Sunday, 30 November 2008

Off Their Trolleys.

"THE FORMER Scottish Secretary Michael Forsyth made a scathing attack yesterday on the Calman Commission's investigation into extra powers for the Scottish Parliament, claiming that those pursuing the notion were “off their heads."

Mr Smith tends to agree, and who better to know when someone is "off their heads" than Lord Forsyth?

Happy St Andrew's Day.

Have a good one.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Laughing Stock.

"ANGUS councillors have been condemned for “damaging the authority’s reputation” and turning the county into the “laughing stock of Scotland” after weeks of tit-for-tat feuding in the press. A very bitter and heated public row has raged in the media in recent weeks after members of the Angus Alliance and the SNP clashed over changes to the council’s standing orders. The alliance insists that the changes were brought in to provide geographical balance to some of the council’s most influential committees. But the SNP, who saw its most senior councillor unceremoniously kicked off the planning committee in the shuffle which followed, has hit back at what it sees as nothing more than politically- motivated mischief-making."

Yet another example of the very fine mess which local government appears to be degenerating into in some parts of Scotland. Mr Smith thinks they should make more effort to get the hang of this partnership thing.

Lost And ... Lost.

It's official. Our Parliamentarians and their staff are indeed "special," if for no reason other than that they need "special payments" at parliamentary expense when they make mistakes, lose parliamentary equipment, or have accidents.

"SCOTTISH Parliament bosses have been left with a bill of more than £800 because of scrapes and scratches to staff cars in the parliament's underground car park. The bill for re-spraying damaged cars was revealed in a new list of "losses and special payments" for the last year. The £7000 list also includes the theft of two BlackBerry devices, a laptop, a PC and a mobile phone. A further nine BlackBerrys, two mobiles, a camera and a laptop were written off as lost or damaged. The list even includes £30 to pay for a parking fine incurred by a member of staff who could not get back to their car in time because of work commitments."

But shouldn't we know which MSPs were the ones who incurred the losses by being so careless?

Friday, 28 November 2008


Mr Smith thinks the fundamental point isn't that there are "weaknesses" in the Scottish economy. It is the fact that an independent Scotland would have access to a fraction of the financial resources available to the UK Government at a time of economic recession and massive public debt. That is why the SNP won't win an independence referendum in 2010.

"A PROMINENT Nationalist has called on Alex Salmond to abandon plans for a referendum in 2010 because of the economic crisis. In the New Statesman, the media commentator and academic Rob Brown, a former media editor at Scotland on Sunday and a member of the SNP, argues that the financial meltdown has exposed weaknesses in the Scottish economy and prevailing attitudes among the Scottish population."

Slat Spat.

Mr Smith is amazed at just how much day to day routine maintenance the new Holyrood building is requiring so shortly after its opening. It might be costing very much individually, but it is all adding up, with the Scottish taxpayer picking up the tab.

"SCOTTISH Parliament bosses are spending £20,000 to remove and treat dozens of wooden slats from the outside of the Holyrood building. Officials said after four years exposed to the elements, the laminated oak "louvres" needed a fresh coat of resin to help prolong their life.A cherry-picker was hired to take down the slats from the glass corridor which MSPs use to get to the debating chamber."

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Happy Thanksgiving.

And a little known about White House tradition that has been going on for the last sixty one years.

"This year marks the 61st anniversary of the National Thanksgiving Turkey presentation. Though live Thanksgiving turkeys have been presented intermittently to presidents since the Lincoln administration, the current ceremony dates to 1947, when the first National Thanksgiving Turkey was presented to President Harry Truman ... The 2008 National Thanksgiving Turkey and its alternate are from Ellsworth, Iowa and were raised under the direction of National Turkey Federation Chairman Paul Hill. The 20-week old turkey, weighed about 45 pounds, when he was driven to Washington. The National Thanksgiving Turkey was raised using normal feeding and other production techniques. The one exception is they were provided increased interaction with people so that they would be prepared for their role at the White House Ceremony. After the presentation, the turkey will be flown first class to Disneyland Resort in Southern California, where he will be the grand marshal of "Disney's Thanksgiving Day Parade." After the parade, guests will be able to visit the turkey in Frontierland section."

