Saturday 31 January 2009

Simon May - Summer Of My Life

Not for the first time, Janet and I went to Taza Indian Buffet for an extremely late lunch yesterday. Taza plays lots of 70s stuff and this from Simon May - long forgotten - was played.

Simon May is a British musician and composer, best known for composing some of British television's best known theme tunes, including EastEnders and Howards' Way, and for composing the music for the 1988 film The Dawning.

But not remembered for "Summer Of My Life" - but for me it brings back memories of a hot summer in 1976!

West End Ward interactive map

The City Council has published useful ward maps of the City and you can access the West End one by clicking on the headline above.

The red dots highlight key facilities and if you move your mouse over them, addresses and contact details are highlighted.

Updated copies of the paper version, with useful contact phone numbers, will be available in March.

Friday 30 January 2009

Antiques Roadshow in Dundee

The City Square was awash with treasures old and new as the BBC hit town to record the Antiques Roadshow.

The Caird Hall will be seen in all its finery on BBC1 Scotland on Sunday.

Click on the headline above to see more.

Thursday 29 January 2009

City Council Budget discussions

Last night's cross-party discussions on the Dundee City Council Budget for 2009/10 were both productive and useful.

It is clear that all parties on the Council wish to see the Council Tax held to as reasonable a figure as possible and hopefully a freeze in the charge at 2008/9 levels.

city council's Labour/LibDem administration has been working hard to achieve this and it was both productive and useful for the group leaders of all the parties on the council to meet to discuss the matter and hopefully find a positive route forward in advance of the budget being set on 12th February.

I am certainly hoping that this dialogue continues in the run up to the budget setting day and that cross-party agreement can be reached for the good of the City.

Wednesday 28 January 2009

Tavish Scott on today's budget vote

This evening and tomorrow morning on the news and in the newspapers you will see that the Liberal Democrats voted against the SNP Government's Budget.

As you will recall from my email two weeks ago, we warned the SNP that this Budget was an inadequate response to the economic situation currently facing facing Scotland. We warned that without the radical changes necessary to support the economy, we would vote down this Budget.

Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures. Unfortunately for Scotland, the SNP's budget failed to live up to this truism.

I have repeated tonight, to the First Minister and other party leaders, that we remain open to discussions on taking forward a Budget for Scotland that meets the needs of these turbulent economic times.

It is important for a Scottish Budget to be passed - however it is important that the Budget is the right one for our times. It is the duty of Ministers to come back to Parliament with a Budget that can make a real difference to Scotland.

Let's be clear. This is not the West Wing. There is no immediate threat to public services. The current year's Budget continues to operate and can sustain public services indefinitely. But, evidently, it is a matter that is better sorted sooner rather than later.

When I toured and telephoned across Scotland last summer as part of the Leadership campaign for our Party I was urged to do two things. "Be bold and distinctive" and "Be relevant". That is advice that I have taken seriously, not least when considering the SNP Government's Budget.

These are unprecedented times. Unemployment is at its highest level for 12 years; job losses are escalating; Government borrowing is at record levels; the pound is at a 25-year low against the dollar and approaching parity with the Euro; and today's shocking Scottish GDP figures should ring alarm bells very loudly.

Yet the SNP budget put to the Scottish Parliament for consideration today was only one per cent different from their original Budget of 2007. A variation of one per cent forms the weakest response of any Western European Government, national or devolved, to the economic difficulties we face in 2009.

The SNP budget, supported by the Conservatives, was woefully inadequate and the Liberal Democrats simply could not support measures that do not respond to the ferocity of the economic storm. We proposed a 2p income tax cut that would put £330 in the pockets of every low and medium earner in Scotland. It would be a real help to struggling families and individuals when they need it most.

Indeed, only today, an economic analysis from the Scottish Parliament Information Centre shows that our income tax proposal would also support 9,200 direct and indirect jobs.

Yes, we have been bold, distinctive and relevant from the very outset.

Remember what the Scotsman wrote recently: "The only serious budget proposal to boost the economy is a 2p income tax cut put forward by the Lib Dems".

Unfortunately, the SNP rejected even the principle of tax cuts out of hand. Scotland needs a budget, but a budget that will make a difference.

Our door remains open and I will keep you up to date over the coming days.

Kind regards,

Tavish Scott

Tuesday 27 January 2009

The BBC and Gaza

The BBC (and Sky News) has been rightly assailed for refusing to carry the Gaza Appeal, to encourage humanitarian aid in what is a terrible tragedy for the people of Gaza.

The public anger at the BBC's position was made terribly clear by the huge turnout in London last Saturday - see above.

Please sign by Avaaz petition on the issue by
clicking on the headline above.

Monday 26 January 2009

Bus Punctuality Improvement Partnership launch

At lunchtime today, as the City Council's Planning & Transport Convener, I attended the launch of the Bus Punctuality Improvement Partnership for Dundee and Angus, a first for Scotland. Here's a couple of photos from the event below, plus the City Council's news release.
Dundee City Council News Release :

A pioneering scheme that uses technology to track buses and measure their punctuality has been launched in Dundee.

For the first time in Scotland a Bus Punctuality Improvement Partnership between local councils and bus operators has been set up to help make journeys more efficient.

The scheme will collect real time information on the time taken on four Dundee and Angus routes, which will then be used to look at where and how precious minutes can be shaved off journey times.

