Supporting Earth Hour

Tonight I will be supporting Earth Hour by switching off the lights in my house.  Dundee City Council will also be supporting the event.

It is important that we take a stand against climate change.  Throughout my time on the council I have tried to be at the forefront of environmental campaigns.  I have campaigned to improve air quality in our city and in my local community.  I have campaigned to improve recycling.  I have campaigned to support greener cars.

I am committed to making Dundee a better place..

The Earth's atmosphere is warming fast. In some cases weather patterns, climates and natural environments are changing quicker than wildlife or people can adapt.

So many of the world's biggest existing challenges, from poverty to wildlife extinction to extreme weather, are made more difficult by climate change. We have the science, the technology and innovation to turn this around. 

Climate change impacts on the poorest people in society most.  We must all work together to protect our planet and our local communities.

You can find out more and sign up for Earth Hour at the WWF website.


Police Community Surgeries

Last month I was delighted to support Police Scotland's Community surgeries in the West End.  It is good that the police are looking for ways to engage with local people.  I would encourage anyone who wants to have a chat with the local police to get along to these events.  The police are able to chat to you about crime prevention and if you want to report any non-urgent concerns to the police you can speak to the police there.  Remember to call 101 or 999 in case of any emergency.

Today from 1pm until 4pm there will be a Community Surgery in the  Mitchell Street Centre, the surgeries will be there on the first Tuesday of the month from now on.

Next Monday, 13th March, from 1pm until 4pm there will be a Community Surgery at Blackness Library, the surgeries will be there on the second Monday of the month from now on.

I welcome this initiative from Police Scotland and I think that it is a welcome return to putting community policing at the heart of what the police do.  Since Police Scotland was set up I think that not enough attention has been placed on community policing and local people have complained to me about this.  Hopefully, this is the start of a real change in attitude from Police Scotland.  I would also like to see Police Scotland make significant use of the one of the best community facilities that they have in our area, Ryehill Police Station.  It would be good if local people could regularly contact the police at our local police station.


Stop Ripping Off Music Fans

I'm calling for Dundee City Council to protect music fans from rip-off ticket prices at the Slessor Gardens venue.  I welcome the addition of this new music venue to the city and hopes that it is a huge success.  Last Friday when Olly Murs tickets went on sale just a couple of hours after they went on sale I was able to find tickets on sale on secondary websites with a mark-up of at least 50%.  The Little Mix concert in Slessor Gardens in June is apparently sold out yet over 200 tickets were for sale today at higher than the face-value of the ticket for this concert.

I welcome the development of Slessor Gardens as a music venue and I hope that it is a success.  I do have concerns though that the council has become complicit in ripping-off music fans.  Slessor Gardens belongs to the council, the council is hiring it out to music promoters who are then selling tickets which quickly make their way on to the secondary ticket market at much more than face-value.  Often the secondary ticket selling website is closely associated with or even the same company as the primary or face-value ticket selling website.  There are allegations of collusion between websites which allow re-sale website to harvest large numbers of tickets for sale at above face-value.

People unable to get tickets from the ticket website often end-up buying tickets from re-sale websites from people or companies who have never had any intention of attending the concert.  For example, Olly Murs tickets went on sale a week ago on Friday, only a couple of hours after they went on sale one re-selling website  Stubhub claimed to have 22 tickets available for this concert, tickets for this concert are priced at either £43.45 or £60.50, on Stubhub the prices varied from £75 to £94.25.

I understand that some people who buy tickets today for a concert in July will be unable to attend due to illness or work commitments for example, but it beggars belief that 22 people bought tickets for a concert on Friday morning with the intention of going and before lunchtime had worked out that they were unable to attend and had already put their tickets up for sale on a re-sale website, and this only on one website.

I know that many young people in Dundee were disappointed to apparently miss out on tickets to see Little Mix.  It is therefore a little surprising to see that on just two of the re-sale websites Getmein and Viagogo nearly 300 tickets were available priced between £76.89 and £187 each for this 'sell-out' concert.  Surely there cannot be 300 people who bought tickets for this concert and cannot now go.

