Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Lite

Blogging will be a bit light for the next week. My elderly parents had gone to visit relatives in Italy, and on the last day she fell and broke her leg in two places which must have been excrutiating.

She was due to have an operation on Monday, but this has been postponed until tomorrow. She may be able to fly back next week, but in the meantime, I have to try and sort out various things like moving a bed downstairs for her etc etc.

In the meantime, I also have to get the rest of my stuff out of my Edinburgh flat, and get more furniture for the Arbroath one.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Italian man kidnaps ex-lover to do ironing

Some news stories are just too bizarre:

An Italian man has been arrested on suspicion of kidnapping his former lover from a bar, taking her to his home and forcing her to iron his clothes and do his washing-up.

Police in Genoa said the 43-year-old man dragged the woman out of a city pub and shoved her into a car. When the pair arrived at his home, he threatened his former partner and made her do his chores.

The police eventually broke up the scene of enforced domestic bliss after being tipped off by a friend of the woman who had witnessed the abduction at the pub. The man, still furious at his partner for leaving him in the first place, was arrested for kidnapping.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Drinking in Scotland

The Scottish Government is set to raise the legal age of buying alcohol from supermarkets and other off licensed premises from 18 to 21, and raising prices. You can read about it here.

It seems to me that a lot of this proposal stems from the Armadale experiment which, on the face of it was quite succesful. A closer look though, shows that Armadale is a pretty small place, so it was easier to enforce. What the statistics do not show however, is I understand that there was a considerably higher police presence for the duration of the experiment, which will of course mask the real results. Worse still, the rumour mill has suggested that some licensees felt somewhat pressured into taking part. Though I stress that the latter is purely anecdotal.

This new law would only apply to off licensed sales. So those between 18 and 21 could still buy drink in pubs/clubs etc. Just not for consumption elsewhere. Maybe that adds up a bit. After all, some pub owners have suggested that people consume quite a lot of drink at home before going out, so after only a couple of drinks in a pub, they have had way too much and are then staggering out. The pub owner then gets the blame for the state of the customer.

But look at it from another point of view. By the time I was 21, I had done nearly five years military service. According to Kenny Mackaskil though, whilst I could be trusted with a 60 tonne main battle tank, bristling with armaments and computer technology, I couldnt be trusted with a bottle of wine.

Personally, I think its a bit daft to deny people drink from supermarkets, but allow them to drink in bars. I also thinks its naive to focus on the 18-21 year olds. Take a look at the report only published today (pasted below), to see just how ingrained alcohol abuse is in today's society. In some interpretations of this of course it would seem the Scottish Government may have some justification for their plan. For myself however, I think this proposal is a very blunt instrument that is being is deployed to be seen to be doing something, rather than really addressing the root cause.


Drinking in Scotland: Qualitative Insights into Influences, Attitudes and Behaviours

A new research report entitled ‘Drinking in Scotland: Qualitative Insights into Influences, Attitudes and Behaviours’ will be published by NHS Health Scotland on Monday 16 June 2008.

Four communities in Scotland were involved with the research project, which took place between late 2006 and early 2008. Men and women over 18 years participated in the project. The group was made up of people who drink at home, people who drink in their local bars, and bar workers.

Conclusions
This study has provided many insights into drinking in Scotland. The main conclusions include:
• There is no single Scottish drinking culture – rather, there is considerable variation in individual consumption styles and drinking behaviour.
• High levels of alcohol consumption were common across all socioeconomic groups. Consumption patterns showed more focused drinking among more deprived groups and younger people.
• High levels of consumption were not regarded as problematic by individual drinkers.
• Negative associations with drinking tended to focus on drunkenness and public disorder, typically associated with young people’s drinking, and on longer term ‘problem drinking’ and ‘addiction’.
• Individuals distanced their own drinking from perceptions of ‘problem drinking’.
• External influences relating to price, availability and other marketing activities, including sponsorship, were widely recognised and seen to influence consumption.
• Socioeconomic factors and changing life stages were also seen to influence consumption patterns.
• Approaches to controlling personal consumption and perceptions of ‘sensible’ drinking were evident but were not related to recommended weekly or daily drinking limits or to health concerns.
• Furthermore, recommended weekly and daily drinking limits were seen as irrelevant and understanding of how to calculate unit consumption was extremely low.
• Publicans and bar workers were able to identify problem drinkers but generally only intervened to deal with disruptive behaviour.
• There was some evidence of a general receptiveness to the idea of intervention to change drinking cultures in Scotland.
• Areas identified for further research included high consumption levels amongst some middle-aged ‘empty nesters’ across all social groups and the development of mechanisms for better recording of drinking behaviours.


