Reevesey's recommended reading

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Ban Spanish cucumbers and all fresh produce as a precaution

There is a sense of irony with this story because whenever Britain gets a sniff of an outbreak, whether salmonella in eggs or mad cow disease in our beef other European countries ban our produce within minutes.

So, why does Spain think there is a sense of injustice with Germany over the 15 deaths and over 1,150 cases of suspected e-coli from Spanish cucumbers?

The response from Rosa Aguilar, the Spanish agriculture minister was;
"We want Germany to provide, without any delay and distractions, the necessary information of its investigation"
What utter crap, Spain should be working hand in hand with Germany to rule the cucumbers out if they are that confident, instead of getting on a high horse with such an arrogant attitude.

This would mean then that we would know whether the cucumbers are the cause of these tragic deaths.

I feel we must ban Spanish cucumbers until it is proven they are clear and we have to seriously consider banning all other Spanish produce.

Before you jump on me for being anti-European (which I'm not) just take a step back and imagine this was British cucumbers - there would have been a shut down across Europe, absolutely no doubt about it.

It is time for some sense in Europe, and I leave the last word to George Lyon MEP;
“With reports that deaths have been caused by produce contaminated with E.Coli outside of Germany there is a real possibility that some of this contaminated produce could be reaching British shores.

“The UK Government should call an immediate halt to all produce coming from Spain until test results can identify the exact source of the outbreak.

“As a precaution, we must take this action to limit any potential risk to British consumers.

“When we have a more detailed picture of events we can reevaluate the situation, but taking this precaution now will help to reassure anxious consumers.”
Some sense from a politician.  Now we need sense from the Spanish politicians.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Scottish Labour in turmoil as Malcolm Chisholm stands down from front bench

Just eleven days after Scottish Labour announced their new front bench team, they have been plunged into turmoil as Malcolm Chisholm resigns.

Malcolm Chisholm was their education and life long learning spokesman.

Malcolm Chisholm said he reconsidered his position after failing to be appointed by his party as convener of Holyrood's health committee.

A Labour spokesman said:

"Iain Gray asked Malcolm Chisholm to use his experience and ability in the shadow cabinet and he had agreed to do so.

"He has since reconsidered and changed his mind."

Ken Macintosh has taken his place as education spokesman while Patricia Ferguson becomes the culture spokeswoman.

Malcolm Chisholm MSP, Edinburgh Northern & Leith
This is Malcolm Chisholm's fourth resignation, the first back in 1997 was over child benefit cuts, then Iraq and in 2006 over trident which was a "matter of principle".

In 2006 Malcolm Chisholm was the Communities Minister and resigned from the Scottish government after voting with the SNP over the replacement of Trident.

He was one of four Labour members who supported the SNP's motion opposing the replacement of the nuclear submarines with up-to-date models.

Is this the end of Malcolm's front bench career and was the resignation just sour grapes?

Former Conservative peer Lord Taylor jailed for expenses fraud

Another one bites the dust.

This time a peer is jailed.

Basically, Lord Taylor lived in Ealing, West London but actually claimed his main residence was in fact in Oxford.  The property in Oxford was owned by his nephew.
He pleaded not guilty to the charges - saying had been told by senior peers it was normal practice to make false expenses claims - but was convicted in January.

His legal team argued that he should not face prison because, as a peer, his crimes were less serious than those of MPs found guilty over their expenses.

They said a custodial term would "destroy him", adding that: "Every fibre of Taylor is motivated by public service."

Lord Taylor claimed travel costs between the Oxford home and Westminster, as well as subsistence for staying in London between March 2006 and October 2007, Lord Taylor submitted six claims for overnight stays in Oxford and mileage to and from the property totalling £11,277.80.
Passing sentence, Mr Justice Saunders said Lord Taylor had lied to journalists investigating his expenses and lied while giving evidence to the jury on oath during his trial.
He said: "The expenses scheme in the House of Lords was based on trust.

"Peers certified that their claims were accurate. They were not required to provide proof. It was considered that people who achieved a peerage could be relied on to be honest.

"Making false claims involved a breach of a high degree of trust.

"The expenses scandal has affected the standing not just of the House of Commons but also the House of Lords."
 Mr Justice Saunders is spot on when he says the whole expenses scandal has affected the standing of the Houses of Parliament.  It will take time for the public to trust politicians in the same way as they used to.

Although we should remember that it was a small minority who committed fraud with their expenses, but they have tainted the majority.

Monday, 30 May 2011

"Football is not in a crisis, only some difficulties," says Sepp Blatter

Oh dear, as usual FIFA's President Sepp Blatter cannot see the wood for the trees.

This Wednesday FIFA will select its new President, however, there is now only one candidate, that is the current controversial President, one Joseph Sepp Blatter.

His opponent and the only rival candidate - Mohamed Bin Hammam, president of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) - pulled out having been suspended by Fifa's own ethics committee over allegations that financial incentives were offered to Caribbean Football Union members.

So, on Saturday there was a Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) press conference in Zurich, but only one person was present, El Presidente Blatter himself - you can see it here.

From BBC Sport:
"Football is not in a crisis, only some difficulties," said the Fifa president.

President Blatter brushed off suggestions, from the British government among others, that Wednesday's presidential election - for which he is the only candidate - should be suspended.

"If governments try to intervene then something is wrong," he said.

"I think Fifa is strong enough that we can deal with our problems inside Fifa."
Blatter then went on to discuss Saturday's Champions League final between Barcelona and Manchester United, played at Wembley stadium as an example of the sport's strength and insisted there would be no re-run of the controversial vote for the 2022 World Cup.

"If you see the final match of the Champions League you must applaud," he said.

"We are not in a crisis. We are only in some difficulties and these will be solved inside our family."
I am really sorry but this guy is on another planet, he also thinks that Wednesday's Presidential election should proceed despite the fact that he is now the only candidate, and is covered in controversy himself.
As well as Governments around the world getting involved, now the sponsors are wading in on the accusations and arguments that are surrounding FIFA, earlier today, two of Fifa's largest sponsors - Coca-Cola and Adidas - expressed concern at the widely publicised in-fighting.

"The current allegations being raised are distressing and bad for the sport," said a Coca-Cola spokesperson.

"We have every expectation that Fifa will resolve this situation in an expedient and thorough manner."

An Adidas spokesman said: "The negative tenor of the public debate around Fifa at the moment is neither good for football nor for Fifa and its partners."
FIFAs Vice President, Jack Warner is now mired in controversy himself.

This constant stream of rows, accusations of fraud, corruption and controversy divert away from what FIFA should be representing, grassroots football.

One line of their mission statement did make me laugh - Our core values of authenticity, unity, performance and integrity are at the very heart of who we are.

If Sepp Blatter believed any of the words above then he would suspend the Presidential election immediately, resign, ensure the Executive Committee also resigned to clear all of the allegations and then run new elections for President and Executive Committee - where no-one accused of any corruption or wrong doing should re-stand.

To read an alternative view, read G's spot - FIFA’s mafia family goes to war.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

A day out in Portobello on the beach

Caron Lindsay will be proud as well as slightly annoyed, sitting there going, told you so.

I am on three days annual leave starting today, but true to form, I started by going into the office for 90 minutes to finish some bits off that needed to be done and I have answered a few emails during the day.

Once I had finished I walked back to Princes Street via a few shops and then decided to catch the first bus that came to the nearest bus stop and see where that took me.

So, a 26 bus was first so I hopped on and read the Metro and decided to jump off at Portobello, somewhere I have never been to in my 3 years in Edinburgh (yes, 3 years on Tuesday next week).

To the right of the post in the water, in the centre of the picture is a blob in the water, that is in fact a man swimming in the freezing water.

Portobello is a beach resort located three miles to the east of the city centre of Edinburgh, along the coast of the Firth of Forth.

The area was originally known as Figgate Muir, an expanse of moorland through which the Figgate Burn flowed from Duddingston Loch to the sea, with a broad sandy beach on the Firth of Forth.

The name Figgate was thought to come from the Saxon term for "cow's ditch", and the land was used as pasture by the monks of Holyrood Abbey. In 1296 William Wallace mustered forces on the moor in a campaign that led to the Battle of Dunbar, and in 1650 the moor was the supposed scene of a secret meeting between Oliver Cromwell and Scottish leaders.

