30 April 2011

Eddie Turnbull Remembered

I was very sad the learn of the death today of the legendary Eddie Turnbull. One of the great Hibs "Famous Five" forward line who won Hibs three Scottish League titles and were the first team to compete in Europe, Turnbull went on to manage the side in the 70's. 

That era, of Turnbulls Tornado's, was when I first started supporting Hibs. The team was packed with class and gave a Celtic side, who at the time were among the very best in Europe, a really good run for their money. 

The flair they played with and the talent he assembled spoke volumes for his abilities as a manager. He won a Scottish Cup with Aberdeen in 1970 and the League Cup with Hibs in 1972. He was the brains behind the legendary 7-0 hammering of Hearts on New Years Day in 1973. Both Aberdeen and Hibs managed Runners up slots under him. That great Hibs side didn't win enough trophies for the talent at their disposals but that wasn't down to the calibre of the manager who was one of the very best.

28 April 2011

Wedding Belles and Messi Magic

Our Council meeting was rather short this morning. We didn't have a single division which must be some kind of record. Even the Council questions which are usually a bloodbath were quite muted.

I had two up on our Advice Services Review and on Garden Aid. The former has been a long saga due to the difficulty of finding suitable premises for our service once the lease of the existing premises expires. The latter is an issue that Labour have tried to grandstand on in the past until it is pointed that they voted for any changes which have taken place. Then they are strangely quite on this. I can’t think why!

Tomorrow we have the Royal Wedding. I am spending the evening at a friends Civil Partnership celebration - wedding belles will be very much the order of the day tomorrow. Best of luck with your life together girls and I hope it all goes well.

I can’t let last nights match between Barcelona and Real Madrid pass without comment. The game was a massive disappointment with the exception of the two goals from Lionel Messi. The first was merely excellent the last was a marvel. He was like a hot knife through butter. The rest of the game was a real let down. I was looking forward to a classic encounter but Real were so negative, and that was at Home! Yes the sending off wasn’t justified but Real did give me the impression that one of their players would have gone eventually.

Still there is the return leg to look forward to which must be more open.

27 April 2011

First Sun Burn of the Year

Today I have spent part of the day out on the stump bathed in a little too much spring sunshine. In spite of dutifully wearing a hat I still managed to get burnt on my neck. We were joined by our Scottish Lib Dem Leader Tavish Scott and by George Lyon MEP, who ducked by to see what they could do to help. Tavish seemed in very good fettle considering that it is just over one week until polling day. In that time we have the "Full" Council meeting as we call it and then there is the Royal Wedding to keep us occupied.

I recall the Charles and Di wedding when I was much much younger! I spent it playing cricket for Holy Cross Third XI. I can't recall the opposition but I do recall that the team was captained by Keith Geddes, at the time an aging fast bowler who later morphed into the last leader of Lothian Regional Council and the first of the newly set up City of Edinburgh Council.

I also can't recall if we won or not but I can categorically say that I was rubbish. Cricket is a very absorbing game when you get into it but I am afraid I learned too few strokes too late in life to be any good. This is a real pity - there are fewer nice ways to spent a sunny Saturday than knocking a ball around a park, stopping for lunch, knocking it some more and stopping for tea. I can't see American footballers stopping for Darjeeling and a slice of Victoria Sponge.  Maybe that is why they always seem so angry.

26 April 2011

Wildlife Painter Remembered

Few things have taken my breath away quite as much the picture on today's Google marking the  226th anniversary of the birth in Haiti of John James AububonThe naturalist, ornithologist and painter's images of birds are stunning!

23 April 2011

LEAP Graduation and Muirhouse Hustings

I was guest speaker at the graduation ceremony of the Lothians and Edinburgh Abstinence Programme (LEAP) on Thursday. Three people with addictions managed to turn their lives around to the extent that they were moving on from residing at the project and were now going to the next stage of their lives.

It was a very emotional occasion with about 40 or so family, friends and others gathered in a very warm room hearing the stories of the three graduates and their experiences. All three graduates had difficult times and all spoke very eloquently about the challenges they faced and were now overcoming. They were very honest about their past. Many of the guests had been through the Programme themselves and were so supportive of each of them. 

LEAP has a very high success rate and we know from a lot of evidence collected that people who have managed to throw off addictions usually have better health than those of us who have never had addictions in the first place. I can only wish them all the very best in their continuing fight for rehabilitation.

On from there to do a Hustings meeting in Muirhouse. At 24 hours notice I was drafted in the represent the Party.It's a long story!

The Hustings was sparsely attended with about 12 people there and from what I could see only about 6 not party campaigners. The event was very admirably chaired by Roy Douglas of the Muirhouse and Salvesen Community Council who was fairness and impartiality personified.  