Data on the 13, 14, 22 and 73 routes has been collected every 21 seconds, detailing where the vehicle is on its route and what it is doing, since January 1.

Dundee City and Angus councils have teamed up with National Express Dundee and Stagecoach with the support of the Scottish Government to run the pilot, and today it was given its formal launch in City Square.

Leading figures in the industry including transport minister, Stewart Stevenson, and Traffic Commissioner for Scotland, Joan Aitken were at the launch to witness the official partnership signing ceremony.

Convener of Dundee City Council's planning and transport committee, Fraser Macpherson said: "I am pleased that Dundee is in the forefront of using these technological advances to allow bus companies and the local authorities to gather information.

"Information is key to improving bus journeys and making them run efficiently, and from the council's point of view to identifying any road or junction improvements that could be carried out to assist this."

David May, convener of Angus Council's infrastructure services committee said: "I am delighted that Angus Council has entered into this partnership and hope that it will bring about significant improvements for bus users.

"Angus Council has invested significantly in recent years in infrastructure on the Arbroath – Monifieth – Dundee corridor through the provision of real time information, bus boarders, bus shelters and solar lighting. In addition, bus timetable information is available at all stops. I hope we can build upon this sound base and work with our partners to identify and remove barriers to reliability and thereby offer an all-round first class service to the public.”

Mr Stevenson said: "I welcome the signing of this important partnership project which will improve bus services for the travelling public and lead to quicker and more reliable services.

"The collaborative work between Dundee City Council, Angus Council, National Express Dundee and Stagecoach has been excellent and I would encourage other local authorities and bus companies to follow their lead and undertake similar projects in the future to achieve the improvements in bus services in Scotland that we all want to see."

Lawrence Davie, managing director of National Express Dundee said, "Working in partnership with the city council will enable us to improve the bus service in Dundee.

"Together we will continue to make improvements and make this an excellent service that the people deserve."

Charlie Mullen, Managing Director, Stagecoach Fife and Strathtay, said: "Punctual and reliable bus services are crucial if we are to encourage people to switch from the car to public transport. Stagecoach has already been at the forefront of introducing new technology on all of its buses in Scotland in support of the Scottish Government's concessionary travel scheme.

"We are delighted to support this new pioneering initiative targeted at punctuality as part of our drive to attract more people to greener, smarter bus travel."

After six and 12 months the data will be analysed to identify any "choke" points or parts of the route that can be speeded up.

If the Bus Punctuality Improvement Partnership proves successful it is hoped that other councils and operators will take up the idea.

Sunday 25 January 2009

Coronation Street Update!

A couple of years ago, I mentioned on the blog that Glenda (aka Flaming Nora) editor of Corrieblog had sent me a nice e-mail following a blog entry I had made about Coronation Street, my favourite TV programme. Click on headline to see this.

Anyway, I heard from Glenda again today :

Glenda Young
Sent: 25 January 2009 14:38
Subject: Coronation Street

Dear Cllr Macpherson

Just to let you know I’ve moved from Corrieblog and am now blogging about Coronation Street at

If you can link your work with Corrie at all, do let me know and I’ll give you a link and a blog post!

All the best

Glenda Young (aka Flaming Nora)

Was really good to hear from Glenda and I'm pleased to add a link to - a great way to keep up with the news from the Street!

SNP and the Edinburgh Accommodation Allowance

Today's "Sunday Herald" covers the concerns about former SNP Dundee councillor and now MSP for North East Scotland (apparently this should now read "part of North East Scotland") Nigel Don over financial subsidy through the Edinburgh Accommodation Allowance. Click on the headline above to read the Sunday Herald's story. I paste my news release on the matter below.

Dundee SNP should, in light of this, consider reimbursing the City Council with the cost of administering the Lochee Ward by-election just over a year ago, as clearly, given the following quote from Mr Don :

"There are
nine constituencies in the north east region, and the SNP has constituency members in six of them. The three which we don't are West Aberdeenshire, Aberdeen Central and Aberdeen South. At a practical level, my job is to cover those kinds of areas."

... he dumped Dundee in order to help the SNP in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire!

NEWS RELEASE : Dundee councillor slams “scandal” of MSP’s mortgage interest claims from the taxpayer

Following revelations in a Sunday newspaper today, Dundee City Liberal Democrat Councillor for the West End, Cllr Fraser Macpherson, has called the actions of SNP MSP Nigel Don in selling his Dundee home, then purchasing a house in Aberdeen, making himself eligible for nearly £700 a month from the taxpayer to pay his mortgage on a third property in Edinburgh, “a scandal.”

Cllr Macpherson said, “In his interview with the press, Mr Don made clear that he moved his family home from Dundee to Aberdeen in the knowledge that, as Aberdeen is far enough away from Edinburgh to allow MSPs to get a mortgage subsidy from the taxpayer on his Edinburgh flat. Indeed, he said the moves were “co-ordinated” – it appears SNP MSP Mr Don has dumped Dundee and taken advantage of the Edinburgh Accommodation Allowance at the same time, and the taxpayer is the loser.”

Cllr Macpherson said that, in addition to the natural outcry from taxpayers at the way advantage has been taken of the Edinburgh Accommodation Allowance, he was also deeply concerned at the cynical approach the SNP appeared to be taking at representing the people of the North East of Scotland.

