Sunday, 29 November 2009
Mike Russell's office manager Mark MacLachlan has now resigned (or been sacked) not only from his job but also membership of the SNP.
Mark MacLachlan hid behind the pseudonym Montague Burton on his blog, “The Universality of Cheese”, this blog has now been taken down, although we have had a bit of a period of blogs closing in Scotland, this is one we are all happy to see the back of.
Jeff over at SNP Tactical Voting does offer a small bit of defence of Mark himself, after having met him twice. Although on this occasion I do feel Jeff is wrong about this not being the SNPs "Damian McBride" affair. The SNP will suffer more than blog damage from this.
On the eve of the SNP's attempt to waste time and money by introducing the Referendum bill this is not only bad timing for Alex Salmond but this smear gate will no doubt take column inches away from his beloved independence campaign.
Tavish Scott says in today's Scotland on Sunday this is Alex Salmond's "Damian McBride" moment - spot on Tavish.
"This is Alex Salmond's Damian McBride moment," said Tavish Scott, the Lib Dem leader.
"We need an apology from him and for him to disassociate himself from this blogger immediately.
"This poisonous SNP bile attacking anyone who dares criticise Alex Salmond's nationalists was paid for by the Scottish taxpayer. I want a full investigation by the Permanent Secretary into what other SNP special advisers, researchers and hired hands are involved in this kind of odious politics.
"Scott added: "If Mark MacLachlan posted any of his defamation's and smears in office hours, while being paid by the taxpayer and while using facilities provided at the taxpayers' expense, Mike Russell's position is untenable and Alex Salmond should sack him."
In The Sunday Herald they report "He also alleged a married Labour MSP visited gay cruising spots, badmouthed the daughter of Lord David Steel, the former presiding officer at Holyrood, and described several opponents as “c***s”. Mr MacLachlan had been employed at public expense since 2007."
The News of the World who exposed Mark MacLachlan's trail of hate, smears and lies seems to have gone on for some time. I do however wonder if Mike Russell knew what his office manager was up to? Given how close knit the SNP operation is and everyone is told what to do and say and when to do it I don't see how others including Mike Russell didn't know about it.
That is one thing I am sure we will never really know the answer to.
The one thing that has been very obvious to me is that the SNP may have got rid of Mark MacLachlan quickly, but this won't go away as many of those that he has attacked and spread rumours about may now well take legal action against him.
David Maddox called last Wednesday "black Wednesday" for the SNP, this is a much blacker Sunday and the SNP should be ashamed of the actions of this former senior member of staff and congratulations to the News of the World for uncovering the actions of this person and bringing to a halt this trail of hatred and bullying type of political action from within the top levels of the SNP minority government.
Thanks to GMTV's Kate Garraway who blabbed like there was no tomorrow, and to be honest she is right to blab about it on this one.
According to the wonderful Kate Garraway Mariah Carey employed two people to lower her onto the GMTV sofa so her dress didn't crease.
If she had just sat down like us mere mortals have to the dress would have creased.
You can read more about it here courtesy of The Daily Record where Kate Garraway revealed that Mariah Carey also has someone walk backwards in front of her in case she falls and that she had staff behind the camera ensuring she looked great at all times!
What does she do when she has had a crap on the toilet? Does she wipe herself or........
Although, she apparently took her own toilet roll with her for the GMTV interview.
Really, is it not about time the TV companies just said no, you want to come on our show, you just be a normal person without these utterly ridiculous demands.
Even the Tories admit their progress will be limited in this forthcoming general election and that Thatcher damaged Scotland.
Saturday, 28 November 2009
Now we see the SNP getting stroppy and threatening to take control of schools in a war of words between the SNP minority government and the councils over plummeting teacher numbers.
For around twelve or so months Scottish councils have been starting to realise that the concordat was a con and that despite the First Minister and his ministerial team treating all the council leaders and their teams as part of the government and making them feel loved it really was nothing more than the SNP just trying to manipulate councils and the whole system.
As David Maddox says in today's Scotsman; "Row caps miserable week for beleaguered, friendless SNP."
David Maddox goes on to call 25 November "Black Wednesday" where in the morning Scottish councils reacted with fury when ministers tried to force them to borrow £10million to get rid of 500 experienced teachers and then in the afternoon the SNP lost their vote on minimum alcohol pricing "...the SNP would have no major achievments in government to boast about."
Finally, the councils across Scotland run by some fantastic councillors, including many Liberal Democrats have had enough of the SNP and their bullying management technique.
As teacher numbers have plummeted by 1,300 in the last twelve months the SNPs election promise for smaller class sizes has gone, they also halted the school building the previous Lib Dem/Labour government started and have only recently given it the go ahead again.
Fiona Hyslop MSP is struggling now, to be fair she has been for a while now but this week she has threatened to centralise education under government control only weeks after defending councils controlling education over school trusts.
Come on Fiona Hyslop, it is time to decide one way or another. However if you get this wrong now it could mark the death knell for the SNP administration!
Friday, 27 November 2009
This result is on the back of a by-election victory in Newquay South just two weeks ago when Lib Dem Councillor Sandy Carter was victorious over the Conservatives.
This really is a slap on the back for the team there, especially the Liberal Democrats Westminster PPC, Steve Gilbert and a slap in the face for the Conservative candidate Caroline Righton who many of you may recall has yet to apologise for the smear campaign against Steve Gilbert.
This election result proves that the old style Conservative smear and sleaze politics is yet again rejected, just because David Cameron says they've changed doesn't mean they have and as recent events in Cornwall by Caroline Righton have shown, it proves the Conservatives have not changed their deep down core, just the spin and gloss on top.
Thankfully as John Oxenham has shown tonight, people are starting to see straight through it.
Thursday, 26 November 2009
I fully appreciate that many will jump in here and say, well if you don't go overdrawn without the banks permission then you won't be charged.
I get that but there some occasions when this does happen and is it right that you get slapped £30 for the bank to write to tell you then another £30 for the unofficial overdraft charge, plus interest?
The banks were claiming that if the Supreme Court had supported the little man and not the greedy banks it would have cost them an estimated £2.6billion per year. Just a little less for those massive salaries and bonuses then.
On the BBC website who have covered the story;
"Banks welcomed the ruling, said there had been major changes to current account packages recently, and pointed out that these unplanned overdraft fees could be avoided.
