Friday, February 29, 2008

Scottish Liberal Democrat Conference - Aviemore

I've not made it to Conference this weekend (I'm deputising for the City Council Leader at an event at Dundee FC tomorrow and haven't yet mastered the ability to be in two places at once!) but the BBC has good coverage on-line (including a Q&A with Nicol Stephen MSP - click on headline to view) and Conference highlights at :


Black Street and Blackness Avenue

I've recently approached the City Council calling for an improvement to the play area in Black Street. It lacks play equipment (as the photo - right - shows) and has in the past been subject to vandalism. Last year, bonfires were lit on the tarmac surface, causing damage (see below).

I have been speaking with a number of residents in the Black Street, Cleghorn Street and Benvie Road area recently and they felt that it was a waste of what could be a decent facility for local children and youths.

I have also had a chat with the community policeman about the area and we both feel that it wouldn’t take much to undertake some repair to the surface to make it useable for football and with some white markings, a reasonable football area could be created. A couple of portable goalposts could be stored when not in use in the nearby Mitchell Street Centre.

The area also needs a bit of a tidy but with quite minimal work, a usable facility for youth football can be created. It would be good to see the area looking a bit less tired and being put to better use.

The playpark is in the ownership of the City Council’s Economic Development Department and I have approached the department for talks on the matter.

On another matter, the Blackness Area Residents' Association has been calling for a better bus bay in Blackness Avenue (on the north side half way down) so the bus can get properly beside the pavement - this is helpful for the mainly elderly passengers who alight there. I have been in discussion with the City Council about this and am pleased to say that the improved bay has now been painted.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Meeting with Scottish Hydro Electric

This morning, I met with the Head of Operations and the Operations Manager of Scottish and Southern Energy (Hydro Electric) following the incident last Friday that resulted in the tragic electrocution of a family pet dog.

The Hydro Electric representatives had indicated that their technical examination was not yet complete but likely to be so very soon. They further indicated that the company was willing for the incident and its actions to be scrutinised by the independent Health & Safety Executive and would fully co-operate. This is something I welcome as it is extremely important that this terrible incident is investigated independently.

The company also indicated that it would advise me and my constituents of the outcomes of their own investigations and of “learning points” (as they put it) that are to be actioned. They also said that they would act on any recommendations from an independent HSE investigation and they would wish to meet with my constituents to discuss.

A decision by the Health & Safety Executive as to their intention to invesigate should now be imminent and I am contacting HSE for an update on this.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

More on Tait's Lane and graffiti update

As many will have read in the media, I have asked the Health & Safety Executive to look into the circumstances surrounding the terrible events that led to the death of a family pet last Friday. As I explained on North Tonight on STV, an independent examination of the circumstances is vital. Scottish Hydro Electric has asked to meet with me tomorrow morning and I have agreed, subject to the reassurance that they are also updating the dog's owners. There has been great concern in the community about what happened.

On a different matter, last month I raised the issue of significant graffiti on Riverside Drive (click on headline to view the original story and extent of graffiti) and delighted at the improvement - see right - all credit to the City Council on this.

And thanks too to Network Rail, who tackled the graffiti I raised earlier this month near the rail line near to Riverside Place/River Crescent - as reported in today's Courier.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Democracy isn't Desk Bound

A month on from the publication of the Review of Electoral Systems, where’s the ongoing process that the Labour Westminster Government promised? Where are the opportunities for public involvement? Nothing has gone beyond the confines of Whitehall desks yet. No voter has yet been asked for their experience of elections.


From "Make Votes Count":

"The Government has tried to review how elections work from the comfort of their Whitehall desks, without ever actually going out and asking voters about their opinions or experiences. Democracy isn't deskbound. The public deserves a real say in the evaluation of different voting systems.

"Together we need to push Gordon Brown and the Ministry of Justice to take this debate beyond Westminster and the confines of parties and politicians who have a vested interest in the status quo."


* petition Gordon Brown
* pledge to take part in a consultation
* write to your MP
* enlist the support of your MEP/MSP/AM
* have your say on the governance of Britain
* donate to the campaign


If you only have 1 minute, that’s all you’ll need to sign the petition.
If you only have 3 minutes, that’s all you’ll need to sign the petition and do the pledge.
If you only have 5 minutes, please consider donating some money to the campaign too.
And if you can spare more than 5 minutes, pick one of the other actions and let politicians or the Ministry of Justice know how you feel on this issue.

Click on the headline above to read more.

South Marketgait (from Nethergate to Greenmarket) - closure for 1 day 6th or 13th April 2008

I have been advised by the City Council of a proposed 1 day road closure in South Marketgait on either 6th or 13th April. South Marketgait is actually the ward boundary and the southbound lane by an inch or two is in the neighbouring ward, but as this is a road much used by all residents, I thought it worth advising via the blog. Here's the short duration traffic order:
"THE DUNDEE CITY COUNCIL AS TRAFFIC AUTHORITY being satisfied that traffic on the road should be prohibited by reason of carriageway reconstruction works being carried out HEREBY PROHIBIT the driving of any vehicle in South Marketgait (from Nethergate to Greenmarket), Dundee in Southbound direction only.

This notice comes into effect on Sunday 6 April and Sunday 13 April 2008 for 1 day.

Only one of these dates will be used.

Pedestrian thoroughfare will be maintained.

Alternative routes for vehicles are available via North Marketgait/East Marketgait/South Marketgait.

For further information contact (01382) 433168."
In case you are wondering why it is 6th April or 13th April I am advised "the reason is to allow for adverse weather; if it is too bad on the 6th it will be delayed until the 13th."

Monday, February 25, 2008

Update on Tait's Lane

Following my blog entry yesterday, I have now spoken today with a senior representative from Scottish Hydro Electric (SSE) who has advised me that, although investigations are continuing into the terrible incident on Friday, their initial investigations indicate a fault in electrical joints underground that caused a surge of voltage. He advised that the type of short circuit was “very unusual” and that there were no exposed wires.

