Sunday, 30 September 2007


The Sunday Herald reports that "The head of the Scottish government's green watchdog is under fire for taking climate-wrecking flights last week. Sir Ken Collins, chairman of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa), flew from Edinburgh to Inverness on Wednesday and then on to Orkney on Thursday. This has infuriated some of his staff, who say the flights are "very embarrassing" for Sepa."

Mr Smith suggests that Sir Collins might find it hard to break his bad environmental habits given his previous role as a Labour Member of the European Parliament, back in the old days when there was even less scrutiny of the activities of MEPs than there is now.

Going AWOL.

Mr Smith reads that, "FORMER FIRST minister Jack McConnell has angered his Labour colleagues after missing a key Holyrood vote to attend a leaders' summit in New York. Scottish Labour was deprived of victory in last week's Holyrood housing debate after McConnell flew to America on tycoon Tom Hunter's private jet. His critics within the party believe it is time McConnell chose between being an MSP or the businessman's "special envoy". However, a spokesman for the rich philanthropist Hunter described the Labour MSP's critics as a "bunch of petty politicians". "

Mr Smith did warn at the time that trying to juggle a couple of jobs would be impossible. He takes no satisfaction from having the point proven. When is the by-election?

The Sash.

Speaking of sectarianism .... Mr Smith read that a new book, It's Rangers For Me?, edited by a football journalist and politics lecturer, includes an admission by Labour MSP Karen Gillon that "she once belted out choruses of 'The Sash', a song regarded by many as a sectarian anthem, which begins: "Sure I'm an Ulster Orangeman, from Erin's isle I came; To see my British brethren all of honour and of fame..."

"Gillon uses the first sentence of her contribution to the book to admit singing the Ulster anthem which commemorates the 17th-century military victories of King William of Orange's forces over those led by the deposed Catholic monarch James VII. "Yes, I have sung 'The Sash'," she wrote. "I would be a liar to deny it and I'm not a liar. And I knew the words long before I went to Ibrox. I'm not proud that some people take offence at the song, but it is not worth lying about." The MSP strongly denied being a bigot or sectarian, but defended the right of others to sing the song. "I don't think 'The Sash' is automatically an offensive song, but I am conscious that people can be offended by it. I do think people should be allowed to celebrate their heritage and where they come from. "There are a number of people who have seen me singing 'The Sash', albeit some years ago now, and I don't think it is worth trying to cover up." Gillon, who is married to a Celtic-supporting Catholic, revealed that she had witnessed "nasty and vicious" sectarian behaviour in Lanarkshire politics: "I accept that in some places in Scotland the Labour Party is associated with Catholicism. Religion is an issue for some people at a lower level in the Labour Party. "No way would people stop you from becoming an MSP, MP or a councillor because you were a Protestant, but there is certainly a perception there and we have to tackle that. I certainly wasn't going to pretend that I wasn't a Rangers supporter to get on in the party." "

As Mr Smith said earlier ... welcome to the "new" Scotland.

Mr Chairman.

So just a week after announcing his intention of standing down as a Labour MP at the next General Election, it has been confirmed that John Reid is to become the new Chairman of Celtic Football Club.

Mr Smith wishes Mr Reid all the best in his new role which was clearly incompatible with that of being a Lanarkshire Labour MP. No, not because of the conflict of interests between parliamentary duties and having a well paid job or even because of being a socialist and having a very well paid job, sadly more to do with the fact that any connection with Celtic FC even in these days wouldn't have gone down too well with a large section of Mr Reid's constituents.

Welcome to the "new" Scotland.

Friday, 28 September 2007

Defeated ... again.

So the Record reports that, "THE SCOTTISH government was defeated in Parliament over plans to streamline NHS waiting times. Alex Salmond's loss came after a debate on health instigated by the Liberal Democrats. It was the first Holyrood debate ever held by the Liberal Democrats as an opposition party and it ended in a 77-48 defeat for the SNP. The defeat on health came when MSPs voted on a Lib Dem motion claiming the approach would lead to more red tape."

Mr Smith reckons that this will happen more frequently as the current parliamentary session progresses and he wonders what action the Scottish Government will take in relation to the parliamentary defeat.

He suspects none and that the vote was meaningless.

More flunkies please.

