Reevesey's recommended reading

Thursday, 31 December 2009

My review of 2009 - my top twelve blog posts

2009 for me personally has been a hard year, not just with elections and work but not selling our old flat in Dartford, my partner Roger not able to get a job for a year, finding out my Mum had pancreatic cancer, closely followed by her death only a matter of weeks later, finding out a close friend died in May, losing two good friends in December and then at 4.20am this morning on her birthday, Roger's Nan lost her fight with cancer - 2009 f**k off, you've been shit!

So, I sat here and wondered how to remember this year, I finally decided to do my review by favourite monthly blog post.

A mixture of political and personal, do enjoy.

January - Tavish TV - Save our Forests January saw the Scottish Liberal Democrats turn their campaigning might on the SNP who were planning to sell off 25% of Scotland's forests. The Liberal Democrats and many environmental charities united to fight the SNP - finally in March we won!

February - Lost - one marked register. One owner, no history. February saw the story of the Sheriff's Office who lost the marked register for the Glenrothes by-election.

March - Baby's details on National DNA database The fact that the DNA of a baby under one year old has been stored on the police national database, is utterly scandalous and Jacqui Smith MP should be ashamed of herself and the Police.

April - A message for Nigel Griffiths MP and the Labour Party The Edinburgh Labour MP (until the election) blamed Edinburgh City Council for the closure of the capital's Post Offices. Utter crap Mr Griffiths, look in the mirror and along your benches, the Labour Party has closed even more Post Offices than the Conservatives did in their last term in government!

May - Labour fall to third place for first time in 22 years Wow, no-one ever saw this coming really where the governing party, currently Labour fall to third place in the polls, with the Conservatives on 40%, Liberal Democrats on 25% and Labour on 22%.

Bonus month - The best advert, ever!

June - Queen's Birthday Honours list My sister's boyfriend John gets a Royal Victorian Medal in this years Birthday Honours List, after 16 years of continuous service working for the Royal Family.

July - Police Officer to face prosecution over deaths of police dogs I have blogged a few times about this awful case of animal cruelty, it all went very quiet after this part but satisfaction in his prosecution - utterly appalling that a serving police officer allowed this to happen.

August - I really couldn't pick just one, so I have gone for three this month Tories claim homophobia doesn't exist, Le Grand Bleu yacht leaves Leith Harbour and Megrahi and MacAskill.

September - 8inch penis is average, Glasgow men are above average It really does speak for itself, Glasgow boys are bigger.

October - Caroline Righton and the Tory smear campaign This was an appalling attempt by a Conservative candidate to smear a Liberal Democrat candidate - it failed and shows that not all of David Cameron's A listers should be candidates.

November - John Lamont MSP is the most expensive MSP and sticks two fingers up to Cameron and the Kelly Report. My review of the year couldn't ignore John bubbles Lamont.

December - Is taking a photo of a building a crime? Why the Police are taking this so serious, god only knows but it really is quite pathetic and they need to calm down and react appropriately.

Well, that is the summary of my year via my blog, onwards and upwards for 2010, it's going to be a very busy year.

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Its Easter Egg time

ASDA and Lothian buses are first to sell and advertise, Easter eggs respectively.

I'm actually not sure its something to be proud of Cadburys and ASDA PR people, I think its crap!

Technically its still Christmas, tomorrow is Hogmanay and yes it is still 2009.

Do you remember when Easter eggs were sold at Easter?

ASDA and Cadburys need to learn that the consumer does get sick of these stunts.

I for one will be very fed up of seeing easter eggs advertised on Edinburgh buses for the next four months and definitely sick of seeing them piled up at the tills at ASDA.

Recycle your Christmas Cards and help the Woodland Trust plant 12,000 trees

Did you know that last year, 59 million Christmas cards were recycled in the United Kingdom?

It sounds a massive amount, however when you take into account that well over a billion cards get sent each Christmas in the UK alone, it becomes less impressive.

Woodland Trust run this annual scheme to raise money for the Trust to enable them to plant trees throughout the UK. The target is to plan 12,000 trees this year

From January 2nd you can take your Christmas cards to high street WH Smith stores, TK Maxx and Marks & Spencer stores throughout the UK. Recycling bins will be present in these stores from January 2nd through to 31st January 2010.

Once you have recycled your cards you can then vote for which area you would like more trees planted in - go to this site and choose the area you want.

You can also download an advertising poster, encouraging local people, schools and businesses to participate in the scheme.

The money raised through the scheme is ploughed directly into our tree planting work. In the 12 years that the Woodland Trust Christmas Card Recycling Scheme has been running, more than 600 million cards have been recycled.

This has enabled the Woodland Trust to plant more than 141,000 trees, save over 12,000 tonnes of paper from landfill and stop over 16,000 tonnes of CO2 from going into the atmosphere – the equivalent to taking more than 5,000 cars off the road for a year.

By recycling your Christmas cards through this scheme it stops waste being sent to landfill which can create methane – a powerful greenhouse gas.

If we all recycle just one card this Christmas this would save 1,570 tonnes of CO2 equivalent greenhouse gases – the same as taking 500 cars off the road for a year.

The UK needs many more trees. Trees are the lungs of the planet by turning CO2 into oxygen, yet the UK is one of the least wooded countries in Europe with just 12% woodland cover compared to the European average of 44%. Here in Scotland this becomes even more important when you consider the SNP were trying to sell off 25% of Scotland's forests!

Just 4% of this is wildlife rich broadleaf woodland which the Woodland Trust aims to double.

Is David Cameron still wanting to privatise the NHS?

David Cameron has long been part of the Conservative Party that has wanted to privatise the NHS, or at least parts of it, bit by bit, even masterminding the last Conservative manifesto.

David Cameron has tried to distance himself from such comments including distancing himself from one of his MEPs, Daniel Hannan who launched a scathing attack on the NHS while he was in America.

Although he did not discipline the MEP, David Cameron said: "I don't agree with Daniel Hannan. The Conservative party stands full square behind the NHS."

However, thanks to The Daily Telegraph for uncovering that David Cameron had a meeting with a group in his private office, nothing wrong there you say, but the group he met was none other than the radical group Nurses for Reform.

Director Helen Evans who writes on the Nurses for Reform blog is pictured with a seriously embarrassed looking David Cameron at their meeting.

This group does not appear to rule out the privatisation of the NHS, in fact I would go as far as to say they openly welcome it. The group, which describes itself as a "pan-European network of nurses" dedicated to health care reform across the world, says the government should "recast" the NHS as "simply a funder of last resort alongside an insurance and self-funder based market."

"Moreover, NFR believes that all hospitals in Europe should be allowed to openly compete with each other. If a hospital fails in the market it should either close or be taken over by a more successful organisation."

As the Daily Telegraph also says this meeting risks reigniting the NHS privatisation row which exploded once again four months ago when David Cameron was forced to distance himself from Tory MEP Daniel Hannan who had suggested that the NHS was a "mistake".

The Tory leader's meeting with the Director of NFR, Helen Evans, is revealed on her groups blog where she claims she was invited by him to present the group's ideas.

I think this firmly shows that David Cameron has not yet convinced himself that privatising the NHS is such a bad thing or he would not have made time to meet the Director of the group who is convinced privatisation is the way forward also.

Whereas the Liberal Democrats believe that patients must come first and that services would improve if local people had a say in how the NHS is run.

We believe in fairness with entitlements to healthcare guaranteed. We believe access to personal care should be based on need not the ability to pay. And we believe that patients should always come first.

