Saturday 30 August 2008

Just Who's For Eating Humble Pie?

In the 2005 General Election the Lib Dems in Scotland stood on getting 1000 more police on the streets. I remember it well as I erroneously gave the break down of these stats for Lothian and Borders at the hustings in Bo'ness when of course I should have given Central Scotland figures: only to have Michael Connarty correct me. So of course I fully support any increase in police officers that the SNP can manage.

However, the SNP when elected last May also promised 1000 more police for Scotland. They claimed they would do this by the end of this parliament. However yesterday when it was announce that there were either 118 or 74 additional officers the SNP spin machine has changed their definition in their target to recruits not additional officers:

"In addition to the 150 additional recruits which were recruited in 2007/08, a
further 450 additional officers will be recruited by the end of this financial
year, 200 additional officers in 2009/10 and 200 in 2010/11. This will bring the
total number of additional recruits to 1,000 over the life of this Parliament."

But hang on same statement does acknowledge that:

"We inherited the lowest recruitment since devolution with many officers due to
retire. We've tackled that challenge head on, and although these latest figures
are reassuring, there remains much work to be done."

and goes on to say:

"We have set out plans to deliver a more visible policing presence on Scotland's
streets and make an additional 1,000 officers available in our communities. We
are not just delivering on this but going substantially beyond, by also looking
at recruitment, retention and redeployment."

Well no doubt the Nats will take whichever thousand they want to as they have mixed up the two willy nilly through this statement of course redeployment may well meet a target of 1000 extra officers available in our community. Part of the Lib Dem pledge in 2005 was to do away with a lot of the red tape, provide better resources to free up more police time for them to be out on the beat. However look at what the Nats actually promised last May (page 58):

"That’s why we will set out plans in our first Budget for Scotland for 1000 more
police and will encourage Chief Constables to focus these new resources on
community policing."

There it is in black and white 1000 more police, not 1000 recruits, not 1000 more on the streets and actual increase of 1000 officers. Bearing in mind that in 2008/9 271 officers will reach retirement age and some 708 more before 2010/11. That's 900 officers that cannot be retained or redeployed leaving a net gain on the promise of 1000 recruits to be about 100 by the end of this parliament or 10%.

So when a spokesman for the Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill says:

"Labour and the Liberal Democrats are going to have to eat a big slice of humble
pie now that police numbers have increased to record levels – well over 100
above the position we inherited from them."

Maybe they should dig out their own recipe, check out exactly on off target their promises are and find out just what the facts are.

Friday 29 August 2008

Which Slice of History for America?

Well one way or another this year's US Presidential Election is going to go down in history. Either we're going to see the first African-American occupant of the Oval Office in Barak Obama or we're going to have the first lady elected Vice President as John McCain has unveiled Alaska Governor Mrs Sarah Palin as his running mate.

Palin is only the second woman to feature on the big two parties tickets since Geraldine Ferraro was named as Walter Mondale's Democratic running mate in 1984, the same year the then Miss Sarah Heath was runner up in the Miss Alaska pageant. Alaska has been in the Red Republican came at every Presidential election since 1964 so he state, although being contested by Obama is no the reason for he presence. However, it is a cunning ploy to reach out to disheartened women voters after Hillary Clinton failed to secure the Democratic nomination. Also seen as a attempt to steal a little of Obama's thunder for a place in history.

She also has relative youth when compared with Senator McCain she 44 to him celebrating his 72nd birthday today, also making her three years younger than the Democratic Presidential nominee. However, seeing as McCain is attacking the inexperience of his opponent, is leaving someone with 4 years (1992-96) of service on Wasilla, City Council (population 5,470 in 2000), the last as mayor, and 2 years of Gubernatorial experience one heartbeat away from the Presidency going to cut his attacks on that tack? That will be interesting to see over the weeks ahead.

Should He Stay or Should He Go?

To Glenrothes that is.

Yes it appears that the Tim'rous Beastie's cabinet are urging him to break away from Prime Ministerial convention and actually campaign in the Glenrothes by-election. Having taken the barbs of a Scottish Prime Minister staying away from the Glasgow East by election it appears that cabinet colleagues would rather as he is in the neighbourhood, i.e. his own constituency next door, do a little campaigning for the headteacher of his old school.

After all what is worse as one cabinet minister told the Times:

"Gordon got the flak for Glasgow East even though he did not go there. He is
going to get the flak for Glenrothes even though he goes and we lose. He might
as well go."

Oh dear, this from a party that hasn't seemed in recent years to be too keen to use their party leader's images on election literature too much either. So Gordon which flak are you prepared to take? It's up to Gordon, you decide.

Obama Stands Up To McCain

Yeah I'll admit I had my figurative anorak on as I sat in my bathrobe in the early hours watching Barak Obama's speech accepting the Democratic Party's nomination last night. Boy did he hit it to John McCain on a number of fronts.

He reminded McCain that Rossevelt and Kennedy were Democrats neither of whom were soft on homeland or overseas security. He also reminded him that Democrats are serving on tours of duty and are as patriotic as their Republican colleagues.

He also after laying out the sacrifices his family members made to ensure he had a good education to get where he was as a change to hit out at the charges of being a celebrity that have been aimed at him. As well as tackling McCain's definition of the middle classes earning less than $5 million.

He also laid out just what he meant by change. Giving tax breaks to the lower pair, providing world class education and health care to all. He noted that over 90% of the time McCain had voted with Bush and his view of change was only a 10% chance and not on the big important issues.

All in all it was a message that was taking the campaign to the next stage, prepared to take on McCain and prepared to take charge from day one once he gets into the White House.

Thursday 28 August 2008

The Glenrothes Marathon

The Scotsman today is warning party activists across Scotland to carbo-load, take plenty of fluids and pace themselves as it seems that senior Labour officials are tired of being beaten in a sprint are taken on a longer distance for the Glenrothes by election.

As has been mentioned in various Scottish blogs in recent weeks it appears that two dates are being looked at for polling in the election caused by the death of John MacDougall, 30 October or 6 November. Labour are also set to name their candidate next Monday with Kirkcaldly High School Headteacher Lindsay Roy allegedly leading the pack, sick notes may yet be handed in to the Glenrothes party.

Mr Brown was up on Fife yesterday but was dealing with constituency business in Cowdenbeath and Kirkcaldy. While one Labour aide has been quoted in the Herald as saying "We have to look at this seat as hostile territory."

Another Day Another List

Well yet another day when I turned straight away to Iain Dale's Diary as today he revealedTop 50 LibDem Blogs. After just mising out of the top 10 in the Scottish Top 40 yesterday I wasn't sure what to expect today. However I'm sitting there quite impressively at number 15 behind Lib Dem Voice understandably, a Baroness, a MP, an AM and a cuddly elephant.

1. LibDem Voice
2. People's Republic of Mortimer
3. Norfolk Blogger
4. Quaequam Blog
5. Liberal England
6. Lynne Featherstone MP
7. Millennium Dome Elephant
8. Peter Black AM
9. Love & Liberty
10. Liberal Burblings
11. Cicero's Songs
12. Because Baronesses Are People Too
13. Neil Stockley
14. Jock Coats
15. Stephen's Linlithgow Journal

Scanning down looking for the other Scots:

28. Fraser Macpherson
32. Anything Caron Can Do (Strangley ommitted from yesterday's Scottish list sorry Justified Spinner it appears you may be 41st after all)
42. Sound of Gunfire (The spot I would have preferred if not so high)
44. Caron's Musings

10% is not a bad showing by the Scots in the Top 50. So once again thanks to all who voted for me and to Iain for his compilation duties.

Wednesday 27 August 2008

What do the Other Parties Really Think?

