Thursday, 19 May 2011

Salmond names his cabinet

The new Scottish Government Cabinet with portfolio responsibilities have been announced.

Not enough time for analysis just now, but on a quick scan I see Nicola Sturgeon has responsibility for the Commonwealth games - that will create a political legacy for her to inherit as well as a sporting one. She is the chosen one.

Welcome Michael Russell to shepherd the Gaelic portifolio though I see language policy is separate from culture, a bit strange.

Richard Lockhead has land reform but John Swinney has the Crown Estate to wrestle with, both the same side of the coin I would say but I hope they tackle them both with vigour. Presuming Richard has crofting to look after too. Mmm, this is more about my political priorities than the goverment's. Heres' the list:

First Minister Alex Salmond MSP
Head of the Scottish Government: responsible for development, implementation and presentation of Government policy, constitutional affairs, and for promoting and representing Scotland.

Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing and Cities Strategy Nicola Sturgeon MSP
NHS, health service reform, allied healthcare services, acute and primary services, performance, quality and improvement framework, health promotion, sport, Commonwealth Games, public health, health improvement, pharmaceutical services, food safety and dentistry, community care, older people, mental health, learning disability, carers, substance misuse, social inclusion, equalities, anti-poverty measures, veterans, and cities strategy.

Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth John Swinney MSP The economy, the Scottish Budget, employment, public service reform, deregulation, local government, public service delivery, and community planning, Registers of Scotland, Scottish Public Pensions Agency, relocation, e-government, budgetary monitoring, business and industry including Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise' trade and inward investment, corporate social responsibility, voluntary sector and the social economy, community business and co-operative development, energy, renewables, tourism, building standards, land use planning system.

Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning Michael Russell MSP
Further and higher education, science and lifelong learning, school education, early years, training and skills, new education agency, the Scottish Qualifications Authority, nurseries and childcare, children's services, children's hearings, social work, Social Care and Social Work Improvement Scotland, Gaelic and Scots.

Cabinet Secretary for Parliamentary Business and Government Strategy Bruce Crawford MSP Parliamentary affairs and the management of Government business in the Parliament, and developing Government strategy and co-ordinating policy delivery across portfolios.

Cabinet Secretary for Justice Kenny MacAskill MSP
Criminal law and procedure, youth justice, criminal justice social work, police, prisons and sentencing policy, legal aid, legal profession, courts and law reform, anti-social behaviour, sectarianism, human rights, fire and rescue services, community safety, civil contingencies, drugs policy and related matters, liquor licensing, vulnerable witnesses, victim support and civil law, charity law, religious and faith organisations.

Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment Richard Lochhead MSP
Agriculture, fisheries and rural development including aquaculture and forestry, environment and natural heritage, land reform, water quality regulation, sustainable development, and climate change.

Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop MSP
Europe, external affairs, culture and the arts, broadcasting, architecture, built heritage, Historic Scotland and lottery funding, National Records of Scotland, and major events strategy.

Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure and Capital Investment Alex Neil MSP
Scottish Water, procurement, European Structural Funds, Scottish Futures Trust, transport policy and delivery, public transport, road, rail services, air and ferry services, housing, communities and regeneration.

Law Officers
Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland
Frank Mulholland QC was appointed Solicitor General for Scotland in May 2007.
He has been a prosecutor throughout his career, having joined the Procurator Fiscal Service in 1984, working in Glasgow and Edinburgh offices before taking up policy and managerial posts in the Crown Office.

Hammond tacking on coastguard closures

The Independent and The Times report today that Philip Hammond, Transport Secretary, has abandoned the plans to close the majority of Britain's coastguard stations.

Although the Department of Transport claims this is merely speculation at this stage it has all the signs of a major climbdown by the Coalition and a huge victory for Britain's coastal communities.

Hammond, who is in the studios today talking about trains, has just been popped a question about the reports on BBC News. He said he was "looking again" at coastguard closure plan after receiving "strong feedback" but insisted this does not amount to a u-turn. An announcement is expected before the summer recess.

