Tag Archives: Lothian and Borders Police

Just For The Record

This is what a “Scottish Defense League” rally outside the Scottish Parliament looks like.

The SDL rally outside the Scottish Parliament, 29th September

You know how the police usually halve the numbers of any protest: with the SDL I think they double them:

Around 60 members of the Scottish Defence League gathered outside the Scottish Parliament and held a static protest for approximately 45 minutes.

At the same time, 250 members of the Unite Against Fascism group took part in a march from High Street, down St Mary’s Street and along Holyrood Road before holding their own demonstration at the south side of Parliament.

I saw two white minibuses in the car park just outside Holyrood. If those are what the SDL came in, they could have fitted sixty in – but I doubt it.
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Filed under Photographs, Scottish Culture, Scottish Politics

Our constitution, July 2012: Public ethics

“Code of Conduct / Public Ethics”

There are, according to the Committee on Standards in Public Life, seven principles of public life – selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty, and leadership.

I have to say – having taken part in many protests in Edinburgh over the years – that I have never felt afraid of Lothian and Borders Police. I warily arranged a phone contact before going to the SPUC OFF protest, because I did not know for sure that SPUC would stay non-violent and away from us and I wasn’t confident that the police would necessarily pick out the prolife aggressors over us feminist hippy weirdos with our hand-painted signs: but I was sure that so long as no one started any aggro, Lothian and Borders Police would simply allow both sides to have our peaceful protest. And I was very glad they were there at the BNP protest at Meadowbank.

But I have felt afraid on several protests in London – because I was part of a large crowd engaged in peaceful public protest, and the Metropolitan Police seemed by that to assume I was the enemy. They did not seem to regard any part of the crowd of protesters as the people whom it was their obligation to protect. We were, at best, there by their tolerance: and I only felt at risk in any crowd when I saw the Met Police in their riot gear.

I heard by unsubstantiated rumour that when the Metropolitan Police offered to send a detachment to Scotland to “help” police the G8 protest in 2005, the Scottish police forces gave the Met a joint dubious look, muttered “aye, that’ll be right”, and politely declined the offer, on the grounds that they wanted to keep the peace, not stir up trouble.

The UK Committee on Standards in Public Life was set up in October 1994 and issued its first report in 1995, under the chairmanship of Lord Nolan. It was established in order to investigate concerns about the conduct of members of parliament, after allegations that MPs had taken cash for putting down parliamentary questions. The Committee Report set out seven principles of public life: selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty, and leadership. The ‘Nolan reforms’ established a new post of Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards (see ombudsman) whose job was to maintain the Register of Members’ Interests and investigate the conduct of MPs; to set up a House of Commons Committee on Standards and Privileges; and to set down a Code of Conduct for MPs. In 1998 the Committee issued a report on the funding of political parties, which rejected calls for state funding. — Alistair McMillan, Oxford Dictionary of Politics

There is a Ministerial Code, which is – we discovered with Jeremy Huntharder to break than the Enigma Code. Apparently the unwritten “constitution” of the UK requires ministers to be accountable to the Prime Minister, not to anyone like the “independent” adviser on the ministerial code:

The current holder of this well-paid and undemanding sinecure, Sir Alex Allan, tried to convince the select committee that he would be proactive and would not be sidelined.

Giving evidence, he said he would quit if he were marginalised, and promised not to be anyone’s “poodle”. He even came up with proposals for how he could conduct inquiries more quickly than his predecessor, Sir Philip Mawer. But he was clear that the prime minister had no plans to change the fundamental tripwire: that only the prime minister could ask him to conduct an inquiry.

Arguably, constitutional propriety requires ministers to be accountable to the prime minister, and not to a Whitehall bureaucrat. But it is notable that neither the cabinet secretary nor the prime minister have been keen to pass any issue to the independent adviser. Indeed, David Cameron has never referred a single case, making one wonder how Allan spends his days.

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Filed under Corruption, Elections, Justice, Riots, Scottish Constitution, Scottish Culture, Scottish Politics

The Edinburgh tenement council tax

In today’s Herald, a rumoured story has finally broken: Lothian and Borders Police and independent accountants are running parallel investigations into Edinburgh Council’s Property Conservation Department and the rumoured costs are confirmed to be as high as £13.5 million. But as recently as October, Edinburgh Council was still pursuing repayment of the 500+ housing repair bills under investigation. [Update: and according to an unnamed senior councillor, £13.5M could be an underestimate.]

In 2002, I was living in a small flat on Albert Street, a stair with about a dozen other households. We and our neighbours in the next stair had been issued a statutory repairs letter, and from what I could judge of the building frontage, it was justified: one of my next-door neighbours on the same landing said that repairs hadn’t been done in 20 years.

The three of us on the same landing were on pretty good terms: we agreed that it would be cheaper if everyone on the stairs could get together and agree on a builder and repair work, but that would mean one person in effect guaranteeing the whole bill, and chasing up the other occupants – and the landlords of rented flats – to pay their share.

Everyone knew – we agreed – that it was more expensive if you let the council do it. We assumed this was because the council would always charge a bit extra on the top to cover their administrative costs and the surveyor costs, and because the council wouldn’t be concerned in picking out a builder who would carry out the best work at the lowest cost: why should they, when all the costs would be passed on to us.

But the scale of the scam that has been practiced on us is unbelievable:

It will take more than two years to investigate the first 500 complaints received by the council, and for the level of overcharging to be confirmed, but provisional totals are now being considered behind closed doors, according to a senior council source.

The first “working estimate” is of an overcharge of £13.5m, based on a figure of 10% of the value of building repairs contracts since 2005.

The investigation is currently going back five years. I paid the bill for my flat in 2003, and sold it in 2004. 18 staff have been suspended from the department and five were sacked: apparently more disciplinary measures are expected, as well as criminal charges. (That’s one more sacking and 3 more suspensions since 1st December, according to the BBC’s story then.)

I now live in a colony flat, where generally, repair bills are shared between at most four households, all of us close neighbours. But thousands of people in Edinburgh live in stairs where they must rely on the council to carry out this repair work fairly, because it’s unreasonable to expect a single household to guarantee the whole cost and pursue neighbours to pay their share.

I wonder how far back the rot goes?

Update: Like the City of Edinburgh Council Statutory Notice Scam campaign group on Facebook.

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Filed under Housing, Scottish Politics