Saturday, 27 February 2010

Labour Poster

I wonder if spoof political posters will be the hallmark of this election?

(HT to My Labour Poster)

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Sturgeon Statement

I'm not going to go into the nuts and bolts of the Nicola Sturgeon's statement.

Suffice to say it was a strong, confident performance that struck the right tone.  Arguably, she bested Iain Gray, though some contend it was a close run thing.  Perhaps the person coming off the worst in this is now Alex Salmond after his almost absurdly vocal defence of her just a couple of weeks before.

I never thought this was a resigning issue, but it did underline the apparent emnity between Labour and the SNP.

Back to the drawing board for Labour I think, but we may see more scalp hunting in the not too distant future.

The knee jerk 'resign/apologise' mantra really isn't kidding anyone anymore.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Grumpy Gordon

A BAD tempered turtle has been named Grumpy Gordy and moved into solitary confinement, after bullying other aquatic lifeforms at Scotland's largest sanctuary for marine animals.

Staff at the Scottish Sea Life Sanctuary near Oban had to isolate their new Snapper Turtle for bullying behaviour almost as soon as he arrived there on Monday so immediately named him after Gordon Brown, according to centre spokeswoman Ellie Cowley.

Ms Cowley said: "Bullies are said to have a hard outer shell, and the Scottish Sea Life Sanctuary's newest resident is no exception.

"Grumpy Gordy was immediately confined to the 'naughty' tank after his snapping tantrums shocked Sea Life staff into deciding he would be a danger to the other turtles."
Scottish Sea Life Sanctuary Manager Alex Blackman said: "We had to confine Gordy to his own tank. Snapper Turtles have a razor sharp beak which could easily take off a finger, so he could really have done his tank-mates some damage.
"Staff helping to move him had to go and get extra thick gloves to move him into his tank, and started calling him Grumpy Gordy after Gordon Brown as a joke and the name has stuck.

" I don't think it helps that, as a more mature Snapper Turtle, Gordy has quite a jowly chin and a grumpy face."

Gordy was moved to the Oban sanctuary to ease an overcrowding problem at a turtle sanctuary in Scarborough.

Mr Blackman added: "With a shell spanning 17 inches square Gordy is a hefty size for a Common Snapper Turtle. He weighs more than 30lbs so is a force to be reckoned with."
Living up to 40 years and growing up to 40lbs, the Snapper Turtle is the largest species of Freshwater Turtle to be found in the United States.

Whereas the Snapper Turtle's gentler cousins retreat into their shells when in danger, the 'dinosauresque' Snapper is an aggressive fighter with exceptionally sharp claws and beak, and will strike out at animals that threaten it in a similar fashion to snakes.

You've Been Glasgowed

Excellent article in Holyrood magazine about programmes in Cincinnati and Boston which seek to tackle gang violence.

Strathclyde Police's Chief Inspector had gone to the USA to see how their programme worked.  It was a balanced piece, highly informative and well worth a read.  You can find it here.

One American police officer told the Chief Inspector that they called a stabbing a 'Glasgow'.

As a result, one SNP MSP has decided to lodge the motion below in the Scottish Parliament:
S3M-05795 Anne McLaughlin (Glasgow) (Scottish National Party): Condemning the Phrase, Someone Has Been Glasgowed— That the Parliament condemns the phrase, someone has been Glasgowed, which is reported to be used by the Cincinnati Police Department (CPD) in Ohio in the United States of America, when referring to stabbing incidents; notes its absolute disapproval of the practice of portraying Glasgow as a city of the blade; recognises the issue of knife crime in Glasgow and across the country; considers that the Scottish Government takes knife crime very seriously and has introduced a serious of measures that have resulted in the reduction of this type of crime across the city of Glasgow as a whole by over 17% in the last two years, prime examples being in Baillieston, Shettleston and Eastern Glasgow, where knife crime rates were highest but have been reduced by over 39% in the same time period; considers that the people of Glasgow are best known for their hospitality, culture and good humour; encourages officials from the CPD to come and experience these measures and Glasgow hospitality first hand, and calls on the CPD to ensure that this derogatory term is no longer used when referring to someone having been stabbed.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Dubai Assassination Tape

A lot of news coverage of this has surrounded the use of British passports.

