Monday 31 December 2012

Dundee's Festival of Volunteering

As we fast approach 2013, I am highlighting the forthcoming Festival of Volunteering in Dundee in the first week of June.

I have already been in touch with West End Community Groups Community Spirit Action Group and West End Community Council about how the West End can take part and we are agreed that our participation in the shape of a community-led graffiti and litter tidy would be worth undertaking.

If you are interested in helping, please e-mail me at - many thanks.

Willie Rennie's New Year Message

Scotland must resolve to confront great evils of new century

After the merriment of Christmas, New Year is a time to look forward.   A time to set new goals and ambitions.  A time to confront those things that we have put off in previous years.

For most, this will mean eating less and exercising more but as a nation we are confronted with far greater challenges than losing a few pounds.

The welfare state was constructed and sustained with the goal of eradicating what Beveridge called “the five giant evils of society” - squalor, ignorance, want, idleness and disease.

These were the challenges facing a country emerging from war and confronted with a society eager to move on but shackled to issues holding it back.

The challenges faced by Scotland today are of a different time, but are no less great than the trials faced by our parents and grandparents.

Scotland must resolve to confront the three great evils that face us in a new century – a demographic time bomb, the advance of climate change and the stubborn pervasiveness of poverty.

In the next 25 years, the number of households in Scotland headed by someone over the age of 65 is projected to increase by 60%.   If the actuarial tables are right, my hill running days will be over and I will be one of over 1.5 million Scots collecting a pension, using care services and nursing my worn out knees!

The challenge that this presents us as a country is not one that can wait another year. The start that has been made to shifting our budget priorities away from reactive to preventative spending is welcome and the Scottish Government deserves praise of the Change Fund it has set up to address some of these long-term issues.

There is still time to defuse the demographic time bomb, but this year we must go further and faster with measures that spend money to save money.

The next great evil of the modern world is climate change. Much has been made of Scotland’s world leading climate change legislation but 2012 was the year we missed our first target.

In 2013, we must do better. Tackling climate change cannot be left to next year, it cannot wait another year.

We need investment in insulation for homes, schools and hospitals, we need to accelerate the development of market-ready renewable energy and we need to continue to develop the culture of recycling.

Finally, the enduring challenge of poverty. In his 1942 report, Beveridge called it squalor and although that label has become less frequent in the last 70 years, the shame that we feel for its presence in our country has not.

Inequalities in health and educational attainment are on the up, but short term political advantage is often put in the way of longer term gain for the country as a whole. 2012 has been a year when every issue, large or small, has been seen through the prism of the independence referendum.   We can’t afford to let this go on.

The three evils facing us in the modern world must be confronted in their own right.   The population is not going to get any younger, the ice stop melting or deprivation evaporate overnight no matter what the result in 2014.

It’s time to get serious with these issues. I resolve to play my part. I hope you do to.

Sunday 30 December 2012

Roads Condition - Riverside Drive

On a number of occasions in the past year, I have raised with Dundee City Council's Roads Maintenance Partnership, the deteriorating roads condition in parts of Riverside Drive.

The issue was again highlighted in Friday's Evening Telegraph in an article that pointed out the bad potholes in various Dundee roads.  The photograph of a huge pothole on Riverside Drive adjacent to the former Homebase site reinforced the concern about the road condition on what is supposed to be a city "ambassador route."

I have been in further contact with the City Engineer about the situation and he has responded:

"The Roads Duty Inspector is away out to inspect the road and arrange for any potholes to be repaired as soon as possible."

In response, I have indicated:

"I have had concern for some time about the deteriorating condition of Riverside Drive and do feel that some more substantial works over and above pothole fixing is required ... particularly as this ‘ambassador route’ will be the major route to the V and A at Dundee once it is opened."

Saturday 29 December 2012

A favourite 2012 Christmas Card ...

The Victoria Park Primary School Christmas Card this year - designed by Melissa Romero in P5 - is both colourful and festive!

Friday 28 December 2012

Getting things done ... Roseangle recycling centre

Residents have pointed out to me that two of the recycling units at the Roseangle recycling centre are missing their lids

See right and below: 
I drew this to the attention of the City Council and have been advised:

"I've passed this on to the Officer who inspects & maintains these sites & asked for the necessary repairs to be scheduled ASAP. I believe that we have just last week taken delivery of replacement bin lids."

