Friday, 30 November 2007

Fawn. Fawn. Fawn.

Mr Smith read the profile piece by Gillian Bowditch in the Sunday Times on the Leader of the City of Glasgow Council, Steven Purcell, in which very little insight was offered into the views and life of Celtic supporting, bus taking, man from Yoker, Councillor Purcell.

"We don't have a Labour administration in the city (of Glasgow)," he (Councillor Purcell) says. "We have a Glasgow administration ...." Eh ... sorry Steven ... you may not have noticed ... but you do actually lead a Labour administration in Glasgow.

And then our Gillian concludes with the lack of a killer question to Councillor Purcell about the issue of fatherhood, given that he is by his own admission gay. "He says he's never thought about having children of his own. Just now, it is not an issue as he is single. Any future relationship will have to take into account that Purcell is a man who is married to the job." Actually Gillian, there may be a few more significant issues than that. If he wants a kid then fine, but glossing over the real issues with schmaltz really isn't good enough.

You scratch my back.

So the party funding scandal has touched the new Leader of the Scottish Labour Party Wendy Alexander MSP with her campaign manager at the time Tom McCabe MSP admitting that a donation to her campaign from Jersey-based businessman Paul Green was "clearly illegal."

The disclosure also forced the resignation of Labour MSP Charlie Gordon as a party spokesman following revelations that he initiated the donation by approaching Mr Green.

This is really getting ridiculous ... we have politicians tapping wealthy business people for money and we are told that this will result in no expectation of a pay back. There's something rotten in the body politic ... and it stinks to high heaven. But how many more times can Wendy Alexander and her acolytes put their foot in it before they are told to take a hike?

Thursday, 29 November 2007

No change.

"MOST Scots do not think devolution has given them a stronger voice. Of those questioned last year, 55% said their influence over government had not changed as a result of the parliament being set up."

Eight years after devolution was established, this finding should cause our politicians to hold their heads in shame. So much for the four principles which were meant to underline the operation of the Scottish Parliament of "openness, transparency, accessibility, accountability."

Time for a change? The Scottish Parliament seems to be missing an X-Factor ....

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Saving The Union.

Mr Smith will be intrigued to see if political pacts between the SNP and the Scottish Conservatives come to pass.

"THE SNP is to pave the way for a historic coalition pact with the Conservatives by scrapping a 20-year old ban barring it from working with the party. In a move which will be seen as a totemic shift in Scottish politics, the Nationalists will agree this week to allow their elected members to enter government with the party of Margaret Thatcher."

Surely this will not happen? Unionists propping up a Nationalist administrations. Welcome to the "new politics," but Mr Smith has his doubts about the veracity of this story.

Welcome to Scotland.

Mr Smith reads that "ONE of Alex Salmond's first pronouncements on taking office was to ditch the slogan "Scotland - the best small country in the world". He hated the phrase, which was a personal favourite of Jack McConnell, his predecessor, and promised to adopt something better. Now, six months on, the Scottish Government is ready to unveil the first stage of a rebranding exercise at Glasgow airport, a promotional package the First Minister said would show Scotland as "modern, distinctive and moving forward". But there was some surprise last night when a government spokesman disclosed that the only major slogan which will feature on the Glasgow airport hoardings will be the simple and well-used phrase, "welcome to Scotland".

A case of back to the future then? It should have been cheap at £125,000 "out of existing budgets," but only if it had actually been any good.

At the weekends.

So Secretary of State for Scotland and Defence Secretary Des Browne has admitted what everyone already suspected.

"DES Browne has admitted he carries out his duties as Secretary of State for Scotland in his spare time as he attempts to fight claims he is a "part-time" Defence Secretary. His dual mandate at the Ministry of Defence and the Scotland Office has sparked anger from former military chiefs and opposition MPs, who say he needs to devote his entire time to defence matters. Although Mr Browne was in Glasgow yesterday attending a conference on regenerating the city, he made clear that defence took up most of his diary. "I would put my record on commitment and delivery up against anyone's," he said. "The amount of time that [the job of Scottish Secretary] takes comes out of what was my private life, my family's life and my constituents' time."

So much for work life balance. And what about British jobs for British workers? Mr Smith thinks that Mr Browne should give another MP a chance at Ministerial office and stand aside.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Abrasive Wendy.

