Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Braeview Academy transformed

Braeview Academy's recent HMIE report has been greatly cheering news and of great credit to Brenda Hadcroft, the Head Teacher, all other staff and the pupils, parents and wider school community.


Obviously, Braeview is not in my ward area, so why this comment? Back in 2003/4 when I was the Convener of the Education Committee, I paid several visits to Braeview around the time of the previous - and critical HMIE report - and I was impressed - thoroughly impressed - by the determination of all at the school (including the then acting Head Teacher David May, a long standing friend and colleague and now LibDem councillor on Angus Council) to move the school positively forward.


In March 2004, I was quoted in the local press as follows:


Council education convener Councillor Fraser Macpherson added, “We are now looking to the school pushing ahead.


“I have been impressed by the spirit and determination shown by all the teachers, managers and pupils to turn this situation around. Already real improvements have been made.


“There is still a lot of hard work to be done and I am sure everyone concerned will be working together to ensure the inspectors will see a real difference at Braeview on their return.”


Well, they did. Congratulations Braeview!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

And ... Tuesday!

I chaired the TACTRAN Board today (regional transport partnership - includes Stirling, Perth & Kinross and Angus Councils as well as us in Dundee) - included very informative presentations on Park and Ride, Demand Responsive Transport, Walking and Cycling and other strategies in the regional area.

This afternoon, a useful and productive meeting with one of the local Head Teachers on the West End youth football team initiative, and tonight a meeting with Blackness Area Residents' Association.

Lastly, a positive response from Dundee City Council following complaints raised by both myself and the Friends of Magdalen Green about inadequate litter bin provision on Magdalen Green
.

I'm pleased with the prompt response by the City Council’s Leisure & Communities Department to recent complaints about litter on the Green and, in particular overflowing litter bins and a toilet roll wrapped round the bandstand. I was a bit surprised by the comment of a Council spokeswoman who told the Courier “the bin supply is adequate.”

Although the department empties bins very regularly, it is patently obvious that the existing provision of bins is inadequate. Bins were overflowing yesterday.

I am therefore pleased to have received confirmation today that the department is to “consider an extra few bins strategically placed to accept the overflow” something which I think will be welcomed.

Logie Avenue - south carriageway

Just received from the City Council - pleased to see this carriageway being improved :

Dundee City Council propose to make an Order under Section 14(1) of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 for the purpose of facilitating carriageway resurfacing works. The Order is expected to be in force for two weeks from 19 May 2008. Its maximum duration in terms of the Act is eighteen months.

The effect of the Order is to prohibit temporarily all vehicular traffic on the south carriageway of Logie Avenue from Glenagnes Road to Sycamore Place.

Pedestrian thoroughfare and vehicular access to premises will be maintained.

An alternative route will be available via Logie Avenue (north carriageway).

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

If you have any queries please contact the City Council on 433168.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Monday

The Courier today carried the concerns of residents at Sinderins Court about the recurring problems with the lift in the sheltered housing complex, including my comment that I had immediately contacted the landlord (Home Scotland) about this.


I am pleased to say that the lift was back on as of this afternoon, but the substantive issue (ie permanent and lasting repair) remains to be achieved. I quote the area manager for Home Scotland :


"I have been able to get a full update from our Maintenance Team in response to your query.

We have being trying to resolve the problem of the lift for some weeks now with the engineers being out on approximately 17 occasions, the difficulty being that the fault is intermittent. Our Maintenance Team are in daily contact with the lift engineers who have had their top technicians on site on a regular basis in an effort to rectify the lift problem. The technicians were on site for one and a half days last week and on Thursday ran the lift for such a long period that it began to overheat - all without failure. Regrettably the lift broke down again on Thursday night. A new part was fitted on Friday which was hoped would resolve the problem but unfortunately the lift failed again around lunchtime on Saturday. Engineers attended but were not able to resolve the problem and it had to be left off lest it fail again.

The lift consultant is to meet in Dundee on Friday with the head engineer of Thyssen Drupp to try to bring forward a speedy resolution.

I can assure you that the situation is being closely monitored and the breakdowns are not being treated lightly. We obviously regret the inconvenience and hardship this is causing our tenants, while every effort is being made to rectify the problem as early as possible."


On another matter, I have asked the City Council to promptly tackle complaints about rubbish overflowing the waste bins on Magdalen Green (see right). The Chair of Friends of Magdalen Green and I discussed the matter today & we agreed that there is a need for larger (and more) bins. And that's exactly what I have asked of Dundee City Council.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Never knew love like this before - Stephanie Mills ( Remix)

Totally irrelevant to everything else on this blog, but driving back from visiting constituents in Taylor's Lane today, this came on the radio.

Reminds me of being about 14!

Brilliant!

A government built on sand

Easily the most cringe-worthy event of last week was the utterly disastrous appearance of SNP MSP Christina McKelvie on Newsnight Scotland on Wednesday night, in which she fell at the first hurdle in trying to defend the SNP government's Scottish Futures Non-Trust, the smoke and mirrors the SNP claims will replace PPP capital funding and provide Scotland with hundreds of new schools in the next few years.

Christina's frankly hilarious "performance" is neatly summed up by Atticus in the Sunday Times today:

"Car crash of the week was the toe-curling appearance by nationalist MSP Christina McKelvie on Newsnight Scotland on Wednesday.


"Never has a big, gallus lassie from Glasgow looked so hopelessly out of her depth as she blustered and flustered and parroted the same gibberish to every question that was put to her.


"Despite appearing to read from a crib sheet as she debated the SNP's Scottish Futures Trust, she nevertheless managed to claim PFI/PPP cost Scotland £500 billion a year. As this is 17 times the entire Scottish budget, and 1000 times the true figure, Atticus suspects she may have gone slightly awry."


The substantive point is not that an unknown SNP MSP looked hopeless on Newsnight. It is that, despite populist moves in its first year, the SNP government is built on sand, and nowhere is this most apparent than over capital projects funding.

The SNP consultation paper on the so-called Scottish Futures Trust was (to put it politely) "thin" on content. A few quotes :

Iain McMillan in The Scotsman, ‘New quango to run public-private projects’ : 21 December 2007:

"We welcome the apparent change of heart in funding model from the SNP, and the acceptance that the private sector will remain involved in developing infrastructure and providing services throughout the whole lifetime of projects.