We will scrap central targets and guarantee that you get your treatment on time. We will give people the power to stop hospital closures in their area through elected local health boards. And we will put doctors and nurses back in charge of their hospitals and wards.

You can read more about what the Liberal Democrats would do for the NHS here.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

London's Town Crier, Peter Moore RIP

I have had the great pleasure of meeting Peter Moore at a fair few events in London over the years and was actually introduced at one event by him - "My Lords, Ladies and gentlemen, I present Mr Andrew Reeves" a great honour.

Peter unfortunately died in his sleep on the 20 December aged 70.

Peter had been London's Town Crier for 31 years and the forthcoming New Years Day Parade in the City of London will be a sad affair without him, as he has appeared at every one of the New Year's Day parades and had already recorded scenes welcoming revellers to Friday's event.

Bob Bone, the parade's executive director, said he was due to be presented with a lifetime achievement award on January 1 and the recorded scenes will now be shown as a tribute.

Peter Moore was the Town Crier for the Mayor of London and the Greater London Authority, Town Crier for the City of Westminster, Freeman and Liveryman of the City of London, Deputy Macebearer of the London Borough of Southwark, Tipstaff and Town Crier for the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames, Town Crier for the London Borough of Southwark, Town Crier for the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, Town Crier for the London Borough of Merton, Town Crier for the London Borough of Haringey, Town Crier for the London Borough of Redbridge and Town Crier to the Mayor and citizens of the London Borough of Ealing.

Peter Moore was Mr London and will be sorely missed.

Peter Moore's last official engagement was at the Mayor of Southwark's Christmas reception the day before his death.

The Liberal Democrat Mayor of Southwark, Councillor Jeff Hook, said: "He was a really kind and caring person who strived to carry out his official duties even when not enjoying the best of health.

"Peter was a close friend and a strong supporter of my election to the office of Mayor."

Labour to 'steal' charity NHS donations

Andy Burnham MP is definitely making waves as the new Health Secretary and today is no exception with two NHS stories making the news, hospital parking charges and NHS charity donations.

I may well comment on car parking charges later today, but for now I want to comment on the fact that the government now want to help themselves to any NHS charity donations.

Last year over £330million was donated to over 300 NHS charities in the period June 2007 to June 2008, cancer and children's charities were among the beneficiaries.

Institutions such as Great Ormond Street Hospital and The Royal Marsden are bound to be affected by the new rules but how will donations towards Macmillan Nurses be dealt with, what about the hospitals where the WRVS volunteers run the cafe?

Government Ministers are imposing new rules from the 1st April next year on all NHS charities requiring their donations, including those to specialist children and cancer units, local fundraising campaigns, teaching hospitals and local community trusts all to be listed on a hospital’s balance sheet.

My concern, and that of many others is that the government will use these figures to then reduce the amount they allocate to that particular Trust. In other words those Trusts with a history of fundraising or who are just lucky that a local group fund raise on their behalf could lose out.

This change of mind could lead to hundreds of millions of pounds of charitable donations being effectively nationalised under the NHS.

Government Ministers were banned from counting charitable donations towards the central NHS budget under the original legislation that created the NHS back in 1948.

But this looks set to be reversed by the Labour government after the Treasury agreed to implement International Accounting Standard (IAS) 27. Now all NHS Trusts whose trustees have the “power to control” their charitable arm look likely to be forced to consolidate both sets of accounts in one.

I hope the government change their minds on this one, or at the very least, do not offset the charitable donations with a cut in their budgets - let's be honest, would you trust Labour not to do this?

Monday, 28 December 2009

Is photography the new crime?

There is, rightly so, a lot of anger at the moment about the over the top tactics taken by some police officers when confronted with a member of the public armed with.........wait for it, a camera! Yes, a camera.

Among those who appear to have been targeted by the Metropolitan police is Grant Smith, one of the country's leading architectural photographers, who was apprehended by seven, yes seven, police officers while taking pictures of a church in the City of London.

The police defended this over the top action in the Daily Telegraph, "In response to its treatment of photographers, the City of London Police earlier this month released details of an arrest made by officers who spotted a man filming on his mobile phone, which it said had helped to avert a terrorist attack on the capital."

"Footage shot on the Algerian man's Nokia N95 mobile phone showed he had filmed at railway and tube stations and shopping centres. Senior officers said it was a "hostile reconnaissance" video."

That doesn't mean everyone with a mobile phone or a camera is a terrorist.

I'm sorry, but the advice given by the Metropolitan Police Service is very clear and yet again it's officers who apprehended Grant Smith have not heeded it nor sought clarification.

Even The Royal Photographic Society has got involved in this latest drama issuing advice not just to it's Members but to the public as well, they also include a link to the Metropolitan Police Service websites photography advice page, where it says "Members of the public and the media do not need a permit to film or photograph in public places and police have no power to stop them filming or photographing incidents or police personnel."

It goes on to say under both Sections 43 and 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, that "Officers do not have the power to delete digital images or destroy film at any point during a search."

It appears, more in London than elsewhere (so far) that police officers and even more so, police community support officers are getting a little bit power crazy and don't fully understand the law, so much that in yesterdays Sunday Telegraph 365 of Britain's most eminent photographers signed a letter asking for a change in anti-terrorist legislation.

Paul Lewis, a journalist for The Guardian, shows in this video clip that the police don't understand the legislation fully and certainly didn't follow this piece of advice from their own guidance - "However, where it is clear that the person being searched is a journalist, officers should exercise caution before viewing images as images acquired or created for the purposes of journalism may constitute journalistic material and should not be viewed without a Court Order."

When I took this photo in Edinburgh earlier this year, this new piece of legislation had only just come into force, I dread to think what may have happened, as I am not a journalist nor is that interesting to anyone but me.

It was outside the Edinburgh International Conference Centre and it was the AGM of the Royal Bank of Scotland and students from Edinburgh Universities were protesting about the bank sweeping their involvement in fossil fuels under the carpet.

I took the photo of the policeman taking a photo of the protesters.

I did tell you it wasn't that interesting, but it is to me and no, I am not a terrorist.

Eric Joyce MP blogs about my blog post on dual mandates

Eric Joyce MP, after reading my blog post about dual mandates adds his tuppence worth on the issue itself not the characters involved.

It is well worth a read.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Protecting Tony Blair - who should pay the £115,000 each week?

Tony Blair as the former Prime Minister receives police protection, as do senior members of the government and members of the Royal Family.

However, Tony Blair is no longer an MP and his protection is costing the taxpayer £115,000 per day, or £6million per year as uncovered by the Daily Telegraph.

There are also concerns that next year that may have to increase as Tony Blair will be giving evidence in the Iraq Inquiry in London.

The high costs are often put down to his frequent trips abroad as many will require a prior visit from his security advance team and according to the Daily Telegraph the total protection bill is three times higher than previous public estimates.

The cost of Tony Blair’s protection is met by Scotland Yard with a contribution from the Home Office. It was reported earlier this year that the police are seeking an increase in central Government funding for the protection costs.

It is also estimated that he has earnt nearly £18million since standing down as an MP and many of his trips and engagements are private and not as an envoy to Britain or similar earning him £100,000 per engagement.

Therefore the question must be asked, how much of the protection costs should be met by the taxpayer and how much by Tony Blair himself?

I believe that he should pay for the private engagements himself and the taxpayer should fund those where he is representing the UK, if on official business sanctioned by the government.

He is a top terrorist target because he took us into an illegal war in Iraq, a war that he believed we should have taken part in, whatever the reason, so therefore he must pay his share.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Dual mandate hypocricy of the SNP - attacking Labour and Conservatives

I nearly gagged on my mouthful of maltesers (okay, there were three) when I saw the Twitter message from the SNP come through - "Labour & Tory candidates must rule out dual mandate".