Mr Smith asks who would want to work for Scottish Labour Leader Wendy Alexander MSP.

"SCOTTISH LABOUR'S new spin-doctor made a series of damning criticisms of his colleagues weeks before he accepted the job as the party's head of communications. Gavin Yates used his blog to describe Wendy Alexander as "abrasive", labelled shadow health minister Andy Kerr as "simply uninspiring", and blasted Jack McConnell for being a "lame duck leader" when in office. He also said the fledgling SNP government had a "long and impressive" list of achievements, while describing first minister Alex Salmond as "a great example of a politician on top of his game".

Wendy really ought to give up employing people who have such mixed views about the Labour Party as well as nationalistic inclinations. Will Wendy need to find someone else to fill the role of her spin doctor? Mr Smith suspects not ... after all she is running out of candidates. Scotland only has a population of five million after all.

Welcome back.

Mr Smith was wondering what had happened to Sunday Herald Political Editor Paul Hutcheon and his welcome blasts at the political establishment at Holyrood. He went quiet for a while but came back to life with a loud bang in a column in this week's Sunday Herald entitled, "Holyrood ill-serves everyone but MSPs."

"... Don't read any further if you are expecting any solutions: I've nothing to offer, except to say we are stuck with the current batch of MSPs for decades. However, a few haphazard thoughts spring to mind. Number one: if we halved the number of MSPs from 129 to 65, the clocks would not stop. Number two: if MSPs' allowances were reduced by 60%, nobody in Scotland would be worse off. Except for the politicians. Number three: imagine a Scotland in which ordinary people, encouraged by a government that promoted personal responsibility, did not depend on politicians to improve their lives. In other words, the notion of voters as empowered citizens, rather than clients of a government that hands out free prescriptions and other rewards to people who behave themselves."

Welcome back Mr Hutcheon, we have missed you. But you had better be careful, Wendy Alexander will be offering you a job at this rate.

Monday, 26 November 2007


Mr Smith reads that "A TORY politician has pocketed £60,000 from the controversial free-homes-for-MSPs scheme. And wealthy farmer Alex Johnstone is now charging the public more in rent than he did in mortgage payments. Johnstone made the profit from selling his taxpayer-funded flat in Edinburgh. He is now living in the capital in a rented flat financed with more public cash. "

Is there anyone left who is prepared to defend the Edinburgh Accommodation Allowance Scheme which is operated by MSPs? Having the taxpayer pick up the mortgage costs of an MSP's property is one thing. Selling a home, pocketing the cash and then renting another one is really pushing it.

Time that the Scottish Parliament sorted this out.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

New boy.

Over to Brian Currie at the Evening Times.

"IT'S accepted that bringing the Commonwealth Games to Glasgow will be good for the whole of Scotland. But LibDem MSP Liam McArthur is surely pushing optimism too far. He's asking how the government plans to encourage competitors to use Orkney as a "training base". Wonder how quickly he thinks the athletes can get from Kirkwall to the Kelvin Hall? Mr McArthur is a Holyrood new boy and it's not known whether he has a sense of humour."

God loves a tryer.

Spin ... spin .... spin.

Mr Smith reads in PR WEEK that Brian Lironi, the former media adviser to Scottish Labour Leader Wendy Alexander MSP has got a new job working for the Leader of Glasgow City Council. But hang on .... didn't the previous incumbent of that post, Matthew Marr, go to work for Wendy Alexander following Mr Lironi's departure under a cloud, only to have to resign himself last week after he called First Minister Alex Salmond a rather derogatory name at the Scottish Politician of the Year Awards?

And there are still people who wonder why political communications is so often classed as "spin"? That is just people moving from one job to the next and passing each other in the process. Makes you wonder where Mr Marr will pop-up next.

Mr Smith is getting dizzy ....

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Golden Goodbyes.

Mr Smith reads that "42 POLITICIANS who quit or lost their seats at this year's Holyrood elections have received more than £1.1 million in pay offs from the taxpayer. The "resettlement" grants, which had to be found from Scottish Parliament contingency funds, are intended to help ease former MSPs back into everyday life. "

Mr Smith thinks that sums up the problem with modern politics ... politicians having to be paid to "ease" themselves "back into everyday life." That might explain why so often they take such poor decisions, and then get a wodge of cash even if the voters vote them out of office.