Thursday 27 December 2012

Concern over proposed increase in Blackness Library disruption

I have called on Dundee City Council to properly explain why the length of proposed works to improve disabled access at Blackness Library has shot up from 16 weeks to 29 weeks.

The City Architect has advised me:

“The initial contract period was assessed at 16 weeks. The delivery team has now reviewed sequencing, access and construction restrictions and is advising 29 weeks.  The closure period still remains as 6 weeks.”

Following receipt of this information, I asked for an assurance that a full explanation for the near-doubling of the contract period would be given, but this has not yet been forthcoming from the City Council.

The work to improve the disabled access and some other improvements follows a council decision earlier this year, arising out of a public consultation exercise.  The improvement work planned to be undertaken at the library will create disabled access to the upstairs meeting rooms for the first time.   

I am rather concerned that the period of disruption at the library has nearly doubled to more than six months.    There seems to be a lack of transparency and explanation as to why this has happened and, given that the work is supposed to commence immediately after the festive season, I am seeking an full and proper explanation as to why the library project is now taking so long.

This lack of transparency was wider than this particular project as there was a similar lack of information from City Council architectural services about the reasons behind the delays in completion of the new Olympia swimming pool capital project.

Certainty about the length of the Blackness Library project is vital in order that alternative library provision and provision for the various groups who use the library meeting rooms can be properly planned.

It strikes me that there is a need to find a temporary home for library meeting room users and mobile library provision during the likely 6 weeks the library will be completely closed.   

I have already suggested to the Managing Director of Leisure and Culture Dundee who operate Blackness Library on behalf of Dundee City Council that the Whitehall Theatre could be worth exploring this an option for library user groups, with some mobile library provision for the actual library facilities.

Wednesday 26 December 2012

Tuesday 25 December 2012

Merry Christmas!

The West End image above was created by Gerry Lavery, winner of the 2011 Friends of Magdalen Green Christmas card competition.

Our grandson Henry is 5 months old today, Christmas Day.   He's visiting Dundee from Melbourne for Christmas (along with his mum and dad!) and has now met his great-granny Betty!

Monday 24 December 2012

Parking consultation : Council must act on residents' views

As the consultation period on the proposed West End parking proposals ended, I spoke on the STV news last Friday evening about the issue.

It is vital that Dundee City Council actually listens to the views of the hundred of residents and businesses who have responded to the parking consultation.    I’ll eat my hat if the council's proposal for a £80 parking permit finds favour in the responses the council has received.   I have spoken with dozens of residents who were critical of the council’s flawed proposal but absolutely nobody who thought the council got the parking scheme proposal right.    However, the parking problems for many residents will remain and it is therefore vital that the council looks carefully at the ideas put forward by residents.

The detail of the scheme proposed by the council wasn’t properly thought through and was a dead duck the day it was announced because it failed in three key aspects:

a) Charging West End residents 16 times as much for their permits as Menzieshill residents – totally inequitable and unfair.
b) Charging West End residents for their visitors’ parking when the Menzieshill scheme allows free visitor parking, albeit for a limited period.
c) Failure to provide new car parking provision at the University of Dundee campus to ease parking congestion on West End streets - as I have previously highlighted.

I have heard some very sensible suggestions from residents that could be taken forward in the areas of parking difficulty even in the council’s flawed £80 permit parking scheme is rejected – these include addition parking provision near the university campus and a review of waiting restrictions at several locations.    

The vitally important thing now is that Dundee City Council actually listens to the views expressed in consultation responses.

Value for money for Dundee's Council Taxpayers

I was on Wave 102 News yesterday giving my view that the City Council should put more of their contracts out to competitive tendering to ensure value for money for Dundee's Council Taxpayers.

Click 'play' below to listen:

Johnny Mathis at Christmas ...

Willie Rennie's Christmas Message

Over the last year journalists, opponents, perhaps even some supporters were writing us off.  How could a group of five MSPs, cut by two thirds in the Scottish Parliamentary Elections, make any impact on the Scottish political scene?  Although our opponents will always deride us in public, I know that in private they are fizzing that Liberal Democrats continue to punch above our weight.

Scotland is, by and large, a tolerant, liberal, understanding, compassionate country.  Its people are altruistic and generous.   These familiar values at Christmas, but they form the core of the liberal approach to politics all year round.

