Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Happy New Year!

With less than an hour to go until we reach 2009, I would like to take this opportunity to wish a HAPPY NEW YEAR to all of you who visit this blog. As regulars will know I've not been blogging much these past few months, primarily for health reasons. I'm happy to report that I seem to be well along the road to recovery although still waiting for an appointment with the Neurology department at PRI (letter last week saying that I'll get an appointment within the next 18 weeks which will undoubtedly become the kernel of a future post).

Anyway enough of my waffle - just off to check that the tablet has set, the shortbread is open (no black bun here - it's an East coast abomination!) and the champagne is chilling.

Happy New Year to you all and may the best of 2008 be the worst of 2009.

Cheers!

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Health update & a pop at Ryanair

I realise that I've not posted here for a tad over a month, so thought that I'd better update my health status - the hospitalisation ended up being only for two days (1 overnight) and I was cleared of having a DVT or PE or meningitis, which is the good stuff. The less so good news is that the headache which I've now had for 5 weeks continues, varying from a dull throb (when fully medicated) to what I would liken to wearing a skull cap of molten metal. At times it affects my ability to read and, especially, look at emails. I'm still hors d'combat and won't be blogging until I'm back to work. I also await further medical intervention, although the current consensus is that it's most likely to be a viral infection caused by mosquito bites in Barbados.

Before signing off, I must share this letter from today's Guardian:
" A spokesperson for Ryanair on Radio 4 complained they had to cancel 52 flights and "very little information was available". Now he knows how it feels."
(Runway protests, December 9th)
Dave Garner
Southport, Merseyside

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Blogging blip due to hospitalisation

This post is being typed up by my charming assistant who married me less than 14 days ago and ALREADY I'm in hospital.

Seriously though - the medics are concerned that I may have a pulmonary embolisim and are keeping me in overnight for observation before tomorrow's tests.

Back soon I hope.

The wife types - he should have worn his socks!!!

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Good week - Bad week

Good week:
Getting back home from our holiday/honeymoon in Barbados.

Barack Obama winning the Presidency of the USA.

Wedding congratulations from lots of family and friends.

Seeing the smirk wiped from Alex Salmond's smug face as the Gnats got thrashed in Glenrothes.

Having a house guest last night.

Catherine's folks offering to host a party to celebrate our marriage (accepted!)

Ros Scott winning an astonishing victory in the Lib Dem Federal Presidential race.

Seeing our holiday/honeymoon photos properly (I got a bit carried away and took over 1000 shots in 12 days).

Bad week:
Drop in temperature from 31C in Barbados to 9C in Carnbo.

10% drop in Lib Dem vote and lost deposit in Glenrothes.

Urgent GP appointment yesterday as left foot swollen to twice normal size and painful to walk on, being referred to hospital in Perth as GP suspected DVT. A 4 hour wait to see medic before having a blood thinning injection in stomach which was repeated today and will be repeated again tomorrow with a scan to follow on Monday. Bah!

Congratulations President-elect Ros Scott from one of the 72%

Baroness Ros Scott has stormed to an astounding victory in the race to become Federal President of the Liberal Democrats and I'm delighted to have backed her from an early stage.
The full result, which is all over the Lib Dem blogosphere, is:
Chandila Fernando 1 799 - 6%
Lembit Opik MP 6 247 - 22%
Baroness Ros Scott 20 736 - 72%

I supported Ros because I firmly believed that she was the candidate who would be the voice of the ordinary member and activist, was not an elected Parliamentarian, has experience in both Local Government and Lords, and has the character to effectively fulfil the onerous duties of the post. Ros will soon be getting an invite to come and visit us in the Ochil Lib Dems on her next trip to Scotland.

It's a particularly nice feeling to be on the wining side for a change as I didn't give my first preference to the winner in either of the last two Federal leadership contests or the last two Scottish Leadership contests. I think the last time I cast a vote for the winning candidate in any of these types of ballots was when Charles Kennedy got himself elected as Federal Leader.

My 1st preference for Ros was cast positively and not a vote against either Lembit or Chandila, both of whom I believe have much to contribute to our party in the future.

Many congratulations once again Ros. I'm sure that you'll be a President to be proud of.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Ouch! That was bloody painful.

Beaten into 4th by the Tories.
Bloody worrying.

Labour's 6000+ majority must cause serious concern for the Gnats.

I suspect that Mr Roy will actually be a good constituency MP.

Sqeeezed badly and a lost deposit with a drop in our vote of around 10%.
A bad, bad night and we must very soon address the issues which surround our party.

Is it time to remove all co-operation with the Gnats in Local Government?

Is this another Garscadden?

It seems from watching the Gnits and NuLab on the beeb that Lindsay Roy has won the Glenrothes by-election for Labour.

If this is indeed true then I wonder if the waves of the high tide of Gnantionalism have crashed ashore on the jaggy rocks of Scottish sensibility as happened in the Garscadden bye-election of 1978(?).

OK, it seems that we've may have lost our deposit but I'll make the usual excuses that we've been squeezed.

Looks like that the "broon boonce" exists.

Mea culpa that I've not been to help out.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

F1 shamed as Ecclestone panders to racism

F1's head honcho Bernie Ecclestone has embarrassed the sport by saying that those Spanish "fans" who blacked their faces, wore Afro wigs and barracked Lewis Hamilton weren't being racist. He said "It's all nonsense. In Spain people supported Fernando Alonso and in Brazil they supported Felipe Massa." Adding "I don't think it's anything to do with racism."

Well it seems pretty obvious that he doesn't think. He fails to comment on the overtly racist banners on display for 3 days at the Spanish Grand Prix. He also fails to take into account the views of the person who was on the receiving end of this overt racism, Lewis Hamilton, who has been quoted as saying "I didn't see it as a joke."

The BBC website has also reported on a worrying website:
"Visitors to a "voodoo-style" website were invited to drop imaginary nails on a computer version of the Interlagos track, in the hope that Hamilton would suffer a puncture. Many of the posts were obscene, while others referred to Hamilton's colour."

Hamilton's Father has also commented:
"My family have taken a lot of stick this past week, not just this week, but the past few months,"
"I did think that maybe this isn't the place for my family because as a parent you make sure you do right for your family and kids."


"But I never said anything to Lewis. I kept it to myself, even though I was going home and thinking 'I didn't think the world was quite like this'."

Yesterday I thought that the world was moving on with the election of Barack Obama as the first black President of the USA, but today, with Ecclestone's stupid comments, we see that the foul beast of racism still lives. I'm not, of course, accusing Ecclestone of racism himself but I am accusing him of having outdated old fashioned attitudes. All sporting organisations must do all in their power to change attitudes of ignorant and uneducated adherents of their sports.

Surely we should judge our fellow human beings on the words they speak and the deeds they do, not on the colour of their skin.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

An unconsidered downside of rustic life

Mutterings, mumblings and sotto voce cursing.
Tonight's one of my two favourite celebrations in the year, being Guy Fawkes night when I normally have fun with fireworks. The other night which I particularly enjoy is Halloween with all it's ghosties, ghoulies (note correct spelling) and hints of Samhain (note potential spelling disagreements).

Sadly there's been a marital bull issued against my pyrotechnic proclivities due to the assorted coos, horses and sheeps in the vicinity - can't scare the livestock says she. OK, says me, fair enough. Can we have some over at your Mum & Dad's says I hopefully? Nope - too many overhead wires. Bah!

Cunning plan for next year is to buy fireworks that are only pretty colours and don't make nasty bangs. Sorted!

McCain Palin into insignificance - Obama a victory for hope

It's stupid o'clock in the morning and I should be thankful for jetlag, however, it would seem that the next President of the USA wil be Barack Obama and that victory truly will be a victory for hope in this benighted world. A great taboo has been broken in America today.

Yes, I know that he's got faults - hey, who is perfect? This win though is a ray of light in a world with too many dark corners. maybe he'll let us down as New labour did but at least we know he'll be really trying for a better world and trying his very, very best for the people of the US.

As a matter of history; what was I doing when the news came through? discussing how to get port out of a cat and a sofa!

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

We got married in Barbados!


Catherine and I would like to announce that we were married on Monday the 27th of October 2008 in a ceremony held in St Matthias Magistrate's Court, in the Parish of Christ Church, Barbados.


We deliberately kept the nuptials quiet and our respective families, friends and mutual friends were not told until after the event. This was because we wanted a simple and private ceremony which was an affirmation of our love for each other. We intend to further celebrate with a party here in Kinross-shire at a later date.


The holiday in Barbados was originally booked as Catherine was attending a Soroptimist conference in Bridgetown from the 30th October to the 1st of November.


