Friday, October 31, 2008

Parking enforcement

Today's "Courier" covered the issue of parking enforcement into the evenings, arising out of the decision by Aberdeen City Council to extend its parking enforcement arrangements.

Although there are no immediate proposals to do so in Dundee, as the City Council's Planning & Transport Convener, I did say that “We always keep a close eye on other local authorities’ initiatives to see how they work.

“We are always keen to hear how other local authorities’ initiatives work, but we also need to consider how cost-effective the changes to traffic attendants’ hours would be.

“It’s something I will be discussing with the Director of Planning and Transportation.”

I have indeed discussed the issue with the Director and the City Council will be monitoring the effectiveness of initiatives by other authorities to see if these would have positive effect if introduced in Dundee.

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

Future of HBOS

I'm pleased that, earlier this week, the Scottish Parliament backed a LibDem motion - by a margin of 61 to 40 - for HBOS to be given access to a £37 billion rescue fund, arguing it should receive the same treatment as other major banks that have been handed the money.

The motion, tabled by Tavish Scott, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, praised the Government's initial efforts to tackle the financial crisis but argued the rescue package "has fundamentally changed the landscape."


It further made clear that "losing HBOS corporate headquarters and jobs in Edinburgh would seriously jeopardise the city's position as a financial centre."

Mr Scott's motion concluded that there is "no reason why HBOS should not be able to access UK Treasury recapitalisation and, therefore, liquidity funding on the same basis as other independent banks."

A secure future for HBOS is vital for Scotland and it was reassuring to see that the majority of Scotland's parliamentarians grasp that point.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

West End new boxing club update

Last month, I mentioned a new West End sports initiative was being established - click on headline above to view the earlier story.

The West End Amateur Boxing Club's website is now up and running and many thanks to Emilio Places-Rey for updating me about this and to the City Council for its advice and support for the new group.

The group's website is at : http://www.westend-boys-abc.com/

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Riverside Drive and Riverside Approach

Because of work to improve the sea wall along Riverside Drive, there will be some temporary traffic arrangements starting next Monday (3rd November) for a maximum of 5 working days.


Firstly, the speed limit on Riverside drive between Tesco and the rail bridge (westbound only) will be reduced to 30mph during that period.


Secondly, there will be two road maneouvres temporarily prohibited during that time :

a) There will be no left (then right) from Riverside Approach into Riverside Drive (under the bridge canopy) in order to go west - drivers will have to drive eastbound to the Tesco roundabout and then head back westwards from the roundabout.


b) There will be no right turn from Riverside Drive (northbound under the bridge canopy) into Riverside Approach going northbound - drivers will have to drive to the Marmalade Pot roundabout then head back eastbound to access Riverside Approach.


Enquiries about this can be made to the City Council's Planning & Transportation Department on Dundee 433168.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Today's update ...

A busy day today starting with my chairing the TACTRAN (regional transport partnership) meeting at the Angus Council Chamber in Forfar.

Later on, I also chaired a meeting regarding Travel Dundee's bus service changes, at which a representative of the bus company met with City Councillors to explain the company's rationale for the changes and listen to our concerns about some of the changes, which commence on 2nd November. You can download a copy of the new bus route guide by clicking on the headline above.

Tonight, I attended the monthly meeting of Blackness Area Residents' Association at the Corso Street Sheltered Lounge.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Friendly Bus - new stop!

Following residents' requests to get the Friendly Bus sheltered shopping service to visit the sheltered housing in Logie, I had this response from Stagecoach Strathtay today:

“... spoke to the driver he said that he will be at the corner of Lime Street and Logie Avenue at 10:10 on Thursdays. He will approach from the Scott Street entrance into Lime Street.”

I am sure this will be welcomed by local residents.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

West End Community Map

Some time ago the City Council published very useful local community maps, including one for the West End, including useful contact details.

The paper copies are now a little out of date in that they list the pre-2007 ward councillors but if you click on the headline above, you can access and print off the online edition, with the councillors updated to include those of us re-elected and new councillors first elected in May of last year. I do have a few of the paper copies left - if you'd like a copy, please e-mail me at communitymap@frasermacpherson.org.uk.

I understand that the City Council has been giving some thought to producing new, redesigned community maps, something that would be welcomed.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Friends of Magdalen Green success!

A super and very busy morning at Dundee West Church today where Friends of Magdalen Green held their latest coffee morning.

A super success although I have concluded that I am not that fast at buttering scones!

Sheila Roy, Chairperson of the Friends, summed up a thoroughly enjoyable event thus :

"We are delighted with the provisional total of £1,000 but even more importantly very pleased with the excellent turn-out on a very inclement day. We appreciated the facilities and support of the members of Dundee West Church and the presence of all four Ward councillors and MP Jim McGovern. What a wonderful example of Community in Action and warm thanks to all who helped in any way!"

Here's a couple of photographs from this morning (below) :

Friday, October 24, 2008

Overgrown shrubbery to be tackled

Regular readers of http://www.dundeewestend.com/ will know that I have highlighted in the past the overgrown shrubbery at the roundabout on Riverside Drive/Avenue near to the Marmalade Pot (see right). I had complaints from residents that pedestrians are finding it difficult to see oncoming traffic.

