Sunday, 30 January 2011

Ach it's just oor GENERAL ELECTION - it can wait!

This is outrageous. The result of Scotland's general election in May this year is to be delayed for around TWO DAYS. Scotland will be left in limbo from 5 to 7 May not knowing who their MSPs are and, more importantly, not knowing who will be governing Scotland. And all this at a time of great financial uncertainty.

And why? Because the British Government plucked a date out of thin air for their AV referendum - the referendum that was a sop to their Lib Dem coalition partners but that's so weakened from the Lib Dem position that even THEY don't want it - and what date did they come up with? Yes that's right 5 May, the date of OUR general election.

And now it seems that it's not possible for local authorities to count both votes on time so what do they do? Delay our national result. I am shocked but not surprised. I just wonder how long it will be till the people of Scotland WAKE UP to the fact that the reason this country is disrespected is because WE ALLOW IT TO HAPPEN. In fact, I feel like we positively INVITE it!

And when you're telling someone to beat up on you because you don't really mind, it's often very tempting to do just that. The British government (whatever the party colours) gives into temptation every time. Wake up Scotland!

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Happy Burns Night

This is the brilliant Parsonage Choir performing Rabbie Burns' The Slaves Lament. They were performing at an event I was speaking at last week organised by the Scottish Campaign for Human Rights in Gambia. As I said on my youtube description, I practically had to staple my hands to the chair to stop me getting up on stage and singing with them. I thought they were fantastic and I'd be selfish not to share with you. I've not been well today and this is the only thing that's cheered me up. Hope it works for you too!

Rabbie goes to Haiti

Glasgow Caring City the brilliant charity that does so much work at home and overseas, chose today the birthday of Burns to launch something very special. And I was very pleased as one of their Ambassadors to set it up for them. The charity was working in Haiti long before the earthquake just over a year ago. In the last year they have done much but their biggest achievement is in completely rebuilding the Good Samaritan School in Cite Soleil.

One of the rooms will be known as The Caledonian Room and it's where children will learn about and long distance friendships will be built with people in Scotland.

To kick off the latest appeal Alex Salmond the First Minister was the first to donate a book and he chose "A Biography of Robert Burns". I got the other party leaders and a Glasgow MSP from each party together and we each donated a book that we thought said something about Scotland. You can read about the choices here.

I donated a book of beautiful photographs of Glasgow by Colin Baxter. As the children are French speaking (but learning English) I have a feeling mine might just be the most popular book initially!

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Sheila's Wheels grind very very slowly and don't mention ScottishPower!

Not sure how to introduce this other than to say I feel the need to rant.

Scottish Power are the first to be driving me up the wall. (Not the last as you'll hear.) I get my gas and electricity through Eon. No particular reason other than that's what was here when I moved in and I've not looked at other options. Last September however Eon wrote to me and said "please don't go, stay with us" etc. "What can you mean?" I asked "I wasn't going anywhere". Apparently I was. Apparently I had told ScottishPower I wanted to move to them.

No I didn't.

I wasn't asked. I've never had a phone call from Scottish Power, never had a letter, never had anyone at the door so I'm quite sure I didn't ask to switch to them.

I've had this before. My ex flatmate found he'd switched supplier (funnily enough to Scottish Power) and it turned out some sales person had not got him home so decided that meant he was a switcher (no doubt earning him a nice commission).

So I told Eon no I don't want to switch and that was that. I was quite pleased that my fuel bill over winter wasn't too high - not that I've paid it yet but I'll "get round to it".

And now I know WHY it wasn't too high. Because I have indeed switched to ScottishPower. So not only are they stealing me as a customer, Eon are letting them despite me being quite explicit in my instructions. (Sounding quite school marmish now aren't I?!)

Worse though, I opened two letters yesterday without looking to see that they weren't for me. One was for the woman who sold me this flat over a year ago and it was a ScottishPower electricity bill. The other was for someone I've never heard of but she has my address and it, too, was an electricity bill.

Is it me?

Onto Sheila's Wheels

"Why" I enquired of them "are you taking two direct debits from me, one of which you've been taking for two years when I've only been with you a year"?

Reasonable enough question. Here's the answer:

"One is for your Hyundai Amica" (don't ask, 5 year warranty) "and the other is for the Peugeot 306, Reg R262 FSU". Ah, the one I got rid of in January 2009. Or should I say the one that abandoned me in Jan 2009.

That'll be the one that used to be insured by Sheila's Wheels until I wrote to notify them of its death. Now I know it's daft of me not to have checked my bank statements until now but you know, things happened shortly after that and I got quite busy. Besides, if you tell them you don't need their insurance, you surely can expect them to stop taking your money!

And I'm thinking it must be pretty easy for folk to give a cheaper insurance address to save money because they clearly don't check given that I had two cars insured with them at two different addresses. That's the other thing, the two flats are a street apart. If I was going to have a second home it wouldn't be round the corner!

And that brings me onto my final point. They must have written regarding renewal of insurance. To the old address. Because why would I give them the NEW address if I was no longer with them? These days however, insurance companies don't wait for you to say yes or no, they just tell you if they don't hear from you they'll renew you anyway. I don't like that and this is the reason why.

Anyway I replied to the "you have two cars and two homes" letter on 1st December and what do you think they said? Nothing! My calculations tell me I've paid £400 for nothing and I want it back. No doubt if they EVER reply they'll need me to jump through time consuming hoops and make it as difficult as possible for me to comply. Guess who I won't be renewing with next year!

