Tuesday 30 November 2010

Strengthening Scotland's future

Dear Fraser

Today the Government published its Scotland Bill. When this becomes law, a second and exciting phase in Scottish devolution will begin. We are strengthening Scotland’s future based on three principles: empowerment, accountability and stability.

This Bill starts its parliamentary process with the support of the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats. Each of our parties - plus business and civil society - contributed to the Calman Commission, which drew up the blueprint for it. It is right that change of this sort should be built on a broad consensus. But now it is this government that is turning those principles into practice.

We believe in devolution. By nature, we are mistrustful of centralised government and welcoming of the flow of power from Westminster to our nation states, our communities and to individuals too. When the Scottish Constitutional Convention drafted the plan for a Scottish Parliament, we were at the table. When the referendum campaign was raging, we were on the streets campaigning. And in 1999, when the first democratically elected Scottish Parliament was elected, we joined the coalition government that heralded a new era of Scottish politics.
And let's be clear: this plan is steeped in Liberal Democrat values.

But its centrepiece is the devolution of tax and borrowing powers. This is the greatest transfer of fiscal power from London since the creation of the UK. Today, the Scottish Parliament only has revenue powers over council tax and business rates and raises only 15% of its own revenue. The Scotland Bill transforms that. The most significant change we will make is to create a Scottish Income Tax. We'll do this by cutting 10 pence off every band of income tax. We will proportionately adjust the block grant that Scotland receives, and then allow the Scottish Parliament to reset the tax rates. We will also give the Parliament nearly £3 billion in borrowing powers.
The Bill is diverse in content, and gives the Scottish Parliament a range of new powers: regulating air weapons; setting drink-drive limits; establishing a Scottish national speed limit.

This will empower the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government to make tax and spend choices that will determine future revenues and help shape Scotland's future economy.

It will also make both more accountable to the Scottish people. It is an incomplete construct to have a Parliament that spends money but is responsible for raising little of it. By giving these tax powers to Holyrood, MSPs will have to answer to voters for the money that they spend. And by moving those spending decisions closer to Scottish society and to Scottish business, both will be better placed to influence the decisions that impact on their lives and livelihoods.

And for all their bluster, the SNP has no alternative. Their plans for full fiscal autonomy are a non-starter: light on detail, high on cost and fraught with risk. No industrialised country has ever gone down that road. This is independence masquerading as reform. It won’t wash.
By empowering Holyrood, we are also ensuring its stability. Our plans will be phased to ensure no sudden shock or windfall to the Scottish budget. By giving the Parliament – which has been a success over the past decade – room to innovate safely, we will strengthen Scotland within the UK.

But for our party, the victory here is not a tactical one. It is principled one. We are working with others to devolve power from the centre to the communities that need it and know how to use it.

This is good for Scotland, and we should be proud of it.

Best wishes

Michael Moore

Secretary of State for Scotland

Real Time Bus Information - Pentland Avenue

As residents are aware, I have been highlighting the need to see the real time bus timetable information at bus shelters where it is currently out of action repaired and the service back working as soon as possible.  

I recently had a request as to progress getting the information on the shelters in Pentland Avenue repaired and the City Council has advised as follows :

"Unfortunately, it is not possible to provide an exact date for the repair of the shelters on Pentland Avenue. As previously indicated, the contractors have been instructed to concentrate their efforts on shelters with advertising panels before tackling other shelters across the city. We are now half way through the work with over 150 shelters repaired. I expect that the repair work will continue until at least February 2011 but I would hope that Pentland Avenue may get tackled either in the run up to Christmas or in January 2011. The severity of the winter weather will obviously impact on the progress made."

Happy St Andrew's Day - despite the weather!

Rather fitting that this was filmed in St Andrews!

Jim Duncan

I was saddened to hear about the death of Jim Duncan, former Depute Lord Provost of Dundee, long-standing councillor and assessor to the rector of the University of Dundee.

Having served as the Chair of Dundee City Labour Party and Election Agent for George Thomson when he was MP for Dundee East, Jim joined the SDP at its formation and thereafter the Liberal Democrats in 1988.   Jim was a formidable negotiator during the formation of the Liberal/SDP Alliance.

