Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ninewells Hospital Parking Charges

There is an article in today's Courier (click on headline above to view) regarding the continuing - and, indeed, increasing - parking charges at Ninewells Hospital and I spoke on Radio Tay this morning about the issue. I made clear that SNP Ministers are shedding crocodile tears over the matter, having made little effort to tackle the issue of parking charges at Ninewells, subject to a PFI contract, whilst introducing free parking at other hospitals.

SNP Public Health Minister Shona Robison’s claim that she believes “NHS resources are best directed at patient care” is a weak excuse as it contrasts with SNP Ministers allowing for NHS resources being used to fund the abolition of charges at other hospitals.

It should be remembered that Nicola Sturgeon, the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Well-Being, claimed in September :

"I also expect those NHS Boards with car parks operated under PFI contracts to work as hard as they can to minimise this inconvenience to visitors by limiting or reducing their charges."

In contrast to SNP Ministers’ claims that they were instructing Health Boards to work to limit charges, the parking charge at Ninewells Hospital has actually increased since Nicola Sturgeon made her claim. What’s more £250 000 is now being spent on more charging machines and barriers at Ninewells so it is obvious there is no intention whatsoever to properly investigate the viability of removing the charges.

Not only are the parking charges a “tax on ill health” they also result in an overflow of cars into West End streets nearest to the hospital, causing inconvenience and annoyance to residents. It is obvious that SNP Ministers have failed Dundee on the hospital parking issues – the charges have simply increased under Ms Sturgeon’s and Ms Robison’s watch.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Nick Clegg's New Year Message

2009 must be a year of real change and of hope says Nick Clegg in his new year message.

Britain is facing a difficult year.

Every day, 200 families are now at risk of losing their homes, and three million people could be out of a job.

The government got us into this mess and haven't got the right ideas to get us out of it. The Conservatives want to do nothing - they wouldn't lift a finger to help.

As the New Year starts, it's time to do things differently.

There is a path to recovery.

Liberal Democrats will do things differently.

We'll get practical help to families who are struggling - more money in their pockets with big, permanent and fair tax cuts.

That way people will be able to afford the bills and get spending again.

And Liberal Democrats will put the economy back on track with a big, green investment programme.

Instead of wasting billions on a pointless VAT cut that makes little difference we would invest that money to cut your fuel bills, create thousands of jobs and deliver what our country needs for the future.

Warm homes, schools and hospitals, clean energy, public transport we can all be proud of.

I know we can fix the economic mess Britain's in. If only we do things differently for once. Instead of making the same old mistakes the same old parties have made for generations.

Both Labour and the Conservatives keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect something different to happen. They are parties of the past, prisoners of their own special interests.

Perhaps the greatest danger of today's recession is that it will mortgage the future of our children. We must prevent that from happening.

That's why in the first three months of this year, Liberal Democrats will be focusing on the help we can give to children and young families.

Good quality childcare for every family, so children can flourish and mothers and fathers can get out to work - or look for work - without worrying about the nursery or childminder fees.

Extra funding for children from deprived backgrounds, to help raise standards in schools for everyone.

And we'll be unveiling a pledge to reduce infant class sizes to 15 - so every child gets the individual attention they need to get the best start in life.

This is a time of crisis. But crisis can bring renewal. It can bring change.

Imagine a better Britain - where no-one is held back by their upbringing, everyone has the power to change things for the better, and anyone who struggles gets a helping hand.

A Britain with fair taxes and safe, properly run banks - so that everyone who works hard can make it. A Britain that switches to green energy so the planet is protected and new jobs are created. A Britain where every child is given the chance to succeed.

2009 must be a year of doing things differently. A year of real change. A year of hope.

And that's what the Liberal Democrats offer.

Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Christmas!

As in past years, the blog takes a short break over the festive period, so can I wish everyone in the West End, a very Happy Christmas and New Year. The photo above is of the West End Christmas Tree at Seabraes and the photo below is from the fireworks display during West End Christmas Week.

Productive bus talks

Yesterday, in my capacity as the City Council's Planning & Transport Convener, I met with Lawrence Davie, Director of Travel Dundee – together with the company’s Operations Manager and the City Council’s Acting Head of Transportation – to discuss the numerous complaints about Travel Dundee’s bus service changes introduced last month.

The meeting
was productive and that it had afforded the opportunity to discuss the complaints people from right across the City had raised about many of the service changes.

I am pleased to say that Travel Dundee accepts that a number of the bus changes have not been popular with people in parts of the City and I received assurances that the bus company is now seeking to address these.

There have, for example, been many complaints about the 15/17 service changes, particularly in the Whitfield section of the route, and Mr Davie said that, since his recent appointment as Director of Travel Dundee, he has been listening closely to these concerns and he is looking to bring forward proposals that will hopefully address the concerns in the very near future.

Having discussed the concerns raised with him
, I am confident we will hear the detail of any improvements by early January.

The bus company
will be writing to the local councillors for the area with details as soon as these are finalised and will also publicise improvements as soon as possible.

I was advised that Travel Dundee was looking to bring forward proposals with regard to the 1C service by the end of January and had indicated a “willingness to look again” at the change to the timetable and route of the 2A service to St John’s High School each morning, a complaint I have received from a number of West End residents. I also raised complaints about the cutting of the "West End part" of the 9X service from 15 to 30 minutes.

The bus company also indicated it was looking closely at
other complaints received.

Photocall at Magdalen House!

We had a lovely photocall at Magdalen House yesterday. As part of the West End Christmas Week, Greggs the Bakers very kindly donated 100 Christmas Pies, and the Christmas Week Committee decided to donate them to the folk at Magdalen House in Roseangle. See photo above!

Many thanks to the Courier, who covered the story in this morning's edition. The Evening Telegraph is to be publishing a photo of the "Christmas Pies Photocall!" - and - later - will also feature the home-made Raspberry and Strawberry Jam sales initiative to raise funds for the residents' social events fund.

