Thursday 30 March 2006

Hope of Livingston Shoppers Nightmare

Since the opening of the new ASDA/Walmart superstore in Livingston a few years ago. Access from the west end of Almondvale Boulevard has been a nightmare. Why the place was allowed to open with one access and exit road at a roundabout junction just behind West Lothian House remains a mystery.

However, there is hope. There is a new proposal to use Almondvale East Road which currently runs along the store and is inticingly freer of traffic than the Boulevard as a planned entry point to a new raised car park with 231 spaces. This may come as a releive to a number of local who have expressed concenr due to the nature of Livingston's shopping infrastructure. With all shopping being based in an around Almondvale Boulevard they don't venture into town on the weekends when the out of towners come to MacArthur Glen and some of the other superstores in the area.

Officials are proposing that councillors approve the new car parking scheme which should hopefully relieve some pressure from some of the bottlenecks around the shops.

Wednesday 29 March 2006

MP Finally Raises Issues of Pension Credits

It is good to see that Michael Connarty has finally caught on to the fact that pension credit is an issue.

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. I know that 6,000 of his constituents and 5,500 families in my constituency are in receipt of pension credit. However, there are two worrying things. During the election, it was the one issue that pensioners came to me to shake my hand on—although they do not do such things publicly in a gathering—and say that it had changed their lives and lifted them from poverty. First, is it not concerning that 1.2 million pensioners are not claiming their pension credit, the value of which is £1.6 billion?

Glad he is finally on board as those of us in the local Liberal Democrats first raised the issue back at the start of October.

Monday 20 March 2006

What Really Needs Cutting?

David Cameron is saying that cutting the number of MPs is the salvation of the secret loans and patronage for donations we currently face. This from a party that spent loads of money senting CD Roms to every household in some constituencies that realisitically they never had any chance of winning in May 2005, and in some of these direct mailing almost every conrrespondence they made as they did not have people on the ground.

I don't think he has looked at all the alternatives.

Firstly the problem is that these donations and loans have been made to his and the Labour in the expectation for a seat on the red leather benches of the House of Lords. So maybe we should lift the temptation from the people with the money. We should elect the Lords. That way there would be less incentive for people to give money to a party apart from the fact that it is for the good of the country rather for their own climb up hte social ladder.

If Mr Cameron is really concerned about the cost of electioneering maybe he should consider a proportional representation system. Still keeping the average constituents per MP the same but electing them in Multimember Constituinecies via proportional representation. Parties would not need to put up the same number of candidates in the same area, candidates could share literature costs when more than one from the same party is seeking election therefore reducing costs by ordering larger print runs. It might also allow the Conservatives to cut down on their direct mailing costs as they may actually have some party members in some of the seats they target who might actually be able to go out and deliver some leaflets personally.

However, I do think introdusing a reasonable the threashold on donations, and that includes loans, is a sensible suggestion from the Tories.

So therefore we need reform. Firstly get away from the age old problem of the Lords positions being granted by patronage. Elect them for set terms. Reform the commons electoral system in one fell swoop making it fairer and more economical. Finally introduce a limit on what can be given by indivuals, companies or organisations.

Three Golden Doubles

Before this Commonwealth Games the most golds that Scotland managed to win in the pool was 2 and the last time that was acheived was in 1974 when David Wilkie won both the Golds in question (200m breaststroke and 200m individual medley)

When Gregor Tait won one of the titles Wilkie won 32 years previously the, 200m individual medley, to add to his 200m backstroke title, he was just one of three Scottish swimmers in these games to match Wilkie in Scotland's most sucessful swim team ever.

Caitlan McClatchey having already been a surprise in the 200m freestyle took the title in her favoured 400m freestyle this morning. She had won bronze at this distance in the 2004 Athens Olympics. Yesterday, David Carry added the other individual medley title over 400m to his 400m freestyle crown to make it a Scottish 1-2 with Euan Dale in his wake.

Considering that Scottish team bosses said they were looking for 15 medals from these games I don't think anybody was expecting to find 10 of them coming from the pool.