He played a huge role in civic life in the city - on Dundee Corporation, then the District Council - but also on the Health Board, the University of Dundee and as a Governor of the Scottish Police College.    Jim was greatly respected to all who knew him and will be sadly missed.

Monday 29 November 2010

Friends of Wighton - weather update

Further to my update about the proposed recital on Wednesday, Sheena Wellington of Friends of Wighton now advises as follows :

"In view of the weather conditions, the Lunchtime Recital by The Wighton Singers, which was to take place on Wednesday 1st December at the Wighton Heritage Centre, has been postponed to Wednesday 8th.

Tuesday afternoon's Scots Song Class has also been cancelled but it is hoped that this Saturday's Cappuccino Concert with Karen Hannah, fiddle and Alan Small on accordion will go ahead."

West End Boys' Amateur Boxing Club - an update

Last year, I had the pleasure of opening the West End Boys Amateur Boxing Club at its new centre in the refurbished community facilities at Dundee West Church.

The club has grown from strength to strength since then and Emilio Places-Rey who has been instrumental in the club's success has recently undertaken a visit to Hong Kong and Australia - meeting with boxing clubs there that have a similar mission to promote boxing as a positive way for young people to spend their leisure time.

Here's Emilio below (on left) with Joe of Joe's Boxing Club in Sydney, with whom the club wish to arrange a boxing show in 2011 (and a similar event is planned with a boxing club in Munich)  : 

Surgeries postponed ...

Given the weather, and with the decision made to close all Dundee schools today, my surgeries at Harris Academy and Mitchell Street Centre this afternoon will not now take place.  

However, I can be contacted at any time on Dundee 459378.

Sunday 28 November 2010

Thomson Street resurfacing promised

I am pleased to have received a commitment from Dundee City Council that it will ensure Thomson Street will be fully resurfaced following the road being dug up for works by Scottish Water and Scotland Gas Networks.

I approached the City Council on behalf of residents to get assurances that the “patchwork” road surface that will be left by weeks of work would be properly reinstated and have been advised by the City Engineer as follows :

“We have agreed with Turriff Contractors that it would be best to delay the surfacing works until early next year as we have concerns that there may be some subsidence of the gas main trench infill material and this will give the material time to settle and any subsidence to become evident. Turriff Contractors are proposing to make the road safe such as to be able to reopen the road and allow it to be trafficked in advance of the delayed resurfacing works.

Dundee City Council are then to carry out the resurfacing of this road, in conjunction with both Scottish Water and Turriff Contractors who are to provide contributions equal to the cost of any permanent reinstatements they are required to carry out. We are sorry for any further inconvenience this may cause the residents but ultimately we are seeking to protect them from further distruption that may be caused by failure of the trench reinstatements.

The final works in the new year will involve a 100mm plane out and resurface. The works will require a 10 day closure.”

Although the resurfacing will not take place until into the New Year for the reasons given, I am reassured to learn that a commitment has been given that the road will be properly reinstated as it has seen substantial digging up since the summer.

Weather conditions

I have spoken today with a number of residents during a day of rather challenging weather conditions.  

Details of the City Council's winter maintenance arrangements and contact details can be found on the City Council website or by clicking on the headline above.

Saturday 27 November 2010

Friends of Wighton - recital on Wednesday!

The Friends of Wighton Lunchtime Recital this Wednesday (1st December) features the Friends' very own Wighton Singers!

The group meet regularly on Tuesday afternoons under the guidance of distinguished traditional singer Sheena Wellington and they will be presenting a lively programme of Scots and seasonal songs.

The Recital, which is free to attend, runs from 1.15pm to 1.45pm in the Wighton Heritage Centre, Local Studies Department at the Central Library in the Wellgate.

Dundee Airport - noise yesterday

The Airport Manager has contacted me to pass on apologies about the noise from the airport on Friday.   As he explains :

"Aberdeen airport closed due to weather and the north sea helicopters diverted to here that were in the air when it closed. We had 4 fixed wing flights divert to us and 9 helicopters in total.

I am sure you will appreciate that this was unavoidable and had we not accepted them it would have been a flight safety issue for all these aircraft."

Christmas Week Fireworks ... some video clips

With thanks to Rob and Martina :

Set Up :

And ... the fireworks! :

Friday 26 November 2010

West Port lights switch on!