Monday, December 22, 2008

I'll be Home for Christmas

Josh Groban

TACTRAN publishes transport strategy

TACTRAN, the Regional Transport Partnership for Tayside and Stirling, which I chair, today issued a news release about the publication of its Regional Transport Strategy - I reproduce this below :

"The Tayside and Central Scotland Transport Partnership (TACTRAN) has published its Regional Transport Strategy for the period 2008 – 2023. The Strategy covers the Angus, Dundee City, Perth & Kinross and Stirling Council areas.

TACTRAN Chair, Councillor Fraser Macpherson commented “The publication of our Regional Transport Strategy is the culmination of a huge amount of work by the Partnership over the past two years. Along with our partner Councils, and through extensive consultation with a wide range of key stakeholders, we have developed a Strategy that aims to support economic prosperity, improve access for our citizens and communities, and protect and enhance the environment. Improving quality of life, health and wellbeing, and opportunity in our cities, towns and deepest rural areas lies at the heart of this Strategy. Our priorities over the next 10 – 15 years include pressing for improvements to our strategic road and rail links, encouraging a shift towards more sustainable forms of transport, in particular walking, cycling and public transport, and working with the freight sector to encourage more sustainable movement of goods. Improving integration between transport modes and with other policy areas, particularly land use and health, are also key objectives of our Strategy.”

Referring to the Scottish Government’s recent announcement on the Strategic Transport Projects Review, Councillor Macpherson added “Many of the priorities our Strategy identifies have been acknowledged by Government in the recent Strategic Transport Projects Review. We are keen to work closely with Scottish Government, our Councils, the transport industry and other key stakeholders on bringing forward much needed efficiency, capacity and safety improvements on our strategic road and rail networks. Over the next 15 years we will undoubtedly face many challenges in seeking to ensure that our transport system supports a vibrant economy, whilst at the same time protecting our environment and contributing to Government targets on climate change. We believe this strategy offers an integrated and balanced approach to meeting these challenges and addressing the future transport and accessibility needs of our region and its citizens.”

He continued “We have recently completed work on developing sub-Strategies and Action Plans for taking forward the Buses, Walking & Cycling, Travel Information and Park & Ride elements of the Strategy, and these will be published early in 2009. We are also currently developing our RTS Delivery Plan, in consultation with partner Councils. This will set out the Partnership’s delivery priorities for the next 3 years, from 2009/10 – 2011/12, along with an indicative programme for the years beyond 2012. This is the subject of ongoing consultation with our partner Councils, with a view to publication of the finalised Delivery Plan in spring next year.”

The TACTRAN Regional Transport Strategy can be viewed and downloaded free of charge from the Partnership’s website at
www.tactran.gov.uk. Printed copies of the strategy are also available to purchase at a cost of £10 plus postage and packing. Contact TACTRAN on 01738 475775.

Background

TACTRAN is the statutory Regional Transport Partnership covering the Angus, Dundee City, Perth & Kinross and Stirling Council areas. TACTRAN has produced a Regional Transport Strategy (RTS), which sets out a vision for improving the region’s transport infrastructure, services and facilities over the 15 years to 2023.

The RTS has been shaped and informed by analysis of the trends and issues facing the region, and by widespread consultation with key stakeholders. The strategy was originally submitted for Ministerial approval in late March 2007, in line with statutory requirements. In early 2008 Scottish Government Ministers invited all 7 Regional Transport Partnerships to review and re-submit their strategies, in light of the new Scottish Government and Local Government Concordat. At the same time Partnerships were asked to remove specified schemes and interventions and place these in a separate RTS Delivery Plan. These revisions were duly completed during the spring of 2008 and a revised Strategy was submitted for approval in early May 2008. The core vision and general thrust of the Strategy was unchanged from that submitted for approval in March 2007. In late June 2008 the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change confirmed Ministerial approval of the Strategy and the finalised Strategy for publication was approved by the Partnership at its recent meeting on 28 October 2008.

TACTRAN is currently developing the RTS Delivery Plan, which will set out the Partnership’s delivery priorities for the 3 years from 2009/10 – 2011/12, with an indicative programme for the 10 – 12 year period beyond that.

Further information on TACTRAN and the Regional Transport Strategy can be viewed or downloaded free of charge from the Partnership’s website at
www.tactran.gov.uk or by calling 01738 475775. Copies of the published RTS are available to purchase at a cost of £10, plus postage and packing, or can be inspected free of charge at the Partnership’s Headquarters, Bordeaux House, 31 Kinnoull Street, Perth and will soon be available at all Public Libraries and Council public offices in the Angus, Dundee City, Perth & Kinross and Stirling Council areas.

Ends"

Magdalen Green

A beautiful winter's morning at Magdalen Green today.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Digital Radio in the West End

News on Friday from the BBC that "Radio 'could go digital in 2017'" indicated that :

"Radio listeners could have just nine years to switch to digital sets, a government-backed report has said. The Digital Radio Working Group (DRWG) says that by 2015, less than half of all radio listening could be via traditional FM or AM sets. It says that if DAB broadcasts reach enough of the country by then, a switch to digital would be possible by 2017."


(You can click on headline above to view more of the BBC news report on this).

The fundamental issue is the "reach enough of the country" bit, as I get frequent complaints from residents in parts of the West End that digital radio (DAB) broadcasts can't be picked up in parts of ward. Many of these complaints come from people who get their TV reception from the Tay Bridge relay transmitter, not the Angus main transmitter. As http://www.ukdigitalradio.com/coverage/ makes clear, relay transmitters do not carry DAB signals and the list of future transmitters at the UK Digital Radio site implies that this will not be resolved any time soon.

Digital radio transmissions have different issues from TV transmissions and although the large number of relay transmitters required for universal TV coverage is probably not fully required for digital radio, it is equally clear that there's gaps in DAB coverage that must be filled before analogue radio is switched off.

