Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Minimum Wage

How predictable. There have not only been calls to freeze the minimum wage, but also to allow businesses to pay their employees less than the minimum wage because of current economic problems. My blood pressure was going through the roof yesterday when I heard a UKIP politician on Radio 2 calling for businesses to be allowed to pay below the National Minimum Wage!

So, the cause of the current recession has been the National Minimum Wage then? Here I was thinking it had something to do with bankers, politicians, greed and the flaws of capitalism...
It is at times like this the injustice of the system becomes even more stark. There is a rich and powerful elite running this world, and then there are the rest of us. They – the bankers, business people and world ‘leaders’ - make a mess of running things, and everybody else has to pay for their failures. And it is usually the least well off and the least powerful who have to pay the most.

Let us never forget why the National Minimum Wage (NMW) was introduced in the first place. It was because many employers, left to their own devices, paid disgustingly low wages. Many people were being exploited by businesses, as they tried to keep running costs as low as possible. The introduction of the NMW is one of the few things I will praise the Labour Government for. It is a measure that has cross-party support (even the Tories don’t suggest scrapping it now/yet) and that is progress that should never be surrendered – especially not in times of economic turmoil.

Even at the current level, I still don’t think the NMW is high enough. It is no coincidence that those you hear arguing against increases earn substantially more than £5.73 an hour.
People are not mere entities whose purpose is to serve the economy; the economy is here to serve people. If a system is not delivering for people (all the people) then it is not working, and we need to look at alternatives.

Some tough choices will need to be taken in a recession, but reducing the income of the lowest paid should never be an option in attempting to keep businesses afloat. Perhaps those at the other end of the income scale should be asked to contribute more in these tough times? I have another couple of suggestions too. How about scrapping the UK’s immoral and outrageously expensive nuclear weapons and abandoning plans for useless ID cards? As I said, there are few things I would praise the UK Labour Government for and even those achievements are undermined by their continued investment in weapons of mass destruction and by spending billions on an illegal war in Iraq.

I think it is highly unlikely that the NMW will be suspended for any length of time, but I also hope the UK Government will commit to the next scheduled increase. People need the money more than ever now.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

NHS uniforms

I'm not a fan of simply posting up Scottish Government press releases, but I will make an exception for this one.

Nicola Sturgeon has announced a new dress code for the NHS, which is partly for hygiene reasons. The new code also states that staff should not be wearing their uniforms outwith their place of work. Frankly, I am baffled as to why NHS staff have ever been allowed to! There are clear implications for hygiene.

I remember, many moons ago, when the Scottish Ambulance Service issued new uniforms. When I was wee my Dad used to head off to work in a tailored pair of navy trousers, a light blue shirt, navy tie and navy jumper. This ensemble was washed and ironed at home. Then came along the bright green boiler suits that we are all familiar with. They were not popular with ambulance staff to begin with (they are not at all flattering on anyone), but everyone saw how much more practical they are. All of my Dad's uniforms are also now washed at the ambulance station.

There are also different colours of boiler suits for different jobs within the ambulance service too.

All in all, I think this is great news for the NHS. I think part of the reason that Nicola makes such a fantastic Health Secretary is her capacity for common sense - she gets what the rest of us see, even if some other politicians can't see the wood for the trees sometimes. Nicola's relentless focus on improving hospital hygiene will, I think, transform the NHS. She has one of the most difficult jobs in Scotland, not just Scottish politics. But she is certainly up to the job!

Friday, 28 November 2008

Recession: For Beginners

When talk of recession was starting to bubble, I received a phone call from somebody a few years younger than I am (I won't name them), who wanted to know what exactly a recession was. Goodness knows why they think I am the fount of all knowledge! Anyway, it struck me that there is a whole generation of young adults who haven't experienced a recession before, and it's going to hit them hard.

Not a week has gone by recently when I haven't met somebody who has just lost their job, and it is absolutely devastating - especially in the current climate, because they aren't confident about being able to find another one. It's disgraceful that people have been landed in this situation, through no fault of their own. The greed of bankers and the failure of governments to rein them in would be unbelievable if we weren't now living with the consequences.

What particularly worries me about this current financial downturn though, is the added ingredient of record levels of personal debt. Over the last decade or so the UK Government has encouraged people to take on huge (and unsustainable) levels of personal debt. Banks have been allowed to lend people more money than they could afford to pay back - either in the form of mortgages or personal loans. A whole generation of university students have been indoctrinated into the debt lifestyle, because they had no choice if they wanted to get a degree. I remember my first £100 overdraft in my first year at university. I felt sick to my stomach being in debt, but over the years, like most students, I got used to living with debt - it was normal to be in debt!

And then there are credit cards - buy now, pay a LOT MORE later! Yes, we all bear personal responsibility for our spending, but what about the responsibility of government? Why have they let this culture of debt flourish? Well, because it was in their interest to do so. If people have access to credit, then they feel more affluent and they can buy things that they want. The more affluent and satisfied they feel, the more inclined they are to support the party in government. Little wonder either that Gordon Brown was very happy to preside over unsustainable house price rises over the last decade... It made people feel better off.

While we (in general) have been getting into debt, Gordon Brown has also been getting the UK taxpayer further into debt. A double whammy. Now, we have really been landed in it with this latest round of borrowing. The full extent of the financial shambles Brown and co. have landed us all in will not be clear for a few years yet, but one thing is for sure - we will all pay later.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

destiNation

The latest issue of destiNation has now been published - view it here.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Glenrothes - What Now?

Don't worry regular readers, I haven't been hiding in a cupboard over the weekend, distraught over Thursday's result in Glenrothes. I just haven't had internet access.

I think both Richard and Anne's postings on the result best reflect my own feelings.

Obviously, I was disappointed not to win - not least for Peter Grant and all the activists who have worked so hard over the last few months on this by-election campaign. Suddenly, those 'campaigning holidays' we took in Glenrothes at the expense of a genuine holiday seem even more of a sacrifice.

I was disappointed, but not deflated. As Anne says, defeat can be as motivating as victory. Personally, I was texting our campaign coordinator in Cumbernauld, Kilsyth & Kirkintilloch East about our planned activities for November first thing on Friday morning!

In the face of such a negative campaign from the Labour Party, I am very proud of the SNP campaign. We could have stooped to their level and distributed nasty anti-Labour leaflets, but we didn't. I'm glad we didn't. On polling day itself I spoke to one woman who had already voted SNP that day, who stated her intention to write to Peter Grant after the election - regardless of the result. I initially thought that she had an issue she wanted him to take up on her behalf, but no - she wanted to congratulate him for the positive SNP campaign. She said we were the only one of the main parties not to have put something 'nasty' through her door.

Yes, I think we all recognise now that the SNP should have been more direct in taking on Labour's smears about certain local issues, but that doesn't mean that we should have engaged in the kind of negative campaigning that Labour resorted to out of desperation.

This by-election has reminded me that we cannot take it for granted that good ideas, reasonable arguments, hard work and positive campaigning are enough to persuade people to vote for the SNP. We are up against a barrage of negativity from all the parties who want to deny Scotland independence. That doesn't mean that we have to fight dirty to counter their tactics, but we do have to be constantly aware of the need to overcome it.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Glenrothes

After lunch, I have the afternoon off work to head up to Glenrothes for polling day.

I'm a little wary, as I sprained my ankle while canvassing there on Sunday. I couldn't walk on Monday, and had to stay at home with my feet up. That seemed to do the trick, because it is feeling much better now. Goodness knows what pain I might be in later though!