David Cameron has been distancing himself from plans almost since it was first proposed to shut 11 of 19 UK stations and cut the rest's opening hours.

The rationalisation would have left Scotland with one 24 hour station in Aberdeen with Stornoway and Shetland scrapping it out to remain open during daylight hours.

The outcry from every one of Britain's coastal constituencies has been sufficient to persuade the government that it is handling a policy about as popular as the Forestry Commission sell-off.

There was an incredibly strong reaction to the consultation on closures, which was extended by six weeks, and now the Commons Transport Select Committee has taken up the case too.

MPs from the committee are actually in Stornoway today taking evidence. When their report is completed the Transport Department consultation will open again briefly and then Ministers will come to a conclusion.

Despite the "speculation" I doubt if the coastguard service will be untouched by the rationalisation process. Hopefully the contract to keep the emergency coastguard tugs on the western and northern appraoches will also survive the review process.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Westminster misses constitutional tremors

Two worlds. While Alex Salmond is delivering a fine inaugural speech laying out his vision for Scotland Westminster is all a froth over the immediate future of Justice Minister Ken Clarke.

Clarke made some very ill-judged comments on rape sentencing and different types of rape in a radio interview this morning. He has been digging himself further and further into the mire in subsequent television interviews. One of the biggest beasts in the jungle may just have sounded his own death knell.

At Prime Minister's Questions, just gone, Ed Miliband hammered David Cameron on the issue. Labour is coming from the right on crime and justice and making the government look as if it is all over the shop.

Miliband will get the clips he wants on the evening news but he made one major error himself. By asking if the Justice Secretary would still be in his post by the end of the day he virtually guaranteed that Ken Clarke would not be sacked.

In a very bruising Prime Minister's Questions Cameron did get one reference to the Scottish situation.

James Gray, a Home Counties Conservative and a Scot, asked if all voters in the UK will have a vote on Scottish independence.

Cameron said it would be a vote for the people of Scotland and not the rest of the country.

History is being made at Holyrood and Westminster barely notices the constitutional ground moving underneath its feet.

Moore finally shapes up for referendum fight

Big day up the road with Alex Salmond being sworn in as First Minister, unopposed by anyone. (except my erstwhile colleague Magnus Gardham who really ought be sworn in as the official opposition while the Labour Party is in intensive care).

Scottish Secretary Michael Moore has chosen the day to challenge the First Minister to name the date and name the question for the Independence referendum.

In an interview with the foreign news wire Reuters (oh, the irony) Moore says the Scottish economy will be damaged by the uncertainty around the constitutiona question.

He's hardly quick out of the blocks. Last week, when Scottish journalists here in Westminster questioned the Scottish Secretary he ducked a fight with Salmond and left the timing and the question of an Independence referendum entirely to the SNP government.

Moore went further and said that he did not accept a referendum campaign had already begun - despite the pro-independence SNP winning a stunning 69 seats just a few days earlier.

He said: “I don’t accept that, it is for the First Minister and the Scottish Government to bring forward their proposals. We are commited to the Scotland Bill ,enhancing devolution, enhancing the responsibilityies of the Scottish parialment and giving it significant new powers.”

Now there's been a turn around, perhaps based on the whispers that Moore is not the best Lib Dem Scottish Secretary to take the fight to Salmond.

Heres' the Reuters story:

LONDON (Reuters) - The government urged the Scottish National Party on Tuesday to set out the timing and wording of a planned referendum on Scottish independence quickly to avoid possible damage to the economy.

