This website was established while I was a Member of Parliament. The site content is being kept online as a source of information, but all forms / email have been disabled.

Barrett’s Blog

From 1st January 2010 this site will no longer be updated, in accordance with Parliamentary rules.

The site will be kept online and can still be used to find information and to contact John, but the latest news will be posted on the West Edinburgh Liberal Democrats website.

This blog aims to give an insight into the day to day life of an MP, rather than being a political soapbox.

August 2009

29 August 2009

Action Day

Out for an action day in the morning and it was no surprise that a number of potential candidates also showed up to help. Out and about, I met up with lots of locals who were all wishing me the best for the future. When I popped into Tesco it was the same, and buying a pint of milk now takes about half an hour! In the afternoon at the fundraising bookstall it was busy and more good wishes, with one committed SNP supporter saying he always votes for me. This was witnessed by two new helpers who had appeared from the Borders and one from London, who happened to be in Edinburgh for the Festival and wanted to help out in the constituency. It was also nice to have my first Annual Report feedback as one person who came up for a chat said that he had already received an Annual Report through his door that morning.

28 August 2009

2009 Annual Report

Although the reason for cancelling this week's holiday did not happen, I never doubted for a moment that it was the only thing to do. So I went back to work today and hopefully before the summer recess is over I will fix up something else. At the printers in the morning it was good to see my 2009 Annual Report hot off the press. The photo quality, design, layout and overall look are of the usual high standard and it was strange to think that this would be my final report after producing one every year since being elected. After a few other meetings and having gone through an emotional week at times, a night at the cinema was overdue. Watching The Time Travellers Wife was a good way to end the week.

27 August 2009

Real Life or

Today I should have been in Wales with friends but, because of a series of events, this was cancelled and I started the day instead at the Sick Children's Hospital in Edinburgh. I should have been picking up my daughter to go home for a few hours, after leaving her daughter to go into surgery. Unfortunately the operation was cancelled at the last minute and she had to wait until the pre-med had worn off and they could both go home together later in the day. It just goes to show how delicate the balance is in the NHS, when intensive care unit beds are unexpectedly filled at the last minute, it results in surgeons and others being unable to do their job and a little girl left to wait for another day before her urgent operation can happen. Nobody was at fault and when offered a complaint form to fill in, I declined it, asking only that another date would be set for the operation as soon as possible, knowing full well that the same thing could happen again. Watched "Holby City" on TV and there was a big panic as there were no free beds in the Intensive Care Unit. Looks like the script writers knew what they were talking about.

25 August 2009

Going Home

Spent the day organising the house to make it ready for four family guests, as the Sick Kids hospital have decided that our grand-daughter cannot go home after her operation, as their modern terraced house does not have wide enough doors for hoists and other stuff that will be supplied to move her around in the post-op period. There is something far wrong in the health care system, or with the design of new houses, when the result is that without a family who have suitable ground floor accessible accommodation, children would not be able to get the care they require when they need it, or would be confined to hospital for weeks when they could be at home making a speedy recovery. Big thanks go to a friend who has offered a temporary loan of a surface to make part of the driveway suitable to push a wheelchair on. This was the one week I had a holiday planned, but now that has been cancelled, I have the feeling that this is a far better way to be spending my time and am still taking the week off work.

Vince Cable's bestseller, The Storm

24 August 2009

The Storm

Out delivering bundles of newsletters to distributors and then out delivering the remainder myself. The sun was shining, which always makes it much more enjoyable and hopefully the final week of the Edinburgh Festival will end in some good weather, as the city is transformed by the sunshine. The news again was dominated by the release of the convicted Libyan Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi. The Scottish Parliament was reconvened for one day to discuss the issue. Am not sure any more light was shed on the subject today. I suspect it will depend on how his health develops in the weeks and months ahead as to whether the criticism or support will continue. Ended the day at the Book Festival, listening to Vince Cable discussing the economic storm that has hit the financial world and the UK in particular. He was on top form and it was reassuring to hear him in action and I was left in no doubt that he is in a different league from both Alistair Darling and George Osborne. There is no doubt who would be the best Chancellor after the next election. Had a chat with him as he signed copies of his book, The Storm, following his talk.

