Home Tags Posts tagged with "The Gorbals"

The Gorbals

<em>Picture: Walter Baxter</em>

Picture: Walter Baxter

As is always the case, this election will be won and lost in just a few key battleground areas. The swing seats hold the key to the final result, and The Caledonian Mercury will be looking at several of them over the next week. Here are the first five –

Almond Valley
Almond Valley is the sort of seat Labour needs to win if it is to regain power at Holyrood. This used to be Livingston, and it was won in 2007 by the SNP’s Angela Constance with a majority of 870.

Boundary changes have made things even tighter since then – and, according to one assessment, this is now the most marginal constituency in the country, with the SNP holding a notional majority of just four votes.

Ms Constance believes the last four years have consolidated her position and that incumbency will give her the edge over Labour stalwart Lawrence Fitzpatrick.

But, having lost some areas that she knew well – such as Broxburn and Uphall – and gained others with a Labour tradition – such as Fauldhouse and Longridge – the result here is anything but clear.

Also standing: Emma Sykes (Liberal Democrat), Andrew Hardie (Conservative), Neil McIvor (National Front).

Prediction: SNP hold.

Edinburgh Eastern
This battle between two political heavyweights encapsulates the fight for the Scottish government. A high-profile Nationalist is up against a less well-known but solid Labour candidate, and what happens in this seat should give a good indication of what is going to happen across Scotland.

The SNP’s Kenny MacAskill won here in 2007, but boundary changes have since given Labour a notional majority of 545. The Labour candidate is the Reverend Ewan Aitken, Church of Scotland minister and former Labour leader on Edinburgh city council.

Mr MacAskill believes his personal vote – built up over the past four years – will see him through, and he is doing all he can to link Mr Aitken with the unpopular trams debacle.

Also standing: Martin Veart (Liberal Democrat), Cameron Buchanan (Conservative).

Prediction: SNP hold.

Glasgow Southside
Somehow, the old name of Glasgow Govan carried more romance and appeal than the renamed constituency. Maybe it was the by-elections of 1973 and 1988 – both won by the SNP – but, whatever it is, this is a much-changed seat.

Boundary changes have stripped it of much of Govan including the shipyards, and have brought in Govanhill, the Gorbals and Toryglen.

But a Tory glen it isn’t. This is a straight fight between the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon (who won Govan by 744 votes in 2007) and Labour’s Stephen Curran, a local councillor.

There have been claims of dirty tricks, with SNP sources muttering about claims that Mr Curran’s people have been telling voters they don’t need to worry about Ms Sturgeon being returned to parliament, because she is standing on the regional list and they can get both Mr Curran and Ms Sturgeon to parliament if they back Mr Curran on the constituency vote.

This claim has been denied by Labour, but it underlines how tense and how important this seat is.

Ms Sturgeon is under pressure in what has traditionally been a Labour heartland, but she will be hoping that the national swing to the SNP from Labour will be enough to see her returned again.

Also standing: Kenneth Elder (Liberal Democrat), David Meikle (Conservative).

Prediction: SNP hold.

North East Fife
Normally, the notional 4,500 majority which Iain Smith holds in this rural Fife seat would make this an easy hold for the Liberal Democrats – but these are not normal times.

The battering which the Lib Dems have taken in the polls because of their Westminster coalition deal with the Tories – and their subsequent decisions in government – have made this seat vulnerable to both the SNP and the Conservatives.

The Lib Dems are throwing resources at North East Fife in an attempt to head off the opposition attacks, and Mr Smith is finding on the doorstep that he has yet to build up the sort of personal vote that the local Lib Dem MP, Sir Menzies Campbell, has cultivated.

Sir Menzies would have no trouble holding this seat, but Mr Smith is facing a much harder fight. His majority will be cut – there appears to be no doubt about that – but the three-way battle may play into his hands, with neither the SNP (whose candidate is Rod Campbell) nor the Tories (Miles Briggs) likely to garner enough Lib Dem votes on their own to unseat him.

Also standing: Colin Davidson (Labour), Mike Scott-Hayward (UKIP).

Prediction: Lib Dem hold.

Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale
The battle for this big Borders seat is between two of Holyrood’s best-known and longest-serving MSPs: Jeremy Purvis for the Liberal Democrats and Christine Grahame of the SNP.

The two have fought each other so many times before that this has the feel of a personal grudge match about it.

Mr Purvis is the sitting MSP, but boundary changes have given the SNP a notional advantage – and, according to one assessment of local government voting patterns, may now have Ms Grahame in front by 1,200 votes.

Mr Purvis faces the added problem of general disillusionment with the Lib Dem coalition in London, and he has been doing his best to emphasise his work in the constituency and move discussions away from English tuition fees and Nick Clegg.

He faces an uphill battle, though, particularly against someone such as Ms Grahame who is very well known here.

Also standing: Ian Miller (Labour), Peter Duncan (Conservative).

Prediction: SNP gain from Lib Dems.

Want to discuss other issues? Join the debate on our new Scottish Voices forum

The Gorbals restaurant logoI’m sitting in the Gorbals eating a scotch egg on an uncommonly hot spring day. It’s nearly 100 degrees outside in the baking heat. Sound familiar? Thought not.

That’s because I’m in a new restaurant in downtown Los Angeles that combines traditional Scots fare with a twist that befits owner Illan Hall’s half-Scottish, half-Israeli background.

Hall opened the Gorbals eatery last year after winning the US reality TV show Top Chef, which gave him the clout necessary to attract financial backers to his latest endeavour in the basement of the historic Alexandria Hotel.

First thing you notice is the hotel is a shadow of its former grandeur, and it takes a little while to realise where the restaurant is as you walk through an entryway populated by what looks like a mix of drifters, thugs and drug addicts (insert joke about the Gorbals here).

It’s all part of an experience, though, which is kinda encapsulated by the front-of-house server who welcomed us to the restaurant and showed us to our table: Youthful, gothic, and wearing lots of eye makeup that failed to hide the tell-tale signs of his hangover.

Hall’s restaurant, which is a mix of contemporary styles – lots of sharp angles, brushed steel and aging wood – actually opened in summer last year but closed temporarily to get its license permits in order.

Now alongside the scotch eggs, lamb confits, kosher haggis burgers and gefilte fish and chips, you can sup from a relatively wide range of California red and white wines and a pretty good selection of Scots malts. I got a thoroughly acceptable bloody mary, a drink more befitting of brunch.

The brunch menu basically was the scotch-egg special alongside some high-tea sandwiches, quasi-Israeli fry-ups featuring matzo balls and poached eggs and some pretty sensational fried potatoes.

Like a good Scot, I appreciated their technique for poaching eggs, though the yolk in the middle of the scotch egg was as unseasoned as the sausage that surrounded it. Good coffee. Served with a gothic smile. Good service, too.

I happened to go with the wife and mother-in-law. Both the wife and I enjoyed the relatively limited brunch menu and, while the mother-in-law didn’t hate the whole experience, let’s just say she probably wouldn’t choose to do it again. She’d probably have another bloody mary from there though. A good sort, my mother-in-law.

Evening meals include the wider menu and sometimes the restaurant lays on a piper for their assembled guests. But don’t let that stop you going.

The Gorbals on Twitter