That is why our liberal message will endure and I am determined that we will have our say in all the big issues facing Scotland in the years in ahead.

In the short-term, that inevitably means carving out a distinct liberal approach to the debate over our country’s future. While I will be campaigning with the other parties to secure Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom, I also want to use the campaign to set out my vision for Scotland.

Our Home Rule plan transfers more financial power to the Scottish Parliament so we have responsibility for raising what we spend, transfers more power to local communities to reflect the diversity of needs and priorities for different parts of Scotland and retains our strength as part of the UK. With these detailed plans, a no vote in 2014 doesn’t need to mean no change.

Despite the pace that the referendum debate has moved at over the last twelve months, it is still the economy, jobs and cost of living that continues to occupy the minds of most. 

The coalition government’s choices are not easy and our popularity has suffered and many good councillors have lost their seats as a result.  Yet if doing the wrong thing is necessary in order to become popular then count me out.  Creating an enduring economy that is more balanced across the UK, is environmentally sustainable and is fairer is something that I know my colleagues in the Coalition Government are determined to achieve.  

Over the last year, Liberal Democrats have invested in green technologies through the Green Investment Bank headquartered in Edinburgh. We have cut income tax for two million Scots on low and middle incomes by hundreds of pounds to help make work pay.  We have created opportunities for young people through the Youth Contract, argued for more college funding, stood up to vested interests and worked constructively with others when we can.

These are the actions of strong liberal voices across Scotland who will never cower but head into the New Year with our heads held high ready to do our bit to meet the challenges we face.

Sunday 23 December 2012

In memory of Sam Lewis

Last month, I mentioned that I had the privilege of meeting the dozens of friends and family of Sam Lewis, the 19 year old BT call centre worker from the West End, who tragically collapsed and died at work in July.   That Sunday in November, Sam's friends and family set off on a sponsored walk to raise funds to provide for a bench on Magdalen Green, in memory of Sam.

The fundraising efforts, masterminded by Sam's friend Derek Kelbie, were extremely successful and by this weekend, the memorial bench is now in place on the Green.    Many thanks go to the Environment Department for all the assistance in getting the bench acquired, delivered and put in place on Magdalen Green and, above all, to Derek and his mum Helen, who put in such a huge effort to make this lasting memorial to Sam possible.   Thanks also to Helen for the photographs below: 

Concern over possible impact of Olympia delay

Yesterday's Courier highlighted my concerns about possible impacts on the timescales for deliver of the V and A at Dundee and the wider Waterfront project of delays in the completion of the Olympia swimming pool project.

The City Council's Director of City Development has advised me:


The phasing relationships between the Olympia demolition and the Waterfront infrastructure and the V&A at Dundee are complex, we are assessing these at present to establish if a delay will result and to what extent we can mitigate delay (if any) through reprogramming.  At present, therefore, there is no programmed delay in these projects.  

Once we have a better picture we will report to the Waterfront Board and to Design Dundee Ltd as they are the two bodies responsible for the delivery of the two projects concerned.


Mike Galloway
Director of City Development
Dundee City Council"

I have responded :

"Thanks Mike;  noted, but 2 points:

a) There is substantial interest and concern from elected members with regard to these projects, crucial to the city.   I would therefore be grateful if you can update me as soon as you are able as to what is exactly going to happen re the timescale knock-on effect of the Olympia delay.

b) What is the likely timeframe in which there will be an outcome in terms of decisions arising out of this the assessment process to establish if a delay will result and to what extent mitigation of any delay through reprogramming can be determined?"

There is a real need for clarification from Dundee City Council as a matter of urgency on the potential knock-on effects upon the V and A at Dundee and wider Waterfront projects and I will continue to press the matter.

A related matter:

Detailed proposals for the V and A at Dundee project will be on show at the University of Abertay Library on 17th, 18th and 19th January, from 10am to 4pm each day. 

Plans for the new site plus the latest flythrough and visuals will be on display, and visitors will be encouraged to share their views with staff across the three days. 

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

Saturday 22 December 2012

Many thanks Greggs!

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of delivering 100 Christmas pies to the residents of Magdalen House, the care home in Roseangle for adults with learning disabilities.   I am pictured below with some of the residents and a rather large supply of mincemeat pies!
This event took place as part of the West End Christmas events and I am very grateful to Greggs the Bakers on Perth Road, who donated the pies.   A very Happy Christmas to all the folk at Magdalen House!

