Sunday, 28 March 2010

Prescott's arrogance

I was dashing about all over the place yesterday - a dawn to dusk day - and so I only caught a brief couple of minutes of the Labour conference in Glasgow. What I caught was something that made my blood boil.

John Prescott!

Referring to Glasgow East and another by-election loss that I didn't manage to catch, he urged the Labour members to win them back saying, with that typical Labour arrogance:

"they BELONG to US". (Ferocious emphasis was put on the word "belong".)

Incredible! For a political party to believe it has ANY entitlement to ANY seat is for it to have completely lost the plot.

Glasgow East does NOT belong to the Labour Party. The seat is currently held by John Mason of the SNP. It does not belong to him or the SNP either.

John Mason knows that. He was stunned to hear Prescott's words and put out a statement saying that:

"Seats are not Labour seats or Lib Dem seats. They are not even SNP seats. They are the people's seats."

Compare and contrast - what a world of difference between the Labour Party who EXPECT your vote and the SNP who expect to EARN your vote.

Friday, 26 March 2010

C'mon get aff the bus - ye cannae afford it!

Did you know that as of Sunday, First Bus in Glasgow are YET AGAIN increasing their fares? Soon it'll be cheaper to travel by taxi! I'm losing track of how often it's happened but I'm pretty sure there were 3 or maybe even 4 rises last year. One thing I do know is that in some areas fares on some routes have increased by a staggering 71% since 2003. In the same time, it's true that the cost of diesel has increased but by the much less significant rate of 42%.

There was me thinking we were supposed to be encouraging people to use public transport and all! Ironic really that they're doing this the day after Earth Hour which I hope everyone's taking part in.

I am a frequent user of the 38 bus. In fact it's my favourite bus and I have deemed it the single most entertaining bus I've ever been on. But it's okay for me, I can afford the increases, I have a car and I can afford to get a taxi. What if you are on a low wage or even an average wage? What if you're not just paying for you but the kids as well? What if you're unemployed and trying to get out and about and find a job?

What if you have no alternatives? Say you live in Castlemilk and you don't have a car? There is no train station so you have to get the bus. I don't know how much it is but say at this moment it's £1.60, by Sunday it'll be £1.75. As I say I don't get the bus to Castlemilk so I don't know how much it is but given that it's now £1.60 to get to Mosspark from the town, I'd say I was erring on the side of caution.

A lot of our outlying housing estates have few facilities, high unemployment and a host of other "challenges" so being able to get out and about is essential. But if First Bus are going to keep on hiking up their prices, nobody will be going anywhere.

I've put a motion down in the Scottish Parliament calling on First to get real (possibly worded slightly differently - in "Parliamo Parliamento") and introduce fair fares for Glaswegians. You can read the motion here.

You can join the campaign in 3 ways right now:

1) You can send the motion to your MSPs who you can find here and ask them to sign it.
2) You can join our Facebook Group here.
3) You can write to First Glasgow telling them what you think of their unfair fares.
You can email "The Executive Board" by clicking here. Or you can write to the following:

Mark Savelli
Managing Director
First Glasgow
197 Victoria Road
G42 7AD

I will be asking Mr Savelli for a meeting to discuss this and I'll let you know how I get on. Enough really is enough now!

Thursday, 25 March 2010

MSP claims expenses shocker

My mum has a habit of saying things like "see these MPs and their expenses, it's a disgrace" followed very quickly with "you better have claimed yours by the way". Isn't it always different when it's your family? I'm sure my mum probably thinks that all politicians are corrupt except for me! And I'm sure everyone else's mum or dad or partner thinks the same of them.

Anyway today I finally claimed back some of my expenses. Of course I lie to my mum and tell her that "yes mum I've put my claim in". I need her to believe that I have learned my lesson from the time that I left a job with an outstanding expenses claim (accumulated over a few years) of around £3000.00! This was when I had no money as well! And my reason? I didn't like to. I felt guilty about claiming it.

I have always worked for "good causes" and it's hard to take a salary off them never mind claim back expenses. If it's any comfort however, I do try really hard to get good value for money for the taxpayer. For example when I had to redesign my Glasgow office because of changed staffing. A company came in and quoted me £3000 and the parliament would have paid it. Seemed a tad extortionate to me so I got someone else in who quoted £2000. For a few desks?