Seven banks and one building society wanted the court to overturn two previous rulings that said the OFT had the power to investigate unauthorised overdraft fees."There is an excellent question and answer section over at independent, This is Money, who lead the battle against these unfair banking charges.
Let's see where the fight goes now, I am sure we have not heard the end of this yet.
Tuesday, 24 November 2009
The attendees were; Me, Caron Lindsay, Mark Pack, Alex Foster, Stephen Glenn, John Barrett MP, Jo Swinson MP, Helen Duffett and the infamous Blogfather Lord Bonkers.
John Barrett MP came along to share his views on why he blogs as an MP, and questioned whether he should and will continue after he has stepped down. An interesting debate in itself.
We then went into a technical session which for me was one of the most interesting and whether I should continue on Blogger or move to Wordpress, I am still confused but help is at hand I see via Lib Dem Voice, with Ryan Cullen being a Wordpress fan and Paul Walter not so.
I don't think realistically I can make the decision until after the general election, my work/life balance now is off line, can you imagine trying to do this as well?
Anyway, back to Saturday so a great opening session from John Barrett MP followed by technical stuff, which was very useful, because I am not technical.
Then the highlight of the day, Scottish Lib Dem Leader Tavish Scott came to be interviewed by the team, straight from the train after a visit to see Ahsay Ghai the Lib Dem candidate in the Bearsden South by-election in Jo Swinson's Westminster seat.
I didn't participate in this, purely as Tavish is the boss I work closely with him anyhow and why be selfish so I left it to others to do the interviewing, there will be more to come but Mark Pack was first out the traps with his write up. Read it here.
So, I was organising lunch as they all interviewed Tavish.
Then came another open debate while we waited for Jo Swinson MP who had literally flown in that morning from the United Nations where she had been chairing a debate and participating in others.
Jo Swinson spoke about engaging with voters, the UN and many other things, again a great session with a leading new media user MP, a rare but growing breed.
Jo then talked about how she engages with constituents using various methods, Twitter, e-consultations and the websites.
What was interesting for me was how committed Jo is to the engagement with constituents, I really felt that the reason why Jo twitters from the House of Commons Chamber is not to be a rebel but to ensure that those people who voted in East Dunbartonshire have a right to know what their MP is doing on their behalf.
Jo Swinson regularly runs e-consultations, including when Jo has been allocated a Prime Ministers question asking her constituents what topics she should quiz the PM on.
A real sincere way of engaging with her constituents using the new media options available.
My sincere thanks to John Barrett MP, Jo Swinson MP and Tavish Scott for giving up their time freely on a Saturday to come and chat with us.
My thanks also to the Lib Dem bloggers who descended on Edinburgh on the same day that Scotland went on to win the rugby and beat Australia - are they linked, who knows?
I will add some more to this later!
Monday, 23 November 2009
Sunday, 22 November 2009
In today's Observer it is reported that the European Commission has written to the British government to warn them that it has not fully implemented EU directives that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexuality.
But it will still allow churches to refuse to employ a gay man as a priest for example but I do wonder where the answer to my previous blog post lies? Although employing a priest will be protected, assuming they are gay but what about the training first such as the Church of Scotland's position?
Baroness Stern, a cross-bench peer is leading the review of sex crime and she is very concerned that despite the review and the ten year strategy rapists will continue to walk free in the future.
Baroness Stern has been visiting police forces with a better track record ensuring that this best practice is seen and then shared amongst other forces rather than the usual way of seeing the worst ones and telling them to improve.
Baroness Stern feels that late-night transport for women would help to reduce attacks but also wants education for boys, teaching them the importance of sexual consent.
Given Britain has the lowest rape conviction rate in Europe, I agree that often radical ideas are needed but I also stress a word of caution to Baroness Stern.
Women are not the only victims of rape, male rape is more common than most people think. Research statistics tell us that almost 3% of men reported a non-consensual sexual experience as adults and over 5% of men reported sexual abuse as a child.
So, while I am more for ensuring rape conviction goes up, let us not forget it is both men and women who can be raped, as well as men and women who can rape.
If you have any suggestions for Baroness Stern, or just want to remind her that men can be victims of rape as well you can contact her here.
Saturday, 21 November 2009
Now, everyone that knows me well, knows I have a view on religion, which isn't good, however I do respect those who partake in religion of whatever faith.
However, that aside, I do take racism, sexism and homophobia very seriously and I fully believe that if any organisation said they couldn't employ anyone openly religious we would never hear the end of it from religious groups.
So, how can the Church of Scotland stop anyone who is openly gay working for the Church?
Surely the key factor is a belief in God, not who you sleep with?
It is a great pity that the Church doesn't unite across the UK and take fighting paedophilia as seriously as they do being homophobic.
The story is reported on Pink News and The Christian Institute where it is reported that this two year ban on employing openly gay people was put in place after the appointment of Revd Scott Rennie in Aberdeen.
I think yet again the Church just decides what it wants and when it wants and no one stands up to them, well I think it is time they played by the same rules that the rest of us play by and stand up to discrimination whether it be sexism, racism or homophobia!
This update is now available on their website;
T-Mobile takes the protection of customer information seriously. When it became apparent that contract renewal information was allegedly being passed on by an employee to third parties without our knowledge, we alerted the Information Commissioner’s Office. Working together with the ICO, they conducted an extensive investigation which we believe will lead to a prosecution.
We believe that this breach happened between July 2007 and November 2008 and that it was only contract renewal data that was passed on. While it is deeply regrettable that customer information has been misappropriated in this way, it should be noted that the stolen data did not include call records, financial data, password details or any other information that would enable someone else to access customers’ personal details.
Since the breach of information occurred more than a year ago, we believe that the current impact on customers will be minimal. We continue to support the ICO to help stamp out what is a problem for the whole industry.
T-Mobile Forum team"
What annoys me is that they are being so dismissive, "we believe....that it was only contract renewal data...was passed on", so, they don't actually know what data their own staff were accessing to sell on.
I hope the Information Commissioner fines T-Mobile as well as jailing the person who actually did the deed as it were, plus the brokers, because they clearly knew they were breaching data protection legislation.
