Monday, 29 September 2008

Eurojustice

The Scottish Govt has announced that Edinburgh is to host the annual Eurojustice conference this week.

It tells us:

"Legal professionals from around Europe will arrive in Edinburgh this week when the city and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service ? Scotland's Prosecution Service - plays host for the first time to the annual Eurojustice conference.

The 11th annual conference will focus on two themes, prosecutors' roles in securing public confidence in the criminal justice system and in the development of Information Communications Technology."


The Lord Advocate, the Right Honourable Elish Angiolini, QC stated "I am particularly pleased that one of the main themes this year is securing public confidence in the criminal justice system. It is vital that the principle that justice is seen to be done is at the very heart of our work and that we, as prosecutors, recognise our role in ensuring that the public have the greatest measure of confidence in the criminal justice system"

I couldn't agree more with the Lord Advocate about justice being seen to be done.

Currently I'd suggest this is absolutely not the case.

I have posted on this subject several times, so there is no need to rehash old posts, but the community is getting really, really fed up of lenient sentences and the judicial system is seen as hopelessly out of touch with society and society's expectations.

Non custodial sentences have their place, I wouldn't argue with that, but criminals are laughing up their sleeves at the kind of sentences that are being handed down. Worse still, this frustrates the law abiding majority of people who just want to get on with their lives without being victim to the kind of 'people' who spend their day vandalising things, stealing possessions from people who have worked hard to buy them and assaulting ordinary folk going about their business.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill recently trumpeted about the three new prisons that are in the pipeline. Tough talk indeed. But bear in mind that two of these prisons are to replace two that have already been demolished and the third one is a legacy of the previous administration.

I actually don't understand how this culture of hand wringing, furrowed browed concern at the needs of a criminal element who are utterly indifferent to others continues to survive in the face of a society that is struggling to cope with their activities.

Effectively, the message we get from the Scottish Govt is that 'prison doesn't work'. But if rehabilitation does work, then in my view it can be done in prison, and communities can be protected from a criminals antics at the same time.

I would very much hope that it is not the case that there are one or two civil servants with rather narrow views influencing Scottish Government thinking on Justice, perhaps a "tail wagging the dog" scenario. Perhaps this might be something Mr MacAskill and his colleagues should look into?

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Squirrels

The members debate tonight will focus on Red Squirrels and the dangers they face from their grey counterparts.

It's a worthwhile debate of course, but I was reminded of a members debate in 2005 on the subject of beavers.

The Green MSP Eleanor Scott had this within her contribution:

"Some members might remember that, a while ago, it was possible to buy joke mugs with an inscription that said, "Save trees—eat a beaver." I have to say that that was a gross libel against beavers."

I recall some members at the time had a different interpretation of the inscription and much hilarity ensued. Ms Scott didn't get the joke.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

What do you think?



A sculpture of a lion that is currently in Edinburgh has been offered to Arbroath on loan. The photo above shows how it might look outside Arbroath Abbey.

The press release below explains more. Any comments?

A granite carving of a lion by Scottish sculptor Ronald Rae could be loaned to Arbroath when it is moved from Edinburgh and Arbroath Councillor Jim Millar is inviting people to comment on whether they would like to see the sculpture based in the town.

The sculpture, which took a year to carve is currently on display between the Scottish Parliament and Holyrood Palace, but the exhibition of the work is due to end in 2010. Although never officially titled, it has been given the name "The Lion of Scotland" by the public and the name has stuck.

Cllr Millar said "The statue has proven to be very popular in Edinburgh and attracts a considerable amount of interest from visitors and locals alike. People are constantly having their photographs taken next to it and postcards of it have also been produced. Although 'the lion' has been offered to the Scottish Parliament, it was felt by the Art Advisory Group that it did not fit their criteria for acquisitions. I would very much like to encourage people to say what they think on the subject, and how they would feel about hosting the sculpture in Arbroath."