"However, it remains to be seen whether the proposed non-profit distributing model, and creation of a new quango, will actually add value, let alone provide real incentives for delivering higher-quality services and better value for money."

STUC response to SFT consultation document:

"STUC is disappointed with the consultation document which lacks detail in a number of areas.

"It is not prudent to pursue the SFT as currently proposed.

"STUC is not convinced of the arguments for that a ‘super-sized’ private ‘not for profit’ company would be able to maintain a genuine public interest ethos.

"STUC does not see the centralisation of expertise in an SFT as an irrefutably good thing."

Douglas Fraser, The Herald: "The SNP's big picture remains a bit of a sketch' : 22 April 2008

"At its conference this weekend, the SNP was delighted to highlight one Labour-run council, East Renfrewshire, offering to pilot the plan, but neglected to say that Eastwood's financiers seem to think they can do better than St Andrew's House.

"The Institute of Public Finance Accountants could merely point out "significant gaps" and that "further, fundamental questions remain to be asked or addressed".

"Audit Scotland, the public sector watchdog, observed the SFT "faces competing challenges and constraints and these create a number of risks". The plan is "at a very early stage and there is much further work to be done", including the question of public accountability.

"Other parts of public Scotland are holding off new projects while uncertainty reigns over the administration's funding plans.

"So if there is one challenge for the SNP in its second year, it is to start getting the big items right. It does the politics well, but government is tougher than it looked from the outside, and the big picture requires attention to detail."

Hamish McDonnell, The Scotman, ‘Halfway plans for alternative to PFI satisfy no-one’ : 22 April 2008:

"Ministers could not have shown more embarrassment over a set of proposals if they tried.

"The problem for the Scottish Government in this case is that it has made such a blatant attempt at hiding these plans that it has actually started to generate interest in them.

"What the results of the consultation did show was how the SNP fudge has enraged almost everyone. But, more importantly, it has led to claims of delays in the school and hospital building programme started by the last Scottish Executive.

"Ministers are slowly starting to find out the difference between the superficial and the easy - the populist issues - and the deeper, detailed and complicated policies which make a long term difference - the weighty issues.

"Mr Salmond has done very well with style. He is having a little more trouble with substance. Some time soon, he will need to show he can master both."

Wider blog ...!

You'll have noticed the blog is now a bit wider, with an extra column.
It took a bit of playing about with the blog template, but we appear to have got there in the end!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Surgeries - and litter!

A useful time at lunchtime yesterday with a joint surgery with Alison McInnes MSP at Dundee University Students' Association - good in particular to speak with two of the DUSA office bearers about issues affecting the student community and, in particular, how the City Council can assist.

This morning participated in a West End Community Council organised litter pick in the West End - mainly covering Perth Road, Hawkhill and the lanes in between. As you can see from the photos below, it was extremely productive!

Local activities

If you click on the headline above, you can read the latest community learning newsletter from the City Council - the final page lists events in the West End.

And ... talking of events ... today sees a Family Fun Day at the Botanic Garden - details below:

FAMILY FUN DAY

Saturday 26th April 2008
In the Garden

Cost - Normal entry charges apply Time - 10.00am to 4.00pm

Join us for our annual fun and games, we have all the old favourites - pot a plant, face painting and storytelling. DBS Productions presents Jack & Jill's Nursery Rhyme Adventure - join Jack and Jill on a wild chase around the Botanic Garden. Can you help then in their efforts to save Red Riding Hood from the Big Bad Wolf? Will the pair ever fetch that pail of water?

Find out at our Family Fun Day!!

The Art Shack will be doing a craft workshop. Come along and see the Beekeepers and the Countryside Rangers.

Friday, April 25, 2008

SNP on the fuel crisis - shades of Labour on the 10p tax rate

Today's Daily Telegraph sums up the concerns about the SNP Government's handling of the fuel crisis - to quote :

"Alex Salmond was accused of being out of touch with the fuel crisis facing Scotland yesterday after he claimed that the country could cope with a strike at its only refinery."

Click on the headline above to view the full article.

At this week’s First Minister’s Questions, leader of the Liberal Democrats in Scotland, Nicol Stephen MSP, sought to seek assurances from the First Minister that the Government was taking all appropriate steps to counter panic buying and profiteering on the part of individuals and petrol stations in the run up to the Grangemouth oil refinery strike.

Nicol Stephen said, “People throughout Scotland are dismayed and angry at the crisis and the profiteering. The First Minister has just said that there is ample fuel and has called for normal purchasing.

“Does he not know that that stopped several days ago?

“There are now long queues, empty fuel tanks and high prices. The situation is anything but normal. Will ministers stop saying that they have it all under control? Has the First Minister driven home the case to get prices capped, as I asked him to do on Monday? Will he stop ministers pretending that they have secured ample supplies?

“People want real action from the Government, not empty promises that everything is normal. People are genuinely worried. What is the First Minister doing to stop the rip-off and to keep Scotland moving?”


Thereafter - and commenting after a ministerial statement about the Grangemouth fuel dispute, Liberal Democrat Shadow Finance Secretary Tavish Scott MSP said, “The First Minister has promised that there was an ‘ample and substantial’ stock of fuel. The Cabinet Secretary in his statement said that the government needed to ‘mitigate any possible impact’ and if ‘any shortages arise’ then they would act.

“Despite the First Minister assuring the Parliament that fuel would last, ‘well into May’, Lothian Buses, just an hour later, announced that there would be no buses from Sunday onwards. Petrol stations on the A9 are without fuel.


"In the Borders, the local National Farmers Union has warned that there is no red diesel available due to the Grangemouth dispute and the Shell petrol station closest to the Scottish Parliament has run out of diesel and this afternoon increased its petrol prices by 1p a litre.

“Are Scottish Ministers the only people in Scotland not to recognise that there is a fuel shortage?

“It took a personal phone call from the Transport Secretary to reassure Lothian Buses that fuel would be guaranteed. The Transport Minister’s going to have a busy evening tonight if he has to call every bus operator in Scotland to guarantee them sufficient fuel to keep their fleets running.

“SNP Ministers simply don’t know what’s going on.”

