Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Canvassing business opinion in Aberfeldy

Out cancassing busineses in Aberfeldy yesterday with our No.1 list candidate for Mid Scotland and Fife Willie Rennie. Willie is a very experienced camapigner, very perceptive and empathetic to people and business owners here warmed to him very easily. I picked up a lot from him. All in all, we registered our presence, and a good day out.

Campaigning has really kicked off now, with such exercises to repeated 3-4 times a week through to 5th May.
No pics this time, but will get some next time around.

Replacing the Education Maintenance Allowance

One of the first tasks which the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister gave me when they appointed me to the job of Advocate for Access to Education was to advise on the replacement for the Educational Maintenance Allowance. Since then I have travelled across the country to listen to young adults in school and FE colleges about how they think students should be supported in education. In February I submitted my report to the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister with my recommendations.
Yesterday afternoon, I was in the chamber as Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Education, announced the government’s plans for the successor to the EMA.

Since the General Election Nick, Sarah Teather, and I, like many Liberal Democrats at every level, have been united in a belief that whatever the national financial position, people in genuine need of help should not be prevented by financial barriers from attending school, college or training.
Yesterday’s announcement is a welcome big step in the right direction

First, the government has recognised the need to continue to support people currently on EMA as they finish their studies. Therefore everybody who started their course this academic year and is on the £30 per week rate will continue to receive payments of £20 per week in their second year. All students on EMA who started their course in the 2009/10 academic year will continue to receive the full rate.

Second, an additional £15 million will be set aside to provide bursaries of £1,200 for the most vulnerable students, for example those in care, with severe disabilities or single parents living on their own. This is more than the maximum available to students currently on EMA.

Finally, schools, colleges and training providers will have £165 million each year put into a discretionary learner support fund which will be available for them to distribute to students facing financial need. This is the equivalent of just over £800 for every young person who received free school meals at the age of 15.
Across the country students face very different costs and barriers to attending school or college. In some places students have to travel a long distance to attend. On some courses the cost of equipment is prohibitively expensive.
This is why under the new plans schools and colleges will decide individually exactly how to distribute the money available to support their students in need to meet the costs of their transport, meals, books and equipment, and other course costs.

The coalition government was left with one of the most severe financial crises in our country’s history. Under these circumstances, it was simply unsustainable to continue to pay cash payments to about half of all students in further education. Yesterday’s announcement makes sure that funding is kept and in some cases increased for those in real need.

The government will now have a short consultation on its plans. I would encourage all Liberal Democrats with an interest in this area to respond to the consultation, which can be accessed through the Department for Education’s website.


Simon Hughes MP
Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats

Monday, 28 March 2011

Looking west along Loch Tay

Here are a few photos along the south side of Loch Tay today........

Kenmore Church

Fearnan on Loch Tay

Kenmore Bridge in the sun

Kenmore Church from far away

Sunday, 27 March 2011

From the mouths of pensioners...

There's a wonderful article in today's Scotland on Sunday, in an article by Catherine Deveney.
A pensioner in Anderston, on being asked what he thought of Alex Salmond, said "Send Salmond round and we'll take him on. He's had the ball at his feet for four years and suddenly he's doing fancy tricks before the election."
From the mouths of pensioners - spot on the ball....

This follows a Scotsman front page headline from last week, calculating Wee Eck's election promises at £10 million PER DAY. If you've had that much money sitting in the pot over the last four years, why didn't you use it...??
The story continued inside with the headline of a dictionary definition of 'a bribe (n.)'.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Looking up Glen Lyon

This was Glen Lyon today. There are always good images to be found up here, whatever the weather.

Glen Lyon is often called the "longest, loveliest and loneliest glen in Scotland" or the "crooked glen of stones".

There are a few more pics here as well.

Glen Lyon Pine trees

Standing stone

Hill above Invervar

........snow nearly all gone here, but hanging on in the higher hills yet.

Sheeps feeding......

Cow & Calf


Thursday, 24 March 2011

Thought for the day

There was an interesting discussion on Radio 2 yesterday to co-incide with the UK budget. Smallbusiness owners had been asked what individual measures would have the most beneficial effect on their businesses.

