Thursday, 31 January 2008

Bad cop.

Fresh from Mr Smith's recent commentary on "Good cop. Bad cops" comes the latest example of a law breaking PC.

"A police officer who attacked an innocent motorist and sprayed him and his family with CS gas was ordered to carry out 150 hours of community service. Chester Smith was sentenced yesterday at Ayr Sheriff Court for what his victim believes was an act of road rage. Smith, who has since resigned from the force, sprayed gas into the car of businessman Bert Esquierdo, forcing the 53-year-old, his wife Elizabeth and son John, 10, out into the road."

Mr Smith think he needs to go on any anger management course, but it makes you wonder how many other members of the public have been on the receiving end of former PC Smith's special form of justice over the years. And he is still a retained firefighter ... for how much longer?

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

So vain.

From today's Herald Diary, "Picture imperfect ... we asked if Lanarkshire Labour MP Frank Roy won the vanity award by having 20 pictures of himself in his four-page report to constituents. A south-side reader proposes Eastwood Labour MSP and MPs Ken Macintosh and Jim Murphy who, in their joint 2008 parliamentary report, have 29 pictures of themselves in total - although out of their 16-page report there are three in which neither has a picture, so room for improvement there."

Looking a gift horse ...

Mr Smith was very interested in the details of the gifts which First Minister Alex Salmond has received since becoming FM last May and the details of which have now been released to the public.

"ALEX SALMOND has received 72 gifts since he became First Minister, ranging from books to paintings and alcohol to crystal. Under the ministerial code, he can retain gifts valued at less than £140 and has decided he will keep 29 of them "for private use".The Scottish Government gave details of the four gifts which were valued at over £140. They included a painting from artist John Lowrie Morrison and a plaque from Scottish Power.But it only gave general categories for the other 68 – 12 were alcohol, four were food, two were glass or crystal ware, three were ornaments, one was jewellery, seven were art, 16 were books, three were china, five were clothing and 15 were "outside these categories".

So much for open government then, but a pat on the back to Labour MSP Lord George Foulkes for managing to make the time to ask the question in between his two other jobs. But Mr Smith is intrigued to know what the items of clothing were. Some underwear from M&S perhaps, in a Jeremy Paxman stylie?

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

John who?

So we have a new Scottish TV reality winner.

"THE family of John Loughton are planning a party when he returns to Edinburgh after winning Big Brother: Celebrity Hijack. The 20-year-old, from Pilton, beat circus performer Emilia Arata, 18, to win the Channel 4 reality show.John, was reported to be handing a slice of his £50,000 winnings over to mum Donna McColl.The Stirling University student and youth politician admitted to being shocked at his win, and said he thought TV bosses had made a mistake when his name was called."

"Youth politician"? Just because he chairs the Scottish Youth Parliament? Did anyone even watch the programme? Might just explain why he won.

Saturday, 26 January 2008

On the hook ... again.

Speaking of soup ... it would now appear that Scottish Labour Leader Wendy Alexander MSP is about to find herself back in it following the resignation of the former Work and Pensions and Secretary of State for Wales Peter Hain MP over non declaration of donations.

PM Gordon Brown will be loathe to lose another government minister at Westminster in the shape of Labour Deputy Leader Harriet Harman and so the pressure may now turn towards Ms Alexander to take some of the heat.

Mr Smith bets that Wendy was beginning to believe that she was off the dodgy donations hook. It would appear she is now well and truly back on it.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Campbell's Soup.

One of the iconic images of the last fifty years has been Andy Warhol's Campbells Soup can. But it would appear that the Scottish Parliament's youngest member, Aileen Campbell MSP, has added a new dimension to the expression following a brief visit to hospital yesterday after managing to spill a ladle of soup over her hand and scalding herself.

Mr Smith hopes she is OK, but suspects it many take a while for Ms Campbell to live her accident down amongst her colleagues.

Steely Lord.

Mr Smith reads the rather ill-tempered deliberations from the House of Lords, culminating in mixed metaphors, involving various Scottish Lords including the former Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament, Lord Steel.

"Lord Steel of Aikwood: I am now totally confused. There are some Members who desperately do not want me to speak and others who are desperately urging me to speak. The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, understated the issue when he said that I had let a cat out of the bag. It would appear that I have let a whole herd of cats out of a whole lot of bags this afternoon ..."