Anyway to cut a long story short, I spoke to the cleaners in parliament and asked them where unused parliament furniture went and they told me. So I managed to kit out and redesign my office for zero money! I got it all second hand. And can you believe I had someone trying to dissuade me on the grounds that the furniture might have some scratches on it. (I of course consulted all the staff and checked that they could cope with the odd scratch and what do you know, they said they could!) The same person told me that the money wasn't coming out of my MSP budget, it would be met centrally so I should not worry about it. I know!! I was gobsmacked too. Like centrally met bills are not really bills at all!

Anyway that's worked. I now don't feel so bad about claiming my expenses because my expenses claim was nowhere NEAR that amount. Plus it'll keep my mum happy. Mind you, if she thinks I've been claiming all along, I can hardly announce it to her like it's the big deal it is. Right, this is not really blogging, this is just rambling. It's 11pm, I'm still in parliament and I've been here since 7.20am - that's my excuse for rambling. Normal service will be resumed tomorrow.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

The NHS in Scotland is in safe hands

I'm making an effort to do shorter and more regular posts on the blog so here is today's. Spent the morning in the Public Audit Committee which I love! Everyone imagines it to be boring. It is not! It is fascinating. Anyway today we were looking at an Audit Scotland report on NHS performance for 2008/09 and we took evidence from various medical professionals and CEOs of Health Boards.

I asked about the preparation for an ageing population and what impact it had on NHS services and funding. However I was happy to congratulate those sitting in front of us (and everyone who works for the NHS) on some absolutely astonishing results in recent years. Achieving better than expected (and better than asked for) efficiency savings; the reductions across the board in deaths from cancer, heart disease, stroke, AIDs and suicide; reduction of waiting lists, excellent waiting times and the getting rid of the dreadful "hidden waiting lists"!

They've achieved all of this in a very difficult economic climate and although the Scottish Government has protected the NHS in terms of budgets, we should not underestimate the tremendous work that they have undertaken to get to where we are. Robert Calderwood, the CEO of my own Health Board when referring to waiting times at the meeting today, said that where we are today is completely "unrecognisable" from where we were at the start of the decade.

That revolution didn't happen without a lot of hard work and clever thinking on the part of NHS staff and I was really proud listening to their evidence today. (Note to self - this is not a "short" blog update!)

Monday, 22 March 2010

Nicola Sturgeon - she's no' bad!

I think Nicola Sturgeon gave one of the best speeches I've ever heard her make at SNP conference on Sunday. It was the presentation, the sincerity but above all else it was, let's face it, the actual facts about what this SNP government is doing in power.

You get so used to knowing about the changes and the achievements of the last few years that you become accepting, forget about them and move on. So it was really good to listen and be reminded that next week prescription charges will be reduced to £3.00 and in a year they'll be free. And I don't think I ever really took it in before that we'd employed a further 2000 dentists since coming to power. Two thousand? That's a brilliant result. And let's not forget the extra 1000 police out on the beat.

The SNP Government is pretty damn good I reckon!

When Nicola announced free healthcare checks for everyone over 40, (apart from being jealous because I'm going to have to wait for YEARS!) I nearly leapt out of my seat with excitement. It's exactly the kind of thing our health service SHOULD be doing - working with people to prevent health conditions worsening or developing in the first place. It's only measures like this, like the smoking bill and like the minimum pricing of alcohol that will start to get to the nitty gritty of what causes the incredible health problems we have in Scotland and primarily in Glasgow.

But the best bit of the speech for me was when she talked of the need to "shine a very bright light into the murky corridors of Labour-controlled Glasgow City Council".

Nicola is a fighter. She fights for the people of Govan, Glasgow and Scotland. She's fiercesome. She's not afraid to speak out when it's needed. She's immune to the shenanigans and party politicking of the opposition parties and doggedly presses on with what she believes to be right rather than what they try to lampoon her into. She's never ever been afraid to roll her sleeves up and do a hard day's graft. And she will continue to chip away at Labour until they learn the meaning of the word "transparency".

She's by no means perfect I have to tell you. I mean, she forgot my birthday a couple of weeks ago but somehow managed to remember it the month before when telling everyone how old I was going to be and when! That said, she's not scared to admit when she's wrong as we saw her do recently in a statement to parliament that was brilliant because of its straightforward honesty and sincerity - sadly something that's so surprising in politics these days. I only didn't blog about it at the time because she's my friend and I was too upset about the way she'd been treated to say anything rational.

So I can forgive her for forgetting my birthday (although I'll be getting my own back in July!) because every day she makes me proud to know her and proud to be a member of the same party. She did it that day in parliament and she did it in Sunday's conference speech.

