Thursday 30 April 2009

Digital TV meeting

I had a very useful meeting with John MacNeil, Digital UK’s Assistant National Manager for Scotland to discuss the recent TV reception problems locally and the forthcoming 'digital switchover' - if you click on the headline above, you can read the report on this in tonight's "Evening Telegraph."

John & I are holding "Digital TV Surgeries" during June at various sheltered housing lounges in the West End, to explain to residents the digital switchover issues and the help scheme for elderly and disabled people.

Wednesday 29 April 2009

Phone Box - Magdalen Place

As the photo (right) shows, the phone box at the top of Magdalen Place at its junction with Seafield Road is in poor shape.

Residents have complained to me about the lack of glass in many of the panels and the general poor condition of the box, including graffiti on it.

I have
taken up the complaints with British Telecom.

Tuesday 28 April 2009

Freeview update ... what your TV licence should but might not get you ...

Last night's "Evening Telegraph" (see gave readers an update on the recent TV reception issues (and my meeting this week with Digital UK).

It also highlighted a long-standing concern of mine that - even when all transmitters finally transmit digital signals (the relay transmitters currently don't) - the intention is to provide a reduced "Freeview Lite" service from transmitters like the Tay Bridge relay transmitter after 2010 - giving residents only 22 of the 58 TV and radio channels that others served by main transmitters (like the Angus transmitter which serves most of the north of the city) will get.

If you click on the headline above, my earlier update on this matter from just over a year ago gives some more of the background on this. The bottom line on this, I think is that TV licence payers are all entitled to the same number and quality of service and that principle has been breached - I view this as unacceptable.

Monday 27 April 2009

Continuing bin collection concerns

A late blog update following a marathon council sitting tonight!

The Courier this morning covered the on-going waste management problems over public holiday arrangements and my comments about them. Click on headline to view the article - I was also interviewed on Radio Tay about the issue today.

Whilst I appreciate that there is an industrial dispute that is causing the City Council difficulty in undertaking normal refuse collections on a public holiday, I was unhappy with the way this problem was managed at the April public holiday.

People with a Monday collection were simply missed out completely that week – around 100 streets in the West End were affected and I felt that simply leaving households without a bin collection for a fortnight was unacceptable.

In discussion with the Depute Chief Executive of the City Council and with the Head of Waste Management, I made the suggestion that a better way to tackle the problem would be to collect refuse a day late – a far fairer way to tackle the issue. However, that’s not the way the matter was tackled although I was advised that the same households who were affected at the April public holiday would not be left without a whole week’s collection if the industrial dispute was unresolved by the start of May.

The Council now intends to tackle the issue at the next public holiday by dealing with Monday’s collection a day late and this time miss out the Tuesday collection entirely. This affects around 90 streets in the West End and I have been in correspondence with the department about my concerns about this approach as it will lead to another fifth of the city being without any waste collection at all that week.

At council committee tonight, I sought assurances that any problems caused by - for example - black bags ripped open by seagull etc, would be swiftly attended to and I was given that assurance.

Sunday 26 April 2009

Saturday Evening Lecture at the University of Dundee

Last night I attended - along with a very large audience that filled a lecture theatre at the Dalhousie Building at the University of Dundee (see below - and there were two overflow lecture theatres) - a superb public lecture by Charlie Cook on "The New US Presidency - 100 Days after inauguration."
Charlie Cook is the American political analyst who specialises in election forecasts and political trends and whop founded the acclaimed 'The Cook Political Report' newsletter (click on headline above to view his website).

He gave a highly informative and entertaining address, followed by a lively question and answer session thereafter. A thoroughly worthwhile event and another success for the university's Saturday Evening Lecture Series, now in its 85th year, and proving as popular as ever.

Saturday 25 April 2009

Let me be the one - Matthew Sweet ... with Richard Carpenter

Irrelevant blog update!

Originally a 'Carpenters' song, and one of their best - but not most successful - Matthew Sweet (aided by Richard Carpenter) here with a brilliant version of his own.


West End litter pick

This morning, I assisted the folk from West End Community Council with a litter pick.

In a couple of hours, we managed to remove lots (and lots!) of litter in Perth Road, Ford's Lane, Pennycook Lane, Hawkhill and Roseangle.

has become a regular activity by the Community Council and is very worthwhile.

