Sunday, 21 November 2010

To be or not to be

There is so much going on this week that the biggie of the week feels like a long time away but I want to mention it now and invite comments because I know it's something that has sparked a big debate. It is of course Margo McDonald's End of Life Assistance Bill. Stage 1 will be debated on Thursday in the parliament. I've put in a bid to speak on it but there are many others who also wish to do so.

I don't know about anyone else but I am genuinely undecided. I came to this debate believing I would support it on the grounds that I believe every human being should have the right to make their own decisions about whether or not they live or die. However, I recognise how important this is and so I've carefully read all the letters I've received and there's one argument that really has me questioning myself. It's not the religious arguments about God giving us life and being the only one who can take it away. I respect that argument and although I choose to believe in God, I don't think I could stand in front of someone dying in pain and tell them with any great conviction that only God had the right to end that pain.

The argument that caused me to rethink is the one about elderly people believing themselves to be a burden and wanting not to be. If assisted suicide is an option legitimised by us, there is a danger that many older people will, feeling that they have nothing left to contribute, consider going down that route.

That idea horrifies me. Then again, we are at Stage One of the bill and you don't actually vote on it to become law until Stage Three so there are options for amendments to combat that. But can you combat that? What do you do? Put a robust psychological assessment in place to ensure the person is doing it for what we believe to be the right reasons?

My instinctive feeling is there are many questions to be asked and I want to allow the debate to carry on so we can explore those questions fully. Then again, if I vote to do that am I opening the door to a law that I will eventually come to the conclusion I should vote against?

I don't know. So I'm asking you. I'm sending out an e newsletter to my constituents on Monday asking them to email me or comment on this blog post and tell me their thoughts. I'm reading over the letters again, I'm going to read the bill and I'll try to speak to Margo. If I can, I'll speak in the debate and listen to everyone else. If I'm not speaking in it I'll still be watching live on TV.

The one thing I won't do is pretend to be listening when I've already made up my mind. You can be assured that whatever decision I come to it will be done with a great deal of thought, a lot of soul searching and a lot of listening. So please, comment on here (my comments are moderated and only abusive ones won't be published) or email me at and tell me what you would do and why. I really want to know.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

UK government showing contempt to Scotland - for a change

What a day! Had a question at First Minister's Questions, a demo to attend and a meeting with asylum seekers from Glasgow afterwards. It all went really well but I wish I wasn't wearing high heels today, my feet are killing me!

Am about to speak in a debate about this ridiculous and contemptuous decision of the UK government to hold the referendum on Alternative Voting on the SAME DAY as OUR NATIONAL ELECTIONS! Am mad as hell about it and can't believe the Lib Dems and Tories think it's perfectly acceptable.

Better go brush my hair, wash my face and struggle on in the heels then! You can watch it live on or you can watch it later. Or not at all.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Proud of John Swinney

I don't have time to go into the detail but I'll try to write about the budget later in the week. For the record, I am extremely proud of John Swinney, I think he's shown himself to be extremely able and has done everything he can to protect jobs and services in the face of the deepest cuts imagineable from Westminster.

I particularly like that he is now compelling the councils to stick to what they agree, IF they agree it. I can't see why they wouldn't. Everywhere else is facing cuts of around 6% but local government can get a cut of only around 2% if they agree to certain things like teacher numbers, freezing the council tax etc. It will mean the difference of around £420 million. But whereas before, councils like Glasgow could simply agree to certain things but not bother to implement them ("we don't think small class sizes make a difference" for example), this time they have to make up the budget that ensures these agreements are met BEFORE they get the extra money.

Good! COSLA have agreed but now we need all 32 local authorities to agree. I think they're being offered a tremendous incentive to do so and at the same time YOU get NO INCREASE IN COUNCIL TAX, CONCESSIONARY FARES stay in place, FREE PERSONAL CARE is guaranteed and a variety of other measures are agreed to.

I am also delighted that he has said if we have a pay freeze for public sector workers earning over £21,000 per annum, we can maintain the pledge for no compulsory redundancies. It's rotten not getting a pay increase, I know that, I have been there often enough myself. But you have to be fair to John and acknowledge that he's proposing that to keep more folk in work and he is freezing the council tax too. He's also chosen not to do what the Greens wanted to do and that is increase income tax. That's because it can only apply to the basic rate and therefore would hit the poorest hardest. Oh and prescriptions - charges will be abolished as planned in April.

