Sunday, 15 February 2009

Taking a very short break from blogging

Many people have asked me what my plans are for blogging now that I’ve been elected to the Scottish Parliament (I was sworn in on Thursday). I thought it might be an idea to post just to let you all know that I need to spend the next wee while settling into the role as SNP MSP for Glasgow. In the next week or two however, I’ll put up the link to my new website. And as I’m obviously someone who likes to communicate, I’ll definitely be looking at ways to keep in touch about the work that I’m doing. In the meantime, thank you for all the good wishes, they’ve been much needed and very much appreciated.

The end of a long week

I don’t think I need to explain to anyone why last week was probably one of the longest of my life. Bashir’s death was a huge shock to all of us and something it will take time for us all to come to terms with. It’s not the way anyone would choose to come into an elected position and dealing with that has been character building to say the least.

I have been incredibly lucky to have received so much support from members of the SNP and other friends and family, all of them acknowledging the tragic circumstances, all of them sensitive enough to know that this is not something to be celebrated and all of them being supportive and encouraging.

The greatest strength however has been drawn from Bashir’s family – his wife, his 5 girls and his 2 boys. I barely know them but in the time I’ve spent with them this week, I have seen Bashir’s generosity of spirit in each and every one of them. We’ll keep in touch and I look forward to getting to know them better. And I hope, in some way, I can repay them for the kindness they’ve shown me in one of the worst week’s of all of their lives, a week when nobody would’ve minded if they’d thought of themselves. Because of them, I can move on and focus on representing the people of Glasgow to the best of my ability. I won’t forget that and I will never forget Bashir Ahmad.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Bashir's legacy

Seeing as my stats for this blog have quadrupled and then some (what's the word for a 5 fold increase again?) I thought I'd better write something.

Sometimes in politics, something happens to remind us all that we are more than just the parties we belong to. Something that reminds us of what we are - not just nationalists, socialists, conservatives, greens, or whatever else you identify yourself with, but human beings.

Bashir Ahmad's death and the reaction to it from across the parties is one of those things. It serves as one of those reminders. I confess, from time to time, I forget. I get so caught up in the combative nature of politics and the absolute belief that my party has got it right, that I forget that lots of these other people are good people too ~ we just disagree about how to make our country a better place for our people to live.

I doubt Bashir ever forgot that. I know I can't do him justice in this - maybe one day but right now it's too raw. All I will say is that he was a lovely man. You'll read that over and over again and it's because it's true. He never once failed to make me smile because he was just such a kind, polite, funny man. I only ever heard him say good things about people whatever they believed. He even effortlessly tolerated people who didn't believe in Independence, Bashir's main raison d'etre.

I think that's why the response has been the same across the parties. Of course when a politician dies, all parties say nice things but you can see the difference here. Many different people came to the funeral and they were genuinely upset, I've seen posts on blogs eg there's one on Tartan Hero's blog from Stephen Purcell, Labour Leader in Glasgow, I've had some myself. Everyone is shocked and saddened by Bashir's passing away. Our political opponents will know how devastated we all are and they've been very kind about Bashir, and very respectful towards us - certainly in my personal experience.

As I said, it's a reminder that although I may believe in Independence and you may believe in the Union, we still hurt the same, we still love the same, and we still care the same. (I'm still right about Independence mind you.)
Bashir is pictured here during the Glasgow East by-election with John Mason, now MP and "Oscar" a Plaid Cymru Assembly Member.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Labour playground politics part 75!

I was hearing that the Speaker of the House of Commons also my MP (so they tell me anyway!) Michael Martin, had to tick off his fellow Labour MPs in the house today for their obsessive references to the Scottish Government. They were warned that they have to stop using their Westminster positions as a political platform to attack the SNP Government. You know, if I were them, I think I might want to use my position to do something about this recession we're all suffering. Don't get me wrong, I am happy knowing that we're clearly doing something right if we're bugging them that much. But they need to remember their job is to run the countries of the UK, not to run another country down.