Friday 24 April 2009

In The Loop - at DCA!

A nice e-mail from the folk at DCA (where I am on the Board) as follows :

"We were ... having a wee look on your blog, it's really cool and up to date and wondered if you would like a link to the trailer from our website so it can be seen by your constituents?"

The trailer is above but you can read more about the film (the comedy spin off to the critically acclaimed BBC series 'The Thick of It') on the DCA website at :

Stunning day for the Scottish Liberal Democrats!

Two council by-election results in Scotland today show the growing support of the Liberal Democrats in Scotland - and a clear sign that the SNP bandwagon is now missing a wheel or two!

Inverness West

Alasdair Christie (LibDem) 1503 - 60%
SNP 556 - 22%
Labour 210 - 8%
Christian Party 115 - 5%
Conservative 111 - 4%
Solidarity 27 - 1%

Turnout 2540 (38.35%)

In a ward which the SNP won by 125 votes 2 years ago, this represents a remarkable change of direction. The swing from the SNP to the Liberal Democrats is over 20%.

Aboyne, Upper Deeside and Donside

Don't have the full result yet but I understand that Rosemary Bruce won the seat by 98 votes at stage 5. LibDem gain from Conservative.

A great day for the Scottish Liberal Democrats!

Thursday 23 April 2009

Dundee railway station

I have today again added my voice in complaint about the state of Dundee rail station.

As the then chair of the regional transport body TACTRAN, I met with Ron McAuley, Network Rail’s Director in Scotland, just before Christmas and made clear the real need for Network Rail to buy into a partnership approach to get our railway station fully upgraded to cater for the passengers of the 21st century. The current infrastructure is, bluntly, very poor.

The Network Rail Director subsequently addressed a meeting of the full TACTRAN Board and the issue of Dundee Rail Station was again raised.

Earlier this month, Network Rail announced plans for a new roof for Waverley Station in Edinburgh as part of a £130 million overhaul of the station. It comes on top of some £190 million announced last May for Edinburgh Haymarket.

Upgrading Dundee Station would cost a fraction of these many millions being spent on Edinburgh. It is only right that Dundee Station gets a share of capital expenditure to give the city a decent station with good facilities, particularly for disabled passengers.

Wednesday 22 April 2009

Today's Budget

Dear Fraser

Today the Labour Party confirmed that they have run out of ideas and have condemned us to years of unemployment and a decade of debt. Their pick-and-mix budget of recycled announcements will do nothing to get us out of this recession and nothing that will help the poorest who are being hit hardest by it.

A Liberal Democrat budget would deliver practical help. It would take 4 million people out of paying tax all together and would cut the majority of people's income tax by £700. Paid for by cutting loophole and exemptions that benefit the richest individuals and big business. We would cancel the pointless VAT cut and invest in important green projects that create jobs right now.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives are planning swingeing cuts at the very time that the country is expected to be gradually starting to recover.

We would take big choices about what government should and shouldn't do. With a shocking deficit this year of £175bn we need a national debate about what the state can and cannot afford in the future.

That is the responsible way - the honest way - to reduce spending in the years ahead and avoid painful higher taxes.

The country deserves something better - a Liberal Democrat government, Vince Cable as Chancellor and a tax system that has everybody paying their fair share.

Best wishes,

Nick Clegg
Leader of the Liberal Democrats

And ... more on Susan Boyle and the West End!

Click on the headline above to read the article from last night's "Evening Telegraph" about this!

Tuesday 21 April 2009

Susan Boyle invited to Dundee!

The audio below is me on Wave 102 yesterday (I was also on Radio Tay) regarding the invitation I have sent to Susan Boyle to take part in the West End Christmas Week, later this year.

Susan's performance on “Britain’s Got Talent” was phenomenal and I have already had constituents suggesting to me that it would be great if she was willing to sing at our Christmas Week concert in the West End.

Actually, its not the first time that a talent show success has taken part in West End Christmas Week – back in 2001 at the very first Christmas Week in the West End of Dundee, Sandi McCash, a Pop Idol finalist was our guest of honour and she was really good and very well-received.

I have little doubt that Susan will be extremely busy in the months ahead, but on the basis of "nothing ventured, nothing gained" the invitation is on its way to her!

