Saturday, 31 January 2009

Cool Cats

I love this story about the cat who went missing from Bearsden near Glasgow two years ago and turned up in Millport the other day!! How he got onto an island with nobody noticing is a mystery but cats are like that. I had a cat called .... well to be honest he had a few names. We called him Puss, the neighbours thought we were saying Bruce and my Granny Purdie called him Corky - simply because she preferred that name! I might scan in a pic later because he was a handsome brute of a cat! He was also as weird as most cats I've ever known.

When he was about 2 years old, we lived in the Calton in the East End of Glasgow. One day we went out to go to the shops and there was Puss, holding court atop a Vauxhall Corsa with around 8 other cats on the roadside gazing up and holding onto his every word!

We approached with words like "oh, cute little Puss, aren't you handsome up there?". Actually I can't remember what we said, I'm making it up as an excuse for his response. He looked absolutely horrified. In fact he personified the Glasgow expression of being "pure mortified"! He shrunk away and there was no recognition in his eyes. It was hilarious. We didn't think so at the time but with hindsight it was very funny - he was behaving like a teenager who can't believe his parents are embarrassing him by talking to him when he's trying to act cool with his mates! AND he went in the huffs with us all night when he finally did come home.

There is no political message here, I just really liked the other cat story and felt like reminiscing.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

A Day of Drama in Parly Land

What a day it's been in the village that is the Scottish Parliament! Everywhere you went there were folk huddled in corners, speaking out of the corners of their mouths, whispering, talking in code and even some folk who amused themselves by surreptitiously taking photographs of the day's proceedings!

Not that I wasn't taking it seriously. Of course I was although I struggled to take some of the characters seriously. Par example, the Lib Dems. Word is that they didn't think the Greens would vote against the budget so they were safe in doing so, knowing that it would get through anyway. Let that be a lesson to them that games should be kept for the playground not the parliament!

Anyway then we hear that they're willing to vote for the budget if they can force a concession or two out of the SNP government. And what was their biggest demand? That the government write to the Calman Commission and suggest the Parliament gets borrowing powers. Hmmmm, bet our side had to think long and hard about that one.

And Labour are tonight claiming they've squeezed an extra year of the apprenticeship scheme out of this. It would probably have happened anyway and surely, surely to goodness, they weren't voting down the budget on that one issue.

And that is, for me, the most important point in all of this. The Labour Party were prepared to vote down a budget with all of the inevitable chaos that would bring to the country (councils not being able to set their budgets, health boards not knowing what they're doing etc) in a time of severe economic recession for what? For the want of an extra year of apprenticeships that probably would've happened anyway?

You DO NOT vote down budgets unless you've a very good reason for doing so. It should be a LAST resort. There can only be ONE good reason and that is because you believe that the budget being proposed will be DAMAGING to your country's economy. You don't do it just because you don't like it and you'd have done it differently. How deeply irresponsible of the people who once ran this country?

What a relief that they no longer do (run the country) and from what I'm hearing, this has simply woken up the few remaining Labour voters who can now see that this is a morally bankrupt party still smarting from losing the election, determined to get their revenge on the SNP and prepared to stop at nothing to that end.

So it was an exciting week in parliament with lots of high drama and a photo diary to go with it! And although we cannot count our chickens, it looks like all of the parties are now moving in the same direction and looking to do the right thing for Scotland and get this budget through the parliament. I'm sure people will be very relieved when it's over and we can get on with the job of running the country!

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Labour MSPs have just cost Scotland £1.8billion

Today, if you live in Scotland you might be interested to know that your Labour, Lib Dem and Green MSPs voted down a Scottish budget which included accepting an additional £1.8million settlement from our share of Westminster revenues.

Today, if you live in Glasgow you might be interested to know that your Labour, Lib Dem and Green MSPs voted against giving Glasgow an equivalent £205million. (Meantime the Labour run council claim their decision to close and / merge 25 schools and nurseries could save £3.7million. I dread to think how many more they'll want to shut now!)

Today, your Labour, Lib Dem and Green MSPs voted for something that could see council tax payers in Glasgow on average band D paying an additional £274.14 next year instead of a second year running tax freeze.

Live in Aberdeen? You could be paying up to £212 more.

Falkirk? £287 extra.

Edinburghers are getting off "lightly" - they'll only be paying another £169 next year!

Shetland? You might want to know that Tavish Scott's vote might just have cost you another £379 per year.

Rates of depression are high enough on Eilean Siar (Western Isles) so I won't tell you what they've done to you.

The problem is, you see, that parliamentary rules state if the budget does not go through, expenditure can continue as in the previous year but you don't get any planned increases in the block 'grant' from Westminster - and next year that's worth £1.8billion. Without it councils lose money and hiking up council tax is just one of the things they're going to have to do.