Salmond's handling of this thus far has all the shades of Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling's "head in the sand" approach over the 10p tax rate fiasco. As my party colleague Iain Dale said on his blog (http://anything-caron-can-do.blogspot.com/) yesterday :


"They say Ross Finnie has more than a passing resemblance to Captain Mainwaring from Dad's Army. Today we saw Eck Salmond taking on the Corporal Jones role of running around in turmoil shouting "Don't panic!" to the people of Scotland."

"My solution: well there's the nub. People won't stop panicking until there is settlement of the dispute. My suggestion is that both sides go back to ACAS and accept their decision as legally binding. It seems the only feasible way out."

Seabraes Update

An on-going area of complaint has been graffiti and other vandalism at Seabraes - right - (read an earlier story about this by clicking on the headline above) , and I have recently received more complaints from constituents about the graffiti here.

Firstly, with regard to the 'mini bandstand' in the gardens area at the top of Seabraes, Dundee Contract Services has agreed to my request to have the graffiti on it removed.

With regard to graffiti across the SET area of Seabraes as a whole, I have had positive feedback from SET, whose representative has said, "I have put a call into cleansing re this. They have previously successfully treated grafitti, and we will endeavour to set up a more rigorous monitoring regime"

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Allotments

I have had a fair bit of contact in recent months with some allotment holders in three allotments in or around the West End area over a number of issues, so I am pleased to see the launch of a new booklet aimed at helping allotment gardeners improve the mix of wildlife and plants in their plots.

Created by the Tayside Bio Diversity Partnership, the free publication will be distributed to every allotment holder in the city as well as all community garden committees.

You can read a PDF of it by clicking on the headline above.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Real action on the environment

Nick Clegg MP on the environment

Tom McDonald Avenue and Kirsty Semple Way

I have just been informed of this by the City Council. It will appear in the Evening Telegraph this coming Friday :

DUNDEE CITY COUNCIL
ROAD TRAFFIC REGULATION ACT 1984


DUNDEE CITY COUNCIL (TOM MCDONALD AVENUE AND KIRSTY SEMPLE WAY, DUNDEE) (BUS ONLY FACILITIES) ORDER 2008


Dundee City Council propose to make an Order under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, the effect of which will be to create a bus facility whilst still protecting access for emergency vehicles to the Accident and Emergency Unit at Ninewells Hospital.

Full details of the proposals are contained in the draft Order, which together with 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 at Dundee City Council offices, Reception, Floor 4, 21 City Square, Dundee by any person, during a period of 21 days from 25 April 2008.

Any person may within 21 days from 25 April 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 the objector, the matters to which they relate and the grounds on which they are made.


PATRICIA McILQUHAM
Depute Chief Executive (Support Services)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Perth Road latest - a few issues

Following the start of the gas main replacement works in Perth Road yesterday, there's been three issues raised with me by local residents and businesses.

Firstly, when the road closure at the Paton's Lane area was put in place, the lanes to the south at Paton's Lane, Thomson Street, Seafield Road and Lane and Westfield Place were all closed at the Perth Road junction (and the one-way situation in Paton's and Westfield altered accordingly).

Given that the actual works by Turriff won't reach Seafield Road/Lane and Westfield Place for some time yet, both residents and I thought there was no need for the closures there and following contact with the City Council and their speaking with Scotland Gas Networks, this has now been resolved and the status quo returned. To quote the feedback from the Council :



"The City Council met SGN on site this morning and after further review, decided to re-open Westfield Place and Seafield Road to run as normal until it is absolutely necessary to close them due to works.

In other words, Westfield Place is open as normal ie one-way (North to South), therefore access is via Perth Road (from city centre side) and through the signs which say Road Ahead Closed/Road Closed/Access Maintained, etc.

Seafield Road is two way, therefore access is now from either Perth Road or Roseangle/Magdalen Yard Road.

Some signs have been taken down to allow the above change and other signs are on order to give more information for other closed side roads that access is maintained for residents at junctions with Perth Road."

A satisfactory outcome.

The second issue is there is a clear need for additional bus stops on Hawkhill (one outbound, one inbound) between the stop near Urquhart Street and the one near the Health Centre. Having spoken to residents, I think one around Millers Wynd's northern end makes sense. I spoke to the Sustainable Transport Team Leader in the City Council about this today and agreement has been made to provide this.

Lastly, there was a problem getting the Friendly Bus (sheltered shopping service) into Paton's Lane today but I have been in touch with SGN, Turriff (the gas contractors) and Stagecoach Strathtay, and I'm hopeful that future journeys will be alright.

Last night's Development Quality Committee

At last night's City Council Development Quality Committee, I successfully moved refusal of a proposed application to build a property on the wooded area south of Richmond Terrace, near the allotments west of Magdalen Green. The application had been recommended for approval by planning officers.

This was the second time I moved refusal of a planning application here - the previous, remarkably similar application was refused by committee early last year, and that decision to refuse later upheld by the Reporter.

Two deputations representing local residents opposed to the development were also heard by committee last night.

My reasons for refusal were :
Application 07/01118/FUL

Proposed House at Richmond Terrace, Dundee

1) That the pruning and felling of trees for a new house in this prominent location will have a significant adverse impact on the appearance, character and setting of this part of the West End Suburbs Conservation Area contrary to the terms of Policy 61 of the Dundee Local Plan Review 2005 and the statutory duty set out in Section 64 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997. There are no material considerations that would justify the approval of the application contrary to the development plan.

2) The insertion of a large modern house in the prominent wooded slopes as proposed would not protect or enhance the character or the appearance of the West End Suburbs Conservation Area contrary to the terms of Policy 61 of the Dundee Local Plan Review 2005 and the statutory duty set out in Section 64 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997. There are no material considerations that would justify the approval of the application contrary to the development plan.

3) The proposed development is contrary to Policy 55 of the Dundee Local Plan Review 2005 by virtue of the design, appearance, scale and materials of the proposed dwelling house being inappropriate in the location proposed resulting in an adverse impact on the visual quality of the local environment. There are no material considerations that would justify the approval of the application contrary to the development plan.