I am pleased to advise that, following my request that the shrubbery gets a trim, this is to happen in the early morning of Sunday 2nd November, when traffic is light. There will be be a temporary lane closure on the roundabout from 8am till completion on that day.

Focus on Achievement Awards 2008

Last night, along with other City Councillors, teaching and other education department staff, pupils, parents and other guests, I had the pleasure of attending this year's Focus on Achievement Awards at the Caird Hall.

It was a superb night, highlighting the great work being done in our schools across the city, and the successes of Dundee pupils. Schools and pupils from across the city won awards in various categories, including Harris Academy.

I have today
written to the Director of Education and to the Head of Primary Education, congratulating them and the Education Department - the Focus on Achievement Awards are an excellent initiative and it was also good to see businesses and other organisations across the City sponsoring awards too.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Blackness Centenary Event ... and other updates

A highly enjoyable centenary event took place at Blackness Library yesterday afternoon (here's me pictured right complete with centenary sash!) There was a really good turnout for the library's 100th birthday.

Earlier that day, I had four site visits with the Council's road safety officer regarding traffic and pedestrian crossing issues across the West End.

Later on, we had
another planning meeting for the West End Christmas Week - plans are taking good shape - more on this nearer to Christmas Week, which this year runs from 22nd to 29th November.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Bus punctuality

The City Council issued this news release today regarding good news about bus punctuality in Dundee and Angus. I recently spoke with my LibDem colleague in Angus, Cllr David May, about this issue - David is the Angus Council Infrastructure Convener - and we are both pleased to see the partnership develop between our councils and the bus companies on this matter :


Dundee City Council is working with partners to set up the first initiative of its kind in Scotland aimed at ensuring local bus services run reliably and punctually.

A report to the city council's planning and transport committee on Monday (October 27) states that a Bus Punctuality Improvement Partnership (BPIP) is being developed by the council with Travel Dundee, Stagecoach East Scotland and Angus Council.

Committee convener Councillor Fraser Macpherson said: "Over the last few years the city council has succeeded in attracting multi-million pound investment to improve the local bus system.

"There have been real benefits for passengers and new technology has been introduced to ensure that buses, waiting and information facilities are first class, to encourage greater use of bus travel.

"Now, Dundee will be leading the way with the first BPIP in Scotland and the Scottish Government is supporting the development work to encourage other areas to also set up their own local partnerships."

The Dundee and Angus BPIP will build on the long-established partnership working between the city council and local bus operators, with Angus Council now joining the scheme.

The project will initially focus on routes 13, 14, 22 and 73, with continual monitoring of service reliability and punctuality through the existing real-time passenger information system.

If the initial phase of services demonstrates a success it is intended to roll the BPIP out to all bus services in Dundee.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Update on proposed Riverside Nature Park

The City Council has just issued the following news release about the proposed Riverside Nature Park, following discussions I recently had with the Environmental Services Convener about the matter. I am anxious to see progress on this as very many constituents rightly want to see the area opened to the public as soon as possible :

RIVERSIDE NATURE PARK

Work is continuing to transform
Dundee's former landfill site into a nature park that the public can enjoy.

Dundee City Council will shortly be submitting proposals for the final landscaping of a large part of the Riverside site to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa).

Over the last few years the council has been carrying out work to transform the 86-acre site from the place where Dundee's waste was landfilled, to an attractive area with pathways so that the public can enjoy a large "nature park" by the river.

The huge task has meant thousands of tons of soil being spread to provide a "top cover" a metre deep as part of the requirement for former landfill sites.

Sepa has to be satisfied that there is a satisfactory way of dealing with any methane on former landfill sites that are to be used by the public and there is currently a council appeal with them about management of landfill gas.

The council has had discussions with Sepa and the Scottish Government and a further site investigation study has taken place. There are very low levels of gas at Riverside and a further proposal on its management is to be submitted to Sepa this month.

City council planning and transport convener Councillor Fraser Macpherson said: "Funding from an allocation of £5.25 million to Dundee from the Scottish Government's vacant and derelict land fund will be available for Riverside and this will help boost development of the nature park, including public access areas and landscaping."

The council's environment services convener, Councillor George Regan, said: "Sepa have to finally approve a formal aftercare and closure plan before the public can be allowed access to the site and the council has been working towards achieving this.

"However, we are now at the stage where we hope further real progress will be made in our aim of providing Dundee with an attractive and valuable nature area where people can enjoy a range of wildlife with no detrimental effect on their habitat."

Monday, October 20, 2008

Radio Tay, Surgeries and Development Quality Committee

A useful meeting with Radio Tay this morning regarding concerns Alison McInnes MSP and I have raised about evening output on Tay FM; Bauer Radio has assured us the matter will be kept under review. Thereafter three busy surgeries - Paton's Lane Sheltered Lounge, Mitchell Street Centre and Harris Academy.

Tonight at the Development Quality Committee, I successfully moved refusal of the planning application at Wimberley Houses, on the following grounds:

Application 08/00540/COU
- Wimberley Houses, Glamis Drive

Conversion of Student Accommodation to Private Housing

Reasons for Refusal

1) The proposed development contravenes Policy 4 of the Dundee Local Plan Review 2005 by virtue of the failure of the applicants' to provide the required level of private useable garden ground and off street car parking provision within the curtilage area of each new dwelling house proposed resulting in a standard of development that would not be commensurate with the quality of housing located in the surrounding area.

