By-election is not simply Devine

THE Livingston by-election for Robin Cook's successor looks like being a lively affair. Not only are the Holyrood Four (the SSP ejectees) free to gallivant round the constituency, having been banned from Holyrood for the month of September, there is a bit of personal history between Carolyn Leckie and Jim Devine, who is emerging as the favourite to be the Labour candidate, with the backing of Cook's sons and his widow, Gaynor.

As well as having been Robin Cook's agent, Jim is a Unison official and had a little run-in with one of his members at a previous by-election.

Back in 1999, Carolyn Leckie was then full-time secretary of North Glasgow hospital workers and was campaigning for the SSP candidate in the Hamilton by-election. Tony Blair was in town and Leckie, along with others, held up a poster showing Mrs Thatcher morphing into Tony Blair.

Leckie was a bit taken aback when the poster was ripped out of her hands by someone behind her. She turned round and, yes, it was Jim Devine, her full-time union official.

Now, although our man Rab McNeil once said of sweet Carolyn "her lips are made for kissing megaphones", Leckie is not someone you want to get into a stairheid rammy with, political or otherwise.

She promptly filed a complaint with the Hamilton polis, accompanied by her witness - none other than Hugh Kerr, who had just stepped down as an MEP. Impressed by this standard of witness, the Hamilton police visited Jim Devine and formally warned him as to his behaviour. So now we can expect a nice, peaceful, orderly by-election in Livingston. Can't we?

• ANOTHER mistress of the art of the political stairheid rammy, Clare Short, was spotted by our man walking past the Assembly Rooms at 11:29 am on Monday. The well-known MP and failed resignee was emerging from the bar, which he thought odd, as he knew she was due to start talking at the Book Festival (a good ten minutes' walk) at 11:30.

How disappointed her vast army of fans must have been (there was a queue for returns) at the delay in starting the show. Not that she seemed to be bothered; she was busy texting someone as she started the long walk. The Book Festival blurb describes her as a lady of passion and principle. Would that be a passion for finishing your drink and the principle of not being on time for appointments?

Amazing Aidan vows: I'll be back

IT MUST be the Celtic connection, but Aidan Quinn has taken such a shine to Holyrood and environs (as opposed to Hollywood, which he can't stand) that he aims to be back after his stint at the Edinburgh Festival.

Quinn soaked himself in the culture, regularly to be seen at the Assembly bar with a pint. None of your bottled-lager nonsense, and he can handle it better than most Yanks - perhaps on account of spending so much time in Ireland.

The ladies at the bar were much smitten by him and his "lovely, amazing Irish eyes", which no doubt played a part in landing him his first two film roles, opposite Darryl Hannah and then Madonna in Desperately Seeking Susan.

Quinn told us he loved our golf courses and headed down to the East Lothian Riviera for a round at Archerfield with David Scott.

After his run in The Exonerated, which finished on Monday night, he was heading up to friends in Aberdeenshire.

Quinn has always had a take-it-or-leave-it attitude to Hollywood. Unlike a lot of luvvies, he has a trade to fall back on - as a roofer. We told him there'll always be plenty work in Auld Reekie or Aberdeenshire.

Thanks, Scran - now scram

THE Scottish Executive has received some criticism for failing to suitably commemorate the 700th anniversary of the death of William Wallace.

There is a gala dinner at Stirling Castle to be hosted by Jack McConnell and an event at the Edinburgh Book Festival (where the writer of the film Braveheart, Randall Wallace, was described as a "turkey" by the ever entertaining Professor Ted Cowan). But a website - - was also commissioned. Scran, the Scottish culture website company, was given the job as it had produced a few other sites for the Executive and off it went.

The launch date was brought forward to May, and the honours were done by Patricia Ferguson, minister for tourism, culture, sports and jam-making.

Anyway, in time-honoured fashion of showing true commitment to online education, culture information provision and rewarding those who had helped them out of a tight spot, the Scottish Executive Education Department then cut the funding to Scran - resulting in half the staff being shown the door last month.

The sharpest noses in town

A BIT of glamour at last at the Edinburgh Film Festival as our cineaste thought he had come across one of the finest nose jobs he had ever seen ... in Scotland, anyway. A former resident of El Lay, he knows what he's talking about. Step forward and take a bow the cast of Serenity, the film debut of Joss Whedon of Buffy the Vampire fame. "River, Kaylee and Inara would make Buffy look rather dowdy. Definitely the sharpest noses in town, and a relief from Brian Cox and Peter Mullan. There is only so much grizzled realism and whisky breath one can take." Joss's next film is Wonder Woman, but need he look further than his Californian girls, River (Summer Glau, pictured above) and Kaylee (Jewel Staite)?

• THE controversial opera Klinghoffer got off with a bang at the Festival Theatre. The cast (terrorists) greet the audience coming in at the foyer. One was overindulging in opera verita and let off his Kalashnikov. It started the fire alarm, and everyone ended up out on the street.

Elijah needed a break from blockbusters

LORD Of The Rings star Elijah Wood (right) told yesterday how he wanted a break from "massive movies" with his new film about British football gangs. The American actor, who played the heroic hobbit, Frodo, stars as an American student lured into a gang of British football hooligans in Green Street, which premiered at the Film Festival yesterday. Wood said he was drawn by the "darker material" in the script of the independent film. "The last thing I wanted to do was be a part of something massive again. I had spent four years of my life doing that, and it was amazing, but I quite wanted to do something small and intimate."