Sunday 28 February 2010

Dundee West Parliamentary campaign - weekend team effort!

The Liberal Democrat Dundee West Parliamentary campaign saw a superb team effort this weekend, concentrating on the West End and in Kirkton.

Pictured above is John Barnett, LibDem parliamentary candidate, campaigning in the West End in Blackness Avenue.

Following today's polling news of SNP meltdown across Scotland and the Tory lead across the UK disappearing to nothing, John pointed out that there is all to play for, in a close-run general election ahead.

Battle of the boogies ...

Having been in the West End campaigning the past few days, I am playing TV catch-up tonight and just watched the Channel 4 programme about the 1978 battle of the boogies ... I confess to having bought both! So which is better?

Mick :

Michael :

I suppose its fairly obvious by who became the world-wide megastar, but Mick was pretty good nonetheless!

Saturday 27 February 2010

West End history - the Liff and Benvie Poorhouse

In recent discussions about the 'poor ground' at Balgay Cemetery at the recent Balgay Stakeholders' group meeting, the history of the former Logie Secondary School site was discussed - principally its role as the Liff and Benvie Poorhouse during the nineteenth century.

This establishment that was latterly known as the Western Poorhouse, was financed from the Poor Law Assessment Rates that were collected from owners, tenants and occupiers of property in the area. The men's apartments were situated to the west end and the women's to the east end of the building.

Friends of Dundee City Archives have a very interesting article about the poorhouse that can be read at

10cc week!

About time I had a themed week again, and what could be better than 10cc!
"The Things we do for love"

Friday 26 February 2010

Friday latest ...

At lunchtime today, we held the final planning meeting in advance of the Dundee West Transition Town Group launch public meeting. Our planning meeting today was very productive and we are hoping for a good turnout at the public meeting on Thursday :

Dundee West Transition Town
Public Meeting
Dundee West Church
Thursday 4th March at 7pm

More details at

Later today, I was pleased to be advised by the City Council that, following my raising residents' concerns about a gap in the fencing by the railway at Magdalen Green, the Council has been advised by Network Rail that repairs have now been undertaken.

Nick Clegg Answers Your Questions from Facebook & Twitter

Latest Nick Clegg video ...

Thursday 25 February 2010

Progress on rail bridge disaster memorial

Tonight's "Evening Telegraph" 'Civic Scene' updates readers on the campaign to ensure a permanent and proper memorial to the Tay Rail Bridge Disaster of 1879 is achieved.

This follows the item on this blog last month about the matter and my subsequent very useful and productive meeting earlier this month with Stuart Morris, son of the Laird of Balgonie about the matter.

As 'Civic Scene' mentioned tonight, we are holding a meeting with all interested parties at Tayside House on 23rd March - if any resident is interested in attending, please e-mail me at

Snowy day ...

Very challenging weather conditions driving to Falkirk with the 'day job' today - photo taken on the A977 earlier today. But good to hear this on Radio 2 on the way - KD Lang "Constant Craving"

Wednesday 24 February 2010

Friends of Wighton Latest : Kyle Howie

I am particularly pleased to promote this latest update from Friends of Wighton, given Kyle Howie's performances at Blackness Library's Rhymetime!

Brilliant young Dundee musician Kyle Howie will be the guest at the Friends of Wighton Lunchtime Recital on Wednesday 3rd March. The Recital is from 1.15 – 1.45pm in the Wighton Heritage Centre, Central Library, Dundee, and will be an occasion to celebrate Kyle’s success in gaining a place on the prestigious piping degree course at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow

Kyle has been playing pipes since the age of nine having only been on the practice chanter for six months. Since then, he has played in a number of pipe bands, from the local 13th Boys Brigade to the world renowned Vale of Atholl Pipe Band who he is currently with He has also been a member of The National Youth Pipe Band of Scotland for a number of years.

Kyle has played pipes in a number of countries, including France and Italy and has played on the Edinburgh Military Tattoo two years on the trot, firstly with The Black Watch then last year with The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. There have also been stage appearances with the Dundee Rep's "Sunshine On Leith" where he toured with them to Edinburgh and Aberdeen, Kyle also got a much coveted spot on the Gordon Duncan - National Treasure 2 concert in Perth, playing Gordon’s "Jolly Tinker Set".

For Kyle's fifteenth birthday he got an Overton E flat low whistle, with which he recently delighted mothers and babies at Blackness Library’s Rhymetime. This led him into picking up a handful of instruments. Not only does he play the Great Highland Bagpipe, but Scottish smallpipes, Borderpipes, whistles, accordion and piano are the other instruments in his repertoire.

City Council - revised house letting policy

The City Council launches its new house letting policy on 1st March - you can read more at

Council leaders' meeting

Following the debacle of the City Council's budget meeting earlier this month, along with other council group leaders and the Lord Provost and Depute Lord Provost, I met with the Chief Executive and the Depute Chief Executive this morning about the running of council meetings.

As the Evening Telegraph reports tonight, the meeting was positive and constructive. As well as discussing procedures at council committee meetings, we also covered the forthcoming review of scrutiny arrangements within the council, a review I believe to be welcome.

