Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Why we are better together


Parking issues across the West End

This morning, along with two of my ward colleagues and City Council officers, we had a useful discussion at Dundee House about the parking problems residents in the Ancrum Drive experience.    Having already held a number of meetings with the residents of the street and organised a walkabout with residents and Sustrans, the sustainable transport charity, around the area, it is clear that there is a real issue to be tackled.    

I made a number of suggestions this morning about possible additional parking off-street and involving the local residents group Community Spirit Action Group in terms of moving things forward.   City Council engineers will also undertake some survey work.

Also today, Dundee City Council finally got round to launching the consultation on a possible residents' parking scheme for part of the West End - primarily the area round the Perth Road shopping area (and slightly wider) and as far north as around Blackness Road.     The plan below indicates the area covered by the consultation.   You can download a higher-quality PDF of that plan here.

Improving residents' parking is an issue I have campaigned for for many years.   As the Planning & Transport Convener in the previous council administration, moving on from a report by Buchanan transport consultants in 2008, it was my intention and that of the previous administration to move swiftly to consult with residents on detailed proposals to improve parking in West End given that the Buchanan report indicated there was real difficulty for residents getting parked and possible support for some form of parking scheme.

The current administration that took over in early 2009 has moved with all the pace of a snail on taking the matter forward but – more than three years late - at last there will be a public consultation on proposals about the parking issue.

I would urge residents to take part in the parking public consultation.    There is no magic simple solution that will resolve the parking problems many in the West End face but getting the views of all local residents and businesses will be vital in terms of bringing forward solutions that the community feel will be of benefit.   A key issue will be cost - I cannot see West End residents accepting an £80 annual charge when Menzieshill residents are charged only £5 a year - clearly equality in parking charges across the city is required.

The information given to councillors today about the consultation had some confusion in e-mail return addresses (2 different ones - westendresidentsparking@dundeecity.gov.uk but also westendresidentparking@dundeecity.gov.ukand a web link error on the questionnaire that is going to residents and I requested to the City Development Department that these be urgently resolved.

I have been advised by the City Council:

"IT have confirmed that both email addresses are live and can be used for this consultation exercise.

With regards to the link at the bottom of the questionnaire, we have arranged that the press release that is going out will include a note that this link is incorrect and that all residents/consultees will be directed to the main DCC web address where the consultation is on the front page."

You can read more about what is being proposed at 

Parking at new West End schools

Glenagnes Road entrance to the schools
Yesterday's Courier featured my concerns and those of one of the residents who has contacted me regarding some of the parking problems near to the new West End schools in Glenagnes Road and Blackness Road.

I have now visited the schools on a number of occasions to look at the issues first hand and major areas of concern are a small minority of drivers who are parking on double yellow lines near the school or letting off children in Blackness Road (in some cases by double parking and blocking the busy road).

As I said to the Courier, I have been heartened by the response I have had from the Director of Education and the Head of Transportation at the City Council, who have made it clear that they want to see any problems tackled as soon as possible.

Safe drop-off points for parents and carers dropping off their children are indicated in the Safer Routes to the West End Campus leaflet issued to all pupils recently and it is hoped that all will take the advice this useful publication gives.

Lochee Park Fireworks Display and Bonfire - 5th November

The City Council is again having its traditional Lochee Park Fireworks Display and Bonfire (along with a similar one at Baxter Park) on 5th November - details below:
You can download a better quality PDF of the above poster here.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

City Council meetings


The decision, pushed through by the SNP administration, against the combined opposition of every other councillor - whatever their political affiliation - represents the low point of the SNP administration in the three years it has controlled the City Council.   SNP councillors made much of their view that the opposition had failed to read correctly the original report from March 2012 on care and support for adults with a learning disability.   Personally, I did not have a difficulty with the March report - the principle of providing more 'personalised' services for service users is perfectly reasonable.

This may (or may not) result in less demand for day centre places, but what was so concerning from last night's committee report and the decision by SNP councillors, was that the facilities at Kemback Street are being closed in advance of agreements being made with the users of the facilities and their families about the support the people that attend Kemback Street will receive in the future.   