The top two were actually nothing to do with government at all. They were the ambition of the business owner and the ability to show leadership and influence others in a positive manner.

Along with about 40 other people, I have been through the Rural Leadership Programme this winter, supported by Scottish Enterprise and the Scottish Agricultural Colleges. I am completely won over to the idea of more people taking a lead, telling people about good practice, how they have over-come difficulties and what they have done toimprove their businesses and lives.

Tony Hodgson fro Pitlochry has been emphasizng the importance of this locally as well. It strengthens our local communities and moves us forwards. This is what we all need at present, more than anything else.

Government must do their bit, yes, but so must we.

Climate Change cafe in Alyth........

Photo from the other evening........

And again.....

.....with Michael Gallagher, chair of Association of Perth and Kinross Community Councils....

What has the budget done for you?

Commenting on the UK budget delivered yesterday, the Scottish Liberal Democrat candidate for Perthshire North Mr Victor Clements picks out four key issues of benefit to people in Perthshire and indeed, throughout the country.

The local candidate continued:

“Let’s be positive about this budget. There are big proposals in here that will affect our everyday lives for the better, introducing changes that will endure for the longer term.

In addition to the tax changes coming in this April that will reduce income tax for 70,000 people in Perth and Kinross and remove 1500 from the tax net completely, there will be a further increase in the tax allowance in 2012, building towards a £10,000 allowance by the end of this parliament. This is real people saving real money in real communities in this area, boosting our economy and making it worthwhile for people to get back in to work.

There is confirmation of a new Green Investment Bank with £3 billion of capital investment at the outset, which will lever up to £18 billion of private investment to develop the renewable sector and provide a huge jobs boost in Scotland.

Many people will welcome the confirmation of a flat-rate pension of £140 a week, especially women who have taken time out from work and do not have a full contributions history. Now having agreement on this in principle, the details need to be sorted out, but this policy clearly reflects the Liberal Democrat values of helping the most vulnerable in society.

There is a one pence reduction in fuel duty, and the postponement of the five pence increase that Labour proposed. This is a modest help for people, but much more than has ever been achieved in the past.

All these changes have been brought about in coalition with the Conservatives, yes, but the Tories would never have done these things by themselves, Labour never would, and the SNP never could. They can just talk about it.Liberal Democrats make these things happen.”

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Blair Atholl ponies.......

I was up in Blair Atholl today, hearing from local residents about the horrendous problems they experienced this winter ( & last) with frozen pipes which had not been laid deep enough.

More about this again the meantime, the Atholl stalking ponies are enjoying some hay in the sunshine today.

Beyond Drummond Hill

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Alyth Climate Change Cafe line-up

Here are the candidates from the Climate Change Cafe in Alyth last night.

VC (Lib Dem) and Mark Ruskell (Green), back row.

Front row, Murdo Fraser MSP (Con), Richard Dixon (WWF, Chair), John Swinney MSP (SNP).

The Labour candidate was not available. Mark Ruskell is standing on the Regional list. the other candidates are all standing in Perthshire North constituency.

Photo by: Jamie Grant.

Hurrah..!! No more Scottish Government.........

Today the Scottish Parliament will be dissolved and we wont have to suffer the current Scottish Government any longer. The really big thing that arises from this is that the SNP can no longer use the machinery of government to forward their own propoganda and narrow-minded parochial spin.

 I have lived in Scotland for 25 years now and the country is infinitely worse off for having this lot in power. Lets not let them back in again folks. Roll on the election campaign proper and lets tell people how things really are and deal with the many issues we must face now going forwards.

We have humoured this lot for long enough.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Well, that was good.....!!

Just back from Climate Change Cafe in Alyth, really enjoyed it, met the other candidates for the first time, good discussions with a lot of people, got caught out a few times by some very well informed people, but enjoyed the experience immensely. Roll on the election campaign proper...!!  Pics and hopefully a vox-pop video to follow in next few days. Well done to WWF and local environmental groups in Alyth for organizing.

