Wednesday, May 30, 2007

West End site visits, Botanic Gardens, Western Cemetery and Graffiti

A busy couple of days, with a couple of site visits with residents, firstly to Tullideph Road where’s there’s a pavement fault next to the bus stop opposite the shops near the City Road junction (see right) and to Paton’s Lane about an unlit ‘one way’ sign. Both now reported to the Planning & Transportation Department for attention.

The steering group of the proposed Western Cemetery Association met yesterday. They are planning a public launch event at West Park on Tuesday 18th September – a lunchtime event, followed by a cemetery walk and talk by Iain Flett, Dundee City Archivist. More details later and see
http://westerncemetery.blogspot.com/ for more details of the Cemetery.

I also had a meeting yesterday at the Botanic Gardens to discuss the long-term future of the Gardens. I am anxious that the Gardens are given a long-term sustainable future by the University of Dundee and keen the City Council plays its part in this. I have also discussed the issue with the Council Leader and the Convener of Economic Development.

I have also had useful meetings with the Director of Planning & Transportation, the Council Leader and the Head of Waste Management; the latter about the graffiti issue. I am keen that this issue is given prominence, with innovative ways of addressing the problem. Click on the headline above, for example, to see the innovative way Bisbane City Council in Australia has tackled graffiti on its utility and similar boxes.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Freeview (or lack of) in the West End

The Courier has this morning featured an article about my letter to the Under-Secretary of State for Media and Tourism, Shaun Woodward MP, regarding the continued lack of Freeview services for many people in the West End - and in other parts of Dundee.
If you click on the headline above you can read the full story on the Dundee LibDem website. He's my e-mail to Mr Woodward :
Dear Mr Woodward

I write to express concerns about the lack of Freeview TV services for many of my constituents in the West End of Dundee, a situation also affecting other parts of the City and North Fife, served by the Tay Bridge Transmitter.

Around 35 000 people in Dundee and NE Fife are served by the transmitter which continues to carry only analogue signals and are being denied access to digital terrestrial television until the “analogue switch off” in the NE Scotland area in 2010.

I would be grateful if you could advise if there is any possibility of the relay transmitters that serve the larger population numbers being converted to digital before the “switch over” takes place?

Also, I am concerned to learn from colleagues in the Scottish Borders where the conversion takes place next year, that some relay transmitters will not carry all stations on digital (a “Freeview lite” service). Can you please confirm that the Tay Bridge and Camperdown relay transmitters serving the Dundee area will carry all Freeview services?

Thank you in anticipation of your reply.

Best regards
Cllr Fraser Macpherson
Councillor for the West End
Convener of Planning and Transport
Dundee City Council

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Balgay Update ... 2!

Been trying to get to grips with the camera on my new mobile phone; so took this photo at Victoria Park this afternoon with the new phone - have concluded it is seriously better than the old one!

Balgay in Bloom update ...

Managed to catch the final stages of the event in Victoria Park this afternoon - see photo, right. Interesting displays and just a pity it was a bit rainy.

Had an interesting discussion with a representative of the Shanwell Wildlife Rescue Trust, who had a display. SWRT is Tayside's only dedicated volunteer wildlife rescue service - if you click on the headline above, it links to SWRT's website.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Ninewells Avenue/Perth Road, Seabraes

Was around various parts of the West Dnd today looking at various issues residents had recently raised with me.
I'm pictured (right) at the Ninewells Avenue/Perth Road roundabout where one of the "forward arrow" signs is missing and the lighting unit damaged. Looks like its been hit by a vehicle. Have reported the matter to the City Council's Planning & Transportation Department.
Grateful to the resident who has drawn to my attention the vandalism damage to the 'mini' bandstand on the grass area at the top of Seabraes. The matter was reported to the Police and I have now asked the Leisure & Communities Department to effect repairs. I have also contacted Scottish Enterprise Tayside about further graffiti on the Seabraes steps and am meeting the City Council's Waste Management Department next week about the strategy for rapidly responding to graffiti incidents across the City.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Balgay in Bloom!

The Balgay in Bloom event takes place this Sunday from 12 noon to 4pm.
There will be activities, displays and live music. It will be held in Victoria Park near the Scott Street entrance.
Click on the headline above to see more about this.

Sculpture in Hunter Street

Earlier this week, a constituent contacted me about the sculpture of a violin bridge that the university used to have on display in Hunter Street (just north of Old Hawkhill). When the building work started some months ago, the sculpture was removed. He asked what was happening to it?
Very prompt replies from the University Secretary and the City Council Director of Planning & Transportation. The Secretary to the University advises:
"The sculpture is in storage at the moment. We do plan to exhibit it again in due course, either on the campus or at the Botanics, but not till after the major works underway on the campus at present have been completed. I'm afraid I can't give you a timescale at present."

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Dundee City Council Administration

Earlier this evening, the Labour/Liberal Democrat partnership succeeded in becoming the City Council administration at the Council's Statutory Meeting, with the support of the Conservative Group.
I am delighted to become the Council's new Planning & Transport Convener and look forward to delivering quality services in the areas of roads, planning and transport over the next four years.