In the post.

So, the Scotland Office employs twenty civil servants to field three letters a day.

"TWENTY staff are employed at the £6million-a-year Scotland Office to cope with just three letters a day. The astonishing revelation sparked calls for it to be scrapped as an irrelevant waste of cash. The Scotland Office occupies plush Dover House in Whitehall and is supposed to look after our interests down south. But its role has shrunk dramatically since devolution in 1999. We can reveal 20 staff employed to deal with mail replied to 1252 letters in 2006-2007 - just over one per member of staff every week."

Nice building which at one time was the former home of a previous Secretary of State for Scotland's mistress.

Friday, 23 November 2007

Limo for Salmond?

So, "THE cost of running the Scottish Government's car fleet has soared by almost 70 per cent since the SNP's election victory in May. Ministers are set to run up a bill of over £1 million for their chauffeur-driven limousines in their first year of office."

Puts the proverbial 'taxi for McLetchie' into some kind of perspective.

Visitors Book.

The Herald Diary does it again.

"FOLLOWING Scottish Labour leader Wendy Alexander losing her second press spokesman in almost as many months, a worker at the Scottish Parliament claims he asked security how they were dealing with all the changes. "Aye," the chap replied. "We stopped issuing her staff with passes - now we just get them to sign the visitors' book."

Nuff said.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Bye Bye Gerry.

Mr Smith reads in the paper of note that "Labour supporting commentator" and "adviser" Gerry Hassan has quit the Scottish Labour Party after 24 years as a member following the election of Gordon Brown as UK Labour Leader and Wendy Alexander as Scottish Leader. Mr Hassan now apparently also thinks that independence for Scotland would be a good idea.

The most important detail however is the fact that Gerry didn't resign his membership, which would have made it far more difficult to rejoin the Peoples Party should he have ever decided to do so at some point in the future. No our Gerry let his membership "lapse."

Mr Smith suspects he will one day rejoin the fold, once he has something to regain from the process.


The Scotsman says "SNP managers last night vowed to do all they could to reduce the party's debt after newly released figures showed the SNP has more than £770,000 outstanding in loans, mortgages and overdrafts."

This year the SNP Scottish Government will administer a budget of £30 billion and yet they can't make their own books balance.

In another article, Mr Smith notes that SNP Government Minister Fergus Ewing made a donation to the SNP of £6,000 according to the latest set of figures from the Electoral Commission. Must be nice to have a spare six grand lying about.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

In the bag.

The Herald Diary reports "PRIME Minister Gordon Brown's call for the phasing out of single-use plastic bags surprised one of his old university buddies at Edinburgh who tells us: "Gordon never had a briefcase right up until he was an MP. He carried everything in an assortment of plastic bags. If you were meeting him in the pub you could hear him rustling before he even came in the door."

Gordon Brown in a pub ... with a plastic bag ... scandalous.

Good night, Alex. Goodbye.

So, Labour MSP and Lord George Foulkes has hit the headlines again.

"LABOUR MSP George Foulkes was yesterday accused of having "flipped" on air during a badtempered radio interview. Lord Foulkes put the phone down on Talk 107's Alex Hastie after he was pressed on his party's problems at Westminster. The veteran politician later said the presenter was "incoherent" and "anti-Labour" ... Foulkes, a Lothians list MSP, said: "You said come on and talk about the budget and what the SNP are doing, but as soon as you get me on you are attacking Gordon Brown. Why don't you stick to your promises, Alex? Good night, Alex. Goodbye."

Mr Smith is amazed that Lord Foulkes wasted his time doing this radio show. After all, isn't Talk 107 the radio station that was allegedly named after the number of listeners it has? George doesn't need publicity that much surely?

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Ready. Steady. Politicians.