It's the Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

Friday 21 December 2012

Dundee's 12 days of Christmas ...

Drop In Services this festive season ... click here to download a list in PDF format:

Friday 21st December 2012
7.30pm – Salvation Army, Strathmore Lodge – Friday Night Drop In Christmas Dinner and Carols
10.30pm to 3am – Street Chaplains

Saturday 22nd December 2012
7.30pm to 9pm – Graham’s Soup Kitchen, West Marketgait
10.30pm to 3am – Street Chaplains

Sunday 23rd December 2012
1.15pm to 2.15pm – Food Cupboard, St Salvador’s Church

Monday 24th December 2012
2pm to 3.30pm - Steeple Church Parish Drop in as usual(no HHOT)
6.30pm – Bus stop Drop In, Gate Church, Perth Road
7.30pm to 9pm – Eagles Wings Soup Kitchen, Bell Street

Tuesday 25th December 2012
11am Salvation Army(please contact Salvation Army office on 225448 to book)
7.30pm to 9pm – Eagles Wings Soup Kitchen, Bell Street

Wednesday 26th December 2012
7.30pm to 9pm - Eagles Wings Soup Kitchen, Bell Street
10.30pm to 3am – Street Chaplains

Thursday 27th December 2012
2pm to 3.30pm – Steeple Church Parish drop in – “maybe something a bit special to eat”
6.30pm – Bus stop Drop In, Gate Church, Perth Road
7.30pm to 9pm – Eagles Wings Soup Kitchen, Bell Street

Friday 28th December 2012
10.30pm to 3am – Street Chaplains

Saturday 29th December 2012
7.30pm to 9pm – Graham’s Soup Kitchen, West Marketgait
10.30pm to 3am – Street Chaplains

Sunday 30th December 2012
1.15pm to 2.15pm – Food Cupboard, St Salvador’s Church
2pm to 4pm – The Drop In, Lochee Parish Church

Monday 31st December 2012
2pm to 3.30pm - Steeple Church Parish Drop – Festive Meal
6.30pm – Bus stop Drop In, Gate Church, Perth Road
7.30pm to 9pm – Eagles Wings Soup Kitchen, Bell Street

Tuesday 1st January 2013
7.30pm to 9pm – Eagles Wings Soup Kitchen, Bell Street        

West End Parking consultation ends today ...

The consultation period relative to the proposals for part of the West End ends today.   I am on Radio Tay news this morning about this - click 'play' below to listen:
You can still respond to the consultation as long as the City Council receives your comments today.   This can be done electronically.   More details (plus a link to the on-line questionnaire) are available here.

West End Christmas Fortnight Competition Winners!

Yesterday, I chaired a very positive West End Christmas Fortnight Committee "debrief" meeting at which we discussed the 2012 events and had initial discussions about our 2013 West End Christmas activities.

At this month's West End Community Council meeting, the winners of the Christmas Fortnight Shoppers' Prize Draw and Children's Window Spotting Competition were drawn.   You can download the winners' list here.  It is also available on various community notice boards across the West End.

Another Carpenters' Christmas hit ...

Thursday 20 December 2012

Harris Academy Christmas Carol Service

Earlier this evening, after my last ward surgery at Blackness Primary School before the Christmas break, I had the real pleasure of attending this year's Harris Academy Christmas Carol Service at Logie St John's (Cross) Church - see right.

Despite tonight's torrid weather, there was a huge turnout of parents, families and other local residents.   As always, the Carol Service was a thoroughly enjoyable event and it superbly showcased the musical talents of Harris Academy pupils.

Barney's Fund helps sheltered tenants enjoy Christmas

Yesterday, along with other representatives from local charity Barney’s Fund, established by Barnetts Motor Group, we presented a cheque for £250 to assist the sheltered housing residents of Sinderins Court and Pennycook Court enjoy a Christmas Party to remember.
Pictured above are Andy McBride (Chair, West End Community Council), Sarah Lewis (Home Scotland Scheme Manager), Louise McKenzie (Barnetts Motor Group) and myself as Chair of Barney’s Fund at the cheque presentation.

It was great to see all the residents having a super Christmas Party and we are pleased that Barney’s Fund was able to help with the festivities - see below:

Not knowing what day it is ...