In spite of the lack of numbers we still had to field some quite challenging and pointed questions which ranged from MP's expenses, through trams, to cuts from Westminster. I felt I acquitted myself well enough.

Only a few more days before polling. My poor feet can't wait!

20 April 2011

Visits to Local Dementia Project

Campaigning in the mid April sunshine has been a joy. The sun has been out and has been just warm enough and out in my suburban ward the  cherry blossoms  are out in abundance  so the place a riot of pink. I could get all poetic about it  but I do recognise my limitations!

I have still managed to get out to my usual schedule of local meetings and events. On  Monday I visited the Corstorphine Dementia Project looking at the work they do to assist carers and people living with dementia. This is a day service which is now entering its twentieth year and provides a much needed break for carers. Over the years they have managed to expand their services and are trying out a tea time service  twice a month which has been a great success giving carers and the other service users a some much valued social interaction. With growing numbers of older people we know that demand for these types of services is only going to grow. 

This evening I have was the AGM of the Donaldson’s Amenity Association. Donaldson’s College for the Deaf closed a few years back and the future of the building is the subject of some speculation. Planning permission was obtained before the bottom fell out of the property market. The site is up for sale now and locals are somewhat concerned about the future of it.

A picture of the magnificent building  is posted here but also forms part of the banner for this blog.

The AGM passed off well enough. Issues raised included the Tram situation and whether the Donaldson’s area should be in the West End or the Murrayfield Community Council Areas.  They want to be in with Murrayfield for a number of very good practical reasons.  

Tomorrow I will preside over the graduation ceremony of the Lothian and Edinburgh Abstinence Program. That promises to be an inspiring event.

19 April 2011

Charles The Second Rides Back Into Parliament Square

I am delighted to hear that Edinburgh's oldest statue that of Charles II has been returned to its plinth behind St Giles Cathedral.

Believed to be 325 years old the statue was removed for renovation recently. I often lunch in the Crypt at St Giles and have missed the sight of the impressive sculpture in Parliament Square. With the old Scottish Parliament (pre 1707) and the Court of Session  just next to it the old horse has witnessed some of the most dramatic scenes of Scottish History.

17 April 2011

Allende’s Remains to Be Exhumed

A Court in Chile has ordered the remains of Salvador Allende be exhumed in order to determine whether he committed suicide or was murdered as part of the 1973 coup.   

The Court is looking into no fewer than 726 alleged cases of Human Rights abuse as part of the Coup.

The official version of events was that Allende committed suicide with a rifle given to him by Fidel Castor but others believe he was assassinated during the coup d’├ętat. 

I have noticed that different countries who have thrown off despotic regimes handle them in different ways. Few have managed to replicate the Truth and Reconciliation approach of South Africa which has been so successful. 

Chile obtrusively did not punish Pinochet much to the chagrin of those of us who felt he should have stood trial and atoned for his deeds when in power. That being said there is a real fear that the exhumation will reopen wounds in Chilean society which have been slowly healing since democracy was restored in 1989.

In this year of revolution in North Africa and the Middle East there are lessons for the new governments to learn. Look to South Africa if you want to successfully move on from bitter division.

14 April 2011

I Agree With Vince!

Vince Cable is spot on in his critique of the Cameron stance on Immigration.  This country will suffer if we cap it in the way Cameron is touting and that will be calamitous.

It is not just in high paid and high skilled jobs like company executives. merchant bankers and science that we will suffer. We have many nurses necessarily recruited from abroad.

In social care  there is a real shortage of care workers. The growing demographic pressures mean that shortly every school leavers in Tayside will have to work in the care sector if all of the frail older people of Tayside are to get the care they need. We need staff and  if we don't have enough people of the right age range and skill set we need them to move here from some where else.

13 April 2011

Corstorphine Hill Litter Pick Up

I spent this morning  helping with the Big Spring Clean on Corstorphine Hill Nature Reserve. This is about 70 acres of woodland in my council ward planted on dolerite rock.

Very much the lungs of the city it is part of the Kidnapped Trail  i.e.  one of the places in Scotland featured  in the Robert Louise Stevenson Classic Kidnapped.

The novel ends on Corstorphine Hill with the heroes Davie Balfour and Alan Breck Stewart bidding each other farewell at the Rest and Be Thankful looking  down on the bogs of Corstorphine.  The marsh is still remembered in the names of some of the streets. Lampacre Rd  is a reference to the pathway across the marsh and the Old Kirk has a place for the lamp if my memory serves me right.

The famous Clermiston Tower (see photo) is a folly at the top of the Hill and is dedicated to Sir Walter Scott.

The clean up progressed well. As well as the mountain of bottles and crisp  and plastic bags there was a broken  bench thrown away there and two car wheel inners.  The Friends of Corstorphine Hill were out in force admirably assisted by our Countryside Rangers, Environmental Wardens and other volunteers. Well done all involved!