I called this truly shocking and I stand by that view.   Pushing through the Kemback Street closure at this stage is premature and, as was clear from the elequent contributions made by last night's deputations, not in the interests of the people who rely on the Out and About service and the Kemback Street Day Centre.   Last night was, frankly, the nadir of the 11 years I have served on the City Council;   this wholly wrong decision could and should have been avoided.

On a more positive note, at the same committee - Social Work and Health - I welcomed the really positive progress the Food Train service has made.

At the Environment Committee, I welcomed a recommendation to improve security fencing at the Dundee Law Allotments, but sought assurances that other allotments such as the City Road Allotments in the West End would be considered for future fencing improvements.

At City Development Committee, I questioned the quality of utilities' road repairs.   The council's press release on the subject said :  "Utility companies who dig up Dundee's roads continue to reinstate them to an acceptable standard."     In fact, there are many examples in the West End of poor utilities' road repairs - an eagle eyed West End constituent has highlighted numerous examples to me recently and these have been taken up with the Roads Maintenance Partnership.   The Director of City Development gave a helpful response to me about ensuring utility companies improve the sealing of roads reinstatements.

The Lord Provost gave a very fitting tribute to the life and work of Michael Marra and it was also with great sadness that councillors were told of the tragic death of City Council planning officer Scott Mill in a motorbike accident yesterday.

Halloween Special at the Wighton!

From Sheena Wellington:

Lunchtime Recital,  Wighton Heritage Centre, Central Library, Dundee on Wednesday 31st October at 1.15pm, admission free (donations welcomed):

SHEILA KINNINMONTH and SYLVIA TROON with tales for Halloween!

Friends of Wighton mark Guising Day by welcoming two of Scotland's finest storytellers!  Sheila and Sylvia, both members of local storytelling group Blether Tay-gither, are well-known across Scotland and beyond.  Later in the afternoon, they will be telling tales to invited local schoolchildren.

Sheila Kinninmonth:

Sheila loves telling traditional tales from all over the world, especially Scottish folk, fairy and Traveller tales which celebrate 'oor guid Scots tongue'. She can use her wide repertoire to find stories to fit in with any event theme or school project from pirates to the environment, princesses or Greek Myths. She likes to encourage audience participation with rhymes and sound effects. 

Sheila is comfortable telling stories to anyone who wants to listen, even if they don't know they want to listen! A qualified nursery nurse with a degree in early childhood studies, Sheila has 30 years experience working with pre-school and primary aged children, using storytelling both to entertain and to support learning. She believes storytelling is a vital learning tool for all children, not only helping meet many of the outcomes in the Curriculum for Excellence, but also passing on our rich heritage. She has also enjoyed leading storytelling and story making workshops with older children, young adults and nursery staff. As one of the original members of Blether Tay-Gither storytelling group, she regularly tells to adults. 

Sheila lives in St Andrews, Fife where she was born and brought up. Having gained a love of stories from her grandparents and parents, who told her stories of rural life and wartime experiences as well as introducing her to folk and fairytales, she naturally continued by telling to her own children and grandchildren as well as telling in playgroups, nurseries and schools in NE Fife throughout her career in education, until retirement in 2010. 

Sylvia Troon: 

Midlothian-born Sylvia has been inventing and telling stories, drawing and making things ever since her early childhood. Nowadays she enjoys telling Scottish tales, world tales, myths and legends - in fact the journey of discovery goes on and on. She continues to tell her own short stories, often accompanied by her own illustrations and puppets with descriptive sound effects. Her subject matter ranges over Scottish history, natural history and geology, fantasy tales, environmental and conservation stories, health & well-being, but she fully expects to continue extending her themes and approach. 

