Monday, 30 August 2010

British Establishment Attitude to Scottish People

I had a flying visit to Donegal this weekend to celebrate my friend James' 40th birthday and whilst there I went walking with his brother Liam who lives in Australia. We got talking about politics and he was asking about Scotland and the campaign for Independence. He was stunned when I explained about the block grant we receive from Westminster. He genuinely couldn't believe that we operate in such a way that all our money goes down there and then we wait (as we are doing now) to see how much they'll give us back.

He used the analogy I always use of a family where the children never leave home and remain dependent on the parents.

I was aware when we were talking about the long battle with the British state the Independence movement has faced, that I was sounding a bit like a conspiracy theorist particularly when we spoken about
stuff like this.

Had I
known about THIS at the time I think Liam would have seen quite clearly that the conspiracies against Scotland are most certainly not imagined. To save you reading it, it concerns Baroness Deech, someone who has been named on different occasions as "the 107th most powerful person in Britain" (The Observer 1999) and "26th in the God list" which was Channel 4's list of the 50 most powerful people of faith in the UK.

This most powerful and influential (not to mention deeply religious) woman basically starts running down Scotland and Scots. It wasn't just her. Some guy who's in charge of The Centre for Social Cohesion (which I thought was about equality but obviously not) was enjoying the Scot baiting. Oh and it seems the audience was lapping it up!

And that's fine?!

Is it? Of course it isn't and if they were saying this sort of thing about any other nationality, they'd be getting done under the Race Relations Act. If you click on
this link you can read the edited "highlights" and listen to it in full but to whet your appetite I will give you one example ...

"We're all subsidising them" says this wummin "I think, by way of benefits and all sorts of reasons and if they want to show how independent they are, ok, thank you and goodbye".

I'm going to be somewhat more mature than Mrs Deech and here's my message to her:

"If we want to run our own country, we will do that in the same way that the vast majority of other countries do. Even if it's not what your country wants, I hope we can still be friends.

"I'm not suggesting we live in each other's pockets and pretend that nothing's changed but that we form a new, more equal, possibly even respectful (if you can manage that) friendship with each other and stay on good terms.

"So, when we do go, Mrs Deech I will join you in saying 'thank you' but I won't say goodbye, simply au revoir."

Friday, 27 August 2010

My sat nav tried to kill me

I drove through to parliament today and used my sat nav for only the 4th time. In fact, I was driving round in May getting lost as per usual when I thought to myself "I must get a sat nav" which jolted me into remembering that my mum had bought me one for my birthday in March! I'd completely forgotten about it. Blame the job.

Anyway I used it today and it tried to kill me! At first she was just trying to annoy me. She'd say "at the roundabout take the first exit" and I wouldn't, mainly because there was NO roundabout. She was not happy. "Recalculate, recalculate" was the war cry. I pointed out to her that she wouldn't have to do that if she didn't give duff directions in the first place.

So, I'm driving down a road in the city centre when she says "in 100 yards, turn right" AS I am passing a right turn which, when I look, I discover is the turning I should have taken only it arrived 99 yards early! It's too late to turn so I carry on and she's back to her "recalculate" nonsense except this time I SWEAR I heard an attitude in her voice! Next thing I know, as I'm heading over North Bridge, she starts going:

"turn right, turn right, right now turn right"!

That'll be a right turn into a freefall onto the railway tracks below will it? I don't think so! But it just goes to show that you really ought not to trust anyone these days if even your sat nav is trying to kill you! So be warned! Do some thinking for yourself and whatever you do, don't let me give you a lift!

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

"I'm gonna spend, spend, spend" Viv Nicholson 1961

Yet another of those things that's just common sense as far as I'm concerned. When a country has a windfall as we have with oil over the last 30 years, you don't just spend, spend, spend like Viv Nicholson did (as those over a certain age should remember)!