Other things of note - public sector workers on under £21k will get an increase of at least £250 a year, the additional 1000 police officers we've put in since coming to power? They're staying put and we're funding it. A living wage for those whose wages the government controls will be at a minimum of £7.15 per hour. Bonuses where the government can control it - suspended until further notice! Distinction awards for NHS - frozen for the foreseeable! I could go on but I did start by saying I don't have time to blog about this.

Having said all of that the SNP government has had to implement cuts of £1.3bn imposed by Westminster so it can't possibly be pain free and no doubt over the coming months it'll become clear who will be worst affected. The Labour Party groan if you dare to mention this in parliament but there's no getting away from the fact that WE HAVE NO CONTROL OVER THE AMOUNT OF OUR BUDGET! As Jeremy Kyle would say: "FACT"!

There is only one way to rectify that and that is by becoming Independent. Whilst I was relieved and proud to read John's proposed budget today, I also felt so sad that we can't just do what any other country in the world would do and use full economic powers to suit Scotland's economy, to grow Scotland's economy, to make Scotland a better place for us all to live in. We have to get our heads round doing that and soon. For now, I think John Swinney has done an incredible job and all with one hand tied behind his back. Think what he would do if that hand was untied. You can untie it. You can vote for Scotland's Independence.

Seeking support of the First Minister

I have had a question accepted for First Minister's Questions tomorrow on the matter of the UKBA cancelling their contract with Glasgow City Council to support and house asylum seekers. You can watch it LIVE on BBC2 on Thursday or you can watch it online at I wrote about it earlier in the week and said how shocked I was at the way they were being treated.

It's a matter for the British Government, the UKBA is one of their agencies and the First Minister has no say in the matter, whilst we're still controlled by the UK.

However I am hoping to get his support to put pressure on the British Government to sort it out. And I also think it's important that asylum seekers and refugees in this country hear its First Minister tell them they are welcome here because the UKBA certainly doesn't make them feel like that!

It was just supposed to be a question but as nearly always happens with me, I come up with an idea, then another, then another and before you know it one little question has grown arms and legs and I've created a monster.

On this occasion it's a monster worth creating. What's happening is that a bus load of people are now coming through to Edinburgh, I've managed to get tickets for 15 of them to get into First Minister's Questions and I have a meeting room booked for 25 of them to meet with MSPs afterwards. It will be very informal but it allows them to talk to their elected representatives about what it's like being an asylum seeker in this country and particularly about this recent development.

One woman told me when she got that letter saying she was being moved to an as yet unknown location in Scotland and would be given 3 to 5 days' notice to pack a maximum of 2 suitcases and leave everything (and everyone) else behind, she decided to give up. She said she just felt like lying on the ground and saying "do what you're going to do but do it quick". That's shocking and I know MSPs will want to hear about the effect this move has had on human beings we're supposed to be protecting.

The photo is of a wee girl from Cranhill (I went to their drop in service on Monday night to try to offer some reassurance) and this is the artwork her mum produced - nice home eh?

Monday, 15 November 2010

Protest at half ten this morning

At half past ten this morning I will be attending a demonstration in Glasgow outside the City Chambers protesting against the UKBA decision to cancel its contract with GCC to house and support asylum seekers.

They've done it over a row about the fee they pay the council to carry out this work. The contract was due to expire in less than a year and renegotations would have taken place then. Given that the UKBA may have to pay compensation of up to £5million now for the early cancellation, it doesn't even make financial sense, never mind any other kind of sense!

I'm protesting for a number of reasons. First, as Glasgow has been working with asylum seekers since the year 2000 so has built up a considerable body of expertise. Services have been put in place to deal with the particular needs of asylum seekers. Certain areas eg Springburn, Cranhill have language support teachers in schools and medical practices, there are support workers employed in these areas. It doesn't always work perfectly but Glasgow is placed better than anywhere else in the country to carry out this work.