So, Mr Smith reads that Labour Leader of the Labour Group in the Scottish Parliament, has joined calls for more "support "for Members of the Scottish Parliament.

Mr Smith feels tempted to point out that as the Scottish Parliament is passing less legislation as a result of the "new politics," it surely follows that our elected representatives should be able to do more with the resources they currently have. It would be a really strange democracy which actually gave its politicians more money to do less, but Mr Smith wonders if the politicians will accept that? He suspects not.

Clutching at threads.

If this really happened as described in the Herald, then Mr Smith thinks that Team Salmond need to think seriously about picking their battles more carefully. This one comes across as a bit of a joke.

"Alex Salmond complained to the Defence Secretary that basing Scottish infantry soldiers outside Scotland will undermine attempts to boost the population. The First Minister yesterday wrote to Des Browne saying it is "regrettable", as it "seems destined to lose Scotland, through marriage and other reasons, many of its young men who we would have hoped would make their long-term future after service life in Scotland". The SNP leader's concerns were dismissed by a Whitehall source as "the best demonstration we could have of somebody manufacturing a grievance"."

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Cop that.

Mr Smith reads that "THIEVES have struck at the million-pound Edinburgh home of Lothian and Borders chief constable David Strang." Now it is bad enough that the home of the Chief Constable is targeted by thieves: hasn't he ever heard of crime prevention? But it will also make some of the members of the Lothian and Borders Police Board ask themselves the question whether they are paying their senior cops too much, if they can afford to live in "million pound homes" in Edinburgh's leafy Murrayfield?

Labour's Room 101.

The Herald Diary says "FOLLOWING Labour's travails at Holyrood this past week," says the Diary's man-in-the-know at the Scottish Parliament "what with Wendy Alexander's less than auspicious start, and the resignation of Labour's spin doctor, it's maybe not surprising that Labour's support unit has moved from its base on the ground floor to - yes, you've guessed it - Room 101."

Teenage kicks.

Mr Smith reads that “A Teenage councillor who holds one of the most prestigious civic roles in Scotland has dropped out of university after failing three exams. John West, 19, was halfway through the first year of his law degree when he was elected to Aberdeen City Council in May and made depute provost … However, Mr West, who is highly regarded by his colleagues, insisted last night that his decision to drop out of Aberdeen University had nothing to do with not been able to "juggle" his job effectively and study for a demanding degree. "I have been thinking about it since the beginning of the year because the course just was not for me because I was not enjoying it," he said. "There is no point sticking out something that I am not enjoying. At first I decided to change course, which is a pretty common thing to do, but have now decided to take a year out to concentrate on the council job. I am hoping to go back to university in the future and do something else."

Mr Smith is not sure that this is what our Holyrood politicians intended when they reduced the age at which people could be elected to local councils from 21 to 18. It’s even worse when you think that he is giving up the law for politics, and that he seems to view politics as nothing more than a “job.”

It's a gamble.

The one issue that seems to be dominating political discussion is whether the new PM will call a snap General Election.

Mr Smith noted that the Herald did a vox-unpopuli of senior Labour figures from the Bournemouth Labour Conference on Tuesday which featured one of the most arrogant comments he has ever heard uttered by a Scottish politician. Asked for his views on whether Gordon Brown should call an early election, Edinburgh Labour MP Nigel Griffiths, and former researcher to the Leader, reportedly said: "If we have the election now, my majority will go up from 400 to 3000. It is a gamble but he should take it."

Mr Smith is lost for words. He hopes Mr Griffiths didn't mean his comment in the manner it came across. Sadly, he thinks he probably did. Those that live by the will of the voters, die by the will of the voters.

Shooting Tzars.

Mr Smith reads that "A SINGLE body should be handed the role of inspecting, auditing and regulating Scotland's public services, an independent report said. There are currently an estimated 46 "tsars", ombudsmen, commissioners and other bodies responsible for scrutinising various aspects of public sector work."

A come the revolution moment then .... where's the nearerst wall?

Art of communication.

Mr Smith sees that the Scottish Government is seeking new Communication Officers. What he finds strange is that the vacancies have apparently arisen “Due to staff moves.” They are “recruiting experienced communicators with excellent verbal and written skills, sound judgement, confidence and credibility.”