In speaking to a Sunday newspaper, Mr Don said that, rather than represent the whole of North East Scotland, which is what he was elected to do, he admitted,

“There are nine constituencies in the north east region, and the SNP has constituency members in six of them. The three which we don't are West Aberdeenshire, Aberdeen Central and Aberdeen South. At a practical level, my job is to cover those kinds of areas."

Cllr Macpherson said, “It appears that Nigel Don has no intention of properly representing the whole of the region he was elected to represent. He has admitted that he thinks his job is to cover areas where the SNP doesn’t represent the area at constituency level.

Leaving aside the obvious
concern that SNP MSPs are robots controlled by party headquarters and told to up sticks and move from where they have lived for 20 years, simply to help SNP campaigning, Mr Don has used the Edinburgh Accommodation Allowance to assist him to do so. It is an absolute scandal and shows the cynicism of the SNP in terms of the way they approach representing the electorate.”

Saturday 24 January 2009

Update on heating concern

Following the concerns about West End Ward tenant Mr John Melville's heating system breakdowns reported on the blog in the past few days, the housing department has confirmed to me that it is pulling together full data on heating system faults so that the department can complete an analysis of the issues and compile a report on any necessary actions.

Such action is necessary to ensure that there are systems in place to ensure that this sort of continual heating breakdown problem does not happen to another tenant in the future.

There is more on this issue in this morning's "Courier" - you can read this by clicking on the headline above.

Tavish TV - Save our forests

Friday 23 January 2009

Tavish T.V. - The economic chill bites

Busy Friday ...

A busy day with meetings with several fellow councillors on various issues including the revenue and capital budgets for 2009/10. This followed on from an administration group of Labour and LibDem councillors last night.

The City Council Leader has now called has called for a meeting of all the political group leaders to secure an agreement on a budget which would freeze the council tax for 2009/10 whilst making all effort to protect service provision.

Tonight's "Evening Telegraph" covered this (click on the headline above to view more). As I said to the Tele :

“It is extremely important, particularly given the current economic climate, that we do everything we can to minimise the impact of the council tax

“A balance has to be struck between protecting services, especially to the most vulnerable citizens, but the administration has been putting significant effort into working towards a freeze.”

I also met the Council's Chief Executive about a constituent's issue and education matters and spoke on Radio Tay, welcoming the proposals for new schools for the West End at St Joseph's Primary and Park Place Primary.

This afternoon, I met with John Gallacher of sQuid (see my article last month about sQuid at The main reason to meet John was to discuss ways this useful electronic card that replaces small-value cash could be used further in the West End and on Dundee's public transport.

Thursday 22 January 2009

Housing concern

Although in Stirling for most of today with the 'day job', I was in contact with the Housing Department regarding my concern about the continual breakdown of Mr John Melville's heating system.

Mr Melville, who lives in Ancrum Place in the West End Ward, has suffered continual heating breakdowns since December 2007 and both today's Courier and Evening Telegraph covered the issue. You can read the Tele article by clicking on the headline above.

As I said to the Tele :

"I was most concerned to hear of Mr Melville’s situation.

"I will be making enquiries to the housing department as a matter of urgency to find out exactly what has gone wrong on this occasion and to ensure that whatever problems are pinpointed are fixed permanently.

"For a pensioner to suffer without heating in the winter is totally unacceptable."

I received the following feedback from the Housing Department this afternoon by e-mail :

Heating Defects

Arising from the press article contained in today's Courier this report outlines the background and the current action being taken to deal with the defective heating system.

A new central heating system was installed in Mr Melville's home in June 2007. Initially the heating system was working satisfactorily.

Between December 2007 and March 2008 Mr Melville experienced difficulties with the system, there were 6 reports of either no heating or no heating/hot water. In each instance repairs were completed as necessary.

In September 2008 Mr Melville began again to report difficulties with the system and over September to December 2008 there were 7 reports of no heating or no heating/hot water and 1 report of a leak. Again repairs were completed as necessary, including an investigation of the central heating radiator pipework for leaks.

However, due to the difficulties being experienced with the system and the frequency of these the problem was referred to the boiler manufacturer Ferroli in December 2008. Apparently there were problems in Ferroli making access arrangements which has delayed an inspection report on the boiler and effective remedial action being implemented. This has led to Mr Melville continuing to report another 3 instances of no heating/hot water in January 2009.

In view of the persistent problems Mr Melville has experienced with the heating system and the inconvenience he has suffered a new boiler will be installed immediately and Mr Melville has been offered alternative accomodation until Monday 26th January whilst the new system is being fitted. In addition Mr Melville will be compensated for any additional heating costs as a result of having to use electric heaters.

We will continue to pursue the problems with the boiler manufacturer Ferroli.

Elaine Zwirlein
Director of Housing

Whilst I am relieved at the action now finally being taken to get Mr Melville a new boiler, alternative accommodation whilst it is fitted and compensation, I am very concerned that the matter has dragged on for such a prolonged period. It is of the greatest concern that an elderly person has been left without adequate heating.

I have immediately responded to the Director of Housing stating given that her own report states there were some 13 reports of either no heating or no heating/hot water from December 2007 to December 2008, I am very surprised that it took a year to refer the matter to the boiler manufacturer Ferroli and would like an explanation as to why this was the case.

It is not only very important that Mr Melville's heating is resolved fully very urgently but that the City Council ensures that no other elderly tenant is ever in this situation of prolonged heating breakdowns.