2) The proposed development will result in a significant increase in demand for on-street car parking in the surrounding suburban streets to the detriment of the environmental qualities currently enjoyed by local residents and the road traffic and pedestrian safety of the area.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Joint Surgery with Alison McInnes MSP

Alison McInnes, LibDem MSP for North East Scotland, is visiting Dundee tomorrow.

We are jointly visiting Radio Tay's studios to discuss with Bauer Radio, who own Radio Tay, our concerns about the recent changes to Tay FM evening programming, which removes local output.

Later, from 1pm to 1.45pm, we are holding a joint surgery at the Paton's Lane Sheltered Lounge, for all residents in the area.

Things getting difficult for the SNP

There is little cheer for the nationalists in this Sunday's newspapers. In reporting the comments of Professor John Kay, "Scotland on Sunday" sort of sums up the general theme :

'An independent Scottish economy would be "awful" in the present financial climate, one of Alex Salmond's key economic advisers said last night. ... Kay, a member of the First Minister's Council of Economic Advisers, criticised the SNP's vision of an independent nation, saying he was not interested in "flag-waving, embassies and armies".'

And Iain Macwhirter in the "Sunday Herald" (not exactly the SNP's greatest critic) says :

'Certainly, the Nationalist government is no longer a novelty, and is getting into the kind of difficulties all governments get into in mid-term - acquiring daft policies like trying to make it illegal for young married couples to buy a bottle of wine at an off-licence. The magic is fading, and policies like free school meals and local income tax are in difficulties.'

Absolutely true. Leaving aside the rather obvious point that Scottish separation from the rest of the UK makes no economic sense, the biggest problem I feel the SNP government faces is that it lives for tomorrow's newspaper headline and does not plan for the medium and long term.

The SNP Scottish Government is getting itself into a bit of a guddle - a few examples :

* It opposes Public Private Partnership capital funding, ends it, resulting in a premature end to much needed further infrastructure improvements to schools and hospitals, but has nothing but a myth to replace it. The Scottish Futures Trust is unreal, it doesn't really exist, and far from matching the building programme achieved under the former LibDem/Labour Executive, the "brick for brick" promises of the SNP have proved to be empty rhetoric. Actually, no bricks at all from Mr Salmond.

* Makes a total guddle of its proposals for a replacement for Council Tax - erroneously claimed to be 'Local Income Tax' but actually a Scottish National Income Tax (or should that not be "Scottish National Party Income Tax"!) And, in true tabloid fashion, in the face of universal criticism of its decision to tax students, the SNP rushes out some media spin to suggest they may be exempted, making a policy already £742 million short of being affordable (CIPFA's figures, not mine) even less affordable. The SNP decision to charge students local income tax in the first place was plain daft, but you'll note that John Swinney hasn't quite worked out how he'll pay for now exempting them.

* Creating a lot of media spin about assisting affordable housing in Scotland, that, behind the spin, has seen little delivery on the ground. Housing Association capital funding in Dundee was cut by 46% by the SNP government for 2008-9. SNP politicians in the city have failed to campaign to reverse this cut showing that either they have little influence with their own government or they haven't bothered to speak up for Dundee.

* The Concordat between Scottish Government and local government is beginning to fall apart as John Swinney washes his hands of any responsibility to help local government meet the financial pressures caused by the local government pay dispute and also to pay for SNP government policies, such as the free school meals for P1-P3, which local government is finding hugely difficult to finance in the current challenging budgetary situation all 32 councils face. Other SNP policies - the class sizes reduction is a prime example - are another media myth - great spin for a press release, but unfunded and therefore undeliverable.

One bit of better news from the SNP in today's papers - to quote the "Sunday Herald" - 'Salmond supports call to rethink HBOS deal' - about time that the First Minister is finally coming round to this realisation, but didn't Tavish Scott call on him to do so back on 9th October? Here's the exchange at First Minister's Questions earlier this month :

Tavish Scott: Yesterday's enormous financial package will be judged on what it does in the real economy: its impact on personal lending, individual deposits, bank credit to business, and jobs around the country. HBOS will now be a taxpayer-supported institution. When the First Minister said three weeks ago that the Lloyds TBS merger with HBOS was "the only game in town", he was right, but that is no longer the case, is it?

The First Minister: I have made it clear that my preferred position for HBOS would be for it to remain as an independent bank. We can speculate that, if the measures that were announced yesterday had been in place some weeks ago, perhaps different decisions would have been made. However, the reality is that there is an offer to shareholders, which the Government supports. The offer will therefore be decided on by the shareholders of both banks.

Where some lead, others follow ...

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Busy Friday ... and High Mill Update

A busy day yesterday, including :

* Attending the 2008 Poppy Appeal launch at the City Chambers.

* A meeting with the City Council Leader - the Council autumn recess has just finished and its back to council committee meetings on Monday.

* A meeting with two representatives of the City Centre and Harbour Community Council (DCCHCC) - the West End Christmas Week team and DCCHCC are working together on one joint activity around Christmas Week - with the West End joining in the "Best Christmas-dressed local shop window display" competition DCCHCC runs. There will be a separate category for West End shops and its great to see two different community groups working together on a joint activity.