Mr Rae, who sculpted the lion by hand was visiting friends in Auchmithie who took him to see Arbroath Abbey and it was suggested that an area near the monument itself would be an ideal location for the sculpture. Mr Rae said "I believe the colour of the pink granite complements the red sandstone of the walls, and the subject matter has an interesting link given that King William the Lion, who founded Arbroath Abbey is thought to have been the first to have adopted the lion as the symbol of the Scottish monarch. As someone who works with stone, I felt a great empathy with those who built the abbey and it retains a spirituality that can still be felt today. I would be delighted to see the sculpture exhibited in Arbroath."

Rosalind Newlands of the Scottish Tourist Guides Associations petitioned the Scottish Parliament to retain the sculpture in Edinburgh stating "As tourist guides, we regularly take visitors on tour round Edinburgh, in coaches, smaller vehicles and on foot and, since this particular exhibition began, had noticed the amount of admiration it attracted. Specifically, visitors expressed their liking for the Lion of Scotland statue. This iconic sculpture attracted comment not just from adults but from all ages. Children in particular are attracted to it in numbers. "

Cllr Millar concluded "I would ask people to respond with their views either by mail to Jim Millar, Members' Services, The Cross, Forfar, DD8 1BX or via e-mail to cllrmillar@angus.gov.uk".

Sunday, 21 September 2008

2009 Event




We are getting a lot of interest in the multi period living history event that we are planning for next year.

We have a few groups on board now and we are in discussions with several more.

The latest group to join us is the Antonine Guard (pictured above). This is an excellent group that has done a lot TV work and are much in demand. I first saw them in the Scottish Parliament a few years ago. It was strange to walk into the canteen and see Roman soldiers having their lunch.

With the Antonine Guard taking part, this means that the historical span of the event now stretches from the Roman period through to the Napoleonic era which should make for a great day.

The chap that produced the play on the history of Arbroath Abbey, which was actually performed in the abbey ruins has agreed to so again, which is brilliant news.

Perhaps the hardest part of this though is getting someone to build a Viking longship to burn later on at night. Its not just the building of it that is difficult, it also has to be stored until the big event, but we'll work round that.

All in all, the event is really taking shape, so if you are at a loose end on the 4th July next year, you'll be more than welcome to come along.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Ubiquitous Cybernats

I had been meaning to post on this for a while, but was beaten to it by Scottish Unionist and Kezia Dugdale.

I have been quite concerned at the tone of some comments on The Scotsman and Herald websites. Douglas Fraser, in his parting post on The Herald's blog states:

"These online discussion forums have taught me quite a bit - rarely about politics, but much more about the disturbing results you get from the interplay of anonymity, group psychology and bullying. This is not unique to The Herald's website, or to Scottish politics, but as the content and tone of this conversation represents a daily injection of poison into the well of Scottish public life, we are all worse off for it."

Some of the comments seem a little less aggressive just now, but in the very recent past, some of them have been disconcerting in the language used by the commentators. Anyone not sharing the Nationalist view could expect to be called a traitor among other things, whilst some could be viewed as veiled threats to Unionists 'come the revolution'.

Perhaps the worst one I have seen however refers to a post I did on a 'house' someone had built into the caves at Arbroath. It was a fun story that caused a lot of interest and speculation locally.

After some footage of the cave was posted on youtube, two local wags (not the footballing variety) decided to dress in gorilla suits and 'buy' the cavehouse (complete with an estate agents sign with a 'sold' sticker on it).

You can see it here. Fairly harmless stuff eh? Well you'd think so, scroll down to the comments though and check out the 'contribution' from someone calling themselves 'Cybernat 1745'. He/She states "well it could be worse,at least they arent WHITE SETTLERS!!

SCOTLAND FOREVER "

Click on 'Cybernat 1745' and it takes you to his/her profile where he/she, somewhat unsurprisingly, has a picture of Mel Gibson as William Wallace in 'Braveheart', which is where I suspect some of these people get their knowledge of Scottish history.

