into the office in earnest on Tuesday this week, catching up on the
avalanche of emails that came in over the break and finding a way
through the mountain of mail that was waiting for me. It feels a
bit funny to still be opening Christmas cards in January, but there
subject of Christmas cards, Iíve shipped the ones I got at home and
in the office off to a well-known supermarket for recycling Ė an
excellent scheme ensuring that the cards donít become landfill
somewhere but actually go off to become a useful product after
theyíve given me pleasure.
road from home into Parliament on Wednesday was a little
interesting. I had a meeting out west in the morning and was
travelling into Edinburgh around lunchtime. The motorway was fine,
the car was buffeted a bit by the storm that was blowing in but
wasnít too bad, but the problems really started when I got to
know Edinburgh from the western end youíll know Hermiston Gate Ė it
took me just under two hours to get from Hermiston Gate to the
Balgreen Road junction. Iím not sure just how far that is, but it
normally takes only a few minutes. The road was flooded, the police
were guiding cars around the flood, rescue trucks were pulling cars
out of flooded side-streets and there was a digger apparently trying
to clear the waterway below the road.
enough, sitting in the traffic queue, I took a phone call from one
of my colleagues (on a hands-free set, obviously), Stuart McMillan,
who told me that he was running late and wouldnít be able to speak
to me before the chamber session in the afternoon. Yes, he was
sitting in a car about ten yards behind mine!
Parliament has been interesting this week; Labour still hasnít
worked out how to be in opposition while the Tories continue to
perform well. We had Stewart Maxwell, our Sports Minister, telling
us on Wednesday that heíd had a long, hard look at the quangoes that
control sports funding in Scotland and decided to merge them, keep
the name sportscotland, and have the HQ for the new body moved to
Tories welcomed this as a sensible way forward, but Labour accused
us of breaking a manifesto commitment to get rid of the quangoes.
It turned out later that Labour MSPs in Glasgow had sent out press
releases criticising the fact that the HQ of sportscotland wouldnít
be going to Glasgow before Stewart made his statement about the HQ
going to Glasgow. Jumped the gun a bit there Ė to use a sporting
Thursday we had the usual gladiatorial contest of First Ministerís
Question Time where Alex Salmond has to answer questions about what
the SNP Scottish Government is up to. I hate to sound like Iím
trying to suck in with him, but so far he hasnít put a foot wrong
and has stood head and shoulders above the other party leaders.
we got to questions, though, there was a debate, a Labour-sponsored
debate, and I was speaking. The subject theyíve chosen was
predictable because itís the one subject theyíve been going on about
for weeks now.
budget that John Swinney brought to Parliament, he took away the
ring-fencing in council budgets to allow councils the freedom and
the flexibility to decide how to provide services because all the
evidence shows that councils can provide better public services when
they have that freedom. Labour has been saying ever since then that
the SNP budget would damage all kinds of services because
ring-fencing had been removed.
back and had a look at what Labour Ministers had said when they were
in power and I found that they had been arguing for the removal of
ring-fencing for about eight years. I donít mind politicians
engaging in debate, but it should be honest debate, and if they
know, as we do, that getting rid of the ring-fences is good for
Scotland, then thatís what they should be saying, not trying to
score petty points.
follow Scottish Parliament debates live online at
http://www.holyrood.tv/ but even better, if you go into the
film archive you can see debates and First Ministerís Questions from
earlier (FMQs goes up quite quickly but other debates usually have
to wait for the next day). You can also read whatís gone on in the
Official Report at
- again, itís the next day before it goes up.
just about to head home Ė I hope the weatherís easier on the way
home than it was on the way here.