Friday, 20 November 2009
Here is the full statement from the Electoral Commission;
The Electoral Commission, the independent elections and party finance watchdog, today announced the outcome of its investigation into donations made by the company 5th Avenue Partners Ltd to the Liberal Democrats. Donations totalling over £2.4m were made in 2005.
The investigation considered whether there had been breaches of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA). In particular, it looked at whether the company, reported as the donor, was a permissible donor. It also considered whether the company was in fact the true donor. If a party accepts impermissible donations, the Electoral Commission can apply to a court to seek forfeiture of an amount equivalent to the sum accepted.
To be a permissible donor, a company must be registered under the Companies Act 1985, incorporated within the UK or another EU member state, and be carrying on business in the UK. The Commission has concluded that 5th Avenue Partners Limited met these requirements at the time the donations were made, and therefore was a permissible donor.
The Commission also considered whether there was a basis for concluding that either Michael Brown, as an individual, or 5th Avenue Partners GmbH (the parent company of 5th Avenue Partners Limited) was in fact the true donor. Neither of them would have qualified as permissible donors under PPERA.
The Commission has concluded that there is no reasonable basis to conclude that the true donor was someone other than 5th Avenue Partners Limited.
Commenting on the outcome of the investigation, Electoral Commission Chair Jenny Watson said:
“The law sets out who can make donations to political parties and makes sure that information about where parties get their money from is in the public domain, so voters can see for themselves how politics is funded. Our job is to make sure those rules are followed.
“Parliament considered carefully the rules on company donations in 2000, and set out specific requirements, including that a company must be carrying on business in the UK in order for it to be a permissible donor.
“We have conducted a thorough investigation into these particular donations to the Liberal Democrats, and considered a substantial body of evidence: evidence from the criminal proceedings against Michael Brown; documents obtained from the City of London Police, including analysis by forensic accountants; and evidence provided by the party.
“Having considered all the evidence in this case, we have concluded that 5th Avenue Partners Limited met the requirements to be a permissible donor. The Electoral Commission will be taking no further action in this case.“
The Liberal Democrats then issued this statement;
"We welcome the Electoral Commission's ruling on this matter. At all times the party acted in good faith in relation to the receipt and the expenditure of these donations in the 2005 General Election campaign. All our donations and loans were properly declared to the Electoral Commission."
Over at Duncan Borrowman's blog, he has an extraordinary post from emails sent to him.
Conservative Councillor Peter Hobbins complains of the campaigning inexperience of the candidates, and when referring to candidates Dilon Gurmal and Cameron Cutie Zerha Zaidi among others says;
"Not one of them has a 'normal' English name....
"For hells sake. Why are Candidates Department so keen on these foreign names?!!!! ...
"Maybe I should change my name to something foreign - how does Petrado Indiano Hobbinso sound to you?"
Do go and read the full posting from Duncan here, especially if you have been tempted by David Cameron to vote Conservative for the first time or if you happen to be one of those rare things in life, a decent Conservative.
Again shame on the Conservatives.
Thursday, 19 November 2009
According to the Daily Telegraph, Mariah Carey's demands included;
- Driven in a pink rolls royce, down a pink carpet to a pink podium, where she was to wave a want to turn them on!
- 80 security guards, plus an entourage of 15
- Confetti shaped like her favourite insect, the butterfly
Now, those were the ones that the organisers apparently complied with......
Those that were turned down included;
- 20 white kittens
- 100 white doves
Honestly, I really hope this is one of those nonsense made up celebrity stories that there are in the media now and again although as reported in the story a source told the Daily Mail "We have worked extremely hard to make sure that Mariah's event is fantastic. Even the model of car had to be changed six times to one that her people liked."
What a load of nonsense, yes she can sing but let us get a grip here and get back to real life.
Back in 2004, David Curry was apparently having an affair using his constituency home to meet his mistress, once his wife discovered the affair she banned him from that home despite this he continued to claim for this property.
When the Daily Telegraph approached him with the claim that he continued to claim for this second home from Parliamentary Allowances he immediately referred himself to the Parliamentary Commissioner.
In such a position of authority, supposedly policing the expenses scandal it shows that the Tories cannot be trusted.
Read the full piece in the Daily Telegraph.
Yet again more proof if it was needed that David Cameron's Conservative Party is no different from the old days of Tory sleaze.
However, surely if there is a drug available that helps liver cancer patients live longer then that has to be a price worth paying.
Not everything in life should be about cost, and perhaps NICE and the Government, who claim they are taking cancer seriously should then approach the drug companies and say right then, we have this many people in the UK diagnosed with this cancer, we will commit to purchasing enough of the product for all these people for three years and can you therefore reduce the overall cost?
NICE says the drug sorafenib costs too much to make treatment worthwhile - what utter crap, I would like to see the head of NICE, Andrew Dillon go and explain that to the person suffering from liver cancer and their immediate family instead of hiding behind a desk.
It is easy for him and his team to write it on a piece of paper and shove that on a website but it is the dedicated nurses and doctors on the frontline who then have to explain it to the patients and family face to face.
The decision by NICE will leave nearly 3,000 patients a year with only palliative, end-of-life care instead of offering hope.
The drug costs around £2,200 a month for one patient, but NICE says in draft recommendations to the NHS that the cost is too great. Surely it is for the NHS to decide not NICE, shouldn't NICE just make recommendations?
Chief executive Andrew Dillon said to Sky News: "The price...is simply too high to justify using NHS money which could be spent on better value cancer treatments."If Gordon Brown had the balls he would stand up to NICE and the drugs companies and say NO, we want this drug, we want to improve the lives of these people suffering from this awful disease and then set his Secretary of State for Health the job of negotiating the price, perhaps if we looked at some joined up thinking with Scotland and perhaps even other European countries to reduce the cost?
Come on people, let us think outside the box for a solution to pay for it, not just accept the original price from the drug company and the recommendation from NICE and then give up.
Wednesday, 18 November 2009
Most companies seem keen to get their hands on Cadburys high profit gum business but as Cadburys chocolate is a major brand here I am worried that Hersheys and Ferrero will want to introduce their own chocolate which just isn't the same.
Cadburys claim they are not up for sale but Hedge Fund companies are buying shares up as interest grows in the company.
Let's hope Cadburys think of what is best for Britain's chocaholics, because if one of these companies changes the mixture of chocolate, I am off to Galaxy.