I obviously have nothing against their message as not only have I blogged about the arrogance of people like John Lamont MSP (Conservative) and Cathy Jamieson MSP (Labour), along with Margaret Curran MSP (Labour) and Alex Johnstone MSP (Conservative) for all being MSPs but also now candidates for the Westminster general election but Alex Salmond remains the biggest culprit and hypocrite.

There has been nothing stopping wee Eck standing down as the MP for Banff & Buchan since he was elected as an MSP in 2007.

The SNP website today quotes Bill Kidd MSP - "In contrast First Minister Alex Salmond made it clear to the voters of Banff and Buchan and Gordon he would be seeking a dual mandate at both the 2005 and 2007 elections, and he would stand down at the forthcoming General Election."

Although this is sheer arrogance, I suppose it is one election pledge the SNP have stuck to, however, and a serious point, the SNP have also signed up to the Kelly Report and recommendations so why when the Report was published did Alex Salmond not stand down?

Why, if the SNP really are now against dual mandates have none of their MPs signed Alistair Carmichael's Parliamentary Motion, number 155, on this very matter?

One of John LamontMSP 's voters - far more influential than I, said on my blog about John Lamont "...He should stick to Holyrood and stand down as the Westminster candidate before he too is pushed."

Jeremy Purvis MSP has challenged David Cameron to put his money where his mouth is on this matter.

The most important part of this is that the SNP, Conservatives and Labour are quite obviously not interested in cleaning up politics when it comes down to it. Their candidates, Alex Salmond, John Lamont, Alex Johnstone, Margaret Curran and Cathy Jamieson all belong to political parties that have signed up to implementing the Kelly Report's recommendations in full, all aprt from this one which enables them to pocket two salaries and two lots of expenses.

It is a great pity that these five individuals and their parties have not learnt from the furore and public anger over the MPs expenses scandal.

Friday, 25 December 2009

Chinese Government close down over 10 gay websites

Well the Chinese government has chosen to close down around 10 gay websites or their accounts have been deleted by web hosting companies, after being pressured by the Chinese government.

It really is a bloody disgrace, I suspect that the majority of these websites had less material classed as offensive than some straight pornographic ones? Some of them were nothing more than information websites for sufferers of HIV.

There are between 5million and 10million gay men (note men, not people so the full figure for gay people will be massive) in China, according to their own Ministry of Health, so I suspect the figure is at least double that, given their Ministries and government just blatantly cover things up or lie to their own people blaming the evil West.

Gay activity is tolerated in just a few places, mainly the large cities, but given the delicate political scene in China it can mean a rapidly changing view of official attitudes. The Chinese government have only recently admitted that gay and lesbian people do exist and have begun working with gay groups in a very limited way.

This recent activity of closing gay websites down just highlights how delicate this line of government tolerance really is.

We purchase so many things that are made in China that perhaps we should seriously consider some re-assessment of where products are made or consider a boycott on particular products to make a point?

HIV is on the increase in China so why the government is targeting HIV/AIDS information websites is beyond me. The best way to stop a disease spreading like this is to provide information and spread the safe sex message.

Thankfully the Chinese Association of HIV/AIDS NGOs, founded by 165 NGOs across China is trying to provide free legal aid through the work of 20 lawyers to these webmasters of the affected gay websites.

They have already assisted three webmasters in Beijing.

You can read more here. I do hope the Chines government open their eyes and ears and listen and allow these websites to re-open.

A homophobic, blind and stupid government is not the way forward when it comes to fighting HIV!

Merry Christmas to all my readers

Thank you all for your continued readership and support of my little blog.

Due to various events this year Christmas cards have been a little thin, in fact they are all written but have yet to be posted so you may well get them after Christmas, although as they say it is the thought that counts.

For those that don't receive one this year, please don't be offended, those that know me well will realise why, but here is the picture we chose for this years card.

So, Merry Christmas to one and all.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Iraq inquiry turning in a cover up and whitewash

So now we learn that the Prime Minister Gordon Brown and members of the Cabinet will not be giving evidence to the Iraq Inquiry until after the general election - what a bloody disgrace.

I am starting to wonder if this is an inquiry or just a government funded whitewash?

Sir John Chilcot's committee will wait until after polling day to interview Gordon Brown, David Miliband and Douglas Alexander.

Although New Labour former spin doctor, Alistair Campbell, former attorney general Lord Goldsmith, Tony Blair, Des Browne MP, John Reid, Geoff Hoon, Jack Straw, Margaret Beckett, Lord Turnbull and Chief of the Defence Staff Air Chief Marshall Sir Jock Stirrup will all be called in January or early February before the inquiry is put on ice until after polling day.

I think this is an insult to the intelligence of British voters, and I do wonder what influence has been placed on Sir John Chilcot to do this? Given the amount of Labour seats the Liberal Democrats are targeting it just smells a little of a done deal in the darkened corridors of Westminster.

Sir John Chilcott says the decision to allow the Prime Minister and Cabinet members to give evidence after the general election is to ensure the inquiry stays outside party politics.

I think this is just nonsense, they made their decisions as Labour MPs so surely can give evidence in the same manner? What difference does the timing make? If the opposition parties are going to make anything of it they still can, although the Tories have no right to do so as it was they and the Labour Parties who united to take us into the illegal war in Iraq.

Tony Blair has made it clear he would have taken us into war anyhow but always needed the support of Cameron's Tories and as we know he got it.

They should all hang their heads in shame!

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

King penguin chick born at Edinburgh Zoo

I know it doesn't sound a major announcement that a king penguin chick has been born at Edinburgh Zoo.

However, its the first one born at Edinburgh Zoo for some five years now and that's the important part.

The unnamed chick (until its sex is known) is related to Edinburgh Zoos most famous penguin Sir Nils Olav - you know, the one who was awarded a knighthood by the Norwegian King's Guard?

In 1972, the chosen king penguin was awarded the ‘rank’ of Lance Corporal and named Nils Olav (after Nils Egelien and Norway’s then King Olav). On subsequent visits to the Scottish capital Nils was promoted to Corporal in 1982, Sergeant (1987), regimental Sergeant Major (1993), Honourable Regimental Sergeant Major (2001), Honorary Colonel-in-Chief in 2005 and Sir in August 2008.

Anyway the chick is two months old now and yesterday was allowed out of its special pen, it will keep it's fluffy brown feathers until it is 10 months old when it will then grow it's black and white waterproof coat.

If a king penguin lays an egg the others can often become jealous and try and take the egg for themselves, resulting in the egg becoming damaged. So to help protect the new chick, the keepers fenced off the parents and the chick from the other king penguins.

Seriously though, this is a great achievement for the conservation team at the Zoo.

Here is an extract from the Edinburgh Zoo website, to read the full piece, click on the following link; Edinburgh Zoo is world famous for its penguins, being the first zoo ever to exhibit and breed them. This is why Edinburgh Zoo has a penguin as its logo. It was the arrival of three king penguins from a Christian Salvesen Whaling expedition in January 1914, and the subsequent first successful hatching of a king penguin chick in 1919, that made the Zoo famous all over the world, for these were the first penguins ever seen outside their South Atlantic homeland.

Lynda Burrill, Penguin Keeper, said:

“This chick was a total surprise to us. King penguins normally lay eggs in June and July but this egg arrived in late August. In October the chick started to break out of the egg and a couple of days later the new arrival emerged! It’s a feisty little character – if one of the other adults gets too close it will stand up for itself and have a peck at them. It will hopefully be fully integrated into the group in the next week or so.”

