Monday, 30 June 2008

Shrink Wrapped.

Mr Smith thinks this story smells of diversionary spin which seems to have worked in the case of the Scotsman to at least down grade Wendy Alexander's "guilty" verdict in Wendy Gate, at least for a day.

"Labour employs psychiatrist to beat Salmond ... Labour hopes that with a little expert help Wendy Alexander will finally get the upper hand on Alex Salmond ... WHEN it comes to winning political battles in the cauldron of the debating chamber, the mind games employed by the chief combatants are all- important. And most observers of the hurly-burly that is Question Time in the Scottish Parliament would agree that First Minister Alex Salmond tends to emerge victorious over his main adversary, Wendy Alexander ..."

Mr Smith has news for Scottish Labour. They are going to need more than a psychiatrist to help Wendy Alexander beat Alex Salmond in a straight forward Question Time challenge. They are going to need a new leader.


Mr Smith sees that Labour MSP and peer Lord George Foulkes popped up again in the House of Lords on 9th June to plug one of his pet interests during a debate on the EU-Latin America Summit.

"My Lords, can I reassure my noble friend that there are some of us on her Benches who share the noble Viscount's interest in Latin America? I invite anyone else who would like to do so to come to Room 4A at five o'clock tomorrow afternoon when His Excellency Carlos Morales Troncoso, the Foreign Minister of the Dominican Republic, will be the guest of the Dominican-UK all-party group, of which I have the honour to be president."

Mr Smith wonders if Lord Foulkes gets to spend a lot of time in the Dominican Republic in his "all-party" capacity. Mr Smith is sure there is indeed a lot of "party"-ing involved.

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Not Bill.

Contrary to Mr Smith's earlier assertions it would appear that former US President Bill Clinton's recent non-appearance in Aberdeen wasn't actually down to him.

"FORMER Olympic runner Brian Whittle is facing financial ruin after Bill Clinton pulled out of a showpiece speaking event in Scotland. Whittle, 44, who made his name in 400m racing, is a co-director of Glasgow's PB Events with former Scotland rugby star Derek Stark. The pair pulled off a huge coup by booking the ex-US president for Aberdeen Conference and Exhibition Centre this Sunday. But they failed to raise the cash demanded by Clinton's European agents."

Apologies Mr President, but never mind. You are still a "six figure sum" plus better off ... and you didn't have to travel to Aberdeen. Result.

Promises, Promises.

"The SNP Government ditched its manifesto pledge of giving every first-time buyer a £2000 grant, while introducing a new scheme to help those facing house repossession because of the credit crunch."

Mr Smith would have thought that £2K for first time home buyers would actually have been more useful now than it would have been at the time that the SNP made the pledge. It just shows you how government changes our politicians when they actually have to account and pay for the policies they promise in opposition. No wonder the voters have difficulty believing what the politicians say most of the time.

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Goodbye Miss Wendy ... At Last.

Kerr-y On.

Drumlanrig says, "Does opposition mean Labour MSPs and former ministers have forgotten how to write? A statement issued by Labour's Andy Kerr lampooned Nationalist ministers as being reminiscent of a Carry On film, below. He thundered: "The fact that six minister's have been criticised in the last few days must be some kind of record." As any grammar teacher would tell him, the word should be "ministers" – no apostrophe."

At least he isn't Shadow Educashun Minister.

Going For Gold.

What an accolade.

"Jim Murphy, the Labour MP for East Renfrewshire, has been voted the "UK Government Minister of the Year" in a poll of MPs and members of the House of Lords."

Well done Jimbo. Keep up the good work. But how many actually voted and was the vote done using first past the post or STV ... and can we please have a referendum on the European Treaty?

Friday, 27 June 2008

Restless Natives.

Mr Smith thinks that when stories like this one make it into the press then there is a very strong possibility there is some substance to them.

"A MURMUR of discontent is insidiously making its way around the corridors in Holyrood. With it is a question, which MSPs increasingly appear to be privately (for now) asking – "Is our Presiding Officer up to the job?" To which more are beginning to answer "no".