What this does is WASTE that expertise and experience in Glasgow and it puts a demand on the rest of the country to replicate it. So, say 40 families are moved to Perth. Are the schools there just supposed to cope, are the children just supposed to adjust? And where is the housing coming from? I have contacted Shelter Scotland to get figures on housing availability across the country because what the UKBA are, in effect, saying is "we don't want those 600 houses already being used in Glasgow for asylum seekers, we want to use up housing in other parts of Scotland".

(I am aware some people I've had contact with recently will be jumping for joy thinking this frees up housing in Glasgow for them. Eg the constituent who attacked me for campaigning to keep Florence and Precious Mhango in Cranhill when he couldn't get a flat there. When I went to the housing with him (because I don't, contrary to what he said, just work with asylum seekers) he was quite clear - no multi storeys, no upstairs (he's 27 btw), in fact nothing short of a back and front door. Most of the people who kick up a fuss don't actually want what we give to asylum seekers.)

From the briefings I have received it seems there was no consultation with anyone regarding this move. That astonishes me because the implications for GCC, for the rest of Scotland and of course for these very vulnerable people themselves are immense. It didn't occur to UKBA to speak to anyone who might take over the contract, anyone who might be affected by the move, anyone at all!

I have written to the UKBA and asked them a number of questions. I want to know if Glasgow City Council were aware that this was a possibility, that the contract might suddenly be terminated. If they were then they too are implicated but to be fair, from all I've heard so far, I'm on the council's side on this. Whatever, SOMEONE knew this was a possibility and they should have brought in mediation, they should have consulted, they should have known the consequences for everyone involved would be massive.

The day the council received the note telling them the "deal was off" asylum seekers received a letter basically saying "you're moving, get ready". It didn't say when but promised they would be given 3 to 5 days notice.

3 to 5 days notice??!

Outrageous. I can't even get ready to go on holiday at that short notice and they are expected to leave behind everything they know, not knowing where they are going in 3 to 5 days. Bear in mind many of them have already done that. Many have fled their own countries and they've come here with nothing and nobody. So the friendships they make in Scotland are intensified by the fact that they have no-one else. And they have to leave all that behind with 3 to 5 days notice.

They were told they could take 2 suitcases per person. Outrageous.

Many asylum seekers have been given things by well wishers to make their lives a bit easier. Individuals and the likes of the Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees will give them toys and books for their children, a TV that would otherwise have gone in the skip, little things to make life more bearable. And they have to leave them all behind. And what if they don't have 2 suitcases per person. It is not the equivalent to suitcases, it is suitcases.

Last week I took calls from worried asylum seekers, their friends and neighbours, church ministers, teachers and headteachers all desperately worried and right to be.

This is shocking and we have to find a way to stop it. Where there's a will there's a way. My fear is that the will is not there on the side of the UKBA. They can not care or they would not have sent such a callous letter. Come to the demo if you can and join our facebook group by clicking here. Be part of the campaign.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

The joys of being a politician

I was at an event this afternoon presenting trophies to the winners of a football tournament. It was great, very enjoyable. Most of the time. At the end I was going round folk and letting them know that I was one of their MSPs and encouraging them to get in touch if they'd any problems I might be able to help with. Everyone was receptive and took my contact details but there was one guy who just started having a go at me.

He starts pointing in my face saying "you lot, none of you want to help folk like me" (yes that's right, that's why I'm coming up to you asking if you want my help with anything) "you are all the same" (never heard that one before)!

I think the most patronising and disingenuous thing you can do in those circumstances is take it without standing up for yourself. It would be a bit fake for me to do that so I didn't. I told him I thought there one thing he might need to do himself if he wanted my help and that is ASK ME!!

At this point he admitted that he had never been in touch with me. He went on to tell me about someone he had contacted who couldn't have cared less. I was happy to point out that it wasn't even my party never mind me so hardly fair for him to judge me. I also pointed out the irony of me walking up to him asking could I help with anything and his immediate reaction being that no politician ever wants to help anyone.

It was fine in the end and he's promised to email me with details of a particular difficulty he's having. However it does annoy me the way that one bad experience somehow ends up with us all being the same. I can't imagine me walking up to someone I don't even know and telling them how bad they are but today was not the first time it happened. Ah well, it takes all sorts I guess. Moan over! Thanks for listening ...