* A meeting with our very helpful pyrotechnician, to plan this year's fireworks display as part of the West End Christmas Week.

* A meeting to plan the agenda for the next Planning & Transport Committee.

And ... a quick update on the overgrown and untidy ground north of High Mill at Steven's Yard. Along with a local resident, I have been pressing the City Council to take direct action given the owner not acting on requests to tidy the site. We have had the following update from the City Council :

"I would advise a draft Wasteland Notice has been issued to the Council's Legal Department for checking and then subsequent serving. The Notice will allow 28 days for the works to be completed. I would further advise the owner has 28 days before the Notice comes into effect to appeal said Notice."

Friday, October 17, 2008

Planning Appeal Decision - Land west of Richmond Terrace

A busy day, on which I'll report over the weekend, but, having earlier today received the outcome of the Planning Appeal in relation to the land west of Richmond Terrace, this is yet another example of the Scottish Government Directorate of Planning and Environmental Appeals ("the Reporter") flying in the face of concerns about residential amenity and, indeed, showing a marked degree of inconsistency in decision-making.

This is the second application I have moved refusal on here and both bore great similarities in terms of the planning proposal. Both were opposed by a number of local residents and, whilst the first Appeal was refused, this one has been granted.

I have been amongst the most vocal of Dundee
councillors in expressing concern about the present appeals arrangements and this decision reinforces concern about the current system.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Tavish Scott in Dundee tonight

Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader, Tavish Scott MSP, met University of Abertay students at the university this evening.

Tavish gave a very interesting talk and there was then an wide-ranging question and answer session.

Here's Tavish pictured
with LibDem activist and Abertay student Chris Hall.

Blackness Library Centenary next week!

I have had previous posts (click on headline to view) about the impending celebrations of Blackness Library's Centenary, which takes place next week.

We had a very useful update on the arrangements at Tuesday's West End Community Council meeting, and it was stressed that all are welcome to attend the events taking place.


Here's an overview
of the centenary events :


Monday 20th October : Author visit by Frank Rodgers, with P3 & P4 from Blackness Primary School (1.45pm to 2.45pm).


Tuesday 21st October : Old Dundee Slide Show with Ian Cranmer (2pm to 3.15pm), and a special viewing of works by Art Social (4pm to 7pm)


Wednesday 22nd October : Official Centenary Reception (2.30pm) and Special Baby and Toddler Rhyme Time including Hamish, the Bookstart Bear (2.30pm to 3pm)


Thursday 23rd October : Reading Group (12 noon to 12.45pm)


Friday 24th October : Launch of Toy Library (10.30am to 11.30am)


Saturday 25th October : Family Saturday with games, toys and music (9.30am to 12.30pm)

A great week of events to celebrate the library's 100th birthday!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Friends of Magdalen Green Coffee Morning

The Friends of Magdalen Green are having another one of their excellent coffee mornings a week on Saturday (25th October) at Dundee West Church on Perth Road.

It takes place between 10am and 12 noon - all welcome; admission £1.50.

Stalls include cake & candy, cards & crafts and calendars & books.

Death of Eddie Thompson

The death of Eddie Thompson has been announced by Dundee United FC this morning. The people of Dundee, whatever football team they support will learn of the news with great sadness. Eddie Thompson made an immense contribution to the sporting and business life of the City and he will be very sadly missed.


Here is the statement issued by Dundee United FC this morning :




It is with great sadness that Dundee United announce the death of Chairman Eddie Thompson, who died today after a long illness borne with great fortitude, much bravery and a dogged determination to carry out his responsibilities at Tannadice for as long as possible.

Mr Thompson had been fighting prostate cancer for several years, but despite specialist treatment from the management and staff of the oncology department at Ninewells Hospital, the cancer could not be prevented from spreading. Over the last year, the aggressive nature of his illness required further and debilitating treatments. Despite this, Mr Thompson continued to undertake his duties at Tannadice, continuing to provide personal and financial support to the Club.

In recent months, when it became clear that his health was failing, Mr Thompson re-structured the finances, share ownership and the Board of Dundee United to ensure that the long term future of the Club remained secure with his son Stephen taking on day to day responsibilities as Chief Executive.

Although hospitalised for much of the time in recent weeks, the Chairman was determined to see his beloved Dundee United and, despite his worsening condition, insisted on supporting the team in person as much as possible, both home and away.

Everyone at Dundee United is devastated by the loss of someone who was not only our Chairman, but also a very close and inspirational friend.

Eddie Thompson was born in Glasgow in 1940 and trained as an accountant before moving to Dundee in 1964 to join Watson & Philip plc. He was appointed to the Watson & Philip Board in 1976, becoming joint managing director.

In 1991, he left Watson & Philip Ltd to form Morning Noon & Night Ltd, an innovative convenience store chain. MN&N was one of the first retail outlets to install Bank ATMs, now a common sight in the retail trade. In August 2004, MN&N was sold to Scotmid in one of the largest Scottish retail deals for some years. At the time of sale MN&N was generating yearly sales of £53m with operating profits of £1.8m from 50 outlets and employed some 800 people throughout Scotland.

Eddie was appointed as the first Chairman of the Scottish Retail Consortium in April 1999, and served on the British Retail Consortium's Board of Management. He was President of the Scottish Grocers' Federation and sat on the CBI Council for Scotland. He was awarded the Scottish Grocery Lifetime Achievement award in 2003, and received an OBE in December 2005.