The pro-independence SNP won a majority in the devolved Scottish parliament earlier this month, the first party to do so, and pledged to hold a referendum on independence within five years, some 300 years after Scotland and England were united.
Michael Moore, Scottish Secretary in the British coalition government, told Reuters a delay in formulating the question to be asked, and the referendum itself, would create uncertainty for Scotland and the rest of Britain.
"The Scottish government has to be very clear, very quickly exactly what they mean by independence," he said.
"Is it full independence, is it independence-lite? They need to recognise that the longer there is uncertainty about what they mean by independence, or the prospect of it, the greater uncertainty this causes across the United Kingdom."
"That ultimately is not good for Scotland's economy, and for my part I think they have got to take account of those concerns.
"They have got to be able to justify exactly what it is they are asking the people of Scotland to decide and why they should wait to decide that for a number of years."
Alex Salmond, the SNP leader and first minister of Scotland, plans to delay the referendum until late in his five-year term so as to turn the surge in his party's popularity into stronger support for breaking away from Britain.
In 2014, Scotland should gain prestige from hosting golf's Ryder Cup and the Commonwealth Games -- and it will be the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, a significant Scottish victory in Scotland's wars with England.
Moore, whose Liberal Democrats are the junior partner in a Conservative-led coalition government in London, said he would oppose independence. But he said his party was more sympathetic than the Conservatives to the idea of a more federalist system.
"My view is that there is plenty of space within the United Kingdom for us to have the appropriate levels of devolution according to what the different parts want," he said.
"There isn't a majority anywhere in the United Kingdom for Scotland being independent, and that is why I and all my colleagues are pretty relaxed about what we are doing with devolution, without being complacent."
The Scottish and British governments are currently concentrating on the Scotland Bill, which would change the way the Scottish parliament is financed. The SNP wants to amend the bill to give Scotland greater power to tax and borrow.
Moore said the coalition was willing to look at bringing forward capital borrowing powers by a year to 2012 and would listen to the case for increasing the amount Scotland could borrow from 2 billion pounds, bearing in mind Britain's deficit reduction constraints.
He said businesses would be entitled to feel uncertain about what Salmond planned for taxes such as excise duties, and said Britain was best served by a single corporation tax system.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

After a short break from the coalface I'm beginning to think that the Scottish Labour party should be left alone to pick over the bones of its staggering defeat in the Scottish election.

Before leaving the subject I'd point anyone interested to the submission by Tom Harris MP, which he has published on his own site.

All I'd add, once again, is that Labour's problems are not uniquely Caledonian. The party faces the same task of reforming itself at a UK level too.

Peter Hain has started that process on the Love Labour, Change Labour website today.

Here's how the suggestions Tom Harris makes were sent to The Daily Record:

The next leader of the Scottish Labour party should be elected by ordinary members, with MSPs and MPs taking a back seat.

The "one member, one vote" idea has been proposed by Glasgow South MP Tom Harris who is urging fellow Westminster MPs not to use their disproportionate influence when choosing a new Scottish leader.

Harris is the first Westminster MP to back a call by former First Minister Jack McConnell for Scottish Labour MPs to voluntarily give up their vote in the contest.
The move is an attempt to stop the nationalist jibe that the Scottish leader is chosen by "London Labour" and ease the tension between Labour’s Westminster MPs and Holyrood MSPs.

In his submission to the party review of its devastating defeat by the SNP Harris also recommends that the new leader be in charge of the whole party in Scotland, and not just the Labour MSPs at Holyrood.

This would make Scottish Labour stand alone from the UK party - an idea that echoes a call made yesterday by party elder statesman Henry McLeish, who preceded McConnell as First Minister.

McLeish said Scottish Labour had to have its own brand and identity and should be taking on the SNP by developing policies that are "embracing pride and patriotism and wrapping them in the Saltire".

Harris recommends that to keep the link with the UK’s "team Labour" that the Scottish deputy leader be a Westminster MP rather than an MSP.

The Scottish leader is currently chosen from votes in three "electoral colleges" - one for ordinary members, a second for trade unions, and a third made up of MPs and MSPs.

As there more Scottish Labour MPS (40) than MSPs (37) the Westminster contingent wield more power.

Harris argues that the electoral college be abolished and replaced by a simple one member, one vote election.

Harris said: "This would bring Labour into line with every other mainstream party and would give ordinary members influence beyond what they have had until now. MPs and MSPs would have a vote of the same value as every other member, as would any trade union member who is a member of the Labour Party."

A root and branch review of the Scottish Labour party is to be carried out by Jim Murphy MP and Sarah Boyack MSP over the summer.

