Friday, 29 July 2005

More Shops Til we Drop

Work has begun on the new 55,000sq foot retail park at Linlithgow Bridge. Earlier this year this project caused major concern to local residents as many felt it would detract from the unique shopping environment on the historic High Street of the Burgh. However, objections were overcome as the retail outlets that were proposed, Homebase, a garden centre, Argos Extra and Acorn Pets Centres, were not the type that could fit easily into the settings of Linlithgow's existing shopping centre.

However, residents in Belsyde Court, near the Falkirk Road development, claim they have suffered vibrations in their homes and sand being blasted onto their cars as a result of the foundation laying works. Macdonald Estates who are building the scheme are hoping respond to residents' fears at a public meeting in the Chalmers Hall on 5 August.

We shall see what communication there is between the locals and the developers next week.

Meanwhile across the other side of the county a planned £90 million expansion to the shopping centre in Livingston has been announced. This will make the Boulevard more of a British shopping High Street rather than an American retail strip. New retailers to take over the existing Safeway's site when Morrisons move to their new purpose built store. There will be new leisure facilities bowling alley, arena and cafes. Also there are plans for some flats on the Boulevard frontage.

Already the local party have been discussing what needs to be part of these plans, we'll see what the details plans show later this year.

Thursday, 28 July 2005

IRA Order has been Given

Two hours ago the IRA ordered an end to its armed campaign and says it will pursue exclusively peaceful means.

Many back home in Northern Ireland are sceptical of this news. I for hope this is the genuine step forward I have been waiting for all my life.

I hope the arms that are outstanding are decommissioned swiftly. I hope we see the end of punishment shootings and beatings as well. Also we need to an end to the extortion rackets that also exist which have funded these organisations.

I worked in the Northern Irish Civil Service when the first period of devolution was entered into. I want to see the enthusiasm from politicians of all persuasions to do things for their fellow countrymen restored to that level from the early days.

This should be a major step forward, but I'm worried about how hard line unionists will respond.

Please everyone allow Northern Ireland to move on.

Setting Prestonfield House Hotel Alight

Susanne Lamido mentions in her blog today the fire raising of Mike Watson MSP earlier this year. I have far happier memories of Prestonfield House Hotel recently.

Along with the other Lothian based Parliamentary candidates we gathered on the eve of poll to escort Charles, Sarah and Donald James Kennedy to their helicopter. We were told we where to meet Charles after he completed his last interview with the BBC and then walk with him to the helicopter. While we were waiting for Charles to finish we planned not to walk out after himmlike something out of Reservoir Dogs. The following day on a polling station one of my supporters came up to me and said “I saw you on TV last night. You lot looked just like the mob out of Reservoir Dogs.” Quentin Tarrantino has a lot to answer for!

Meanwhile Lord Watson will be up before the beak on 12 November.

Wednesday, 27 July 2005

Apply here to Become an MP. Not!

I've been catching up on the blogs I've missed over the last few days. Almost all of them mention this article about Simon Hughes' plans for the party. Most round on his comment that we should apply for Parliamentary Candidates through the press.

Having recently gone through my development day to become an approved candidate for the party nationwide (I was only licenced for the recent General Election) I would like to say this is one idea I will be voting against at the conference in Blackpool or whenever it comes before us. To increase the spectrum of candidates we don't advertise for them we need to reach into those communities for members then encourage, train and motivate them to become candidates.

We already have some very able candidates from all sorts of minorities. Groups within the party EMLD, DELGA and GBTF along with the PCA and ALDC are doing what they can to encourage more. Those minorities includes three Bangorians, that is North Down not North Wales, one of the others I happened to back for the role of President.

Linlithgow to be Wedding Oasis

More celebrity goings on in Linlithgow. This time Liam Gallagher, lead singer with Oasis, plans to marry fiancee, and former All Saint, Nicole Appleton at Hopetoun House just out of town.

Hopetoun House is the home of the Marquis of Linlithgow and the couple visited earlier this month. Romours have it that they will be married around Christmas time in a red marquee in the grounds.

First Scotty, now Liam and Nicole, which celebrity will be next to beam down to Linlithgow?

Monday, 25 July 2005

What next for teenage wizard?

I'm quite surprised I managed to prepare for my candidate development day yesterday and read the lastest Harry Potter book all in the space of about 9 hectic days. Fear not I will not spoil the plot I'm just looking forward to the next and final installment.