The new regime obviously had a big clear out of the old Communication Officers then?

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Staying alive.

ATTICUS in the Sunday Times reports that: “Jack McConnell is clearly enjoying life away from the rigours of high office. He has given up wearing ties, telling friends he’s had enough of them after almost 30 years. Rather more alarmingly, he has also taken to undoing the top two buttons of his shirt and strutting around Holyrood like John Travolta.”

Mr Smith thinks that Mrs McConnell should be concerned and supplies a link to appropriate attire to complete Mr McConnell's image.

Life of Brian.

Further to the news that Scottish Labour’s Communications Director, Brian Lironi, is to leave the People’s Party less than two months after taking the job, comes the suggestion according to one paper of note, that it is the Labour Leader Wendy Alexander’s “unreasonable demands” on him that made him quit.

Wendy reportedly was “calling and texting him around the clock, at 1 am and later. She’s just totally oversensitive about any criticism.” Who would want to work for Wendy? Who would want to want Wendy to run the country if that is how she deals with people?

Sadly, for our Brian there is no prospect of him being able to return to his old job as Political Editor at the Sunday Mail with the news that Mark Aitken, Political Correspondent of the Mail on Sunday, is to take up Brian’s old job.

Brian Lironi, is the first Winner of Mr Smith’s newly inaugurated “Nae Luck” Award.

Monday, 24 September 2007

Paying the piper.

So, Scottish Government "Ministers claim they have inherited a hidden £65m liability for privately-financed school projects that the previous Labour-LibDem administration failed to budget for in full."

Mr Smith is not surprised that the Scottish Government's financial acountancy systems go haywire approaching elections, especially when a change of government is likely, indeed actually took place in May. Who knows perhaps next time around, it will be an SNP administration leaving its successors a bit of a poisoned chalice?

Sour grapes.

Mr Smith noted that former Labour MSP and Scottish Executive Minister, Allan Wilson, turned up in the Sunday Herald to launch a rather bitter attack on the new SNP Government, “SNP turned green … and now yellow.”

Mr Smith is disappointed in the tone of Mr Wilson's article which suggests little more than sour grapes about the fact he lost his Cunninghame North seat very unexpectedly to the SNP in May's elections, by a margin of just 48 votes.

Mr Smith thinks he should just tale a chill pill and move on, otherwise he will have no chance of getting back into the Scottish Parliament in May 2011.

And by the way, Mr Wilson might want to take down his MSP website, given he is no longer actually an MSP.

Kettle ... pot ... black.

Mr Smith read with interest the comments of Liberal Democrat MSP John Farquhar Munro about the Leader of his Party, Sir Menzies Campbell MP.

"LIBERAL DEMOCRAT leader Menzies Campbell has suffered another challenge to his authority after one of his party's MSPs said he should be replaced by Charles Kennedy. John Farquhar Munro, MSP for Ross, Skye and Inverness West, said Campbell had not been a success as leader as he was "not a good people person". He added that he would sign Kennedy's nomination papers today if asked to. "

Mr Smith cannot help but think that Sir Ming being accused of not being "a people person," by Mr Munro, is a bit like the proverbial kettle calling the pot black. Mr Munro isn't exactly noted for being Mr Personality.

Tommy Sheridan MSc.

So, former Solidarity Party Member of the Scottish Parliament, Tommy Sheridan is seeking to replace the "MSP" title after his name which he lost on 3rd May, with those of Master of Science following disclosures he is to return to university to do another degree in Social Research at Strathclyde University.

Mr Smith wishes Mr Sheridan well. It is to be hoped he gets a chance to finish his course and doesn't find himself unable to because he is in the clink for having been found guilty of having perjured himself during his successful court action against the Scottish News of the World earlier this year. He has of course not been charged with any offence, let alone been proved guilty of any crime.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

We are family.

Mr Smith reads that: "ALMOST 50 MSPs have given parliamentary jobs to members of their immediate family, a Sunday Herald investigation has revealed. Hundreds of thousands of pounds of public cash have been taken out of the Holyrood expenses scheme to put MSPs' spouses, children and in-laws on the state-funded payroll.
Some have employed two relatives at the same time in what critics describe as a scam to "top up the incomes of their nearest and dearest"."

