Friday, 31 October 2008

SNP Encouraging Gambling for Own Vanity

They may be trying to sort out Scotland's drink culture on one hand. However, on the other the SNP are actively encouraging first timers to take up gambling in a vanity exercise ahead of next Thursday's Glenrothes by election.

You see the SNP have slipped behind Labour as the bookies favourites. Bookies of course are more concerned about losing money than getting the prediction right, one only has to look at the last Westminster by election in Fife, when even as polls closed Labour were favourites with the bookies. Whoops, but ta. No the SNP have actually sent out emails to supporters asking them to "place a tenner" on the result, essential they say because Labour supporters around the country are placing bets to make their party appear to be favourites. One email says:

"If you have no previous experience of going into a betting shop then don't
worry - they are most helpful. The young woman who placed this bet had never
ever been in a betting shop in her life before and just went up to the desk and
asked for help."

So clearly the SNP only care about the welfare of Scottish citizens when it doesn't impinge upon their own vanity. It also must be show some concern they have over their message, they tried similarly in Dunfermline and West Fife to say on the day of polling that they were the favourites to overtake Labour. They always want to appear to be the big boys (and girls) at Westminster times when of course they only have 7 MPs or 1.08% of the House of Commons.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

My Millenium

Before anybody gets smart and makes the obvious jokes. Like is it my 1000th grey hair? Or 1000th pensioned off hair follicle? No this is the 1000th post on my blog. Gulp! Little did I think back in the summer of 2005 just after I’d stood for Parliament for what I hope is only the first time that I would get to this milestone but here we are.

So for readers old and new excuse me while I reflect on some notable milestones that you may or may not have been aware off. Especially if I promise not to do it again at least not for another 1000 posts anyway.

Some notable firsts.

First post: What a day to start blogging when along with 225,000 others including some of the other bloggers around here we encircled Edinburgh in a circle of white calling to make Poverty History.

First By Election Result: Yes the first by election this blog had to cover was in Cheadle where Lib Dem Patsy Calton sadly succumbed to cancer shortly after the 2005 General Election. Result Lib Dem Hold.

First comment left: Also first correction but hey that is what blogging is about.

First National attention drawn to my blog: Yeah my first appearance on the Brit Blogs Round up was this post with my personal reflections of the late Livingston MP Robin Cook.

First Press mention: Ok I got a little excited, as all bloggers do about the MSM picking them up, but I did debut in the Times

First Blog post of a campaigner: Hard to believe we are now in our fourth Westminster By Election, as well as two Holyrood by elections since 2005. But here is my first post about any such campaign, for Livingston I really was on the spot and my traffic went through the roof.

And some other stuff.

Football, Doctor Who, One post: Yes political bloggers have a life outside politics two of my other interests make an early joint appearance.

Charles Kennedy’s Resignation: The rumours, My defence of Charles, my take on events the night before the resignation(missed by the Beeb), the thank you post I really need more creative titles.

Early days in Dunfermline and West Fife, and the final day stuff

My misquoted blog: Yes returning to by election HQ to find someone reading a misrepresentation of your views in the Scotland on Sunday can be fun.

Leadership hustings in glorious detail

The start and end of hiatus.

The one that drew the most comments well so far at least.

It's Thursday*, It's ITV1, It's Top of the Pops

May not sound right but Top of the Pops may well be returning to our screens. But expect adverts to break into the countdown of the top tunes on the week as the plan is bring it back to ITV.

The saviour of the show that was ripped from the air in 2006 after 42 years on the BBC may well be Simon Cowell who is looking to buy the rights to TOTP. Saying "I would rather it came to us than just sit in the dustbin". Watch out 3-2-1 you may be next so Simon can find a nice Dusty Bin in which to place TOTP.

In 2006 there was uproar from people that TOTP was pulled, even though many of them clearly hadn't watched it weekly for years. If Simon Cowell does buy the format you do wonder what sort of updates he will make to the format. Maybe a phone-in vote at the end of the week for an unsigned band to appear live the following week would be in keeping with Simon's remit to seemingly unearth new talent everywhere he goes.

* Or whatever night they choose.

Free Meals Too Costly

23 of the 32 Scottish Councils have said that they cannot afford to implement the SNP Governments plans for free school meals for all P1-3 pupils. This total includes the three main city councils Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen along with SNP led councils including West Lothian, West Dunbartonshire, Perth & Kinross amongst them.

The policy is good, although Aberdeen council would rather see a free breakfast provided for better health and educational outcomes as they "remain unconvinced that the introduction of free lunches to all Primary 1-3 children adds public value or improves the outcomes for children" based on the trials evaluations. While Glasgow welcome the policy they "at this stage, under the current economic climate, cannot commit to implementation for the year 2010/11." Falkirk Council also have concerns:

"Our calculations show that the level of funding currently provided is less than
we would need to meet our ongoing additional day to day operational costs."

So the scheme is good but the Government needs to fund it adequately.

Norway No Way for Scotland - Norway

The last unhindered bastion of Alex Salmond's arc of prosperity turned around and bite him yesterday. With the Emerald Tiger of Ireland stalled and Iceland floundering Jonas Gahr Støre, Norway's foreign minister, has said there are major differences between Norway and Scotland and the comparisons and plans made by Alex Salmond based on Norway's achievements do not add up.

For starters the oil fund that Salmond is so keen to replicate and use in so many ways in Norway is the pension fund. Its monies are "for our children and grandchildren" with very little available for current spending to the exchequer.

Also unlike in Scotland, "We [Norway] don't consume any of our gas, we export almost all of our production." The situation is reversed for the North Sea gas in the UK and Scotland, most of it is used domestically.

He also said there were major differences historically in how Norway and the UK were geared up to use the resources discovered in the North Sea in the 70s:

"Our social sector and structural system were ready for the big changes. We
started with major investments in oil and gas in the early 1970s and it was only
in the late 1990s that we went into surplus."

Finally the often almost robotic call of cybernats when challenged regarding Iceland or Norway has been the fact that both of these have escaped the vagrancies of various forms of some sort of greater Scandinavia through the centuries. Mr Støre however also said that he would be "upset" if he thought that his country were being used as a "source of division or strife in other countries".

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Markinch Cries "Let What Train Take the Strain?"

One of Liberal Democrat candidate Harry Wills' campaigns in the Glenrothes by election has been about the unfair fares that the people of Fife face on the train. They pay greater fares that the people of Perth pay to get to Edinburgh for example.

However, the people of Markinch now face greater unfairness as their 9:04 train into Edinburgh looks set to disappear off the winter timetable. This would leave a 98 minute gap between trains at 8.31am and 10.09am a busy commuting time of the morning. With a greater number of people working flexible hours the removal of a 9:04 service may well disadvantage parents who drop their children to school before catching the 9:04 catching a later or earlier train may not be convenient to everyone.

If the removal of this service is made it looks set to see an increase of road usage to make up for its loss. Not a great move to the environment and climate change.

Socialism 101 Class for Governor Palin

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines socialism as:

1: any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or
governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and
distribution of goods

2 a: a system of society or group living in which there is no private
property b: a system or condition of society in which the means of production
are owned and controlled by the state

3: a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and
communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according
to work done

However, look what the Governor of one American state has said in the past:

"And Alaska - we're set up, unlike other states in the union, where it's collectively Alaskans own the resources. So we share in the wealth when the development of these resources occurs." [parenthesis mine]

Whoops! Looks like is a little socialism on the Republican ticket for the White House as those are the words of Governor Palin. Wonder how Joe the plumber is taking the news.

"If you look at spreading the wealth, that's honestly right out of Karl Marx's
mouth," Joe said yesterday, "No one can debate that. That's not my
opinion. That's fact."

Wow! I don't remember Marx having a $150,000 allowance to clothe himself, do up his hair and his lips. Obviously it's spread somewhat differently these days.