Last night's Evening Telegraph highlighted the rather embarrassing mistake by Dundee SNP, who are currently distributing 2013 "calendars" across the city.   Trouble is ... the "calendar" has a whole month with the wrong days against dates, rendering the calendar completely useless.

As I said in last night's Tele, I'm sure this was caused by a simple clerical error, but eyebrows will be raised that, having had the error pointed out to them, the SNP has said it is intending to continue deliveries into the New Year of this useless calendar.

Additionally, the SNP response in last night's paper states that the "calendar" provides "public information on local councillors' surgeries."   Actually, it doesn't.   No mention of their councillors' surgeries whatsoever.

The SNP should do the sensible thing and produce new and correct calendars for the households they have yet to deliver, rather than sending out something that is useless and misleading.

Christmas theme continues ...

Wednesday 19 December 2012

Adult learning news

The City Council has published its latest adult learning newsletter - you can download this here.

In addition to a number of activities at the Mitchell Street Centre, the newsletter also gives details of the Balgay Hill Nursery School Parents' Group for ethnic minority parents, as well as many other activities city-wide.

Governing Britain from the centre ground

This week marks five years since Nick Clegg became leader of the Liberal Democrats.    

To mark this occasion Nick gave a keynote speech at Centre Forum earlier this week.   The speech highlighted the journey the Party has been on under his leadership.  It set out the Liberal Democrats’ position at the centre ground of British politics and explained how we are building a stronger economy in a fairer society.

Click 'play' below to hear Nick's speech:

Christmas hit from 2000 ...

Tuesday 18 December 2012

Well done, Jericho House!

Earlier today, I attended the latest meeting of the Jericho House support group, the group that assists Jericho House with various projects and its fundraising efforts.    Jericho House in the West End undertakes excellent work assisting people who have alcohol problems.

We were all delighted today to learn that Jericho House has now taken possession of its new minibus - see right - following a sustained fundraising campaign over many months.

We are organising an official 'handover photocall' after Christmas to mark this great step forward for Jericho House.   The new minibus will greatly assist getting the residents at Jericho House out and about.

Update on concerns about delays with Olympia completion

Yesterday, I mentioned that I had highlighted my concerns about the possible knock-on effects of the unfortunate delay to completion of the new Olympia swimming facility.   I spoke further about this on Wave 102 news earlier today - you can hear this by clicking 'play' below:
The City Architect has advised me:

“Mansell had never offered the pool on 24 December 2012. They had indicated that they expected the building works to be substantially complete and that in the post holiday period they would be concentrating on finalising services and commissioning of plant. They had, up to mid-November, maintained their advised Practical Completion target date as 15 February 2013. The Council would then have it's own commissioning period of approximately 6 weeks before opening to the public. These dates had previously been reported to the Pool Project Board.

The first indication the Council had to any delay beyond the hand over date 15 Feb was at an ad-hoc project review meeting, requested by the contractor, on 21 November. They advised that they were reviewing programme completion and intimated a revised completion date between end of April and end of May. At this meeting they were unable to give exact timescales as they were still considering mitigation options. I advised them of the Project Board meeting on 27 Nov and accepted that the later date should be advised to the Board. I duly reported same to the Board with a request that I attend the Leisure and Culture Board meeting on 5 Dec.

Mansell still seek to identify mitigation options.”

It appears from this that as late as mid-November, completion was on target but now I understand the pool is unlikely to be open until around 24th June.  There is a clear project management issue here and my further concern remains its impact on the wider waterfront and V and A project.

Clearly demolition of the old Olympia is key to all this and it is now being delayed by having to stay open until at least June.   I sought clarification as to exactly the impacts of this from the council’s Director of City Development but all that is clear from his response is that nothing is clear.

The Director of City Development last week advised me:

“We are still assessing the implications of the delayed completion and, therefore, I cannot at present give you any detailed advice on this matter.”

I have now written again to the Director, copied to the Chief Executive, stating that clarity on how the delays affecting the new Olympia impact on the V and A at Dundee and Waterfront Project timescales must be given as a matter of some urgency.  

It doesn’t take a mastermind to work out that a four month delay in the new Olympia opening impacts on the ability to move forward demolition of the old Olympia building and to other timescales.     The V and A at Dundee and wider Waterfront project is of paramount importance to the city and clarity and transparency from Dundee City Council on this matter is imperative.