Mr Smith thinks the Presiding Officer should be watching his back.


Mr Smith was intrigued to read how one ex-pat Scot has played his part in preserving a unqiue part of American political history.

"A SCOTS millionaire has shelled out £1.5million for a historic yacht once used by American presidents including JFK. Frank Lynch, boss of the old Glasgow Apollo, bought the Innisfail for £770,000 then spent the same sum restoring it. The 68-year-old plans to lease the 92ft vessel used by John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon, Harry S. Truman and Dwight Eisenhower to wealthy tourists."

That's dedication for you and a pretty big investment in helping retain a piece of American political history.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Bad Piper.

The cops really must have better things to be doing with their time, surely?

"BAGPIPERS have been cleared from the Royal Mile as police step up their drive against the "noise nuisance" caused by Scotland's national instrument. Pipers performing in the famous street have found themselves approached by a pair of police officers and ordered to stop and not return."



So, straight from the school of "we knew it, we've known it for a while, but hey ho" comes the startling revelation that Scottish Labour Leader Wendy Axander MSP broke Scottish Parliament rules by not declaring campaign donations.

"Scottish Labour leader Wendy Alexander broke parliamentary rules by not declaring donations to her leadership campaign, a Holyrood committee ruled. The committee will now decide what action to take against the MSP. Ms Alexander said in a letter to the committee that she acted in good faith, and on the advice of officials."

Is ignorance of the law ever an excuse? Probably. But not if it means that our politicians get to have one standard of not "deliberately" breaking the law, when everyone else is held to the standard of simply breaking it.

Mr Smith is tired of the spin that surrounds Wendy Alexander on this issue. She won't resign, but in not resigning she does massive damage to the body politic in Scotland and to the standing of the Scottish Labour Party. Perhaps her fellow Labour MSPs need to take matters into their own hands on this and vote her out as their Leader. But it appears they don't have the courage to do that.

Dancing On the Ceiling.

"HOLYROOD BOSSES have struck an out-of-court deal with two firms following the collapse of part of the parliament's roof two years ago. Officials have reached an agreement with construction company Laing O'Rourke and engineers Arup that will recover just less than £650,000 for taxpayers - 80% of what the parliament wanted."

£650,000 doesn't seem like much of a settlement given the disruption that was caused at the time to the running of the Scottish Parliament or given the scale of the error in construction. If Mr Smith ever needs a roof he knows which builder not to phone.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Public Good?

It used to be the case that some people in government argued that public was always good and that private was always bad. The latest report from Audit Scotland seems to put the kybosh on that one.

"Around two-thirds of Scotland's major building projects completed in the last five years came in significantly over budget, with the same number delayed or late in completing, according to a new report. Public spending watchdog Audit Scotland revealed a 13% overspend of £84m on 41 projects from hospitals to motorways totalling £730m, commissioned by the Scottish Government between 2002 and 2007. Of the 25 worse cases, the average overspend was 39%."

Given the fiasco of the cost overruns for the Scottish Parliament building at Holyrood should we really be surprised? Perhaps its time to create an independent public agency utilising the best of private sector experience to oversee and deliver public building projects away from the post contract interference of our elected or non-elected representatives and the oversight of civil servants? That was £730 million of your money and mine.

Goodbye Mr McConnell?

"Jack McConnell should quit his seat at Holyrood in the first half of next year if he is to take up his new post as High Commissioner to Malawi, according to a powerful Westminster committee. "

Mr Smith thinks that Jack would jump at the chance to say ta-ta to the murky world of Motherwell politics but his Imperious Labour Leaders will be less keen. Labour doesn't have a good track record when it comes to fighting by-elections in Lanarkshire, even when they hold the seats.

PS Should he rewrite the slogan on his website to read, "Working Together for Motherwell and Wishaw" ... and Malawi?

Bendy Wendy.

Since when was it news for a Scottish Labour MP to support his Scottish "Leader"? This story speaks a million words about the perilous position now occupied by Wendy Alexander in relation to the Westminster Branch of the Peoples' Party.

