30 October 2010

He Would Say that Wouldn't He

So Ed Miliband has told his Party faithful that the £150 billion debt his government left the incoming coalition to sort out wasn't Labour's fault! It was an international slump which they had no part of he claims. Proof positive of the old adage "to er is human. To blame someone else if politics!"

Britain is one of the biggest economy's in the world. The City of London is one of the biggest money markets in the world. Labour were in power between  1997 until a few months ago and  had responsibility for regulating the markets. They failed to do so just as they failed to heed the calls of Vince Cable to take a firmer hand in the regulation of the city and curb debt.  They let banks like RBS rack up debts that would make any Banana Republics look prudent. Ed Miliband was happy to be part of that government and thus is also collectively responsible for the National debt being racked up. 

The public are not stupid. They rightly have pinned the blame for the deficit on Labour. Milibands attempt to evade responsibility  it is up there with his attempt to distance himself from the gulf war  and does nothing to repair his damaged credibility or that of his party.

29 October 2010

Celerating Oxgangs Commercial Development

I was delighted to take part in the celebrations in Oxgangs yesterday marking the  latest phase of the redevelopment of that area. Three tower blocks were blown down a few years back - too expensive to bring up to the new housing quality standard.  Dunedin Canmore Housing Association were given the land plus some £15 million of Housing Grant from the Council and have build a terrific mixed development which includes housing, some retail units, office space and some business space for voluntary organisations. 

The project itself was the result of very close partnership working between the council, Dunedin Canmore and the local community indeed the involvement of the  latter has been  of a particularly high calibre!

My good friend and Colleague Cllr Tom Buchanan spoke very well at the opening  which was ably compared by Ewan  Cameron the CEO of Dunedin Canmore. 

I wish all involved in this super project well and congratulate all involved,. They have done Oxgangs proud!

24 October 2010

And then there were twelve!

Here is a link to the profile that Holyrood Magazine ran this week on me. A bit surreal in that  I have managed to find my self with an increased number of siblings -  I am only one of 11 children. In fairness to Kerry who wrote the article  she was within a ten percent margin of error and I was in my "talking the hind legs of a donkey" mode! Mind you  two sisters was handful enough but three!!!


Hume is Irelands Greatest

I was delighted to read that the Irish have votes Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and former SDLP Leader John Hume to be their Greatest Irishman.

A very worthy winner. Ulster has managed to  produce such brave and towering figures as Hume, Gerry Fitt and Lord Alderdice to name but a few.  For more on this see the link below.


This last week has seen the Comprehensive Spending Review published. There have been many acres of newsprint published  on this topic but the most insightful as usual is the Observer's Andrew Rawnsley  who writes, 

The thrust of Labour's response has been to accuse the coalition of pillaging public spending because they are activated by a Tory lust to eviscerate the state. "This was a spending review driven by ideology," says Ed Miliband. There are plenty of Tories who do see shrinking the state as a goal in itself. For some of them, that is what they came into politics to do just as Labour's new leader came into politics to expand the state. I'm doubtful that this line of attack from Labour will work. For the charge to stick, Labour needs David Cameron and Nick Clegg to look like ideological crazies and, whatever Labour may wish, the prime minister and his Lib Dem partner simply don't come over that way.

Nor does the evidence support the Labour critique. The great squeeze will reduce public spending from its current level of 48% of GDP to about 41% by 2014-2015. That is above, not below, the postwar average for Britain. It is fairly typical of a European welfare state. Spending will fall to about the same proportion of GDP as in 2007-08 when Ed Miliband was a senior aide at the Treasury to Gordon Brown. In cash terms, at the end of the four years, the government will be spending 6% more than it does now. In real terms, the coalition will be spending more than when New Labour came to power in 1997.

That won't be much solace to anyone who relies on a public service that is going to be reduced nor to anyone working for the government who is fearful of losing their position. The forecast job losses in the public sector are 490,000 over four years. That is a big number, there's no doubt about it. But even if every one of those jobs does disappear, the state will still be employing about 200,000 more people than it was when Labour came to power. I wish Labour luck in trying to paint Dave'n'Nick as the evil twin brothers of Sarah Palin. They will need luck because the facts don't support the argument.

You can read the whole piece  at the following link:


22 October 2010

Swift Development in Gracemount

An exciting week is coming to a close. The highlight of it for me has been the sod cutting in Gracemount. An interesting sub plot  of the development surrounds some of the environmental works going on. A handful of diseased lime trees have needed to be felled.  The wood from the felled trees is to be used well. Logs and chippings are earmarked for use in projects by the local primary schools including benches and the remainder of the logs will be reused by the Council's forestry department.   