As the
City Council's Administration Group met tonight, I took the opportunity to speak with both the Housing Convener and the Director of Housing about the issue and seek assurances that a repetition of this cannot occur.

Wednesday 21 January 2009

Fence repair - good news

I have received a number of complaints recently that the low fencing at the grassed area immediately west of the tenements on the north side of Milnbank Road is in a poor state.

The area of ground is in the ownership of the City Council's Economic Development Department and I am pleased to advise that the department has confirmed to me that it has, following my raising the issue with them, instructed repairs.

Tuesday 20 January 2009

Obama Inauguration Speech

"Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America -- they will be met"

New schools - good news for the West End

After a prolonged planning period, the City Council Administration was today able to announce further new schools projects - including new schools for Park Place and St Joseph's Primaries in the West End.

I have given my views in tonight's "Evening Telegraph" - here is the news release I issued :


Dundee City Councillor for the West End, Cllr Fraser Macpherson, who is also the City’s Planning & Transport Convener, has welcomed news of the proposal to build two new primary schools in the West End, saying that new schools to replace the current Park Place and St Joseph’s Primary Schools were much needed and the proposals showed the commitment of the Labour/Liberal Democrat administration to continue to improve the school estate in Dundee.

Cllr Macpherson said, "I hope that City Councillors will approve the West End news schools proposals and those for Lochee and Charleston at next Monday’s meeting. The Labour/LibDem administration is making every effort to continue schools building projects in the City and it is important that we now consult with the local schools communities on the proposals.

"I would contrast the action of the City Council administration with the inaction of the SNP administration at Holyrood – it has removed the public private partnership funding but has failed utterly to replace it with anything that actually delivers anything.

"Had we still had an additional
funding mechanism, even more could be done in Dundee to build further new schools, and I think it is about time the SNP stopped welcoming others’ initiatives and their Scottish Government provided additional funding including level playing field support to allow us to improve Dundee’s school estate even further."

Monday 19 January 2009

Wimberley Houses - revised planning application

Tonight, at the City Council's Development Quality Committee, I moved refusal of the revised planning application at Wimberley Houses. Back in October of last year, I successfully moved refusal of the previous application. You can read the background by clicking on the headline above.

The revised application had some improvements in relation to rendering, car parking and the car access for those living in the Hillside Terrace area, but, in my view, did not fully address the issues, particularly the traffic impact on Glamis Drive/Invergowrie Drive. The obvious solution was to make access via Ninewells Avenue, but the developer did not pursue that option.

My motion read as follows :

Application 08/00792/FUL - 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.

On this occasion
, the vote was lost by two votes, which will be of concern to the objectors, concerned about traffic impact and residential amenity.

Sunday 18 January 2009

Canine Partners

Sheila Roy, Chair of Friends of Magdalen Green and a member of West End Community Council, has been speaking with me about Canine Partners, a superb charity, assisiting people with disabilities.

A quick update from Sheila :

"Canine Partners, a charity whose highly-trained dogs assist people with disabilities to enjoy greater independence and a better quality of life, now has a presence in Scotland.

Puppies are currently being trained in Angus and soon you will have the opportunity to see examples of their training in Dundee.

For further details of their work log on to or for a local contact e-mail Sheila Roy at"

Saturday 17 January 2009

Magdalen Green photoset on Flickr

Liz Broumley of the Friends of Magdalen Green has a super set on photos of the Green on Flickr - she's kindly allowed me to link to these on the blog, so if you click on the headline above, you can view the photoset! Thanks, Liz.

Friday 16 January 2009

Patti Austin - Rhythm Of The Street - 1984

Superb track from Patti Austin - and not to be found, as yet, on YouTube.

Dundee Library Website

The Dundee Library and Information Services website was redesigned recently and is well worth a visit - click on the headline above to view more.

The site has lots of useful information about the city's libraries, including a page about Blackness Library at :

Thursday 15 January 2009

Talk with Tavish - 15th January 2009

Salmond in a spin ...

Phone mast appeal - disappointing result

Both the "Evening Telegraph" and today's "Courier" have reported my great disappointment that Vodafone has been given permission to erect a 14.2m-high telecommunications mast at Balgay Bowling Club in Melville Terrace, close to residential housing. You can read the article in the Courier by clicking on the headline above.

I had previously obtained the support of the City Council's Development Quality Committee in moving refusal of planning permission here. Unfortunately, the Scottish Government Reporter has now overturned that decision.

I think it should be
incumbent on mobile phone companies to ensure they do all they can to find sites away from residential areas, schools and playparks and was unconvinced that Vodafone had exhausted all possible alternative locations.

It is unfortunate that this mast is to be placed in a residential area and I am disappointed at the Reporter’s decision - another example of the decision of a democratically elected and accountable committee being overturned by the non-elected and appointed Reporter.

Wednesday 14 January 2009

Tavish Scott on the Scottish Budget

Today the Liberal Democrats voted against the SNP Budget. We did so after careful consideration, as this is a very serious issue affecting Scotland.

The SNP Government's Budget is only one per cent different in the choices it makes from the figures published in the Spending Review of October 2007.

That was well before what Finance Secretary John Swinney has described as an "economic storm" engulfed Scotland. A variation of one per cent forms the weakest response of any Western European Government, national or devolved, to the economic difficulties we face in 2009.

We believe that the economic downturn, unprecedented since the Scottish Parliament was established, requires a distinct Scottish approach. To address the collapse of consumer confidence and the real hardship being faced we argued for a two pence reduction in income tax.