I'm not exactly a robust character. Exercise always seems to bring an injury of some variety. I can't stand the cold either. I have Raynaud's, which is a circulation problem. So, in the winter my hands and feet get VERY cold and it is often quite painful. My GP's advice a few years ago was not to go out during winter if I could help it, and if I did venture out, then I'd better get some ski gloves. Not good news for a political activist like myself! If I confined myself to campaigning in the warmer months, then I'd hardly be out. I did buy ski gloves (or more accurately, I think my mum bought them for me), but they are too bulky for canvassing and leafleting - my hands get stuck in the letterboxes!

Anyway, enough of this self-pity. We have a by-election to win!

It always evokes a wry smile from me on the doorsteps when people say that party activists are in politics for themselves. Believe me, the hundreds of SNP activists that are in Glenrothes today would be much better off staying at work (and not losing precious annual leave) or at home with a nice cup of tea. Then there are the train and bus fares, or petrol, to get there. But if you believe in something, and you want to make a difference, then you can't help but get involved and work towards that.

Today, the world does feel a slightly different (and better) place because of what has happened in the US. The world has become an increasingly cynical place over the last decade, and I think it is about time that we looked at things afresh and at our potential, as individuals, communities, countries and global citizens to really change things.

I do think that this mood may impact on the decision of people in Glenrothes on whether or not to cast their vote today, and on who they decide to cast it for.

We will have to wait a little longer to find out though, and I've got a train to catch.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

History

So, did my endorsement swing it for Obama? I'm far too modest to comment ;o)
I stayed up as long as I could last night to watch the results (even doing some ironing to stay awake) and I missed him crossing the finishing line - but it was clear by the time I was dozing off that victory would be his.
On the train this morning, and coming in to my office building, I could hear conversations about Obama - and even a little chanting! His campaign has not just energised the US, but it has also given a little bit of hope to people all over the world.
I don't envy him. He has a massive task ahead of him. Despite the current economic situation, expectations of him are high - especially from those who voted for the first time in this election. There are a lot of people who are looking to him to make their lives better. Four, even eight years, is not a lot of time to make the kind of changes that are necessary to transform the lives of Americans struggling in low paid jobs or to tackle the massive challenges posed by the US system of health care.
One thing is for sure though - along with Joe Biden, he will do a whole lot better than the McCain/Palin duo ever could.
I think it is in the international arena that Obama can deliver the most clear change, and he has the potential to change the way the rest of the world perceives the US, and also how the US interacts with the rest of the world.
Back to an election closer to home now, and to Glenrothes. There have been a few people talking about the US elections on the doorstep, and they were talking optimistically about the future. Hopefully people in Glenrothes and across Scotland will be motivated by this momentous result, and grab a bit of change for themselves.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Dressed for independence


I am no fan of Sarah Palin's politics, but I am envious of her clothing allowance.


I can only imagine what activists in my constituency would say if I suggested that our campaign funds could be used to fund my haircuts, clothes and shoes! After they had stopped laughing of course...


Anyway, here I am outside SNP Conference in Perth last week with my other half. I don't need a clothing allowance to look stylish, I'm sure you'll agree ;o)


Friday, 17 October 2008

Alcohol motion - update

Well, the YSI amendment (mentioned in my previous post) was defeated after an interesting debate at SNP Conference today.

I personally voted for the YSI amendment, and regret that it did not pass - although a substantial number of delegates voted in favour too.

I fail to see how the YSI amendment could have been interpreted as an attack on the Scottish Government. Indeed, the YSI speakers in the debate all praised the general thrust of the proposals and the approach to this issue. I agree with the vast majority of the proposals in the consultation paper as well, I might add, and I congratulate our Government on putting forward some quite radical proposals.

The debate today was in stark contrast to the hysterical reaction of the opposition parties in the Scottish Parliament. Contributions from all perspectives in the debate today were principled, measured and constructive.

While I may lament the result of the vote, at the same time I am proud of the SNP's democratic credentials. The media and opposition parties might not get it, but we are a democratic party and that means having debates - including debates about our own Government's policies. This is healthy - especially in a governing party!

More on Conference soon...

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

SNP Conference

Well, it's SNP Conference this week and I'll be packing up my over-sized suitcase as usual and heading along.

There are 3 debates on the agenda that I am particularly interested in contributing to - those on asylum seekers, alcohol abuse and deprivation. I will update next week on whether or not I was selected to speak in the debates and regarding the outcome.

The resolution on alcohol abuse will no doubt generate an interesting exchange of views due to the YSI's amendment on the Government's proposal to raise the age at which you can buy alcohol in off-sales to 21.

Contrary to press reporting on this issue, the YSI have not 'hijacked' this debate at Conference. For every National Conference and National Council, all SNP branches, constituency associations, elected members and affiliated organisations like the YSI can submit resolutions for debate. Earlier this year, one branch submitted a resolution about the Scottish Government's consultation on alcohol and this was published as part of the Conference agenda. At this point, the aforementioned bodies and individuals can submit suggested amendments to these resolutions, which the YSI duly did. This was accepted by the committee responsible for putting together the agenda, which is facilitating the debate in question.

To suggest that the YSI have somehow set out to hijack this debate at Conference does them and the SNP a disservice. The YSI have enaged in the formal policy-making processes of the party, with a very measured amendment. And the SNP has accepted this amendment, because the party is relaxed about internal democratic debate.

I am looking forward to hearing all of the various views put forward, and I hope to add my own.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Tories Rule - (not) OK

So, the Tories think they can rule Scotland from Westminster, regardless of the election result in Scotland. Of course they do - look at their record!

David Mundell's comment sent shivers down my spine:

"We will have the right under the devolution settlement, whether the SNP likes that or not, to implement David Cameron's agenda in reserved matters regardless of how many MPs in Scotland we have."

Even if they don't have a single Tory MP elected in Scotland (I actually count David Mundell as zero MPs at the moment - he's as much use as a chocolate fireguard, as my dad would say), they still think they have the right to impose policies upon the people of Scotland that they have rejected at the polls.

Not that New Labour hasn't been foisting unwanted policies on Scotland from Westminster over the last decade, but they at least had an electoral base in Scotland and were the senior coalition partner in the devolved Scottish Executive.

These latest comments from the Tories demonstrate very clearly why they will never revive their fortunes in Scotland. The arrogance is astounding.

And, they demonstrate why independence will always be the better option than being at the mercy of Westminster politicians.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Glenrothes

***update - thanks to Patrick (on the left of the pic) for this photo***


Well, I had hoped to supply you with an exciting 'action shot' of me campaigning in Glenrothes at the weekend, but my other half forgot the camera...

Anyway, a group of ten of us made the journey through to Glenrothes for an extended weekend of by-election campaigning. We had a good laugh, and we ploughed our way through the campaign work. This was the first time I had ever been to the area, but everyone was very friendly. Plus, with Glenrothes itself a New Town, parts of it had a familiar feel to Cumbernauld. The place I was canvassing on Saturday resembled Eastfield in Cumbernauld.

Anyway, my absence from blogging has been mainly down to the fact that we still have no internet access at home. BT and Virgin don't seem to want our money, and I don't want to give any money to Sky! So, we are stuck at the moment.

I was out and about last week too, at the Scottish Learning Festival - a massive education festival in Glasgow. I was there with work, and boy it was hard work. I'm a talker, but even I get exhausted speaking to people non-stop for hours on end!

Last week we also had the bad news that Post Office Ltd has decided to close the 5 Post Offices across our constituency that they had previously marked for closure and consultation. Seems to me that the consultation process was pretty futile. The local communities involved submitted excellent cases for the retention of these Post Offices and highlighted the devastating impact closure would have on local residents - particularly older and disabled residents. I'm still campaigning to help ensure that at least some level of service is maintained in the affected areas, as some people really will be stuck without the local Post Office.

