Monday, 31 March 2008

Blah. Blah. Blah.

From the Scotland On Sunday ...

High heels.

Mr Smith wasn't sure that this story was for real ... but apparently it was intended to be "humorous".

"A Highland councillor who tried to use her high heels as a lever to get free parking is claiming a victory in her battle over charges. Maxine Smith said yesterday she was delighted to hear that the Cromarty Firth Port Authority (CFPA) now issued five free temporary vehicle passes to companies with a rig repair contract at its Invergordon site. She had argued earlier this month that the authority should waive its £50-a-year parking fee for her because she could not be expected to leave her yellow Hyundai Coupe in the car park outside the base and walk half a mile in high heels and business attire to meetings with constituents on the base. But port manager Captain Ken Gray told the SNP councillor – who is one of four members for the Cromarty Firth ward – she must pay for an annual pass or, if her visits were occasional and brief, apply for a visitor’s permit."

Good to see that the introduction of proportional representation at the elections for Scotland's councils last year has brought such a colourful group of councillors into public life. Councillor Smith also declares gifts of champagne and flowers in her declaration of interests at Highland Council and that she is a "self-employed partner" in the Venus Beauty Salon. That explains the high heels then, but what about the yellow Hyundai Coupe?

Sunday, 30 March 2008

She's a "Perfect Ten."

"Wendy Alexander has given herself a perfect score in her performance as Scottish Labour leader. She awarded herself a "10 out of 10", while saying it was time to move on from the donation scandal which hit her leadership campaign."

Does Wendy really believe this? Does she expect anybody else to? She probably would have said "eleven out of ten" if she'd had time to think about it.

Murphy's Law ...

... anything that can go wrong will go wrong.

"A SCOTS MP has been crocked playing football in Bosnia. Jim Murphy suffered knee ligament damage after colliding with a team-mate. The East Renfrewshire MP, who's also Europe Minister, will now miss a dream appearance at Wembley next month. Murphy was in the Balkan state last week to speak to local politicians about the country's future."

Poor Jim ... that'll teach him.


"Labour is planning to delay the Westminster election to the last possible months, according to its leader at Holyrood. Wendy Alexander has let slip that the party machine is gearing up to fight the election in 2010, when the five-year maximum term is up."

So has Wendy let the cat out of the proverbial bag, or is she simply stating the obvious, or is she laying a false trail? Mr Smith suspects it is more likely to be the last one rather than the other two.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

On the fiddle.

"Scottish Labour Leader Wendy Alexander has come under fire from inside her own party for "prattling on" about constitutional change. Former Labour Scottish Office Minister Brian Wilson accused her of doing the SNP's job for them by setting up a Commission on more powers for Holyrood. He said he would rather have a referendum on independence than the "incremental nonsense of fiddling about with powers".

Mr Smith has some sympathy with Mr Wilson's take on the current debate. Why give the Scottish Parliament more powers on issues like taxation when it hasn't even seen fit to use the ones it already has at any point in the last nine years?

Labour is playing a very dangerous game.

Tartan Tories.

"Scottish Labour leader Alexander launched a fierce attack on Alex Salmond's "Tartan Tories.” It followed a new analysis of SNP policies which suggests the Nationalist government are pursuing a rightwing agenda that mainly benefits the rich."

Mr Smith hates to disagree. The reality is that there aren't really any Tories left in Scotland's Parliament anymore with all of Scotland's main stream political parties embracing just about every left wing policy they can.

The "Tartan Tories" tag might have worked in the eighties Wendy, it doesn't really carry much weight these days. Even Labour has been known to embrace a few Conservative ideas.

Wrong arm of the law.

"AN Inverness police officer has been accused of failing to reveal a series of criminal convictions when applying for a job with Northern Constabulary. Paul Geddes, 36, who also worked as a prison officer, is charged with failing to reveal his alleged criminal past in applications to both the north police force and the Scottish Prisons Service (SPS). "

Another dodgy cop ... allegedly.

Friday, 28 March 2008

Sarko for PM.

It may have been over the top ...

It may have been in French ...

It may not even have been that good ...