Happy!


Thursday, 2 October 2008

Gnats defeated on draconian alcohol age restrictions

News has just come in that the Gnats have been defeated in the Scottish Parliament on their draconian plans to increase age at which alcohol can be bought in Scotland from 18 to 21 years.

It would seem that a combination of the votes of Lib Dem, Labour, Tory & Green MSPs saw off the Gnats and their daft legislation. Legislation which would have meant that a serving member of the Royal Regiment of Scotland could be killed in battle but be unable to buy a can of beer in an off-license. Legislation which would have meant that a newly married teen or early twenties couple could not have bought a bottle of champagne to celebrate their nuptials. Legislation which would have meant that people would have the vote for 3 years before they could drown their sorrows if the Gnats won!

Of course I accept that Scotland as a nation has a drink problem, however, I believe that the way to address this begins with the effective enforcement of existing legislation, especially when it comes to corner shops flogging bucky (Buckfast) by the bucket-load to teens or those acting on their behalf. We also need to seriously look at how alcopop style drinks are marketed at an increasingly younger market and generally have a serious look at the entire nation's relationship with alcohol.

Scotland's alcohol problem requires a "National Dialogue" not knee-jerk legislation.

Who is censoring our MEPs?

According to the parliament.com website MEPs have been censored by the removal of a poster which urges MEPs to sign up to the one seat campaign which believes that the monthly trek by MEPs, staff and civil servants to Strasbourg is a waste of time and money.

German ALDE MEP Alexander Alvaro has written to both the president of the parliament and it's secretary general demanding an explanation for the censorship.

The full article can be found here.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

A little self indulgence on blogging

As my 'bloggers block' seems to have burst today I thought I'd witter for a few lines about blogging and me. I generally blog when I'm angry or amused about something (see earlier posts today regarding Cameron and the Tories) and when I feel that I may have something to contribute to a debate on issues. I'm fully aware that my style can be a touch awkward and my punctuation would have a teacher of English reaching for a shotgun but this is mine, my outlet, my rant & scream at this big, bad, unjust old world which, if the media were to be believed, is populated only by Tories, Gnats and fumbling Labouristas. It may not be the most articulate Lib Dem voice and may often criticise the 'establishment' in our party but at least it's another heart-felt advocate of Liberalism.

What constantly astounds me is that other people read this. To be voted at number 32 in the Lib Dem list and number 26 in the Scottish list by the readers of 'Total Politics' had me go WTF????? Then to discover that I made it into position 99 of the Wikio top 100 political blogs really stunned me, particularly as both came after a period of blogging inactivity.

There are many, many better, more informative, more interesting and more rounded blogs than this, which I regularly read. Probably my absolute favourite - certainly amongst Lib Dem blogs - is that of Alix Mortimer (now I'll have caused great huffs in hundreds of Lib Dem bloggers across the country). The People's Republic of Mortimer won 3 of the 6 categories at the recent Lib Dem bloggers awards. If I compared Alix's efforts to a beautiful hand-built Bentley then an appropriate comparison of my efforts would be a 1980's Lada or, if truth be be told, a 70's Trabant. But that's not to denigrate my own stuff - it's just different and I simply do not have the talent with words and punctuation which Alix and many others do.

I fully intend to continue to enjoy blogging and to keep writing, from the heart, in the usual 'machine-gun' style and I will always continue to be amazed that not only do people read it, but they come back for more! Thanks for stopping by.

Oh, another thing Mr Smarmeron

Bit after the Lord Mayor's show of you jumping onto the Gurkha Justice campaign bandwagon AFTER the High Court had ruled in their favour. Many more principled politician's have been supporting their cause for years. Peter Carroll was the first politician I was aware of raising the issue. My own employer, Elspeth Attwooll MEP first campaigned on the issue when the Lib Dem's last had Federal Conference in Bournemouth 4 years ago and I'm sure that Sharon Bowles and the rest of the Lib Dem MEPs have backed the Gurkhas. Our Leader Nick Clegg MP* has also been a high profile supporter.

Why do you think that the Gurkha Justice campaign had a reception and stall at Lib Dem conference this year and not at Labour or Tory one? And which party does Britain's only councillor who served in the ranks of the Gurkha's belong to?

If there has been high profile and public support (before the court result was known) from politicians of other political hues then I will be glad to report it if it's brought to my attention.

* I might not have voted for Nick in the leadership contest but his speech at this year's Federal Conference certainly won me over!

On planning

My silence regarding our objections regarding the adjacent development has been for a very good reason. We lost our objection and the Perth & Kinross Council Development Control Committee, despite the brave efforts of Councillors Lorraine Cadell and Sandy Miller, voted to approve both planning applications. I don't want to indulge myself in a potentially actionable outburst so will limit my comments to the fact that they approved the construction of a wall, which is unfit for purpose, on our property, and the potential intrusion onto our property by the developer. They approved houses which are 1.99 metres higher than in the original plans and this will cause potential flood problems for 6 other houses in the village. They approved the breaching of the council's own policy that there should be 9 metres between buildings - the closest part of next door is 7.5 metres from our gable end.

We are not taking this lying down and are taking legal advice. There shall also be a complaint lodged with the Scottish equivalent of the Local Government Ombudsman and there are other avenues which we shall pursue.

One of my friends advised me that a "quirk" of Scottish Planning Law is that you don't have to own the property that you're applying for planning permission on. This is a "quirk" that really needs to be changed as it gives unreasonable developers the excuse to infringe onto property which they don't own and then claim the defence that they were only doing it to meet their planning permission. Far fetched you think? Come to Carnbo and live with the reality.

Michael Gove on 5Live

I'm simply stunned by the rudeness of Michael Gove to Peter Allan on 5Live's drive programme. He just said to, with reference to smarmy Dave's speech him: "Either you haven't been listening at the back of the class or you have come to the speech having sucked several lemons."

Claptrap Cameron

Having just listened to Cameron's Leader's speech to Tory conference all I can say is what a load of utter claptrap, bollocks and tripe!

Surely people are not fooled by his empty rhetoric? The Tories, the party that under Thatcher and her successors did not believe in society, laying claim to be the party able to repair our "broken society" is nauseating.

To hear him claim that the Tories are the party with true green credentials stretches credulity to the limit. This from the man who cycles to work and has his paperwork follow in a chauffeur driven limousine.

He said that: "We will need to difficult and unpopular things for the good of the country." Ah well, that'll be Thatcherite spending cuts to our local services then.

As the BBC's Nick Robinson succinctly puts it: "It's back to the Future. David Cameron uses the memory of Margaret Thatcher to make the case for change and against experience."

My memories of Thatcherism are of millions of unemployed, searing cuts in public spending, a deterioration in the NHS, a greed is good "loadsamoney" culture, wholesale destruction of most of industry, and Britain as a nasty Xenophobic country which wasn't a nice place to live. If that's the memories you want to invike in people, be my guest, and it'll be the end of Tory credibility!

Monday, 22 September 2008

Well said Andy Myles

Fellow Scottish Lib Dem Andy Myles has strong opinions on many issues and, whether or not you agree with him, is always worth listening to. As it happens Andy's take on Scottish politics, especially Lib Dems, nearly always resonates with me.

The Current edition of Liberator (an excellent collectively produced periodical which I thoroughly recommend to all fellow "Social Liberals") has a two page 'open letter', penned by Andy, to newly-elected Scottish Lib Dem leader Tavish Scott.

In his piece Andy expresses some concerns regarding Tavish's leadership style - concerns which I share, although he expresses his feelings far more eloquently than I can.

Andy says:
"There are people in the party who are genuinely afraid that you are going to be exclusive - and lead the party from so far out in front that large sections are going to be out in the cold. Please prove them wrong. Leading Liberal Democrats is going to be like herding cats - frequently frustrating and always demanding - but we need all the cats. Skilled as a leader you might be, and with a group of talented friends, but we don't have talent to waste in the party......"

He continues:
"We need an inclusive style of leadership that leaves nobody out in the cold and uses every ounce of talent that we've got."

Adding:
We need to start from first principles and find ways of making the organism that is the Scottish Liberal Democrats work better. Please don't think that this can be ignored or brushed off or over. It can't. Not without causing massive friction. The leader needs to be able to lead all the cats - and that takes affection. All the best with the job. you're a braver man than me to take it on."

I do hope that Tavish takes Andy's advice to heart and acts upon it and now is the time to do it.

Andy was Chief Executive of the Scottish Liberal Democrats from 1992-97 and a Special Advisor (SPAD) to the Deputy First Minister from 2005-07.