Despite these business achievements, Eddie Thompson will always be best known for his love of Dundee United.

He first started supporting the Club on moving to Dundee and his time at Watson & Philip resulted in the VG shirt sponsorship in the late 1980s. He was always keen to provide the Club with the benefit of his business knowledge and contacts and was a founder member of the Dundee United Business Club.

In September 2002, Mr Thompson acquired a shareholding in Dundee United by purchasing the shares of former Chairman Jim McLean. By the end of that month he had acquired a majority shareholding and became owner and Chairman of Dundee United FC.

True to his word, one of the first initiatives approved by Mr Thompson was the issue of new shares to supporters who wished to make individual purchases. He also assisted the establishment of ArabTRUST, the Dundee United Supporters Trust, for collective share ownership by fans. Outwith the Thompson family, ArabTRUST is now the second largest shareholder in Dundee United.

Since then Eddie Thompson has invested millions of pounds of his own money into the Club and has seen losses reduced from record levels of £2.7m in June 2003, to £498k in June 2007 and turned into an operating profit by June 2008. Never slow to admit when mistakes had been made, he also personally funded exceptional termination costs when required to do so.

His fierce loyalty and financial commitment to Dundee United won him much admiration throughout the Scottish game and he was seen as a "champion" of the smaller clubs on the SPL Board, upon which he served from its inception.

Despite his financial and personal commitment to the Club, he always saw himself as a supporter first and foremost and was always first to acknowledge that the fans were the true owners and most important part of the Club. He was quoted as saying, "You can change your wife, your house, your car, but you can never change your team. Chairmen come and go, Boards come and go, but the fans remain. They are the one true constant. I've just been a custodian of the Club."

He was genuinely moved when one of the stands at Tannadice was named after him earlier this year, following suggestions made by supporters and also when thousands of United fans wore "One Eddie Thompson" tee shirts at this year's CIS Cup Final.

Eddie Thompson is survived by his wife Cath, children Justine and Stephen and four grandchildren.

He will be greatly missed by everyone associated with Dundee United and our thoughts are with Cath and his family at this sad time.

The family would like to thank all the staff at Ninewells Hospital and in particular the staff of Ward 32 who have been fantastic over many many weeks.

This is an extremely difficult time for the Thompson family with the recent tragic death of Mr. Thompson's son-in-law, Ken Mitchell and the family have requested that they are left to grieve in private.

Anyone who wishes details of funeral arrangements should contact Dundee United Football Club on 01382 833166.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Good news from rail travellers

A news release today from the City Council with good news on rail services to and from the City :

Tuesday 14 October 2008

IMPROVED RAIL SERVICES FOR DUNDEE

Fraser Macpherson, Dundee City Council Convener of Planning and Transport and Chair of Tayside and Central Scotland Transport Partnership (TACTRAN), has welcomed a planned increase in the frequency of First ScotRail services to and from Dundee.

Due to start on 15 December 2008, the package of improvements for rail passengers on Edinburgh-Dundee-Aberdeen services will see:

* An additional Edinburgh-Dundee service stopping at the intermediate stations in Fife.

* A regular half hourly Dundee-Aberdeen service pattern.

* Reduced journey times between Dundee and Edinburgh of up to 10 minutes.

Councillor Macpherson said: "I welcome these improvements to the Edinburgh-Dundee-Aberdeen rail service which are being supported by Transport Scotland.

"Both Dundee City Council and TACTRAN have been pushing for investment in these services for some time.

"The additional Edinburgh-Dundee service represents a significant improvement with two trains per hour instead of one. This doubling of frequency will see the introduction of an hourly express service stopping only at Leuchars and an hourly service stopping throughout Fife.

"The improvements will make it more attractive for business and leisure travellers to make the switch to public transport."

Note to editors: Tayside and Central Scotland Transport Partnership (TACTRAN) is holding a rail forum on Thursday 16 October in Dundee to discuss rail issues of importance to the TACTRAN area.

Scottish LibDem Autumn Conference

I was in Liverpool on Saturday, so unfortunately missed the Scottish Liberal Democrat Conference, but here's a good video piece from the Herald in which Tavish calls for the Scottish Parliament to use its tax varying powers for the first time.


video

Monday, October 13, 2008

Dundee Forum campaigns against irresponsible website

The Dundee Forum (www.dundeeforum.co.uk) has e-mailed me today as follows:

"Please help ban the internet site littlehooliganz.com which promotes the carrying of knives, mugging old people and carrying baseball bats and fighting.


Go to www.littlehooliganz.co.uk - which has been set-up today to counter this vile site."


From there you can sign the petition against littlehooliganz.com; you can also read more about concerns about the site in the Daily Telegraph by clicking on the headline above.

New family addition!

Here's me with our new family puppy, Bunty, and another couple of photos of her!



Sunday, October 12, 2008

Arc of non-prosperity

Alex Salmond has been continually giving us the benefit of his dubious advice on the world economic crisis, so let's look back at what he had to say in August 2006. To quote the SNP website:

"SNP Leader Alex Salmond has today called for Scotland to join northern Europe's arc of prosperity, with Ireland to the west, Iceland to the north and Norway to the east all small independent countries in the top six richest nations in the world."

