Monday, November 30, 2009

The relaunch of the 'Gorgie Dalry Christmas lights Switch on Ceremony'. After a poor shadow of a ceremony last year I put it to the Community Council that if anything was going to happen this year they would have to organise it now that we have lost the Gorgie Dalry Partnership (funding cut by the Lib. Dem / SNP Administration). They have done a great job however at short notice and it looks like we have the makings of a decent ceremony again this year. For details see below...

Monday, November 02, 2009

Saw an interesting page by Ed Miliband today about an article that the Government has had made about climate change. It hits right at the heart of one of the issues I feel most strongly about. As the effects become ever more clear there is still an increasingly desperate sounding group who persist in ridiculing any attempt to do anything about it.Things like wind farms and solar panels can in my view contribute a significant percentage of the worlds energy needs especially if you consider them being on houses and buildings in addition to the farms themselves. As soon as I decide what is the best configuration I will be putting them on my house. And, yes I do like the look of them ! An Admin. Assistant in the Council once told me she thought they looked like 'hope' and I have never forgotten it. Even if we can't reverse the trends global warming what harm does it do to clean up the atmosphere? It reminds me of the interminable arguments about the link between smoking and cancer. The time for discussion is past, we need action now , and quickly.

Anyway here is what Ed says on the link and watch the advert.

'As part of an effort to raise peoples’ awareness of man-made climate change and what we can all do about it, the government had this advert made.Now, whipped up by the sceptics, nearly six hundred people have complained about it in a bid to get it banned.We need to show that the climate change sceptics are a tiny, if vocal, minority and that action to make the public aware of climate change has real public support.Sign up to Ed Miliband's campaign at '

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Just seen an interesting message from Hilary Benn .....

'The ban on fox-hunting – that Labour Party members from across the country worked so hard to achieve – is under threat. Yesterday, at a time when our Labour Government is focused on tackling the recession and securing our economic recovery, the Tory spokesman on Animal Welfare re-affirmed that the Tory Party, if elected, would set aside Government time for a vote to repeal the ban. And make no mistake - David Cameron and members of his top team have made it very clear that their intention is to see the return of the cruel spectacle of foxes being torn to pieces in Britain’s countryside. So I need your help. Please sign up now to Back the Ban.We need to make sure that as many people as possible know that a consequence of voting for the Conservatives at the next election will be an end to the ban on fox-hunting with dogs. I’m going to be campaigning alongside animal welfare organisations on this in the coming weeks and months and it will help a lot to know if you’ll support our campaign. Sign up now to pledge your support for my campaign. Once you’ve signed up I’ll be in touch by email next week to let you know exactly how you can help. Together we can make sure that as many people as possible know that a Conservative Government would mean an end to the ban so many people worked so hard to introduce.
Thank you
Hilary Benn '

I have always felt strongly about this one. I don't believe the nonsense that it was a humane way to keep the numbers down. How could being ripped apart by dogs be humane? But the final argument for me is that fox hunting is not banned, you just can't use a real fox! Fox hunting has become more popular since the ban so surely that means killing the fox isn't the important thing. In throwing the javelin for example, which originally came from throwing spears in war, you don't still have to throw it at someone. Why then in Fox Hunting would you still have to use a living fox?

Friday, October 02, 2009

It's that time of year again - time for the ....

'Wasps Artists' Open Studios Weekend 2009
Saturday 3rd October 11am - 5pm
Sunday 4th October 12pm - 5pm

Of course there are exhibitions from the Highlands to Selkirk in the Borders (where I am from) but I like to go to the local one at -

'West Park Place Studios, Dalry: Regular visitors will know that the artists always put a cafe together in the basement space for the weekend. This year the cafe in the basement exhibition space will be run by Delish Salad and Sandwich bar and will be the perfect place to meet and talk about the work on show. If you can't wait until the weekend, you can visit Delish at 59 Dalry Road, Edinburgh EH11 2BS. '

It is well worth a visit and we usually buy something. Prices range from the expensive to the very reasonable. Or just go along to look at the wonderful art works.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

See below local activities at the Whale Arts Centre. Quite a variety! 'Let's Dance' is well timed with the return of 'Strictly' to our screens. Bring back Arlene - that's all I'm saying.