Liberator is published 7/8 times a year an a UK subscription costs £23.
Cheques made payable to "Liberator Publications" should be sent to:
Liberator Publications
Flat 1
24 Alexandra Grove
London
N4 2LF

(It's worth the £23 sub for Lord Bonker's Diary in itself!)

Friday, 19 September 2008

When being overlooked isn't








Well according to Planning Officers of Perth & Kinross Council the above photographs don't amount to any significant loss of privacy and we are not losing amenity by being greatly overlooked. I wonder what would happen if we went into an estate agency and tried to get them to market the house as having "private gardens to the rear"? laughed out of the shop I would think.

The top photograph shows my eye line of sight, at night, when I'm standing at the back door having a cigarette.

The middle shows the view from the closest neighbouring property's patio doors. The wall between the properties is meant to be sandstone and NOT breeze block. It's also not meant to be built on our land!

Simon Wilson Homes and Carnbo resident's misery



The above video from BBC Scotland's Landward programme illustrates what the resident's of Carnbo village have been going through for over 3 years.


A few questions for Simon Wilson:

1. Why have you built a wall, without planning permission, on someone else's property?

2. Why have you destroyed the mill lade and caused another property to have a burn running through it where no burn existed before?

3. Why does the NHBC logo appear on your website when your company is not registered with the NHBC?

4. Why does your website advertise 6 house available for sale at Pitcairnie when you have only built 4 and only applied for planning permission for four?

5. Why do your selling agents claim that the houses in the Pitcairnie Steading development have a "large private garden" when they have gardens the size of pocket handkerchiefs?

6. Why are parts of your development 1.91 metres higher than on your planning application?

7. why are the retaining walls not build to British Standard?


let me assure you Wilson, we, the residents of Carnbo, are not going to lie down and roll-over. We are going to fight your aggressive, bullying, arrogance all the way, using every legal tactic available to us.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Bournemouth update

Not much time to spend having a decent blogging session but am having a really good and interesting time down here at Fed. Conf.

Just back from ALDC Fair trade reception, at which we were treated to brief speeches by a fine selection of guests and and impromptu visit by Nick Clegg. Am now about to go into the auditorium to listen to the debate on "Make it Happen" and probably support the awkward squad by voting for the anti tax cuts amendment.

Anyway lots of folk in the queue for the internet access , so more from Bournemouth later with any luck.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Nearly famous?

Just had my photo taken with Vince Cable for use in future campaigning purposes. I'm sure that it shall appear at some stage here or over on Facebook. Really feel properly in the swing of things at conference now - lots of running from fringes to training to Ros for President campaign meeting to the auditorium to more fringes and meeting up with old friends and getting to know new ones.

There is a really long and serious post brewing about the Gurkha Justice campaign which I suspect shall have to wait until after the conference due to the limited Internet availability. I hope that the High Court case, which is due on Tuesday, regarding the campaign renders this future post irrelevant.

Hello from Bournemouth

Day two of Federal Conference down here in VERY sunny Bournemouth. Needn't have bothered to have brought the laptop as neither the conference centre or hotel have WiFi available, so a quick post from the free internet cafe in the conference centre then off to a training session on taking better photos.

Yesterday was a comparatively free day to ease ourselves into the hurly burly. The highlight was the Lib Dem Bloggers awards up at Harry's Bar in the conference hotel. It was sponsored by ALDC and the LGA (plug provided as requested) and although I wasn't nominated it was a good fun event and I actually got a large cheer when I identified myself to the throng as the "real" Iain Dale as opposed to the Tory version who was also there. Alex Mortimer and her 'Peoples Republic of Mortimer' won three of the six awards, Baroness Ros Scott (who I support for Party President) won one, Peter Black AM the 5th and apologies to the 6th winner 'cos I've forgotten who it was - too much free wine perchance?

Anti pachyderm bias raised it's ugly head again as Millennium Elephant didn't win anything for the 3rd consecutive year.

Anyhow that's all that I've time for just now but if you're really unlucky you'll be hearing from me again sometime soon. If truth were to be told I'm very tempted to buy some suntan lotion and a pair of shorts and skive off to sit on the beach in glorious sunshine.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Virgin holidays attempt to extract the urine

We're off to Barbados in 5 and a bit weeks for a holiday and for Catherine's attendance at a Soroptimist conference and really looking forward to the whole event. Just a pity that when Virgin on the ridiculous holidays send us our flight schedule the have ever so conveniently given us an 8 hour 25 minute fun, fun, fun stop-over at that delightful Gatwick.

On the phone the other day to Virgin where the laddie on the other end of the phone says nothing can be done about it - take it or leave it. Now I know I have an attitude problem when it comes to phone monkeys (having been one myself I consider the term a badge of honour) taking the piss, so "supervisor please" is uttered only to be told that said supervisor is otherwise engaged. OK says I can I pretty please have a call-back within the hour? Sure says the PM, not a problem at all. Two hours and a half hours later and now in a REAL mood I phone Virgin on the ridiculous again. Go through the 96 available pre-recorded options and finally get connected to someone who transfers me to a supervisor. Forty minute conversation later he (nice bloke called Jaten) agrees that he'll cancel the Gatwick to Edinburgh return leg of our journey and refund the costs and we can book ourselves on EasyJet who have a flight departing just over two and a half hours after our arrival in the UK. sorted.

Well,not really as the explanation I was given for the 8h 25m delay was that BA insist on a 2 hour window between your arrival on one flight and departure on another (our flight arrives at 06.30 hours and there is a connection at 08.20 which is a mere 10 minutes short of the required 2 hours). I have since been told that BA do not have a two hour rule so must investigate further.......

Friday, 5 September 2008

Democracy Dragons Den

This is an event being held at Lib Dem Federal Conference in Bournemouth. I certainly intend to go along.


Democracy Dragons' Den
Electoral Reform Society with Lib Dem Voice

What's your one big idea to improve democracy in this country?

Submit your idea to democracy@electoral-reform.org.uk .

Then come to the Electoral Reform Society stand at conference in Bournemouth over Saturday and Sunday, and vote* to select the top five ideas submitted.

The top five win the opportunity to pitch their idea, Dragons' Den style, to the Electoral Reform Society's expert panel at our fringe event on Monday lunchtime. The panellists will be:
Julia Goldsworthy MP
Richard Reeves, chair of Demos
Ken Ritchie, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society
Stephen Tall of Lib Dem Voice
Plus, we'll give the top five a signed copy of Richard Reeves' new biography of John Stuart Mill.

This opportunity to shine is open to any Liberal Democrat party member attending conference. Give your proposal a title of not more than eight words, and summarise it in fewer than 30. You can provide more detail if you wish, but we won't be able to fit it on the ballot paper to select the ideas that get pitched to the panel.

Think the unthinkable, be bold, be positive, and give us your one big idea!

See you in Bournemouth,
Amy

Amy Rodger is the Electoral Reform Society's Scotland Director as well as the Liberal Democrat PPC for East Lothian.

*Single Transferable Vote, ERS rules! ;-)

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Bit of an ego boost

Lets make it quite clear, I do not blog for positions on tables or for awards or nominations thereto, I blog because I enjoy it, it gets things off my chest and because I'm vain enough to think that my views and opinions are worth sharing.

However I must admit to being a bit chuffed to discover that this blog has been listed on the other Iain Dale's list of Top 50 Lib Dem blogs at number 32 and also on his list of Top 40 Scottish blogs at number 26. This despite the fact that I've barely been blogging for the past few months.

Only two fellow Scottish Lib Dem bloggers beat me in both the Scottish and Lib Dem ranks - Stephen Glenn who blogs in West Lothian and Councillor Fraser McPherson from Dundee. Well done both.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Tavish Scott MSP Elected Scottish Lib Dem leader

The result of the Scottish Liberal Democrats leadership election has just been announced.
On a turnout of 61% of members the result is as follows:

Tavish Scott 1450 (59%)
Ross Finnie 568 (21.3%)
Mike Rumbles 439 (17.9)%

It will be interesting to see what direction the party now takes.

Friday, 22 August 2008

Mobile posted missing these last 8 days

My mobile phone seems to have gone walkabout as the last time I can remember having it was last Thursday so apologies if you've phoned in that time, I'm not ignoring you just not known that you've called.

Should you need to phone me for any reason then please try the house or office. I shall publish a post when I either find the damned thing or bite the bullet and buy a new one. I'm positive it's in the house somewhere but just can't find it. it's not even worth my while trying to phone it as it's set to vibrate rather than ring and the battery will have run down by now too.

