27 July 2011


I have spent most of the day at a Health Board meeting. Not much really to report apart from that we are looking at the potential of web casting board meetings.

Tonight I have been invited to the re-opening of the National Museum of Scotland. I am very excited about this. The Museum is my all time favourite place on the planet. The high galleries have provided hours of endless interest to me and always proved a calming and restful place to hang out. A Christmas holiday was never complete without a day nosing around the statues and fish ponds.

The place has been closed for renovation for the last few years so tonight will be my first chance to get a peek at the revamp. I can't wait!

26 July 2011

Flying the Flag

I am delighted that St Margaret’s Park in Corstorphine has been awarded the prestigious Green Flag. 

Edinburgh now has 20 out of Scotland’s 34 Green Flags and the Walled Garden on Corstorphine Hill has once again received the Green Pennant – the green flag equivalent for gardens.

This is a fantastic achievement. Our Parks team are rightly chuffed at this. So much hard work goes into keeping our parks up to this standard and the inspection is very rigorous. The council also has to demonstrate they have engaged with the community in each of these areas so a big thank you has to go the various “friends” and community groups who have helped with this.

20 July 2011

In Defence of the Fourth Estate

I have just returned from sunnier climes to find that the News of the World  has been shut down, Rebekah Brooks arrested and the Murdochs ordered to appear before the House of Commons to answer questions about the phone hacking scandal. How I missed all this I do not know. And they call July the  'Silly Season' ! 

The Observer helpfully listed a number of questions they felt should be put to the Murdochs and Brooks. I have one or two of my own,  not least  'what unbreakable appointment did Rupe and James have that meant they initially declined to come and account for themselves before our parliamentarians and had to be summonsed?

Yesterday's proceedings were more about a media spectacle than really getting to the bottom of the issue and, if you will forgive the mixed metaphors, no smoking gun or knockout blows were found or landed. Frankly the MPs blew it. 

We did have Murdoch senior claiming he wasn’t responsible and didn’t know anything about it.
I don’t buy this abrogation of responsibility. Murdoch’s empire been built on very aggressive and intrusive journalism. The phone hacking scandal is the sort of thing that happens when people have inadequate boundaries set. 

Fascinating though the proceedings were and with the upper echelons of Met in meltdown you have to ask where is this going to stop?  

The  hacking scandal has the feel of being to journalism what  last year's expenses scandal was to party politics. As with that issue I would urge caution in judging everyone in that profession harshly.  

Most politicians are honourable people who are trying to do the best for their communities and countries.  A few bad apples don’t spoil the whole barrel, as they say.

The same is true  of journalists. I have worked with many, many journalists over the years. With a tiny handful of exceptions I have found them to be responsible and decent human beings whose contributions are every bit as important in a democracy as our elected politicians.  They care passionately about getting the story right. Often they are trying to  present complex information in understandable and succinct prose.

It is not an easy job and often that means reporting something that some one doesn't want us to know. As Newspaper Baron Lord Northcliffe  once stated “News is something someone wants suppressed. Everything else is just advertising.”

The need to open up public life though stops short of allowing tabloids the right to carry out the sort of surveillance, that Harold Wilson, when he was PM, used to insist, needed cabinet minister level approval. 

Most of the people whose phones were hacked were celebrities, which I would argue implies that the stories were too trivial to warrant the intrusion. That some were cabinet ministers meant that they were being spied on in a fashion that compromises security. Members of the public, including myself, have been appalled that murder victims' phones were hacked - this suggests an outstanding level of cynicism

The Murdoch school of journalism  is out on a limb in terms of the lengths they will go to get a story. I think that they are beyond the pale but don't throw the baby of a free press out with the bathwater by branding them all the same. 

1 July 2011

Tory Immigration Stance Leaves Elderly Short

I was very disappointed to read Iain Duncan Smith's latest attack on migrant workers in the UK.

The idea  that a cap on immigration will solve our unemployment situation is simplistic in the extreme. 

In Scotland  we are struggling to find people to work in the care sector. In the near future every school leaver in Tayside will have to work in Care in order to look after the elderly population of Tayside. I don't think that part of Scotland is alone.

 The NHS is and always has been heavily dependant on people moving here from overseas.  These are not just the elite, the scientists and economists etc that even the Tories want to let in  but we need people at all levels where we struggle to find staff. 

I think  Iain Duncan Smith should think again.