Well the other parties in Scotland had been writing off the Lib Leadership Election as an irrelevance but it is interesting in some of their statements just what they really think. As I'm currently reading Barak Obama's 'The Audacity of Hope' one thing that is equally apparent in US as well as UK politics is that you don't use negative campaigning unless you are worried and in a tight fight. Obama had eased into the Senate when the Republican campaign imploded around him in Illinois and he didn't get the barbs many of his colleagues had throw at him.

Therefore in the first 24 hours of Tavish Scott's leadership witness the following:

First up is Murdo Fraser the Tories Deputy Leader who said:

"We congratulate Tavish on his election as the LibDem leader.

"He will have a tough job as he takes over the reins of Scotland's
fourth party, especially since Scottish politics is now a three-horse

Of course Murdo is only looking at one contest for that of the MSPs, the Tories on the same day where fourth in the number of councillors elected, whilst the Lib Dems were second only to Labour in the number of councils they had some control over. Indeed the most recent Scottish opinion poll also showed that the Tories had sunk back to fourth place. Surely we can put this down to the wishful thinking of 'a thoughtless man' which is why he was given the job of making the statement not Annabel 'cuddly' Goldie.

According to Kezia Dugdale the Nats have been even more cutting by saying:

"Congratulations to Mr Scott on taking on the leadership of the Liberal
Democrats. With such a small membership and so little support for the Liberal
Democrats Tavish Scott faces an uphill task with polls showing few people know
who he is. The LibDems have voted for more of the same in an invisible election
for an invisible man. Tavish Scott is responsible for their dire election
results and their catastrophic decision to reject a coalition."

Oh dear Nats man speaks with barbed tongue. Even the first line of the above reeks of foul spirit the phrase taking on used instead of being elected to gives the onerous feel that this is heavy or thankless burden. Then goes on to attack those people who actually take time to be members of ANY political party, including their own, in a time of declining memberships. I hope members of all parties are as riled by that slight as I was upon reading it. I know that in my local party membership isn't everything as we have many supporters who always vote for and help us who aren't members of the party, doesn't make them any less important to us than members when it comes to elections and votes in the ballot box.

As for Tavish and the election being invisible with a lot of the political media, including Brian Taylor, taking a holiday first one and now a second Westminster by election. In what would normally have been an empty summer silly season other things have preoccupied the press doesn't make this contest invisible nor the winner, to take a leave out of Iain Duncan Smith's book the Nats had better beware the presence of an invisible man.

As for rejecting a coalition talk with the Nats it does take two to tango. I admit I think we were wrong not to enter into talks with the Nats but if those talks had gone ahead would have given leeway on the referendum on independence. Looking at the mule like stubbornness they have taken over a gamult of policies as they try and wade them through Holyrood I think it is clear that they would not. Maybe the Lib Dem leadership knew that the talks would stall and weren't prepared to waste time on a needless journey which the Nats would probably still have spun in their own favour anyway.

I have to ask the Nats why this sort of statement, until you look at that anagram Nats y = nasty. Alex Salmond is the master of the put down at First Minister Questions so much so that he often avoids any answers yet still earns plaudits. Without any second chamber such as the Lords in Westminster to question the government this is the only opportunity yet he fails to be open to scrutiny. They have been putting everyone else down at every opportunity yet still try and reach out to them as they need support at the same time. Bullying and cajoling may give you short term supremacy in the schoolyard but eventually when you get out into the world and have to achieve you need the support of others. If the Nats keep this up others will see them from just what they are bullies who will take their ball back if we don't play by their rules and let their goals stand.

If Martin Luther King had had a Spreadsheet: Where Next Tavish?

Yesterday Tavish Scott did win the nomination to be leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats with 59% of the vote. From where I was sitting he was advocating a great deal of continuity, had the backing of most, though not all, of the establishment of MPs and MSPs etc in Scotland. However, 41% a sizable minority, did still vote for the other two candidates who advocated some sort of change in approach. Ross Finnie said that the party had lost its narrative and Mike Rumbles went further to start to lay out where that narrative had started to take us and where it may lead.

One thing that did come out of the hustings I attended in Edinburgh and possibly in other elsewhere was a general sense of disappointment in the party leadership worrying too much about minutiae and forgetting to look at the big idea. Everybody still remembers the big Lib Dem idea about a penny on income tax for education which ran for a number of General Elections. In 2005 there was Freedom, Fairness and Trust the main thrust of which were a local tax passed on ability to pay, opposition to the war in Iraq, and spreading many of the Scottish implemented policies for students, pensioners and eye and dental checkups to the rest of the UK. All big ideas coming from a liberal heart and not from some spreadsheet costing what was achievable.

Imagine Martin Luther King's famous I have dream passage from his speech had been hit upon by guys with slide rules limiting his aims. See the following memo he might have received changes by the number crunchers in italics:

I have a dream that 2.75 of my four little children will for at least one day live in a nation where they will not 66% of the time be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that there will be one day ever week, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little 54% of black boys and 67.3% of black girls will be able to join hands with 62.3% of little white boys and 72.5% of white girls as sisters and brothers, 10.6% of all will still be ostracised due to sexual orientation but that's a different matter.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every 83% of valleyies shall be exalted, and every
94% of hills and 76% of mountains shall be made low, the 62% of rough places will be made plain, and the 43% of crooked places* will be made straight less crooked**; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."

*need to set more realistic and achievable crime targets.
** can't use the word straight as it might offend a certain minority you know what we're saying.

You see it doesn't quite have the same impact as the original narrative. It's all fine an well know the numbers setting targets for achievability but they should not put a restriction on the goals you set out and the dreams you have of where you want to see our world go. In recent years both The Orange Book: Reclaiming Liberalism and Britain after Blair: A Liberal Agenda were books of ideas from our party's heavyweights.

Being Liberal Democrats of course not everybody agreed with every vision set out in both books but this was blue sky thinking laid out there. People searching for ways to move the Liberal narrative forward. Numbers, finance restrictions etc weren't the thinking in these narratives they were merely setting the goals. Today ASwaS does mockingly look back at the hours of PE in schools disaster of 2006 but he's right in a way. The idea was great, the execution of the minutiae taking centre stage was a disaster.

Tavish needs to formulate and articulate our narrative much in the way that both the American Presidential candidates or Alex Salmond have done successfully. Our vision, our ideals are relevant to Scotland possibly more so now than ever before, as others attempt to imitate, we need to get that out there fresh, move it forward to the next stage not get bogged down to much in our presentation in the details of how we'll achieve it. But empower the electorate with our dream for a liberal, democratic and forward looking, moving and thinking Scotland.

Just Outside the Top Ten

Yeah it was just like Christmas Day the first site I looked at when I logged on was Ian Dale's to see the Top 40 Scottish Blogs. After being in Iain Dale's first Top 100 Lib Dem Blogs in 2006 before dropping of the edge of the blogosphere last year I was interested to see how my return shaped up. Well I was just pipped out of the top ten at eleventh so thanks for the votes readers and Iain for compiling the lists yet again.

The ten the beat me were:

  1. Tom Harris MP
  2. Mr Eugenides
  3. SNP Tactical Voting
  4. J. Arthur McNumpty
  5. Kezia Dugdale's Soapbox
  6. Scottish Tory Boy
  7. Ideas of Civilisation
  8. The Two Doctors
  9. Scots and Independent
  10. Adam Smith was a Socialist

All worthy of a being in there I reckon though a little disappointed that the excellent Ideas of Civilisation was only 7th. Glad to say I'm not the only Lib Dem in the Top 40, only the highest placed, especially as Scottish Tory Boy did erroneously state earlier in the year there were none in Scotland.