Apologies for the lack of posting recently, hopefully I'll be back in full rant mode by early next week.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Alix's book meme thingy

Ok, I'll go along with it too. Those I've read are in red and those I intend to read are in blue. I've read a number of Shakespeare's plays and certain parts of the bible (won't be reading any in the future though) so they won't be in any colour.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 The Harry Potter Series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible*
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare *
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce (Like many people I have tried and failed to complete this tome)
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

I'm rather pleasantly surprised at how many of them Ive read. Thanks to Alix for setting things in motion.

Friday, 18 July 2008

A confession of idiocy

Having not been keeping too well for most of the week and still feeling a bit below par I decided that I'd make an effort to get into the office this morning. Up at 06.30 and Catherine drove us up to her Parent's house for showers (our boiler has broken down for the third time in 8 weeks so no hot water or heating), then a quick coffee before getting dropped off at Perth railway station for the 08.13 to Glasgow (£21.70 return). I arrived in the office just after 09.15 and was surprised to find the door locked and the place in darkness. Having made the assumption that my colleagues were over in Glasgow East helping with the by-election I started wading through my email. Then a slight concern started niggling at the back of my mind - wasn't there something I'd forgotten to do? Checked my diary and nothing in it for today. Then went online to Elspeth's electronic diary and what should I find?

Today is Glasgow Fair Friday and our office is closed for the public holiday!
How foolish do I feel now? Very, very, very.

At least I know in advance that Monday is also a holiday and my Sister-in-law will get her birthday card and present sent in time. Might also have a look at the summer sales too.

Monday, 14 July 2008

On censorship

It appears that those of us who are Office Bearers of the Scottish Liberal Democrats are denied our democratic rights to publicly voice an opinion regarding the forthcoming Scottish Leadership election.

In due deference to these asinine rules I hereby declare that I favour no one candidate over another and that any partisan posts which you may have read on this blog are simply a figment of your imagination. Due to the rules of my party I have again found myself in the incongruous position of being censored. Happy I am not.

This issue is a hivefull of bees in my bunnet.

Friday, 4 July 2008

The real reason for Nicol's resignation


It seems that he's started a business in Prague!

You couldn't make it up

The BBC news website often provides amusement with quirky stories and, to my mind, is a winner with this one about the drunken Swede: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/7482551.stm

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Nicol's full resignation statement

“Last week I informed the Convener of the Scottish Liberal Democrats that I intended to stand down as Party Leader.

“Today I am formally announcing that decision, with immediate effect.

“Everyone involved in politics knows that there are stresses and strains on family life.

“But when it goes beyond that, when it crosses a line, something has to be done.

“And at that stage - when you have to make a choice between family and politics - there can only be one answer. The health and wellbeing of your family has got to come first.

“With four children between the ages of 4 and 12, my family has got to be my priority.

“As an MSP representing a constituency well away from Edinburgh, I have been away from home at least four working days each week for more than nine years.

“As a Party Leader the responsibilities have been even more demanding. You have to be available every day, every week. There is rarely a weekend, a birthday or a family holiday when the demands of the job do not intrude.

“That is not to complain – long hours and long absences from home go with the job.

“But it can all have an impact.

“And when that impact becomes too great, it is time to put my family first.

“I will continue to represent Aberdeen South in the Scottish Parliament. I intend to remain a strong campaigner on behalf of my city and my constituents.

“It has been an honour and a great privilege to lead the party over the last three years and to be part of the first generation of Liberal Democrats to be in government in Britain since the Second World War.

“In that time the Scottish Liberal Democrats have achieved much for the people of Scotland. We succeeded in scrapping student tuition fees, in setting bold targets for renewable energy and in delivering a fair voting system for local government.

“As a Minister, I welcomed the chance to deliver the Parliament’s first cut in business rates, to introduce enterprise education for every child and to kick start new wave and tidal projects to release Scotland’s potential to be the renewable energy powerhouse of Europe.

“And, during my time as leader, the Party shook the foundations of Scottish politics when Willie Rennie gained the Dunfermline and West Fife by-election from Labour. We also gained Dunfermline West at the Scottish election, and across Scotland saw our number of votes and our share of the vote increase – a notable achievement for a party which had been in power for eight years.

“Our party is united and our shadow cabinet team has been taking the fight to the SNP in Parliament with a strong and consistently effective performance.

“And I have enjoyed challenging the new First Minister at question time each week. I will miss that.

“I will miss it all, a great deal.

“My hunger for change in Scotland – tackling global warming, building the role of young people in our country and stopping the slide of civil liberties – is no less now than when I started in politics 25 years ago.

“However, that drive and that passion comes at a price. And it is a sacrifice that that my family should no longer have to make. Their happiness is more important than any political office and that is the reason for me standing down as leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

“Our new leader can be assured of my total support and my constant encouragement. It has been a fascinating few days in Scottish politics and today’s announcement will be for most another unexpected twist.

“But the fundamentals are clear.

“The Liberal Democrats are united, strong and growing.

“Labour are coming to the end of their time at Westminster. The SNP are starting to find government tougher than they expected. Broken promises catch up with you. And the Conservative strategy of continually propping up the SNP in Holyrood remains to me simply staggering.

“I believe that there is a huge opportunity for our party at this time. It is going to be an exciting few years.

“And I wish my successor great success.

“Finally, I want to thank friends and colleagues for their support, advice and encouragement. They know who they are – at Westminster, at Holyrood and across Scotland. I will not get into that cliché of mentioning a long list of those who have meant so much to me over the years, but they know who they are.

“Above all, however, I want to thank my wife Caris and my four kids for all their help - and all they put up with - in supporting my life in politics.

“That other cliché is for a politician to say he is looking forward to spending more time with his family.

“In my case it happens to be true.

“Perhaps my announcement today should alert people to the demands which are placed on politicians and their families.

“For me, it is simpler than that. Recognising those demands, it reflects what I must do - as a personal, not a political, priority.

“Thank you.”

Nicol Stephen's resignation as Scottish Leader

Although I didn't vote for him as Leader and had some reservations about his Leadership of our party in Scotland, I know Nicol to be a thoroughly decent human being and determined to put his family first and foremost. There have been straws in the wind recently regarding his growing frustration concerning his severely limited "quality time" with Caris and their four children. I think that he has taken a difficult decision, especially as he has been the only opposition leader regularly and effectively able to lay heavy blows on that man Salmond, but I do applaud Nicol for his conscientious decision.

Thank you Nicol for all you have contributed to the cause of Liberal Democracy in Scotland during your watch as Scottish Leader. I am sure you will continue to make significant contributions in your role as MSP for Aberdeen South. Best wishes.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Gnats latest wheeze - get killed in battle at 18 but can't buy a tin of beer until 21

Oh aye, that'll be their famous joined up thinking at it's best then. What a fucking stupid idea from a fucking stupid party.

This proposal is the sort of shite that we would expect from the weirder outposts of UKIP and illiberal mobs of that ilk. If they stopped for a moment to think about the issue they would drop this lunacy and possibly, if they had the brainpower to work it out, start effectively enforcing the laws which currently exist.

Ditch this cobblers now.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Further blogging hiatus

Thanks to only being in the office 1 or 2 days a week and thus being V. busy and adding in the fact that we've got problems in connecting to our broadband at home, I am still unable to blog at my normal levels. I'll be back as soon as I get the home broadband scunner fixed, which hopefully, will be sooner rather than later.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Blogging gap

I moved into Kinross-shire last week and haven't worked out my Internet connection yet and we are off to Prague tomorrow so I probably shan't have the chance to blog before the 1st of June.
See you all soon.

Monday, 19 May 2008

Blow to Scottish separatist lobby as Al Fayed backs independence

In an interview with BBC Radio Scotland, Harrods proprietor, Mohamed Al fayed has said that he'll make the highlands his permanent home if Scotland secedes from the Union. The news will have the Gnats quaking in their boots at the thought of thousands of Scots suddenly deciding that this would be a price to high to pay for independence.

In a quite bizarre interview Al fayed also claimed that Scotland was founded by Egypt. His tale tale relates that a sister of Tutenkhamun, called Scota, had a fight with her father and left Egypt with her two sons. When they arrived at the Scottish/English border she took sick and popped her clogs. With her dying breath she told her two sons that the land north of the border was theirs and that they were to call it Scotland.

Some blog posts you simply couldn't make up.

Entire staff of Gretna FC made redundant

News has just reached me of the likely demise of Gretna FC as their entire staff, yes EVERYONE at the club, have been made redundant. I presume that this is also the reason why their website seems unobtainable at the moment. A sad, sad day for football in general and for Scottish football in particular.

Friday, 16 May 2008

Quiet weekend beckons - NOT!