"WENDY Alexander received the support of one of Gordon Brown's Westminster allies yesterday over her call for a snap referendum on independence. The Scottish Labour leader's decision to back an immediate referendum is not supported by all in her party, but Nigel Griffiths, MP for Edinburgh South and a colleague of the Prime Minister, said yesterday a referendum should be held "as soon as possible", with a straight yes-no vote ..."

Deja Vu.

Mr Smith can't help but have a feeling of it.

"WENDY ALEXANDER has made yet another U-turn on a public vote on Scottish independence."

If you really want a referendum Wendy ... phone Gordon the PM. The UK Parliament could legislate for it tomorrow and with an inbuilt Labour majority at Westminster you shouldn't have any problems with getting it passed. Or would you?

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Very Creative.

Mr Smith feels he must ask the obvious question which is why if Creative Scotland could be established without requiring legislation the Scottish Government had to waste it's time and that of the Scottish Parliament by trying to do it using its legislative powers, rather than by ... er .. just setting it up?

"Creative Scotland, the proposed new cultural funding body, could be established without the passing of a bill through parliament, it was claimed yesterday. Plans to establish the successor to the Scottish Arts Council and Scottish Screen ended in disarray this week as the Culture Bill, drafted to establish the body, was surprisingly voted down in the Scottish Parliament."

Monday, 23 June 2008

You've Been ASBO-ed.

"Each junior AntiSocial Behaviour Order (Asbo) has cost £500,000 since their introduction four years ago, the Scottish Government has revealed. Community safety minister Fergus Ewing disclosed the cost as he unveiled a new framework to combat youth offending which will place more emphasis on early intervention and prevention."

It seems to Mr Smith there isn't a lot of point in legislating for something which costs so much to administer and which clearly is not favoured as a tool by those who have the choice of using it. Mr Smith thinks we could have made better use of the £7 million so badly spent.

Especially when judges are complaining about youths who have been found guilty of committing crimes have to be released because there isn't the resource available to keep them locked up for public protection.

Mr Harris.

"A GOVERNMENT minister was today under fire after berating voters for being "so bloody miserable" in the face in the economic downturn. Tom Harris, a Transport Minister and MP for Glasgow South, said that despite the recent credit squeeze, people in Britain had never been so wealthy. But, writing in his blog on his website, he complained that people seemed to be afflicted by "crippling levels of cynicism and pessimism".

Is it any wonder that the voters are afflicted by "crippling levels of cynicism and pessimism" given the calibre and lack of integrity of some of our political leaders and their governmental flunkies? Step forward Mr Harris. Take a bow. At least he recognises it.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Video Killed ...

... One of Scotland's Members of the European Parliament.

"The cross-party campaign to retain Scotland's representation in the European Parliament has been snubbed by the UK Government, with the suggestion that the falling number of MEPs could handle the extra workload by more video-conferencing."

Mr Smith liked the Eighties. He suspects that one of Scotland's MEPs won't. But it is probably the first recorded case of political assassination by video-conferencing.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Dirty Washing.

From Alan Taylor, "My fly on the wall in Glesca’s Central Station calls on Friday morning with a strange sighting: Dougie Alexander, meenister for international development, scurrying for the Paisley train. About his person he has a see-through bag about half his size. On further investigation my spy confirms that it is full of dirty washing and surmises that Mr Dougie must be heading home to his mum to have his laundry done. Ever the student! Need I remind readers that Mr Dougie is a member of the Cabinet, charged with ending world poverty and unsanitary plumbing? Has he never heard of launderettes? Or bidie-ins?"

Mr Smith seems to recall that a former Labour MP was infamous for making use of the House of Commons large free postage buff envelopes to post back to Glasgow every day the shirt he had worn so that his better half could have it washed and ironed for him ready to take away again the following Monday.

Friday, 20 June 2008

No Votes.