A report from 1661 describes a race in which twelve browster-wives ran from the Burn (recorded as the Thicket Burn) to the top of Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Edinburgh Capitals aim for Elite League ice hockey with new sponsor

Despite a torrid season and many promises from the Edinburgh Capitals (Edinburgh's ice hockey team, based at Murrayfield), none of which were forthcoming, there is hope for next season and currently it does look as if the Caps will be playing in the Elite league once again.

However, as I said, last seasons promises were not forthcoming so I am not holding my breath this time.

As usual news from the club has been quiet.

In fact, just two news stories of any substance.

The first being the welcome return of Keith Butland, who will once again head up PR and Communications.  I really hope this includes the website, although I've offered to Scott Neil that a friend of mine is happy to re-design the website at no cost, I never got a reply.  Perhaps I will contact Keith.

The second story, announced yesterday was that the Edinburgh Capitals have agreed terms for a brand new sponsorship deal with Crest SportsGroup.

From the Caps website:

The Crest SportsGroup LLP is a consulting and investment firm operating in the professional sports industry, focusing on the business side of professional sports.

Kai Isaksen, Crest SportsGroup, said, "Crest SportsGroup see great potential for ice hockey in Edinburgh in general, and Edinburgh Capitals in particular, and we are happy to get involved. In addition to financial value, we bring a large network of contacts and extensive experience, and we aim to use this to help Capitals develop further as a club."

Craig Henderson, Crest SportsGroup UK Senior Partner, commented, "We are impressed by what Mr. Neil has built over these years, and look forward to working with him to develop the Capitals brand even further. We hope to use our involvement to develop new methodology and concepts for sponsorship in ice hockey.

"We are confident the problems experienced by the Capitals last season are now sorted and we look forward to a good season for the Capitals in the Elite League. By signing up for a sponsorship agreement this early, we hope to contribute to bringing back the enthusiasm surrounding the club, from sponsors and fans. This is the time to stand up for the club we support, and we hope many will join us in making firm commitments to the club."

Edinburgh Capitals General Manager, Scott Neil, said, "I am delighted to have secured sponsorship and professional assitance and advice from Crest SportsGroup and view this relationship as a vital mechanism in developing the club in order to compete long term. We have already discussed many interesting avenues that may take time to deliver but certainly have exciting potential for the team to become a top competitor in the Elite League."

This does sound great news, but nowhere does it say whether this is the clubs main sponsor for next season, or whether this is just a secondary sponsor.

When will the club start sending out season ticket requests?

I do with that Scott Neil would learn to use the media and website better for communication, rumours wouldn't happen as much if he did.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

The Sunday Herald names the footballer who cannot be named

So, this week has been the week of super injunctions, gagging orders and accusations.

The Sunday Herald, or as it is known on some of its competitors websites, the newspaper that cannot be named, has taken the plunge and named he who cannot be named.

The Sunday Herald’s front page;
“Everyone knows that this is the footballer accused of using the courts to keep allegations of a sexual affair secret. But we weren’t supposed to tell you that…,”

Due to the increased traffic to the Sunday Herald’s website, it’s down, although the Guardian reports that the article and photo have not been published online.

Was this a stunt to get more readers, or a move to show the lawyers that there are ways round the law, especially when injunctions are only applied for in one country, therefore exempting other countries.

Let us see what this week brings.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

The Press Complaints Commission versus the Daily Telegraph

I had meant to blog about this when the PCC announced the ruling, but I was recovering from the election.

I am very pleased that the PCC have ruled against the Daily Telegraph, for two reasons.

The Daily Telegraph articles quoted a number of private comments made by senior Liberal Democrat MPs in their constituency surgeries which had been secretly recorded by the newspaper's journalists posing as constituents.

The MPs featured included the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, in addition to Under Secretary of State for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, Ed Davey, Minister for Work and Pensions, Steve Webb, Scottish Secretary, Michael Moore, Under Secretary of State for Transport, Norman Baker, Under Secretary of State to the Department for Communities and Local Government, Andrew Stunell, Parliamentary Secretary (Deputy Leader) to the Office of the Leader of the Commons, David Heath and Health Minister, Paul Burstow.

A pity the PCC spelt Andrew Stunell's name incorrectly.

I have worked directly for one of these, worked closely with four and worked with the other three.  In fact one was at my wedding earlier this year.

I therefore reserve the right to be biased against the Daily Telegraph.
I have read the ruling, a number of times and the most interesting paragraph is this one;
The newspaper denied that it had undertaken a ‘fishing expedition'; rather, it had acted upon specific information it had received from parliamentarians and members of the public. In private meetings at the Conservative party conference in 2010, the editor had been informed by Conservative ministers including a Cabinet minister (themselves informed by local party activists) that the public and private views of some Liberal Democrat ministers were increasingly at odds, particularly on the issue of Coalition policies which had been backed publicly. Similar concerns had also been expressed separately to senior reporters and the issue was raised with several MPs in the course of various engagements. A consistent theme began to emerge of growing Liberal Democrat private dissatisfaction. The newspaper said that the Conservative ministers were understandably reluctant to go on the record, or provide information or contacts in Liberal Democrat constituencies to back up their concerns.
The specific line within the paragraph above that caught my eye was this one;
In private meetings at the Conservative party conference in 2010, the editor had been informed by Conservative ministers including a Cabinet minister (themselves informed by local party activists) that the public and private views of some Liberal Democrat ministers were increasingly at odds, particularly on the issue of Coalition policies which had been backed publicly.
Wow, the editor must have been really shocked?

Come on DT, when Labour were in power they had Ministers and MPs expressing views against their own Government - did the Daily Telegraph think it was appropriate to go and pretend to be constituents and secretly film or record them?

No, because in other news the Pope is Catholic and bears crap in woods.

So, what is different?

The difference is that the media are not used to coalition government - unlike the Scottish media - and therefore don't know how to deal with it.  The only way they have come up with so far is to to attack, and find things to attack, sometimes like this story, on things that don't interest the public and breaking the rules to get the story.

Interestingly the ruling also states;
The newspaper had said that it had acted on information from various sources, who had been unwilling to go on the record.
I assume that includes the Conservative Ministers and Cabinet Minister?  Strange that.

Is it because they are jealous they didn't get more senior roles within the Government because Cameron went into coalition rather than going it alone in a minority government?

The second reason I am pleased that the ruling went against the Daily Telegraph was because knowing how hard MPs work and how important their constituency surgeries are, it is utterly appalling that the journalists wasted time pretending to be constituents.
This, as well as being sneaky and dishonest has deprived a real constituent with real problems from seeing their MP and potentially getting help.
When I worked for Vince Cable, he held his weekly advice surgery every Friday from 5pm to 7pm.  Joan and I often would be still in the office with Vince until 8pm, sometimes even later working through the people and trying to help.
I have to be honest, it is a bloody good job I didn't work for Vince when the sneaky journalists met him, because I would have been furious.  We put a lot of effort into helping constituents, so depriving a real person of time with their MP to explain a real life problem is nothing short of pathetic.
The Daily Telegraph were out of order on this occasion, they didn't generate news, and they have gone down in my estimation.  You can read the ruling here.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Calling all Edinburgh animal lovers - help find Leda

If you see a Dobermann in Edinburgh, it may well be Leda.

Local artist, Dylan Lisle had his Dobermann puppy Leda stolen on Tuesday evening.

There is a possibility that Leda is in the Newhaven/Granton area.  Please call Leith police station or Dylan Lisle on 07914 817947 if you see ANYONE with a Dobermann. A dog like this does not simply vanish.

You can read more details on Dylan Lisle's website HERE.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Willie Rennie MSP takes the reins of the Scottish Liberal Democrats

I'm delighted that Willie Rennie decided to take the plunge and go for the leadership of the Scottish Party.

As nominations closed at midday today, Willie Rennie was the only candidate for the leadership, so no all member ballot was required this time, unlike 2008.

Willie Rennie chose the Fife coastal village of North Queensferry where, in the shadow of the Forth Bridges, he announced to the media that he had been confirmed as the new leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

Willie replaces Tavish Scott, who resigned 10 days ago in the wake of devastating Scottish Parliament election results.

Despite the three leaders of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Scottish Labour and the Scottish Conservatives all resigning following the elections results twelve days ago, it is the Scottish Lib Dems who announce their new leader first.

Following the leadership announcement, Willie Rennie said:
"I will be working with my colleagues in the Scottish Parliament to stand up to the SNP bulldozer.

"We will not sit on our hands in the face of an SNP majority - we will be that Liberal voice standing up for the values that Scotland holds dear."
I am delighted to be working closely with Willie Rennie and relish the challenges that we will face over the coming years.