Monday 20 April 2009

Development Quality Committee

Tonight, at the City Council's Development Quality Committee, I move refusal of another modern house proposal south of Richmond Terrace & Court, but I unfortunately lost the vote narrowly.

The decision was unfortunate, given that committee had previously supported (on two occasions) to support my objections to inappropriate planning applications in this area to the immediate west of Magdalen Green. Here is my motion to committee tonight :

Application 09/00065/FUL

Land at Richmond Terrace, Dundee.

1) The proposed development is contrary to Policy 1 of the Dundee Local Plan Review 2005 by virtue of the design, layout and associated traffic movements of the new house being inappropriate in this location resulting in an adverse impact on the environmental qualities currently enjoyed by the surrounding residents. There are no material considerations of sufficient weight that would justify the approval of the application contrary to the development plan.

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

3) That the erection of a new house in the location proposed would have an adverse impact on the existing trees within the site contrary to the terms of Policy 72 of the Dundee Local Plan Review 2005. There are no material considerations of sufficient weight that would justify the approval of the application contrary to the development plan.

Road safety and residential parking

As today's "Courier" mentions, I have backed new speed limit guidelines for residential streets, where these are appropriate.

This follows news that the Department for Transport is this week expected to start consulting on new speed limit guidelines across England and Wales and media reports indicate that the Scottish Government may follow suit (click on the headline to read the full article).

It had been my intention to bring forward proposals to committee on 27th April to consult on possible traffic speed reductions in parts of the City Centre, in response to calls for a pedestrian-safe, traffic calmed city centre.

I view this as a precuser to looking closely at the appropriateness of speed limits in residential areas - it is clear that very many residents wanted to see safer, lower speed limits near their homes.

Prior to the administration change, it had been my intention to bring forward proposals to consult with people on a 20mph zone in the City Centre, in response to many requests that we consulted Dundee people about their view on the issue. Lots of people want to see safer speed limits and the City Centre has a very large volume of pedestrians.

Obviously it is now for the SNP administration to decide if and when they now bring this report forward, but I hope they will see the merit in it. It is always good to consult people before any proposed change and there is much merit in asking Dundee people if they want a lower speed limit in Dundee City Centre.

I think it speaks volumes that in pedestrian related car accidents, at 20mph one out of 40 pedestrians will be killed and 97% will survive but that at 40mph nine out of 10 pedestrians will be killed and only 10% will survive.

Particularly in residential streets where there are children and elderly folk, there’s clear evidence that many residents would support a calmer car environment. At the very least, we should be consulting with communities on this and getting the views of the people of Dundee.

I was also planning to bring forward a feedback report to committee in 27th April on improving residential parking following the Council’s consultants bringing back their ideas (see for the background).

Again, I hope the new administration will move forward the issue of residential parking promptly as a formal consultation with residents and local businesses on any possible improvements should happen as soon as possible.

Sunday 19 April 2009

Not really got what it takes ...

So the SNP new slogan is apparently "We've got what it takes" - apparently that doesn't stretch to our local SNP MSP remembering that Hugh Henry MSP is a Labour MSP rather than a nationalist Euro candidate!

But do they have what it takes?

To Dump Student Debt - err ... no

To Abolish the Council Tax - no

To establish class sizes of less than 18 in the early primary years - again, no

To match the LibDem/Labour Executive's school building programme 'brick for brick' - no - actually not a single brick - Scottish Futures Trust is a total flop

To bring civil service jobs to Dundee - no

To build new affordable housing in Dundee - no - housing association grant in Dundee in 2008/9 was CUT by £7 MILLION by the SNP.

I am reminded of the mantra of Ron Paul, US presidential candidate - see right.

Education provision in Dundee

As reported in yesterday's 'Courier', I have welcomed the agreement by the Dundee City Council leader that he will invite all parties to participate in talks with Scottish Government Ministers over education funding in the city.

The financial challenges facing our education service, particularly in relation to attempting to deliver costly government policies is of concern to all parties on the City Council and it makes sense that all parties are invited to participate in talks with the schools minister, Keith Brown. I would hope that the Education Cabinet Secretary Fiona Hyslop would also take the time to listen to Dundee’s case.