But the speech made by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to a joint session of the Westminster Parliament was delivered with real passion and with a hint of Gallic charm. It made Mr Smith realise just how much he is missing former PM Tony Blair. Tony may have went off the rails a bit towards the end, but at least he seemed to care about what he was trying to do and it came across. Unlike the current PM sadly.

Meaking a meal of it.

"IN FIRST minister Alex Salmond's well-publicised bid to eat only Scottish food last week, he would have been well advised to steer clear of the Scottish government's own canteens. An investigation by the Sunday Herald has discovered as much as 80% of the vegetables and half the meat served to nearly 6000 civil servants in Edinburgh and Glasgow is imported from outside of Scotland. The revelation, condemned as "appalling" by food campaigners, has prompted drastic action by ministers."

Another one of those occasions where the political rhetoric sadly fails to live up to the on the ground reality. Pat on the back to Mr Hutcheon for pointing it out. Fancy a Ruby Murray?

Mr Salmond FM.

From the Herald Diary ... "Not quick enough ... "INCIDENTALLY, television presenter Stephen Jardine, introducing the awards, said there was one picture that had eluded every press photo-grapher in Scotland last year. "First Minister Alex Salmond looking modest and self-effacing," said Stephen."

Thursday, 27 March 2008


Using proportional representation to ensure that our elected representatives are just that representative makes sense, but using it to decided Scotland's constitional future is really taking it a stage too far.

"ALEX Salmond yesterday outlined plans to take Scotland out of the UK without a clear majority in favour of independence. He announced plans for are ferendum using "preference voting". The system, similar to the STV method used in council elections, allows people to rank their choices in order of preference by voting "1,2,3". And, mathematically, it means Scotland could split from the rest of the UK if just 26 per cent made independence their top choice."

A simple yes or no to independence must be used, otherwise the SNP Government risk their plans for an independence referendum ending up in the Dusty Bin.

Tartan Tat.

So, another example of how our elected representatives in the Scottish Parliament are continuing to improve the lives of ordinary Scots by passing groundbreaking legislation. This time by pushing ahead with plans for a register of Scottish tartans.

"New legislation aimed at creating a national register of tartans was launched yesterday. Tory MSP Jamie McGrigor has put the forward plans in a member's bill to the Scottish Parliament. His proposals for a register, which would draw together information about the different tartan designs, have the backing of the Scottish Government. Under the plans the National Archives of Scotland would create and maintain the register, with input from industry experts."

Is this really the best proposal for legislation that our elected representatives can come up with? It raises the obvious question about why we should entrust the Members of the Scottish Parliament with even more powers when they make such an unambitious use of those they already have.

Blair Force None.

So Gordon Brown yet again wastes no time in stamping his authority on government by abandonning plans for the UK government to buy new aircraft to fly members of the Royal Family and senior politicians around.

"Gordon Brown has scrapped plans to buy two private jets to carry himself and the royal family around the world, it was revealed yesterday. Instead, the government is scaling back proposals made by former premier Tony Blair, which were expected to cost taxpayers £100m, and will buy only a small plane for trips around the UK."

Good to see Government cutting back unnecessary expenditure in these times of economic uncertainty, or is it? Presumably there was a justifiable case made for the aircraft previously which has now been reversed. Perhaps the decision is more about good PR than what is actually good for effective government?

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Barring Darling.

"AN internet campaign to get Alistair Darling banned from every pub in the UK has been inspired by a bar in the Capital. Last week, the News revealed that Utopia on Leith Walk had put up a poster barring the Chancellor after his 4p per pint tax increase in the Budget. The report prompted an Edinburgh-based blog, Musings of a Reactionary Snob, to call for the ban to be made nationwide. The campaign has 110 supporters on its Facebook site, and pubs in Bolton, Lewes and Oxfordshire have followed Utopia ..."

Mr Smith loves it, but he suspects that Mr Darling doesn't spend a lot of his time hanging about pubs, so being barred from them probably won't matter.

There are more questions ...

Reform Scotland.

Mr Smith has been passed a copy of an invitation to the "Launch Party" for a new "independent, non-party think tank," Reform Scotland, on 15th April 2008 which aims to "promote new directions for public policy based on the traditional Scottish principles of limited government, diversity and personal responsibility."