What do Sunderland FC and Edinburgh Zoo have in common?

Interim Chief Executive Hugh Roberts, that's what.

Edinburgh Zoo has recently been mired in controversy and now Hugh Roberts has been appointed to sort it out and bring some stability back to the zoo.

There has been no-one in the Chief Executive role since November 2010 when David Windmill retired.

Then, all within the last two months, two senior staff, Gary Wilson (Chief Operating Officer) and Iain Valentine (Director of animals, conservation and education) have been suspended while inquiries into anonymous allegations were carried out.

Gary Wilson is now due to return to work after "There was no disciplinary case to answer".

A third senior member of staff, Anthony McReavy (Director of development) was sacked and Max Gaunt (honorary treasurer) resigned.

Just last week over 500 members attended an emergency meeting and recorded a vote of no confidence in Donald Emslie, the Chairman of The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland.

However, last week he refused to step down ignoring the wishes of Zoo Members - I would have attended if I could have got back from London in time.

Mr Emslie finally caved into public pressure and resigned on Monday.

The Board has also appointed an interim Chief Executive, Hugh Roberts, who starts work tomorrow.

His previous roles include Hugh’s previous positions include Chief Executive of Sunderland Football Club PLC and Managing Director of UK brewer Adnams PLC.  He has also held the post of interim Managing Director and other senior directorial roles with the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH), Chadwick House Group Limited and Women’s Royal Voluntary Service (WRVS).

Hugh Robert’s most recent role was with the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH).

Recently the zoo has wasted valuable resources in members mailings - two for the emergency meeting, one for the AGM and then the members magazine, advertising 13 events at the zoo and wildlife park.

Unfortunately 7 had already passed by the time the magazine reached us, leaving just 6.

This isn't the first time this has happened and it needs to stop.

Surely the AGM mailing could have been included in the magazine?

Let us hope Hugh Roberts is going to bring stability and some common sense to Edinburgh Zoo, it is certainly needed after a period of arrogance and uncertainty.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Kill the gays Bill off the table for now

Earlier this week I blogged Less than 72 hours to stop the Ugandan “Kill The Gays” Bill after religious extremists presented a petition to the Speaker of the Ugandan Parliament, Edward Ssekandi.

The original bill was shelved in March. Claiming 2 million signatures, the petition demanded continued passage of the bill. Using the riots currently roiling Uganda as a distraction, supporters of the bill tried to pass it before the legislature expired on May 18, 2011.

Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, Frank Mugisha, and other activists deliver
your 500,000 petitions to the Parliament (Credit: James Akena)
However, the LGBT community mobilised against it, over 500,000 around the world signed the petition to stop Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality bill.

The international outcry was heard and the Ugandan Parliament has adjourned for this session.  In fact the parliament was closed early in the face of an unprecedented global outcry, abandoning the Bill for now - but the fight isn't over yet.

We must ensure that when the parliament returns that this bill is opposed once more and removed forever.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Statement by David Laws MP

Statement from David Laws

David Laws, MP for Yeovil, today commented on the conclusion of the Inquiry by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, and the Standards and Privileges Committee.

The Inquiry identified a number of breaches of rules, in particular it found that Mr. Laws was in breach of the partner rule, and should have designated his constituency home as his main home from 2004/05, on the basis of the nights spent test.

However, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards accepted that Mr. Laws' motivation was privacy and not financial benefit, and both the Commissioner and the Committee accept that his claims would have been "considerably more" if he had claimed in accordance with the rules.

The Inquiry received evidence from Mr. Laws that his claims would have been almost £30,000 higher over 2004-2010 if he had made these against his Somerset home, as the Commissioner has ruled that he should. There was therefore no loss to the taxpayer from the breach in rules.

On the issue of rental levels, the Commissioner has concluded that the amounts charged by Mr Laws were "broadly similar" to the levels of Assured Shorthold Tenancy rent estimated by his advisers.  Although the Commissioner's advisers suggested that the rent should be lower because Mr Laws had a lodging agreement with less legal security, the Committee and Commissioner have agreed that Mr Laws' living arrangements were in fact more advantageous than the agreements documented.

Last June as the Commissioner stated "to his personal credit" Mr. Laws paid back all of his claims from July 2006 to July 2009, even though Mr Lyons has now concluded that he would have been entitled to more money if he had claimed correctly over this period.

David Laws MP said: "I accept the conclusions of the Inquiry and take full responsibility for the mistakes which I have made. I apologise to my constituents and to Parliament. Each of us should be our own sternest critic, and I recognise that my attempts to keep my personal life private were in conflict with my duty as an MP to ensure that my claims were in every sense above reproach. I should have resolved this dilemma in the public interest and not in the interests of my privacy.

 "However, from the moment these matters became public, I have made clear that my motivation was to protect my privacy, rather than to benefit from the system of parliamentary expenses, and I am pleased that the Commissioner has upheld that view.

 "I have also, from the very beginning, made clear that I believed that my secrecy about my private life led me to make lower overall claims than would otherwise be the case, and this has been confirmed by the Parliamentary Commissioner and by the Committee. The taxpayer gained, rather than lost out, from my desire for secrecy, though I fully accept that this is not an adequate reason for breaking the rules.

 "This last year has been a difficult one, and I am grateful to family, friends, constituents and colleagues for their support and understanding."

Monday, 9 May 2011

Less than 72 hours to stop the Ugandan “Kill The Gays” Bill

I have just signed an online petition demanding that the Ugandan President Musevini veto the “kill the gays” bill should it be passed in Parliament.  We have just learned the “kill the gays” bill – a death sentence for all LGBT people in Uganda – could come up for a vote in the next 72 hours if we don’t act now.

The Ugandan Parliament may vote as early as May 11 (Wednesday) on the “kill the gays” bill previously reported as shelved.  Religious extremists presented a petition to the Speaker of the Parliament, Edward Ssekandi, shortly after the bill was shelved in March.  Claiming 2 million signatures, the petition demanded passage of the bill.  Using the riots currently roiling the nation as a distraction, supporters of the bill may try to pass it before this legislature expires on May 18, 2011.

Conservative leaders are trying hard to push the bill forward before the millions like us who oppose it have a chance to speak out. If we can create a massive international outcry, theres a chance to stop this bill from becoming law.

This hateful bill appears to be a political diversion, a way to distract from the legitimate grievances of pro-democracy activists, who have been beaten, teargassed, jailed, and even killed in recent weeks.

There are only hours left to make sure your voice is heard.

Will you join me in demanding the Ugandan President Musevini veto the “Kill The Gays” bill should it be passed in Parliament?

Sign and share this urgent petition:

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Tavish Scott resigns as the Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats - my view

Thursday night and Friday was hard for me to take as many candidates (and friends) across Scotland were losing seats and deposits as the domino effect of the SNP majority was happening before our very eyes.

The whole team had worked so incredibly hard, some candidates and their teams doing the volumes of door knocking and leafleting they hadn't seen since the early 1980's.

We had deliberately reduced the team in Clifton Terrace, our Edinburgh HQ from the levels of the 2007 campaign because we knew we had to get our teams out in the constituencies.

Despite some criticism from people we did not take our voters for granted in any area, in fact more resources went into some of these areas than originally intended.

When I left the office on Friday I had been awake and out of bed for 35 hours, when the final result came in from Mid Scotland & Fife regional list, announcing Willie Rennie as our 5th MSP, I was exhausted and needed sleep, badly - I'm not as young as some of my team.

I had actually left the office at 7.30am to go to the hotel to get some kip, unfortunately as I fell asleep Sir Robert Smith MP telephoned, closely followed by Elspeth Finlay. So much for that idea.

I awoke on Saturday morning around 8am, as Loco, my cat was scratching the door and miaowing - she wanted breakfast, and wasn't letting my lack of sleep or the SNP get in the way.

I then fell asleep in the chair and awoke just in time to head into town for a staff meeting with Tavish and the new parliamentary party ahead of a meeting of the Scottish Party Executive.

It was at this meeting that Tavish dropped his bombshell, he was resigning with immediate effect!

If my emotions weren't all screwed up already, then this news gave them another bash.

In his resignation statement he said:

“I want to announce that I am resigning the leadership of the Scottish Liberal Democrats with immediate effect.

“Thursday’s Scottish General Election result was disastrous and I must and do take responsibility for the verdict of the electorate.

“The party needs a new direction, new thinking and new leadership to win back the trust of the Scottish people.