My new surgeries day and times

Being nice co-operative people, the four West End councillors (despite all being in different political parties) are all agreed that we should work positively together for the West End, and, with that in mind, we have made sure none of our surgeries clash. In fact, we are all doing different days of the week, which makes sense.
I have just got mine organised and with effect from the week after next, I am moving surgeries from a Monday to a Thursday. I'll no longer do my City Chambers surgery as the ward no longer includes the City Centre, but I'm continuing the tradition of surgeries at Blackness Primary School, as well as doing new surgeries at Harris Academy and the Mitchell Street Centre. Some weeks, I'll also do 'ad hoc' surgeries in the sheltered lounges across the West End.
So ....
From 7th June onwards :

Cllr Fraser Macpherson Surgeries

· Weekly Surgeries (all run in school term time only)

Thursdays 5pm prompt - Mitchell Street Centre - The Base

Thursdays 5.30pm prompt - Harris Academy - Room 407

Thursdays 6.15pm prompt - Blackness Primary School – Staffroom

· Sheltered Lounge Surgeries

Some Thursdays at 4.15pm, Fraser will have surgeries at the various sheltered lounges in the West End on a rotational basis.

· E-Surgery

E-mail Fraser at : es
urgery@frasermacpherson.org.uk

· For a home visit or advice

Contact Fraser at home on 459378

Lonely Planet on Dundee, Wave 102

Was really pleased to read the positive view of Dundee in the latest Lonely Planet guide yesterday - and great to see the West End getting a good mention:
“Dundee’s superb location on the Firth of Tay is finally being taken advantage of, and the presence of several top-drawer attractions — the super Verdant Works museum among them — is bringing public opinion of the city slowly, but very surely, around.

“Dundee is a city of two halves, with the centre’s somewhat hard-bitten feel counterbalanced by lively Perth Road just to the west, which has a youthful, arty flair, given weight by a series of most appealing places to eat and socialise."
You can read the Lonely Planet website by clicking on the headline above!
Was on Wave 102 this morning talking about tonight's Dundee City Council Statutory Meeting.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Recycling improvements, Community Planning Evening, Dundee Schools Music Theatre

Last night saw the City Council running an excellent community planning event in the Marryat Hall. It featured the work amongst communities right across the City that has been achieved over the past five years and looked towards the next community planning consultation period. Pictured above right is part of the display from the South West Dundee area, the area that covers the West End.
Also attended the Blackness Area Residents' Association (BARA) meeting last night. I raised the forthcoming multi-occupancy recycling project. This will see "mini" recycling units for (initially) paper and different glass in areas where there are flats and individual recycling wheelie bins are not practical.
Having met with Waste Management about the project, I am keen to see full consultation with communities on the siting of these recycling points and BARA is keen to participate in this. It is envisaged that there will be recycling facilities in Abbotsford Street, Abbotsford Place and Corso Street, in BARA's area. In addition, a number of other West End sites are being considered and the West End Community Council will be consulted too.
Good to see more productions by the excellent Dundee Schools Music Theatre taking place this August. This time they are presenting 'The Boy Friend' and 'The Pajama Game' and you can read further details by clicking the headline above.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Ryehill Lane seating

The seating area at the corner of Ryehill Lane and Perth Road has been the subject of previous discussions between myself and its owners (J C Decaux, the advertising hoardings people, who own the billboards behind it).

In 2005, following my request, J C Decaux had the area tidied, which was welcome.

However, a number of the elderly residents in the Perth Road area have pointed out to me that the seating here is in very poor shape (as the lower photo, right, shows).
Therefore, earlier today, I was in touch with the company again, and they have promised to look into the matter. Their repairs are handled centrally from a unit in Ayrshire, so it may take a little time, but pleased the company has reacted positively to the suggestion.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Media and graffiti

OK then media first! Was on the Tay Talk In this morning regarding the future administration of the City Council. The Talk In is a great programme as Ally allows everyone their say and the programme is dynamic, with the listeners deciding the content.

So … that’s today’s positive story about the media. So here’s the all too inevitable negative one!

A few days before polling day, I got a call from a BBC researcher from the ‘Scotland Live’ programme asking if Dundee Liberal Democrats would participate in an eve-of-poll feature on the Dundee West constituency; the idea was to interview local activists from each of the four parties contesting Dundee West about their experiences of the campaign. I was advised that the parliamentary candidates could not participate but any other local activist could and that, due to the need for electoral balance, if any party refused participation, the feature could not go ahead.

To be frank, their wish for an interview at 8.30am on eve-of-poll was something I’d have rather avoided. We had a huge logistical exercise involving teams in West End, Coldside and Strathmartine Wards organising the delivery of leaflets and the thought of fitting in BBC Scotland was a bit of a pain. But we agreed. Always like to be helpful!

My brother in law (Murray – candidate in Coldside Ward) and I were trailed round deliveries in Hazel Drive by a friendly lady from the BBC who asked lots of questions about the election.

At lunchtime, I listened to the programme on my mp3/fm player (while deliver leaflets for Chris Hall in Charleston!) Interviews with Labour, Conservatives, SNP … but no Liberal Democrats! So why?

It turns out that the BBC had failed to explain to us that council candidates could not participate (in addition to a bar on parliamentary candidates) and at BBC HQ they had sussed that I was a council candidate. OK, a mistake by the BBC, but in the interview with the Conservatives, they interviewed the Conservative council candidate for the West End Ward. Total and abject BBC incompetence.