Tuesday 23 February 2010

Vince Cable: LibDem banking sector plans

Vince Cable MP, Shadow Chancellor and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats today set out the Liberal Democrat plans for the banking sector.

On Wave 102 news this morning ...

On Wave 102 news about civil service jobs for Dundee ...

Scottish Water work completed

As residents have noted, the work by Scottish Water at the west end of Magdalen Green - to hopefully resolve flooding concerns in the Richmond Terrace area - was completed at the end of last week.

Scottish Water has now updated me as follows :

"Work finished on site on Friday, 2 weeks ahead of schedule. We have met with the council to discuss reinstatement works to the park area and they will provide a quotation to carry out these works when the weather permits. The contractor has now removed everything from site apart from the fencing around the area disturbed with the construction works as this section of the park is very soft underfoot."

Hannah's Highway - progress

Last year, I mentioned the "Hannah's Highway" proposal - to provide proper dropped kerbing right along the north pavement of Perth Road - from the university area right up to Sinderins. This would make the Perth Road shopping area more accessible for thos with mobility difficulties.

I recently asked the City Council for an update on progress and have been advised as follows :

"There is an order issued to Tayside Contracts to install dropped kerbs in Perth Road this financial year. The extent of works is between the Sinderins and University Buildings at Small's Wynd."

Monday 22 February 2010

Digital radio - latest

I recently reported feedback from Digital Radio UK recently about my concerns regarding proposed the digital radio switchover.

I have been speaking with Adam Findlay, Managing Director of Wave 102 in Dundee (and Original 106 in the Grampian region) and Adam has responded to Digital Radio UK as follows :

Councillor Macpherson has passed me your correspondence for a response.

The views you express are not those of the industry and it is a concern to see correspondence of this nature be so freely released purporting to be a ‘cross sector’ set of views when they are not. You are a campaign group funded by a select few in the UK who stand to commercially gain to the detriment of others in the sector.

Firstly, and somewhat confusingly you use the term digital as opposed DAB – DAB is one of the many digital platforms available to radio. If Digital Radio UK is more than DAB it is imperative it makes it’s true remit clear beyond DAB and shows balance in the true digital debate as opposed just the DAB debate.

Secondly, your correspondence fails to mention or address any of the key barriers to DAB ( NOT DIGITAL) for the hundreds of local radio stations (like Wave 102) in this ....’upgrade’ process. Councillor Macpherson’s concerns have not been addressed in your response – and I would pose the question again more plainly – at what cost specifically does Digital Radio UK put forward as a solution to Wave 102 to gain access to the DAB multiplex in the Tayside area.

Both stations I represent cannot afford the fees being commanded by the mux owners! As you know there are hundreds of radio stations in the same position across the UK.

And what would this answer be to SIBC, Central FM, Kingdom FM and so the list goes on...all unanswered yet forced down this route and into uncertainty .

Thirdly, you mention a switchover date only taking place when the majority of listening is on digital (I think you mean DAB) which by definition means a minority ‘could’ be left without access to radio services if some stations left FM altogether – so Councillor Macpherson is correct! For example in Dundee Tay FM could migrate to DAB entirely leaving FM and unless you have a DAB radio you will not be able to receive Tay FM any more. Tay AM would be upgraded to FM – but that is a different radio station, not Tay FM.

BAUER RADIO, GLOBAL RADIO AND GUARDIAN RADIO do not represent the vast majority of the views of the sector, owning lots of radio stations does not mean you have more rights to a bigger view or indeed the correct one.

More on civil service jobs

I have responded to the negative comments by the SNP MSP for Dundee West as follows :

"Commenting on the statement by Joe FitzPatrick MSP that :

“It is hypocritical for Mr Macpherson to be making these comments when the Lib Dems at Holyrood are calling for public sector jobs cuts.”

Cllr Fraser Macpherson said, “Joe FitzPatrick has resorted to making it up, to try to deflect scrutiny of the SNP’s failure to bring civil service jobs to the city, despite all the SNP promises to Dundee when they were in opposition. The Liberal Democrats have not called for public sector job cuts but for pay restraint for the highest paid staff and the ending of large bonuses.

“It would be a whole lot better if Joe FitzPatrick put some effort into the campaign for more public sector jobs for Dundee.”

Site visits

Two site visits today :

* One with a planning officer and residents about concerns regarding the state of a building in the West End.

* The other with the Police, Parkwise and a City Development Engineers' representative to look at parking and vehicle flow issues near the Sinderins. The City Council is going to look at the viability of an additional loading bay, which would help matters. We also discussed the parking issues near to Blackness Primary School.

Sunday 21 February 2010

Michael Jackson - Pretty Young Thing

Heard this on the Steve Wright show on Radio 2 when driving to Glasgow last week -had totally forgotten just how great it is!

Poor MSP response over Dundee civil service jobs campaign

You can't fail to be disappointed by the failure of many of the area’s MSPs to directly reply to a letter sent to them by the council’s Chief Executive seeking their support for Dundee’s campaign for more civil service jobs for our city. I am particularly critical of the pathetic lack of response from Dundee’s two constituency SNP MSPs.