“I am honoured to serve as Shetland’s MSP in this Parliament.”
I have only been in Scotland since the end of May 2008.  Tavish became Leader in August of the same year and we had enjoyed a good relationship since, we didn't always see eye to eye, but we always had the debate.

I will certainly miss working with Tavish and look forward to working with the new leader - whoever that should be.
Since the General Election, Tavish had known that this election was never going to be just about Scotland, firstly we thought the AV referendum would divert attention but then as time went on we knew the coalition would be the focus.

I will also say I have continued to be disappointed by some strands of the Scottish media for not being fair on Tavish.  Glenn Campbell for one in the Leaders debate often cut Tavish off mid sentence and got his own personal digs in on the coalition, but never did the same to Annabel Goldie.
I'm not playing cry baby about this, but Scottish journalists need to learn to be consistent across all parties, not behave like Premiership referees and respond to behaviour from some angles favouring one party or another.
Tavish didn't need to resign yesterday, he could have made the announcement and then set a date in the future, but he stood up and took full responsibility for the result.
In the short term, Jo Swinson MP, currently the Deputy Leader becomes acting leader. The timetable for the election of the new leader will be announced in due course.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

The April 2011 stat porn for my little blog

Continuing my regular monthly stat porn figures for anyone who is remotely interested in who reads my little blog, what stories they read and from where they read it, the monthly summary of my visitor stats according to google analytics is as below for April 2011.

The busiest day on my blog last month was Sunday 17th April, the day I blogged about John Lamont's short term memory loss, as he attacks an opponent for wanting to be an MP - as he did just twelve months ago!

Last month I had 1,182 absolute unique visitors, a slight dent on last month. They made 1,458 visits and 1,792 page views.

13.99% of the visitors were through direct traffic, 34.22% from referring sites and 51.78% via search engines.

So, my top 10 referring sites for the last month were;

1. Facebook (1)
2. Blogger (7)
3. (5)
4. Twitter (2)
5. Better Nation (12)
6. Lib Dem Voice (4)
7. Mungiuns Republic (9)
8. Lib Dem Blogs (6)
9. Planet Politics (14)
10. (11)
During April I wrote just 7 blog posts, another poor month.

The top 10 stories by direct page views that you've read most were;

1. Police Federation go for scaremongering advert
2. Conservative candidate John Lamont has short term memory
3. Labour leader Iain Gray: "I want a zero tolerance approach on literacy"
4. Supporting the NUS Scotland LGBT mental health campaign is important - DO IT!
5. Jack Frew - murdered in cold blood for being gay?
6. The biggest story in Scotland today
7. Adam Levine gets naked
8. Who reads which newspaper?
9. Angela Constance MSP is new Scottish Minister for Skills & Lifelong Learning
10. Save our Scottish Police from the SNP, Conservatives and Labour plans

Once again a real mixed bag this month and as I only wrote 7 blog posts, the top 10 was always going to include stuff from previous months - so this month a naked Adam Levine returns as does the tragic death last year of Jack Frew, in addition we have the NUS LGBT campaign and the single police force issue.

The visitors to my little blog came from 48 countries this month, the top ten were as follows;

1. United Kingdom (1)
2. United States (2)
3. France (3)
4. Australia (=8)
5. Canada (4)
6. India (12)
7. New Zealand (47)
=8. Brazil (21)
=8. Netherlands (11)
10. Italy (10)

Enjoy the porn because, that's all folks!

Monday, 18 April 2011

Labour leader Iain Gray: "I want a zero tolerance approach on literacy"

The Scottish Labour Party have distributed their regional election addresses across many parts of Scotland and in many editions there is an interview with their leader, Iain Gray.

Iain Gray is quoted within this interview as saying;
"I want a zero tolerance approach on literacy,"

A very odd line to take.

Does he mean he will stamp out literacy in our schools?

That is certainly what he implies, did he mean to say he wanted a zero tolerance to illiteracy?

According to the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary, the definition of literacy is;
• the ability to read and write
Far more resources are needed to improve adult literacy.

• knowledge of a particular subject, or a particular type of knowledge
Computer literacy is becoming as essential as the ability to drive a car. 

According to, the definition of illiteracy is;
a lack of ability to read and write.
• the state of being illiterate; lack of any or enough education. 

• a mistake in writing or speaking, felt to be characteristic of an illiterate or semi literate person: a letter that was full of illiteracies.

I think that Iain Gray and Scottish Labour may have made a mistake here....why would you want a zero tolerance approach to the ability to read and write?

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Conservative candidate John Lamont has short term memory

I noticed in John Lamonts latest leaflet ironically titled "Common sense with John Lamont" a moment of short term memory loss.

In the leaflet, John Lamont has criticised Euan Robson, his Scottish Liberal Democrats challenger (SNP and Labour are over 4,000 votes behind Euan), for wanting to become an MP.

Is this the same Conservative John Lamont who spent tens of thousands of pounds trying to beat Michael Moore to become an MP only last year?

It certainly is.

Maybe John Lamont and the local Conservatives have got some short term memory loss?

Saturday, 16 April 2011

The biggest story in Scotland today

I was invited to take part in the ‘Bloggers’ takeover‘ at Liberal Democrat Voice today by Paul Walter who is guest editor of Lib Dem Voice today.

Paul invited a selection of bloggers to write today including yours truly.

You can read my opinion piece on the biggest story in Scotland today.

A huge thanks to Paul for asking me to write for Lib Dem Voice.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Supporting the NUS Scotland LGBT mental health campaign is important - DO IT!

It's funny how Twitter starts a relationship.  I sent congratulations to Nathan Sparling who announced on Twitter he had won the election to be the new NUS Scotland LGBT Officer.

Nathan soon got into his new role and then got in touch asking if Tavish Scott and the Scottish Liberal Democrats would support the new NUS Scotland campaign on mental health in the LGBT community?

Tavish Scott was very quick off the mark and more than happy to support the campaign and said;
"One in four people in Scotland will experience a mental health problem at some point in their lives. Given that Stonewall has reported that approximately half a million of Scotland’s population are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, it’s clear that these are issues that affect a great many people. And with research suggesting that LGBT people may experience higher levels of mental health problems, we recognise that more should be done to improve the experiences of the LGBT community when accessing mental health services.

"We therefore warmly welcome the NUS campaign and agree that mental health services in university and college campuses, health services and communities in general should be free of discrimination and fully accessible to all."
Did you know that someone from the LGBT community is four times more likely to commit suicide then other people?
With homosexuality only being declassified as a mental illness by the World Health Organisation just 19 years ago, in 1992, it is not surprising that accessing mental health services is often daunting or simply not an option for LGBT people.
This was a fact I did not know and was I actually shocked by it.

So the Scottish Liberal Democrats today announced their full backing for NUS Scotland’s innovative new LGBT campaign ‘There’s More to My Education’, which is pushing for better representation of LGBT people in the Scottish Government’s anti-stigma and mental health campaign, and wants university, college and community mental health services to be more friendly and accessible for LGBT students.

I recall when I came out when I was 15, it was a massive issue for me, it was one of the biggest decisions of my life and yet was one of the loneliest.

The gay scene is fun when you have tons of friends around you, I worked in the Admiral Duncan pub, one of the gay nightclubs in Nottingham so I had a huge circle of friends, but strangely when you really needed friends they weren't always there for you.

I've been lucky over the years with some great friends helping me through some tough times in my life, including the period when I was 18 through to 21 when after I came out to my Mum, we never spoke once during that period.

The time my closest friend died - he had the very same heart disease I do - that was a tough time.

I'm not going to list everything but needless to say, like many others in the world, I've had tough times to get through, they are not all to do with my sexuality but trust me when I say, the gay scene is great when you are young, but it can be bloody tough too.

That is why this campaign by NUS Scotland is so important.

Please encourage your candidates, of whatever party to sign the petition.

Nathan, good luck in the new job!

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Save our Scottish Police from the SNP, Conservatives and Labour plans

There is a massive campaign brewing here in Scotland and the political parties are lining up on one side or the other.

The SNP put forward proposals to scrap the current eight Scottish Constabularies and replace it with just one.

The cost will be at least £92million and cost between 3,000 - 4,000 frontline police officers.

Both the Labour party and Conservatives have joined the SNP and now all three also want to create just one fire service as well. Labour also want to centralise care and NHS services.

Although the Liberal Democrats are often against centralisation, the proposals by Alex Salmond, Iain Gray and Annabel Goldie just don't make sense in many areas of Scotland - especially in the rural communities and the many islands that make up this great country.

