Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Is this humerous?

Look, apologies up front if anyone is offended by this post, but sometimes my humour is deeply dark and, yes, I couldn't help smiling at this story from the BBC Scotland news website.


Another Tory MP in the S**t

Nigel Waterson, Tory MP for Eastbourne, was arrested and held for 13 hours by Police on Sunday night on charges of assault.

The arrest was made, at a house in Bromley, after Police were called to deal with an incident in which two teenage children were allegedly assaulted.

More to follow on due course.

More troubles for Tory MP Conway

Tory MP Derek Conway, who was yesterday reprimanded by the Commons Standards & Priviledges Committee, faces further troubles today.

- The latest news is that he has had the whip withdrawn by the Conservative Party.
- A complaint has been lodged regarding his behaviour with the Metropolitan Police by Duncan Borrowman who is the Lib Dem PPC for Old Bexley & Sidcup. http://duncanborrowman.blogspot.com/
- A further complaint has been lodged with the Parliamentary Commissioner over Conway's previous employment of his older son.
- He was defended by his chum Roger Gale, Tory MP for Thanet North, who said "The fact of the matter is that Derek did not keep time sheets, as I don't for my staff. When there's work to do they do it, when there isn't they don't."

Hmm, I really do wonder if Gale realised he was admitting to paying his staff for doing nothing?

Monday, 28 January 2008

Inverness - City or town?

It seems that there's a bit of a to do up in Inversnecky (Inverness) about it's city status. Inverness was one of the towns given city status by the Queen during the Millennium celebrations, which really hacked off the good burghers of Perth (aka "The Fair City") who claim that their place is Scotland's true 5th city.

Artist, Historian and former Inverness Councillor Hector MacDonald has claimed that her Maj used the name Elizabeth II on the charter and that as she is not Elizabeth II of Scotland, the whole damn think is kaput. Hector said "The official charter has the Queen's name as Elizabeth II which is not recognised in Scotland." "It has never been used on official documents north of the border, so makes this charter naming Inverness as a city illegal."

A Buck house flunky commented "On official duties the Queens signs as Elizabeth R" also commenting "The question about the way this document is drafted, and many others like this in Scotland, is a matter for the Holyrood Parliament."

Well this is a storm in the proverbial teacup. Perhaps former Councillor MacDonald has just a wee bit too much time on his hands.

Tory MP facing suspension over allowances

Derek Conway the Tory MP for Old Bexley & Sidcup is facing a 10 day suspension from the Commons over upheld allegations that he wrongly misused allowances to overpay his son who was working for him part-time. (Wonder if he knows who the allegators are? - don't ask - this is a wonderful modern urban myth about an old Labour Councillor in Lanarkshire.)

The Commons Standards & Priviledges Committee has ruled that he should repay The overpaid bonus sums" . Conway's son Freddie was paid at the full time equivalent of nearly £26 000 per annum but the Committee noted "no records appear to exist of actual work that FC did for his father, or the work he was required to undertake." they added "we are astonished that there appears to be no evidence, independent or otherwise, of any aspect of FC's work for his father" they further said that he had little or no contact with his father's office, either in the House or the constituency." During most of this period Conway junior was studying full time for a degree at Newcastle University. Newcastle is a mere 315 miles & a 5-6 hour drive from Sidcup.

The Committee further added that the arrangement was "at the least an improper use of Parliamentary allowances and at worst, a serious diversion of public funds."

"taking together our assessments of the salary level paid to Fc and the number of hours he was remunerated, we are of the view that Conway misused the staffing allowance."

It's my opinion that events such as these, Labour's ongoing donations troubles and the Gnat's possible problems over allegations that a donor had Scottish Government Ministers intervene in the planning process, all tarnish the public view of politics and politicians. It's high time that we gave serious consideration to the public funding of political parties and banned individual donations of more than, for example, £1000.

Ripped off from the Herald's Diary

The (Glasgow) Herald's Diary column, penned by Ken Smith, Can usually be relied on to produce a smile even on the dreichest Scottish Monday morning. Today was no exception and I unreservedly pinch this joke from today's column:

"The latest strategy by Democrat presidential hopeful Barack Obama to attract the Irish vote in New York - he's adding an apostrophe to his surname after the O."

Salmond piste off in new planning rumpus

It has emerged that Gnat FM Eck Salmond is embroiled in another planning stooshie. This one is to the tune of £30 000.