The Chief Executive David Dorward was instructed by city councillors at my suggestion to write to all 9 MSPs representing Dundee in the Scottish Parliament – 7 regional MSPs and the 2 constituency members for Dundee West and Dundee East – requesting that they pledge their support to the city’s campaign to bring more civil service jobs to Dundee.

This followed a report to the City Development Committee (again requested by me) that highlighted the lack of decentralisation of civil service posts to Dundee in recent years (see – a contrast with the success in this during the early years of the Scottish Parliament – and showing the failure of Scottish Government since 2007 to honour SNP promises to bring more civil service jobs to the city (see Shona Robison MSP’s comments at :

“Nearly all of the parties gave their support to the fight for civil service jobs in the city, when reminded by convener of the Public and Commercial Services union Hamish Drummond, that such jobs were leaving the city.

Shona Robison was given a rousing hand when she said a fair share would be far more than they were getting at the moment.”

Responses to the recent City Council request came directly only from Alison McInnes, Liberal Democrat MSP for NE Scotland, Richard Baker, Aberdeen-based Labour MSP for NE Scotland, and Nanette Milne, Conservative MSP for NE Scotland. All backed the City Council’s campaign. The other 6 MSPs have failed to reply, although John Swinney MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Finance & Sustainable Growth, wrote instead of Shona Robison to say,

“Any potential relocations of Scottish Government functions will be considered in terms of ensuring the best use of the existing government estate, providing best value for money for the Scottish Government as a whole and maintaining or improving the operational effectiveness of the function in question.”

John Swinney’s lukewarm response, written in oblique civil service language and committing the SNP Government to do absolutely nothing, contrasts hugely with the words of the SNP when in opposition. Shona Robison promised her constituents she would really deliver on civil service jobs and now she can’t even be bothered to write directly to the council reaffirming her commitment to bring civil service jobs to the city. As for Joe FitzPatrick, he simply ignores the council’s request. It’s a pretty pathetic state of affairs.

I have asked David Dorward, the Council’s Chief Executive, to write to the MSPs for our area who have thus far failed to respond thus far to the Council’s call over civil service jobs calling on them to support Dundee.
We need cross-party commitment on this, to bring more public sector jobs to the city

The following details which MSPs responded and who did not :

SNP Constituency MSPs
Shona Robison – failed to reply but passed on letter to John Swinney MSP to respond
Joe Fitzpatrick – failed to reply

Maureen Watt – failed to reply
Nigel Don – failed to reply

Richard Baker – replied, supporting the City’s campaign
Marlyn Glen – failed to reply

Alex Johnstone – failed to reply
Nanette Milne - replied, supporting the City’s campaign

Liberal Democrats
Alison McInnes - replied, supporting the City’s campaign

E-mail from the City Council Chief Executive :

From: David Dorward
Sent: 18 February 2010 17:24
To: Fraser Macpherson
Subject: Re: Civil Service Posts

Dear Fraser,

I can advise you that I have received 4 responses from the following MSP's:

Nanette Milne

Richard Baker

Alison McInnes

John Swinney on behalf of Shona Robison

I will get hard copies of the letters delivered to your office tomorrow morning.

Best regards


David K Dorward
Chief Executive
Dundee City Council

"Bubbles" concern

There has been considerable concern about "bubbles" - the so called 'legal high' - and this was discussed at the recent Harris Academy Parent Council meeting I attended.

I raised the matter with Ross Finnie MSP, Scottish Liberal Democrat Health spokesperson in the Scottish Parliament. He advised that the issue was discussed in the parliament on 11th February during general questions. He adds :

" ... the Minister, Fergus Ewing, responded that he has written to the Home Office calling for action stating he believes these kind of drugs should be made illegal as soon as possible. We understand the Home Office's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs is looking into mephedrone as a priority, as part of their review into legal highs, and will report back this year. The SG is also funding the provision of training materials for alcohol and drug partnerships and has also expanded the know the score drug awareness campaign to include many of these legal highs."

Saturday 20 February 2010

Dundee West Transition Towns Group Public Meeting

There's a public meeting to create a Dundee West Transition Towns group taking place on Thursday 4th March at 7pm on Dundee West Church. You can find out more about it at

Scottish Liberal Democrat North East Conference

An enjoyable Saturday spent at our party's very well attended North East Scotland Conference - here's a few photos :
Above : Dundee delegates including yours truly - with Alison McInnes MSP

Above : Alistair Carmichael MP (Chair) with North East Scotland parliamentary candidates

Above : Alison McInnes MSP with John Barnett, LibDem candidate for Dundee West

Above : Alison McInnes MSP with Dr Clive Sneddon, LibDem candidate for Dundee East

Friday 19 February 2010

Western Cemetery Association

I had a useful meeting today with members of the Western Cemetery Association and the Director of Leisure and Communities of Dundee City Council.

We discussed a proposal to provide an additional area for urns in the cemetery.

It was a very productive discussion and we agreed steps to be taken to hopefully provide the additional urns in the future.