Local wildlife is to be encouraged by siting bat boxes  in 5 of the remaining Lime Trees and each tree felled will be replaced later on in the development with  semi mature trees placed in properly constructed tree pits to give them the best chance of growing. Swift bricks (see picture)  are to be built into the new development to provide a nesting place for this threatened specie. This development clearly is providing homes for a wide variety of tenants!

20 October 2010

Cramond Older Peoples Health Day

I was delighted to be asked to open the Cramond Older Peoples day this morning. The event brought  together various groups to promote older peoples services in the area.

The day had everything from sumo suits and salsa dancing to indoor curling. It was very well attended and I was particularly pleased to see staff from Health and Social Care in attendance as were some of our telecare team. Various other groups such as the Centre for Health and Well Being and Care and Repair also had stands.

Praise has to go to Cramond Community Council who  put in a huge effort in helping to  organise the event along side the West Neighbourhood Team. 

19 October 2010

First Sod Cut In Council Housing Development

Today, together with Housing Minister Alex Neil, I dug the first sod for the Gracemount part of the  21st Century  Houses project. This development involves building the first council housing in a generation in Edinburgh.

Since I announced that we were going down the route of building our own homes we have had to negotiate various hurdles including planning, appointment of contractors and sorting out what is a very strong business case. I am so pleased to see the work commencing. We are looking to hand over keys to the first residents late next year.  Today was very much the end of the beginning for this project!

To watch a video of this click on the link below.


12 October 2010

Hope In Chile

At the time of writing the most remarkable rescue mission is getting underway in Chile. The 33 trapped miners who have been buried alive for the last two months have shown remarkable resilience and  spirit in the most testing circumstances. 

I cannot begin to imagine what these men have been through and what  their families have had to endure. I wish the men and their families and the team of rescuers the very best of luck.

Sense at Last in US Equality Battle

Well done US District Judge Virginia Philips. She has declared the "don't ask, don't tell" policy of banning openly gay people from serving in the US Military  unconstitutional.

The lawsuit was brought by the Log Cabin Republicans, a pro-gay Republican group, on behalf of openly gay military personnel who had been discharged under the policy. Supporters of the ban say allowing gay people to serve openly in the US military would lower troop morale and hinder military readiness. This is complete rubbish. We are living in the 21st century and social attitudes have moved on from the old intolerant past

Other countries allow openly gay people to serve including the UK. Isn't it time that Americans showed people  who are brave enough to risk their lives to defend their country  the respect that they deserve whatever their sexuality.

10 October 2010

Action on Dementia

This is an article I wrote for the Edinburgh Reporter regarding the new Dementia strategy and the services we in Edinburgh are providing.


5 October 2010

Action on CO

Today I chaired the Health Social Care and Housing Committee. One item discussed was the approval of the installation of carbon monoxide alarms in every one of our 18 000 council homes in the city.   This is being carried out in tandem with a very comprehensive gas servicing regime and will make our council homes that much safer.

3 October 2010

Sterling Defence of Free Personal Care

Last week I spoke at a conference on Home Care Modernisation. 

In Edinburgh we have made great strides forward in this area. Our old Home Help system was inflexible and inefficient. People once they got care  had a Home Help in perpetuity. 

Faced with  soaring numbers of older people  we were forced to totally reform the system. we introduced the innovative re-ablement system where people were given intensive support to  help them relearn their life skills. At the end of the 6 weeks 48% didn't need a home help at all and that resource was there to be used for some one else who needed it more. 

Today we had a range of other speakers including David Manion CEO of Age Scotland. He had been a senior Labour Councillor in London in the past and was drawing to our attention how counter productive abandoning Free Personal care would be. Labour were not  committed to Free Personal Care to the point that I would say they were hostile. It was eventuality passed due to Lib Dem and SNP pressure and never introduced south of the border.

Mr Manion put the cost  of the project into perspective. He said that  the cost of FPC was the equivalent of  just 5% of inappropriate admissions to hospital. A clear warning that if we abandon FPC  we will end up with the public purse picking up the tab in other ways and probably spending more on an inferior  patient outcome.

In these tight times FPC has it's critics but I would caution them to look at the much bigger picture. It may be more expensive abandoning it.