I am a football fan and my understanding is that if you stood outside Dens or Tannadice and tried to sell tickets for more than their face value you risk being arrested.  Why do similar rules not apply online?  It is alleged that many of these resellers use technology to harvest tickets which are put up for sale online at face value and that they only do this with the intention of trying to cash in by selling at inflated prices.  Some of these re-sale websites are linked to original sale website, for example Getmein is owned by Ticketmaster.  This needs to be regulated.

I think that people or companies profiteering on the sale of tickets should be ashamed of themselves.  There needs to be much more regulation of this industry.  There is a need for much more transparency.  The UK Government is looking at this issue and I have written to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Karen Bradley, asking when the UK Government is going to take action to protect the interests of music fans.

Dundee City Council should look to create contracts with promoters at Slessor Gardens and elsewhere which prevent music fans from being ripped-off.  The way the market works just now is at best unethical and should be made illegal.  I want Slessor Gardens to develop as a music venue but I am appalled that the council is colluding with sharp practice by music promoters.  I have written to the council asking them to look into this matter and I would hope that before any other concerts are arranged that Dundee City Council has come up with a way of preventing fans being ripped-off.


Regional Performance Centre for Sport

Last week at the council's Policy & Resources Committee a report was considered which contained the latest update the plans for the Regional Performance Centre for Sport  planned for Caird Park.  There has been a lot of controversy about this proposal.  The report was not about planning issues. During the debate Councillor Jimmy Black spoke about the need for more openness and transparency on the whole I agree with Councillor Black on much of this.

There was much talk about openness and transparency during the debate on the Regional Performance Centre.  In the spirit of openness and transparency as a member of the Project Board I felt the need to make my views known about the lack of openness and transparency on the Project Board.  Whilst the Project Board is not the decision making body, that is the Policy & Resources Committee, items are reported to the Project Board after decisions or actions have been taken.  I feel that the lessons from the McClelland Review have not been learnt.  There is an unwillingness to have meaningful discussions at the Project Board which include all of its members.  It appears that decisions have been made elsewhere prior to the meeting, whether these decisions have been made in the SNP Group or by Senior Officers is not clear to me.

Campaigning for the National Performance
 Centre for Sport to be in Dundee
In December it was reported to the Project Board that Dundee FC were pulling out of the project and we were told that this was confidential and that much of what was discussed was confidential and would be reported to the council in an appropriate manner.  That an official press release covering most of what was discussed at the meeting was then issued immediately after the meeting was astonishing.  This demonstrated a lack of good faith, and a lack of commitment to openness and transparency.

I have raised my concerns with officers of the council and I hope that they have listened to me.  I also want to make clear that whilst not expressing any opinion on any future planning application that I support the investment which the regional performance centre represents.  I campaigned for the National Performance Centre to come to Dundee and was disappointed that Dundee missed out, yet again, on Scottish Government investment.

I do worry about an addiction to secrecy prevalent in the council.  I worry that the lessons that should have been learnt from the debacle around costs at the V & A have not been learnt.  The McClelland Review was meant to change things I fear that we are back to business as usual.  If officers and the SNP Administration are convinced of the case for the Regional Performance Centre then they should have nothing to fear from openness and transparency.


Where is Dundee's City Deal?

Yesterday the Scottish Government, the Scotland Office and Highland Council pr formally signed-off the £315 million Inverness City Deal.  Yet again I re-iterated my question 'where is Dundee's City Deal?'  On numerous occasions along with others I have asked for details of the City Deal for Dundee. I'm very concerned that Dundee seems to be at the back of the queue.

I have asked for details of the City Deal for Dundee and for an answer as to why our city appears to be at the back of the queue.  I have received a briefing on this which did not shed a great deal of light on the subject.  From my perspective I see other cities and regions in Scotland at the front of the queue receiving funding for projects.  Dundee needs investment and jobs and I want to know why there seems to be a lack of urgency to do a deal.