Their expensive proposals must be stopped.

You can watch Tavish Scott and Charles Kennedy explain why below.

You can sign the online petition HERE and like the facebook campaign page HERE.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Police Federation go for scaremongering advert

When I got to page 15 of my Metro this morning, I was somewhat taken aback by the advert from the Police Federation.

I think it is cheap and nasty scaremongering.

Don't get me wrong, organisations have the democratic right to their views, and to voice them, but cheap scaremongering from the Police Federation is just that, cheap.

The Police Federation is an organisation I have worked with over the years, mainly when I worked for Vince Cable MP, who at the time was the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Police.

According to their website:
the Federation is reliant on negotiation alone to reach agreements on pay and conditions.

I'm not keen on their current attempt to negotiate.

Here in Scotland we have the SNP, Conservatives and Labour planning to scrap local policing putting around 3,000 frontline police jobs at risk.

Not through cuts to funding streams but through a massive and expensive centralisation programme.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats are fighting this disastrous proposal from the other three parties, we want local police to be local police, not directed by bueracrats in Edinburgh.

Police should be out on the beat, not filling out paperwork in back offices and certainly not all pulled from communities around Scotland to police football matches in the big cities by the Edinburgh bueracrats.

They also want to centralise our fire service as well, what is next after the police and fire services?

Sign our petition today to add your voice to Save our Police and Fire services.

Friday, 1 April 2011

The March 2011 stat porn for my little blog

Continuing my regular monthly stat porn figures for anyone who is remotely interested in who reads my little blog, what stories they read and from where they read it, the monthly summary of my visitor stats according to google analytics is as below for March 2011.

The busiest day on my blog last month was Sunday 20th March, the day I blogged about the iphone app that claims to cure you if you are gay.

Last month I had 1,543 absolute unique visitors, a decent increase on last month. They made 1,946 visits and 2,460 page views.

11.30% of the visitors were through direct traffic, 23.77% from referring sites and 64.91% via search engines.

So, my top 10 referring sites for the last month were;
1. Facebook (2)
2. Twitter (4)
3. Delicious (16)
4. Lib Dem Voice (7)
5. (3)
6. Lib Dem Blogs (8)
7. Blogger (6)
8. (New Entry)
9. Mungions Republic (14)
10. Lallands Peat Warrior (13)

During March I wrote just 9 blog posts, that is 3 times as many as last month but even so, it is still rubbish.

The top 10 stories by direct page views that you've read most were;

1. Glasgow Labour Councillor William O’Rourke sacked over rape remarks
2. Are you gay and need curing? There's an app for that
3. Dunfermline Labour Party in election blunder
4. Ben Bradshaw - MP or candidate?
5. Ed Miliband's insult to the voters of Scotland
6. Labour run Haringey Council - the truth about the cuts
7. Adam Levine gets naked
8. Can you afford £15 to help fund a new business?
9. Jack Frew - murdered in cold blood for being gay?
10. Angela Constance MSP is new Scottish Minister for Skills & Lifelong Learning
A genuine mixed bag this month and as I only wrote 9 blog posts, the top 10 was always going to include stuff from previous months, although it is just 3 - so this month is about naked men, curing gays via your iphone, Labour gaffe's and Jack Frew.

The visitors to my little blog came from 52 countries this month, the top ten were as follows;

1. United Kingdom (1)
2. United States (2)
3. France (4)
4. Canada (6)
5. Germany (New Entry)
6. Belgium (=7)
7. Philippines (13)
=8. Australia (=9)
=8. Spain (5)
10. Italy (19)

Enjoy the porn because, that's all folks!

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Ben Bradshaw - MP or candidate?

I'm sat in the Scottish Lib Dems HQ, as you do on a Saturday afternoon, trying to get the scanner to work to send Elspeth some paperwork she needs for a piece of literature she is working on.

I happened to turn round and look out the window and there was Ben Bradshaw MP wheeling his suitcase along carrying a bouquet of beautiful flowers.

Initially I couldn't remember his name, so did what everyone does, I googled MP for Exeter.

I was somewhat shocked when I then visited his website as it is really out of date, in fact so out of date he is still described as the candidate for Exeter, not the MP (re-elected) with references to 2009 here and there.

Ben Bradshaw's blog however is more up to date but still out of date, with stories from November 2010.

I'm a little surprised to be honest, but maybe if he passes the office again I will mention it to him.

Anyway, yes, he is still the MP, according to another part of his website:
In the 2010 General election Ben retained the seat for Labour

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Ed Miliband's insult to the voters of Scotland

Yesterday was Scottish Labours conference, if you missed it, it's understandable as media coverage was lower than that of other Scottish Parties because Labour chose to have their Autumn one covered in more detail.

Maybe Ed Miliband realised that with hardly anyone watching, he could say whatever he wanted?

So, despite the fact that in their thirteen years of government, of which Ed Miliband was part, Labour sold off Britain's gold at a twenty year low price, offered Britain's pensioners a miserly and insulting 75p increase, failed to link the basic state pension to earnings, oversaw a £10 million tax credit bungle, insulted people by doubling the basic rate of tax from 10p to 20p, let bankers run riot, oversaw £3 billion of benefits being overpaid and took us into an illegal war in Iraq.

They also left no money in Liam Byrne MP's own words and left us saddled with paying interest payments of £120 million per day on their debts!

So, what were Ed Milibands words of wisdom to the voters of Scotland?

Hitting out at the Tory-Lib Dem coalition, Mr Miliband told the conference:
"I have never wanted this to be a five-year government because of the damage it will do.

"And when people ask me, 'what are you going to do to reverse things in 2015', I say 'we can't wait until then'.

"So let's use these elections to give us the best chance of stopping it going to the full term."
Sorry?  Mr Miliband, I hate to tell you this, but it appears your advisers forgot to mention that the Scottish Parliament elections on May 5th (or May 6th in Dunfermline according to Labour) have nothing to do with removing the coalition government as voted for in last years election.

The Scottish Parliament election is about voting for your local and regional MSPs (use both of your votes) and who then forms the Scottish Government.

Don't be so patronising and rude to the Scottish voters a d insult them that they should make this a vote on the coalition because you lost last year.  Isn't it time you stopped blaming the voters for voting you and your party out of office?

I realise you blamed the previous Tory government for most of the thirteen years you were in power, but they rejected you and your party last May.  Get over it.

As red Ed mentioned the coalition, let me just mention four of the achievements made by the new coalition government because of the Liberal Democrats being part of it (in no particular order) in just ten months;

1. The link between pensions and earnings, scrapped by Margaret Thatcher, was restored in the Coalition’s first budget. The annual increase in the state pension will be protected by a ‘triple lock’ - the rise will be in line with earnings, prices or a 2.5% increase, whichever is the greater.

2. We have scrapped the ID card programme. The ID card database was publicly destroyed on 11th February 2011.

3. In June’s emergency budget we increased the rate of Capital Gains Tax to 28% for higher rate taxpayers while keeping it at 18% for basic rate taxpayers. This will raise an extra £1bn and end the disgraceful situation of bankers paying a lower rate of tax than their cleaners.

4. In June’s emergency budget, we raised the tax threshold by £1,000, lifting 880,000 low earners out of tax completely (from this April). It will increase each year of the Coalition Government until it reaches £10,000, which will lift an additional 3 million people out of tax altogether.

In Scotland Tavish Scott fought for local Post Offices to receive over £1million support, last year 50 of Scotland's Post Offices developed their business thanks to the Post Office diversification funds, a further £1 million has gone into the fund for this year.

Other concessions made to the Liberal Democrats in the Scottish Parliament budget include:

· Additional funding for FE bursaries of £15 million, spread across 2010-2011-12 to provide additional student support for current student numbers.

· Additional funding of £8 million in 2011-12 that would support an additional 1,200 college places and associated student support.

· 1,500 additional Modern Apprenticeships, including 500 places for the renewables sector, at a cost of £2 million

· 2,000 additional flexible training opportunities

That is what the the voters of Scotland are looking for, solutions for Scotland, not a power grab as Ed Miliband has suggested.

Are you gay and need curing? There's an app for that

Yes, you read it right, there is an organisation, Exodus International, an organisation that promotes and endorses "conversion therapy" for gay people, launched an iPhone app earlier this month.

The Exodus app is intended to reach tech-savvy young adults, and deliver this dangerous message: you can be "freed from homosexuality" and have your sexual orientation "cured" if you're LGBT.

