll ratings (20%) that I can recall. We tend to climb in the Polls as we get the media attention. We also have the biggest hitter in politics at present in the shape of Vince Cable; the man who got it right on the economy. I am an unashamed member of the Vince Cable for Chancellor Party.

Locally we have a chance that Edinburgh will be Labour free for the first time for more than a century. Bit by bit the old Labour grip has been broken and new politics are seeping in. While West edinburgh will remain a rock solid Lib Dem seat the knife edge marginal seats of South Edinburgh (Lab maj. over Lib Dems of 405) and North and Leith (Lab maj. Over Lib Dems of 2,153) will be very hard fought battles. Fred MacIntosh is so well placed to scoop this seat up having put in years of ground work and it looks like it is going to pay off. Kevin Lang in North and Leith has built up a formidable campaign team and again has put in a lot of ground work. I took the opportunity of going out and helping there myself the other day and I was taken aback by the enthusiasm of the campaign team. I am sure that both Fred and Kevin will do it.

Tim McKay in Edinburgh South West is squaring up to the Chancellor of the Exchequer who has finally remembered that he is an Edinburgh MP (see previous posting). Shame he forgot to answer my letters asking for accelerated investment to be used for Housing. That would have got the building industry moving again which is what we really need at this moment in time. He also did nothing to alleviate Council Housing debt again an items which would have kick started the building Industry. All these lost opportunities…

There is nothing quite like the excitement of political drama unfolding. We are also going to have the first TV debates between the Contenders for PM. Pundits always cite the 1960 presidential election as the great TV election. I wonder if we are not 50 years out of date with IT, Twitter etc. TV is no longer the homogenous medium it was in the past where everyone tuned in to Morecambe and Wise and talked about the same things they had watched the previous night. Kennedy won that election narrowly in terms of the popular vote with some evidence of having stolen Illinois. He actually won the Electoral College by a landslide – 303 to 219 - that is how the system works there. He won the TV debate where Nixon, gaunt with an evening shadow looked less trust worthy. On radio the pundits made it a win for Nixon.

There are 3 debates planned and there will be 3 Party Leaders. The 2004 Presidential debates really put G Bush on the spot with John Kerry performing very strongly. Who will be tricky Dickey this time and who will be the shining intellectual who wins out?