It is a bit baffling, however, that he is suggesting that there be an initial meeting with Ministers involving only SNP councillors. Apparently, a further meeting will then be sought with Ministers at which all parties on the City Council will be invited to participate. Given the pressure on Ministers' diaries it begs the question as to how speedily all this can be achieved and I question if its really the best and most efficient way to get across the city's case for increased education resources.

And resources
are the nub of the matter - it is very important that the SNP government clarifies what and how much additional funding was going to be forthcoming to allow the council to achieve class sizes reductions.

I have no doubt that on all political sides, we would agree that class size reductions in P1-3 would be a welcome step, but, thus far, the SNP Government, having announced the policy, has totally failed to fund it. Policies cannot be implemented without the resources to deliver them and so I will be interested to hear - and hear soon - how much additional funding the government will earmark for Dundee.

Furthermore, given the news that John Swinney, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth, has decided to re-examine the government’s priorities for local government service improvements such as SNP manifesto promises on reduced class sizes and free school meals (click on the headline above to view more), I will be seeking assurances that the government is not going to ditch its promises in education but is going to start funding them properly.

Saturday 18 April 2009

Fire in Benvie Road

I was very concerned by the fire at a derelict garage in Benvie Road on Wednesday, particularly as it was so close to the Tullideph Care Home and other residential properties in Benvie Road.

I have been concerned about this site for some time and have had a number of residents’ concerns about its poor state and the graffiti that was on it.

I have had various discussions in the past with the police about the state of the former garage.

The fire incident, so close to the care home and other housing, is worrying and I therefore contacted council safety officers about the situation and condition of the site following the fire. I have had the following feedback :

"The building has been inspected and the perimeter found to be secure. A chain has been left with the Police to secure the gate when their investigations are complete."

Friday 17 April 2009

Susan Boyle - and the power of the internet!

The video I uploaded last Saturday of Susan Boyle's incredible performance on "Britain's Got Talent" has since been removed, so that's an excuse for uploading another.

And the power of the internet? On Saturday evening literally minutes after I uploaded the first video, I received the following e-mail from a couple in Dorset as follows :

"Yours is the only link I can find that works to hear Susan Boyle singing. Please, please, if you have a means to give a message to this wonderful human being, please tell her how knocked out my husband and I are with her rendition of 'I Dreamed a Dream' as on 'Britain's Got Talent'. Hers is quite simply the most AWESOME and hair-tingling voice I/we have ever heard and we hope so much that she wins. Good luck, Susan"

Couldn't agree more - one day Blackburn, West Lothian, the next the Oprah Winfrey show!

More on television reception problems ...

I am pleased at the latest response from Digital UK regarding the numerous television reception problems I have raised on behalf of local people - affecting many viewers who get their TV signals from the Angus transmitter at Tealing, particularly those watching Freeview. The issue is covered in tonight's 'Evening Telegraph' - click on headline above to view the article.

I have been in discussions this week with Digital UK's Assistant National Manager for Scotland following a mass of complaints about the quality of TV reception and, as a result, the Digital UK representative has agreed to investigate the issues affecting any individual who is experiencing reception problems.

Digital UK's Assistant National Manager for Scotland has now said that where a resident gives me permission to pass on their contact details to him with detail of their reception problems, he is willing to look into their specific reception problems, which is I think is a helpful response.

He is also gathering details for me of impending work on the Angus transmitter in the run-up to the digital switch-over next year which will reduce the strength of the signal temporarily. It is important that there is good public information about this and I am pleased that Digital UK accepts this.

What is clear is that the digital signal is not at full strength at the moment as this would apparently interfere with the traditional analogue signals. I am assured that, after the old analogue service is switched off at the digital switchover, the digital signal strength will be increased permanently. That said, this does not happen until next year, so I am pleased that Digital UK is showing a willingness to look into residents’ complaints now.

If you wish a specific problem passed on to Digital UK, you can do so by calling me on 459378 or e-mailing

Thursday 16 April 2009

That dire Homecoming 2009 advert ...

Personally, I think this “Homecoming Scotland” advert, particularly the toe-curling 'contribution' by Sean Connery, is utterly dire. However, what is way worse is its cost. The best part of £600 000 it appears. What a total waste of public money by the SNP government, particularly as it has failed to provide funding for so many of its promised policies.

