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Archives for April 2009

Call the leaders: Tavish Scott

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Graham Stewart | 12:00 UK time, Thursday, 30 April 2009


Tavish Scott swearing in 2007

On Friday's Morning Extra it's your chance to call the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, Tavish Scott.

We've been thinking for some time about trying an 'open line' style phone-in where you set the agenda rather than us, so now's your chance.

Whatever's on your mind... whether it's the big issues like the state of the economy and swine flu, or matters close to home such as anti-social behaviour or a lack of decent bus services where you live, I want to hear from you. Usual number: 0500 92 95 00. You can also post some questions here if you wish.

Already comfirmed for future weeks are Annabel Goldie (Conservative) and Iain Gray (Labour). I'll keep you updated of any other names once they're confirmed.

Was it worth it?

Graham Stewart | 07:58 UK time, Thursday, 30 April 2009


Basra 2009

The end of the UK's military presence in Iraq is imminent. So what have we achieved in six years? And was it worth the cost — both human and financial? That was the topic on today's show.

There's no doubt that Southern Iraq is more peaceful than it was a year ago, but when British forces invaded Iraq as part of the US-led coalition in 2003 few people imagined troops would still be in the country six years later.

There's a sense of relief for many British servicemen and women that their final tour of Iraq is winding down. Some are now serving on their fourth tour, taking them away from home for two years out of the last six.

Defence Secretary John Hutton is in Basra today for a memorial service for the 179 British personnel who have died during the conflict. But let's not forget the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians who also lost their lives during the conflict.

Now, with the benefit of hindsight, do you think we were right to go to war, after all?

Is the world in a blind panic about swine flu?

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Graham Stewart | 08:46 UK time, Wednesday, 29 April 2009


Swine flu pilot facemask

Has the world gone overboard with panic and alarm about swine flu? No-one's died outside of Mexico, and yet a media and governmental juggernaut has sprung to action:

  • Leaflets about the swine flu outbreak and how to prevent its spread are to be delivered to every UK household.
  • The Department of Health is "urgently looking" at increasing stockpiles of facemasks.
  • California has declared a state of emergency, yet a statement from Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's office said that there was "no need for alarm".

Of course, no-one knows to what extent this outbreak will spread and how many lives are threatened. But what we do know is that there have, as yet, been no deaths from the virus outside of Mexico and that cases in Britain have been very mild and most certainly treatable. So does it help to see the papers plastered with pictures of people in facemasks and warnings that 4 in 10 of us could be hit by the virus?

Are you worried about the threat of the disease? Are you willing to avoid travel or make lifestyle changes to prevent further spread of the virus? Or do you think the authorities and the media are spreading unnecessary alarm?

The Investigation: Should we renew Trident?

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Graham Stewart | 10:48 UK time, Sunday, 26 April 2009



On today's Morning Extra Ken MacDonald gauges the public and political temperature over Trident. Is it time to renew the Faslane-based submarines that carry the UK's nuclear deterrent? Or should we consign them to the scrap heap in a step towards a nuclear weapon free world?

We can reveal that the naval base at Faslane has suffered a series of safety breaches including radioactive leaks from nuclear-powered submarines. Scotland's environment watchdog, Sepa, said it would have considered closing the base if it had had the power.

Two years ago, the House of Commons approved the British government's plans to update and replace Trident. But in March of this year the prime minister offered to cut the number of warheads on Trident submarines as part of an effort to kick-start the latest round of nuclear non-proliferation talks.

In actual fact, the number of warheads on Trident has halved since Labour came to power and the prime minister says he's ready to look at further cuts. But is he going far enough? Would you like to see it completely scrapped? Or is the value of this deadly deterrent too important to lose?

Has the Chancellor made the right decisions?

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Graham Stewart | 08:29 UK time, Thursday, 23 April 2009



Who'd want to be a Chancellor? Britain is in the sharpest recession, has the highest borrowing and is about to experience the biggest public spending squeeze since the war. So what's Alastair Darling going to do about it? Here are some of the headlines:

  • 50% tax rate for earnings over £150,000
  • Big debt and deficit increases
  • Economy shrinks at record rate
  • Public spending squeeze planned
  • Books not balanced until 2018
  • 2p on fuel, 1p on a pint of beer and 7p on cigarettes
  • £15bn public sector 'efficiency savings'
  • Claw back tax relief on top earners' pension
  • £2bn help for young unemployed
  • £1bn to boost housing market
  • £2,000 car scrappage scheme

The decision to make the rich pay more for the cost of what's gone wrong has dominated most of the headlines this morning. Does this spell the end of New Labour? Is that a good thing?

And what about the impact on Scotland? It seems we're entering a period of public austerity which will dominate politics for years to come. But despite the Chancellor's promise to grow our way out of recession rather than cut our way out of it, the Finance Secretary John Swinney told Good Morning Scotland that the Scottish government faces a £500m cut in 2010/11, at a cost of 9,000 jobs north of the border. But with Westminster also making efficiency savings, is it only right that Scotland takes its share of the pain?

That was the subject of today's Morning Extra. Another busy one, so keep your comments coming.

How would you make our roads safer?

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Graham Stewart | 08:38 UK time, Wednesday, 22 April 2009


Speed signThe UK government's looking for your ideas as they launch their public consultation this week. Proposals include bringing down speed limits in areas of Britain where there's a higher risk of accidents. That would mean reductions from 30mph to 20mph in urban locations and 60mph to 50mph in the countryside.

Also, there'll be a new section in the driving test where candidates will be asked to drive without being directed by the examiner. Young learner drivers who opt to take a new pre-qualification course will also be allowed to sit a shorter driving theory test.

And what about London Mayor Boris Johnson's tuppence worth? He thinks cyclists should be able to go through red traffic lights. The proposal is designed to reduce the number of collisions involving cyclists struck by other vehicles turning left.