Atticus records the fact that only two MSPs who were present for the vote on changing the controversial accomodation allowance scheme for Members of the Scottish Parliament last week chose not to use their vote. They were Liberal Democrat MSPs, Nicol Stephen MSP and his colleague Tavish Scott MSP, coincidentally both major beneficiaries of the current allowance scheme. Mr Smith wonders why they didn't vote?


The SNP Scottish Government has lost the occasional vote before, but never an entire piece of legislation which by political standards is rather careless.

"THE Scottish Government was tonight dealt a humiliating public blow when its plans for a new national arts body collapsed in ruins. Ministers lost a crunch vote on the financial resolution of the Creative Scotland Bill in Parliament after Labour complained they had been misled over the financial implications of the Bill."

Sloppy. Mr Smith thinks that Bruce Crawford MSP, the SNP's Business Manager will be carrying out the autopsy as we post.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Very Observant.

Courtesy of Drumlanrig, "Last week witnessed the relaunch of the Scottish Catholic Observer, the country's only weekly religious paper, at a posh canapé and champagne do at the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh. The lunch was hosted by Sir Rocco Forte, owner of the hotel, who was also billed as the owner of the smart new-look paper, but Drumlanrig understands that a fair chunk of the paper is still owned by one Conrad Black, currently serving a jail sentence for fraud. It seems the SCO is continuing in the tradition of hating the sin, but loving the sinner."

Sure fire way to get press coverage though. Invite the press to the Balmoral for champagne and canapes. Very tabloid.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Trivial Pursuits.

Speaking of David Davis' by-election campaign, Mr Smith noticed these ridiculous comments from a potential rival to Mr Davis.

"David Davis's biggest rival for the by-election over the 42-day detention could be a beauty queen. Miss Great Britain, 26-year-old Gemma Garrett, representing the Beauties for Britain party, is planning to stand on a platform of making politics "sexy not sleazy" ... Ms Garrett, who stood in the Crewe and Nantwich by-election last month, rejected claims that she was playing "pantomime politics" and accused Mr Davis of being "trivial" for standing down on the issue of 42-day detention. "Was his decision to step down purely principle or is he a little crazy?" she asked. "We already have a 28-day thing in place anyway, so for the sake of 14 days I thought it was a little bit trivial."

Who's being "trivial"? Mr Davis or Ms Garrett? You decide.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Big Brother.

Mr Smith has read a lot of articles over the last week questioning the decision of former Shadow Home Secretary David Davis to resign as an MP and fight a by-election to expose the dangers of the growth of the surveillance society and Big Brother government in Britain.

If anyone was in any doubt about the correctness of Mr Davis' decision then they should read the article in the Sunday Herald which exposes the increasing use of surveillance powers by local government to spy on allegedly miscreant citizens.

"SCOTTISH COUNCILS ARE USING SURVEILLANCE AND security powers intended to fight terrorism and organised crime in order to spy on ordinary members of the public suspected of petty offences such as breaching the smoking ban, playing music too loudly and dropping litter. Local authority chiefs have ordered staff to spy on unwitting members of the public some 3579 times since being granted the powers in 2002. Under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa), councils have the power to secretly film and bug people, use paid spies to inform on a suspect's activities, and even intercept communications data such as mobile and landline use and information about email traffic."

How can anyone defend this use of investigatory powers. Seems like using a series of sledgehammers to crack some nuts.

More Sour Grapes.

From Drumlanrig again, "New official data on last year's Holyrood election fiasco has once again drawn attention to Cunninghame North, where the SNP's Kenny Gibson beat Labour's Allan Wilson last year by just 48 votes. The new data shows that 309 voters who backed Labour on the second vote spoiled their ballot paper on the constituency ballot, compared with just 207 voters who backed the Nats. Labour sources point out that, had the votes been properly recorded, Wilson would almost certainly have won, and the SNP's one-seat victory over Labour would have been reversed."

Mr Smith wishes Mr Wilson (aka the "Labour source") would give up banging on about this. Why doesn't he go to court if he is so sure of success in overturning the result?