Mr Smith reads that "They normally battle it out over politics but north-east MP Anne Begg and MSP Brian Adam met in combat over a chicken and broccoli pastry dish at the weekend.In a recreation of the TV show Ready, Steady Cook, they put their culinary skills to the test on Friday night in a fundraising effort for the Manor Project, a local charity which supports adults with learning difficulties.Ina Clark, project assistant care co-ordinator said: "It went very well. It was very entertaining and there was lots of banter. We don't have final funds yet but we know we raised in excess of £600 so we are delighted. The audience vote for the best cook resulted in a draw. "

Seems like a lot of effort for a tactical draw. But who was the "green pepper" and who was the "red tomato"?

Monday, 19 November 2007

The honeymoon is over.

Mr Smith reads that "THE poll ratings of Gordon Brown have plunged to an all-time low as prime minister amid deepening economic gloom, disarray within the cabinet and increasing criticism of the government’s rescue of the Northern Rock bank, a new opinion poll shows. The sharp fall comes just weeks after Brown was accused by his political opponents of cowardice in not calling an autumn general election. It will be seen as evidence that Labour’s strongest card under Tony Blair, its management of the economy, is being eroded as voters worry about jobs and house prices. The YouGov poll of nearly 2,000 people for The Sunday Times shows that Brown’s honeymoon period has ended. Last month 59% thought that he was doing a good job as prime minister, while 29% said he was doing badly, a healthy net approval rating of +30. Now only 33% think he is doing well and 43% think he is doing badly, a net approval rating of -10 and a precipitous drop of 40 percentage points in a month. At the height of his honeymoon in the summer, his approval rating was +48."

Mr Smith hates to point out the fact that Mr Brown now has a lower approval rating than that enjoyed currently by US President George W Bush.

Sadly, for very deserved reasons.

Bugging him.

Mr Smith reads in the Herald Diary that "FIRST Minister Alex Salmond was speaking at a Scottish Business in the Community conference last week when he went into a coughing fit. Recovering, he told his audience: "Clearly the Commonwealth Games weren't the only thing I picked up in Sri Lanka."

Big Eck is well and truly on a roll and it makes you wonder when it will come to an end.

Sunday, 18 November 2007


Mr Smith reads "A TOP aide of Wendy Alexander resigned yesterday after he swore at Alex Salmond as he picked up an award. Matthew Marr, the Labour leader's official spokesman, loudly called the First Minister a c*** after he was named Politician of the Year at a ceremony. Marr, 27, apologised after guests complained but quit yesterday after only two months in the job. He had taken over after Alexander's previous spokesman quit after just six weeks. Marr said: "When people make a mistake they should be prepared to take responsibility for it."

It makes you wonder about the calibre of people left involved with the Scottish Labour Party. The incident says a great deal about someone allegedly earning a salary of £60,000 a year in working for the Peoples' Party and about the judgement of Wendy Alexander in giving him a job in the first place.

Scottish Labour has really hit the skids since they lost May's Scottish Parliament elections. It will be a long way back. A starting point might not be to make "mistakes" which they don't have to. At the hands of people who took student politics too seriously.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Get shorty.

With his interest in all matters trans-Atlantic, Mr Smith noted the latest Scottish influence on the government of the United States.

"A SCOTS family firm's shortbread has breached the Pentagon's defences. Bosses at Deans of Huntly were astounded to learn their home-baked biscuit is a favourite among the 26,000 staff at the American defence HQ in Washington DC. Bill Dean, managing director of the Aberdeenshire company, said: "A distributor in Virginia told us our shortbread is sold in the Pentagon."

Friday, 16 November 2007

He won.

So First Minister Alex Salmond won the Herald's Scottish Politician of the Year Award last night.

Well deserved but not exactly a surprise.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

April Fools.

Mr Smith reads that "CHARGES for tours of the Scottish Parliament are set to rise again next year. Visitors will have to pay £6 a time for a guided tour of the £414 million Holyrood building from April 1."

Or people could just arrange to meet their MSP at Holyrood - everyone has nine to choose from - and ask them to given them a guided tour and that they would save enough money to be able to buy a cup of tea and a bun in the Parliament's coffee shop. Sounds like the better idea to Mr Smith.

On the door.

Mr Smith reads that the Scottish Parliament is to spend an additional £1.7 million on "perimeter security" at Holyrood.

Mr Smith has no issue with keeping our public buildings and elected representatives safe, but must ask the question why less than a few years after the Scottish Parliament was actually built we are coming back to do "additional" work on security when these could have been built in at the time the building was being constructed?