22. Fraser Macpherson

26. Anything Caron Can Do

29. Sounds of Gunfire

30. Caron's Musings

35. Katy Gordon

36. Andrew Reeves

All join me in the melee. While the BBC's own Brian Taylor only manages to be the 15th best Scottish Political blog, which even though one of the better blogs by someone in the mainstream media does show that the 'independent' bloggers can carry more oomph or clout than the MSM can partially because they can be partisan or non-partisan in a harder edged way than others can be.

Tomorrow we'll find out how the Top Scottish Lib Dem Blog fairs in the Top 50 Lib Dem Blogs.

Updated: On releasing the Lib Dem list it was apparent that Iain Dale had left Anything Caron Can Do... off the Scottish list. He has corrected it on his website but will sadly not be corrected in print as this has gone to the printers.

Tuesday 26 August 2008

And the Winner is...

Contrary to rumours which Jeff at SNP Tactical voting was starting to circulate Mike Rumbles is not the new leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats. That honour with 59% of the first preference votes goes to Tavish Scott. Ross Finnie was second with 21.3% with Mike Rumbles on 17.9%.

On a 61% turnout of party membership I hope that the winner does take onboard some of the issues and discussions raised by his opponents in taking hte party forward.

Harry Wills for Glenrothes

No I'm not saying the sons of Prince Charles will be contesting the upcoming Glenrothes by election, Harry Wills is to be the Lib Dem candidate.

Harry is a former former Chamber of Commerce Business Man of the Year who had stood for the Glenrothes North, Leslie and Markinch ward last May as well as being a Mid Scotland and Fife list candidate for Holyrood in 2003. Speaking following his selection he said:

"I will be a full-time MP for this area, living and working in its
communities and fighting to safeguard local services.

"Local people are feeling let down by Gordon Brown's Labour government
that is out of touch and has forgotten the people of Fife.

"Many local people were hit by the Labour government when they doubled
the 10p tax rate, whereas the Liberal Democrats are planning to cut the basic
rate of income tax."

Labour have yet to name their candidate or when they expect to call the

Iain Dale's Blog Meme

I've seen this new meme from Iain Dale floating around but am quite impressed by how quickly it was before Scottish Tory Boy tagged me yesterday. Basically it asks where you were when five earth shattering events took place.

Iains were:

Princess Diana's death - 31 August 1997 Like Iain I was in my bed when it happened, but had fallen asleep with the TV on BBC1 in my bedroom. So woke up to see live and continuous news coverage from outside Buckingham Palace only referring to her and her death. I didn't hear a name as soon as I woke up. I thought it was the Queen Mother who had died so ran downstairs to find my father awake eating his breakfast watching the same news. Only to be told by him it was Diana not the Queen mother that had died.

Margaret Thatcher's resignation - 22 November 1990 I actually was in my 10 o'clock lecture at the time that my lecturer started by saying suppose Margaret Thatcher's government, nope can't say that now. He's been having a fine time in saying suppose government policy is this, by the end of this lecture it might be for a while.

Attack on the twin towers - 11 September 2001 I was at my desk on Queen Street when the bosses came in to tell me about this one. The BBC website was impossible to access at the time. With friends in New York I was desperately trying to find out how they all where though.

England's World Cup Semi Final v Germany in - 4 July 1990 I was in London on the way through to Spain, with friends 3 were English, 1 was German and 2 of us were Northern Irish. Me and the other Northern Irish guy said we were backing the team who deserved to be in the Semis an after the English performance against Cameroon that was the Germans. I can remember leaving immediately after the game to get my bus home and how dead the streets were for that time of night. And those people I did see out and about were in a stupor having also just witnessed the result no doubt.

President Kennedy's Assassination - 22 November 1963 I was not born for this one.

As far as earth shattering events go I'd rate Diana's death and the attack on the Twin Towers definitely in my top 5 in my lifetime. So My top 5 needs another 3.

Black Wednesday, Britain's Interest Rates shoot up then withdrawal from the ERM - 16 September 1992. I was writing my dissertation at the time listening to Radio 4 and getting all the updates. The dissertation title was "The Effects of an Expanding EU on Future Monetary Union" so you can imagine my heart was sinking fast as more and more commentators were talking about the possibility of Britain coming out as a result of the crisis worsening during the day. Interest rates went from 10% to 12% then to 15% in the space of one afternoon before the 19:00 announcement that they would be returning to 12% and the pull out. My landlord was on his way home at about 7 o'clock arriving soon after in a panic as his mortgage payments he thought were 50% higher I was able to tell him the reassuring news for him before I mused how to reconstruct a major part of my dissertation.

IRA Bomb Attacks on Portrush - 3 August 1976 I grew up during the troubles in Northern Ireland and this was the first time I actually saw any effects of the IRA bombing campaign in real time. My Grandparents had a static caravan at Carrick Dhu to the west of the Portrush mainland and we heard the explosions and saw the plumes of thick black smoke rise over the skyline in the late summer daylight. The following day we went into town to see how it had impacted on my great-uncle's toy shop in the town centre, his store was intact but the stock was water damaged. On the news that day the final shot of the report was our family heading out towards the West promenade with the over voicing "Tourists lift despondent seeking other things to do." It was my first appearance on TV.

Lib Dems Win Dunfermline and West Fife By Election - 9-10 February 2006 It was the Lib Dems or predecessors first ever by election against Labour in Scotland. I started the day in Crossgates delivering leaflets from before dawn and was dropped off at Inverkeithing station to get into work as I was unable to secure the day off work. I returned as soon as my shift finished to be greeted as first off my carriage by a SNP supporter on the platform asking if I would vote SNP in the election. I replied loudly "No I'll be backing the winner Willie Rennie" and the Nat was unable to engage any of my fellow passengers in conversation. Spent the rest of the evening all over the place, including running in one postal vote, up to 9:50 when I headed off to the campaign HQ. It was also the night of the Lib Dem leadership hustings on QT which we all watched before settling down waiting for news from the count and the result to trickle through. Every time a phone went off eyes turned. But finally we heard what we wanted to hear and the party really kicked off, waiting for Willie and the others to return from the count.

So I have to take five more do I? Though looking through the people most likely to see their tagging here they all seem to be tagged. If you haven't been yet but are reading this go ahead and do it anyway.

Who Would You Seek Advise from on Scotland's Sporting Legacy?

So Alex Salmond dreams of a Scottish Olympic Team got an unsurprising backing from Sir Sean Connery. Now I'm not saying I'd take much sporting advise from either man, maybe a line or club selection on a golf course from Sir Sean, but would avoid golf course location advise from Alex but then golf has only been an Olympic sport in 1900 and 1904.

No I'd far rather take advise on what is best for sporting success from those who have achieved it Chris Hoy or his fellow cyclist Craig MacLean or Allan Wells. To put some of their arguments in terms that Alex as an economist would understand it is about economies of scale. Wells uses such language when he points out that Scotland would without the coaches, facilities and resources provided by Team GB. McLean says it would be a 'nonsense' and 'backward step' to have a Scottish Team at the Olympics.

Hoy himself says that he would not have achieved his three gold medals if he was part of a Scottish set up. He said:
"There's nothing I love more than going home to Edinburgh but I haven't lived in Scotland for nine years.

"There just aren't the facilities to train there if there were, I would
live there. But like Craig MacLean and Ross Edgar who are the other Scottish
cyclists on the British team I have to be based in Manchester."
Ok the Edinburgh velodrome at Meadowbank is getting rundown and soon there would be a new Chris Hoy Velodrome in Glasgow for the 2014 Commonwealth games but we also need the coaches, and who would be willing to take on the Scottish selection of athletes outwith a team GB set up.