Mr Smith asks in what other job, in either the public sector or the private sector would someone be able to employ their own family without any scrutiny or oversight of what was happening? This is one practice that deserves to be consigned to the Scottish Parliament's dust bin.

And another pat on the back to Mr Paul Hutcheon who breaks the story yet again in the public interest.

The "new" politics?

So, "PARTY bosses have done a deal to ensure Holyrood's tight arithmetic does not prevent MSPs going on foreign trips. Business managers in all four main parties have agreed on special "pairing" arrangements to make sure the delicate political balance in the Scottish Parliament is not upset when one MSP or more is out of the country."

Is this really the new politics that Scotland was promised on 3rd May 2007, with Members of the Scottish Parliament opting for the "pairing" system which has been operating in the House of Commons for as long as anyone can remember?

How about we forget about "pairing" and let the parties decide if having one of the MSP unable to vote because they are on a junket, leaves them in danger of losing a crucial vote that they might otherwise win? If nothing else it would be a darn sight more interesting ... and be more honest. Then again, it might not go down well with some of the MSPs who wouldn't then be able to go on ... any junkets.

Some who dare forget.

Mr Smith read the first foray of Scotland's newest MSP, Shirley-Anne Somerville or "SAS" as she is known in some circles, into print in the columns of the Edinburgh Evening News, with due attention.

In her piece, entitled "It's time to start tackling our drinking culture," she said: " It's time to roll out test purchasing of alcohol by under age children in our pubs, supermarkets and off licences ... Cracking down on our binge drinking culture also means taking the less popular measure of cutting down on heavily discounted drinks promotions. It's insane that a can of extra strong lager can be bought cheaper than a carton of milk. We shall soon see irresponsible two-for-one promotions ending in pubs and clubs; it's right they should end in off licences too."

Mr Smith's response is that Ms Somerville should know all about this very important subject, given that she actually used to work for the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC), a trade association which represented the major supermarkets and off sales companies operating in Scotland. A fact which remarkable seems to be missing from most, but not all, of SAS's political biographies.

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Doing a JFK?

With his interest in American politics Mr Smith was fascinated to read the piece in The Times a couple of days ago in which one of the contenders for the Republican Presidential nomination in the US, Mitt Romney was profiled.

Now Mr Smith has nothing against Mr Romney’s Mormon faith but notes that one of the tenets of his religion is that according to “the Church of the Latter Day Saints, … that the Saviour will rule from twin capitals of the new Jerusalem in Missouri and the old one in the Middle East,” should (or rather when) he returns.

Mr Smith notes that the Times article suggests that Mitt Romney intends to “ ‘to do a JFK’ in (his) quest for presidency.” All very good and well, but Mr Smith seems to recall that during his successful run for the Presidency, JFK was forced to say that his first allegiance would be to the constitution of the US and not to the head of his own Roman Catholic Church, the Pope, because of concerns amongst American voters on this very point.

Mr Romney is obviously not as bothered as JFK if he doesn’t feel the need to concede this point or perhaps he just hasn’t come under enough pressure yet? Or perhaps he just shouldn't concede it?

Spinning a spinner.

Mr Smith was saddened to read that it looks as though it's goodbye from Brian Lironi, former Sunday Mail Political Reporter, as Scottish Labour's spin doctor, a post he has held for just two short months.

"Brian Lironi, 35, is expected to announce his departure next week after talks with party bosses. He has told pals he feels "forced out" after new leader Wendy Alexander appointed a personal spin doctor and strategist. Lironi, a former political editor of the Sunday Mail, has been off work sick since Labour MSP George Foulkes called him "an idiot" in an attack last weekend. "

Mr Smith will wait and see if the prediction comes about, it may be attempted spin by someone, but the scenario is a clear warning to any journalists who think that the green fields of Spin City are preferable to the cramped conditions of the newsroom; perhaps they are, but you also have to work for the politicians, rather than just winding them up occasionally.

Friday, 21 September 2007

Danger. DANGER.