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Scotland Free ... by 2017.

So, Mr Smith reads that the latest SNP target for Scotland achieving Independence is now 2017. It makes one of the previous targets of "Scotland Free by 1993" as once espoused by SNP MSP Alex Neil look positively ambitious by comparison, given that the new target means it could be ten years before we achieve the Nationalistic shibboleth.

Welcome to the "new politics." Why do something in a few years when you could take a decade, but it makes Mr Smith wonder how these comments sit with the SNP Government's pledge to have a referendum on independence within the current session of the Scottish Parliament: it clearly doesn't.

Get ready to Rumbles.

Mr Smith reads that that former Army officer and now Member of the Scottish Parliament, Mike Rumbles, has apparently been asked whether he is prepared to return from retirement to support efforts in Iraq or Afghanistan.

"A politician has criticised the armed forces after being asked if he would consider serving abroad - some 13 years after he retired from the Army.West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine MSP Mike Rumbles, who was a major in the Royal Army Education Corps, received a letter from the Ministry of Defence asking if he would consider putting his name forward as a volunteer to serve on foreign soil.He turned down the offer, which would have meant he might be called upon to leave his post in parliament and return to the Army, possibly in Iraq or Afghanistan."

Mr Smith makes the point that never minding supporting the fight for democracy in Iraq or Afghanistan, sending Mr "let's get ready to " Rumbles away from the Scottish Parliament would probably be doing Scottish democracy a bit of favour as well.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007


Mr Smith reads the latest "expense" disclosures for some of the Scottish members of the House of Lords.

"LORD Foulkes, the bombastic Labour peer and MSP, has clocked up £62,509 in tax-free expenses as an "unpaid" member of the House of Lords. The former Scotland Office minister and government loyalist said most of his expenses were down to high travel costs. Although Lord Foulkes of Cumnock is now an MSP, the expenses for the House of Lords are until April 2007; a month before his election to the Scottish Parliament ... Lord Watson, since his early release from jail in May last year for arson, has managed to bill £31,932 in expenses. It is almost three years since the then Labour MSP set alight the curtains at a hotel in Edinburgh ... Since his release, he has voted in just 18 per cent of divisions - lower than average. Also billing a hefty sum in expenses was Lord Elder, formerly known as Murray Elder, former chief of staff to John Smith. He picked up £52,563 in expenses for his 128-day attendance. His voting record of 74 per cent, however, was much higher than most peers. The man in charge of probing the overspend on the new Scottish Parliament - Lord Fraser of Carmyllie - himself managed to spend £49,113. His office costs of £10,209 for 124 days exceeded the daily limit of £69. His fellow Tory peer, Lord Forsyth of Drumlean, attended for just 99 days and claimed £32,957 in expenses. He managed to speak in 53 debates, however, more than most peers. Lord Steel of Aikwood, the former presiding officer of the Scottish Parliament, has cost taxpayers £50,035."

And all tax-free. Good to have sight of the information for a change though.

Monday, 12 November 2007

Wee Dug.

Mr Smith reads with admiration disclosures that in his student youth Government Minister Douglas Alexander MP was known as "wee Dug" and was the scourge of Edinburgh landlords with his campaigns to better student accomodation.

Mr Smith is even more amazed that "wee Dug" himself then went on to become a landlord by letting out his own £45,000 (1995 prices) Edinburgh flat to students and then had to be served, along with other owners in the building, with an enforcement notice last year by the City of Edinburgh Council to undertake some £500,000 worth of repairs to the building in which his flat sits because of water penetration.

Even more amazing are the disclosures that our Dug was a "hit with the chicks" during his student days. Well you know what they say about the quiet ones ....

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Right said Fred.

So, "COMEDIAN Fred MacAulay joked that he would rather sleep with Alex Salmond than Wendy Alexander - not realising she was in the audience. He made the gaffe as he hosted a business awards show on Friday. The BBC Radio Scotland presenter asked the audience whether they would go to bed with Scottish Labour leader Wendy Alexander or Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Perth-born Fred, 50, then said the decision was too difficult and that he would choose First Minister Alex Salmond instead. But the joke backfired when he realised Wendy was sitting at the back of the room with her brother Douglas, Secretary of State for International Development."