Monday, 21 December 2009

Ministry of Defence destroying hundreds of youth groups

Thanks to Willie Rennie MP for finding this nugget via a Parliamentary Question.

The Ministry of Defence has once again been found out trying to slash budgets and spending on projects that it perhaps should actually be investing in.

The Army Cadet Force is one of the largest youth organisations in the country with more than 8,500 instructors and 45,000 members aged 12 to 18, with the MoD’s own research showing that between 15 and 20 per cent of youngsters who train with the cadets then go on to join the forces.

However, this is just one of the youth organisations connected to the Armed Forces, there is the Air Training Corps, the Sea Cadets Corps and the Combined Cadet Force.

As a former member of 209 Squadron of the Air Training Corps I know how important these organisations are.

We were taught discipline, manners and many life skills as well as all the obvious military skills such as flying, shooting (in a controlled environment), map reading and how to use a compass.

We also attended many RAF bases on summer camps and that is when I first flew solo, in Wales over St David's cathedral in a chipmunk plane.

I also flew in the SAS helicopters the day after they had been used in the storming of the Iranian embassy back in 1980.

The government are making a massive mistake trying to cut funding to these organisations, they claim they want to tackle youth crime and keep children off the streets, well here is a group of organisations which do just that and also teach the youngsters something useful for their lives ahead.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Now Labour's Cathy Jamieson MSP to ignore Kelly Report

Surely the MSPs have not been locked in a time warp bubble over the summer and missed the public fury over the abuse of MPs expenses?

I seriously do wonder.

I ask because we now learn that Cathy Jamieson MSP is throwing her hat into the ring to become the next MP for Kilmarnock and Loudon following the announcement from Des Browne MP that he is to step down.

First we had Holyrood's most expensive MSP, Conservative, John "Bubbles" Lamont MSP announce he was going to stand for Westminster, then Labour's Margaret Curran MSP (the one who lost in Glasgow East and I advised to call for the recount), then along came Conservative Alex Johnstone MSP and now, bringing up the rear Labour's Cathy Jamieson MSP.

What angers me is that all four of them at some time have made it clear they will stay on as the MSP if they are fortunate enough to win as the MP for one year, and then stand down at the Scottish Parliamentary elections in 2011.

So, not only are they admitting that they will only be part time if they even win but that they don't give a stuff about their Parties signing up to the Kelly Report's proposals in full as promised by their Leaders, Gordon Brown and David Cameron nor will they follow the guidance in the report.

In fact the Kelly report is very clear in saying that this practice of sitting in two legislatures should end before the 2011 elections so in fact John Lamont, Cathy Jamieson, Alex Johnstone and Margaret Curran should decide to either (a) quit as MSPs now and fight the general election or (b) quit as a Westminster candidate now and focus on what they were elected to do which was a be a full time MSP.

The reason I say again to them to quit now is the new election expenses legislation starts on January 1st 2010, so now is the right time to make the decision, especially if they really believe in cleaning up politics?

John Lamont and Alex Johnstone are clearly an embarrassment to both of their leaders, Annabel Goldie and David Cameron as both leaders are on the record now accepting the Kelly report in full - will either of them be telling John Lamont and Alex Johnstone to drop one or other, or have they changed their minds?

Or, will they just sit back and wait for the election to come and go as they don't really expect to gain any more seats in Scotland? Even people in their own party think that the Cameron effect hasn't reached Scotland, and isn't likely to either.

It is just appalling that these MSPs have jumped on a bandwagon and are clearly sticking two fingers up at the people who voted for them, their part leaders and the public as a whole.

There are many politicians seriously trying to clean up politics and regain the trust of the British public after the awful expenses scandal, it is just a great pity that Cathy Jamieson, John Lamont, Alex Johnstone and Margaret Curran don't agree.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Top rugby star Gareth Thomas says he is gay

It is absolutely fantastic that Cardiff Blues player and former British Lions captain, Gareth Thomas has announced he is gay.

The reason I say fantastic is this, there are quite obviously many gay sports players out there, but for many different reasons don't feel they can come out. That is really sad and it sends out a negative message to young people tormented with their sexuality when they see major sports stars hiding their sexuality.

I hope Gareth's announcement will encourage other gay sports players to come out.

Speaking to The Times, Gareth Thomas said; "I don't want to be known as a gay rugby player. I am a rugby player first and foremost. I am a man. I just happen to be gay. It's irrelevant. What I choose to do when I close the door at home has nothing to do with what I have achieved in rugby."

Thomas, Wales' most-capped player, said it had been "really tough" hiding his sexuality, but hoped coming out would help future generations of rugby players.

Good on you Gareth and I totally agree with much of what you say, rugby really is a "man's" sport, but your record speaks very clearly, your sexuality really should be irrelevant.

Another comment Gareth made, this time to the BBC Sports website, is really sad but shows what Gareth and many, many other gay people go through at times; "I used to go to the cliffs overlooking the beach near our cottage in St Brides Major and just think about jumping off and ending it all."

We are all glad you never saw that through!

Gareth Thomas is to be applauded for making his very personal decision public, and good luck to him and the team in today's game against Toulouse.

Friday, 18 December 2009

George Lyon MEP in Copenhagen writing for The Steamie

George Lyon MEP is over in Copenhagen this week fighting Scotland's corner at the Climate Change talks.

While George Lyon is there he is writing for The Steamie blog and Twittering constantly during his time there as well.

It sounds like he is having a good time and keeping us all up to date as well - excellent.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Flyglobespan UPDATE

It appears that those good folk of easyJet have stepped in to help stranded Flyglobespan passengers while spotting a commercial opportunity.

Over at their website,

"Following the announcement that Globespan has suspended its operations, easyJet, the largest UK airline, will offer those passengers stranded a special rescue fee of £60 (including taxes) to return home on the routes where our flights overlap with those of Globespan. These are:

Faro to Glasgow, Malaga to Glasgow, Alicante to Glasgow, Faro to Edinburgh, Malaga to Edinburgh, Alicante to Edinburgh and Geneva to Edinburgh.

Thanks to Mike Souter, easyJet have confirmed this offer is being offered to passengers stranded in the UK going the other way as well.

easyJet has made this offer available to any Globespan passengers due return home on these routes during the fourteen days (offer available until 23:59 - 30th December).

To claim the exclusive £60 rescue package, passengers should call easyJet customer services on one of the numbers listed below.

Passengers must provide the agent with their Globespan booking reference number and present their Globespan booking confirmation at check-in as further proof of booking.

From UK: 0871 244 2366

From Spain: 807 0700 70

From Switzerland: 0900 000 258

If you are calling from a country not listed above, you can call us on +44 871 244 2366.

Flyglobespan goes bust

Yesterday I suspect passengers who had flights booked with Flyglobespan over the Christmas break were gloating somewhat over fellow passengers who had flights booked with British Airways.

How things have changed in 24 hours.

Unfortunately Flyglobespan, Scotland's biggest airline has now called in the administrators meaning that the Civil Aviation Authority is now responsible for bringing around 1,100 holidaymakers home who are currently on Globespan package holidays.

These are the lucky ones.

For the remaining 3,500 who booked direct and are overseas, the bad news is they are not covered, there are also around 27,000 people who have flights booked in the future through the ATOL insurance scheme, and around 90,000 people who have advanced bookings but have no ATOL insurance protection.

However, they may be protected under their own personal travel insurance or through their credit card transaction.