Monday, 16 June 2008

On The Bill.

So, "Organisers of the prestigious Bill Clinton lecture in Aberdeen, which was axed at the weekend, will be holding urgent talks to work out how to pay back thousands of pounds to people who bought tickets. The shock news that the former US president would not be appearing at Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre emerged in an announcement from organisers PB Events that Mr Clinton was pulling out due to “unforeseen circumstances”.

Mr Smith must admit to having been surprised when Old Bill was said to be coming to Aberdeen. "Unforeseen circumstances"? Mr Smith doesn't think so. The bottom line is that he probably wasn't going to make enough cash and that was it. But pity all those poor Aberdonians who might not get their cash back.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Nanny Creep.

The latest ridiculous example of political correctness gone mad in Scotland.

"FOR almost a thousand years, it has been a demonstration of courage and dexterity, the successful completion of which heralded victory in battle. But the Ghillie Callum, or sword dance as it is better known, has now been defeated by red tape, according to dance judges who have cancelled its performance at a Highland games, claiming a licence is now required to "transport a dangerous weapon".Organisers of the Balquhidder and Lochearnhead Highland games have been forced to strike the sword dance off their Highland dance competition after the judges, who in previous years brought their own swords, said this was no longer possible for fear of breaching new legislation designed to control the carrying of knives."

There seems to be some dubiety about the veracity of this story, but the fact that there is any doubt at all shows that the legislation is either badly drafted or more worryingly that Nanny Creep, with the state intervening on so many issues, is leaving people uncertain about what they can actually do anymore.

What next? Banning the deep fried mars bar?

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Heat And Light.

It seems to take a lot to get our Members of the Scottish Parliament hot under the collar, except of course anything to do with their remuneration, pensions or allowances.

"MSPs awarded themselves a £1.4 million increase in allowances for employing staff and running their offices. The cash will be shared out between members – despite a recommendation that constituency MSPs should be better funded than those elected from the regional lists."

Mr Smith seems to recall that one of the first debates in the Scottish Parliament following its re-establishment in 1999 was a debate on the subject of MSPs' allowances which has set the tone for most of what followed in the minds of the public. Perhaps MSPs should be banned from awarding themselves higher salaries or allowances until the public have actually voted that they deserve one because of what they have actually done? For example pass a few good laws, improve the performance of Scotland's public services, increased the country's rate of growth, eliminated some poverty, ... that might focus their minds.

Tim Russert, 1950-2008.

Mr Smith was shocked and saddened when he heard of the untimely death of Meet the Press presenter Tim Russert last night.

"WASHINGTON - Tim Russert, NBC News’ Washington bureau chief and the moderator of “Meet the Press,” died Friday after suffering a heart attack at the bureau. He was 58. Russert was recording voiceovers for Sunday’s “Meet the Press” broadcast when he collapsed. He was rushed to Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, where resuscitation efforts were unsuccessful. Russert’s physician, Michael Newman, said cholesterol plaque ruptured in an artery, causing sudden coronary thrombosis. Russert had earlier been diagnosed with asymptomatic coronary artery disease, but it was well-controlled with medication and exercise, and he had performed well on a stress test in late April, Newman said. An autopsy revealed that he also had an enlarged heart, Newman said. Russert’s death left his colleagues devastated."

Tim Russert was one of those rare modern day journalists who weren't afraid to challenge the "spin" from our politicians and get to some semblance of the truth, and who managed to their retain respect in doing it. Journalists in both the US and UK could learn something from that.

He will be missed.

Friday, 13 June 2008

Right To Vote.

Is it just Mr Smith or is the Scottish Government's apparent new support for sixteen year olds to be given the vote in Scotland very ironic?