Mr Smith reads of the latest disclosures about the sorts of accidents which are happening in the Scottish Parliament:

"STEPS have given way, visitors have walked into glass panels and staff have fallen over the bollards in front of the building. But Scottish Parliament bosses say the number of accidents and "near misses" at the Holyrood building is falling. The latest list shows 82 incidents recorded in the 18 months from March 2006 to August 2007, ranging from a member of parliament staff cutting his or her finger on a staple to £1000 of repairs needed after a visiting driver tried to leave by an unauthorised route, colliding with the exit barrier and tearing his front tyres. "

Mr Smith recalls previous disclosures that one MSP had managed to "knock himself out" by standing up in his parliamentary think pod (it was former MSP David Davidson if anyone is interested), and thinks the reference by parliamentary officials to the number of accidents "falling" kind of sums it all up.

Think positive, vote positive.

So, Mr Smith reads that:

"Labour's defeat in the Scottish Parliament elections in May was not caused by the Iraq war and the unpopularity of Tony Blair, a major study has concluded. Researchers put the SNP's victory down to the party's success in projecting a positive image and creating a mood of optimism among the electorate. Voters believed the Nationalists was likely to perform better in government than Labour had - and they felt the SNP ran a more upbeat election campaign for Holyrood."

Pretty damning indictment then of the Labour election strategy which sought to rerun the 1999 and 2003 Labour election campaigns by raising fears that electing an SNP administration would lead to independence despite the fact that the SNP had promised a separate independence referendum in the event of them being elected. Very worrying news then for new Labour Leader Wendy Alexander MSP.

The "nationalist."

So, former Labour First Minister Henry "muddle not a fiddle" McLeish, who resigned after submitting erroneous expenses claims whilst a Westminster Member of Parliament, and who once described himself as a "small 'n' Nationalist," has accepted a second appointment from SNP First Minister, Alex Salmond.

"Former first minister Henry McLeish has accepted a second post from the new SNP government, overseeing the way courts handle a change in sentencing policy having previously agreed to serve as a member of the broadcasting commission that is looking at the way the industry is operating."

Mr McLeish seems to be doing better than most out of the election of the new SNP administration, certainly better than he did under the last regime of Jack McConnell, where he seemed to have been viewed as more of an embarrassment than he was an asset.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Who's Kidding who?

Glasgow SNP MSP "Twa jobs" Bill Kidd is apparently under pressure to resign as a Councillor on Glasgow City Council:

"In May, Nationalist Mr Kidd was elected a list MSP for Glasgow and an SNP councillor for Drumchapel/Anniesland. But he has attended only one of the two full council meetings held since the election - and hasn't been put on any council committees."

If Mr Kidd can only make having the two roles work by not serving on any council committees in Glasgow then Mr Smith suggests that it is just a matter of time until his position becomes untenable. The Council voters of Glasgow deserve an opportunity to have their voices heard in the Council chamber.

Scottish powered.

So, the Scotsman reports that "A government minister announced last night that he was to sell his major shareholding in an energy company after facing allegations of a conflict of interest. Stewart Stevenson, the minister responsible for drawing up Scotland's targets on renewable energy, owns £30,000 of shares in ScottishPower - a company with major interests in that area."

But Mr Smith was very interested in the pen sketch of Mr Stevenson in which Mr Stevenson is identified as: "Sitting pretty with £½m nest-egg and biggest majority of any MSP."

Mr Stevenson isn't the wealthiest MSP or Government Minister, the SNP's Jim Mather is also identified as a "millionaire." The SNP Cabinet can truly boast a wealth of talents, or is that wealthy talents?

Getting our goat.

Mr Smith reads in the Herald Diary that:

“SNP MEP Alyn Smith, who is visiting Zambia to take part in education and democracy building initiatives, has been presented with a goat by his hosts. He is now wondering what to do with it, as he is pretty certain that the current restrictions on hand luggage would not allow him to take a goat back. Or as a local may or may not have said: "Yet another politician that gets your goat." "

Mr Smith is sure that Mr Smith will declare his latest gift in the appropriate Members' Register, whatever he does with it. Goat steak anyone?

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Doon the watter.

Mr Smith reads that fifteen of our esteemed Members of the Scottish Parliament have backed a motion at Holyrood expressing concern about proposals to “scrap” a Mississippi paddle steamer, the Delta Queen. Yes – that’s Mississippi in the United States of America.

Mr Smith asks if this is really all that our elected representatives really have to worry about whilst they go about the task of representing their constituents?

Walking the dog.

