Dundee would make an outstanding City of Culture #wedundee #CityofCulture2017

Today in the Scottish Parliament, a debate took place on the UK City of Culture and Dundee’s bid and it was great to see the support for our city across the political spectrum.   Below, I reproduce the comments made in the chamber today by my Liberal Democrat colleague Alison McInnes, MSP for North East Scotland, who made the point that Dundee would make an outstanding City of Culture.   Alison is pictured below (front, third from the right) in a picture of parliamentarians showing that cross-party support at the parliament today:
“As a regional member for the north east it is a privilege to represent the city.  The journey the city is on has been quite remarkable to witness.   
 
The vibrancy of the city and sense of determination amongst its people to bring about change is admirable.
 
I remember many years ago, while I was an Aberdeenshire councillor, visiting the city on a planning study tour to look at the importance of public open space and public art in town centre re-generation.  What the city council was doing then was small scale compared to the regeneration we are witnessing today, but it carried the hallmarks of creativity, imagination and determination that has propelled Dundee forward to this important tipping point.
 
And what regeneration there has been!
 
The city‘s distinctive approach- firstly  recognising  that a cultural renaissance could be a powerful catalyst for change, and then successfully harnessing that cultural energy  makes Dundee a special place.
 
And the UK City of culture team has recognised that by shortleeting the city.  
 
Feedback at the time said the bid was particularly strong in the way in which it talked about the journey of the city over the last 10 years, using culture to regenerate the city with DCA, the McManus, the Rep and now the V&A.
 
The judges were positive about the consultation, and they were particularly impressed on the way the team engaged with people through the WeDundee website, as well as the number of people involved. Council members, universities, community groups, young and old, cultural groups, businesses and  local media have all pulled together to make the best possible case for Dundee.
 
My Liberal Democrat colleague Cllr Fraser Macpherson told me that  “The all-party, cross-party, working together positively to support Dundee’s bid has been the best example of co-operation between politicians of all political hues in many a year.”
 
I am delighted to be able to join in tonight’s debate to underline the wholehearted support there is across all the political parties for this bid to succeed.
 
Dundee would be an outstanding choice for the accolade of UK City of Culture and I fervently hope that it is successful.
 
There is nothing superficial about the bid.   It addresses the real needs of Dundee , not shying away from the stark facts such as 
 
•A third of the city’s population live in the areas which make up the poorest 15% in Scotland. 
•Dundee’s educational outcomes are poorer than the Scottish average. 
•The current level of participation in cultural activity in Dundee is divided between the poorer and better off areas.  
 
Dundee’s bid is about social regeneration through culture.  The step change will be to use culture and creativity to evolve a more confident community and through this to address inequality.  
 
Dundee will use the year of culture to connect parts of the city more effectively, ensuring those who live in its deprived communities are able to fully enjoy the benefits of its creative and cultural resources.
 
That would be a lasting legacy. 
 
Let me turn now to the wider impact.  I believe that there will be significant benefits for the whole region.
 
At the core of the economic impact is the increased visitor spend and the uplift in economic activity related to cultural led tourism.  
 
VisitScotland recognise that the north east underperforms and that Dundee has a key role as the city at the centre of a region of great natural beauty.
 
The visitor impact on Dundee would be to increase by 50% the total number of visitors in the Year of Culture and to have a sustained level of higher visitors beyond that.  
 
The combination of completing the V&A, developing new hotel opportunities and improving transport links places Dundee in a great position to attract cruise ships as well as UK based tourists.  
 
Dundee:  one city many discoveries.
 
All of us here tonight can sing the praises of this vibrant city, but truth be told there are still too few scots who have visited Dundee to find out for themselves what’s to be discovered. I hope that winning city of culture will encourage a great many more people to come on a visit of discovery.
 
I’d like to congratulate the Evening Telegraph campaign.  Reading some of the online comments about what people love about their city was uplifting.
 
One comment summed it up for me:
 
“Dundee people are proud of a city which has seen hard times but is reinventing itself as a modern city which embraces change and new opportunities.”
 
I have no doubt that this should be Dundee’s moment.”