One, I have never heard such crap in all my life, you cannot be cured if you don't have a disease that needs curing.  Being gay is not a disease, believe me.
Michael Jones of explains;
Apple has been a strong ally to the LGBT community for years, even donating $100,000 to defeat California’s Proposition 8, the state’s ban on marriage equality. Just a few months ago, Apple actually removed another app from iTunes that labeled same-sex couples "immoral sexual partnerships."
Given the tragic wave of teenage suicides in the USA, all of whom have been LGBT (which must be halted) this awful app by Exodus International must be pulled, because if it encourages just one young LGBT person to commit suicide then the damage has been done.
This new iPhone app is the latest move in Exodus' dangerous new strategy of targeting youth. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, LGBT teens who experienced negative feedback from their family were 8 times more likely to have attempted suicide, 6 times as vulnerable to severe depression, and 3 times more likely to use drugs (Caitlin Ryan, San Francisco State University, June 2009).

Apple doesn't allow racist or anti-Semitic apps in its app store, yet it gives the green light to an app targeting vulnerable LGBT youth with the message that their sexual orientation is a "sin that will make your heart sick" and a "counterfeit." This is a double standard that has the potential for devastating consequences.

Apple needs to be told, loud and clear, that this is unacceptable. Stand with Truth Wins Out -- demand that the iTunes store stop supporting homophobia and remove the Exodus app.
Please sign the petition HERE and add your name to the 34,000+ trying to persuade Apple to pull this homophobic and hateful iphone app.

This is the letter that gets sent out in your name once you sign the petition;

Please remove the dangerous "ex-gay" iPhone app
Dear Mr. Jobs:
I am writing today to ask you to remove the Exodus International application from the iTunes store.
Apple has long been a friend of the LGBT community, opposing California's Proposition 8, removing the anti-gay Manhattan Declaration iPhone app, and earning a 100% score from the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index. I am shocked that this same company has given the green light to an app from a notoriously anti-gay organization like Exodus International that uses scare tactics, misinformation, stereotypes and distortions of LGBT life to recruit clients, endorses the use of so-called "reparative therapy" to "change" the sexual orientation of their clients (despite the fact that this form of "therapy" has been roundly condemned by every major professional medical organization), and targets vulnerable, suicide-prone LGBT youth with the message that their sexual orientation is a "sin that will make your heart sick" and a "counterfeit," contributing to and legitimizing the ostracism of these youth from their families.
Your company would never allow a racist or anti-Semitic app to be sold in the iTunes store, and for good reason. Apple's approval of the anti-gay Exodus International app represents a double standard for the LGBT community with potentially devastating consequences for our youth. This is unacceptable, and I urge you to take a strong stance against homophobia by removing this dangerous "ex-gay" iPhone app from the store.

Dunfermline Labour Party in election blunder

The Scottish Parliament election is hotting up, finally the journalists are starting to talk about it but the political parties have been working on this for a long time now.

In Dunfermline the Labour Party are keen to take the seat back from the Liberal Democrats Jim Tolson, who won the seat in 2007.

They are so desperate to win it that they are on their second candidate already!

Following the announcement of their second candidate, Councillor Alex Rowley, the local Labour Party produced a slightly odd sized tabloid and are asking voters how they will be voting on May 6th.

The problem is, polling day is the day before, May 5th - whoops!

We have only known the date for polling day for four years.....

Friday, 18 March 2011

Comic Relief - a light moment with Margaret Smith MSP

One of our top MSPs, Margaret Smith (Edinburgh Western) popped into the HQ today and donned a comic relief nose once again, she has been active today supporting comic relief but still found time to come and see the election team and say hello.

A school visit and a cake sale.

Margaret Smith MSP gives me a hug

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Can you afford £15 to help fund a new business?

Probably, if you are honest, the answer to that question is yes.  That is a weeks worth of your favourite coffees, or newspapers, okay if you earn very little then maybe that would take a while to pull together, but it is still affordable.

However, for what I'm about to tell you about it would take these people perhaps years to save this money up especially as the daily wage is only around £4 and then they have to eat.

I never thought I would find myself listening seriously to something Kate Garraway had to say, I've never been a GMTV fan and Daybreak is well, worse, but yesterday on Loose Women, Kate was talking sense.
“In Togo I discovered that many of the women don’t even have birth certificates because their families are more likely to register the birth of a son than a daughter. That, combined with the rural locations in which a large proportion of the country’s population live, means that traditional banking methods and loans are nigh on impossible to come by for the average man or woman, 70 per cent of whom live on less than $2 (62p) per day.

“Most of the world’s poorest families have no access to financial services, so CARE International UK set up, so that those in developing countries can lift themselves out of poverty.” It seems the perfect scheme for a post-credit crunch economy.
What Kate is talking about in the Daily Express is a new website set up by CARE International UK, where you are the 'bank', you pick a business (entrepreneurs) you want to help from the list provided, from Benin, Indonesia, Philippines or Togo and you can read about what the entrepreneur is proposing, their loan repayments once the loan in 100% funded and which other people have funded the same business.

The minimum loan you can give is £15.

So, I have signed up today, and you can too.  Read how it all works HERE and then if you think you can help, set up an account and help finance a new business today.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Glasgow Labour Councillor William O’Rourke sacked over rape remarks

I do wonder sometimes if elected politicians get up in the morning and say to themselves, time for a major blunder?

I write this post, not for political point scoring, I can do that anytime with real facts and figures against the SNP, Labour and the Conservatives, instead, I write this post in sheer amazement and disgust.

Only last month my good friend Caron blogged about Bill Aitken, the Conservative MSP who implied a rape victim was a prostitute just because the area she was attacked in was a known area for prostitution.  You can read HERE why Caron felt he should have resigned.

Well this time it is a Glasgow Labour Councillor who has made a stupid and completely unjustified comment and even worse it is about a nine year old alleged rape victim.

The only difference is that the Labour Councillor has been sacked for his comments by the new council leader, I applaud him for his swift action.

What is concerning though is that two other Labour Councillors were present at the meeting in January and it appears they failed to do anything about the comments made by Councillor O'Rourke, which is as bad in my opinion.  The complaint was in fact made by a police officer present at the hearing.

I'm pleased he has been sacked, losing around £37,000 worth of salary in the process, but he now needs as Carons suggested for Bill Aitken to visit Rape Crisis Scotland and meet them to understand more about what rape victims go through, believe me, it really is not pleasant.

Today's Herald carries the story;

A female police officer, who investigated the case, raised the matter after giving evidence at the personnel appeals committee. She referred her complaint to one of her senior officers, with Strathclyde Police then referring the matter to the Standards Commission.

Mr O’Rourke, who had been touted as a possible future chairman of the police authority, is reported to have asked if force was used during the alleged rape and when she told him it was not, he is alleged to have asked: “So she wanted it to happen?”

He is then alleged to have commented on the fact the child’s mother was a prostitute and made arguments about lowering the age of consent.
If the young girl's mother was a prostitute, what the hell has that got to do with the alleged attack on her daughter?  Nothing, absolutely bloody nothing and Councillor O'Rourke should never have said anything about it.  It doesn't add anything to the hearing and should have been ruled out immediately.
You can read the full story in today's Herald.

Labour run Haringey Council - the truth about the cuts

I tend to keep my eye on the political situations in the areas I have worked for the last decade, after working for Lynne Featherstone MP as her head of office immediately after the 2005 general election for eighteen months, Harinegy is one of those on my watch list.

In 2006 we were just 94 votes away from taking control of Haringey Council, unfortunately in 2010 that goal slipped, but the silver lining was Lynne holding her seat and then going on to become a Minister of State.

Haringey Council run by old Labour for years has never been shy of blaming other people when they have had to make cuts, so this year when they announced they were having to slice £60million from the budget, everyone wondered who's fault it was.

The Labour Councillors blamed the new coalition government.

The Daily Telegraph journalist, Andrew Gilligan decided to look at the books, rather than just believe the hype.
Long-suffering readers of Haringey People, Haringey Council's taxpayer-funded propaganda newspaper, used to know what to expect. Smiling Labour politicians at new Sure Start centres, holding shovels. Happy multi-ethnic children in eco-friendly wigwams. Page after glossy page on how their brilliant council had turned this grimy chunk of north London into a municipal Shangri-La, one composting bin at a time.

Now, however, to the consternation of local residents, Haringey People's world has suddenly and dramatically darkened. Uplifting articles about new fairtrade procurement schemes have given way to vast pieces printed on sinister black backgrounds and illustrated with tottering piles of pound coins.