OK- I'm on my lunch break, so I can't go on much longer. These are strange times, with all the financial turmoil across the world. I'm not really qualified to comment on the ins and outs of it all, but I have a question to consider for the day. We are constantly told by Governments across the world that there is no more money for state pensions, poverty alleviation or to help developing countries where children are dying from preventable diseases, yet when the banks are in trouble, billions can be 'found' at the drop of a hat. Yet more proof that we could solve the problems facing the world, and all that is standing in the way is a lack of political will?

Right, I'm off for a salad to compensate for all the unhealthy food I ate at the weekend.


Tuesday, 16 September 2008

destiNation

The latest issue of destiNation has been published, and can be viewed by clicking here.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Update and a recommendation

Opportunities to blog have been thin on the ground since we moved at the end of July. We STILL have no internet access at home. Apparently, nobody wants to take our money until they 'spot' us on their systems. The fact that we have done that part for them, by actually telling them where we are, makes no difference it seems.

Anyway, most of my time of late has been consumed by the campaigns to save our local Post Offices (which you cannot have failed to notice in previous posts), but I have also been coordinating the next issue of destiNation - which should be published by the weekend (fingers crossed) - and I have been distracted by things like hanging curtains and pictures and telling everyone in officialdom about our change of address. I've also been organising what I like to call a 'campaigning holiday' to Glenrothes.

We are settling in well to our new home in Cumbernauld, and it's no surprise to me that it is one of the happiest places to live in the UK. I must remember to tell my parents this, in my ongoing quest to get them to move to the area!

This is a bit of a lunchtime ramble, so I feel I should also impart some useful or interesting information to make this visit worth your while. If you are looking for a good book to read, I recently finished an excellent book on the Rwandan genocide. Yes, it is incredibly depressing and upsetting, but it's something we all have a duty to learn about. It's called 'We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families', by Philip Gourevitch. Line up something cheerful to read immediately afterwards though.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Rhetoric we can believe in

No, I've not been in Stockholm all this time. Back home on 25 August, but to bad news. My nana was dying. So, it's been a sad time and I haven't really felt like blogging.

Plus, I had 5 submissions to write for the consultation on the proposed closure of Post Offices across Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East. (Got them up on my campaign website for anyone who is interested.) Hopefully those in charge of this process will see the value of these Post Offices to the communities they serve, and give them a reprieve. We can but try.

I've also been trying to follow political events in the US. I watched the Barack Obama speech, and I was impressed to an extent. He is evidently a very intelligent and considered man, and charismatic with it. His speech, while very polished and principled, did lack a lot of substance. He is also nowhere near as radical as he needs to be to solve the endemic problems, particularly of the poor, in America. But then, how can he be? He is so constrained by the political culture in which he operates - a political system dominated by the cult of personality, money and religion.

There are so many vested interests that he has to pay cognisance of too. While it is painfully obvious (to me at least) that the US needs an NHS, how can any politician in that country get away with abolishing the current system entirely? The insurance companies have their ways of protecting their position.

Another problem with the US political system (crikey, I'm on a roll today), is the concept of the 'American dream'. The idea that everyone has the chance to 'rise up', to 'make it'. Yes, social mobility is fantastic. Opportunity is fantastic. But the problem with that idea, that system, is that not everyone can 'make it'. Under the capitalist system, there will always be some people at the top of the tree - with the flash careers and wads of cash - and others who are required to do the low paid work that is the foundation of the 'success' of others. Literally, people are being sold a dream. But that means that, even if the system is working perfectly according to supporters of the 'American dream' system, there will always be those who are left struggling. Surely, it makes more sense to be aspiring to a society where everyone can be successful, and no one feels like a second-class citizen?

But this is not Barack Obama's fault, and I think he represents the best hope for the future of the US. For surely incremental change is better than none at all?

Friday, 22 August 2008

Greetings from Stockholm!

In Stockholm at the moment for a friend's wedding. It's such a beautiful city. I can't post any pcitures right now unfortunately, but my blog photo on the right was taken in Stockholm a couple of years ago.

I was on tour of the Riksdag (Swedish Parliament) earlier with Jamie and our friend Willie. Don't worry - this isn't about to become a 'everything's better in Sweden because it's a small independent country' type of post. Although, we can certainly learn a lot of lessons from Sweden. I just had to comment on the tour we were given. The woman giving the tour was very forthright in her own political opinions about the changes in Sweden since the right of centre coalition won power two years ago. The phrase 'selling out the welfare state' sticks in my mind!

The system here has some interesting differences to the Scottish Parliament and Westminster. For a start, the elected representatives sit in geographical and not party groupings in the chamber. And the longer you have been in parliament, the nearer the front you get to sit. Also, if an elected member has to be away for a few weeks, the person after them on their party list takes their place in parliament while they are away. Those who have previously served in parliament also have special seats reserved for them on the floor of the chamber.

One thing that was also striking was the level of respect for politicians in Sweden. The woman giving the tour talked of the respect that people have for those who choose to serve in their national legislature, because of the long hours and hard work. I'm sure not everyone in Sweden will hold that view, but it's not something you ever hear back home. The prevailing view of politicians is much more negative.

Anyway, this blogging malarky is eating into my wee holiday. I'm off to treat myself to an ice cream or something.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Post Offices


The past few days have been a whirlwind of activity - as I do my bit to help save the 5 Post Offices threatened with closure across Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East.

The 5 Post Offices - Banton, Kildrum, Queenzieburn, Rosebank and Waterside - have all been earmarked for closure and there are a whole range of campaign activities taking place to try and save them.

For my part, I have decided to compile responses to the Post Office consultations on the proposed closures. After all, I have had a lot of professional experience responding to consultations on behalf of organisations - so I should put the skills to good use.

I've distributed surveys in all the communities affected, and asked people to write back to tell me exactly how the closure would impact on them personally, as well as the wider community. I'm then going to include all the personal testimony I receive back from local residents in my response to the Post Office. Hopefully, this will strengthen the case against closure of these vital services because it will help demonstrate the consequences of the loss of our local Post Offices.

The more that we can bombard the Post Office with the better.

Of course, these proposals didn't appear from thin air. They are a direct result of decisions taken by the Labour Government at Westminster. Of course, the local Labour politicians are throwing their hands up in horror at the proposed closures. The hypocrisy. People have tried explaining to them, via the letters page of the local papers, that it is their OWN PARTY that is ultimately responsible - but that doesn't stop them from circulating petitions and the like with their names at the top. And we wonder why people are cynical about politics. Well, I give you exhibit A.

I have spoken to many local residents about these proposed closures, and they are in no doubt about who is ultimately to blame. Yet again, we have Labour politicians campaigning against the decisions of their own party. When will the penny drop? If they disagree so much with their own Government, why are they even in the Labour Party?

Anyway, that doesn't stop me from supporting every effort in my area to save these Post Offices. We only have until 1 September to respond to the consultation, but there is plenty planned in the meantime to keep the pressure on.

The most common thing that people have said to me in these 5 areas is - 'what will the old folk do?' Indeed, what will our elderly residents do in these areas? If these Post Offices go, it doesn't just mean that some people will be inconvenienced by having to travel further - they really will be stuck. We cannot let this happen to some of the most vulnerable and isolated members of our society. I spoke to a lady in her nineties yesterday who already struggles to get to her local Post Office in Banton. If that closes, there is just no way she would be able to get to Kilsyth to pick up her pension.

And what of the Post Offices that haven't been earmarked for closure? Well, if those set for closure do go, then the pressure on those left will be immense.

It just doesn't make sense.


Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Still here

I know what you must be thinking... I was so overwhelmed with excitement at the by-election win that I had to lie down in a dark room for a while.

Not at all. Not that I wasn't excited, of course, but my absence has been due to a house move, a work trip and a wee hol with family in London. We still have no internet access at home. It's only been just over a week, but I am really struggling without access to my emails, blog, campaign website and destiNation. I realise just how 'electronic' my life has become.

I still remember, when I was at school, first being shown the internet and email and thinking 'I'll NEVER use that'!!! Yes, well, I've never been a cutting edge trend-setter, but once you get the hang of it then it's hard to comprehend what you would do without it.

This ramble is a rather long-winded way of saying that I may be blogging less than usual over the next couple of weeks while I hang pictures and rearrange cushions in our new pad - while I wait for broadband.

Friday, 25 July 2008

John Mason MP

Well, what a fantastic result for the SNP in Glasgow East!

It is fast approaching midnight, we didn't get home until 4am this morning, we were up rather early to pick up the keys to our new house in Cumbernauld, and I have spent the rest of the day packing and moving boxes around. My feet still ache from yesterday, I am absolutely shattered, but I couldn't be happier.

The removal van is coming early tomorrow, and so I should head off to bed soon. But there is no way I was going to let these historic events pass without a wee comment on my blog.

It's hard to explain just how amazing it was in the early hours of this morning to learn that John Mason had won the Glasgow East by-election. I don't know if it was because I was so tired, or because my hayfever tablet was wearing off by about 1am, but I must admit to shedding a couple of tears when the news came through. It was a very emotional few hours.

The only thing that actually makes me feel a little sad is that the by-election is over! I have so thoroughly enjoyed campaigning in this by-election. I have met some fantastic people over the last few weeks - fellow activists and Glasgow East residents alike.

I blogged a few days ago about the lady who originally wasn't going to vote for John because he was too good a councillor. Well, on polling day, I was given her street to knock-up. I didn't get her in this time, but I spoke to her husband. He told me they had both voted that morning, and that he had been a lifelong Labour supporter. That's right HAD BEEN. He was now a committed SNP supporter and keen to see independence sooner rather than later. I mentioned to him that I had previously spoken to his wife. He gave me a smile, and said 'Yes, I know. She would never tell you this, but she DID vote for John Mason'. Yeah!

And this by-election has been full of encounters like this - meeting people who had always voted Labour but have switched to the SNP. Not just for this by-election either, and that's what really matters. Speaking to people on the doorsteps, it is clear that interest in and support for independence is growing. There are a huge number of people who are genuinely open-minded about independence, and that in itself is amazing progress. And the more contact they have with SNP activists, to answer their questions and lay to rest some of the outright lies told by the other parties the better things will be.

Labour are now suffering at the polls because of their complacency, their ineffective representation and often indifference to the people they have been elected to serve. I met so many people on the campaign trail who had met their Labour representatives a number of times because of various issues. A good thing you would think? Well, actually, no. The feedback I had from residents was that those who had met their Labour representatives were those most likely to be critical. The very last person I spoke to on polling day was particularly damning of his Labour MSP, who he described as treating him with contempt when he went to this MSP with a housing issue. This man had been speaking to John Mason and Nicola Sturgeon a few days ago, and had been impressed with what they had to say. He was voting SNP for the first time, and swore he would never vote Labour again. As soon as John Mason gets his constituency office up and running, the man I was speaking to will be straight along to see him.

At last, Glasgow East has a hard-working MP who really is on their side.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

John Mason - one woman's verdict

Yes, my blogging has become rather focused on Glasgow East of late and this post is no exception. However, I have spared you from having to view yet another cheesy photo of me on the campaign trail (no camera today).

I just thought I'd take a break from packing (moving a week today!), to share one story from this afternoon. I spoke to a lady on the doorsteps who was undecided who to vote for, and told me that she was specifically struggling with whether or not to vote for John Mason.

I asked her why she was not convinced to vote for John, and she told me that it was for 'selfish reasons'. I was intrigued. I asked what those reasons were. Well, she told me that she thought John was such a good councillor and had done so much for the area, she didn't want to lose him to London!

After explaining that most of the work an MP does is actually at home in the constituency, she was reassured that electing John was indeed also in her best interests. Yes, they have to go to Westminster for debates, committees and to vote but most of their work consists of constituency casework on local issues and helping local people with their problems. So, he would not be 'lost' to London, but rather he would have the opportunity to help even more people in the local area as an MP. And, the bonus would be that the area also had an MP fighting their corner at Westminster.

This is the first person I've ever encountered who was considering NOT voting for a person BECAUSE they were doing a good job! But she was a lovely lady, and we had a really interesting chat. And her sentiments about John's job as a councillor reflect the feedback I've been getting about him on the doorsteps. I knew John was a hard-working councillor, with integrity, and a nice bloke with it - but I had no idea just how popular he was in the local area.

I'm back out tomorrow, and again on polling day. I hope to get the chance to blog before then and soon after the results, but the house move will no doubt have a limiting effect on my internet access for a while.

I am optimistic about the result of the by-election, mainly due to the feedback I've been getting on the doorsteps and from other activists. Fingers crossed for Thursday.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Tales from the east


Well, I've been having a fantastic time campaigning in the Glasgow East by-election, and many a tale to tell. Too many in fact, so I'll just make a few observations.
The photos above were taken at the lunch time rally we had outside the SNP campaign rooms today. I arrived back from a spot of canvassing to find Alex Salmond and then John Mason addressing hundreds of SNP activists - and that was just the people on their lunch break! There were many more out chapping doors and delivering leaflets.
One of the things that I've noticed in this particular by-election has been the number of people very disillusioned with politics, and I've had a number of conversations on the doorsteps that are more than a little similar. The pattern has usually involved me knocking on a door, speaking to some one and them growling back at me about how all politicians are useless. (Shall I resist the urge to say, 'that's because they've all been Labour politicians...'?) But then when I've asked them what makes them think that, it is usually because they are disillusioned specifically with Labour - the party they have traditionally supported. It has also been on a few occasions specifically because of their experience of their Labour representatives, and often because of their inaction. I find it really frustrating that the Labour party has turned so many people off politics - the democratic process that is a vehicle to improving their lives. But, after speaking to people, and taking a note of the issues that they want dealt with - to pass to an effective SNP representative - I haven't quite changed their minds about politicians, but hopefully that will be happening as their SNP councillor or MSP gets in touch to help sort out their problem.
I have also noticed that there is a substantial group of traditional Labour voters who either voted SNP at the last election and plan to do so again on 24 July, and a lot who will be voting SNP for the first time in this by-election. Also very heartening is the level of support for independence, and a curiosity and open-mindedness in others. I have spent a lot of time so far talking to people about independence, and answering any questions they may have.
In fact, one of the last people I spoke to tonight was a lady trimming the hedge in her garden. She was very interested in independence, and felt that there was a lot of negativity about independence from the other parties - but not a lot of substance to back it up. Anyway, she remarked that I must consider her to be a social oddity because she was doing her garden on a Saturday night. I suggested to her, that a woman walking the streets with a clip board speaking to people about politics was in no position to judge! She agreed.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

By-election Update


I was out in Glasgow East again today, and this time I succeeded in getting Anne McLaughlin to stand still long enough to take a quick snap!


Anne is the campaign coordinator for the by-election, and she is doing a fantastic job. The media always refer to the SNP's by-election 'machine', and that machine is people like Anne, me and all the other activists that chap on doors to speak to people, post leaflets through letterboxes and climb up lampposts to put up posters (although with no head for heights I don't help with that one). Then there are the volunteers making sandwiches for all those returning to the campaign rooms for lunch and tea breaks, the people making up all the campaign packs, bundling the leaflets, blowing up and tying up balloons, inputting information, making calls, and too many more jobs to mention. And Anne's job is to coordinate the whole spectrum of campaign activity.