Swinney fudge …

Today’s Scottish Budget was a typical John Swinney fudge.    It is lighter on detail than it should have been and it is disappointing that John Swinney wouldn’t give the figures for more than one year.   You might have concluded that John Swinney does not expect to be Finance Cabinet Secretary this time next year.  You would be right. 

The one year only budget is a dangerous way for every school, hospital and college in Dundee and elsewhere in Scotland to try and plan ahead.     Hard working staff have no way of knowing what to expect from the SNP.    They can’t take sensible decisions if they don’t have the future plans.

On the day when unemployment is going up in Dundee and across Scotland but down in the rest of the UK, the SNP is wrong to cut support for enterprise, colleges and tourism, but failed to cut high pay, bonuses and waste.  Under the SNP the highest paid staff in the NHS still keep £26 million of bonuses.

Another wasted opportunity.

Mad world

Yesterday John Swinney, the SNP Cabinet Secretary for Finance and (no) Sustainable Growth told the SNP Conference of “very significant restraint” of pay for all public sector workers in Scotland.   Today, Alex Salmond is going to confirm fears that the SNP Government is going to cut the number of police forces in Scotland.   The SNP is presiding over cuts in nursing staff across Scotland – one Health Board is cutting 553 nursing jobs.    

 

So, its an obvious time for the SNP to annouce that they will continue with implementation of their policy of free prescriptions for millionaires.

It is about time this SNP government of cheap headlines and no responsibility woke up and smelt the coffee.

“Bubbles” concern

There has been considerable concern about “bubbles” – the so called ‘legal high’ – and this was discussed at the recent Harris Academy Parent Council meeting I attended.

I raised the matter with Ross Finnie MSP, Scottish Liberal Democrat Health spokesperson in the Scottish Parliament. He advised that the issue was discussed in the parliament on 11th February during general questions. He adds :

” … the Minister, Fergus Ewing, responded that he has written to the Home Office calling for action stating he believes these kind of drugs should be made illegal as soon as possible. We understand the Home Office’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs is looking into mephedrone as a priority, as part of their review into legal highs, and will report back this year. The SG is also funding the provision of training materials for alcohol and drug partnerships and has also expanded the know the score drug awareness campaign to include many of these legal highs.”

The Scottish Budget vote – breaking news

Scottish Budget 2010 – from Tavish Scott MSP
At the end of the Scottish Budget process for 2010 it is worth remarking on some points.
Today the Scottish Liberal Democrats have achieved changes to Scottish Government programmes that reflect our priorities.
The changes are the ones that we started this whole process campaigning on. We stuck to the issues. We have developed thoroughly researched proposals that help to build a fairer society and a sustainable economy.
There have been substantial changes to the Scottish Budget as a result of the work of the Scottish Liberal Democrats.
Our research demonstrated that, in these tough times, far too big a share of the Scottish Budget is currently spent on the highest paid staff. The Scottish Government has now agreed to a new pay policy in March that brings a culture of restraint to the highest paid.
We produced research that demonstrated how record numbers of people are being turned away from Scotland’s colleges. With unemployment at record levels, we have shown that young people are being hit twice. They can’t get a job and now they can’t get a college place. The Scottish Government has agreed to fund more college places. Overall, more than 7,500 students will benefit. That will mean thousands of lives and careers transformed thanks to our work.

The Finance Secretary has also responded to our demand for debt-financing support for Scottish business. Too many businesses we have spoken to simply cannot get access to loans through their bank. A Federation of Small Business report this week shows that our priority on this is right. These soundly-based businesses need government support to get through the recession. This has now been agreed by the Scottish Government and further detailed plans – using European funding – will be announced shortly.

The Scottish Government has also agreed to our proposal for a post office diversification fund. This will offer grants to post offices in communities who cannot get the finance they need to expand and diversify their businesses. We hope that communities across Scotland will take up the potential of this lifeline and will see their local post office give more services and become a growing business.
Taken together, these four measures mean that Liberal Democrats do not have reason to block the Budget. We have demonstrated that we can win practical support for young people and for our economy when the Scottish Parliament backs us.
There are still substantial concerns. There is still more work to take place on cutting the pay bill of those at the top in the public sector, movement on bonuses, reducing the quangos that have been created by the SNP and supporting the economy. We will continue to campaign on these but will do so from a much stronger position given our budget achievements.