I have been told that a lot of work is going on in the background, this may well be true but I am still confused about why all the other regions want to tell people about what they are doing and even engage in some kind of public debate about what is proposed.  Dundee's deal appears to be top secret.  Why is Dundee the only city not shouting from the rooftops about the deal that it wants?

I want to hear about plans for jobs and investment sooner rather than later, we need to promote our city.  I will put the interests of Dundee first to help deliver jobs and investment for our city.  I have two questions to ask, firstly why the secrecy and secondly where is our city deal?

I am pleased that the council has now said that there will be a report to the council on 13th February, but it does still beg the question - why the secrecy?


St Joseph's Parent & Community Council

 On Monday evening I was pleased to attend a meeting of the St Joseph's Parent and Community Council at St Joseph's Primary School.  It was great to hear about what is going on in the school.  It is important to get the chance to listen to what is going on in the local schools.

There are real issues around car parking outside the West End campus, including Victoria Park Primary School and Balgay Hill Nursery School as well as St Joseph's.  I will be seeking action from Dundee City Council and from Police Scotland about this issue.  Fundamentally though people parking near to the campus must be sensible and put the safety of all the children at the school first.

Community Energy Co-operative for Dundee?

Solar Panels on Davidson Mains Primary School, Edinburgh
pic Edinburgh Community Solar Co-operative
I support calls for a Community Solar Energy Co-operative for Dundee.  I recently attended a meeting with around twenty other interested people to look at a way forward.  The meeting was facilitated by Energy for All, an umbrella charity that looks at promoting community renewable energy co-operatives.  The idea is a similar to an idea which has been supported by the City of Edinburgh Council, the Edinburgh Community Solar Co-operative.

I am keen that we do everything that we can to protect and improve the environment in Dundee.  We all have our part to play and I think promoting community energy renewables would be a way of doing that in Dundee.  In Edinburgh the City Council facilitated the creation of Edinburgh Community Solar Co-operative which generates electricity from solar panels on the roofs of public buildings.  I was delighted to join a number of like-minded individuals recently to discuss a way forward for a similar plan for Dundee.

There was clearly interest in doing something on this and Energy for All are prepared to support attempts to set up a co-operative.  Dundee is Scotland's sunniest city and I am sure that we should find a way of using that solar energy to heat the homes of Dundee.  I think that we should be looking to do this because it will be good for the environment but I also think that it could be a way of dealing with the scourge of fuel poverty in our city.  I think that Edinburgh and rural communities across Scotland have shown the way that people should get together to form a co-operative to help themselves and their community to produce green energy and perhaps even a return on their investment.

I also think that as part of Dundee's role as an UNESCO City of Design we should be saying to architects across the city design energy efficiency and design community renewables into your plans.  Dundee boasts a lot of new school buildings and not enough was done to ensure that they had solar panels on their roofs, even south facing flat roofs do not have solar panels.

These proposals are at a very early stage and we are looking for people who are interested to express an interest at this stage. Hopefully though, this is an idea which could make a difference to Dundee.

If you are interested in this idea, you can like the Facebook page

Time to think differently on car parking

I am glad that the council has agreed to take action around West End car parking. Discussions at meetings must lead to action. I will be keeping a close eye on this it is important that these meetings do not become the equivalent of the long-grass.

Some local people are suggesting that we look at using city centre car parks as a means of taking cars off the streets of the West End.

It seems to me that many of the standard approaches to car parking have been tried already. I think that there is a need for open minds which are prepared to think differently. We need to listen to local people about the problems and listen to their ideas about the way forward.

We need to look at ideas from other places, can we solve the problem by doing things differently.   I welcome the proposals which have been discussed by the West End Community Council.  We should be looking to see if it is possible to use all of the car parking resources of the council to solve the problem.  These may or may not be the solution to the problem but we need to be open to new thinking.  If the proposed meetings are to have any point then nothing should be ruled out prior to the meeting.

We also need to engage with employers and organisations which generate large amounts of traffic such as Ninewells Hospital and the University of Dundee.