Alyth Climate Change Cafe this evening, 7.30 pm, Airlee Hall

There is a "Cilimate Change Cafe" being held at the Airlee hall in Alyth this evening, 7.30pm. The candidates standing for election in Perthshire North will all be available for informal discussions.

Tea and coffee will be available, and lookin forwrd to speaking to all those who come along.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Thought for the day

Just looking at the papers today,if there was ever any doubt;  this is a real, live, proper war operation in Libya. I think we are all praying for a swift conclusion to these operations, the safe return of our forces and those of our allies, and that the people of Libya can start to assert some sort of control over their lives, free from their current leader.

Everything else is secondary when the country is engaged in operations like this.

Our hopes are with them all.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Libya Update from Nick Clegg

As you will have seen in the news our coalition government has successfully led efforts in the UN Security Council to agree a ‘no-fly zone’ across Libya.
Colonel Gaddafi’s treatment of his own people has been brutal, savage and wholly unacceptable. We have worked with Libya’s regional neighbours, especially the Arab League, and countries across the globe, to secure a resolution in UN Security Council. This resolution will allow us to act lawfully in deploying our forces to up-hold a ‘no-fly zone’ in Libya.

The Prime Minister gave a statement yesterday, which you can read here.

And on Monday we will have a full debate in the House of Commons, followed by a vote. In addition we will be publishing a summary of the legal advice of the Attorney-General.
That is the right approach. This is a coalition government that will act decisively to protect innocent lives and uphold universal human rights. But one which will do so working with, not against, international law and the international community.
Best wishes,

Nick Clegg MP
Deputy Prime Minister

Friday, 18 March 2011

Lib Dem duck derby

This was us having a bit of fun at the Scottish Conference last week, running a duck derby in the flume at the swimming pool in Perth. Bob Howden and his daughter Anna retrieved the ducks from the pool.

Very well done to all concerned, to all those who bought tickets and to the staff at the pool for being so enthusiastic and helpful.

Below is the sequence of events waiting for the ducks to come down the flume.......


Here comes the water.....

The winning 98

Here come the rest.....

Preventing the escape

Anna stops the ducks getting away......

Depute Provost Willie Wilson does some fishing......

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Thought for the day

A rare day of relative quiet today, priority being a staff quarterly meeting at work, and managed to catch up with and clear some other work business as well, including getting some trees dispatched up to Speyside for one of our important projects up there.

I heard this on the radio yesterday courtesy of Chris Evans..." The present is a gift, that is why it is called the present, so enjoy it..."

How true.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

The Fairy Hill of the Caledonians.......Schiehallion

It was a beautiful day out and about in Highland Perthshire today, with snow on the ground in the north. Further down the blog are some thoughts on roads issues in this area which I will be circulating thoughts on very shortly.

Enjoy the photos. Over the next two months when out and about campaigning, I will be taking photos wherever I go to show off Perthshire at it's very best. There should be photos interspersed among political commentary most days.

Big Mountain below the sun.

From memory, Schiehallion is about 3800 ft high.

From across the fields.......

Loch Rannoch

The road to Kinloch Rannoch.

Yes, all you people further south...this is what it is like further north today...!!

Sunshine over Shiehallion again

The Crieff Road above Aberfeldy this morning.......

The infamous A9...

I spent some time just watching the traffic go by on the A9 today. This is one of the most dangerous roads in Scotland, with a number of very sad accidents during the past year involving loss of life, including an elderly gentleman in the past week.

I have lived in Highland Perthshire for five years, and have had two scares on the A9 myself in that time. many people just hate the thought of going on it, or just crossing it.

It will be an issue of interest and importnce to many people in this election. I am draughting my thoughts on this in the next day or so. A few minutes just contemplating the traffic does concentrate the mind very well.

This was time well spent today on the way back from Perth where we had an excellent campaign covering the two P & K constituencies.

Lots of big lorries.....far too many.....

Another roads issue..........