The Scottish Futures Trust disaster

I don’t much rate the SNP administration at Holyrood, elected on promises undelivered, high on populism and low on any achievement. However, in terms of its long-term legacy of failure, its hopeless management of capital infrastructure financing will cause the most damage. Step forward the Scottish Futures Trust :

• The Scottish Futures Trust (SFT) has been an expensive failure. It is a political white elephant which has achieved nothing for Scotland. It should be scrapped.

• It cost £23 million in set up costs alone, whilst its budget for this year is doubling to £5.9million and the Chief Executive is being paid £180,000. The CBI has called it a ‘fiasco’ and independent reports say that it is unlikely to be any cheaper than PFI/PPP.
• Despite what the SNP want us to believe, the SFT has no role in funding schools, the Forth Crossing or anything else. Instead, the SFT has caused a major hiatus in the construction industry as the SNP Government have delayed capital projects in order to ‘develop’ the SFT enough to give an impression it has a role – the SNP saving face is not an excuse for delaying the replacing of crumbling schools, nor is it an excuse for cuts to construction jobs and apprenticeships.

• Far from a radical alternative that will revolutionise public investment, the SNP’s much-derided flagship financial policy has turned out simply to be a new quango which will act as an advisory body for the public sector. It has no funding stream and there is no evidence of when or how it will make the promised annual £150 million efficiency savings.

• Projects around the country are being delayed as a result of the SFT uncertainty. In a recession there is a serious need to delivered infrastructure for Scotland’s economy but the SFT is fast becoming a national embarrassment. The SNP must put the Futures Trust in the past and get on with building the schools and hospitals Scotland needs.

The Scottish Futures Trust & School Building:

• The Scottish Futures Trust is not funding school building, despite the SNP’s attempts to pretend otherwise. We are also still no further forward in knowing whether the SFT will ever provide funding for infrastructure development.
• The £800m of direct capital investment announced by the Scottish Government in June could have been made 2 years ago. Councils have been forced to wait while the SNP try to save face over the SFT, which isn’t contributing a single penny to this School Building Programme, or any other infrastructure investment.

• Under the School Building Programme the first primary school won’t be built until 2011, the first secondary school in 2013 and some schools will be delayed until 2018. The SNP pledged that they would match the previous administration’s school building ‘brick for brick’. However, the School Building Programme is only funding 14 secondary schools and 21 primary and specialist schools.

• Despite LibDem calls for the reintroduction of level playing field support for councils which would have helped councils plan ahead with their school building, the Government neither listened nor delivered.

The ‘fat cat’ pay bill in Scotland

Good for Tavish Scott in highlighting at last week’s First Minister’s questions the burgeoning cost of Scotland’s public bodies to the taxpayer, with the disclosure that at least 1 798 employees in the sector earn more than £100 000 a year.

Six public sector executive board members are paid more than Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister (£197 000) or Alex Salmond, First Minister (£145 000). A further 1 596 are paid between £80 000 and £100 000 — more than a Scottish government minister. The total salary bill for the highest-paid is at least £400 million a year.

If you go to http://tinyurl.com/fatcatpay, you can read the Courier’s news report about this – and I publish below the Scottish Liberal Democrats’ news release about the matter. What is clear is that the SNP government is taking no action to tackle the issue – disgraceful given the financial and economic challenges facing Scotland.

Scott challenges Salmond to cut the fat cat pay bill

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Tavish Scott MSP challenged the First Minister to cut the fat cat pay bill by 2010.

At First Minister’s Questions, Mr Scott revealed that nearly 3,400 people in the public sector get paid more than a Scottish Government Minister does. They receive a total of almost £401 million in pay each year.

Commenting, Mr Scott said:

“At least 3,400 people in the public sector in Scotland get paid more than a Scottish Government Minister. Some even get paid more than Alex Salmond’s three salaries as MP, MSP and First Minister added together.

“They receive a total of £401 million in pay every year.

“All across vital public services people at the bottom of the income scale are being threatened with losing their jobs. Statistics last week show that the number of young people unemployed has never been higher.

“People will not understand why the Government lets this pay chasm between richest and poorest continue.