Mmmmm. Each to their own says Mr Smith. There's probably one person who'll be hoping that Scottish Labour don't get back into power in the Scottish Parliament and Government too soon. Then again Fred may have a point.

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Holyrood Spring.

Fresh from revelations about the usage of bottled water by the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government it would appear that some MSPs have had the bright idea of bottling their own Holyrood Spring water.

"SCOTTISH Parliament bosses today described how they could set up their own water bottling plant at Holyrood in a bid to become more environmentally friendly. The parliament supplies up to 600 bottles of water a week for MSPs at committees and in the debating chamber. Tory MSP Alex Johnstone, of the cross-party Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body, said the volume was "relatively small" but the parliament wanted to do what it could to minimise the environmental impact, and he said they were investigating the possibility of bottling filtered tap water on site."

Now is Mr Smith alone in thinking that letting a load of MSPs loose with bottling equipment in the £420 million Scottish Parliament really probably isn't a good idea given their history of messing things up: the Parliament shop that loses money; the Parliament restaurant and bar that loses money ... Surely it would be easier to just use regular tap water (decanted from jugs)?

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Free meals.

Mr Smith records that "A Scottish Government minister was set to help cook a gourmet meal at Martin Wishart's Michelin-starred Leith restaurant. Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, was to visit the kitchens at the Shore ahead of a parliamentary debate on food."

Some of our elected representatives will do anything for a Michelin-starred free meal. Even First Minister Alex Salmond's former Researcher, now Minister, Mr Lochhead.

Mr Smith thinks that Mr Lochhead really could afford to buy a meal on his Ministerial salary.

On tap.

Mr Smith reads that "MSPs will be asked to swap bottled water for more environmentally friendly tap water. Last year, the Scottish Government provided 123,884 litres of water at a cost of £34,201.90 at its offices in Victoria Quay. The Scottish Parliament also has free bottles of water in the debating chamber and committee rooms for MSPs."

That's a lot of plastic bottles ... even if they are being recycled. And rather ironic given the campaign over most of the last Scottish Parliament's last session to impose a levy on plastic bags by MSP Mike Pringle.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Guess who's coming to dinner.

Mr Smith reads of the first guests to be invited by Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond to join him for dinner at his Official Residence of Bute House in Edinburgh.

"First Minister Alex Salmond was accused of misusing public funds after it emerged that several wealthy SNP donors were entertained at his official residence at taxpayers' expense. The dinner, which was held at Bute House in Edinburgh, was held to honour Sir Sean Connery, who has donated thousands of pounds to the party over the years. Sir Sean attended the event on June 29 with his wife, as did the bus tycoon Brian Souter and the Kwik-Fit entrepreneur Sir Tom Farmer - the SNP's top two donors. Sir George Mathewson, who has given financial backing to the SNP and is chairman of the Scottish Government's Council of Economic Advisers (CEA), also attended with his wife, as did Crawford Beveridge, the former chief executive of Scottish Enterprise, member of the CEA and Nationalist donor."

It does seem rather unlikely that so many SNP supporters all ended up having dinner with Mr Salmond at the same time purely by chance, but Mr Smith has no doubt that as time goes on more of Scotland's great and the good will be invited along to Bute House. Who knows Mr Smith may even get an invite in the inbox, but it does seem rather churlish of Labour MSPs to be moaning about an expenditure of £1,500 for a dinner for some of Scotland's top citizens especially given that the former Labour First Minister Jack McConnell hosted a lot of dinners at Bute House during his time, with many of the guests self proclaimed Labour supporters.

Journalistic licence.

Mr Smith was interested to read that "Close relations between journalists and politicians are not necessarily in the interests of the wider public, a former newspaper editor will argue in a free public lecture later this week. Opening the prestigious Stevenson and Adam Smith Research Foundation lecture series, sponsored by The Herald, former editor of the the paper Harry Reid will speak about what he describes as the "irreconcilable conflict" between journalists and the public."

Mr Smith has come sympathy with this viewpoint, but would question how many of Scotland's journalists would necessarily agree with Mr Reid. A bigger issue is the fact that in this age of declining advertising revenues for the publishing press, and therefore the growing importance of Scottish Government advertising expenditure, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the press and media to be as questioning of government as they should be.