Flyglobespan was set up in 2002, employed 800 staff and operated from five UK airports, including Prestwick, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

The staff have now all been made redundant, that must be an awful blow the week before Christmas. And not good news for Scotland.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Alex Salmond gets stood up in Copenhagen

Alex Salmond has been left red faced and embarrassed after three prominent figures stood him up at an event where he was among the speakers.

California's Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and London mayor Boris Johnson were listed to speak at a session of the climate change summit in Copenhagen.

However, all three had pulled out of that event.

This is quite embarrassing for the First Minister because he had highlighted beforehand that they were among the scheduled speakers.

The event was billed as a "commitment session" in the Danish capital.

Although Scottish ministers are not part of the UK delegation to the summit itself, and will not be involved in the summit negotiations there are a large group of Scots over there including the First Minister, George Lyon MEP and Patrick Harvie MSP.

The Scottish Government on Friday boasted that Alex Salmond was appearing with Arnold Schwarzenegger in Copenhagen.

Perhaps Alex Salmond should have checked this with Mr Schwarzenegger first.

The last thing they need in Copenhagen right now is more hot air from Alex Salmond!

First he wasn't invited and then he got stood up - whoops!

Monday, 14 December 2009

Tony Blair was going to invade Iraq anyway, whatever the reason

Charles Kennedy and Sir Menzies Campbell must be feeling a little smug this week after Tony Blair's confession about Iraq, although knowing both of them as I do neither would ever admit that.

Tony Blair told Sky News that he believes it would have been right to invade Iraq even if it had been known that Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction did not exist.

It appeared at the time that Tony Blair and George Bush were two of a limited number of people who believed all their own hype. But let us remember that most, and I do mean most Labour MPs including Gordon Brown and the Conservative MPs, including David Cameron supported Tony Blair and George Bush on this issue.

It was the Liberal Democrats who stood up to the bullying and harassment in the House of Commons, day in and day out over this. I wonder how many are completely embarrassed and ashamed now knowing their leader would have attacked Iraq anyway, whatever the reason.

The interview, with Fern Britton was broadcast this weekend on BBC1.

I for one am pleased and proud to be a Liberal Democrat on this issue and we must never let the people forget that it was Labour and the Conservatives who took us into this illegal war in Iraq.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Gay Trooper Ben Rakestrow is out in Afghanistan

I saw this story first on the BBC news newspaper review yesterday morning, and found myself intrigued that a story of one of the Army's finest who has come out to his fellow troops was being covered by a red top newspaper in a positive way.

So, firstly ten out of ten to The Sun. (I really never thought I would hear myself ever say that!)

But it does prove that finally gay people are being accepted, accepted that our sexuality does not change how we do our job, bizarrely we don't all jump on every person we see of the same sex!

Secondly, this also proves that our Armed Forces are also starting to grow up and become a little more all encompassing on the "gay" issue. It is similar to when they accepted (finally) that women were going to go out onto the frontline and the initial response from the top brass was where would they sleep?

Well, I have always found a bed is good for sleeping on. Seriously though, I get where they were coming from but it was they who were creating the problems. Like gay men and women coming out in the Armed Forces it will always take a little time for people to adapt, the banter to die down and I am sure Ben Rakestrow has had his fill of shower jokes etc, it isn't homophobic as some may say, it is the banter of life in our armed forces.

Ben Rakestrow serves with the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment and is back from Afghanistan where he was in the same convoy as Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Thorneloe when the commanding officer was killed in an explosion.

Ben, like every other man or woman, straight or gay in our armed forces is a hero in my eyes.

Ben is only 21 and my only concern about this whole episode is his choice of duvet cover, come on Ben, Zac Efron? Get a grip mate :-)

Saturday, 12 December 2009

How can any pensioner ever trust Labour again?

When Alistair Darling announced in the pre-budget report that pensions would be increased by 2.5% many, if not all pensioners must have sensed a little relief knowing they would at the very least get an increase in their weekly pension.

But as time ticked on the Labour plans started to unravel as people realised that yet again the Labour budget was all spin.

The State Earnings Related Pension (Serps) will in fact be frozen, the small earnings-related supplement called the graduated pension will also be frozen and the additional pension of £57.05 paid to 41,000 men who have wives under 60 will also remain at this years rate.

According to the BBC "Also under threat is the increase in the extra pension of £7 a week paid to 1.2 million over 60s who have delayed their retirement. That could also be included in the freeze policy when details are revealed on Monday."

So, Alistair Daring was quite obviously not entirely honest with the pensioners of Britain when he got up last week in the House of Commons and said "basic state pension will not be frozen, but will rise by 2.5% in April".

That to me implies a pension would go up by 2.5%.

As the BBC have worked out this is a pile of rubbish and given the fact of how many pensioners in this country still live in poverty, still cannot afford to heat their homes and cannot afford to eat properly Alistair Darling, Gordon Brown and the Labour Party should be bloody ashamed of themselves for this manipulative play on words.

It is time for honesty in today's politics and Labour have been far from honest with this announcement.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Ashay Ghai wins Bearsden South by-election from Cameron's Conservatives

The Cameron bounce doesn't exist in Scotland in the same way as it appears to in England.

Yesterday the voters went to the polls in the Bearsden South by-election to select a Councillor to replace the Conservative who had resigned.

Bearsden South ward is in the Westminster constituency of East Dunbartonshire where Jo Swinson is the MP.

Cameron's Conservatives threw everything plus the kitchen sink at this by-election and saw this as a way of "getting rid of Swinson" according to one email forwarded to me.

There were four candidates, Ashay Ghai for the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Rachel Higgins for the Conservatives, Fiona McLeod for the SNP and Manjinder Shergill for Labour.

The turnout was 36.22% and the quota was 1891.

The first preference votes cast in stage one were as follows;
Ashay Ghai - Lib Dem - 1110
Rachel Higgins - Con - 1261
Fiona McLeod - SNP - 783
Manjinder Shergill - Lab - 626

The votes in stage two following Labours votes being redistributed were as follows;
Ashay Ghai - Lib Dem - 1381
Rachel Higgins - Con - 1306
Fiona McLeod - SNP - 972

The votes in stage three following the SNPs votes being redistributed were as follows;
Ashay Ghai - Lib Dem - 1770
Rachel Higgins - Con - 1499

Ashay Ghai was elected as the Councillor for Bearsden South gaining the seat from the Conservatives.

So, Gordon Browns government party came a dismal fourth, Alex Salmonds Scottish government party came a bad third and David Cameron loses another Councillor and still has no mandate for government here in Scotland.

A great day for Ashay Ghai, Jo Swinson MP and the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

A bad day for Gordon, Alex and Dave.

Well done Ashay.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

The Orwell Prize for Bloggers

The Orwell Prize, Britain’s most prestigious prize for political writing, is inviting entries for a Blog Prize for a second year.

If you’d like to enter, you need to submit 10 URLs you’ve written in 2009.

They do not have to be from the same blog, but they should all be written by you – the prize is self-nominating.

The entry form can be found here at this site, with full rules and regulations here.

The entry deadline is 20th January 2010.

The winner of the prize receives £3000 and an Orwell Prize plaque. Richard Horton (Jack Night) and Oona King are the judges of this year’s Blog Prize.

Entries are also being invited for the Book Prize and Journalism Prize.

If you would like to refer to the prize on your blog please link this here to ensure that other budding entrants know where to find us.

International Human Rights Day and Uganda

Today is International Human Rights Day and so I thought I would finally blog about the situation for LGBT people in Uganda.

The Ugandan Parliament is discussing the anti-homosexuality Bill, which violates the equality and non-discrimination provisions of the African Charter on Human and People's Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Uganda is a signatory.