Following the super West End Christmas Week events last Saturday and on Wednesday, earlier this evening, along with Sheena Livingstone of the Westport Gallery and my ward colleague Cllr Richard McCready, I participated in the lights switch on for the West Port area.  

Although the area has had a Christmas Tree each year, this is the first occasion on which we have had an 'official lights switch on' at West Port.   Sheena and her fellow traders have a superb mix of businesses in West Port and South Tay Street that are well worth a visit!

Above :  About to switch the lights on!

Above :  The lights are on!

Above :  Richard, Sheena and myself - with the gallery in the background!

Above : The West Port Tree!

Thursday 25 November 2010

Brown bin collection - Shepherd's Loan

Following a concern raised in Shepherd's Loan that the last brown bin collection of garden waste did not appear to have happened, the Waste Management Department advises :

"All bins that were presented to to pavement were emptied by the crews.   The problem I suspect is that because the compost routes are lighter due to seasonal changes,  the crew has arrived earlier than normal.   This being the case it is important that the residents put out their bins for 7.30am as per calendars.  

At present the compost collection is not operating, - it starts back on the routes beginning 6th December."

Wednesday 24 November 2010

And ... some photos from tonight's events!

Having been involved in organising ten West End Christmas Week events, tonight's was easily the best in terms of Christmas night events we have run - the largest turnout of local people - hundreds at the Christmas Concert in Dundee West Church, such a great turnout that we ran out of room! - our most impressive fireworks display ever (thanks Rob!), a super carnival and great atmosphere.

I am indebted to all who took part, helped with the organisation and in any other way helped make tonight a superb community night for the West End.

Err ... so to the photos!
From the top - the carnival, the concert, the tree now lit, and - lastly - Lord Provost John Letford and Ally Bally of Radio Tay switch on the Christmas Lights!   

You'll have noted the last photo of Ally & the LP is of rather better quality than the rest.   There's a reason for this - it is courtesy of DC Thomson Ltd, to whom we are also grateful for their coverage of the various West End Christmas Week events.

West End Christmas Concert Tonight - a superb turnout!

Tuesday 23 November 2010

Balgay Stakeholders' Group meeting

This afternoon, I attended the Balgay Stakeholders' Group meeting at the Balgay Cemetery Office.    The group is a very useful meeting of Leisure and Communities' staff, West End councillors and Friends of Balgay and allows us to discuss issues affecting Balgay Park and Hill and Victoria Park.

There was a productive discussion today about numerous issues, including lighting, tree survey work and pathways.

West End Christmas Lights switch on tomorrow!

The West End Christmas Lights get switched on at Seabraes tomorrow (Wednesday 24th November) at 7pm by Lord Provost John Letford, Ally Bally of Tay AM and Terry the Terror from Dundee United.

There will be a Christmas children’s concert beforehand from 6pm in nearby Dundee West Church, plus a carnival from Horne’s on the Duncan of Jordanstone Car Park and a spectacular fireworks display.

This is the largest West End Christmas Week yet in our tenth anniversary year and we are inviting all local residents to come along to the Christmas Concert, Christmas Lights Switch On, Fireworks and Carnival. It’ll be a great night of family events and we are very grateful to local schools and all other participants for taking part.

Monday 22 November 2010

Dundee City Council committee meetings tonight ...

Following my surgeries at the Mitchell Street Centre and Harris Academy this afternoon, I attended tonight's City Council committee meetings.

At Education Committee, I welcomed the report proposing the establishment of a project board for the Harris Academy refurbishment.    Having called for this earlier this year, I am pleased it will meet for the first time early in the New Year and that it will be chaired by the City Council's Chief Executive, underlining the importance of the project.

I asked questions about progress the City Council is making with Historic Scotland over the refurbishment project and the proposed frequency of project board meetings.

Tonight's committees marked the end of an era, as Brian Allison, local government correspondent of the Courier and Evening Telegraph, covered council committees for his final time, as he is retiring from DC Thomson at the end of November.   Along with other group leaders, the Lord Provost and the Depute Lord Provost, I paid tribute to Brian, a totally professional journalist who has covered local government matters with distinction over many years.