Free Workshops for Adult Groups in South-West Edinburgh.
WHALE is delighted to be able to offer the workshops below FREE OF CHARGE to groups in South-West Edinburgh. Workshop times are flexible so can be arranged around the time that your group usually meets and can either take place at your group’s usual venue or the WHALE Arts Centre.

Dancing is a great way to have fun and to keep fit! Let’s DANCE workshops are led by expert tutors who are experienced in working with beginners. A range of dance styles are available including salsa, ballroom and swing! 1 or 2 hour workshops available.

Creating a Character
At heart everyone is an actor and this workshop will enable participants to release their inner drama queen! Aimed at complete beginners this is a fun, interactive workshop involving games and exercises to develop characters and scenes. A chance to play! 1 or 2 hour workshops available.

Film and the G20
This workshop is offered as a partnership between the World Development Movement (WDM) and the Reel Lives Film Club at WHALE. On the 7th of November the G20 (twenty of the richest nations in the world) are sending their Finance Ministers to St. Andrews to decide on their solutions to the global financial crisis. Residents of South-West Edinburgh have a particular interest in this because it is our MP, Alistair Darling, who will be representing the UK at this meeting. This workshop uses film clips to engage groups in discussions about what the G20 is, the effects of its policies and how it can be challenged. 1 hour workshops available.

For further information, to arrange a workshop for your group or to suggest other possible workshops and collaborations please contact Gavin Crichton on 458 3267 or

Further information on our weekly workshop programme for young people and adults can be found at

Thursday, August 27, 2009

More local activity. See below....
Looks good!

Back to School for me! Due to the fact that I only teach Mon., Tues, & Wed. and in Midlothian the kids only came back on the Thurs. , I didn't have any classes till this week. It was good to see the kids again but it is easy to forget how tiring a full days teaching actually is. It is a bit like being an actor but the performance lasts six hours a day. Not complaining though - love it.

Another date for the diary is the South West Neighbourhood Partnership Meeting. I was centrally involved in the development of these local Committees and I Chair the SW one (just been reappointed for another year). As well as Councillors for the area they have representatives from the Police, Fire, the Voluntary Sector, Health and Community Councils. It is also open to the public and this time (a first for any Neighbourhood Partnership ) we are giving it a theme and splitting into 'surgeries' so you can ask your questions or make your points to the right people. If you live in the South West area and would like to ask a question or make a point on the subject of Community Safety and the Environment please come along. See poster below....

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

It just gets worse. Now a second fire at the British Heart Foundation exactly a week after the Balmoral Bar. Three injured firefighters but thankfully no fatalities. The funeral is tomorrow (Wednesday 22nd) for Ewan Williamson - the firefighter who was killed at the Balmoral fire trying to save others trapped in the fire. A true hero then. What a tragedy. There is to be a dignified procession starting at 12.30pm from Tollcross fire station via George IV Bridge and heading down the Royal Mile to St Giles where a memorial service will be held. I for one will certainly be lining the route and I'm sure others will wish to do so.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

I got back from my holidays this weekend only to find there had been a really bad fire in Dalry Rd. at the Balmoral Bar. The message on my answering machine says a firefighter has been killed and another seriously injured. All the other occupants of the tenement appear to have been rehoused in B & B or staying with friends and relatives for the moment. Hoping to get the full details tomorrow but for know my thoughts are with the family of the deceased and the family of the person in hospital.

Everything else seems to pale in importance after that but to return to trivia, my holiday had its ups and downs. We had planned carefully to visit Dublin and at the same time go to the Bruce Springsteen concert. Yes, I'm a life long fan. I don't just like the music, I like the person. His politics and his down to earth unpretentious attitude. Sadly the company we bought the tickets from on the Internet turned out, as far as we can tell, not to exist! Their ticket lines rung dead and they didn't answer our emails. I Googled them and it seems lots of other people had the same problem. At any rate the tickets never arrived and the event is past. Needless to say I will not be leaving it there. The moral is to go for well known established names if you are booking tickets for events. Luckily I logged on to Ticketmaster and got us tickets for the Hampden concert instead so all was well that ended well. We had a nice city break in Dublin and still saw the Concert in Glasgow.
See below the songs he played.