Today Matthew, I'm going to be Audrey Roberts!

How many of you have heard of Andrew Watson, the first black player ever to play football for Scotland? A left back, the highlight of his career was guiding the strongest club in Scotland at the time, to 3 consecutive Scottish FA Cup victories in 1880. That club was not Rangers or Celtic, it wasn't Hearts or Hibs, it was Queen's Park FC!

Indeed he wasn't just the first black player to play for Scotland, he was the first black international player in world football at all.

Today there is an Andrew Watson Memorial Football Tournament taking place in the North of Glasgow. Organised by the African & Caribbean Network, the aim of it is to raise awareness of the fact that African and Caribbean people have been part of football in Scotland since time immemorial.

The opening rounds will be at Firhill Sports Complex in Hopehill Road, Maryhill from 12 to 2pm and the semi finals, finals and prizegiving from 3 to 5pm at Maryhill Juniors in Lochburn Road. There will be African food and a bar available at the second venue.

The teams include The Persian Gulf, Glas Vegas and AfroScots United.

Andrew Watson seems to have been a pretty amazing man. Born in Guyana to a Scots plantation owner and a Guyanese mother, he ended up studying engineering at Glasgow University - for a black man to achieve that alone (never mind the footballing success) in the Victorian era is impressive to say the least.

My favourite fact about this man I had never heard of until recently is that in 1881 he captained Scotland to a 6-1 victory over England away from home. If only he were still around!

Anyway I better go, I'm presenting the trophies at the tournament today so I need to look out my Audrey Roberts outfit! Try and make it along if you can.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Well done Ryan!

Sitting here with a huge smile on my face and a big lump in my throat because of this wee guy Ryan McLaughlin. Because of him, his mum Kirsten, dad Alan and wee brother Darren. Last night he won a Pride of Britain Award for his amazing campaign on the importance of Vitamin D to prevent Multiple Sclerosis which his mum was diagnosed with some years ago.

I've met them a few times because their campaign was focused on the Scottish Parliament Petitions Committee of which I am a member and I've kept in touch with them. It helps that they're all really nice people and they're all McLaughlins :-)

Have a look at the interview they did on The Hour tonight and you'll see him getting his award. An award you really deserve Ryan. Congratulations, very proud of you!

Sad day for Scottish health

I spoke in the Alcohol Debate on Wednesday. In fact, for the first time I was allowed to lead for the SNP backbenchers. I think the Chief Whip knew how important this debate was to me so I was chuffed to be able to do it. I think I'm also the first MSP to be brandishing a cider bottle in the chamber now!

Anyway I will blog about this later but I didn't want the parliamentary week to end without me saying how sickened and disgusted I am that the Labour Party, the Tories and the Lib Dems voted down the amendment on minimum unit pricing which would have had a significant impact on our drinking culture.

We had a chance to really do something about the almost out of control problem this country has with alcohol but they stopped us. They didn't stop us because of a passionate belief, they stopped us because we are the SNP. It's pathetic and I lost a lot of respect for a lot of people who I disagreed with politically but who I honestly believed had some integrity.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Jack is dead

Oh dear. I haven't caught up with Corrie yet, in fact I'm about a fortnight behind. However I know that Jack Duckworth died last night and I've just seen the clip where he's dreaming that Vera comes for him and they dance together in the living room. Greetin' now. That'll teach me to put the TV on when I'm supposed to be getting ready for work!

Justice for Megrahi petition in parliament Tuesday

As a member of the Petitions Committee in Parliament I am particularly looking forward to tomorrow's meeting. We will hear evidence from Jim Swire, father of Flora who was one of the victims of the Lockerbie bombing. He'll be presenting evidence in support of his petition calling for an enquiry into the conviction of Megrahi. He'll do so alongside Professor Robert Black and Iain McKie, father of Shirley.

I've met Iain McKie a couple of times through previous work and found him to be both charismatic and inspirational. And of course Jim Swire has to be one of the most compassionate people ever. I don't know if they have a point in claiming that Megrahi is innocent. What I do know is that it would be all too easy (and understandable) for Mr Swire to accept Megrahi's guilt and put all of his negativity energy in that direction.