I'd be interested to hear from any West End resident who has had difficulty getting DAB radio signals - please e-mail me at digitalradio@frasermacpherson.org.uk.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Nick Clegg : The Liberal Democrats are changing Britain

Nick Clegg writes :

Dear Fraser

A year ago, I was elected as leader of our great party. It has been a challenging and exciting year. I am very proud that in that time we have made all the running on so many of the important issues facing us.

I am announcing our "Green Road out of the Recession", which outlines how a Liberal Democrat government would inject a green stimulus into the economy, both to provide jobs and investment now and to ensure our economy is sustainable in the future.

Our proposals include:

A five-year programme to insulate every school and hospital

Funding insulation and energy efficiency for a million homes, with a £1,000 subsidy for a million more

Building 40,000 extra zero-carbon social houses

Buying 700 new train carriages

Reopening old railway lines and stations, opening new ones, electrifying the Great Western and Midland mainlines and beginning the Liverpool light rail network

Installing energy and money saving smart meters in every home within five years

You can read more about our plans and download the full document on the Party website.

Thank you for your continuing support. Together we can take the fight to the other parties and change Britain for good.

Best Wishes for a Happy Christmas,
Nick

Catalyst Launch

Here's a few photographs from yesterday's unveiling of Catalyst, a new permanent art work at Greenmarket, by Dalziel and Scullion. I had the pleasure of introducing award winning journalist and broadcaster Lesley Riddoch, who officially launched Catalyst, and - as you can see below - assisted with the unveiling. A great turnout to the launch too. You can read the Council's news release on the launch beneath the photos and if you click on the headline above, you can access the article in the Scotsman about it.
Above : Lesley addressing the crowd, just before the unveiling
Above : Assisting Lesley with the unveiling

Above : Catalyst

Dundee City Council News Release :
ECO FRIENDLY SCUPLTURE

A groundbreaking new public artwork entitled 'CATALYST' is to be unveiled outside the Greenmarket Car Park in Dundee on Thursday (18) by broadcaster Lesley Riddoch.

The sculpture, designed by local based artists Matthew Dalziel and Louise Scullion, was commissioned by Dundee City Council and Dundee Contemporary Arts as part of the construction of the multi storey car park. It has taken two years to make and is the first of its kind in the UK and is also the first major public art piece for the cultural quarter in Dundee.

Also at the unveiling will be planning and transport convener Fraser Macpherson, Mike Galloway DCC director of planning, planning staff and the artists. Councillor Macpherson said "Public art has been an important part of the positive changes Dundee has undergone in the last 20 years. Many forget that Dundee was one of the very first cities in the UK to take public art seriously, and since 1982, has installed well over a hundred works throughout the city, creating interest and excitement in the environment. It is great to this continuing with a new exciting work by local artists Dalziel and Scullion."

Scottish artists Dalziel and Scullion explore the subject of ecology in many of their artworks and came across a type of concrete material that reacts with light to trigger the molecules of air borne pollutants, such as nitric oxides, carbon monoxide and sulphur monoxide to break apart and release oxygen back into the air.

Matthew said "This is the first time the material has been used in the UK. Not only does it perform this interesting transformation of the air, but used in this context, it also questions the greater influence that human behaviour is having on the Earth's climate and its ecosystems. It was originally formulated to be used as paving in congested urban areas to improve air quality, and while on one hand we were excited by this material as an imaginative solution to repair a social dilemma, we also recognised that it was typical of human invention to focus on the effect rather than the cause"

Catalyst takes the form of a life-sized car that is draped in a cloth, presented on an angled plinth inscribed with a scientific formula of the catalytic chemistry which is silently at work as the air around the car is in a continual state of change and transformation.

Louise Scullion said "It's an interesting time to be working as artists as it feels like there is a change in the air. In the wake of the current financial crisis, consumerism has never been more examined, and at a time ecological issues have taken a much more central position in our consciousness, environmental sustainability is no longer the topic of specialists and most people now recognise that our generation will play a critical role in shaping and adapting to an uncertain future."

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Post Office queues

Last night's "Evening Telegraph" featured an article regarding my concerns about the long queues at the GPO following the recent Post Office closures in the city, including Nethergate Post Office and Lochee Road Post Office in the West End. You can read the article by clicking on the headline above.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Jeff Buckley - Hallelujah

It is really rather difficult to choose between the Alexandra Burke X Factor winning cover of Hallelujah and Jeff Buckley's haunting version. Buckley's is probably remembered more because of its use as a moving tribute to 9/11, ironically coming four years after Buckley's untimely death at the age of just 30.

Anyway, the Alexandra version is below this video. Judge for yourself. They are different, but both rather good.

For the record (pardon the pun), KD Lang did an excellent cover, but I suspect she won't be No 3 in the Christmas Chart.

Alexandra Burke - Official Single - 'Hallelujah'

Comment above.

sQuid card

I have had a number of constituents mention the newly launched sQuid electronic purse. The e-purse can be used to pay for small value transactions like buying a cup of coffee, newspaper or packets of sweets.

sQuid is an independent company and chose to launch this service in Dundee due to the City Council's role as the lead authority for the National Entitlement Card (NEC).

Although sQuid issue their own card it can easily be added to an existing NEC and from this month forward new NECs that are issued will contain the sQuid product. One of the aims of the NEC is to reduce the number of cards a citizen needs to carry to access a range of services.

In a trial funded by the NEC, existing card holders in Dundee will receive a letter advising them how to add sQuid to their existing card. Where new cards are issued to school pupils or Abertay University students they will be advised that their new card contains the sQuid product. For a trial period Dundee Council facilities and Dundee Leisure facilities where practical will also take payment using the sQuid card.

sQuid has been recruiting local retailers throughout the city to their network of outlets that take sQuid payments. For example, a number of retailers in Nethergate are already taking the sQuid card. You can see a full list of the participants by clicking on the headline above.

sQuid is not a credit card and card holders do not require a bank account to qualify for a sQuid purse on their smartcard.