He was on stage bouncing around for five mins. short of three hours! It was fantastic. I nearly went to see him 30 years ago in Minneapolis / St Paul - but didn't. I have regretted it ever since - till now. The below gives you a flavour own personal favourite 'Born to Run' (not shot by me - I found this on You Tube).

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

We are just about at the end of the spring clean up season and heading rapidly into the park festival / fun days. The first one is in the Fun Day at Hailes Quarry Park (off Murrayburn Rd. - just past the bus depot). 11am till 3pm. Lots of events and activities for all ages. If you have not been to this one before than it is a great day out for all the family. It is easy to miss the park but there is a big sign at the entrance so you can't really miss it once you know it is there.
More events to come though so watch this space.

Friday, April 17, 2009

In spite of it being a fortnights holiday from the school (in my case of course that is just an opportunity to concentrate on Council work) it has been very busy. The running theme seems to have been participation in things in the local area so it is only right that I do what I can by putting them up here on my blog to encourage people to get involved.

A couple of 'spring cleans' to start with -

Dalry Community Park Spring Clean - on Sat 18th Apr. Volunteers will meet at St. Martin’s Church at 14:00 and then make their way to the nearby Community Park.

Dalry Colonies Spring Clean - on Sunday the 26th April 2009 at 1300 hours.

Last week I attended a very interesting public meeting in St Brides (Orwell Terrace) organised by the Edinburgh Community Backgreens association (ECBA). Although they have been going for a few years now very limited funding has meant they have had to consolidate the few sites they had already started (one in the Wheatfields and one in Dalry). Successful bids for additional funding this year have meant that they can now look at expanding to new sites.

The idea is a simple one, in areas where the backgreens have fallen into disuse and become overgrown residents can choose to put these backgreens together and organise them as a single resource. Look at their website for a full explanation of how it can work. I have been involved with this from the start and fought , back when I was Councillor for Shandon , to get the first pilot up and running in the Wheatfields. The initiative and startup funding came from Dunedin Canmore Housing Association with an additional grant (pushed through by me) from the Council's 'Local Development Committee'. I am really pleased to see the project picking up in this way and if anyone knows of backgreens that would benefit from this project or would like to participate through Grow Your Own courses or clean up days then click on the website for details.

Lastly and on the same theme I have had various meetings with the new Friends of Saughton Park. In their own words .....

We are a group of people who are dedicated to improving the facilities and amenities in Saughton Park for the benefit of the whole community. We want to see the park returned to its former position as the jewel in the crown of this area and make it a place for everyone to enjoy. If you would like to join us you can do so by completing the form on the contact us page of our website or by contacting the secretary on 0131 443 1007.

I was inolved in starting up the Friends of Harrison Park when I was Councillor for Shandon and this has gone from strength to strength making a real difference. I would urge therefore local people to sign up and get involved. You can tell I love Saughton Park as I have it on my banner at the top of this blog.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