"The government cuts are a hammer blow to the people of Haringey," says a grim-faced council leader, Claire Kober, in the rag's latest issue. Overnight, it seems, evil Tory cuts have transformed Avalon into Hades.
Photo: Demotix/melpressmen
In Andrew Gilligan's article he really does look at everything the Council published, and then looks behind the closed doors and investigates the figures in great detail, leaving no stone unturned.
Last week, in rowdy scenes, Haringey voted to close four residential care homes and six old people's day centres, halve park maintenance and cut three-quarters of its youth service: hammer blows indeed, at least for users of those services, and a tale repeated across the country as local authorities struggle to come to grips with the spending cuts demanded by the Lib-Con coalition.
The article goes on.

Haringey says the £60 million was their estimate before they knew their full grant settlement, and the £46 million was publicised before some last contributions from Whitehall came in. They insist there is "no question of our having exaggerated the impact of these unprecedented cuts".
Yet the story doesn't end there. According to the council's own budget papers, the cut in its Whitehall grant next year will actually be £27 million – less than half the amount it initially claimed.

So, if the council's grant is going down by only £27 million, why is it cutting £41 million? Well, a few months ago (coincidentally, just as the anti-cuts campaign was getting up steam), a mysterious need to spend an extra £26 million next year, described as a "change and variation" figure, popped up in Haringey's accounts. Without this, the budget would be more or less in balance without needing many cuts.

We asked the council what this £26 million was for. They said it was partly inflation – which you'd think they might have allowed for already – and partly because they expected there to be "increased demand pressures" on their services over the next three years.

Service demand may indeed grow as the economy continues to stutter. The population is also getting older, and the elderly are a big part of council budgets. But, according to its own figures, Haringey is budgeting for 85 per of the "increased demand" over the three-year period to come in the first year alone. And though "changes and variations" are, insists the council, annual events in its accounting process, it just so happens that next year's is unusually large – though Haringey denies front-loading to make the squeeze look worse.

Even ministers admit that a lot of money has been taken away from councils this year, and it seems clear that some cuts have been forced on Haringey. But the actual amount needed is anyone's guess. It could be the council's £41 million. Or it could be as low as £10 million. Local government finance has been more or less deliberately designed – by Whitehall as much as town hall – to be hideously complicated, to frustrate real accountability and to allow everyone to blame everyone else.

On the subject of £10 million, there's one last nugget from the Haringey Council paperwork. As part of its budget process, the council was obliged to assess the impact of each cut. This has been buried pretty deep, but once you find it, it turns out that just under, well, £10 million of the cuts next year – nearly a quarter – are assessed by even the council itself as having nil, minimal or even, in a few cases, beneficial impacts on service users. In other words, it is at least possible that Haringey might have needed few, if any, "hammer-blow" cuts.

But that might not have made such a good headline in the Haringey People.
Well done to Andrew Gilligan to not just believing the hype coming out from Miliband and his cronies across the country.

You can read the full article here as I have only used two extracts.

They have left this country paying £120million per day in interest alone on the debts they left behind, it really is time that they and their councillors in Haringey started taking some responsibility for their actions instead of trying to blame everyone else around them.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

The February 2011 stat porn for my little blog

Continuing my regular monthly stat porn figures for anyone who is remotely interested in who reads my little blog, what stories they read and from where they read it, the monthly summary of my visitor stats according to google analytics is as below for February 2011.

The busiest day on my blog last month was Friday 18th February, the day I blogged about the Conservatives European bedfellows being a bunch of homophobes.

Last month I had 1,113 absolute unique visitors, a massive drop from last month. They made 1,317 visits and 1,657 page views.

14.88% of the visitors were through direct traffic, 31.06% from referring sites and 54.06% via search engines.

So, my top 10 referring sites for the last month were;

1. (6)
2. Facebook (2)
3. Blogger (5)
4. Twitter (1)
5. (11)
6. (7)
7. Lib Dem Voice (4)
8. Lib Dem Blogs(3)
9. Planet-Politics (16)
10. Scottish Roundup (17)

During February I wrote just 3 blog posts, I have really found it hard to connect with my blog this month.

The top 10 stories by direct page views that you've read most were;
1. Jack Frew - murdered in cold blood for being gay?
2. "I don't understand why anyone should want to be proud of being a homosexual."
3. Adam Levine gets naked
4. The first Royal Wedding of 2011 - Andrew and Roger Reeves
5. The November stat porn for my little blog
6. Clinton Cards - homophobic or just plain lazy?
7. Rugby star Gavin Henson strips off to raise awareness for male cancer
8. Angela Constance MSP is new Scottish Minister for Skills & Lifelong Learning
9. Why I'm getting married today!
10. Edinburgh Capitals ice hockey team on the turn?

A genuine mixed bag this month and as I only wrote 3 blog posts, the top 10 was always going to include stuff from previous months - so this one is about my wedding, naked men, homophobia and ice hockey.

The visitors to my little blog came from 52 countries this month, the top ten were as follows;

1. United Kingdom (1)
2. United States (2)
3. India (7)
4. France (8)
5. Spain (6)
6. Canada (3)
=7. Belgium (15)
=7. Poland (52)
=9. Netherlands (=11)
=9. Australia (5)

Enjoy the porn because, that's all folks!

Friday, 18 February 2011

"I don't understand why anyone should want to be proud of being a homosexual."

Honestly, I am astounded that these views are still being peddled by senior politicians of David Cameron's European bedfellows, Poland's Law and Justice Party.

The Guardian carries the story today that;
"Professor Ryszard Legutko has been chosen by MEPs of Poland's Law and Justice party to stand for the chair of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), the Tories' anti-federalist group in the European parliament."
The election to pick the new leader is due to take place on 8 March and is expected to be close run.
Will David Cameron remove the Conservative whip from Timothy Kirkhope who is standing against Ryszard Legutko?

He did when Edward McMillan-Scott successfully stood against Michał Kamiński, the Polish MEP chosen to lead the new group, for the post of vice-president of the European parliament, and as a result he had the Tory whip removed.

Edward McMillan-Scott then defected to the Liberal Democrats.

Michel Kaminski, who described gay people as "faggots" on Polish television, has resigned from the Law and Justice Party claiming the party had been taken over by extremists.

Slightly ironic given his own extreme views.

Last year during the general election campaign our own leader, Nick Clegg accused David Cameron of aligning himself in the European Parliament with "nutters, anti-Semites, people who deny climate change exists and homophobes".

Ryszard Legutko's views seem to back that view up, even now.

According to the Guardian Legutko insists he is not homophobic, coming out with the classic line;
"Some of my closest friends are homosexuals and I don't have a problem with them,"
Legutko went ton to say he doesn't see the point in gay pride rallies either.

Why does Cameron claim he is pro-gay rights and yet still seem happy for his Conservative group in the European Parliament to sit with these right wing homophobes and even be led by them?

I say to David Cameron - stand and cast these people adrift and show people that you practice what you preach on LGBT issues.

To Ryszard Legutko I say, I'm gay and I'm very proud of being gay.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Scotland gets a better budget thanks to the Liberal Democrats

I’m so proud to be a Liberal Democrat today

As both a member of staff with over ten years service and a party member even longer, the last eight months or so have often been difficult with the media developing an acid tongue against us many times.

But yesterday in Scotland we had some exciting news.

Yesterday was the day when the Scottish Parliament approved the budget.

It is a better budget because of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, after securing concessions to the budget on college bursaries and places, modern apprenticeships and support for Post Offices across Scotland.

This is a better budget. It’s better for young people wanting the skills they and we need for our economy. It’s better for our colleges that will be able to provide more opportunities. And it’s better for businesses that will have more opportunities to take on apprentices.

This is a better Scottish budget because of Liberal Democrat involvement.

Students now have additional places at college and bursary support. We have also secured funding for additional modern apprentices and funding for a second year of our Post Office Diversification Fund.

The Scottish Liberal Democrat Budget wins are:
  • Additional funding for Further Education bursaries of £15 million, spread across 2010-2011-12 to provide additional student support for current student numbers.
  • Additional funding of £8 million in 2011-12 that would support an additional 1,200 college places and associated student support.
  • 1,500 additional Modern Apprenticeships, including 500 places for the renewables sector, at a cost of £2 million (an issue Tavish Scott raised at First Minister’s Questions on 9 September 2010).
  • 2,000 additional flexible training opportunities.
  • Funding of £1 million for the operation of a further Post Office Diversification Scheme in 2011-12.
The Scottish Liberal Democrats have been fighting hard for students and even NUS Scotland are pleased with what we have achieved.