4) That the proposed development has the potential to displace bat roosts and habitats resulting in an adverse impact on a European protected species of animal which is contrary to the terms of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 as amended.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Stagecoach Strathtay Bus Route Changes

Following my blog entry last Friday about bus routes (click on headline above to view), I have had feedback from Stagecoach Strathtay's Operations Manager on the matter as follows:

"Cllr Macpherson,

Just a quick explanation of the change to the service 13 route.

It has always been the intention for the 13 to use the link road once it had opened and the service registration has been produced to show this. The link road was due to open last year and until the opening the diversion via Ninewells Avenue was only temporary.

The link road allows us to offer a more direct service to Ninewells Hospital by reducing the journey time to access the hospital. As Neil states in his email, Ninewells Avenue still enjoys a 30 minute service operated by the 42 and 96.

We are reviewing the changes we made to the network in August 2007 and also reviewing the network as a whole, so the comments regarding the service provision along Ninewells Avenue will be noted and consideration will be given to increasing the frequency along this route."

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Mystery of stored flower planters revealed!

I'm pleased to say that I've now got answers to complaints by West End residents that around 20 large flower planters – currently in full bloom – have been stored beside a pavilion at Riverside, rather than being sited at prominent locations in the city as residents would rather expect they would.

I have been contacted by residents who have noticed the planters, currently in full bloom and extremely colourful, whilst out for a walk south of Magdalen Green, near the Riverside Drive Pavilion. The planters are locked away and residents said it seemed a shame that they were not being put to better use and help brighten up prominent parts of the City. One resident said the entrance to Balgay Park at Scott Street would be an excellent location for a few of them.

I therefore contacted the City Council’s Leisure & Communities Department and have been advised that the planters in question were original destined for the City Square. However, given the engineering works beneath the Square currently underway, placing the planters in the Square was not possible this year, but I have been assured that other City Centre alternative sites are being identified.

I certainly hope that the planters are relocated soon, so good use of them can be made whilst they are still in bloom.

Aye, a Dundee spree is a done deed indeed ...

Good to see Dundee getting really good press over a very positive entry in the Lonely Planet guide. To quote Lonely Planet :

"Aye, a Dundee spree is a done deed indeed.

"Spreading along the southern shore of the Firth of Tay, Dundee boasts attractions of national importance in Discovery Point and the Verdant Works museum. Add the seaside suburb of Broughty Ferry, a lively nightlife and the most welcoming people you could meet - and Dundee is definitely worth a visit."

You can read the Lonely Planet guide to Dundee by clicking on the headline above.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Botanic Garden Update

Last night's "Evening Telegraph" gave an update on the Botanic Garden.

This is an issue in which I have taken a close interest (click on headline above to view an earlier blog entry) and the Tele last night featured the fact that the University has not been prepared to give me an assurance that, in looking at ways of providing the garden with a sustainable financial future, it would rule out selling any of the garden ground to a developer. The University has made clear it (and the working group assisting with the future of the Botanics) will consider all options - but I consider this an option too far.

I have been working with one of the sub-groups the Friends of Dundee Botanic Garden established to look at ways of increasing funds. We've been looking at - for example - ways of getting support of local businesses through corporate membership of the gardens. Additionally, the recent City Council announcement regarding help via the Common Good Fund is extremely positive.

There is no doubt in my mind that the local community in the West End - and, indeed, many people from further afield - would strongly oppose the selling of any of the garden ground. The Dundee Local Plan Review 2005 is crystal clear - the whole Botanic Garden is protected open space - you can see this on-line at : http://www.dundeecity.gov.uk/dundeecity/uploaded_publications/publication_588.pdf.

I remain convinced that a sustainable financial future can be provided for the Botanic Garden without any need to sell off any of the garden ground and reduce what is a jewel in the crown in the West End.

Last week's FMQs ...

Another excellent performance by Nicol Stephen at FMQs last week, where he took the opportunity to challenge the First Minister over the SNP’s proposed £3bn of "efficiency" savings and expose the complete lack of detail in their published figures.

Annabel Goldie is also a consistently good performer at FMQs and Alex Salmond's response to her question on Thursday about whether or not students are liable for Council Tax ("As Annabel Goldie well knows, it depends where they are staying") sort of sums up Salmond's oft-repeated lack of grasp of the actuality (students are exempt Council Tax no matter where they stay). Alex Salmond is great at the one-liners and can produce hot air for Scotland, but when it comes to the detail of policy, waffle-mode tends to set in. Have you seen how often he flicks through his briefing papers during questions but rarely actually refers to them?

Wendy Alexander's performance at FMQs this week was again, frankly, poor. Her decision to fail to ask her final question was ill-conceived (although it was hilarious to see Salmond's face when the Presiding Officer told him to sit down as there was no question to answer) but looking beyond the actual performances in the Punch and Judy atmosphere of FMQs, Alexander's questions did result in the SNP backtracking over their backtracking of their manifesto pledge on physical education in schools (follow that if you will). Never before has any government been dragged kicking and screaming to get it to implement its own manifesto promises.

Anyway, back to Nicol's questions on the SNP's so-called 'efficiency savings' ("cuts" to you and me) - the lack of detail in the SNP proposals is staggering - they simply won't be delivered, but I dare say Salmond will blame Westminster ...

Here's what Nicol had to say - you can read the full exchange by clicking on the headline above :

“How does the First Minister know that his list of efficiency savings of £3 billion over the next three years will not lead to cuts in public services?

“The truth is that most of the First Minister's efficiency savings document is simply blank space. Has he seen what is missing? For the £1 billion of savings in health boards, his document says that decisions on efficiencies and cuts are best taken locally; that is it. Another £1 billion is unexplained in local government and universities and colleges; there is no information. The Scottish Prison Service said that it was too busy even to fill in the form. It said that it was "unable to specify a description of the planned efficiency savings" because "The immediate priority for SPS is dealing with the record prisoner population.

“So £2 billion of the £3 billion in cuts and efficiencies is completely unexplained.Does the First Minister think that it is right that we have to rely on the shallow reassurance of his back bencher Alex Neil? Mr Neil told Radio Scotland yesterday morning that we should not be worried because the efficiencies are not cuts in the Thatcherite tradition. Are cuts in the Salmondite tradition okay?”

Friday, April 18, 2008

West End Bus Matters ...