Friday 17 March 2006

To the Bank of Tony

The Manager
Bank of Tony
10 Downing Street

Dear Mr Brown,

I understand that you have developed a new way of financing with hidden resources. These resources can be so cleverly hidden that not even the people with responsibilty for monitoring expenditure are aware that these sources exist.

Can you please advise how the rest of the country can benefit from these new loans? I am willing to create piers on Linlithgow Loch if it enables me to tap into this valuable resource.

Thursday 16 March 2006

MP Refused to Back Bad Idea

Well last night Michael Connarty, the MP for Linlithgow and East Falkirk and therefore my MP as well as my opponent from last May, maintained that the education reform that Ruth Kelly was proposing was a bad idea.

He voted against the bill and the government programme to implement it.

His first intervention in the debate was to ask David Willetts the Conservative, Shadow Education Secretary when he asked pointedly:

"Is it not significant that the areas with the deepest pits of failure are the areas that the Tories control, where grammar schools are prevalent?"

Then he asked John Denham, one of his Labour colleagues, to clarify this point for him:

"May I take my right hon. Friend back to his first comment about the worry that the White Paper would be a charter for the middle classes to take over independent trust schools? Nothing that he has said up to now has convinced me that that will not happen, and the local authorities will not have the power to prevent it."

Mr Denham agreed that the bill was perfect regarding safeguards he would have liked to have seen in the bill.

He tried a third time possibly to get his question answered but David Chaytor, who is a member of the education and skills committee, did not give way to him. Thus he joined the Liberal Democrats in the No Lobby twice.

Hardly surprising when you see one of the Times articles on the subject today showing the complete circular path that Labour have taken education reform since they came to power in 1997.

Pool of Gold for Scots

Caitlin McClatchey shocked Ozzie swim fans by lifting the first gold in the Aquatic Centre, Melbourne in the Commonwealth Games. Earlier in the day she broke the Scottish record for the 200m freestyle being the first Scottish Women to swim the distance under two minutes and was the fastest qualifier for the final. She was up against Libby Lenton who Australians were looking to win seven golds for the team.

Lenton went out strong and was leading at the last turn, however the sprinter from Australia was overhauled in the last 50 metres by the 400m specialist from Scotland to take the first swimming Gold in a time of 1:57.51 a Games Record.

A second Scottish Gold came soon after in the men's version of McClathcey's favoured event the 400m freestyle. David Davies of Wales who is expecting gold in the 1500m event was leading for the first half of the race. However, as the Welshman faded in the closing stages David Carry of Scotland and Canadian Andrew Hurd took to the front. However, the Scot prevailed in a time of 3:48.17.

On the velodrome Chris Hoy could only manage bronze this time behind Ben Kersten AUS and Jason Queally ENG. However, it still means that Scotland are second in the medal table with only Australia ahead with 3 golds.

Meanwhile it looks like the guys I used to play against of play in tournaments with regularly, the Northern Irish bowlers, are off to a good start. Hopefully a few Northern Irish medals will be coming from the green again this Games.

Wednesday 15 March 2006

All Together Now! Well Not Quite.

Well it looks like the MSPs may soon be beeming with delight as bus trips up the Royal Mile to debates at the Hub will come to an end soon. However, instead of walking into the debating chamber they will have to put their towels out early on the 90 available chairs in Committee Room 2.

If all MSPs were to turn up to a debate the last 39 of them will not be able to be seated in the room and have to watch on TV screens in an adjacent room. Also it will not be possible for all the MSPs to have a voting button with their chair in Committee Room 2 so additional ones will have to be set up in the ante room.

In a city like Edinburgh surely there is some room available that is big enough to fit all 129 MSPs into so that they can all take part in the debate and instead of having to get up and stand, walk to another room and stand at the back in the hope of intejecting can simply rise in their place. Any way it will make for interesting viewing on the politics shows next few weeks/months/years [delete as applicable].

Tuesday 14 March 2006

How Voluntary are Passports?