Well it's finally here - moving weekend. Please wish us luck as Catherine, Penny, a van and I transfer my worldly goods from Irvine to Kinross-shire. Now I've just got to remember to tell the gas suppliers, electricity suppliers, Council Tax folks, insurers, bank, Post Office etc. But they all require a different form to be completed.

In some ways I'm very lucky as the bulk of the stuff that is going are my collection of wargames miniatures, books (circa 1200), DVD's, CD's, cooking gubbins and only three or four items of furniture.

The house in Irvine is where I was born and my family have been the only occupants since it was constructed 51 years ago so there is going to be some amount of emotional wrench involved. However there is a huge upside in that Catherine and I get to be together on a full time basis, I'll be living in an attractive rural location, my daily commute from Irvine to Glasgow ceases and becomes a once or twice a week trip from the village to Perth and then to Glasgow (working from home the rest of the time), I'll have my own office/study/wargames room when the large basement is converted and I'll have the opportunity of getting fit by cycling an 8 mile round trip to get my morning paper.

So, farewell to Ayrshire but I'll always be a proud Ayrshireman.

More strange happening on George Square

Further to yesterday's pantomime horse racing, as organised by a friend of mine - see comments to yesterday's post, today sees the square hosting a visit from "Europe's largest sofa"! This appears to be the length of around 30-35 normal sofas and is accompanied by a troupe of cheerleaders and a van bearing the slogan "if nothing happens in this bed don't blame us", not to forget the posse of photographers and camera crews. Even odder is that people are not being allowed to rest their weary bones on the thing. Frankly I'm mystified.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Obama only needs 139 more after John Edwards endorsement

News announced today is that former US Democratic Presidential contender John Edwards has endorsed Barack Obama for President. Despite Hillary Clinton's big win in West Virginia this Super-super Delegate endorsement will undoubtedly harm her chances of gaining the Democrat Presidential nomination, as will the other two Super Delegate announcements for Obama today.

Speaking at a rally in Michigan with Obama, Edwards said: "The Democratic voters in America have made their choice and so have I, There is one man who knows and understands that this is a time for bold leadership...there is one man who knows in his heart that it is time to create one America, not two - and that man is Barack Obama."

Obama now has 1887 pledged delegates to Clinton's 1718.

What the heck????

Has someone slipped some hallucinogenic substance into my coffee or are there really 8 pantomime horses racing round a track, which has four hurdles, on George Square today?

Wish I had my camera with me to prove it to you all!

Europe Day quiz answers

As promised, here are the answers to my Europe Day quiz. many thanks to those who puzzled over it and it's a familiar name who wins the ALDE goodie bag. Take a bow Stephen Glenn!

ROUND ONE
1. How many stars does the European flag have? Twelve

2. Name one of the two top wine producing countries in the world? France (1st) & Italy (2nd)

3. What is the name of the Festival which takes place in Munich every Autumn? Oktoberfest

4. Which country has borders with Belarus, Lithuania, Estonia and Russia? Latvia

5. How many countries are currently part of the Euro area? 15

6. Known as the Holy Mountain it is the centre of Eastern Christian Orthodox Monasticism. set in an area of outstanding natural beauty, it is a treasury housing many artefacts and monument of religious, national and artistic value. Where is it? Mount Athos

7. Which two European cities does Charles Dickens' Tale of Two Cities describe? London & Paris

8. How many time zones are there in the EU? 3

9. They played a major political, military and cultural role in medieval Europe and the Near East. famed for their martial spirit, Christian piety and their culture, such as their unique architecture. Invaders and conquerors, they established a kingdom in Sicily and southern Italy. Who were they? The Normans

10. Where did the singing revolution take place? Estonia, Latvia & Lithuania 1987-1990

ROUND TWO
1. When was the "Year of the Barricades", student riots in Paris and other cities? 1968

2. Karol Wojtyla became Pope in which year? 1978

3. Year the UK held a referendum on EEC membership? 1975

4. In what year was the Treaty of Rome signed? 1957 (25th March)

5. Year the Berlin Wall was built? 1961 - a couple of days before I was born!

6. Year and location of the 1st Eurovision Song Contest? 1956 in lugano, Swtzerland

7. In what year was decimal coinage introduced to the UK? 1971

8. Date of the great influenza pandemic which killed more than 50 million world-wide? 1918 to 1919

9. Year of the death of Franco? 1975

10. Date of the Russian Revolution? 1917 - 25th October

THIRD & FINAL ROUND

1. What is the name of the Roman road which runs from London to York via Lincoln? Ermine Street

2. Which is the longest river in the EU and how many EU countries does it flow through? Danube and it flows through 6 countries - Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria & Romania. Also flows through non-EU Croatia, Serbia, Moldova & Ukraine.

3. In what year did the Channel Tunnel open? 1991

4. From the 10th century to the present day, pilgrims have made their way to which Spanish cathedral city? Santiago de Compostela

5. developed in the late 1870s by ophthalmologist Dr Ludovic Zamenhof to promote international understanding, it was denounced by Stalin as "the language of spies". which language? Esperanto

6. Name the mechanism where locations in geographically and politically distinct areas are paired, with the goal of encouraging human contact and cultural links? Town Twinning

7. Name 3 of Paris's 6 railway stations? Choose from: Gare du Nord, de L'est, Austerlitz, Lyon, Montparnasse, Lyon

8. Who was the German printer who invented a mechanical way of making books? Johann Gutenberg

9. Originally founded in Spain in 1944, this household name has sister magazines in Britain, Ireland, Greece, Turkey, Serbia, Russia, Thailand, Canada, India, Mexico & UAE. What is the magazine's name? Hello magazine

10. Name the Italian cities where the following airports are located?
A. Leonardo Da Vinci - Rome
B. Galileo Galilei - Pisa
C. Amerigo Vespucci - Florence

RIP Tommy Burns

The sad news of the all too early death of Celtic legend Tommy Burns was announced today. Tommy died from the recurrence of skin cancer for which he was first treated in 2006. This is very sad news for all fans of football up here in Scotland. A full tribute can be fond on the BBC News website.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Huge pro-Union demonstration in Glasgow city centre

Hundreds, if not thousands, of anti-separatist demonstrators have been driving their Union Jack bedecked cars around the streets of Glasgow all morning in a clear signal that the Gnats desire to see the break up of the United Kingdom is very much a minority view. The protesters have even adopted a uniform of royal blue shirt with Carling lager advertising, jeans, trainers and excessive numbers of tattoos. The odd Saltire has also been seen and even a scattering of red hand of Ulster flags have been spotted.

On the other hand Glasgow Rangers are playing in the final of the UEFA cup in Manchester on Wednesday evening and the "Hun run" to that city appears to have started.

As someone who normally has a plague on both your houses attitude to both of the "Old Firm" I do make exceptions for any Scottish team playing in European competition and take this opportunity of publicly stating that I hope that Rangers beat Zenit St Petersburg in Wednesday night's final.

Friday, 9 May 2008

Hillary may quit Presidential race

Terry McAuliffe, Chairman of Hillary Clinton's campaign, has said that Hillary may quit her quest to become Democrat Presidential nominee if she still trails Barack Obama in delegates at the beginning of June. he also said that both Hillary and Bill would then unite behind Barack and concentrate their fire on Republican nominee John McCain.

Meanwhile the Obama camp has been today boosted by the announcement by two more Superdelegates that they are going to be backing him. It seems that one of these new supporters has transferred allegiance from Hillary.

Obama currently has 1849 to Clinton's 1697. The winning candidate requires to hit the magic figure of 2025 which means it is mathematically impossible for either candidate to win from the 6 remaining primaries, which means that the votes of the 260, as yet, uncommitted Superdelegates will be crucial.

Burmese Junta impounds UN food aid

In a move destined to win no friends the Burmese Junta has impounded the first shipment of aid which has been delivered to the devastated country from the World Food Programme (WFP). The WFP has announced that it has no option other than to suspend further shipments until the situation can be sorted. It is feared that up to 100 000 people may have died and up to 1 500 000 may have been affected by last week's Cyclone Nargis.

The UK Government has pledged $10 million in aid whilst the UN has matched the UK figures, the USA a miserly $3 million, Japan $10 Million, France $3 million and Australia $2.8 million.

WFP official Paul Risley commented:
"Three flights were scheduled for Saturday but now we have no choice but to suspend food aid until the food in warehouse is released for WFP to distribute it. It is sitting in a warehouse, it is not in trucks heading to Irrawaddy Delta where it is critically needed."

Another unidentified aid worker suggested that the Junta was "Murdering their own people by letting them die."