So far so good, except .... the Director of the new "think tank" is none other than Geoff Mawdsley who's other claims to fame are that he is a failed Conservative Parliamentary candidiate and former political adviser to former Scottish Conservative Leader David McLetchie MSP, as well as being a former lobbyist.

So how "independent" and "non-party" can our Geoff really be?

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

The Invisible Man.

Mr Smith read the commentary from Iain Macwhirter in this week's Sunday Herald in which he highlights the "non appearance" of PM Gordon Brown on issues of major public concern, like the collapse of Northern Rock or the current global financial crisis.

"AT DOWNING Street upon the stair, I met a man who wasn't Blair. He wasn't Blair again today. Oh how I wish he'd go away." So read the mystery quatrain, allegedly penned by a disgruntled Cabinet minister, which circulated Westminster last week. The verse paraphrases the American poet Hughes Mearns's well-known Antigonish: "As I was going up the stair, I met a man who wasn't there ..." This isn't the first time that Brown has been hit by a rocket-propelled stanza, either. TS Eliot's Macavity: The Mystery Cat has been widely used by the prime minister's critics, and the poems relate to his tendency to absent himself when things go wrong ("Macavity's not there"). Obviously, this is just dodgy doggerel, but humour has a knack of revealing truth. The image of Gordon Brown now becoming fixed in the public mind, and reflected in these poems, is that of a politician who cannot face up to adversity."

The "disappearances" of Mr Brown contrast very unfavourably with his frequent appearances on the softer issues that no-one really expects him to have the time to be involved in, for example today's Bevin Boys commemoration, or the recent burning down of part of a London hospital.

The people aren't that stupid, Prime Minister.

One in the CBI ...

Good to see that the strained relationship between the SNP Scottish Government and Scotland's premier business organisation, the CBI, shows no signs of improving.

"One of Scotland's leading business figures criticised SNP ministers for wasting their time pushing a "conversation" on independence when they should be growing the economy. Iain McMillan, the director of CBI Scotland, spoke out as Alex Salmond, the First Minister, prepares for tomorrow's launch of the second phase of his National Conversation."

The frostiness started during last year's Scottish Parliament election campaign and shows no signs of improving. The difference of course is that the SNP is now in power, so for how much longer can the CBI continue with a stance which seems to ignore that fact? Even if they don't like it?

Monday, 24 March 2008

Taking liberties.

So, "THE Liberal Democrats are trying to get round the proposed ban on state-funded mortgage payments for MSPs by calling for £11,000 a year to live in their constituencies. Nicol Stephen's party has suggested the public should pay for MSPs to stay in family homes they have owned for years."

What a novel idea. Paying elected representatives to live in the place where their constituents live. It's amazing that no one has ever thought about that one before. But where would it leave the likes of Liberal Democrat Scottish Leader Nicol "Three Homes" Stephen? Pick a home .... any home.

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Isn't it ironic.

As Drumlanrig points out, "DONALD 'DUCK SOUP' ... Despite the fact that its owner is embroiled in SNP cash-for-favours allegations, the Aviemore Highland Resort of Donald Macdonald is the venue for the Scottish Labour conference. Labour attack dog and former minister Allan Wilson, has been leading the charge against the Nats over the affair – in which ministers are alleged to have helped out Macdonald's plans to develop the site. "Allan had better not eat the soup," warned one MSP last week."

Well if you decide to hold your conference in Aviemore where else could you stay? Nowhere.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

One in four.

That's the proportion of Scotland's employment that is now acounted for by the public sector.

"In quarter 4 (Q4) 2007, there were 578,300 people employed in the public sector which is an increase of 45,400 (8.5 per cent) since 1999 but a decrease of 4,300 (0.7 per cent) since 2006 ... The public sector currently accounts for 22.8 per cent of employment in Scotland which has decreased from 23.1 per cent both in Q4 1999 and Q4 2006."

Mr Smith isn't a great believer in the old adage that "public is bad and private is good," anymore than he subscribes to the reverse, but does Scotland really need to have 22.8% of its emplyed accounted for by public servants and doesn't that put a major stumbling block in the path of any necessary reform of public services?