Indeed if there had been a Scottish team this time around we would have had two less medals in Scotland as both Hoy's team sprint gold and Katherine Grainger's 3rd rowing silver would have been taken by a non-Scot taking up their place on the track or in the boat.

Salmond has weighed in to Hoy's attack by promising looking at investment in facilities for cycling. However, going back to Katherine Grainger where are the Scottish rowing facilities to match those in England. Scotland's best swimmers are also mainly based at pools where the top coaches are either in England or Wales. The GB taekwando are also based in Manchester and share the sports psychologists that so ably assisted the cyclists to such heights.

You see Alex you have opened up an economic black hole of you really want to restore Scottish pride and nationalism through sport and want to see the Saltire raised over and over again at the Olympics. There is not just the infrastructure for the venues there is the coaches, other staff etc behind our top sportspeople that you need to replicate.

Monday 25 August 2008

End of Hiatus

After a week back in Northern Ireland watching Olympics, being used as a climbing frame and punch bag by my nephews and generally relaxing I am back in Scotland.

First well done to Team GB and NI at the Olympics 4th in the medal table, if we're counting Northern Ireland we can also lay claim to one of Ireland's bronzes. Gordon Brown is promising honours all round. Might be enough for me to wear out a few pairs of trainers between now and 2012 after all marathon heroes can be that little bit more mature than our divers or sprinters.

I see that the SNP have named Peter Grant leader of Fife Council to stand for them in the Glenrothes by election. Gordon appears to be delaying calling this one until the 6th November, day after Bonfire night do we smell gunpowder, treason and plot.

Oh and there was several bits of news about Margaret Thatcher. One about he dementia the other that Alex Salmond didn't mind her. In both cases things she'd probably be glad she'll soon forget.

Friday 15 August 2008

Three Men Won A Gold

Yeah the Brits finally have put three men on the top of a medal podium in the Beijing Olympics on the first day of the track cycling as Team GB exploded unto the velodrome.

Jamie Staff got the qualifying round off to a flyer with the fastest opening 250 metres ever in the team sprint, allowing Jason Kenny to lead out Chris Hoy for the final 250 setting a World Record 42.950 secs to set the standard. They eased through the first round to face France in the final which they secured with a run of 43.128 over half a second up on the French.

Elsewhere in the velodrome Bradley Wiggins was quickest with an Olympic record in qualifying for the men's 4000m pursuit with debutant Steve Burke a credible 5th. In the women's 3000m version Britain were 1st and 2nd with Wendy Houvenaghel and Rebecca Romero dominating proceedings.

Elsewhere on the various bits of water the sailors are guaranteed at least a silver and bronze medal going into tomorrow's match races as Ben Ainslie in the Finn and the Yngling girls finished far enough ahead of their challengers to make it a two horse race for Ben and at least a bronze for the Yngling crew with the Brits leading both standings. Paul Goodison also now heads the Laser class and Nick Dempsey has moved up to third in teh RS:X Windsurfing class.

Meanwhile in the rowing more British crews secured final places as both the lightweight men's double scull, Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter, and lightweight men's four, Richard Chambers, James Lindsay-Fynn, Paul Mattick and James Clarke. It makes 10 finals at the rowing lake that Britain will have representation.

Britainia really is doing rather well on and in water at this Olympics.

Thursday 14 August 2008

Life, the Blogosphere, and Everything: SLJ's best bits 2007-8

Well Mr Wilcox has laid down a challenge for us all to go through our index of blog entries and highlight what we consider our best bits to help out on that category for best individual blog entry in the Lib Dem Blog of the year awards. So after careful introspection, a little self loathing and general walking down memory lane here are the ones I picked out. Keeping up the thread of the title and knowing that Alex is one of the pre-eminent Doctor Who fan Lib Dems (though aren't we all) my own favourite sci-fi forms a sort of common link. I actually prefer some of the titles to these links below over the original titles the blog entries actually got.

This Liberal's Guide to Civil Partnership and Registrars the counterargument to liberalism beliefs in civil partnerships and those of religion beliefs. A look at just how liberal our liberalism is.

The Restaurant at the end of PR. Hitting back at blogging Labour MP Tom Harris who felt that PR in local elections in Scotland is the root of Labour's problems rather than manifestation of where they have fallen.

Blood, Transfusion Service and Everything a take on the blood transfusion service making those who can't give blood feel really small at ad break time.

So Long and Thanks for all the Visits yeah my only entry on the Golden Dozen all year thanking Nicol Stephen's for his contribution to the party and looking to what was next.

Mostly Gormless a reaction to Iris Robinson's utterances on gayness being a curable illness.

Missed Britishness: How Douglas Would Have Put it

A parody on Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has this to say on meet-ups of online 'communities':

Across the cosmos where groups of lifeforms whose main contact is through the power of connectivity arrange to actually meet up in the flesh, any event they plan to attend is in danger of being missed should alcohol be imbibed before the time of attendance. This is especially true should the event not involve pre-payment, is free, or involves a journey from the point of initial gathering when interesting and far ranging conversation between the life forms has started and taken over. This is true whether the life forms are researchers for the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, members of the Scottish Blogosphere or small furry creatures from Alpha Centuri.

Let it not be said the the event missed may not have been good, but the events that actually occurred usually were also good thus leading to the failure to proceed as planned. The original event may merely have to be scheduled in for another time. That certain members of the group have to disperse before a formal ceasing of proceeding due to distance required to travel to their home planets at interesting parts of the discussion is a great sorrow.

Wednesday 13 August 2008


Should you go out to the fringe tonight,
Espec'ly to Espionage.
Should you go out to the Fringe tonight
You'd better go in disguise.
For ever blogger that ever there was*
Is gath'ring at the Udderbelly because.
Tonight's the night, the Scottish bloggers** decided to meet up.

I'm no stranger to that strange quirk of turning up in locations to meet people who you have no other contact with except through the power of the world wide web. Indeed I travelled to London in the spring of 2000 to meet 41*** other members of the Hitchhikers Guide to Galaxy website. Later that year at a Scottish version (with guest from Northern Ireland, and another from North England) I turned up, at least knowing three of the others from London and ended up meeting someone that day who dragged me across to Scotland and who I spent 5 years with. (Disclaimer: I'm not using this meet as a dating opportunity somebody might would complain) However, it will be fun to meet the people I happen to spend so much time arguing with debating the finer points of Scottish politics with.

*OK not quite that many of us

**OK Jeff decided and we all agreed it was a hoopy*** idea.

***If you don't know what hoopy is as in "That Stephen Glenn he's one really hoopy frood" here is the recommended reading list.

****If you don't know what hoopy is you may be slightly more aware of the significance of this number. If not read the reading list above.

Glenrothes MP MacDougall Dies

The MP for Glenrothes in Fife John MacDougall finally succumbed to a long battle with mesothelioma, an incurable asbestos-related cancer of the lining of the lungs, this morning. He had never fully recovered from surgery he underwent last year and caused one Tory Blogger to prematurely announce news of his death when he had a sudden decline towards the end of the last parliamentary season and before the Glasgow East by election was called.

He passed away at the age of 60 a tragedy for his family and friends of a disease possibly repalted to his time building oil rigs before he took up the political gauntlet on Fife Council and since 2001 in the House of Commons replacing Henry McLeish in the then Fife Central seat which was redrawn into Glenrothes three years ago.