Baroness Michie of Gallanach

Sir David Steel wrote the Guardian obituary on Ray Michie and I reprint it here as it is som much more eloquent than my own words can be:

Baroness Michie of Gallanach, Ray Michie, who has died aged 74 after a long illness, was the daughter of the renowned John M Bannerman (Baron Bannerman of Kildonan), who for many years held the record as the most capped member of the Scottish Rugby Union, and was a well-known broadcaster in Scotland, and long-term chairman of the Scottish Liberal party.
The significance of her parentage - her mother was also a Liberal party stalwart - was that, as a teenager, she supported her father as holding speaker at meetings in the far-flung constituency of Inverness, until he arrived from the previous ones.
John first fought Inverness at the 1950 general election, but he is well remembered for two byelections - in Inverness in 1954, which provided the Liberal party with its then best byelection result since the second world war - and Paisley in 1961. In both cases he astonished the political world, including his own party, by only narrowly failing to win them. A photograph of her late father in his robes as a peer took pride of place in Ray's sitting room.
In the 1987 general election, she fought and won, at her third attempt, the Argyll and Bute constituency, which her father had also fought in 1945. The seat was a Conservative stronghold until February 1974, when it fell to the SNP, who lost it, in their turn, to the able Tory MP and minister John Mackay in 1983.
Rejoicing among Liberals at Ray's victory was great: not only was she seen to avenge her father's near misses, but she was the only female Liberal MP in that Parliament and, in her 14 years of popular service, she steadily increased her majority from 1,400 to nearly 7,000. The constituency is unusual in that it contains 26 inhabited islands, which she was assiduous in visiting, often turning her ferry trips into impromptu surgeries.
Born in Balmaha, on Loch Lomond, Ray was educated at Aberdeen high school for girls, Lansdowne House school in Edinburgh, and the Edinburgh College of Speech Therapy. In 1957 she married Iain Michie and the couple spent 16 years working with the Royal Army Medical Corps in a variety of countries including periods in Germany and east Asia. On return to Scotland he became consultant at the County hospital in Oban, where they made their hospitable home, and she continued work as a speech therapist.
In parliament Ray was Liberal Democrat spokesman on transport and rural development (1987-88), on Scotland (1988-97) and on women's issues (1988-94). She served as chairman - not for her "chairperson" - of the Scottish Liberal party (1992-93) and was a member of the Speaker's panel of chairmen in her last period in the Commons (1997-2001). Her two main aims at Westminster were Scottish self-government and the development of the Gaelic language. She therefore delighted in the creation of her long fought-for Scottish Parliament.
She took the oath in the Commons in Gaelic, and when she retired in 2001 and was made a life peer, she became the first person ever to take the oath in Gaelic in the House of Lords. "This brings home to people," she said, "who have an interest in the tradition and culture of the Highlands how vulnerable the language is and how we want to promote it."
She was a vice-president of the Royal College of Speech and Language and held honorary positions in An Comunn Gaidhealach, the Scottish National Farmers' Union, the Scottish Crofting Foundation, the Clyde Fisherman's Association and the National Council for Women.
When she retired from the Commons, she did so partly to be able to look after her ailing husband and to see more of her nine grandchildren. The travelling distance from Oban to London and subsequently her own ill-health meant she was unable to contribute as much to the Lords as she had in the Commons, but she remained active in local affairs.
She was predeceased by Iain and one daughter, and leaves two other daughters and her grandchildren.
· Janet Ray Michie, Baroness Michie of Gallanach, politician and speech therapist, born February 4 1934; died May 6 2008

Copyright The Guardian

Celebrate Europe day with a Euro Quiz

As promised here is the mammoth Euro quiz to celebrate Europe Day - 9th May. many thanks to the UK office of the European Parliament for the questions. An ALDE & EP goodie bag goes to the person who has most correct answers when entries close at 5pm on Monday the 12th May 2008 at 17.00. If you are feart of public humiliation or don't want to show the world how knowledgeable you are then you can email your answer to iaindale@yahoo.com
Good luck!

ROUND ONE
1. How many stars does the European flag have?

2. Name one of the two top wine producing countries in the world?

3. What is the name of the Festival which takes place in Munich every Autumn?

4. Which country has borders with Belarus, Lithuania, Estonia and Russia?

5. How many countries are currently part of the Euro area?

6. Known as the Holy Mountain it is the centre of Eastern Christian Orthodox Monasticism. set in an area of outstanding natural beauty, it is a treasury housing many artefacts and monument of religious, national and artistic value. Where is it?

7. Which two European cities does Charles Dickens' Tale of Two Cities describe?

8. How many time zones are there in the EU?

9. They played a major political, military and cultural role in medieval Europe and the Near East. famed for their martial spirit, Christian piety and their culture, such as their unique architecture. Invaders and conquerors, they established a kingdom in Sicily and southern Italy. Who were they?

10. Where did the singing revolution take place?


ROUND TWO
1. When was the "Year of the Barricades", student riots in Paris and other cities?

2. Karol Wojtyla became Pope in which year?

3. Year the UK held a referendum on EEC membership?

4. In what year was the Treaty of Rome signed?

5. Year the Berlin Wall was built?

6. Year and location of the 1st Eurovision Song Contest?

7. In what year was decimal coinage introduced to the UK?

8. Date of the great influenza pandemic which killed more than 50 million world-wide?

9. Year of the death of Franco?

10. Date of the Russian Revolution?

THIRD & FINAL ROUND
1. What is the name of the Roman road which runs from London to York via Lincoln?

2. Which is the longest river in the EU and how many EU countries does it flow through?

3. In what year did the Channel Tunnel open?

4. From the 10th century to the present day, pilgrims have made their way to which Spanish cathedral city?

5. developed in the late 1870s by ophthalmologist Dr Ludovic Zamenhof to promote international understanding, it was denounced by Stalin as "the language of spies". which language?

6. Name the mechanism where locations in geographically and politically distinct areas are paired, with the goal of encouraging human contact and cultural links?

7. Name 3 of Paris's 6 railway stations

8. Who was the German printer who invented a mechanical way of making books?

9. Originally founded in Spain in 1944, this household name has sister magazines in Britain, Ireland, Greece, Turkey, Serbia, Russia, Thailand, Canada, India, Mexico & UAE. What is the magazine's name?

10. Name the Italian cities where the following airports are located?
A. Leonardo Da Vinci
B. Galileo Galilei
C. Amerigo Vespucci

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Yet another facet of our "Big Brother" society

It's being reported a number of private sector employers are clubbing together to produce an online database of workers accused of dishonesty and theft. The National Staff Dismissal Register (NSDR) is going live later this month.

Reed Managed Services, Mothercare, Harrods and Selfridges are amongst the companies who have signed up for the scheme which will allow them to check whether job applicants have faced allegations of causing loss to employers & suppliers, fraud, forgery, damaging company property and theft.

Employees who have had any of these charges levelled at them will be included on the database regardless of whether the Police have charged them with any crime. Workers who have left their jobs before disciplinary action commenced will also be included in the lists.

The TUC and Liberty have raised serious concerns about this database. TUC spokesperson Hannah Reed said:
"The TUC is seriously concerned that this register can only lead to people being shut out from the job market by an employer who falsely accuses them of misconduct or sacks them because they bear them a grudge. Individuals would be treated as criminals, even though the police have never been contacted."

"The Criminal Records Bureau was set up to assist employers to make safe appointments when recruiting staff to work with vulnerable groups. The CRB already provides appropriate and properly regulated protection for employers. Under the new register, an employee may not be aware they have been blacklisted or have any right to appeal."


Liberty's Legal Director James Welch added:
"This scheme appears to bypass existing laws which protect employees by limiting the circumstances when information about possible criminal activity can be shared with potential employers."

I would ask that all Lib Dems reading this who are as appalled at this gross invasion of our privacy as I am, please contact our Lib Dem MP's and ask them to get a campaign together to stop this monstrosity. These matters should be a matter for the Police and Courts not unaccountable private firms.

P.S. This is actually quite scary as last night I finished reading "The Dark River" which is book 2 of John Twelve Hawks Fourth Realm trilogy in which "Travellers" battle to stop "The Brethren" from creating a 21st century world-wide version of Jeremy Bentham's Pantopticon and here I find a facet of it in real life UK.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

In Memorium - Ray Michie

It is with great sadness I discover the death of Baroness Ray Michie at the all too early age of 74.
I simply do not have the time to post a full tribute until tomorrow but will for the time being point you towards the BBC News Website. This news is a great sadness to all of in the Liberal Democrats and to the people of Argyll & Bute whom she represented in the Westminster Parliament until her 2001 retiral.