The BBC needs to know that Scotland EXISTS!

I am sick to the back teeth of the BBC misrepresenting the political situation in Scotland. This report tonight tells us:

"Hundreds of breaches of parliamentary rules by MPs who accepted free overseas trips from foreign governments have been uncovered by a BBC investigation."

It then goes on to say:

"between them, the MPs -


breached parliamentary regulations on more than 400 occasions."

The Scottish National Party GOVERNS SCOTLAND. The SNP was elected by the people of Scotland to govern our country. I'd say that makes us a major party in Scottish terms and in UK terms.

NOT A SINGLE ONE OF THE MPS FEATURED BELONGS TO THE SNP. I'm writing to the BBC to get that report changed. I know people who will be on this blog telling me I'm over-reacting, being paranoid, overly sensitive.

I'm not. If you're going to give me that argument about how everyone knows they're talking about the UK and in percentage terms we're not a major party, don't bother. That report is on the BRITISH Broadcasting Corporation's main news page. It's not on the English pages, it's on the BRITISH pages.

The reason WHY it matters is because thousands of people living in Scotland will read that and the words "from all the major parties" will mean to them, that it includes the SNP. They won't think to themselves "hang on, this is a report about the REST of the UK"!

It's time the BBC woke up to the fact that SCOTLAND EXISTS and the SNP is the party of choice for the people of Scotland right now. Time to acknowledge us. And distance us from this latest scandal!

*** Note to all the smarty pants out there. The article has been changed. I quoted word for word what it said but obviously this is a super powerful blog and they feared the wrath of Indygal. However, "all 3 major parties" is not much of an improvement.

Another nail in the coffin of Labour sleaze

I'm just hearing tonight that 3 Labour MPs have been suspended from the Parliamentary Labour Party. Patricia Hewitt, Geoff Hoon and Stephen Byers were caught by undercover reporters boasting that they'd fixed it for the government to change policies and trying to flog their services for up to £5,000 a day! They're now saying they overstated the case and maybe they did - at job interviews you're supposed to blow your own trumpet. But it just seems a bit grubby to be punting themselves like that. Grubby, sad and greedy. They are on their way out, they've all already lost their ministerial posts. But why can't they just go and do an honest day's work like everyone else in the world? Why have they got to sell themselves like "a cab for hire" as Stephen Byers apparently said? Why not just be a cabbie?

Personally I know how fortunate I am to be in this great job earning this great salary. I don't expect it to last forever and although when it all comes to an end as it inevitably will (and should) one day, like everyone else in the world I'll want to earn a decent wage, I certainly won't be averse to earning "real world" money again.

This lot needs to learn that they struck it lucky, got great jobs (no doubt worked incredibly hard, no denying that) and earned great money. Now it's back to the real world and it ain't that bad - in fact it's good for you to find out what it's like to live in that real world that you've helped to create. So get on with it and stop flogging yourselves to the highest bidder!

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Never mind Lost in Translation, I'm Famous in Cincinnati!

Oh my goodness, I've just done an interview with a radio station in Cincinnati, Ohio! Last week it was the Cincinnatti Inquirer and that lead to this 'interesting' article. I was telling somebody the other day that although you have to get publicity in order to get the public on your side and be able to make changes, I feel really uncomfortable with it and it stresses me out. So I have weeks where I just think "right, head down, work but no press coverage". I thought that on 18 November last year as I was headed home and two minutes later I got a text telling me the Mhangos had been detained - that lead to the most sustained press and media coverage I have ever had.

I thought it last week and suddenly I've created an "international incident" and I'm doing transatlantic interviews! I really think in order to calm the whole thing, they should invite me over so they can apologise for taking the name of my city in vain, don't you?

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Roasted alive by Fred MacAulay

Last Thursday saw the opening of the Magners Comedy Festival in Glasgow. What a brilliant night it was! First of all there was a reception where they made us drink free cider so it got off to a very good start. The whole office went as it was Cara's (our intern's) leaving night and for some reason, I thought it would be fine to sit in the front row!
Of course it wasn't okay and Fred MacAulay (pictured here) was merciless with us. I thought I was going to laugh so much I'd stop breathing! I had a mild panic when he started fishing for what I did for a living and I muttered "public sector worker" under my breath. But of course he found out and that was it, I'd had it! From then on we were just centre of attention and you know how much I hate that lol.
Fred was brilliant. And he was a gentleman because I've since discovered that a certain member of staff offered to give him "the dirt" on me at the interval but he said google would keep him right. He also gave us a mention on his radio show the next day. And he got a really good laugh out of everyone else in the front row too so it wasn't just me.
Anyway the real point of all of this is to encourage you to go along to something in the festival and you can find out what's one by clicking here.
I'm sure they won't all be as funny as Fred, Parrot, Stu Who and my favourite of old Bruce Morton but if they're half as funny you'll be laughing anyway. And you know what they say about laughter being the best medicine. So go!