Can anyone imagine Scottish journalists having the energy and determination to pursue a Watergate type scandal if it happened in Scotland? Time for journalists to take stock?

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Chalk chuckers.

In his youth, Mr Smith's teachers were infamous for one thing and that was chucking chalk at you in class if they heard talking whilst they were scribbling on the blackboard.

But apparently things have improved, "Only three of Scotland's 53,000 primary and secondary teachers were sacked on grounds of incompetence last year despite pledges by previous ministers to clamp down on poor performance in the classroom."

Mr Smith is reassured that there were only three bad teachers in all of Scotland's schools and that they have now all gone, leaving no chalk chuckers. On the other hand he probably thinks that the three teachers sacked were the unlucky ones who's incompetence was so extreme that even their fellow professionals weren't prepared to put up with them anymore. No more chalk chucking then.

Fun and Games.

So, how many Scots does it take to attend the award ceremony in Sri Lanka announcing who has won the 2014 Commonwealth Games? The answer is 46.

"ALEX SALMOND has hit back at claims the team behind Scotland's Commonwealth Games bid are wasting public money by taking a delegation of 46 to Sri Lanka ahead of Friday's crucial vote. The First Minister, who will fly out to Colombo tomorrow, insisted every member of the travelling party had a role in the final stages of lobbying ahead of the ballot at the General Assembly of the Commonwealth Games Federation."

Sounds like a bit of a jolly to Mr Smith - all at the tax and council tax payers expense.

Monday, 5 November 2007

On the beat.

Mr Smith reads that "ONLY 7.5% of Scottish police officers are available for frontline duties despite record recruitment, according to shocking new figures. More officers are on holiday or doing paperwork than are on patrol at any one time, the disturbing statistics from the Scottish Police Federation (SPF) reveal."

And then we wonder why anti-social behaviour, youth disorder and crime are such big issues in modern Scotland? What's the point in having 16,000 cops and making such little use of them?

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Free Spirits.

Mr Smith also notes that his favourite Labour MSP peer George Foulkes (well he is the only one left since Mike Watson had to check in at the Saughton HMP B&B) is also up for an award this year in the "Free Spirit" category of the Politician of the Year Awards.

Rather ironic thinks Mr Smith given Lord Foulkes infamous falling down "tired and emotional" in a London street incident of a several years following his leaving a reception organised by the Scotch Whisky Association which lead to him pleading guilty to breach of the peace and assault charges and paying out over £1,000 in fines and costs.

Shouldn't the award be renamed "free spirits"? The awards after all are sponsored by spirits maker DIAGEO.

Mr Smith would also highlight the fact that Lord Foulkes rakes in rather a lot of cash from working as an independent parliamentary consultant which would suggest there are limits on how "free spirited" he can ever be, especially where commercial concerns come to the fore.

Friday, 2 November 2007


Mr Smith reads that "Thirsty MSPs, parliamentary staff and journalists were left disappointed after officials forgot to renew Holyrood's drinks licence. The Scottish Parliament bar - dubbed the White Heather Club by staff - opened up as normal yesterday and by mid-afternoon was doing its usual brisk trade. But drinkers were then told they had to finish their beverages quickly after it emerged that the bar's licence to sell alcohol had run out two days ago."

What can Mr Smith say. That old adage about not being able to organise a "p*ss up in a brewery" springs to mind ... even more so given that the Scottish Parliament is itself built on the site of an old brewery going back hundreds of years.

Sad but true. You really couldn't make this sort of stuff up ... welcome to the "best wee country in the world."

All bets are off.

Mr Smith reads that First Minister Alex Salmond MSP is up against his party counterparts Nicola Sturgeon and John Swinney in the race to be this year's Scottish Politician of the Year.

We know that Mr Salmond himself famously likes a flutter, indeed he himself is a tipster, but Mr Smith suspects that our Alex would be hard pushed to find any bookie willing to bet against him winning the title given the SNP's success in winning May's elections and Mr Salmond's stellar performance since, by comparison with the previous incumbent Jack McConnell.

He will just have to console himself with winning the title on the night and not being able to profit from his victory more directly in his wallet.