Friday, 21 March 2008


Fat cats.

So, "METHADONE users were yesterday branded fat, dumb and happy by a leading Scottish Tory. The party's justice spokesman Bill Aitken made the claim as he called for more schemes to get users off the heroin substitute."

Never mind methadone users, for a second Mr Smith thought Mr Aitken was referring to his fellow Members of the Scottish Parliament. That would never be the case of course.

Call me.

And another interesting insight from Drumlanrig ... "Who is the SNP MSP who makes mildly threatening phone calls to members of his staff at night just because they're not that punctual at work? Not very right-on behaviour from a supposed socialist."

Mr Smith suspects we haven't heard the last of this one .... SNP, male and "socialist." Who could that be?

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Room service, please.

This week's Sunday Herald provides an answer to that frequently asked question ... "when is a hotel not a hotel?"

"SCOTLAND'S Deputy presiding officer has pocketed up to £30,000 of public money to cover her "hotel" costs despite the fact she did not stay in any. Labour MSP Trish Godman was living in her fraudster son's flat at a rate of around £100 a night ... but claiming hotel expenses from the Scottish parliament. The deal, which was approved by Holyrood bosses, resulted in Godman racking up the highest "hotel" bill of any MSP since 1999."

The answer ... when it is your son's flat ... but you still get to claim the cash anyway. Ridiculous ... and no room service.

Going to pot.

Again from Drumlanrig ... "Has the Labour-run Scotland Office gone potty? In a parliamentary answer last week, minister David Cairns revealed that the Whitehall department has shelled out £5,318 on plants over the past five years at their London pad Dover House, a Grade 1-listed mansion in Whitehall. Cairns does not reveal whether ministers have a preference for weeping figs or Swiss cheese plants but he does assure us that all expenditure was incurred "in accordance with the principles of managing public money and the Treasury handbook on regularity and propriety". Quite so."

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Mostly "Superfluous" Politicians.

Mr Smith read with interest the article by Tom Brown in this week's Scotland On Sunday.

"11-a-side is too many in political game ... PSST! Need a new £10,000 kitchen, a luxury three-piece suite, the latest widescreen plasma TV, even free dry-cleaning? Don't be a mug and pay for them yourself, become a MP. Want to make a killing on the Edinburgh property market? Get in quick, because a number of MSPs have. Fancy £145,000 to spend on scams? Easy, get the initials MEP after your name ... Every Scot has no fewer than – count 'em – eleven elected representatives at his or her beck and call. Every Scot can now call on one local councillor, one Westminster MP, one directly elected first-past-the-post MSP, seven regional list MSPs and an MEP. We should be the best-served and most utterly contented constituents in Britain, if not the world."

Much as Mr Smith agrees with Mr Brown's general assertions he has to point out that since last year's council elections in Scotland, most Scots have four locally elected councillors meaning that the average Scot actually has no fewer than fourteen elected representatives ... even worse than Mr Brown suggested. And that ignores the fact that all of Scotland's seven MEPS cover the whole of Scotland and are voted for using PR, so arguably we actually have twenty elected representatives for every Scot. Way too many.

Two Jobs Crawford.

From Drumlanrig ... "SNP politicians were always quick to attack Labour for cronyism when a succession of Labour Party toadies were given jobs on Scotland's quangos and boards. But even Labour didn't manage to get one of their members put on two public bodies in the same week. Former Scottish Enterprise chief executive Robert Crawford, left, was made chair of the Scottish Industrial Development and Advisory Board, and chair of the Clyde Gateway Urban Regeneration Company. Crawford is also a prospective SNP candidate in Ayrshire. Coincidentally, of course."

Nuff said. Coincidentally, one of the other appointments announced to the SIDAB was none other than one Jackson Cullinane who as well as being an official of the STUC, also coincidentally used to work for Scottish Labour Leader Cathy Jamieson MSP. Scotland is a small place.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Hands off our Hooters.

The bandwagon jumping ability of Members of the Scottish Parliament never fails to impress Mr Smith even before the bandwagon has even arrived, let alone made it over the Altantic Ocean.