Well done to Pumpkin and Pecan ... the main turkey and his "alternate."

They Are Family.

"MORE than two dozen MSPs have turned politics into a family business by putting relatives on the Holyrood payroll. Figures released yesterday show 26 MSPs - 11 SNP, 11 Labour, two Tories and two Liberal Democrats - employ family members."

At least we have the information. But, as Mr Smith has highlighted before, shouldn't we also know how many family members of MSPs are also employed, not by themselves, but by their fellow MSPs?

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Bad Cops?

Justice will decide.

"TWO top cops who were at the centre of a miscarriage of justice case have been charged. Former Chief Superintendent Richard Munro and Detective Inspector Kenneth Chatham are accused of attempting to pervert the course of justice. If found guilty, it will be the first time British officers have been convicted in connection with a miscarriage of justice. Munro and Chatham were investigating officers in the murder of Andrew Forsyth in Dunfermline in November 1995."

Get Well Soon.

Mr Smith thinks that the First Minister must have been suffering from a very bad chest infection to be out of circulation for nearly a week. Our Eck has been looking very peaky lately. He should be taking more holidays.

"ALEX Salmond's aides have insisted the First Minister will be back on his feet today after a six-day illness. They said Mr Salmond had a chest infection and denied he was suffering burn-out after 18 months of government in which he had set a hectic schedule."

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Spend And Tax.

Is it just Mr Smith, or does yesterday's Pre-Budget Report delivered by UK Chancellor Alistair Darling MP turn on its head the prevailing political and economic orthodoxies which have been operated in Britain for probably the last sixty years?

Does it really make sense to turn Britain into an trillion pound indebted nation that won't be able to balance it books until 2015/16 even on the basis of the UK Government's rather dodgy budget numbers in an attempt to lessen the impact of economic recession that will probably hit us all hard anyway.

Mr Smith is not convinced, and tends to the view that dodgy borrowing by banks and individuals is exactly what got the British and other global economies into this mess in the first place. If in the new world in which we live, individuals and households are expected to balance their books and not live beyond their means, can it really be right for the British Government to do otherwise?

Bombshell Shocked.

Stuck On Red.

"A £250,000 traffic light system to control entry to the Scottish Parliament's underground car park has broken down less than six months after it was installed. MSPs driving up to the car park entrance have found the lights stuck on red, leaving security guards to wave them through after checking there are no vehicles coming in the opposite direction."

Sounds dangerous to Mr Smith. But what kind of traffic light system can you buy for a quarter of a million pounds?

Monday, 24 November 2008

Mr Green.

"GREEN MSP Patrick Harvie will lead the Scottish Green Party next year, with former MSP Eleanor Scott as his co-leader. Mr Harvie, one of only two of the party's MSPs returned last year, succeeds Robin Harper; Ms Scott succeeds Councillor Alison Johnstone. Mr Harper and Ms Johnstone stood down earlier this year."

Mr Smith thinks Mr Harvie is in for a rough time as the attention of the voters is more on their own economic well being and perhaps less so on the environmental concerns that they might have had some time for in the past.

And what is the point in having Co-Leaders when in reality the public face of the Greens will be Mr Harvie by virtue of him being one of their only two MSPs?

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Bully For Her?

Mr Smith has commented previously on the trials and tribulations surrounding Labour MP Anne Moffat. But it looks as though the previously reported machinations are being dwarfed by her pronouncements about Scottish Labour Leader Iain Gray MSP in the wake of the suspension of the East Lothian Constituency Labour Party.

"THE CIVIL war inside Iain Gray's local party exploded last night when the area's MP accused the Scottish leader of "making friends" with "bullies" who were trying to throw her out of the seat. Anne Moffat, the East Lothian MP since 2001, aimed several digs at Gray for not backing her in a feud with local activists who had tried in vain to deselect her last year. Moffat said Gray was close to a group of people she described as "bullies", "cowards" and "nasty people".

Mr Smith is willing to bet there are members of Anne Moffat's local party who would use exactly the same words ... about her.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Very Alternative.

"MORE than £146,000 of taxpayers' cash has been spent on alternative therapies, massage, sports and health activities for Scottish Parliament staff."