Hat tip to Andrew Ducker via Jennie Rigg

Homesick Candidate Yearning for Fife Already

Oh dear, the people of Glenrothes should they elect Peter Grant the SNP candidate may think they are investing in a young man with a long future at Westminster.

Well not according to the man himself:

"I don't want to spend any more time down there than I have to. I would be
homesick after more than that."

Well, he also show reluctance to actually head to Westminster in the first place:

Speaking on a campaign stop in Glenrothes' Kingdom shopping centre, Mr Grant
indicated he was reluctant to leave Fife and go to London, but said he would do
so to serve his constituents.

Well should the people of Glenrothes elect the SNP candidate next Thursday and then Scotland doesn't vote for independence in 2010 (the vote on which Mr Grant in pinning his short term Westminster hopes) judging by what he says the people of Glenrothes will be facing another by election for the Westminster seat during the next Parliament.

If they think "It's Time" well it is likely to be a short time.

hat tip to Andrew Reeves

Please Don't U-Turn into a Cul-de-sac Swinney

After my initial joy at the news that the SNP are looking to localise their Local Income Tax (LIT)proposals I was a little shocked about some of the apparent revelations that have emerged.

John Swinney had said that he had raised the issue of LIT with Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC), it is the least one would expect 17 months into an administration that had this proposal as one of its linchpins. However, HMRC have apparently said they have not been involved in discussions. Yet the The Times had reported that the whole thing blew up at the weekend because of a leak of emails obtained by the BBC:

"E-mails obtained by the BBC under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that
some unpopular aspects of the proposal are under review. Correspondence sent from the Scottish Government to Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs last month show that the SNP now wants etc.."

So if last month the Scottish Government wanted to review some things already sent to HMRC surely that means that consultation with them over the issue of LIT had to be underway.

Heaven forbid that the Sir Humphrey Appleby* equivalent at HMRC had been house trained after 11 years of Labour masters not to look at alternatives. Even it that alternative does come from a legislature overseeing a devolved part of the UK, after all devolution was a linchpin of New Labours sweep to power in 1997.

John Swinney has to be careful that this double talk, of misinformation coming from the HMRC is not allowed to cloud the agenda over LIT.

He also though has to not U-turn on his own U-turn having accepted that he has made one. When one Government official made a statement on Monday night saying:

"We favour HMRC as the most efficient way to collect a local income tax as it
already has experience of administering income tax. After introducing local
income tax at the same level in all local authority areas, in the medium term we
are considering options for local variability in a downward direction. HMRC
would still collect the tax in the most efficient manner - we are not proposing
to transfer collection to councils at any stage."

It makes it appear that the Nats have not moved away from we'll do it our way first, with a National Income Tax before giving way to council setting their own rate. This approach has already be vehemently rejected by the Lib Dems as not being a Local Income Tax. So if the statement on Sunday by Swinney was meant to appease Liberal Democrats the statement the next night when fending off the attacks needs either clarification or rejection.

* The current Permanent Secretary of HMRC is Dave Hartnett who was only appointed earlier this month.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

What MacNumpty Wants with a Zig-a-Zig Ah

J. Arthur MacNumpty feels that the Lib Dem Blogosphere has been exclusively attacking the SNP during the Glenrothes by election. As I said in his comments I feel this may be in part saying something about the state of the Labour Campaign. The lack of much real Labour blogging about the campaign, which therefore leads to less needing to counter attack than say the SNP postings. Also the lack of much real presence of Labour out on the street while I've been up there.

That was until recently when as Richard Thomson so eloquently puts it Mr and Mrs Macauley came a calling.

I hope that these recent postings have given Mr MacNumpty a little of what he really, really wants.

Throwing Out the Baby with the Fuel Petition

The other day I did ask 'who is charge of the Labour machine up there in Glenrothes?'. Well in charge of the press operation whether corralled or held back at gunpoint, step forward press officer Kenny Young. He's pictured to the left on his own election communication for 2007. Yes that is one full side he's used up, it's not a folded sheet.

By the way he is the larger of the two humans pictures as we haven't cut the age for candidates quite that much yet. cute eh? What do you think it conveys?

Well a quick scan of his online biographies, pen pictures or interviews fails to turn up any mention of fatherhood for the young man. Now if you were a young father supporting a child you'd think it would be the sort of thing you'd like the electorate to know about. Yet holding a baby on his election literature appears to be the only sign of any sort of allusion to such a state of affairs.

Indeed if his literature had mentioned childcare anywhere on it you might well have excused the gratuitous, cliche ridden use of a baby, admittedly not being kissed. Sadly not a hint or whiff of anything along those lines was seen anywhere near this particular communication. Indeed the wee mite is a long way off paying much tax of any type you'd expect.

Now I may be being cynical about the above picture, but if like me you'd seen it against some of those that Labour have used in this campaign you may share my scepticism.

I have already mentioned The Fifer a Labour production that is hitting the doorsteps of Glenrothes. Well there is one picture in there that appear Picasso-esque in it's sense of angles and perspective. Sadly when I tried to scan it in it emerged rather too dark.

But in this picture we have two women at a petrol pump filling up their car. One women has a blue pic biro in hand and is signing the petition again fuel prices being held by Lindsay Roy the Labour candidate. nothing wrong with the picture in words so far.

Well the petition is being held perpendicular to the ground, yet the woman is still going ahead and signing it. She is also doing this over the right hand of Lindsay Roy who is holding it at a rather odd angle for such a task. It may be because Mr Roy is not looking anywhere near either of the women in the picture. The rather gormless impression of a fish on his face also looks suspiciously like a mirror image of a similar picture elsewhere on the leaflet. He also appears to have managed to thrust the clipboard beyond the reflection of the name of the petition in the car's paint work to almost over the pump, while standing behind the vehicle.

It is either the most contrived set piece picture I have even seen trying to reflect a piece of actuality, or the worse case of photo-shopping. But an image is said to speak a thousand words even if those thousand words aren't quite what is the case.

Was I Closest to Breaking Gordon's Labour Bubble?

Hat tip to Jess the Dog for this excellent photo montage of Gordon Brown's extent into the campaign at Glenrothes. This map below shows just where Gordon was.

courtesy of Microsoft Virtual Earth

And where was I?

See all those houses just to the north of the industrial estate that Gordon was esconsed in. Well the majority of that area but indeed all the southern section of Woodside was covered by yours truly. Seeing as I approached the house closest to Labour HQ (as the birds fly) just after the residents pulled out in their car, I may well have been the closest non-Labour voter, not hurtling around in a car at the time that Gordon was in town.

Governments Move to Green Up Our Act

Yesterday the Scottish Parliament voted announced it is to set annual targets to ensure continuous progression to the reduction of emissions by 80% by 2050. They also voted to include all six major greenhouse gas emissions* rather than just Carbon Dioxide (CO2) in these targets.

It comes the day ahead of the Westminster vote which looks likely to include aviation and shipping emissions in UK targets. Ed Miliband has also said earlier this month that he is looking to increase UK reductions from 60% to 80% matching the Scottish target.

With both the Governments in Westminster and Holyrood taken emboldened steps to include more of the proposals of the Kyoto Protocol we need them to reach out to others, especially USA, Russia and China, to also do their bit. The three largest contributors to climate change through their emissions have yet to make bold or indeed even tentative strides to do much in line with many others in the world. We need the big three on board before much longer. It is not an excuse for them to rely on market forces alone, nor of China to say it needs to catch up industrially to hide the fact that cleaner alternatives and practises are available and should be encouraged as much as possible.

* The other five are methane, nitrous oxide, Hydrofluorcarbons (HFCs), Perfluorocarbons (PFCs), Sulphur Hexafluoride (SF6).

News of British Days Death Premature

In the style of Mark Twain despite some Nats rejoicing, well ok I only found one if I don't count the BNP, that British Day is dead. It appears reports of its demise may be premature.