Salmond went on to say:

"Scotland can change to a better future and be part of northern Europe's arc of prosperity. We have three countries ­ Ireland to our west, Iceland to our north and Norway to our east - all in the top six wealthiest countries in the world."

So fast forward a couple of years:

'Iceland's government seized control of Kaupthing Bank hf, the nation's biggest bank, completing the takeover of a financial industry that collapsed under the weight of foreign debt.

"This looks like a total collapse," said Thomas Haugaard Jensen, an economist at Svenska Handelsbanken AB in Copenhagen. "It'll take several years before the economy can start to return to growth."' (Bloomberg News last Thursday)

If that's an arc of prosperity Alex, you can keep it. Seriously, the SNP's claim that Scotland would do better economically as an isolated, separate nation can now clearly be seen for the total rubbish that it is.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

My latest Community Council Update

Today I launched my October 2008 update to West End Community Council.

Subjects covered include :

* Airport Noise - action taken
* Union Place - Road and pedestrian safety concerns
* High Mill
* West End Christmas Week 2008
* Hawkhill crossing concern
* Al-Maktoum Cultural Centre
* Seymour Avenue footpaths
* West End Phone Boxes

The Community Council meets next Tuesday (14th October) at 7pm at the Logie St John's (Cross) Church Hall - all local residents are most welcome.

The update can be downloaded by following clicking on the headline above.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Ofcom : poor consultation by BT on phone box removals

As regular readers of this blog will know (click on headline to view more), I complained to Ofcom regarding the fact that British Telecom has decided to remove two telephone boxes in the West End without actually bothering to consult anyone first - something I consider bad practice - whatever the merits or demerits of removing the boxes.

Ofcom seem to think that no consultation is OK (judging by the response below) which I view as detrimental, flying in the face of good consultative practice



10 October 2008

Dear Councillor Macpherson

Thank you for your further email regarding the removal of a BT Public Call Box (PCB).

We note your dissatisfaction with the rules set around the removal of BT PCBs, in particular the definition of a ‘site’ under the rules. ‘Site’, in relation to a PCB, is defined as a walking distance of 400 metres from that PCB. This means that if there are two phone boxes within a 400 metres’ walk of each other, BT can take one away without consultation with the local authority.

You may be interested to know that Ofcom carried out a review of Universal Service Obligations in 2005/06 and as part of this review Ofcom consulted on this particular issue of a ‘site’ and invited views from all stakeholders. Previously ‘site’ in relation to a PCB was defined as a walking distance of 100 metres from that PCB. Following the review however, this definition was revised to a walking distance of 400 metres.

At the time of the review, Ofcom’s research was undertaken across a wide age range of consumers, including older consumers. It indicated that there was an urban/rural split in terms of expectations of distance in relation to a PCB. In general, a maximum five minutes’ walk was deemed reasonable in urban areas, and 20-30 minutes’ walk in rural areas. The research also indicated that there had been a growth in mobile ownership amongst the over 65s. During the review, Ofcom asked for views on whether the definition should be extended to 200, 300 or 400 metres. Most stakeholders who responded on this issue supported an increase in the definition. This coupled with changing commercial conditions in the PCB market (increase in mobile phone ownership amongst the over 65s), justified a change in the definition of site to any area within a walking distance of 400 metres from the PCB.

The statement can be found at:

http://www.ofcom.org.uk/consult/condocs/uso/statement/statement.pdf

Non confidential stakeholder response can be found at:

http://www.ofcom.org.uk/consult/condocs/uso/statement/responses/

Taking your second concern about the rules not taking into account local circumstances, under the current rules unitary authorities handling consultations hold the local veto and, although we do not lay down rules on how they should go about testing local views, we would expect them to consult other public organisations, such as parish/community councils or local community groups. Where written objections are made, reasons must be given for the objection. Factors that should be taken into consideration (although the list is not exhaustive) include: housing type in the area, the number of households in the area, PCB revenue, emergency calls and mobile phone coverage.

I hope this information proves helpful and helps clarify Ofcom’s position on the matter.

Yours sincerely
::Charlotte Cullen
Central Operations
Telecoms Team

::Ofcom

Thursday, October 09, 2008

McCain Loses It: Calls Americans 'My Fellow Prisoners'

OK, I am no fan of the Republicans and I think McCain is simply not up to the job, in extremely difficult times.

As Tory commentator Iain Dale said "Not good. Not good at all."

Obama deserves to win and judging by the polls, he will.

Scottish Broadcasting Commission debate and local TV latest ...

Good to see the largely positive and constructive debate in the Scottish Parliament yesterday on the Scottish Broadcasting Commission report. That said, what a bizarre intervention by Christopher Harvie, SNP MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, summed up by the headline in today's Scotsman :

"Blue Peter is evil, Hitler was imaginative and BBC bosses are munchkins - (So claims SNP's Chris Harvie)"


The Scotsman continued:

"His remarks have been described as "loopy" and fuelled claims about how "out of touch" some Nationalist MSPs are."

Best comment of the day on this goes to Margaret Smith, the Liberal Democrat MSP, who later told the chamber:

“Today's was an interesting contribution, which referred to the evil-doing of Blue Peter but the imaginativeness of Hitler.

“One could only guess what Adolf would have done if he had access to sticky-back plastic.”