Phil Wells, the BBC ‘Scotland Live’ producer, has phoned and e-mailed me an apology, but he has made it perfectly clear that the BBC attitude is not to try to redress matters, simply to apologise and move on.

I do not think this is good enough. At the very least some reassurance that BBC Scotland now had procedures in place to stop this happening again would have been nice.

I think I can genuinely say I am not a natural moan. I doubt any other member of Dundee City Council had received so much adverse media comment in the past few years, but I have always found the best way forward is to ignore it and continue to work hard for your constituents. This is not a case of complaining because you have been criticised, but I feel it is not good enough that BBC Scotland believes it can simply ignore electoral balance and think it doesn’t really matter. So, I have lodged a formal complaint. Will report back on outcome in due course!

I had two conversations with constituents today on the same subject – graffiti in the Perth Road district shopping centre. I have proposed a graffiti-specific rapid response team for the City; I think this is a sensible way forward.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Wheelie Bin, refuse, council committees and Monopoly updates!

Firstly, with reference to my blog earlier today about the City Council, if you click the headline above, you can read a resume of the Council Chief Executive's suggestions for a streamlined committee structure. This will obviously be the subject of discussion and decision at the City Council's Statutory Meeting on Thursday, but it seems a sensible way forward.
Over the past couple of days I have had further complaints about wheelie bins sitting on pavements in parts of the West End and have taken this up with the Waste Management Department. The same department deserves thanks for their swift response in connection with my complaint about dumped rubbish bags in part of Perth Road towards the end of last week, following a constituent's complaint.
And, lastly, Monopoly! Dundee is up to 5th place with 27 920 votes. Vote Dundee at :

Rainbow coalitions …

Janet & I were at Edinburgh Airport last night to give our older son a lift home following his trip round Italy and Germany. The photo (right) taken at the airport shows a rather spectacular rainbow (and a second, more hazy, one). Sort of spooky, given all the talk locally about rainbow coalitions over the past week.

I have deliberately kept out of all the waffle in the press this week about coalitions, who “won” the election and some of the, frankly, intemperate comment.

The position as my colleague Helen and I see it is straight forward. We agreed with our local party members that we would wish to speak with all three other political groups on the City Council – SNP, Labour and Conservatives. Having only 2 seats on the City Council and just over 11% of the first preference votes across Dundee at the 3rd May City Council Elections, we would not have huge lists of demands, but we would seek assurances that a number of issues important to our constituents were raised. These include:


  • The need to properly address the serious issue of poor and unadopted pavements throughout the City.

  • The need to properly tackle graffiti, in the City Centre and in local communities.

  • The need for improved community involvement (as opposed to “consultation”) on local decision making.

  • The need for more efficient decision making in the City Council; less committees, and a modernised structure. Personally I like the Cabinet model; many do not (including many in my own party elsewhere in Scotland) but Helen and I agreed that a reduced number of Council committees immediately and cross-party consultation on the longer term model (including involving all parties on the Council looking at the ways other authorities organise themselves) was a sensible way forward.

  • Continued priority towards low Council Tax increases (or no increase as we achieved this year). I’ve been Finance Convener over the past two years and keeping Council Tax increases low within the context of quality service provision was my priority. We don’t want to see this priority lessened.

Anyway, long story short, we met all three parties the Tuesday after polling day. All discussions were constructive, in all fairness.

However, whilst discussions with the Conservatives and Labour convinced us that there was general agreement on the sort of priorities we feel are important to our constituents, the situation with the SNP was less positive. The SNP representatives gave no convincing argument as to why their group has better policies and priorities than others. They indicated the SNP group was meeting the following night and they confirmed they had my mobile number for contact. We heard the square root of nothing further from the SNP until the following Monday. Meantime, “the party that does not do deals with the Tories” met the Conservatives and offered the Conservatives convenerships.

The Conservatives rejected the SNP offer. All of a sudden, last Monday, Councillor Guild was on the phone to me asking ‘how I felt about possible co-operation’. He seemed unable to give an explanation as to why there had been total silence from the SNP for six days and he claimed he had wanted both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats on board. The arithmetic on the Council tells otherwise.

I advised Mr Guild that, having read their manifesto, we could not support a group whose manifesto had very significant spending commitments that would inevitably result in a huge Council Tax increase.

There has been great “spin” in the press about who “won” the Dundee City Council elections. A letter in yesterday’s Courier from a Mr Leslie sort of sums up the misinformation (click on headline above to read full letter). He writes :

“Locally, the people of Dundee have spoken and decided by a majority that a particular party should run the council. For those who failed to gain that support yet still hijack the council is an absolute disgrace and tantamount to anti-democracy.”

Presumably he thinks Dundee SNP won the Council election. Err, well no actually. Unfortunately the facts get in the way of that assumption. So a few facts, folks:

· Dundee SNP gained less than 40% of the votes cast in the City Council elections (39.97% to be exact). So over 60% did not vote SNP.

· The Labour and Liberal Democrat partnership gained more votes than the SNP in the City Council elections. (40.67% to 39.97%).

· SNP group leader Ken Guild tells the press that the Liberal Democrats reaching agreement with the second largest group (rather than his own) is against the spirit of proportional representation. Presumably we are obligated to reach agreement with Mr Guild! Perhaps someone should ask Mr Guild then what he thinks of the second largest group on West Lothian Council (the SNP) reaching agreement with the Tories and others to form an administration, even though Labour is the biggest group?