There have been quite a few bus related queries this week.
Firstly, with regard to the roadworks at the roundabout at Blackness Road/Glamis Road/Glamis Drive (see right), residents had contacted me to complain that, although there was a temporary bus stop in location on the inbound route at the roadworks, no such facility exisited for outbound jorneys (ie to Ninewells Hospital, etc) leaving some residents a lengthy walk from either end of the roadworks after coming off the bus.

I am pleased to say that, following my contacting the Planning & Transportation Department about this, an outbound temporary stop has now been arranged.

The other issue raised by residents was the lack of diversionary signage marking clearly how to get to the Hillside area. I have now had the following feedback from the Director of Planning & Transportation :

"My staff in Road Maintenance and Road Network have reviewed the signage for the diversion to the Hillside area. Two extra temporary signs have been ordered and will be placed on Perth Road either side of Invergowrie Drive junction by this afternoon. The good news is that the works are due for completion by early Wednesday morning ahead of schedule."

Nearby, in Ninewells Avenue - another issue. On 8th April, the bus routes for the 9X and 13 services changed slightly, meaning they now miss out this street. Residents in the area east of Ninewells Avenue have contacted me given the inconvenience of fewer services now serving the area and I have had the following feedback from the City Council :

"With regard to the Service 9x and Service 13 they have diverted onto Tom McDonald Avenue from Ninewells Avenue primarily to follow the most direct route to Ninewells Hospital and to provide additional drop off points within the Ninewells Hospital estate which offers a large number of work and health destinations. Ultimately these are commercial decisions made by the bus operators. At this moment the half hourly 42 and 96 will continue to serve Ninewells Avenue."

The feedback has also gone to the bus companies, with whom I have also raised this concern. Meantime, if you look below, you can download the timetables for the 42 and 96 services, which still serve Ninewells Avenue.

And the next issue - residents have, in the past, raised with me the lack of bus services to Ninewells Hospital on a Sunday, for those living in Perth Road west of Blackness Avenue. Until recently, there was no Sunday service (except for services going via Blackness Avenue) but in the recent timetable changes Stagecoach Strathtay introduced a service via Ninewells Hospital several times on Sunday (approximately every two hours) serving the western part of Perth Road.

It is badged as the 16B service and you can obtain the full 16 service timetable from the Seagate Bus Station or by clicking on this link : http://www.stagecoachbus.com/timetables/16pckttt07042008.pdf

Lastly, I recorded an interview with Wave 102 earlier today regarding the impending roadworks on Perth Road that start on Monday. Part of this covered residents' concerns over bus services and I paste below part of my most recent news release on the subject. I should add that clearly labelled notices should by now be placed on all affected bus stops on Perth Road, and you can see a copy of these by clicking on the headline above :

Following concerns expressed by constituents over the potential effect of impending gas main replacement works in Dundee’s Perth Road, West End Councillor Fraser Macpherson today advised that he has sought assurances regarding residents’ concerns about the need to keep local bus services as accessible as possible.

The roadworks – starting Monday (21st April) - will see no through traffic along Perth Road east of Sinderins, resulting in bus diversions.

Councillor Macpherson said, “During the period of no through traffic getting right along Perth Road, I have been advised that the main bus services will be re-routed via Hawkhill. I have spoken with transportation staff in the City Council about ensuring there is good information posted on bus stops along the affected route, clearly advising of alternative arrangements. There are also bus timetables affixed to bus stops on the diversion stops on Hawkhill, to aid public information.

“Many residents have also asked about the 72 local bus service as it runs south of Perth Road on Roseangle and Magdalen Yard Road.

“I have been assured that it will be able to cover most of its route one way or another for all of the roads disruption period. This is particularly important as many elderly people can’t manage the full uphill walk to Hawkhill. At a meeting earlier this week with Scotland Gas Networks, I was also advised that access to the sheltered housing complexes for the Friendly Bus Shopping Service would also be maintained.”

Bus Timetable - Ninewells Avenue (West) - from 8th April

Click on headline to download

Bus Timetable - Ninewells Avenue (East) - from 8th April

Click on headline to download

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Back to surgeries ... and joint surgeries ...

With the school holidays over, it was back to West End Ward surgeries tonight.

These are :


Mitchell Street Centre - Mitchell Street (The Base) - Thursdays - 5 pm prompt (except school holidays)


Harris Academy, Perth Road (Room 407) - Thursdays - 5.30 pm (prompt) (except school holidays)


Blackness Primary School (Staff Room) - Thursdays - 6.15 pm (prompt) (except school holidays)




In addition to my usual surgeries, I am doing a joint Students' Surgery a week on Friday at Dundee University Students' Association with Alison McInnes MSP, LibDem MSP for North East Scotland (click on headline for the full details).

This is not my first joint MSP/Councillor surgery (but the first fully LibDem one as the previous one was LibDem/SNP). I think joint surgeries and cross-party ones is a good approach to make politicians of all parties as accessible as possible to constituents.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Temporary Traffic Order - Douglas Street

Just received from the City Council :

Dundee City Council propose to make an Order under Section 14(1) of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 for the purpose of facilitating building works.

The Order is expected to be in force for ten weeks from 21 April 2008. Its maximum duration in terms of the Act is eighteen months.

The effect of the Order is to prohibit temporarily all vehicular traffic in Douglas Street between Ash Street and Park Street.

Pedestrian thoroughfare and vehicular access to premises will be maintained.

An alternative route will be available via Ash Street.

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

If you have any queries please contact the department on 433168.

Update on residents' parking consultation

The City Council is this morning releasing the following update on the impending parking consultation :

Plans to help ease parking problems experienced by residents in various areas of Dundee are set to take another step forward.

Following agreement by the city council's planning and transport committee, surveys are about to get under way to gauge support for residents' parking schemes in the West End, Dudhope, Hilltown, Princes Street and Invergowrie Drive areas.

Planning and transport convener Councillor Fraser Macpherson said: "People living in these areas very often experience parking difficulties, mainly because of problems caused by motorists who live outwith their areas and who choose to park all day in their street.

"It is obviously frustrating and inconvenient for residents who can't find a space near their own home because of this and the city council wants to be able to offer some help.

"The surveys are aimed at building up a picture of how the various streets are being used as parking areas and there will also be consultation to find out the views of everyone who has an interest in the issue, including householders and businesses.