Of course sadly working in an international environment it is unlikely to affect me, directly as I will probably find that my bosses around the globe will still need their reporting to be done. Which is strange as I often have to be aware of national holidays elsewhere which will end up affecting result.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Blackadder Gases Cunning Plan

Last week I posted about how Scottish Gas were upping my standing order disproportionately to any logical usage I could work out. Well it seems I'm not alone, but I'm somewhat better off than Mr Quist.

I imagine it happening thus:

Edmund Blackadder enters the office of this boss George Prince.

Prince, George: Ah Blackadder. What news?

Blackadder: Not good sir. The price of gas is going down again.

Prince, George: But surely that is a good thing Blackadder? The customers have been complaining about the fuel prices all year.

Blackadder: While that is true sir, what about the shareholders? After all it is they who employ you, not the customers.

Prince, George: Oh balderdash. I'd forgotten about them.

Blackadder: And you'd promised them significant profits for the next fiscal year based on the increased fuel prices we thought were coming.

Enter Baldrick and office clerk, hands a file over to Blackadder.

Prince, George: What can we do to ensure we make enough money to please the shareholders.

Baldrick: I have a cunning plan.

Blackadder: Not now Baldrick, this is no concern of yours.

Baldrick: But Mr Blackadder sir, what if we make our pre-paying customers pay for 18 months gas over the next year?

Blackadder: Don't be so stupid. Get out of here.

Baldrick exits.

Blackadder: Sir I may have the solution you are looking for.

Prince, George: What oh Bladder?

Blackadder: Well Sir lets just say we make those who pay by direct debit pay for more gas than they'll actually use. To gear them up for next winter. Say 18 months worth over a financial year.

Prince, George: Squiffy, Blackadder. That is a genius idea. How did I ever come up with it?

Blackadder: I have no idea sir, it is one of your best.

Springfield Up in Arms Over Development

Not this Springfield
The residents of Springfield are furious that developers of the planned supermarket to the East of Linlithgow looks set to double in size. The news comes as plans to include a nursing home on the triangular parcel of land on the Blackness road were dropped in correspondence to West Lothian Council.
Considering the area was originally zoned for office development in the Council's area plan the nursing home, hotel and retail complex was already meeting opposition from the Linlithgow Against Springfield Development Group.
The council have asked the developers Kensington & Edinburgh Estates to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment to show the affects on noise, light and traffic pollution, impact on water levels, wildlife etc of the proposed development. Considering Linlithgow was recently endorsed as a Cittaslow town aiming to improve the standard of living in the town with the support of the council such a development on top of the two existing supermarkets and DIY superstore in the town, detract from that aim.

Now That's What I Call Local

John Swinney the SNP Finance Minister has finally announced plans for a Local Income Tax, letting the local authorities set their rates rather than controlling it all from his Edinburgh office. After my ranting on Friday about the Nats not respecting local authorities, this is welcome news. Some are accusing Swinney of making a U-Turn but he is merely realising the problems he created for himself by lifting the core of the Lib Dem idea without many of the more thoroughly worked out difficulties and subtleties.

He is also considering sensible options to exempt students from paying LIT and to make sure it is paid on investment income as well. There has long been a dichotomy about those who are super rich and live off investments contributing regularly to the national taxation bracket. The super rich of course have their team of accountants ensuring they pay the least tax possible, tending towards zero.

Labour of course are up in arms, they don't want fairness in local taxation. You only have to look at their moan in The Fifer a tabloid they have put out in Glenrothes for the by election. They take a household with four earners and complain about the fact that this family will have to pay more for local services. They ignore the fact that in the same street, paying only 25% less Council Tax is the single mum who works her guts out to cope with raising her family.

There is also the young couple who both earn but at a lower rate than the heads of the family in Labour's literature who pay exactly the same Council Tax as the four earners that Labour are moaning about. But of course that is taking a far higher proportion out of their salaries than the four people up the street. The family of four's tax bill is not going to double, as all four of them will have their tax threshold of course, but Labour who are starting to sees flaws in council tax are upset that others have found a fairer system before them and Andy Kerr will do anything to run it down.

I'm Back in the Golden Dozen

I don't often make Lib Dem Voice's Weekly Golden Dozen, probably because most of my readership aren't Lib Dems and rarely click through from the Lib Dem blogs aggregator. so therefore I have to rely on well written pieces that get picked up for the 5 positions not gained through through traffic.

Well my little piece on the DUP, 42 days detention without trail and the abortion amendments for Northern Ireland being pole axed last week makes the cut this week. Makes this Northern Irish born liberal proud.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Alaska's Top Paper for Obama

The Anchorage Daily News has endorsed Sen. Barack Obama for the US presidency and not the ticket included the states own Governor Sarah Palin.

While they point out the significance of the first ever Alaskan seeking high national office, they realise:

"The election, after all is said and done, is not about Sarah Palin, and our
sober view is that her running mate, Sen. John McCain, is the wrong choice for
president at this critical time for our nation. "

They see the Democratic nominee as the 'steady hand' that the country needs, displaying 'thoughtful analysis' and enlisting 'wise counsel'. All of which point to the rash decisions and promises made that Sen. John McCain took recently over banking issues.

No Gay Sex We're British

Well at least that's what 24% of them think according to the latest opinion poll in today's Observer, as they want it made illegal. Also 40% want to reverse the equalisation of the age of consent legislation brought in for same sex relationships. With over 56% thinking that same sex couples should not be able to adopt.

At the end of the article is one key statement that men are more likely than women to hold a negative view towards homosexuality. The more liberal men also tend to be ABC1 in terms of social status and the bigger homophobes the C2DE groups. Whether this is genuine fear (of the unknown or personal effect), peer pressure or mere ignorance is the question that really needs to be asked and addressed.

It is probably not surprising therefore that despite Paul Elliot the former Celtic, Chelsea and Aston Villa player saying that he knows a dozen gay men playing football at the top level none are openly out. The average fan on the sidelines is more likely to be classes as C2DE. No professional player has been openly out since the sad demise of Justin Fashanu.

Gordon Brown Rain God

So Gordon Brown finally arrives in Glenrothes yesterday and brings doom and gloom with him, that is just the weather*. Apparently he was also spotted with that must have accessory this season his armed secret service detail. Sadly my informant couldn't get close enough to see if they were double-0s and therefore licenced to use deadly force.

So what does the Prime Minster, defending a majority of 13,507 in the constituency do. Only two thirds of the work of his wife earlier in the week, that's what. Yes Gordon met a whole 6 voters, all Labour supporters. Seeing as he also met them in the cafe next to Labour HQ he did even less work that his wife who actually had to walk to her nine Labour supporters front doors in Cardenden.

So the Brown family input to this election so far is to have talked to 15 people who are already firmly in the Labour columns on canvass returns. Wow, no wonder the new Scottish Secretary is claiming that Labour are underdogs if this by election if this is the sort of workload that the Labour campaign machine can manage out of their big hitters.

One does wonder just who is charge of the Labour machine up there in Glenrothes.

*This blogger spent 4 hours out in that rain. But personally delivered about 800 leaflets in that time.

Friday, 24 October 2008

What the Nationalist Government is Good at?

Alex Salmond was havering on, and on, and on on Question Time last night at times you wondered just what was the point of the BBC paying for the other four guests, or David Dimbleby to turn up in Peterborough for in the first place. However, he kept on going on about the strengths that Scotland and Scots had.

Therefore I am going to highlight courtesy of Lib Dem MSP Jeremy Purvis something that we agree that the SNP are good at.

I can almost sense the intake of breathe from the collective SNP Blogosphere and Cybernats around North Britain as they take in what I have just said. But yes I did say I want to acknowledge one thing that the SNP government at Holyrood is good at.

Ok guys you can breathe out again now.

That one thing is risk management. Not in the classical sense I hasten to add but as Jeremy wrote in today's Scotsman:

"The SNP is almost constitutionally unable to be blamed for anything – either a
council should be doing more under the historic concordat, the SNP claim
councils have a record amount of money, or Westminster hasn't given the Scottish
Government enough money in the first place. "

Yes, the SNP have rick aversion, blame avoidance, innocence and light call it want down to an art.