Ne'er cast a cloot til mey's* oot

In other words don't start removing layers of clothing until the mey plant is in bloom. Well the west of Scotland is rather chock full of people ignoring the advice of the old Scottish proverb including in Glasgow's George Square, over which my office window looks - it's absolutely packed with people soaking up the sun and, I dare say unwittingly exposing themselves to increased chances of melanomas. It's being so cheerful that keeps me going. If the truth were to be told it's simply jealousy on my part as I can't go home and get into my shorts and soak up some of the glorious weather myself, instead I must take the train to Edinburgh and visit the party accountants to prove that I'm not an international money launderer or an English Tory blogger!
After that it's Office Bearer's for, at least, a couple of hours and home for just before 10pm, at the earliest. Grumble, gripe and groan.

* If you pardon the pun, I may have the spelling wrong.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

It doesn't surprise me at all

The BBC news website has a story concerning a new report which states that the liberalisation of the postal service in the UK has had "no significant benefits" which, quite frankly, does not surprise me one jot. fact i believe that the postal service has deteriorated significantly in the last few years. I am quite suspicious that my street has not been getting daily deliveries for some months now as mail seems to arrive in large batches every two or three days rather than the previous couple of letters every day and when it does arrive it normally between 1pm and 3pm. Many people I know have given up their jobs as posties because of the aggressive tactics of the management and many others are sorely demoralised. Successive Tory and Labour Governments have decimated the post office and sub-post office networks - the main PO in Irvine is now stuck at the back of a Spar shop. Labour certainly made things worse when they insisted that pensions etc would have to be paid into bank accounts and did away with the Post Office as the exclusive outlet for TV licensing.

Perhaps we should think again about our on policies on postal services and accept the Post Office and Royal Mail as National assets, not semi-private cash cows for milking.

A few views of Scotland

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1
One of the great aspects of my job is that I get to travel all round Scotland when Elspeth is making constituency visits (yes, the whole of Scotland is one EP constituency) and meeting up with local Lib Dems. Here are a selection of photos from my travels over the last few years which I believe show just how beautiful Scotland can be.
They are in order:
1. St Andrew's harbour
2. Edinglassie Estate in Aberdeenshire
3. Dunure Castle in Ayrshire.
4. The solway firth in Dumfries & Galloway.
5. The falls of Clyde by New Lanark.
6. The Forth estuary taken from Kinghorn in Fife.
7. Another view of the Solway Firth - this one taken from Carsluith.
8. The P.S. Waverley steams towards Largs.
9. Me monster hunting on Loch Ness. Didn't find Nessie but got "mosnstered" celebrating Danny Alexander's election as Member of Parliament for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey.
10. Evening view from the new control tower at Edinburgh Airport.
11. Unusual view of the Scottish Parliament.
12. Moors near Tain.
13. Foggy Christmas morning in Craigend, Perthshire.
14. Irvine harbour.

A week is a long time in blogging


Blogging hiatus for the last week as I've been up in Aberdeenshire with the boss and relaxing over the bank holiday weekend so have been away from the net for much of that time. (The photo is of part of the 17,000 acre estate we visited)


Whats happened since I last blogged? Well there has been a round of local elections in England & Wales where Labour got absolutely trashed by the electorate across the board, Tories had a fantastic night and we had a better than expected night ending up with a net gain of 30 odd seats - personally I'd been expecting a loss of anywhere up to 100. Londoners have shown themselves to be political plonkers by electing Boris "blethering idiot" Johnstone as their Mayor and putting a fascist scumbag into their Londim Assembly in the shape of a BNP member. Ken wasn't worthy of re-election but I was very disappointed that the stand out best candidate, Brian Paddick, came 3rd.


On the fitba front Rangers made it to the UEFA cup final in Manchester whilst Manchester United and Chelsea made it to the Champions League final in Moscow - wonder if Abramovich manages to turn up to that one? sadly Irvine Meadow lost two nil away to Pollock which put our title hopes in serious jeopardy :(


Up here in Scotland wee Wendy has done a scorching U-turn on the question of an independence question in a constitutional referendum. Time for our Scottish Lib Dem leader Nicol Stephen to also have a change in heart methinks. It is well worth remembering that our Scottish Conference has not debated this position and that the Leader announced the policy off his own bat during last year's election campaign. Methinks I feel a conference motion coming on.


Other news: a crane collapsed at the BAE systems shipyard in Govan this morning causing damage but fortunately no serious casualties; A typhoon in Burma has killed thousand and made hundreds of thousands more homeless, thankfully however, the Junta has said that it will accept assistance from international aid organisations; It would seem that our "Big Brother" state of millions of CCTV cameras has failed to cut crime - no surprise there then. Obama and Clinto are still going head-to-head in Indiana and North Carolina - go Barack go!


Finally the Labour whips in the Commons have failed to suitably honour the memory of Gwyneth Dunwoody MP, the recently deceased member for Crewe & Nantwich, by calling the by-election even before her funeral. Very, very distasteful sharp practice.


Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Answers to last weeks Euro-quiz

Sadly only one person brave enough to stake their reputation by giving written answers. Take a bow Stephen Glenn. Here are the questions again but with the answers this time:

Q1. How many members states are there in the European Union? A: 27

Q2. How many official languages does the EU have? A: 23

Q3. Which is the biggest country in the EU by land mass? A: France

Q4. To the nearest full percentage, what percentage of EU citizens live in cities? 80%

Q5. According to reports in the press, about 98% of all Spanish people participate in what every Christmas? (1st begun in 1812) A: The national lottery

Q6. Which country has most public holidays in the EU and which country has least? A: Finland 14 (most) UK 8 (least)

Q7. Which country has won the Eurovision song contest most times? A: Ireland - 7 times. (Luxembourg, France & UK - 5 times)

Q8. Europe is the continent visited by most tourists: in fact, six EU countries were in the world's top ten destinations in 2006. Name them? A: France, Spain, Italy, UK, Germany, Austria

Q9. To the nearest thousand, how many staff are employed by the European Commission? A: circa 30 000

Q10. Which EU countries have the greatest and least population density? A: Netherlands (474 inhabitants per km2) & Finland (17 inhabitants per km2)

As promised, I shall try to post a longer, more general, euro-quiz on Europe Day May 9th and offer some form of European prize to the winning entry, should there be more than one entrant.

Fuel gloom

Grangemouth refinery strike with possibility of more to come, predictions of unleaded costing £1.50 a litre by the end of the summer,record profits for BP and Shell, OPEC waring of the $200 barrel of oil, BA announcing fuel duty surcharge etc. No wonder I'm feeling somewhat gloomy about transport prices today.

Although I'm a non-driver I shall shortly be moving to a rural location where I will be dependent on my partner and her car (or taxis) for transport to the nearest town. The car is fuel efficient as it gets about 11 - 12 miles per litre and, because of the small engine, attracts the lowest Road Tax charge. The fuel costs don't just affect how much we travel it affects almost every aspect of our lives. Fuel goes up, flights go up and holidays abroad go up. Fuel goes up, haulage costs go up and food, drink & clothing goes up. Fuel goes up and public transport fares go up and so on. We, as a society, need to take a thorough look at our love affair with cars and roads and we need to do it before it's too late.

Some off the top of my head ideas: more freight onto the rail network and new track laid; reduce road tax for rural postcodes; more buses at more useful times in rural areas; severe tax surcharge for "Chelsea tractors" registered in urban postcodes; tax surcharge for each vehicle above one registered at a domestic address; scrap the fuel duty escalator and instigate a cut; ban gas guzzling motor sports such as rallying and f1 (sorry DoctorVee); windfall tax on oil companies and I'm sure that there are many, many other potential options. Any suggestions welcome.

Watch the missing idiot!

I know most people in Scotland don't see that the London Mayoral campaign has much relevance to them but this little film pretty much hits the mark about Boris.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Now some bad news - Grangemouth strike still on

They say Ross Finnie has more than a passing resemblance to Captain Mainwaring from Dad's Army. Today we saw Eck Salmond taking on the Corporal Jones role of running around in turmoil shouting "Don't panic!" to the people of Scotland. When Eck tells me not to panic and not to panic buy fuel, my initial response is to panic, but not to panic buy fuel 'cos I don't have a car and can't drive.

Seriously though, this dispute at Grangemouth is getting very, very worrysome. We now have the company, Ineos, suing the union, Unite, over claims that the pension fund had been raided to the tune of £40 Million. Talks at ACAS have also broken down, the Grangemouth shut-down continues and the strikes on Sunday and Monday are still on the cards.