Sunday 21 November 2010

Update on litter around Hawkhill and Brown Street

In September, I raised the issue of litter in the Brown Street/Hawkhill area, following the opening of the Tesco Express store on Hawkhill.

At that time, the City Council agreed to provide an additional litter bin - it was placed near the new casino.

However, there have since been complaints about litter further up Hawkhill, past the store - and that the bin at the casino is often full.  

I raised this with council and have received the following positive response :

" ... firstly the bin should be getting emptied at the weekend as we do have staff working and this will be looked into ... we will also look at possible locations for a second bin."

Saturday 20 November 2010

A great start to West End Christmas Week!

A superb and enjoyable day of events to mark the start of the 10th Anniversary West End Christmas Week - here's a photographic record!

Below : A very busy Community Fayre!
And the Roseangle Cafe Arts was doing a roaring trade!
Below : Outdoor activities:

The youth bus
The football about to commence on Magdalen Green - six teams of P5 pupils from our local primary schools 
And the winners were St Joseph's Primary A who won the final 2-0 against Ancrum Road B!
Below :  Gardeners' Question Time with the Friends of the University of Dundee Botanic Garden
Below :   Competition Winners!  (The P6 & P7 art is on show at Roseangle Cafe Arts right up to Christmas!
Above :  Along with Rosemary Eddy and Ian Elder of the West End Oral History Group, drawing the winner of their competition.

Friday 19 November 2010

West End Christmas Fayre - set up!

This afternoon, a few of us did the set-up for the West End Community Fayre tomorrow that launches Christmas Week.

A few photos below when we were not exactly finished!   By the time we finished at teatime, things were looking great - helped by the superb artwork from the P6 and P7 "Christmas Heroes" painting competition and the P3 and P4 recycled Christmas decorations - created by the pupils of our local schools - St Joseph's, Park Place, Blackness and Ancrum Road.

Join us tomorrow at Dundee West Church - lower hall in Roseangle - from 10am!

Temporary Traffic Order - Hillside Road

Further to my recent update about proposed road improvements in Hillside Road, the City Council has now issued the following temporary traffic order :

Dundee City Council propose to make an Order under Section 14(1) of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 for the purpose of facilitating new road construction works. The Order is expected to be in force for seven days from 29 November 2010. Its maximum duration in terms of the Act is eighteen months.

The effect of the Order is to prohibit temporarily all vehicular traffic in Hillside Road between Hillside Terrace and Hillside Drive.

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

An alternative route will be available via Hillside Terrace and Hillside Drive.

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 call 433168.

Thursday 18 November 2010

West End Local Community Planning Partnership meeting

Tonight, after my weekly surgery at Blackness Primary School, I attended the West End Local Community Planning Partnership meeting at the Tartan Coffee House in Perth Road, ably chaired by the new Chair, Neil Gellatly, Head of Transportation at the City Council.

There was an informative discussion about Duncan - the Dundee co-ordinated anti-crime network - and thereafter we discussed a number of local issues, including community safety, parking, bin collections and community representation.

West End Christmas Week - it all starts on Saturday!

The tenth anniversary West End Christmas Week will be launched at 10.00am this Saturday (20th November) in Dundee West Church’s Community Facilities (132 Perth Road but enter at top of Roseangle) where the West End Community Fayre is taking place.   We are very grateful to Barnetts Motor Group for sponsoring the community fayre.

Many local organisations are participating and all local residents are invited to attend. Entrance is entirely free of charge and it will be a great way for local people to learn about all the organisations in the West End that are working for the area.

At 10.30am, the children of Ancrum Road Primary, Park Place Primary, St Joseph’s Primary and Blackness Primary Schools will be able to meet Santa and see round a youth bus at nearby Seabraes and a 5 a side football competition for Primary 5 children will take place on Magdalen Green at 11.30am.

Opening the West End Christmas Week with a community fayre is a great way for local people to find out about all that local organisations and community groups are doing for the West End and it is good that over 20 organisations are participating.   We hope local residents to come along to see all that’s happening in the West End of the City and there’s great activities for children as well.

Next Wednesday (24th) will see the West End Christmas Lights switched on at 7pm by Lord Provost John Letford, Ally Bally of Tay AM and Terry the Terror from Dundee United. There will be a Christmas children’s concert beforehand from 6pm, plus a carnival from Horne’s and a spectacular fireworks display.