This would have put £330 in the pockets of every typical low and medium earner in Scotland. It would have been a real help to struggling families and individuals when they need it most.

Vince Cable has put forward proposals at a UK level to bring Income Tax down to the lowest levels of modern times. He was also the first person to call for dramatic reductions in interest rates to be part of the radical action needed to stave off the worst effects of recession. He was prepared to say that Labour's VAT reduction was simply not going to work to restore consumer and business confidence. That has turned out to be the case.

Nick Clegg argues in the Scotsman today that Britain needs "big, permanent and fair tax cuts" to address the failure of Gordon Brown and the Labour Party to address social inequality in their ten years in power.

Liberal Democrats know that we need more support for our economy. Other choices the SNP have made over the last year are not helping. The SNP have slashed the budgets for Highland and Islands Enterprise, abolished Local Enterprise Companies, provided a real terms cuts in Universities' budgets for the first time since 1999. All this harms the ability for our economy to recover when the credit crunch begins to turn.

We are very concerned that the downturn in Scotland may be deeper and longer as a result of these actions and a business-as-usual budget.

The Conservatives' response has been extraordinarily weak. They call for more action from the Government outside the Chamber in local areas. But as far as the economy is concerned they are not just the "do nothing party" in Scotland, they are the "don't even try" party.

Over the next two weeks before the completion of the Budget process, we will be launching Liberal Democrat campaigns designed to support business and the economy. We will argue for support for our High Streets, support for jobs and support for small business. These are important campaign themes for us and Liberal Democrat MSPs look forward to working with our MPs and Councillors, who are doing excellent work in councils to support businesses.

It is the Liberal Democrats who are taking the strongest measures to support the economy.

Speed limit reduction

I am pleased to report that on Monday night, at the Planning & Transport Committee, the City Council committee I chair, agreement was reached to finalise the speed limit reduction on the westmost part of Perth Road (west of the Invercarse), the small stretch of Riverside Drive north of the Marmalade Pot and on Ninewells Avenue.

This follows a consultation exercise - the responses received both from residents and from West End Community Council strongly supported the speed reduction.

The fact that the speed limit in this area has been 40mph, whereas all the residential roads east of it are 30mph has always struck me as an anomoly - the speed limit on the Perth Road section was set in the early 1960s when this was the main route to Perth - long before the creation of Riverside Avenue. Furthermore, significant residential housing - such as Clouvis Duveau Drive and Clayhills Grove - has since been built.

Crescent Residents' Association has pointed out that the difficulties turning out of River Crescent into Perth Road would be eased by the speed reduction, leaving aside the obvious point that a 40mph limit is inappropriate in what has long become a residential area.

Here is notice of the traffic order, issued by the City Council, following Monday's decision :



Dundee City Council propose to make an Order under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, the effect of which will be to improve safety by reducing the current 40 mph speed limit to 30 mph.

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 16 January 2009.

Any person may within 21 days from 16 January 2009 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.

Depute Chief Executive (Support Services)

Tuesday 13 January 2009

Paint “mess” to be removed from Thomson Street

As reported in today's "Courier", I am pleased to report that Scottish Water contractors have committed to removing a multi-coloured mess from the pavements and roadway of Thomson Street.

During autumn of last year, Scottish Water’s contractors Carillion undertook site investigations in Thomson Street to look at the condition of the water main, to see if it required replacement.

The investigatory works required marking the different utilities piping, jointing, etc on the street – with different utilities in different colours – leaving the road and pavement something of a patchwork of coloured markings, detracting from the look of the street.

Following complaints from residents about the paint mess, I was initially advised that the markings should be temporary and should fade after about 2 or 3 months. However, much of the markings are still there – Council Officers have advised me that this is because of the relatively low volume of vehicular and pedestrian traffic and possibly milder weather.

As there was no immediate sign of the paint fading, I asked Council Officers if the contractor could be asked to take steps to have it removed. I have now received the following response from the City Council’s Planning and Transportation Department :

“Carillion has decided to remove all the paint spays in Thomson Street (to the best of their ability and to the degree possible) during the next week and are confident that they can finish this work by the end of (this) week (weather permitting).”

With regard to the investigatory works on the water main, it is understood that any replacement works have been deferred by Scottish Water until the 2010/11 financial year.

Monday 12 January 2009

January 2009 Update to West End Community Council

I have today published my January 2009 update to West End Community Council.

Subjects covered include :

* Graffiti – Magdalen Green and surrounding area
* Speed Limit – western end of Perth Road
* Network Rail Mast
* West End Christmas Week De-Brief Meeting
* Ground at High Mill
* Paint on road and pavements in Thomson Street
* Former Homebase site
* Handrail Seafield Road
* Fencing at rail line
* Hawkhill by-pass at Hunter Street junction
* Tay Rope Works Planning Inquiry

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

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

Sunday 11 January 2009

Busy week back ...

It has been a busy first week back following the festive period, including meetings involving TACTRAN (the regional transport partnership), the Dundee Health Central project and various meetings with constituents, including a site visit about traffic safety matters at Miller's Wynd/Hawkhill.

Today, a useful meeting of LibDem activists in Perth, which a Dundee LibDem colleague and I attended. I'm pictured above with George Lyon, the leading Scottish Liberal Democrat for next June's European Election, who delivered the keynote address today. You can read more about George and his campaign by clicking on the headline above.