In response to a Parliamentary question SNP Tourism Minister Jim Mather revealed that the cost of production including filming, production, producer and director fees was £233 450 along with a further £299 287 for its broadcast.

The advert was also broadcast abroad on American PBS network, which cost £10,000, while the rights to the song Caledonia, which the artists sing cost £15,000 for its usage over a year.

Not the SNP government’s finest moment …

Interview with Tom Maidwell, President of Liberal Youth Scotland

Liberal Youth Scotland has its own channel on YouTube at

Wednesday 15 April 2009

Paton's Lane Sheltered Housing - Easter Bonnet Competition!

Last night, before attending the West End Community Council meeting, I had the pleasure of judging the Easter Bonnet Competition at the Paton's Lane Sheltered Housing Easter Party.

The participants put an awful lot of hard work into their bonnets, making choosing the winner and runner-up a very difficult task!

a couple of photos from the event above, including me with the winners.

Tuesday 14 April 2009

Bin collection

This morning's "Courier" has a follow-up item about my concerns regarding the way Dundee City Council handled last week's bin collection problems by simply missing out the Monday collection - click on headline above to view.

The Council has assured me that should the industrial dispute be unresolved by the time of the May public holiday, a way will be found to ensure that it is not the same householsers who again find their refuse lying uncollected for a week.

However, the hope must be that the dispute is settled long before the public holiday at the start of May.

And more on the proposed Riverside Nature Park ...

Further to my item yesterday about the proposed Riverside Nature Park, the Evening Telegraph had an article about this in last night's edition. You can read it by clicking on the headline above.

Monday 13 April 2009

At last ... some progress towards the Riverside proposed Nature Park

I am pleased to report that Dundee City Council has set up a working group to progress the improvement and opening to the public of the area at Riverside around the civic amenity site.

The new working group has City Council cross-departmental membership and also includes representatives from SEPA and Scottish Natural Heritage. The group has already met twice, with a further meeting taking later this month.

In the eight years I have been a member of the City Council, I have been exasperated at the slow progress that has happened in terms of getting the proposed Riverside Nature Park opened to the public. Whilst I understand that the matter has not entirely been within the City Council’s control in that SEPA, the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, has involvement in the matter, the progress has been slow.

It is absolutely vital that we now see swift progress on the matter and I must say that I am encouraged by the involvement of SEPA and Scottish Natural Heritage in the working group.

I have asked the City Council how best they can utilise Vacant and Derelict Land Fund resources that were approved in recent months.

It has been a long time coming but I am hoping that we may see real progress at Riverside in the near future.

Sunday 12 April 2009

April 2009 Update to West End Community Council

I have today launched my April 2009 update to West End Community Council.

Issues covered include :

* West End Bus Services

* TV reception issues in the West End

* Riverside – Proposed Nature Park

* Riverside Drive

* Begging complaints

* Dundee Airport – noise issues

* Tay Rope Works – successful outcome

* HMOs

* Sub-station at Magdalen Green

The Community Council meets next Tuesday (14th April) at 7pm in Logie St John's (Cross) Church Hall.

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

Community Learning

With the permission of the City Council's Leisure & Communities Department, if you click on the headline above, you can read the latest community learning newsletter from the City Council.

There's a whole lot of activities over the next three months, including events at the Mitchell Street Centre and at Dundee West Church in the West End.

Saturday 11 April 2009

Britain's Got Talent 2009 Susan Boyle Sings Les Miserables

And wasn't she rather fantastic!

Capital funding for new housing - Dundee misses out

Back in January (click on headline above to view) I highlighted the lack of momentum behind the SNP government's funding announcement on capital monies to kick-start council house building across Scotland.

Well, there's finally been an announcement on the allocation of around two thirds of the £25 million to be allocated and, as I indicate in today's 'Courier', I am very disappointed that Dundee has been overlooked in the initial announcement of funding allocations.

Dundee’s bid of £704 000 was not one of the successful bids in the announcement, which covered some two-thirds of the total £25 million fund. The majority of Scottish Councils – some 18 – did not benefit from the announcement. Neighbouring councils to Dundee, such as Fife and Perth and Kinross did benefit and it is very concerning that Dundee’s bid for new houses for wheelchair users has not yet borne fruit.