Sylvia tells stories to all age groups from age 3 upwards in schools and the community. She is in demand as a speaker for adult groups, and enjoys visiting the elderly, as well as children and adults with special needs. She has always been driven by a desire to involve, entertain and motivate, and has often been described as an "enabler". She likes to see people losing their inhibitions, and will explore any opportunity when it comes up to capitalise on reactions. Her style is natural and frequently playful, as well as being dramatic, with an emphasis on vocal expression. Little ones, young people, students, teachers and parents alike, are encouraged to "give it a go". She is always happy to help and give advice, and to pass on new ideas. 

On Wave 102 - Dundee Airport

I was on Wave 102 news yesterday about the future of Dundee Airport.  Click 'play' below to listen:

Monday, October 29, 2012

Call for alternative facilities during library disruption


I have called for Leisure and Culture Dundee and the City Council to make alternative library arrangements and for local groups who use Blackness Library when the library is disrupted early in the New Year as improvement work is undertaken at the library that will create disabled access to the upstairs meeting rooms for the first time.    

The work to improve the disabled access and some other improvements follows a council decision earlier this year, arising out of a public consultation exercise.

I was recently updated by the City Council’s Chief Architect that work will commence immediately after the festive season.    The Chief Architect advised me:

“You may recall that following the public consultation exercise some additional works, and costs, were introduced into the scheme and together with the client and contractor we have being trying to ensure the brief and budget are fully aligned. This has been a challenging exercise and includes testing, with utility providers, of the allowances for services diversions. 

We have been holding detailed discussions with the utilities providers to agree services relocation routes and these have been largely resolved. It had been anticipated to start the works following the recent October holiday however, in recent weeks it has transpired that one of two BT cables, thought to be phone lines, is actually a main-line NHS internet/IT service route. On Monday of last week we met with BT staff and have agreed a route and method to address this. However it will impose an eight week lead-in period.

In discussion with all parties and given the proximity to the festive period and demand upon the facility, the current predicted site commencement is to be just after the holiday period. The construction period remains as previously advised at 16 weeks.”

I have been further advised that although 16 weeks is the suggested timeframe for all the work, the library will be largely functional for the majority of this time, some 10 weeks.   However, there will be around six weeks when there clearly be disruption to library services and to the groups who use the meeting rooms.

I have therefore contacted the Managing Director of Leisure and Culture Dundee, who operate Blackness Library on behalf of Dundee City Council, to find out what alternative arrangements can be made during the disruption to the library.    It strikes me that there is a need to find a temporary home for library meeting room users.

Having had a tour of the facilities at the Whitehall Theatre last week at the invitation of former Lord Provost John Letford who now chairs the Whitehall Theatre Trust, it could be worth exploring this an option for library user groups, with some mobile library provision for the actual library facilities.

Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design Open Days

Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design (DJCAD) is holding Open Days tomorrow (Tuesday 30th October) and on Wednesday 31st October.   

Aimed at undergraduates, the Open Days are a good way for would-be applicants to see DJCAD before applying. 

Everyone is welcome to attend including school students, college students, parents, teachers and careers advisers.   You can register interest in the Open Days by going to http://www.dundee.ac.uk/undergraduate/visits/prebook.php.  

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Getting things done ... path from Hawkhill to St Peter Street

I have received a complaint that the shrubbery at the public path that runs from Hawkhill to St Peter Street down the east side of Blackness Primary School is overgrown - see right.

I have taken this up with the City Council, requesting that the shrubbery be trimmed.

Adult Learning in the West End

The new Dundee Adult Learning newsletter is now available and can be downloaded by clicking here.   The West End opportunities in the newsletter are as follows:



Saturday, October 27, 2012

Visit to the Whitehall Theatre

Yesterday, I took part in a tour round the Whitehall Theatre, at the invitation of former Lord Provost John Letford.   John, as the chair of the Whitehall Theatre Trust, and his colleague Davie, gave me an interesting insight into the improvements taking place at the theatre.

The Whitehall Theatre has good facilities that local West End groups can have access to - the cafe area in particular is a great meeting place - and any local group wishing to use the facilities should contact the theatre at Dundee 322684.