I have spent much of the last few weeks out campaigning for the Holyrood elections. Yesterday was one of those "four seasons in one day" days. I managed to begin delivering leaflets  while it was lightly raining and ended up with the first  sun burn of the year! Today it was freezing! Ah spring in Scotland!

12 April 2011

First TV Broadcast for Pro AV Campaign

As the pro AV campaign hots up the first referendum broadcast was this evening. For those who failed to catch it here is a link.

Yes 2 Fairer Votes Video

10 April 2011

AV Choices Gets the Animal Treatment

Here is an interesting slant on the  referendum  on electoral reform.  

I am all for the change in voting system. In 1992, the last time I lost a council election I was well beaten by a Tory but I got more votes than 19 Councillors elected that night.

Stone of Destiny Anniversary

Tomorrow is the 60th anniversary of the Stone of Scone  being recovered by the authorities following its daring theft/ liberation from Westminster Abbey depending on your level of Scottish Nationalism.

The stone was traditionally used during the coronation of Scottish Monarchs at Scone until stolen by Edward I of England (aka Long shanks) in 1296. It was then used in the Coronation of English and then British Monarchs.

On Christmas Day 1950 it was filched back by a group of Nationalist Students from Glasgow University.  It was eventually left in Arbroath Abbey and returned to Westminster Abbey.

In 1996 the UK Government returned the Stone to Scotland and it is on display at Edinburgh Castle.  

My Enemys Enemy

While I agree with Olly Grender when she writes in the New Statesman that "Clegg could walk on water right now and the Daily Mail would see it as a failure or a blunder" I am hardly surprised to see it confirmed by one of their journalists.

The Mail backed Oswald Mosley. With judgement like that and the values of prejudice they espouse why would we want their praise? I would feel dirty!

9 April 2011

Local Team Wins Melrose Sevens

Congratulations to Melrose Rugby Club who won their own seven a side tournament for the first time since 1998. Melrose was the place where sevens were invented and is still the premier  tournament in the Scottish Borders Sevens circuit.

I have been a regular at the Greenyards in the past and managed to see them win  in 1997. As a Liberal and a Hibs supporter there was a time when Melrose were the only team I supported likely to win anything!

8 April 2011

Pill Inventor Wins Edinburgh Medal

Even though I have now moved into politics full time I am still consider myself a scientist, a designation I am very proud of. I may not have been a Nobel contender but I feel a strong sense of fellowship with those who are. 

Science can be such a force for change. For example the new vaccine  for  Human papillomavirus (HPV) is currently preventing many millions of young women from contracting cervical cancer. Imagine the families which won't be devastated by the loss of a mother, sister or daughter. 

This year the annual Edinburgh Medal  has been awarded to Stanford University Professor Carl Djerassi the man who invented the oral contraceptive.

The Edinburgh Medal is given each year to men and women of science and technology whose professional achievements are judged to have made a significant contribution to the understanding and well-being of humanity.

Noting what a seismic change the Pill made in handing control of their fertility to women Professor Djerassi is a very worthy winner. 

7 April 2011

There is Nothing Like a Dane

I spent this afternoon speaking to a group of Danish Mayors about Social Care and Health Politics. They were at the end of a study tour looking at demographics issues and how to keep people in their own homes for longer.

I was struck by how much we had in common not least the  issues we all face.

We were joined by Norman Work, my Vice Convenor and by this council’s sole Danish councillor, Jo Coleman, who nonchalantly gabbled away in Danish while Norm and I looked quizzically on!.

Jo had been a councillor on Cambridgeshire before moving up to Edinburgh a few years back with her husband. Jo also runs a Danish Bakery which is about to open in St Mary's Street. A true polymath as well as politics and baking she did a stint in the past with a circus. Adept at the trapeze she also did a spot of stilt walking and is also a former unicycle jousting champion! With a background like that nobody can accuse her of being unbalanced!

Masters Contenders Jet In

The US Masters starts today. I am no fan of golf one of many inventions we Scots have given the world. Harry S Truman called it “a good walk spoiled”. I agree. That being said I often watch the last few holes of the Masters or the Open and I have a reverence for the high standard of sportsmanship pro golfers in particular display. In these days of betting scandals and ball tampering Golf is far more "cricket" in terms of standards of behaviour than cricket!

I hope that English golfer Lee Westwood manages to put behind him his recent brush with disaster when his private jet landed with smoke billowing out of the cabin.

When I read about this incident I did wonder how a pro golfer could afford a private jet. There are limits to how much personal wealth can buy and being curious I googled how much it costs for your own private jet. I was amazed to find an e-How page devoted to buying your own executive jet! I thought e-How was all about how to fold shirts etc! Evidently not!