Glenrothes is the only seat that Labour now hold in Fife not held by a Prime Minister following the death of Rachel Squires and the Dunfermline and West Fife by election in 2006. It sadly makes Fife the only county in the country to have lost 50% of it MPs while the other 50% have become leaders of their parties (if Gordon leaves before the next they will also both lose their party leaderships) since the last general election. Its location between Gordon Brown's Kirkaldy and Cowdenbeath and Menzies Campbell's North East Fife constituencies means that yet again it will be a by election in these two senior Parliamentarian's back yards.

It's Team GB & Norn Iron

It was good to see Alan Campbell power over the last few hundred metres of the men's single sculls this morning for a number of reasons. Firstly he has only just recovered from knee surgery but also because his that oft forgotten part of Team GB's name. Yes the Coleraine lad was proud to remind viewers who were able to watch his post race interview with Sir Steve of the Five Golds that he was Northern Irish and wanted to thank the team at the Sports Council for Northern Ireland in Belfast.
Elsewhere Emma Pooley showed that she had learnt how to ride that circuit from the women's road race well when she secured the silver in the women's time trail of the finishing circuit she twice launched attacks over on Sunday. She finished behind and American called Armstrong, but we're quite sure that Lance hasn't undergone gender reassignment to compete as this was Kristin Armstrong who had ended the 23.5 km tough uphill then down again time trail 24 seconds ahead of the Brit. Pooely was 4 seconds ahead at the intermediate check at the Wall 10.8km in but as the commentators said due to her diminutive climbers stature she had to make up time on the climb for the hard work on the descent to the finish.

Yesterday individual bronze for Zara Philips' replacement Tina Cook (must be the name these games) and the team bronze were also won by the eventers at the equestrian centre added to the British medal tally.

Tuesday 12 August 2008

British Manhood Finds Silver Lining

Over in Beijing the British men have finally set foot on a podium, ok a British man. And no not accidently as they slipped up moving past it to scurry off away from the chasing media hoardes. Having started the day in 4th place David Florence was leading with one man to come in the C1 Slalom event. However world number one Michal Martikan of Slovakia was last down and held on to his lead, leaving David to claim the Silver medal.

The female of the species will no doubt be claiming that with the surname Florence it is also another one of them on the podium. All I can say to that is "Boing, night night said Zebedee."

Just to please Jeff, Florence is an Aberdonian and therefore one of the British competitors whom he singled out to wish good luck to.

Dear Prudence Gordon has Failed You

Well Gordon was to one to set the government's inflation target at 2% so his best friend, while Chancellor, prudence has been let down today when the Consumer Price Index went more than double that expectation hitting 4.4% while the Retail Price Index hit 5.6%. The government is going to have to start acknowledging that pay rises above their 2% inflation target are no longer inflation creating pay increase but inflation keeping up increases to enable people to carry on paying bills, buying food and generally getting on with life.

Food prices themselves were the main contributer to his rise and were up 13.7% over the least year. If only I had a garden or access to an allotment, there are currently none in West Lothian, I'd be able to make savings not just in my food bill but also in my foods contribution to my carbon footprint.

Monday 11 August 2008

Not a Catastophe for Democracy

Tom Harris MP this morning describes proportional representation for local government as an 'electoral and democratic catastrophe' in the same post as he praises Alex Salmond for showing that minority administrations can work. Now surely by taking his logic Labour should be in a minority administration at Westminster because democratically they won a minority of the votes cast in 2005.

It's often the case of people defending First Past the Post in a multi-party system that they want to ignore the fact that the majority of people don't vote them even if they do manage to win the largest number of seats. Now that is hardly democratic, what about the votes that all the people cast for the third, fourth or later party. In first past the post they sometimes have the difficult decision if they want change to not vote for their principles but for the party most likely to beat the party they don't want to be their representative. In Tom's case should the electorate of Glasgow South not want Labour to be their government at the next general election the 53% who didn't vote for him last time (yes he'd want you to forget that last time he slipped to minority support in his constituency) would all be voting for the best placed party to turf him out, that just happened to be the Lib Dems on 2005 standings.

As for having three, four or more represent you at local level Tom is forgetting the whole. Those representatives are there to reflect the views of their electorate. At whatever level a proportionately elected body governs it will truly be more reflective of the views and opinions of those who elect it than FPTP can be in anything other than a two party system. As for making it Single Transferable it acknowledges the fact that we can't always have everything that we want but we will prefer somethings over others therefore ranking our preferred options to give us the best fit for what we want. I don't think Tom would appreciate going into a restaurant and the dish he ordered not being available because the largest number of the people in the restaurant wanted something else, even he he and a majority of the other dinners preferred something else off the menu and actually detested the one option that the chef was cooking for up to the next 5 years.

The only electoral catastrophe that Labour faced over STV was largely losing the grip over their wholly undemocratic socialist fifedoms, and having to actually find council candidates that could engage with the electorate rather than being voted in purely because of the red rossette. As for democracy it triumphed especially if he is acknowledging that minority administrations are workable and good for the Labour party.

British Women Leading the Gold Rush

Picture from Daily Mail
Oh yes plenty of jumping up and down on the sofa over the first few days of the Olympics. Although hopefully the neighbours weren't too disturbed by Mister Stephen's whoops at around 10:30 yesterday morning and even earlier this morning. Mister Stephen as an ex-athlete and still competitive sportsman really is a great olympic-phile he was even caught watching live archery this morning on interactive, whilst Rafa Nadal was another option.

However, Team GB&NI (have to give the full IOC recognised name) saw their 200th ever gold medal came after a great team performance in the women's cycling road race. Nicole Cooke was in a breakaway of five entering the last corner of the course, but had dropped off on team orders because of concerns over the wetness of the rain soaked course that a crash may happen. She made up the 20 metres of so she'd dropped behind on the climb to the finish to make up for coming fifth four years ago.

But she was quick to go and hug teammates Emma Pooley and Sharon Laws who had aided he win. Pooley had attacked on the climb on the first finishing circuit and again at the foot of the second and final climb. Which forced other countries to haul her back while Nicole sat and waited. Sharon had been on the ground twice through crashes but took her turns at or near the front to ensure that Nicole was ready for a final surge. With 5 kms to go Nicole found herself in the decisive break that was to stay ahead of the main field to the end thanks to the work her teammates had previously done and continued to do disrupting the chase.

Picture from BBC
Then this morning the first gold in the pool for GB since Aidrian Moorehouse, who was commentating, in 1984 and the first for a women competitor since Anita Lonsburgh in 1960 went to Rebecca Adlington. Like Cooke she came from behind at the end to snatch the women's 400m freestyle. Not even in the top 3 at the final turn behind America's Katie Hoff and teammate Jo Jackson. Hoff at 25 metres appeared to have gold sown up a whole body length if not more ahead of the two Brits who appeared to have sealed the minor medals but somehow the Brits kept coming at Hoff and on the final stroke Adlington for the only time in the race was ahead, winning by seven hundredths of a second. She only led the race for a mere fraction of a second but it was the vital fraction of time when it mattered.

Sunday 10 August 2008

Leadership Campaign: Edinburgh Hustings 4 The Q&A Session

Yesterday I covered the opening speeches of the 3 candidates Mike Rumbles, Ross Finnie and Tavish Scott. Today I'll look at the answers they gave to the 10 questions that ended up being put to them from the floor. Plus take a brief look at the impact this hustings seemed to have on some of the people present. (If the question setters are reading this and I haven't totally accurately reported the question I trust I have the main thrust of what you asked.)

Q1. Given that this is likely to be only a 19 day honeymoon period between the naming of our leader and the announcement of another party's group leader in Holyrood how will the candidates make the most of this period of focus on our new leader?