It must be nice to work in the Scottish Parliament. Very relaxing.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Every Cloud ...

... Has a silver lining, especially if you are failed Republican Vice Presidential candidate Governor Sarah Palin.

Wouldn't it be nice to be in line to make millions of dollars from a book deal about a campaign that you actually lost? Seven million dollars would be a good starting point for her run at the Presidency in 2012. Mr Smith says don't buy the book, it could cause untold damage to the United States of America and only just encourage Governor Palin.

"She failed to save John McCain from presidential election doom, but Sarah Palin, the Republican senator’s controversial running mate, may yet emerge as the saviour of the American publishing industry. Literary agents are queueing up to sign her to a book deal that could earn her up to $7m."

Missing Inaction.

It seems to Mr Smith that Jack McConnell really doesn't have any excuses left for not resigning as a Member of the Scottish Parliament. He is clearly not doing the job, and the voters of Lanarkshire deserve an MSP who will actually represent their interests in the Scottish Parliament by being there and saying and doing something at least very occasionally.

The reality however is that Labour will still not to risk another by-election in the murky political waters of Lanarkshire and so he will be allowed to be a part-time MSP.

"Jack McConnell is under growing pressure to resign as an MSP after it was disclosed that he has one of the poorest records for voting and asking questions at Holyrood. The former first minister, who is paid £55,381 a year and receives a £38,454 a year pension, has failed to ask a single oral question in the Scottish parliament and has submitted about one written question per fortnight since Labour lost power in May last year. Other former Labour ministers have asked nearly 20 times as many over the same period. McConnell sits on no parliamentary committees and has missed up to seven times as many votes as his former Labour ministerial colleagues."

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Trials And Tribunals.

Well it looks as though the details of the mystery from a few months ago about the SNP MSP who abused their member of staff in the wake of the Glasgow East by-election is now out of the bag in the mainstream press.

"THE SNP are facing the embarrassment of the first employment tribunal to feature a member of the Scottish Parliament. Bob Doris, Nationalist list MSP for Glasgow and an aide to the education secretary, is due to face a tribunal as a result of a dispute with Craig Munro, his parliamentary assistant. Munro has been suspended on full pay since June 6, when he and Doris had a heated argument at the SNP's Glasgow headquarters. Munro had been off work suffering from stress at the time, and had gone to meet Doris to try to resolve the issue. However, the encounter deteriorated briefly into a scuffle and the police were informed."

Mr Smith seems to think this isn't the first time that SNP MSPs have had problems with their staff which have nearly ended up at industrial tribunals. What's the betting it never gets to the Tribunal?

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Stone Me.

One of the most unoriginal news releases which Mr Smith has ever seen issued by the Scottish Government's press team, but then again they are setting really low standards these days.

"Leaving no stone unturned ... Lockerbie Ice Rink was officially opened today and funding for the development of curling was announced. Sports Minister Stewart Maxwell and sportscotland Chief Executive Stewart Harris opened the upgraded Lockerbie Ice Rink, which received sportscotland funding and to announce the sportscotland annual investment in the governing body for curling, the Royal Caledonian Curling Club (RCCC)."

Wind-Up Merchant.

Mr Smith is disappointed that Scotland's "new voice" in the House of Commons decided to play truant so early after being sworn in, but Mr Smith thinks that using him to "wind-up" the SNP was probably merited given Labour's achievement in winning the Glenrothes by-election. Humble pie Alex?

"LINDSAY ROY, the headteacher who won the Glenrothes by- election for Labour, has been accused of playing truant on his first full day as an MP. Roy, who was sworn in at the Commons on Wednesday, chose to miss the following day and appear at a photo call at the Scottish parliament instead. One Labour MSP admitted his presence at Holyrood was deliberately used to "wind up" Alex Salmond and other Nationalist MSPs still smarting from defeat in Glenrothes. Iain Gray, Labour's Scottish leader, drew attention to Roy in the public gallery during First Minister's Questions."

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

On Expenses.

Mr Smith seems to recall that we have had similar cases before of MSPs not using homes they already own in Edinburgh and instead claiming accommodation costs on Holyrood's allowances. Surely this isn't the way the Holyrood expenses system was supposed to work by compensating MSPs for expenditure they didn't have to incur in the first place?