Harris said that the review has to focus on voters and on Labour’s own vision for a devolved Scotland.

He said: "We need to stop seeing devolution in terms of its effects on politics and the political parties, and instead embrace it as mechanism for benefiting the people of Scotland.

"We need to stop defining ourselves against the SNP and start defining ourselves, once more, as the people’s party."

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

David Cairns - a love Labour's lost

Hard to let the long day end without reflecting on dear David Cairns, the Greenock and Inverclyde MP whose death has been announced, aged just 44.

His good friend Tom Harris has written a fine obituary over on his own site.

Other people knew David better but my lasting memory will be standing with him in Greenock, just less than a decade ago, as he pointed out the houses and streets that had been wrecked by their inhabitants' addiction to heroin.

He wasn't making a point about the scourge of smack, although that was implicit, he was persuading me of the necessity of Britain's war in Afghanistan.

The Afghan heroin trail,that wound its way out of the valleys through Turkey and Europe, found its end user point in his postcode, in the town he grew up in.

David,as he stood there explaining that connection, displayed a great skill, not possessed by many politicians. He was weaving a remote, geopolitical issue into a vivid narrative that could be understood and seen in the ordinary lives of the people he represented. My article virtually wrote itself, thanks to him.

Perhaps it was his background as a trained priest that gave him this ability to communicate so well. Maybe that's what gave him a feel for what people were thinking and gave him a sense of moral purpose.

Certainly he was brave politician. He did not just whisper the truth about the Labour party, he spoke it, and with his name attached. And when he resigned as a Scotland Office Minister over Gordon Brown's handling of the party and the government in 2008, when it was still not too late, no one could seriously accuse him of betrayal.

Though the Brownite machine attempted to destroy him, he remained loyal to the party, after he saw the last chance to change leader was gone. He was Labour in his heart, and no one could take that away.

He was clever and witty and always had a good laugh, and he stuck me as a thoroughly decent man. Just the kind of person politicians ought to be.

He had a massive majority in his Greenock and Inverclyde seat, some 56 per cent of the vote. That was reduced to a Labour lead of just over 500 votes over the SNP in last Thursday's Scottish election. The by-election will be will be a test of both parties but none of that will be his concern. Beanneachd leat, a Dhaibhidh.

Labour review to dismantle Hadrian's wall

Labour has decided to go for a hasty post-mortem of the party’s disastrous Scottish election performance.

A review panel, jointly led by former Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy MP and Edinburgh MSP Sarah Boyack, will produce an interim report on the way ahead for the party by June.

This runs counter to earlier BBC reports that three MPs - Murphy, shadow Scottish Secretary Anne McKechin and Stirling MP Anne McGuire would review the aftermath of the biggest defeat in Labour's history.

The prospect of Westminster politicians raking the ashes immediately put noses out of joint in Scotland. Ex-MSP Pauline McNeill was quick out of the blocks with a defensive statement, demanding that London leaving the Scottish party alone.

McNeill, who was defeated by the SNP in Glasgow Kelvin, said: "There is a perception, not always the reality, that Scottish Labour always looks to London and I think that Ed Miliband appointing three MPs really should be left to the Scottish Labour Party."

To do what precisely? Scottish Labour lost and no one thinks the rump of MSPs left in Holyrood will have the answer as to why that happened.

But Pauline's reaction to the early speculation on the review is telling in itself. The very gulf between Scotland's Westminster MPs and Holyrood MSPs is part of the reason the party lies beaten and bruised, and Scottish Labour MSPs have to accept that.

No one accuses the London wing of the SNP of running Scotland when Angus Robertson comes from Westminster to take charge of the Scottish parliament election campaign.

No one bats an eyelid when Angus, and the other Angus (MacNeil) are seen in Edinburgh on a Thursday afternoon, liaising with their colleagues in the Scottish parliament, getting a feel for the issues, the constituencies and their opponents' weaknesses long before an election gun is fired.

