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.