Small businesses are also likely to fall victim to this so all those businesses employing local people, struggling to hang on in there in the belief that their business rates will be slashed or cut altogether in this financial year, may have waited in vain.

The Labour Party know this. The Lib Dems know it. They apparently care not. It's more important to them to bring down the SNP government. I don't think they will bring us down and I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing for us as a party - after all, the mark of a government is in the way they deal with crises and I'm 100% confident John Swinney will deal with this well.

But that's hardly the point. The point is that council tax payers are now waiting to find out if they're going to get another Labour induced financial body blow and struggling businesses don't know if the lifeline they were depending on is going to be whipped away from them. A strain few of us need in these troubled times but in the game of politics, these things don't seem to matter.

If you want to know what you can do about it, how about you email your Labour MSP on (eg and tell them what you think of their attempts today to stop Scotland getting the additional £1.8billion it so badly needs. Maybe if they think it'll affect their vote at the next election, they'll think twice about defeating the budget a second time.

If not ... watch this space. We live in interesting times.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Breaking news - Tommy and Gail Sheridan to stand trial

It's just been announced that both Tommy and Gail Sheridan will stand trial for perjury later this year. An indictment was served on them earlier today. Few folk know if they're guilty or innocent, I certainly don't so there's no point in speculating on that. All I'll say is that if they are guilty, it's an absolute tragedy for them and their little girl because there's a high chance they'll get a jail sentence. I hope for their sake that they're not guilty, I really do but if they are, it's a lesson for anyone who believes they are above the law and can outwit us all. Am pretty sure if their trials were televised the viewing figures would be higher than even the recent Celebrity Big Brother in which Tommy starred!

Well worth homecoming for ....

On Sunday evening I went along to George Square with my sister, her old man and my niece and nephew. We went to see Burns Illuminated and as you can see from the photo, it was spectacular - the projection artist for this was Ross Ashton. I'll start off with my one criticism (before I tell you everything that was wonderful about it. And I only make this criticism because there was something very obvious missing. It was on from just before 6 till after 8pm on a cold, dark, January night in Glasgow and nowhere could you buy even a hot drink! Christie who's now 16 was reminding me of the time I took her and her brother to Germany in winter and we drank hot gluwein (her's was not wine, it was hot apple juice). It was a freezing cold night (not exactly unexpected) and became almost painful. The result was that loads of folk went off to the chippie and I doubt they were really that hungry, probably just wanted to heat up. (Not me, saint that I was!) A hot cup of tea or coffee would have been lovely.

Anyway that aside, the events team put on a fantastic show and I loved every minute of it. It was a fitting start to Glasgow's contribution to Homecoming Scotland. As you can see the illuminations were spectacular and we had a toast to Scotland, a recitation of Tae a Moose, the story of Burns' life, Michelle McManus who was better than I expected and sang Wild Mountain Thyme, thus getting into my good books, the Skye Pipe Band and the piece de la resistance the WONDERFUL RED HOT CHILLI PIPERS - if you've not seen them, do!

It was finished off with a stunning firework display - having said that I'm a firework fanatic and a little firecracker is normally enough to get me excited but judging by the faces on Sunday night, I wasn't the only one. It was definitely a job well done and a great birthday party for the Ploughman Poet!

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Sri Lankan Anniversary

Exactly a year ago today, I left to spend three months working in Sri Lanka, the furthest I had every been, the longest I'd be away. As anyone who read my Sri Lankan blog knows it was the single most life changing experience I've ever had. Perhaps that should be "me changing" rather than life changing seeing as I appear to still be living in Dennistoun, still doing much the same as I was doing before I left.

Rather than talk about it the experience here, I thought I might kill two birds with the one stone and direct you to a writing competition I've entered and for which I'd quite like some votes! I wrote about how Sri Lanka changed me and got the piece in ON the deadline but the one thing I've not done is pitch for votes. I keep getting emails from the competition runners telling me to get it on facebook, email to all my friends, get my vote out! I suspect the fact that I haven't done that means I'm not going to win. But it would still be nice to get a vote or two. Or you could vote for the article about composting with earth worms!!
PS Pic is me with my friend Muna's little boy Aatif, one of the few babies who wasn't scared of me!

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Despicable way to treat Glasgow parents

It's been a bit of a week for parents in Glasgow. On Tuesday many of them received letters telling them their child's school or nursery is facing closure. The statutory (or it wouldn't be happening at all I'm quite sure) consultation begins in February and will last for 6 weeks but all the indications are that the Labour council have made their decision. SNP councillors tried to push through an amendment at the executive meeting but of course were outnumbered.