"A WEALTHY Tory MSP has denied rearranging his half-a-million pound property portfolio in a bid to cash in on the Holyrood expenses system. John Lamont has made a plea to parliament for overnight expenses in Edinburgh despite owning a flat in the capital. He cannot claim for staying in his £177,000 Edinburgh pad because he bought it before he was elected last year. "

Yes, Police.

"A POLICE agency set up to save public money has spent more than £2million on consultants in less than two years. A Sunday Mail investigation shows the Scottish Police Services Authority (SPSA) spent £924,437 in its first year on private firms to advise on training, management, computers, advertising and public relations. The cost of consultants over the next six months was £809,848 - double the rate of spending in the first year. A further £273,798 was spent by the Scottish Government in the three months before the SPSA was formed, bringing the total to more than £2million. The same amount would pay for 75 new police officers."

A pretty clear example of the reality not living up to the aspiration. Wouldn't you rather have an extra 75 bobbies on the beat? There seems to be a very definite lack of oversight of what the agency is up to. Does that make them bad cops?

Monday, 17 November 2008

First Class.

Mr Smith wasn't surprised that some of our MSPs would use their parliamentary allowances to travel first class, but he is surprised by the names of some of the class warriors who seem to have adopted the habit.

Bill "Campaign for Socialism" Butler never struck Mr Smith has someone who would opt for the non-proletarian comforts of Scotrail's first class. Never mind. Come the revolution comrades we will all be travelling first class.

"THE Scottish Parliament may have been established to bring politicians closer to the people, but a minority of its representatives would rather avoid the great unwashed when it comes to travelling by train. A Scotland on Sunday survey has revealed that more than 10% of our MSPs regularly travel first class as they commute from their constituencies to Holyrood. Frequent first-class travellers from Glasgow to Edinburgh include Labour MSPs Wendy Alexander, the former leader; Bill Butler; Patricia Ferguson; Trish Godman, Charlie Gordon; Ken McIntosh; Frank McAveety, Pauline McNeill; and Irene Oldfather."

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Devolution v2.0.

Get it?

"THE SCOTTISH parliament should have fewer powers rather than more, according to a former Scotland Office minister. In comments which will infuriate the SNP, David Cairns says that instead of trying to add to its powers by importing them from Westminster, Holyrood should be giving away more of its own responsibilities to councils, health boards and housing associations. He says this next phase of devolution, which he terms "Devolution v2.0", should be as "bold and radical" as the creation of the parliament in 1999."

Proof, if it was needed, that there are still tensions between Labour MPs and their devolved colleagues in the Scottish Parliament over the future course of devolution.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Made In Scotland?

Or not as the case is.

"THE Scottish Government has paid £23,000 to a company in the Far East to produce Saltire flags for the forthcoming St Andrews Day celebrations. Despite an economic downturn that is forcing many small Scottish companies to cut costs, the SNP administration has sanctioned the purchase of flags from Asia."

Friday, 14 November 2008


Courtesy of The Herald Diary, "As the Scottish Government invites Barack Obama to visit Scotland because of Scottish connections in his family tree, we read that new Vice-President-elect Joe Biden has the secret service codename Celtic. Alas, this is not because of any allegiance to Parkhead and the Hoops, but because of an Irish ancestry."

Thursday, 13 November 2008

On The Hoof.

Another example of how some of our new Councillors are struggling to meet the rigours of elected office.

It is bad enough when an elected Councillor departs from a submission to the Scottish Parliament when giving evidence to ... er ... the Scottish Parliament, but then to not know who submitted the Council's views in the first place and then admit it wasn't approved by Councillors anyway. Is it any wonder that Aberdeen City Council is in such a financial mess?

