Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Goodbye 2008.

Mr Smith has decided to have a blogging break and is heading for the Keys. He will return, hopefully with his batteries recharged, although probably not as run down, on 2nd January 2009. Have a good one.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Duff By Name.

Courtesy of the Herald Diary, "PRIME Minister Gordon Brown's Christmas tree at 10 Downing Street has been supplied by Buchlyvie farmer Euan Duff. That is not an excuse, however, for visitors to No 10 to ask about his "Duff Christmas tree".

Not just the Christmas tree thinks Mr Smith, given some of the UK Government's questionable decisions.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Less Is More.

Another example of political rhetoric not matching up with political reality.

"THE NUMBER of quangos has decreased since the SNP took power but the number of people employed in them has gone up. Public sector employment figures published yesterday showed that in the third quarter of this year, 37,300 worked for quangos, a 1.2% increase on the same quarter last year."


Courtesy of the Herald Diary, "SCOTS actor Craig Ferguson now a TV presenter in America, has told his audience that the conspiracy theories have begun over the shoes thrown at President Bush. Says Craig: "Oliver Stone is already making a movie about the shoe-throwing incident. He thinks there was a second shoe-thrower, because that journalist threw two shoes in four seconds. That's impossible." He added: "The bright side to all of this is the Iraqi economy must be going well if a guy can afford to throw a perfectly good pair of shoes. Journalists over here can't even afford a pair of flip-flops."

Sunday, 21 December 2008


Good to see that the powers that be seem to be listening to Mr Smith's commentary on current justice policy.

"SCOTLAND'S most senior law officer has called for heavier sentences to be available to judges in murder cases, with the country's worst killers facing terms of "life to mean life". In a controversial intervention, the Lord Advocate, Elish Angiolini, QC, told the Court of Criminal Appeal yesterday that she believed the current options available to the judiciary were inadequate to deal with the most serious murder cases. And she called for a further review of sentencing in murder cases, as she argued that two killers had been treated too leniently."

But Mr Smith hates to have to make the obvious point. Namely that Ms. Angiolini has been Lord Advocate since October 2006 and before that was Solicitor General from 2001, as well as having held senior roles in the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service. Presumably she could have done something about this issue before, rather than calling for action now?

Four Jobs.

Good to see that Former Home Secretary the Rt Hon John Reid MP is determined to keep busy when he stands down as an MP ... and indeed before then.

"Former Home Secretary John Reid is to take on two new roles and become a university professor. The MP for Airdrie and Shotts, 61, has been the driving force behind the new Institute of Security and Resilience Studies at University College London, and has been made an honorary professor. Last night he said that globalisation meant that the challenges to security were ever-changing and that his aim would be to bring together practitioners with academics. Mr Reid, chairman of Celtic FC, will wear a fourth hat - having been appointed a consultant to G4S, Group 4 Securicor."

Saturday, 20 December 2008

For Queen and Country.

Courtesy of Drumlanrig, "Jim Murphy's announcement that the Government is to press ahead with the repeal of the Act of Settlement has sparked speculation that the reform could inadvertently lead to the creation of the best job in the civil service. Repealing it means having to change the statutes in 16 Commonwealth countries across the world which continue to recognise the Queen as their monarch – including the Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica and Australia. Someone, it is noted, will have to travel there to set the whole thing up. "You could do Sydney in January, then get to the Caribbean for the spring. That's a joke," added one official."

Tucking Hell.

"TRAFFIC cops are running tuck shops to buy sat-navs because of cash shortages. Police have also been holding whip-rounds to save up for the gadgets, which they claim are vital for their jobs. Money-making schemes were set up after Strathclyde Police bosses decided not to but the satellite navigation units because of the £200 cost."

Should we really be letting the boys and girls in blue use fundraising to get the money for essential items of kit?

Friday, 19 December 2008

Sweet Charity.

And perhaps the Scottish Charity Regulator should be reminded what "charity" actually means ... and begins at home?

"THE WATCHDOG responsible for ensuring charities do not rip off the public used nearly £13,000 of taxpayers' money on quad biking and archery lessons for staff. The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) also billed the public for going on a "mini treasure hunt" ... The global recession has forced private companies to go bust and public sector organisations to make efficiency savings. However, the hard financial times have not prevented OSCR, which had a budget last year of £3.6 million, from finding £12,930 for a "team building" exercise in Methven, Fife."

Loose Lips.

It's nothing more than "propaganda on the rates" which costs massive sums of money and has very little public benefit. What a waste of cash and it can only further erode the principle of journalistic independence.

