Thursday, 31 July 2008

Pointless Legislation



Yesterday, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill announced a plan to introduce a licensing scheme for 'non domestic knife dealers'. This, apparently, will combat knife crime. How exactly?

The plan will require "Detailed written records of how a customer's age and identity were verified, full descriptions of knives sold and a ban on displays visible from the street or public entrance are among the conditions proposed for those who sell non-domestic knives."

Knife crime is higher up on the political agenda than it has been for a long time, and quite rightly so. Knife carrying seems to be endemic among young people, many of whom carry them out of fear of assault.

My martial arts instructor, Mark Davies was a bouncer in some of the harshest areas in Scotland for 19 years. During that time, he faced more knife attacks/threats than he cares to remember. The overwhelming majority of these blades were bog standard kitchen knives, pulled out of the kitchen drawer on the way out of the house. The fact is that non domestic knives such as hunting knives, or fancy bladed 'exotic' knives are prohibitively expensive to your average chav, who is fully aware that if caught, the knife will be confiscated. It is much easier then for him secure a cheap (set of five in a wooden block for £2.99 from Argos) kitchen knife which is actually designed to cut flesh, or even a screwdriver (which produces extremely difficult to treat wounds on the basis that when the screwdriver is withdrawn, the wound closes up) with which to arm himself. When Boss and I were involved in a knife incident in Edinburgh a couple of years ago (ironically only a week after I completed a knife instructors course), the knife in question was a substantial kitchen knife, not a 'non domestic' one. What research has been done by the Government into the type of knife used in assaults, or confiscated from someone carrying one? I'll bet very little.

And who is going to have to administer this new licensing scheme? Step forward already stretched local authorities.

Personally, I think this scheme is nothing more than crap, frothy, pointless legislation that is good for a tv soundbite, but that will not keep a single knife off the streets. Is this really the best that the Scottish Government can come up with? Its pathetic.

The headline on the Scottish Governments press release reads "Views Wanted on Licensing Scheme"

Well, here are my views:

We need hard hitting educational programmes in schools and youth venues, delivered by people who have faced knife violence in one way or another. Programmes that demonstrate graphically that stabbing someone in real life is a world away from the portrayal of knife wounds on games consoles or films. Programmes that show just how easy it is take a life, and ruin your own in the process.

We need tougher custodial sentences for those caught carrying knives (in today's Courier there is a story of one man carrying not one, but three KITCHEN KNIVES for his own protection - he got a £400 fine. you can read it here ). We also need to end automatic early release for prisoners (something the SNP at Westminster, including my own local MSP Andrew Welsh, an MP at the time voted to retain).

We need considerably more police on the beat providing a much more visible presence.

If the Government is serious about combating knife crime it should not seek to make life more difficult for disciplined martial artists, battle re-enactors and Highland dancers to obtain 'non domestic' knives and swords, but should focus instead on those who are tempted to, or routinely carry knives on the street.

And my final point of view on this is that the Scottish Government have failed utterly to bring forward any meaningful proposals to the table which demonstrates an understanding of the appalling effects of knife crime and knife carrying.

If this is the best that the Justice Secretary can come up with, he should be ashamed.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Back (& the by election result)

Well, I'm back from my week off, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The Highland scenery was just breathtaking and we got great weather too.

One of the things I enjoyed most was the fact that we had rented such a remote cottage. The cottage itself was really well equipped and finished to a very high standard. It was reasonably priced (which is more than can be said for the petrol) and the nearby walks and beaches were a real pleasure.

The only fly in the ointment I'd say was the indifferent customer service we got in several restaurants and bars. I think we need to look more closely at how other countries view the importance of the service industry and act accordingly, especially given the amount of foreign registered cars we saw on the road.

My one and only ever foray into election result prediction fell wide of the mark regarding Glasgow East, but at least I'm in good company. I actually think Margaret Curran was a very good candidate, better I think than the SNP's candidate (personally, I found his demands of a school to take down English flags during the World Cup disturbingly indicative), but at the end of the day Labour is reaping what it sowed.