These breaches of international humanitarian commitments undermine the right to privacy and individual liberty and thereby set a dangerous legal precedent which threatens the human rights of all Ugandans. They are part of a wider drift towards an authoritarian state.

President Museveni is fast turning into another Robert Mugabe and the world already has way to many of those. Late last month President Museveni said: "I hear European homosexuals are recruiting in Africa.

“We used to have very few homosexuals traditionally. They were not persecuted but were not encouraged either because it was clear that is not how God arranged things to be.”

I have been gay all my life and I have never recruited anyone, where do I get the membership forms from? I know I shouldn't make light of such a serious situation but this crap coming from the mouth of a President of a country is just unbelievable.

As Peter Tatchell says the new anti-homosexuality Bill, if passed, proposes the death penalty for 'aggravated' and 'serial' homosexual acts and extends the existing penalty of life imprisonment for anal sex to all other same-sex behaviour.

Membership of LGBT organisations and funding for them, advocacy of LGBT human rights and the provision of condoms or safer sex advice to LGBT people will result in a minimum sentence of five years and a maximum of seven years for "promoting" homosexuality.

Surely, preventing the spread of AIDS should be something of importance to the Ugandan government? I am utterly appalled that this kind of legislation is being proposed and good on Peter Tatchell (not often I say that) for pushing this one into the public domain.

Pink News is reporting today the Ugandan government may drop some of the harshest parts of the Bill, wow that's so big of them! I would like the Queen as head of the Commonwealth to throw Uganda out for this ridiculous proposed legislation.

David Bahati, the MP for Ndorwa West who proposed this nonsense really should be bloody ashamed of himself, he claims this legislation will protect children, youths and traditional families, he sounds like he would fit in with the British Conservatives with that kind of clap trap, that was where they started with Section 28.

I applaud Gordon Brown for raising the issue with Presidnet Museveni at the recent Commonwealth Heads of Government conference in Trinidad.

It is time to take a stand against this homophobic hatred from a head of a country.

Make your voice heard today by emailing the Ugandan High Commissioner here in the UK, Joan Rwabyomere on and together we can stop this nonsense.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

What was the point of the SNPs 2007 Election Manifesto

Every political party in the run up to each election put a lot of work into their election manifesto, it is their selection of "pledges" for the election campaign so that voters can make their clear and informed choice when they go into the polling station and make their mark on the ballot paper.

I know from the European election earlier this year and the work already going into our general election manifesto that this is a major piece of work for the staff of political parties.

Thinking through the ideas, ensuring the costings are correct and that each idea is affordable and deliverable and for democratic parties then selling them to their members.

So what were the SNP thinking back in 2007? I have to be honest, I have never known a party break so many of it's election pledges;

This is the list of their election promises that they have failed to deliver or just dumped;

  • Reducing class sizes

  • Teacher numbers

  • Abolition of council tax/replacement with Local Income Tax

  • £2000 first-time homebuyers grant

  • Kinship care allowance

  • Dumping student debt (and replace student loans system)

  • Matching brick for brick the school building programme from the previous Lib Dem/Labour government

  • Nursery teacher access

  • Dualling A9 (and endless other transport commitments from STPR)

  • Recruiting more doctors

  • PPP/PFI alternative (Scottish Futures Trust not a funding mechanism)

  • Lighter business regulation

  • Support for renewables

This is pathetic, basically Alex Salmond and the SNP made all of these promises just to get elected and once they had formed their minority administration they have dumped their promises one by one instead concentrating on trying to deliver Alex Salmond's one sole obsession of independence.

Yet, this is the one promise that (a) cannot be delivered because 75% of Scottish people do not want it and (b) is a complete waste of £12million when we have a major recession on and that money could be better used instead of the SNP forcing a poll next year where they will be seriously humiliated.

The other major thing the SNP tried to do, was to try and sell off 25% of Scotland's forests including the most profitable parts of the forestry industry but following a major campaign launched by the Scottish Liberal Democrats and many environmental groups the SNPs minister at the time, Mike Russell was forced into a u-turn and then was sacked.

Can you really trust the SNP and Alex Salmond?

They have broken 13 of their election promises from the 2007 election, tried to sell off a quarter of Scotland's forests but are determined to waste £12million on independence.

Monday, 7 December 2009

SNP all over the place on sheep tagging

If you had asked me two years ago, would I be blogging about sheep tagging, I would have said categorically no, but now it is an extremely important part of my political work.

George Lyon MEP and Jim Hume MSP have both campaigned long and hard against the EID proposals that now, unfortunately come into force on the 1st January.

Following comments made by the SNPs MEP Alyn Smith, George Lyon the Lib Dem MEP for Scotland and the Lib Dem's rural affairs spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP have jointly written to Richard Lochhead MSP to seek urgent clarification on the Scottish government's policy on the implementation of EID.

The call by George Lyon and Liam McArthur comes after comments made by the SNP MEP Alyn Smith. Mr Smith is quoted as saying that the Scottish government does not think that helping Scottish sheep farmers fund the implementation of sheep tagging (EID) is "worth doing".

Alyn Smith also has said that he has been "quoted out of context by the Lib Dems".

Watch the video here and see what you think.

Liberal Democrats, along with the National Farmers Union, have repeatedly called on the Scottish government to help meet the cost of this regulation, when it comes into effect in just a few weeks on 1st January 2010.

Sheep farmers all over Scotland are already worried about the financial implications of the recession and now have have to meet the costs of implementing this utterly ridiculous sheep tagging scheme which could result in Scotland losing more sheep flocks from our hills, uplands and islands and yet more sheep farmers being forced out of business.

It would be astonishing if the Scottish government did not commit to fully fund the central database as the NFU and the industry have asked for.

Other countries, such as France, Spain, Italy and Greece have all used RDP funding to help ease the financial burden forced upon their farmers but the SNP minority government are doing absolutely nothing.

The SNP are obviously all over the place on this issue. It is time they stood shoulder to shoulder and made a firm decision and helped our farmers across Scotland to pay for this scheme.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

RBS must cancel bonuses

I am somewhat astounded that the Board of Directors at the Royal Bank of Scotland are being so petty and arrogant at the same time.

Vince Cable MP was right to call their bluff over this and say go on then, quit.

The Directors defence was they have to pay these bonuses out of £1.5billion for them to remain competitive.

I disagree, no-one in the banking community is hiring new staff at the current time and secondly, if the Board of Directors had kept their finger on the pulse and run their bank responsibly they wouldn't have needed the massive public funded bailout resulting in the British taxpayer owning 70% of the bank.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer should have a vote in this and the right to veto these outrageous bonuses.

I don't give a damn if these bonuses are tied into the members of staffs contracts or conditions of service, bonuses should be paid as a reward for good work. How do the Directors justify these bonuses this year?

I appreciate the staff within the investment arm have generated £6billion of profit, but perhaps the bonus should therefore only be assessed on 30% of that amount?

The entire board of Directors of the Royal Bank of Scotland cannot in practice all quit at the same time. The Financial Services Authority would not allow this to happen, but the directors would be able to announce a collective intention to quit, so that replacements could be found in an organised manner.

And the final word goes to my former boss, Vince Cable MP, the Liberal Democrats Shadow Chancellor who said; "I would welcome their resignations, as the bank cannot hold the taxpayer to ransom.

"As a state run bank, the Government must finally take control and ensure that both its pay and lending practices are in the public interest."

As usual on these matters it is only the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable talking sense.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Scottish Liberal Democrats at The Glasgow Wave

Not the best weather for marching through the streets of Glasgow, although it was much better in Glasgow than when I left Edinburgh. I met up with a group of Liberal Democrats at Glasgow Queen Street station before we headed to Ibrox to meet the rest.