You don't spend it all, you invest some of it. Norway did. We didn't. Norway will benefit from that oil for generations to come. We won't. And if I'm not convincing enough for you listen to Joseph Stiglitz an economist so well respected that he won a nobel prize. Surely he would know ...

We all worry - useful information eh?

En passant this morning, I heard that some report has been published that shows that we all spend on average 5 years of our lives worrying. What? Why? I mean why do we need to know that? And where will it lead to? Do you think perhaps it will force us into addressing our tendency to worry so that next time they do this kind of research, say in 25 years' time, we're only worrying "on average" for 4 years and 11 months? That'll be well worth all that research won't it? Honestly, it's daft. Worrying is just part of life and we'd do less of it if they stop going on about it and producing these reports. Next thing they'll be telling us that "on average" we spend approximately 75 years of our lives eh ... living! Fascinating.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

If the constituent won't come to the MSP ...

I think I must have ants in my pants because I can't seem to sit still these days. We embarked today on a new style of reaching out to constituents. It involves getting out and "accosting" folk in the street. I tell them who I am, remind them that they pay me quite well and that I think they ought to get value for money by making me work for my wages. Not that I NEED anyone to make me work hard of course.

So we started today in Castlemilk. I think some people were a bit surprised at my Oprah Winfrey approach but I made the point to them that FAR TOO MANY people don't actually KNOW what their MSP does. Some know you can go to them with problems but let me tell you, they don't always have a good experience.

Anyway I'm not sitting in draughty libraries and church halls anymore waiting for you to come to me, I'm coming out to get you! Expect to see me at your local shopping centre, your post office, jobcentre, in fact send me ideas of where I should go next time - and keep it polite please!

Eastenders is right to show Phil's drug addiction

I hear some people have been complaining about Eastenders and the fact that they're portraying Phil Mitchell as he descends into crack cocaine addiction BEFORE 9PM! Others say it's wrong because it's all about the ratings. Personally I don't CARE why they're doing it, I'm just glad they ARE.

And as for showing it after 9pm, why would that be? So that kids can't see it? Well it's kids who SHOULD be seeing it. We should MAKE them watch it. And anyone who thinks differently has absolutely no idea how vulnerable our children are to drugs, how easily they can be tempted to just try it one time and how damn quickly they can become addicted, particularly with crack cocaine.

A relative of mine became a crack cocaine addict, he said the first time he took it. He described the terror he felt at how quickly and how dramatically it took over his life and how he could think of nothing else, how he simply could not function without it. His addiction killed him in the end and his life was wasted just like the 545 addicts who died in Scotland in 2009-2010. All those broken families, all those wasted lives, all that potential gone for nothing.

So I don't really care if we frighten children by showing them just how horrific and completely unglamorous drug addiction really is. Better they are frightened than tempted to venture down a path that ends in their destruction.

Stick to socialism is the message from LORD Prescott

I wasn't sure if the news that former Labour Health Secretary Alan Millburn would be working with the Tory / Lib Dem government was a sign of mature politics or unbridled hypocrisy. Part of me thought it was shocking that a Labour MP would be helping to implement right wing Tory policies. Then I remembered they were doing that all the time Labour was in power so it's not exactly a huge leap is it?

I did laugh, however, when Lord John Prescott criticised the move only to be dismissed by Nick Clegg who described Lord Prescott's comments as a sign of JP getting "his ermine in a twist". Unbridled hypocrisy indeed ...

Monday, 16 August 2010

Glasgow Labour should get real!

What is it with Glasgow Labour? Do they really not get it that folk are getting sick to the back teeth of them, particularly that shower in the council and their shenanigans. Every time you pick up a newspaper someone else has been suspended amid drugs allegations or for making inappropriate advances on fellow councillors.

So you would think they'd want to keep folk on their side by doing something sensible. For instance, we are entering a period when belts have to be tightened and savings have to be made. I know it's quite a revolutionary idea for them but they're going to have to do it just like every other publicly funded organisation in the country has to do.