Who said the "other place" wasn't interesting?

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

And again.

The humble haggis.

"The Scottish Government is considering asking the United States to rethink its ban on haggis imports. Imports of Scotland's iconic dish were banned by the US in 1989 in the wake of the BSE scare because it contains offal ingredients such as sheep lungs. Only an offal-free version of haggis is available in the US."

The first test for Scotland's "new politics," or pure tokenism from an increasingly sporadic Scottish Government when it comes to anything "Scottish"?

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Ming again.

So former Liberal Democrat Leader Sir Menzies Campbell QC hasn't wasted much time in lining up other interests to keep him busy now that he has spare time on his hands folowing the election of Nick Clegg to replace him.

"After flying high, Ming's now down to earth and stable ... Menzies Campbell, the advocate and former Liberal Democrat leader, is joining Terra Firma, the latest 'devolved' chambers ... He might be one of the longest serving members of the Faculty of Advocates, but Sir Menzies Campbell QC can still vividly recall the day he was formally admitted to the Bar ..."

Mr Smith looks forward to Sir Ming's declaration in the House of Commons Register of Members Interests as to how much he will earn in his new role. It will be more financially advantageous no doubt than the job of Lib Dem Leader.


John McTernan is well know for his directness, but this story takes the biscuit.

"A SENIOR government spin doctor is at the centre of a row over emails he sent in which he described Scotland as "narrow, Presbyterian and racist." John McTernan, a special adviser at the Scotland Office, made the remarks when he was a consultant at the Scottish Arts Council in 2002."

He complains that his emails were released without his permission, albeit that at the time he was working in a publicly funded role. Sad when the word Presbyterian causes so much offence, but is Mr Smith alone in wondering how Mr McTernan ended up working for James Boyle of the Scottish Arts Council for three months shortly after leaving the employment of Mr Henry McLeish. That is probably the more interesting story.

Monday, 21 January 2008

Good cop. Bad cops.

Mr Smith never ceases to be amazed at just how lawless the members of our constabularies are becoming. Clearly, the "boys and girls in blue" will reflect the characteristics of Scottish society and officers will be accused of some offences as a result of undertaking their duties, but some of the more recent cases go well beyond this and illustrate that those who are charged with upholding the law seem to be having an increasingly hard time obeying it.

"A Detective has quit his force after being arrested and charged with drugs offences. Detective Constable David Johnstone, 32, handed in his resignation after a meeting with senior officers at Tayside Police. Johnstone had been working in Dundee and investigated drugs cases."

"A Police officer is to stand trial accused of disorderly conduct at a Scottish Cup tie. Kenneth Burnett was arrested during Falkirk FC's fourth-round match against Aberdeen on Saturday."

"A former police driving school chief was banned from driving for speeding at 118mph at an accident blackspot. Paul Gee had claimed he was carrying out a "risk assessment" to help traffic cops "hone their high-speed driving skills."

"A Police child protection officer is behind bars accused of downloading kiddie porn. Iain Duncan, 28, was arrested and charged with being in possession of graphic illegal images on his computer."

"A Strathclyde police officer has been charged with assaulting a 14-year-old boy during an arrest."

drunken Strathclyde Police officer who drove a force sports club minibus the wrong way down a one-way street has been banned from driving for two years. John Reid, 32, from Hamilton, was almost three times over the drink-drive limit when he was stopped in Perth."

And all of those were reported in the space of just over a week. It makes you wonder. No wonder there are so few cops on Scotland's streets. It seems a large number of them are either in court (as the accused) or on suspension pending a court case.

Eck's Pension.

It was all going so well for Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond, but now he faces an immediate hit on his personal finances with the news that he may not receive his immediate £38,000 a year pension when he stands down as FM.

"HENRY McLeish and Jack McConnell will be laughing all the way to the bank. MSPs are set to axe one of the biggest perks of leaving Bute House: the £38,000-a-year pension enjoyed by former First Ministers from the moment they leave office. But McConnell and McLeish will continue to receive the money. The review of MSP pensions would apply to Alex Salmond and future First Ministers, who would get the cash only when they reached 65."

It made no sense for ex-FMs to get this perk, especially when like Jack McConnell they continue as Members of the Scottish Parliament, and even less in the case of Henry McLeish when he was only FM for twelve months before having to resign. But our Eck won't be laughing all the way to the bank if the change is agreed.