However, this compilation of CCTV footage has been released, and it's incredibly interesting.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Threatening Behaviour

A while ago, I blogged on the possibility of the 'Lion of Scotland' sculpture being brought on loan to Arbroath. It currently sits near Holyrood Palace and the Parliament, but has to be moved by the end of April.  You can read the original post and see a 'mock up' of what it would look like here.

The subject went quite quiet for a while, but with time moving on, an Arbroath resident sought to gather support for the move to the town, and spoke to the local paper about it.

In next weeks edition, a letter was printed in response to the story.  Written in Scots, it poured scorn on the idea for various reasons, largely however, because the resident had only been living in Arbroath for 18 months (having moved up from England), and, by implication, was therefore less entitled to an opinion. He then inferred she should take it 'back to her own town'.  The letter went on in the same, rather aggressive vein for some time, before ending with the fact he would be back in Arbroath for a very brief visit and would 'fight his corner with anybody' over the subject.  Manfully, he then signed off as an 'Ex Pat'.

I was somewhat offended by the tone of this letter and wrote back. I pointed out that in my view, Arbroath belonged as much to those who had moved into the area as those of us who were born and bred here. 

I asked how the ex pat would feel if the locals in his adopted home declined to give due weight to his opinions simply because he was not from there.

The fact that he offered to 'fight his corner' over the subject whilst declining to have his name and address published was something that I was particularly critical of.

This was published on Friday, and on Monday, the intercom at my home 'buzzed'.  I answered it, and was met with vague threats etc as he stated "you've been saying things about me to the paper".  More than once he also stated I should watch myself.  He declined to give his name.  It went silent, and I ran to the window and looked out.  There was no one there.  I put my shoes on, and went down the stairs and outside, there was no sign of our 'hero'.

I gave it some thought for a day or two and e-mailed the police on the basis that when the 'visitor' arrived, my fiance had not long left, and I wonder how this fellow might have spoken to her if she was alone in the property. The police were concerned and are now investigating.

I have now found out the name of the anonymous letter writer, and although he definitely is an 'ex pat', he, and his political views remain well known.

I'll be providing updates on this as they occur.


Sunday, 14 February 2010

Happy Valentines Day


 One of the highlights of Valentine's Day for me is not the flower sending etc, it's the amount of coverage /comment it generates.

Inevitably, there are the 'History of Valentines Day' articles, with  Classics Professor Noel Lenski from the University of Colorado pointing out in the National Geographic, that in ancient Rome, the 13, 14, 15 February was a fertility festival celebrated in a rather unusual way.

Toby Young, writing for the Telegraph claims Valentines Day is 'strictly for the birds' and calls for a suitable 'male equivalent'.  It's quite funny, and you can read it here.

 One primary school in England has attempted to ban any celebrations, and you can read about it here.

Innovative PR people also manage to utilise the day for their causes.  The British Lung Foundation is offering Valentines Day sex tips, whilst over in America the 'Center of Biological Diversity' is celebrating Valentines Day by distributing 100,000 condoms to help increase awareness of the impact of human overpopulation over endangered species.  They have used some classy slogans to go with it including "Wrap with care, save the Polar Bear" and "Hump smarter, save the snail darter".  I'm guessing they didn't hire Saatchi & Saatchi to come up with that, but if you are interested in learning more, it can be found here.

The Guardian's Emma Laurence points out the worst Valentines Day gift ideas in quite an amusing article here.  Take a look, there's some belters.

I've been a bit disorganised this year, but the flowers are on their way, the card is bought, and if I can just find a restaurant that isn't fully booked, I'll be fine.  Shouldn't be too hard should it?

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Hoon to Go

News currently breaking is that Geoff Hoon is to stand down at the election. Frankly, I'm delighted to see the back of him.

Represent or not?

The Deputy First Minister has got herself into a bit of bother after writing to a Sheriff claiming that a fraudster (who had already served time for stealing almost £60k) had made a 'mistake'in defrauding the taxpayer (you and me that is) of £80k. She asked him to 'consider alternatives to a custodial sentence'.

You can read the Scotsman report on it here.

Labour MP Tom Harris has given his view of the case here, and the opposition parties are going to town on it in general.