However, not only are they NOT prepared to even attempt it, they also intend to increase the council tax for every council tax payer in Glasgow. They want the Scottish Government to agree to them increasing YOUR council tax AND they want the Scottish Government to continue to pay them the compensation they've been getting for NOT increasing it.

Get real. This is just ridiculous. Nobody likes the financial situation we're in but the Scottish Government's hands are tied by the constraints of being part of the United Kingdom and having our "spending money" dictated to us by their government. So we're all just going to have to get on with it.

I really wish Glasgow Labour would stop p***ing about with party politics and petty point scoring and just figure out how they're going to make savings and protect frontline services WITHOUT ordering Glasgow citizens to pay EVEN MORE of their hard earned cash in council tax PARTICULARLY when they've been given a large sum to compensate for freezing the tax.

If I were Glasgow Labour with the shocking revelations that keep pouring out of the city chambers this year, I'd be keeping my head down and working hard to earn back the respect of the folk of Glasgow, not trying to rip them off for even more money!

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Pressure mounts as Welsh Labour back minimum pricing

What can I add to this? The opposition parties are beginning to look like a bunch of schoolkids. Grow up you lot. I do not believe that you actually believe what you say. Not everyone in Scotland wants minimum pricing of alcohol, but they DO all want grown up politics and they ARE all sick of these childish games. Pressure mounts as Welsh Labour back minimum pricing

Formal Family

I was repeating a story my mum told me to a friend earlier this week. It was about a conversation she had with my sister. I got to the bit where my mum said to my sister "no it was Anne McLaughlin who did that". What I did is not relevant to this tale. What's relevant and what had my friend pulling the strangest face in response is the fact that my mum and sister refer to me as Anne McLaughlin. I have pointed out to both of them that they now know me well enough to be permitted to call me by my first name but no, whenever they talk about me, it's Anne McLaughlin. It comes, apparently, of having a large and quite close family the majority of whom are called Anne. Actually that's a bit of an exaggeration. There's my mum's sister "Anne Soulier", there's her daughter in law (my cousin's wife) "Anne Hessinger", there's her daughter "Kerry Ann" (called after Kerrygold butter, I kid you not) and there's my cousin "Ann Purdie".

Thus, when my mother or my sister refer to me it is deemed necessary to give me my full name! My youngest sister doesn't but she's probably got a completely unique name for me that I will never know :-)

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

A great man Jimmy Reid has passed away

What a horrible start to my day to wake up to the news that the great Jimmy Reid has died overnight. For anyone who doesn't know he was the UCS shop steward who, along with Jimmy Airlie and Sammy Barr, led the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders Work-in in the early 70s. It wasn't a strike, it wasn't a sit in, it was a WORK in. The yards were facing closure but he was determined that they would finish the orders they currently had and demonstrate the validity of the upper Clyde.

The company had gone into liquidation and Ted Heath's Tory government refused to loan them money which could have saved the yards and thousands of jobs. Clyde shipbuilding had a global reputation of which we can all be proud but the industry was about to collapse and Jimmy Reid was having none of it.

I "remember" it but seeing as I was 5 at the time and living in either Germany or the South of England and despite the fact that TV footage went all round the world, it's more likely that I heard so much about it in later years that I just think I remember it. Certainly the tales of Billy Connolly going to entertain the "workers-in" and John Lennon sending them a donation were legendary. And the actual impact of what he did was tremendous.

Who can forget his famous speech where he told fellow workers that the eyes of the world were on them and therefore:

"There will be no hooliganism,
"There will be no vandalism,
"And there will be no bevvying".

It was a brilliantly organised, disciplined, principled action that eventually pressurised the British Tory Government into saving two of the yards.

As a daughter of ship building town Greenock, my interest in politics started at the age of 13 in 1979 when I was in first year in high school. Every Monday morning we would sit in registration class and hear which of our friends' dads (and sometimes mums) had been made redundant from the shipyards the previous Friday. We knew what a first class reputation our yards had so it was hard to fathom why nobody would intervene - again, a Tory government was in power, this time under Thatcher. At one point there was barely anybody's parents working apart from my mum and dad who were both psychiatric nurses and for whom there was plenty of work around at that time!