· Or in Fife, where SNP and Liberal Democrats have formed the administration, despite Labour being the largest group?

Of course, the real rationale for any partnership agreement must be based on what we consider best in terms of stable administration and delivery of vital services. Helen and I are satisfied that is what we have achieved in terms of the partnership agreement with Labour, and it is interesting to note that, of the many constituents who have contacted me about the Council administration in the past few days, the vast majority are supportive of this stance. My goodness, they must be from the 60% majority of voters!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Inflatable monkeys, Roars Not Whispers, Dundee Partnership latest

If you were passing the City Square yesterday, you could not help notice the appearance of a 30ft inflatable monkey (see right).
Six of these have appeared round Scotland to officially launch the Six Cities Design Festival I have referred to in previous blog entries. You can see the news item about this from Dundee on stv news last night by clicking the headline above.
Was interviewed yesterday by Nick Henderson of Roars Not Whispers - a joint project between the Scottish Youth Parliament and Oxfam in Scotland. The project is a youth led initiative focusing on social justice issues which are important to young people, locally, nationally and internationally. Nick and his colleague are making a video about different attitudes to poverty in Dundee and they've promised me a copy of the completed video in due course. Meantime, if you want to know more about Roars Not Whispers, you can contact Nick at nickhenderson@rnw.org.uk.
Lastly, the latest Dundee Partnership Digest outlining the latest activity of the Dundee Partnership is now available at : http://www.dundeepartnership.co.uk/file.php?id=1528.

Homebase no more

I don't think any West End resident will be exactly weeping at the demise of the ugly former Homebase building on Riverside Drive, but many have commented that much more could have been made of the site than the building of 200+ flats.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Vote Dundee! And last word on election results ...

Firstly, many thanks to the local resident who advised me about the new Monopoly game - click on the headline above to view more - and make sure Dundee gets included!
As her e-mail advises :
"We're in 6th place just now and Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Glasgow aren't even on the board! I was always very competitive when it came to Monopoly and this is just adding a whole new dimension!! Vote now!! Get anyone else you know to vote too!!! The closing date for voting is 25th May."
Janet & I have good friends who live in the Burgess Hill area in Sussex and we note Burgess Hill is one place above Dundee!
And ... a final word on the election results; further to my earlier blog entry saying I had spoken with the City Council's Public Relations Department about the display of the election results for the City Council, there are now PDFs of the detailed ward results available for downloading at :

Friends of Magdalen Green success

Last night at the Friendship Hall at Dundee West Church, I chaired the launch public meeting of Friends of Magdalen Green. Click on headline above to view my earlier blog entry about this.
There was a super turnout of nearly 70 residents and a good lively discussion on the issues surrounding the Green took place. Liz Broumley did an highly entertaining and informative presentation, and the Friends group is now formally launched, with a Constitution and office-bearers. Chair of the Friends of Magdalen Green is local resident and community councillor Sheila Roy - congratulations to Sheila and the other newly elected office-bearers!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Six Cities Design Festival Update

Towards the end of last month, I mentioned Dundee's participation in the Six Cities Design Festival (click on headline above to view story).
If you've passed the City Square recently, you can't but help notice the work underway to transform the Square into a temporary park (see right). As the Six Cities' website puts it :
"Dundee City Council’s Landscape Design Team had the incredible opportunity to construct a park in City Square. Using revolutionary synthetic yarns manufactured in Dundee, the design team plan to roll out the ‘green carpet’ across the city’s civic space to create Design Park. This temporary space will act as the Dundee Festival Information Point and challenge us to think about the design of our public space."
You can read more about Dundee's participation at : http://www.six-cities.com/Dundee.php

Ward Road Gym

Until I became the Council's Finance Convener during the last council administration, I sat on the Ward Road Gym Board. The gym board has had great success in ensuring the refurbishment of this much-used City Centre sporting facility, with co-operation from the City Council.
Was pleased to learn earlier this week that the gym now has its own website - click on the headline above to view it (and very professional it looks too).
The gym was in my old Tay Bridges Ward, but due to boundary changes, is now part of the ward adjacent to the new West End Ward.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Council administration update

Spoke on Wave 102 and Radio Tay today about the partnership agreement between the LibDems and Labour. Along with the other group leaders, spoke on the stv news ('North Tonight') this evening on same matter - click on the headline above to view.

West End - good news!

Two bits of good news :
  • The handrail I requested for the south end of Pennycook Lane (next to the Pennycook sheltered housing) has now been provided by the City Council - see right.

  • The blocked drain on the west side of Windsor Street I had recently mentioned in FOCUS has now been cleaned out.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Statement by Councillors Helen Dick and Fraser Macpherson, Liberal Democrat Group, Dundee City Council

Last week, we met with all three other political groups on the City Council to discuss a way forward for the administration of the Council for the next four years. The discussions were constructive.

We have now had the opportunity to read fully the manifesto proposals of the other parties. We have substantial concern at the number of costly proposals by the SNP group which, if introduced, even in part, would lead to a large increase in Council Tax in the City. We have worked, as part of a joint administration, over the past four years, to keep Council Tax increases to a minimum, whilst protecting vital services. The SNP manifesto, if introduced, would put all this in jeopardy.