Has it really got so bad that a simple, fun video on Youtube attracts comment from the ubiquitous and venomous Cybernats?

As one American said in a comment on The Herald "Is this what Scotland the Brave has become?"

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Scottish Labour's New Front Bench Team

GRAY ANNOUNCES FULL FRONT BENCH TEAM

Labour leader Iain Gray has announced the front bench team today to support his Shadow Cabinet at the Scottish Parliament.

Iain Gray MSP said: “I am delighted with my Shadow Cabinet I announced yesterday and believe the team we have assembled today to support them, offers the right balance.

“It covers a broad range of skills, knowledge, commitment and talent which will both take forward and develop Labour’s programme in Scotland and hold the SNP to account for their failures in not just their flagship policies such as Local Income Tax and Scottish Futures Trust, but the effects of cuts in health and education on hard working families and the poorest and most vulnerable people in Scotland.


SHADOW MINISTERS

Finance and Sustainable Growth
David Whitton, Finance

Education
Ken McIntosh: Schools
Claire Baker: Further and Higher Education
Karen Whitefield: Children and Early Years

Health
Richard Simpson: Public Health
Mary Mulligan: Housing and Communities
Frank McAveety: Sport

Justice
Paul Martin: Community Safety

Environment
Elaine Murray: Environment
Karen Gillon: Rural Development

Economy and Skills.
Des McNulty:Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change
Lewis Macdonald: Energy, Enterprise and Tourism

Whips
Rhoda Grant
James Kelly

Corporate Body
Tom McCabe

Monday, 15 September 2008

Leadership

Jeff at SNP Tactical Voting comments on the myriad leadership changes that have gone on of late, and wonders if Tory Leader Annabel Goldie is next.

For what it's worth, I'd say no, but the post does raise some interesting questions on leadership in modern Scottish politics.

As a former squaddie, I like and admire strong leadership. I admire a leader that can keep a group of people together, and make them relevant, ambitious and forward thinking, often in the face of adversity (whether in politics or not). It takes a personal touch that many people lack. Some people are natural leaders, others can be taught leadership skills to various degrees and some will always prefer to follow rather than lead, and this in itself is an important role.

Among the vast majority of people in Scotland, these political leadership contests have not raised any interest at all and this may be a reflection on Scottish politics today. When recent contests have been announced, commentators have struggled to identify a natural successor with very few standing out from the crowd, twenty or thirty years ago, I doubt this would have been the case.

Perhaps the media has played a role in dumbing down open party debate on policy or direction that we used to see, as an example, in Thatchers day. Anyone who sticks their head above the parapet with a different view on their party policy can expect to have it proverbially shot off very quickly, with the media (and other parties) seizing on it as some kind of major split.

History is littered with strong, remarkable leaders who are invariably strong orators too. In the past few years, passionate debate has too often been sacrificed at the altar of anodyne and pedestrian contribution or meaningless, snappy soundbites.

We rarely see the kind of leadership skills that single out an individual from the crowd. As an example, perhaps reports of some school sports days ditching competitive sports so that no one feels left out have contributed to this. One university I know of marks students exam results as 'A' for achieved or 'NA' for not achieved so that no one can be upset at having failed.

I'd like to see people who display natural leadership skills encouraged, whatever career they choose. We will all (including non leader types like me) benefit from it.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

New Event For 2009

I am putting together a big historical event for 2009. I have pasted the press release below. If any of you fancies getting dressed up as a Roman/Viking/Knight etc then feel free to get in touch!

Major New Event for 2009

Arbroath Heritage, the group that previously organised Medieval Fairs, two Viking Raids on the town and also produced a play on the history of Arbroath Abbey have announced a proposal for a major new event for 2009.

Arbroath Heritage Chairman, Cllr Jim Millar said “We are planning a one day, re enactment event that will cover many different historical periods that reflect Arbroath’s rich heritage.”