Here's John and me outside the Whitehall Theatre yesterday:
Later yesterday, I had the pleasure of chairing the latest meeting of the West End Christmas Fortnight Committee.   This year's Christmas activities in the West End are taking great shape and between 17th November and 1st December a whole host of events are taking place.

On Wave 102 - Hospital Link

I was interviewed yesterday on Wave 102 news about the 333 hospital link bus service.   Click 'play' below to listen:

Friday, October 26, 2012

Friends of Riverside Nature Park meeting

Last night, after my weekly ward surgery at Blackness Primary School, I attended the first committee meeting of the Friends of Riverside Nature Park following the recent inaugural Annual General Meeting.

It was a very positive and productive meeting at which office bearers were appointed including Ian Ford, elected as the Friends' first Chair.

We discussed a possible gardening project for the Friends at the Nature Park, moving forward with an Action Planning Session at a future committee meeting, taking part in the Community Fayre at the West End Christmas Fortnight Community Fayre on 17th November and the forthcoming consultation exhibition on Park and Ride proposals for Riverside Avenue.

The Food Train - new volunteers poster

I have previously mentioned the Food Train project that assists elderly local residents with a quality shopping service. 

The Food Train has a new poster to encourage new volunteers - see below:
You can download a better quality copy of this poster here.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Dundee Airport : Loss of Belfast and Birmingham flights


The loss of the Loganair routes from Dundee Airport to Birmingham and George Best Airport Belfast is a real blow.     

I wrote to the City Council's Head of Economic Development about the matter and called for every effort to be made to attract additional flight destinations.   

He has responded:

"The Scottish Government announced recently that they would be commissioning a study into future options for Dundee Airport and the development of services.  They have included us in that study.   

The work is out for procurement just now and the current expectation is that it will report in the new year. 

None of that will take the place of attempts to widen the service offering and HIAL are actively seeking new operators and services."

The study is, in itself, positive as it is vitally important that the city has good links, particularly to ‘hub’ airports and I hope we will see progress towards other destinations well in advance of the V&A at Dundee opening.

333 bus service

Back in August, I wrote to the Chief Executive of NHS Tayside expressing concern about the reduction in Service 333 - the 'hospital link' bus, primarily between Ninewells Hospital and Perth Royal Infirmary.

I have had constituents who are either NHS staff or hospital visitors contact me regarding their concerns and have therefore corresponded with both the NHS and Perth and Kinross Council (who tendered the service for NHS Tayside) on the matter.

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to discuss the matter further with my friend and colleague Cllr Willie Wilson of Perth and Kinross Council.   Willie has met with NHS Tayside representatives and staff regarding the situation.   

The positive news is that core journeys will be saved and, although it will not be at the previous level of service, it will at least provide some service in the evenings and at weekends.   The additional Service 16 journeys (click here to see - new journeys highlighted in yellow) are to be welcomed.

Action on slippy leaves ...

Last week, following concerns from sheltered tenants, I asked the City Council Environment Department to clean up wet, slippy leaves at the Blackness Avenue end of Abbotsford Place and - with thanks - the department attended to this extremely efficiently.

On Sunday, an elderly lady slipped on leaves on Logie Avenue at the junction with Birchwood Place - see photo of the area - right.

Thankfully the lady managed to steady herself and was not injured, but I have asked the council to clean up the leaves here.

The City Council advises me that an instruction has gone out to all street sweepers to tackle leaves on pavements and this is to be welcomed.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

New West End Schools opening!

This morning, the new West End Schools' Campus on the former Logie Secondary site has opened (see right) and it was great to see the pupils, parents and teachers of Park Place (now Victoria Park Primary School and Balgay Hill Nursery School) being piped up Hawkhill to join St Joseph's Primary School pupils, parents and teachers at the old St Joseph's site in Bellfield Street and together walk to the new building.

Here's a short video of the procession as it walked along Hawkhill earlier this morning:

Dundee Urban Orchard


Currently at the planning stage and due to commence in January 2013, DUO (Dundee Urban Orchard) is a city-wide environmental and socially engaged public art project that supports individuals, organisations and community groups to plant and care for small scale orchards within Dundee.