Jeremy does have a point though you have to listen to most of Alex Salmond's answers to any challenge be that on Question Time, or in FMQs or any other forum and you can see where he is going. Every sentence that seems to come out of Alex Salmond's does one or the other. We need more money from Westminster, or we've given so much to the councils. It's like a child saying "Aw dad I need more money." Before going off and spending it on more and more stuff, but setting strict guidelines on just how much he will spend but the quality of perfection being sought from the good producers.

There are 3,599 targets in operation. They cover every base of SNP policy. So fall down on a target and you should be doing more, because they have been given record extra money.

Of course should a SNP led council, like say West Lothian, fail to deliver expect to hear the lament that though we have given record amounts Westminster haven't given us enough.

Just wait. You'll hear it carry on. Not enough money, boo hoo. Record spending what are you doing with it.

Ignoring the fact that the record spending doesn't nearly cover everything expected. Or you can't lay all blame for things you expecting and responsible for elsewhere if you're claiming to have provided to record amounts for the tasks.

Head of Steam Building Over Climate Change Bill

There is growing unrest on the government benches about the ommission of aviation and shipping emmisions from the UK greenhouse gase targets. There are now 56 Labour MPs demanding their inclusion.

I've long held that if we're looking at combating the effects of greenhouse gases all causes need to be included. That does mean looking carefully at food labels and realising do we really need Strawberies in December that have been flown in from South Africa. We can have a balanced, indeed varied, diet using seasonal produce that is available locally. It will be a seasonal diet but some seem determined to eat the same way year round. Is it any wonder that Jamie Oliver finds that many people don't know basic food groups and recipes using them. Our kitchen vocabulary is being reduced because people go for, and demand, what they like rather than what is available.

I loved as a child going into the back garden and harvesting fresh peas, beans, potatoes, fruit or whatever was in season. I was glad when I moved across here that my partner's family were intend of having a sizeable vegetable patch in their renovated back garden. So for a while I again ate some food picked within an hour of eating. It's harder know I live in a flat but I do all I can to reduce my food miles, farmers markets, checking labels, buying fresh rather than untracable processed foodstuffs.

The need to include our shipping emmissions in climate change targets is essential. To ignore such a sizeable chunk of what we contribute to the problem is ignorant, self-indulgent and needs to be remedied. Therefore I applaud every member of the House of Commons who will vote that aviation and shipping is included in the target. They may have different ways of looking at it and how to acheive it but at least getting it out there is a giant step forward.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Where the Eck?

Last night the SNP raised a motion in the House of Commons opposed to the HBOS take over by Lloyds TSB. Only on Sunday their leader, the First Minister, MSP for Gordon, MP for Banff and Buchan was calling for a rethink on the scenario.
He said there were "highly legitimate" questions to the raised. He went so far as to say:

"With so much at stake and so much public money involved, I think we have theright to ask, is this in the public interest of Scotland?"
Well last night the SNP had their chance vote over some of those questions on competition. To look out for the public interest of Scotland. Last night the House voted on:

That the Enterprise Act 2002 (Specification of Additional Section 58Consideration) Order 2008 (S.I., 2008, No. 2645), dated 6th October, a copy ofwhich was laid before this House on 7th October, be approved.
It was passed 424 to 64 those against were a mish mash of Lib Dems and Nationalists, protecting against super banks and their ilk. One notable SNP MP was missing from the division lobbies, indeed the chamber or anywhere else in the precincts of the Palace of Westminster. Salmond, Salmond who, where were you?

Alex Salmond will say he do anything for you. Providing he doesn't have to turn up in London to use his vote, which the people of Banff and Buchan graciously extent to him.

All of Edinburgh's Labour members voted for.

The following Scottish MPs voted against:

Alexander, Danny
Barrett, John
Campbell, Sir Menzies
Carmichael, Mr. Alistair
Hosie, Stewart
Kennedy, Mr. Charles
MacNeil, Mr. Angus
Mason, John
Moore, Mr. Michael
Reid, Mr. Alan
Rennie, Willie
Smith, Sir Robert
Swinson, Jo
Thurso, John
Weir, Mr. Mike
Wishart, Pete

Scottish Gas the Truth About Direct Debits

I heat my house through Scottish Gas, they also cover my electricity. Three months ago they reappraised my monthly gas direct debit downwards by 50%. However, yesterday I received a letter telling me they were increasing my direct debit upwards by 66% a month. So now I will be paying £5 more than I was two quarters ago. My account is also currently in credit.

Paying by direct debit, the little information leaflet enclosed with the bill, eases your worries over your fuel bills. "We reassess your bills to spread your payments evenly through the year" says a little graph. Oh no you don't Scottish Gas! For each of the last five quarters my direct debit has been going up and then down now up again. You give me less than three weeks notice that before I get paid again (as I get paid mid month) you will be looking for an extra £20 this month.

Scottish Gas are also currently running an ad saying they have cut prices twice in the last 12 months. Yet the only reason you could have for a 66% hike in my bill currently in credit is to cover increased costs. I do not use 66% more gas in the winter over the autumn. I even appear to have over half of one month already paid for. So you may be actually asking me for 75% more.

I will be looking for another service provider as this yo-yoing (when fuel prices are actually coming down at source) is not the way I'm prepared to make budgeting decisions any longer.

Tour de France 2009

Mister Stephen is rather excited about the route for the Tour de France 2009 which has been revealed today.

As he likes both F1 and le Tour he is quite excited of the prospect that le Grand Départ is in Monaco and seeing as this will need a spectacular back drop for the finish, it may well finish on or near parts of the Grand Prix circuit in Monte Carlo.

The cyclists, who may or may not include Mister Yellow Wristband, then will cycle along the Mediterranean coast. Before leaving Barcelona to head into the Pyrenees. They will then head through the Massif Centrale en route to the Alps.

But it is the penultimate stage of hell, finishing on Mont Ventoux . The most barren, the most inhospitable, the most feared mountain in Tour history that will be the ultimate decider of next year's Tour. Nothing will be set on stone although the riders reach that final summit one day before the procession along the Champs d'Elysée.

It may lack too many summit finishes but it is a tough, hilly tour, with a real sting in the tail.

The Empty Handed Promises of 'God' to Kingdom Voter

"I've shaken the hand of God," was the ironic shout of one Glenrothes supporter yesterday. As The Ego that is the First Minister appeared temporarily to be uplifted to deity. For later Edward Houston explained his acclamation of meeting divinity by saying to waiting journalists:

"I won't be voting for the SNP - everything they say is a promise but it will
never happen."

For yesterday was the day that both Salmond and Brown, that's Sarah not Gordon, hit the campaign trail in the Kingdom of Fife.

Sarah was shepherded into a very heavily pebble-dashed, Labour supporting street in Cardenden to do a hard day's work on a whole nine doorsteps. The people of Glenrothes will be spared Mrs Moira Salmond coming to their door though. The First Minister confessed when asked that, "Moira takes the view that one deity politician in the family is more than enough."

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Edinburgh South The Facts

It appears that both Calum Cashley and Jeff have got some bee in their bonnet today over Edinburgh South's electoral chances. So lets us look at some facts.

In 2005 there were 405 votes in this seat.

The party in second was the Lib Dems.

It is Labour's ninth most vulnerable seat.

It is also the second smallest margin that Lib Dems need to take of any seat in the UK and their number one target off Labour. Therefore with Labour on the slide and the Tories on the up a universal swing makes it the Lib Dems first gain.

In 2007, when as good Nats Calum and Jeff will tell you the Lib Dems had a bad night, Edinburgh South was one of the exceptions. Mike Pringle (Lib Dem) increased his majority from 158 in 2003 to 1,929*. A swing from Labour to the Lib Dems.