One of the major concerns residents are raising is the possible dangers to children and any other pedestrians and the Scottish Hydro Electric representative claimed that, because voltage dissipates differently in animals compared to human beings, he 'was confident the surge would not have killed a human being'.

It is vitally important that the full facts are determined as there has been great concern in the local area about what happened. For that reason I have reported my concerns to the Health and Safety Executive, who have tonight given me the Incident Number regarding my drawing this to HSE's attention.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Tait's Lane

Yesterday, I contacted Scottish & Southern Energy following an incident in Tait’s Lane on Friday, in which a family pet dog was electrocuted and died of its injuries.

A resident contacted me on Friday evening, following the incident and she was extremely upset to have witnessed the electrocution of a dog, which was owned by one of her neighbours. The dog had been out for a walk with its owners and whilst passing a lamp-post took what appeared to be a dreadful fit, which it later emerged was as a result of being electrocuted. The dog’s death has caused deep upset in the neighbourhood and I have been in touch with Scottish & Southern Energy to find out how this dreadful incident happened. Clearly, we need reassurances about electrical safety. As one resident pointed out, the lane has a steady stream of pedestrians every day.

I was concerned to note that although barriers had been put round the site, in the excavation round the lamppost there was exposed wiring. Scottish and Southern Energy has assured me that this wiring had been safely isolated and does not present any danger to the public. I was further promised that an engineer will contact me on Monday morning with a full report of the circumstances that occurred on Friday. I have also contacted the street lighting department of the City Council about the matter.

Scottish Parliament last week ...

Hilarity as the Presiding Officer gets a wee bit muddled:

The Presiding Officer: The result of the division is: For 64, Against 65, Abstentions 0.

Members: Oh!

The Presiding Officer: Fifty-five members voted against. What did I say?

Members: Sixty-five.

The Presiding Officer: Oh well, you know what I am like with numbers by now. [Laughter.]


Decision Time, 21 February 2008

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Rapid Rhino and the Dickens Museum

Last night's "Evening Telegraph" and this morning's "Courier" covered the success of the City Council's new Rapid Rhino repairs system for potholes in the city's roads (click on headline to view the Tele's article). I have also been interviewed by Radio Tay on the subject. I certainly believe that, over time, this system will make a real difference to the quality of road surfaces in Dundee.

On another matter entirely, I have become an avid viewer of Masterchef, an obvious programme for one so ungifted in any kitchen (can't co-ordinate boiling the kettle for a cup of tea and producing a slice of toast). Anyway, was good to see the dinner party on Masterchef at the former home of Charles Dickens (now a museum) in Doughty Street, London, last week. The museum is right next door to the HQ of the Institute I work for in my "day job" (and you briefly saw its front door on the programme!) The Dickens Museum has a virtual tour at http://www.dickensmuseum.com/vtour/.

Future of Scottish Water

I very much welcome any review of the structure and operations of Scottish Water to find the model that delivers best value for taxpayers and customers. There is, in my view, much merit in considering the mutualisation of the organisation (as both the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives have backed - albeit different models).

The Liberal Democrats remain totally resistant to the notion of privatisation, and would insist on legislation to ensure that the future de-mutualisation or privatisation of Scottish Water would be strictly prohibited. A mutual approach to ownership would make Scottish Water directly answerable to its mutual holders, the Scottish public, and all profits would be retained for further investment and customer savings. Crucially, it would result in significant savings to the Scottish taxpayer.

In the parliamentary debate last week, Liam McArthur MSP made these points well :

“Liberal Democrats have long called for the mutualisation of Scottish Water. We believe that the time is now right to undertake a thorough review of Scottish Water. This review must consider whether the current model delivers best value for customers – both domestic and business – as well as taxpayers.

“I am encouraged that the call for such a review appears to be gaining support within the government. But the Minister, in his speech, appeared to rule out mutualisation and gave no details about the nature or date for a review. This contradicts the SNP spin overnight where Mr Swinney was already busy finding uses for the £182 million that could be saved through mutualisation.

“Let’s not forget that when ministers published the Howat Report last summer the only comment they made on the recommendations before burying them, was to rule out any rethink on Scottish Water’s structure and operations.

“Today, rather than a commitment to a review, we have further confusion and obfuscation.”

The SNP government seems to be in a bit of a guddle over the issue. SNP spin doctors were busy briefing ahead of the debate on Scottish Water leading to "Good Morning Scotland" on BBC Radio Scotland breaking the story that SNP Ministers were willing to consider public sector alternatives to government ownership, including the option of mutualisation.

"We have an open mind about alternative public-sector models, and we are keeping that under review. Mutualisation is one possible model." (First Minister’s spokesperson)

This would have been a policy u-turn, given John Swinney’s clear position in May:

"We will not take forward the recommendation of the Howat report to turn Scottish Water into a mutual company ... Scottish Water will retain its current status. That is our clear policy position."
And SNP Ministers hastily backtracked during the debate in Parliament:

Stewart Stevenson: “I do not intend that we head towards mutualisation.”
You can read more of Liam McArthur's speech to the parliament by clicking on the headline above.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Channel 4 Political Slot

Nick Clegg's recent piece explaining why he is opposed to ID cards. You can also sign the LibDem petition against ID cards at:
http://www.libdems.org.uk/noidcards

Variation of Waiting Restrictions

Below is the Notice of Proposal relating to a Traffic Order - the full schedule for the whole of the City will appear in tonight's Evening Telegraph, but I have indicated those parts of the schedule that cover proposals in respect of streets in the West End Ward :
DUNDEE CITY COUNCIL
ROAD TRAFFIC REGULATION ACT 1984


DUNDEE CITY COUNCIL (VARIATION OF WAITING RESTRICTIONS) ORDER 2008


Dundee City Council propose to make an Order under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 for the purpose of varying the provisions of several Waiting Restriction Orders affecting the City. The effect of the Order is set out in the Schedule below.