I don't think its just Gordon Brown that is the problem and it may even be a tad unfair to blame everything on him. The Labour/Lib Dem coalition in Scotland was profoundly unimaginative in my view, though I can't help but think that the SNP are largely a one man band in the shape of the First Minister who gives the impression of being a capable leader as well as being an effective orator. The latter being a quality that is apparently somewhat lacking in the Scottish Parliament.

For the Tories, I think Davena Rankin did very well, and one pundits description of her as having 'matured' (politically speaking) during the campaign bodes well for her future success. I'd like to see more people like her as tory candidates in the not too distant future. Srathclyde University's Professor of Politics John Curtis, who gets wheeled out to the media at the drop of a ballot paper was quite scathing about the Tory result, but I have come to expect little else from him.

The Lib Dem candidate certainly caught the eye of the media and he did come across as very plausible and articulate. As a party however, the Lib Dems simply cannot go on indefinitely trying to be all things to all people and Scottish politics today now requires a far more robust outlook than the Lib Dems have ever offered. Their days of being a refuge for the disaffected tory vote are now, it seems, at an end.

Interestingly, and perhaps most disturbingly about Scottish politics, no-one seems to have really noticed that both Labour and the Lib Dems are currently leaderless and this is in stark contrast to the powerful party leadership offered by Alex Salmond. The fact is that I doubt if whoever will end up as leader of their respective parties will be particularly recogniseable to the electorate in general. For the Tories, Goldie seems to have got a good press recently, despite the former MSP and tory bad boy Brian Monteith calling for her to go in a recent article, and a fairly harsh opinion article from another journo in The Telegraph.

All in all we live in interesting times politically speaking, we just need more strong characters to emerge in Scottish politics to challenge policies and perceptions.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Right, I'm Off

This is my last afternoon at work before I head over to the West Coast for a weeks holiday. I shall be taking Boss' Wife's advice and switching my Blackberry off.

Girlfriend has packed my walking boots, so I'm guessing there will be numerous hills I'll be getting dragged up (although I'm going nowhere if its pouring rain).

Pretty much all the furniture has been delivered to my flat, except a desk and chair for the spare room and two bedside cabinets for the bedroom.

The Viking Raid is coming on well and we will have a fair few re-enactors there. We have someone making the torches for the procession and boat burning at night, which is everyone's favourite bit.

The Glasgow East by election continues to be an interesting contest. I have stayed away from any predictions up till now, but my instinct suggests a Labour hold with a vastly reduced majority. One thing that this election has highlighted is the amount of poverty that still exists in some places in Scotland today. Perhaps politicians of all political hues will take more notice of this and strive harder to eradicate it. Personally, I'd like to see more work in alleviating theses problems before we become too fixated and distracted on whether or not to stay as part of the UK.

From later this month, it will be illegal to drink in the town centre streets of Arbroath. I very much welcome this move given the volume of complaints I get about drink fuelled anti social behaviour. It's a national problem of course, but we have to use whatever options available to us locally to combat it. Even mid morning outside the local court, the accused and their chums are seen drinking 'super lagers' and strong cheap ciders before their cases are heard, and it can't continue.

Right, that's me for a week, I'll look forward to catching up with everything when I get back.

P.S. Hi Craig, say hello to Joanna for me

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

'Beauty Pageants'

As I'm still suffering from my usual insomnia, I was watching a programme last night on how beauty pageants have migrated from the USA to the UK, although I only caught the tail end of it.

On one level, I think these things are utterly anachronistic in this day and age, but on another level, I'm amazed that any parent would even think of dressing up a young child as an adult (some of the 13 year olds could could easily have walked into a bar and bought a drink by the time they were dressed and made up), plastering them in adult style make up and training them to walk in a certain way on stage. Not being a parent myself, perhaps I'm wrong of course.