Customers can load cash up to a maximum of £100 on their card online or at one of the participating retail outlets and then use the card in place of cash.

Following a trial period of a year, City Councillors will receive a report on the implications for Dundee City Council continuing with the sQuid product and on the general success or otherwise of the electronic purse in relation to customer benefits, retailer service improvements and encouraging development of electronic services in the city.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

San Damiano

I have always liked this unlikely Christmas hit by Sal Solo (backed by choristers from the St Philip's Choir)from the 80s.

West End Christmas Week - winners' list

If you click on the headline above, you can see the list of winners of the shops and children's window spotting competitions from this year's Christmas Week. All winners have been notified and the attached notice will shortly appear on the Community Council Noticeboard on Perth Road near Union Place and at the Magdalen Green Notice Board opposite Windsor Street.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

TV Highlight of the Week

In the immortal words of Harry Hill, here's TV highlight of the week - no, its not the X Factor final tonight, but Eggheads - on BBC 2 at 5.40pm tonight.

The "Cube Rooters" team from Dundee
included Ian, our nephew, complete with this exchange with Jeremy Vine :

Ian : "I know everything, yes."

Jeremy Vine : "We've never had anyone say that before."

Ian : "It's going to backfire."

And so it proved ... but a spirited effort by the team from Dundee, nonetheless!

You can see the programme on BBC iPlayer for the next few days by clicking on the headline above.

Latest fundraising initiative by Riverside Boys!

This morning, I was down at HMS Discovery to support the latest fundraising initiative by the "Riverside Boys" West End junior football team. The boys and their parents are undertaking a sponsored walk across the Tay Road Bridge today raise funds for the team and, as you can see above, despite today's rainy weather, there was a good turnout of team members!

Until Riverside Boys was formed, there was no West End Under 10s team that covering the whole area of the West End and its been good to see the youngsters from various of our local primary schools get involved in the team. The team has had good support from the local community, including strips sponsorship by Barnetts Motor Group and its really good to see the team go from strength to strength.

Friday, December 12, 2008

On Radio Tay News - Peddie Street issue

I was on Radio Tay news this morning welcoming the Closure Order on a flat in Peddie Street, following complaints from residents about anti-social behaviour. I am very pleased residents will get some respite from the ant-social behaviour during the festive period.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Busy week thus far!

A very busy week thus far, starting with a day job meeting at Glasgow City Council on Monday, followed by council committees that evening.

Apart from the Planning & Transport Committee I chair, there were a number of committee meetings that night. At the Education Committee, the SNP group came under fire for the failure of the Scottish Futures Trust to deliver capital projects (actually, anything really). Both the Education Convener and I reminded the SNP that Alex Salmond promised to match the previous administration's building programme "brick for brick" - I pointed out that the SNP Futures Trust has not actually delivered a single brick - Ministers are about to run out of new schools (the projects of the last administration) to open. We in Dundee are anxious to progress further new school projects but we need Scottish Government to get the act together.

On Tuesday morning, I chaired the TACTRAN (regional transport partnership) Board in Perth. This included a presentation by the Director of Network Rail. Later I attended a planning appeal site visit by the Scottish Government Reporter to Balgay Bowling Club. I previously successfully moved refusal of an application for a mobile phone mast here, given the adverse impact on residential amenity. On Tuesday evening, I attended an enjoyable and interesting West End Community Council meeting.

Yesterday was spent on "day job" activity in Edinburgh - at the Scottish Parliament and the Valuation Joint Board.

Today, dealt with numerous constituents' issues and appeared on STV "North Tonight" on the proposed A90 improvements around Dundee, as proposed by the Strategic Transport Project Review.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

STPR Announcement

Today saw the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change announce the outcomes of the Strategic Transport Projects Review. There was some good news for our region in this, and although not every project the Tayside & Central Scotland Transport Partnership (TACTRAN) would wish to see included was there (so far as one can see thus far - it is a huge read), the positives include park and ride for Dundee and improving the A90 around the City. I reproduce tonight's news release from TACTRAN below :

The Tayside and Central Scotland Transport Partnership (TACTRAN) has welcomed today’s Government announcement of the outcome of the Strategic Transport Projects Review (STPR).

TACTRAN Chair, Councillor Fraser Macpherson, commented, "TACTRAN welcomes this statement on Scottish Government’s priorities for investing in improving Scotland’s transport infrastructure for the period beyond 2012. We are keen to work with Government and Transport Scotland to ensure that improvements to our transport systems are delivered as soon as practically possible.

"Our region lies at the heart of Scotland’s strategic road and rail network and improving passenger and freight connectivity, by removing bottlenecks on our roads and improving rail and other public transport connections and capacity are key priorities of our Regional Transport Strategy.

"We will be reviewing the detailed information Government has published today. However a number of projects highlighted in the Minister’s statement, including improvements to the A90 at Dundee; improving the A9 between Dunblane and Perth and northwards to Inverness; increased capacity on the rail network with improved connections to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness; and the need for a Park & Ride strategy covering locations including Dundee and Bannockburn, are all identified in our own RTS."

He added, "We look forward to having further discussions with the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change on the priorities to be taken forward under the STPR in the New Year, and how TACTRAN can play a positive role in assisting this.

"It is clearly essential that future investment addresses the needs of all parts of Scotland, including improving connectivity and promoting more sustainable travel choices north of the Central Belt.

"Improving the efficiency and capacity of the strategic road and public transport networks within and through the TACTRAN region will benefit not only our own residents and businesses, but also those located in the north and north east of Scotland, so should be viewed as high priorities for Government.” TACTRAN Director, Eric Guthrie added “Earlier in the STPR process we indicated to Transport Scotland a range of improvements we feel should be addressed as national priorities. These included removing existing bottlenecks on the A90 at Dundee, and on other parts of the trunk road network such as at Keir Roundabout on A9/M9 south of Dunblane; safety improvements on the A9 west and north of Perth; improving road and rail access to our ports at Dundee, Montrose and Perth to encourage more sustainable movement of freight; delivering further improvements to our internal and external rail connections; and modernising and expanding the strategic transport hubs at Dundee, Perth and Stirling.