Anyway, enough of 'behind the scenes'. I had a great day campaigning today. Jamie and I met loads of people who are voting SNP, and pretty much everyone we spoke to knew about the by-election. There also seems to be a lot of people wanting to join the SNP, and so a fair number of membership forms are also being handed out on the doorsteps.


I'm not familiar with the parts of Glasgow that the by-election covers, and from coverage in the media you would think it would be quite bleak. It has problems, like most areas, but it also has a lot of positives too. One thing that really strikes me so far is just how friendly everyone is. I've met some great people on the doorsteps, and had some really interesting exchanges. Another thing I've noticed is the number of people who have met John Mason over the years as their local councillor, and there is a lot of goodwill towards him.


A few people have asked me what our chances are of winning this by-election, and so people are really aware of the potential to upset the Labour Party that has so badly let them down.


I think having John Mason as the candidate, a well-known and well-liked local councillor for a fair chunk of the constituency, the growing popularity of the SNP and a Labour Party in disarray may be a winning formula...

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Glasgow East By-Election

I'm sure I'll blog on this topic a few times over the next few weeks, but I just wanted to reflect briefly on the campaign activity today.

Despite the rain (I am just about dry now), I had a fantastic day campaigning with SNP members from all over the country. I spoke to some great people on the doorstep, and was heartened to meet many people who consider themselves to be traditional Labour supporters, but either switched to the SNP for last year's election or who have decided to vote for the SNP since the election last May.

Out again tomorrow, so I'd better get some sleep now. Further campaign updates soon.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Labour's desperation...

I found this news quasi-amusing.

First of all, Labour find out that hurling abuse is not necessarily the best way to get what you want. Apparently, having good manners and listening to what people say is the most appropriate way to behave. My parents taught me that at a very young age. Are manners a new concept for the Labour MSPs?

Secondly, this story about FMQs is indicative of the twisted way that media 'commentators' view politics. Yes, in the age of spin, the pantomime that is FMQs (and PMQs) does impact on the fortunes or perceived fortunes of political parties. But, while it may be an amusing spectacle to the political hacks, it is far from REAL politics and really quite off putting for a lot of people. Politicians hurling abuse just reinforces the negative view that people already have of those involved in party politics.

On the doorstep recently, I met a lady who was very angry about politics and politicians, who she believed to be 'sleazebags' - 'every single one of them'! Rather than have what I would call a political reaction to that assertion and try to claim that all politicians except for those in the SNP were sleazebags, I think I had a very human reaction. I must have looked a little wounded at the insult, because the lady immediately said - 'well, I can tell you're not a sleazebag' and a conversation ensued about why a 'nice girl' like me would want to stand as an MP. I told her because I believe we can make a positive impact, not just in our communities, but across our country and even the rest of the world if we all pull together and work towards it. She looked at me with a grudging respect, but also a wry look that said 'she'll soon learn'. I'm not naive. I know I can't change the world. But I would like to think I might in some small way help to make it a bit better for some people in some way. I would rather try than just sit back and accept what I believe to be an unjust or unacceptable situation.

Anyway, I think the fact that the Labour Party believe they can 'beat' Alex Salmond and the SNP but trying to outmanoeuvre him at FMQs once a week is proof that they have lost their way once and for all. Real politics is about representation. The clue's in the term elected REPRESENTATIVE. Getting out there and talking to the people that you want to represent is real politics in my view. Perhaps I'm an idealist. Verging on pious these days? (I hope not!) All I know, is that I do not want to be an MP so that I can sit and hurl abuse at politicians from other parties, but so that I can work hard to make things better for people.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Refugee Week

I was at an event organised as part of Refugee Week today, in the People's Palace in Glasgow. The event included music, poems and spoken word performances from people now living in Glasgow, but who have come from all over the world.

I must say, if you'd said to me a year ago I would be attending an event with 'spoken word performances' I would have looked at you in disbelief. I am far from immersed in the cultural and artistic scene. I suppose that's because I'm always so busy with work and with SNP activities. There just aren't enough hours in the day. The mere suggestion that I would take an evening off to go watch a play, attend a poetry reading or to listen to live music seems so far-fetched. If I get an evening off, I usually head straight for the backlog of housework!

And that's a real pity, because I really enjoyed my experience today and met so many interesting people. My favourite performance though was that of two brothers from Zimbabwe, who played the most bizarre instruments I have ever seen. But the music and the singing was absolutely stunning, and I felt very privileged to be listening. As part of the event, people who have found themselves living in Scotland as refugees recounted their personal stories and they were very moving. So to listen to the music, after I heard about the experience of the musicians, became even more poignant.

From now on, I'm going to make a real effort to go to events that I wouldn't ordinarily consider for me - and I'm sure my life will be the better for it.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Alcohol

This is a quick blog in response to a comment in the previous posting regarding the SNP Government's proposals to tackle problems with alcohol consumption in Scotland. I had planned to write a longer and more considered response, but I've only got 5 minutes before I need to catch a train.

First of all, I think it's ridiculous that we have got to the stage when we need to consider measures like this. After all, the vast majority of us enjoy the odd alcoholic drink without any problem. But I also think that, as a nation, our relationship with alcohol has become so problematic that we need to start looking at more radical action.

We need to change our attitude towards alcohol as a nation, but that doesn't happen overnight. And while availability is not the root cause of the problem (I could walk into the shop across the road right now and but all the alcohol I could carry, drink it and then most likely end up in hospital, but I CHOOSE not to), it is helping to fuel binge drinking - particularly among younger people. And governments can't change cultures overnight, but they can take steps that will help to begin to shift attitudes over time.

The SNP's proposals may not turn out to be universally popular, and I am open-minded about the arguments for and against these specific measures, but I think some credit is due for at least putting this on the agenda and for making some tough decisions about it too.

I'm sure if somebody had suggested these measures when I was a student, I would have been outraged too. But on reflection, I did drink more alcohol than I should have at university and no doubt unwittingly put myself in danger because of it too. Drinking vast amounts of alcohol and drinking to get drunk has become a social norm in Scotland, and a right of passage for many young people. But this is not the case in other countries, and I think people in Scotland deserve something better.

Right, I am ready for the backlash!

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Gala day extravaganza

Photo 1: Abronhill with Cllr Willie Homer, Cllr Liz Irvine and Jamie.


Saturday 14 June was a very busy day indeed, with not one but THREE gala days taking place across the constituency! But I managed to make it along to all three, and I have photographic evidence too. And I strongly refute the allegation that I bought cakes at each event. Well, I did share them :o)

Photo 2: Abronhill with Cllr David Key and Jamie.


I'm glad I went along to these events in Abronhill, Kilsyth and then Kirkintilloch . Not only was it a great chance to catch up with local SNP members, running our various stalls, but also to get a chance to look round the other stalls and have a chat to people.

I particularly enjoyed talking to one lady about her membership of a certain organisation that is still struggling to come to terms with the fact that women are indeed members. We laughed at the fact that both of us have consciously avoided making coffee for people over the years either at work or in the various organisations that we are a part of, for fear of being pigeon-holed or playing to a gender stereotype. (Don't get me wrong, I do take my turn to make the tea and coffee in the office these days!) Anyway, our chat was interrupted by Jamie, who whisked me away to the next gala day, but it's nice to know I'm not the only one with an aversion to preparing hot drinks for men :o)

After the day of festivities it was down to Clydesdale for an SNP fundraiser there. It's a long story but I came home from the evening with a Scotland football top and a hat to wear to all these weddings I have coming up over the summer. And they say there is no glamour in politics!