Discussions with the other two groups on the Council have centred on maintaining services, with responsible growth within the context of keeping Council Tax increases to a minimum. We are pleased that they support proposals to give increased capital resources towards tackling unadopted pavements and there is agreement to streamline and make more efficient the Council’s decision-making process.

We have today reached agreement with the Labour group for a new Labour/Liberal Democrat partnership agreement on the Council. The Liberal Democrat group will continue to work positively, in partnership with others, for the City of Dundee.

Scottish parliament, fly-posting … and daft idea of the week

Had a read of the Scottish Sunday papers late last night on return from London. A very different read to the English editions I had read on the flight up to Edinburgh!

I wryly smile at the comments of commentators who are criticising the Liberal Democrats for not cosying up to Alex Salmond and the nationalists at Holyrood. Eddie Barnes in 'Scotland on Sunday' quotes Salmond’s view before the election that Nicol Stephen and the LibDem MSP were “Barclaycard politicians – my flexible friends.” Sorry Alex, got that one wrong. I am afraid the LibDems will simply not sign up to expensive referenda aimed at separation.

Of course, Nicol and his colleagues can’t win with the newspaper columnists. If they had signed up to Mr Salmond, they’d have been criticised for signing up to anything to keep the ‘Ministerial Mondeos’. If they do the right thing and reject the SNP separation referendum costing millions and an uncosted programme that is undeliverable, they get equally criticised! Tom (who he?) Brown in the same newspaper says - “Petulant LibDems betray their principles and the people.” Wrong Tom, the Liberal Democrats are right to reject the SNP programme at Holyrood. Actually, judging by the article elsewhere in the same paper saying the SNP has admitted it will tear up its manifesto, it would appear the SNP has rejected the SNP programme at Holyrood.

On an entirely different matter, was pleased to see in Friday night’s Evening Telegraph that the City Council is undertaking a crackdown on fly-posting in the City. Readers of this blog and of the FOCUS in the West End will know that I have campaigned on this issue and it is good to see the City Council being proactive.

Lastly, daft idea of the week comes from our local Labour MP, Jim McGovern, whose “solution” to the problems with the recent elections is a return to the first-past-the-post electoral system. Click on the headline above to view the article about this in the Press & Journal.

I think we all accept that there were many problems with the 3rd May elections. A return to the stone-age first-past-the-post electoral system is absolutely not the solution. FPTP is a crude system that delivers results that can bear no relation to how the majority actually voted.
Whilst accepting that having different electoral systems on the same day is not a clever idea, on the whole the STV council elections worked – most of the problems surrounded the “twin” constituency/regional parliamentary ballot paper. There is no need for separate days for council and Scottish Parliament elections. The answer is a proportional and fair STV election for both. And think of the other advantage … no second class “regional” MSPs – all MSPs would have a constituency, but elected by a fair system.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

London Photographs

I had a "day job" event to attend in London on Friday so Janet and I made a bit of a weekend of it and we are just back (having caught the flight back to Edinburgh by the skin of our teeth this morning!) We had a great time, so as a bit of light relief from politics and all that, here's a few photos!

Above : Me at Institute HQ on Friday.
Above : Spectacular stunts at Covent Garden!
Above : Just exactly how this bloke manages to keep so still for so long defies me!

Above : Janet about to have yet another fantastic meal!
Above : Fraser having a good read of this week's "Liberal Democrat News"

Above : More from Covent Garden; this bloke was really impressive and entertaining.

Above : Ramesses II at the British Museum

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Friends of Magdalen Green launch event

The Friends of Magdalen Green group gets formaly launched next Wednesday with a public meeting in Dundee West Church, Perth Road.
We hope as many residents as possible will attend.
For further details, please click on the headline above - which will display a poster advertising this event.
You can read more about the group at http://magdalengreen.blogspot.com/

Council results again

I was speaking with a West End constituent yesterday who pointed out the relatively meaningless way the way in which the City Council election results are displayed on the Council's website. These merely show the stage at which candidates were elected (and give no indication of the performance of unsuccessful candidates) - to take the West End Ward as an example:
WEST END WARD ..... Turnout - 49.55%

Donald Hay - Scottish Conservative and Unionist
Elected at Stage 8

Fraser Macpherson - Liberal Democrat Focus Team
Elected at Stage 1

James Walker Barrie - Scottish National Party (SNP)
Elected at Stage 1

Richard McCready - Scottish Labour
Elected at Stage 1
This really gives the reader no impression as to how the three candidates who were elected at Stage 1 performed in relation to one another, or how many first preference votes they received.
Yesterday, after a briefing for newly elected councillors, members were given a full breakdown of the results, and the following therefore gives a more meaningful impression of candidate performance in the West End.
It should be noted that, despite all the complications of surpluses transferred as candidates win or get eliminated (there were 8 stages of the Count in our Ward), in fact the four candidates at the top right at the start were the candidates finally elected. As one party (the nationalists) had more than one candidate here, I have indicated the winning and losing candidates.
West End Ward - First Preference Votes
Elected Candidates
Fraser Macpherson, Liberal Democrat FOCUS Team 1693
Richard McCready, Scottish Labour 1331
Jim Barrie, SNP (winning) 1326
Donald Hay, Scottish Conservative and Unionist 738
Not Elected
Chic Brodie, SNP (losing) 495
George Burton, Green 307
Luke Ivory, Solidarity 95
Angela Gorrie, SSP 69
I spoke yesterday to the Council's public relations department and suggested that a link beside each ward result on the website to take you to a PDF of the full breakdown would be a helpful addition.
The list (and mug shots!) of all 29 new council members are now on the Council website and you can follow a link to this by clicking on the headline above.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Session Street proposed Traffic Order