Mr Smith notes that the Iranian Government has reportedly banned the walking of dogs in public, with the pets of offending dog walkers being sent to “doggie prisons.” Mr Smith is wary of even drawing attention to this issue, because he suspects that one of our 129 Members of the Scottish Parliament may think that this is a good idea which would be worthy of introduction in Scotland.

Of course, in Scotland, it would be the dog walker that ended up in the clink, rather than the dogs because locking up the pet would contravene Scotland’s strict animal welfare laws.

Lord Lyon roars.

Mr Smith read the advert in Sunday’s press seeking applications for the position of Lord Lyon King of Arms, a job currently held by Mr Robin Blair LVO WS. The post is appointed by Her Majesty the Queen and Mr Smith notes that applicants have to “apply” for “information” about the position, before they even get a chance to apply for the job.

Mr Smith wonders if HM The Q will be conducting the interviews next time she stays over at Holyrood Palace? Can you imagine having the Queen as your boss?

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Sisters. Sisters.

So, the new the Leader of the Labour Group in the Scottish Parliament, Wendy Alexander MSP, has had her night of the long knives and has appointed her first Shadow Scottish Cabinet.

"Wendy Alexander's cabinet table will have seven women and three men around it, after the new Labour leader at Holyrood named her ministerial team."

Casualties include former Labour Minister Hugh Henry, Deputy Labour Leader Cathy Jamieson (given no portfolio) and most significantly a former Deputy Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Executive Minister, Patricia Ferguson, who coincidentally didn't back a left wing challenger to Ms Alexander several weeks ago despite being a member of the Campaign for Socialism.

Who would want to be a male Labour MSP for the next few years, or indeed a non-Wendy accolyte of either gender?

Let's get ready to Rumbles.

So, Lib Dem MSP Mike Rumbles has been busy visiting landfill sites in Stonehaven and seeing how rubbish is collected.

He said: "It was very interesting to see exactly how recyclates are collected."

Mr Smith thinks its not the first time that Mr Rumbles has been associated with the phrase rubbish, let alone recyclates.


Mr Smith takes the view that police officers are some of the most political people he has ever come into contact with. They are always lobbying for more money, more laws and generally for making it easier to prosecute even more people, despite the fact that they clear up a fraction of all the crimes that are actually committed.

So Mr Smith was interested to read a bit about Strathclyde Police's next Chief Constable, Stephen House, who made his name not in Scotland but at the Metropolitan Police in London and who will take over from Sir Willie Rae later in the year.

Congratulations and welcome to one of the most "political" jobs in Scotland, Mr House, and to the six figure salary and guaranteed knighthood that goes along with it.

Monday, 17 September 2007


So, Nicol Stephen has reportedly been endorsed unchallenged as Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats for the next four years.

Mr Smith is stunned. Almost as stunned as he was when the Liberal Democrats rejected repeated overtures from the SNP to join them in a coalition at Holyrood after the Scottish Parliament elections in May.

Never mind Nicol will have loads of time to contemplate his leadership role over what's left of the Scottish Parliament's term of office. Roll on May 2011.

Sunday, 16 September 2007


Mr Smith has always fancied a nice piece of art to grace his living room wall, and so obviously have the "bosses of the Scottish Parliament."

But a £75,o00 AEIO Blue neon sign is a bit contemporary even for Mr Smith.

PS Mr Smith knows some who could knock off an AEIOU neon sign for about two hundred quid ... if anyone at Holyrood is interested ... aspiring artist ... and all that ... a bit Scottish ... honest. It might even help people find their way into the Parliament via the Public Entrance.

2. Carol Fox.

Mr Smith really shouldn't be all that surprised at the latest outburst from Labour MSP Lord Foulkes as reported in various of the Sunday newspapers, but Mr Smith highlights the one from the Sunday Herald:

"Wendy Alexander's honeymoon as Scottish Labour leader has ended abruptly after one of her senior MSPs described her new spin doctor as an "idiot". Lord Foulkes, a Labour member for Lothians, has made a complaint about the party's head of communications, Brian Lironi, for allegedly briefing against him. The MSP also slammed former Labour first minister Henry McLeish, who has criticised his party in recent weeks, by describing him as a "strange guy" who should "shut up"."