Keep your hands off Cadburys chocolate.
The first, including typo's (four in one statement) is here "T-Mobile takes the protection of customer information seriously. When it became apparent that contract renewal information was being passed on to third parties without our knowledge, we alerted the Information Commssioner's Office. Working together, we identified the source of the breach which led to the ICO conducting an extensive investigation which we believe will lead to a prosecution. Whilst it is deeply regrettable that customer information has been misapproriated in this way, we have proactively supported the ICO to help stamp out what is a problem for the whole industry.
We had been asked before today to keep all information on this case stricly confidential so as to avoid prejudice to the investigation and prosecution. We were therefore surprised at the way in which these statements were made to the BBC today.'
As soon as we have any further information available it will be posted in this thread. Please do not call customer services if you have read this thread as they are unable to provide any information beyond the statement above. As soon as we have any more information it will be pblished here.
T-Mobile Forum Team"
Then there is a much smaller one posted an hour after the original.
"T-Mobile is able to confirm that NO financial data has been passed on to any third parties.
T-Mobile Forum Team"
Although I am sure this is supposed to stop customers worrying, I am not sure it will work.
Anyway, statement number three also went out last night.
"T-Mobile takes the protection of customer information seriously. When it became apparent that contract renewal information was being passed on to third parties without our knowledge, we alerted the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO). It should be noted that the records were restricted to historical information on customers whose contracts were coming up for renewal in a 15-month period up to December 2008. The customer information that was compromised contained no personal financial or security-related information whatsoever.
We were proactive in engaging with the ICO to identify the source of the breach. The ICO is conducting an ongoing investigation which we believe will lead to a prosecution. While it is deeply regrettable that customer information has been misappropriated in this way, information passed on to third parties was restricted to the customer name, address and contractual renewal information. We continue to work with the IC to help stamp out what is a problem for the whole industry.
T-Mobile Forum Team"
So, apparently T-Mobile takes all of this data protection stuff quite seriously, although my question is this, if they have now secured the breach and identified the source of the leak, they must also know which customers data was compromised?
How about contacting them and worrying about them rather than worrying about statements made to the BBC?
Care about your customers not about your image and they may well do the image repair work for you.
Just a thought.
If you want to see the latest statements from T-Mobile, visit their forum page.
Tuesday, 17 November 2009
If I am one of those millions of customers affected I want to know so I can take action to ensure my personal data is secure with that company and also have the choice to change company.
The companies that then went on to buy the data were ringing customers as their contracts neared expiry, taking customers away.
The Information Commissioner, Mr Graham wants a prison sentence in order for those who sell data onto a third party to be properly prosecuted rather than just face a paltry fine, which does not deter those who specialise in stealing and selling the data on.
It is time to get tough, but my message to the Information Commissioner is get the case into court asap so those who have been let down by the original company and those companies who then purchased the data, it is also about giving us the choice to choose.
UPDATE at 19.10
When I first wrote this blog post the company had not been named by any of the main media outlets or the Information Commissioner. However, mobile phone companies 02, Vodafone, Orange, 3 and Virgin were quick to say they were not the subject of the investigation by the Information Commissioner, and it was only then that T-Mobile confirmed it was them.
So, it is indeed the very mobile phone company I had hoped it wasn't, T-Mobile. I am now concerned how secure my data is with them as they hold personal data of mine.
If you are a T-Mobile customer and want to get in touch with them to see how this was allowed to happen here is the link to their contact page.
He claims that the two and a half million taxpayers in Scotland only had to contribute 43p per head for The Gathering to take place which is what the £500,000 public funding came to.
I didn't go, so who wants to pay my 43p for me? because unfortunately Lord Jamie Sempill that is what most people across Scotland will say, or worse, they never even wanted The Gathering so who will pay their 43p? Will you pick up the slack personally?
However, back to the loss £300,000 has already been written off (and therefore already paid for by the taxpayer) by the Scottish Ambulance Service, Lothian and Borders Police and the Scottish Government.
Is that included within the 43p, or is this to be added on?
Is it right that in the height of a recession the Police and Ambulance Service are having to cover losses in this manner? In fact sod the recession, should they ever at all have to cover losses like this for any public event again?
There is always the counter argument about the amount the people attending a major event actually bring into the economy, and arguably that is right, the amounts being claimed for The Gathering are £8.8million for Edinburgh and £10.4million for Scotland.
Do these figures justify the claim from Lord Jamie Sempill that the next Gathering needs to be bigger and the investment from the Scottish Government and taxpayer needs to be much bigger. Should there even be talk of another Gathering?
My counter argument and questions to Lord Jamie Sempill are here;
1. Your first event made a substantial loss, despite all of the media hype and mass marketing. What plans would you put in place for another event for this to avoided again.
2. The Gathering only drew in crowds of 47,000 across the event. In your opinion as one of the organisers Lord Jamie Sempill, how many people do need to attend for the event to (a) break even and (b) make a profit of 10%?
3. What safeguards will you and the organisers introduce to prevent a second event making a loss, especially for the public bodies such as the Scottish Ambulance Service and Lothian & Borders Police?
4. What market research do you propose to do in Scotland to see why more people from Scotland did not attend and what would make them attend?
5. What business plan was in place for The Gathering and who signed it off for The Gathering 2009 Limited? Did each and every sponsor, investor and company providing services also see this business plan?
The responsibility for the debt has now been handed over to the recently formed Destination Edinburgh Marketing Alliance (DEMA) but this has hit the buffers already. Norman Springford who is one of the key DEMA figures has quit because he was never consulted about DEMA taking these debts on.
The Scottish Government has admitted that DEMA had not been involved in any of the discussions to both take over the event but also inherit this massive debt racked up the event organisers.
My other concern is that the SNP have politicised The Gathering and Homecoming 2009 way too much so therefore the blood and debts of The Gathering must also be on their hands, as usual though we are met with deafening silence from the First Minister and his Party.
We only ever hear from him and his chums when it is going well.
The Gathering has left a bitter taste in many peoples mouths, rightly or wrongly. But Lord Jamie Sempill and Jenny Gilmour have to answer the outstanding questions and their critics, hiding behind a website that was apparently also paid a sum from The Gathering 2009 Limited is no longer an option.