In both Edinburgh South and Edinburgh Pentlands (which lends part of its territory to Edinburgh South for Westminster) both in numeric and share the Lib Dem vote across these constituencies actually went up greater than that of the Tories from 2003 to 2007. This was with both the Tories and Nats on a high.

In the interim the Lib Dems had challenged in Edinburgh South and the Tories talked the talk and trailed home a dismal 3rd, considering the amount spent, probably saving Nigel Griffiths bacon in the process.

There is only one party that is and will challenge (and more than likely be victorious) in Edinburgh South at any point between now and May 2010 when a General Election has to be called. The evidence is there and it is the Lib Dems. Don't be fooled by the Nats and their buddies the Scottish Conservative and Nationalist Party.

Update 23 October: I notice this morning that Cameron Rose the Tory Councillor for the Southside and Newington ward has joined in. He is quite happy to hype up the SNP take on things while talking about the 'discussion' Edinburgh South has taken up in the Blogosphere, while ignoring the other side. Of course there is no need to wonder why, Calum and Jeff were both handing the seat over to the Tories after all.

US Presidential Candidate Earns Endorsement of Al-Queda Supporter

On the al-Hesbah website Muhammad Haafid, an al-Queda supporter, has stated his preference for the election in 2 weeks time.

He says one candidate, is the better choice is al-Queda want to exhaust the US militarily and economically. He even says that a terro strike on mainland USA before the election on November 4 could well ensure that his preferred choice wins.

So just who is that friend of terrorists?

Step forward John Sidney McCain.

Darling Informed that Barnsley Now Part of Yorkshire

Now before any of my well informed readers run to correct my statement on geographic grounds about the town of Parky, I'd like to state I'm talking fiscally. As the Yorkshire Building Society has taken over the Barnsley Building Society to protect it from the possible loss of up to £10m that was invested by the BBS in Icelandic Banks.

However, it does take us back to the term used by the Chancellor at the start of the Icelandic banking implosion. Then he referred to councils as "informed investors" and therefore was going to exclude them from any protection.

What definition is a building society that had deposits in Iceland, Darling? Surely if even such informed investors as those involved in the financial sector have money tied up in Iceland, how much information does Mr Darling assume that councils had to make them so informed?

Is Darling as informed about this whole crisis as he should be? Before he ruled out protecting "informed investors" had he checked out information on their deposit deals?

We insist that you should inform us Darling.

Has 42 Days Extended 40 Years Without Abortion?

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice
Remember back in June when the DUP backed Labour in able for the flailing government to secure 42 day detention without trail in the commons? Remember the DUP denying that there were any deals done over upcoming legislation? This despite historically the DUP being a defender of civil liberties in the area of detention without trial even in the tough times of the 70s and 80s.

When just what are we to make of the decision of Labour to totally shelf the amendment to the human fertilisation and embryology bill scheduled for today which was to relook at Northern Ireland's exemption from the bill. All the abortion amendments including the need for two doctors approval have been slipped to the end, with no time to debate them. A recent survey showing 62% of people in Northern Ireland being in favour of allowing abortion as a choice to be taken up locally. Despite this Labour have put off the chance to discuss it for how long? Another 40 years maybe? Many protested both for and against the idea on Saturday so it is a debate that Northern Ireland wants, no needs to have.

Northern Irish politician's claimed that they should have a say in such legislation at the assembly. But if they are given the option will they listen to the majority of the people on this? Or will they listen to the vocal minority? who sadly make up the core vote of most of the main parties.

Just what role did the 42 day vote have in making Harriet Harman basically dump these amendments en masse?

Bowlers Demand Freedom from Kitchen Slavery

Over the years I've enjoyed many a post match meal after a game of bowls barely paying a thought as to how it has been provided. However, the women of Broughty Castle Bowling Club (near Dundee) have brought the whole scenario to the fore.

They have voted to stop serving the meals every week for the male members, unless the task of setting, serving and clearing up is shared, or passed out to an outside agency. The men in retaliation have threatened to increase their fees from £46 to £87 which is 75% of the full membership fee paid by the men folk.
In certain locations while men can have almost exclusive use of the greens women often find themselves restricted to certain times. It is something that often younger women bowlers object to as often the men would claim precedence in the evening, after work. A younger woman may also have to work and be unable to secure green space in the evening sessions. The teas in some of the clubs I've belonged to have been a shared responsibility, food or a raffle prize provided by each member say.

Also in this day and age some of the men quite possibly are more than capable of preparing, serving or clearing up. The advancement of men in the household arts in recent decades has staggered some women folk the world over. Where once they thought a potato occupied the coach some of them have seen this creature venture into the kitchen to assist, or heaven forbid take over.

If the men of Broughty Castle Bowling Club are going to increase the fees out of spite for the women saying they want some freedom from all the work in the kitchen, they had better provide an equal increase in the resources of the club that the women can use. What's wrong with a little equality in bowls? After all I've played, lost to or beaten teams including women and wheelchair exponents of the art.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Brain is Bleathering About By Election

I see the BBC Scotland's political editor Brian Taylor is blethering away on his blog about the Glenrothes By election as nominations close today. He's saying it doesn't look to rosy for the Nats as he points out some crucial differences between Glenrothes and Glasgow East.

He highlights three issues that the SNP have to overcome:

1. The outlying districts which historically are stronger Labour, or even Communist, leaning than the new town itself where Nats report some warming to there message (even if they can't always raise a hello).

2. The Lib Dem vote and presence in Fife which is stronger than Glasgow East.

3. The current upswing in the image of Gordon Brown.

Alex Salmond and his Nats are hoping for Brown's halo to slip just a little before polling day. Indeed Alex is doing all the can to dislodge it after seeing the shine of his own "halo" be somewhat dimmed in recent weeks by additional ambient light.

Well we have 16 days to go in Glenrothes. My feet and fingers can hardly wait.

Labour Try to Limit Campaigning

Labour were accused of trying to limit spending by rival parties in marginal seats when it moved forward its plans for reforms to funding for Westminster elections.

Currently there is a limit set on when the election is called, but now they are looking to set a cap of £11,000 per constituency from when campaigning is deemed to have started. Sitting MPs will retain their £40,000 p.a. allowance to "communicate" with constituents, and there is also to be no restriction on union donations to Labour. The Labour regulations reek of competitive disadvantage to those challenging. It will adversely affect both the Conservative party who have big benefactors who will plough money into key marginals and the work that would be carried out by Lib Dems in marginal seat which often expand over a full election cycle or more to achieve success in key marginals.

Something does have to be done about political funding for elections but it has to be transparent and fair. These Labour proposals are ludicrously one sided only affecting individual donations and not their own union base.

Monday, 20 October 2008

'Ello, Oh No, Goodbye

Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary are the latest spanner in the works to SNP election pledges. In order to keep to their budget the already frozen level of recruitment now looks set to lead to a reduction in numbers contrary the Nats promise to increase the number of officers.

This would appear to be another situation of centrally holding purse strings and centrally setting targets that cannot be maintained by that provision.

Two Types of Campaigner

One thing I do like about by election campaigning that takes me out of my own territory is that you get to see the real style of other party's campaigners. Within the confines of West Lothian where I am a known face and each of the other parties activists are also known faces everyone is generally nice when you bump into each other.

However, on Saturday it was the tale of two very different groups from the same party in the space of a little over an hour. First off out in the Macedonia area of Glenrothes in the confusion of some rather confusing street numbering amongst the hedges just off the Roxburgh Road we bumped into a rather decent quartet who were friendly enough just to acknowledge us and our presence and the weather.

However, moving down to the Caskieberran area I came across a rather different story. Turning the corner at the foot of Ivanhoe Drive I met five SNP deliverers. I jokingly said, "Come on this ain't fair five against one." As my delivery partners George Lyon and his daughter where in neighbouring streets. After finding out I was a Lib Dem campaigner one of them shouted back at me, "Can I get your autograph, I've never seen a Lib Dem." Before going on about how he'd never met Tavish Scott etc.