Missing by election registers - surely not!

One of my branch members said to me just after the Glenrothes by-election: "I bet the marked up registers make interesting reading!".

For those who have better things to do with their lives than look at marked up registers, basically these are the originals of the electoral register that the polling agents have in the polling places. You will have seen (if you've ever voted and if you haven't, what you doing reading this blog?!) that when you give your name and address, they take a pen and ruler and score your name out on the register.

All political parties are then entitled to obtain copies of this. Actually you MAKE the copies, at least the last time I did it I had to sit in the court and physically score out each name on my duplicate of the register.

Anyway there are lots of reasons for doing this. For example, if your records show that someone who told you they intended to vote for you didn't in actual fact go out and vote at all, you might think you're better concentrating efforts next time round on those who DID vote. Or you might think you should put in more effort with this person and maybe offer them a lift next time. I'm simplifying but that's so you can see that there is a reason other than nosiness for us looking at the marked up register.

The other thing it does is tells you how many folk have voted in the constituency and that should tally up with the number of votes announced in the results on the night. If it doesn't, you'd be smelling a rat and you'd be right to.

It shouldn't have the names of dead / housebound / on holiday people scored off now should it? If it does, you'd be smelling a rat and you'd be right to.

Changed days really. Many years ago when I was young, fundie and fanatical about Independence (2 out of 3 remaining ain't so bad is it?) it was exasperating / funny / infuriating (depending on your mood) to read the registers and find (just as an example to illustrate my point - no truth whatsoever in this) that an entire homeless hostel in the middle of Glasgow had voted. 100% turnout from them which was surprising in itself given the nomadic nature of folk who are unfortunate enough to have to live in hostels. Not just surprising but really rather remarkable given that no other street / unit / area had anything like 100% turnout.

So you'd want to check the marked up register for these and other reasons. Won't be able to do that with Glenrothes now will we? Not now that they've mysteriously gone missing. Not that I'm suggesting anything underhand. I mean just because something sounds dodgy doesn't mean it IS actually dodgy. Who would have anything to hide anyway? Still, I would have preferred it if we could have checked - just to be on the safe (and legal) side. Oh listen to me going on here - Gordon Brown's Labour Party won, with a bigger majority than anyone expected and that's really an end to it. Unless of course the enquiry tells us different ...

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Scottish voters awake and smelling the coffee

I blogged quite a bit about the budget fiasco last week. I was upbeat about how the SNP would be affected by it but in the back of my mind I was aware of something it pays never to forget in politics. Being right (and on this occasion we were) is not always a guarantee that the voters will see it that way. Perception is ALL in politics these days. People are busy and often they read nothing more than the headlines accompanied by the photographs which illustrate the journalist's own prejudices.

So whilst I had no doubt that the SNP government had approached the budget with an open mind and was genuinely attempting, within the limits of a minority government, to bring forward the best possible deal for Scotland, I wasn't too sure how the Scottish public would see it.

Therefore I am extremely proud, very happy and more than a little relieved to report some poll findings to you this morning.

YOUGOV on behalf of the Sunday Times polled 1500 voters on Thursday and Friday last week. They asked for leadership approval for each of the Scottish leaders with specific reference to how they rated the budget performance.

Greens Co-Convener Patrick Harvie down 25%
Tory Leader Annabelle Goldie was down 3%
Lib Dem Leader Tavish Scott - down 19%
Labour Leader Iain Gray -17%

And finally, Alex Salmond, First Minister and Leader of the SNP was UP by 11%!

Seems to me the people of Scotland KNOW that the SNP government would never, in a million years, do anything to damage Scotland's economy (as they were accused of last week by the unionists) - if anyone's going to do the right thing by Scotland, it's the SNP. Doing the right thing does NOT include playing politics with people's lives by voting down a budget which includes additional funding of £1.8billion in the middle of a recession.