Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Proud of Yourself Mr Welsh?

The Sunday Post reports that my local MSP Andrew Welsh managed to reduce two female civil servants to tears (not on the online edition I'm afraid)after a 30 minute rant during a Scottish Parliament Committee Meeting.

First of all, Mr Welsh is reported to have been upset that he had not received a report on Free Personal Care prior to the meeting. He was obliged to retract this after one of the civil servants pointed out she had hand delivered it to him six days before.

The report continues "Then, as he read the paper, the MSP's fury apparently boiled over as he accused the clerks who had written it of politicising the content."

Lord Foulkes is quoted as saying "he went off on a rant and said it had been polticised. He claimed the clerks hadn't reflected the views of the committee but would not explain what he meant by that."

"The clerks were reduced to tears by the end, one quite badly. I've never seen anything like it and I've been in politics for over 30 years."

The report goes on "Paisley South MSP Hugh Henry asked several people he considered not required there to be there to leave the room when the clerks broke down but stopped short of adjourning the meeting."

In the seven years I have worked at the Scottish Parliament, I have seen a few MSP's go into a bit of a strop. That said, I have never, ever, encountered such pathetic, bullying behaviour such as this.

I have always found Parliamentary clerks to be very non-political and professional, but even if on this occasion, this was not the case, is there any excuse for this kind of Victorian behaviour?

I hope Mr Welsh does the decent thing and makes not only a public apology over this disgraceful episode, but also writes to the two clerks concerned and apologises to them also. If he is not man enough for that, then one of his senior colleagues should 'encourage' him to do so. If not, do they condone this kind of thing?

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Knife Certificate

Next week, I am being presented with my Knife Combat Instructors Certificate. Though I have taught one or two different martial arts styles in my time, I have no intention of ever teaching knife combat.

First of all, I appreciate that there are some who would not approve of this. There are some indeed, who will try and twist this presentation for political means.

That said, I have campaigned for quite a long time now on curbing knife carrying, especially amongst younger people. The training that I have undergone in the martial arts over the past twenty years in general, and the edged weapons training I have undergone in the past few years, coupled with a few real life experiences, have led me to have a far greater understanding of the issue than many others who claim to know the answers to knife crime.

It is all of the above which has informed my argument against carrying a blade, and whilst it may seem unorthodox, thinking 'out of the box' is no bad thing. I will continue to do everything possible to curb knife carrying, simply because I am acutely aware of the dangers of carrying a blade and the profound, and wide ranging impact of using one.

Friday, 5 December 2008

From the Office of John Swinney MSP

Sometimes, it's best to read a press release before you issue it.
Then you won't end up asking journalists to delete it, as happened with this rather amusing one. The first is the original press release, the two beneath are requests to ignore it.

Obviously, I'm sure the Cabinet Secretary does like doing surgery's really.............

-----Original Message-----
From: Stephen.Carter@scottish.parliament.uk [mailto:Stephen.Carter@scottish.parliament.uk]
Sent: 03 December 2008 15:06
Subject: News Release from John Swinney

News Release from John Swinney MSP

Attn: News Desk
For Immediate Release
Photo Desk
Friday 21st November 2008


Mr John Swinney, SNP member of the Scottish Parliament for

North Tayside will be holding constituency surgeries in December.

John Swinney endeavours to hold surgeries around his

constituency as often as possible. He regularly has

appointments in his constituency office in Blairgowrie but

travels around North Tayside to meet those who cannot attend

meetings in the office.

John Swinney will be holding surgeries at the following

locations on Monday 15th December 2008.

Pitlochry, Town Hall – 10.00 – 11.00

Aberfeldy, Breadalbane Academy - 11.30 – 12.30

Dunkeld, Birnam Institute – 1.00 – 2.00

Scone, Robert Douglas Memorial Institute – 2.30 – 3.30

Coupar Angus, Town Hall – 4.00 – 5.00

Commenting on the upcoming surgery John Swinney said,

“God I hate these things!!!!!!!!!!

“These surgeries are an important element of my portfolio as a

representative of the people of North Tayside.

“They provide me with an opportunity to travel around the

constituency and meet those who are not able to meet me in my

constituency office.

“I encourage the constituents who wish to see me to come along

to one of the surgeries, to make an appointment to meet with me

simply phone 0125... .”