"This will be an ideal opportunity for people in the areas being surveyed to contribute to helping their own communities."

Among organisations also being contacted for the survey are the chamber of commerce, community councils and residents' groups. A series of surveys are under way to obtain information on existing levels and duration of on-street parking.

When the consultation is complete, it is expected that a further report will go to committee with proposals aimed at helping residents.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Perth Road roadworks again...

The Courier today (click on headline above to view) covered on-going roadworks issues, and at lunchtime today I met again with Scotland Gas Networks and their contractors Turriff about the Perth Road closure, due to commence next Monday (April 21st). I issued a news release following this, which I paste below:

Dundee City Council Planning & Transport Convener, Cllr Fraser Macpherson, today met with senior representatives of both Scotland Gas Networks and Turriff Contractors in relation to continuing constituent concerns about the impending road closure in Perth Road, due to commence next Monday (21st April).


Cllr Macpherson, who is also a ward councillor for the West End, said that the meeting had been constructive and that both Scotland Gas Networks and their contractors Turriff had been keen to address the issues raised by both local residents and businesses, worried about the effect of the road closure, which is taking place because of a need to replace the gas main on Perth Road from Paton’s Lane to South Tay Street.

Cllr Macpherson said that SGN and Turriff had given an assurance that the actual length of the road closure at any given time would be no more than 150 metres and that access up to this from both sides of Perth Road would be possible, and that normal parking spaces outside of the maximum 150 metres of closed road would be maintained. Additionally, provision for servicing of shops was being addressed.

Cllr Macpherson said, “I think it is important to emphasise that the actual closed part of the road at any one time is just 150 metres and that access to all streets east and west of that will occur as normal, because one concern raised was the fear that the whole road was completely shut for the entire length, which is not the case.”

Cllr Macpherson sought and received assurances from Scotland Gas Networks and Turriff about the extent of their notifications to residents and businesses locally. The councillor added, “They have made clear to me that they are also pleased to speak with any resident or local business about any concern at any time during what I think we all accept is major disruption in the area.

“They said that anyone was welcome to call them on Dundee 622204 to raise any concern or worry and they would be willing to go out to speak with any resident or local business in person if requested. They also indicated they would be happy to meet with West End Community Councillors and local City Councillors soon after the work has started, because what was clear from a similar project undertaken by the water authority a few years ago is that some remaining issues surface only after the works have started.”

Councillor Macpherson said he had already raised the issue of bus services. Although the main services are re-routed via Hawkhill, the 72 local bus service south of Perth Road will be able to cover most of its route one way or another for all of the roads disruption period. Cllr Macpherson added, “This is particularly important as many elderly people can’t manage the full uphill walk to Hawkhill. At the meeting with Scotland Gas Networks, I was also advised that access to the sheltered housing complexes for the Friendly Bus Shopping Service would also be maintained.”

The councillor said he had raised residents’ concerns about potential noise and was assured that there would be no evening working past 7.30pm and no Sunday works were planned.

Cllr Macpherson concluded, “There is no doubt that this will be a period of considerable disruption and there are real and genuine concerns raised by both businesses and residents. Meeting with the company and its contractors again today was a helpful step forward and their willingness to speak and meet with residents and businesses about concerns is welcome. Along with my councillor colleagues in the West End, I will be keeping a very close eye on this situation.”

Monday, April 14, 2008

Unadopted footways progress

Recently the very western end of Perth Road (south side, west of Riverside Place) has been brought up to standard under the Unadopted Footways Programme and I have been asking about what is now planned for 2008/9.

Specifically, the short stretch of Riverside Drive's east side between the Botanic Gardens and Perth Road, is in a very poor state (and - rightly - the subject of residents' complaints), and I have now had the following feedback from the City Engineer on this :

“I can confirm that the footway at Riverside Drive, east side of Botanic Gardens to Perth Road is high on the priority list and is included in the 2008/2009 Unadopted Footway Programme. Works will therefore be programmed within this financial year to bring it up to adoptable status.”

Last year, I also asked that, at its annual review, the list had Menzieshill Road and Whitefauld Road assessed for priority and added to it. On this I have now also had feedback :

"The Annual Review is generally carried out in March of each year in time for the new financial year.

"At this time all new unadopted footways advised of/identified through the year are added and scored and any new information relating to existing unadopted footways on the list reviewed.

"The annual review is just being finalised and will be available shortly.

"Both Menzieshill Road and Whitefauld Road have been added to the list of unadopted footways and assessed as part of the 2008/2009 annual review."

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Blog's Address!

The blog is very well read across the West End of Dundee and further afield (I had an e-mail from a lady in Australia recently, who was tracing her family's history in Dundee and looking for a bit of advice as to who to contact in the City Council...!)

BUT http://frasermacpherson.blogspot.com/ is not the most memorable web address in the world, so the new and rather more memorable address is :


(The old address continues to work OK as well!)

Nick Clegg on Darfur

Dear Cllr Macpherson
Think back to 13 April 2003. Five years ago. British Airways had just announced it was scrapping Concorde. We were all of us getting on quietly with our lives. And in Sudan, millions of lives were beginning to be torn apart.


In Sudan, every one of those 1800 days that has passed has been the same: fear, hunger, and suffering. There are children, now of school age, who have known nothing but the life of a refugee.


This must end. We must focus the world's attention on Darfur and end this crisis. That's why today I'm speaking at a rally, outside the Sudanese Embassy, to call for concerted international action.


The peacekeepers on the ground are struggling against impossible odds. The peace-keeping mission needs to be fully deployed - there are only 9,000 on the ground so far. And they need backup, especially helicopter and air support - and we must get it for them.


Sudan's closest allies - especially China - must also put pressure Khartoum for peace. Instead of facing this way and that on the Olympics, unsure of whether he can say boo to China or not, Gordon Brown must take a strong stand. He must use the year of the Olympics to speak out about China's role in Darfur and persuade them to change. And he must not attend any more of the ceremonies associated with the Games. His decision to attend the closing ceremony but not the opening one is the worst kind of compromise.


Today, thanks to protests marking the fifth anniversary of the conflict the eyes of the world are on Sudan. Make your voice heard, too. Because if we keep campaigning, keep protesting, the international community will relent and we will secure peace. You can find out more about the global protests taking place today at www.globefordarfur.org.