"A campaign to stop the Hooters restaurant chain coming to Scotland was launched by an MSP. But last night, the company, famed for their waitresses in skimpy uniforms, told Scottish Labour deputy leader Cathy Jamieson: "Hands off our Hooters." And they dismissed claims of exploitation of women as "ridiculous".

Surely Ms Jamieson has better things to do with her time than get involved in this nonsense? Or is she looking for some free publicity given that the Deputy Leader of the Scottish Labour Party really doesn't have very much to do at the moment? Doesn't she realise that free publicity is exactly what the management of Hooters are looking for themselves?

Jack's ... not alright (2).

And so to a different Jack ...

"Artist Jack Vettriano has hit out at MSPs for wanting to borrow his paintings for buildings and offices. In an interview, the painter said that Holyrood, having spent so much money on the new building and on commissioning art, could easily have bought some of his work rather than wanting to borrow paintings."

Or they could have avoided paying exorbitant rates for his work in the first place and nip down to the nearest Art Shop where you can pick up prints of Jack's work for a mere thirty quid a shot (fully framed). But seriously, Mr Vettriano does have a point ...

Monday, 17 March 2008

The Few.

"Scottish Labour has lost nearly a quarter of its membership since the start of the war in Iraq, and looks set to be overtaken by the SNP as the country's biggest party. New figures, to be released this week, show the former dominant force in Scottish politics now has just 18,000 fully paid-up members, compared to the list of 23,000 in 2002."

Mr Smith is amazed that so many of the Comrades have stuck with it. If the war in Iraq and the dismal performance of Scottish Labour Leader Wendy Alexander and her shadow front bench weren't enough to make them jack it in then what will be?

Jack's ... not alright.

Remember former First Minister Jack McConnell MSP? Mr Smith does ... just about.

"Jack McConnell is understood to be angry with prime minister Gordon Brown after the peerage he was promised has so far failed to materialise. Friends of the former first minister say Brown has reneged on a deal to allow his Labour colleague to sit in the House of Lords. McConnell is also known to be so unimpressed with the state of his party that he is not planning to attend the Scottish Labour conference this month."

If I was PM Gordon Brown delaying giving our Jack a peerage with the result that he "boycotts" the next Scottish Labour Conference would probably have been worth it. And does Jack McConnell or his advisers really believe he will be missed at the next Scottish Labour Conference anyway? ... Jack who?

Sunday, 16 March 2008

We're filling up.

So, "SCOTLAND’S population is at its healthiest level for more than 20 years thanks to a mini baby-boom which saw 57,000 births registered last year - one-third of them by Eastern European parents."

Mr Smith never thought of Alex Salmond as Barry White encouraging the Scottish populace to do what comes naturally, but it won't be long until Scotland is officially full up at this rate ... and we win the World Cup ... and we get great weather. All courtesy of the SNP Scottish Government of course.

Climb every mountain.

"GOVERNMENT minister Shona Robison and her MP husband Stewart Hosie began training to take part in a challenge to climb 219 mountains in one month."

Mr Smith is amazed that two of our elected representatives have the time, or the energy, or indeed the inclination to get involved in this stunt, even if it is for charity. They will be auditioning for the Sound of Music next.

Saturday, 15 March 2008


"THE push for a national holiday on St Andrew's Day has been boosted by the announcement that Scottish Government staff will get the following Monday off work."

Wouldn't it be nice to get an extra day off for a holiday paid for by the great Scottish public, the vast majority of whom won't be getting the same opportunity? Public servants get all the perks and all in the name of scoring a political point courtesy of the SNP controlled Scottish Government.

The Common Man.

So, "THE Leader of the Scottish Lib Dems owns three homes worth £1million - and does not live in any. Nicol Stephen's property empire includes a £400,000 Edinburgh home that he now rents out after pocketing around £50,000 of taxpayers' cash on it. Stephen, 47, and his wife Caris Doig, a tax expert and letting agent, also own homes in Carnoustie and Aberdeen."

It must be nice to own three homes and from now on he will be known as "Three Homes" Stephen. Coincidentally, Mr Stephen endorsed a recent Shelter campaign on affordable housing, "To highlight our campaign for 30,000 affordable rented homes, Shelter Scotland built a model house outside parliament and invited MSPs to show their support by adding a signed brick. We were delighted that nearly half of all MSPs (63) turned up to add their brick, including ... Nicol Stephen ..."