I am looking forward to constructive meetings and hopefully some genuine progress to try and solve the problems which I see on a daily basis as a local councillor and resident.


Farmhouse Breakfast at Blackness Primary School

Speaking to some of the young people at Blackness Primary
As an active co-operator I am proud to be the Vice-Chair of Scotmid Co-operative's North Regional Committee.  As part of that role I was pleased to get along to Blackness Primary School in the West End today to help the Royal Highland Education Trust (RHET) deliver their  'Shake-up your Wake-Up' Farmhouse Breakfast Week event.

Today Primary 6 had the chance to hear about where the food they eat really comes from, that is not the supermarket or even the local Scotmid but from farms.  The young people also had the chance to try some excellent local Scottish produce.  They also learnt about the idea of food miles, and discussed how it was a good idea that these were kept to a minimum.  I also had the chance to see if my waiting skills, learned whilst a student, had left me.  I really enjoyed myself and it was great to see young people try things that they hadn't tried before like porridge or rhubarb yoghurt.

This was an excellent event - well done to the RHET and their sponsors including Scotmid.  I think linking our farms and our agricultural and food businesses with consumers is important.  As regular readers will know I am a champion of Fairtrade and I think that this is linked because I think that we should all have an interest in where our food comes from whether that is oats and berries grown in Angus or Perthshire or oranges and bananas grown in Africa or South America.

It was also great to visit Blackness Primary School today and see the great work which is going on there and to meet the very well-behaved Primary 6 class.

Movement on car parking?

I welcome movement by Dundee City Council on car parking in the West End.  I seconded a motion that would have seen action by the Council, this was withdrawn after the council agreed to broaden the remit of the working party which is currently looking at the Perth Road District Shopping Area.

It was good to hear local people make the case about the need to deal with car parking issues in the West End at the meeting.

I am pleased that the council eventually agreed to take some action with regard to car parking in the West End.  I supported the council looking to take action in the West End because as a local councillor and local resident I know that this is a huge issue for local people.  It impacts on people's quality of life and on the economic activity of the area.

Car parking is clearly a big issue in the West End.  A few recent surveys have pointed out that this is the case, such as the one undertaken as part of the consultation on the future of the Perth Road District Shopping Area. It is an issue that is raised with me time after time.

I am not making the case that there are no car parking issues in other parts of the city.  There are, and especially in parts of the city that like the West End border, or indeed include, the city centre, like the Maryfield Ward and the Coldside ward.

When the people of the West End rejected the previous Resident’s Parking scheme they were told that this was not the end of efforts to improve car parking.  Since then nothing has happened.

I am clear that there are issues on Roseangle and Magdalen Yard Road and in the Perth Road lanes and that there are issues even up to Blackness Avenue and the roads off it.

One size does not fit all and we need to look at ways of dealing with some of the car parking issues in the area.  I am clear that one of those is dealing with our reliance on car, and I include myself in that.  We should be looking to bring forward solutions tailored to local needs.  To do this the council needs to listen to the views of local people.

I know that there is not an easy solution to these problems but neither is the solution to say that we will do nothing.

I hope that the council will listen to the people of the West End.  It is good that a forum for discussing this has been found and I want local people to send me their parking issues.  I want to go to this meeting with as full a picture as possible of the issues in the West End.

I hope that the compromise which has been found tonight will lead to results, but I will be watching closely.  We do need to talk about the issues but we also need to take action sooner rather than later.  So, I want to see progress soon.


Car Parking Issues - Again

It is fair to say that one of the issues most frequently raised with me as a local councillor in the West End is the issue of car parking.  I have made clear that I understand why local people did not back the previous attempt at a one-size-fits-all residents car parking scheme.  I also made clear at the time when this was finally rejected that this could not be the end of the discussion.  There are still issues around car parking in the West End.

I have said before and I will say it again  that I think that the council should look at local solutions to car parking issues.  One-size-fits-all doesn't work and we need to change how we look at these things. The issues vary from street to street.  I am also clear that we all have look at our reliance on having easy access to our own car, and that includes me.

