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


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!