This week was dominated for me by the Creating Smarter Cities conference here in Edinburgh. It was particularly significant as Edinburgh was the original 'Smart City' and I personally played a major role in its creation and development. The original vision was to have efficient accessible services suited to citizens needs but also (and this is the smart bit)joining up and working in partnership with others in the city to offer solutions to citizens problems. Sounds quite straightforward, but it certainly hasn't been. Gordon Mackenzie of Microsoft pointed out in their new headquarters in Waverleygate on Monday evening that the partnership model developed by Edinburgh City Council and BT was the one used by them worldwide. A pat on the back for the E-Government Division headed up by Andrew Unsworth and of course me since I was the Executive Member responsible for it. Brendan Dick of BT Scotland followed with an excellent contribution charting the journey we had taken in Edinburgh and drawing attention to the small but incredibly successful digital inclusion pilot 'Everybody Online' in my own area of Gorgie Dalry. Another highlight for me however was meeting my old friend Eric Goubin from Belgium. We met during the Demos project and like most of the other members we developed into a group of close friends. Demos was unusual in that participants felt they were on a journey of discovery, grappling with the theory and practice of citizen participation. We became so in tune with each other that it had a strange effect of almost distancing everyone else with whom you did not have that same shared understanding. The worth of the project was so acknowledged by us all that we have organised annual transnational meetings ever since even though the project officially ended years ago.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Looking back on the year (and I have to say I am glad to be looking back on the year!) there was not much good in it for Sighthill Gorgie Ward. The year started off with the Gorgie Dalry Partnership going into liquidation as a result of the cuts imposed by this Lib Dem / SNP administration. The GDP for those who do not know organized things such as Christmas! This year there was no Santa in Gorgie Dalry, no children’s party, no selection boxes for the kids, no 'Best Dressed Christmas Window' and no Switch on Ceremony. The lights were switched on by some unknown council officer on the quiet. These things take months to organise and having scrapped the organisation that did it there was no one to take its place. The irony is that the GDP brought in sponsorship from local businesses such as £600 last year from Sainsbury’s for the children's selection boxes, so the cut in Council core funding has cost the local area thousands in donations for local projects and events. We told the Lib Dem / SNP administration this but they scrapped it anyway.
The year went on as it had begun with the scrapping of the Gorgie Dalry Gazette and the West Edinburgh Times – again Council funding withdrawn. The two biggest and best of the community newspapers, free through the letter box - gone. These vital local links needed and wanted to expand their delivery areas to include the new multi member wards but instead this administration withdrew their funding.
Every month seems to have brought new horrors such as the withdrawal of the 20 bus (we wanted to subsidise it till the end of the year but this was rejected) and even at the end of the year when the festive season had already begun they announced the closure of Westburn Primary (for reasons which were based on false information and assumptions) and lastly the Wester Hailes Rep. Council has had to be dissolved through lack of funds! That spells the end not only of the Rep. Council but probably many of the 15 Neighbourhood Councils which reported to it as well! So much for active citizens and informed participation. Make no mistake where the blame lies for all this, withdrawal of funds by this Lib. Dem./SNP Administration. As someone said to me the other day it's not rocket science, freeze the Council Tax, less money in so cuts across the board. And if it wasn't enough they should have said so instead of signing up to to the Single Outcome Agreement.

So the question remains - ‘What have I been doing about it?’

Being in opposition has meant that our ability to protect the local community has been seriously limited. Being voted on to the Chair of the South West Neighbourhood Partnership has helped a bit as I was able to use what little power has been given to these organisations to fight against these cuts minimise their impact.
I was very involved in the development of the Neighbourhood Partnerships which were designed to devolve decision making down to local areas. This administration however have failed miserably to give them real teeth or even respond positively when they bring something forward.
Neighbourhood Partnership local community grants however have benefited a variety of deserving local projects such as the Gorgie City Farm and the Broomhouse Centre.
There is not enough in this fund however to prevent the major closures but we took the fight to the Neighbourhood Partnership and the full Council through motions, questions and debates. There has not been a single month when I have not been proposing motions, asking questions or contributing to a major debate.
The year has also been characterised by numerous deputations from local groups and organisations fighting against the stringent cuts which have been imposed.
Getting round the multi member ward is a major challenge with calendar clashes virtually evening however I believe I have achieved a presence in the area with careful juggling and regular weekly surgeries.
Being made Labour’s Bailie is a responsibility I take very seriously believing as I do that it is important to be visible in the civic life of the city. I have also tried to do things locally wherever possible such as handing out the Garvald awards for achievement to people with learning disabilities at St. Brides. Local people and groups seem very pleased to have a Bailie who is also a local resident.
Other notable civic duties were when I read the ‘Complaint of the Black Knight’ in Fountainbridge Library and unveiled a plaque in the Cowgate to commemorate 500 years of printing in Edinburgh. I also unveiled a plaque on International workers memorial day in Princess Street Gardens which was to draw attention to health and safety at work and commemorate those who have died in industrial accidents. I highlighted the hazards of asbestos which has now become the subject of a major public awareness campaign.
I think there is everything to fight for in the new year. The administration’s cuts are far from finished and there are many challenges for the area in the months ahead. The Lib Dem and SNP Councillors for this area seem unable or unwilling to do what is best for local people. It therefore falls to us, the Labour Councillors, MPs and MSPs to defend local people and those who cannot defend themselves and that is as it should be since that is what the Labour Party is all about.