Last week the Evening Telegraph produced figures which showed that Dundee City Council was owed £1.4 million in parking fines.  I am clear that people who owe the council money should pay what they are due.  Some of the streets where most parking tickets are issues are in the West End, such as Perth Road (it is a very long street) and South Tay Street.  I do think that we need to have a look at parking regulations especially around the periphery of the city centre.

I think that parking regulations in the city centre and on its edges push many people to park in the West End and in other areas near to the city centre.  In the West End this includes areas like the Perth Road, Magdelen Green, Roseangle, the Perth Road lanes and even as far up as Blackness Avenue and the streets off it.

I think that we need to sit down and look at these issues, is the council assisting businesses through its parking regulations or making life difficult for them.  The council has income targets for car parking and I wonder if this influences policy too much in these times of austerity.  I understand a need for regulation to ensure that spaces are freed up regularly and that cars cannot be abandoned for days or weeks on end.  I do think that we need to have a look at whether what the council is doing at the moment is benefiting the people the council is trying to help.


Harris Academy Official Re-opening

I was pleased to join pupils and staff at Harris Academy today for the Official Re-opening.  John Swinney carried out the official opening.

It was a very enjoyable event and the pupils used the event to show off their skills.  There were great musical performances, multi-visual presentations and baking!

This was a very positive day for Harris Academy. I am sure that its enhanced buildings and facilities will help promote a wider range of learning opportunities for all of its pupils. It is clear that Councillors made the right decision to rebulid the school from scratch rather than refurbish the existing buildings from the 1930's and 1960's.

I am pleased as one of the local councillors to have played my part in delivering a new school for Harris.  There have been teething issues.  I look forward to working with the school and the council to deliver the best school possible for the young people at Harris Academy.

I was pleased to be at the event with among others my colleague Councillor Laurie Bidwell.  Laurie commented as below,
"The facilities of the new school are very impressive. I am sure that staff and pupils who worked through the three year decant to Rockwell will be relieved to be back on the Perth Road enjoying their impressive new school buildings. My only regret is that, from the feasibility study that I instructed in my time as Education Convener which was completed by April 2009, it has taken seven years to realise our ambitions for a new Harris Academy."

I would like to wish all the pupils and staff of Harris Academy all the very best in their new school.


Black & British: A Forgotten History - Dundee's diverse history

Last week the latest episode of Black and British; A Forgotten History featured a little known part of Dundee's diverse history.  This was the visit of Frederick Douglass, the escaped American slave, who spoke in favour of the abolition of slavery at the Bell Street Baptist Chapel.  This building is now the council's Music Centre for school pupils.  You can watch the programme on BBC iPlayer here.

I was pleased to have been present when the Dundee section of the programme was filmed.  The story of Frederick Douglass's visit to Dundee is fascinating.  It is remarkable to think that large numbers of Dundonians wanted to listen to Frederick Douglass in 1846.  The series demonstrates that Dundee's history, Scotland's history and the history of the UK is not just the story of rich, white men which is how it can sometimes seem.

As a historian I think that it is important that we recognise that our story and the story of our city is much more complex and diverse than we usually think.

I am pleased that one of the outcomes of the programme is that there is now a plaque on the wall at the Music Centre which marks Frederick Douglass's visit.  As the council intends to stop using this building soon I am asking that we make sure that any future use of the building preserves the historic connection with Douglass which has just been acknowledged.

I also think that we should look to celebrate Dundee's diverse history on a more regular basis. Along with my colleague Councillor Georgia Cruickshank I am looking to see if we can develop a way to celebrate Black History month in Dundee.  Black History Month is marked in October each year and I hope that we can find a way to mark this each year.


Homelessness Far From Fixed

I am pleased to support Shelter Scotland's Homelessness - Far From Fixed campaign.  Homelessness can happen to anyone.  It is shocking and shameful that homelessness still exists in Scotland today.  Dundee City Council and the Scottish Government must do all that they can to fix homelessness in Dundee and across Scotland.