69 bus extension being considered

Back in 2006, I raised with both the City Council and Stagecoach Strathtay the suggestion that a small extension to the then 72 (now the 69) bus service route to include the west end of Richmond Terrace and Richmond Court would be a boon to the residents there - particularly the elderly folk who find it difficult to walk to Windsor Street/Magdalen Yard Road, currently the nearest point on the current route.

At that time, the bus company did not take the suggestion forward, but I recently raised the matter again, following further discussions with residents. I am pleased to advise that the Operations Manager of Stagecoach Strathtay has updated me as follows :

"I have forwarded your request to Douglas King our Network Manager to see if anything can be done in any future changes to our services."

Bus shelter electrical faults

Dundee City Councillors were advised this afternoon of electrical faults affecting about 70 bus shelters across the city. The Head of Transportation wrote :

"Dundee City Council has been advised that an electrical fault has developed in a significant number of the bus shelters (as a result of moisture getting into the electrics). We have been told by external contractors that there is a small risk that this fault could cause a danger to members of the public. As a precaution, we have taken the decision to switch off the power at these sites - at least until the full extent of the problem is known. Currently about 70 of our 330 RTI displays are not working.

Colleagues from the Street Lighting have offered to assist the Sustainable Transport Team in assessing the problem - and hopefully finding a solution.

Please be assured that this issue is receiving our attention as we know that many members of the travelling public rely on these electronic displays for their travel information. Until the issue is resolved, passengers will still be able to use the paper-based information that should be displayed at all our bus stops and bus shelters."

Clearly the council is right to switch off power where there could be any risk whatsoever to the public, but I have asked the Head of Transportation questions about the cost of repair and if this covered by supplier warranty guarantees or if the council will have to pick up the cost.

I have also sought details of the number of shelters and locations in the West End Ward.

Thursday 18 February 2010

Friends of Wighton update

With thanks to Friends of Wighton, here's an update regarding events this weekend!

A Cappuccino Concert given by distinguished Scots singer Sheena Wellington, in aid of the Friends of Wighton Outreach and Education programmes, will be held this Saturday 20th February at 11am in the Wighton Heritage Centre, Local Studies Department, Central Library. Coffee and newspapers available from 10.30am.

Concert tickets are £5 to include coffee and newspapers and are available from Rainbow Music, 35 Cowgate, Dundee, 01382 698397.

The Saturday fiddle class will be held as normal but in the Conference Room, diagonally opposite the Centre and you are welcome to have a quick cup of coffee before class. Whistle and harp classes at 12.30pm and 2pm as normal.

Wilma Kennedy’s Gaelic Class will be held this Saturday, 20th February, at 9.30am in the Wighton Heritage Centre. Class fees are £5 (£3 concession), primary age children free, family deals available!

West End Local Community Planning Partnership meeting

I've been in Glasgow for the past couple of days with the 'day job' but back in Dundee tonight. No surgery at Blackness Primary School as the school was closed today (an in-service day) but tonight saw the West End local community planning partnership meeting take place at the Tartan Coffee House in Perth Road.

The main subject for discussion was a presentation by the Project Director from the City Council on the West End primary/nursery project (St Joseph's/Park Place) and this attracted attendance from local residents, including members of the West End Parents' group.

Other matters discussed included parking, graffiti, and bus issues.

Wednesday 17 February 2010

Blackness Library Opening Hours - update

Further to my earlier article about this, I have now had the following information back from the Head of Libraries, Information and Cultural Services at Dundee City Council :

"I can now provide the following information regarding the change in library opening hours, Blackness in particular.

Details of the new opening hours will be notified on the Council website from 1 March onwards, indicating that these changes will be effective from 1 April. It was felt that one month's notice was sufficient to inform whilst not leading to confusion over a perception of earlier implementation. In addition, flyers and bookmarks are being produced, which will be widely distributed throughout the network, over the same timescale.

Monday evenings were chosen to retain the 7.00 pm opening in the Community Libraries as Monday had the highest number of visitors across the network. In addition, if different late evenings had been proposed for different libraries, the savings from the exercise would not have been made, as these have been achieved through flexibility with staff timetables.

In Blackness Library in particular, during the course of the survey, the statistics were as follows:

• At 5.00 pm on Mondays, there was an average of 16 people in the library. At 6.00 pm, there was an average of 22 people (this figure includes the 16 people who were in for the yoga class and to extrapolate from this there were only 6 people in the library between 6.00 pm and 7.00 pm ). At 7.00 pm, the average number was 7 people.

• At 5.00 pm on Tuesdays, there was an average of 15 people. At 6.00 pm, there was an average of 7 people (this includes anyone who came for the Councillor's surgery). At 7.00 pm, the average was 5.

• At 5.00 pm on Wedmesdays, there was an average of 10 people. At 6.00 pm there was an average of 23 people (this includes 16 people for the yoga class, which means there were 7 people in the library). At 7.00 pm, there was an average of 4 people in the library.

From this we can see that there is a marked drop after 5.00 pm of users of the library, other than accessing the meeting room. From the Spydus library circulation system, we have determined that the number of items borrowed after 5.30 pm on Mondays is 2% higher than Tuesdays, and 11.50% higher than Wednesdays. Therefore, from the borrowers perspective, there is greater demand for a late opening on Mondays. Community usage through the yoga class also reinforces that the demand lies with Monday evening.