Mr Millar continued “Previously, we have largely focused on one historical period at a time such as medieval or Viking. Next year we plan to expand the programme to cover a much greater time period, and have already booked a Napoleonic group and we are in discussions with several others covering Roman, Dark Age, Viking and Medieval.”

The plans are at an early stage, but so far include a fish and farmers market, an action packed programme of living history and combat demonstrations during the day near the harbour, followed by a procession up the High Street to Arbroath Abbey where a play on the history of the abbey, first performed some years ago, but now specially extended will take place in the abbey itself. As the torchlit procession and Viking Longship burning have proved so popular in the past, it is hoped to add this as a grand finale.

Mr Millar continued “The date we have selected is the 4th July so that it extends the programme of summer events which draw people into the town such as the Seafront Spectacular and Seafest. Next year is the ‘Year of the Homecoming’ and we hope that people travelling to Scotland for that will be tempted to come to Arbroath and learn about the fantastic history of our town.”

Quick to lend his support to the plan is fellow Arbroath Councillor David Fairweather. Mr Fairweather said “This proposal is an excellent idea and one that I am delighted to be involved in. I know from speaking to people, how popular the Viking boat burning was at Seafest and the comprehensive programme we are putting together will have something for everyone.”

“I am also involved in the Seafront Spectacular and Seafest and these kind of events give a huge boost to the town during the summer months and I am confident that this one will be a very welcome addition to an already impressive calendar. We also hope that the event will boost the campaign to Secure World Heritage Site Status from the United Nations which continues to attract considerable support.”

Concluding, Mr Millar said “As well as having top quality re enactors from throughout the UK, we would also like to make this very much a community event and anyone who would like to get involved in any capacity would be more than welcome to do so.”

The organisers can be contacted by phone on 01241 873763 or by e-mail at cllrmillar@angus.gov.uk A website about the event is planned to go live within the next month.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Justice

Kenny MacAskill issued a press release today on Penal Reform.

In it he challenges critics "to stop carping from the sideline over proposals to tackle re-offending and help turn the tide of record prison numbers in Scotland."

He adds:

"There is something truly perverse about the fact that crime is falling yet we are locking up more and more people."

Oh really? Who'd have thought, when you lock up criminals, crime falls. So the SNP's answer, informed by The independent Scottish Prisons Commission is to indulge in non custodial sentences and rehabilitation.

Now, call me old fashioned, but when people commit crimes that justify a custodial sentence, then that's exactly what they should get. And guess what? Whilst they're locked up at Her Majesty's pleasure then the community is safe from their criminal activities.

In a previous post, I pointed out that at Arbroath Sheriff Court, only 36% of housebreakers receive a custodial sentence. I would argue that having your home broken into (bearing in mind that in Scotland housebreaking covers various acts) and the stuff you had worked so hard to buy stolen, then you might expect the thief to go down for it. This is made worse by the fact that victims of housebreakers often feel violated, suffer from prolonged anxiety and don't feel safe in their own homes.

Any yet the criminal sentenced in Arbroath faces a pretty good chance of walking free with some non custodial sentence.

The fact is in my view, the concerns of the community are not being met by the judiciary, and the Scottish Government is making it worse.

Below is a post from a blog that is linked in my blogroll as anti knife crime. The author is Mark Davies. I have known Mark for 20 years now, he was my first martial arts instructor when I came out of the army. He is a good family man that has worked the doors in some of the most deprived areas in Scotland. I consider him a close friend and value his opinion. In one post he states:

"We need to treat anti social behaviour & crime with the severity that it deserves & stop trying to be 'progressive' & warm & fuzzy with habitual offenders. There comes a point where the powers that be need to understand that some people aren't going to be rehabilitated & that the safety of society needs to come first. We have a family here in Arbroath who fall into this category. The entire family are constantly in the paper. Week in week out one of them has been charged or convicted of something. They do drugs, they break into houses, they break into cars, they break into sheds, and they attack people. Everyone I know is sick to death of seeing them constantly get sentences & fines that they are laughing at. These are the same types of folk who carry weapons without a seconds thought. No matter how 'illegal' it is or what the penalty is, they are habitual criminals- crime is what they do! Its people like them who commit the majority of violent crimes. If we want to see a drop in the rate of violent/knife crime we need to stop playing games with these people & GET THEM OFF THE STREETS!"