Loads of your calls, texts and emails on today's Morning Extra. We couldn't get round to all of them, so do leave your comments here. Meanwhile, on a road-related theme, do check out BBC Radio's Scotland's Adventures on the M8 season.

Are care homes up to the job?

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Graham Stewart | 08:21 UK time, Friday, 17 April 2009


They say nothing in this world is certain, except death and taxes. So you'd think care homes would be pretty good at dealing with the inevitable. Not so, according to a report by the watchdog, the Care Commission.

Their inspectors found that 43% of homes they visited were not aware that specialised care should be given to residents with terminal conditions such as cancer and dementia. Quite simply, they need to improve their palliative and end-of-life support.

This includes things as basic as discussing whether residents know they're dying and what their last wishes are. The report says that more than half of the homes failed to adequately train staff on how to deal with these sensitive issues surrounding death or dying.

The full report is available here.

So what's been your experience? Do you trust care homes to look after your elderly relatives? Call me after 8am on 0500 92 95 00. Or leave your comments here.

Have you ever experienced heavy-handed policing?

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Graham Stewart | 08:47 UK time, Thursday, 16 April 2009


G20 police

An official review has been ordered after two alleged assaults during the G20 protests. But do the police often have an impossible job when they're faced with violence and aggression? I want to hear from you if you've been on a protest, or maybe at a football match. Do the police protect you or antagonise you? That's what we're discussing on today's Morning Extra. Call me on 0500 92 95 00... or leave your comments here.

Should alcoholics face losing benefits?

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Graham Stewart | 07:43 UK time, Wednesday, 15 April 2009


Should alcoholics get their benefits docked if they don't accept treatment? That's the topic on today's Morning Extra.

Man drinking beerThe UK government says they'll lose out unless they seek treatment and try to find a job. Similar measures targeting drug addicts are already going through westminster and the Work and Pensions Secretary, James Purnell, says he's consulting on whether the idea should be extended.

The Conservatives say it's "another smokescreen" to "deflect from Labour's failure to get to grips with our welfare system". And the Liberal Democrats say the proposals are "fundamentally inhumane".

Is it long before time the state stopped paying alcoholics to kill themselves with drink? Or, with a shortage of treatment programmes, will the consequences for families, in particular, be catastrophic? Leave your thoughts here, or call me after 8am on 0500 92 95 00.

Should people who waste energy be treated as criminals?

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Graham Stewart | 09:51 UK time, Tuesday, 14 April 2009


Insulation diagram

Dr Richard Dixon, director of WWF Scotland says that those of us who don't take action to improve the energy efficiency of our homes should be treated as criminals. Speaking on Morning Extra today, Mr Dixon told us that failing to put in energy efficiency measures is "as antisocial as drink driving". And in an interview with The Scotsman this morning he went futher, suggesting that patio heaters were the "invention of the devil" and should become illegal.

Is he right? Is it about time we started forcing people to act rather than merely encouraging them?

Many of you called me to say you don't always find it easy to insulate your home properly, or that the help out there is difficult to access or just too complicated. Indeed some of you have been advised that insulating cavity walls can cause condensation and general dampness.

Incidentally, there's information and advice available from the Scottish Government's Energy Saving Scotland Advice Centre. You can also contact them on freephone 0800 512 012.

When good people do nothing

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Graham Stewart | 09:59 UK time, Thursday, 9 April 2009


Moira Jones"All that's necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." It's an old cliche, but one which seems apt this morning. Just why did no-one call the police when they heard Moira Jones (right) scream for her life in a Glasgow park last May?

During the trial of the man who was jailed for life for her murder, a couple told the court that they heard the Glasgow businesswoman's screams... but did nothing. Taxi driver Frederick Graham simply turned round to his partner Margaret Boyd and said: "If someone's been murdered, we've just heard it."

So why do people not get involved? Miss Boyd described the noise as "a girly scream" and thought it was youths carrying on in the park. Have you ever thought twice about calling the police? Many of you called Morning Extra today to tell me that you often feel it's pointless. What experience have you had of reporting your concerns?

And there's the other main issue arising out of this tragic case: Why was Moira's killer, Marek Harcar, allowed into this country when he had 13 previous convictions in Slovakia and the Czech Republic — 4 of them for crimes of violence? This is the second time in as many months a foreign worker with a string of previous convictions has been jailed in Scotland for murder. In February, we learned that Vitas Plytnykas, who was found guilty of murdering a Lithuanian woman and leaving her dismembered head on Arbroath beach, had previously been convicted of manslaughter in Germany in 2001 after stabbing a man to death during an argument over money.

Whether it's taxi firms, bus operators or organisations who work with kids, many of you contacted me to express your concerns that there are few, if any, checks on the criminal records of foreign nationals.

Monday's Investigation: Killer in the classroom

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Graham Stewart | 14:29 UK time, Friday, 3 April 2009


On Monday's Morning Extra Ken MacDonald investigates the legacy of asbestos in our schools — and I'll be taking your calls on the subject.

Asbestos clothingThe reality is that many parents are sending their children to school every day, unaware of the potential danger that lurks in school buildings. A legacy of the post-war 'build 'em quick' era, asbestos is found in two-thirds of schools across the UK and it's condition is rapidly deteriorating.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) still deny that the risk is high. However, the most recent HSE statistics show that between 1980 and 2000 asbestos caused 182 deaths of workers in education, including 114 teachers. And if asbestos fibres have caused that many deaths in adults, how many of the UK's 9 million school children have been, and will be affected in the decades to come?

Is this something which has concerned you? Teacher, parent or former pupil, do send me your thoughts over the weekend by clicking here. Or, better still, call me from 8 on Monday morning: 0500 92 95 00.


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