From April 2010 onwards the building will still be available for community access by arrangement. A Resource Assistant will be in the building to support groups and, if borrowers wished to issue or return books via the self issue terminal, the Resource Assistant would be available to give assistance if required.

As part of the review, Blackness will be opening earlier in the mornings, 9.00 am instead of 9.30 am, and overall there is no loss of opening hours, which remains at 42.5 hours per week."

In response, I have asked that I be advised of feedback from library users about the changes and assurances that the new arrangements will be closely monitored.

Tuesday 16 February 2010

Tuesday update ...

* I attended a useful meeting of the Balgay Stakeholders Group today - the group allows all with an interest in Balgay Hill, Balgay Park and Victoria Park to meet and discuss issues of common interest. At today's meeting, there was a discussion about moving forward the proposal to have a proper memorial to mark the 'poor ground' - the graves of paupers - in Balgay Cemetery.

* Tonight, I chaired the Friends of Magdalen Green committee meeting where we updated the group's action plan and other matters including membership and future projects, including a possible project with the Scottish Football Association that would emcompass a number of aspects including a repainting of the bandstand, upgrading the Riverside changing rooms to include a community facility and improved playing fields.

* Last month, I mentioned that the paper recycling facility in Cleghorn Street was to be removed following repeated vandalism problems. I am now pleased to advise that a new facility will be provided soon at a nearby location I proposed, thus ensuring the local area still has paper recycling facilities.

The Waste Management Department that it felt it had no option but to remove the paper recycling facility in Cleghorn Street as it had been fire-damaged on three occasions. For the many residents in the Cleghorn Street, Benvie Road, Lochee Road and Mitchell Street areas who made use of the paper recycling unit, losing the recycling facility was a blow. It is a great shame that the actions of mindless vandals should inconvenience the many residents locally who want to recycle.

I suggested to the Waste Management Department that if a facility was provided on Lochee Road near to the bus shelter at Mitchell Street, that is also adjacent to the Mitchell Street Centre, this would be a much better location as it is a busy area and well-lit, making vandalism less likely and any vandal likely to be spotted and caught.

I am pleased that the council has agreed to this request and will provide recycling facilities here, initially for a three month trial period to see how well it works at this location.


Subject: New NRP - Lochee Road/Mitchell Street

Dear Councillors

I am writing to inform you that we intend to install a Neighbourhood Recycling Point on Lochee Road, running along the fence line of the Mitchell Street Centre. This site we hope will go some way to make up for the loss of the paper bin facility recently removed from Cleghorn Street after repeated acts of vandalism.

Following discussions within our department and also with the Mitchell Street Centre, we have agreed on a 3 month trial for a bank of 4 bin units. … Once installed … we will closely monitor this site to check for any evidence of anti-social behaviour.

This site was proposed by Councillor Macpherson, and was approved by Planning last week.

Temporary Traffic Order - Smellies Lane, Ash Street and West Hendersons Wynd

Received today from the City Council :

Dundee City Council proposes to make an Order under Section 14(1) of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 for the purpose of facilitating gas main replacement works. The Order is expected to be in force for five weeks from 8 March 2010. Its maximum duration in terms of the Act is eighteen months.

The effect of the Order is to prohibit all vehicular traffic in (a) Smellies Lane from Lochee Road to Ash Street, (b) Ash Street from Smellies Lane to Douglas Street and (c) West Hendersons Wynd from Douglas Street to Brook Street.

Pedestrian thoroughfare and vehicular access to premises will be maintained where possible.

An alternative route will be available via Lochee Road, Polepark Road and Brook Street.

Please forward any comments you may have regarding this proposal to the Network Management Team, City Development Department, Tayside House, Crichton Street, Dundee, no later than five working days prior to the commencement date. If you have any queries please contact the team on 433082.

Monday 15 February 2010

Monday activities

No surgeries today because of the school holidays but very busy with constituents' issues.

Tonight's "Evening Telegraph" featured the feedback I recently received from Digital Radio UK about the proposed digital radio switchover. See

At tonight's City Council Development Quality Committee, I moved refusal of a retrospective application in Minto Place that had been the subject to residents' objections. Although recomended for approval, I won the vote 15-12.

Doug Fieger

My Sharona by The Knack was a great song from my youth. 1979 to be exact.

I'm saddened at the death - announced today - of Doug Fieger, who formed The Knack, and co-wrote and sang lead vocals on My Sharona.

Sunday 14 February 2010

Remembering Sheila

Sheila Roy passed away last May; she was a pillar of the West End community through her active participation in so many activities, including her role as founding chair of Friends of Magdalen Green. Sheila was also a good friend.

I had the pleasure this afternoon of attending a sale of craft equipment that belonged to Sheila, with the proceeds going to the Friends of Magdalen Green. Many thanks to Sheila's family - and to Gail Stirling and family, who hosted this well-attended event.

Latest on Dundee WestFest 2010!