Homelessness in Dundee:

  • 1,085 Dundee Households assessed as homeless last year
  • 283 Dundee households currently in temporary accommodation
  • 127 Children in Dundee currently in temporary housing
  • 954 Dundee cases opened by Shelter Scotland advisors and volunteers last year
  • 423 calls to Shelter Scotland's free national helpline were from Dundee last year
(Source Shelter Scotland)

I will be seeking a briefing from Dundee City Council about how the council deals with homelessness.  It is important that families have access to appropriate good quality housing. 

 As part of Shelter Scotland's campaign I played their game of snakes and ladders.  This was a little
bit of fun which made a serious political point about the problems faced by families who might become homeless.


Playing games at planning?

At Monday evening's Development Management Committee there was a debate on an application by Aldi to build a store next to Asda at Myrekirk.  This was odd given that Dundee City Council's Development Management Committee agreed to the very same application last year.  I have concerns about why we were put in a position to make a decision on an issue that we had already decided upon. 

I support people and companies having recourse to the courts in order to ensure that the law has been correctly applied.  I would point out that when the council ends being involved in this there is a cost to council taxpayer.

I have written to the Cabinet Secretary, Angela Constance MSP, to raise my concerns about this case.  It is ludicrous, in my opinion, that we were asked to make a judgement on an identical planning application to one which had already been approved.  I asked on Monday night why the council did not just say that we had a position on this and move on.  I understand why I was told that this could not happen but I think that does mean that we should consider whether the law should be changed.  I felt that both Aldi and Asda were playing games on Monday evening with their deputations.  That may be fine for two commercial rivals to do what they think they must to preserve their profits but this impacts on the people of Dundee and has a potential to impact on the future of council services in Dundee.

I am particularly concerned about the cost to Dundee City Council of court proceedings which may or may not be the result, in part at least, of a commercial tactic to prevent rival shops from opening.

I do hope that the various planning applications and legal proceedings in this case are all genuine.  It would be appalling if any of these parties were playing games to frustrate the sales potential of a rival.

I think that councillors and the council were put in a very difficult position on Monday evening and that a change in legislation might go some way to stopping this happening in the future.


Where is Dundee's City Deal?

The Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Autumn Statement  announced that he recommitted to the Tay Cities deal, whatever that means.  I think that there should be some public talking about what is planned but also importantly action, some areas are seeing investment already,
and Dundee seems to be at the back of the queue.

Along with a number of my colleagues I have been asking "where is Dundee's City Deal?"   I want to know why Dundee is at the back of the queue when it comes to the City Deal.  Dundee needs jobs, Dundee needs investment.  If those in positions of authority in Dundee can't be bothered to deliver a City Deal for Dundee then they should get out of the way and let people who have the best interests of Dundee and the people of Dundee at heart take their place and deliver investment for our city.

I have asked time and time again why Dundee's City Deal has not been brought forward and have yet to receive a convincing answer.  Our city needs jobs, our city needs action, our city needs investment, our city needs a City Deal.


Stop Threatened Closure of Ryehill Police Station

Some of the Local People Campaigning to Keep Ryehill Police Station Open
with Jenny Marra MSP & Councillor Richard McCready
Along with my colleague Jenny Marra MSP I am calling on Police Scotland and the Scottish Government to stop the threat of closing Ryehill Police Station. Police Scotland have attempted to kick the issue into the long grass but answers received in the Scottish Parliament and in correspondence in the past week show that Police Scotland plan to consult on closing Ryehill Police Station in the near future. Jenny has tabled a motion in the Scottish Parliament calling for the consultation to be dropped and for the station to stay open, while I am continuing to collect signatures for a petition against closure.  You can sign the petition here.

Police Scotland are saying that they are not going to close the station just now but crucially they say that "cannot give assurances" about the "long-term future" of the station. This is not good enough. The Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Michael Matheson told me in a letter that Police Scotland would be consulting on the future of Ryehill Police Office. I want a cast-iron guarantee for the future of Ryehill Police Office and a public-facing police presence in the West End for the long-term. That is why I am continuing to campaign on this important issue and collect signatures from local people in support of keeping Ryehill open.