I have received the following notice from the City Council about a proposed Traffic Order in the West End Ward area :

Dundee City Council propose to make an Order under Section 14(1) of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 for the purpose of facilitating works for a new commercial and housing development. The Order is expected to be in force for sixty five weeks from 21 May 2007. Its maximum duration in terms of the Act is eighteen months.

The effect of the Order is to prohibit temporarily all vehicular traffic in Session Street from the north side of the entrance to the Jahangir Indian restaurant for a distance of 60 metres or thereby in a northerly direction.

Access to the Jahangir Restaurant will be maintained from Hawkhill.

An alternative route will be available via Hawkhill, Horsewater Wynd and Guthrie Street for westbound traffic, and via Hawkhill, Brown Street and Guthrie Street for eastbound traffic.

Please forward any comments you may have regarding this proposal to Andy Scrimgeour, Network Management Team, Planning and Transportation Department, Tayside House, Crichton Street, Dundee, no later than five working days prior to the commencement date.

If you have any queries please contact Mr Scrimgeour on 433168.

Presentation to Neil, Windsor Street, Council negotiations

A very enjoyable West End Community Council meeting last night at which Bailie Neil Powrie's enormous contribution to the West End over nearly 28 years on three local authorities (Dundee District Council, Tayside Regional Council and latterly Dundee City Council) was rightly recognised.
Iain Luke, my predecessor as councillor for the now abolished Tay Bridges Ward, and former MP for Dundee East, gave an excellent speech about Neil's contribution to both the West End and to the political scene in the City, and Neil was presented with a gift (see above right - Neil knows he's featuring on the blog as I asked his permission!)
Also at the Community Council last night, following on from the article in my May 2007 West End Community Council Update about road safety at the Windsor Street/Perth Road junction, I suggested Community Council representatives and I meet with Planning & Transportation Officers on-site about the problems. Am also keen that the other West End Councillors participate.
A good piece by Brian Allison in the Courier this morning about the Council Administration negotiations (click on headline above to view). Helen (my council colleague) and I had very constructive talks with all other 3 parties yesterday. Clearly, the outcome of any negotiations will depend on policies and the way forward each groups sees as best for the City in terms of the delivery of services.
We will be studying carefully the manifestos given to us by others as will the other parties in relation to ours. All parties will consult their members and I have no doubt other parties will be meeting each other.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Bridge Tolls to stay?

Reading the article "Greens set to back SNP minority government" in the Courier this morning (click on headline above to view story), I was reminded of the letter I received from a Green Party supporter some months ago, criticising the Liberal Democrats on the City Council for backing a Council motion (supported by Labour, Conservative & SNP as well as ourselves) calling for removal of tolls on the Tay Bridge.
The Greens, he made clear, strongly support retention of the tolls on the Tay Bridge (despite the clear unfairness of the fact that tolls on the Erskine and Skye bridges have already gone but ours remain) and the actions of the Greens in the parliament indicates they have consistently supported tolls retention.
The question has to be asked, if the Greens are genuinely to try to prop up Alex Salmond, is the price of this that the SNP drops its tolls abolition policy?
I have never been much convinced of the SNP's so-called conversion to 'no tolls' on the Tay and Forth Bridges. Let's quote from an SNP press release during the Dunfermline and West Fife by-election early last year:
"The SNP is campaigning for a freeze in the level of tolls on the Forth road bridge at £1."
So I think we need reassurance from Mr Salmond as to what he is giving away to the Greens in return for their support.
PS : I did not think the body language of Robin Harper, Shiona Baird and Patrick Harvie as they left St Andrew's House (or indeed that of Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon) gave any indication that talks had been exactly a meeting of minds.

Monday, May 07, 2007

May Community Council Update

If you click on the headline above, you can read my update for tomorrow night's West End Community Council meeting.

Way forward, Utility Box fly-posting

Yesterday saw our councillors from across Scotland meeting in Perth to discuss ways forward. Obviously different Councils have different priorities and will form differing administrations depending on local circumstances, but it was good to meet colleagues. Although some disappointments in a few councils, the picture is generally very good.

I was asked (along with Kate Dean, who has been the LibDem Council Leader in Aberdeen) to speak to a group of new councillors in authorities where we had not had representation in the past. It is brilliant to see the breakthroughs in places like Clackmannanshire, North Lanarkshire, Stirling, North Ayrshire, etc, and having originally been the sole LibDem on Dundee City Council (no longer the case!) I was able to explain the need to work with others.

There was an update on national negotiations and it is very clear that Nicol & team are simply not going to waver in making no independence referendum a precondition of any talks with the SNP Parliamentary Party. Totally agree with this. I made the point that there are equally concerns about the huge list of SNP spending commitments which are frankly not properly costed and I said this will make a national partnership agreement with the SNP exceptionally difficult to achieve. The SNP is simply not going to deliver what it promised. The audience burst into applause when I said that. Methinks an SNP minority administration is on the cards in Holyrood.