You can read more about the Dundee Urban Orchard here.

For further details or to share ideas please contact jb4change@gmail.com or telephone Dundee 540151.

Tuesday in the West End ...

Yesterday, in addition to visits to constituents, I took part in a walkabout round the Logie Estate with council officers from various departments and a ward colleague to look at issues in the area.   An example is damaged fencing (see right).    It was good to welcome the Director of Housing to the walkabout on this occasion.

Thereafter, I enjoyed a very well-attended general meeting of the Pennycook and Sinderins Courts Residents' Association at which we discussed numerous local issues including parking, noise and the Association's forthcoming Christmas Coffee Morning, taking place on Saturday 24th November, as part of the West End Christmas Fortnight activities.

I also attended a committee meeting of the Jericho House Support Group and am pleased that Jericho House will be taking part in our Christmas Fortnight Community Fayre Launch on Saturday 17th November.   Over 20 community groups, charities and other organisations are taking part in the Community Fayre at Dundee West Church (10am to 12 noon) and it will feature other activities including face painting for the children.

Later on, I had a very useful site visit in Ancrum Drive to look further at possible parking improvements there and in the evening I attended the Blackness Primary School Parent Council meeting.    At the Parent Council, there was a very interesting update from Mr Ferrier, Head Teacher, on school building improvements that have recently taken place and a number of school initiatives planned for the new term, including science workshops and co-operative learning for staff.   There's also a new P5-P7 athletics club which is a really good new initiative for Blackness Primary School.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Failure to progress improved parking facilities criticised


I have criticised the City Council’s failure to progress a committee decision to improve parking on the University of Dundee campus edge – at Hunter Street – by simply ‘sitting on the decision’ despite committee approval to proceed.

In May 2008, the City Council approved a report to provide a replacement car park in Hunter Street at the edge of the university campus.  As the Planning and Transport Convener at the time, I greatly welcomed this proposal.  

The Hunter Street replacement car park proposal makes a good deal of sense.   There’s a huge parking demand in the area around the university campus and building more provision here would relieve congestion in local streets in the West End.   It is deeply disappointing that the council is failing to progress a committee decision or even bothering to update committee on a decision it took.

I recently asked the City Council’s Head of Transportation for an update on progress with the decision of council committee to progress a replacement Hunter Street car park.    I was advised in response :

“In terms of the Hunter Street Multi Storey Car Park, there is no proposal for Hunter Street in the Capital Plan.  Present parking levels in the city do not justify additional provision.  We need to absorb the new Allan Street/Olympia MSCP before considering any further MSCP provision.”

In response, I pointed out:

“There was a clear commitment to go ahead with this replacement car park after Greenmarket and East Marketgait were completed.   The City Engineer advised me back in 2009 it had got as far as being advertised in the European Journal and the suggestion that parking levels do not justify it flies in the face of the evidence –  it is right on the campus edge.

The project to build a better larger capacity car park at Hunter Street was agreed in 2008.   Given the significant extent of “university related vehicles” parking on many streets in the West End close to the University, the proposal would provide such drivers with a parking facility very close to the campus.

As I recall, a detailed project programme was to be prepared in 2009 but the design, procurement and construction was held back pending other car parks being completed.   When that happened I was given assurances that the project was not being dumped and I would be extremely unhappy if this is now the case.   

To quote the Director of City Development from 2010 when the project was put back:

“In light of the downturn in the property development market and the need to evaluate the operational success of the new multi storey car park to be built at East Marketgait, we will not now progress Hunter Street until the medium term ie we will revisit the proposal after 2012.”

Improving the parking here would significantly assist overspill into West End residential streets and make it easier for students and university staff to get parked too.

I recall nothing coming to committee to rescind the original committee approval and I would suggest you can’t just dump the proposal without going back to committee.”

In response, the Director of City Development indicated :

“Fraser

Can I please comment as follows;

1.  The marketing of this site did not deliver a viable development partner.  Since then economic conditions have worsened and general parking demand has reduced across the city centre.  Proceeding with a development project would not be successful at this time.