He is accused of meddling to rescue plans to expand the MacDonald Highland Resort in Aviemore. The Chief Executive of the company which owns the resort is Donald MacDonald who, last year, donated £30 000 to the gnats.

It seems that he spoke with Scotland's Chief Planner on the issue and also instructed Environment Minister Mike Russell to contact SEPA (Scottish Environmental Protection Agency) who had objections to the development which were holding up the planning process.
Within days of the Minister contacting them SEPA dropped their objections.

Scottish Ministers are barred from interfering in planning applications unless it is in their capacity as a Constituency MSP. Aviemore is not in the Constituency of either Salmond or Russell.

Truth will out, eventually.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Thought for the day

With friends like Donald Trump, who needs enemies?

A worst for First Scotrail

It's being reported today that First Scotrail are rated as the worst performing UK rail franchise when it comes to customer service - why does that not surprise me in the least? Primarily because I use them to commute from Irvine to Glasgow 5 days a week and travel from Glasgow to Edinburgh and back at least twice a week.

In January services outwith Strathclyde saw their fares rise by an inflation busting 4.8%.

Passenger Focus reports that throughout the UK only 45% of passengers believe that rail fares are value for money and that only 35% believe that rail companies deal with delays to their satisfaction.

Figures relating to First Scotrail:
20% drop in satisfaction since autumn 2006.
31% feel that toilet facilities are inadequate.
38% think that their response to delays is unacceptable.
34% say that parking at stations is not up to scratch.
29% say that station facilities are below par.
20% agree that there are not enough luggage facilities on trains.

This is really quite a damming indictment of the company. Mary Dickson, Scotrail MD has commented: "We must improve the way we deal with train delays, regardless of the cause. In particular we need to keep customers better informed."
Yes Mary, indeed you do and you need to do a whole lot more besides. Have you considered having six carriage trains on the Ayrshire line when popular flights are arriving at Prestwick airport? Have you considered offering hassle free rebates to travellers whose journeys are disrupted? Have you considered ensuring that all carriages are heated in winter? Have you considered going along to Political Party Conferences to explain yourselves?

I won't hold my breath.

Getting sick of Ryanair's greed

An extra £ on the cost of putting a bag into the hold of the plane, which means that your measly 15kg baggage allowance will now cost you a ridiculous £12 for a return flight. If you check in at the airport rather than electronically an extra £6 will be added to the cost of your return journey. Charges for "priority boarding", expensive food and drink and the wheelchair charge even if there isn't a wheelchair user on board etc, etc. Then of course they sue the Government in the hope of winning more of the taxpayers dosh

It all adds up to make me feel that I will never use this bunch of graspers again, but sad reality says that I probably shall unless Catherine helps me insert some backbone.

I would suggest that other budget airlines are available from Scotland and will try to make use of their flights instead of Ryanair. They include Easyjet, Wizz, Globespan, Clickair & Centralwings.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

First Scotrail mess up yet again!

Really not feeling right with the world today and it's all because of other people.
yesterday I had a wasted day waiting in the house for a heating engineer who neither appeared nor had the common courtesy to contact me and let me know he wasn't going to arrive.

This morning I had to stand on a wet and windy railway platform waiting over an hour and ten minutes for a train to Glasgow. I can understand and appreciate that trains can break down and that points can fail and many other good reasons for trains to be cancelled or delayed. what I simply cannot understand is First Scotrail's utterly appalling customer service. In the time I waited at the station two trains were cancelled and the third was delayed, yet there was one single solitary announcement over the tannoy and although the delays were updated on the electronic screens we also got a message saying that there was a fault on the system and the information appearing was not correct. Bloody shambles! I wonder how useful the Citylink or Stagecoach bus services to Glasgow are?

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

It's a wee bit breezy

Having been at home for a good few hours it's been noticeable that the wind has been gathering pace to a strength which I can't remember since returning to Scotland in 1999.

I just missed the Scottish "great storm" of '98 when slates were rattled off roofs, kirk spires tumbled, trains failed to run (storms not required for this inaction), ferries were verboten, road bridges were closed, general infrastructure was bolloxed and, most importantly, some folk died.

Hopefully the forecasts of 80 - 90 mph winds will be inaccurate, although it feels that they are up to 60 - 70mph already and the main force of the storm hasn't got here yet.