I think what's most upsetting about Jimmy Reid passing away is that we have lost someone with rare qualities in public life. I believe he did what he did purely because he believed it to be right. There are many who do similar today but how many do it purely for that reason? In all the times I met him I never once sensed an ego at play. I know many good politicians and trade unionists who do a great job but they still like to hear that they've made a great speech or they're loved and appreciated. (I try my best but I can't totally exclude myself from that description sadly.) I really never got that from him. He was a lovely, down to earth, principled man who didn't look for special treatment or ego stroking, he just did what he believed to be right.

And of course I was very proud that he chose some years back to join the SNP. I think it finally put paid to the lie that you couldn't be a socialist and be in the SNP. For those of us with left leaning tendencies and a commitment to international co-operation, it was a great day when someone of his stature became one of us.

Jimmy Reid will be missed by many, not least of course his wife Joan and his three daughters. He will be missed by the trade union movement, by political activists and by his country - Scotland was a better country for having Jimmy Reid around.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010


Have you ever had a question or a puzzle going through your mind that you never seem to get the answer to - until you stop and think it through and then you realise what a numptie you've been? No? Never happens to me either. Except for earlier today when I was at Kelvingrove Park and watching nursery workers taking the babies round the park in some of these double pushchairs.

There is a nursery round the corner from my office in Glasgow and you often see the staff taking the babies out in twin pushchairs and every time I see them I think what a coincidence that they have so many twins at that nursery. So today when I saw nursery workers in the West End with 8 sets of twins and similar thoughts went through my mind as well as the question "are there special nurseries just for twins?", I actually stopped to think it through.

And I thought "why would twins need a special nursery?" and "how come some of those twins look absolutely nothing like each other?". Stop. Brain in gear. Think. Ah, okay, it's the pushchairs that match, not the children. I'm sure it can't just be me! OK on this particular occasion it probably IS just me but I'm sure we've all been there, where we've had that blindingly obvious eureka moment.

My "eureka moment" made me laugh so much I forgot I was on a road and nearly got run over. Sometimes my life feels like a Bridget Jones movie! Right, back to being serious politician!

Monday, 9 August 2010

Cardinal's compassion

Good on Cardinal O'Brien for speaking out on the USA's attitude to Scotland over the decision to release Megrahi when it became clear he was dying of cancer. I met the Cardinal last week to update him and the First Minister on how Florence and Precious are doing. As we waited for the FM he was talking to me about how angry he was at America's attitude to this. And he said much of what eventually appeared in the article where he compared Scotlands "culture of compassion" to what he said was the USA's "culture of vengeance". We spoke about our opposition to the death penalty. For me it's just wrong and makes us, as a society, as bad as the people we dish it out to. For Cardinal O'Brien it's at odds with what the bible teaches. Having said that I bet I know some who study the bible and will tell me it says the opposite! I'm not particularly religious myself but I do know that Cardinal O'Brien is passionate in his opposition to a culture of vengeance. And he's right.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

"You can chain me, you can torture me but you will never imprison this mind"