Yet some Scottish Labour MPs are proud to proclaim that they've never darkened the door of the Holyrood parliament. Others among them report that no welcome mat would be put out by their Scottish colleagues in any case, that they are not wanted, despite their election-winning experience.

The complacency is not universal, of course. You can't accuse Murphy or Boyack of being political parochialists.

But it is ironic that one of their first tasks in saving the party (and the UK) is dismantling the Hadrian's Wall that Scottish Labour politicians have built to divide each other.

Speaking of complacency, can it be true that a Scottish Labour MP did a "Gordon Jackson" and took a holiday in the middle of the Holyrood election campaign?

Jackson, the eminent QC and former MSP for Glasgow Govan, was posted missing during one of the Scottish election campaigns. (He increased his majority, and Labour will look back on these days with nostalgia)

A final report on the reform of the party structure and how the Westminster and Holyrood Labour politicians work together in future will be finished in August.

Labour leader Ed Miliband, and the next leader of Scottish Labour, will consider the final recommendations.

Here, I predict, is the first sentence of the Scottish Labour review that will catch Miliband's eye. "If Labour does not find a message to reconnect with the Scottish electorate, then the UK party's prospects in the next general election look very grim indeed."

Monday, 9 May 2011

Labour MPs begin the post-mortem

I understand Alistair Darling was the star turn for Scotland at the parliamentary Labour party meeting, just finished.

The former chancellor dismantled the Scottish Labour defence, deployed since last Friday, that the SNP majority was due to a mass switch of Lib Dem voters to the nationalists.

That analysis is far too simplistic, said Darling, the party had to recognise that it was hemorrhaging some of its core, working-class vote to the SNP. That has been happening steadily since 1999.

The question is what to do about that? Ed Miliband, I understand, did not address the issue directly but rather blamed Labour's Scottish debacle on organisational failure, which he vowed would not happen again.

He did, however, acknowledge that Labour had not offered the Scottish people a vision to match the SNP's optimism.

Miliband is in charge of a review to find out why the Scottish party, with an uncharismatic leader and a weak message, did not perform at the polls. I hope he reads the result of the inquiry closely.

UK Labour and the "Ed Gray" question

We'll be wading through the wreckage of Labour's profound defeat in Scotland for weeks and months to come, but I'm immediately struck on my return to London that there is nothing uniquely Caledonian about the problem the party faces.

In the afermath of the SNP victory I spoke to a recent English arrival in Scotland who professed that he had little knowledge of the Scottish political system, and was hardly interested in politics at all.

"But, how could anyone vote for Labour with that leader?" he asked rhetorically. I let the pause grow longer, expecting another voter to run down Iain Gray's poor, bruised personality. The new arrival contined: "I mean Ed Miliband, who would vote for him?"

Then, I understood, that it's infectious - the UK Labour party has an "Ed Gray" problem.

Left of centre parties across Europe face a question of what they stand for, and how they deliver the message of their core values in this age of austerity.

There will be lots of lessons for Scottish Labour from the election, but these same hard questions have to be faced by the party at a UK level too, if my reading of the English local election results is right.

If parties don't make a clear offer to voters, and if their leaders don't match expectations of the electorate, traditional supporters cast around for what else is on offer.

I repeat,there is no evidence to suggest that what happened to the Labour party in Scotland is a one off. It could be the beginning of a pattern, and that might be one of the most profound lessons of Thursday night.

The Parliamentary Labour party meets this evening to pick over the election results. The MPs will be addressed by Ed Miliband, we'll be outside listening for the sound of desks being banged in support of the leader.

Death of Scotsman on the Thames

Back at my desk in Westminster, with all the expected ribbing from colleagues about David Cameron's border controls being applied to migrant Scots to massage the figures down.(Really I'm more worried about being declared an undesirable alien in the old country).

The profound changes in the Holyrood election don't seem to have sunk in to the body politic on the Thames yet, though a senior Lib Dem I just spoke to said that they would have to be thinking pretty smartly about the Westminster government calling an Independence referendum to box Alex Salmond in.