Mike said his campaign was about change and that would be picked up by the media when he won. Ross said when he won a different approach would be the theme, his working with the party to create a new narrative, which he expected would start quickly after the result. Tavish said that the next day he would name the three keys issues affecting Scotland and challenge the SNP government on their policies in these areas.

Q2. Asked how the candidates would respond should the Calman Commission differ in view from the Steel Commission.

Ross started by pointing out until Calman reported this was a hypothetical question, but pointed out that the Steel Commission pointed out that the greatest weakness devolved Scotland had from other federal systems was the lack of taxation powers. He was hopeful that rather than differ Calman would merely add more detail to this and other areas. Tavish said that if they differed he wanted to make the Lib Dems a vital part of the debate for a) a strengthened Parliament, if Calman was weak on this aspect he would oppose those moves and b) to ensure a responsible balance sheet. Mike said it would not be an either/or question should it arise, but that the party should not abandon Lib Dem beliefs. Therefore if Calman Commission is liberal and democratic in the right direction he would back it.

Q3. How do the candidate marry our green environmental thrust with the current fuel problems facing the population?

Tavish admitted there has been a tightening in the economy but that climate change still matters. Energy was an important debate and recently nuclear energy was returning to the table from people who hadn't been advocating it previously. He said that as we watch the Olympics we may well be getting a visual aid as to the importance of seeking cleaner energy, but said that the SNP's fund cutting for research into alternative energies was wrong as there was no better time for this funding to be there. Ross said the issue was bigger than merely energy but our failure to live sustainably. We shouldn't allow the excuse that energy is a difficult problem to be solved to overshadow our own failings. We need to be pushing for better resource management. Mike said we have a moral imperative to strive of greener energy solutions as well as the management of our resources.

Q4: Asked the candidates how they would set about the management of the party ensuring the Lib Dems had better results and a higher profile.

Mike said this would be achieved by having a clear message, which we have lacked. He would empower membership more and encourage debate, just because we have a policy on something doesn't mean we can't revisit it and debate it again as times and issues change. Tavish said we needed to work on the linkages between the high profile Holyrood representative and the grassroots. He said MSPs spend too much time working on their 4 minute speeches which received minimum coverage and needed to get out to the local parties where the real issues were affecting real people. Ross put his hand up to admit that recently the party has become Holyrood-centric. We don't have the mechanism in place at present to allow us to oppose the SNP in one place in the Royal Mile while working with them in partnership slightly further up the hill. He aims to make the sum of the many parts greater than the whole and make sure they work together.

Q5. (This was when the Leader of our City Council stole my question, sort of*) The SNP have mentioned entering discussions with us over implementing Local Income Tax (LIT) what did the candidates feel about that?

Ross said that he was not aware of any formal approaches from the SNP regarding talks on LIT. If however they do want to talk some preconditions would have to be set, most importantly that the rate has got to be set locally as with all previous local authority tax raising systems. Mike pointed out that John Swinney had spoken vigorously and voted against Tommy Sheridan's centrally set Service Tax replacement to council tax. What was the difference now? The whole point of LIT is about local decision making both in setting and spending the monies raised. Movement would need to be made by the SNP rather than the proposal to follow their LIT for a few years before moving to ours, that is not compromise. Tavish turned to the other two and the room while saying we want to get rid of the council tax. He said that the SNP have had 3 position on what they want to do to get rid of it in the last 4 days. He said he wouldn't believe the SNP proposal until he saw it in writing either in a policy proposal or a letter from the first minister outlying his proposals for discussion. However, what they currently are proposing isn't a Local Income Tax but a National Income Tax.

Q6. Was that in light of some other politicians would the candidates be guided by reason or religion?

Tavish said that ones own beliefs should remain that, personal. He added that it is a worrying sign if a politician like George W. or Tony Blair wore them on their sleeves. Ross agreed adding that anyone like him with strong religious belief has to draw a distinction between a secular political sphere and a personal religious belief. The two should not become blurred. Mike answered straight out that reason should the guide. Evidence, argument and persuasion are how you take people with you he said.

Q7. What would the candidates do to give us a national profile to help win target seats?

Ross reiterated our need for a clear narrative. Our policies and our values are relevant to Scotland. We just need to have an consistency and clarity to our message. Mike said we need a relevant message that grows. One that says why we're relevant and give people a reason to vote for us rather than merely not for someone else. Tavish echoed the others by saying we need a clear message and added we need to campaign locally. However, he did seem to stress too much the single importance of next year's European election naming the candidate who tops our list 3 times in quick succession.

Q8. Was a rambling question about the locality of paying LIT ie where it should be paid.

Mike started by saying we're proposing the fairest that we know but as nobody like tax you will always have someone trying to knock wholes in any system you try and introduce. Tavish said it need to be set locally and the fairest way to do that is based on where you live rather than the ramifications of doing it where you work. Ross said that of course residency is how we should collect our local council's tax, it was a fundamental unshakable principle. The highest degree of local autonomy is how we move forward. He also stressed that the SNP were arguing two different things firstly they wanted more powers devolved to Holyrood yet were taking it away from local authorities much as they complain Westminster does from them.

Q9. How do we embed economic liberalism? Less tax (the questioner put) was a good idea how do we achieve this?

Tavish started by saying that the size of government is overlarge, but the control of size sometimes clashes with our liberal instincts. He agreed with Nick that Gordon Brown has managed to make a complete mess of the tax system, as well as targeting the poorest unfairly who just exceed the threshold for paying, and that savings can be made through simplification. Mike said our taxes should provide like our supermarkets the best quality at the lowest price. We need sustainable economic growth and if we control it ourselves we'd have more control how how we can achieve that. Ross agreed it was a difficult balance, he often finds it hard reconciling Adam Smith and John Meynard Keynes yet they both are members of the party. He went on to say we aren't 'outcome' based on measuring our services, huge amounts of funds are misdirected and wasted but our government only looks at the amount spent rather than the effectiveness of the outcome of that spending.

Q10. Was a veering away from tax for the last question. It was on the issue of sport and how each candidate viewed it for the health of Scotland.

Ross said by saying just as there is word ad numeric illiteracy we have a whole generation that are growing up physically illiterate. People are out of the habit of getting physical activity, which aids cognitive ability, and we need to assist were possible. Mike said we have many good policies in this area but we have misused, misemphasised and miscommunicated them in the past. Tavish went on about the importance of bringing large events to Scotland as a key to encouraging greater involvement in sport (no offence to some of my fellow football fans but that isn't always the key).

Conclusion and Opinions

At the coffee break and afterwards I was mingling with some people and gauged a few responses. One person though that Tavish's speech was like a McDonald's meal, "It filled you up for 5 minutes but left you hungry." Several people had come with open minds and were tempted to change some of their voting intentions. The majority seemed to shift Tavish down the order with either Ross, Mike or both moving up. Although I did talk to one person who was moving Tavish up to their first preference.

I'll leave the last opinion to the son of Edinburgh Councillor Charles Dundas who has recently celebrated his first birthday. While sat amongst the candidates literature he seemed to think that all were highly disposable though contrary to his father endorsement he did hold onto and cuddle Ross Finnie's leaflet for longer than any before rejecting it too.

*My question on this theme would have been: In light of the reports in the Scotsman that the SNP are prepared to ditch a centrally set rate for LIT to invite us into talks with the aim of moving this policy (which they originally seemed to lift from us) forward. What is your view on 'entering talks' with the Nats on this or other future policy issues with some common ground?