The people of the West End need clarity on the future of Ryehill. I want a clear guarantee from Police Scotland that it will be staying open.

Jenny Marra MSP said, 'I want a guarantee that Ryehill Police Station will stay open. Ryehill was not included in the list of 58 police stations which are proposed for closure by Police Scotland but it is clear from the Cabinet Secretary in answer to Councillor McCready and myself that they do plan to consult on closing Ryehill. This lack of transparency is disgraceful. I have tabled a motion in the Scottish Parliament calling for Ryehill Police Station to remain open. There was cross-party support for Ryehill Police Station when it was debated by Dundee City Council recently, and I hope that there will be cross-party support for my motion.'

You can read a copy of the letter which I received from Michael Matheson MSP, the Cabinet Secretary forJustice, which makes it clear that there are plans to consult on closingRyehill Police Station.

Please see text of the motion tabled by Jenny Marra MSP below:

Ryehill Police Station

That the Parliament notes the consultations being conducted by Police Scotland into the future of 58 police stations around Scotland; understands that the proposed consultation on the future of Ryehill police station in the west end of Dundee was not on the published list but that the consultation on this station is due to start in January 2017; believes that it is misleading that Ryehill was not included in the list of stations under consideration; understands that closure of the station will be one of the options included in the consultation; further understands that Police Scotland has confirmed that the option of sharing facilities with other public bodies such as the council is not possible in the Ryehill building because of space constraints; notes that Police Scotland has indicated that, if Ryehill is to close, police officers for the west end community won't be based in that area but in the neighbouring council wards of Lochee and Maryfield; believes that this is not the level of service that local residents expect and deserve; considers that, if Ryehill closes, visible policing in the west end would effectively cease; understands that, for this reason, there is strong local opposition to the consultation and potential closure of Ryehill police station, and notes the calls on the Scottish Government and Police Scotland to drop the consultation and keep Ryehill open.


Remembrance Sunday

Today was Remembrance Sunday.  I know that services and commemorations took place across Dundee today.  I was at St Joseph's Church in Wilkie's Lane.  St Joseph's has a fine First World War memorial outside the church.  It is easy to walk past the memorial and for it to fade into the background in some respects, but today standing facing the memorial and looking at the list of names was humbling.  The memorial has 234 names on it.  These are all people who lived in the streets and lanes of the West End.  News of their deaths brought sadness to many households across the West End.  Thinking about this brings home the impact of the War here in Dundee.

I was honoured to be asked to read the famous verse from the Ode of Remembrance by Laurence Binyon:

'They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.'

It is important to remember those who have died in conflict over the years and to redouble efforts to say 'Never again.'

If you want to support the Poppy appeal please visit PoppyScotland's Website.


Perth Road Shopping Area Consultation

Concerned over empty shops on the Perth Road
Earlier today I popped into the Tartan CafĂ© on the Perth Road to visit the consultation on the future of the Perth Road.  I have long been campaigning about protecting the Perth Road shops.

I am concerned that there was a period a few months ago when shop after shop and restaurant appeared to be closing.  A number of new places have opened recently and hopefully this demonstrates confidence in the area.

As a local councillor and local resident I want to see good quality facilities for local people on the Perth Road.  I want to see a vibrant mix of independent retailers and specialist shops, but we also need to provide shops that cater for every pocket.

The consultation being carried out by the council is about what can be done to improve the area.  I know that the issue of parking will come up and I still believe that the council needs to look at this issue and with more flexibility.  One size does not fit all.

I want to look at possibilities for branding the Perth Road shopping area.  I think that we should also look at things like street furniture and public art as a way of making the area more interesting.

 I would also be keen to explore ideas like the Perth Road Pound.  This would be a form of 'currency ' that could be used in all the shops in the area, in effect a bit like vouchers.  This is an idea that has been tried in a number of other areas like Bristol you can find out more about the Bristol Pound here.