Shame really that this obnoxious campaigner obviously doesn't do a lot of campaigning. Must have been his first time anywhere near an election or a count, or a hustings probably. However, I have meet some Nats. Once was greeted by name on the Dunfermline canvass trail by the Education Minister while Douglas Chapman greeted Willie Rennie. I'm also fortunate to have meet through campaigning locally many of Alex Salmond's old school friends and I know what some of them think of him, it's not all good for him.

However, I never would knock another campaigner while out delivering, canvassing, hanging from adjacent lamp posts or wherever. Shame that not everyone is of the same frame of mind, heaven knows what mood they would have been in if it had been raining.

The Tale of Two Debates

Both the student wings of the SNP and Liberal Democrats in under a week had their say in the SNP government's decision to raise the age of off-sales to over 21s. The SNPs youth tabled an ammendment to their parties motion while Liberal Youth Scotland proposed the motion that had an ammendment of additions from the Policy Committee.

As reported in the press over the weekend Friday's debate by the Nats changed from being about the policy to "one of delegate loyalty to the leadership". The Lib Dem debate meanwhile had stuck to the liberalism or rather ill-liberalism of several of the SNP proposals, the stigmatism of 18-21 year olds as well as separate supermarket queues.

It was hardly surprising that when loyalty became an added issue to the debate in Perth on Friday that the Scottish Youth for Independence amendment was defeated 191-130, whereas when only the policy was as stake in Edinburgh at the Lib Dems conference on the Saturday the amendment had a few more objectors but the motion was carried almost unanimously.

The Times may well have congratulated the SNP for allowing the youth wings amendment to be debated by the party hierarchy but when using Shona Robinson carried out the subtle change for the substance of the motion to confidence in the leadership was it really given a fair run?

Saturday, 18 October 2008

40 Women a Week

This is a pre-recorded posting, because I am actually be out and about in Glenrothes somewhere.

Right about now a symbolic 40 women will be wearing a t-shirt bearing the image to the left in a protest outside City Hall in Belfast. The reason for 40 is that is the number of women who currently wish to seek an abortion in Northern Ireland but have to travel to the mainland to do so.
They are protesting to have the law in Northern Ireland changed to bring it into line with the rest of the UK.
Let me lay a few things out straight. Should I personally, as I have in the past, face the question of a possibility that I may have fathered a child I would do all I could to make the choice that that child survives easier to be made. However, I know not everyone and every situation is going to look at the situation that way. Personally I would see myself as pro-life but I respect every woman's right to choose. It is all about choice and that i wholeheartedly support.
Being of a liberal mindset sometimes mean that you have to allow room to manoeuvre for a mind set that is not naturally you own. Which is why I hate the fact that so many from both sides what to make this situation so black and white when it is actually very grey. There should really be three camps, pro-choice, pro-life and somewhere in between where people are personally of one or the other persuasion but respect the right of the other camp to hold their views. In an ideal world that third camp would be full and the others empty, and doctors wouldn't be threatened and family planning clinics wouldn't be picketed and (often) young, scared mothers wouldn't be terrified of taking whatever action they wanted.
There is a petition to sign to support the law in Northern Ireland catching up with the 1967 Great Britain legislation. If you haven't already may I please ask that you consider signing it.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Nestlé, Heinz, Oxfam, Rigg, Graham - Throw the Lot in Linlithgow Loch

First there was powdered milk to babes (bad Nestlé).

Then homophobes dictating advertising policy (cowardly Heinz).

Then bottled milk to babes (bad Oxfam).

Now I'm seriously considering muting James Graham and Jennie Rigg in their ever more ludicrous bid to get into the Lib Dem Golden Dozen for week 42. I have nothing personally against either but a dunking in Linlithgow Loch might well be in order. Now I read and enjoy both their blogs but purleease give us a little break in the escalation of headlines.

So who ever has added caffeine to Jennie's beverage and whoever has pushed and who, what, which, when and where the idea in Mr Graham's that this week was the week Quaequam Blog! absolutely had to be in the Golden Dozen is beyond me.

This bit of Friday madness was reinstated at the request of one Yorkshire Lass

It's Official Ming and Tavish Backing Ros

Just announced on the I'm 4 Ros website is the news that the immediate past leader of the Lib Dems across the UK and current Scottish leader are backing Baroness Ross Scott for the post of Federal Party President.

Ming Campbell MP and Tavish Scott MSP back Ros
17 Oct 09:00

Sir Menzies Campbell MP and the newly elected Lib Dem leader, Tavish
Scott MSP have today both announced their support for Ros Scott for Federal
Party President.

Sir Menzies Campbell MP said:

"I urge every party member to look carefully at all the candidates and to
ask themselves what we want our Party President to do. I believe Ros Scott would
fulfil the role of President admirably. She has credibility, is well known in
the party, has senior political experience and is a person of good judgement."

Tavish Scott MSP said:

"This job may not feel particular relevant to members voting in Scotland -
but it is critically important who does this job for us. Ros has pledged to
listen and feedback- to ensure the Party in Westminster doesn't lose touch with
the party at large. I would like the reassurance of working with someone whose
instincts I trust, whose experience I value, and who I know is a good friend to
the Scottish Liberal Democrats."

Google UK Blown Off the Google Earth

Picture by Adrian Dennis/PA taken from The Times
It was just an ordinary Thursday. That is except that the woman's profile that once upon a time graced green bits of paper which appeared in people's wallets, before they were phased out for round gold coloured coinage, also graced the front page of the world's largest Internet search engine. For on this particular Thursday this octogenarian, and her even older husband, were just slipping down the road from their town house to visit the London HQ of the world's guide to well life, the universe and everything really. That was before they got home to find the place swamped with Olympic and Paralympic athletes, who said they'd just popped around for a nice cup of tea. Although she was rather proud that they seemed to have raided a fair proportion of all the gold in China.

When they got they dottery they were not showing a aptitude for mouse eye co-ordination that many younger people may be jealous of. However, when the Duke of Edinburgh was being shown images of Buckingham Palace just up the road he asked the whizz kids if they could show him their base at Belgrave House, 76 Buckingham Palace Rd, London, United Kingdom. Sadly all Google Earth could show him at that location was a hole in the ground, where the building had yet to be, it appears that His Royal Highness had uncovered a glitch in the fabric of the space google time continuum, no doubt one of the casually dressed members of staff, providing it wasn't assigned to the teaboy in error will have been putting that to right straight away.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Cloak and Dagger or Blog and Error?

Oh dear, it appears that Jeff may be learning an important lesson about political intrigue. When he posted this earlier. Somebody called Kate has pulled him up over the accuracy of some of the comments he posted about Malcolm Chisholm. He has offered to magnanimously post the other side of the tale if it is emailed to him, so no doubt I'll be back there later.

Jeff has said in his comments that he highly trusted the person who provided him with such tidbits. However, it is always worth either being able to verify the details from first hand experience or knowing that the person who provided the tidbits would indeed have access to such information. As an example I was certain enough about something recently before posting and nobody has denied that.

This is especially true at by election times. There are all sorts of rumours that fly around many of which I cannot be certain of and avoid writing up personally. Although being on the ground, seeing and hearing things in person, plus knowing the weight of reliability of some sources over others is a different matter altogether.

Another First Preference Posted Off for Ros

At about 5:50 this Thursday morning (yes some of us are up early) I dropped my envelope containing my vote for the Party President into a red, cylindrical box. I don't know it this particular icon of British street furniture is the closest to a Labour MPs office from which such a voting slip is being dispatched but it can't have very many competitors.

On this particular Thursday this Earthman got the hang of the voting system, unlike the bottom of Lembit's letter enclosed with the ballot, after all I'm Northern Irish so have to remember when placing a cross is the preferred voting system. A nice clear one went firmly in the centre of the bottom box, next to the name of Ros Scott, and a two into the box of the one above for Lembit Opik.