"A CONTROVERSIAL marketing scheme in which the Scottish government pays newspapers and radio stations to produce content on social topics may be extended to a range of other quangos and public bodies. Roger Williams, the Scottish government's head of marketing, said the scheme - which has previously only involved government health and safety campaigns - could be extended to a range of other public bodies such as national tourism agency VisitScotland, development quango Scottish Enterprise and all health boards north of the Border. Many newspaper and radio executives view the scheme as an essential way to generate advertising revenue in an increasingly tough market. As market share continues to drift online, advertisers are in a position to demand more from traditional media forms, such as radio and print."

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Fast And Loose.

Mr Smith thinks the SNP have made a tactical mistake on this issue. He doesn't even believe those people who received higher pensions than they should have done would have expected to keep getting them going forward once the error was detected. This appears to be another one of those examples of where the SNP Scottish Government are playing fast and loose with public finances in the name of creating unnecessary divisions and tensions with Westminster.

"The Scottish Government was last night accused by Labour of being "utterly irresponsible" with taxpayers' money after deciding to continue overpaying pension payouts to thousands of retired Scottish public sector workers."

One In Ten.

A story which should be of massive concern to all of Scotland's politicians and something that is worthy of further investigation as a matter of urgency.

"NEARLY one in 10 Scots are on anti-depressants, the NHS revealed yesterday. The country's annual bill for the drugs was more than £40million last year, despite a fall in costs. The number of anti-depressants prescribed has more than tripled in the last 15 years, prompting claims Scotland is becoming a "Prozac nation". NHS Scotland statistics revealed prescriptions had grown from 1.16 million items to 3.83million between 1992/93 and 2007/08."

Scotland these days is not so much Brigadoon as Brigadoom. And it will probably only get worse the further we get into the economic recession.

Big Tommy.

We'll see. He's more used to being in the "big hoose."

"TOMMY Sheridan, the former MSP, is being tipped to feature in the next series of Celebrity Big Brother."

Charity Folks.

Holyrood's bosses obviously haven't heard the expression, "It's for charity folks." But maybe Our Jack should just dig not so deep into his bank accounts, or even make a donation from his substantial pension which he receives as a former First Minister?

"IT would never have happened when he was First Minister. But Jack McConnell has fallen foul of the Scottish Parliament's "petty-minded bureaucrats" after being refused permission by Holyrood bosses to sell a charity calendar."

Wednesday, 17 December 2008


"ANNE MOFFAT, the beleaguered Labour MP for East Lothian, has been accused of trying to save her career by using public money. On the eve of a party investigation into a bitter civil war within her constituency, Moffat drew on a £10,000-a-year Westminster allowance to send thousands of leaflets to voters listing her political achievements. Described as her "Annual Parliamentary Report", the glossy eight-page mailshot featured 29 photographs of the MP, including one of her meeting the Queen."

Mr Smith thinks that Ms Moffat just keeps on digging herself into an even bigger hole.

Bad Cop.

And another one?

"A POLICEMAN has been suspended after he was accused of lying in court. PC Jeff McDermid denied threatening to beat up John Harper after trying to nail him for vandalising a car. But now McDermid faces his own trial after the vandal's story was backed up by the man whose car he trashed."

Tuesday, 16 December 2008


Mr Smith doesn't think he has ever seen a President of the United States move so fast ... very deft.

But how could the Secret Service let someone chuck two shoes at the President? One maybe ... but two?

Monday, 15 December 2008


Is it just Mr Smith or is there something rather distasteful about a Councillor being elected to represent one party, but then deciding to "defect" to another? Surely, they should give the voters the option of re-electing them wearing a different party hat rather than denying them their right to effective representation.

How many Glasgow voters would have voted SNP to elect Councillor Deans, only for him to switch to a unionist party? Mr Smith thinks not very many.

"AN SNP councillor has defected to the ruling Labour group on Glasgow City Council amid claims of bullying. Colin Deans was last year elected as one of the three councillors to represent the Newlands/Aulburn ward. But last night he switched to the Labour group following closed door talks with council leader Steven Purcell."

Help Yourself.

Only in the magical world of the Scottish Legal Aid system could you have a fall in the number of cases handled ... which then results in an increase in the amount of public money spent. But good to see that former Labour MSP Gordon Jackson is doing so well for himself since he left the Scottish Parliament.

"Scotland's legal aid bill has risen to a record high while the number of cases has dropped, a new report revealed yesterday. The Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) said that taxpayers had paid £155m in the last year for representation, an annual increase of 3%, even though it assisted in 12% fewer cases than the 2006-07 period. The 20 highest-paid advocates saw their fees jump by 26%, with an average income of £229,345, including VAT, from state-funded legal aid alone ... Also at the top of the income table were Tony Graham, in second place with £316,500, and Gordon Jackson QC, a former Labour MSP who lost his Govan seat to Nicola Sturgeon at the last election."