The bulk of the funding has now been allocated to 14 councils, so there is going to be significant competition between the bids that have not had funding secured as yet for the remaining monies.

In my view, it is vital that Dundee gets allocated the £704 000 it needs to build new houses for wheelchair users, given that there is a significant waiting list for such housing and Dundee families are crying out for this new housing. Questions have to be asked of SNP Government and COSLA as to why Dundee was not included in the first tranche of funding allocations just announced, particularly given the real housing needs in the City.

I really hope and trust that Dundee gets allocated the funding in the remaining tranche of funding allocation due by the summer.

It should be remembered that in the past year, Housing Association Grant for Dundee was reduced to £7.7 million by the SNP Government. This represents the poorest level of allocation in years – the 2007-8, the previous Liberal Democrat and Labour Executive’s allocation to Dundee was £14.7 million.

Dundee has already lost £7 million in annual house building funding thanks to the SNP and I think it is high time we saw Scottish Government take notice of Dundee’s housing needs.

Friday 10 April 2009

Meeting with Travel Dundee

I was pleased to be reassured at a meeting with Travel Dundee yesterday that the Number 2 bus service is not threatened with a further reduced – or removed – service and that there will be no substantive route alteration during this year.

I had arranged to meet Lawrence Davie, Managing Director of Travel Dundee, following concerns expressed by residents over the future of the Number 2 service. The service is a vital one, particularly for elderly folk, particularly in the areas around Peddie Street, the Logie Estate, Scott Street and City Road.

It was therefore good to hear from Travel Dundee that it has no plans to further reduce the service or take it off. Residents were already concerned enough at the reduction in the service last November to hourly. I was also assured that the bus company was working to improve punctuality. They have made the point that the Number 2 service has relatively low usage off-peak – the peak buses are busy – and they are keen to hear residents’ views as to how service usage can be improved – that’s something I will be speaking with local residents’ groups about.

I also again raised concerns raised by West End parents of pupils at St John’s High School about the route and timetabling of the 2A bus service just before the start of the school day. Travel Dundee indicated that it was willing to meet St John’s High Parent Council representatives about the issues to hopefully find a solution. I have let the Parent Council Chair know this.

I also highlighted the issue of the frequency of the 9X service through the West End. Although it is a 15 minute service on the Broughty Ferry leg, it is a 30 minute service during day time on the leg west of the City Centre. Travel Dundee stated it has no immediate plans to improve the 30 minute service to the West End, but it confirmed that it would note my request for a more regular service and keep the service under review.

The Storm

Vince Cable's recently published "The Storm: The World Economic Crisis and What It Means" (see is highly readable.

Amol Rajan in yesterday's 'Independent' called it "marvellously lucid" and compared the insight of Cable to the performance of George Osborne, the sixth-former the Tories try to pass off as a Shadow Chancellor. Anyway, you can read Rajan's comments by clicking on the headline above.

It is worth remembering that the Liberal Democrats have consistently been ahead of the game on economic issues.

Here are just 10 examples of things we called for first, and which have since either been implemented or taken on board by at least one of the other two main parties:

* Northern Rock nationalisation - it was clear to us that this was unavoidable in November 2007. It took the Government until February 2008 to act.

* Independence of the Bank of England - longstanding Lib Dem policy. First Labour implemented it, over Tory opposition. Now even the Tories support it. Recapitalisation of the banks - Vince Cable was the first politician to call for this. Three days later the Chancellor announced that this would be going ahead.

* Tackling the bonus culture - in May 2008 we were the first party to put forward proposals for tackling the harmful bonus culture in the financial sector. By autumn 2008, ministers and the Tory leadership had realised the situation was indefensible and changed their tune.

* Regulation of 'sale and rent back' agreements - this was part of our '7 point plan' for dealing with personal debt, launched in September 2003. The Government announced on 22nd October that they were finally looking into this.

* New court guidance to make repossession a 'last resort', obliging lenders to exhaust all alternatives first - another measure announced by the Government in October that the Lib Dems had been calling for for more than six months. (Though they have been slow and ineffective at implementing it.)

* Changes to capital adequacy laws to require banks to hold more capital in periods of boom and less in recession - we called for this back in January 2003. It was called for by the Conservatives in 2008 and appeared in the G20 Communiqué in April 2009.