It may well be true that some schools have to merge or indeed close but this whole thing stinks for a number of reasons. First, they should have been working with the parents before the "consultation" rather than springing it on them once they've more or less made their decision. Secondly, can we take this as an indication that they've no intentions of reducing class sizes for p1-3 if they're pressing ahead with closures? After all we'll need more capacity in the schools once that SNP policy is implemented. And finally, when SNP Renfrewshire Council proposed to close ONE school because it was only A THIRD FULL, the Labour Party were up in arms. And yet, their argument for closing some of the 25 in Glasgow is that some of them are only HALF full. Hypocrites.

However the important thing here is that we put as much pressure on the Labour Council as possible to face facts, they can't run a full and proper consultation on 25 different schools and nurseries in 6 weeks. They should scrap this ridiculous plan and sit down with parents to talk about the options. The parents clearly care about their schools because there have been bulging public meetings across the city all week as well as the mass demo outside the City Chambers on Friday. The photo shows Bob Doris SNP MSP talking to some of those protestors. I work for Bob and he's going to do all he can to support the parents so I'll be able to keep you updated.


Well congratulations to Ulrika Jonsson for winning Celebrity Big Brother even though she cost me a fiver. When it got to the final 3 I bet a fiver that Terry would win. I was happy for UJ to win though because I got fed up with the silly boys in the house going on about her being bossy. She's not bossy, she's just an organiser and if folk sit about faffing about all day, what's she supposed to do - I feel your pain Ulrika!

Anyway, the headline NiCOOLIO Sturgeon :-) ... I'm outing Nicola, the Deputy First Minister of this country, as a Coolio fan! Now to be fair I know she tried hard not to watch Celebrity Big Brother. In fact the night it started she had a party for her neighbours and couldn't watch so I texted to confirm that Tommy Sheridan was, indeed, going in! She told me she would watch one episode and that would be that!

Hmmmmm. Fast forward a couple of weeks and she likes Ulrika, quite likes Terry, still can't believe Tommy is doing it and .... loves Coolio! I even heard she was spotted in parliament the other day wearing a bandana and singing "been spending most my life living in a nationalist paradise". Not totally convinced that's true.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Motion causing a commotion

When I saw this motion laid down in the Scottish Parliament by Jack McConnell of all people, I nearly choked on my morning coffee. See if you can see why.

S3M-03235 Jack McConnell (Motherwell and Wishaw) (Scottish Labour): Appointment of Chair of the Board of the Scottish Qualifications Authority— That the Parliament notes the announcement by the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning on Monday 12 January 2009 of the appointment of Councillor Graham Houston as chair of the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA); also notes that Councillor Houston also holds a high profile political position in a local authority and that in this role he will be called on to participate in national and local meetings where matters relating to national qualifications will be discussed; further notes that as chair of the SQA he will be called on to make decisions relating to individual schools and local authorities, including on charging policies and performance-related issues; expresses concern about the direct conflict of interest that occurs should one individual hold these two positions, this conflict arising regardless of the abilities, experience and party affiliation of the individual and which would be particularly inappropriate in the context of the management and delivery of examinations and qualifications, which should be independent of party politics, and calls on the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning to recognise this direct conflict of interest and to review the appointment as a matter of urgency.

When, later that day, I saw Jamie Hepburn's amendment, yet again I nearly choked to death on my coffee. Again I invite you to see if you can see why ...

S3M-03235.1 Jamie Hepburn (Central Scotland) (Scottish National Party): Appointment of Chair of the Board of the Scottish Qualifications Authority— As an amendment to motion S3M-3235 in the name of Jack McConnell (Appointment of Chair of the Board of the Scottish Qualifications Authority), leave out from “also notes” to end and insert “believes that this appointment has been conducted in accordance with the robust standards required by the Commissioner for Public Appointments in Scotland’s code of practice; further believes that the system of public appointments in Scotland compares favourably with that of other countries, and also believes that accusations of cronyism and conflicts of interest rarely stand in the way of UK Government ministers making public appointments, for example in the appointment of political figures to traditionally neutral diplomatic overseas postings such as the British High Commission in Malawi.”

Nice one Jamie!

Stupendous first day in the office

My mate "T" said she was looking forward to her first day in her new job last week because "all you do is sit about chatting to folk drinking cups of tea at first" apparently! Not so Barack Obama but he certainly deserved a cup of tea at the very least after he ordered the closure of Guantanamo Bay, demonstrating exactly what he meant when he said at his inauguration that he would:

"reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals".