2.  I would want to have at least a full year's trading experience at the New Olympia Multi-Storey Car Park, before even considering seeking further prudential borrowing for a further MSCP in the city.  I think that it would be extremely difficult to justify such expenditure at this time.

3.  I have never given an assurance that this project would happen.  The fact that the current approved Capital Plan 2012-16 makes no provision for such a project, reflects the level of commercial doubt over the prudence and viability of such a scheme for the foreseeable future.

We will, however, keep the situation under review should conditions improve."

I have written back to the Director in the following terms :

“I would be grateful for detail of the evidence of lesser parking demand in the vicinity of Hunter Street.   Whilst I do not doubt your statement that general parking demand in the city centre has lessened in the recent economic climate, Hunter Street would have provided better parking facilities in the vicinity of the University of Dundee Campus, where I see nothing but sustained demand and a situation that, because parking provision is less than supply, a spilling out of vehicles into on-street provision in the West End.

The department is about to consult on a residents’ parking scheme for area of the Perth Road district shopping centre and adjacent streets.  This envisages only ways of rationing the existing provision but has no proposals as to extending provision and dealing with the overflow of vehicles from the campus.   The Hunter Street proposal would have tackled that.   

The original committee report indicated :

“4.3 An Economic Option Appraisal has been carried out to establish and analyse the Strategic Context, the Defined Need for the Project, the Objectives and Constraints and a list of options were identified. The options were examined in detail and a short list of options were subsequently costed and assessed in accordance with the Council's Capital Budgetary Control guidance.”

Has a further option appraisal been made that gives new evidence for not proceeding?

Furthermore, as there is a “live” committee decision to proceed (12th May 2008), should not, in terms of the council’s democratic processes, you now bring back a report on the matter if the view of your department now conflicts with the council’s agreed policy position?”    

As I have indicated to the Director of City Development, the council is finally about to consult on a residents’ parking scheme for area of the Perth Road district shopping centre and adjacent streets.  My concern is that the council has failed to progress improved parking that would relieve the situation on local streets. 

However, in addition to that, it appears that a decision made unanimously by a council committee and at the time welcomed by the now SNP Convener of City Development, has been quietly ditched with no progress but equally no update given to a council committee.    It looks like a case of a decision of the council being simply “sat on” and flies in the face of the democratic processes of the council.   

Monday, October 22, 2012

Monday meetings ...

Earlier today, I attended - along with a number of other councillors - a briefing by the City Council's Head of Planning and colleagues on the proposed Dundee Local Development Plan, that will be considered next Monday by the council's City Development Committee.

The new Development Plan will be an important update with alterations to planning policies and, at the briefing, I asked a number of questions about it including :

* Support to protect and promote district shopping centres, like Perth Road.
* The council's commitment to ensure developers in major developments contribute towards public art.

After two ward surgeries (at Harris Academy and Mitchell Street Centre), I attended the City Council's Development Management Committee.     

I spoke in a discussion regarding an application to alter a Section 75  agreement to remove the restriction on the use as Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) of 14 flats and one house and replace it with  a restriction for student housing.     

Although the City Council has wisely imposed Section 75 agreements where a restriction on further HMOs will protect residential housing, in this case the recommendation made a great deal of sense as the properties at 19-25 Perth Road are immediately adjacent to the University of Dundee campus and ideal for student accommodation.   There is no residential housing adjacent.   Keeping the status preventing HMO use here would only have resulted in further HMO requests in residential areas of the West End.

West End Ward surgeries ...

Just to advise all West End constituents that my usual weekly surgeries start again today as the new school terms starts.

I have surgeries every week in term time at the Mitchell Street Centre (4.20pm Mondays), Harris Academy (4.50pm Mondays) and Blackness Primary School (6.15pm Thursdays) - more details are available at www.dundeecity.gov.uk/councillors/frasermacpherson.