Full details of the proposals are contained in the draft Order which together with plans showing the lengths of road affected and a Statement of the Council’s reasons for proposing to make the Order may be examined during normal office hours and without payment of fee during a period of 21 days from 22 February 2008 at the following addresses: -

1. Dundee City Council Offices, 4th Floor Reception, 21 City Square, Dundee.
2. Broughty Ferry Neighbourhood Library, Queen Street, Broughty Ferry, Dundee.

Any person may within 21 days from 22 February 2008 object to the proposed Order by notice in writing to the Depute Chief Executive (Support Services), Dundee City Council, 21 City Square, Dundee. Objections should state the name and address of objector, the matters to which they relate and the grounds on which they are made.


PATRICIA McILQUHAM
Depute Chief Executive (Support Services)
Dundee City Council



SCHEDULE (insofar as it covers West End Ward)

1. To improve sightlines at junctions and accesses in Hyndford Street/Speed Street, Ninewells Avenue, Perth Road, Shaftesbury Road.
2. To relieve congestion in Perth Road, Shepherd's Loan.
3. To relieve congestion and obstruction or damage to verges in Magdalen Yard Road/Richmond Terrace.
4. To adjust waiting restrictions to suit new developments or road layouts in Long Wynd, Brown Street.
5. To adjust restrictions to accommodate a taxi rank in South Tay Street.
6. To relax unnecessarily severe restrictions in Brewery Lane.
7. To allow patient transfer vehicles to use James Black Place.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Thursday

Very early start this morning (4.30am!) to go up to Pitlochry to help with early morning polling day leaflet deliveries in the Highland Ward by-election for Perth & Kinross Council. Lightly drizzling rain but otherwise a pleasant start to the day.

Back to Dundee in time for a site visit to Barnhill to see the new “rapid rhino” road pothole repairs system in action and very impressed with the finished result, creating a permanent repair rather than the traditional pothole repair which often fails, resulting in repeated patching over a period of time.

The other positive outcome is the financial savings that accrue from their being fewer overall repairs necessary over time. The City Council will spend some £1.7m revenue on cyclical road repairs in 2008/9, with a further £1.4m capital on road reconstruction (the latter a welcome improvement and one of the positive outcomes from the recent budget process). Although these are not inconsiderable sums, they should be seen in the context of several hundred miles of local roads within the City, and, through good initiatives like “rapid rhino” and the recent Roads Partnering agreement with Tayside Contracts, we can ensure funding is used to its best effect delivering the maximum improvements possible within budgets.

Held my usual three surgeries today – The Base at Mitchell Street Centre (5pm); Room 407 at Harris Academy (5.30pm) and the staffroom at Blackness Primary School (6.15pm). I hold these every Thursday, except during school holidays.

I’m a Board Member of Dundee Contemporary Arts – and as many residents are aware, DCA does a very useful weekly e-mail update of cinema e-listings. It has recently set up a facebook site where you can read all about their events, receive invitations to them and post comments, events and images of your own. You can join up at
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=7245911548

Lastly, every credit goes to Mr Arshad of the newsagents on the corner of Abbotsford Place and Peddie Street who tackled thieves in the shop earlier today, foiling the robbery, despite being cut during the attempted robbery. You can read more (from tonight’s Evening Telegraph) by clicking on the headline above.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Tuesday and Wednesday

Yesterday's Courier followed up on Monday's story about my concerns (and those of many local residents) about some HGVs ignoring the 3 tonne weight limit on the bridge at Riverside Drive south of the Botanic Gardens. I also spoke on Radio Tay and Wave 102 news about the concerns and action taken by the City Council and Tayside Police. The issue was also covered in the Press & Journal today.

Yesterday was a really busy day with Mike Galloway (City Council Director of Planning & Transportation) and myself (in my role as Planning & Transport Convener) selecting the winner of this year's Dundee Civic Award - the award is awarded annually by the City Council to the best project and presentation from third year students of town and regional planning at Duncan of Jordanstone, University of Dundee. The three shortlisted entries were extremely strong (making choosing the winner a difficult task) but congratulations go to Garrie Watson, this year's winner. You can read more about this from last night's Evening Telegraph by clicking on the headline above.

Later in the day, I attended meetings of the Balgay Stakeholders' Group, then a committee meeting of Logie Residents' Association (who have had a very good response to their recent residents' survey on local issues) and lastly a committee meeting of Friends of Magdalen Green. The Friends of Magdalen Green, whose first AGM was only last May, has gone from strength to strength, with an ever increasing membership. One thing you can say about the West End of Dundee is that it has a variety of excellent local groups, undertaking very good work for our community.
A number of residents have pointed out that the proposed one day closure of Glamis Drive on Monday (I highlighted in the blog the previous Friday) did not appear to take place. The City Council's Planning & Transportation Department has since advised me that:
"The closure did not take place. The contractor had a problem with his civils squad. The work will be rearranged for a later date."
I will, of course, let residents know of the amended date when I am advised of this.
Most of today spent in Falkirk with my employer's Scottish Association AGM, which was very well attended and informative.
Lastly, further to my blog entry last Sunday about Edison Lighthouse ... I was speaking with a local reporter on the Riverside Drive bridge problem on Monday and he did point out that Edison Lighthouse does appear in the video to be on the steps of the Caird Hall! Very close inspection tells otherwise but there must be another building out there with steps like the Caird Hall's.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Riverside Avenue

The City Council has just advised me that the road closure on Riverside Avenue has had to be continued until next Saturday. Here's the Council's Press Release, which explains all :
Roadworks on Dundee's Riverside Avenue are to continue for a few days after the scheduled completion date of tomorrow (Tuesday February 19).

The road was closed from the roundabout at the Marmalade Pot to Wright Avenue on February 9 to allow improvements to the road surface, widening of the cycleway and new street lighting.

A Dundee City Council spokesman said: "Unfortunately, once the road was closed off and excavation of the road had been carried out, it was found that additional work would be necessary on the road and on the cycleway.

"This means that it will have to remain closed for another three days, reopening in the early hours of Saturday morning (February 23)

"We know that road closures can cause inconvenience and we apologise for the continued closure. However, keeping the road closed means that the contractor will be able to complete the additional work in the quickest and safest way."