And ... an equally busy week ahead - council committees start again tomorrow and I also have the Tay Rope Works Planning Inquiry to appear at on Tuesday, together with a residents' association meeting, a meeting at Dundee Airport, a West End Christmas Week de-brief meeting and various visits to constituents during next week.

Hawkhill : Vegetation to be cut back - and a new pedestrian crossing

I am pleased that the City Council has agreed to my request to cut back vegetation at the roundabout on the Hawkhill by-pass at its junction with Hunter Street, in order to improve sightlines for pedestrians.

The roundabout is significantly overgrown and I received concerns from residents that it is difficult for pedestrians crossing the Hawkhill by-pass to see on-coming traffic.

This is a busy area, with many pedestrians crossing, particularly students and staff going to the University of Dundee and it is important that there is good visibility.

The response received from the City Council said:

"I agree that some trimming of vegetation is required especially where visibility to the south west is indeed substandard for pedestrians."

The response also confirmed that the Council is investigating the provision of an additional pedestrian crossing to the east side of the roundabout, to be provided later in 2009.

The response continues :

"Early investigations favour placing a dual crossing to the east of the roundabout (downhill side) but at an appropriate distance from it - probably near the end of the splitter island. The detail design will be brought forward in February / March and details such as the exact location of a crossing in relation to the bus bay on the south side can then be investigated, together with more detailed cost estimates which can influence project delivery."

Residents will welcome an additional crossing at this part of the Hawkhill by-pass given the flow of pedestrians crossing in the area. I understand it is targeted to provide this by late Summer, but this will be subject to site investigations and confirmation.

Saturday 10 January 2009

Save Our Forests!

The SNP Scottish Government has clearly attempted to sell off publicly owned Forestry Commission forests to private timberland companies with the plans hidden deep within the Climate Change Bill.

This would see the most commercially viable forests being leased for up to 75 years - possibly to foreign investors.

The forestry provisions in the Scottish Climate Change Bill can be read by clicking on the headline above.

Andrew Reeves of the Scottish Liberal Democrats has written a good piece on this in Liberal Democrat Voice - see

A recent letter from the Environment Minister to the Convener of the Scottish Parliament's Rural Affairs and Environment Committee implies that the SNP has finally sussed that their discredited proposals to sell off swathes of Scotland’s forests is maybe not the best idea ever thought of. Let's hope that it is the case.

You can read more about the LibDem campaign to Save our Forests at The picture above features Jim Hume MSP, who is leading the Scottish Liberal Democrat campaign against this daft SNP proposal.

Friday 9 January 2009

West End mast complaint

Yesterday, I wrote to Network Rail over their insensitive siting of a railway communications mast on Riverside Drive, near to the Tay Rail Bridge. See photo above.

I am disappointed that Network Rail has not taken heed of the advice of the City Council’s Director of Planning and Transportation to minimise the visual impact of the mast, which has been sited next to the Riverside Drive ambassador route, a principal entry point to the City Centre.

I have written a letter of complaint to Network Rail’s Town Planning Department and I have already received an assurance from the company’s Public Relations Manager in Scotland that my complaint is being investigated.

Back in June of last year, Network Rail’s Town Planning Department wrote to the City Council advising that the company was erecting a number of railway communications masts in the area.

I have been advised that these have permitted development rights and do not require planning permission from the local planning authority, but the company must write to the local authority to see if has any views on the siting of a mast.

The Director of Planning & Transportation’s response to Network Rail had made clear that “the proposal should be sited in such a way as to minimise its visual potential impact when viewed from the road to the south which is a principal entry route to the city.”

In my letter to Network Rail I state :

"Now that the mast has been erected, I write on behalf of constituents who have complained about its visual effect, to express my concern that no heed was taken of the view expressed in the response by the Director of Planning and Transportation, as the mast has been sited in such a way as it had a significantly detrimental effect on the streetscape to the immediate north of the Riverside Drive ambassador route into the City Centre.

"Whilst I appreciate you had permitted development rights to erect this structure, I would have hoped that some cognisance of the feedback from the City Council as the local planning authority would have been taken. … I would be grateful if you could explain why such an approach was not taken."

Given the large areas of ground owned by Network Rail to either side of the rail line running through the City, it would have been easily possible to site the mast well away from the busy ambassador route as well as away from residential areas and it is disappointing that Network Rail has not done so.

Thursday 8 January 2009

High Mill area - overgrowth tackled

As reported in last night's "Evening Telegraph", I am pleased that, following the intervention of the City Council’s planning enforcement staff, a Belgium-based developer has finally commenced the tidying of a badly overgrown area of ground in the Shepherd’s Loan area.

Residents and I had contacted the City Council regarding the badly overgrown condition of the ground south of Steven’s Yard near to High Mill. The ground had become highly overgrown and residents were rightly complaining about the eyesore.

Clearly the concern in such instances is that neglected ground becomes a magnet for fly-tipping, so I am pleased that following the intervention of planning enforcement staff, who served a notice on the owner, work to cut the overgrowth and tidy the ground has now been started.

The ground has been subject to a previous planning application for 2 dwellings which was refused by the City Council – the decision to refuse was upheld by the Scottish Government Reporter in 2007 (click on headline above for further details).

photo below shows the partly completed tidying works.