"We have recently developed and will shortly be publishing our Regional Park & Ride Strategy, which identifies proposals for introducing strategic Park & Ride sites on the approaches to Dundee and also at Bannockburn.

"We are pleased
that many of these projects have been identified within today’s announcement and will want to discuss with Government how these and our other priorities, which support the National Transport Strategy, might be addressed within the framework set out by the Minister today."

Sunday, December 07, 2008

December Community Council Update

I have today launched my December 2008 update to West End Community Council.

Subjects covered include :


• Refuse Collection


• Bus Service Complaints


• Lighting Issue


• Bandstand Repairs


• Christmas Week Success


The Community Council meeting takes place this Tuesday at 7pm at Logie St John's (Cross) Church Hall.

You can download a copy of the update by clicking the headline above.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Positive progress on local television provision for the future


I was pleased to see the Scottish Parliament last Thursday pass the following motion - after considerable debate - on Ofcom's Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) Review :

"That the Parliament notes that 4 December 2008 is the final date for submissions to Ofcom's Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) Review, Preparing for the Digital Future;

recognises that, while broadcasting is reserved, there is a need for a healthy, competitive Scottish-based television programme-making sector outwith the BBC, notwithstanding that organisation's historic, respected and pivotal role in Scottish broadcasting;

recognises the role of STV as the only remaining Scottish-based commercial PSB provider;

prefers Ofcom's enhanced evolution option with a commercial TV channel continuing to provide PSB for Scotland as part of a wider UK network;

recognises that STV's survival as a PSB provider is at risk in the current economic climate, particularly since ITV is now advocating a single UK-wide brand, and calls on Ofcom to explore all options to ensure that there is PSB competition for BBC Scotland in the nation's rapidly changing broadcasting landscape;

further believes that all Scottish residents should have access to the full range of broadcasting following digital switchover, and calls on Ofcom to ensure that all relay transmitters are capable of transmitting the full spectrum of free-to-view broadcasting and that the 7th Mux is enabled in Scotland."

Full marks to Iain Smith, Liberal Democrat MSP for North East Fife who responsible for the final paragraph in the motion being added, calling on Ofcom to ensure that all viewers get the full range of digital channels, whether or not they are served by a main transmitter, and that the 7th Mux is enabled, vital if we are to have local television provision across Scotland.

Also, an excellent contribution from Ted Brocklebank, Conservative MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, who said,

"We firmly believe that a digital channel, partly funded by commercials, could also allow for the development of city and local TV, which is widely available throughout Europe, with Spain alone having 1,000 channels. Such broadcasting is also highly successful in America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. It has been suggested that up to 16 local TV channels could be viable in Scotland, which could provide up to 330 new jobs. However, we think that the Government should urgently engage with Ofcom to ensure that the spectrum is available for the roll-out of a vital new digital service."

The Fife and Tayside Local TV working group, with which I have taken an active part (click on headline above to view more) has participated in Ofcom's consultation and we hope that the regulator will respond positively to the consultation responses, the Scottish Parliament's motion and the calls for local television provision across Scotland - a real plus that could be gained from the digital switch-over.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Back from the snow ...

The lack of blog entries since last Sunday is explained by the fact that I have been away most of this week running a Conference in Crieff (with the "day job").

As you can see (above), Crieff Hydro Hotel was a beautiful, winter wonderland during the conference, although it was all a bit touch and go as to how many speakers, exhibitors and delegates would make it there. In the event, almost everybody did and the event was a tremendous success.

Here's me pictured (above right) at the event. Now back in Dundee - and in time for my surgery last night and a meeting the City Council had with local MSPs this morning.

On another matter entirely, Scottish LibDem leader Tavish Scott MSP is now on Facebook - if you are a Facebook user, click on the headline above to view.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A cold St Andrew's Day!

With thanks to River Crescent Residents' Association, I had a thoroughly enjoyable time today at their afternoon tea at the Botanic Garden - as you can see from the pictures, a bright but extremely cold day!
The rest of the weekend has been spent on "day job" work as I am running a large conference during the forthcoming week, plus catching up on constituents' phone calls and e-mails following the couple of days away I had at Dumfries last week.

I spoke
on the "Tay Talk In" on Radio Tay this morning, partly to thank Ally Bally for switching on the West End Christmas Lights last Wednesday but also to speak about the concerns raised regarding Travel Dundee bus service changes introduced earlier this month. I am hoping to meet the new Managing Director of Travel Dundee about this in the very near future.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Latest update

I've spent the last couple of days in Dumfries with the "day job" - including the now infamous annual Chinese Karaoke night - as you can see (below), my photographic skills were at their absolute best on Thursday evening!
Before leaving on Thursday, I was delighted to attend the Friends of Magdalen Green's visit to meet the Lord Provost to promote their super charity calendar. You can read the "Evening Telegraph" report of the event by clicking on the headline above and there's more detail about the calendar at http://www.magdalengreen.btik.com/p_Photo_Competition.ikml

Tomorrow is St Andrew's Day and the various event on Dundee are listed at http://www.scotland.org/standrewsday/around-scotland/dundee.html.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Cleghorn Street

I am advised by the City Council that traffic will be prohibited on Cleghorn Street between Benvie Road and Lochee Road next week due to Scottish Water valve replacement works.

The road closure will start on Monday 1st December for a maximum of 5 working days and the alternative route is via Benvie Road, Fyffe Street and Polepark Road.

This won't
affect pedestrian access and further information can be obtained from the City Council on Dundee 433168.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A video clip from the Christmas Concert tonight!