Implications and recommendations
Changing drinking cultures in Scotland will take time and requires a holistic, multi-faceted strategy utilising a range of policies and interventions implemented both at a national and local level. Based on this research, ten recommendations for action have been developed.

Population level policies and interventions to support change
• Implement policies that increase the price and reduce the availability of alcohol.
• Challenge the advertising, sponsorship and broader marketing strategies of the alcohol beverage industry and retailers.
• Develop the role of publicans and the licensed trade in controlling levels of alcohol consumption.
• Work with the press and media to reframe the issue of drinking.
• Develop upstream socioeconomic approaches to enhance positive options.

Promote safer individual drinking behaviours
• Challenge cultural drinking norms, using mass media for example, in order to develop a social environment that is supportive of sensible drinking.
• Challenge current definitions of ‘problem drinking’ and encourage consideration of personal drinking styles.
• Develop messages that build on existing personal strategies for sensible drinking.
• Develop simpler ways for individuals to monitor their alcohol consumption.
• Maximise interpersonal opportunities to trigger consideration of drinking behaviours.

The full version of the report can be accessed at: http://www.healthscotland.com/documents/2659.aspx

Friday, 13 June 2008

David Davies Resigns

Well, I don't think many people saw that one coming!

Shadow Home Secretary David Davies resigned over the 42 day detention decision.

When I first heard about it, it was described as something of a master stroke. Now that the media appear to have taken a different view,the Lib Dems have refused to field a candidate, and Labour have described the whole thing as a stunt its starting to look a bit lame.

I agree with his view about the erosion of civil liberties in the UK. People are justifiably concerned at what seems to be an ever increasing interest in their daily lives.

On the face of it, with Cameron riding high in the polls and Brown at an all time low, Davies' resignation seemed to be a safe enough thing to to do. Yet I suspect Mr Davies may not come out of this covered in glory to be honest, especially now that the Sun's Kelvin Mackenzie seems poised to challenge Davies, it all seems to have gone a tad bizarre.

I suspect Mr Davies will be re-elected. He is popular locally. But, I also suspect that this by election will distract the media and do a little more damage than we might have thought.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Lucky

Looks like the Scottish Government were lucky to get kept on the straight and narrow by the civil servants..........

Monday, 9 June 2008

No Confidence

The Convener of Education faced a motion of no confidence from the SNP at the last Education Committee. I could perhaps see the point in this but for the fact he is a teacher himself and is extremely dedicated to education.

This follows more reports to the Standards Commissioner by the SNP about two of my fellow administration colleagues. Bear in mind that each time the SNP have reported Alliance councillors to the Standards Commission, the complaints have all failed to stand up.

But back to the motion of no confidence. After the motion was defeated, my colleague responded with the statement below, which I wholeheartedly agree with.

"Now we have that motion out of the way it is more than appropriate that I say something. I thank the committee for it’s support but more over I am absolutely disgusted with the behaviour of the opposition. I am mighty fed up of my colleagues being gratuitously reported to the Standards Commission, opposition members trying to talk meetings out of time, that previously took minutes or at worse an hour or so. Opposition members demanding meals before some committees. I only wish the public came more often to see the childish antics of the SNP. I have been around council long enough to tell you I know what’s going on, and I can tell you 68% of Angus, all those voted you out are going on, I am going on and the Alliance is going on. Now for goodness sake get on with the job of being proper committee members not 100% sour grape obstructionists."