On Wave 102 news - the new Olympia leisure centre

I was on Wave 102 news yesterday, welcoming progress with the new Olympia leisure centre that is now due to be opened by Christmas.   Click 'play' below to listen:

A referendum made in Scotland


Dear Fraser,

As you will be aware, Scotland's two governments have reached an agreement that will deliver a legal, fair and decisive referendum on whether Scotland stays within the UK family or goes its own separate way. 

The deal was negotiated between myself and the Deputy First Minister over a period of weeks, and we, the Prime Minister and First Minister signed it in Edinburgh earlier this week. It ensures that the referendum is made in Scotland - as both sides wanted it to be.

The agreement outlines that the referendum must have single question, on the issue of independence, held by the end of 2014.  The question setting and finance rules will be determined by the Scottish Parliament, subject to the same rules - including the role of the Electoral Commission - that are used in UK-run referendums. On the franchise, we have agreed not to stop the Scottish Government enfranchising 16 and 17 year olds as they have done in previous elections for local health boards and the Crofting Commission.  Liberal Democrats would of course prefer to see the franchise extended for all referendums and elections and not on a one-off basis, but we respect that there is no consensus for doing that at the Westminster level.

Our agreement on a single question, means that there will be no second question on so-called ‘devo-max’ or more powers for Scotland. This is because independence and devolving more powers to Scotland are two completely separate issues: devolution means strengthening Scotland within the UK whereas independence means taking Scotland out of the UK forever.

Devolution is an ongoing and live process and as a Liberal Democrat I was extremely proud to further this process by piloting the Scotland Act through Parliament which will see the largest transfer of financial powers to Scotland since the creation of the UK. Beyond this, as a party, we remain committed to achieving home rule for Scotland.  Just this week, our Home and Community Rule Commission, set up by Willie Rennie and chaired by Ming Campbell, published its proposals on how we can make this happen.  As always, the Scottish Liberal Democrats are leading the debate on the future of devolution in Scotland.

But before we devolve more powers we need to settle the separate issue of independence.  This is the most important political decision that Scots will be asked to take: do we stay in our United Kingdom or do we leave forever?  I look forward to working with you to make the positive case for Scotland's ongoing place in the UK family and I firmly believe that Scots will vote for that future.  We are better, stronger and safer together.

Best wishes,






Michael Moore MP
Secretary of State for Scotland

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Friends of Balgay AGM

The Dundee Weaver Craft
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending a packed Annual General Meeting of the Friends of Balgay that took place at the Mills Observatory.

There was an extremely informative and entertaining talk by Ron Scrimgeour on the history of the Dundee weaving trade in the year of the 500th anniversary of its incorporation as one of the nine incorporated trades in the city. 

Friends of Balgay has had a very successful year and Dr Hilda Spear, Chair, gave a resume of a number of the Friends' activities over the past twelve months - including the successful grant application for improvements at the Planet Trail, a well-supported litter pick on Balgay Hill, the successful level of sales of the Friends' new edition of its 'A Visitor's Guide to the Treasurers of Balgay', and the recent very heartening news of a grant from Archaeology Scotland to provide a historic market plaque at the park's Rose Window.

Be prepared for winter

As in past years, I am highlighting Scottish Water's Winter Campaign - here's an update from Scottish Water's Regional Community Manager to local councillors:

Dear Councillors

Scottish Water is launching its 2012 winter campaign to encourage our customers to be prepared and ensure homes and businesses across Scotland are protected and prepared for the winter.  Communities across the country are being urged to follow Scottish Water’s winter code - a set of simple steps to protect your pipes, be prepared and heat, insulate and protect your home and business.

The campaign, which is being supported for the fourth year running by Sean Batty, the STV weather forecaster, will be communicated through a range of channels including advertising, our winter leaflet and poster, videos, social media channels and partnerships with a range of organisations, such as the Scottish Government, landlord and housing associations and plumbers’ federation SNIPEF.

Scottish Water is also ensuring that we are well equipped and can continue to deliver the best service to our customers in whatever weather the winter months may bring.
Follow Scottish Water's winter code and be prepared for winter

Scottish Water has launched its winter campaign to encourage customers in communities across Scotland to follow their winter code - protect your pipes, be prepared and heat,insulate and protect your home.