* Ban on short selling of financial stocks - Vince Cable urged this on September 16th (having also raised the issue in July). The Government did not act until three days later, once the Americans had announced restrictions.

* National network of financial advice centres - since 2003 we have been calling for a network of local and generic financial advice, particularly for those on lower incomes, funded by a levy on the financial services industry. In 2008 the Tories announced their support for this too, using almost exactly the same language.

* Curbs on irresponsible lending - a commonplace sentiment now, but we called for "the publication by the Government of strict measures for responsible lending, which lenders must be required to observe" back in September 2003.

Thursday 9 April 2009

TV problems - update

An update on Monday's blog entry on the TV reception problems : Last night's "Evening Telegraph" (click on headline above to view) carried an article about the matter, and Digital UK's response.

There was a further update in today's "Courier" - I have been in correspondence with Paul Hughes, National Manager for Scotland for Digital UK. Digital UK had no obvious solution at hand for the poor TV reception but Paul has offered to raise the matter with his broadcast team, although he felt that it may be a matter best resolved via Ofcom, the broadcasting regulator. I have already been in touch with Ofcom and have had an initial response from their Spectrum Customer Support Team as follows :

“I have passed this on to our interference team, who will be able to do a possible investigation for you and any information that they may know about this transmitter.”

Paul Hughes at Digital UK has also offered to check out specific postcodes for any localised problems.

I have made the point that the extent of the problems is such that there clearly is an issue with the Angus transmitter – I have had calls from people living as far away as Perth and the one thing virtually all people who have complained about the issue have in common is that they receive their TV pictures from the Angus transmitter, the main TV transmitter for the area, sited near Tealing. I am continuing to pursue the issue on behalf of residents.

I should also add that – aside from this particular reception issue – Digital UK has offered to attend a community public meeting in the West End to update residents on the digital TV switchover as it is now becoming quite close. The organisation has previously spoken to West End Community Council some time ago and I will certainly be taking up their offer as there are clearly a lot of issues residents have with the TV changes that are upcoming.

Professor Ronald Forbes RSA : De Rerum Natura: The Nature of Things

Many residents will know West End resident Professor Ronald Forbes, one of Scotland’s leading figurative painters. Ronnie is happy that I give his latest exhibition "De Rerum Natura: The Nature of Things" a mention on the blog (it is on in Dundee until 8th May, with the Edinburgh version until 18th April). Details are on Ronnie's website - click on headline above to view.

Ronnie advises :

"I am happy to let you know that the new paintings, digital-collages and film are now on my website. Go to the web gallery to view the paintings and digital-collages.

"The film, "By Any Other Name," is on the Home page and can be viewed in HD.

"This is an exploration of the sensuous and romantic qualities of the rose, examined using the tools of science. Turn up the sound and enjoy!"

Wednesday 8 April 2009

Friends of Magdalen Green - meeting & AGM

The Friends' AGM & next meeting takes place at Dundee West Church on Tuesday 5th May - if you click on the headline above, you can download full details.

Tuesday 7 April 2009

Bin collections - actually no collection

I was interviewed on the STV News at 6pm last night (and today's Courier also covers the matter) about the way Dundee City Council has handled yesterday’s lack of refuse collections in Dundee. This is because of a dispute with the trade union Unite about changes to public holiday arrangements.

I was told by the City Council that there has been extensive negotiations both at a local level and also the Chief Executive has met with Unite's Regional Organiser. However despite this, the Trade Union has refused to allow its members to work on the public holidays. Consequently there are no refuse collection vehicles or street cleansing operatives working yesterday or services including recycling centres and public conveniences.

Whilst I appreciate that the Council is currently in dispute with the trade union concerned and we obviously hope the dispute is resolved very soon, many of my constituents in the West End will not now get their bin collected until next Monday. It doesn’t seem a very satisfactory way of dealing with the lack of collection yesterday. Surely the best way of dealing with this would be to collect refuse a day late?

My constituents in the West End who have had no collection yesterday – there are around 100 streets in the West End alone affected and therefore doubtless many other streets elsewhere in the city affected too – are being expected to wait a full further week to get their bin collected.

That is very unfair as it appears to be if you are unlucky enough to be a Monday collection you will get no collection at all this week. It is not acceptable to all the residents in the 100 streets in the West End affected.