A private jet comes in at as low as $6million (about £3 million) for a six to eight seater. Now a six seater is just one more than an Edinburgh Taxi and you have your golf clubs to take in to account. The running costs are a smidgeon higher. You do have to have a pilot rather than a cabbie but the plus side the pilot is less likely to bang on about Edinburgh’s tram project all the time!

5 April 2011

Lib Dem Manifesto Launch

This week sees the Scottish Parliamentary election campaign step up a gear with the publication of manifestos. 

Today it was the turn of Tavish Scott to launch our manifesto. Among the interesting ideas was an exemption from council tax for pensioners  whose income is below £10K. I also welcome the protection of  Free Personal Care, the expansion of Telehealth and the support for more self directed support for those requiring care. 

While  in Edinburgh we probably won't have much call for the "Home on the Farm" scheme to develop rural housing  I do welcome the general thrust of the Housing manifesto. 

I also welcome the approach to Law and Order. The Lib Dem's are the  only party standing up for decentralised policing and the only ones wanting to protect our traditional freedoms.

Anyho' if you want a look at what we are proposing  just click here Scottish Lib Dem Manifesto .

In it for the Long Run - Pension Reform Straight From The Horses Mouth

This artcile from Pensions Minister Steve Webb showcases much of the excellent work he is doing.


The restoration of the earnings link and the prospect of a £140 per week pension are eye catching policies.

4 April 2011

Four More Years

I was delighted to read that Barack Obama has decided to run for a second term.

Whilst support for him has dipped there is evidence that he is in a much better position for re-election than Bill Clinton was at this stage.

What did surprise me though was how close the next US election is! It only seemed like yesterday that Obama was swept into office on a wave of good will. Time will tell re Obama’s future but US election campaigns do seem to have gotten longer and longer.

When you read Theodore Whites seminal text "The Making of the President 1960" you see that planning for campaigns has always been several years in advance. The public campaign though was executed in a much tighter timescale in the past. You have to wonder what time is left for governing in this day and age.

3 April 2011

World Autism Day Article

This is an article I submitted to the Edinburgh Evening News. It was trimmed a little on publication due to space.

Today is World Autism Awareness Day. Around 67 million people worldwide (500,000 in the UK) are affected by autistic spectrum disorders (ASD).

Perceptions of autism and Asperger Syndrome are often formed from popular films like 'Rain Man' and books such as 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time'. While these are valid depictions, one has to remember that they are caricatures. While all people with autism share certain difficulties, their condition will affect them differently.

Autism affects how a person communicates and relates to other people, and how they make sense of the world around them. They may experience over-sensitivity to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light or colours. One autistic child I know has very sensitive feet and often walks barefoot on tiptoes. She can't cope with seemingly normal levels of background noise and frequently walks around with her fingers in her ears. Sadly, such idiosyncratic behaviour can result in bullying. Over 40% of children with ASD report as having been bullied at school.

For public policy purposes, ASD has been classed as either a mental health issue or learning disability. It is, in fact, neither, although many people who have ASD may also have these conditions. The development of the first Scottish Autism Strategy will help to focus minds on the needs of people with ASD, and I welcome the £10 million earmarked for research.
We already know there is an increasing number of young people with ASD. These young people need support to achieve better outcomes and improved life skills, and to access and maintain employment and social networks. The Council provides a number of services  for people with ASD. For example we have recently started a new service for young people with high-functioning autism or Asperger syndrome to help them plan for when they leave school. This service is called 'ASPIRE'. It has been well-received but we need to look at what more we can do to expand and improve our services.
ASD is a complex neurobiological disorder, and people with ASD may challenge our preconceptions by not falling into 'neat' categories. On World Autism Awareness Day I would urge everyone reading this column to take five minutes out of their busy day to improve their knowledge of this condition.

1 April 2011

Gordon Lishman's Edinburgh Social Work Lecture

Last night I hosted this years Edinburgh Social Work Lecture. The speaker  was Gordon Lishman,  former Director of Age Concern England. 

Gordon spoke very eloquently about older peoples services and how all too often short term politics gets in the way of necessary lasting change. 
He touched on the challenges of overcoming bureaucracies and presented an Interesting perspective on 'specialisms' and the fact that sometimes these can stand in the way of joint working. This was compounded by the caricatures associated with different professions e.g. 'economists are cold and unfeeling', 'social workers are woolly and can't project manage'. He also felt that too often there is a tendency for people developing policy and services for older people to think about the services being for 'them' rather than services they will use themselves in the future.

We then had a very lively Q&A session which proved just as thought provoking.
I believe that Social Work is as important a vocation as teaching or medicine. To that end our Social Work Lecture adds to that and has over the years raised the level of debate and discussion of Social Care issues. Gordon certainly continued that tradition.