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

No form of racism can EVER be acceptable

A young woman was punched in the face in Aberdeen on Saturday night by a man who'd started off making comments about her English accent. He didn't like it so he punched her in the face? What an absolute disgrace. What is the problem with people? Is it because it's no longer "socially acceptable" to be racist toward people with a different skin colour so they have to look for something they reckon is likely to be more acceptable? Well it's not. Racism is wrong whatever the motivation and we have to be on the alert and recognise that being white does not make someone immune. Whilst I expect most people will be outraged at this young woman being attacked so savagely, because most people are anti violence, I sincerely hope those same people will recognise and speak out against racism in all it's forms - verbal, physical, institutional and whoever it's directed at.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Europe needs to get its act together for Gaza

It's been a week since I blogged but I've a good reason for that. I've been back at work and finishing the books I started reading over the holidays and .... writing this article about Europe's stance on the situation in Gaza. Rather than republish it here, I'm sending you to the website "destiNation", the brainchild of Julie Hepburn, because if you've not already bookmarked it as a favourite, then you should! So once you've finished reading my article, don't forget to read what everyone else has to say - it's all good! Blogging back to normal as of now :-)

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Welcoming the Euro

One of the SNP MSPs, Willie Coffey, has called on retailers to start accepting Euros as part of the welcome that Homecoming Scotland will extend. It reminded me of a tale I forgot to share with you last week. My mate Dave from Liverpoooooool who now lives in Berlin, was over for a visit with his partner Kordula (both pictured) and on their last night they popped over to Glasgow. We went out for dinner and at the end of the night Kordula insisted on paying. We had the usual "no, no, I can't let you pay", "yes, I insist" argument but Kordula's argument had a new twist to it ...

"I have to pay, I am going home to Germany tomorrow and I must get rid of your WORTHLESS money"!!

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Equal treatment for all fraudsters!

Today is my last day of freedom. What I mean is I'm back into the fray on Monday and tomorrow, helping my mum with her move to the new flat so everything I'd planned to do in my time off, has to be completed today! All of that preamble is simply to excuse myself for confessing that I watched a little bit of the live coverage of Big Brother today. I was racing about all day trying to get organised so I needed something mind numbing! Anyway ...

Tommy Sheridan as we all know and as I predicted (OK HEARD) is one of the housemates and today he was banging on about something that drives me mad too. And that is the difference in attitude towards rich and poor when it comes to committing crimes. I believe absolutely in obeying the law and I'm not excusing anyone but it is true that the more money you have the more likely you are to get away with it.

Worse still, the less money you have, the more likely you are to be pursued and to illustrate this point I always use this example which is exactly the one Tommy used. We've all seen the ads on TV "do you know someone who is committing benefit fraud?" ("do you know someone who can't bear not to be able to buy their kids new shoes and so is doing a bit of work on the side?") followed by "if so, shop them because they're bad bad people"! Again, I'm not condoning any crime but how come you never hear "do you know any rich businessmen committing tax fraud and lining their pockets will thousands, perhaps millions because .... well, because they're greedy?"?

Equality, that's all I'm asking for. Equality for fraudsters rich and poor. Right, back to my list, only 7 hours left to complete the tasks - I feel like I'm on Big Brother!

"Humiliation - the harder you try the dumber you look"

I have a feeling that few will agree with what I'm about to say but I'm gonna say it anyway. This idea from Labour MSP Richard "Little Lord Fontleroy" Baker, that convicted criminals doing community service should be wearing high visibility vests so we can all see them, I find just a tad distasteful. Personally I don't think I'm soft on criminals, I just think we approach tackling the problem the wrong way. Focusing on punishment and retribution (as we do) might make us feel like we're taking control but if it doesn't work (and it doesn't) we're kidding ourselves. I appreciate that we have to have deterrents and we have to have some form of punishment and I agree with all of that.

But surely what we want from any criminal justice system is for a continual reduction in crime and greater protection for our people and our communities. And that means we either have to lock up all CONVICTED criminals forever or we have to find ways of persuading them not to commit further crimes. Rehabilitation will never be achieved if we purposely set out to humiliate people.

How do YOU feel when someone publicly humiliates you? You feel angry and unless you have constructive ways to express that anger, most people will harbour a grudge and one day it all comes out. I can hear some of you now "well if they don't want to be humiliated they shouldn't commit crimes in the first place" but where does that attitude get us? And what BENEFIT do WE gain from ridiculing people?

Slopping out dehumanised prisoners - if you can't treat people humanely, you can't expect them to behave any differently. High visibility vests is not exactly dehumanising but it IS degrading and it IS humiliating. It's a stupid idea and I sincerely hope nobody takes it seriously!

PS The quote is from an American Sociologist Larry Kersten