Thursday, 31 May 2007

Maiden Speech Made

Today provided me my first opportunity to make a contribution in the Scottish Parliament chamber. The speech was on a topic that I hadn't really envisaged making my first contribution, being as it was on rural development.

I was born and brought up in Glasgow, so this may at first glance seem an odd choice. However, the Central Scotland region I represent has a large number of rural communities within it. Most people probably think of it as a fairly urbanised part of the world, and whilst this is in the main quite true, it is fair to point to the large rural part of Central Scotland as well.

That was why I was delighted to be able to speak today (and also delighted to hear the excellent maiden speech in the same debate of my friend Aileen Campbell). Rural communities in Central Scotland and beyond will welcome the £1.6billion that the Rural Development Programme announced by the SNP government today. Equally they will welcome commitments to assisting the rural economy.

To that end I was glad to be able to highlight two local cases which require attention to assist rural communities in Central Scotland. Firstly I was able to point out the need to upgrade the A803 road that stretches from Glasgow through Kilsyth and on to Falkirk. This road is a vital artery for many rural communities in Central Scotland and is to be frank not fit for purpose, having to deal with a volume of traffic that it wasn't designed for. The road is the responsibility of the local authorities whose area it snakes through and not the Scottish Executive's per say.

However I look forward to working with the new government to encourage local authorities to make improvements to Scotland's rural roads network. Improving the A803 would be of great social and economic benefit to those rural communities served by it.

I was also able to highlight the problem of poor bus services in rural Central Scotland - citing the specific example of services from Kilsyth to Monklands Hospital. Poor public transport links are holding back people in rural communities from being able to get around to recreate, do business or in the specific example I give, visit ill friends and relatives in hospital. We need to make improvements to rural public transport.

Rural development is a national urgency, and I am glad that the new SNP government is treating it as such.

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Extraordinary Rendition Allegations

A programme broadcast on BBC 2 tonight reminded us of the allegations that the process of extraordinary rendition has been facilitated through Scotland's airports. Coincidentally, there was a demonstration held at the Scottish Parliament today by the "Scotland Against Criminalising Communities" organisation against the process of extraordinary rendition.

For those who are unaware, the process of extraordinary rendition is whereby United States government agencies (most likely the Central Intelligence Agency) abduct individuals who they allege of involvement in activities they dislike and hold them against their will without recourse to due legal process and then fly them (bound and hooded and it is alleged, drugged) to countries where they will be detained and tortured. This is clearly outwith the terms of acceptable domestic or international legal practice and violates the UN Convention Against Torture.

The programme televised tonight often made for harrowing viewing. Some of the stories of individuals who allege they have been subjected to these practices were truly horrific. And whilst horrific they may have been, and whilst easier it may be to flick to another channel and close our eyes and ears to such happenings, I believe we must not.

I think all decent citizens of Scotland reasonably expect that when a crime has happened, those responsible should face the fullest extent of prosecution under law. That extraordinary rendition may have been facilitated through Scotland's airports indicates that a crime may have happened on Scottish soil. And I believe these to be crimes of the most serious nature.

To that end, I think it is wholly right and justified to seek a full inquiry into the allegations that have been made. I made clear to those demonstrating today that I will fully back such calls and I make that clear again on my blog.

Thursday, 17 May 2007

A Real Government for Scotland

Today has seen a huge stride forward for the SNP. Yesterday was of course a monumental occasion, with us seeing - and I being fortunate enough to be in the privileged position of being able to actually vote for - the first ever SNP First Minister of Scotland. However, today was arguably even more important, for we now have the various ministerial posts filled, and we have the first ever SNP government in Scotland.

Indeed, I would contend we have our first ever Scottish government.

Whilst the previous Scottish Executive was basically content to administer Scotland in a fairly basic manner, we now have a set of people who are actually willing to make big decisions about our country's future as well as stand up for Scotland and demand that more responsibilities be given to our elected representatives. First up will be calling for the return of £23million of money withdrawn from Scotland's pensioners by Westminster when free personal care for the elderly was introduced. Then we will see demands for Scotland to be given a share of its oil revenues.