Courtesy of the Herald Diary, the latest take on the lives of our Councillors.

"A WEST-end-of-Glasgow bookshop is stocking Halls of Infamy, the recollections of a former councillor on Glasgow City Council, written under the nom de plume James MacDonald, but which a little investigative work would suggest is penned by former LibDem Hillhead councillor Niall Walker. Not taking any prisoners, the author writes: "The majority of Glasgow's councillors are overweight, many are obese. They do little exercise and go everywhere in council limousines. They tell Glaswegians to use public transport or cycle but don't practise what they preach. They also lecture people on healthy eating; I used to see them stuffing their faces with cream cakes in our canteen." No wonder the occasional burly councillor has been seen buying the booklet to see what other dirt he dishes up."

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Any questions?

"AUTHORITIES at the Scottish Parliament are to spend £70,000 of taxpayers' money teaching MSPs how to ask questions. John Sturrock, QC, a leading advocate, is to give advice on how to question a witness. The five-year programme is designed for MSPs who have difficulty pinning down answers from committee witnesses."

Mr Smith thinks that the Scottish Parliamentary authorities are in grave danger of becoming totally out of touch with the members of the lumpen proletariat. Nice work if you can get it.

China Brown.

Remember Tiananmen.

Mr Smith appreciates the real politiks of the world in which we live where in order to protect living standards at home, we have to embrace regimes that we wouldn't want to live under at home.

But he cannot let British British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's recent visit to China pass without reminding people of the democracy activits who died in Tiananmen Square in 1989. How much longer will we have to wait until improving living standards, Westernisation and dealing with the Chinese government brings democracy to China? How much is our democracy worth?

Friday, 18 January 2008

Dougie Donnelly.

Speaking of knives in the back, "FIRST Minister Alex Salmond was yesterday accused of stabbing Dougie Donnelly in the back after the TV star was sacked from a sports quango. The BBC presenter was axed as chairman of the Scottish Institute of Sport after a shake-up announced by sports minister Stewart Maxwell. Sportscotland head Julia Bracewell was also asked to stand down after the two agencies were merged. Scottish Lib Demleader Nicol Stephen claimed it could dent Scotland's future medal hopes. He told MSPs: "Instead of sharpening up Scotland's performance, ministers were sharpening long knives for the back of Dougie Donnelly."

Never has Dougie generated so much coverage. But how many people knew until the last few days that he even chaired a sports quango. Just because he's a commentator doesn't mean he knows about elite sports performance which means he probably shouldn't have got the job in the first place.


The Herald Diary says "Glasgow council leader Steven Purcell confided at the programme launch for the Glasgow International Comedy Festival in March that he was looking forward to seeing some of the shows, "despite the fact that being a politician I have to deal with jokers every day - and that's just my colleagues".

Councillor Purcell should be careful. Afterall, some of his colleagues may actually be able to read and buy the Herald. He might be in the receiving end of a Weegie Night of the Long Knives.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Scotland for Obama.

Mr Smith reads that "John McCain, the Republican presidential contender, and Barack Obama, his Democrat rival, are both descended from the same Scottish king, it has been claimed. According to research by an American genealogist, they share a common bloodline that can be traced to William I of Scotland, or William the Lion. It was disclosed last year that Mr Obama was a descendant of the monarch who ruled Scotland from 1165 to 1214, and his background and upbringing spans the globe ..."

Its a small world afterall. Mr Smith seems to recall that Mr Obama also has connections with current American Vice President Dick Cheney. But Mr Smith's preference is still for Mr Obama to be the next Scottish President of the US.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Lords a leaping.

"LOTHIANS Labour MSP George Foulkes today hit back after an SNP backbencher criticised him over his expenses from the House of Lords. Nationalist Christine Grahame said Mr Foulkes, who is also a Labour peer, had claimed £111,386 in expenses from Westminster's second chamber over the last two years.And she called for MSPs who are also members of the House of Lords to be means tested before they can receive expenses.But Mr Foulkes said the figures Ms Grahame quoted were "deliberately misleading" because they referred to the period before he was elected to the Scottish Parliament last May."

And he gets an MSPs salary on top. It's amazing he can fit it all in. It would appear that Scottish Labour's attack dog is himself under attack.

Monday, 14 January 2008

Sam's the man.