Monday, 16 November 2009
Peter White wrote;
"What is the point of celebrating the Diamond Jubilee of someone who is born into a position of privilege, she is a parasite and milks this country for everything she can, she has more front than margate asking for extra money from the civil list. Maybe she should sell a couple of her properties.
Maybe if she want Buckingham Palace to maintained from public funds she should open it to the public. Don't get me wrong i have no problem with a public holiday but lets have one that means something, rather than celebrating vermin."
So, firstly Peter White is not aware the Queen already opens Buckingham Palace to the public every year and has done for a while now.
The Queen is not a parasite and does not milk this country for everything she can get, what utter crap.
I don't have an issue with Peter being a republican, but why lower the argument to nothing but personal attacks on someone who won't respond, or is that all he is capable of doing?
Over on Paul Waugh's blog, Peter White went on to say;
"I think that Republicanism is a valid viewpoint and there are plenty of people who agree with me. I would prefer to criticise the institution rather than the individual. But if someone puts themselves in the public domain, they should be open to criticism."
So, he would prefer to attack the institution not the individual, but in reality he didn't, he attacked the individual in a cowardly pathetic way.
His argument is completely undermined because of how he put over the argument in what he said.
If you read the updates at the bottom of Paul Waugh's blog, you will see that Peter White is no longer issuing comment in his own name and the Labour spinning machine has taken over. It also appears his local party is not standing by him either.
Perhaps Peter White is now a former candidate after his childish and pathetic outburst, and hardly an endorsement for the republican cause!
- Pancreatic cancer only has a 3% survival rate, that hasn't improved in forty years.
- It's the 5th most common cause of caner death in the UK
Despite both of these facts pancreatic cancer research is under resourced compared to other common cancers in the UK.
Survival rates for pancreatic cancer are extremely low – 4-6 months on average after diagnosis, with the 5 year survival rates less than 3%. One of the main reasons for this is that pancreatic cancer is very difficult to diagnose early because the pancreas is buried so deep within the body and the symptoms are vague and various.
This means that most people are diagnosed at a late stage in the disease, mostly too late for surgery because the cancer has already spread to other parts of the body.
I will be honest, I hadn't really heard of this cancer until earlier this year. As many of my blogs readers will know, my Mum was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on the 28th July and then lost her battle on 2nd September.
I was shocked at how quick it was from diagnosis to the end, but after talking with other people who have been affected by this disease it appears to be the standard.
Sunday, 15 November 2009
Well, this week HSBC sold their London HQ for a massive £772.5 million. The tower has been sold to the National Pension Service for Korea, although HSBC and it's staff will remain in the building for the remaining 17.5 years of its lease paying £46million per year in rent.
HSBC sold the 42-storey tower to Spanish property company Metrovacesa for £1.1bn in 2007, buying it back a year later for £840m.
The tower is only seven years old, construction began in 1999 and was finished three years later, with 42 floors in the 200 metre high tower block where 8,000 staff work each day.
Friday, 13 November 2009
Watching them in three consecutive by-elections in just over 12 months has been really interesting.
In Glasgow East Labour ran not only the wrong campaign, they took so long getting their campaign into gear it was quite obvious they were going to lose, plus the SNP pushed them onto the back foot and stole their thunder.
Then we moved to the Glenrothes by-election where Labour once again took a little time to warm up but then got into it and got into the groove and although the SNP were quite obviously on a high after Glasgow East they became arrogant.
Tavish Scott was right to highlight during the Glenrothes campaign that Alex Salmond as First Minister should be busy running the country not gallivanting around Fife in a by-election campaign.
The Glenrothes result was a catastrophic result for the SNP and they had Angus Robertson running around the media scrum at the count telling people they had won, with me and Graeme Littlejohn, our press officer telling everyone it was a Labour hold.
In fact the Labour Party were coming to us for clarification of their own victory, they weren't 100% sure. We were, we got the result from our box counts within 0.2%.
Even the infamous Michael Crick got it wrong, despite us telling him minutes before he went on air. Willie Rennie MP had great fun the following morning rubbing his nose in it.
And then there was Glasgow North East, Labour waited 144 days to fill the vacancy and maybe that was their strategy all along. As both Glenrothes and Glasgow North East were played as the long game, whereas Glasgow East was just three weeks.
Labour hit the ground running this time, third time lucky, local candidate, in fact the only one to vote in the by-election, although by postal vote, good local messages and rebuttals plus the added bonus of a not so good SNP candidate who made gaffes as the campaign hotted up.
On day one the media stated it was a two horse race between the SNP and Labour, and to be fair it was because the SNP didn't have the deceny to observe to protocol of not standing against The Speaker, while we do. The Conservatives also had to do well as the Government in waiting.
We didn't have the pressure on us despite us being the second Westminster Party in Scotland.
The media storm following the BNP appearance on Question Time definitely helped their vote, but the fact the newspapers gave them more column inches than the four mainstream parties at times, including the Daily Mail who dedicated two, yes two, front pages to the BNP.
No wonder they did so well.
Obviously I am disappointed by our result but I am also aware that when the media dictate the horses in the races, the remainder are pushed out.
I suspect from yesterdays line up of candidates there will only be two names back on the ballot paper at the General Election, Willie Bain and our own Eileen Baxendale.
Well done Eileen, you and the team did us proud.
Thursday, 12 November 2009
While our frontline troops have to go out and buy their own uniforms and kit to ensure they have the basic equipment they need and the average soldier only earns around £17,000 per year.
This is exactly why Nick Clegg was right to launch the Liberal Democrats campaign for fair pay for our troops some months back you can sign the petition here.
Over 51,000 (Over a Quarter of the Armed Forces) receive less in basic pay than a new recruit police constable or fire-fighter. The basic pay for the lowest paid Private is £16,681.
In comparison there are 85,000 civil servants within the Ministry of Defence, of which around 50,000 of them received a share of the £47 million in bonuses.
The government were quick to jump on cancelling training for the Territorial Army to save money, well I can see how £47 million could be saved Gordon, right here, right now.
How dare this Government short change our troops with crap pay, not enough personal kit and nowhere near the right kind or volume of actual equipment hardware such as helicopters or armoured personnel carriers while paying people who are salaried to do a job extra in bonuses.
Shame on this Labour government and every Labour MP.
