Plasma Mobile Images by Kubuntu

Yesterday we revealed the project we’ve been working on for the last few months, Plasma Mobile and images of it on Kubuntu.

KDE has been trying for years to get Plasma working on different form factors with mixed success, so when I first started on this I was pretty intimidated.  But we looked around for how to build this and it turns out there is software for it just lying around on the internet ready to be put together.  Incredible.

It got very stressful when we couldn’t get anything showing on the screen for a few weeks but the incredible Martin G got Wayland working with it in KWin, so now KDE has not just the first open mobile project but also one of the first systems running with Wayland.

And with Shashlik in the pipeline we are due to be able to run Android applications on it too giving us one of the largest application ecosystems out there.

The question is will there be traction from the community?  You can join us in the normal Plasma ways, #plasma on Freenode and plasma-devel mailing list and #kubuntu-devel to chat about making images for other devices.  I’m very excited to see what will happen in the next year.

Plasma Mobile announcement.


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Ubuntu Policy Complies With GPL But Fails To Address Other Important Software Freedom Issues

Today Canonical published an update to their IP Policy by adding in a “trump clause” paragraph saying that “where any other licence grants rights, this policy does not modify or reduce those rights under those licences”.

I’ve been going on about this IP Policy (which is Canonical’s but confusingly appears on the Ubuntu website) and how it was incompatible with the Ubuntu policy for years.  I’ve been given a lot of grief for querying it having been called a fucking idiot, aggressiveswearer of oaths and disingenuous, dishonest, untrustworthy and unappreciative.  It really shows Ubuntu at its worst, and is really amazing that such insults should come from the body which should be there to prevent them. And I’ve heard from numerous other people who have left the project over the years because of similar treatment.  So it’s nice to see both the FSF and the SFC put out statements today saying there were indeed problems, but sad to see they say there still are.

Canonical, Ltd.’s original policy required that redistributors needed to recompile the source code to create [their] own binaries” says SFC, and “the FSF, after receiving numerous complaints from the free software community, brought serious problems with the policy to Canonical’s attention“.  Adding the trump clause makes any danger of outright violation go away. 

But as they both say there’s still dangers of it being non free by restricting non-GPL code and using patents and trademarks.  The good news is that doesn’t happen, the Ubuntu policy forbids it and there’s a team of crack archive admins to make sure everything in the archive can be freely shared, copied and modified.  But the worry still exists for people who trust corporate sayings over community policy.  It’s why the SFC still says “Therefore, Conservancy encourages Canonical, Ltd. to make the many changes and improvements to their policy recommended during the FSF-led negotiations with them” and the FSF say “we hope they will further revise the policy so that users, to the greatest extent possible, know their rights in advance rather than having to inquire about them or negotiate them“.  Well we can but hope but if it took two years and a lot of insults to get a simple clarifying paragraph added and stuff like this happen “After a few months working on this matter, Conservancy discovered that the FSF was also working on the issue” (did nobody think to tell them?), I don’t see much progress happening in future.

Meanwhile the Ubuntu Developer Membership Board wonders why nobody wants to become a developer any more and refuses to put two and two together.  I hope Ubuntu can re-find it’s community focus again, but from today’s announcement all I can take from it is that the issues I spoke about were real concerns, even if no more than that, and they haven’t gone away.

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Compilation Copyright Irrelevant for Kubuntu

Joel Leclerc’s recent post The importance of freedom in software reminds us that the reason we contribute to projects like Ubuntu is that they it is made for sharing. Use it, modify it, improve it, share it. Anywhere, any time and with any number of people all over the world. No licence required.  Take that away and you take away the reason for people to contribute.

Recent comments by a CC member that our ability to modify, improve and share it might be restricted by compilation copyright are a dangerous threat to our community.  It’s the sort of thing the Community Council should be there do take a stand against, but alas no.

Compilation Copyright?

Compilation copyright is an idea exclusive to the US (or North America anyway).  It restricts collections of items which otherwise have unrelated copyright restrictions.  A classic example is a book collection of poetry where the poems are all out of copyright but the selection and ordering of poems is new and has copyright owned by whoever did it.