Anyone know of a good reliable time machine I could borrow? So I can grab the new one now!

Sunday, 24 July 2005

Club to Honour Electrocuted Youth Star

Falkirk Football Club are to honour Craig Gowans who was electrocuted in a freak accident on their training pitch earlier this month. Craig was carrying a pole which struck overhead cables at the club's Grangemouth training ground. The 17 year-olds strip is to be placed above the clubs tunnel as a tribute.

Falkirk's first away game of their first SPL season is on the 6 August and sees them coming to Almondvale to take on my team Livingston in a local derby. This comes a week after unfurling their Dvision 1 Pennant against our other arch rivals Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

Saturday, 23 July 2005

Badgers Sett to Raise Objection to Housing Plans

More Power to the Badgers!!

The Linlithgow Gazette has reported that a family of badgers will cause difficulty to a recently passed planning application on Riccarton Road. The Council's local plan does designate that this land is an open space; it is also bordered by Manse Road to the East and Laverlock Park to the North.

The plan was to build one four-bedroom house on the space, with the possibility of four more later. However, despite 37 objections that this contravened the local plan the Council passed the application last month. Well it looks like the Badgers have beaten them to it.

Under the Badgers Act 1992, Scottish Natural Heritage can grant a license for the safe removal if it is a newly-formed sett. However, if the sett is found to be well-established it will cause major headaches for a developer. SNH species group manager Chris Sydes said: 'The developer would have to apply to us for a licence to close and move the sett'.

I actually saw a badger in the area crossing Friars Way a couple of years ago while I was out campaigning for the 2003 council election in Preston Ward for Patricia Chapman; maybe this is one of the Badgers from that sett. However, it may come from the other site of Friars Way and the site of the old Carmelite Friary which is also an open space. This one definitely needs some investigation as local residents have long known of the existence of badgers in the area, but I doubt it is a recently laid sett.

I remember major problems for a supermarket development back home when two badger setts were found close to where they wanted to develop. They were eventually given the go ahead but had to make all sorts of changed to the initial plan to comate their black and white neighbours.

Friday, 22 July 2005

What Now for a Failed Suicide Bombers?

The four bombers for yesterday now know they cannot hide. The aftermath of the 7/7 attacks showed how quickly CCTV footage of their last movements were pieced together. International collaboration produced evidence of them arriving in Pakistan for training.

This time eyewitnesses saw them as they fled the scene. CCTV from after the events is going to be able to isolate them as they flee up escalators of off the number 26 bus. The police must already have images of the bombers. They will now be working back trying to trace their progress to and through London. Also trying to piece together their flight from the scene.

One advantage is that the police have had a run through of gathering this sort of information quickly. They are already on the ball and will have kicked off a thorough investigation within minutes of the events yesterday afternoon. I expect to see progress made over the weekend.

The bombers however have seen a dawn they did not expect to see. They got on those trains or that bus intending to never get off. If one of the four set the devices he must be hiding from the other three, for they will be angry at the failure of the devices. They have failed, they are facing things they were not trained for. They were not trained to hide they were trained to die. They will be panicking, they may make more mistakes.

London was lucky last night. I was in an immediate state of shock again yesterday wondering if any of my friends had been caught up this time. My prayers are with all my friends and every one else in London and they continue to go about their daily lives.

Thursday, 21 July 2005

Council To Explore Star Trek Memorial Proposal

West Lothian Council are moving fast on the possibility of a memorial for James Doohan AKA Scotty something that was only muted this morning.

Cllr. Willie Dunn convener of the council’s enterprise and development committee, and fellow poster to the
football club's website has said, "It is an intriguing idea which is certainly worth serious consideration.

"Linlithgow was the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots and the town attracts thousands of people from all over the world every year. A local link with Star Trek could help attract even more visitors to West Lothian in the future. I think erecting a plaque is an excellent idea."

So it looks like people are really starting to get on the bandwagon with this one.

Scotty beam us to Linlithgow 55o 59' N 3o 37' W.

94 Years On Still No Elected Lords

Earlier today through the course of my work in a call centre I had a caller from Criccieth. Of course this is also the home of a certain well know Liberal Prime Minister, David Lloyd George. Of course sadly one of the things he was remembered for for abusing the peerage system for profit.