Some of our politicians are fond of saying that a "life" prison sentence should mean just that. In Scotland, official figures suggest we have a very long way to go. Another example of the reality beating the rhetoric? Life may not need to mean life, but it ought to mean more than seven years.

"MOST Scottish prisoners on life sentences leave custody having served less than 12 years - with some being in jail for as little as seven, official figures revealed yesterday."

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Public Office.

It would appear that Barack Obama's election as the next President of the United States is having consequences for American politics well beyond those that were expected. Only in Chicago ... but at least Perseident Elect Obama has managed to stay out of the windy city's latest political scandal ... so far.

"US prosecutors have charged Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich with trying to sell the Senate seat left vacant by President-elect Barack Obama. Mr Blagojevich, as governor, has sole authority to select a successor to Mr Obama as junior Illinois senator. FBI investigators said telephone intercepts showed he was trying to sell or trade the seat for personal benefit."

Bad Cop.

He's a bad cop, and he should have known better.

"A POLICE officer who shouted bigoted abuse and chanted sectarian songs at a Rangers game is facing the sack. On-duty officers warned PC Gregg Loudon to stop but he carried on singing and was arrested. Loudon, 30, was suspended without pay by Fife Police after his shameful behaviour at a Rangers' Champions League clash with Villareal. He is almost certain to be kicked out of the force after being found guilty of religiously aggravated breach of the peace and fined £400 at Glasgow Sheriff Court."

Saturday, 13 December 2008


A scandalous waste of public cash, and not very enterprising.

"THREE bosses at an enterprise quango have been paid off with £336,500 of public cash. Highlands and Islands Enterprise forked out the massive redundancy packages in a bid to slash costs. The total cost of axing the three directors and 56 other workers from Inverness-based HIE was £4.4million."

It's great when you can make loads of public money out of being sacked.

Dodgy Provost.

She's a dodgy Provost no less.

"A LADY Provost was caught using her phone as she drove into the town hall car park. Conservative councillor Stephanie Young was nattering to her daughter on the phone when police pulled her over at East Ayrshire Council's HQ in Kilmarnock. She was fined £60 and had three points put on her licence."

99 Years.

Mr Smith thinks that people have a right to be protected from racially aggravated anti-social behaviour and physical assaults, but is there really any point in hitting a 49-year old alcoholic with an ASBO that last 99 years? And then we wonder why the police and legal authorities are bringing the law and its operation into such disrepute?

"A HOMELESS man in Glasgow has been hit with a 99-year super-Asbo in a bid to tackle racist repeat offenders. In the longest Asbo ever imposed, Michael Gilligan was served with the criminal antisocial behaviour order after a series of racially aggravated assaults against security staff at a Gorbals supermarket."

Friday, 12 December 2008

Closet Nationalists?

Mr Smith sees that Labour MSP and peer George Foulkes is at it again.

"LORD Foulkes, the Labour peer, has accused BBC Scotland of being “institutionally nationalist” and claimed it gives the SNP an easier ride than other political parties."

Mr Smith has some sympathy with Lord Foulkes' comments. However, he also thinks the picture is far more complex. Governments of all political persuasions tend to get an easier ride from the journalistic establishment because of their powers of patronage in all its forms, including the last Labour/Liberal Democrat one. But, it also doesn't help when opposition parties get themselves stuck up political cul de sacs, especially where they involve dodgy donations and Wendy Alexander MSP.

Unintended Consequences.

There is a law of it and it would appear that Lothian and Borders Police have fallen foul of it. They send messages to mobile phones to discourage drink-driving ... and end up encouraging drivers to use their mobile phones whilst driving. They're not so clever cops.

"POLICE have been criticised over a campaign that involves sending anti-drink drive text messages to drivers. Lothian and Borders Police is the first force in Scotland to use Bluetooth technology to target city centre revellers with mobile phone messages, but the indiscriminate nature of the "broadcast" means they will reach anyone whose phone is enabled within a 30-metre radius - including drivers."

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Flash. Ahhhh ....hhhhh.

Home Sweet Home.

Mr Smith seems to recall the SNP moved out of their last Edinburgh city centre HQ because of budget issues. They obviously have loads more cash now that they are in government, and can afford to move back to a more central location.