Anyway, back to the real debate on the SBC Report ...

As I have previously indicated (click on headline to view) for local - and indeed further pan-Scotland - television coverage in Scotland in terms of new channels to be meaningful and successful, the issue is that extra transmitting capacity (the so-called "7th Mux") has been identified in that it means the difference between almost everyone getting a signal and perhaps as low as a third of viewers getting new Scottish & local television output.

The good news is that it was announced in parliament yesterday, during the debate, that the Scottish Government is following up on the 7th Mux issue and will include this in a discussion with Ed Richard, Chief Executive of Ofcom, next week.

Lastly, for today, on this subject, I received a response from Scottish Government today on an e-mail I sent last month about the 7th Mux issue :

MY E-MAIL TO SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT :

From: Fraser Macpherson

Sent: 06 September 2008 21:44

To: Dagg AL (Anne)


Subject: 7th Mux

Dear Ms Dagg

I refer to previous correspondence on this matter, in particular with the Institute of Local Television

As you know FifeScreen and TayScreen is the screen commission for the local authorities of Angus, Dundee, Fife and Perth and Kinross. I am involved with an initiative called the Fife and Tayside Local TV Working Group

We have been closely involved in the consultation process being conducted by Ofcom and have made submissions. The most recent submission was copied to your office. We should be most interested in your views on this.

There is strong interest in local TV in the Fife Tayside area considering that there is a record and survey evidence of demand and significant opportunities for the cultural and politicial engagement, social inclusion, the production sector, audience development, and the potential to network content both nationally and internationally.

In the circumstances it is crucial that the 'reach' of local TV should be as wide as possible. It is our understanding that the Fourth Public Service Multiplex (the 7th Mux) would give access to all instead of just 1 in 3.

Consequently, we should appreciate it if you would let us know the plans for consultation with the local authorities within Fife and Tayside.

Thank you for your time and we look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards

Cllr Fraser Macpherson

RESPONSE RECEIVED TODAY :

From: Anne Dagg

Sent: 09 October 2008 10:45

To: Fraser Macpherson

Subject: RE: 7th Mux

Dear Councillor Macpherson

Thank you for your e-mail about local television and the strong support for this in the Fife and Tayside area. I am sorry for the delay in replying.

As outlined in correspondence with the Institute of Local Television, the Scottish Government was keen to receive the report of the Scottish Broadcasting Commission so that the recommendations could be taken into account when considering what Scotland’s future spectrum requirements might be. Ofcom has assured the Scottish Government that none of the options for spectrum have been closed off and we will continue to be in close contact with Ofcom to take this matter forward.

In the meantime, while the Scottish Government considers the Broadcasting Commission’s report, the Scottish Government has written to Ofcom to seek their assurances that they will fully consider the submissions from the Scottish Federation of Local Television regarding the seventh multiplex.

As you may be aware the Scottish Parliament debated the Scottish Broadcasting Commission report yesterday. The First Minister made a statement on the Report which highlights the Government’s priorities for broadcasting. The Official Report of the debate can be accessed on the Parliament’s website at:
http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/business/officialReports/meetingsParliament/or-08/sor1008-01.htm

I hope this information is helpful.

Yours sincerely

Anne Dagg

Culture Division Europe

external affairs and culture directorate
The Scottish Government

Getting Britain's economy back on track

Dear Cllr Macpherson

When a ship is sinking, we must send out the lifeboats, not argue about who steered the ship into the iceberg. At Prime Minister's Question Time yesterday, I pledged my support for the moves being taken by the Government. Vince Cable and I have been clear that we must do whatever is necessary to halt the downward spiral of the British economy.

But the Government must do more. It must use the leverage it currently has over banks to end unacceptable bonuses for senior executives, ensure that home repossessions are only ever an absolute last resort, and cut some slack for struggling small businesses before calling in their loans.

Now is also the time for tax loopholes to be closed for the very wealthy and the money saved to be used to cut taxes for low and middle income earners. Hard-pressed families and individuals need more of their own money back now more than ever as they are worrying about their savings and facing mounting bills.

We are fortunate to have a great deal of economic expertise in our party with Chris Huhne, David Laws and Susan Kramer working closely with myself and Vince Cable on the challenges that face us. Over the coming weeks and months it will continue to be our party that is leading the debate with the ideas and solutions to put Britain's economy on the right track.

Best wishes,


Nick Clegg MP
Leader of the Liberal Democrats

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Hollywood - Boz Scaggs

I suspect most will not remember Boz Scaggs, 'Hollywood' is a great memory from the seventies - see more at : www.bozscaggs.com/

Hawkhill crossing concern

A few years ago, not long after I was first elected to the City Council, along with parents and pupils of Park Place Primary School, I campaigned for a light-controlled crossing across Old Hawkhill, to assist pupils and other pedestrians. The campaign was successful and a crossing was provided at the Temple Lane junction.


The Parent Council at Park Place Primary School has raised its concerns that some pupils are crossing Hawkhill at the junction with Old Hawkhill (further west than the crossing) and have asked if an assessment of traffic flow and the number of pupils crossing the road at that point could be carried out to see if a school crossing patroller is required. I recently spoke with the school's new Head Teacher about the matter, and, having raised the issue with the City Council's Education Department, I have been advised that an assessment will be carried out after the school returns following the autumn holiday.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Sister Sledge - Lost In Music

Superb music, from the eighties!