Mr Smith suspects that Lord Foulkes' comments are deliberately designed to get him into trouble. He suspects Lord Foulkes really doesn't want to be a Member of the Scottish Parliament, didn't expect to be elected to it and would prefer to spend more of his time in the House of Lords and in the Caribbean.

Mr Smith is going out on a limb, but he suspects that Labour's number two candidate on the Lothians Parliamentary list in May's Scottish Parliament elections, Carol Fox, will find herself in the Scottish Parliament before the end of the year, if not sooner. Over to you George .... please prove Mr Smith wrong.

SNP buggers.

So, it's official MI5 and Special Branch used to bug the SNP in the 1960s. Or at least as official as you can get given that it is the Scotland On Sunday.

This probably doesn't come as much of a surprise to anyone really.

The real question is who in the political world hasn't been the subject of scrutiny by the intelligence services?

Mr Smith suspects that by the very act of penning this blog article, he has become one himself.

Mr Brown's mobile.

Mr Smith reads in the paper of note that Mr Gordon Brown has finally managed to get himself a Prime Ministerial mobile telephone which enables him to make calls without going through the Number 10 switchboard.

Mr Smith understands that the PM has always had a bit of a problem with mobile phones: apparently he used to insist on taking the battery out of his mobile phone when it was not in use (so that no-one could "track him"), but not just that he used to also insist that anyone meeting with him took the batteries out their mobile phones as well, (so that no-one could listen in on the conversation.)

Mr Smith admits that the given current mobile phone technology the PM was probably very right in his precautions, but suspects that he won't be able to do the same thing with his new "mobey."

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Big Bad John.

So, veteran Labour MP and holder of numerous Ministerial posts in the Blair governments, John Reid MP, is to stand down at the next election.

Mr Smith is reminded of one of his most famous sayings when asked about his Marxist roots as a younger man: "I used to be a Communist. I used to believe in Santa Claus."
Not much more to say then from the good doctor.

Exploiting the old.

So, PM Gordon Brown has been accused of "exploiting" "frail" former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher by using her visit to see him this week in Downing Street as a ploy to strengthen his credentials amongst Conservatives in the run up to the next General Election.

Mr Smith recalls that it Mrs Thatcher herself who once famously said that there was "no such thing as society," so he is sure that Mrs Thatcher herself expected a bit of exploitation given her own capitalistic tendencies. Indeed, she probably would have been surprised if she hadn't been exploited ... even a little bit.


So, the phoney campaign is finally over and Wendy Alexander MSP has finally been appointed as Labour Leader in Scotland, or Leader of the the Labour Group in the Scottish Parliament, as it is more affectionately known.

Mr Smith notes that she has gotten off to a flying start by announcing that Patrick Macdonald, the former Chief Executive of John Menzies, a job which carried a half a million pound a year salary, is to advise her on "resources required, capabilities necessary and the infrastructure to stay in touch with members and communicate with supporters." Now Mr Smith doesn't know how much experience Mr Macdonald has of the Labour Party, but Mr Smith suspects that any recommendations that he makes will only with great difficulty be applied to the Scottish Labour Party which afterall isn't a corporate entity, where people are expected to simply obey orders.

But Mr Smith couldn't help but notice the picture in the Scotsman of the new Labour Leader being "hugged" by Labour's Deputy Leader, Cathy Jamieson, someone whom Mr Smith suspects isn't long to continue in that role if Wendy has her way. The photo really isn't very convincing, is it?

Friday, 14 September 2007

Isn't Labour working?

Mr Smith reads that Saatchi and Saatchi has been appointed the Labour Party's advertiser in chief ahead of the next General Election. An amazing scenario given the fact that they penned the infamous "Labour Isn't Working" slogan which propelled Mrs Thatcher and the Conservatives into power in 1979, where she stayed for ten years.

Mrs Thatcher coincidentally visited Number 10 Downing Street on the exact same day that the news was announced. Bonus Ball anyone?

But Mr Smith suspects that this may not go down too well with the Peoples' Party's foot soldiers ... and, to be frank, why should it given everything else that Mrs T did, including decimate Britain's coal mining industry?


So, following the collapse of the World's End double murder trail earlier this week, it appears that Members of the Scottish Parliament are queuing up to jump on the bandwagon calling for the abolition of Scotland's "double jeopardy" law with prohibits someone being tried twice for the same offence.