“The First Minister and his Government are in charge of public sector pay. It was John Swinney who awarded the new Chief Executive of Scottish Enterprise her bumper £203,000 salary and handed the Chief Executive of the Scottish Futures Trust a fat £180,000 paycheque.

“I want a fair society where the very well paid are expected to share the burden of tight government spending, not just the poorest and unemployed.

“The First Minister needs to set a target as part of his Budget to reduce that pay bill and spend the money on creating skills and jobs for young people instead. It’s right that the people who get such a vast share of public money should shoulder a fair share of the burden in these tough times.”

Bad day for Hyslop

At the Scottish Parliament today, Scotland’s hapless Education Cabinet Secretary Fiona Hyslop got a bit of a roasting from MSPs, including LibDem Margaret Smith MSP, about her abject failure to cut primary school class sizes in P1 to P3 to 18.

Hyslop’s response? She blames the councils, the recession, budget cuts … actually everybody but the SNP and herself.

The reality is that the SNP promised something it could not deliver.    The policy has failed to be funded by the SNP government and the only person Fiona Hyslop should blame is Fiona Hyslop – the least effective Education Minister since devolution.

Referendum no more …

The decision of the Scottish Liberal Democrat Conference yesterday to reject Salmond’s independence referendum proposal (see http://tinyurl.com/referdumno) is a decision I greatly welcome. This effectively kills off the SNP referendum proposal this side of the 2011 election and judging by the latest polls (see http://tinyurl.com/snpdecline) that show the SNP firmly behind Labour in likely seats in the Scottish Parliament were an election to take place now for the Scottish Parliament, with Liberal Democrats, Tories and Greens gaining seats as the SNP slides, the likelihood of a referendum after 2011 also now looks unlikely.

I have indicated in the past (see http://tinyurl.com/referendumwaste) that a referendum is a complete waste of public money – particularly in the current challenges facing the economy (what an irrelevance at a time all effort should be being made to tackling the recession) – but particularly because there are regular General Elections and Scottish Parliamentary Elections where the constitutional future of Scotland could be altered should separatist parties gain a majority of the vote or seats.

I therefore agree with the letter writer from Polmont in today’s “Scotland on Sunday” (see http://tinyurl.com/nosupportrefer) who writes :

“When will the SNP realise that every national election in which they have campaigned has offered the Scottish electorate the opportunity to vote for independence?

My first personal experience of a General Election was in 1974 when the posters declared ‘Independence this time – Yes’.   My political experience came in 1992 when we were told that Scotland would be ‘Free by ’93’!   The fact is that every recent election to both Westminster and Holyrood has failed to show that the people of Scotland either support independence or indeed want a choice over it.    If they had, there would have been a clear majority of votes for those parties that supported it, as there was in 1997 for devolution.”

Mad World

Today’s “Scotland on Sunday” (see http://tinyurl.com/scotlandtax) :

“Scots facing tax hike and £1.5bn cuts
 

Senior civil servants are making plans for the SNP to introduce a 5 per cent cut in public sector spending – as well as tax increases”

Today’s Sunday Times (see http://tinyurl.com/votecost) :

“SNP independence drive bill tops £700,000
Cost of build-up to referendum mounts even though vote is in doubt

 
Scottish government spending on an independence referendum that is unlikely to be put to voters is expected to top £700,000.


While the referendum bill, announced last week by Alex Salmond, the first minister, is almost certain to be voted down by the opposition, spending on initiatives to bolster support for independence in the run-up to the planned poll has continued to rise.”

Not really got what it takes …

So the SNP new slogan is apparently “We’ve got what it takes” – apparently that doesn’t stretch to our local SNP MSP remembering that Hugh Henry MSP is a Labour MSP rather than a nationalist Euro candidate!
But do they have what it takes?
To Dump Student Debt – err … no
To Abolish the Council Tax – no
To establish class sizes of less than 18 in the early primary years – again, no
To match the LibDem/Labour Executive’s school building programme ‘brick for brick’ – no – actually not a single brick – Scottish Futures Trust is a total flop
To bring civil service jobs to Dundee – no
To build new affordable housing in Dundee – no – housing association grant in Dundee in 2008/9 was CUT by £7 MILLION by the SNP.
I am reminded of the mantra of Ron Paul, US presidential candidate – see right.