We are also urging holiday homeowners, businesses, agents and landlords to take steps to heat, insulate and protect properties and any vacant commercial let properties. 
Sean Batty from STV weather (pictured above) supports the launch of our winter 2012 campaign.
Visit www.scottishwater.co.uk/winter where you can find winter information, films and advice. If would like hard copies of our leaflet and poster, please feel free to email customermarketing@scottishwater.co.uk details of your request. 

Further information can be found online about your pipework responsibilities, visit www.scottishwater.co.uk/responsibility


We'd like to take this opportunity to wish you a safe and happy winter season.

Scottish Water Team

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Welcome commitment to improve disabled parking at Gallagher Retail Park


I have welcomed a commitment on the part of the car park operators at the city’s Gallagher Retail Park (see right) to improve parking for people with disabilities.

This follows a West End constituent who contacted me recently regarding the issue.   The constituent, who suffers from significant physical disability, wrote :

“Dear Councillor Macpherson

I visited Marks & Spencer at Gallagher Park, Dundee today.  I was impressed by the number of disabled parking spaces available at the park outside each of the shops.  I parked in a disabled bay outside Marks & Spencer and my understanding is that, unlike council owned car parks, cars displaying a Blue Badge are still required to display a parking ticket. The first 2 hours are free but still require a parking ticket to be displayed.

I have an electric wheelchair and drive my own accessible vehicle. I was disappointed therefore to find that the of the three nearest parking ticket machines, none was wheelchair accessible. The nearest one (near the boundary of the car park where the new swimming pool/multi-story car park is being built) is situated behind a row of car parking spaces which were full with parked cars which I was unable to get past. I then tried the next one but it is turned facing away from the roadway and again can only be accessed by someone on foot.  The third one (which backs onto the access road into Gallagher Park) faces the roadway but the button is high and difficult to reach from a sitting position.  A lady kindly pressed the button for me!

I would be grateful if you would contact Gallagher Park owners and point out the following:

1) For wheelchair users their ticket dispensing machines are not accessible due to their situations.

2) Having to go round the car park in a wheelchair looking for an accessible machine is somewhat dangerous as there are many blind corners and car drivers do not expect to turn the corner and expect to meet someone on the roadway in a wheelchair.

3) The design of their machines should be such that the button is within reach of a wheelchair user.

4) Consideration should be given to ambulant disabled people who are able to walk the short distance from a disabled bay into a nearby shop but find they first have to walk a not inconsiderable distance to a ticket machine and back to their car first. For many ambulant disabled people this is very difficult if not impossible.

I would suggest there is an easy answer to this situation. Either the owners of Gallagher Park dispense with the requirement for cars displaying a Blue Badge to also display a parking ticket or accessible parking meters be installed near the disabled bays outside the shops.”

I took up the issue with Cordatus, the asset managers of Gallagher Retail Park car park on behalf of the current owners JP Morgan (Gallagher UK sold the car park in 2008) and have now been advised by John Stuart, a representative of JP Morgan Asset Management :

“Paul Blyth of Cordatus who are responsible for the oversight of management matters on this park has, I know, been in touch to confirm that he and we will review the position with the company appointed to implement the parking controls on site.

The points raised by your constituent are noted and recognised as being well made.  You may, therefore, be assured that we will address the issue with a view to ensuring improved ease of use by wheelchair users.

Our only concern is that we should not create circumstances which might permit a recurrence of the abuse previously experienced from those working in the city centre, who have over the past few years been using the facility on a day long basis. I am sure that that can be avoided in whatever change might be made.”

The retail park owners and managing agents have responded very promptly to what was a very reasonable point by my West End constituent.    I think his point about either dispensing with the requirement for cars displaying a Blue Badge to also display a parking ticket or accessible parking meters be installed near the disabled bays outside the shops would be a sensible way forward.   

It is important that people with mobility difficulties visiting the retail park can park easily and I look forward to seeing the situation improve in the near future.