It’s completely irrelevant outside the US where most of the world is located but we like to look after everyone so what’s the situation for people in the US?

Kubuntu images are made from lists of packages in seed files which get made into meta packages.  You could indeed argue that this meta package is subject to compilation copyright, I couldn’t find any case law on it so I suspect it’s entirely undefined.  The good news is the meta package has always been GPL 2 licenced so voila, no copyright restrictions beyond the norms of free software.

The seed respoitory has curiously lacked a licence until I added the GPL the other day.  It has a number of copyright holders primarily me (from before and after I worked for Canonical) and Canonical (from when I did).  Anything on Launchpad has to be free software so we could say the same applies here but more reliably the seed isn’t what’s distributed on the images, the meta package is.

And of course it’s easy to replicate, the list of packages is just those that come from KDE for the most part so you can argue any compilation copyright is KDE’s, which in the case of Plasma is me again as release dude.  And I pick GPL.

And in case anyone is getting confused, this has nothing to do with GCC style compilers, running some code through a compiler makes no difference whatsoever to what copyrights apply to it and nobody has ever seriously said anything different unless they’re trying to muddy the waters.  I recently had Mark Shuttleworth say that of course you could copy individual binaries from Ubuntu.

But but… you’re not a lawyer

It’s too complex for you…you’re too small and too wee and you need those weapons of mass destruction to prevent terrorism… was the self-deprecating argument the unionist politicians came up with for voting no to Scottish independence.  It worked too, for now, amazing.

Similarly I’m amazed at how otherwise very intelligent free software geeks look down on their ability to understand copyright and other laws.  If we took this attitude to coding I’d never have started contributing to KDE and I’d never learn what real coding is like.  If you want to know about an area of law it’s the same as coding, you read some textbooks, read some acts of parliament, read some EU directives, read some case law and come up with a decision.  It’s exactly what judges do when they make a decision, no different.

Based on the above I have maintained the KDE licence policy and reviewed thousands of packages into the Ubuntu archives. So I feel equally competent to make the obvious declaration that compilation copyright has no relevant to Kubuntu because we freely licence the meta package.  Remember geeks you are strong and free, don’t let anyone talk you down with unspecified scaremongering like “things get even more complicated” if they can’t say what makes it complicated then you can safely ignore it.


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Reaffirmed on the Kubuntu Council

I’d like to thank all the Kubuntu members who just voted to re-affirm me on the Kubuntu Council.

Scott Kitterman’s blog post has a juicy details of the unprecedented and astonishing move by the Ubuntu Community Council asking me to step down as Kubuntu leader.  I’ve never claimed to be a leader and never used or been given any such title so it’s a strange request without foundation and without following the normal channels documented of consultation or Code of Conduct reference.

I hope and expect Kubuntu will continue and plan to keep working on the 15.10 release along with the rest of the community who I love dearly.


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Protocols Plugfest Europe 2015

Last week I had the pleasure of speaking at Protocols Plugfest Europe 2015.  It was really good to get out of the bubble of free software desktops where the community love makes it tempting to think we’re the most important thing in the world and experience the wider industry where of course we are only a small player.

This conferences, and its namesakes in the US, are sponsored by Microsoft among others and there’s obviously a decent amount of money in it, the venue is a professional conference venue and there’s a team of people making sure small but important details are taken care of like printed signposts to the venue.

What’s it all About?

In 2008 Microsoft lost an EU antitrust case because they had abused their monopoly position in operating systems.  This required them to document their file formats such as MS Office and protocols such as SMB.  This conference is part of that EU requirement meaning they have to work with anyone who wants to use their formats and protocols.  They have a website where you can file a request for information on any of their documents and protocols and everyone said they were very responsive in assigning engineers getting answers.

Since 2008 Microsoft have lost a lot of ground in new areas in the industry such as mobile and cloud.  Because they’re not the dominant player here they realise they have to use formats and protocols others can use too otherwise they lock themselves out.