There will continue to be restricted access from the west on Riverside Avenue to allow vehicles to get to and from Wright Avenue and the city council's recycling centre.

Rail bridge again ... err ... different one!

There's another rail bridge west of the one mentioned in yesterday's blog entry - near to Riverside Place/River Crescent (and not for vehicles). Following complaints about the extent of graffiti there, I contacted Network Rail and here is their response :


"The graffiti concerned has now been removed. We also have cleared various railway assets between Dundee and Invergowrie that had been vandalised. The graffiti has been photographed and passed on to the British Transport Police for their records. I hope you are satisfied with the response to this incident."

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Edison Lighthouse - Love grows where my Rosemary goes

Just been watching American Idol on ITV2 and seen the worst ever (ever!) version of the classic from Edison Lighthouse, so here's the original, totally brilliant.

Bridge Weight concern at Riverside Drive

I have this afternoon issued the following news release, following concerns about abuse of the weight restriction on the bridge over the railway just south of the Botanic Gardens on Riverside Drive:

West End City Councillor Fraser Macpherson has raised the concerns of residents about abuse of the weight restriction by some HGV drivers at the bridge across the railway on Riverside Drive south of the Botanic Gardens.

The main roadway of Riverside Avenue has been closed to through traffic since 9th February due to road resurfacing and, since then, residents have reported a number of abuses of the weight restriction on the bridge on the roadway up to Perth Road. The bridge is designated a “weak bridge” and has a weight limit of 3 tonnes.

“The concerns were first raised at last Tuesday’s West End Community Council meeting and thereafter I and one of my West End Ward councillor colleagues raised the matter with the City Council,” said Cllr Macpherson.

“I contacted the Team Leader of Sustainable Transport in the City Council and he immediately wrote to the major bus and coach operators reminding them about the correct diversionary route and that this bridge is not suitable for any bus or coach routing,” said Cllr Macpherson. “The Council has also advised Tayside Police of the issue and I am assured that action is taking place to enforce any abuse by LGVs or PCVs of this weight restriction.”

The councillor said he was concerned, however, to learn of further reports of a coach and a lorry using the bridge on Friday.

“As I had a meeting at the Botanic Gardens this Sunday afternoon, I made a point of waiting for a few minutes at the bridge and saw a large coach travel over the bridge. It is very concerning as the weight limit on the bridge is there for good reason,” continued the councillor. Cllr Macpherson, who is also the City Council’s Planning & Transport Convener, has reported the most recent incidents to the City Council and has also raised his concerns directly with the bus companies.

“It is very important that HGV drivers adhere to the correct diversionary route and avoid this weak bridge,” concluded Cllr Macpherson.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Riverside Drive - near Botanic Gardens

I have had complaints from residents (and from members of the River Crescent Residents' Association) about potholes on Riverside Drive near to the Botanics and I raised this with the City Council. I have now had the following feedback:

“An order was passed to Tayside Contracts on 6/02/08 to fill the potoles at this location.”

Another closure

Further to my entry yesterday advising of a one-day closure of the roadway in Glamis Drive, also from Monday - but for a rather longer period of 12-14 weeks, the footpath in Balgay Park that runs under the Hird Bridge will be closed.
This is to allow for the much welcomed bridge restoration to take place. I'll be attending the Greater Balgay Stakeholders Meeting next Tuesday and we will undoubtedly receive an update on matters there.
You can see some more Balgay Park photographs by clicking in the link above.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Glamis Drive

The City Council has informed me that Glamis Drive will be closed to traffic between the junction with Hillside Road and the junction with Hazel Drive on Monday (18th February).
This is due to BT duct repair works and will affect the road for one day only. Pedestrian thoroughfare is unaffected.
Anyone requiring further information can contact the City Council on Dundee 433168.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Budget Day

This afternoon saw the City Council set both its capital programme and also its revenue budget & council tax for 2008/9.

It was the 7th budget meeting I have attended as an elected member of Dundee City Council and was easily the least “raucous” thus far, with the Labour/Liberal Democrat administration’s budget being approved unanimously and, for the first time in a very long time, no alternative proposals on the table.

Cllr Joe Morrow, our administration’s lead person for finance, made a thoughtful speech and my LibDem colleague Cllr Helen Dick seconded the budget proposal. The Council Tax is frozen for the second year in succession (the biggest non-secret in Dundee in the past few days). As £1.7m of our grant settlement would have been withheld by the Scottish Government if the Council Tax had been increased, it was a “no brainer” in terms of deciding on another freeze.

Despite the budget meeting itself being short and, frankly, uneventful, it is the culmination of much work by the administration group and I think all councillors owe a debt of gratitude to finance officers for their extremely hard work on budget preparation.

Dundee City Council has had an extremely good record in terms of low (or nil) council tax increases in recent years. However, looking at the overall local government financial settlement, I think it should be remembered that :

* All the comment about how wonderful it is that ring-fencing has been reduced in scope actually isn’t that brilliant at all. The removal of some of the ring fencing and associated form-filling is – I have no doubt – generally welcomed. However, let’s remember that the purpose of ring-fenced funds is to target funding to achieve policy objectives and with a much greater than average incidence of deprivation in our City compared to the Scottish average, the reduction in such funding will simply not, in time, favour our City. I think many politicians have yet to grasp that point.


* With that in mind, I am particularly concerned that the Scottish Government’s level of regeneration funding in Dundee will be reduced in 2008-9 compared to previous years. The so-called “Fairer” Scotland fund actually delivers to Dundee £230 000 less next year than the previous Community Regeneration Fund and the other associated funds (such as Community Voice and Workforce Plus) did in 2007-8. This impacts adversely on the least affluent, the most vulnerable.