Some people like Mr Stephen obviously find housing more affordable than most of us.

Friday, 14 March 2008


"PUPILS may have to take their own toilet rolls to school because of funding cuts. There are also fears parents will have to provide jotters, pens and pencils for their kids. Like other local authorities, Scottish Borders Council are cutting their education budget to make up for a council tax freeze. Balmoral Primary in Galashiels are so strapped that after fixed costs like wages have been paid, there is only £444 left for 2008-9. That has to cover books, jotters, photocopying, phone bills, toilet rolls, pens, pencils, art materials, postage and paper towels. One parent said: "We were told it has got so bad that we might have to provide our own toilet rolls and jotters. There would be no money for things like school trips."

Perhaps the Scottish Parliament could clean its windows less frequently and send them some loo rolls? What are we paying our taxes for?

"The council said: "Finding the two per cent savings required of schools is a challenge for head teachers. Finance staff from the authority are working with them to identify a solution. "We have allocated £200,000 to protect smaller schools and there is no question of jotters or hygiene material not being provided." So they will have loo rolls then.

Kneel, Neil.

From the Herald diary ... "Kneesy does it ... FORMER Glasgow Labour MP Hugh Brown, who has sadly died, was once showing a group of awestruck visitors round the House of Commons, and entered the Central Lobby just as his Glasgow colleague, Neil Carmichael, came in at the far end. As Hugh called out: "Neil!" the group behind him obediently fell on one knee."

Goodbye Mr Brown.

The Cup.

From the Scotsman diary ... "Salmond's up for the cup ... IT HAS taken only five days for Alex Salmond to get his hands on the Calcutta Cup. He has managed to get Mike Blair and Frank Hadden to go along to the parliament today, allowing him to pose with the trophy. The First Minister was remarkably reticent after the losses to France, Wales and Ireland, but it took him only a few minutes to get his first statement out after the England game – and then just the five days to get the Calcutta Cup along to Holyrood."

Success has many fathers and failure is an orphan.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Push the button.

Mr Smith reads that some of the Liberal Democrat Members of the Scottish Parliament appear to have difficulties knowing how to vote.

"Voting errors by the Liberal Democrats last night diluted the impact of the government's victory to extend home tagging as a way of easing prison overcrowding. There were two votes, one which would have enabled electronically tagged early release to apply for the first time to prisoners who had been sentenced to more than four years. This vote went against the government by four votes, but only because four LibDems accidentally voted the wrong way and two dashed into the chamber too late."

It's sad that a major issue of public policy involving public safety is determined in the Scottish Parliament not by reasoned debate and decision, but because some MSPs couldn't understand the wording of a motion well enough to be able to work out whether to vote yes or no, and because two MSPs couldn't "dash" quickly enough. That's democracy ... Scotland style.

Too many chiefs?

"The taxpayer is paying at least £300,000 a year for a health board's three chief executives - one seconded, one suspended and one standing in for the other two. Under questioning by MSPs yesterday, Dr Kevin Woods, chief executive of NHS Scotland, described the situation at NHS Western Isles as "undesirable and unusual".

"Undesirable and unusual". That's putting it mildly. Given the increases in taxation announced in the Budget yesterday, this situation is symptomatic of how much money is wasted by our public services. But how many Health Board Chief Executives does it take to change a lightblub ...?

Scotch on the rocks.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Cleaning windaes.

"The Scottish Parliament is spending around £100,000 a year on cleaning its windows, it emerged today. Figures revealed by the cross-party Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body also show that the total bill for interior and exterior cleaning of the controversial Holyrood building is approaching £500,000.Window cleaning is expensive because the awkward angle of many of the windows on the £414 million building, which means abseilers have to be brought in for the job."

There really isn't much more that Mr Smith can say. They probably need to get rid of all the pigeon doo that is accumulating on the windows, but would you spend £100,000 a year cleaning windows, even if you had the cash? You would probably have better things to be doing with the cash.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008


It isn't very often that a Scottish newspaper plays a pivotal role in the US Presidential Election campaign, but that is what the Scotsman can claim following its revelations about the rather uncharitable comments from one of Barack Obama's aides in calling his Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton a "monster."