13,000 lower-ranks personnel in the Armed Forces receive under £17,000 a year basic pay. Even with operational allowances, they receive less than a new recruit to the police force. The average hours worked by Junior Ranks according to the Armed Forces Pay Review Body was 46.2 hours during 2007-2008. Therefore £6.74 is the average hourly pay of a Private. There is an operational Allowance of £2,380 and Separation Allowance of £1,100 paid to all personnel on operations and no opportunities for overtime pay.
The Liberal Democrats proposals would bring the pay of the lower ranks in line with the hourly-rate of trainee and development-level Fire-fighters, as well as new-entrant police constables.
Under the Lib Dem proposals no service personnel would receive less basic annual pay than a new-entrant police constable or development-level fire-fighter.
A fully-trained Private would receive:- an average basic hourly wage of £9.44 from the current £6.74 per hour (£430 per week, an extra £115 a week)- The average pay across the ranks of Private and Lance Corporal would rise to around £25,000- An average basic hourly wage of £10.40 an hour from current £8.80 per hour amounting to £480 per week an extra £73 a week- Other Non-Commissioned Officers would receive pay rises of £20-30 per week (around £1000 per year depending on rank).
You can read more about the Liberal Democrats proposals here.
My bus journey in Edinburgh takes the same time as my old train journey from Kent into London, which is completely ridiculous.
So, my suggestion to Lothian Buses is to stagger the services to particular bus stops as they are on George Street, and Princes Street once it reopens.
Let us take Leith Walk for example and my bus, the number 10.
The bus turns onto Leith Walk and the first stop, often the busiest is at the foot of the Walk, then a mere 10-15 seconds on and only a matter of yards is the next one, now this is where they could start splitting the service and make that just for say the 16 and 22, then the next one could be the 10 and 12 and alternate accordingly.
By the time my bus is at the top of the Walk we have stopped, potentially, six times, seven if you count the driver change over.
If the alternation system came in it would stop the stacking that happens at rush hour, the other week I was in a snail queue of 5 or 6 buses that just crawled up Leith Walk, taking 35 minutes just to get up the Walk - it is just crazy.
Lothian buses - please have a serious think and see if it would work?
Wednesday, 11 November 2009
I'm also a member of various animal charities - Edinburgh Zoo, St. Tiggywinkles, Hillside Animal Sanctuary, National Dogs Trust, Cats Protection League and the RSPB.
So, last night I got home and did all my chores, I'm a fairly well trained husband, and sat and read the latest newsletter from the Hillside Animal Sanctuary.
There's a very well written two page article on a joint undercover investigation with Channel Five on puppy farming.
If you're eating, come back to this later!
The investigation concentrated on three puppy farms in Carmarthenshire which supply Dogs4us.
They were using bitches for breeding that were blind, infested with worms, with extensive growths and kept in the dark to save electricity!
Empty water bowels, no exercise, little bedding and no toys for stimulation - all of this found at the puppy farms.
The purpose behind and objectives of these puppy farms is purely financial, these people don't give a toss about the welfare of the dogs nor the puppies.
What I wonder happens to any puppies born with defects, I daren't even begin to imagine!
If you or anyone you know is looking to buy a puppy, don't buy it from a pet shop ever!
If you go to a breeder check them out.
The safest place is an animal shelter because you will save a dog's life and you can offer it a safe home and all in the knowledge you are not supporting a puppy farm or the people running it!
Thanks to Channel Five and Hillside Animal Sanctuary for highlighting this and for re-homing the 12 dogs rescued.
If you can help Hillside by making a small donation please let me know.
Tuesday, 10 November 2009
These banking giants, which we now technically actually run, are charging more for overdrafts and loans, laying tens of thousands of staff off and yet still are not lending to small business around the UK, which in turn would stimulate the economy a little more.
I will go as far as to say that the banks will drive the really low paid towards loan sharks this Christmas plunging people further into the debt cycle.
How many Executives and Senior Managers will be on the list for redundancy? I will assume not.
Last week, Lloyds Banking Group revealed that it was to receive a further £5.7 billion in taxpayer support from the Treasury and sell at least 600 branches.
I suppose we have to expect the sale of branches, given there are Lloyds TSB branches and Halifax Bank of Scotland branches often on the very same High Streets, but I really hope a great deal of effort has been made to relocate all of these staff elsewhere within the corporation.
The governments, both in Westminster and Holyrood also have to do more to help. Giving someone £60.50 for six months and then no help whatsoever is an absolute disgrace.
Cancer in any form is a shit disease and affects almost every family in the UK somehow, I have lost friends and family members, but this year was the worst when my Mum was diagnosed and within 5 weeks had lost her battle with pancreatic cancer. A hard thing to write let alone deal with and for my Sister, I cannot even begin to understand what she is going through, but we will be strong together and get through this, for Mum's sake.
Prostate Cancer has for too long been associated only with older men and as we all know whatever cancer it is, it is a horrible disease striking at the hearts of many families, and yes, you would be right in that assumption to a point as it still does affect older men a great deal but cases in younger men are growing, according to the professionals some of this is down to diet but more on that later.
Prostate Cancer is the most common cancer in men, in fact around 35,000 men in the UK are diagnosed each year, or nine each day, that is scary.
The Prostate Cancer Charity has produced some great and very useful fact sheets but the main one that caught my eye was this one about Western diet.
As many will know November has been renamed Movember month to raise awareness of Prostate Cancer and raise valuable funds.
It is really easy to do, for the blokes grow a moustache and get sponsored to do it, you can find friends who have registered at the Movember site here.
If you aren't going to grow a tache, as I'm not, then like me you have to sponsor a friend to do so, let us raise the money to fight this disease!
It was politically a busy week to review but actually that made it much harder to write.
I also wanted to make sure I wasn't reviewing the usual suspects, although after I read through my write up again I have also realised there were a couple of newer Scottish blogs I had missed off, but next time eh?
If you are a Scottish blogger, please do submit nominations for good blog postings, including your own, it doesn't hurt to be pleased and impressed with what you have written yourself.
I hope you enjoy my write up and I look forward to doing my next one.....
Monday, 9 November 2009
This is in part because a lot of these adverts have switched from newspapers to online advertisers.
Like the Scottish Affairs Committee, I also suspect some of this is an exercise of procurement and they are therefore saving people like me, the council tax payer money.