But he didn't accept it. He has been outspoken in his condemnation of the conviction and as you can see is campaigning for an enquiry into it. I guess it's important to him that they get the right person but how tempting must it have been to turn a blind eye and blame the man with the conviction?

The other thing that occurs to me is that tomorrow, as I imagine is always the case, he will give evidence and in the recesses of his mind will be this image of his daughter, his flesh and blood, a young woman with a zest for life who only got to live for 24 years. That pain must never leave him and for that reason I am in awe of him and have nothing but the deepest respect.

You can watch the evidence session at 2pm tomorrow click here and scroll down to Petitions.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Make way for George - the ego has landed

So, why are you thinking of standing for Holyrood next year Mr Galloway?

"There's no doubt Salmond is a star but there are not enough stars in the parliament and that's why I am thinking about it."

Do you think pretending to be a cat on Celebrity Big Brother has undermined you politically?

"Nobody in the Scottish Parliament today would ever be described as a celebrity, certainly none of THEM would be invited onto a celebrity show."

Better expand the landing strip at Glasgow Airport then ...

Co-operatives Customer Dis-Service

I hate to sound like Victor Meldrew here but honestly, what has happened to customer service these days? In May I received a renewal notice from Co-operative Ecoinsurance and it was more than I was expecting it to be. The letter said that unless I told them otherwise they'd be taking £300 out of my account on whatever date. So I looked around, got a quote for £230 from Sheila's Wheels and called the Co-operative. No, they couldn't better it so I said it wouldn't make sense for me to renew with them.

I continued to get letters from them which I never opened assuming they were simply advertising some other service. Meantime my bank account was lower than expected so eventually (and these things take me a long time to get round to) I looked at it and discovered that they had simply renewed my insurance anyway and taken £300 out of my account!

Fast forward to today. I called them to ask why, 3 months after them agreeing to refund the money, they had yet to do so. After going through the whole palaver of postcodes and DOB etc they said I was speaking to the wrong person. So they put me through to the "right" person who asked me all the questions over again and then told me that not only was I not speaking to the "right" person but I was through to the wrong company altogether. The Co-operative guy had (very unco-operatively) put me through to Auto Trader insurance!

And yet none of that is what I really want to have a moan about.

Finally I spoke to the right person (by now I know my DOB and my postcode off by heart!) and she informs me that in August they received my confirmation letter and my certificate of motor insurance. However, she says, there was no proof of insurance from Sheila's Wheels in with it.

Now I can't remember if I sent that or not. I do know that I sent whatever they asked me for and if they asked for that, I sent it. If I didn't, it's because they didn't ask. I was very motivated to get my £300 back you understand. That, however, is not really the point. The point is that they received a letter confirming I wanted (as had been agreed) my money back and what did they do with it? They filed it away! It didn't occur to them to write back or phone me and tell me they needed more information?

Perhaps it did occur to them but perhaps it also occurred to them that people lead such busy lives these days that they rarely have time to deal with that kind of thing. Perhaps they were hoping I'd forget all about it. All they've done however is prompt me to make a formal complaint about their shocking customer service - first, taking money they'd no right to take and then, 6 months later, still no refund. Am not at all impressed.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

"Anne you really suit that moustache" - my mother's always wanted a boy!

The things they make you do in that place! Here's me with Sandra White and Aileen Campbell posing in moustaches!

It's all for a good cause. We're encouraging the men we know to take part in Movember and grow a moustache to raise money for and awareness of men's cancers.

You can read more here. First time I've been in The Sun! Actually, it's not. I once forgot that our committees are televised and started talking about how much I love graveyards. That got in The Sun! First time I've been in it wearing a moustache though!

I showed my mum today and she said what a few others in parly had already said. Apparently, according to my mum et al "that moustache really suits you Anne"! Not entirely sure if she was suggesting I wear it regularly or not! I won't be!

However, as Mo-Sista to the male researchers in parly I'll happily monitor their moustaches! And YOU can help them by donating something as sponsorship for them - they really deserve it because trust me, most of them do NOT suit it lol. You can donate at this page.