At the request of the folk at WestFest, I'm featuring progress with this superb initiative for the West End - 20-27 June 2010!

Dundee WestFest aims to celebrate the area's diverse culture and vibrant community spirit. The week long festival will centre on five themes; art, drama and dance, environment, history and music and the week will end with a Parade and Party.

The festival is open to all who want to take part, whether that is an individual artist/performer, a small group of local residents or a large organisation.

There will be events for all ages, including some organised through the local schools. The objective is to harness the skills and enthusiasm of people in the West End to showcase their talents and to create a memorable and enjoyable festival that will generate benefits for the residents, local businesses and visitors to the area.

The first festival will take place 20 - 27 June 2010 and there are plans to make it an annual event. See much more at

No Monday surgeries tomorrow!

Due to schools mid-term holidays, my Monday surgeries don't take place tomorrow, but I can be contacted at any time at or at home on 01382 459378.

Robert Knight - Love on a mountain top

Trawling through constituent casework as Janet watches 'Dancing on Ice' and this comes on. So reminds me of being very sun-burnt in the summer of (I think) 1973!

Christmas 2010

Following all the concerns raised (including by many of my constituents) about the "Winter Light Night" theme last year, I have sought assurances from the City Council's Chief Executive regarding plans for 2010. I also raised the views of many residents that reverting to a real Christmas tree in the City Square would be a good move.

The Chief Executive has responded as follows :

"Firstly I can assure you that whatever Festive event we have this year, it will definitely have the name Christmas in the title.

I will be chairing a group to plan and prepare for the Christmas event 2010, and when the group has concluded I will bring a report to Committee , so that elected members can contribute and take the final decision.

In terms of the plastic Christmas tree you are quite correct that there is one more year on the current contract, and thereafter i.e. Christmas 2011 there will be an opportunity to consider the options of a real or plastic Christmas tree."

I am pleased that there will be a review of the festive arrangements and that Christmas will be in the title of the 2010 event. In terms of the timescale for progress on the 2010 event preparations, the Chief Executive further advises :

"I have targeted that the report must be considered by Committee before the Summer recess, and the earlier the better. I am keen to get the group underway as soon as possible."

Saturday 13 February 2010

UPDATE : Winter maintenance in the West End

Following residents' requests, I recently requested a grit bin for Pleasance Court. I am pleased to advise that the City Engineer has updated me as follows :

"I can advise that following assessment against the Council's grit bin criteria, a grit bin will be placed on the north side of Pleasance Court near the junction with Lower Pleasance in due course."

At West End Community Council last week, the issue of grit still lying on footpaths was raised. The City Engineer assures me that :

"The grit will be gathered up and recycled in due course, however, at present we are leaving the grit in position as snow has continued to be forecast."

Get involved with politics

... from Jo Swinson MP

Friday 12 February 2010

Friday update ...

Friday Update!

* This morning I attended a photocall with the Community Spirit group at Logie Cemetery in Lochee Road to recognise the new cemetery plaque that Community Spirit has sponsored, with the support of the City Council. The cemetery has a fascinating history stretching back to 1243. See more at

* A meeting between opposition group leaders and the City Council's Chief Executive and Depute Chief Executive about the council budget meeting fiasco took place later in the morning. I am extremely concerned about the SNP administration's gagging of any opposition - and an updated report of the matter was given in tonight's "Evening Telegraph."

* This afternoon, I met with Lawrence Davie, Managing Director of National Express Dundee, along with West End Community Council, about improving West End Bus Services. It was a productive and useful exchange of views. The bus company will announce changes to services from June and I am anxious to see improvements for the West End.

Wearing Red for Haiti

Tonight's latest BBC news report on the continuing terrible situation facing the people of Haiti could not fail to move everyone. The video above is Tavish Scott's comments last week on the subject.

You can help the Haiti appeal by going to

Thursday 11 February 2010

Today's activities - and SNP budget disaster

This evening, after a busy surgery at Blackness Primary School, I attended a meeting of the Community Spirit group that serves the northern part of the West End Ward - Ancrum, Pentland, Cleghorn and Milnbank and surrounding streets. There was a very interesting presentation by the SACRO Youth Justice Service.

This afternoon's City Council budget meeting was nothing short of dreadful - the SNP administration misused Council Standing Orders to rule an opposition motion (that was to be moved by Labour and seconded by me) that would have ensured the Dundee Employment and Aftercare Project does not lose its funding, was "incompetent" - although it had already been ruled competent by council legal officers. I have no doubt where the real incompetence lies.

I spoke with Radio Tay tonight about this disgraceful situation and here's my news release :

'Councillor brands City Budget Meeting as disgraceful

Dundee City Council's Liberal Democrat Group Leader tonight branded the council budget meeting as "nothing short of disgraceful" and that the SNP administration should be ashamed of the way they handled the meeting.

Cllr Fraser Macpherson said, "The Depute Convener of Policy & Resources ruled a motion by the opposition out of order despite it having already been approved by the council's top legal officer as competent. Councillor Sawers was unable and unwilling to give any satisfactory explanation for this disgraceful gagging of debate.