That's not to say that Mark, or I for that matter does not value the role of educating people against taking part in crime, he clearly states that earlier in the post. But when it comes to dealing with the kind of people that break into houses, assault people and all the other kind of crimes that destroy communities, then we should listen to what people like him have to say.

If we are trying to avoid the cost of prison places then a senior police officer thinks differently.

The old saying of 'justice must be seen to be done' is never truer than now. Beleaguered communities are sick fed up of hand wringing apologists in the judicial system that are happy to send criminals on their way with a talking to and a slapped wrist. The expectations of communities are absolutely not being met and Kenny MacAskill will only make things worse.

Weekend/Drink Pilot



I had a good weekend. Saturday night I watched 'Letters From Iwo Jima', the companion film to 'Flags of Our Fathers', both Directed by Eastwood. It's a brilliant film, one that I have seen before, but always worth another viewing.

It shows the battle for Iwo Jima from the Japanese perspective and its fascinating. Girlfriend bought me a copy of 'Japan at War - An Oral History' at Christmas. It's horrifying and heartbreaking by turns. I'm glad I read it before watching the film as I got a lot more out of it.

Sunday I drove to Edinburgh and we went to the Renaissance exhibition at Holyrood Palace. It's more than worth the £5 entry fee and there are some unrivalled masterpieces there. I'd heartiuly recommend it if you are in the city.

The only fly in the ointment was some pretentious git stomping about stepping in front of other people who were viewing the paintings. There's always one at these things, usually with a condescending attitude as though they had painted the bloody things themselves.

Following on from my post last week on the proposed ban on off sales to people under 21, the tories put out this press release:

Lamont slams 'latest propaganda' for ludicrous SNP plan

Commenting ahead of the Minister for Public Health’s visit to Stenhousemuir tomorrow ‘to hear about the success of the Stop the Supply over-21s off-sales alcohol pilot’, John Lamont MSP, Shadow Minister for Community Safety, said:

“I have no doubt that this will be used as the latest propaganda from the SNP in an effort to convince us that their ludicrous plans to criminalise those under the age of 21 who buy alcohol are the way forward.

“The fact is that this plan was accompanied by a crackdown on existing legislation and a specific policing focus on this initiative. The SNP Government’s lamentable track record on justice issues thus far suggests this will not be the case if the scheme was rolled out across the country. Therefore the argument is being presented on a false premise.

“Scottish Conservatives will continue to lead the opposition to the suggestion a responsible, 20 year old adult who wants to buy a bottle of wine to take home and celebrate the birth of his baby is breaking the law; we will also fight against stigmatising the pensioner who wants to buy alcohol in the supermarket and would be forced to line up in a special ‘drinks only’ queue.

“Nothing is more likely to send out mixed messages than pulling age limitations in all different directions. No one is denying that Scotland's drink culture must be tackled - but the solution being heralded here is not going to make the required difference. The key is to target problem drinks and problem drinkers and a crackdown using existing laws to punish those who sell to underage drinkers. The SNP’s blanket approach simply does not do that.”

Friday, 5 September 2008

Over 21's Off Sales Pilot

Press release from the Scottish Government:

Public Health Minister Shona Robison is to visit Stenhousemuir on Monday to hear about the success of the 'Stop the Supply' over-21s off-sales alcohol pilot.

The Minister will meet local police and shopkeepers to learn more about the substantial impact the trial has had on anti-social behaviour and crime.

The visit also marks the end of the Scottish Government's consultation on its proposals for tackling alcohol misuse, which include setting a minimum price for a unit of alcohol, raising the off-sales alcohol purchase age to 21, ending irresponsible promotions and a social responsibility fee for some retailers.