The Talks

I spoke about Interoperability on the Linux Desktop which seemed well received, the reason Linux desktop hasn’t taken off is there are many other systems we need to interoperate with and many of them don’t want to interoperate with us. (Of course there are financial reasons too.) It was well received with many people thanking me for a good talk.

I went to talks by people working on Samba, LibreOffice and Kolab which all gave pleasing insight into how these project work and what they have to do to workaround complex proprietary protocols and formats.  LibreOffice explained how they work with OpenDocument, they add feature and for any feature added they submit a request for it to be added to the standard.  It’s a realistic best practice alternative.

I went to a bunch of Microsoft talks too about changes in their file formats, protocols and use of their cloud service Azure.

The inter-talks

It was great meeting some people from the free software and MS worlds at the conference.  I spoke to Christopher about how he had been hired to document SMB for MS, to Dan about taking over the world, to Miklos about LibreOffice and many others.  On the MS side I spoke to Tom about file formats, Darryl about working with Linux, to Jingyu about developing in MS.

I hope I won’t offend anyone to say that there’s a notable culture difference between the open source and the MS sides.  Open Source people really do dress scruffy and act socially awkward.  MS people reminded me of the bosses in Walter Mitty, strong handshakes, strong smiles and neat dress.

culture difference

One part of the culture that depressingly wasn’t difference was the gender ratio, there was only half a dozen women there and half of those were organising staff.

The Microsoft people seemed pretty pleased at how they were open and documented their protocols and formats, but it never occurred to them to use existing standards.  When I asked why they invented OOXML instread of using OpenDocument I was told it was “MS Office’s standard”.  When I asked if Skype protocols were open they seemed not to know.  It probably doesn’t come under the EU court requirements so it doesn’t interest them, but then all their talk of openness is for nothing.  When I suggested Skype should talk XMPP so we can use it with Telepathy I was given largely blank faces in return.

Talking to Samba people and OpenChange people about my opinion that their products should be stop gaps until a better open protocol can be used was met with the reasonable argument that in many cases there are no better open protocols.  Which is a shame.

I went into the MS testing lab to test some basic file sharing with Samba and reminded myself about the problems in Kubuntu and discovered some problems in Windows.  They had to turn off firewalls and twiddle permissions just to be able to share files, which was something I always thought Windows was very good at.  Even then it only worked with IP address and not browsing.  They had no idea why but the Samba dudes knew straight away that name browsing had been disabled a while ago and a DNS server was needed for that.  Interesting the MS interoperability staff aren’t great at their own protocols.


I had a great time in Zaragoza, only spoiled by travellers flu on the last day meaning I couldn’t go to the closing drinks.  It’s on the site of a 2008 world fair expo which feels like one of those legacy projects that get left to rot, 2008 wasn’t a great year to be trying to initiate legacy I think.  But the tapas was special and the vermut sweet.  The conference timetable was genius, first day starts at 9:00 next at 10:00 and final at 11:00.  The Zentyal staff who organised it was very friendly and they are doing incredible stuff reimplementing exchange.  It’s lovely to see MS want to talk to all of us but they’ve a way to go yet before they learn that interoperability should be about an even playing field not only on their terms.


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Canoe Polo in Spain


Last weekend I played my first match of polo in Spain.  We won a game, and draw a couple more which got us into the second round where we lost wonderfully.  I really enjoyed it.  It was run a little differently from the matches in Scotland, the obvious difference being it was outside in the sun which I fear would be difficult to recreate in Scotland. Here’s a list of other differences I noticed incase any are useful:

  • They are super strict on the rules.  We missed the first match last month because a player dropped out and we could not add a substitute because she wasn’t on the list.  The addition would need to be approved by the other teams on the day and it was too much hassle to go to with a risk that we wouldn’t be able to play.
  • They have a nice big timer board which lets you see the current score and current time.
  • All the teams need to wear identical coloured uniforms and captains must be clearly identified with an arm band.
  • They play the 60 second possession rule, for which there is another big timer display and person on duty to check.  If your team has possession for 40 seconds a bell sounds (which I found confusing and so did other people occationally), and 20 seconds later the refs sound their whistle to give the other team the ball.
  • The refereeing is done by 1 team and takes 6 people, 2 on the table, two refing on each side and 2 as linesmen sitting at the ends with flags to signal for clean start, goals and off balls.
  • After each match the team captain is given a sheet with goals and penalties and signs off as an accurate record (or puts in a protest).
  • The goals a hung from a line across the pool but with an additional tail from the goal to the end of the pool behind it which stops a lot of the swaying
  • Parking cones on the side mark the half way and 6 metre lines
  • The weekend is done as a weekend tournament rather than a series of league days with 3 rounds including a final winner.  It means 1 poor team goes home after the first day which is pretty unsatisfying (and this is Spain wide which is geographically and politically similar to having UK wide matches which is a heck of a long drive in most cases, this is because the crisis has ment there’s only enough teams for 2 leagues).
  • People like to moan about the SCA being bad at communication but as long as you find the Facebook page the polo stuff is pretty well communicated.  With the Real Federación Española de Piragüismo there’s no information anywhere online and no groups to discuss anything in.
  • Loudspeakers are up so announcements can be made
  • A printer seems to be somewhere around so current scores are printed off a couple times a day
  • There are 4 weekends in the year and they are all at different locations. The organisation is done by a club rather than the federation committee, this is because there are enough clubs with the complete facilities available.  Clubs get a bit grumpy at having to give the proceeds to the federation.
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Ubuntu Online Summit | ubuntu-community-team mailing list

Ubuntu Online Summit is starting today and Kubuntu have shuffled about their timezones in an attempt to fit in.  Tomorrow we have two sessions, at 18:00UTC we have the Plasma 5 demo showing the lovely new desktop we are using.  An hour later at 19:00UTC we have Kubuntu Kickoff to discuss the To Do items for the next cycle.  You can join in on the IRC channel and at some point we’ll work out how to invite people to the Google hangout.

Every community needs a way to discuss itself but until recently the Ubuntu community has lacked one, especially after the end of Ubuntu Developer Summit meetings.  The ubuntu-community-team list was set up to provide that and I encourage all Ubuntu members to join it.  Currently there’s a heated discussion about an incompatibility in Canonical’s IP policy with the Ubuntu promise, you don’t want to miss it.


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Voted SNP in Edinburgh South

My postal vote has been sent off for the UK general election which is on Thursday.

What’s going on?

The UK parliament and the government it forms is up for election.

What happened to independence?

In the last week of the referendum on Scottish independence last year the UK government threw everything it could think of.  Scare stories were all around about how it would destroy the economy, the English would keep our shared currency, the banks would move out of Scotland and the supermarkets would raise prices.  A back bench opposition MP called Gordon Brown gave a Vow about giving more powers to Scotland.

The day after the no vote the prime minister instead of doing as he promised to work with Scotland instead promised to withdraw Scottish MPs voting rights at Westminster on English only matters.  Fair enough you might think but the Scottish budget is defined by these English matters so there are no English only laws.  The promised new powers for Scotland were consulted on and nothing very interesting or useful was promised in the end.

So there’s a feeling of annoyance at the lack of respect for Scots.  With the population suddenly very interested in politics (85% turnout compared to 65% for a UK election) people have noticed.  The membership of the nationalist parties has quadrupled and the current UK election has many people wondering what’s in it for Scotland.

What’s in it for Scotland?

There are 3 major London based parties and they are showing none of the optimism shown by the Yes side in the referendum campaign.  Almost exclusively they talk down Scotland continuing to say it’s too small and too poor to manage its own affairs.  So the opinion polls have shown people prefer an optimistic message as the SNP gives and they have been forecast to go from 6 seats in Scotland to every single of the 59 seats.

With England equally split between the Tory and Labour parties it seems likely the deciding vote for approval of government business will be from the SNP.  The English media have gone a bit nuts at this and started querying if this is legitimate and a valid part of the constitutional setup.  Which makes Scottish voters wonder what happened to all those promises of wanting to work together during the referendum.

Edinburgh South?

