Saturday, 23 May 2009

High Drama Ahead!

I've not blogged for a week or so and it's been the very week when there are high dramas in politics that I should be blogging on. It's just been incredibly busy at work and it's not the kind of job where you can just decide to "do it next week". Glasgow school closures getting ever nearer is just one example of something that can't wait while I write my blog.

However, given that there is going to be a by-election in the constituency in which I live ~ in the constituency where, until January, I was the candidate ~ and in the constituency where I am a member, I think we can safely say that I'll be very closely involved in yet another nerve wracking, nail biting, opportunity for the good folk of Glasgow to give their verdict on Labour in Westminster.

And on that, I shall be blogging!

In the meantime, I have some family business to take care of but I hope to resume Holyrood blogging on Tuesday.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Glasgow's miles better with the SNP

I have been trying for weeks now to blog in detail about the school closure programme in Glasgow. I WILL do it at some point because there are some incredible stories to tell. Right now though, I can choose between campaigning and talking about campaigning!

One thing I will say however, is how proud I am of the whole of the SNP in Glasgow for the way in which we've worked so hard and in such a united manner.

Every time I speak to a parent they'll tell me how brilliant James Dornan (Leader of SNP council group in Glasgow) has been or how Bob Doris (SNP MSP) phoned them late at night to check they were okay.

I'm hearing praise for Grant Thoms, Jennifer Dunn, Phil Greene, Billy McAllister - all good friends of mine and all SNP councillors. Parents are telling us what a difference it makes having an SNP councillor or MSP. The feedback on the councillors is particulary good to hear because as I say, they're all good friends of mine but they're a group of 20 and in any group of that size, you'd expect discord now and again. It's testament to all of them that there really isn't any.

I also think it's got a lot to do with Cllr James Dornan (pictured with myself and Nicola Sturgeon during the Glasgow East by election). Admittedly he's a very good friend of mine, but even an impartial observer would have to admit that James has done an incredible job in leading that group. All I can say is that Stephen Purcell had better look out in 2012 because I seriously believe with the talent of that group, there's every chance the SNP will be running the council in Glasgow next time round. I can tell you this much - these parents would find a very different scenario under the SNP!

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Brilliant Barrowlands

What a brilliant venue the Barrowlands is for a gig! Went to see Morrissey last night and he was fantastic. The encore was my all time favourite Morrissey song "Last of the Gang" and I love it at the end when everyone decides to push forward and we all get crushed half to death. You can't fight it, you just have to go with it and that's when you know you're at a gig!

Been to Barrowlands twice before - I got myself connected with the Stereo MCs and saw the great man Jarvis Cocker and Pulp connecting with the common people - the latter was my all time favourite gig but they were all great and I think a huge part of that has to be due to the atmosphere at this venue. It's a great asset to the music scene in Glasgow and long may it be with us!

Friday, 8 May 2009

Morrissey tonight!

Am heading out to the Barrowlands to see Morrissey tonight! Can't wait. Will report all on my return complete with photos hopefully. Never got to see The Smiths so very very excited about tonight. Better go or I'll miss him!

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Party flats

I've just come out of one of my committee meetings - that of the Public Petitions Committee and felt compelled to talk about something that appears to be a growing problem and that's the largely unregulated properties for "holiday lets" or as they're now commonly known, "party flats". The petitioner lives in a tenemental property in Edinburgh where some of the other flats are owned by landlords who rent them out for short lets. Before I tell you about the problems associated with party flats, I should say the purpose of the petition is to ask the Scottish Government to tighten up a loophole which allows these property owners to not register their properties and exempts them from complying with HMO (house of multiple occupancy) regulations.

I don't expect there will be any opposition from the government and indeed, a review of HMO will be taking place later this year.

I really felt for the petitioner who was obviously basing his petition on his own experience but pointed out that it was a far more widespread problem than simply his close. I remember when the guy who lived below me in Battlefield used to fall asleep playing terrible, monotonous club music louder than any club I've ever been in and he'd not wake up till about 6am when he finally switched it off. Now I was young and I am not the world's shyest person but even I felt powerless to do anything. The level of stress you suffer when you cannot relax in your own home is almost indescribable. You have nowhere to escape to. I was reduced to tears on many an occasion.

This, however, is different and far far worse simply because if the flat above you is let out specifically for short "party" lets, then of course the folk renting them will have parties - we all behave differently on holiday, let's face it. The folk renting them will also probably never see you again so have no need to build neighbourly relations - the guy in my flat really didn't want to have us on his back all the time so it only happened once every six weeks or so but folk taking party lets can have their party and disappear the next day without having to face the people whose night's sleep they've wrecked.

One of two things needs to happen here. Either these landlords need to be regulated and properly held to account for the behaviour of their tenants making them far more likely to ensure tenants know to be courteous toward the residents of the close. Or property owners simply aren't allowed to rent out flats in residential blocks for this purpose. I wouldn't want to go as far as the latter because of course we want to be able to cater for the differing needs of tourists. I don't think we'll have to go that far but I really do hope for the sake of these folk having to suffer constant late night parties from people they don't even know, that we get the right regulation in place as soon as possible.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Meeeeeee n the Bee Gee

What was I thinking of? Imagine forgetting to post the photo of The Bee Gee n Mee after promising! Well ...

"Here we are, in a room full of strangers,

"Standing in the dark where his eyes couldn't see me (blue shades didn't help)

"Well I had to follow him

"Though he did not want me to."

Just kidding, I behaved with great decorum which is more than can be said for many of the other "adults" present. I was hosting and presenting the Diana Awards to children across Scotland who'd done something great for their community - I'm going to blog on it later so won't go into detail here.

Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees is the patron of the charity but he missed my great introductory speech where I managed to incorporate the lyrics of several of his songs including Jive Talking and Stayin' Alive - not easy to do and he missed it! I forgave him though and let him have his photo taken with me.

Michael who works for me told me it was a tad unseemly for an MSP to shove her way through swathes of primary school children so that I could get my pic taken with an international superstar. To be honest I was thinking "what kids?", I only had eyes for Robin but as I pointed out to Michael, they won't know who the Bee Gees are anyway!

I said I wouldn't change my blog style just because I'm an MSP but sadly, I am now going to have to spoil my story by pointing out that I'm joking and Michael was joking - no children were shoved aside in the production of this photo which is now at the printers being turned into billboard posters :-)

Friday, 1 May 2009

The trouble with drugs

I was attacked last night. I was at an open air event that went very well, no trouble that I could see - apart from this one isolated incident of me being attacked (of course). I had never seen the woman before but she looked possessed. She grabbed hold of me, dug her nails into my arms and started shaking me. The most disconcerting bit (and I don't often get disconcerted) was that she had her face inches away from mine and stared at me with a look that told me she was in the grip of something terrifying.


I think she had taken some kind of drugs but there must have been an underlying psychosis there. At first I thought she was an actress but she was hurting me and trying to push me over and I realised that couldn't possibly be part of the entertainment. She was so strong that I started to worry that she'd succeed and I'd be trampled in the crowd. My friend managed to pull her off me but when he reached over to alert a steward, the girl lunged at me again. Again she stared at me with such an intensity that I had to look away. And she was incredibly strong, I just couldn't get her to release her grip. I asked if she was okay and the look in her eyes changed ~ it was like she was trying to tell me something and this time she was close to tears but because she still trying to force me to the ground, it was difficult to do much to help her.


My friend got out his shining armour again and pulled her off and eventually the stewards took her away. I was fine but you wonder what happens to people to make them like that. One in four of us will suffer a mental health problem at some point in our lifetime and of course many will get better and back to normal. But for many their lives are plagued for years. Lots of folk have an underlying psychosis that nobody is aware of, not even them, until something happens eg they hit their head in an accident, they suffer trauma of some sort. Even taking hallucinogenic drugs just once can be enough to spark it off.


My parents were both psychiatric nurses and when I was 17 I worked in my mum's ward. There was a girl in the locked part of this ward. She was 19 and stunningly beautiful. She was admitted a week after finishing her Highers where she got good enough grades to get into medical school. She had everything going for her. When I met her she was as stunning as she'd always been but she was in the habit of running naked round the ward screaming in terror that the other patients were trying to kill her. It didn't matter that she was wrong, she was terrified because she believed it.


So how did it get to that? She'd been very excited about the possibility of becoming a student doctor and had gone along to a party to celebrate. It seems that she either willingly took LSD or someone slipped it into a drink. Anyway it turned out she had had this latent psychosis. She could've gone her whole life with that never rearing its ugly head. She could have gone her whole life avoiding knocks to the head and being protected from severe trauma. She could have lead a happy, fulfilling life. But that decision (either hers or someone else's), that split second decision to pop one "harmless" little pill in celebration of the exams being over, that changed her life forever. Her life became one of terror and all that promise disappeared in that split second decision. As far as I know she's still there in that locked ward. I heard she had months, sometimes even years where she wasn't terrified, where she was simply confused and deeply depressed. I never heard any tales of fulfillment or happiness. She had been so beautiful, so intelligent, so normal.


It's one of the reasons I've always been against illegal drugs. Nobody knows exactly what's in each batch and they certainly don't know how it's going to affect them. You may take ACID, for example, 99 times and on the 100th consumption it kicks of this latent psychosis, or it may happen the first time. Those who argue for the legalisation of all drugs will no doubt point out that you have to have the psychosis there in the first place. This is true but the trouble with that argument is that nobody knows whether they have or not. There are no tests for it that I'm aware of, there are rarely any warning signs. So as well as not knowing exactly what's in the drug you're taking, you just do not know what's hiding in your brain.

I think it's one of the most under used and most powerful arguments against illegal drugs. I bet you most young people would be more scared of that happening to them than of dying - because when you're young, you never think you'll die anyway. I can understand why people are tempted and some of you may argue that the risks of what I'm talking about happening are low (maybe they are, I don't know & I bet you don't either) but whatever the risk, the consequences are so terrifying that even if it's a one-in-a-million chance, why would you risk being that one? If only the girl I knew in the locked ward had known. If only ...

That argument worked on me and I never, even when I was tempted, took anything at all. Not that I think it's particularly relevant whether I have or not. It's not a moral thing for me, it's a sense thing! Anyone who knows me will agree that with my track record of one in a million chance things happening to me ALL THE TIME, I probably made the right decision there. Look at last night if you want evidence of that. I just hope I'm wrong about that poor girl and that whatever was happening to her was a one off.

Coronation Street - the Supreme Soap!

I watched Corrie tonight for the first time in weeks and I remembered why I ought to make more of an effort to indulge when Norris was telling Rita why the new system for the paper boys just wasn’t working.

“If we’re not careful Kirk will end up with Roy Cropper’s “History of Britain” and Roy will have Kirk’s “Nuts” on his doormat”!

And then my favourite character Becky. Steve is on the phone to Eileen and comforts her with the words “life’s full of surprises” when she reveals the shock discovery that’s keeping her away from work.

Becky: “ ‘Life’s full of surprises’?! Yeah Steve, she’s just discovered that her dad’s a paedophile not won spot the ball – you’re not lost to the Samaritans you!”

Class. Pure class.