Yet another SNP climbdown?

The article ‘Russell admits secession poll lacks support’ smacks of yet another SNP climbdown, this time over their much vaunted separation referendum proposal – see http://scotlandonsunday.scotsman.com/latestnews/Russell-admits-secession-poll-lacks.5004350.jp to view the full article in today’s “Scotland on Sunday.”

Meanwhile the “Sunday Times” reports ‘SNP backs down over drinks curbs’ – another SNP policy down the drain, following hot on the heels of the local income tax retreat.   Oh yes, and £2000 to every new home buyer, dumping student debt, etc, etc …
Personally, I’d welcome the SNP Government abandoning its referendum proposal – a total irrelevance in the current economic situation – but it does make one wonder if anyone will ever again vote for a party that has simply binned most of its manifesto promises.

Budgets – national and local

I am pleased that the Scottish Parliament has finally agreed its Budget – partly, of course, because it lifts the uncertainty that was hanging over the ability of our local authority (and the 31 others across Scotland) in being able to set its own budget a week tomorrow.

The degree of willingness to find consensus across the parties in the parliament was positive; as a result we now have a Scottish Budget that is better for Scotland than the original SNP proposals.


Tavish Scott has rightly said that politicians need to think beyond tomorrow’s headlines – it is important for people to work hard for long term economic benefits for
Scotland, particularly given the challenging economic situation facing the country.


For local public services, the news from the new Budget on school building is positive. The SNP has changed their position on the Scottish Futures Trust. Following pressure from the Liberal Democrats, the government has now agreed to provide a new funding stream to restart school building in
Scotland to supplement the limited building possible through conventional prudential borrowing.

Local authorities and the construction industry have heavily criticised the government for paralysing investment and planning for new schools, so moves towards a proper programme of support for school building is to be welcomed.

The SNP has also changed their position and will now engage with the Calman Commission on devolution. This is the best way to get additional fiscal powers for the Scottish Parliament, which if delivered could allow for major capital projects such as the planned additional Forth Bridge crossing to be paid for without jeopardising every other transport project in Scotland.


Professor John Curtice told the
BBC on Sunday that this concession could be the “most interesting long-term consequence of all of this.”


The consensus in Edinburgh will hopefully be mirrored on Dundee City Council where it looks increasingly likely that agreement will be possible on the City Council’s Revenue and Capital Budget proposals between the political groups on the Council, making the possibility of freezing the Council Tax in Dundee for a third year in a row becoming deliverable.

There will be a further meeting of political group leaders tomorrow but it is looking very promising that the necessary savings to reach a council tax freeze position may be agreed between the parties, which I think is good news for Dundee Council Taxpayers.

It has undoubtedly been a challenge to ensure that savings are found that achieve such a position, particularly as I think all councillors want to minimise any effect on the quality of the Council’s services, but it is good that agreement now seems likely.

With the passing of the Scottish Budget today, the potential problem of it not being agreed affecting the date when councils set their Council Tax levels has been removed and it is now certain that the Council Tax will be fixed for Dundee on 12th February.

Future of HBOS

I’m pleased that, earlier this week, the Scottish Parliament backed a LibDem motion – by a margin of 61 to 40 – for HBOS to be given access to a £37 billion rescue fund, arguing it should receive the same treatment as other major banks that have been handed the money.

 

It further made clear that “losing HBOS corporate headquarters and jobs in Edinburgh would seriously jeopardise the city’s position as a financial centre.”

 

Mr Scott’s motion concluded that there is “no reason why HBOS should not be able to access UK Treasury recapitalisation and, therefore, liquidity funding on the same basis as other independent banks.”

 

A secure future for HBOS is vital for Scotland and it was reassuring to see that the majority of Scotland’s parliamentarians grasp that point.

Things getting difficult for the SNP

There is little cheer for the nationalists in this Sunday’s newspapers.   In reporting the comments of Professor John Kay, “Scotland on Sunday” sort of sums up the general theme :
 
‘An independent Scottish economy would be “awful” in the present financial climate, one of Alex Salmond’s key economic advisers said last night. … Kay, a member of the First Minister’s Council of Economic Advisers, criticised the SNP’s vision of an independent nation, saying he was not interested in “flag-waving, embassies and armies”.’
 