Have a safe and cosy night, especially if you live in the West of Scotland.

They seek him here, they seek him there

With the recent announcement of Shadow Ministerial portfolios all Scottish Lib Dem MPs have got a berth except John Thurso, MP for Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross. I wonder what the mustachioed one has done to incur the "wrath of Clegg"?

The full list of responsibilities and portfolio's are:

Jo Swinson - number 2 at Foreign & Commonwealth Office
Willie Rennie - number 2 at Defence & Chair of Parliamentary Campaigns Team
Mike Moore - Shadow Secretary of State for international Development
Danny Alexander - Shadow Secretary of State for Work & Pensions (Also Leader's Chief of Staff)
John Barrett - number 2 at DWP
Bob Smith - Shadow Deputy Leader of the House
Alistair Carmichael - Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland & Northern Ireland
Alan Reid - number 2 at Scotland & NI Office
Malcolm Bruce - Chair of the International Development Select Committee
Ming Campbell - Joins Foreign Affairs Select Committee and conducting a review into Britain's
future military capability
Charles Kennedy - President of the European Movement in the UK. Will also speak from the
Front Bench on European matters

I suspect that the John Thurso omission will be down to his views on nuclear power (against party policy) and he may well have requested that he was not given a portfolio. I couldn't quite resist tweaking his tail - or mustache!

It seems I should be backing Barak

Bernard Salmon on his Blog http://thesoundofgunfire.blogspot.com/ alerted me to this quiz which, depending on your response, tells which US Presidential hopeful is closest to your own views. It seems I'm closest to Barack Obama, which slightly surprised me as I expected it to be Dennis Kucinich, based on what I'd read and heard about the Democratic runners.

The results are on the left hand column of this blog, with alink to the questions should you wish to see who's closest to your own views.

Network Rail cock up yet again

I should have started back to work yesterday but was still lurgy ridden enough to have a 4th day in bed which, it transpires, was quite fortunate.

I commute between Irvine and Glasgow and there had been Network Rail engineering work planned between the 25th December & 6th January which meant that it would have been train to Paisley then bus into Glasgow which would have added anything up to 45 minutes to my commute each way. I therefore took a couple of days extra annual leave so as not to have to undergo the stress of my return journey taking anything up to an extra hour to an hour and a half added to my daily travel time.

Of course, probably thanks to the over-run at Rugby and reallocation of staff, the engineering was extended and chaos reigned for all of yesterday and part of today. Hopefully all will have been sorted by home time tonight.

The bigger issue, of course, is Network Rail's inability to properly allocate human resources and then their headless chicken panic when one domino fell and started to topple all the others. They have, rightly, been all over the media apologising to passengers but when will we see heads rolling amongst management as hey surely deserved so to do?

ScotRail's response

On the 19th of December I contacted First ScotRail to ask of them why a return from Irvine to Edinburgh was 75p more expensive than purchasing a return from Irvine to Glasgow then one from Glasgow to Edinburgh.

Their letter dated 20th December didn't actually arrive until the 4th of January and provided no great enlightenment:

"our Research and Pricing Manager is aware that there are anomalies in the system, such as these fare anomalies, which we have inherited. we are working to remove these, however this process takes time."

That's about the total substance of their response. They didn't admit that they were aware of this particular instance, didn't explain why the anomaly existed in the 1st place, and gave no hint as to when things would be changed. Ho hum, great customer service as usual - not.

P.S. Blogger's spellcheck facility offers Scrotal as an alternative to ScotRail!

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

The great mystery of the New Year card

On returning from a joyful time with Catherine and her family, in Perth, at Christmas, I found an anonymous happy new year card on my doormat, which was delivered by the postie.

The address was almost correct but omitted my house number and postcode.

Text inside said:

"Just realised you were back in Irvine"
"Will be in touch"
"Long time not heard from you."
"a long lost friend"

The handwriting is obviously female and I admit to a fair bit of history in my past. The postmark was unreadable but a Scottish 1st class stamp was used. I've also been back in Irvine since July 1999 and have stood for Scottish Parliament twice and Council thrice, which makes me think that the sender no longer resides locally.

There are a number of people with whom I've fallen out of touch with over the years, and regret this, but am utterly intrigued by this card and hope that whoever sent it does get in touch with me.

I hope you all had a very happy New Year and that 2008 brings all you desire from it.