This is the largest West End Christmas Week yet in our tenth anniversary year and we are indebted to the local businesses in the West End who have helped make this all happen.    Earlier today, I accepted the generous sponsorship of the Riverside Inn (I'm pictured below with Ryan McBrearty of the Riverside Inn).   We have had superb support from the local business community in the West End, for which the Christmas Week Committee is most grateful.

Wednesday 17 November 2010

New traffic lights now working!

After all the issues about safe crossing I raised during the traffic lights replacement at the Tullideph Road/City Road junction, I am pleased to see the new traffic lights are now working as of today.

Swinney fudge ...

Today's Scottish Budget was a typical John Swinney fudge.    It is lighter on detail than it should have been and it is disappointing that John Swinney wouldn’t give the figures for more than one year.   You might have concluded that John Swinney does not expect to be Finance Cabinet Secretary this time next year.  You would be right.

The one year only budget is a dangerous way for every school, hospital and college in Dundee and elsewhere in Scotland to try and plan ahead.     Hard working staff have no way of knowing what to expect from the SNP.    They can’t take sensible decisions if they don’t have the future plans.

On the day when unemployment is going up in Dundee and across Scotland but down in the rest of the UK, the SNP is wrong to cut support for enterprise, colleges and tourism, but failed to cut high pay, bonuses and waste.  Under the SNP the highest paid staff in the NHS still keep £26 million of bonuses.
Another wasted opportunity.

Tuesday 16 November 2010

Post collection centre - meeting with Royal Mail

Further to the concerns I raised recently about the proposal by Royal Mail to close the 'undelivered mail collection centre' in Crichton Street and transfer the service to the Edward Street depot, I today met with three Royal Mail representatives regarding their proposals.

My major area of concern is that although the Edward Street depot is handy for some West End residents in the Blackness/Milnbank area, for many West End residents it is not a convenient location.  It is not an easy walk for an elderly person travelling by bus (from both the 17 and 22 services' routes, the walk is hilly).

The Royal Mail representatives did indicate that they would go through a consultation period before a final decision is made and assured me that the proposed opening times at the Dundee West depot in Edward Street would be changed to match those at Crichton Street (8pm on Wednesdays, 6pm on other weekdays and 2pm on Saturdays) and there would be accessibility and signage improvements at Edward Street should the proposal go forward.   They indicate the Crichton Street office struggles to cope with the increased parcel business, given its limited space.

I am unconvinced that the Crichton Street office could not be relatively easily altered to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act (the front access is already relatively level) and the crucial point is that it is extremely well situated in terms of public transport.

Royal Mail will respond specifically to me in writing on the accessibility/access matter at Crichton Street and will also advise of developments on this matter.    This was a useful opportunity to get across the views of my constituents who want to see the facility at Crichton Street retained.

Literary Dundee event

20th November, 2010 :  6pm (event lasts for one hour), Dalhousie Building, Old Hawkhill.

Perfect place to buy your Christmas gifts -get a signed copy of Conn Iggulden's book!


£3 / £2

Genghis Khan was the greatest warlord the world has ever seen and yet until now, his story has rarely been told. In three superb best-selling historical novels, all page-turners, with huge energy Conn Iggulden has brought this extraordinary man to life. With the publication of Empire of Silver, he turns to his son, Ogedai, and will complete the sequence with the deeds of the great Kublai Khan. The author of Roman novels and The Dangerous Book for Boys, Conn Iggulden is a tremendous literary talent, a gifted teller of tales.

Tickets available from www.literarydundee.co.uk / 01382 384413 / Overgate shopping centre / DCA.

Monday 15 November 2010

Mills Observatory Update

Following my update yesterday about concerns over the future of the Mills Observatory, I was interviewed by Radio Tay today (click on 'play' below to listen) and the issue has been covered in the Courier, the Press and Journal, the Sun, and various other newspapers.   

Judging by the number of people contacting me regarding the issue today, it is of considerable concern and it is vital that the City Council is transparent and ends the secrecy over this important matter.

Transportation matters ...

This afternoon, I met with the City Council's Head of Transportation and other officers about a number of issues including bus services in the West End, a bike rack for Blackness Primary School, road lining works and other local matters.