And Iain Macwhirter in the “Sunday Herald” (not exactly the SNP’s greatest critic) says :
 
‘Certainly, the Nationalist government is no longer a novelty, and is getting into the kind of difficulties all governments get into in mid-term – acquiring daft policies like trying to make it illegal for young married couples to buy a bottle of wine at an off-licence. The magic is fading, and policies like free school meals and local income tax are in difficulties.’
 
Absolutely true.   Leaving aside the rather obvious point that Scottish separation from the rest of the UK makes no economic sense, the biggest problem I feel the SNP government faces is that it lives for tomorrow’s newspaper headline and does not plan for the medium and long term. 
 
The SNP Scottish Government is getting itself into a bit of a guddle – a few examples :
 
* It opposes Public Private Partnership capital funding, ends it, resulting in a premature end to much needed further infrastructure improvements to schools and hospitals, but has nothing but a myth to replace it.   The Scottish Futures Trust is unreal, it doesn’t really exist, and far from matching the building programme achieved under the former LibDem/Labour Executive, the “brick for brick” promises of the SNP have proved to be empty rhetoric.   Actually, no bricks at all from Mr Salmond.
 
* Makes a total guddle of its proposals for a replacement for Council Tax – erroneously claimed to be ‘Local Income Tax’  but actually a Scottish National Income Tax (or should that not be “Scottish National Party Income Tax”!)   And, in true tabloid fashion, in the face of universal criticism of its decision to tax students, the SNP rushes out some media spin to suggest they may be exempted, making a policy already £742 million short of being affordable (CIPFA’s figures, not mine) even less affordable.    The SNP decision to charge students local income tax in the first place was plain daft, but you’ll note that John Swinney hasn’t quite worked out how he’ll pay for now exempting them.
 
* Creating a lot of media spin about assisting affordable housing in Scotland, that, behind the spin, has seen little delivery on the ground.    Housing Association capital funding in Dundee was cut by 46% by the SNP government for 2008-9.    SNP politicians in the city have failed to campaign to reverse this cut showing that either they have little influence with their own government or they haven’t bothered to speak up for Dundee.
 
* The Concordat between Scottish Government and local government is beginning to fall apart as John Swinney washes his hands of any responsibility to help local government meet the financial pressures caused by the local government pay dispute and also to pay for SNP government policies, such as the free school meals for P1-P3, which local government is finding hugely difficult to finance in the current challenging budgetary situation all 32 councils face.   Other SNP policies – the class sizes reduction is a prime example – are another media myth – great spin for a press release, but unfunded and therefore undeliverable.
 
One bit of better news from the SNP in today’s papers – to quote the “Sunday Herald” – ‘Salmond supports call to rethink HBOS deal’ – about time that the First Minister is finally coming round to this realisation, but didn’t Tavish Scott call on him to do so back on 9th October?   Here’s the exchange at First Minister’s Questions earlier this month :
 
Tavish Scott: Yesterday’s enormous financial package will be judged on what it does in the real economy: its impact on personal lending, individual deposits, bank credit to business, and jobs around the country. HBOS will now be a taxpayer-supported institution. When the First Minister said three weeks ago that the Lloyds TBS merger with HBOS was “the only game in town”, he was right, but that is no longer the case, is it?
The First Minister: I have made it clear that my preferred position for HBOS would be for it to remain as an independent bank. We can speculate that, if the measures that were announced yesterday had been in place some weeks ago, perhaps different decisions would have been made. However, the reality is that there is an offer to shareholders, which the Government supports. The offer will therefore be decided on by the shareholders of both banks.
 
Where some lead, others follow …

Sign of times to come …

Last week media speculation that the SNP’s honeymoon is over gathered pace as three high profile policies were mired in confusion.

“The SNP government suffered a “wobbly Wednesday” yesterday as three flagship policies ran into trouble.”
Times, 29 May 2008

“Wednesday, May 27, 2008 may well go down in history as the day the electorate stopped loving Alex Salmond and the Nationalists.”
Times, 29 May 2008

“If Alex Salmond’s worst day in government so far was ‘Wobbly Wednesday’, then yesterday would have to be threadbare Thursday.”