Commenting on the student support package, Liam Burns, President of NUS Scotland, said:
“This is great news and testament to the hard work of thousands of college students across Scotland and the Scottish Liberal Democrats. Students across colleges and universities have mobilised fantastically well, with over 32,000 letters and emails sent to MSP’s on this issue. To win £15m college bursaries, and £8m for college places, in a budget which is being cut is a fantastic result. We hope this will now end the yearly ritual of college bursaries running out and end the threat of cuts to 40,000 of our poorest students.”
We also know that Post Offices are often the hub of local communities across Scotland, which is why we are also very pleased that we have secured funding for a second year for our idea of a Post Office Diversification Fund. This benefited fifty Post Offices in the last year and can now benefit more this year. The fund helps post offices introduce new types of business (such as hot food or drinks). It will help them stay open, serving their communities.

Of course, this budget and the changes Tavish and the team have secured will not solve all of the problems that Scotland faces. Our colleges and communities still face enormous challenges. Much will have to wait until after May. Our plans for government envisage a spending review and budget revisions very quickly after the election.
The steps we have secured mean a better budget for Scotland than would have been the case without the Scottish Liberal Democrats.
However, because of their hard work – students gain, the economy gains, employers gain and most importantly Scotland gains.
So, today all in all is a great day to be a Liberal Democrat in Scotland. 

This article was written for and appears on Liberal Democrat Voice.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

The first Royal Wedding of 2011 - Andrew and Roger Reeves

When I first set out writing my blog I never imagined I'd be writing about my own wedding nor that my family would be people who read it, but whether it is only the wedding that has drawn both together, I'm not 100% sure.

2011 is the year of Royal Weddings it appears, first there was Roger & Andrew, next will be William & Kate and finally Zara and Mike will end the run later this year.

I jest, if ever there were two gay men you would never class as Queen's, then it has to be Roger and I - perhaps in my much, much younger days, but not for a long while.

Anyway, I have already posted why we chose the date, Friday 28th January 2011, so now let's go for the details of the day, the emotions, the people and the event.

As usual, I was up first and by 9am was on the bus into town to collect my suit, the button holes, get a haircut and a shave.

We had heard from Roger's sister, Maxine that they were all safely in Scotland and then my sister, Jennifer called to say they had landed as I was wandering down Broughton Street to BoomBarbers.  I went and had a coffee and scone as I was early.

Had my haircut and walked round to the barbers at the top of Leith Walk for a hot shave, yes, the one with the cut throat razor blades - an awesome shave - then over to the dry cleaners to get my suit and then to Garland's to pick up the button holes - thistles and berries for Rog and I, thistles for the rest of the family.

When I got back home, Rog was up and we packed everything we needed and headed over to the Orocco Pier.  We checked into our room, we had a tour round the Fuchsia and Orocco room's then popped to the bar and had a quick bite to eat with my sister Jennifer and her boyfriend John.

I took Jenny round the two rooms where we would be.

Jo White then appeared so we had a quick catch up and gossip, a mini tour of the wedding room and then off to see Jo's room, the only one in the hotel with a balcony, then Rog and I headed off to our room to chill and get ready.

Still, neither of us were nervous, I had been stressed as the days and weeks had gone on especially as the date got closer, but once everything was tied up and sorted I was starting to look forward to the day.

Our room at the Pier (15) was amazing, with stunning views, as below.

I had wanted our wedding to be in either North or South Queensferry, mainly because for me the years of memories of going over either bridge as a kid on our summer and/or winter holidays up in the Highlands and that always reminds me of Mum.

Rog and I were like kids, checking everything in our room (the bathroom downstairs, the size of the shower, baxter bear, the self closing lid on the loo), you wouldn't think I had worked in the hotel industry for years, but this was our day and we were just enjoying it.

We started to get ready, I had by this point stopped checking my blackberry for work emails and was doing an odd twitter message or two including a picture of our lovely socks, bought for us by my sister.

At 3.15pm we made our way down and met Maxine and Ian with our nephew Aaron, Chris & Sue, Uncle Nigel and Judy, Aunty Sue and Tony and others before we went off to meet the Piper and then the Registrar, Marion.

Maxine, Jenny, Rog and I sat down with Marion and went through everything, handed over the rings and had a quick drink - of water!

Then, this was it, Robin (the Orocco Pier operations manager) came and met us, making sure that everyone else was downstairs and in the room and then talked us through the next five minutes, now we were both getting quite nervous - I nearly lost it just thinking of Mum - but as we made our way down the stairs as the piper was serenading the guests, not sure a piper serenades given the volume but it was amazing listening to Highland Cathedral and Flower of Scotland and then the doors opened and we were walking in.

I now had lost my memory, I had no idea what was about to happen, given I had been in complete control of everything from last September through to five minutes ago, with my wedding folder, plans, artworked everything to do with the wedding, times to the minute and instead of a P- plan, I had a M- plan (political joke) I was now in the hands of the Registrar and Robin.

Marin started off with all the formalities and seconds later we were already lighting the candles (in memory of Mum, Vera and Buster), I just pushed Rog forward to do that, my mind was blank, I couldn't even believe we were at that point already.

My sister jenny then did a reading, called friends.  She was obviously really nervous and in my mind I knew she would be, the last time she had done that was at Mum's funeral - she was brave on both occasions.

Then we had the declaration of the Civil Partnership, exchange of vows, then the rings.

Next, Roger's sister, Maxine did a reading called love, again Maxine was also nervous, but little Aaron was sat there so proud of his mum.

There were a couple of funny moments during the service, once when a train went over the bridge because eagle eyed Aaron spotted it and told us all and when Marion the Registrar asked people to applaud (I can't even remember why now) again Aaron stole the show because he started clapping later than everyone else so went on afterwards on his own, Maxine or Ian told him to stop and he just replied "but the lady said to clap" - you can't answer that back!

We then had the pronunciation and signing of the certificate.

Then, the piper started as we walked to the back of the room for a glass of bubbly, that was it, it was all over, I was amazed it was so quick.

We both then went around the room circulating and I was trying to ensure everyone got spoken to - the control freak was back - and then it was time for the photos.  Now I know what it feels like when I boss a candidate around at a photo opportunity.  Will I change, no, not one little bit.

We went out on the beach, had pictures with the piper - who knew you could grow a moustache that long?

After a load of photos outside, we went back in and then we cut the cake (for the first of two times), the piper presented us with a ceremonial knife to perform the deed then we presented him with a dram and then he piped all of the guests upstairs to be seated for the wedding breakfast.

Robin came back downstairs and told us to relax and take ten minutes to gather ourselves.

The food was amazing!  Smooth chicken liver parfait on toasted brioche with red onion and plum chutney followed by lamb shank braised in red wine with baby onions, bacon & rosemary with crushed new potatoes and broccoli with almonds followed by white chocolate and toffee cheesecake and then coffee.

My lovely colleagues Chris, Rhiannon, Elspeth and Fiona then completely tricked me into coming over to their table and as soon as I stood they were all clinking their glasses for me to make a speech - I was caught, hook, line and sinker.

I said a few words, none of what I had actually thought about in advance ending with "enjoy your coffee", I'm not sure I will ever see it in the book of greatest speeches.

Before we knew where we were, evening guests were starting to arrive so we all went back downstairs where the room had been transformed once again - we did another cutting of the cake, this time with a normal cake knife.

Then it was time for the music, the drinking and the dancing.

I want to do two thank yous - one to all our guests, whether you were there as friends, family or work colleagues - we really enjoyed having you as part of our very special day.

My second thank you is to the team at the Orocco Pier;

Leonie for the initial discussion and persuading me to book and then running the evening part of the big day;

Claire, the events manager for just being bloody amazing from the day she returned from her own honeymoon right up the weekend before, guiding us through every possible eventuality;

Robin for being a rock on the day, from the meeting the Monday before right through to leaving in the evening, made me completely relaxed;

The kitchen team including the porters (the often forgotten part of the team) - the food was as amazing as everyone in Edinburgh told us it would be;

The waitresses and bar staff - you were all wonderful, including getting the food round a tight space

THANK YOU, each and everyone of you from the bottom of our hearts, the day was amazing and we will remember it forever.

A selection of photos is available on my Flickr site, which is being added to all the time, so please do visit it on a regular basis.
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