Contact: Stephen Carter


-----Original Message-----
From: Stephen.Carter@scottish.parliament.uk [mailto:Stephen.Carter@scottish.parliament.uk]
Sent: 03 December 2008 15:08
Subject: Previous Press Release

Dear All
Please immediately disregard the previous press release.
Yours Sincerely
Stephen Carter
-----Original Message-----
From: Stephen.Carter@scottish.parliament.uk [mailto:Stephen.Carter@scottish.parliament.uk]
Sent: 03 December 2008 15:10
Subject: Previous Press Release

Deal All
I would be very much grateful if the previous press release would be immediately deleted.
I am sorry for this inconvenience
Yours sincerely
Stephen Carter



"For latest news and information about all aspects of Parliamentary business, MSPs and our work, visit the Parliament's website at http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/.

For information about how you can visit the Parliament, go to http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/vli/visitingHolyrood/index.htm.

Watch Parliamentary business live at http://www.holyrood.tv/

The information in this e-mail transmission and any files or attachments transmitted with it are strictly confidential and may contain privileged information. It is intended solely for the person or organisation to whom it is addressed and if you are not the intended recipient, you must not copy, distribute, disclose or take any action in reliance on it. If you have received this e-mail in error, please delete it from your computer system and notify the sender as soon as possible.

While this e-mail message and attachments have been swept by the content filter software for the presence of computer viruses, the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body does not guarantee that either are virus-free and accepts no liability for damage sustained as a result of a virus. It is the recipient's responsibility to ensure that the onward transmission, opening or use of this message and any attachments will not adversely affect their systems or data or otherwise incur liability in law."


Monday, 1 December 2008

Knife Crime (yet again)

The SNP have announced another strand in the fight against knife crime. I have gone over my opinions on knife crime on numerous occassions, so won't re-hash those again now.

Nicola Sturgeon was delighted to report a new initiative where surgeon's with experience of dealing with the aftermath of knife incidents would go into schools and outline the difficulties of repairing the damage.

First of all, I welcome wholeheartedly any attempt to stop young people carrying a blade, and I absolutely commend any surgeon willing to give up his or her spare time to talk to kids about it.

However, I had heard of this move some time ago, under rather different circumstances. The story went that some bright spark had come up with the idea. The spark in question, working in the Violence Reduction Unit, has been previously reported to me as rather closed minded about new ideas and unwilling to promote anyone else's proposals. Rather amusingly, I was told that bright spark, on vocalising the idea, had been told 'not to be daft' (my own opinion will follow later).

So it was with some surprise that I read in the papers that the idea had forged ahead. Wonder how that happened?

Having people going into schools certainly works, according to the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, who point out that education programmes were the most effective method of reducing weapons carrying on a local basis.

That said, they also point out that these programmes are effective when delivered by someone that the young people could identify with, rather than an individual who would be seen as an authority figure.

In my own opinion, for what it's worth, too many of these ideas are formulated by people with no first hand experience of street violence. Perhaps this is why we get crap like the proposal to introduce licensing schemes for non domestic knife sellers (my response this one is in an earlier post).

The kind of violence that can be encountered on the street is barbaric in the extreme. It's one thing reading about it, it's another thing entirely to experience it.

Let me tell you, that when you see someone lying in the gutter with the life ebbing out of them from a stab wound, it's not a good experience. Likewise, having a knife pulled on you in a dark alley is even more unpleasant.

It's these experiences that inform my views on knife crime, and it's the reason I get so frustrated at the fluffy solutions put forward by politicians who live in comfortable middle class conditions.

There are lots of good works on the events leading up to, and during a violent episode. If you are interested, do some research on the subject. It's fascinating and horrifying at the same time.

It is the brutal reality of the event itself that I believe needs to be taught to kids. And the brutal reality can only be really described by someone who has experienced violent crime at its worst.

The effects on a victim, can be profoundly long lasting, and not just physically. Many suffer from depression, loss of self esteem and some develop agrophobia. The consequences are far more serious than many appreciate.

So, given the research points to education programmes delivered by people kids can identify with (the kids who do, or are likely to, carry a blade) as being the most effective way to combat knife carrying, then why is it not being done?

In an earlier post on this subject, I ended up stating that I hoped civil servants, with a rather set ideology, were not having undue influence on Ministers. I gave a 'tail wagging the political dog' analogy. I had hoped it wasn't true, but some may think otherwise.

If you want to speak to someone who can graphically illustrate the scene of a violent episode, then give my friend Mr Mark Davies a call. I don't know anyone who can do it better.