A group of 20+ there to meet us before we all headed off to Bellahouston Park where our numbers continued to grow with George Lyon MEP, Katy Gordon, Robert Brown MSP and Alison McInnes MSP and many of Liberal Youth Scotland.

Robert, Alison and George all went off to do the official photos while we did our own and then we were off.

A slow 2.5miles walk with the 4,000 to 5,000 others according to the Strathclyde Police marching with us. At one point spontaneous mexican waves started amongst the masses while we were waiting for the whole group to catch up.

Noticeable by their absence was the SNP, bar 2 parliamentarians spotted hovering around here and there and this was particularly strange especially given all the noise they've made about wanting to attend the Copenhagen talks and also absent were their Holyrood bedfellows the Conservatives - that's right, David Cameron's party were missing, remember his vote Blue get Green nonsense, well today nobody could see them.

Well it was the Liberal Democrats last election manifesto that was declared the most green, yes even more green than the Green Party - its not just about talking green, its about being green!

A great day, a great turnout in Glasgow and we have sent our message loud and clear to Gordon Brown and the Labour government.

George Lyon, the Liberal Democrats MEP for Scotland who is fighting Scotland's corner in Europe is going to Copenhagen next week.

Back in the early 1990s, the Kyoto Protocol started the ball rolling on international agreements on climate change, but then quickly lost momentum. The problem with Kyoto was that in omitting the world's largest CO2 producer in the United States and the soon to be world's largest producer of CO2 in China, the agreement lacked the authority to back up its intent.

This cannot be allowed to happen in Copenhagen.

Whatever happens, we must come away from Denmark with more than a souvenir group photo and a multitude of warm words.

This time round, under President Obama's leadership, the US are listening to, and acting on, environmental concerns. Copenhagen has the chance to succeed where Kyoto failed. That is an opportunity that cannot be missed.

If Europe is to play its part in combating climate change, then Scotland must be at the forefront of those efforts.

Sadly the SNP and Labour have spent most of the run-up to the summit bickering about who gets to sit at the top table. This is an all too familiar problem. While they engage in a political arm wrestle others are concentrating on the job in hand - creating the jobs and investment in renewable energy that will see Scotland out of recession.

The constant playground arguments between Labour and the SNP do a disservice to Scotland. It is not good enough both for our economy and for our environment.

Liberal Democrat MEP George Lyon is going to the Summit to make sure that Scotland's voice is heard and we get the investment we need to deliver our renewable energy future.

Scotland has the potential to be Europe's renewable energy powerhouse. It is estimated that 25% of Europe's renewable energy capacity could be generated in Scotland through our wind and tidal reserves.

The EU has already shown a massive vote of confidence in Scotland's renewable energy industry by investing £100 million in renewables projects.

Liberal Democrats want more investment like this to come to Scotland. It is needed if we are to use the drive towards a more renewable future to Scotland's advantage.

Send Gordon Brown a clear messge today!

David Cameron tries to muscle in on Nick Clegg

Once again we see the Conservative leader David Cameron try to muscle in on ground taken by Nick Clegg.

The Conservatives have announced today that they will double the tour allowance to troops returning from Afghanistan, from £2,400.

This coming after months of campaigning by Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats on costed plans to increase the overall pay for our troops.

It is becoming more and more obvious that Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats are impacting on the Conservative vote because this is not the first time we have seen this happen and nor will it be the last.

As I have said before, Nick Clegg leads and then David Cameron follows along behind. I blogged on the 11th July and again on 26th August.

It is very obvious that David Cameron fears the overall threat of the Liberal Democrats and also knows unlike them we don't put out policies until fully costed so when people pinch our proposals they know we have done our homework.

Well Dave the troops may enjoy a doubling of the Afghanistan allowance, what Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats are proposing though goes a lot further and puts our troops pay on the same footing as our police and fire personnel, a proper fair pay not just a wee gimmick.

Read our proposals and sign our petition for Fair Pay for our Troops.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Subrosa shuts down the blog - another one bites the dust

What the hell is happening in the Scottish blogosphere?

Recently there have been some blogs disappearing from amongst our midst, such as Advanced Media Watch, Wardog, Moridura, and even Jeff at SNP Tactical Voting is wondering what the end game for bloggers is.

And now another day and another blog has shut down. Today it is the turn of Subrosa and to be honest this is all becoming strange and somewhat weird now. It appears someone has discovered Subrosa's identity and she wants to ensure her family is safe.

I blogged on Sunday about Mike Russell MSPs former staffer Mark MacLachlan who had been "uncovered" as a blogger who also hid behind a pseudonym.

That doesn't mean they were the same, in fact chalk and cheese spring to mind.

Now I appreciate that losing Mark MacLachlan's blog, and some say the same of Wardog is no great loss.

I say as I find. I enjoyed Wardogs blog and although I really disagreed with some of the postings it was an interesting read. Mark MacLachlan's blog was rude and just angry rants and to me just causing trouble. Advanced Media Watch and Subrosa I really did enjoy, didn't always agree but the debate was always inspiring.

They were both on my daily reading list and for slightly different reasons. Subrosa's continued support for our troops was admirable and I am genuinely going to miss this blog.

I am also pleased that Jeff is continuing because that blog disappearing on top of AMW and Subrosa would not have been good for Scottish blogging.

I know some of this does have history and there are some people in Scotland really should be ashamed of themselves over this whole sorry matter. In some respects I wish I knew more about the history and that I had even been here during the whole thing.

Blogging and journalism can and should live together in harmony. I appreciate sometimes that us bloggers will get a scoop that will annoy journalists but that is how the world is now.

We all have to learn to work alongside each other and maybe event together on some things.

We live in a different electronic age to that of five years ago and who knows what will be happening in five years time or how that will affect us?

Newspapers in the current hard copy may no longer exist as more and more people move to electronic communication, I don't think so for the record, I think newspapers will still exist but so will blogging.

Blogging has moved on from the initial online diary concept and journalism has moved on from the old Fleet Street days, now both sides have to learn to co-exist in better harmony in Scotland than now.

Highland Cattle Rescue Appeal - calling all animal lovers

As many of my readers know there are generally three things in life that keep me posting - politics, obviously, LGBT issues and animal rights.

Today, it is animal rights I want your help with.

One of the many charities I actively support and help is the Hillside Animal Sanctuary which mainly operates from Frettenham near Norwich. They don't put the animals down unless they really have to or it is better for the animals welfare.

So, last year Hillside took on a family of Highland Cattle from an elderly owner who began to struggle to look after them, there are 19 remaining with the owner who has now approached Hillside to see if they will take the whole lot.

The herd includes 6 pregnant cows with calves at foot, Hillside have been working with the owner during this year visiting the animals, leaving food and tending to their needs.

Hillside have the room to take them on and this is obviously something they are keen to do but it really does place a massive additional burden on what is really quite a small charity especially in the winter when their feed costs increase.

You can read more about the family of Highland cattle here.

Which is where I hope you come in. You can help by ordering some Christmas cards direct from Hillside, or purchasing a 2010 diary or just a simple small online donation.

This is the link. To make an online donation scroll right down to the bottom and follow the instructions, if you are asked for a sanctuary number you enter 5090631, please, please do try and help us rehome these 19 beautiful Highland cattle.

The alternative is unthinkable.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Catholic Cardinal in homophobic rant - shock!

Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, a leading Catholic cardinal and retired head of the Vatican's Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers has today said that gay and trans people "will never enter the kingdom of heaven".