Fireworks for 14 minutes

It's not the best photo in the world but what I like about it is that it shows crowds of people enjoying themselves and I particularly love seeing wee kids on their daddies' shoulders trying to catch the fireworks.

This was taken on Friday evening at the Fireworks Display at Glasgow Green. It was great, quite spectacular in fact but I was stunned when it finished after 14 minutes!!!

I guess it's cutbacks which is fair enough but ONLY if the hospitality tent was also cut back. Oor cooncil has a habit of offering lavish hospitality when it's completely unnecessary. And in today's climate, it's completely inappropriate. I couldn't tell you if they had one on Friday night because I'm not a Labour MSP and it seems to be only they who are invited to most events in Glasgow. I think what the council argues is that it's constituency MSPs who are invited, not "list" MSPs. It's just coincidence that most of them are Labour!

Anyway I'm going off the point which is to say that there were thousands of very happy people watching the fireworks on Friday night and for once, it didn't rain. Great night - or should I say "great 14 minutes"?!

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Keep helping Haiti

Watching a report on Channel 4 news about Haiti and they've just interviewed a young guy who lost a leg and a mum and dad in the earthquake. He survives now by begging but explained that he has an additional difficulty in that people assume his leg is gone because he's been caught stealing and that was his sentence. How cruel has life been to this young guy? I can't even imagine the loss and the devastation on his life.

It's easy to be put off helping because it all seems insurmountable but it's not as you can see if you read this 6 months on update. Many thousands of people are alive and starting to get their lives back on track because of the help many of you have given. So please don't think your money won't make a difference because it will.

I'm an Ambassador for Glasgow the Caring City and if you click on this link you can find out how you can help them to keep making a difference in Haiti.

Please send messages of support to these guys TONIGHT

I was just thinking how dark and cold it is outside and how I'd really like it if my heating would work properly. In fact I was thinking of bringing the duvet through and settling in for the night and although I can't say I was feeling sorry for myself, I will admit I was a bit grumbly about the cold.

Then I remembered that some friends of mine are sleeping out in George Square tonight and I'm fairly confident that no matter how much difficulty I have heating my ground floor flat, they will be a whole lot colder than me. It's all for a good cause. They all work for Positive Action in Housing which is a Scottish charity supporting asylum seekers who are completely destitute ie without accommodation or income.

They're sleeping out to raise awareness but also to raise money so please, as you cosy up inside, think of what they're doing for the cause that matters so much to them and send a donation. You can do it online here or you can PLEDGE your donation by emailing or by texting 07530690234 telling them how much you will donate. They'll contact you later for your contribution. Let them know if you want to be anonymous because they're listing their supporters on 29th November.

Don't forget you can use that number to send messages of support to Jamie, Robina and Suki on this cold, dark, rainy November night.

The great thing about them is that as I'm remembering how lucky I am compared to them tonight, I know they will stick it out because they know how lucky they are that it's their choice and it's only one night.

As they know only too well, there are so many people out there on our streets, many of whom have fled state sponsored persecution in their home country, some of whom don't yet speak English and so have even more difficulty asking for help, yet they're not entitled to help anyway and instead are forced to sleep on the streets and rely on the kindness of passers by and the likes of PAIH. Even PAIH can't solve all their problems, they can only give limited help from their hardship fund. But the more you give, the more they can help so please do donate.

Right, I'm away to throw more coal on the fire. Good luck guys - you're far better people than I am :-)

Check the small print

I met a friend for a drink on Friday night on our way to see the fireworks at Glasgow Green. I suggested we meet at "the pub at Glasgow Cross but I can't remember what it's called". He said no problem and he'd text me when he got there (he knew I wouldn't be first!) to give me the name of it.

Now bear in mind he is originally from The Sudan and although he's made up for lost time in the last couple of years, he wasn't in the habit of going to pubs out there. Anyway the text duly came through and this is what it said:

"The pub is called Est 1906."