I must being getting an old hand at these internal elections, including wading through page after page for Federal Elections and interim peer lists, but I did quite like Jennie's excitement when she blogged about her first such vote earlier.

The Ego's Challenge to Tim'rous Beastie

Last May the ballot papers for Scotland listed one party as Alex Salmond's Scottish National Party. Well now that Ego has challenged the politician formerly known as the Tim'rous Beastie to a debate in the Glenrothes constituency.

Now I know as well as the next person that by elections are often seen as a snap shot of opinion on the government of the day, even more so when the government is defending the seat. But our system of democracy does not elect a Prime or First Minister directly and a by election is about the people selecting their representative in whatever place that governance is to take place. Therefore any debate should be about the people actually seeking the job. After all you would expect your union shop steward to go a take a job interview for you.

Also bear in mind that for this by election to Westminster it is the leader of the fifth largest party there (yes even Peter Robinson has more MPs than Alex) challenging the leader of the majority party to a debate. It shows that the Ego really is showing a continued lack of respect to the democratic principles of the country. He's slipping major issues through Parliament without consultation with MSPs, He's taking powers away from local authorities and now is taken the most bolden of steps in turning the grey area of personality politics from the shadows into the limelight.

Leave the hustings to the candidates Alex. Or does he know that Peter Grant is not the best candidate for the people of Glenrothes?

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Blog Action Day 08 - Poverty How Are Those Pledges Doing

It is Blog Action Day today. The theme this year is World Poverty seeing as this blog started with the Make Poverty History March it is like we've come full circle like we did on that glorious summer's day in 2005 but what has changed?

Sadly the gap between the world's rich and poor is still gaping.

25,000 people die every day of hunger or hunger-related causes. That is one person every three and a half seconds.

AIDS kills over 2 million people a year, that's one every 15 seconds with the toll highest in Africa. Despite what some on the religious right in America want to tell you many of these are children, who are often infected with the HIV virus during pregnancy or through breast-feeding.

22 countries pledged to give $195 billion a year to help fight world poverty. As little as 0.7% of their GDP. Only 5 countries are currently meeting that pledge Norway, Sweden, Luxembourg, Denmark and the Netherlands. Others have a schedule of between 2010 and 2015 to meet their pledge but Switzerland, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Japan and trailing behind USA have yet to schedule fulfilling their commitment.

Come on world we have to do better, quicker to make poverty history.

This Train will Call at ....Blackridge...

Good news for residents in Blackridge the Scottish Government has agreed funding for them to have a platform as part of the Bathgate to Airdrie railway reinstatement programme.

While the Scotsman may be heaping praise on Fiona Hyslop for this success I'm like to single out independent councillor Stuart Borrowman who actually really got this campaign going and was convener of PlatformBlackridge a group which had all party support. No doubt the council will pass the passing application for the station at a nod now and Blackridge can become better connected than it has been for years.

The people of Blackridge have for too long lived with a poverty in public transport provision, their needs often overlooked. This success for PlatformBlackridge will greatly benefit many in that community, along with the others already set to benefit from the new line. It is a great step forward.

If You Do Gordon You Owe Me a Pair of Shoes...

...and a few matches from my season (that's just for starters).

It has come to the attention of several Lib Dem Bloggers that there is speculation in the Evening Standard that Gordon Brown may be going to use his boost from Economic crisis to go again with the snap general election. This could turn the Glenrothes date from a by election into a General Election and send us all scurrying back to our own seats.

"Feverish speculation is sweeping Westminster that the PM could well go to the country to seek a mandate in the midst of the current financial turmoil. This could be an option if the PM is worried that we won't have recovered from the impending recession by 2010, the latest date on which he can go to the country.

"Some say the PM is being urged to call an election now by none other than his new comrade-in-arms Peter Mandelson. A general election traditionally takes place 17 days after it is formally announced so if the PM wanted it to coincide with the Glenrothes by-election on 6 November, then next Tuesday would be the moment."

Oh dear it would be the hand of Lord Voldemort of Foy and Hartlepool behind this. However, how does this tie up with Brown's own statement yesterday that he will join the by election fight in Glenrothes and encouraging his MPs and Peers to do likewise.

Surely using this crisis to call an immediate general election will reek of opportunism and the country may well see through it. Plus the markets will be looking for stability at this time as a sudden change could cause another sort of catastrophe. If he does decide to go to the country it would more likely be in the spring after a little stability may have been witnessed and he hopes people will see if he can handle things.

BTW the shoes are the pair that lost their tongue on me on Sunday and the football matches I'll take hopefully as SPL replacements for the same time next season when I was expecting to not be getting to every game in the lead up to a General Election.

Salmond Mantra the Same and Tippexing his Mistakes

I've just read that as the SNP head for their conference in Perth Alex Salmond is still churning out the same unaltered mantra:

"We have the talent, energy and ambition to match the success of
neighbouring, independent nations - indeed, independence is the natural state
for nations like our own."

Just which neighbour is he looking at.

To the North West we have Iceland still struggling on the verge of insolvency but being greatly aided by many countries, its Scandinavian cousins and the UK in the form of finances and business like Philip Green looking to buy up companies. So with the financial sector one of the key corners stones of Salmond's bid for independence shored up by money from the UK Scotland have matched Iceland that way.

To the South West we have Ireland who were the first EU country to break the ranks and insured deposits in all their banks for fear of losing one or two of them. Well I suppose Alex matched them, by promising to bail out his banks, from funds from a Scottish Central Bank he'd magicked out of thin air in an hour of need, with funds he'd promised for one bank proving insufficient for that one never mind the second bank that fell on hard times later.

To the East even Norway has had to seek loans from other countries to help out its financial sector and that even with its well established and substantial oil fund.

I'm glad that both Nick Clegg and Tavish Scott, ably assisted by Vince Cable of course, Have spotted the real need. This situation is well outside the control of any individual country. Salmond of course will point out that he made suggestions, well after Vince Cable mind, but he was unable to back them up, or get the scale of the problem anywhere near the right ball park with his on the hoof solution making. Then on last night's news Salmond was still blaming London Bankers for the failure of the Scottish banks. Just who was managing the asset and liabilities balances of HBOS and RBS then to make them some of the most vulnerable banks to the current scenario?

As for Alex Six point action plan.

1. Looking at capital projects that can be brought forward from the later years of
the parliament and introduced quickly, to stimulate construction and the housing

2. Maximising the effect of the Homecoming series of events for next year, acknowledging the importance of tourism as a driver for the Scottish
economy and using that to help other sectors.

3. Finding ways of improving advice to business and streamlining the planning process.

4. Boosting energy efficiency, particularly in vulnerable households.

5. Rolling out two pilot projects around the country to help the elderly claim maximum benefits.

6. Looking for additional measures to tackle fuel poverty.

Well it takes this crisis for Salmond to go greener with points 4 and 6 so that is too be welcomed. He's realised that his moratorium on capital projects is not going to be looked at well, of course things are now 16 months behind where they should have been, but glad he's brought that forward, good idea of Tavish's that.

As for point 3, does that mean he will be reinstating regional economic development which he centralised after taking power. Why is 5 only going to be 2 pilot projects rather than something that will help everyone permanently.

Two of his points appear to be correcting things he's done away with. Another two are things that other parties were crying out for at the end of last year beginning of this when fuel prices were soaring. One is timid.

As for the boast to tourism that is dependent on so many other factors like people worries about savings, maybe not taking overseas vacations as much etc, heavily dependent on world affairs over which no tourist destination can have absolute control, no matter how much of a draw when times are good.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Thanks to Tory Iain Dale

Well this morning the other Iain Dale's link to new blogs unearthed on Total Politics highlighted one that immediately grabbed my attention for Bo'ness Labour, this in turn led me to it's sister publication Grangemouth Labour.

While the Bo'ness seems more lively with some local stories posted both are ghosting the same input (but not since 24th September, and neither appear to have currently hit the MP's radar as they're not linked from his site.