We don't know we're born

I think like most people I know how fortunate I am that I don't live in a war torn country or one where I am discriminated against too much. But every so often it's good to be reminded and last week I went along to listen to this guy, Justice Albie Sachs. Albie was a member of the ANC fighting against apartheid in South Africa. He was eventually appointed by President Nelson Mandela to the Constitutional Court but not before he'd suffered greatly and in a way that most of us never will. He talked about the time he'd been incarcerated in solitary confinement purely for his work defending people charged under SA's racist and repressive laws. And he of course lost an arm and the sight of one eye when SA security agents bombed his car. He later met his bomber and his account of that had us all spellbound. It was a real thrill to meet someone who puts my worries about the pressures of politics into perspective and now all I have to do is find the time to read his book!

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Slipping through the net

I visited a constituent earlier this week in her home to talk about housing problems she was experiencing. She was a lovely woman but she has an incredibly difficult life and it seems that nobody wants to take responsibility for helping her. She spent her childhood in care and was subjected to sexual abuse over a period of years. She tried to get on with her life and for a while she did. She had a job that involved working with and helping people (I'm being deliberately vague) and she married and had 3 children. But it got to the point where she couldn't suppress the memories of the sexual abuse any longer and knew she had to do something about it.

She spent more than ten years of her life pursuing justice and in doing so had to face up to everything that had happened in her life. She now suffers from severe post traumatic stress disorder and is bipolar which is the new term for manic depression. So she has a lot to contend with. And so do her family. Now divorced she's good friends with her ex husband and she has the comfort of her children. I didn't meet the son but I met her lovely girls who are 14 and 17. They are bright, articulate, intelligent girls who are spending far too much of their time fighting for their mum, mainly over the housing issue I went to see them about.

I won't write about the housing matter just now because I want to investigate it first. But the visit threw up some wider issues for me about what agencies were there to support her and her family. I wish I could name the school that the girls go to but I can't. I will be writing to them however because they have an incredible support system for these two pupils and I want to get more information - maybe I can share it with a school I know that appears to have NO support systems in place. My main concern was about the support she should be getting to manage her mental health problem but isn't and perhaps if she was getting it her two girls could have a bit more of a normal life.

It's not her fault she needs so much support. She didn't choose to go into care. She didn't choose to be abused. She isn't choosing to be ill now. She talked to me about how she would love to be the person she was when her children were young and she had that job. She wants to get back to having a normal life. But when I asked what support she got from the Community Mental Health team she said she'd never had any. She didn't even know they could help her.

I'm obviously going to contact them and her GP and make sure she does get help but it makes you wonder how many people simply slip through the net. Are they diagnosed with a mental health problem, given tablets and quarterly visits to a psychiatrist and that's it? Perhaps she's a one off but it's something I need to know about. And I'm not being critical of community mental health teams. If they don't know she exists what can they do? But surely it can't be that easy to slip through the net.

As I say she is someone who wants to get better, who wants to have a normal life and who wants her girls to know what it's like to be young and carefree. This is the kind of thing I love and hate about my job. It depresses me to think of what they're all going through day in day out but I really love the fact that my job title means I'm able to make a difference to them. It shouldn't take the intervention of a politician but if it does, I'm happy to do it.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

3 bodies found at Red Road flats

Nobody yet knows who the 3 dead bodies found at the foot of one of the Red Road flats in Petershill Drive this morning belong to. Neither do we know if they jumped or were pushed. We can only speculate and the most obvious answer is that the 2 men and 1 woman were asylum seekers who committed suicide because they couldn't face the fact that they were set to become destitute or had been told by their solicitors that there were no grounds on which to continue their claim.

This particular tower block is (I think) all either asylum seekers awaiting decisions or refugees (with leave to remain) in temporary furnished housing awaiting an offer of a permanent flat.

I know many asylum seekers so utterly terrified of returning to their countries that they tell me they will take their own lives if forced to return. And I know of one who I've spoken about on this blog before (*Fraser) who was completely destitute for several months. And I do mean "completely". No money, no vouchers, no roof over his head, no entitlement to anything. He now has refugee status and ironically enough moved into his temporary furnished flat in this very block yesterday!