Really strange article in today's Scotsman from former Liberal Democrat Special Adviser Sam Ghibaldan.

"So, Alex, what are the odds on you sticking around until 2011? ... This column comes with a health warning. My last bet was for Labour to win most seats in the 2007 Scottish Parliament election. In my case at least, political soothsaying is an inexact science. I'll also be asking you to wear another person's shoes. Be warned: they might be uncomfortable."

Given Sam's role in the Lib Dem's election defeat last May it seems ironic that he is now offering Alex Salmond career's advice especially when it relates to 2011 which is three years away. You need to get out more Sam. Honestly. Spend less time polishing your crystal ball.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Time to say "Goodbye"?

Drumlanrig says "Stewart Maxwell is now the favourite to be the first SNP minister to lose his job after being humiliated last week after presiding over the decision to scrap, then keep, then not move to Glasgow, then move to Glasgow, SportScotland, the country's national sporting agency. Favourites for promotion? Having proved his total loyalty over the last eight months, can maverick backbencher Alex Neil be kept out of a job for any longer? Watch this space."

It wasn't that bad. Really. It was actually quite entertaining. Really.

Friday, 11 January 2008

Pay Day.

"THE House of Commons is set to give up the right to vote through MPs' pay rises – and the move could ensure them a heftier pay package. Harriet Harman, the Commons leader, suggested yesterday this could be the last year MPs decide their own pay.This would effectively leave the Senior Salaries Review Board in charge of imposing pay deals – and it often recommends inflation-busting rises."

Mr Smith knew there would be a hitch somewhere. MPs shouldn't get to set their own salaries, but they might be happy to do if it means they will get an even bigger increase. And since when was it a "right" for MPs to vote for their own pay increase?

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Name changing.

When is scrapping an agency not scrapping an agency?

"The future of Scotland's national sports agency was secured yesterday when the SNP government bowed to a major campaign to prevent it being scrapped. Sports Minister Stewart Maxwell said sportscotland would move its headquarters to the new national indoor arena in the east end of Glasgow from its current base on the outskirts of Edinburgh."

Or as the Sports Minister Stewart Maxwell MSP put it in the Scottish Parliament statement.

"Having listened to and considered stakeholders' views and opinions, the Government has decided that sportscotland should merge with the Scottish Institute of Sport into a single body under a single board. The Government wants to declutter the sporting landscape and to ensure that the new organisation delivers sport in a more effective and efficient manner that will benefit Scotland. I emphasise that we are not just merging two bodies but carrying out a radical overhaul. We will create a flatter structure and bring delivery much closer to the user. We have decided that the newly merged organisation will retain the name sportscotland, because we do not want to waste time or money on an unnecessary rebranding exercise when sportscotland is a strong and recognised brand in the marketplace. [Interruption.] ...."

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Hillary's upset.

Iain Green's cartoon from today's Scotsman.

Another Scot.

"GORDON Brown has appointed a Scottish spin doctor to be his new political strategist, six months after taking office. Stephen Carter – a former head of the telecoms watchdog Ofcom – who is not a member of the Labour Party, will become the Prime Minister's principal special adviser on a salary of £137,400 – the maximum for such a post.Mr Carter, 43, chief executive at the corporate communications firm Brunswick Group, will report directly to Mr Brown."

And he took a pay cut from his current reported salary of £500,000 a year. That's dedication for you, but Mr Smith suspects that working for Mr Brown could be the first blemish on Mr Carter's otherwise stellar CV.

An extra insight into his personality comes from the Taxpayers' Alliance. "WHEN Stephen Carter ran Ofcom, the telecoms and broadcasting regulator, he kept a life-size poster of Michael Caine, star of the British gangster movie Get Carter, behind his office desk ..." Mmmmmmmmmm.

Fashion sense.

From BBC Reporter Justin Webb's blog ... "Meanwhile, my friend Sarah Smith, the able and forthright Washington Correspondent for Britain's Channel Four News, was caught out badly at a Clinton rally the other night. As the photo shows, she put on her fanciest clothes to attend the event, and found that the candidate had made the same choice! I am sure Sarah is a fighter for women's rights and for Hillary Clinton's right to stand, but she had not previously seen the former First Lady as her fashion guru. Hillary may be re-thinking her life if she loses, but Sarah is already re-thinking her wardrobe..."