Saturday 9 August 2008

Leadership Elections: Edinburgh Hustings 3 Ross Finnie

This morning the Scottish Liberal Democrat leadership candidates were addressing the members in the central belt, Edinburgh in the morning and Glasgow this afternoon. I attended the Edinburgh event armed with pen and not book to take copious notes in order to blog how the three fared in what I hope is a balanced way. The order in which they spoke was drawn by lot and after their 15 minute presentations (which the other two were not present for) all three returned to face questions from the floor. The order of today's blog entries will follow that order with Tavish Scott, Mike Rumbles, then Ross Finnie followed by a summary of the questions and answers given.

Ross Finnie

Ross started by apologising by turning up at the last minute, causing a little concern. But used the pad in the room he was waiting with for his opening anecdote. "The Grosvenor Hilton accommodates witty observations, lively debate and the odd doddle." He noted it looked like the hotel had used his speech already. This drew the biggest belly laugh of the opening comments from all three.

He started with his early days as a Liberal, how he'd joined out out of activism. Then went on to become a career in accountancy before being a councillor, leading to an MSP meant that politics took over for any other career. He stated the fact that he was the only Liberal Democrat cabinet minister for the whole of the first 8 years of the reborn Scottish Parliament. Saying that he time in cabinet showed he had the skills to become leader; good judgement to handle crisises, make huge decision while keeping his sense of humour.

He admitted we had a 'disappointing' General Election last year, and held his hand up as part of the problem. He said our message fails to explain why voter should turn to the Lib Dems. We're lacking a political narrative, our vision has become blurred. Since the election we've been constantly responding to other rather than setting our agenda. An agenda of personal freedoms safeguarded, economic prosperity without effecting our environment.

He went on to say what he thought our narrative should be to revive the role of Liberal Democrats in Scotland.

  1. The party of individual freedoms: Not detention without trial, id cards or banning off sales to under 21s. But the party of enabling people by given them choice.

  2. The leaders in promoting sustainable communities: Empowering economic growth within our means by also encouraging greater responsibility.

  3. The champions of a fairer society: Making the tax burden etc. fairer to all.
He concluded by saying that he would also change the way we utilise the talents of our members in Westminster. If elected leader he would echo what was said at Westminster and make it relevant to the people of Scotland. He also promised that he would never take us into a campaign in the country without a distinctive, clear Lib Dem message about our policies.

Leadership Election: Edinburgh Hustings 2 Mike Rumbles

Mike Rumbles
This morning the Scottish Liberal Democrat leadership candidates were addressing the members in the central belt, Edinburgh in the morning and Glasgow this afternoon. I attended the Edinburgh event armed with pen and not book to take copious notes in order to blog how the three fared in what I hope is a balanced way. The order in which they spoke was drawn by lot and after their 15 minute presentations (which the other two were not present for) all three returned to face questions from the floor. The order of today's blog entries will follow that order with Tavish Scott, Mike Rumbles, then Ross Finnie followed by a summary of the questions and answers given.

Mike Rumbles

Mike started by highlighting his career thus far and how he joined the party. He'd written off to all the parties to see which best suited his opinions on how to change the world. When he read up, without consulting anyone else he felt that the Liberal party was the one for him, so at 15 he called up to join, he second question was where could he meet other Liberal members in Jarrow, to be told he was the local party. He stressed the fact that he was not a career politician having trained as a teacher before joining the army where he spent 15 years in various postings. The military of course frown on political activism from its ranks, but he was allowed to keep his party membership just as long as he didn't tell anyone. So with a life outside politics and indeed outside the hurly burly of party political politics is how he was positioned before returning to party activism.

Mike stressed that now is a most important time for Liberal Democrats in Scotland and we have to allow decisions to be made as locally as possible. We are a party that has many policies that many people agree with but why are they not voting for us? Mike feels they don't know that we stand for what they believe in because we haven't been telling them, he doesn't want to wake up on election day ever again to think that PE in schools is the most important we have to say.

The SNP stand for independence, it's not as popular as they like to make out but at least the people know what they stand for. What about us? By the time we start to explain some of our thoughtful and worthwhile issues they have started to turn off. We need to express the things we stand for that are popular, liberal and easily articulated.

He then went on to state where he saw the party going and echoing Gladstone of old he advocates we should radically be the party calling for home rule for Scotland within the UK. Having a greater control of our own affairs, having greater responsibility for our actions. This, as he said, chimes far more favourably with the people of Scotland than independence or the status quo or even a step back. He wants to see Scotland change for the better. Ensuring that everyone has a decent affordable home. The health inequality across Scotland ceases to exist. Opposing ID cards but more importantly the data that the government wants to keep on us all in a growing surveillance state. Freedom outwith constant government interference. For example not banning under 21s from off sales but effective imposing the laws that are in place already. Promoting effective green measure as part of sustainable economic growth.

What Mike thinks the Scottish Lib Dems need is a unique, popular and effective message to take to the people. Our membership he acknowledges is low. To improve that he want members to be empowered to make important decisions. That will be meaningful debates at conference even on controversial issues.

What we need to a change is style of leadership. We have to acknowledge we are no longer governing Scotland. He admitted we, as a party, have made mistakes in the last year. We should learn to work with ideas we agree with and vigorously oppose those we don't

He concluded by saying the party needs a radical platform for change not continuity. The SNP have a false optimism over independence and Labour and Conservatives want to have devolution-lite. The Lib Dems if he were leading would be looking for powerful and effective Home Rule in Scotland within the UK.

Leadership Elections: Edinburgh Hustings 1 Tavish Scott

This morning the Scottish Liberal Democrat leadership candidates were addressing the members in the central belt, Edinburgh in the morning and Glasgow this afternoon. I attended the Edinburgh event armed with pen and not book to take copious notes in order to blog how the three fared in what I hope is a balanced way. The order in which they spoke was drawn by lot and after their 15 minute presentations (which the other two were not present for) all three returned to face questions from the floor. The order of today's blog entries will follow that order with Tavish Scott, Mike Rumbles, then Ross Finnie followed by a summary of the questions and answers given.

Tavish Scott

Tavish started by noting that Gordon Brown was in town to attend the book festival and had brought dreek weather with him. Wondered what book he would be reading from.

He felt that the state of Labour is in the city is that "We're all doomed!"* He noted that with Labour in decline and the Lib Dems holding two Scottish Parliament seats and one of the Westminster ones he wants to see the party take the North and South of the capital in the next general election. In fact he went on to say he wants the whole compass. (Is he really meaning Edinburgh East as well then?) Well he did go on to say that he had massive ambition for the party and Scotland, and didn't want to see us sleep walk into independence.

What makes a leader? Well Tavish believes it is experience, character and taking the right position on issues, before stating that he had all three. He wants to see the party confident, determined and energetic providing "Scottish solutions to Scottish problems". He then list three key areas that we need to speak out the environment, schools and hospitals.

What should the Lib Dems be saying and how? We should be talking about fairness, liberty and community said Tavish but we need to look beyond ourselves to is important to Scottish people not just what is of interest to us Lib Dems. It may mean we have to step out of our comfort zone and address hard issues.

The people have woken up to Labour he said, it means that Fred Mackintosh and Kevin Lang should be able to win in Edinburgh "whenever David Miliband decides to call the next general election". Alex Salmond is no superhero, he doesn't have all the solutions, people are "still waiting for him to push land slipped earth back up the hill", Tavish joked, "some superhero that!"

He drew to a close by saying we need to define ourselves as Scottish radicals with blunt tongues and sharp elbows to take on the other parties. To respect the work by our local councillors at local level in partnership. He acknowledged the need to recruit new members but we won't achieve this merely by speaking to ourselves. Therefore we need to be more innovative especially in policy making.

He did conclude by mentioning the fact that he has more support in both parliaments than any of his colleagues (not always the wisest statement to make to independent minded membership) and by saying:
"If you lend me your support. I will give you my all."
*Is using John Laurie's (Private James Fraser) catch phrase so early in your speech really cricket when one of your rivals is likened to the leader of TVs Warmington-on-Sea platoon of the home guard.