"THE SNP is to move into new headquarters early next year, it has been announced. The party will leave its current base at McDonald Road in the Capital, its home for the past eight years, for new headquarters much nearer the Scottish Parliament, in the city's Holyrood area. Its new base will be at Gordon Lamb House on Jackson's Close."

The Promise.

For those of you who missed it ... interesting edited version of Barack Obama's Foreword to his new book 'Change We Can Believe In: Barack Obama's Plan To Renew America's Promise,' as published in The Herald ... it's worth a read. The book itself is published today by Canongate Books. One for Christmas?

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Catch A Falling Tzar.

Mr Smith thinks that Scotland's Commissioners are going to be on the receiving end of decisions by their political masters who have had too much trouble caused to them by the Tzars "independent" status. The good times may be over for the Tzars and Tzarinas ... and did you know that Holyrood had a "Housekeeping Committee"? What do the MSPs do? Take a turn at Holyrood's dusting?

"The system of public service czars is set to be scaled back after MSPs yesterday agreed to reconsider the whole future of parliamentary commissioners. Six commissioners, each with their own headquarters and support structures, should be crunched into three new bodies, with commissioners sharing back-offices, according to the new plan. This was put forward by Tom McCabe, convener of Holyrood's Housekeeping Committee, and was then backed by his successor as Finance Secretary, John Swinney."

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

It's Christmas.

Mr Smith thinks Christmas begins with the delivery of that first Christmas card of the season, but have you gotten one from the First Minister Alex Salmond MSP yet? The design is a bit too contemporary for Mr Smith. He's a bit more of a traditionalist.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Corporal Punishment.

Revealing insight into Prime Minister Gordon Brown's upbringing.

"GORDON BROWN'S headmaster gave him the belt for wanting to watch Scotland play on telly. Kirkcaldy High School head Robert Adam found out that some of his pupils were going to sneak off to watch their heroes play Italy in a vital World Cup qualifier. So he told any boys who wanted to see the game to come to his office - and belted them."

Mr Smith never got the belt for watching football matches, but did the PM ever get the belt for anything else?

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Bannerman Headlines.

"Former Liberal Democrat leaders Charles Kennedy and Lord Steel of Aitkenhead yesterday unveiled a plaque to commemorate Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, the Glasgow-born Prime Minister who died 100 years ago. Lord Steel praised his predecessor as Liberal Party leader as an "overlooked radical" whose 1906 landslide victory had paved the way for a succession of reforming governments. "He led the way for the longest period of successful radical government ever, which was continued by Herbert Asquith and David Lloyd George," Lord Steel said ... He gets overlooked because Asquith and Lloyd George were Prime Ministers for much longer." The plaque was unveiled at the home in Bath Street, Glasgow. He died in 1908, three weeks after ill health forced him to resign as Prime Minister."

Mr Smith loves a bit of Scottish political history.

Puppy Tails.

And from Drumlanrig again, "Former BBC correspondent Kate Adie, below, was in Edinburgh last week to talk about her new book, Into Danger. As the title suggests, the book explores why it is that many people appear willing to put themselves in harm's way. This led her into a non-too-flattering anecdote about former Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament, Sir David Steel who, Adie revealed, once gave a gift of a puppy to the reviled Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. The dog in question was so beloved by the old Romanian it had its own food tester to prevent it being poisoned."

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Grey Day.

Courtesy of Drumlanrig, "Edinburgh Castle was the venue for the party of the week when Jamie McGrigor celebrated his Tartan Register Bill receiving Royal Assent. The passage of the bill has been a long road for Jamie, who seems to have spent much of his political life working for a National Tartan Register.The booze-up in the Great Hall was a fine affair with most of the guests rigged out like extras from Brigadoon. The success of the event was no thanks to Alex Salmond, who could not decide whether to come or not. His indecision led to a two-week delay in the invitations being sent out. When the invitations did arrive, dress code was described as "Tartan" – a fact ignored by Jim Mather, the Tourism Minister, who arrived in a grey suit."


Mr Smith thinks you really can't get much more strindent criticism of police operational practice than in this case.

"LOTHIAN and Borders Police has been accused of "systemic failure", by the Police Complains Commissioner for Scotland, for failing to pass on information to prosecutors. Tom Halpin, deputy chief constable of Lothian and Borders Police and until recently the acting chief constable, is reported to be strongly criticised by the watchdog for reportedly endorsing the practice of his officers "filtering out" information from crime reports."

What else is going on out there that we don't know about yet? He's a bad cop and he was an Acting Chief Constable.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Another Defeat.

The Scottish Government being defeated on key aspects of its policy is starting to lose its novelty.