Ms Sturgeon declined to appear on Newsnight last night, but did send Shona Robison as a sacrifical lamb representative for the SNP. It was a frankly dreadful performance which you can watch in glorious Technicolor here.

Inevitably, judgements have been called into question, and links (somewhat bizarely) have been made with 'lunchgate'.

So what will happen? Apart from the fact that it highlights once again the SNP's almost pathalogical aversion to jailing criminals, nothing at all. It's an incident that allows epic scale political posturing, but in reality it's a 'five day wonder' that won't even last that long.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Funeral Pyres

A Hindu spiritual healer has won the right to be cremated on a traditional funeral pyre after the Court of Appeal ruled that his last wishes can be carried out within existing legislation.

Davender Ghai, 71, who believes that a pyre is essential to "a good death" and the release of his spirit into the afterlife, was refused permission to be cremated according to his Hindu beliefs by Newcastle City Council and lost a challenge to that decision at the High Court in London in May last year.

But the Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger, who headed a panel of three appeal judges, said before delivering the court's ruling: "Contrary to what everyone seems to have assumed below, and I am not saying it is anyone's fault, it seems to us that Mr Ghai's religious and personal beliefs as to how his remains should be cremated once he dies can be accommodated within current cremation legislation."

But not, it would seem in Scotland. According to the Scottish Government's 'Consultation Paper on Death Certification, Burial & Cremation' (Which is actually an interesting read)

106. At present home cremation is not legal, however, to prevent any dispute or legal challenge the Review Group has recommended that any future legislation should specifically state that open air / home cremation is not legal. The Scottish Government is in agreement with this recommendation and will incorporate such a clause in any future relevant legislation.

I wonder if any new legislation in Scotland will be tight enough to fend off any legal challenge for a 'home cremation'? Alternatively, should provision be made for this kind of funeral?

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Probation Orders

It's not exactly encouraging news that significant rises in Probation Order and Drug Treatment & Testing Order breaches have been recorded:

- Of the 6,437 Community Service Orders this year (4% increase on 2007/08) 2,113 breach applications were made to the court. That is a decrease of 2% compared with 2007/08 but an increase of 41% in the last 5 years.

- Around 31% of orders terminated resulted in a breach.

- 6,744 Community Service Orders were terminated in 2008/09 – 65% were successfully completed.

- Of the 9,072 Probation Orders (including probation orders with a requirement of unpaid work) this year (an increase of 4% compared to last year) 5,698 breach applications were made to the court, that is an increase of 23% since last year.

- About 63% of these orders resulted in a breach.

- 7,364 Probation Orders were terminated in 2008/09 – 46% were successful completed this is a decrease from last year (2006/7 58% were successful completed).

- Of the 4,306 Supervised Attendance Orders imposed, 2,208 breach applications were made to the courts.

- Breach Applications for Supervised Attendance Orders have increased by 68% from 2008/09.

- 3,936 Supervised Attendance Orders were terminated in 2008/09 – 61% were successfully completed.

- A total of 752 Drug Treatment and Testing Orders were made in 2008/09, an increase of 25% since 2007/08

- Of the 752 Drug Treatment and Testing Orders, 218 had a breach application, that is 29%.

- 542 DTTOs were terminated in 2008/09 only 40% were due to successful completion.

This really does not bode well for the SNP's grand plan of 'tough community sentences'. The First Minister certainly scored some points when he highlighted the fact that criminals were out shovelling snow when they would otherwise be in a nice warm cell with three meals a day. Perhaps he had a point. But the figures quoted above would make anyone uneasy as to just how effective these community sentences will be.

It's not just about deterring, punishing and rehabilitating criminals in my view, it's about giving the community, especially the victims of crime, confidence that the justice system works appropriately.

Right now, I don't think that's the case, and I suspect it will get worse.

Monday, 8 February 2010


TNS-BRMB Poll released today: (amended to include the Lib Dems, thank to Jeff)

Holyrood Constituency:

SNP 35 (-5)
Lab 37 (+5)
Con 13 (=)
LD 12 (+1)
Others 3 (-2)

Holyrood Regional

SNP 30 (-7)
Lab 37 (+8)
Con 12 (=)
LD 12 (=)
Green 5 (+1)
Others 3 (-3)

Figures in brackets are from the last TNS-BRMB in October 2009