* So, who benefits least from the Scotland wide council tax freeze? The least affluent, who get maximum Council Tax Benefit but will be hardest hit (in terms of household income) by the 3.7% - above inflation – increase in water and sewerage charges added to Council Tax Bills, imposed by Scottish Water, but not eligible for council tax benefit. I think the point has been lost on many, but it appears that to those who have shall be given, and to those who have not shall be taken away. If you care about social justice, this is not exactly good news. Actually, it is pretty depressing.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Local TV

As residents are aware, I have had numerous discussions with Ofcom (the media regulator) about digital TV issues. Apart from the Freeview concerns (click on headline above to read more on these), I have discussed local TV provision with the regulator about the possibility of licences and local feeds from digital transmitters to ensure that Dundee could get another local TV service at some point in the future.

Residents will recall the popularity of the Channel 6 service that many people in the West End used to be able to receive when it transmitted its programmes from the Tay Bridge transmitter.


However, unless Ofcom allows for sufficient local tv licences for digital, further local television in the City would not be possible after the analogue switch off.


I have discussed this matter with the Administration Group on the City Council, who unanimously supported my suggestion of lobbying Ofcom to make Dundee's case, and the Economic Development Department has written to Ofcom on the matter. I am pleased that both Angus Council and Fife Council has indicated support, as has Dundee Contemporary Arts (DCA).


Ian Stewart MP, the Labour Member of Parliament for Eccles, has agreed to put the following Early Day Motion to the House:


"Local Public Service Television


This House congratulates Ofcom in finding a means to deliver local television to every household across the UK on Freeview and looks to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to introduce a licence for the provision of local public service television during the rollout of Digital Switchover."


I have now written to our local MP in Dundee West Jim McGovern to ask him to sign Mr Stewart's motion.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Blackness Library's 100th birthday!

In October of this year, Blackness Library celebrates its 100th anniversary (as does Coldside Library elsewhere in Dundee).
I have been in touch with the City Council's Leisure & Communities Department already to ask what plans are being considered to mark this important milestone and I am pleased to learn that plans are well advanced. Here's part of the response I have received from the department :

"A number of library staff have been tasked to plan appropriate celebrations for these events and will be holding their first planning meeting shortly to discuss initial proposals for a programme of activities.

As both are Carnegie libraries, contact will be made with the Carnegie Trust for any relevant information to use in exhibitions. Other local groups, together with parents and children will be included in the celebrations for the library.

Publicity for the celebrations will be prepared and issued at an appropriate time."
I'll keep residents updated with the details as I hear them.
On another matter, pleased to see the Evening Telegraph promoting Dundee's latest "Monopoly" board bid (and a brilliant picture of the LP in tonight's paper - click on headline above to view!)
Last year, I ran one or two items on the blog about the city's previous (and successful) Monopoly board bid (see - for example - http://frasermacpherson.blogspot.com/2007/05/vote-dundee-and-last-word-on-election.html) and I again hope everyone will "Vote Dundee!" by going to http://www.monopolyworldvote.com/en_GB/world
Lastly, I recently received residents' complaints about the road condition at the Riverside Approach/Magdalen Yard Road junction. I have now had the following feedback from the City Council :
"An order for the filling of a pothole at the junction of Riverside Approach and Magdalen Yard Road has been raised with the contractor."

Monday, February 11, 2008

Pathway adjacent to Seymour Lodge

The Courier has, this morning, kindly covered the issue I have raised about the condition of the pathway from Shaftesbury Road to Perth Road, adjacent to Seymour Lodge. The pathway is well used by local people but is in poor condition.

Towards the end of last year, a number of residents had approached me regarding the condition of the roadway and parking area here and I therefore contacted Tayside Police regarding it, as the Police own the adjacent Seymour Lodge property.

The response from the Force Solicitor was as follows, “I have had a look at our title and it seems that TRC {the former Tayside Regional Council} made an order - The Tayside Region (Seymour Street, Dundee) (Prohibition of Driving) Order 1987 - which prohibited driving on a one metre length of the street at a point 20 metres south of Shaftesbury Road. That's where and when the bollards were erected. The road had an unmade surface at this time and it was closed to through traffic due to the poor condition of the road.”

Tayside Police did, however, confirm that it is in ownership of the western part of the roadway from Shaftesbury Road to Perth Road – the part adjacent to Seymour Lodge itself. As it is the section used by pedestrians to walk between the two streets, I have now written to both the Chief Constable and the Force’s solicitor asking that a section of pathway be upgraded to provide a decent surface for pedestrians, free of trip hazards. It is very clear that this section of pathway would be considered a right of way, having been so used without substantial and effective interruption for at least 20 years.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

West End Community Council : February 2008 update

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

The issues covered include :
  • Tay Rail Bridge - Noise issue

  • Wheelie Bins on pavements

  • High Mill - overgrown area

  • Windsor Street speeding

  • Unadopted pavement Perth Road

  • CCTV in the West End

  • Pathway Perth Road to Rail Line

  • Dundee Airport - Passenger Access

  • Al-Maktoum Cultural Centre

  • West End Roads and Pavements

  • Tay Street Lane - flooding

  • Area south of Richmond Terrace - trees vandalism

  • Large sign at Riverside Avenue/Drive roundabout

  • Postbox : Corner of Hazel Drive and Glamis Terrace

  • Parking - Seafield Lane/Thomson Street

  • Pennycook Lane sheltered housing - handrail

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


The Community Council meets this coming Tuesday (12th February) at 7pm at Logie St John's (Cross) Chruch Hall.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Aberfeldy ... and damaged sign ...

Made my third visit to the Perth & Kinross Council Highland Ward by-election - this time to Aberfeldy - see right - and judging by others in the town this morning, I wasn't the only Dundee politician there today!


Residents have expressed concern about the damage to the sign just west of the Marmalade Pot at the Riverside Drive/Avenue junction (see below) - I have reported this to Ryden, who own it.

Nicol Stephen MSP

Here's Nicol's letter to Scottish LibDem party members, issued yesterday :

As you will no doubt be aware a busy week in the Scottish Parliament saw the Scottish Government’s budget for 2008-09 approved. The budget was passed with the full support of the Conservatives.

Our biggest problem with the budget is that the SNP’s sums did not add up before the election in May and they don’t add up now. They over-promised and have had to backtrack and drop many manifesto promises such as writing off student debt.