Photo 3: Just me in Kirkintilloch - just before the rain started!

Friday, 13 June 2008

Mr President!




So, the Republic of Ireland has said NO to the Lisbon Treaty


I can't say I'm surprised given the strong NO campaign. And to be honest, because there is so much in the Lisbon Treaty, there is bound to be at least something in there for everyone to disagree with. The SNP also has a couple of problems with the content of the Lisbon Treaty - but Scotland won't be given the opportunity to vote on this issue, because the Labour Government at Westminster will not putting this to the vote across the UK.


I'm no expert on matters European I'm afraid. I know what you're thinking - that doesn't usually stop me from commenting ;o) But I will leave the analysis of the impact of this decision to others.


But I will explain the title of this posting, and the photographs. The photo above is of me with Ian Hudghton MEP, who is the President of the SNP. This snap was taken outside a recent meeting of all the SNP's candidates for the European Parliament elections next year. The meeting was organised by Kirkintilloch branch of the SNP (half of which is in the constituency I'm contesting - hence my presence in Lenzie that evening). We heard speeches from all the candidates that evening (picture below), and I must confess to having been informed by them. The Irish vote on the Lisbon Treaty just wasn't on my radar before that.

Anyway, the European Parliament elections next year will be an important milestone for the SNP. The more MEPs like Ian Hudghton that Scotland has in Europe the better, and the SNP is fielding a strong team - who all know a lot more about the EU than me!















Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Good news for Cumbernauld!

Good news for Cumbernauld!

What a huge relief to see that 800 jobs are to be saved in the town, and to see that there is potential for even more opportunities in the future.

I can't begin to imagine the kind of stress that people have been under while they have been waiting to see if the site would be taken over. I'm so pleased that the government has been able to help secure these jobs.

I caught a bit of a programme on TV last night (don't know what it was) that covered the Thatcher years, and Tory after Tory appeared on screen dismissing job losses and high unemployment under their government as though they were nothing more than an unfortunate 'by-product' of their higher goal of capitalism. What these people forget is that the economy is there to serve people, and not the other way round. They talked about the 'human cost' of their policies, as though that was immaterial compared to the economic 'gains'. Well, behind every job loss and unemployment statistic is a real person, and there are hundreds of people in Cumbernauld tonight who will be feeling huge relief after today's announcement.

The day we lose sight of what politics is all about i.e. people, is the day the world turns Tory. And it is worrying that some people seem to be falling for the 'Dave' Cameron ordinary nice guy routine. Lest we forget, this man is a huge fan of Margaret Thatcher...

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Condorrat Gala Day


I went along to the Condorrat Gala Day this afternoon, with Jamie, my parents and their dog Abbie (smiling for the camera!). The photos here do not do the glorious weather or the great atmosphere justice!

The organisers of the event did a fantastic job, and everyone seemed to have a brilliant time. Yet again, the community spirit of Cumbernauld was on display. I have told my parents about this before, but they saw it for themselves today.

I must say though, having a cute dog with you does mean that you get into conversation with people more. Dogs are like people magnets! And Abbie was loving the attention.

We also popped along to the YSI stall at the gala day, run by the ever sophisticated Stephen Bowman. He was certainly a hit with the young ladies today, and he thought they were just interested in the free SNP and YSI pens ;o) That's Stephen with me and Jamie at the YSI stall in the picture above. For the avoidance of any doubt, he's the one with the shades!


Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Tiananmen Square - Remembered


It's sod's law. I took a day off work today to get on with some packing, and I woke up feeling rotten! My throat feels like I've swallowed gravel, my head is pounding and my muscles ache...

But I'm not feeling sorry for myself - honest!

Instead, I've actually used this down time for a bit of reflection and to get back to full strength for tomorrow. I'll be in Edinburgh tomorrow, taking part in a demonstration to highlight human rights abuses by the Chinese Government, and to mark those dreadful events in Tiananmen Square on 4 June 1989 when the Chinese authorities massacred democracy protesters.

Tomorrow's demonstration will also focus on the Tiananmen Mothers - mothers who lost their children on that day and who bravely continue to campaign for justice.
You can sign a petition in support of the Tiananmen Mothers here.

Malcolm in Malawi

No wonder my friend Malcolm didn't respond to my email today - he's in Malawi!

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/7433120.stm

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Bread, Butter and Independence

I've written a new article for this month's destiNation on 'bread and butter' issues and independence.

You can check it out via the link below:

http://www.destination.sco.eu/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=23&Itemid=39

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Eurovision humiliation

Yes, I confess - I watched the Eurovision song contest last night! To be fair, I was combining this indulgence with a wardrobe clear out in preparation for our impending move.

Anyway, to call it a 'contest' would be a gross distortion of the word. Russia seemed to sweep up all the votes from neighbouring countries (for fear of having their oil and gas cut off suggested Terry Wogan - half in jest), while the UK received votes from only San Marino and the Republic of Ireland.

Now, avid readers of this blog will be well aware of my politics and how little I identify with the political entity that is the United Kingdom. But the reality is, when the UK was being hammered by a lack of votes last night, I didn't like it!

Why?

Well, firstly because the voting really didn't seem fair. Countries were voting for their neighbours, rather than judging each song and performance on merit. Of course, this has gone on for years, but last night it was more blatant than ever before.

Secondly, I think the guy who sang the UK's entry did an excellent job and the song wasn't half bad (especially compared to your average UK entry).

But there was another reason. Partly, it was because Scotland is still (but not for too much longer I hope!) part of the UK. So, I was being represented by that entry last night. But also because I do share a cultural identity with the other nations of the United Kingdom. I watched all the Scandanavian countries voting for each other last night with envy. They are independent nations with a great deal of goodwill towards their neighbours. I want that for Scotland. I want people in an independent Scotland to watch Eurovision and pick up the phone to vote for England or for Wales (but not to be too blatant in our favouritism for our neighbours of course...).

Yes, my point about Eurovision is very superficial, but I think it's indicative of a wider issue. The UK 'brand' is incredibly soiled. Other countries in Europe regard the UK as a state in the shadow of its imperialist past trying to recapture former 'glory', a warmonger in the Middle East and as anti-European. The UK hasn't exactly done a lot to endear itself to other European nations.

Independence would give the constituent parts of the UK an opportunity to present themselves in a more positive light in the international arena, to shake off the past mistakes from the 'union years' and to become a force for good on this planet.

Now, we wouldn't be doing all this JUST to win the Eurovision song contest - but it would be a bonus. I would love to see the Proclaimers win it for Scotland!

Monday, 19 May 2008

destiNation

This month's issue of destiNation is now live:

http://www.destination.sco.eu/

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Exposing More Labour Hypocrisy

(In Cumbernauld with Jamie, local councillor Liz Irvine, SNP candidate for the European Parliament Anne McLaughlin and hard-working SNP activists)


We were out in Cumbernauld today, distributing a leaflet that exposed the hypocrisy of the local Labour MP over the abolition of the 10 pence tax rate. Rosemary McKenna has been making a big song and dance about campaigning against the abolition, despite having voted for this measure. Labour hypocrisy in action yet again.


In our local newspaper, Rosemary has attempted to deflect from her actions on the issue of the 10 pence tax rate by accusing me of possessing a ‘lack of knowledge of the parliamentary process’ and of issuing an ‘inaccurate’ statement.



What a novel approach for a Labour politician - attempt to patronise, mislead and generally bluster your way out of a situation.