I can't remember the last time I laughed so much. And he will NEVER be allowed to forget it! Oh, and it was the Tolbooth incidentally. I have no idea how he missed the giant lettering and only spotted the "established since" plaque.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

All Jock Tamson's Bairns

We were taking evidence in the Public Audit Committee yesterday and the convener was asking a question of Steve Cardownie, the Leader of the SNP group on Edinburgh Council. Although it's all on the official record, I won't go into detail of the substance of the meeting until it's all over and done with (which may be never at this rate)!

What I had to laugh at was the convener's reaction when Cllr Cardownie mentioned that Alex Salmond called him on his mobile phone. He said he was "astonished" that the First Minister of Scotland with all his officials had chosen to call the councillor himself!

I'm not sure what he was making of it but I'M certainly not astonished. I'm glad to know that our First Minister doesn't think himself so above mere mortals that he has to do a Yes Minister and get his officials to call Cllr Cardownie's officials to call Cllr Cardownie, when he can just phone him himself!

This obsession with status really irks me. Alex Salmond respects his position but he's perfectly capable of phoning someone and I don't think it demeans his position to do so. As the SNP councillor pointed out, when he was in the Labour Party he regularly got calls on his mobile from Frank McAveety the then Culture Minister.

There really is nothing sinister at all about senior politicians not expecting their "minions" to do their work for them. It's simply in keeping with Scotland's long tradition of eglitarianism and us all being Jock Tamson's Bairns. As it happens when Alex Salmond phoned Cllr Cardownie, he (CC) was having a pint in the pub which he didn't get to finish. I reckon he should point that out to the First Minister and whilst I realise the FM is unlikely to have time to be down the pub of an evening much these days, I'm pretty sure he won't think himself too important to buy him one back!


Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Housing Bill passed today

It was great to sit in the chamber today and vote through the Housing (Scotland) Bill which amongst other things restricts the Right to Buy council houses. I've said this many times before but I am fundamentally opposed to the practice of selling off housing stock from the public sector. What we've done is not ban the practice but limit it so that, along with our house building programme, we can start to address the crisis that the last government and the Tory policies of the 80s plunged us into. My parents bought their council house and I have no objection to those individuals who wish to take advantage of the policy but it should never have been brought in, in the first place. The whole thing got out of control with people buying their retired parents' and grandparents' houses for them. Apparently that was to "give them security" but having a tenancy with the council or local housing association is, I would say, pretty secure so there was no need. If we're honest most folk who did that were taking advantage of a situation where they could make / inherit a bit of money. Anyway it was great to be part of that today and I'm really looking forward to the next housing bill which will hopefully be done and dusted before the end of the session in April.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Morrisons to support homeless workers

I spent £18 in Morrisons today and I'm glad I did having seen this news story about their commitment to employing people who are homeless or vulnerable in other ways. Hoorah! It's a nightmare for people who don't have a permanent address to get a job and they often need support in other ways that most employers are just not willing to give. Ditto workers with mental health problems. Ditto workers with physical disabilities. So I applaud Morrison's for having the commitment to give a chance to folk who we have no reason to believe will be any better or worse than any other worker but who, more often than not, don't get the chance to prove it. I might shop there again next week!

Not ALL Glaswegians will be miserable tomorrow

Apparently today, Monday 1st November, is the most miserable day of the year and Glaswegians are the most miserable folk in the UK. (I would like to add that they mean "unhappy". I take "miserable" to mean "whingeing" which we most certainly are not.)

So, I've got news to cheer you up. If you live in Castlemilk that is. And you have to be on Jobseekers Allowance. If you do and if you are, I have persuaded FirstGlasgow that as of today you should be able to get half price bus fares to help you get out and about looking for work. I've sent over a thousand letters advertising the month long pilot scheme and there have been posters all over the place. But I'm still very keen to let people know.

If it works, FirstGlasgow will consider rolling it out across Greater Glasgow on a longer term basis and that would just be brilliant news. But if there's no interest, the idea will just fizzle out and that will be a great shame.

So, if you know anyone living in Castlemilk tell them about it please. Basically they get the zonecard from FirstBus for £7 for the week instead of the usual £14 but they have to get it in advance by sending proof of JSA, the money and a letter with contact details to FirstBus on Butterbiggins Road. I hope it will make a real difference to people's ability to get out and put themselves about on the job market.