"An Aberdeen City councillor was accused of “making policy on the hoof” and letting the authority down when she appeared before an influential Holyrood committee yesterday. MSPs were mystified when evidence from Aberdeen education spokeswoman Kirsty West contradicted the authority’s written submission. Miss West, one of Scotland’s youngest councillors, appeared before the education, lifelong learning and culture committee to give evidence on the authority’s position on the introduction of free school meals for primary 1-3 children. The council’s written submission stated that based on the evaluation of the pilot scheme of the free school meals trial in five areas, it remained “unconvinced” that free lunches “adds public value or improves the outcomes for children”. But Miss West told the committee that the council would implement the concordat agreement between the Scottish Government and local authorities for free school meals from 2010 ... On several occasions she had to “clarify” what was in the submission before admitting it was written by council officials and not approved by elected members ... Committee convener Labour MSP Karen Whitefield said in her nine years as an MSP she had never known a witness to contradict a supporting written submission."

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

In God She Trusts.

"REJECTED Republican Sarah Palin says she could run for US president in 2012 - if God "opens the door". The 44-year-old fundamentalist Christian spoke out in her first TV interview since Barack Obama won the 2008 race to the White House. Mum-of-five Palin talked as she prepared moose chilli in her kitchen in Wasilla, Alaska, She slammed "internet bloggers in pyjamas in their parents' basements" for spreading "lies" about her and rubbished claims she and her family spent $150,000 on clothes during the campaign. The Alaska governor also told how "cool" Obama rang her after she was named as his rival John McCain's vice presidential running mate and told her: "Good luck but not that much luck."

Mr Smith has never been referred to as an "internet blogger in pyjamas" before.

Oval Shaped.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008


On a theme of bad cops, but tragically so.

The whole incident gives an awful insight into modern policing methods and levels of police competence.

"UNDER-FIRE police yesterday confirmed the body found in missing Alan Goulden's garden was his. They spent 10 weeks hunting for policeman's dad Alan while his body lay in a hedge just 10 feet from his front door. Yesterday, the Lothian and Borders force officially identified him and said a postmortem examination had ruled out crime. They have called in Strathclyde Police to investigate the bungled search."

Monday, 10 November 2008

Home Grown.

Not a bad cop, but a cop who should should have known better. But almost Keystone nonetheless.

"DRUG squad police busted a £1million-a-year cannabis factory - then found the landlord was a fellow cop. The drug farm was found in the picturesque Highland house owned by Constable Neil Bremnar. He works 90 miles away in Gairloch - on a Wester Ross beat like TV's dope-smoking cop Hamish Macbeth. Bremnar told bosses he had rented his house out to Chinese tenants. The stone cottage in Dornoch, Sutherland, was targeted during a wave of raids on gangs who turn family homes into cannabis farms."

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Mr Tambourine Man.

"THE SNP recriminations over the Glenrothes by-election intensified last night when one of the country's most influential Nationalists cautioned against the party continuing to govern as a "one-man band". Jim Sillars, the former SNP MP, claimed too much power had fallen to Alex Salmond, adding that the party leader did not like having people around who might disagree with him."

Mr Smith doesn't think it is that bad ... yet, although Oor Eck was getting a bit too smug for his own boots.

And you do have to take whatever Jim "I've been in more parties than you've had hot dinners" Sillars says with a pinch of salt.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Yes We Can ...

Er ... no you can't.

What a difference forty eight hours makes. It's no wonder it is being described as Salmond's "Kinnock" moment.

Chieftan O' The Puddin'-Race.

Mr Smith couldn't agree more.

"Jim’s a winner in Scotland’s pudding race ... The United States has a new President, Glenrothes has a new MP, the world economy is in meltdown and Aberdeenshire is getting a new golf course - but these events are surely overshadowed by Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy's campaign to secure "protected status" for black pudding ... Mr Murphy, who spent his early years in Glasgow's Arden housing scheme before his family moved to South Africa, is now a vegetarian. The Scottish Secretary is an unlikely Mel Gibson but perhaps the Labour Braveheart's slogan for the next election will be: "They can take away our liberty, but they can't take away our black puddings." It's good to see that while momentous affairs are taking place on the world stage, Scottish politicians know what really matters."

Get back to the big issues Jim. Stop chasing the meaningless headlines.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Against All Odds.

Mr Smith thinks it has been one of those weeks for major political upsets and the rewriting of political history both foreign and domestic.