Wednesday 7 January 2009

Old Dundee Street Names

Mid Kirk Style and Tally Street disappeared from active use as street names many years ago (although I am sure I can remember a "Mid Kirk Style" sign hanging in the old Overgate Centre back in the 70s and 80s!) - they were in the bit of my former Tay Bridges Ward that did not find its way into the West End Ward at the last boundary review.

This photograph above shows the east end of Mid Kirk Style, Dundee, looking into the north end of Tally Street, which ran north to south and left to right from the Overgate to the Nethergate. The photo belongs to the City Council's Photopolis collection, which is fascinating and can be accessed by clicking on the headline above.

I actually mention the matter of Mid Kirk Style and Tally Street because it will crop up at next Monday's City Council Planning & Transport Committee, the council committee I chair. The proposal is to give these historic streets back their position on official council lists - the City Council's news release on the matter (below) explains more :

A pair of historic Dundee street names could re-appear on the city's official lists after an absence of more than 40 years.

Mid Kirk Style and Tally Street disappeared from the map in the 1960s to make way for the first clearance and redevelopment of the Overgate.

Now, as the street register is computerised and updated, councillors will be asked to give both streets back their position on official council lists.

Convener of the planning and transport committee, Fraser Macpherson said: "Despite the Overgate being redeveloped twice now since the original warren of lanes, closes and styles made way for a shopping centre, Mid Kirk Style and Tally Street are actually still there, albeit slightly realigned.

"So there is no reason why they should not be on the official street register, nor why we shouldn't erect signs either side of the City Churches to mark the site of these lanes in the heart of our city."

The planning and transport committee will decide if it will agree to reinstate the street names to retain the links with a part of Dundee's history on Monday (January 12).

Tuesday 6 January 2009

1 000th blog entry!

This is the 1 000th blog article at (and its mirror site since the blog started just short of three years ago in March 2006.

Nearly 153 000 visitors later, I am most grateful to everyone who regularly reads the site and also to everyone who has e-mailed me with comments and issues, particularly those related to West End of Dundee matters.

Feedback is always gratefully received at

Cemetery provision for the City

The refusal towards the end of 2008 by the Scottish Government to allow outline permission for a cemetery at Linlathen has meant that the City Council administration is anxious to investigate other options to ensure there is adequate supply of burial sites in the City in the future.

A report seeking authority to progress matters in terms at looking at costs/feasibility of a site north of the West Pitkerro Industrial Estate will come before the committee I chair (Planning and Transport) next Monday - and also before the Leisure, Arts and Communities Committee.

Council has issued a news release on the matter today and I reproduce this below:

The cost and feasibility
of creating a new cemetery for Dundee on land north of the West Pitkerro Industrial Estate could be investigated if councillors back the move next week.

Members of the planning and transport and leisure, arts and communities committees will consider plans for the directors of both departments to jointly evaluate the pros and cons of the site.

Fraser Macpherson, convener of the planning and transport committee said: "The search for a location for a new cemetery has been given a new impetus after the Scottish Government refused outline permission for a cemetery at the Linlathen site to the east of the city late last year."

His colleague Richard McCready, who is convener of the leisure, arts and communities committee added: "From the work that has been done by the council so far, the site north of West Pitkerro Industrial Estate ticks the most boxes of the options that were looked at."

Dundee has enough burial provision for the next six years, with an extra 12,000 lairs in the extension to the Birkhill Cemetery expected to ease pressure from 2010.

But almost a dozen sites that could be used to create more burial plots for the city have already been judged against a set of seven assessment criteria including accessibility, land value and planning considerations.

The area which officers want permission to investigate further offers the full potential to meet the extra cemetery requirements for the city, as well as having no known problems with its physical condition.

Investigations so far have not found any ancient or historic sites at the locations, unlike the previous site to the east which was ruled out by the Scottish Government's reporter.

The report concludes that because of this and because the land at West Pitkerro Industrial Estate would be relatively straightforward to develop further, more detailed investigations should be carried out.

Councillors will decide whether to go ahead with the next stage on Monday (January 12).

Fencing repairs to be undertaken

Following complaints by constituents about the state of some of the boundary fencing on the rail line in the West End, Network Rail has confirmed to me that it will undertake inspections and carry out necessary repairs.

I have received quite a number of complaints about state of fencing north side of rail line at Magdalen Green – between electricity sub station and allotments – but also further west along the rail line. In particular residents were concerned about dogs getting onto the rail line.

I am therefore pleased that Network Rail has responded positively to my request that the fencing by the rail line be fully inspected and necessary repairs be undertaken.

Monday 5 January 2009

Green Road out of recession

Nick Clegg today described Gordon Brown and David Cameron as con-men trying to fool the British public.

He was responding to David Cameron's speech on the economy, in which he announced plans to scrap taxes paid by basic rate taxpayers' on savings interest and raise the level of non-taxable income for pensioners by £2,000 a year, and to Gordon Brown's interview yesterday, in which he spoke about government plans to bring forward £10bn of spending on public works, digital technology and environmental projects, claiming the programme would create 100,000 jobs.

Nick said that, to be taken seriously, David Cameron would have to identify what cuts he would make in public spending to fund his proposed tax cuts.

The Liberal Democrats remain the only party with a detailed plan on how to put Britain on a green road out of recession - see below.

Nick said, "Gordon Brown and David Cameron are con-men trying to fool the British public.

“First we have an expensive VAT cut that doesn’t help people and now the Prime Minister announces he will create 100,000 jobs without any idea of how.