The Labour government are saying that asking passport renewals to get an ID card does not make it compulsory. But just how voluntary are passports.

OK if you don't want to travel overseas you don't need one. But with most internal flights being ticketless these days people are required to provide some form of photo ID either passport of driving licence. So I will need one to travel over to Northern Ireland to see my family for weekend visits etc.

I've just forwarded my mail having moved house. I had to provide two utility bills and my passport as ID.

I'm sure there are other criteria and occassions when a passport is acceptable ID, by itself, at present so why now do the governmnet insist that passports are volutary they already have far wider use than merely being to travel abroad. I hope the Lords stand up to the Labour Government in the Commons again following last nights further rejection of their reforms agaisnt this compulsion by stealth.

Edinburgh Seeking to Offer Writers' Refuge

Edinburgh became the first UNESCO City of Literature so it is only fitting that now seeking to become a city of refuge for persecuted writers and their families.

It would join a network of other locations within Western Europe, North and Latin America, when the writer is given leave to stay and contribute to the live of their sheltering community. The city is hoping to have this status made official in time for this August's International Book Festival.

Monday 13 March 2006

Something Rotten in the Region of Lothian

According to the Sunday Herald things are not all happy and light in the SNP camp in the Lothian region. Surprisingly the same thing happened about 4 years ago when it came time to select their regional list for the Scottish Parliament elections. The end result then was that Margo MacDonald, a sitting MSP, was selected too low on their list, resigned and got elected as an indepent fighting for Scottish independence.

This time it appears that Fiona Hyslop has been receiving emails (unsolicited she claims) that could be miscontrued as breaking her parties rules regarding selection, especially if the initiative originated with her. Something she is denying strongly. However, the West Lothian devide between Linlithgow and Livingston is also involved in the article. As a sitting MSP Fiona would obviously be considered a serious contender by any party including her own.

However, Livingston general election and by-election candidate Angela Constance, who has years of West Lothian Council experience, has been branded an also-ran by the schemer behind Margo's defection Calum Cashley, who political experience amounts to working for an MSP; Ms Hyslop in fact.

Strangley, Alex Salmond said of Angela:

Angela Constance is a trusted and effective local councillor. Her commitment to Scotland and the community where she lives is absolute. She is the only candidate who can beat Labour.

The article doesn't mention how many men are in the running for the Lothian list but only two women, the West Lothian duo are mentioned, the others appear to be Edinburgh based, where the SNP have no councillors. Might be a case of Edinbugh centerist policy, or maybe straight forward sexism at work here.

Education for a Former Educator

Will Howells mentions an article in today's Gruaniad. Why should two Scottish bloggers mention this article about an English Education bill, ie a devolved issue in Scotland? Because this Scottish MP has made this comment.

"I think Ruth Kelly has done a wonderful job with a very, very bad idea, but it’s still a bad idea."

So Michael Connarty, my MP, is not sitting on the fench on this devolved issue. He clearing is coming down still on the side of manure. As a former teacher he may well have a thing or two to say about education. However, will he vote? Will he vote against? I know the Labour whips will be looking for his continued almost unstinting support. Looking at his commnets though I wouldn't be too sure they have it.

Go Sledging On Devine

Well with the weekend blizzards and snowdrifts clearing it was not as bad getting to the bus stop as it was getting to the shop for the papers yesterday morning. However, I came into work today wearing my hiking boots, as there are reports of more snow this afternoon and I need to get back to my flat.

One upshot appears to be one more Jim Devine election poster has finally come down. This one was stationed opposite the exit from St. John's hospital and was present on Friday only about 2 feet off the ground. I can only surmise that either the blizzard conditions whipped it off this lamppost or, what is probably more likely, it was requisitioned by resourceful young people for use as a sledge. I just hope they had a good time sledging on that oversized election poster.

Friday 10 March 2006

Ladyman Misleading Over Transport Police

According to Liberal Democrat Transport Spokeman Alistair Carmichael the Transport Minster Stephen Ladyman has been telling porkie pies over the number of police manning our roads. Last night on newsnight Ladyman said:

"The number of roads police has increased substantially in recent years."