Best wishes,


Nick Clegg MP

Leader - Liberal Democrats

Perth Road closure concerns

Following concerns raised at the weekend by Dundee West MP, Jim McGovern, regarding the proposed closure of Perth Road by Scotland Gas Networks starting 21st April (click on headline to read the original article about the proposed SGN works), I have contacted both Scotland Gas Networks and its contractor Turriff, seeking clarification regarding assurances previously given by them about informing and consulting with the local community.

Along with City Council Planning & Transportation officers, I met with Scotland Gas Networks and their contractor towards the end of last month regarding their proposed works in Perth Road. Work like this over 24 weeks is extremely disruptive and I sought assurances on a number of important aspects. Specifically, I was given clear assurances that households and local businesses would receive early written notification and indeed I was told that SGN representatives would speak with each local business to discuss any concerns and questions as these notifications were being delivered.

It is extremely concerning that, here we are only a week before the works are due to start on Perth Road, and there are continuing anxieties being expressed about lack of consultation and notification coming from local people. If there is a clear lesson to be learned from a similar closure by the water authority in Perth Road in 2001, it is that clear information and consultation is vital.

Over this weekend, I have therefore e-mailed both Scotland Gas Networks and a representative from their contractors seeking urgent clarification as to the extent of notification to households and businesses thus far, and seeking answers as to why at this late stage, the information dissemination is unsatisfactory.

Yesterday, I was contacted by a resident who lives in a lane immediately adjacent to the affected part of the Perth Road, and whose access is only possible via Perth Road. This gentleman has received no notification from SGN about the works. Like others, his immediate concern is access to his house, particularly important as his wife is disabled.


Although I have been able to clarify the situation for him and there will be access to his home, the concern I have raised with Scotland Gas Networks is why he was not properly notified by the company as they had assured me would happen promptly.

I have suggested to SGN that its attendance at a public meeting, perhaps held under the auspices of the Community Council, should also be considered by them. This would let all residents and businesses in the area raise any issues directly with the company and its contractors.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

24 hours for Darfur

The crisis in Darfur presents a defining moral challenge to the world.

On a day when the crisis in Darfur is highlighted to the world, please help.


Click on the headline above to view more.

Friday, April 11, 2008

High hedges problems

The Courier this morning features an article about the issue of high hedges and comments from both myself and Bailie Rod Wallace, the Conservative Group Leader, supporting any renewed moves by the Scottish Parliament to look at this issue.

I have received a number of concerns from residents in the past about this issue but where amicable resolution is not possible, legislation is currently inadequate.

During the last parliament, Scott Barrie, the former Labour MSP, did attempt to resolve matters through a Private Members' Bill. This would have brought in an arbitration mechanism, which would be a good step forward. If you click on the headline above, you can read the consultation paper on the Bill. At the time his Bill was lodged, I wrote to the then Dundee West MSP Kate Maclean to seek her support for what Scott Barrie was seeking to do, and she was indeed supportive. Unfortunately, the Bill did not make it to legislation.

The matter was helpfully raised again in the parliament this Tuesday by Mary Scanlon, Conservative MSP for the Highlands and Islands. Her questions and the written responses of the Minister for Community Safety (Fergus Ewing MSP) were as follows:

Hedges

Mary Scanlon (Highlands and Islands) (Con): To ask the Scottish Executive when the review of its antisocial behaviour strategy will be completed and whether the nuisance caused by high hedges will be addressed in the review.


(S3W-11399)

Fergus Ewing: As part of the review we will be considering the use, effectiveness and range of existing measures available to local agencies to tackle unacceptable behaviour, including services relevant to high hedge disputes, such as mediation. We intend to publish the findings of the review by the end of 2008.


Additionally, the Scottish Government is exploring options, including legislative ones, for supporting a means of last resort for resolving disputes about high hedges. This will be done in parallel to the national antisocial behaviour review. In doing so, we will bear in mind consultation on the issue by the previous administration, the provisions in place in England and Wales, and Scott Barrie’s bill, which fell at dissolution of the last session of the Parliament.


Mary Scanlon (Highlands and Islands) (Con): To ask the Scottish Executive what advice it can give to householders affected by 40-feet high trees or hedges close to their homes.


(S3W-11400)

Fergus Ewing: Services already provided by community safety partnerships, such as mediation, can be very effective in dealing with a range of neighbour disputes, including those about high hedges.


However, the Scottish Government is giving active consideration to how best it could support the provision of a suitable means of last resort for resolving cases in which all other measures have been exhausted.

The fact that the Scottish Government is exploring options, including legislative ones, for supporting a means of last resort for resolving disputes about high hedges is to be welcomed. I'll be keeping an eye on progress on this matter.

Situation in Zimbabwe

One of my local LibDem colleagues has just e-mailed me as follows:

"I just signed a petition calling for the release of the results of Zimbabwe's election - and urging South African President Thabo Mbeki to pressure Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe to honour the will of the Zimbabwean people. Please join me in signing."


You can do so by clicking on the headline above.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Seating area at corner of Ryehill Lane and Perth Road

In the past, I have raised residents' complaints about the maintenance of this area (click on headline to view a previous item about this from around a year ago). Its owners, JC Decaux, who own the advertising hoardings to the rear of the site have, at my request, undertaken tidy-ups of the site in the past.

The area is looking shabby and overgrown again and the seating needs completely replaced. I've been back in touch with JC Decaux and I have been promised that new seating will be in situ by Tuesday of next week.

The company has also arranged weedkilling of the chipped area but have still to do the area where the old flower bed was and put down fresh top soil. However that if all goes according to plan, that area should be completed by Wednesday of next week.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Footway at Rail Station

As the City Council Planning & Transport Convener, I have today welcomed news that the final section of a footbridge that used to link the rail station with the city centre should be removed in the near future. A report is going next Monday to the Planning & Transport Committee in that regard.


You can read the City Council news release by clicking on the headline above.

Couple of updates ...

Firstly, some positive news regarding the walkway at the construction site that was formerly Homebase on Riverside Drive. Although the issues of pedestrian signage and sight lines for drivers were addressed by the developer, I continue to receive concerns from residents about the "claustrophobic" pedestrian pathway to the north of the site.