“David Cameron is offering his own fake giveaway. Cutting savings tax will mean someone saving £100 will only get an extra 40p a year.

“If David Cameron is going to be taken seriously he has to identify what cuts he will make. How many fewer police officers will there be on the street and who will have a smaller pension?

“The Liberal Democrats are the only party with a detailed plan on how to put Britain on a green road out of recession. We have set out how we would make big, permanent and fair tax cuts, giving £1,000 in income tax cuts to families on average incomes.”

Green Road out of Recession (click on the headline above to download the LibDem plan) :

Before Christmas, Nick Clegg set out Liberal Democrat plans to put Britain on a Green Road out of the Recession, creating jobs and leaving a legacy that will save energy, put money back into people’s pockets and fight climate change.

The plans will cost £12.5bn, which would be paid for by scrapping the proposed VAT cut. The vast majority of that money will be spent immediately, making a real impact on the economy and people’s lives right away.

The Green Road out of the Recession proposals to create jobs include:

· A five-year programme to insulate every school and hospital, with 20% completed in the first year

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

· Building 40,000 extra zero-carbon social houses

· Buying 700 new train carriages

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

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

Surgeries start again on Thursday!

With the school holidays not ending until tomorrow, I don't have my usual surgeries at Harris Academy and Mitchell Street Centre today, but surgeries start again with my Thursday one at Blackness Primary School (staff room) on Thursday at 6.15pm.

Details of my three surgeries are below :

Mitchell Street Centre (The Base) - Mitchell Street. Mondays - 4.20 pm prompt (except school holidays)

Harris Academy (Room 407) - Perth Road. Mondays - 4.50 pm prompt (except school holidays)

Blackness Primary School (Staff Room on ground floor) - Pennycook Lane. Thursdays - 6.15 pm prompt (except school holidays)

Sunday 4 January 2009

Affordable Housing - A need for action, not words

In November, following Tavish Scott's visit to Dundee to see local housing projects, I again highlighted the fact that the SNP government, whilst creating a lot of media spin about assisting the provision of providing more affordable housing in Scotland, had, in reality, been poor at actual delivery of the policy in communities across Scotland. Click on the headline above to view my earlier article.

For 2008-9,
Housing Association Grant for Dundee was reduced to £7.7 million by the SNP. This represents the poorest level of allocation in years - the figures below from a parliamentary answer from the Minister for Communities and Sport shows the funding for Dundee under the previous LibDem and Labour administration :

What has been staggering has been the total silence of our SNP parliamentary representatives over the huge cut in funding to the city, caused by their own government. I think it should be incumbent upon them to explain their silence on the issue.

The SNP has announced and reannounced on numerous occasions a £25 million additional capital funding for councils to build new council houses. £25 million is hardly a fortune if spread right across Scotland and I understand it is to be targeted, but it would be good to actually see it actually being used as opposed to being talked about.

In April, the SNP website announced :

"Scottish local authorities will be given a £25m package to build new council houses over the next three years.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon made the announcement as she addressed the SNP spring conference."

(Source :

Progress nine months on? In December, the First Minister was still rehashing the same announcement :

"Councils offered share of £25m housing pot
By Alex Salmond MP
Published: 02 December, 2008
LOCAL authorities in Scotland are being given the opportunity to apply for a share of £25 million to help kick start a new generation of council house building."

(Source :

I think it is high time we saw all the Scottish Government spin about supporting affordable housing and helping the construction industry actually being delivered across Scotland - a good share of the £25 million fund coming to Dundee to offset the negative effects of the cut in housing association funding would be a start.

Saturday 3 January 2009

Shapeshifters - Lola's Theme

Irrelevant addition but great track by Shapeshifters

Jobcentre Plus "outreach" proposal

The suggestion by Danny Alexander MP that public buildings such as libraries should be considered for use as outreach services for Jobcentre Plus appears to me to make a whole lot of sense. (See to read the story in today's Scotsman).

He points out that there is no reason that Jobcentre Plus services cannot be provided in places such as community centres and council buildings.

The 2004 Government Spending Review announced an efficiency savings programme which planned to reduce the numbers of Jobcentre Plus staff by around 14 per cent and lead to dramatic changes in the way Jobcentre Plus delivered its services

The new standard operating model for claiming benefits introduced the telephone as the main route for applying for and contacting Jobcentre Plus about benefit claims. Benefit processing was centralised into a smaller number of large processing centres, resulting in reduced face to face service for claimants in local offices. Citizens Advice's evidence on the new system for claiming benefits from Jobcentre Plus said,

most vulnerable claimants, homeless people and those with mental health, learning or other disabilities have suffered the worst as local office support has decreased and alternatives to phone contact have been refused." (Click on headline above to view the full report).

Although, in November, the government decided to abandon plans to close more Jobcentre Plus offices, the "outreach" proposal would help to plug gaps in the Jobcentre Plus network - it should be remembered that the 'rationalisation programme' was handled in a haphazard ill-conceived fashion.

In my view, consideration should also be given to having some Jobcentre Plus services and advice surgeries at suitable local Post Offices. During the unsuccessful campaign to try to save four Dundee Post Offices last year, many of us made the point that having additional services at local Post Offices would help secure their future. Having some Jobcentre Plus services at sub post offices would not only achieve this, but would also make job centre services more readily available and plug some of the gaps in the service.