However, before he became PM on 10 August 1911 the Parliament Act came into being. 94 years later the Preamble to that act still rings out today:

“it is intended to substitute for the House of Lords as it at present exists a Second Chamber constituted on a popular instead of hereditary basis, but such substitution cannot be immediately brought into operation.”

Nearly a century later, we still don't have a Second Chamber constituted on a 'popular basis'. Rather, the removal of most of the hereditaries has been replaced by patronage - Tony Blair has appointed more people to the House of Lords than any other Prime Minister in history. Labour promised to hold a free vote on the composition of the upper house in their manifesto.

August 10th this year is being highlighted by the Elect the Lords group to poplicised the need for reform. Make your voice known at and sign up to make sure democracy is brought to the Upper House of Parliament.

Should Council Honour Future Son's Trek?

James Doohan who played Montgomery Scott is Star Trek has died at the age of 85. Now there are calls for West Lothian Council to honour the most famous still to be born son of Linlithgow.

Scotty is due to be born in Linlithgow in 2222 (the age is extrapolated by the age of the actors taken from the date they first appeared in the Star Trek Universe). During the series his parents still live in the town which is also the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots, hopefully voting Liberal Democrat and for my successors.

Livingston man Martin Sweeny has said "I think West Lothian could be missing out on a great opportunity if they don’t do something to mark the life of this well known and respected man.

"Done right, this could encourage tourism to West Lothian from places like Australia, the USA or even Rigel 5."

I await seeing the Federation Crest on a Blue plague somewhere in the old town. Maybe it would be more appropriate on the offices of the Linlithgow Gazette, which overlooks Linlithgow Cross, rather on the Burgh Halls or Palace.

Wednesday, 20 July 2005

Ex-PMs Have Been Living Longer

Further to my previous post the trivia geek in me decided to find out when was the last day there were only three living occupants past or present of Number 10. The date was 10 January 1957 the day before Harold MacMillan succeeded Anthony Eden. However, for the 20 years before that there were usually only 2 or 3 men who had held the post of Prime Minister alive at any time.

Monday, 18 July 2005

Then There Were Three

Three years ago, in 2002, the Queen gathered all the living Prime Ministers at Downing Street to celebrate her Golden Jubilee. In March this year former Labour PM James Callaghan passed away. Yesterday the previous Ted Heath elected PM in 1970 also went to the green front benches in the sky.

His Legacy:
  • First Tory to be voted leader by his fellow MPs
  • He took the UK into the Common Market
  • He suffered due the 70's Middle East oil crisis
  • The three day week power cuts
  • A successful sailor
  • First Leader to lose his leadership to woman
  • Over 50 years as an MP, never taking a seat in the Lords

Sunday, 17 July 2005

Is This Another Knee Jerk Reaction?

The Government has announced new plans to tighten the anti-terrorism laws.

However, yet again this is done immediately after an atrocity and there is some woolly thinking behind some of the proposal, the proposed new offence of indirect incitement to commit terrorist acts for example. What on earth is included in that? How can you prove indirect incitement? Doesn't the fact that it is indirect mean that the speaker or writer of the words has no idea who has received them, how they will respond to them?

Also let’s take an example that the UK intervention in Iraq has been indirect incitement for a terrorist to act against British interests. Does that then make the Prime Minister culpable of this offense?

Anti-terror laws are essential. The government does need to be seen to be doing something. However, these areas are highly controversial and if reviewed and updated in the heat of the moment may not take into account the affect on underlying civil liberties. I hope the Government give Parliament sufficient time to debate these proposals and not just ram rod them through the two houses as quickly as is expedient. I also hope they listen to concerns over the wording and implications of some of these proposals.

Friday, 15 July 2005

Lib Dems Hold Seat in By Election!

Well the first by election hold for the party since the Liberal Democrats became a party was won last night. Mark Hunter has succeeded Patsy Calton as MP for Cheadle. An increased share of the vote not bad for what was less than 3 months ago the number one Tory target seat in the country.

Labour also managed to lose their first deposit of the new parliament.

Here is the result in full:

Mark Hunter, Libel 19593 52.15% (+3.27%)
Stephen Day, Con 15936 42.42% (+2.02%)
Martin Miller, Lab 1739 4.62% (-4.16%)
Leslie Leggett, Veritas 218 0.58%
John Allman, CDem 81 0.21%
Total 37567 55.20%
Lib Dem Majority 3657 9.73%
Lib Dem Hold
Swing from Conservative to Lib Dem of 0.63%

Thursday, 14 July 2005

2 Minute's Silent Contemplation

Working in a call centre it is unusual to hear total silence. Therefore the hush that descended at 12 noon today was quite unique. Customers were happily put on hold for 2 minutes and all was quiet.