At my request, the City Council approached the developer about this. Widening the path or moving it is not possible because of the construction footprint, but the developer has agreed to have the boundary fencing painted a light colour - it is presently dark brown and this adds to the claustrophobic feel.




On another matter entirely, the City Council has recently undertaken a trial of expanding plastics recycling. I have received many requests from West End residents to see plastics recycling at more of the recycling centres (it is currently only available at a limited number of sites such as Marchbanks, Riverside & Baldovie).




A trial additional "neighbourhood" site was chosen for the trial (at a site in Broughty Ferry - chosen because it had room for additional bins and was a "medium busy site").




The Waste Management Department has advised me that:
"The trial has been successful in that the bins have been relatively well used and also used properly - i.e. not contaminated with other materials.

" ... further assessment is being carried out of our operational capacity for additional collections. A study is planned to establish whether we have the capacity to service additional plastic recycling bins at all our Recycling Points. The results of this study will determine how we proceed. It should also be noted that at many of our Recycling Points there is not enough space for introducing additional containers for plastic bottles."


I have been promised a further update from the City Council once the assessment of collection capacity has been completed, but, meantime, I have made the point that numerous residents in the West End have requested an expansion of plastic recycling availability and it would be good to see this at recycling centres such as at Roseangle and Pennycook Lane.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Street sign vandalism reported

Thanks to those residents who have complained to me about graffiti vandalism of a number of local street signs at:

* Blackness Avenue (opposite Hillcrest Road)

* Elm Street (south junction with Logie Avenue)

* Logie Avenue (at south junction with Elm Street - see above right)

These signs can be repaired by cleaning rather than the need for a replacement and I have reported this to the City Council.

Help the Aged continues to lobby for Just Equal Treatment

I have mentioned in previous blog entries that, over the last year, Help the Aged has been calling for age discrimination to be included in the new Equalities Bill.


Last month over 500 people supported the campaign by emailing Harriet Harman MP and calling for an end to age discrimination. I myself wrote to the Minister and you can see the response I received at http://frasermacpherson.blogspot.com/2008/03/stop-age-discrimination-update.html




If you haven't done so already, there is still time to add your voice to this important campaign. Click on the headline to email Harriet Harman MP, Leader of the House of Commons.



Please assist Help the Aged protect the rights of today's 11 million older pensioners and those of future generations.

Monday, April 07, 2008

April Community Council Update

I have today launched my April 2008 Update to West End Community Council.

Issues covered include :

* Perth Road closure - impending works by Scotland Gas Networks
* Heating and Service Charges Increases - concerns from Home Scotland sheltered tenants
* Riverside - proposed nature park update
* Harris Academy - pupil safety
* Speeding concern - Balgay Hill

The Community Council meets tomorrow (Tuesday 8th April) in Logie St John's (Cross) Church Hall at 7pm.

You can download the Update by clicking on the headline above.

Victoria Park

I was pleased recently to get feedback from the City Council's Leisure & Communities Department that it has again taken action to remove graffiti in Victoria Park.

An Order to contractors has been placed to ensure the graffiti (see right) will be removed shortly.

There has been an on-going graffiti problem here (click on headline to view earlier article from April 2007) and I am pleased that the City Council is taking action to remove it.

The City Council is looking at the viability of replacing the graffitied building with a better shelter, which will provide better protection against the elements for parents whose children are using the nearby playpark but would also be far more difficult to damage with graffiti. Consultations with stakeholders, including park users, are on-going.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Gordon Brown's greatest moment? ....

Full marks to the Free Tibet campaigners. The Labour Government's handling of this has all the hallmarks of the Major Government - err, and look what happened to it.

Recent comments about the LibDems in the press ...

The Liberal Democrat recovery has been sustained...
Guardian, 20 February 2008

[Liberal Democrats’] attractive ... model of balancing all new green taxes with simultaneous tax cuts is [the] party’s strongest suit.
Sunday Times, 16 March 2008

Even the [Labour] party's bedrock support is beginning to crack. … Voters may be turning away from Labour, but there is not much evidence yet of excitement [amongst voters] about the Tory alternative. … [There is a] strong [Liberal Democrat] party rating [in the polls]
Guardian, 18 March 2008

[Liberal Democrats’] opposition to the [Iraq] war has been totally vindicated.
Independent, 22 March 2008

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Yesterday at Seabraes ...

Had a bit of fresh air yesterday with a visit to Seabraes, which, as you can see, is looking lovely at this time of year :

Nick Clegg on the Olympics

Dear Cllr Macpherson

Today I have written to the Prime Minister asking him to pull out of this weekend’s ceremony welcoming the Olympic torch to London in advance of the Beijing Games.

When China made its bid to host the Olympics, the Deputy Mayor of Beijing said that this was an indication of China’s wish to “promote” democracy and human rights.

But it has done nothing of the sort.

Recent events in Tibet, broken promises over media freedoms, ongoing human rights abuses and intransigence over the humanitarian catastrophe in Darfur have made a mockery of China’s “commitment” to progressive freedoms.

As the prospective host of the 2012 Games, Britain has a particular responsibility to hold China to account for its broken promises and its poor record on human rights.

Gordon Brown should not attend this weekend’s event or any future events to mark the Beijing Games - including the opening ceremony on 8th August – until China lives up to the expectations placed upon it by the Olympic Charter. The Charter states that “Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy of effort, the educational value of good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles”.

China should do that by taking four clear steps.

First, President Hu Jintao should agree to meet the Dalai Lama for face-to-face talks on a mutually acceptable solution to the contested status of Tibet and the treatment of Tibetans.

Second, China should honour its commitment to allow the free access of foreign journalists to all parts of the country and to talk to any individual who gives consent to be interviewed: China should not use the Olympics as an excuse to further restrict the freedom of its domestic media.

Third, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China should use its influence in Khartoum to remove obstacles to the United Nations-African Mission in Darfur.

Fourth, China should demonstrate its commitment to civil and political rights by ratifying the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

I believe firmly in the spirit of the Olympic Games, and in the value of human rights and civil liberties.

We should use the opportunity of the Olympic Games to exert pressure on China to live up to those values; and the British government should express its clear disapproval until it does so.

Best wishes,

Nick Clegg MP

Leader - Liberal Democrats