Now, I will be honest, and this is purely my own opinion, I don't give a damn what he thinks.

However, there are many people who respect and listen to the Catholic Church and that is where I therefore get angry about things such as this, because people like Cardinal Barragan get listened to and can sway opinion, although the Vatican is distancing themselves from Cardinal Barragan, they are on the whole as bad.

Cardinal Barragan went on to say; "People are not born homosexual, they become homosexual, for different reasons: education issues or because they did not develop their own identity during adolescence.

"It may not be their fault, but acting against nature and the dignity of the human body is an insult to God."

Now, for those who know me, will know I have known I was gay for years and years, in fact I recall at least from 7 years old that girls did not interest me as they did other school friends. So I really do disagree, because yes I was born gay (and am very proud of it).

Now slightly in his defence, he sometimes does talk a little sense, back in 2006, Cardinal Barragan reportedly said that condoms could be the lesser of two evils if one partner in a marriage was HIV+.

Now, although on its own that does sound awful, now see what the Pope himself said "don't use condoms - even to prevent the spread of Aids".

Not only is he ill informed but then he went on to say "the traditional teaching of the Church has proven to be the only failsafe way to prevent the spread of HIV/Aids".

Utter crap.

The Vatican have stepped in on the Cardinal Barragan comments and Father Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, has said that the official Vatican stance was that while homosexual acts are sinful, gay people have a disorder and should be treated with respect.

The Times have reported that it was "highly unusual" for the Catholic church to indirectly criticise a high-ranking Vatican official.

When all said and done though, the Catholic Church is sort of split on this, like any organisation there are individuals who have their own opinions, but they really do need to think what they are saying here, as their opinions are listened to and acted upon.

Safe sex should always be practised and I am afraid Cardinal Barragan and Father Lombardi gay people are gay, as Stonewall say "get over it".

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

The Wave in Glasgow and Copenhagen

This coming Saturday in Glasgow there will be thousands of people marching to support the fight against climate change including many Scottish Liberal Democrats with Alison McInnes MSP, Robert Brown MSP and George Lyon MEP.

The Wave is going to be sending a message to our government that they have to take climate change seriously and stop setting silly targets and just talking about it.

I am very conscious that I play a very small part in this fight against climate change, but every little bit really does help.

I recycle, in fact we only throw out two carrier bags worth of rubbish per week, and most of that is cat litter, but as we have no garden there is nowhere else to dispose of that.

I either walk or travel by bus, to be fair I cannot drive (yet) but Edinburgh City Council run an excellent city car hire scheme so I will only drive when absolutely needed.

On visits to my work around Scotland I travel by bus or train, yes flying would be easier and sometimes even cheaper, but that's the price you pay.

We are using low energy light bulbs and often just have a lamp on, we do not leave anything on standby, as I say all small things, that add up.

George Lyon MEP, will be fighting Scotland's corner in Copenhagen and has set up a great campaign page on his website here.

So far 19 of the 38 people on the UK Government's official delegation have committed to flying to get there, that really does defeat the object a little. Both Simon Hughes MP and George Lyon MEP are travelling to the summit by train. With the Copenhagen Conference itself expected to generate 41,000 tons of CO2 (roughly the same amount emitted by Morocco in one year), it would be nice if the UK's delegation could set an example!

If Europe is to play its part in combating climate change, then Scotland must be at the forefront of those efforts.

Sadly the SNP and Labour have spent most of the run-up to the summit bickering about who gets to sit at the top table. This is an all too familiar problem. While they engage in a political arm wrestle others are concentrating on the job in hand - creating the jobs and investment in renewable energy that will see Scotland out of recession.

The constant playground arguments between Labour and the SNP do a disservice to Scotland. It is not good enough both for our economy and for our environment.

Liberal Democrat MEP George Lyon is going to the Summit to make sure that Scotland's voice is heard and we get the investment we need to deliver our renewable energy future.

Scotland has the potential to be Europe's renewable energy powerhouse. It is estimated that 25% of Europe's renewable energy capacity could be generated in Scotland through our wind and tidal reserves.

Send Gordon Brown a message today that he cannot ignore.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

World AIDS Day - remembering absent friends

Today is a day of remembrance for me, as every World AIDS day is. I came out twenty five years ago when AIDS wasn't even talked about so many of my gay friends that I grew up with or people on the Nottingham gay scene that I knew like I were oblivious to this awful disease.

Over the years I have lost friends and colleagues to AIDS and it is always a constant reminder to me how important sex education is, which is why I get angry when people in influential positions such as the Pope who said "don't use condoms - even to prevent the spread of Aids".

Not only is he ill informed when he went on to say "the traditional teaching of the Church has proven to be the only failsafe way to prevent the spread of HIV/Aids".

It is such a load of crap, condoms can and do help to prevent the spread of AIDS and HIV.

So, please take a moment today and remember those no longer with us because of this awful disease.

My thoughts today are especially with the family and friends of Trevor and Jason, two very good and close friends who I shared time with in Torquay.

Trevor gave me a job at The Double Two Night Club and Summerlands Hotel nearly twenty years ago now and it really was the best year of my life topped only by meeting Roger one night, at the very same nightclub.

Jason was a really good friend who many people rejected and warned me against getting close to, his HIV+ status meant nothing, it was his friendship I valued.

I miss you both.

Detention for Fiona Hyslop as Tavish Scott goes top of the class

So, Alex Salmond has today sacked Fiona Hyslop as Education Secretary and moved her to a non cabinet position covering the external affairs and culture portfolio and to add insult to injury the responsibility for the constitution has been removed from the post.

Mike Russell (previously Environment minister sacked for proposing to sell off 25% of Scotland's forests) has now been moved from Culture minister to Education Secretary. Let's hope his first idea isn't selling off 25% of the schools!

This reshuffle has come about partly because of the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

On Saturday, Tavish Scott informed all four main parties in the Scottish Parliament that he was intending to propose a motion of no confidence in Fiona Hyslop as Education Secretary in the allocated Liberal Democrats opposition day in Parliament on Thursday.

Alex Salmond obviously didn't want to go through the pain of a debate where the Liberal Democrats launched a full frontal assault on Education, so he has pushed Fiona Hyslop rather than be publicly humiliated in Parliament.

Although as Tavish Scott rightly points out, this isn't about Alex Salmond, Fiona Hyslop or even Mike Russell it is about the children, it is about all of those children going through school.

There are 54,000 children across Scotland in P7 classes who face the start of the new Curriculum For Excellence next August. Yet, here we are only eight months away and teachers still have not had the details of the assessments and the exams that they need to do their job properly and ensure our children have the best start.

Without a fresh approach and some new thinking, the new
curriculum will be under-planned and under-resourced and I am sure the SNP will blame the local councils and teachers alike if this happens.

As I blogged on Saturday
there is a crisis not only in teacher numbers but also the relationship between the government and the councils. The latest figures show there are 1,300 fewer teachers than this time last year and class sizes continue to rise.

Fiona Hyslop threatened to nationalise every school in Scotland and remove any role for local government. No-one believes that the Minister in Edinburgh can possibly run every single school and nor should they, that is why we elect local councillors and employ good staff who implement the education strategies.

The other bizarre part of this re-shuffle is that the First Minister has now personally taken responsibility for the forthcoming bill on an independence referendum.


The First Minister should be way too busy to take a bill through Parliament. So, is this decision because no-one else is with him? Not enough talent in the SNP benches? Or just that Alex Salmond isn't busy enough and this will help fill his day?

Seriously though, I do not think the First Minister is sending out the right message if he has to personally oversee a Bill through Parliament at the time we are going through a major recession.
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