However, new figures show that road traffic police numbers in England and Wales have actually declined by 5% since 2000. This will have As Alistair Carmichael said:

"Traffic police cannot be replaced with speed cameras or other automated systems.

"Though speed cameras have a crucial role to play, an over reliance on them at the expense of traffic police will not improve road safety."

However, over reliance on them would seem to should speedster Ladyman fine. As we found out yesterday, he can detect speed cameras but he can't detect speed cops quite so easily.

Bing Set to Go

Before fellow Lib Dems accuse my headline having a typo, or being offensive to the new leader let me explain for non-mining folk.

A bing is a heap of spoil left over after mining, it is also the uppermost stratum of coal. The ammount of pressure on this can cause the coal residue to ignite and release pollutants into the environment.

One of the bings at Polkemmet Colliery, Whitburn is such a burning bing. Having lived in Whitburn I can tell you that on some night you can smell the pollutants

So over 20 years after the Polkemmet Colliery closed in 1985 the burning bing is set to be removed as the next stage of the Heartland redevelopment in Whitburn. This is actually a great example of brown field development as as well as providing new housing it is dealing with the envirnmental issues in the area at the same time.

Thursday 9 March 2006

Faster Than a Speeding Bullet

The only reason the Transport Minster, Stephen Ladyman, or anyone else needs a speed camera detector is surely to slow down from travelling at illegally high speeds. Surely? Or am I just being naive?

Therefore if the Transport Minster is an habitual speed fiend should he be in charge of Transport policy? Isn't that a conflict of interests?

Wednesday 8 March 2006

Poor Out of Touch Prime Minister

The poor Prime Minister is being kept out of the loop by his press office and his civil servants. Cherie must not be allowing him to watch the news on TV, however as a civil rights lawyer I doubt that and she would be aware of this particular case I'm sure. So maybe Leo has his hands on the remote.

The reason I have come to this conclusion is that when asked by Alex Salmond at PMQs this afternoon about the Shirley McKie case, something that has been rumbling on for longer than Tony has be the Prime Minister, he knew nothing about it.

ON the other hand maybe there is an alternative theory. Maybe Scotland reaslly is Gordon's personal domain and he only lets Tony in on a need to know basis. Maybe Mr. Blair also doesn't know that the new MP for Dunfermline and West Fife is a Lib Dem. Come on Gordon fess up.

Latest Round of Musical Chairs

Today's frontbench announcements from Sir Menzies Campbell have a larger number of personal links to my life.

Sarah Teather (whose constituents I used to work for at the Social Security Agency) has been made Shadow Education Secretary.

She replaces Ed Davey (whose constituency I used to live, study and work in) who moves to Trade and Industry.

Jo Swinson (who as a fellow Scot I keep running into or more to point during campaigns just miss) becomes the Scottish Spokesperson.

And Susan Kramer (who for an enjoyable few minutes I stuffed Dunfermline Blue Letters with) takes the role of International Development.

All of this updated here before the party website swings into motion.

New Scot on the Block

What with the move last week and not having broadband, or for that matter a PC at home, I've been absent from my blog for the last week. So I'll try to make amends.

While I was away it appears that my friend and Scottish colleague Alex Cole-Hamilton has started his own blog. Today he looks at the impending smoking ban, or more to the point one leading hotel chain trying to delay it at the last minute. Concerned, or so their argument goes, more for children outwith their control than for employees within it.

I'm sure Alex will have some very succinct comments to make over the next few months as we in Scotland head towards our Parliamentary and council elections in 14 months times.

Thursday 2 March 2006

Whoops BBC!

His (Menzies Campbell) first challenge as party leader will be to rally activists at the party's spring conference in Harrogate at the weakened.

Update looks like they responded to my pointing this out to them. At least it is here for posterity.

We Are Led...Officially

Our votes have been counted and verified. Lib Dem House this is Davina please do not swear.