Dundee's libraries

One of the questions I asked at last week's City Council Scrutiny Committee was regarding the decline in library borrowers in Dundee.  I specifically asked if the recent library fines amnesty had been successful.

The Director of Leisure and Communities has since updated Scrutiny Committee members as follows:

Actions being taken by Leisure and Culture Dundee to reduce the marginal decline in the number of borrowers as a percentage of the population are as follows: 

Implementation of a membership drive strategy which will target lapsed and inactive borrowers.  This will involve making direct contact via email or mail to people who were members but have not used libraries recently, to identify reasons for their inactivity and highlight new services.  A major promotion of Outreach Services is scheduled for early in the New Year to target people who are housebound or have difficulty walking distances.  This will inform the re-shaping of the Mobile Library Service and should result in an increased membership.   

A major review of customer service across libraries is underway, which will include strategies to encourage borrowing. 

We are aware that a significant percentage of PC users do not borrow books.  Promotions to encourage cross-usage will be introduced across the City. 

The introduction of the Kidz Card for all primary school children with the library element already activated should have a positive impact which we will capitalise on.   

Although the recent Libraries Festival did not have as big an impact on issue figures as we had hoped, the borrower figure has increased by 1.8%.

As part of the Festival, a Fines Amnesty was promoted to encourage people to return items and re-join the library.  Almost 40,000 items were returned during the fines amnesty in September.  1,671 of these were over six months overdue and 1,206 were over one year overdue.  

The total value of long overdue items being returned is estimated at about £10,000, compared with £1,000 loss of fine income.  Over 1,000 borrowers have been given the opportunity to re-use our services by clearing their records of long overdue items and fines.  

146 ICT taster sessions were delivered by staff within the month, a rise from 46 in September 2011.  

I should stress that the decline is something we will always work against, but borrowers are just one indicator of library usage and overall usage is steadily increasing.

Christina Aguilera - Merry Christmas Baby

Monday 17 December 2012

A busy Monday ...

A busy Monday started with raising constituent concerns about street lighting failing in Grosvenor Road.   The City Council's Street Lighting Partnership has responded as follows:
I have checked the fault with the lights in Grosvenor Road. our stand-by electrician was out over the weekend at the fault which appears to be an underground cable fault. In the short term I will have this repaired tomorrow and in the longer term replace the columns and lanterns in that area.
Later this morning, I was interviewed by both Wave 102 and Radio Tay News regarding my continuing concerns about the effect of the delay in completion of the new Olympia - as covered by today's Courier.   The Radio Tay News interview can be heard by clicking 'play' below:
Later today, I had a very useful and productive meeting with the new Police Inspector for the West End and Lochee, followed by an equally useful meeting with a local representative of Living Streets on the issue of 20mph zones in residential areas.

After my weekly ward surgeries at the Mitchell Street Centre and at Harris Academy, I took part in tonight's City Council Development Management Committee.   

I was pleased that the committee supported my motion to refuse planning permission for an advertising sign outside the newly improved frontage of the Duncan of Jordanstone building in Perth Road.    Committee voted 20-2 in support of my motion to refuse this advertising sign on the grounds that it fails to preserve or enhance the character of the surrounding Conservation Area.

Blether Tay-gither

On Tuesday 18th December 7pm to 9pm, Blether Tay-gither is presenting Winter Stories in the cosy ambience of the Burgh Coffee House

£3 suggested donation.

Contact: for more information!

From Christmas 1975 ...

Liked this in 1975 - and still do ...! 

Sunday 16 December 2012

BBC Scotland project - looking for volunteers

Ever wondered how much power it takes to cook a frozen pizza, power a games console, or take a hot shower?  Ever considered using alternative energy to power these appliances, reducing your carbon footprint and your energy bills?

BBC Scotland’s The Day the Power Went Off is an entertaining television documentary that looks at the way we use power in our own homes.

In this fun experiment, a Scottish street will go ‘off grid’ and explore the possibilities of alternative power. However, this is not a step back in time experiment, as the street will continue to use modern gadgets and live their day-to-day lives. With the help of Eco-experts and inventions, individuals will decide on the best way to cook, wash and keep warm in their homes. And they will have to be creative in powering up the karaoke machine and hot tub for the street party! 