My vote is for an MP from Edinburgh.  The current guy is Ian Murray from Labout.  He didn’t bother to turn up to a vote on bombing Iraq.  He accepts donations from the Arab Emirates and PriceWaterhouseCoopers which are straight bribery for his votes, these governments/companies have no interest in Edinburgh’s people. He calls SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon “Miss Sturgeon” despite her being married for years, an example of everyday sexism.

Reviewing the leaflets and watching the video interviews none of the candidates stand out as great parliamentarians so I’ve voted mostly on party and go with the SNP.  The candidate is Neil Hay who’s been criticised for having a Twitter account where it posted to a satirical article, a non-issue as far as I can see.  It’ll be interesting to see who chooses to work with them to be a UK government and who continues to claim that Scottish political wishes are irrelevant.

See you on Friday.

And Catalunya?

We had a voluntary poll here and of course the no voters stayed at home so it was 80% yes.  The Catalan government now says it resign in September and the election resulting will be a referendum on independence.  If more than 50% vote for independence parties they’ll unilaterally declare independence. At which point I expect Spain to send in the troops.

We live in interesting times.

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Plasma 5.4 Kicked Off

I just closed the Plasma 5.4 kickoff meeting. It was well attended with lots of Plasma devs and VDG members there. Here’s the minutes.

The To Do board [public link] has been updated with a load of new cards.

If you’re looking for a way to join the team of beautiful desktop developers (you can read that both ways and be correct) there’s plenty to do now.  For example the VDG have written a nice design document on System Settings which they need someone to help implement.

Plasma 5.4 is scheduled for August, it’ll be a great addition to Kubuntu 15.10.


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Grant Property, Latest in a Bad Line of Property Agents who Don’t Look After Their Property

My previous grumpy blog post about property agents who don’t maintain the property they rent out got me a phone call from Click Let.  Weird how a Twitter post will get more of a response then a year’s worth of e-mails.  Was he calling to propose helping with maintaining the property we share? Of course not, he was complaining that I had said they were happy to rent out a property they know doesn’t meet the legal standard.  He said the people living upstairs would fix it.  Or the council.  Or someone else.  But not him.  Which rather confirms what I said.

Weirdly the Click Let man even reported himself to The Scottish Association of Landlords who of course said it was fine not to inspect the property and the repairing standard doesn’t apply to roofs (because the tenant doesn’t have access to them allegedly even though they do if they bother to walk up to it).   Which confirms my fears that this is an industry wide problem where a sense of self entitlement means these companies (like the landlords themselves) consider maintaining the building to be outwith their duties.  So as I say, perfectly happy to rent out buildings regardless of the state they are in.

One of my more useful neighbours has organised some repairs on the roof and the roofers pointed out some crumbling stone that needed further repairs.  The council sent round someone who told me the same a decade ago and with scaffold up it seemed like a chance not to be missed to get them done easily.  I set up a poll of neighbours and asked them to vote on whether they agreed. Slowly votes came in from neighbours but not the majority needed.  Annoyingly the landlord registration doesn’t have useful stuff like phone numbers, I tried to search for some in the phone book and even facebook but without luck.  One of the neighbours we’d never heard from had started renting out their property but of course we’d never heard from him or his agent Grant Propetry.

I called Grant Property but was told the person in charge of repairs was busy and would call me back.  He didn’t so I called him again and hassled him about getting a vote on the question.  He said I shouldn’t hassle him because he was “trying to help me” which showed a complete misunderstanding of the situation.  I was offering to do his job for him and he was blocking me but he thought he was helping me.  Incredible.

He sent an e-mail about being unable to do anything if the landlord doesn’t instruct him and that’s all we heard from.  I did eventually get the vote needed for a majority to be able to go ahead with the works but I’m so saddened and disappointed at yet more people who don’t want to look after their property or the property they rent out and just treat it as a bank account.