Some of the parents seemd utterly driven in their desire to see their kids win, whilst the kids themselves seemed to have little choice in the matter, and goodness knows how much was spent on the costumes etc (there was a prize for 'the best dress' for example).

One parent when interviewed came out with a statement I found quite telling. She revealed, with a big grin, that if her thirteen year old daughter was invited to an MTV party, then she would have have to go too.

Is this the way we really want kids to grow up? Forcing them to enter competitions to see who is best dressed and best looking is, in my view, hardly constructive when we need to demonstrate to them the importance of seeing beyond an individual's appearance.

This is one American import I really hope never, ever catches on over here.

Catch Up

Well, things have been hectic. My new bed and other bits of furniture have arrived. I plugged the new plasma tv into the ariel socket and discovered that there was no ariel. It cost me £110 to get a new ariel connected to the sockets in the rooms.

I also discovered that the gas is not connected to the hob for some reason, and when I went to dive into the emergency rations of pot noodles, I realised I hadn't brought any cutlery.

That said, the flat is looking good, though girlfriend thinks it's a bit 'bachelorish'. I need more stands to display my katana's (samurai swords) and I'm having a couple of stands made so I can mount my suits of armour in the spare room.

My mum gets out of hospital today, though she is still largely immobile. It will be a difficult couple of months till she is back on her feet again.

I'm off on holiday on Saturday for a week. We have rented a remote cottage on the west coast and I'm really looking forward to a change of scenery.

I found that there are still some honest people around. I dropped my blackberry getting into the car at girlfriends house and one of her neighbours found it and went round a few houses to see if anyone nearby had lost it. I'm extremely grateful to him and am trying to find out where he lives so I can take him a bottle of wine.

It's all good fun!

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Drink Laws

I was interested to read the press release below from the Scottish Government about Scotland's drink problem.

I was perhaps more interested in what it did not say rather than what it did say.

Some of the Governments proposals to tackle excessive drinking have had better reviews than others, but the one that seems to have attracted the most flack is the proposal to ban under 21's from buying alcohol from off licenses but not from bars and clubs.

Two of the measures are mentioned twice, with one other measure also mentioned in the press release, but but not that one. Given the wide opposition to this move, is the Government getting cold feet?

MacASKILL DISCUSSES ACTION ON ALCOHOL WITH NEW ZEALAND MINISTER

The Scottish Government's consultation on tackling the country's problem with alcohol misuse is attracting international interest.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill today met with his counterpart from the New Zealand Government Lianne Dalziel to bring her up to speed with the proposals, including minimum pricing, banning irresponsible promotions and introducing a social responsibility fee.
Mr MacAskill said:

"Scotland has an unenviable reputation as a hard drinking nation that's proud to be able to drink others under the table. For many years this has been seen as a source of pride to many Scots.

"We are now beginning to start a different international reputation on alcohol. That of a country that admits it has a problem with alcohol misuse and is taking bold action to tackle it.

"That's why I was pleased to meet with the New Zealand Associate Minister for Justice Lianne Dalziel who wanted to discuss our proposals. We had a very helpful discussion and Ms Dalziel was very interested in the action being considered in Scotland.

"We've had other requests for more details and information about our plans - including minimum pricing and irresponsible promotions. I hope other countries will consider following Scotland's lead."

Lianne Dalziel said:

"I congratulate the Scottish Government for taking on this important issue and taking action to tackle. It is clear that doing nothing is not an option.

"In New Zealand we are facing similar challenges to Scotland on alcohol issues. I will be returning to New Zealand with some good ideas to assist in our law reform work."

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

The By Election

Well, David Davis' resignation and forced by election seems to have utterly underwhelmed the media. Personally, I'm glad this is the case as I was always a tad cynical about it.

Instead the media spotlight has fallen on Glasgow as Labour and the SNP fight it out there (the tories aren't coming out of this one too badly either and it was good to see David Cameron making an appearance).

I was fairly stunned however to watch the First Minister telling the assmebled media that the electorate want a "full time MP". Clearly a dig at Ms Curran who would have a dual mandate in both the Scottish Parliament and the Westminster one if she was elected.