Christmas Concert and Lights Switch On - a great night in the West End!

A super turnout of around 300 residents for the West End "Lights On at Dundee West" Christmas Concert and Lights Switch On and Fireworks Display tonight - here's a few photos from tonight!
Above : Fraser - fake police officer for the night - the organisers had to wear fluorescent jackets!Above : A large attendance at the concert!
Above : Fireworks!
Above : Mains of Fintry Pipe Band play at the concert!
Above : Another photo of the Pipe Band!

Offensive graffiti removed

A committee member of the Community Spirit recently mentioned to me his concerns about offensive graffiti daubed on the City Road boundary of the Friary.

I reported
this to the City Council's Waste Management Department and was pleased to learn today that the graffiti has been removed.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tomorrow's Christmas Week Events!

Just a reminder that tomorrow (Wednesday) sees the West End Christmas Lights being switched on in Dundee.

At 6.15pm in Dundee West Church, this year’s West End Christmas Concert – “Lights On at Dundee West” - takes place.

There will be musical contributions from all local primary and secondary schools. A welcome to the Concert will come from Lord Provost John Letford and the Concert will be hosted by Rev Andrew Greaves.

At 7pm, the West End Christmas Lights will be switched on at Seabraes by Ally Bally of Radio Tay, ably assisted by Dame Trott and Fairy Twinkletoes from the Downfield Musical Society Pantomime “Jack and the Beanstalk”. A fireworks display will take place thereafter.

We are also delighted that the Mains of Fintry Pipe Band will play and there will also be Christmas Carol singing from the DARE students’ choir.

There will again be a spectacular fireworks display after the lights switch-on – and we would like to thank the West End shops and other businesses whose financial support has made the fireworks display possible.

This is the eighth year we have run a West End Christmas Week and we are all looking forward to the events. It is really good that all the local schools are taking part and we hope local residents will come along to the activities.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Glamis Road east footpath

The footway in Glamis Road on the east side - adjacent to Balgay Cemetery - is in poor condition.

I have received complaints from residents about a problem of the surface erosion from rain here, and at the corner of Glamis Road and Elliot Road, it is exacerbated by the fact that rain water runs out of the cemetery gate at this location.

I have
been in touch with the City Council about the issue and am pleased to note that this section of Glamis Road is in this year's unadopted footway programme with an expected start date early in the new calendar year, although this may be brought forward dependant on winter service commitments.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

West End Christmas Week launched!

This morning, I firstly attended the Dundee West Church Guild Christmas Coffee Morning - see above - extremely well attended and a great atmosphere!

Thereafter, at 11am, the Lord Provost officially opened the West End Christmas Week, at the Community Safety Event at Blackness Fire Station - with input from numerous organisations including Tayside Fire and Rescue, Tayside Police, Trading Standards, West End Community Council, Community Spirit Action Group, Community Safety Partnership and others. A couple of photos from the event are below.



Don't forget - on Wednesday at 6.15pm in Dundee West Church, this year’s West End Christmas Concert – “Lights On at Dundee West” - takes place.

As well as musical contributions from all local primary and secondary schools, there will be a welcome to the Concert will come from Lord Provost John Letford and the Concert will be hosted by Rev Andrew Greaves.

Later, at 7pm, the West End Christmas Lights will be switched on at Seabraes by Ally Bally of Radio Tay, ably assisted by Dame Trott and Fairy Twinkletoes from the Downfield Musical Society Pantomime “Jack and the Beanstalk”. There will then be a super fireworks display and musical contributions from the Mains of Fintry Pipe Band and Christmas Carol singing from the DARE students’ choir.

All residents are very welcome and we look forward to seeing you there!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Affordable Housing

Following his visit to Dundee earlier this week during which he visited a housing association project, Tavish Scott has criticised the Scottish Government’s record on housing, urging Ministers to take real action rather than relying on spin.

Tavish said, “Affordable housing is in short supply in Scotland. But this SNP Government has slashed Housing Association Grant (HAG). Ministers brag about a multi-million pound funding boost for affordable housing, but have only allocated a tiny fraction of what they promised. They will not meet housing targets or the needs of people in Dundee and across Scotland.

“20,000 jobs are at stake if the Government doesn’t change its mind and get the investment moving.

“It’s time the SNP got serious about housing. Spin simply isn’t good enough. It won’t put a roof over people’s heads or save jobs.”

I am pleased that Tavish is highlighting
this issue - the SNP government slashed HAG for Dundee Housing Associations by millions this year - by 46% to be precise - and this shows the SNP's claims about increasing funding affordable housing to be spin rather than reality.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

West End Christmas Week Next Week - all the details!

This year’s West End Christmas Week takes place next week and will be launched this Saturday (22nd November) with a West End Community Safety Event, taking place at Blackness Fire Station on Blackness Road between 11am and 3pm.

This family safety event is hosted by the West End Community Council and Community Spirit Action Group and all local residents are invited to come along.

Next Wednesday, 26th November, at 6.15pm in Dundee West Church, this year’s West End Christmas Concert – “Lights On at Dundee West” - takes place. There will be musical contributions from all local primary and secondary schools. A welcome to the Concert will come from Lord Provost John Letford and the Concert will be hosted by Rev Andrew Greaves.

At 7pm, the West End Christmas Lights will be switched on at Seabraes by Ally Bally of Radio Tay, ably assisted by Dame Trott and Fairy Twinkletoes from the Downfield Musical Society Pantomime “Jack and the Beanstalk”. A fireworks display will take place thereafter.

We are also delighted that the Mains of Fintry Pipe Band will play and there will also be Christmas Carol singing from the DARE students’ choir.

There will again be a spectacular fireworks display after the lights switch-on – and we would like to thank the West End shops and other businesses whose financial support has made the fireworks display possible.

There is a children’s window spotting competition and a Shoppers’ Prize Draw, along with a whole host of other activities.