I also spoke on the Tay Talk In, pointing out why we do not support an independence referendum. People had the right to choose independence last Thursday by voting for parties that support separation (SNP, Greens, Solidarity and SSP) but far less than half the people of Scotland did. We are hardly going to support a costly referendum designed to deliver something we are diametrically opposed to! Talking on the Talk-In was a total challenge – on my mobile, in a covered car park in Perth, with poor mobile reception, not really able to hear what Ally the Talk-In presenter was asking me!!

I am trying to keep our LibDem members fully updated on any discussions involving myself & my colleague Helen with the other groups on the Council. The Courier this morning fairly summed up the current situation (click on headline above to read this). I am the only “surviving” group leader as Bruce Mackie and Jill Shimi (formerly Conservative and Labour Group Leaders) stood down from the City Council and Willie Sawers (formerly SNP Group Leader) chose not to stand for the SNP Group Leadership on the new City Council.

This morning I spoke with all three new group leaders and agreed to meet the SNP tomorrow morning, the Conservatives at lunchtime and Labour later in the evening (quite late on actually as I want to go to West End Community Council tomorrow night!) The basic principles Helen and I are working on is that policy comes before position, how “workable” an administration arrangement is matters greatly (decision making process, involving all in the administration) and that the arrangements are sufficiently robust to last the whole four years.

I am keen to read others’ manifestos (I am giving them all copies of ours) and if today’s calls to all three parties are to go by, I think a constructive exchange of views is probable.

If you go to
http://www.dundee.prai.co.uk/news/000518.html you can read about my complaint about the Solidarity Party and the disgraceful fly-posting of utility boxes in the West End (and indeed right across the City). According to the Courier today, Solidarity’s response is that I am highlighting their irresponsible behaviour as a smokescreen to hide some apparent disastrous LibDem electoral performance. Sorry, Solidarity, the disastrous electoral performance was yours. What I was highlighting was the complaints from dozens of West End residents about the mess left by supporters of this party and I hope we’ll see them clean the posters off right away.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Election Aftermath

During the election campaign, I always said it would be like getting our lives back after the election! So it was really good yesterday to have a day almost devoid of elections, politics and the Council. Our older son was off to Rome on holiday after wearing out much shoe leather in the run-up to 3rd May so having dropped him at Edinburgh Airport, we had a nice day out in South Queensferry (see picture!), where my late grandparents lived for many years. Great lunch too!

There was great hilarity in the Macpherson household yesterday morning when we read Steve Bargeton’s column in the Courier. He’d picked up the spelling error in the letter sent by my campaign to postal voters. I think anyone who has received the 60 FOCUS newsletters I have produced in the West End over the past 6 years knows that my spelling and grammar is pretty good; so just for the record, if you click on the headline above, you can see what was sent as a PDF to party HQ who were undertaking the mail merge to personalise the letter. Some ‘helpful’ party worker decided to retype it to convert the document to MS Word; unfortunately what was then produced was not exactly a faithful replication of the original! Such is life.

The reality of election campaigns is that, whatever party you are standing for, it is an exceptionally busy and demanding time, and mistakes happen in all campaigns. The Labour Party in Coldside Ward managed to produce a leaflet urging people to support “Cowan” on one side, but “Cowans” on the other. I do not doubt that Dave Cowan knows perfectly well how to spell his name!

In reality, there were more serious errors which simply didn’t help the electorate get to grips with the new STV electoral system. The Tory candidate in East End Ward (“a well known haridresser in Broughty Ferry” – we assume that is a hairdresser) made this amazing statement :

“The new method of electing Councillors by Single Transferable Vote means that you have three votes at this election … All she asks is that you give her one of these votes.”

Absolute rubbish and no wonder some voters put three Xs on their Council voting paper. I was speaking with a Labour councillor yesterday who (although he won comfortably) said how infuriating it was to see X against his name & that of his running mate, and with a couple of Xs on the paper, the paper was made void.

The information to voters was simply not done well enough. And although I have mentioned above the confusing messages from a candidate, fundamentally the official information was too late, too confusing and ultimately the fault of the Scottish Executive.

There were only 88 rejected papers in my West End Ward (but I can tell you that many of these were people genuinely trying to make a vote/preference, not just spoil their paper). In Coldside Ward, where the LibDem candidate was last to be eliminated and lost by a whisker, there were 256 “spoilt” papers.

Back to the Steve Bargeton column … Steve gets it absolutely right when he says the electoral administration across Scotland was “an absolute shambles.” Dundee’s election administration was probably the best in Scotland (our Count ran really smoothly and the electronic counting here did actually work) but even then I have some real concerns about the postal vote administration and have already been in touch with the Council’s Chief Executive about this. I stress the fault lies fairly and squarely with the Scottish Executive and their contractors DRS, not with the City Council. Indeed, here in Dundee, City Council officers saved the day in getting the postal ballots posted out.