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Cleaning

I have spent the weekend cleaning the flat (on and off anyway). I have given my notice to the landlord as I'm moving to here

I have enjoyed this wee flat in the middle of Edinburgh, but I really need a proper base in Arbroath. The new flat has just been built and suits me just fine. It has remote controlled security gates and a substantial wall round it with its own private car park. I had to point out to the agent though, that there was no way for people on the outside of the gates to contact those in the properties. Hopefully that will be resolved soon though.

I haven't actually spent much time in the Edinburgh flat, but it's amazing how much junk I have accumulated here. Not just that, but the amount of dust etc is a nightmare, probably made worse by the fact that I always leave windows open.

I'll spend the rest of the day cleaning up and packing more stuff to go back north. Last night I rewarded myself by opening up a bottle of Chardonnay which had been in the fridge for weeks. It was qutie warm here, and it was really refreshing. That said, I fell asleep on the couch watching the history channel and didn't wake up till 4am.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

West Coast

It was girlfriend's Father's birthday on Saturday, and her parents anniversary on Sunday, so girlfriend had booked a lodge over at Tralee Bay near Oban for the weekend.

Now, I am utterly notorious for my complete lack of sense of direction, but strangely, I managed to get from Arbroath to Tralee Bay without getting lost once. To be honest, you would have to know me quite well to appreciate just how amazing this feat is, but no-one was more surprised when I turned up on time than myself (apart from girlfriend who keeps going on about it). By the time Saturday morning came, I really couldn't face the drive over (the AA route finder had it down at just over three hours), but consequences of NOT driving over were undoubtedly worse, so I bit the bullet and went.

I'm glad I did. The weather was great, the scenery for the drive was magnificent, and after an hour or two of being there, I was considerably more relaxed than I had been for a while.

At night we had dinner at the Oyster Inn, and the meal was outstanding. It's a place I'd certainly recommend if you are in that neck of the woods.

It was a great weekend, and I enjoyed the company of her parents, and even the lengthy drive back didn't phase me too much.

It's a place I'd be more than happy to visit again.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Womens Self Defence Workshop

I'm going to be co-teaching a one day women's self defence workshop with my instructor at some time over the Summer at the Martial Arts Studio in Arbroath.




It will be basic stuff and will provide a good introduction to self defence in a safe environment.

I'll post up the date and time when we have it finalised if anyone would care to come along.

Interestingly, the best black eye I have ever seen on someone was given to a martial arts instructor friend of mine by a novice woman student doing a very similar course........

Monday, 2 June 2008

Busy Again

Last week was horrifically busy again, and the driving around was getting to be a pain. We had my committee on Thrursday and the agenda had several good news stories in it. For example we have identified council owned ground to use for affordable housing. We are demolishing a set of properties that have become an eyesore and were a magnet for drug users and anti social behaviour so that the area of the town can continue to be regenerated.

We also had on the agenda a report on 'tenant participation'. Effectively this means that we as a council, engage with our tenants and discuss the issues that are important to them. There were a fair few tenants in the public seating and the meeting was going well until the opposition spokesman stood up and moved that we adopt two tenants on to the Neighbourhood Services (NS) Committee along with the councillors. Now NS covers a whole range of topics, including housing, art galleries, museums, waste management/recycling, theatres and sports centres, and no-one has ever suggested that we also have athletes, bin men, and actors on the committee. The idea was voted down, and on the basis that I had spoken about how important it was to consult with our tenants earlier, the opposition spokesman then accused me of using "weasel words". Effectively, in one fell swoop tenant participation, for the first time ever has been used as a political football. I'm dissappointed.

The provost had been reported to the Standards Commissioner yet again, and yet again she has been cleared. Now I understand that one or possibly two administration members have also been reported to the Standards Commissioner by the opposition. This seems to be getting out of hand. Even the local paper has been complaining about it recently.

I'm not sure what any of us will be reported for next. Wearing a loud shirt in a built up area perhaps? Walking on the cracks in the pavement maybe? In my view, its getting ridiculous and tiresome.