Rosemary can try to pull the wool over peoples’ eyes in relation to her conduct over the abolition of 10 pence tax rate, but the fact of the matter is that she voted for this measure. The reality is that Rosemary’s actions as an MP are a matter of public record, and people can easily see for themselves how she has voted on each issue at Westminster. People don’t need to take my word for it; they can check out Rosemary’s record for themselves at websites such as www.theyworkforyou.com – which lists how each MP has voted.



She may well have called for a review of the abolition of the 10 pence tax rate, but we wouldn’t need a review if she and her Labour colleagues hadn’t voted for the abolition of the 10 pence rate in the first place!



As for Labour’s so-called U-turn on the 10 pence rate, that is nothing more than a compensation con (to use an already well worn phrase in this whole debacle). Not everyone set to lose from the abolition of the 10 pence rate will be adequately compensated by Darling's panic tax break and there is no guarantee that the tax break will continue next year. Labour MPs like Rosemary have been boasting about their victory in bringing about this U-turn from the Westminster Government, but this is a move that will still leave more than a million low paid households comparatively worse off.



As for my Labour opponent at the next Westminster election (Rosemary's standing down), well a few weeks ago I challenged him to condemn Rosemary McKenna’s actions over the 10 pence tax scandal. He refused to comment, to either condemn or support Rosemary. Not only is it strange that somebody who is putting themselves forward for election doesn’t seem to have an opinion on a matter as important as this, but also that he didn’t take the opportunity to back Rosemary McKenna’s actions. His silence speaks volumes.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Dizzy!

It is now just a few short weeks until we move from Glasgow to Cumbernauld. I have packed only a single box of what I can only describe as things that make Jamie's eyes roll when I appear home with them - candles, decorative things and the like. And I've run out of bubble wrap already!

I always have an endless 'to do' list these days, and it's not going to change any time soon. As well as moving, I am working hard on our constituency campaign. There are always leaflets and surveys to design and get printed, workdays to organise, activists to mobilise, doors to knock, press releases to write, local events and branch meetings to attend.

The second issue of destiNation (check out the link on the right) is going live this weekend too, and so I've all the new articles to read as well as my own article and editorial to finish.

I'm the political education officer (sounds grand, doesn't it?) for my branch, and I put together a little magazine in that role. One due shortly...

Work is also really busy at the moment, but absolutely brilliant! So many exciting projects on the go there too.

Over the past year I have just become really really busy. Partly because of Jamie's election - I've found that being a politician's wife does make you busier in itself (although it would be difficult to put my finger on how or why exactly...). But also because I made the decision to stand for the SNP at the next Westminster election. Being a candidate really is a way of life. It's like having an extra job.

But this workload will be nothing compared to the task ahead of me if I am elected. This would merely be the warm-up! So no politics tonight folks, just a wee meander through my mundane observations about the practicalities of my life at the moment. I'm off to unwind for a bit and watch Heroes!

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Independence - Bring It On!!!

Much like fellow SNP member, Richard (http://scotsandindependent.blogspot.com/2008/05/u-bendy.html), I have also delayed posting on developments regarding an independence referendum.

However, my delay was for slightly different reasons than Richard has given. I was not waiting for the dust to settle or confusion to lift so that I could offer a better quality analysis of events. No - I think my hesitation has been more due to disbelief!

Who could have predicted such an astonishing U-turn from Wendy Alexander? This is the woman who has for years told us again and again that the people of Scotland did not deserve the right to choose their own future in a democratic referendum. For her, such an opportunity was a mere distraction from the 'real' issues. She subscribed to the patronising view that Labour - and the other unionist parties - were better placed than the people of Scotland to decide what was in our best interests.

Suddenly, in a cynical and desperate attempt to 'outflank' the SNP, she has given us exactly what we want. We want the people of Scotland to be given the chance to have their say on the future of this country, in a democratic referendum on independence. The people of this country have never had the opportunity to choose independence in such a vote, and it is long overdue.

And the difference between the Labour Party and the SNP on this issue is this...

Labour want to rule Scotland and prevent us from flourishing as an independent nation. Their sudden conversion to a referendum is not because they have discovered their democratic credentials - this is about political survival and self-interest. The SNP, on the other hand, understand it is a privilege to be given the opportunity to govern Scotland, and we want both to give people the information they need to make a decision about independence and to offer the opportunity to make that decision in a referendum. The SNP argues the case for independence, and also for our right to choose our own future.

In our manifesto, on which we were elected last May, we pledged to put a bill before the Scottish Parliament on an independence referendum following wide consultation with the people of Scotland. That's exactly what we are doing with our National Conversation. So, we will indeed put our referendum bill before the Scottish Parliament. And now, with Labour's support (well Labour in Scotland anyway) that bill will pass and a referendum will be held.

Labour are now committed to supporting a referendum. The fact that they will subsequently be going round the doors telling people to vote 'No' is another matter, and I can't wait to hear the shoddy and vacuous reasons they come up with for opposing independence. I think people are fed up of being told that we, as a country, are too small, too poor and too stupid to run our own affairs. They are starting to see through the lies they have been told by generations of unionist politicians, more interested in their London fortunes than the people of Scotland.

Of course, I am just speculating about Labour's position on the independence referendum itself. At the rate Wendy seems to change her mind, she may well be advocating independence by then too! Bring THAT on!

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Day of Action!

I whirled round the constituency today, for the SNP's Day of Action across Scotland.

First Kilsyth, then Cumbernauld and then Kirkintilloch.


We were handing out the new 'Vision' leaflets, which outline the successes of the SNP's first year in Government and generally chatting to people in the town centres.
I must say, it is amazing to be standing talking to people about our RECORD in government. Before we were elected, I would so often have people say to me that all political parties are the same, and that they didn't think the SNP could run the country. And I always used to ask people to give us a chance, and allow us to show them that we could indeed do a good job on their behalf. And I think the SNP Government is repaying the trust that people across Scotland put in us when they cast their votes last May - many of whom were voting SNP for the first time.
But that's the first year in government over, and we must not spend too long dwelling on what we have been able to achieve so far. We have still so many goals to work towards - important work to be done in government using the powers that we currently have and campaigning for independence, to ensure that we have all the powers that we need here in Scotland to really start to transform our country for the better.

That's why I'll be out again tomorrow, chapping doors.










Friday, 2 May 2008

Impending anniversary

It's been a momentous year for the SNP and Scotland.

I won't list all the achievements of the SNP Government here. The list is just too long... ;o)

Plus, Alex Salmond covers it all well:

http://www.snp.org/node/13750

I'm heading out tomorrow morning for a veritable whistle-stop tour of the constituency I'm standing in, where I will be joining SNP members in handing out our new 'Vision' leaflets to local residents.

The last year has passed so quickly in many ways, yet so much has changed. And I really feel like we are on the verge of a real breakthrough in our journey to independence. Now, that's motivation for getting up early on a Saturday morning!

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Heading south...

No, don't worry folks - I'm not emigrating! However, I am heading down to London tomorrow for work, which should be rather interesting given the local elections in England and the fight to become London Mayor.

I have often thought about who I would vote for if I lived in England - especially in conversation with friends in England who would quite like to have another party to vote for. I remember years ago when I worked at SNP HQ, a guy from London called to ask if there was any chance that Alex Salmond might consider standing in his constituency. He said they were crying out for a decent social democratic party down there and that it was a shame the SNP didn't contest seats in England!

He was obviously attracted by our progressive policies, and who can blame him?

So, who would I vote for if I lived in England? Well, if I lived in England then I would make sure I was still registered to vote here in Scotland. ;o) But if I had grown up in England and planned to settle in England, then I'm not sure what I would do.