Every party in the parliament is a minority and therefore there is a need to build consensus on the spending priorities of the parliament. The SNP government made a great deal out of being consensual and working together with other parties, but in reality this turned out to be nothing more than a series of back room deals with the Tories.

This budget is the most opaque since devolution, lacking detail and putting public services across Scotland at risk. The Liberal Democrats led the scrutiny in the Scottish Parliament while the Conservatives blocked debate and backed the nationalists.

The Government have continually failed to explain how they will make the
£1.6 billion of efficiency savings that they need to pay for public services. There is no plan in place if these savings cannot be met.

Liberal Democrats have raised substantive, significant issues in parliament and highlighted serious concerns on a number of topics – police numbers, student debt, university funding, class sizes, health expenditure, the enterprise networks, public transport investment, waste management and flood measures.

It is the choices made by the SNP government that threaten public services.

And it remains to be seen whether the populist policies that the SNP have chosen to direct resources to can be delivered without cuts to other public services.

The Scottish Conservatives have attempted to portray themselves as the winners from the budget. However, the Finance Secretary John Swinney summed up the Tory contribution as follows:

"If you look at the budget changes I have made, the entire changes that I've put through in the course of the amendments today and the other announcements I have made, I have changed the budget by about £30 million maximum. That's the equivalent of what the government spends in one morning of one day. So it's really marginal the difference to the budget changes that have been put forward." (John Swinney MSP, Newsnight Scotland 6th February 2008)

In the Times today, Magnus Linklater writes:
"Since the Tories voted with the SNP and supported their budget, they have now become the Nationalists' principal allies." (Magnus Linklater, The Times, 8th February 2008)
The budget has now passed. Liberal Democrats will continue to hold the SNP Government to account for the choices they have made.

I look forward to seeing you at our conference in Aviemore on 29th February where we will be consulting on health and broadcasting policy and debating substantive motions on higher education, affordable housing and the Right to Buy to mention just a few.

The Union

I am the first to admit that I am the 'original unionist' - highly supportive of Scotland's continuing role as a vital part of the UK, within a federal arrangement, to allow the devolution of power to the countries and communities within the UK. It is interesting to note the views of Tory supporting newspapers over the past few days :


· Scottish Daily Mail, comment: “The position of the Scottish Tories is extraordinary. They voted with the party that is pledged to break up the United Kingdom. They did so after being bought off with a promise of 500 more police – they should remember, that in SNP currency a pledge of 1000 officers equals 500, as has already been demonstrated… this mega-expenditure plan has been drafted on the back of an envelope, this will end in tears". (07.02.08)

· The Daily Telegraph: "the Tory MSPs should seriously ask themselves: did John Swinney give them anything he didn't want to give them? Doesn't that sly wee grin on John Swinney's face sum up precisely what the Tories achieved?" (07.02.08)

Friday, February 08, 2008

Latest local issues ...

Visited Pentland Avenue today to speak with residents and see the extent of flooding over parts of the footpath - I have raised the issue with the City Council.
Last month, I wrote to Royal Mail about the 'missing' post box at the corner of Hazel Drive and Glamis Terrace. The Courier managed to get a commitment from Royal Mail that the postbox would be replaced (the original one had apparently rusted and was removed).
Royal Mail has e-mailed me to say "... according to our system this posting box was removed from 16th January until 31st January but has now been replaced and is being collected as normal." Anyway, as the photo (above right) shows that a postbox is definitely back in place!
I've had complaints about potholes in Thomson Street and graffiti at Strawberrybank and have received assurances from the City Council that both will be attended to.

Nick Clegg MP on social mobility and education

Latest video from LibDem leader Nick Clegg MP

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Scamnesty, Rail Noise and CCTV

I had a very useful visit to Tayside Police's headquarters yesterday to review CCTV provision around the Seabraes area.


This follows a number of residents' concerns about anti-social behaviour here in the past and, along with our community policeman, I was keen to see the extent of existing provision, which I conclude from yesterday's visit is generally good. Within the West End, a clear priority has to be extending the provision westwards from Roseangle, along Perth Road to Sinderins (in other words, through the district shopping centre, especially given its vibrant night time economy with pubs and restaurants). This is a matter on which I have written to Tayside Police on a number of occasions.




Also yesterday saw the launch of "Scamnesty" in the City, a really useful initiative to encourage Dundonians to help Trading Standards catch the fraudsters behind mail scams. You can read more about this excellent idea from the BBC website by clicking on the headline above.




On another matter, I am very pleased about swift action taken over the past week by Network Rail contractors to tackle night noise complaints by residents living in parts of the West End nearest to the Tay Rail Bridge.

I received a number of complaints about noise from the bridge works overnight just over a week ago and immediately contacted Network Rail about this. There has been a swift response by Network Rail’s contractors, T-K Palmers Limited, who undertook night noise measurements at various local sites on a number of separate occasions.




Speaking with residents over the past couple of days, they have seen no repetition of the earlier night-time noise disturbance.




The contractor has advised that, with regard to night shift operations, it is envisaged that they will be carrying out blast cleaning work over the next 3 months but in areas well to the south of the residential area and they would not expect an impact on anyone in that period.

T-K Palmers advised me that:



“We are conscious of the fact that we all have varying thresholds of sensitivity to noise and with that in mind we ensured purchase / hire of the most sound-attenuated equipment for our operations. It would also be fair to say that until we tried our own measures to attenuate noise at actual equipment sites, we were unable to predict their effect.




"However, with the assistance of the City Council, we were subsequently able to confirm compliance with legislation even considering the effects of such factors as wind direction and the effect of tree foliage. Operations the past week have been concentrated very much to the south of the carriageway and there is no intention to be at the north elevation for a considerable time so we would expect any impact to be substantially reduced locally.”

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Car vandalism, street lighting

Last night's "Evening Telegraph covered what I described as the “mindless vandalism” of vehicles in Benvie Road, Rosebery Street and surrounding area that occurred on Monday.