Times, 30 May 2008

I feel that no amount of huff and puff by Alex Salmond and John Swinney will hereafter disguise the fact that key SNP policies are unravelling. In the long term, running a government based on spin rather than policy substance is a government built on sand.

Mushrooming Scottish Government …

If I recall correctly, Alex Salmond claimed last May that he was slimming down government, with the creation of Cabinet Secretaries and a slimmed down Cabinet. But, in fact, the SNP government just gets bigger and bigger… It appears virtually all their MSPs are now part of the government.

Commenting on the revelation that Alex Salmond has dramatically increased the size of government with the appointment of 14 Nationalist MSPs as “Parliamentary Liaison Officers”, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Chair, Iain Smith MSP, said, “”There are now only 8 Nationalist MSPs who have not been appointed as ministers or committee conveners by Alex Salmond. What have the likes of Sandra White and Bashir Ahmad done to find themselves so far outside Mr Salmond’s big tent?

“This is an astonishing u-turn by an administration now well practised in embarrassing u-turns. What does it say about the state of the SNP Parliamentary Party if it takes 39 MSPs to keep just 8 MSPs in line?

“So much for Alex Salmond’s hollow words, before the election about slimming down the size of the Scottish administration, government in Scotland has now swollen to levels unseen since the establishment of the Parliament.”

Scottish Parliament : Intervention squabbles …

From parliamentary proceedings last Thursday, involving Labour member Frank McAveety and our local SNP MSP Joe FitzPatrick … ho-hum …


Mr Frank McAveety: “Will the member take an intervention?”

Joe FitzPatrick: “I would be pleased to take an intervention if the member will talk about Labour’s revaluation policy.”

Mr McAveety: “I would like to talk about—”

Joe FitzPatrick: “No, no, no.”

Mr McAveety: “The member mentioned budgets—”

Joe FitzPatrick: “I am not going to—”

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Trish Godman): “Just one moment. I think that I am in charge here—the last time I looked, I was.”

Joe FitzPatrick: “Sorry.”

The Deputy Presiding Officer: “Are you taking Mr McAveety’s intervention?”

Joe FitzPatrick: “Not if he is not prepared to talk about—”

The Deputy Presiding Officer: “You either take it or you do not.”

Scottish Parliament last week …

Hilarity as the Presiding Officer gets a wee bit muddled:

The Presiding Officer: The result of the division is: For 64, Against 65, Abstentions 0.

Members: Oh!

The Presiding Officer: Fifty-five members voted against. What did I say?

Members: Sixty-five.

The Presiding Officer: Oh well, you know what I am like with numbers by now. [Laughter.]

Decision Time, 21 February 2008

Quote of the week

SNP regrets election outcome!

Bruce Crawford, SNP Minister for Parliamentary Affairs:

“It is clear that the events of the election night in May should not have happened and must never happen again.”

(Debate on the Gould Report, 10 January 2008)

For once I actually agree with an SNP Minister! And at the rate the SNP is ditching its election promises the outcome of the 2011 parliamentary election will be very different.

Planning inquiry, Scottish Parliament, Car Parking

Spent Thursday morning at the Invercase Hotel as the Council’s witness in relation to a planning inquiry (about a West End planning application) and thereafter to Edinburgh for a reception at the Scottish Parliament – day job – European valuers visiting Edinburgh. A few photos below!

Spoke with the City Engineers today about their proposed closure of the car park at the bottom of Commercial Street (at Tay Road Bridge) from 27th November, following one of the local businesses contacting me late yesterday. The closure is as a result of the rail tunnel strengthening works, which will take a year to complete. Unfortunately because of the Scottish Parliament event, I couldn’t attend Thursday’s City Centre & Harbour Community Council meeting, but I’ve updated the committee by e-mail about the car park issue.
Below : Andrew Arbuckle MSP welcomes the visitors –

Below : Welcome to the Scottish Parliament!

Below : Fraser, MSP for 60 seconds! NB : Absolutely never going to happen for real!