"The SNP administration simply wanted to avoid a debate which would have exposed their dreadful handling of the Fairer Scotland Funding issue and their treatment of the Dundee Employment and Aftercare Project. They have misused council standing orders to gag any opposition. It is nothing short of disgraceful and I feel for the staff at DEAP - all the opposition was seeking to do was to protect DEAP's funding and people's jobs."

Cllr Macpherson indicated that an cross-party group of opposition councillor are seeking an urgent meeting with the Council Chief Executive and the Depute Chief Executive in her capacity as the council top legal officer.

Cllr Macpherson said, "I am simply appauled at how the SNP acted today. A council cannot be allowed to operate in this manner. The SNP seem determined to gag any views they don't like. It is a bad day for democracy and for the reputation of the City Council."'

Wednesday 10 February 2010

Digital radio concerns - an update

Following my recent comments about the planned switchover to digital radio, I have received a letter today from Digital Radio UK that I reproduce below. Digital Radio UK is an organisation which represents the interests of the digital radio industry including the BBC, commercial radio companies and transmission network operator, Arqiva :

"Dear Councillor Macpherson

I read your blog post on 31 January and yesterday's Evening Telegraph regarding the proposals in the Digital Economy Bill for digital radio upgrade with interest, and wanted to provide some information that I hope will alleviate your concerns. I am writing on behalf of Digital Radio UK, the organisation set up with the support of a cross-section of the radio industry, including commercial radio, the BBC and Arqiva, to ensure that the UK is fully prepared for digital upgrade.

Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, no-one will be left without access to their favourite radio station. You may be aware that two important conditions, or criteria, are attached to the setting of a switchover date. These are that a date cannot even be set until the majority of radio listening is to digital and the second is that digital coverage must match FM coverage. This means that, by the time switchover occurs everyone will be able to access their favourite station whether it remains on FM or has moved to digital. No-one will lose out as a result of switchover, indeed everyone will benefit from the additional choice, quality and interactivity that digital radio brings.

As you will appreciate, achieving the improved coverage and investment in the new services to make digital radio a success, will require investment from the industry. This is why the industry has worked with Government to draw up a realistic plan for the transition to digital. It is only with the strategic direction set out in Digital Britain and the Digital Economy Bill that the radio industry, set manufacturers and the motor industry are able to invest with confidence in a digital future. That investment is already beginning with, for example, the BBC having just turned on its first transmitter on the west coast of Scotland, serving Oban, with coverage for Fort William following soon. Improving the robustness of coverage, along with extending coverage into currently unserved areas, will be a major focus for the industry in the coming years.

Of course, some services will choose to remain on FM, which is, in many ways, better suited to smaller and rural services. But here again, far from threatening the future of local radio, the Digital Economy Bill will enable it to flourish. Digital upgrade will create more space on FM as larger stations move to digital. Community stations will be able to move from AM to FM, and there will be more space for smaller commercial stations that remain on FM, meaning access to better signal strength and improved listener experience. The Community Media Association understands the benefits of upgrade for small stations, and has endorsed the proposals.

You rightly point out that local radio is facing a number of pressures at the moment that threaten their futures. The sector is facing a highly competitive environment with more sources of news, information and entertainment than ever, and increased competition for local advertising. Upgrade will deliver critical benefits at a local level by enabling the industry to work with Ofcom to re-plan local DAB, giving more local stations the possibility of a digital future. The Bill will also give Ofcom more flexibility in how it regulates radio and will be able to offer full 12 year licenses to local stations offering long-term security, rather than ending all licenses in 2015 as at present. These changes are critical to the future viability of local radio and will most benefit smaller stations.

I hope that this letter provides some comfort that digital radio upgrade will actually be a very positive event for local stations and radio listeners in your constituency, and is an important move to ensure the future growth of a whole radio sector."

Tuesday 9 February 2010

Meetings tonight - and tomorrow

It was good to see residents turning out at the Police Community Surgery at Blackness Library at teatime today. I spoke with a number of residents about local issues, including cycling matters, the begging concern, litter and parking.

West End Community Council's meeting tonight featured a useful presentation on the proposed Riverside Nature Park, as well as discussion on the Dundee West Transition Towns project, an update on the West End Primary Schools Project Board and WestFest 2010.

I am meeting the City Council's Chief Executive tomorrow morning about the cuts in Fairer Scotland Funding, an issue I am greatly concerned about.

West End Latest!

This morning, the Courier covered my comments about the problem of wheelie bins sitting permanently on pavements in certain streets in the West End and action the City Council is taking to address the issue.

Evening Telegraph covers the issue of begging in Perth Road and Nethergate and my discussions with Tayside Police about the issue. As the article points out, tonight's police community surgery at Blackness Library (5.30pm to 7pm) will be an opportunity for residents to air their views. Tonight's West End Community Council also takes place immediately afterwards (7pm) at the nearby Logie and St John's (Cross) Church Hall.

Good news on unadopted footways! Following residents' requests to add Hillside Place to the list, I have been advised by the City Engineer as follows :

"Hillside Place has now been assessed and scored in accordance with the Unadopted Footways Scheme Criteria and has attracted 18 points, ie the same as Hillside Terrace. The list is currently under review so I am unable at this time to advise of these footways final position. I can confirm that the footways of Hillside Tce and Hillside Place would be done at the same time."