I'm just posting about them here so I know where I have the links saved.

Lord Voldemort of Foy and Hartlepool

I see that further to my previous posting as well as Hartlepool the Lord Voldemort has taken the Barony of Foy as well as he stood clad in ermine yesterday. But just where is Foy in the county of Herefordshire and what is the new Baron's connection to it?

View Larger Map

You can try looking for it on Google maps but will find it just acrross the River Wye from Hole in the Wall, maybe this is the Lord's new source of money for property purchases. He owns or owned a cottage there apparently as you can see it is right next to Old Gore another politician who was destined to remain in the shadows and never assume the highest office. However, as it is within a large meander in the River it would be easily defendable by land, should he even need to.

However, it seems rather a sleepy place, well away from the preying eyes of muggles. No doubt somewhere that he could recuperate, regain his strength ready for another onslaught on the innocent.

Coffee Time Chat with Mister Viking Leader Part the First

As I typed yesterday the 4 of us the Lady Caron, Mister Pinkfish, Mister Stephen and myself found ourselves facing Mister Viking Leader over a cup of coffee or Earl Grey tea. Having long been a fan of the pachyderm school of blogging I was longing to get into my first political interview. However, I found myself a little tongue tied and left the asking of questions to my three human blogging friends.

The Party

He was asked by Mister Pinkfish how did he find his new role as leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats. Mister Viking Leader said it is what you make of it, but that he wasn't into playing all those Holyrood games he wanted to make a real change to the people of Scotland's lives by making things that actually affect them. It's why he is getting out from behind his desk at the Parliament to meet people in various constituencies, helping candidates and incumbents. He's also encouraging MSPs and councillors to do the same. We're a party that listens to the people and to do that we need to be out there to hear what is going on.

There was a question based on some recent discussions on the blogosphere about membership and the role of supporters. Mister Viking Leader seemed all in favour of some way of accounting for the supporters, those who don't actually join our party but are willing to support in numerous ways. He said that in Shetland a lot of what gets done in done by such people. There was also a question about lessons the party could learn from the Barack Obama Campaign. Again our leader emphasised that grass roots really does deliver as it has done time and again in Lib Dem history. There is the challenge in just how we can raise money. Yes we have a team trying to raise big donations but we need to grow our base and get membership up to help cover the running costs. He also said we had to look at how Barack had pitched to the students, we could learn from that as like him we have a lot to say to them. It was good to see more of Liberal Youth Scotland taking part in debates this conference as well.

He was asked why so much of our party appeared to be white men of a certain age and what we could do to increase diversity. Mister Viking Leader admitted that our party in Westminster and Holyrood did at times not appear to reflect the membership, or the country as a whole. He praised the work done by various groups within the party that sought to increase diversity in the pool of candidates both by ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation. But that we really needed to look still more and study new ways to encourage new people in and to put themselves forward for key, winnable seats to spread that diversity. However, we'd maintain a level of local party decision making in the process to find the best person and not impose ethnic or gender specific short lists to achieve some sort of balance.

Still to come...


...Local Authorities...

...some thoughts of Holyrood games... four important little words.

The Ballots are Coming

To all my fellow Lib Dems, (readers of other political persuasions may or may not wish to ignore this post)

You will shortly, if not already, be in receipt of your ballot paper for the election of the President of the Party. This is one of only two posts in the party that every member nationwide has a vote in the other being that of party leader so you vote does matter.

I'm backing Baroness Ros Scott and I'm not alone many of our best people are supporting her too. Vince Cable our economic expert, Chris Huhne who stood for the leadership the last two times, former Leader Paddy Ashdown, Shirley Williams and the man who did the job before Simon Hughes, Navnit Dholakia plus many, many more.

Some common thread seems to resonate with all the supporters who have given reasons for their support which echo my own reasons for backing her. She is going to commit to this role 100%, some she can do from the security of a seat in the upper house. She has the experience at all levels of our party and is going to use that to support the party from the grass roots up to the parliamentarians and leader. Also she is willing to use the role to act as a conduit between the membership and our elected representatives.

As her support at Scottish Conference was home based not imported like her main opponent she really has got a groundswell of support in her favour across the country.

She is by far the person best suited for the role as so many others are saying. If you haven't already visit her site and find out more.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Coffee with Mister Viking Leader

On Saturday the Lady Caron, Mister Pinkfish, Mister Stephen and myself sat down in Beanscene across the road from the Scottish Lib Dem conference venue with the new party leader Mister Viking Leader. The other three bloggers were so talkative I couldn't get an word in edgeways although I was dying to ask why he chose to wear an tie honouring the colour of that Westminster based dog.

Today however, is a Monday and Mister Stephen is having a stress filled day. So stressed filled indeed that he is unable to decipher his writing for long enough for me to write up the answers that Mister Viking Leader gave.

Why didn't I take the notes you ask? Well it's difficult for me to hold a pen in my paws.

Anyhoo Mister Stephen promises to have helped me out as soon as he has a free moment. But hearing the stressed sound of his voice not too long ago I wouldn't expect it imminentele emintiallllly soon*.

* Little lions should not attempt long words.

The Truth, The Half Truth, The Spun Nationalist Part

I was out delivering in Cowley Street yesterday. No not the Westminster one, this one is in Buckhaven, Fife and part of the Glenrothes constituency. But yes Lib Dem friends it did have number 4 and they did get the Lib Dem message of Harry Wills posted through their letter box.

However, I just loved the timing of the SNP postcard and its message that was going out over the weekend.

What the SNP tell you:

We have frozen Council Tax.

What they failed to mention:

At the same time we are asking you local council to do more and more. Provide access to a full time nursery teacher for all nursery child. Provide free school meals to every child in primaries 1-3. We've also appointed Ebenezer Swinney in charge of Holyrood's budget and he's not going to give you sufficient additional funding to pay for all this if any.
What the SNP tell you:

We will axe the council tax altogether.

What they fail to mention:

They want to do away with a local councils ability to raise their own finances, replacing it with a National Income Tax. They want to centralise all power at the centre, in their case Holyrood, in ways that surpass anything birthday girl Baroness Thatcher or NuLabour would have dreamed of. They want more power for Scotland but they don't want your council to maintain the power's it has had to best serve you on the ground for key local services.

Considering that just before the weekend COSLA was meeting due to the majority of councils realising that the concordat they were suckered into is being stretched beyond all limits by additional spending powers being heaped upon them by the Scottish Government, the timing of these messages must backfire. People will be seeing just that the Nats are saying, know exactly just what it ends up doing and doesn't lead to a lot of trust in what they will end up promising over the coming weeks.

Meanwhile on the Labour side as I navigated the Forth, Clyde, Tay, Tweed and Don and surrounding streets I did see my first signs, a handful admittedly, of Labour support. But just how can Lindsay Roy be a new voice for Buckhaven or Fife? Surely he is only a different person declaring the same tired, old, increasingly redundant Labour message? It's like John McCain advocating change hardly a new voice, just a different one singing from the same stained hymn sheet.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Markets Taking Another Hit

When I heard the news from Asia* on this morning's World Business Report on BBC1 at 5:30 this morning I was wondering and fearing just how the European stock markets would respond. Well currently all are at over 8% down on yesterday's close, with the FTSE 100 dipping below 4,000 for the first time in over 5 years. Although it did rally slightly after a sharp drop to a low of 3,955 on opening it has trended downwards again since about 8:30.

It appears that we are heading for recession, no matter what the Governemnts of the world seem to attempt to stem the tide. At some point the share markets should bottom out once the forced selling (to cover losses already accrued) comes to an end. Or at least that is what the markets are hoping for.

Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, has called for a global solution for this global crisis on this morning's Today programme. Backing up his call yesterday for all parties to support the Government's rescue plan.

*Japan taking its biggest one day hit since the 1987 crash. Australia and Hong Kong down over 8% Indonesian trading suspended still.