The quote is from Mahatma Ghandi. The photo is of my nephew Daniel and our friend *Fraser who came to Scotland as an asylum seeker escaping from Darfur in the Sudan. He is now a refugee, in other words, he's allowed to live and work in Scotland which was a great relief to everyone.
The quote came to mind when I dropped him off on Friday after our walk from Lunderston Bay to Inverkip (pictured). There was a big group of very loud kids hanging about outside his flats and I asked if he got much trouble.
He said to me "Anne, I have been in Scotland for 3 years and 4 months and I have NEVER had any problem with anybody. Every single person I have met has been nice to me." Made me really proud that. I know it's not true for everyone but I'm glad it is true in his case.
He went on to tell me that there are lots of "junkies" (not a term I use but his word) in his area and he'd never had any problems with them either. As he explained it "they are really suffering and I have suffered before so I know how hard life must be. They are taking drugs but they are not stupid, they know when people are looking down on them. I don't look down on them and they know that so they are always nice to me."
Here is someone who has been through hell in his life. I don't want to go into detail because although I've changed his name and not shown his face, I am sure he wouldn't want his private suffering to be public knowledge. The Ghandi quote should give you some idea.
Anyway he's been through hell and his faith in humanity must have been stretched to the limit but he has come out the other side still able to care for others, still with the mental capacity to show compassion for someone that many of us would indeed look down on. Maybe it's because this country has shown him some kindness. Either way he knows how fortunate he is to be here and I know how glad I am that we have people in our country who don't allow the barbarism shown to them to affect their capacity to love.
*Not his real name.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Lord George Foulkes, the guardian of public money

I notice me old mucker (on the Public Audit Committee in Parliament) Lord George Foulkes is at it again. Mind you when the press encourage him by rewarding him with headlines like this one "£1million spent on ministerial limos" who can blame him? The story goes on to say that in the last year the Scottish Government spent almost £1million on limos and Lord George calls it "an astonishing figure".

If you carry on reading however you discover that the Scottish Government in its attempt to save public money has actually reduced overall travel costs by £1million representing a saving of roughly 18%. I will be pointing this out to Mr Foulkes next time I see him, as I always do. The fact that he's like a broken record and it's easy to switch off from the "same old, same old" is absolutely no excuse not to keep challenging him. (As an aside, he takes it very well!)

I would too if I had the same attitude to public money that he does. You know, the kind of attitude where you think it's perfectly acceptable to take £54,441 in allowances for your "job" in the House of Lords whilst you're being paid £56,671 as a Member of the Scottish Parliament.

If that newspaper article was more accurate the headline would read "£1million SAVED by Scottish Government on transport costs" but being responsible and thrifty is not the sort of story anyone's interested in is it?

Friday, 6 August 2010

I'm back

Hello blog! Not spoken to you for a while. Now you might think that's cos I'm doing nothing but it's not, the opposite is true. It's because recess, that time to gather your thoughts, think about what you want to look at politically, spend more time planning, clearing out, reading what you haven't read (but had to pretend you had!), maybe working normal office hours, possibly having lunch breaks and who knows, perhaps a day or two off, has been busier for me than it was when parliament was sitting!

That, of course, is because of the intensification of the situation with Florence and Precious which I will not complain about (other than to complain that they have to put up with this crap in the first place) and of course none of the other work goes away, does it?

However, things are a little calmer now. I've spent 3 days filing and recycling and doing all sorts of minutiae like getting printer cartridges for the printer I've not been able to use for 3 months (what was so difficult about ordering cartridges?), paying bills (direct debit is the way forward for people like me!) and transporting the 15,000 annual reports from my hallway and kitchen to the office. I've not stopped but it's been so well worth it. I feel I can actually see the wood for the trees at last.

So today I'm off to visit my mum with Cambull, my Sudanese friend who has apparently adopted my mother! She loves it and he seems to find it quite amusing when I point out that she was MY mother first. I don't really mind seeing as his family were all killed, it would be kinda selfish of me to deny him the opportunity to take my mum out when she's too old to do it herself - nice one Cambull :-)

So we're going down there for the day and I "think" I am taking next week off. I'm fantasising about getting my photos framed, might even put one or two up on the wall, possibly buying and doing something with curtains, after all it's only been 10 months since I moved in to this flat!! I may also buy a George Foreman grill to replace the one I wrecked last week when I soaked it in water. It and the cables! Not a good move. The replacement will have removeable plates this time.

And of course I will have the headspace to blog. So, I promise it'll be more interesting than this drivel. As I said I'm filing, recycling, chucking out rubbish and that includes trivia that's been running round in my head for weeks. So thank you blog, thank you for the catharsis! I will not neglect you again and I will be back tomorrow!