It may be true, and most people would agree that our Hillary is showing the tenacity of a really bad smell in repeatedly resurrecting her own campaign, but it really wasn't wise to get caught out saying so, hence the unavoidable resignation.

Anyone got a wooden stake and some silver bullets that Barack could borrow?

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Mr Hutcheon ... again.

The vitriol-packed comment pieces from the Sunday Herald's Political Editor Paul Hutcheon have previously been highlighted by Mr Smith on this blog, but Mr Hutcheon went quiet for a while. But Mr Smith is happy to say that Mr Hutcheon is now back and in full flood in a piece on the Edinburgh Accomodation Allowance Scheme used by the Members of the Scottish Parliament.

"Spare a copper for MSPs ... MSPS LAST week earned their salaries by publicly debating genuinely important issues such as rape, eating disorders and the rights of wheelchair users. But in private, they moaned about a subject close to their hearts: protecting their state-funded mortgage payments. In party group meetings, tea-room chats and behind-closed-doors bitching sessions, MSPs complained about the imminent reform of their much-loved Edinburgh Accommodation Allowance (EAA) ... Don't believe the folk who say politicians are only in it for themselves: this overlooks the fact that they are trying to fill their families' boots as well. If the past five days are anything to go by, they are at their most animated when their own financial self-interest is questioned."

Do any of our politicians still talk to Mr Hutcheon given his trenchent and well earned commentary on their real political concerns?

Hands up.

It appears that Wendy Alexander isn't going down too well with the members of her own party some of whom have had less than flattering things to say about her performance.

"SCOTTISH LABOUR appeared to be in crisis last night after one of the party's most senior MSPs was caught up in a row about briefing against Wendy Alexander. Margaret Curran, the party's shadow health secretary, has admitted being at the centre of unflattering comments about Alexander's performance as party leader. A recent newspaper piece had stated that Labour MSPs were critical of her performance and judgement, with the phrase "shocking and appalling" quoted in the story, which is now revealed to have been based on a briefing by Curran."

A bit of honesty from our politicians for a change, albeit given off the record. But how long can Oor Margaret last in Wendy's Shadow Cabinet given her low opinion of her leader?

Friday, 7 March 2008


"IT IS one of the great parliamentary traditions – the Chancellor enjoying a tipple of his choosing as he delivers the Budget. But when Alistair Darling makes his first such assessment of the UK's finances next Wednesday, his glass will be filled with London tap water.Though he has not yet ruled out accompanying it with a nip of whisky, he will avoid bottled water ... but many previous Chancellors have used the opportunity to enjoy a drink in the chamber – otherwise forbidden by parliamentary rules. Kenneth Clarke drank Glenfarclas whisky, while Norman Lamont opted for Highland Park. Before them Geoffrey Howe had a gin and tonic, Benjamin Disraeli drank brandy and water and William Gladstone mixed sherry with beaten egg."

It would be a bit contradictory if the Chancellor enjoyed a glass of whisky at the same time as he announced raising the duty on it during his Budget ... but would you fancy a Gladstone ... a "mixed sherry with beaten egg"? Delicious ... not.

Fancy a new job?

Looks as thought the sausage machine that is the Scottish Government's communications team needs fresh meat with adverts in the press seeking new Communications Officers on a salary band of £21,292 - £28,520 + pay supplement. The posts appear to be for maternity cover which means they won't be permanent "initially."

Coincidentally, the Scottish Government are also looking for Assistant Statisticians which reminds Mr Smith of the old adage about "lies, damned lies and statistics." Seems the Scottish Government is putting a bit more effort into its spin these days with the recruitment of practitioners of two aspects of the black arts.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Mr Angry.

"A Liberal Democrat MSP stormed out of a Holyrood committee, accusing its Nationalist convener of playing party politics. Mike Rumbles had tried to question Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) witnesses about a controversial planning application for the Aviemore Highland resort. SNP ministers have been accused of interfering in the process."

Better be careful of Mr Rumbles. He's an ex-military man don't you know. It's all so much party politics.