Friday 20 March 2009

Whose bus?

I was most taken with the recent redesign of the Scottish branch of the Labour Party - especially the use of the Saltire (I hope George isn't too upset) - and I loved Iain Gray in John Major - the sequel which is what caught my attention...

There was Iain in full flow, saying "my family's a bus painting, bus checking, bus conducting family on the Edinburgh buses" - and there was a Lothian bus going about its lawful business at the start of the broadcast - just to show that it was an Edinburgh bus, you understand. Apart from a wee concern over vehicle emmissions (double-decker, one politician, one camera operator, one make-up artist and two cheerleaders isn't very environmetnally friendly), I admired it for a while, the quality of the production, the message being about being a man of the people, the clever use of a Lothian Bus... "Hang on" said the wee partisan voice inside me, "just a diddly minute - those buses are publicly owned!" There was only one course of action...

I submitted a Freedom of Information request to our prize-winning, well-loved and publicly-owned Lothian Buses, and it went a wee bit like this:
Please supply me, under the Freedom of Information legislation, with a copy of the receipt issued for payment for the bus which was used by Iain Gray in his capacity as Scottish Labour Leader to film the broadcast which can be seen here: I would also appreciate information on who the invoice and receipt were issued to and an indication of the usual cost of hiring a bus for this purpose and for how many days the bus was hired and on what dates.
Straightforward, I thought, and I'll have the information in 20 working days. I didn't bank on the incredible speed of Lothian Buses FOI department! Seven days later (get that, all you other FOI people, that's service) I got a reply from Lothian Buses which read something like this:
Having examined the video clip using the link to Kezia Dugdale’s blog which you were kind enough to provide, I can confirm that one of our buses does appear briefly in the opening sequence. The resolution of the YouTube clip is inadequate to allow the specific vehicle to be identified but it is operating westbound on Service 12 passing the bus stop in East Hermitage Place, just west of Restalrig Road. That view of the exterior of our bus lasts for approximately three seconds and the bus was in normal public service at the time.
In contrast, the more extensive footage featuring Iain Gray inside a bus was not shot in one of our vehicles. The detail in the video is insufficient to identify the individual bus which was used but, for guidance, the last bus of that specific type in our ownership was disposed of in 2004. Since no vehicle of any kind was hired from us in relation to the film made for this broadcast, I cannot provide the information you
"Jings!" Said I in my best Oor Wullie voice, "Iain didn't use Lothian Buses!" This could only mean one thing - he hired a bus from someone else. What's wrong with our prize-winning, well-loved and publicly-owned Lothian Buses? Why would a Labour leader try to deceive us in this way? I felt terribly hurt. It might be a donation, I thought, grasping desperately at a passing straw, so I checked Iain's register of interests - Iain's been right up front about donations and things - not for him a wee Jersey experience - nothing. The thing was made for Labour's conference, it must have been done more than a month ago - he must have paid for it.

The only conclusion I can reach is that Iain hired a bus from a private company, making sure that it had internal livery similar to Lothian Buses, had a few shots taken of our prize-winning, well-loved and publicly-owned Lothian Buses in operation and sought to misdirect us about using our bus company. Oh Iain, how could you?

Who was it he used? It's so humiliating!
Mind how you go!

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