As someone brought up in Northern Ireland the atrocities of last week bring a particular haunting to my mind. Having grown up with the thread of violence, terrorist acts etc. all my life I was started to enjoy some semblance of peace. Peace of mind. Security at home.

This new terror to hit the shores of the UK could hit anywhere, anytime without warning. One thing the IRA, and others, at least had the courtesy to do was give some warning to its non-military or police targets. yet this is not in the spirit of Islam we have heard enough leaders of that community say that this is against their teachings. This is just someone looking for a excuse just as the IRA attacks was not within the teachings of the Catholic church.

Religion is not the reason for this terror, it is becoming an excuse!

This is far worse as the people who perpetrate such acts are under the delusion that there is some righteous goal behind what they do. Two minutes seems far to little time to contemplate, to mark the loss so keenly felt by so many.

Before we realised it the time was up and the humdrum of a normal day had returned.

Cheadle Is Voting

To day is the day of the Cheadle by election brought about by the sad death of Patsy Calton. She had fought, but lost a courageous battle against cancer but increased her majority from 33 to over 4000 at the General Election.

I wish I could have been more involved in the campaign however most of my annual leave has been taken up fighting the General Election myself. As for weekends, having not seen by fiancee for the weekends for the first half of the year, I'm still working my way back into her good books; so only short hops into Edinburgh are allowed at weekends for now. However, what limited canvassing I was able to do shows me it is a close thing.

All the best to Mark Hunter and the team I'm sure their feet will not start to feel sore until they stop moving later on today. I hope does join the other Lib Dems in Westminster in the near future. It would be a worthy testiment to the hard work Patsy carried out in her short time as the local MP.

Wednesday, 13 July 2005

Too Hot to Train

Yesterday I had to get out of work early to head back to Linlithgow for a dentist's appointment. Intended to catch the 16:14 train from Edinburgh Park to Dunblane. However, the one train I need to catch to make my 4:30 appointment is cancelled.

In their wisdom Scot FirstRail decide that the next Dunblane train will be of two coaches in length and so I join the other sweaty commuters jammed in to the corridor space between the two carriages. Due to the heat this train takes 25 minutes to make the twelve minute journey to Linlithgow. Heaven knows what time it got into Dunblane.

Having missed my dentist I was able to inform the receptionist of my delay, but then had to work out how to get out of Linlithgow as buses to Bathgate seem to stop after 5 in the evening.

Tuesday, 12 July 2005

New Council Boundary for Linlithgow

The proposed multi-member boundaries have been published by the boundary commission.

Linlithgow is one of four areas in West Lothian that looks like it will be return three members under STV. This has been the strongest area of Liberal Democrat support in West Lothian support for as number of tears and making it a three member ward lifts the winning post that little bit higher than had it become part of a four-member ward. However with Newton being so far from Linlithgow Bridge it is quite a large ward geographically, though nowhere near a big a Esat Livingston and East Calder.

Torphichen and Westfield have been separated from the rest of the existing Preston Ward joining Armadale and Blackridge. Brigdend continues to get shifted around this time joining the remaining Parts of Preston plus all of the St. Michael's and Kingsfield Wards.

The level of support the Liberal Democrats, including myself on 5 May 2005, has been on the increase and this area for some time. Recent results would suggest that even in a three-memebr ward we are capable of winning a seat here. The next couple of years will prove to be interesting to the life of Linlithgow voters..

Saturday, 2 July 2005

225,000 March to Make Poverty History

Today I went on the Make Poverty History march in Edinburgh along with 224,999 others. I was part of the Liberal Democrat contingent headed up by our new Scottish Party Leader Nicol Stephen and his family.
A number of other parliamentarians both from Westminster and Holyrood also turned up to march. Over 200 Liberal Democrats from all over the country were present.

The picture shows me with Charles Dundas my fellow West Lothian candidate from the recent election, who stood for Livingston.
I hope this show of strength as Edinburgh was encircled in white for a number of hours has some impact on the G8 leaders at Gleneagles later this week.