Much has been made by Labour that this amounts to picking a fight with the UK government. I happen to think this is basically part of their scaremongering campaign against the SNP that they started during the election campaign. However, even if they genuinely believe it, then they are grossly mistaken.

And it would be an easy mistake to make from their limited perspective I suppose. Their style of "leadership" for Scotland has been to faithfully administer London rule north of the border. What they fundamentally fail to understand is that the SNP will of course never do this. We will govern, and that means actually standing up for the national interest.

I look forward to playing my part supporting my SNP colleagues who have the honour of that task of government for Scotland.

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Name Change

I have been somewhat lax in my blogging attempts of late, having been somewhat busy since my election to the Parliament. However I am keen to keep going with the blog, but felt a wee change in name was necessary to reflect the change of circumstance I find myself in, so "520 votes for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth" has by the power of magical metamorphosis become "The Hepburn Herald" (best I can come up with folks, if you have any better ideas then feel free to let me know). Anyway, my thoughts and musings on the world as I find it will shortly recommence here, so feel free to keep an eye open for them.

Friday, 4 May 2007

That was the election that was

So it's all over and as most will probably know by now, we didn't manage to win the Cumbernauld and Kilsyth constituency. Naturally I am personally disappointed by this result. However, we still managed to increase our vote. A big thanks to the 10,593 people who voted for me and backed the SNP's campaign for progressive change.

And through my personal disappointment I am able to see the bigger picture which is that the SNP has won the Scottish Parliament election and ended up the largest party with 47 seats. I should also point out that I am one of those 47 members of the Scottish Parliament having been elected to represent the people of the Central Scotland region. So whilst I am disappointed not to be the MSP for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth, I am delighted to have been elected to serve in Scotland's Parliament for the next four years.

Thank you to all who have contacted me through the blog over the course of the campaign. Feel free to contact me on and keep in touch.

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Tricentenary of the Union, Blink and You'll Miss it!

Today marked the three hundredth anniversary of the stubbing out of Scottish independence and the enforcement of the Act of Union. Not that you would necessarily know it to have walked down practically any street in Scotland today. Noticeable by their absence were the marching bands, fireworks or red arrows fly overs.

The reason for this of course is that on the eve of an election the unionist establishment don't want to remind the people of Scotland that their country was essentially dragged kicking and screaming into a union the people of the time didn't want (or indeed need). They don't want to remind people that there were riots on the streets at the time, lest it focus minds too sharply on the question of the continued usefulness of the union today.

Sadly for them, people are doing this anyway. And as they continue to do so I believe that more and more will come to realise that the union has had its time and outlived any usefulness it may have once served (if it ever did at all) and opt for an independent future for Scotland.

Tony Blair - Narrow Nationalist

Tony Blair returned to Scotland to make a last ditch plea to vote for Labour. He seemed to make the ludicrous case for the continuation of the union on the basis that, "in all probability, a Scot will become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom".

The response of Scotland should be an overwhelming "so what" to this statement.

For some reason Tony Blair - and no doubt Gordon Brown, the Scot in question - seem to think that our country should decide its future based purely on the ambitions of one man. For some reason they seem to believe that Scotland will be better served by having a Scot as Prime Minister based in England rather than taking control of their own destiny and making decisions for themselves.

For all Blair's wittering on about the SNP representing narrow nationalism, it is actually his utterings that represent the narrow nationalism. Are we in Scotland supposed to be so narrow that we would rejoice in Gordon Brown becoming PM of the UK merely because he is Scottish?

The fact of the matter remains that Brown remains committed to pushing the interests of the British state ahead of Scotland's own interests. That is why having one Scot at the top of the pile in the UK political establishment will never be an adequate replacement for Scotland collectively taking decisions for ourselves with independence.

Thankfully the Scottish people don't zip up the back of their heids and won't fall for this Blair blarney.