"The Scottish Government last night suffered a setback in its plans to introduce a local income tax. MSPs backed Tory calls for any future Bill to allow MSPs to consider a range of options for replacing the council tax. These include a land value tax, a local income tax with variable rates, reforming the council tax, as well as the government's own plans for a centrally set local income tax."

Bad Hero Cop?

"A hero police boss has been charged and suspended over claims he lied to beat a speeding rap. Inspector Gavin McGowan is accused of falsely claiming he was on duty when his police car was clocked. He has now been charged with perverting the course of justice by colleagues."

The courts will decide, but given he was stabbed eleven times in the line of duty it is possibly a tragic end to a commendable and previously exemplary police career.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Independent Labour.

Looks like Scottish Labour Leader Iain Gray MSP could be facing real problems on his own patch. Can so many ordinary party members be wrong with the choice of a candidate, if they are so upset that they are thinking of breaking party rules by fielding their own?

"LABOUR REBELS in Iain Gray's Scottish parliamentary constituency are threatening to field an independent candidate against the local MP at the next general election, in a move that would leave the Scottish leader's power base in chaos. Senior activists in East Lothian, including former councillors and office-holders, are actively discussing running an "Independent Labour" candidate against MP Anne Moffat if the party moves to expel her opponents."

Reformed Bad Cop.

He was a bad cop, but has he learned his lessons and become a reformed character?

"A POLICEMAN banned from driving for doing 136mph is back behind the wheel - nabbing speeding motorists. Northern Constabulary officer Blair McMaster, 31, patrols the streets in a powerful BMW 3 Series. Yet just three years ago he avoided jail and was banned for a year for driving a speedy Subaru Impreza WRX at 136mph while off duty."

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Pen Pushers.

Another example of where Government rhetoric parts company with the reality on the ground?

Mr Smith realises it easier to recruit civil servants than it is to train cops or teachers, but the SNP have been in power now for eighteen months. You think they would have gotten the hang of it by now.

"FIRST Minister Alex Salmond has been accused of hiring more pen pushers while the number of police and teachers has fallen. Since the SNP government took power last year Scotland's schools have lost 300 teachers and police forces are down by 800 staff. That's despite a SNP manifesto to put an extra 1000 officers on the beat. But the number of staff employed by the Scottish government rose by 600."

She's Off.

She may have done her bit, and maybe even a great deal more, but when Special Advisers (SPADs) start leaving administrations for private sector jobs it is usually a sign of something else. The lure of the filthy lucre clearly proved too much for Ms Dempsie. She obviously decided to quit while she was ahead, which suggests tough times ahead for the Scottish Government.

"ONE of Alex Salmond's closest aides is quitting the government in a surprise move. Spin doctor Jennifer Dempsie, 27, is leaving to take up a high-flying post as associate director of public relations firm Weber Shandwick."

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Madame Secretary.

Hillary has still to be confirmed by the Senate in the role, but isn't it refreshing to see, what were up until a few months ago bitter political opponents locked in the battle for the Democratic Presidential nomination, putting aside their personal interests to serve together in the new American Government for the greater good of their country? A Government which really is one of "all the talents."

Perhaps some of our elected representatives in the UK, and in Scotland, could learn some lessons from that?

"Hillary Clinton has been confirmed as US President Elect Barack Obama's secretary of state. Robert Gates will remain defence secretary in a national security team charged with recasting America's leadership role in the world. Mrs Clinton and Mr Gates, who have been at odds with Mr Obama in the past over foreign policy and defence issues, will implement his vision of rebuilding the US image abroad."

Fly The Flag?

Is this really the level of debate that politics has come to in Scotland when we have two elected representatives arguing about whether the saltire should be flying on council buildings or not? Mr Smith says "Grow up" and get back to the day jobs.

"Two north-east politicians have clashed over a decision to throw out a proposal to fly the saltire from every Aberdeenshire Council building almost every day of the year. SNP MSP Nigel Don said opposition to the move – led by Conservative councillor Bruce Luffman last week – was “astonishing” given remarks made by his party leader, Annabel Goldie, on Sunday."

Monday, 1 December 2008

Unsightly Stains.

Mr Smith notices that a new political blog is on the www block with the arrival of The Steamie which has been created by the all of the guys at The Scotsman and their sister publications the Scotland On Sunday and the Edinburgh Evening News.

"We intend The Steamie to be the place where Scottish politics washes its dirty linen (in the nicest possible way, of course); where policies and strategies are held up to the light and scrutinised; and where political reputations are examined for unsightly stains."

Mr Smith wishes them all the best, although the contributions so far seem a bit limited. Mr Smith isn't very keen on "unsightly stains," but all the best to the "guys" and happy blogging.