There have been calls for the Council elections to be held on a different day than the Scottish Parliament. I do not agree with this. The voters are now asked to vote for local councillors, MSPs, MPs, MEPs and the occasionally referendum – it is all overkill. The problem was three different electoral systems on the same day :

First past the post for the MSP constituency members
Regional list vote for the “top up” MSPs
Single transferable vote for local councils

A single voting system (ie moving the parliament to STV) would mean that there would be two votes only & the ballot papers would be filled in the same way. It would also remove the “two classes” of MSP – it is difficult to defend the “regional members” system, many of whom are simply people who failed to get elected in the “real” election.

One last thing. I won’t weep at the departure of many of the minor “parties” from the Scottish parliament, but I do agree with John Swinburne of the SSCUP about the way in which “Alex Salmond for First Minister” appeared at the top the regional ballot paper. Swinburne says in the Herald yesterday, “If you saw Alex Salmond’s name on the top of the list you would presume that you’re voting for him, wouldn’t you? Of course you would. It’s sharp practice.” I am of the view that registered political parties should not be allowed to name individuals in any of the party descriptions they register for use on ballot paper. One for the Electoral Commission I think, but having had dealings with that organisation in the past, don’t hold your breath!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Ure Street

I have been advised of the following by the City Council :

"Dundee City Council propose to make an Order under Section 14(1) of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 for the purpose of facilitating drainage connection works. The Order is expected to be in force for two weeks from 14 May 2007.

Its maximum duration in terms of the Act is eighteen months.

The effect of the Order is to prohibit temporarily all vehicular traffic Ure Street at a point 100 metres or thereby south of Blackness Road.

Access to premises will be maintained from either end of Ure Street.

An alternative route will be available via Bellfield Street and Ure Street.

Please forward any comments you may have regarding this proposal to Mark Cobb, Network Management Team, Planning and Transportation Department, Tayside House, Crichton Street, Dundee, no later than five working days prior to the commencement date.
If you have any queries please contact Mr Cobb on 433168."

Friday, May 04, 2007

And ... thanks to all for their congratulations today ...

It has been a lovely day with lots of phone calls and e-mails from residents pleased at the West End Ward result yesterday - many thanks to you all. I paste a few of these below :
'Congratulations on your re-election! You deserve a wee holiday now i think... ;-) '
'Warm congratulations, Fraser! Already I've heard from several people who are as delighted as I am that you are back in. Well done topping the poll! We really do appreciate how hard you work for the West End. Long may that be the case. Hope you and Janet will have a chance to celebrate this weekend! '
'Congratulations, Fraser, on topping the poll in the West End! As I am sure you know, this is because you have represented us effectively 24/7 and throughout the year. Rather different from the candidates who spring up like mushrooms before an election, and are virtually never heard of thereafter. I hope you will however find time to relax this weekend and enjoy your success. '

Thank you, West End!

Can I thank everyone in the West End who voted for me yesterday! I am delighted to have topped the poll in the West End Ward, ahead of Labour, SNP and Conservative (who got the 2nd, 3rd and 4th slots in the ward representation).
A few more thank you's if you don't mind! Firstly to Janet who was (as always) my superb agent (wife also!!) and campaign organiser; to all Dundee LibDems who helped as well as the many local residents who lent their time to help me on a personal basis; and to all my family and friends.
To top the poll in the large new STV ward was a super result and I'll continue to work extremely hard for everyone in the West End.
I'm also delighted that Helen Dick, my council colleague and sister-in-law, was re-elected in Strathmartine Ward. Although we had no further gains this year, we came exceptionally close in wards like Coldside, Maryfield, East End and Lochee. Although it is disappointing for candidates to be eliminated at the very final stage, we made staggering progress in these wards. On a day that doesn't see a large national swing to the SNP (ie next time!) we will see LibDem gains across the City. Also pleased at the progress at parliamentary level in both Dundee constituencies; it is good to see progress when being squeezed in a close race could have happened but didn't.
I was asked by the press on leaving the Count what I felt about the results. I said that the Liberal Democrats in Dundee will work in co-operation with other councillors for the good of the City, just as we have always done.
We have a number of priorities, indicated in our manifesto - including a modernised and slimmed down structure for the Council (both politically and departmentally), tight control of Council Tax levels, properly tackling the issue of unadopted pavments and graffiti in the City, expansion of recycling facilities and ensuring the continued provision of quality services by Dundee City Council - to name just a few. You can download our manifesto by clicking on the headline above.
I look forward to working for the West End and our City over the next four years.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Polling Day approaches!

As I am doing up to 15 hours a day campaigning across the West End in the run-up to polling day on Thursday, updating the blog may be problematic before Friday!
However, I print below a message to the people of the West End, and thank everyone for such a positive and warm reception to what has proved to be the most enjoyable election campaign I have been involved in!

Dear Resident

The first duty of any councillor is to provide a service to all the people in his or her Ward.

Since being elected as one of the West End’s councillors in 2001, I have tried to show what this concept of service should mean. I have helped many hundreds of residents with issues and problems, and I have kept you in touch with what’s going on through regular FOCUS newsletters – now having reached its 60th edition.

If you re-elect me as your Councillor, I promise to carry on these services. I will be available at all times to listen to residents’ views and continue to deal efficiently with matters of local concern.

I hope I have shown you what a hard-working Councillor I have been – and will continue to be – for the West End. I hope you can put your trust in me and in the Liberal Democrat FOCUS Team.
Kind regards
Fraser