"YOU can go to war for your country, legally have sex, get married or be held responsible for a crime. Now the Scottish Government has called for the voting age to be lowered to 16 and demanded the powers from Westminster to implement the change in Scotland. It had previously been suggested that by giving Scotland's 131,000 16- and 17-year-olds the franchise, the SNP would pick up more votes than the other parties, which could swing results in key council and Holyrood seats. But the call by Bruce Crawford, the SNP minister for parliament, at a meeting of the Electoral Reform Society yesterday, was also seen as an attempt to highlight divisions between Westminster and Holyrood ... Mr Crawford said: "It is the responsibility of us all to get young people interested in the democratic process."While 16-year-olds can pay taxes, get married or serve in the armed forces, they effectively have to bite their lip when it comes to decisions that will affect them."

But hang on ... didn't the Scottish Parliament decide yesterday to ban 16 and 17 year olds from being able to use sunbeds? A few months ago didn't the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament vote to outlaw 16 and 17 year olds from being able to buy cigarettes despite the fact they can still legally smoke them? And from 2009 as a result of a change in the law agreed by the Scottish Parliament 16 and 17 year olds will no longer be able to buy alcohol and consume it with a meal as they can now do.

So isn't there a bit of a contradiction in saying that 16 year olds should be able to vote when our current band of politicians lead by the current SNP Government have lead the charge in removing their rights to do many of the things that they could lawfully do previously? Give them the vote if you want, but you can't then treat them like children at the same time.

Well Done Darling.

So, "THE future of Scottish bank-notes has been secured following the personal intervention of Chancellor Alistair Darling ..."

Mr Smith heaves a big sigh of relief. Although the end of the Scottish bank note was always very unlikely.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

He's Free.

So, SNP Government Minister Mike Russell MSP has decided to resign from the Freemasons apparently in case anyone thought he might be up to no good.

"A SENIOR minister has resigned from the Freemasons because he felt that membership of the organisation would leave him open to criticism. Michael Russell, who has responsibility for the environment, has quit the Bute lodge after being admitted four years ago. A spokesperson for first minister Alex Salmond said he had "no idea" if other ministers were Freemasons."

Mr Smith has no issue with anyone being a member of the Masons and that extends to Government Ministers as long as that is declared by public officials to avoid any suggestions of impropriety. Mr Russell shouldn't have felt it necessary to resign, but the most telling thing is that the Scottish Government doesn't appear to know or even want to know which other of its Ministers are Freemasons. It should. As should the public.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Things Can Only Get Better.

Remember that line from 1997 when it heralded the election of a New Labour government and the rebirth of hope for so many, including Mr Smith, but it would appear that for many of those who put their trust in the Labour Government it really didn't.

"The number of children living in poverty has risen for a second year, a government report says. The government called the rise in poverty levels "disappointing" and the increase may threaten its target of halving child poverty by 2010. The number of children living in poverty rose by 100,000 in 2006-2007 to 2.9 million before housing costs. Pensioner poverty increased for the first time since 1998, rising by 300,000 to a total of 2.5 million. The number of children and pensioners in poverty is greater once costs such as rent and mortgages are taken into account."

Between these and the 10p tax rate proposal fiasco, many Labour supporters will be scratching their heads and asking, 'Did things really get any better?' For a while perhaps, but now?

On The Cheap.

"CELEBRITIES were urged to help promote Scotland for free amid claims that many demand "impossible" fees. Business and tourism chiefs called for well-known Scots personalities to get on board for the "greater good" and back attempts to attract the Scots Diaspora back home next year."

If the Scottish Government and its agencies choose to spend millions of pounds of public money on flashy campaigns promoting Scotland as a destination they should expect to have pay the appropriate fees if they want Scotland's stars to feature in them. It's a bit naive to expect them to do anything else. Would Members of the Scottish Parliament be happy to do their jobs for free?

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Great Expense.

From the Herald Diary, "ALAS, it seems all MPs are being tarred with the same brush these days. East Renfrewshire Labour MP and Europe Minister Jim Murphy was seen struggling to pull a laden green wheelie bin to his nearest recycling point in his constituency the other day. "Is that your expenses, Jim?", a voter cheerily called out."

Monday, 9 June 2008

Not Walking The Talk.

At least it keeps a driver in a job.