This is the works recently completed at the Ladywell bridge over the A822 at Dunkeld. The road has been closed for 6 months to permit this work to take place, allowing the wind turbines for Griffin windfarm to pass underneath the railway line.

The good news is the work is done and the road is opened again.

The bad news is that the over-sized loads are now starting. They will take 90 minutes to travel the length of the A822 to the site. Local residents where prepared to put up with one load a day, but not the two that has been proposed. This will potentially cause massive disruption for the next 6 months, potentially really hurting not only the businesses along the A822, but the wider Highland Perthshire economy.

Thankfully, we should know very quickly if there is a big issue here or if people can find a way of working around this. If there is a problem, I shall certainly be throwing my weight behind the local community in order to get things resolved.

We do need renewable energy, but not at any price. Six months of disruption is not acceptable. This operation of getting turbines to the site has to be done sensitively. The local population and holiday makers will not tolerate anything else.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Tavish Scott sets out his economic recovery plan

Scottish Party Leader Tavish Scott sets out his priorities at the spring conference in Perth.

Very well done Tavish. An agenda that genuinely matters to people.

Stats and Polls Letter

Scotland on Sunday published this letter of mine today. Thankfully we have been spared these polls for the last two weekends, but no doubt this process of dubious manipulation will be in evidence again shortly.

In all these polls, as with letters written to a paper, the key is always to scan down to check who has commissioned it or written it, before actually reading the text. That way, you get a more realistic perspective and know where the story is at least comingfrom first.

Many of your readers will be wondering, and, indeed be suspicious of why political opinion polls can change so drastically within a few weeks and then seemingly change back again for little apparent reason. Ten point leads cannot disappear and then be re-instated without some-one, somewhere manipulating the methodology or the exact questions asked. Voters are not so engaged in the political process that individual policy announcements can have this sort of effect. It is both a statistical and political impossibility.
There is no consistency in the methodology of these polls. In the last few weeks, Undecided voters were included or not, presumably on the basis of what would give the better outcome. It appears that the party commissioning the report can suggest some of the parameters in the analysis, and it appears that neither print nor broadcast journalists are sufficiently wise to this. Either that, or the roller coaster is much more interesting to them, and this charade is allowed to continue for this reason.

SNP and Labour the same, only different.......

Those expecting to get a choice in this coming election are going to be disappointed in the SNP and Labour, with each moving on to the other's territory, and manifestos evidently converging. The SNP are effectively doing what Labour were doing this time last year prior to the Westminster election, promising the earth and hoping that we will be taken in by it.

The strategy is very obvious.

Labour in Scotland are suddenly having an attack of the wobbles, and thinking for some strange reason that maybe the SNP are right after all. Their change of stance shows a lack of confidence in their strategy for 5th May. Other parties would say that they have not really had much of a strategy anyway.

The two parties are now much of a muchness.

There is a well known north-east saying that describes such a scenario but I will save that for another day.

You will get a much better analysis of the issues with the Scottish Liberal Democrats......

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Reviving a Liberal tradition.......

I have been on the phone today, putting together a list of people with strong Liberal connections from the past, and looking to strengthen our networks across the north part of Perthshire North. One of our outputs for this election will be to use the opportunity to build up our local party capacity, and already we have people coming forwards to offer help and their goodwill.

This is a very motivating aspect of the campaign, and hopefully putting this time in now will help create a legacy that will serve us well going in to the future.

If you are interested in the Liberal Democrats, want to know what we stand for or how we operate locally, please get in touch, either by commenting on here or via the email link on the right hand side of this blog.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Nat propaganda on the telly.........

I was dozing in my chair this evening when the first SNP election broadcast came on.  For a moment I nearly believed it.....and then I woke up.....!!

The serious point is that the SNP have now given out all the sweeties they have to offer, and will struggle to sustain any of this going forwards now. The game has changed, and the focus of this election must be on looking forwards, not on self-congratulation.

Alex Salmond says they acheived 84 out of 94 of their 2007 manifesto committments. The ones they missed where: Independance Referendum, Local Income tax, reducing class sizes to 18 etc etc. ie All the big ones.