South Queensferry's quaint High Street

23 August 2009


Today's open day for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution station at Queensferry was another excellent example of why Queensferry often tops the polls as one of the best parts of Edinburgh to live in. Although the ancient and Royal Burgh stands very much on its own and separate from the city, it is very much a significant part of my own constituency.  It also has one of the best community spirits to be found anywhere in the country. Meeting up with the landed gentry to the local workers, everyone was there to help the RNLI raise some cash for their funds. All the local councillors were there including the Lord and Lady Provost, who had to dash as they were off to see Paddy Ashdown in the Book Festival. Vince Cable is there tomorrow in a debate and then a later discussion about his book. Maybe later next year I will find time to write one myself !

22 August 2009

Summer Barbecue

Spent part of the afternoon at a barbecue and fundraiser and had a very relaxing time, although I did estimate that six potential candidates were also there, and while I am having to be particularly neutral at all times, everyone is also very aware of the importance of selecting the right person for the job. I am spending lots of time chatting to supporters about my decision to stand down and have had nothing but support and understanding from everyone. The next wave of newsletters is going out throughout the constituency, which also carries that news, and I have no doubt that this will bring another wave of people contacting me. The plans for my next week's holiday, which should have started on Monday, have also been cancelled at the last moment because of a domestic crisis and part of the house is now being prepared to be turned into a hospital recovery area for the next month.  

21 August 2009

The Next Biba

Today has thrown up everything possible. From helping to sort out visa problems for a young engaged couple, whose wedding in Rhode Island in the States was in the balance. It was going to have everything, apart from a groom, there on the big day! To meeting up with tourists who had disembarked from a massive cruise liner in South Queensferry and who wanted their photos taken with the local MP. Speaking to some of the visitors I was told 2,500 passengers were leaving the ship for a tour of Edinburgh on the fleet of buses waiting on the shore. Without a doubt the most surprising find of the day was in a tiny shop down at Queensferry, where the unique designs of a constituent of mine can be found. It reminded me of the original talent of Barbara Hulanicki, highlighted in the Beyond Biba documentary I mentioned a few weeks ago.  I am sure that Joyce Paton will go on to great successes in the future and anyone who looks at her web site on will see exactly what I mean. She is not only a talented individual, she is a really nice person too - an excellent combination. I am sure I will be able to point some business in her direction.

20 August 2009

The New Mosque

After a day in the office I was tempted to have the night off, but decided to go down in the evening to the opening of the new mosque in the constituency. There were about 200 people there and it was good to meet up with all the movers and shakers from the Muslim community. They bought an empty church and are in the process of converting it into a mosque and community facility. With everything from a prayer room to a cyber café, this could be a real asset to the north side of the constituency. Hopefully it will also help build bridges and improve understanding between different ethnic groups in the city. I am looking forward to working with everyone involved to increasing understanding and tolerance of all races and religions in Edinburgh.

John with his grand-daughter Maria on her first day at school

19 August 2009

The New Term

Another varied day starting with a visit to Gylemuir Primary school, where my little grand-daughter Maria was not only starting her first day at school, it was also her fifth birthday. Looking great in her uniform, I felt very proud. Then it was on to the office where I had to check some facts, before the BBC arrived to do an interview on the Scottish Government's involvement in Malawi. They regularly contact me as someone who is critical of what the Scottish Government is doing out there. More letters to Ministers to urge them to get to grips with their departments to deliver the service people deserve. In the evening it was back out on to the streets of South Queensferry, ending with refreshment at the home of the Lord and Lady Provost. Got home at 9.30pm, only to discover that my phone had been left at their house, so it was back out again in the monsoon weather for a late evening round trip to the ‘Ferry. Also found out today that this blog is in the top 30 best MPs blogs, which is a bit of a surprise as it does not allow comments and is more of a diary. glad some more people are enjoying reading it.

17 August 2009

Back to Work

Back to work and to start to catch up with the inevitable backlog. The day started with advice surgeries and a briefing from Network Rail about their plans for line upgrades, electrification, a new station in the constituency and much more, including a new track. It looks like we will be seeing plenty of service improvements in the years ahead. All we need now is the final piece of the jigsaw, a High Speed Link to London and the railway system could then really take on the competition from the airlines. Out in the street and in passing, lots of people are coming up to me to say that they are sorry I am standing down at the next election. It is becoming a daily event. I should not be surprised at how quickly news travels. By lunchtime today it had been raised with me three times, on the phone, outside my office and at another chance meeting with a constituent in South Gyle. When on the phone to the Council, I was asked if I was coming back. My answer to everyone is that I am ruling nothing in and nothing out.