Well Ming did better than a lot of better expected on the first ballot. The Simon’s second preferences were als0 heavily in his favour 6433 to 4937. Leaving 700 of Simon’s supporters not giving a second preference.

Menzies Campbell 23,264 45%
Simon Hughes 12,081 23%
Chris Huhne 16,691 32%

Menzies Campbell 29,697 58%
Chris Huhne 21,628 42%

Turnout 52,036 72% (1999: 62%)

I guess after I Spy Paddy, and Chatshow Charlie we move into the Ming Dynasty. Now lets get ready to rumble in the electios in May in England and whatever else crosses our path before then.

High Turnout For Leadership Election

With just about an hour to go before the Liberal Democrat Leadership Election result is announced we know thatturnout is 72%. This is up 10% since the last election in 1999.

As I posted yesterday I’m not sure that a high turnout will help Chris Huhne as a lot of the non-political anoraks in of the party will have turned out to vote. I said this may have suited Simon and may mean that against early expectations, from a large number of people, and survive the first round of ballots which then leads into interesting ground. After all you have to be in it to win it at the last stage.

Anyway we’ll know soon enough.

Education or Manure

One advatange of having google news alerts is that certain events or mentions of people come to your attention that you amnaged to miss.

For example today I was surprised to find that my new neighbour, well his office is just around the corner, Michael Connarty's name appeared in the Graunaid. Mind you it was only in his capacity as Chair of the Tribune group and not for any comment he himself made.

However, with one member of the group saying of the education bill:

'I may vote against, I may abstain, I may hold my nose and support it.'

If my MP wants to pop around the corner when he is town for his surgery on Saturday I'll be more than happy to lend him the required clothes peg, unless he is preparing to vote against or abstain that is. However, he may be part of Labour's Scottish coral to save Tony having to rely on the Tories to pass English eduication legislation. How times have changed for Linlithgow's representative in Westminster.

Confuddled Journalism

You have to feel sorry for Scotsman political correspondent Gerri Pevi. He wrote today that he finds the Liberal Democrat's three candidate leadership election AV voting system complicated.

Maybe he would do well to look at the Electoral Reform Society explanations of the various systems or he may just find himself out of a job before Scotland as a whole goes to the polls again. Failing that he may have to seek alternative employment within the paper.

Sadly he won’t be able to move into sports journalism, if he can’t get this election betting will be beyond him. As for scoring in cricket or rugby or football’s offside rule, well he has no hope there. Cooking might be seen as a soft option however, he’d have to work out measures in either American or European measures. At least he might be able to be a restaurant correspondent unless he had to work out his own bill for claiming expenses from The Scotsman.

On second thoughts maybe Mr Pevi is merely trying to add to the doubts of the system that his paymasters possess. They do not want to see fair elections and a fair electoral system, that is until they provide more representation for their Tory cronies.

Wednesday 1 March 2006

My Predictions

For some reason I’ve been unable to post my predictions on the Apollo Project. So now that voting has closed here are my predictions.

1. Total number of votes cast 68%:

2. First preference votes cast for Ming Campbell 36%:

3. First preference votes cast for Chris Huhne 31%:

4. First preference votes cast for Simon Hughes 33%:

If no candidate scores 50%+ on the first round, the candidate with least 1st preferences will be excluded, and their 2nd preferences re-distributed accordingly.

What do you think will be the result in this final round? (Tip: put 0% next to whichever candidate you think will lose in the first round.)

5. Second round votes cast for Ming Campbell 49%:

6. Second round votes cast for Chris Huhne 0%:

7. Second round votes cast for Simon Hughes 51%:

My reasons for this prediction is that a number of the electorate have probably not been engaged by other polling sources and will go for the names they know, sorry Chris. Only if the turnout is less than 50% which I doubt will be the case to I think Chris will have swayed enough active members to eliminate Simon on first round.

A Piece of History

Roll up. Roll up. Get your piece of by-election history on e-bay.

A signed Win with Willie Rennie corex diamond.