There is no question that Scotland has what is often described as a "complex relationship with alcohol" and as a local councillor I get a lot of complaints about the anti social behaviour that invariably follows underage drinking, but I retain grave doubts about these plans.

It would be interesting to see if police activity over the period of this experiment was increased greatly as has happened during other similar projects. If so, and I have no doubt that it was, then this skews the results substantially and linking the reduction in anti social behaviour to a higher police presence on the street could be viewed as more probable than stopping the sale of drink from off licenses to under 21s.

A good friend of mine came round to see me the other day. His 16 year old son, let's call him X) had been taken home by police after collapsing drunk on the High Street in the middle of the afternoon. Where did he get the drink? It turns out that X had gone to a friends house where his friends Mother had given her son and various other 16 year olds plenty of alcohol. When X had got very drunk, the woman threw him out of the house where he tried and failed to get home. When my friend complained to the police, he was told they would not pursue this unless X complained himself (something that X was profoundly reluctant to do for fear of reprisals).

There are many examples of 'proxy purchasing' by adults for kids (often taking a 'cut'for themselves) or parents simply giving the drink to kids to get them out of the house. It is a well known, and arguably growing problem that the Government's measures do nothing to address.

The Government also wants to end "irresponsible promotions". From the press release, this is a bit vague. They have previously said they wanted to ban "3 for 2" offers and I'm not sure if they deem this to be "irresponsible" or not.

Personally, I like a drink and usually have a small stock of wine in the house. If I see an offer in the supermarket, I'm likely to buy it, just as I might take advantage of any other offer. However this could all end because a minority, and I firmly believe it is a minority, abuse alcohol. I'm also going to have to pay more for the wine I do buy per unit of alcohol. This won't bother the vast majority of us too much, but for those with a drink problem, and perhaps on a modest income (alcohol abuse is more prevalent in areas of higher deprivation), then it means more money from the household budget will be diverted, probably from food or heating, into purchasing drink which will only make the situation worse for the family as a whole.

Having argued against these proposals with several SNP supporters I have often received the mantra "it's worth a try" or "it's better to do something than nothing".

That may or may not be the case, but I'm not convinced that this rather blunt and simplistic legislation will do the trick. Our response needs to be considerably more sophisticated than it is at present and should include a presumption that anyone caught selling alcohol to underagers, or purchasing alcohol on behalf of underagers is actually prosecuted for it. At the moment, that's simply not happening.

The current ills of our society are manifesting themselves in anti social behaviour, alcohol/drug abuse and a general contempt for others.

I'd suggest we are a generation away from seeing major improvements, and even then, only if we are willing to take a comprehensive approach to what is fundamentally wrong and start to tackle the root problems of poverty and social inequality.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

They're Back and They're Bad

So, the MSP's have returned to Parliament (I'm quite glad to be back too) and the bunfights have started already.

Check out this corking press release from Labour MSP Frank McAveety:

FRANK MCAVEETY CHALLENGES SALMOND TO 100M SPRINT

Labour’s Frank McAveety threw down the gauntlet today to the First Minister Alex Salmond following an exchange in the chamber in which Mr Salmond claimed ‘I am not an expert on pie and beans; I leave that to Mr McAveety’.

Mr McAveety issued a challenge to the First Minister:

“I am prepared as part of our commitment to Sport and to tackling obesity to challenge the First Minister to a 100m sprint in which the winner will donate money to the Rainforest Fund charity.”

Frank McAveety added:

“I’m prepared to wear a Team GB shirt and I am sure we can find a team shirt that Alex Salmond could fill.

“I’m sure if Alex Salmond really doesn’t eat pie, chips and beans, which I very much doubt, then he won’t be hot and bothered by this challenge.

“I know Mr Salmond likes a bet so I am prepared to stake £100 of my own money on the race and I am urging all other MSPs to place a bet on who they think will win.