Friday 8 August 2008

Local Income Tax May be Coming to a Council Near You

Well the SNP are talking of maneuvering on their position on Local Income Tax after objections from Westminster that setting the rate centrally may well be illegal. They are to open discussions with the Lib Dems about moving the policy forward with the local authorities in Scotland setting the rate for their area rather than Holyrood.

All three Lib Dem leadership candidates have stated correctly that replacing the Council Tax with a fairer tax based on ability to pay is still party policy. So a real question for them at the hustings tomorrow will be in light of the SNP looking to negotiate will they enter negotiations in order to get one of our key election pledges from last year through? If we are truly looking to ensure a liberal democratic Scotland we must not be afraid of working with a party with a similar policy to our own (especially if it looked like it was lifted lock, stock and barrel originally with a few key elements changed) and I would welcome any move to get this through.

One worrying sign of the SNPs willingness to move to get this through against and antagonistic Labour controlled Westminster is there still is some assertion to maintain a national rate for at least a couple of years.
"The source added that ministers might be prepared to accept a locally-set tax
after the national tax has been allowed to "bed in" for a few years.accept a
locally-set tax after the national tax has been allowed to "bed in" for a few

Be done with that if Labour in London are objecting to that remove the obstacle. Also I notice that Colin Borland, from the Federation of Small Businesses in Scotland, is making the most non-sensical argument against LIT as opposed to council tax:
"The big fear is over the cost of bureaucracy. It will be bad enough with one
rate for the entire country, but there could be 32 different rates.

"If you have a business in Glasgow you could have three employees, one from
Glasgow, one from Renfrewshire and one from East Renfrewshire. That's three
different sets of paperwork."

Well for starters there are currently 8 council tax bands per Authority so that is 256 rates across the entire country. Also as far as employees wage packets are concerned I've had all sorts of additional extras taken out (sports association membership, union fees etc) of my pay, or overtime added on at an individual level through the years, different month on month. Most employees will only have to set up the LIT payments at the start of the tax year when the new rates are announced and only adjust should the employee stay employed but move council area. Hardly the most strenuous additional amount of over time for any employer in a small business or payroll officer in a larger concern. Sounds like just an excuse for the sake of keeping up making excuses as the tide shifts and not very well thought through.

Of course there are concerns that Vince Cable may make LIT a policy of the past at federal level for the Lib Dems. However, our MSPs and MPs are all currently elected seeking to implement LIT and if a change cmae to implement it our MSPs should jump at it and get rid of the unfair Council Tax system we have at present.

So locally set rates for a Local Income Tax may well be coming to a local authority near you (apologies to Welsh and English readers of this blog) soon. I for one hope discussion is entered into and both parties can get this sorted out and passed into law.

It must be Thrusday

Never could get the hang of Thursdays. But this is particularly bad one as it is in fact Friday but not according to poor old Lib Dem Blogs.......and Ryan Cullen must be having a bit of a mare this morning. As you can see Lib Dem blogs is currently last updated on Thursday. But not yesterday for this particular Thursday was in fact the 1 January 1970 before I could walk, talk or blog. Now while some of my fellow Lib Dem bloggers were capable of the first two none of them were doing the third and many more hadn't even contemplated the possibility of doing the first two or breathing for that matter.

Anyhoo hope Ryan isn't too hapless in getting this sorted out again soon.

Update no sooner posted than corrected. Round of applause for the Hapless band after all.

The Leadership Campaign: Literature

OK I realise that tomorrow is the Edinburgh Leadership hustings for the leadership of the Scottish Liberal Democrats and I've so far been fairly quiet on that front. (Although there are 4 unpublished drafts back here which you lot can't see) Bernard Salmon has asked his questions and got his answers from the three aspirants. Both he and J. Arthur McNumpty also point out the sad state of online presence that this entire campaign seems to lack. So I'd thought I'd take an objective look at the literature that arrived on my doorstep last weekend along with my ballot paper (plus the one that Jim Wallace sent me on behalf of Tavish as I've forgotten which leaflet was which). I'm waiting for the comments tomorrow as I suspect I know who may be behind a couple of them.

Policy/Attitude to Leading:

This is clearly of vital importance when making a decision such as this. let's look at them one by one.

Tavish Scott: pretty light on details of policy, lists a number of key core Lib Dem value issues and a couple of non-controversial areas of policy we all agree on. Echos Nicol Stephen's leadership approach to leadership when he says he too will be out campaigning with local parties every week. focuses on his communication skills and strengths with little application of what these will achieve. Seems to be putting across a business as usual message, no change here, almost a complacent approach from the media perceived front runner.

Ross Finnie: Acknowledges that the 'political landscape is changing fast', that is though and that 'stormy waters' need to be navigated when necessary. These could apply both to the party and the parliament. He promises to take on the other parties on his terms, suggesting taking the fight on issues to them proactively rather than reactively and says he will position the Lib Dems to wins. Suggests that change may come.

Mike Rumbles: Goes further still acknowledges we're now in opposition, which he states needs a more robust sort of leadership. He's not afraid to mentioned 'perceived failings' at grass root and media level of the party in the past 14 months or so. Says he has a duty to listen, work with other party's where possible and oppose where that is needed. Also states that conference has lost its nerve to debate controversial issues and as a result the party may have lost its cutting edge. Not merely hinting change but saying it is most certainly required.

I think the three of them have set out pretty clear stalls on where exactly they stand as regards taking the party forward.


Its always interesting to see the diversity of supporters given on the back page of these leaflets.

Starting with Mike who picks just 4 pictures each with comment, one each of MP, MSP, Councillor and ordinary member. Given them more prominence than his own political CV on the back page expressing a man of the people approach.

Ross has ten pictures, a couple of MSPs, Cllrs and ordinary members although some are ex-office bearers in Scotland. Three comments next to bigger pictures prominent at the top of what for his is a two sides A4 style leaflet. His CV is one the front. but bullet pointed reasons to vote below the supporters.

Tavish's list reads like a who's who it would appear that any elected official (and to be fair there is a fair number) who has pledged support is listed Lords, Ladies, MPs, MSP, Cllrs, PPCs, PSPCs. Even the 'ordinary members' are actually far from ordinary. Clearly presenting himself as the establishment candidate again.


Ok both Ross and Tavish mix a selection of press and members quotes. Of course very few of the press quotes give a clear context of just what they are about the name and some choice words heavily edited. Mike avoids these (honestly because the media don't like Mike and getting good quotes from them would be impossible).

However, I'm choosing one each of the members quotes which stand out because they aren't gushing the usual vitriol and hyperbole of politicianspeak (I guess that statement is also going to get me into trouble with friends who quotes I've not used below).

"Ross is just what a Liberal Democrat should be - warm and witty, and talking language we can all understand" Cllr Margot Clark

"They [the other parties] will know that they are not in for an easy ride with Mike as leader." Mike Pringle MSP

"I've been impressed with Tavish's ability to convey our message to the general public." Shabnum Mustapha PSPC Glasgow Cathcart


Obviously common themes though all three, the candidate campaigning, the candidate with some link to the fishing industry (from Tavish in waders with nets, through Mike with Crab pots, to Ross sampling and talking to industry employees) and the obligatory picture of them all in front of their named giant diamonds (they are elected Lib Dem MSPs after all). However, only the ones holding Tavish Scott diamonds seem shy in showing their faces. Not much difference in them all except Tavish has one of him in front of a media camera as if trying to assert that he is the only Lib Dem in the whole of Scotland with media training.