We are looking for a Scottish street or collection of houses (north Scotland) who could be interested in this project.   The programme will be filmed in March 2013.

If you would like to hear more about this project, or know of any potential people or streets who might like to take part, please contact Natalie Moss at BBC Scotland: Tel: 0141 422 6342 or

Mariah Carey - All I Want For Christmas Is You

Saturday 15 December 2012

Celebrating Harris

Last night, I had the pleasure of attending the "Celebrating Harris" film preview and exhibition at the Central Library and Steps Theatre.   It was an extremely well-attended event - despite a horribly cold and rainy evening - with many pupils, parents, FPs and other residents attending.

The film "Celebrating Harris" was both an entertaining and moving documentary created by Harris Academy pupils, with contributions from many former pupils including Sheena Wellington and Stefani Dailly and filmed by Pure Media UK.

The exhibition and drama were also excellent and it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening.   "Celebrating Harris" is a great tribute to the history, ethos and traditions of Harris Academy as it moves into a new era with the construction of its new building starting next August.

Been in Edinburgh ...

I spent the past couple of days in Edinburgh with 'day job' meetings and a reception.    Edinburgh is looking lovely and festive, as the photos below allude to!

Michael Bublé - Grown Up Christmas List

Friday 14 December 2012

West End residents' parking proposals - don't forget to give your views

I have previously updated residents about the public consultation on residents' parking in part of the West End, in an area that approximately covers west of Marketgait, east of Richmond Court and south of Blackness Road.

A reminder that the consultation ends on 21st December and I would encourage all residents in or near the area - or any other resident or local business with views - to give their feedback before the deadline.    

You can read full details of the consultation here and you can download the questionnaire at

Continuing the Christmas theme ...

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel - Enya:

Thursday 13 December 2012

Week thus far ...

It has been a busy week thus far - here's a resume of some of my activities:

* Monday - Council Committees - After the site visit to the Kelso Steps I advised of earlier, I held my Monday ward surgeries at Harris Academy and the Mitchell Street Centre.   Thereafter, I participated in City Council meetings.

At the Environment Committee, I welcomed the update about the cremated remains project at Western Cemetery that I have taken a close interest in.    I also raised the need for some environmental improvements at Balgay Cemetery and cited the concerns of an elderly lady who is concerned about the area around her parents' grave.   I also queried targets for increased use of electric and other low carbon vehicles by Dundee City Council and have since had a useful update from the council's Environment Director on the matter.

At City Development Committee, I was pleased to note progress towards ensuring the Rockwell site is ready for Harris Academy pupils next August but again highlighted the council's failure to put the very significant decant tender out to the open market.   The tendered price submitted by the council's Environment   Department is a very significant £843 578 and this should have been subject to competitive tendering to ensure best value to the Council Tax Payer.    It is reminiscent of the Dudhope Castle refurbishment I criticised earlier this year - £859 136 that was not subject to competitive tender. 

At Policy and Resources Committee, I supported the proposal for an all-party action group to see what can be done to help Dundee Remploy workers (I have also been in touch with the council's Head of Economic Development about the very concerning situation affecting Remploy in Dundee).   I also queried progress with staffing arrangements for the delivery of the Scottish Welfare Fund from April 2013 and seconded a motion by Bailie Derek Scott, who rightly opposed a new second civic car - an extravagance that cannot be justified in the current financial climate.   

* Tuesday - On Tuesday evening, I firstly attended part of the Blackness Primary School Parent Council meeting at which Mr Ferrier, Head Teacher, gave a comprehensive update on recent school activities and a resume of PE and music provision at the school.

Thereafter, I took part in the monthly West End Community Council meeting - the best attended for some time, no doubt due to the discussion about the parking consultation in part of the West End.   The Courier report yesterday gives a good summary of the discussion.   At the Community Council, the shoppers' prize draw and children's window spotting competition winners from West End Christmas week were drawn - more details to follow!

* Wednesday - Scrutiny Committee - After yesterday's photocall at Kwik Fit, I took part in the City Council's Scrutiny Committee, at which, amongst other matters, I queried the scrutiny of performance in schools arising out of the inspection report on St Andrew's Primary School, questioned council tax in-year collection targets, asked about the future of anti-fraud work given the moves towards the Single Fraud Investigation Service and also questioned fuel management arrangements.