I was stunned at the rank hypocrisy of a man who is not only an MP, but an MSP as well as being the First Minister of Scotland. Even the SNP friendly media have found this one a bit hard to swallow, and I have always thought it somewhat demeaning to the role of First Minister that Mr Salmond continues to have a seat in Westminster at the same time.

Meanwhile, that most splendid blogger Mr Eugenides has written an excellent post on an event in 2006 which saw the SNP's Glasgow candidate stating that a Scottish school was flying too many English flags during the World Cup.

The news article is pasted below, but do pop over to Mr Eugenides blog for his take on it.


A Scottish school was condemned today for flying too many England flags in a World Cup display.

Hillhead High in Glasgow was "unwise" to use a large majority of England flags in a corridor decoration, according to senior Scottish National Party councillor John Mason.

The SNP's group leader on Glasgow City Council spoke out after receiving a complaint from a pupil at the school who was apparently upset at the "excessive" number of St George crosses.

Mr Mason took the step of writing to the headteacher, arguing he should balance up the display and also accusing him of making a political statement.

The councillor said: "I received a complaint from someone at the school who had objected to the number of England flags.

"From what I understand it was almost exclusively England, and I think it was ill advised to attach the World Cup to England in that way.

"The headteacher tried to draw a comparison with St Andrew's Day and Chinese New Year.

"But the World Cup is an international event and I would expect the school to dig out 32 flags."

Mr Mason said he considered the matter a serious issue.

He said: "I feel that's making a political statement.

"I would have thought the school should be taking a neutral view.

"I think it was very unwise of the school."

Hillhead High's headteacher Drew Cunningham was unavailable for comment.

On the school's website it was described as having a "distinct international flavour" with over 30 other nationalities represented.

"The school is pleased with the good relationships among the various groups," the website adds.

Glasgow City Council said all competing nations flags had been up at the school, with "one or two" England flags as they were easier to obtain.

A spokesman said: "The school regularly celebrates multi-cultural events.

"Flags from all the nations taking part in the World Cup were represented and it was displayed with the best of intentions.

"An emergency motion was approved today by the council condemning all forms of bigotry, hatred and racism, and calling on Glaswegians to end any anti-English hatred."

Mr Mason's comments come after a series of incidents that have highlighted anti-English sentiment north of the border.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Back

Apologies for my absence, which went on longer than I anticipated. I won't go into detail, but following on from the last post (no, not the bugle variety), my Mum had an operation in Italy, and took a severe reaction to the drugs they gave her. The hospital only seemed to have a couple of staff on at night and it was left to my 69 year old Dad to sit with her all night for several nights. He then injured his back and I had to pay to fly my sister to Italy to help out.

They are all still there and trying to sort everything out has been a total nightmare, although social services have been great. Hopefully they will all fly back tomorrow night, but my mum will have to go straight to hospital when they get here and it looks like she will be off her feet for up to three months.

I'm really grateful to everyone who has asked how she is.

On other fronts, I have spent so much money on furniture for my new flat that it has made my eyes water. The blinds are getting fitted tomorrow, and other stuff I have bought is getting delivered on Friday, along with a big plasma screen tv.

I bought this furniture which looks really nice in the flat. With my typical lack of common sense for domestic matters though, I had taken girlfriends advice and measured the room before picking the furniture. What I didn't do was measure the bloody doorframes and the setee wouldn't go in, so the doors had to come off, and even then it was a tight squeeze.

I'm away on holiday from the 18th, but I should have fully moved in by the end of the month and will start planning the housewarming party when I get back.

Apart from that it has been the usual busy time with work and council stuff. The last full council meeting before recess was just a pathetic joke. Starting at 4pm, it didn't end until around 9:30pm, by which time the debate (if you can call it that) had deteriorated significantly. I wish I could be bothered to relate just how bad it was, but in truth, its not worth it. I only wish more people would go along and see it for themselves.