This is the eighth year we have run a West End Christmas Week and we are grateful to everyone in the area who has helped and contributed – it will be a great week and we hope local residents will support the events taking place.

You can download the flyer about Christmas Week by clicking on the headline above.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Scottish LibDem Leader visits Dundee Housing Projects

I accompanied Tavish Scott MSP, Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, during his visit to Dundee yesterday afternoon to view two innovative housing projects in the City as part of his national focus on the need to invest in affordable housing in Scotland.

Tavish visited Servite Housing in Kirkton and Dundee Sun City House in Whitfield.


He is pictured (right) viewing the Combined Heat and Power (CHP) system at the Servite Housing Development.

The development, which takes in mainly Keswick Terrace and Ashmore Street, consists of a total of 34 units, ranging from flats which are designed for both general and wheelchair use to two-storey detached villas with garages.

The CHP system gives far superior use of fuel as it produces energy along with the normal production of heat. Any excess energy goes into the National Grid and accreditation is given. This means that tenants’ fuel bills are reduced because of the improved efficiency of the system and the savings on energy costs. The new development also incorporates the use of solar panels which further help to cut both costs and the environmental footprint.

Tavish also visited the highly impressive Dundee Sun City House, where he was interviewed by both STV and Radio Tay.

The Sun City House provides a focus for demonstration, education, advice and information about domestic scale renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainable construction to households and the general public in Dundee and throughout central and north east Scotland.

Unlike most “eco-house” type demonstration projects, the Sun City House is not new build, but a major refurbishment and remodelling of a poorly constructed and thermally inefficient janitor’s house built in the 1960s.

It aims to showcase technologies, materials and methods of construction that can be retrofitted to existing housing stock, where the major challenge lies in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the domestic sector in the UK. It acts as a shop window to offers ideas to everyone, on every income, to help them reduce their home’s impact on the environment, be it low energy lighting, a solar water heating system or a sun space extension.

Two tremendously interesting and informative visits and good to see Tavish back in Dundee so soon after his previous visit to Dundee last month.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

West End Christmas Week approaches!

Yesterday saw the erection of the West End Christmas Tree at Seabraes, in preparation for the Lights Switch On on Wednesday of next week! See photo right.

I'll be writing an update on all the West End Christmas Week planned activities later this week.

We are having our
final planning meeting tomorrow.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Bus Service 2A - an update

On 7th November (see http://www.dundeewestend.com/2008/11/further-bus-concerns.html) I mentioned that I had asked the City Council's Acting Head of Transportation to meet with Travel Dundee regarding concerns raised with me about the 2A bus service. Today's Courier gives an update on the situation - click on headline above to view.

The 2A service has had its route altered, now missing out Blackness Avenue for example, and not only do the various route changes mean that numerous pupils no longer have the service passing near to their homes, parents have also complained to me that the bus is now failing to reach the school in time for the start of the school day.

Parents have complained that because the bus is not getting to the school until around 9.10am – too late for the start of registration classes – pupils on the 2A now have to get off the bus at a stop closer to the Stack Leisure Park and walk from there to the school, crossing a busy street at the peak of morning traffic, and they are lucky to get to school just on time before the bell rings. The previous 2A service reached the school in plenty time for the start of the school day.

City Council officials have now raised the concerns with Travel Dundee at a meeting last week. The company said it was monitoring the situation but I feel that early action to revert to the old route and timings is vital.

I am now making arrangements through the City Council’s Acting Head of Transportation to meet with the Managing Director of Travel Dundee to discuss this service and also learn of progress the bus company has made in terms of its response to the numerous councillors’ concerns about services across the City that were raised at a meeting with the bus company last month.

Travel Dundee did promise feedback in relation to these concerns and I am anxious to see what progress the company is making in terms of addressing these.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Latest on Local TV

Back in September (see http://www.dundeewestend.com/2008/09/future-of-scottish-public-broadcasting.html) I lamented the impending demise of Border TV, with Ofcom appearing to accept that the ITV proposed merger between Border and Tyne Tees news should go ahead.

As I said at the time,

"For ITV, of course, read ITV England and Wales, and the suggestion of the Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway getting its 'local' news from a studio in Gateshead is unacceptable.

No wonder people in the Borders are up in arms about the proposal. Borders LibDem MP Michael Moore said the recommendations were 'made by people stuck in London offices who fail to understand the importance of regional news and diversity.'"

So, it is good to see the people of the Borders fight back by moving forward with their own local television provision. Last weekend, the Herald covered the news that,

"When the analogue television transmitter in Selkirk was turned off last week, there was one local group with a better reason than most to celebrate the change to completely digital television.

And that was the small group of Borderers that plans to take the free signal, or spectrum, cleared up by the death of analogue television and use it to set up its own television station.

... rather than be left in the lurch with a second-class service - and driven on by the fact that the region has just seen the very first of all the analogue transmitter turn-offs as the UK moves towards complete digital television in 2012 - a group of local people has decided it can do the broadcasting job perfectly well itself.

Alasdair Hutton, Convener of the Scottish Borders Council - and head of the local television steering group - said it has received a warm response from the Westminster secretary of state for culture, media and sport, Andy Burnham. He said he has also had meetings with the head of Ofcom Scotland, Vicki Nash, and has received an equally enthusiastic response from the regulator."

You can read the full article by clicking on the headline above.

Here in Tayside & Fife, we have a similar local TV campaign, in which I have taken an active part (see www.fifetaysidelocaltv.com) and I am delighted to see progress in the Borders. The switch to digital provides a unique opportunity for the future of local television output and I hope the opportunity is not missed.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Friends of the University of Dundee Botanic Garden - Winter Talk

The first talk of the winter season entitled "Change in the Tay Estuary and its catchment" will be given by Professor John McManus, Emeritus Professor of Geology, University of St Andrews who, when he was at the University of Dundee, did an extensive study of the Tay Estuary.