Given residents' concerns about the vandalism to vehicles, I contacted the Police about the possibility of mobile CCTV use in the area and I have been advised that the use of a CCTV van has been discussed following the incidents.


You can read last night's Tele story by clicking on the headline above.


The Tele also covered the continuing attempts to find a new occupant for the Vision building at Seabraes. The building has been empty since February 2006 and I have maintained a close interest in this matter.


Yesterday, as City Council Planning & Transport Convener, I paid a visit to the Street Lighting Partnership between the City Council and Tayside Contracts. The partnership has an excellent record in terms of street lighting maintenance - one of the best in Scotland - and it was extremely useful to see the operation in action.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Audio Description

Residents will be aware that I have had a lot of correspondence exchanges with the media regulator OFCOM recently - mainly about Freeview provision in the West End and the issue of a local TV feed for Dundee.

From my contacts with OFCOM, I have become aware of Audio Description, something I think is well worth giving a mention.


Audio Description (AD) is a free TV service available on over 70 channels for people who have difficulty seeing what is happening on the screen. Like a narrator telling a story, an additional commentary describes body language, expressions and movements - allowing you to hear what you might not be able to see, so you don't miss a thing.


To find out more about AD visit www.ofcom.org.uk/tv/ifi/tech/audiodescription or click on the headline above to read more on the RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People) website.

River Crescent and Riverside Avenue

Attended the River Crescent Residents' Association yesterday evening, where a number of local issues were discussed, including the long-running saga of a pathway that runs down from Perth Road to the railway (between Riverside Place and River Crescent). It is not adopted by the local authority and, having written to both Network Rail and the British Railways Residual Board last year about it, I was advised that neither were in ownership.
Having then written to the City Council's Depute Chief Executive (Support Services) on the matter, she is kindly writing to adjoining property owners to see if any of the title deeds cast any light on the ownership. The main issue here is to ensure the pathway is maintained and vegetation controlled.
There was a discussion about a number of other local issues too, including roads and pavements.
Towards the end of last month, I mentioned that Riverside Avenue would be having road surface improvements (starting 9th February) - click on headline above to view earlier news story.
The City Council has issued the following news release this morning on this matter:
Part of Riverside Avenue in Dundee will be closed to all traffic from Saturday (February 9) for roadworks.

The road will be closed from the roundabout at the Marmalade Pot to Wright Avenue for 11 days to allow improvements to the road surface, widening of the cycleway and new street lighting.

Traffic will be diverted via Perth Road, Hawkhill, West Marketgait, South Marketgait and return.

Although the roundabout on Riverside Drive at the Marmalade Pot is not affected by the works, the three-ton weight limit at the railway bridge on the drive (near botanic gardens) means only cars can use this route between Perth Road and the airport.

Full access will be maintained for all vehicles from the east along Riverside Drive as far as the Marmalade Pot roundabout for access to the airport and businesses.

There will be restricted access from the west on Riverside Avenue to allow vehicles to get to and from Wright Avenue and the city council's recycling centre.

Pedestrian thoroughfare is being maintained while the work is being carried out.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Air travel to and from Dundee

Last summer, I received a concern that people with mobility difficulties - in particular those who use wheelchairs - could not take advantage of the Scotairways Dundee-London City flights. At the time, I raised the issue with the Economic Development Department of the City Council (the Council still operated the airport last Summer) and I paste part of the response below:






"Dundee Airport terminal is fully suitable for handling disabled passengers in terms of wheelchair access and toilets, and we provide wheelchairs and staff assistance when necessary. For mobility-impaired walking passengers we will, if asked to do so, provide a wheelchair and staff assistance to convey that passenger through the terminal and to/from the aircraft steps. We do not levy, and never have levied, any charge for the handling of disabled passengers.

"If an airline operating at Dundee Airport accepts lift-on/lift-off wheelchair bound passengers, then we provide a manual lift-on/lift-off service using a special chair, subject to those passengers being of a reasonable size and weight for safe lifting, and the aircraft internal layout being suitable for safe lifting.

"VLM, as airline contractor for the Jersey holiday charter service does accept clients who require lift-on and lift-off, and they are in fact lifted on and off the aircraft by Dundee Airport staff.

"ScotAirways does not accept passengers on its Dundee - London service unless those passengers can at least (perhaps with some assistance) walk up and down the steps of the aircraft and through the cabin. The reason for that policy, as we understand it, - is that the Dornier 328 cabin, because of its size and associated air-stairs is not suitable for the safe handling of those disabled passengers who would need lifted on and off the aircraft.

"So, in summary, we are able to accommodate the vast majority of disabled passengers, and restrictions on the carrying of wholly non-ambulant passengers essentially relates to the size and conformation of the aircraft currently operating at Dundee Airport, and to the implications that this has for the health and safety of both the lifting staff and the disabled passengers."




As residents are aware, the operator of Dundee Airport changed from the City Council to Highlands and Islands Airport Limited on 1st December 2007.




The issue of access for those in wheelchairs wanting to use the London City flights was raised last month at the Dundee Accessible Transport Action Group (DATAG) AGM - and I attended this in my capacity as Convener of Planning & Transport on the City Council. Given the change in airport operator and indeed the changes to the London City flight operation with the involvement of Air France/Cityjet, I promised to contact HIAL's Acting Airport Manager about the issue and he has replied as follows:




"Whilst the aircraft flies under a Cityjet flight code it is wet leased from Scotairways. They effectively provide Cityjet with the aircraft and crew under Scotairways operating conditions. This being the case the situation has not changed.



"I worked at London City Airport for ten years prior to coming here and the same applied there on Scotairways routes. It also applied on other airlines that used the Dornier 328 so it might be connected with the type of aircraft also."




I have therefore asked the airport for detail of the appropriate person at Scotairways to contact about this issue to see if there are any plans to improve the situation to allow people in wheelchairs to make use of the Dundee-London City flights.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Al-Maktoum Cultural Centre Update

Back in November, I reported that, following a meeting I had with Professor Malory Nye, Acting Principal of the Al-Maktoum Institute, I had received an assurance that the former Logie Secondary site (earmarked for the proposed Al-Maktoum Cultural Centre) would be given a tidy up. Residents had complained that it was overgrown and attracting fly-tipping. (See earlier story by clicking the headline above).