Now as a civil libertarian Mr Smith is fundamentally uneasy about the concept of the law being changed firstly, on the basis of one case, no matter how profile or serious it is, and secondly, in relation to a case where the suggestion is that the major reason why it collapsed is because of the incompetence of Scotland's prosecution services. Incompetence which has been highlighted previously. A charge which so far they have seemed remarkably adept at being scrutinised too closely in Scotland's media and press.

The suggestion a few days ago in one newspaper was that the Crown Office didn't prosecute the alleged World's End murderer for all the murders they suspected him of committing because it would have highlighted the fact that someone was already banged up in prison for committing one of them, a clear potential miscarriage of justice that would have caused them embarrassment, despite the fact that this would have strengthened the case against the accused.

So far the Scottish Government has resisted calls for the change preferring instead a more modest proposal to allow retrials where the judge rules that insufficient evidence has been presented. This would be preferable to changing a law which, for all its faults, has served justice well, and lead to prosecutors being forced to get it right first time.

In closing, one thing which Mr Smith thinks has not helped in this case is that the person who presides over Scotland's justice system, the Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini, was first appointed to the position by the previous Labour/Liberal Democrat administration, and was reaffirmed in the position by the current SNP administration. Mr Smith thinks that this "endorsement" gives too many MSPs good reason not to honestly and impartially question her performance and that of the Crown Office.

With the benefit of hindsight, Mr Smith suggests it would have been better if the current SNP Government had followed precedent and appointed a fresh "Lord Advocate" after May's elections so as to avoid this issue arising. Too many MSPs have a stake in the current Lord Advocate's position; too many, where Justice itself, is at stake.

We're still empty.

As Billy Connolly famously once said: "Scotland is empty," at least in population terms. But according to the Registrar General, we just got a little less "emptier."

"The number of deaths during the second quarter of 2007 was the lowest ever recorded at that time of year—4% lower than last year—while the number of births was 1.6% higher than the previous year, and the highest at the time of year for a decade."

Gees, soon you won't be able to move without bumping into someone.

Sloppy government.

So, "The legal age for buying cigarettes in Scotland is to rise from 16 to 18 next month, after MSPs unanimously backed a change in the law. The move attracted cross-party support. It was met with criticism from retailers who said that nothing had been done to publicise the change."

Now, Mr Smith has no real issue with the concept of the actual change in the law if that is what MSPs think is right, but does anyone, any democrat, really think that only formally agreeing such a major change in policy just two weeks before it is meant to be implemented is really good government? At least Westminster MPs had the good grace to agree the change before they headed off to their summer recess two months ago. Not the Scottish Parliament.

It's a bad day for government in Scotland that they got away with doing this. Mr Smith suspects that on any other issue they wouldn't have even tried, let alone been able to.

Elysian Fields forever.

So, one of the best kept (not) secrets in Scottish politics is out, with the former Deputy First, and indeed briefly First Minister twice, Jim Wallace, to be "elevated" to the House of Lords as announced by Downing Street.

Mr Smith read Mr Wallace's comments to the Herald on receiving his honour: "I'm pleased and honoured by the decision. A variety of issues interest me, including climate change, the UK energy policy and the fundamental matter of balancing security and liberty. The Lords is a forum where these things can be properly debated ... Whilst I can honestly say that I have had very few regrets about leaving Westminster in 2001, I shall be glad to meet up again with old friends and colleagues who are now also in what Disraeli called the Elysian Fields."

Nothing like a bit of Disraeli with your cornflakes first thing in the morning, but the House of Lords as Elysian Fields? More like the proverbial retirement home for former politicos.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Pitifully light.

Mr Smith read in the Daily Record that:

"The SNP's skills strategy was defeated last night as MSPs rejected it by 72 votes to 47. Education secretary Fiona Hyslop said the strategy to merge Careers Scotland and Learndirect Scotland in a new quango would streamline the delivery of training in Scotland. But opposition parties claimed the strategy lacked detail and rejected it. Labour enterprise spokesman Iain Gray said: "It was pitifully light and lacking any urgency." "

So another defeat for the SNP Government and the strategy very probably was not very good, but for a fleeting second Mr Smith thought that Iain Gray was actually making a comment about himself ...