The talk is open to
all and will be held in the Education Centre at the Botanic Garden on Wednesday 19th November at 7pm (note change of starting time).

Friday, November 14, 2008

Airport bird scaring noise complaints

I was interviewed on STV news tonight about residents' complaints about the noise from Dundee Airport, caused by bird scaring activity. The Courier featured the story this morning (click on headline above to read this article).


I have spoken with the airport manager about the issue and he has assured me that the bird hazard control at Dundee Airport will be carried out so as to cause the minimum disturbance as possible. He e-mailed me as follows:

Bird Hazard Control at Dundee Airport

As part of our commitment to be a good neighbour I am writing to advise you of the bird hazard control measures that we are undertaking at the airport.

Airport staff are now more proactive with regard to bird scaring duties on and around the aerodrome. Bird numbers of certain species are seasonally on the increase and are a potential hazard to aircraft and the safety of those onboard. It is therefore important that we take appropriate steps, in line with our statutory obligations as the aerodrome licensee, to mitigate this risk.

The measures being taken to deter birds from the airport include personnel using a bird scaring pistol, acoustic scaring devices and bird scaring rockets.

We are conscious of the proximity of residential areas to the airport and our staff are instructed that scaring operations should, wherever possible, be carried out so as to cause the minimum disturbance as possible. However, due to the hours that the airport operates and the type of equipment that is necessary for this task some disturbance is inevitable.

I therefore ask for your understanding in relation to any disturbance you experience. Our aim is to ensure the safety of the travelling public using Dundee Airport in line with our statutory safeguarding duties as the airport operator.

Yours sincerely

Graeme Bell
Airport Manager

Thursday, November 13, 2008

www.dundeeadvice.org

I thought it would be useful to highlight the very useful www.dundeeadvice.org site - an extremely useful way for people to find details on the various agencies - including the City Council - offering benefits and money advice as well as contact details and the services they offer.

It is good to see a co-ordinated approach to letting Dundonians have access to information about new and existing services using a straightforward search facility.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tuesday update

A bus Tuesday which - apart from a long day on 'day job' activity (I'm running a Conference this week!) - included:

* A meeting with one of the Council's solicitors regarding finalisation of the City Council's Statement of Case in relation to a forthcoming planning inquiry (where I moved refusal of a planning application which was not in the interests of the West End).

* I attended the Remembrance Day commemoration service in the City Square.

* I attended a meeting of the Balgay Stakeholders' Group which includes Friends of Balgay, Leisure and Communities staff and West End councillors - it meets quarterly to look at issues around protecting and enhancing Balgay Hill and Park.

* Lastly, I attended
the monthly West End Community Council meeting and updated the meeting on how our (now advanced) planning for the forthcoming 2008 West End Christmas Week is going.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Hawkhill - north footpath

Some months ago, I highlighted to the City Council the need for footpath repairs to the north side of Hawkhill, a bit east of the Sinderins junction. It is near to a bus stop and residents, especially elderly bus passengers, were concerned about its condition particularly when alighting when alighting from the bus.

I am pleased that these
repairs have now been carried out; a minor but welcome improvement.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Invergowrie Drive - temporary road closure

I have received from the City Council the following temporary road closure notice. Having spoken with the Planning & Transportation Department about it, I am assured that, although it is for a maximum of four days, it is hoped that, weather permitting, the works will be completed in a maximum of two days. During the temporary closure, the 69 bus service will have to be re-routed via Glamis Road :

THE ROAD TRAFFIC REGULATION ACT 1984 : SECTION 14(1)

THE DUNDEE CITY COUNCIL AS TRAFFIC AUTHORITY being satisfied that traffic on the road should be prohibited by reason of tree felling works being carried out HEREBY PROHIBIT the driving of any vehicle in Invergowrie Drive (between its junction with Perth Road and the South Side of its junction with Menzieshill Road), Dundee.

This notice comes into effect on Tuesday 11 November 2008 for 4 working days.

Pedestrian thoroughfare will be maintained on the west footway only of Invergowrie Drive at the area adjacent to the works.

Access to premises will be maintained where possible.

A diversion route is available via Perth Road/Glamis Road/Glamis Drive/Invergowrie Drive.

For further information contact (01382) 433168.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

West End Community Council Update for November

I have today launched my November update to West End Community Council.

Subjects covered include :

• Riverside Avenue/Drive Roundabout

• Union Place

• Hogweed

• Invergowrie Drive

• Dog Bin : Seymour Street

• Further Bus Service Concerns

• Pavement adoption

• West End Parking Update

• West End Christmas Week 2008

• Airport Noise Complaints

The Community Council meeting takes place this Tuesday at 7pm at Logie St John's (Cross) Church Hall.

You can download a copy of the update by clicking on the headline above.

Remembrance Sunday

We Shall Remember Them

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Congratulations Ros!

Delighted at Ros Scott's victory today in the Liberal Democrat Presidential campaign. The votes were as follows :

Ros Scott 20,736 votes (72%)
Lembit Opik 6,247 votes (22%)
Chandila Fernando 1,799 votes (6%)

Ros takes over as Party President on 1st January 2009 and I've no doubt she'll be a super, dynamic President of the Party.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Further bus concerns

There has recently been considerable concern raised across the City by changes to Travel Dundee bus routes and timetables, introduced on 2nd November.

As City Council Planning & Transport Convener, I recently chaired a meeting of City Councillors and a representative of the bus company at which councillors from across the City highlighted constituents' concerns about various services. In the West End, the route of Service Number 14 and cuts to the frequency of Service Number 2 were raised.

I have this week been contacted by parents in the West End, whose children attend St John's High School. Their complaint is about Service Number 2A in the morning, immediately before the start of the school day. The bus is now missing out Blackness Avenue and arrives later at the school - not in time for the start of school.

I have raised this issue with the City Council's Acting Head of Transportation, who will be raising the matter with the bus company at a meeting on Monday.