He has also confirmed to me that the review of the list to enable priorities for upgrading for 2010/11 to be determined will be complete by the end of February.

Monday 8 February 2010

Latest news

A few latest updates!

* Blackness Court Sheltered Housing - I have been campaigning for some time to have the footpaths near to the sheltered housing improved. On Friday, along with two residents, I had a useful site visit with a City Council roads inspector who has promised to progress pavement improvements at the Rosefield Place/Blackness Road junction and at the pedestrian crossing used by the sheltered housing residents to cross Blackness Road to get to the Post Office and other local shops.

Residents have also complained that the yellow lines in Rosefield Place are worn and cars park on the pavement edge making it very difficult for elderly folk - especially those on motorised scooters - to get from their homes to the shops. I was pleased to be advised today by the City Development Department as follows : "The lines in Rosefield Place will therefore be refurbished around April/May time along with other long term outstanding orders."

* Council housing allocations policy - Earlier today, I attended a briefing for councillors on council housing allocations policy. I raised questions about the need for a common housing register and co-ordination between housing association and council allocation policies to maximise allocations of housing for people in Dundee on housing waiting lists.

* Hunter Street Parking Project - I met the Head of Transportation today about my concerns regarding this project being delayed. I received an assurance that the project will be revisited in 2012 and, if the business case holds, the project will go ahead, as promised. I am disappointed at the delay, especially given that there was interest from around 8 commercial organisations to the advertisement in the European Journal. The multi-storey car park - immediately adjacent to the University of Dundee campus, would greatly assist parking problems in the area.

I also had the opportunity to discuss community transport with the Head of Transportation. We discussed the future of the Friendly Bus sheltered housing shopping service that I am anxious to see secured for the long term.

* Tay Rail Bridge Disaster 1879 - memorial - I had an excellent meeting with Stuart Morris, son of the Laird of Balgonie, regarding his suggestion of a lasting memorial to the victims of the 1879 rail disaster. We have agreed a route forward and will meet again with a group of supporters of such a memorial in March.

* Surgeries - Two busy surgeries late this afternoon at Mitchell Street Centre and Harris Academy.

* City Council Meeting - At tonight's City Council committees I welcomed an energy efficiency scheme and made some suggestions about ensuring publicity of these (apparently well-received by all sides) and also commented on proposed waiting restrictions in the area around Harris Academy - these will now be subject to public consultation.

February West End Community Council Update

I have today launched my February 2010 update to West End Community Council.

Subjects covered include :

• Wheelie Bins

• Safe parking/drop off at Primary Schools

• Friendly Bus

• Hillside Terrace - proposed Stopping Up Order

• West End Primary Schools Project

• Unadopted Footways Programme

• Blackness Library Opening Hours

The Community Council meets this tomorrow (Tuesday 9th February) at Logie St John's (Cross) Church Hall at 7pm.

You can download a copy of the update by clicking on the headline above or by going to :

Sunday 7 February 2010

Dundee West campaign continues!

The Dundee West Liberal Democrat campaign continued in earnest today - here's parliamentary candidate John Barnett together with son Rory campaigning in St Mary's this afternoon! The "shame" on the LibDem newspaper refers to Labour's shame over the illegal war in Iraq.

Journey - Wheel in the sky

Final "Journey" upload

Tay Talk In

Was on the Tay Talk In this morning on Radio Tay AM about the Scottish Budget and cuts in the Fairer Scotland Fund.

Saturday 6 February 2010

Concern over council's Hunter Street car park u-turn

As reported in today's Courier, I have raised my concerns that Dundee City Council appears to be backtracking on promises to construct a multi-storey car park in the city’s Hunter Street/Hawkhill that would have provided much needed parking adjacent to the University of Dundee campus and have eased the parking difficulties for residents across the West End. Providing a multi-storey car park for over 400 vehicles right next to the University of Dundee campus would greatly improve the difficult parking situation.

During my period as City Council Planning & Transport Convener,
I brought the project to committee for approval in May 2008. This was unanimously approved and members of the then SNP opposition welcomed it.

In May 2009, a year after committee approval,
I was assured by the City Engineer that the project had been advertised in the European Journal. The assessment panel had been identified and the assessments of these were being carried out. I was further advised at that time :

“A detailed project programme is about to be prepared but the design, procurement and construction will likely be about 2 and a half years so the car park/retail unit can be expected to be complete around December 2011/January 2012, all going well.”

Last week, City Council City Development Director Mike Galloway advised me :

“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.”

I am unconvinced by the reasons advanced for not progressing with the project. It is clear from the recent Tesco proposal for a new “Express” convenience store in Hawkhill that there is still commercial viability for the car park that envisaged retail facilities on the ground floor.

I am meeting the City Council’s Head of Transportation on Monday to discuss the matter and my concerns about the council’s u-turn. I am very disappointed at this turn of events and think it is vital that the Hunter Street parking project is progressed, for the benefit of easing parking difficulties in the West End.