  • the repairing standard needs clarified to ensure the roof is included for everyone (which I’m sceptical is not the case already)
  • agents complain when you say they are happy not to have responsibility but then claim they have no responsibility.  insane.
  • agents respond more to an unfavourable Twitter post than they do a direct e-mail.  it makes you mad.
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Forth Canoe Club Boathouse at Fountainbridge, a Lesson in Politics

Many years ago in a move I’m very proud of him for my dad worked with some useful people and organised the dredging of Lochrin Basin at the end of the union canal in Edinburgh.  That then became the home of Forth Canoe club for twenty years during which time hundreds of people were introduced to this fun sport and we made world champion paddlers and Olympiads. After 20 years the rest of the world caught up to the idea that canal regeneration might be a nice idea which would improve the space people live and play in and the millenium project dredged the canal from Edinburgh to Glasgow.  To pay for this British Waterways kicked Forth Canoe Club out of its buildings and replaced one of the best community assets in Edinburgh with tall ugly buildings.


Forth CC’s buildings bulldozed and tall soulless buildings bring constructed.

BW gave Forth a shed further along the canal at Harrison Park.  It’s very picturesque but it’s 1/5th the size we had before and incredibly they built a wall in the middle of the building along its length to take away a further 2/5ths of that building.  No explanation was given for it but it might have been a walkway to let narrow boaters walk through or it might have been because the wall behind the building was collapsing and BW didn’t want the hassle of fixing it.

Back in 2011 (I think) the city council had a couple of employees who organised a meeting about a canal strategy. It’s the sort of well meaning but mostly unhelpful exercise.  The one ended up with an over-designed PDF that is was large to put on their CMS for several weeks and is now too large for me to want to download and read through.  The consultation was limited to a few meetings which were not well advertised and didn’t use any modern tools like web forums to allow a longer discussion to happen.  Ultimately there’s no money for anything so any nice ideas that did come out of it didn’t happen.

Anyway at this meeting I did manage to ask staff of what was to become a rebranded and devolved quango Scottish Canals whyever they blocked off two fifths of our boathouse.  They came and looked at the boathouse and wondered themselves whyever this happened, clearly whatever original purpose the internal wall had was long since forgotten as civil service office staff move around. A further meeting happened where I was given keys to the corridor but it turned out it was being used as a storage dump by our next door neighbour.  We could share the space the civil servants suggested.  I spent the next few months doing up the corridor around the neighbour’s old rowing boat.  I was told off for moving the rowing boat out of the corridor even though I needed to do this to fix the damage that had been caused by Scottish Canals’ neglect.  One day a lease arrived without warning or explanation in the post. Someone in Scottish Canals had presumably worked out they should support a nice community group making use of the canal not a neighbour who didn’t.  A victory.  But the building is still too small to do what we used to do.

Every time I met with Scottish Canals they wondered if we could move the canoe club to be with the rowing club at Meggetland or maybe at Wester Hails.  I was interested in the idea of a new building with the rowing club at Meggetland and had a few meetings with them about it but the canal is barely wide enough for one rowing boat never mind rowing boats with canoes circling around them so I decided to drop the idea.  I told Scottish Canals I was never interested in moving to Wester Hails at the edge of town, Forth CC works as well as it does because we’re close to the city centre where everyone can get to.  At the launch of the canal strategy, which despite starting canal redevelopment Forth was never invited to, Scottish Canals gave away why they were so interested in us moving out of town.  STV covered them in January 2012 saying

“At Harrison Park, if the Forth Canoe Club relocate to Hailes Park, Harrison Park could become a new focus for residential moorings.”

So for the second time Forth had the prospect of having its buildings bulldozed, quite galling considering what we have done to bring life to the area.  I told them we were not going to move out of the city centre and told the “canal champion” Tim McKay the same and the idea of barges at Harrison Park was quietly dropped.

In February 2012 I went to a meeting of a new community group.  The old brewery at Fountainbridge had been sold to the Bank of Scotland to make a soulless headquarters but the financial crash stopped that happening and a large brownfield site was then bought by the City Council for a new buliding for Boroughmuir school. The Fountainbridge Canalside Initiative was a group of people who thought they should come up with ideas for what to build on the rest of the land before developers come along with more soulless ideas.