“I’m issuing that challenge to Mr Salmond today and I expect to hear back from him tomorrow afternoon when I’ll be speaking in the obesity debate in the parliament. I hope Scotland’s First Minister is up for the challenge.”

This was preceded earlier in the day with a more traditional war of attrition through the medium Parliamentary Motions and Amendments between Labours Margaret Curran and Tory Jackson Carlaw:

S3M-02456 Margaret Curran (Glasgow Baillieston) (Scottish Labour): Condemnation of the Comments of Andrew Lansley and Defence of the NHS in Scotland— That the Parliament calls on Conservative UK Shadow Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley MP, to withdraw his comments suggesting that health spending should be reduced in Glasgow and spent elsewhere in the United Kingdom; believes that Mr Lansley’s apparent conclusion that health spending is inverse to health outcomes and should therefore be reduced in areas of poor health is a perverse logic that risks denying people in most need the healthcare that they require and deserve and that this is an alarming indication of the Conservatives’ intention to cut NHS funding; notes with equal concern that Mr Lansley’s wish may already be being granted by the SNP government in light of the recently announced £42 million of cuts to NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and the fact that health spending in the Scottish Government’s budget fails to match the year-on-year increases of both the UK Government for England and those of the previous Scottish administration; further notes that, if this trend continues, Scotland’s historically higher health spending per head of population is at risk of being reversed within the next five years, and calls on members of all parties to defend the NHS in Scotland from further cuts and ensure that all people in Scotland of whatever financial means can access the healthcare that they deserve.

Text of amended motion:

That the Parliament is wearying of the parade of invitations to pay tribute to the former Lib/Lab administration, rejected by the electorate in May 2007; invites the Scottish Government to press on with evidence-based action to assist the people of Scotland to tackle health inequalities and to do so without fear or favour to the record of the Labour party, which having governed the people of Glasgow for decades has singularly failed to improve health inequalities within the city, and calls on members of all parties to measure success less by reference to health spending and more by reference to health outcomes while ensuring that all people in Scotland, of whatever financial means, can access the healthcare they deserve

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Poem Dropped

A poem about a knife carrying violent loner has been dropped from the GCSE curriculum in England after concerns about the subject matter given the rise in knife crime.

You can read the whole story here.



"The exam board said the poem had been a "popular choice" for pupils - allowing GCSE English students to debate issues about the state of mind of the poem's narrator.

But a spokeswoman said the board had received a complaint and against a background of fears over teenage knife crime had now decided to drop it from the anthology.

"People will have different views on this - but we have to make a decision in the light of what is currently happening," she said.

The exam board said the decision had not been taken lightly but that the selection of poems had to respond to current "social issues and public concern".



The poem is quite dark, but would it turn a young person into an axe wielding homocidal maniac? Actually I don't think so. I do agree with the exam board that it had allowed students to debate issues about the state of mind of the narrator. It would also allow debate about knife crime and mental health in general.

Strangely, when I was obliged to read Oedipus, I did not go out and kill my Father and marry my Mother. I don't think any of my class mates did either. Surely the principle is the same?

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Hospital Car Park Charges

Good news for hospital patients and their families with the announcement that the Scottish Government is to abolish car parking charges at NHS hospitals across Scotland.

People have been campaigning against these charges for years, and no wonder.

Car parking fees quickly mount up when you visit a friend or family member in hospital. I noticed this myself when my Mum was kept in hospital for a while after her fall and my sister, Dad and I would take it in turns to go through the day and in the evening so that she wasn't on her own for long.

The hospital was a 40 mile round trip, and the car parking fees were a kick in the teeth given that individually we sometimes went twice a day and public transport wasn't really an option under the circumstances. It must be so much worse when its the family breadwinner in hospital and the family finances are already badly affected.

This is a good decision that will be welcomed by patients and their families across Scotland.

Monday, 1 September 2008

The Arbroath Cave House

This well appointed 'house' has been found in a cave at Arbroath cliffs.

Like all good stories, it's shrouded in mystery!