However, I do also agree that in parts of Scotland switching entirely to online advertising will be counter productive, for three reasons;
1. There are parts of Scotland where a large percentage of the town or villages are still not online.
2. There are parts of rural Scotland such as the Borders, Shetland, Argyll & Bute and the Highlands & Islands where the broadband access and take up is so poor that it is not reliable enough.
3. There will be small towns and villages across Scotland where the local paper is still King.
The whole point of these public notices is that the council r government has to show they are advertising to the maximum audience, then I am afraid they need to do a mixture of both to ensure that because online is not the only thing people look at and some will not know to look online unless the relevant body has told them so.
Let us ensure our councils and government are supporting the newspaper industry as well as the online industry.
Sunday, 8 November 2009
Throw in to Man Utd in the Chelsea half, Rooney taps it and Fletcher blasts it over the top into the fans.
Goal kick for the Blues and Man Utd break, throw in and Giggs wide on his own but taps it out for a goal kick.
The Blues moved slowly into the other half but attack comes to nothing.
Free kick to Chelsea, Anderson kicks the ball away and gets ticking off by Ref, Reds see off the attack and start a counter attack.
O'Shea gets animated as the Ref awards a throw in and Chelsea get in a shot, Van der Saar kicks it down and Cech catches.
53 minutes and Giggs trips Ivanovic for a Chelsea free kick, Drogba to take this one, the wall absorbs it and Drogba taps the rebound out.
Goal kick reached Rooney, and eventually Cech catches it and kicks it up field, Chelsea put pressure on but give away a free kick.
Man Utd just passing it around, and now Chelsea push back but now its the Reds and then the Blues.
First yellow card goes to Ivanovic, but he did actually get the ball. Reds free kick.
Fletcher's shot was blocked by Carvalho and Chelsea mount counter attack but again thwarted.
Blues get a shot on target but Van der Saar scoops it up and the Reds go on the march, but the Blues hit back and are now moving the ball closer to the Reds goal and Lampard gets a shot away.
One hour gone, still nil - nil but a fairly evenly balanced match.
Rooney on the ball, to O'Shea who puts in the box and Giggs heads it out.
Cech takes the goal kick, and now at 62.54 Joe Cole takes part. Evra taking a throw, Ref slow to act on clash of heads.
Man Utd players crowd the ref in a usual Reds bullying style over nothing.
Giggs and Ivanovic are both okay.
Chelsea still applying pressure on the reds goal, good shot but also good save.
Man Utd launch a counter attack and now its all hotting up, nasty tackles and Rooney shoots, just wide but Cech had it covered.
Chelsea slow the play down a little as they move up the field, throw in to Man Utd, Evra getting the Stamford Bridge boo treatment, passes to Rooney who unleashes a shot curling in, Cech on the case.
Reds have a corner, Giggs takes but cleared to the halfway line and then back to Rooney who gets another shot blocked.
The game is going a bit more the Reds way at the moment and now they have a free kick close to the box.
Cech has a wall of four as Giggs, Valencia and Rooney line it up, blocked by the blues and then back in with a limp shot by Giggs.
Drogba gets a boot in the chest by Evans but he will live! Get up Drogba.
Drogba then gets a yellow card. The bench are questioning why as am I.
Now Fletcher is getting his knickers in a twist as a free kick is awarded for tackling Ashley Cole, Lamps takes it and JT taps it in, one nil to Chelsea.
Van der Saar chases the Ref to argue, to no avail.
Giggs gets a shot off but Cech saves.
Now another free kick to the Blues as Rooney gets booked. Game is starting to get messy as the Man Utd players start and get the attitude and start playing and acting dirty - no need, grow up!
80 minutes played, Chelsea piling the pressure on, it breaks the other way, Man Utd players are reacting badly they really should be ashamed of themselves, this is what kids watch and they should set a better example.
Drogba coming off for Kalou.
Reds launch an attack, Evra gets the corner, Giggs to take, and Valencia shoots well wide.
Owen and Obertan on for Giggs and Anderson.
Cech takes the goal kick, headed back and forth, Reds push forward and get a free kick - Fletcher needs to calm down - Rooney takes it and now they have another corner, Rooney takes it, Obertan had a shot and then out for a goal kick.
Chelsea get a free kick, not entirely sure why. Ballack takes it, Rooney and Valencia break and then Valencia gets a yellow card for a lunging attack on Lampard - although slow motion showed not that bad.
After 89 minutes we've had 6 yellow cards, three each.
Blues launch a blistering attack but Van der Saar has it covered.
5 minutes extra awarded.
Reds are winding up an attack, Obertan gets the Reds a corner, and he takes it, nothing comes of it, Rooney pushes it back and Ashley Cole heads it out. Second corner goes out for goal kick.
3 minutes of extra time left.
Evra and Obertan push it forward, JT heads it out for a corner.
Anelka comes off for Alex.
Obertan takes the corner, but goal kick for the Blues. Cech kicks it up field and Lampard wins a free kick for the Blues.
Final whistle. Chelsea go 5 points clear as Man Utd stay in third place.
John O'Shea has to beg for the ball after it gets tapped out for a throw, Chelsea fans have a small dispute with stewards!
End to end action
Good build up by Chelsea and a shot on goal after 4 minutes.
A good run by Rooney at 7 minutes but just offside - close call (but the right one).
Then back up to the Man Utd goal, then Chelsea and then Man Utd.
After 10 minutes, corner to Man Utd, O'Shea takes the corner, headed over for a goal kick.
Good end to end stuff from both teams, although no shots on either goal.
Man Utd push ahead, John Terry defends well, although a wee bit of shirt pulling may have occurred!
15 minutes in and Man Utd have had 58% of the possession.
Man Utd break again, and again Chelsea thwart it and go on the counter attack, but no shot from Drogba.
Man Utd push back up the other end, but a double heading ends up with the ball knocked out by John Terry.
Wasted shot by Man Utd, men on the right were wide open.
Slow build up by the Blues at 21 minutes, knocked out for a throw, back to the other end but JT never leaves Rooneys side.
Then one end to the other and a free kick after a tackle on Anelka.
Lampard steps up, and blasts it over the top. Goal kick, then end to end. Drogba denied a corner cos the Ref and Linesman didn't see it!