He told me recently that had it not been for the British Red Cross in Glasgow and the people in my office keeping him going and willing him to get through it, he would not have survived. I say that simply to demonstrate that these are among the circumstances that might make an asylum seeker think of taking his or her own life.

Whoever these poor souls turn out to be my heart goes out to them and their families. If they are indeed asylum seekers, my heart goes out to the whole of the asylum seeking community in Glasgow because they will ALL be feeling it. They have to live with their friends regularly disappearing without trace and their hearts sink each time someone they know goes through the very thing they dread every minute of every day. This will be horrific for them because it's what many of them believe is the only option when time runs out.

Saturday, 6 March 2010


Sitting here with my niece having some family time listening to the radio and reading the scandal sheets. And there was a quiz on for kids which asked them two questions:

1) In the alphabet which letter comes first K or R?
2) What is the second letter of the word "Pseudonym"?

All the kids who rightly answered "K" to the first were disqualified and "S" to the second were told "there's a silent P". I was horrified and couldn't believe the example we were setting these children. I decided to contact the radio station and ask them what was going on but mindful of the fact that I might have been missing something I didn't rant, I just enquired.

Glad am I that I tempered what I wanted to say. I emailed Micky Gavin at Real Radio and he was lovely. Got back to me right away to say he'd been on air all morning and hadn't done a quiz. He did that at precisely the same time as the jingle for the kids' quiz came on. "Wrong to be Right" it was called. So not only did I get the point of the quiz wrong, I didn't even have the right radio station!

You know how nowadays you can watch a TV programme live but you're still able to pause, fast forward and REWIND. Why can we not do that to ourselves?? Come on somebody, invent that device, I need it!

Friday, 5 March 2010

Glasgow Labour - no longer smelling of roses

I am shocked at some of the things I'm hearing (and apparently those who read the Sunday papers will be hearing them too) regarding the mystery of Steven Purcell. Actually I'm not shocked because I have heard many of these things over the years. What IS shocking me is that finally the press are taking an interest in the wider issues around all of this.

It's not like we've not told them often enough but only now have they decided it's newsworthy. The cynic in me can't help but feel had there been stories like this about the SNP there would have been no delay in going to print. When it comes to the Labour Party, the press often acts as a literary shield for them and it's only when the evidence mounts up so much that the story becomes almost irresistable that they act.

Read Sunday's papers and I think you'll learn something about the culture of the Labour Party ...

More little kids under lock and key tonight

I heard today about another mother and her 5 year old twins detained in Dungavel ready for deportation. My office found lawyers and campaign groups that she can contact and we've passed them on to her friends. Again I am ashamed that wee kids in my country are being locked up behind barbed wire fences when neither they or their mother have done anything wrong. There is NO need for them to be behind lock and key. Where on earth does the UKBA think this woman is going to hide when she has two weans of that age for goodness' sake? And how would she survive without food, shelter, money? It is an absolute outrage that the British Government continues to "justify" these practices and the sooner it stops the better!

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Steven Purcell to stand down

Who knows why Steven Purcell has decided to stand down as leader of the Labour run Glasgow City Council (hope it wasn't my letter to him yesterday!). All we can do for now, unless other information comes to light, is accept that the man is suffering health problems as a result of stress. In the same way that I abhorred the way in which some people rejoiced in Iris Robinson's mental breakdown (and couldn't have put it better than my mate Will did in this article) I can't take any pleasure at all if someone is suffering from mental ill health.

That won't stop me arguing the politics of the situation and I think the Labour Party, particularly in Glasgow, has no redeeming features and takes the people of this city for granted with breathtaking arrogance.

However, politics aside, one of the biggest ills in our society is, I believe, our often snobbish and patronising attitude to people with mental health problems. Any one of us can suffer from clinical depression. Any one of us might even be bipolar or schizophrenic but never know it because, as far as I understand it, many people have a latent psychosis and unless something happens to kick it off (head injury, certain drugs) it may well stay beneath the surface until the day we die.

More common of course is anxiety, stress and depression and they're words we all use too freely because REAL depression is paralysing, disabling and humiliating. It needn't be humiliating if we all change our attitude to it and accept it's something we might have one day and nothing to be ashamed of.

So, if the rumours are correct, on a personal level, I wish Steven Purcell well and I hope if he is experiencing mental health problems just now, simply being open about it will enable other people to ask for help when they need it.