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Mosquito devices are anti young people - I am not!

Today in parliament I'll be asking the Scottish Government to ban the use of mosquito devices. The full name is Mosquito Ultrasonic Youth Deterrents and the name says it all. They're not about deterring anti social behaviour, they're about deterring young people. That'll include young people who are doing nothing wrong. The device emits a painfully loud high pitched tone that only those under the age of 25 can hear. Some shopkeepers use it to tackle the problem of young people congregating at their door. It's only a problem if they're behaving in an anti social way so why subject EVERY person under the age of 25 to it? I am aware that even when young people are doing nothing wrong, some older people feel nervous about approaching and I can understand that boisterousness can be mistaken for aggression. So I see why they might not want big groups of young people hanging about their doorway.

But why not do what the Co-operative does in that case? They don't believe in Mosquito devices so they've piloted playing classical music outside 6 of their shops. And guess what. It's worked a treat. It's not punishing them, it just stops it being cool to hang about there so they move on. (There is of course the issue that if there is anti social behaviour, moving it on is no answer but that's an argument for another day.)

Don't forget that EVERYONE under the age of 25 can hear this apparently hideous noise. That includes the young mother trying to do her shopping. And it includes her baby who will become distressed with the noise but be unable to tell mum or dad why they've suddenly started screaming.

Andrew Deans, a Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament submitted a petition to the Parliament's Petitions Committee of which I am a member. You can read his evidence session here. Today I will be pressing the Scottish Government to support his suggestion and ban the use of the devices altogether.

Campaigning in Cranhill

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Human rights abuses in the Gambia

On Tuesday evening I was invited to speak at an event organised by the Scottish Campaign for Human Rights in the Gambia and the National Union of Journalists. It was a cultural AND political evening designed to show solidarity with Gambians here and elsewhere who are suffering because of their corrupt and heartless government.

I could list any number of human rights abuses but the focus was on Gambian legislation that imprisons journalists who speak out against the government. I might complain about the press in this country from time to time but freedom of speech and the freedom to report is the hallmark of a democratic nation. Not only can they be imprisoned simply for disagreeing, there is a history of journalists disappearing and never returning or being executed.

The news on the night was that the Gambian so-called Justice Minister has openly said that any Gambian living abroad who speak out against his government will be punished on their return. He referred to them as "evil" and said they tarnished the reputation of Gambia. I was speaking to an audience of many Gambians who have indeed spoken out since seeking refuge here. Of course they will speak out because they want to be able to go back, they want someone to do something to help their families still living there. Many are now living in fear of being returned by the UKBA but I don't see how they can justify that now that a top government minister has openly stated that they will suffer on their return.

For more information read this article by Austin Sheridan a Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament who has been actively involved in the campaign. And consider joining the Scottish campaign yourself - sometimes, as my granny would say, we don't know we're born.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Guest post by Christine McLaughlin - Take Action Against Unfair Sweatshops Now

Do you care enough about ending the scandal of sweatshop labour to take three simple actions?

Sweatshop fashion contravenes human rights in the most poignant way: millions of people in developing countries live a life of unremitting misery - why? In order to provide us with a constant flow of 'affordable' fashion.

Estimates vary, but it is generally agreed that hundreds of millions of workers are caught in the sweatshop trap. A good proportion of these are children. Human rights are set aside and the misery of long hours and starvation wages is a fact of life for many millions of people, including children. In Bangladesh, for example, many workers are subjected to 16 hour days with minimal breaks and little attention given to providing a safe working environment.

We, the consumers, fund this situation and we can take control. I am suggesting three simple actions you can take in the next five minutes from wherever you are now:

1. Sign my 'Fashion Needs Compassion' pledge

If ten of us cut back on new clothes this year by 10%, that equates to one person not buying any new clothes at all. If ten million of us cut back on new clothes by 10%, that equates to one million people turning their backs on sweatshop fashion.

2. Write a letter/ email

Does your favoured clothing retailer use sweatshops? Write and ask them how they ensure that no child or forced labour is used in their factories; no worker is subjected to violence or discrimination; fair wages are paid; reasonable working hours are adhered to; Trade Unions are allowed and a clean, safe and healthy work environment is provided.

Who to write to? War on Want recently shamed a few high street names and a Dispatches documentary last year uncovered illegal sweatshop labour in Leicester, producing clothes for billionaire ‘Sir’ Philip Green’s Arcadia Group, which include BHS, Peacocks and New Look.

I run my own clothing line, Fairly Organic Folk, and if I can manage to ensure all of the above, surely Sir Philip, who is advising David Cameron on ‘efficiency savings’, can do the same. Nice choice, Dave, by the way.

3. Shop for Victory

An easy one: there are hundreds of retailers of sweatshop-free clothing and now is a good time to start shopping with them because it’s sale time. You can find links to their sites here and here. I’m not saying you should start shopping right now: just bookmark both pages, then you know where they are when you need them, yes?

This has been a guest post by Fairly Organic Folk because Indygal has not been well and was too weak to post her own blog or to refuse when I suggested doing this. She is, however, rapidly recovering from her monster flu bug so if you want to read more of my wise words you are going to have to visit my website, follow me on Twitter, or join my fanpage on Facebook.