The dispute is centred on Ineos plans to change the current Final Salary pension scheme. The wish to close membership to any new employees and pay 6% per annum to the existing 1/60th salary scheme. The union has said that company will be penalising employees for taking early retirement and in a strike ballot got the endorsement of 97% of their 1250 Grangemouth employees. As far as I can see one side is being as intransigent as the other and no-one seems much interested in compromise.

All the trade organisation, the Scottish Government and the Westminster Government have said that as long as people don't panic then we have nearly 70 days worth of supply left. Sadly they are all being unrealistic - we now live in a much more self centred society (thanks Thatcher you auld hag) and people will simply put their own needs first.

My solution: well there's the nub. People won't stop panicking until there is settlement of the dispute. My suggestion is that both sides go back to ACAS and accept their decision as legally binding. It seems the only feasible way out. Other ideas and opinions welcome.

The other possible solution would be bang the two sets of heads together until they see some bloody sense!

More good news!

It always gives me pleasure to see an arsehole get his come-uppance and millionaire Euan Snowie got his yesterday when he lost his legal bid to keep us, the great unwashed, from rambling across his estate.

He had gone to law to challenge the "Right to Roam" legislation which was enacted by the previous Lib Dem & Labour Executive. He was attempting to stop public access to his 70 acre Boquhan House estate which is near Kippen. he had closed and padlocked the western gates to the estate in 2005. After receiveing numerous complaints Stirling Council raised the case in Court.

In his judgement Sheriff Andrew Cubie said:
"Mr Snowie's position appeared to be that if someone was not courteous to him then they could not under any circumstance be a genuine recreational walker."

The Rambler's Association Scotland welcomed the judgement, with President Denis Canavan saying: "The decision also sends a message to local authorities that access rights apply along driveways and past gatehouses.

"There are a number of cases around the country where signs have been erected and gates locked and we hope the authorities will now take action knowing that the courts will back them up."

Hopefully Ann Gloag's exemption at her Kinfauns Castle estate will now be reviewed.

Good news!

Ha! The thieving gits that are our country's banks have deservedly had their arses kicked in court today. The BBC News Website has the full story.

This means that the OFT can tell the shower of bankers (yes, you can do the rhyming slang) to cut their charges and it also means that thousands of people ripped off by them have a chance of getting their dosh back. Of course the banks will appeal to the highest level possible rather than admit they were overcharging us.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

European Quiz

In advance of Europe Day on May 9th the EP UK Office have sent out a European Quiz book. So I thought I'd use one of the quizzes from it to test your European knowledge. This one is just for fun and to whet your appetite for a larger one on May 9th, for which I'll supply some appropriate Euro goodies for the winning entry. MEP staff are banned form participating!

Q1. How many members states are there in the European Union?

Q2. How many official languages does the EU have?

Q3. Which is the biggest country in the EU by land mass?

Q4. To the nearest full percentage, what percentage of EU citizens live in cities?

Q5. According to reports in the press, about 98% of all Spanish people participate in what every Christmas? (1st begun in 1812)

Q6. Which country has most public holidays in the EU and which country has least?

Q7. Which country has won the Eurovision song contest most times?

Q8. Europe is the continent visited by most tourists: i fact, six EU countries were in the world's top ten destinations in 2006. Name them?

Q9. To the nearest thousand, how many staff are employed by the European Commission?

Q10. Which EU countries have the greatest and least population density?

Many thanks to the UK office of the European Parliament for this quiz.

Have fun!

Monday, 21 April 2008

Lewis wind farm plan rejected

The Scottish Government have finally come out and reject plans to build a 181 turbine wind farm on the island of Lewis.

Scottish ministers decided the project would have a serious impact on the Lewis Peatlands Special Protection Area, which is designated under the European Commission (EC) Birds Directive and protected under the EC Habitats Directive.

Energy Minister Jim Mather said: "The Lewis Wind Farm would have significant adverse impacts on the Lewis Peatlands Special Protection Area, which is designated due to its high value for rare and endangered birds.
"This decision does not mean that there cannot be onshore wind farms in the Western Isles.
"I strongly believe the vast renewables potential needs to be exploited to ensure that the opportunities and benefits of new development can be shared across the country in an equitable fashion."


This is a rare case of this blog and blogger being in agreement with the Gnat run Scottish Government. Well done to them for making the correct decision even if they hummed and hawed for far too long over it.

Is Scotland about to grind to a stop?

Very worrying news concerning the potential 48 hour strike by staff at Scotland's only oil refinery at Grangemouth. Most papers up here had headlines this morning about motorists already starting to panic buy fuel. The Scotsman reported at 5am there were queues at the pumps, sales were up 50% and the 1st petrol station had sold out.

The dispute is between members of the Unite union and workers employed at the plant which is owned by Ineos and is centred on pension arrangements. The Scottish Government has offered independent mediators to try and break the deadlock although Westminster has ultimate authority regarding fuel supplies.

Grangemouth's owners have started the process of closing the refinery down ahead of the walk-out by the 1200 workers next Sunday and Monday. It is thought that it could take up to a month to fully restart operations and have supplies running at normal levels. Ineos have suggested that the shut-down could cause "Chaos" for fuel supplies but Unison have described this as "scaremongering".

I suspect that I shall be returning to this subject as events take their course but it's bloody worrying even for a non driver!

Eck in fantasyland

Eck Salmond heid honcho of the Gnats seems to be living in fantasyland if he believes that they can gain at least an extra 14 seats at the next Westminster election. Reasons? Well at the 2005 Westminster election the Gnats won 6 seats and came 2nd in 20. Two of their held seats Perth & North Perthshire and Angus are held by a small majority (Perth 1521, Angus 1601) and are vulnerable to folk voting Tory to oust the Gnat type tactical voting.

Lets have a look at the 20 seats where they are second:
Airdrie & Shotts. Labour majority 14 o84. Swing required 21.2%.
Coatbridge, Chryston & Bellshill. Labour majority 19 519. Swing required 25.5%.
Cumbernauld, Kilsyth & Kirkintilloch East. Labour majority 11 562. Swing required 14.8%.
Dundee West. Labour majority 5 379. Swing required 7.3%.
East Kilbride, Strathaven & Lesmahagow. Labour majority 14 723. Swing required 15.4%.
Falkirk. Labour majority 13 475. Swing required 14.7%.
Glasgow East. Labour majority 13 507. Swing required 21.8%.
Glasgow North East (Speaker). Speaker majority 10 134. Swing required 17.8%.
Glasgow South West. Labour majority 13 896. Swing required 22.4%.
Glenrothes. Labour majority 10 664. Swing required 14.3%.
Inverclyde. Labour majority 11 259. Swing required 15.6%.
Kilmarnock & Loudon. Labour majority 8 703. Swing required 9.8%.
Kircaldy & Cowdenbeath. Labour majority 18 216. Swing required 21.8%.
Lanark & Hamilton East. Labour majority 11 947. Swing required 13.7%.
Linlithgow & East Falkirk. Labour majority 11 202. 12%.
Livingston. Labour majority 13 097. Swing required 14.8%.
Motherwell & Wishaw. Labour majority 15 222. Swing required 20.5%.
Ochil & South Perthshire. Labour majority 688. Swing required 0.735%.
Paisley & Renfrewshire North. Labour majority 11 001. Swing required 13.5%.
West Dunbartonshire. Labour majority 12 553. Swing required 15.1%.

As they borrowed two seats from us at last year's Holyrood elections they must be added as Westminster targets too:
Argyll & Bute. Lib Dem majority over Gnats (4th) 9 070. Swing required 10.5%.
Gordon. Lib Dem majority over Gnats (4th) 12 910. Swing required 14.5%.

In a YouGov opinion poll which was published on the 8th of April voting intentions in Scotland were listed as Labour 35% Gnat 31%. Bearing in mind that Labour polled 38.9% and the Gnats 17.7% at the last Westminster election this shows that the Gnats have achieved a swing of 8.6% since then. This would mean that of their Labour target seats they would win Ochil & South Perthshire, Dundee West and be quite close to (but no coconut) Kilmarnock & Loudon. Say they also win one seat from us but lose one of their holds to the Tories, then they would have a grand total of 8 Westminster seats. A far, far cry from the 20 that Eck wants - does the man's arrogance and smugness have no end?

Being slightly less controversial, I would argue that voters tend to punish an unpopular government with whatever club available. This in Scotland could see us taking Aberdeen South, Edinburgh South, Edinburgh North & Leith and Glasgow North with the Tories possibly taking Dumfries & Galloway, East Renfrewshire, Edinburgh South West & Stirling. Of course this will only happen if the current Government continue with their lack of popularity and remember that Broon will probably, given our current political landscape, continue until 2010. The Gnats also need to remember that people vote differently when voting for Westminster than they do for Holyrood.