Definitely not the Tories. New Labour have become the Tories. And the Lib Dems are the 'mid-point' party; their purpose is to sit somewhere in the middle between the Tories and Labour, which must be a very uncomfortable place to be.

Yet, I would have to vote. I believe very strongly that we all have a duty to vote to protect our democracy. What a dilemma - thank goodness it's not a choice I have to make tomorrow!

Must go, up at 4am...

Monday, 28 April 2008

Adoption Night


In the SNP we have a great tradition - adoption nights! They are essentially a social event and fundraiser - held to celebrate the selection of our candidates and raise funds for our campaigns. I say it's an SNP tradition, because the other parties don't seem to hold them (but I could be wrong on this...).

Anyway, Saturday 26th April was the date of my 'adoption'. It was held in Cumbernauld New Town Hall, to mark my selection as the Westminster candidate for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth & Kirkintilloch East. I've done a bit of a report on the evening on my campaign website (link below), but I wanted to use my blog for more of a personal reflection.

The picture above (left to right) is of Jamie Hepburn MSP (AKA my lovely husband), John Swinney MSP (Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth), me, Cllr Derek Mackay (Leader of Renfrewshire Council) and Neil McCallum (my election agent and constituency convener).
The night itself was fantastic. We were entertained by two young musicians from the constituency - Colin Masterton and Jill Smithson. Amazing talent. In fact, they were so good, I'm sure some folk were wondering if we needed to bother with the speeches ;o)
But we did. Derek Mackay addressed the assembled SNP members and supporters, followed by John Swinney and then myself. Both Derek and John were far too kind about me, but I really appreciate their support and I only hope I can emulate some of what they have been able to achieve in their time as SNP representatives.
After the speeches, we were then lured on to the dance floor when the disco started!
So, that's an adoption night. Speeches, entertainment, fundraising.
I was especially pleased that my family came up from the Borders for the occasion. It was really interesting speaking to one of my brother's girlfriends afterwards. She told me on the way home that she had never voted before in her life. She said she thought politicians were all 'in it for themselves' and that politics was only for 'folk with money'. But, that shouldn't surprise me. After all, there are a number of people in Scotland who feel that way about politics unfortunately.
However, what did pleasantly surprise me is what she then said. She told me we had really opened her eyes that night. Because it was an internal SNP event, she heard us talking to ourselves and about what mattered to SNP members and activists. She realised how genuine our motives are, and was impressed by the passion and commitment we have for independence and using our independence to make Scotland a better place to live. She was surprised to meet such a diverse range of people from all walks of life and realised that politics did indeed matter to her. Maybe she was caught in the moment, but she also stated that she'd be voting in the future and casting her vote for the SNP!
I am so pleased that somebody from outwith the SNP was able to come along to an event like that, and go home impressed by our party and by our aspirations for her and everyone else in Scotland.
I feel so privileged to be representing the SNP as a candidate, and excited at the prospect of being able to represent this constituency. As an MP there is so much I could do to contribute to this area, and the opportunity to do so would be amazing. It may be a while yet before that Westminster election rolls round, but that just gives me more time to meet as many people in the constituency as possible.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

SNP spring conference

Yes, here I am 'in action' at SNP conference at the weekend. Worryingly (for me anyway), this is the most flattering shot! You can imagine how bad the others were...

Anyway, I'm finding it quite difficult to report on conference - it all went by in a bit of a blur! I had to get there early each day because I'm on the Standing Orders and Agenda Committee of the SNP. This rather dull sounding committee is elected by SNP delegates each year at our autumn conference and is charged with selecting the motions for debate at National Council and Conference which have been submitted by SNP branches, constituencies, organisations and elected members. We meet early each morning of these national meetings to discuss topical and emergency motions to be debated that day.

The picture above was taken while I was speaking to delegates on a topical motion, which condemned the Westminster Labour Government for abolishing the 10 pence starting rate of tax. This is an issue I previously blogged on, and feel very strongly about.

I addressed conference again that day, because I moved the motion on first aid training submitted by my branch, Cumbernauld North East. I'm glad that didn't make it on to the BBC webcast though - as I said my Dad was embarrassing! There is some context to that. You see my Dad is an ambulance technician and I was telling delegates about the first aid training I was lucky enough to receive growing up, and my embarrassment when my Dad came along to do the first aid training at the Brownies, etc. Sorry Dad!

I also attended the launch of the new Equalities Forum of the SNP. More on that at a later date, but this is a really positive step - aimed at providing an umbrella organisation to support a number of groups in the SNP.

Other than that, I spent time catching up with folk, posing for a photoshoot of Westminster candidates, listening to debates, drinking tea, and voting to select a list of candidates to put forward for the forthcoming European elections (special congrats to my friend Anne McLaughlin AKA Indygal who made the list - she would make an excellent MEP!).

One final thought... Alex Salmond has set the SNP a target of winning at least 20 seats at the next Westminster election. I'm doing all I can to make sure that Cumbernauld, Kilsyth & Kirkintilloch East is one of those successes. So, I'd better get back to my campaign 'to do' list....

Monday, 21 April 2008

destiNation

Well, it has been one hectic weekend, because I was attending SNP Conference in Edinburgh. More on that later...

On the Friday night before conference, a new website that I've been working on went live. It's called destiNation, and it's basically an online magazine/forum for articles and essays from a pro-independence perspective.

A huge thank you to Euan, who has been very patient with me over the last few weeks. You see, he's the technical whizz who has put the website together.

The idea of destiNation is to provide an online forum for commentary and debate about Scottish politics and public policy, from pro-independence contributors. Blogging has been a valuable vehicle for people - of all political persuasions and none - to air their views and stimulate debate. However, I felt that we were lacking a space that pulled together in a coherent fashion the ideas and contributions of those people who support independence. Most of the contributors to the first issue of destiNation are in fact bloggers - and you will find links to their blogs down the right hand side of this blog and on the destiNation website.

Please check it out, email a comment to me via the website or email if you would like to discuss an idea for submitting an article of your own.

www.destination.sco.eu

Monday, 14 April 2008

Labour in denial - Scotland won't wait for you

http://www.sundayherald.com/news/heraldnews/display.var.2192965.0.0.php

The latest poll has put independence ahead of the status quo. Great news. But even better, is the feedback I'm getting on the doorsteps when I'm out campaigning, which I'm sure is replicated across the country. Polls are one thing - opinions from people face to face are even better.

And people are increasingly telling me that they support independence - either when I speak to them in their community or in the surveys they return to our campaign team. It's wonderful to see so many people coming to the realisation that independence is not only normal, it's also desirable. They've seen what it's like to have a government looking after the best interests of Scotland in the devolved areas, and fancy a bit of good governance in the reserved areas too. If we can run our own health service and education system, why can't we run our own tax and benefits systems too? Well, of course, we can!

I am now beginning to cringe when I hear the response of Labour politicians to support for independence. Before, the lies they told and the fears they spread used to really annoy me - especially as people seemed to believe them without question. Now, those same arguments that the Labour Party and other pro-union parties have regurgitated for years are starting to look increasingly ridiculous. Poor Jackie Ballie is always wheeled out to deliver them too. Does everyone else refuse to do it because they know how daft they would look?

Just what will the Labour Party do when Scotland has voted for independence in a referendum? Will they still stand there and claim that most people don't want it? That independence is irrelevant? Surely not. At some point, they will get with the programme and tune in to the aspirations of the people of Scotland - and those aspirations are growing. The SNP is ready for the challenge to meet those aspirations. The Labour Party seem intent on limiting the ambitions of the people of Scotland. Denial can only last for so long, and the people of this country won't wait for Labour to catch up.