Nice try though guys. At least it is a bit better and funnier than what you recycled last year from the 2009 European election.

Perth Bridges again

Better light today..........

St Mathews Church dominates the skyline......

Sun, snow and shadows this morning.......

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Margo MacDonald puts in a word for us......

Margo MacDonald was on Newsnight Scotland (News-Necht) last night saying how the SNP and Labour, and even the Tories were now much of a much-ness, with not much between them.

She thought the Lib Dems were different because we were a Federal party and could think for ourselves, and were the only ones with distinctive policies.

Margo, although once a Nat, has now seen the light and is well known for her independance of mind and spirit. Well done that woman. Great piece of independant political analysis, and a welcome relief to some of the other stuff being trotted out at the moment which is little more than what the other parties have given journalists in their Press releases.

Cold outside today

The wind would go through you. We had electric off in Aberfeldy last night and this morning as well.

Snow yesterday........

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Supporting the campaign for City status for Perth

Orkney & Shetland MP and Lib Dem Chief whip in the House of Commons Alastair Carmichael, Perthshire North Holyrood candidate Victor Clements and Depute Provost Cllr Willie Wilson.

The Fair City of Perth

Here are a few photos out and about yesterday evening.

VIDEO- Looking out over Perth

Here is a quick scan across Perth yesterday at tea-time. I was just beside the road leading out to the motorway, so quite a bit of traffic on the road. This is the Fair City, 800 years old, and hopefully soon to become a City again.

Friarton Bridge

Looking down the Tummel

Looking out across Strathtay

Crops are growing now.....

Birnam Hotel

Monday, 7 March 2011

Empty Conference centre or no?

It was reported in the Sunday papers yesterday that Perth Conference centre was nearly empty for Nick Clegg's speech and that he was very defensive in his tone and delivery.

Can I have been the only one present to notice the size of the crowd that was in fact present, or the reception that Nick Clegg got afterwards? The Deputy PM was determined, positive, and he had an edge about him.....the kind of edge that comes when some-one is tasked with doing something both demanding and important, the kind of edge that you have when the responsibility for delivering significant change within our country now lies squarely with you and your party colleagues. I was sceptical about Nick Clegg the first time I seen him, but I can see the substance now, we all can. He is growing in to the role very well.

Well done Deputy PM. You did a great job on Saturday, we are all clear about that.

There are a few pictures circulating on Nat websites, showing the supposed lack of people present. This is interesting. There were two types of people present at this delegates and the Press. The circulating photos obviously came from within the Press, presumably taken by private means for (other) party political reasons.

The Nats complain about the media supporting Labour, but they obviously have their own means of infiltrating the media. The result is a mis-representation of the facts.There is no professional integrity in this at all.  Put this alongside some of the dubious polls taken recently and you can see immediately how the public are being cynically manipulated at present, with sections of the Press seemingly quite happy to participate in this deception. Policy seems to only be off secondary importance.

Say what you like about politicians, but they are ultimately accountable to the public. It is time that the light was shone more closely on the more parochially minded members of the Press pack as well, otherwise our democracy is going to suffer.

All in all, a very good example of how the world around us works if we are not prepared to stand up and be counted when confronted by such nonsense. Lib Dems having always been willing to do that.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Scottish Liberal Democrats meet in Perth

The Scottish Liberal Democrats had their annual Spring Conference in Perth on Fri/ Saturday this week, with a record crowd in attendance, really strong and coherent policy messages for the coming election campaign and a feeling of optimism and fun throughout.

Very well done to all concerned for organizing such a great event. We will round up some more photos over the next few days and build on what has been posted here just now, and in particular, give a feel for what the main speakers were saying. Nick Clegg, Danny Alexander, Michael Moore and off course Tavish Scott all put in very strong performances and with very, very many others too.

Malcolm Bruce MP gets things going.......

Perth Depute Provost Willie Wilson opens the Conference.....

Willie welcomed everyone to Perth and really set up the two day event very well. Very well done Willie. Seeing him come tottering on to the stage with the music playing all around him was an excellent and funny way to get everyone going.