I have written to the City Council’s Chief Executive about the matter.

Monday 6 April 2009

Dundee TV problems

I recently highlighted complaints from constituents in parts of the West End about reduced and poor television reception in recent weeks, and have since had been inundated over the past week with feedback from people in the West End and from across the city about the issue. Today's Courier covers the issue - see

As indicated in the Courier article, it is very clear that there is an issue about the quality of TV signals for many people – particularly affecting ITV1 and Channel 4 reception and, for Freeview viewers who receive signals from the Angus transmitter near Tealing, also some digital channels such as ITV3.

I had previously spoken with Arqiva, the company that owns and manages TV transmitters across the UK, and, although they accept that there may be some disruption to services nearer to the time of the switch-over from analogue to digital, they assured me that there should be no disruption for Angus and Tay Bridge transmitter’s viewers at the moment.

There is, however, engineering work on-going at the Craigkelly transmitter, resulting in breaks in service and possible poor reception, although only a minority of viewers in Dundee get their TV signals from this transmitter situated in Fife.

However, it is very apparent from the dozens of calls I have received from local people that there is indeed some form of reduced power problem from Angus transmitter resulting in poorer reception on some channels for many viewers.

I have therefore
raised the matter with Digital UK, who are charged with ensuring a smooth switchover from analogue to digital only signals, due in our area next year. Given the extent of the TV licence cost nowadays, at the very least people should expect good quality reception, not continual poor pictures or interruptions in programmes.

Interestingly, having been down in Sussex over the weekend, I had a read of the English edition of the 'Sunday Express' which led on the very issue of poor TV reception caused by the digital switchover - click on the headline above to view.

Sunday 5 April 2009

HMOs ... and Sussex for the weekend!

Friday's 'Courier' covered residents' concerns about the extent of the growth of houses in multiple occupation in some streets in the West End, following the matter being discussed at the Licensing Committee on Thursday. As the report in the Courier mentioned, I have welcomed the introduction on HMO limits for both planning and licensing purposes. I recently requested updates about how the limit policy is working and I'll report back to residents on feedback.

I've been away in Sussex this weekend as my long-standing friend Julie had her 40th birthday party in Wivelsfield - in the village hall - a lovely village on the East/West Sussex border. A super night and the weather would have made you think it was June or July. Anyway, a few photos from Saturday above! If you click on the headline above, you can read the Wivelsfield community website - Julie's husband Colin (who has been a friend of mine for ... well, forever) is a Parish councillor.

Friday 3 April 2009

Temporary Road Closures

I have been advised by the City Council that :

Due to Virgin Media repairs works, the northbound side of South Marketgait (between the Riverside roundabout and Greenmarket) will be closed to traffic for one day only this Sunday (5th April)


Due to crane removal works, Brown Street (from Hawkhill to Guthrie Street) will be closed tomorrow for 2 days (4th and 5th April)

Thursday 2 April 2009

Shakatak - Late Night Flight

Another example of uploading a track I heard on the radio today - a rather long day including lots of day job activity, visits to constituents and a surgery!

Shakatak scored a number of chart entries, including two Top Ten hits in the UK Singles Chart, "Night Birds" (1982) and "Down on the Street" (1984). Good stuff!

Wednesday 1 April 2009

Tay Rope Works - public inquiry decision

Residents will recall that I have twice successfully moved refusal of inappropriate planning applications for the former Tay Rope Works site. Having won a previous appeal after a Public Inquiry, I was the City Council's sole witness at a further public inquiry on 13th January. However, we had great witness contributions from local residents and West End Community Council.

I was very pleased to be advised this afternoon that the City Council's decision to refuse planning permission here has been upheld.

As I indicated to the media on hearing the news :

“This is a good result as very many people in the local community felt that the application was out of keeping in terms of the inappropriate modern design in a conservation area and use of materials. Furthermore, it was trying to cram too many buildings onto the site.

“Local residents are not against the Tay Rope Works site being brought back into use and indeed would welcome it being used appropriately, but any future application really must be appropriate in both scale and design for this historic site in the West End Lanes Conservation Area.

“I would very much like to thank the many residents who supported the Council’s position on this matter and also to the Council’s legal staff who led the case for upholding the Council’s decision to refuse planning permission. This is very much a victory for local people”