Back up the other end with an attack by Man Utd, good block
Free kick for the Blues, the wall blocked Lampards shot, then knocked back in and Anelka gets a shot away, and on target.
End to end again resulting in a goal kick for Man Utd, headed off by JT.
Half an hour gone now and Chelsea mount another attack, good shot on goal by Chelsea's Anelka and a good save by Van der Saar.
Now a throw in, no shot and kicked away by Man Utd who turn it into a mini counter attack, but no shot and easily defended.
Then end to end and a mini attack by Rooney, a back heel and then an over kick. Goal kick to Chelsea. Back down to Man Utd and then Rooney fires a shot but easily defended by the Blues.
37 minutes in and the Blues attack again, Ballack gets a free kick awarded against him as a Man Utd player trips over - honestly Ref, get a grip!
JT gets elbowed by Ashley Cole in a clash, then Ferguson gets his knickers in a twist as the Ref eventually calls a halt.
Restart and Man Utd go on the attack but don't clear it, Fletcher knocks it back in, now the Blues go on the counter attack and stretch Man Utd, but not enough.
41 minutes gone and Man Utd are pushing Chelsea but wasted by Carrick who blasts it over the top.
43 Minutes and Chelsea have had 3 shots on target to Man Utds 1.
Chelsea mount another attack, then a second but Drogba shoots and well wide.
Honeybees are continually under threat of being wiped out from a range of diseases, which strange as this may seem they have no natural defence.
Since the winter of 2007, 30% of the population of the domestic honeybees have been wiped out just from the attack o f the varroa destructor mite.
The mites can only reproduce within a honeybee colony and then they kill the bees in the colony through direct attack or by spreading viruses throughout the hive.To most people the honeybee probably appears insignificant, this cannot be further from the truth. The honeybee plays a vital role within the planet’s eco-system, pollinating 70% of the food that we eat. Bees contribute over £165 million per year to agricultural output, and any loss of bees can have very negative consequences, including a decline in plant and animal life.
The honeybee also contributes nearly £200 million a year to the UK’s economy.
Despite their importance, the UK Government only spent £200,000 in 2007-08 on research into honeybees and how to protect them. However, thanks to some opposition politicians and more importantly some wildlife and environmental groups, the Labour Government has pledged around £2 million in funding for bee health and research over five years.
Without a full and proper understanding of how the bees are affected by pests and diseases we cannot safeguard them against attack. Here in Scotland, bee farmers run up to a quarter of the UK’s total commercial bee hives, but we only currently have 8 full-time bee inspectors, compared to 37 in England and 9 in Wales. Insufficient funding and support has meant that many of the hives in Scotland are becoming resistant to the treatments available to fight the mites.
In addition to the mite problem, in June this year inspectors discovered that a new disease called European Foul Brood was present in a large number of hives in Scotland. This disease is extremely detrimental to hives and could severely affect the £2.25 million honey industry.
Under a Scottish Government-funded plan, farmers can voluntarily feed their bees icing sugar that is laced with antibiotics that could help fight the disease. It wounds strange that you should feed icing sugar to them but if something so simple is effective, then it is worth it.
If nothing is done to help improve the health of Scotland’s honeybee population, the results could be dire. The loss of bees would have a very detrimental effect on many farming industries, especially the soft fruit sector. Did you know, bees are responsible for 90% of the pollination of apples, which have a market value of over £100 million in the British economy. The value of the bee pollination in the apple industry is a whopping £93.6 million, just for that one industry.
Bees also contribute significantly to the pollination of a number of other important areas of British produce, including oilseed rape, strawberries and raspberries.
There are a number of things that you can do to help the bees, such as planting bee-friendly plants in your garden, patio or like me even on your balcony or become a beekeeper yourself.
The loss of flower-rich habitats such as hedgerows, meadows and grassland, which bees depend on for their food, has increased over the last 70 years, causing yet more danger for the bees. Simply including plants such as sunflowers, lavender, roses and many others can help improve the health of our bees.
This week in Parliament David Taylor MP asked about an American report which stated another disease could be affecting our bees, you can see his questions and the Ministers answers here and John Penrose MP asks about the qualifications of those in the National Bee Unit here.
In order to truly understand what is happening to our bees and what we can and must then do to prevent it, we must urge our Governments to devote more funding to bee research to make sure that this vital creature is protected.
If you would like to learn more about this issue or get involved, please visit the Save Our Bees campaign website at www.saveourbees.org.uk additionally, you could sign the Scottish Liberal Democrats petition urging the UK and the Scottish Governments to devote more funding for bee research, please do so here.
Saturday, 7 November 2009
We have seen accusations thrown at the SNP for holding one of their national conversations pieces in Glasgow North East for example.
However, it is rare, and some may even say stupid when you see a party defending a seat take the opposite action.
Imagine if you will an MP stands down, the party defending this seat then leaves it vacant for say four months, then perhaps the same party defending the seat which also runs the local council decides to shut some local schools.
Then the same party defending this seat now vacant for over four months, with less schools than it used to have then announces it is going to slash train services into this major city just six days before polling day.
Well, that party is the Labour Party and the seat is Glasgow North East.
Today we have learnt that the new East Coast main line services will no longer go through to Glasgow in proposals that have emerged today, the new December 2010 timetable is under discussion and will have to go out to public consultation before plans are finalised.
I don't think I will ever understand the logic of the Labour party.
Eileen Baxendale hasn't taken a day off since she was selected to fight the seat made vacant over 120 days ago when Michael Martin stood down.
Former UK Liberal Democrats Leader, Charles Kennedy MP joined Eileen Baxendale on the campaign trail yesterday doing a walkabout on Alexandra Parade in Glasgow North East talking to shoppers and shopkeepers about the economy and listening to their comments and questions.
Eileen has been door knocking all over with teams of people in all weathers too, a bit like the European campaign the issue of MPs expenses is never far from some people's minds, especially the journalists. The main issues on the door steps however are more than that, paying bills, will I have a job after Christmas, how do I pay for Christmas, fuel bills are too expensive, why has Labour and the SNP ignored us for so long?
These aren't all of them in any way, it is just a flavour for those of you who haven't made it into Glasgow North East.
Friday, 6 November 2009
This is the view from my flat and I wanted to share it with you this morning. That is Leith Harbour the former Royal Yacht Britannia and the Ocean Terminal shopping centre.