"The Tories are keener than us, if anything," said the MP, indicating that the two parties are trying to feel their way towards concensus on the issue. The Con-Lib Dem relationship is, he claimed, marching on with the result fo the AV referendum being so decisive that the issue is dead and gone for a generation.

Interestingly, the tug of war between the SNP and the Coalition in Westminster will keep us Westminster corrs in stories for some time. Look, there's Angus Robertson just now, firing off a letter demanding an early meeting with Liam Fox over defence cuts in Scotland. Mmm, plus la change.

But the most symbolic change on my arrival back at my desk is a facsimile A3 copy of the Scotsman newspaper. I'm still to find out who is behind the photocopied, black and white version but it transpires that the Scotsman is no longer circulated in London.

In an age of declining circulation perhaps I should not be so surprised. After all, the Scotsman is following the Herald's retreat from London in 2008. Scottish MPs have access to the Herald's online version and the House library prints out a facsimile copy for the Commons tearoom.

But the death of the Scotsman on the capital's news stalls leaves the Daily Record as effectively the last Scottish newspaper circulating in London on a daily basis.

When Andrew Jaspan launched the Sunday Herald in 1999 he briefed us that we would work on it in print for ten years, and by then the whole paper would migrate online. How we laughed, how right he was.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Let me tell you about my brother...

Kenny "Leather" Stephen with the comrade brother, Donald Crichton

I met an old friend at Central Station, Glasgow, this morning who looks likely in the next 48 hours to become an SNP MSP for the South of Scotland region.

For most of us election day is a cross in the box, but for the candidates it is to be a life-changing experience, the end of a long campaign, the kernel of an idea, or perhaps the culmination of a career ambition.

It is, as my brother Donald said, the longest job interview of his life, in public, with the result broadcast to the nation.

Donald is standing for Labour in Na h-Eileanan an Iar, the Western Isles constituency, where the SNP lead with over 600 votes. He is coming from behind, but he is marching like General MacArthur back up that beach with his claim for Labour.

Domhnall has worn out the shoe leather and the handshakes in this campaign, almost matching the efforts of his totemic footsoldier, Kenny Stephen, the wispy-bearded warrior who has taken the Labour message from door to door, from Butt to Barra, over the last six weeks.(Who would have thought Labour would get a endorsement from ZZ Top?)

The Labour Party doesn't need my endorsement, but I can't let this week pass without backing my comrade brother.

So who is he, this boy from Point, that peninsula of Lewis that has forged Labour politicians in a red line from Malcolm K, to Calum Macdonald and Alasdair Morrison?

Though he's just turned 40 my brother has been a butcher's mate, a cobbler's boy, an apprentice joiner, a public sector administrator, a political officer, a mature student, and now a health service official.

He has a breadth of life experiences that make the hinterlands of some political candidates look like very narrow furrows indeed.

It's his own experience of having his joinery apprenticeship interrupted, when a local building firm went broke in the late 80s, that directly informs his (and Labour's) number one campaigning priority - to create work for young people at home.

He is rooted in the island he grew up on, the place we call home. While he has lived in Britain's cities he thoroughly and instinctively understands how the islands tick, how their people are threaded together in common cause and face common challenges.

He shares the frustration of many others in seeing time and opportunities to improve the chances for the islands slip away without proper political leadership at a national level, while the population ages and the schools empty. I think, if elected, he would be quite determined to remedy that, to fight for the place and its people.

Of course, he is a socialist, if growing up in a household and a community that fostered the values of equality, of fighting poverty, and creating opportunity for everyone defines you as a socialist.

He's not a nationalist, small n or big N, and not for tribal party reasons. Like me, like many, he does not want to create divisions where none exist, he does not believe that to be constructive or progressive 21st century politics. Others are entitled to their opinions but stronger together, weaker apart, is his plain approach to question of national identity.

As he said himself at the beginning of this long campaign politicians should use the powers they already have to alleviate and improve the lives of their constituents. That's why he's in the game.

He is a realist, a pragmatist, I don't think he will wish problems away, or ignore issues in the hope that they will disappear, or promise solutions that cannot be practically delivered. I think, if elected, he will roll up his sleeves and work with everyone, for the islands.