"ALEX Salmond was criticised by environmental campaigners yesterday for using his ministerial car to travel a couple of hundred yards to dinner, and back again – twice. The First Minister summoned his ministerial car to take him from his official residence of Bute House in Edinburgh's Charlotte Square to two dinner engagements on George Street. But instead of signing his car off for the night, the First Minister kept it on call so he could return the short distance back to his official residence after his meals were over."

The FM ain't walking the talk on this occasion. Tut tut.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Saints And Spinners.

"SCOTLAND'S police spend around £3 million a year on an army of spin doctors, a Sunday Mail probe has discovered. The teams of mostly civilian PR staff cost taxpayers the same as 160 new officers pounding the beat. Scotland's largest force, Strathclyde Police, headed by chief constable Steve House, employ 49 people in corporate communications. The annual £1.4million budget is equivalent to nearly 64 constables."

It makes you wonder why the cops need all of these PR people to get their message across when the public are naturally predisposed to the police view on so many issues. But it puts the previous commitments of the Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police to get more cops back on the beat into some kind of perspective. If the Chief had fewer "communications" officers he could put a lot more officers back on the beat.

Saturday, 7 June 2008


"Blah! It is probably what Scottish Government ministers would like to reply to persistent interrogation from opposition MSPs. And such honesty was on display yesterday, as Jim Mather answered a written parliamentary question from Tory leader Annabel Goldie. She had asked: "How many drug finds were there in each prison in each of the last five years, broken down by type of drug?" The reply she got back from Jim Mather was succinct. "Blah," it said."

The sad but true thing is that this response is about as typically informative as they usually are when they are supplied by Ministers to the Scottish Parliament. Freudian slip? Blah!

Friday, 6 June 2008

One In Seven.

Mr Smith thinks there is something fundamentally wrong with Scotland's justice system.

"ONE in seven crimes dealt with by Scotland's courts last year were committed by people on bail. Government figures revealed that bailed crooks were to blame for 29,000 offences."

It seems that there are so few available places left in Scottish prisons that people who should be locked up to for the protection of the public pending their trial are instead being left to walk the streets. He's not sure what the solution is but leaving accused people, many of whom already have criminal records, free to commit a further 29,000 offences doesn't seem like a good idea to Mr Smith.

Walking The Talk.

So Lord George Foulkes MSP wants to go for a stroll with First Minister Alex Salmond MSP.

"LOTHIANS Labour MSP George Foulkes has challenged First Minister Alex Salmond to go for a walk with him along Princes Street to test public opinion. The move follows an exchange between the two political heavyweights in the Scottish Parliament last week."

Mr Smith isn't sure that Lord Foulkes will go down to well with Hibs supporters let alone Hearts supporters given his role in putting in place the current regime at Gorgie Road. Mr Salmond will probably get an easier ride from the Edinburghers.

He's A Bad Chief Cop.

Trenchant criticism indeed in relation to a Chief Constable, but it seems to Mr Smith that it is not the first time that Chief Latimer has been criticised for his style of policing and yet he still remains in post.

"NORTHERN Constabulary chief constable Ian Latimer has been accused of writing “distorted rubbish alien to the truth” in a letter to a local MSP. The allegation came to light in a report by Jim Martin, the Police Complaints Commissioner for Scotland."

The truth is fundamental to the work of the police, or so you would have thought. Some of the Chief's other press coverage: speeding, inquiry, vehicles.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

A Muddle Not A Fiddle.

"A senior Labour MSP has been given a slap on the wrist after failing to declare hospitality he received from the fast food chain McDonald's. Andy Kerr missed the deadline for placing details of a community football event, sponsored by the company in his register of interests. But Holyrood's Standards Committee agreed the error was an oversight and not intended."

He attended the event last August a few months after he relinquished the role of Health Minister in the Scottish Executive. Would he have attended a McDonald's event in that capacity? And what possible additional knowledge and insight did he gain as an MSP from attending a football event with McDonald's in London? Other than it being a jolly of course ...