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Hello, hello.

ATTICUS also says "Lothian and Borders' finest unwittingly landed a big fish when conducting random checks on drivers in Edinburgh city centre this week. Asked if he owned his vehicle, had a driving licence or had been drinking was none other than Kenny MacAskill, the justice secretary. "They were very polite, "the abstemious minister told Atticus. "I think in the end they were beginning to recognise me." And unlike those rozzers at Wembley in 19999, they didn't lock me up on suspicion of being drunk and disorderly, he might have added."

They were probably too grateful to him for giving them their full pay increase this year not to let him go on his way. But the Minister really should have been taking the bus to cut down on his carbon emissions.

Saturday, 5 January 2008

Gorbals Mick's wife.

ATTICUS says "Michael Martin, the Commons Speaker and MP for Glasgow North East, finds himself in hot water again. His wife, Mary, has claimed about £1,000 a year in taxi expenses while buying food for official functions. Only 12 MPs claimed more than her last year - and she's not even employed by Parliament. Maybe someone ought to introduce her to the concept of online supermarket shopping."

It's a long a way from the Gorbals. And for the record £1,000 is equivalent to the basic state pension paid for seven weeks to a couple living in Mr Martin's constituency. They wouldn't be taking taxis to buy food, they would be spending the money on the food itself. What is it about politicians and their spouses and taxis?

Friday, 4 January 2008

Doing the doo.

"CLEANING up after pigeons at the Scottish Parliament and taking steps to keep them out of the building is costing taxpayers thousands of pounds a year. A persistent bird problem has meant Holyrood forking out for major clean-up operations, spikes to stop birds landing on ledges and special netting to keep them out of recesses.The total cost of measures to protect the building from pigeons has hit more than £8000 a year, and that's on top of a £35,000 four-year contract for pest control, which includes dealing with pigeon problems."

What to doo?

Thursday, 3 January 2008


Is it just Mr Smith or does the visit by Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his wife Sarah to patients evacuated from the fire damaged Royal Marsden Hospital in London this morning smack of political desperation?

This is the type of activity that used to be undertaken by the British Royals at a respectable distance in time terms from the tragedy happening. But PM Brown is on the scene less than twenty four hours after the event.

He better be careful or he could become known as the Kate Adie of British politics.

Switch off.

So, "SCOTTISH Parliament bosses have set up an electronic "spy" system to make sure MSPs and Holyrood staff switch off their computers at night. And any politicians, researchers or officials who fail to comply can expect constant e-mails reminding them to do so.The move is part of a drive to cut the parliament's energy use by eight per cent by March 2009."

Mr Smith wonders if they will draw the line at telling them to switch off. How about getting some of them to become a bit more switched on?

The Gong Show.

Mr Smith was intrigued to note that in the Queen's Birthday Honours announcement that her Majesty appears to have avoided the use of the phrase "Scottish Government" in deciding who got the gongs and has chosen instead "Scottish Executive."

Bet Mr Salmond is wishing the HM would just get with the programme. And Mr Smith notes Mr Gordon Brown also managed to get a gong ... no ... not that Mr Brown.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

True words.

Mr Smith cannot really add much to the comments made by Glasgow Evening Times Political Editor Brian Currie. Perhaps its time that our elected Members of the Scottish Parliament just got on with doing what they have the power to do better rather than banging on about using powers they don't have on issues which are reserved to Westminster.

"ONE of the biggest frauds Holyrood politicians have perpetrated is the pretence they're going to ban airguns in Scotland. Labour started it after the death of Easterhouse toddler Andrew Morton and the SNP government embraced the cause. There's nothing wrong with the aim but the problem for the previous executive was it couldn't and neither can the present government - power over firearms is reserved to Westminster. Labour started it when former Home Secretary Charles Clark promised a crackdown. Some Labour supporters interpreted his statement as a pledge to take them off the streets but that wasn't what he said and it didn't happen. Now SNP Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill is accusing "the dead hand of the Scotland Office" for blocking devolving the power. The reality is if Westminster relinquishes its authority over firearms, the SNP will have an effective lever to ask for more powers. It's time all parties stopped playing politics with an issue which has cost lives and were more honest about what they can achieve."

Offering false hope to people, really is pretty contemptible.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Happy New Year.

Have a prosperous and peaceful 2008.