Dundee Waterfront Website

Great to see the updated and revamped Dundee Waterfront website being launched - click on headline above to view it.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Tavish Scott to visit Dundee

Tavish Scott, Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Scotland, is coming to Dundee later this month to speak with students at the University of Abertay.

The meeting takes place on Thursday 16th October at 7.30pm at Room 1517 in the University. It is open to the public and attendees should enter the university buildings via the main door on Bell Street, up the stairs and then head along the corridor parallel to the street.

You can download a poster advertising the event by clicking on the headline above.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Lord Thomson of Monifieth

Former Dundee East Labour MP, Lord (George) Thomson has passed away at the age of 87. A hardworking MP for the City for twenty years, Lord Thomson later chaired the Independent Broadcasting Authority and was a Liberal Democrat House of Lords spokesperson on foreign affairs and broadcasting.

His widow, Lady Grace Thomson, said: "He loved his time in Dundee. It was his own town and he loved the people."

George Thomson served Dundee well and Nick Clegg MP, LibDem Leader, said, “George Thomson was a man of great stature and integrity, who dedicated his life to public service. My thoughts, and those of all my parliamentary colleagues, are with his family at this time.”

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Parking Charges at Ninewells Hospital

On 2nd September, BBC Scotland announced :

"NHS car parking charges abolished

Car parking charges are to be abolished at NHS hospitals across Scotland, the health secretary has announced.

An interim cap of £3 per day has been in place since January.

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said the move would help reaffirm the NHS's founding principle of healthcare free at the point of delivery."

What, of course, Nicola Cheerful failed to confirm was that this principle didn't apply at all NHS hospitals and that those who had entered into PFI contracts for parking provision would not be covered by the abolition of charges. As Dundonians are only too well aware, one of these contracts is that at Ninewells Hospital; the contract between NHS Tayside and Vinci Park.

It is not that that the SNP government was prohibited from buying out Vinci Park; it is simply that it chose not to do so, and there has been much exaggerated spinning about the actual cost of buying out the contract.

As long as there are parking charges at Ninewells, people in those areas of the West End nearest to the hospital will continue to suffer from unwanted parked cars in residential streets. The failure of the SNP government to act to properly resolve this matter is obvious, but to exacerbate the problem and with classicly poor timing, Vinci Park has now announced it is increasing parking charges at Ninewells Hospital from 3rd November (click on the headline above to read the article about this in yesterday's "Evening Telegraph").

Back on 2nd September, the BBC said of the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing:

"She said she wanted NHS boards to work with contractors at the three hospitals with PFI car parks - at Edinburgh and Glasgow Royal Infirmaries and Ninewells in Dundee - to limit and reduce the charges until the contracts came to an end."

On this, given the annoucement by Vinci Park of price hikes, Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP have totally failed the people of Dundee.

Friday, October 03, 2008

If This Is It (Live '85)

A rather superb hit from the Eighties ... from Huey Lewis and the News!

Manchester ... and parking!

video

I have spent the last few days in Manchester at my employer's Annual Conference - a short video clip of the rather superb gospel singers at the Institute's Performance Awards Dinner is above.

Whilst I was out of town, there's been some discussion in the local press about parking in the West End. Full marks to the Courier today for its article on the matter which, very fairly, pointed out that I believe it is important to ensure that whatever ends up being proposed has to have the support of residents. (You can read the full story by clicking on the headline above).

Far from a residents' parking scheme being my 'baby' (as some have erroneously suggested), I have sought to ensure that the concerns of residents regarding parking difficulties are fully investigated and that residents are consulted on their views about possible solutions.

The article in today's Courier accurately summed the position in its article :


'Mr Macpherson said, “The bottom line is that we want to be convinced that any proposals help residents and have the support of residents. We don’t want to introduce a residents’ parking scheme unless that’s what they want.” '

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Two (unrelated!) matters!

Following a recent letter in the "Evening Telegraph" which called into question the City Council's commitment to improving Dundee's roads, many thanks to the Tele for printing my response (as City Council Planning & Transport Convener) in last night's edition :

Work ongoing to improve roads

I refer to the comments by Road User about Dundee.

Far from “nothing much has been done” to improve the city’s roads’ condition, Dundee City Council has already committed an additional £1 million capital funding this financial year for improvements and a further £1 million each year is committed for the following two years — 2009/10 and 2010/11.

Additionally, initiatives such as the new Rapid Rhino repairs process will, over time, make a significant improvement to repair quality across Dundee.

With over 330 miles of roads in the city to maintain, I do not underestimate the challenge of the task but the city council is making every effort to meet that challenge. — Councillor Fraser Macpherson, Convener of Planning and Transport, Dundee City Council.

On an unrelated matter, the final result of the "Dunfermline Press" online poll on voting intentions for the forthcoming Glenrothes by-election was :

Which party do you think will win the forthcoming Westminster by-election in Glenrothes?


Poll Ends: Wednesday, 1st October, 2008 12:30, this poll is now closed, results were:

Conservative 1.3%

Labour 17.3%

Liberal Democrat 43.3%

SNP 38.0%

Any other 0.2%

So a Labour/Nationalist two horse race?! All to play for!