Is ignorance of the rules ever an excuse? If it is perhaps our politicians should give others the latitude they seem to want for themselves.

While The Cats Away ...

Mr Smith must ask what has happened to Scottish Labour Leader Wendy Alexander over the last couple of weeks? She seems to have disappeared which is perhaps part of her latest relaunch strategy to try and make everyone forget the issues which have plagued her since she was not elected in the first place. But in Wendy's "absence" it would appear her Labour colleagues are battling about the issue of allowances for those of them representing "constituencies" and those of them representing "regions."

" LABOUR MSPs are engulfed in a civil war over plans to change their allowances so that constituency members receive more than those elected from the party list. MSPs are due to vote on whether to accept the findings of a report by a committee chaired by Sir Alan Langlands which recommended that constituency MSPs should get £62,000 a year for office and staff, but list MSPs just £45,000."

One of the main critics of the change is Lord "three jobs" Foulkes, coincidentally a Labour "regional" MSP, therefore with more to lose than most Labour MSPs, and who it is hard to think of as the "voice of reason" on this or any other issue. But it just reinforces how much the concerns of representatives of the Peoples' Party have changed since they lost power last May with their main concern now apparently being their own allowances and not the best interests of the people themselves.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Going to Jackson's.

From Drumlanrig, "That were SNP MSPs doing in in Jackson's restaurant in Edinburgh last week? Some say it was their delayed celebration knees-up to mark a year in power. But they insist it was a simple dinner to celebrate the best of Scottish produce, with Environment and Rural Secretary Richard Lochhead. What's politics coming to when you even have to spin your tea? The slap-up feed featured haggis, Scotch beef, sea bass, Scottish berries and Orkney fudge ice cream. Surely just a coincidence then that the event was timed just after the first meeting of Holyrood's Cross-Party Group on Obesity? And surely there were no MSPs who attended both events? So much for the fudge ice cream, although it could have been worse – at least the whipped-cream cranachan was off the menu. And the less said about deep fried Mars Bars the better."

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Is It All Over?

Doing a Gretna?

The McMafia.

"LABOUR figures have called on Gordon Brown to purge the "Scots Mafia" around him in an effort to curry favour with voters south of the border. The Prime Minister is being urged to give key jobs to ministers seen as able to reach out to Middle England amid concern that the party will face a landslide general election defeat at the hands of David Cameron's Conservatives."

Mr Smith tends to think that Mr Brown's abysmal performance as PM has very little to do with any McMafia. More to do with the PM himself.

The Truth Hurts.

And from Drumlanrig again, "There's nothing like telling it like it really is. So hats off to Environment Minister Mike Russell, who'd had enough of parliamentary niceties in a debate at Holyrood last week. The normally good-tempered Russell opened his speech with the words: "I find myself in some difficulty, because the opening sentences of my speaking notes say: 'This has been a very valuable and useful debate. I welcome the contributions and views that have been expressed.'" He went on: "I publicly dissociate myself from that opinion. This has not been a 'valuable and useful debate'. It is of some significance that not one member has declared an interest – because there has been no interest in the debate. Outside the chamber, there will be no interest in the debate. By insisting on holding this debate, (Liberal Democrat MSP] Robert Brown has succeeded in wasting everybody's time." Asked to take an intervention by an angry Labour MSP, he said: "No, I will not give way. My intention is just to get through this. I just want to get through it and go home." An honest politician? Wonders will never cease."

This honesty thing could catch on. No ... it won't.

Monday, 2 June 2008


Mr Smith reads that, "AROUND 30 MSPs will have to sell their taxpayer-funded Edinburgh homes if they want to make future expenses claims for staying in the capital. Holyrood bosses have ruled that the abolition of the discredited mortgage interest scheme should be accompanied by MSPs disposing of their Edinburgh properties. The decision means that just less than one-quarter of MSPs will benefit from a near six-figure windfall if they sell their subsidised flats before 2011 - when the new expenses rules kick in."

Mr Smith's heart bleeds. Really ... it does.