16 August 2009

From Jersy Boys to Ladyboys

Have now had my first week off work during the recess and of all places to be - ended up in London as a tourist. It is odd in that as an MP spending so much time in London there is little time to see the parts of it that are really quite special. The Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh are good, but Kew Gardens are quite spectacular, especially on a bright summer's day. Unlike the RBG, which are free, Kew costs £13 per head to visit. It is a pity that they are not available on the same basis, as it could provide a great family day out for Londoners who might not otherwise be able to afford it. After seeing the Jersey Boys musical in London I saw the Ladyboys of Bangkok in Edinburgh on Sunday. It certainly provided a contrast to the more high brow events at the Festival - the opera and ballet, but it was equally enjoyed by a packed audience. Fortunately I was not picked from the audience as one of their "victims", a lucky escape.

John with his grand-daughter

8 August 2009


After a spell on the fundraising bookstall, it was up to the top of Corstorphine Hill to meet up with the Friends of the hill at their open day. This was an event to celebrate their 10 year anniversary and to have a look at the old walled garden they had restored. About 600 people turned up throughout the afternoon and enjoyed everything from the Forth Valley Chorus - singing gospel to jazz, pony rides for the kids, guided walks and much more.  This is just one of the community groups that make the village of Corstorphine, where I live, what it is, still very much a village, although it is part of the city. In the city centre the Festival Cavalcade will really kick off the other festivals this weekend and the sun is still shining to everyone's amazement.

Edinburgh Book Festival

7 August 2009

Festival City

Edinburgh is really starting to swing as the various festival come to life. There are now so many festivals, that some, like the Film Festival, have moved out of August. The Jazz and Blues Festival got going at the weekend and the Fringe is also filling up venues, The Official Festival, the Book Festival, and a few others are all working together with that other vital ingredient, the sunshine, to make Edinburgh a truly vibrant cosmopolitan city, which is bursting with life. The buzz on the streets is excellent. In the midst of all this I was delighted to discover that one hot ticket in the Book Festival, which sold out immediately and amongst other top selling authors, was my colleague Vince Cable, whose new book, The Storm, is selling like hot cakes. Must phone Vince to see if he has his accommodation booked, as everything within miles of Edinburgh is overbooked and overpriced.

6 August 2009

An early arrival

My first full day off during recess. The sun was shining and it was a perfect day to head off into the countryside. Down to Melrose in the Borders to meet some older relatives I had not seen for a while. I noticed my colleague Michael Moore and the leader of the Council in the local paper, each with their new born babies and saying they were about to embark on a sponsored hike to raise money for the local special baby care unit at their hospital. One detail in the report did catch my eye in that it said that the Council Leader, David Parker's child was born "seven months" prematurely. Even in the Borders you can't believe everything you read in the press.

5 August 2009

Out Door-knocking

Reading through a number of letters from colleagues and supporters has made me think hard, but at no time have I doubted that my decision to stand down was the right thing to do. It has also had an impact on a number of people who might put their hats into the ring and those who have missed out on the opportunity for different reasons. Speaking to a number of those close to me over the years it is clear that my decision will in fact change some other people's lives as well. Since being appointed to the short-listing committee I cannot comment on anything to do with the selection, but one thing is clear in that there will be a first class choice of candidates to choose from. Out door-knocking in the evening in the constituency, it is already clear watching others in the team that there are some who are willing and able to work hard and who might put their hats into the ring, while there are others who might also go for it, but have yet to show they are prepared to give it their all.

3 August 2009

Still on holiday!

Something is clearly wrong somewhere. Having worked a normal working day in the office, I managed to return home for something to eat, before my evening meeting. Have just got home at 10.45pm and have not had a chance to open today's mail or check my emails. For a moment I forgot how good it was to be on recess, or holiday, as the press likes to call it.

This website was established while I was a Member of Parliament. The site content is being kept online as a source of information, but all forms / email have been disabled.