He is is deeply wedded to the idea of public service, following the example of my late father, John Crichton, and his life-long involvement in community politics.

I think that's really what has driven Domhnall to seek office and has sustained him on the long road to this week's ballot.

He shares his father's passion for wanting to improve the lot of his community, impatient to get things done and prepared to stick his neck out to do so. Domhnall's slogan is the right one for him; it is "a time for action".

He's a Christian, and has been from his teenage years. Sometimes in the Hebrides that appellation sets you apart from fellow islanders. But Domhnall, as far as I can see, is embraced by all parts of the community and maintains a wide circle of friends from all walks of life.

We sometimes disagree on interpretation but not really on principle, and he is refreshingly modern in his approach to life. He's never expressed a judgmental view on my life choices, which are quite different from his. I can't see him treating anyone else any differently.

Most of all I am convinced that he's up to the job. This has been a long life's voyage for Domhnall but he has approached this campaign with relish, he makes an easy, confident, connection with people, and he has a conviction that he has embarked on this endeavour for the right reasons.

There is always a choice at elections but I think that with Domhnall there is something different on offer to the constituency. Domhnall's values are informed by the place he comes from, and he embodies the best aspects of the islands.

I think he will stand for jobs, for Gaelic, for the cultural and technological initiatives, and for a spirit of optimism that is needed to move the islands into their next stage of development.

When it is boiled down I think he'll make a good political representative because his ethics, his Labour values, inform what he does. His approach, his instinct, is to stand for everyone, while his main opponents really stand for only one thing. He is just the right man for the job, my brother.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Obama gets his man and claims his legacy

President Barack Obama said on taking office he told the CIA that the death or capture of Osama Bin Laden was to be the agency’s number one priority.

The death of the al-Qaeda terror chief will make the President, who was being written off as a one-term wonder, an almost unbeatable force when he comes up for re-election next year.

Obama was elected in 2008 on an agenda of hope, but found himself governing in the deepest economic recession the US has seen in a generation.

A week ago the under-pressure Democrat President was facing barely disguised racist demands to produce a certificate proving his American birthright.

He duly did so but emphasised he had more important matters to consider. No one will be asking Barack Obama to show his US birth certificate ever again.

The spontaneous patriotic reaction to the death of bin Laden and Obama’s political craftsmanship in weaving his imprint onto the story have propelled the President into another league.

The raid on Bin Laden took 40 men and lasted 40 minutes, but will set the political weather for years to come.

Obama was also elected to wrap up the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which, for many Americans, were directly linked to the terror that was visited on sacred US soil in New York and Washington ten years ago.

Terrorist attacks will continue, but the death of the perpetrator of 9/11 will bring to a close a long decade pockmarked with the caskets of US service personnel being flown home from far afield.

The troops can start coming home, and that means British troops too.

George W Bush said bin Laden was wanted dead or alive. Yesterday it was another president that changed the talk into action. America has got it’s man, and Obama has a staked a claim to a first term legacy.

"Are you up for my man?" - parkies tackle riot litter

I crossed Kelvingrove Park in Glasgow very, very early on Saturday morning, on the way home from a wedding celebration (not that wedding, an Island wedding).

In the aftermath of the Kelvingrove riot to mark the Royal nuptials the previous day the place looked as if the gods had emptied their binbags over Glasgow.

This wasn't just the ordinary, post-party dump on the "beach", the grassy, sunlit slope below Park Circus, it was chaos from one end of the park to the other.

There were carry-out bottles in the trees, in the shrubbery, in the fountains. The bins were heaving, as Malky would say.

"The rest of the country has a party, and we have a riot," said my nephew, reflecting on the shame the city felt about the combination of alcohol and violence that spoilt what was, for the most part, a wild time in the park.

But you can't repress Glasgow's spirit for long. This Youtube clip of the parkies who had to clear up the mess is going viral and, if you pardon the strong language, provides an hilarious riposte to the depressing footage of neds throwing bottles at police officers.