I noticed a plot at one end of the site which seemed to be going spare, I wondered if it would be suitable for a new boathouse for Forth which would give us the space we badly needed.

So I set about searching for politicians to help find out if it was a good idea.  Lib Dem councillor Jim Lowrie invited me into his plush office in the City Chambers in the High Street and seemed very interested in the idea.  He said to give him a couple weeks and he’d set up a meeting with the relevant civil servants.  This guy was the planning convener as well as councillor for Fountainbridge so he should know about the plot.  Weeks went by and e-mails I sent went unanswered.  Then an election was on and his leaflets included that he had canal improvements on track including “new premises for Forth Canoe Club”.  Except he was the one blocking any progress by not organising the meeting he had promised me.  I think the real reason for the downfall of the Lib Dems isn’t Nick Clegg but is Jim Lowrie, the other points mentioned on this leaflet weren’t true either.


Jim Lowrie lies about helping Forth Canoe Club. A Google search for his name says “Some results may have been removed under data protection law in Europe” which makes me wonder what else he is hiding.

After the election there was a new bunch of councillors to deal with.  But councillors have surgeries where they sit around in a library for an hour hoping someone turns up.  If someone does it’s usually somebody moaning about life.  They’re usually very happy to have someone turn up who had a helpful and realistic idea.  Except for some reason the councillors with the weird title of “canal champion”.  Tim McKey is in the election leaflet above and when I went to see him he kept saying I should go back to my local councillor, but I’m sure Scottish Canals don’t have to go to their local councillor.  I went to see Gordon Munro who got the title after the election but he had a ward in Leith many miles away from the canal and only said he “believed he had that remit” which seems like a failed setup by someone.

However Andrew Burns is my local councillor and also leader of the council.  He did organise a meeting with the relevant civil servants from sports and the education department who owned the land.  At the meeting the education dept said they were going to build part of the school on the land and were puzzled why we thought we could use it. They said there might be scope to get the building designed with a canoe club in it if we paid millions of pounds for the privilege.  There was no consideration that the school, despite being 1.5 hectares under the regulation size and wouldn’t have enough space for decent sports facilities would want to use the obvious facility on their doorstep, the canal.  Lesson being: politicians talk the talk but for results get to the civil servants fast to work out what’s really going on.  So the end of that idea. Or was it?

By 2013 there was a meeting set up called the Canal Sounding Board to discuss plans for the old brewery site at Fountainbridge which had land-owners, Scottish Canals, the local community group Fountainbridge Canalside Initiative, politicians and civil servants there.  The plans for the school had changed and the plot was no longer going to be used for a school building.  Could Forth get a building on there instead?  I sounded out some councillors and it seemed a possibility with initial plans for the school now showing a pavilion building on the land I had in mind.  Some queried where the money would come from and I said I hadn’t thought about it since I didn’t even know if the idea was at all possible but we had a track record of getting grants.  There was a consultation on plans for the school and parents who were in the club pointed out that using the canal as a sports facility seemed the obvious thing to do on a site short of sports facilities.  At the next sounding board meeting the plans for the school were revealed.  They included an enlarged playground with a garden area in it.  To compensate the proposed pavilion building in the public park was taken away.  The desire to support canoeing at the school was not relevant as it wasn’t on the syllabus said the plan.

Which brought an end to the idea.  It wasn’t a perfect idea anyway, the canal there is too narrow (although it also narrows on our current site) and it’s on the other side so the towpath would be in the way.  And it would have been a lot of work to fundraise and build the building so I wasn’t interested unless all the pieces fell into place.  Here it was just ignored by the people who could have made it happen, the education department.  It’s a small site and they have lots of competing demands just to get the school built but it’s a shame the government’s desire for active schools is ignored here.

And the current boathouse?  A wall fell down elsewhere in Edinburgh killing someone and suddenly Scottish Canals remembered the one they had neglected to have fixed for a decade and their lawyers sent us a letter to leave the building.  That’s a story for another day…

The new Park, no space for a boathouse but somehow an outdoor gym came on the plans, why do civil servants come up with random ideas and not listen to the ones people want?

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