First we had Barack Obama being elected the first black President in the United States, and only the third Democratic President in the last ten American Presidential elections ... and then we had Lindsay Roy holding onto the Glenrothes seat for Labour in yesterday's by-election.

It is difficult to decide which is the bigger achievement, given that most political commentators thought that an SNP victory in Glenrothes was certain with only the size of the majority being in doubt. The eventual outcome of a seven thousand vote majority for Labour is a a clear sign of one thing however, and that is that with a possible Scottish Government independence referendum as little two years away that the SNP's case for independence has taken a major political dent in light of the UK Government's hundreds of billions of pounds' solution to the current economic and banking crises. A solution that would never have been open to an autonomous Scottish government.

The Glenrothes by-election result wasn't so much the end of the SNP's political "honeymoon" in Scotland. It was probably also the end of the SNP's independence dream at least for a generation.

Very Grigor-ious.

"THE SCOTTISH Conservatives' spokesman on affordable housing is charging taxpayers almost £1000 a month to live in a luxury second home in Edinburgh. Sir Jamie McGrigor is claiming more in rent than any other MSP under Holyrood's controversial Edinburgh Accommodation Allowance (EAA)."


Thursday, 6 November 2008

Miss Mitty.

From the sublime election of Barack Obama as US President ... to the ridiculoussness of one of Scotland's political representatives who has already been in bother.

"A CONTROVERSIAL councillor has been banned from a hospital after she was allegedly caught reading secret files. Ellen Glass, an independent on West Lothian Council, has also been asked by NHS bosses to hand over notes she was accused of taking during last month's bizarre ward visit. She pretended to be a hospital manager and then an MP, according to the senior nurse who challenged her at St John's Hospital, Livingston."

You really couldn't make this up.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Today ... The World Is America.

It's been a hard fought and often bitter campaign and still the result is uncertain as the voters of America start to go to the polls to elect the 44th President of the United States of America.

Barack Obama looks like the favourite to win, although Mr Smith is concerned that the levels of expectation around his candidacy have been raised so high that if he is elected he will find it almost impossible to meet the aspirations of American voters.

But whatever the possible failures of a Barack Obama Presidency over the next four years, an Obama victory would send a message to world that in the land of the free it is possible for a black man from humble origins to be elected President. That symbolism will mean more than most policy outcomes and will mean that the US will have the chance to become once again the home of the brave and the leader of the free world.

The World is holding it's breath.

Monday, 3 November 2008

A Life Less Ordinary.

Courtesy of Drumnlanrig, "Gordon Brown has made a habit of appearing before tough, impartial audiences while campaigning in Glenrothes. During his first appearance in an industrial estate he bravely met six handpicked Labour supporters. On his second visit, at the Bowhill War Memorial Hall, he addressed what one hack described as "ordinary, undecided voters like Helen Eadie". Ms Eadie, is, of course, the Dunfermline East Labour MSP. There she was sitting beside the Labour MSPs Claire Baker, Marilyn Livingstone and John Park."

Worse than that. Mrs Eadie can't even vote in the by-election, given that she lives in Dunfermline East. Which member of the fourth estate was it?

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Who's A Naughty Boy Then?

"SCOTTISH SECRETARY Jim Murphy was last night under pressure to resign after he leaked sensitive financial information about a fresh bid for the troubled bank HBOS. Murphy confirmed to journalists on Friday evening that he had been involved in discussions with Jim Spowart, the Fife financier, about an alternative to a proposed takeover by Lloyds TSB. Spowart, who had wanted the discussions to be secret, is furious Murphy confirmed the pair had been talking before a bid had crystallised. Earlier on Friday, Lord Mandelson, the business secretary, gave his approval for the deal with Lloyds in spite of warnings from the Office of Fair Trading that the merged superbank would stifle competition for high street and business banking. Opposition parties accused Murphy of confirming the alternative bid in order to nip it in the bud and allow the government to press ahead with its preferred takeover by Lloyds."

It is critical that public officials observe confidences as part of their government duties. But Mr Murphy won't resign. And surely the bigger issue anyway is that if there are backers for an alternative to the takeover of HBOS by Lloyds TSB then they should get on with it and table the proposal. Talk is cheap when so many Scottish jobs are at stake.