I have recently spoke again with the Director of Operations at the Al-Maktoum Institute and I have now received a further update from the Cultural Centre's architect as follows:

“I can confirm that Mr Al Sayegh has visited Dundee & the site has been cleared of rubbish & plant growth. I have also held a Design Team Meeting to progress the project & fine tune the design in line with our requirements. Hopefully in a few weeks I should be able to update you further with an agreed timescale for the project.”

Given the residents' concerns about the vacant site, it will be good to receive timescales for the project. I'll keep residents advised on developments when I receive further feedback.

Non-bonfire of the quangos

Last year, Alex Salmond rashly gave a conference speech commitment to cut the number of Scotland’s 199 quangos by 25%.

It's fairly obvious that the recent announcements by the SNP "government" on the subject are another example of spin, not substance. Nicol Stephen summed it up in last Wednesday's debate on the subject in the Scottish Parliament :

“Will the First Minister confirm that the budgeted set-up costs of his new skills quango will be £16 million?

“Does the First Minister agree that the problem with his list is that he counts only what he cuts and not what he creates? When he promised to cut 21 local enterprise companies, he replaced them with 48 new national, regional and sub-regional organisations. John Swinney has admitted that he has created another 24, including the new Scottish fisheries council—created, but not counted—four national health service scrutiny bodies, the seasonal flu review steering group, the housing supply statistics group, and the housing supply task force. All were created by the Government but not counted. Last week, the Government announced a crackdown on waste. That created a working group, a review, a consultation and a think-tank. Was any of that added to the list?

“Is this not like that episode of "Porridge" in which a prison escape tunnel is discovered? In the final scene, Mackay asks Fletcher, "What did you do with the dirt?" Fletcher replies, "That's simple. We dug another tunnel and hid it in there." Is not the First Minister doing exactly that? Seventy-six new bodies have been created by the Government, and the total is rising. All are supported by a total of 58 reviews and 91 new consultations. Why does the First Minister not admit that he is adding to the clutter and that the truth is that, for every thing that he has dropped, he has brought in something new?”
You can read the full exchange by clicking the headline above.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Winter in Pitlochry ... and unsightly overgrowth at High Mill


As the photos above show, it was a pretty snowy day in Pitlochry today, where I and a couple of colleagues from Dundee Liberal Democrats were again helping our Perth & Kinross Highland Ward colleagues, who are contesting a by-election later this month. Although the snow was on, it was actually a beautiful morning - and the first time I have canvassed a distillery! (see right)

On a totally different matter, I have received complaints from residents in the High Mill and Shepherd's Loan area that the area to the north of High Mill has become overgrown again. Back in November 2006, following my raising this matter, the owner (a Belgium-based developer) arranged for a tidy-up (click on headline above to view the original story).

As the photo below shows, the area is again overgrown and untidy. I have therefore approached the City Council about the matter and am pleased to say that the Planning Enforcement Officer has agreed to write to the owner asking for a further tidy-up.

NHS concerns

As anyone viewing First Minister's Questions last week would see, Nicol Stephen, Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Scotland, confronted the First Minister about the devastating impact his waiting times targets have had on NHS patients. Nicol demanded that ministers come clean about how many patients have been dumped from NHS waiting lists in order to meet the Scottish Government’s waiting times targets.

Nicol said, “The government needs to come clean about how many other doctors and surgeons have been told to delete patients in order to meet targets.

“We need to know how many health boards have been sending patients away without being treated. People expect the NHS to be available for them wherever they live in Scotland.

“Liberal Democrats are tabling questions to the Scottish Government this afternoon to get to the bottom of this sickening situation.

“I want to know what action the government is taking to get all the patients who received such devastating letters back into the NHS.”

Following a statement by NHS Tayside in response to the waiting times issues raised at First Minister’s Questions, Nicol said, “Clearly, if this issue had not been raised by me today these patients would have been left languishing in a ‘no-treatment no-man’s-land.

“There is no dispute that patients were forcibly removed from waiting lists. This was as a direct result of the current government’s policy.

“We now need a guarantee from the government that no other patients in Scotland have been treated in this disgraceful way.”

All the usual spin from the SNP "government" doesn't hide the fact that Nicol raising this serious issue has resulted in the particular issue at NHS Tayside being "hurriedly resolved" - but, as Nicol points out, the SNP administration must clarify the position regarding all patients across Scotland and provide proper reassurances.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Busy Week!

Having spent the first part of the week in London with the “day job”, it has been exceptionally busy on return. Travelled via the new St Pancras International and (despite my dreadful photography attempt) you can see – right – that it’s a pretty impressive rail station.

On return to Dundee on Wednesday, I chaired the regional transport partnership board (TACTRAN) meeting in Perth and later attended the City Council’s Development Quality Forum at which the Depute Director of the Directorate for Planning and Environmental Appeals (what we used to call the Reporters’ Unit!) spoke. It was extremely informative.

Yesterday, I attended a Digital UK update at Dundee City Chambers on the digital television switch-over, aimed primarily at housing providers. Most of my “digital TV issues” really lie with Ofcom (as previously covered on this blog) but as the organisation responsible for publicising the analogue switch off, I was keen to raise the concerns I have about the assistance vulnerable people (particularly the elderly and disabled).

Although there is assistance in terms of the cost of digital terrestrial equipment and aerial compatibility for elderly and disabled people, the latter aspect does not apply to people in flats, and given the very large number of people in flats and tenements in parts of the West End, this exception is of concern. Many people in tenements have complex communal aerial set-ups (often installed many years ago) and I consider it vital that elderly and disabled citizens get the help they need to ensure they get continuation of their TV services after 2010.

I am pleased to say that Digital UK confirmed that a flexible approach will be taken to ensure all necessary assistance is given to vulnerable people.
I would have been at the regional transport partnerships chairs meeting in Inverness today, but the weather situation resulted in cancellation.