Fundamentally, the council needs to hear from local businesses and local people.  What do you think should be done in the Perth Road.  You can find out a little more on the council's website or make your views known to localdevplan@dundeecity.gov.uk

There can be few people left who haven't shopped online or at an out-of-town store (and I am certainly not one of them) but we need to acknowledge that we need to use the Perth Road shops or the threat is there that we lose them.

I look forward to the council creating plans to improve and enhance the Perth Road.


Localism Prioirity for Police Scotland - Keep Ryehill Police Station

 I welcome the publication of Strategic Police Priorities for Scotland by the Scottish Government. I particularly welcome the commitment to localism in the document which makes the case for investment in the Police Station at Ryehill in the West End ward rather than its closure which is planned by Police Scotland. I"ve written to Michael Matheson, Cabinet Secretary for Justice asking him to support the campaiIgn by local people in the West End to keep Ryehill Police Station open.

I welcome the Scottish Government's strategic priorities for policing. The first priority is localism. This flies in the face of attempts to close the local police station in the West End. I think that the priority around 'localism' makes the case for developing the services available from Ryehill rather than for its closure.

Whilst localism is clearly the top priority which would lead to the retention of Ryehill Police Station all the other priorities set out in the document also contribute to the case for keeping Ryehill open.

I  will be making the case to the Scottish Government and to Police Scotland that the needs of the local community in the West End are to have a local police presence which is accessible and public-facing.

I have written to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Michael Matheson, asking him how the priorities that he has set out are compatible with the plans that Police Scotland have the closure of our local police station in the West End. Given Mr Matheson's commitment to localism I have asked him to support the campaign to keep Ryehill Police Station open and to sign the petition which I have launched on this important issue.

You can also sign the petition by clicking here  



Richard Sloan RIP

I was saddened to hear of the death of my friend and comrade Richard Sloan.  Many people like me will know Richard through politics but at this sad time it is important to remember Richard as a husband and father and friend to many and to pass on our condolences to Mairi and the family he leaves behind.

When i first met Dick Sloan he was serving as one of my predecessors as a District Councillor for parts of what is now my ward. Dick stood down from the council at local government reorganisation.

Dick and I worked hard in the run-up to the 1997 General Election to assist in the successful election campaign for Anne Begg in Aberdeen South.

I have enjoyed campaigning with Dick over many campaigns. I will miss his enthusiasm and his irreverent sense of humour.

I was speaking to Dick only on Wednesday of last week and we were discussing next year's council elections. It is an appalling thought that when that election comes round Dick won't be there to help.

Dick had recently been helping with our campaign to keep Ryehill Police Station open.

I shall miss his commitment, his intelligence and his sense of fun

My thoughts are with his family at this very sad time. Rest in Peace Dick.
Dick Sloan and me collecting signatures for the petition to Save Ryehill Police Station


Ryehill Police Station - Support from Unison

On Saturday I was pleased to be joined by a number of local people campaigning to keep Ryehill Police Station open.  Local people were coming forward unprompted to sign my petition against the closure.  You can sign the petition here.

I was really pleased to be joined by members of the Unison Police Scotland Staff branch, who showed their support for the campaign.  Cuts in police staff numbers have had a big impact on the work which Police Scotland does.  Indeed there are now cases of very well-paid, highly trained across a variety of roles police officers who are empowered to work on the streets to make places like the West End safer sitting in offices doing tasks which were previously done by police staff.

Indeed I am clear that I think that Ryehill Police Station should remain open but importantly it should have an enhanced public-facing presence.  That public-facing presence would be work for Police Staff.

My campaign to keep Ryehill Police Station open will continue over the next few weeks.


Keep Ryehill Police Station Open

Along with other local residents I have made clear my position that I think that Ryehill Police Station should stay open.  Indeed I think that we should be looking to enhance the facilities at Ryehill rather than close them.

I have also made clear my concern that Police Scotland are carrying out an informal consultation.  I want to know what an informal consultation.  People should know how to respond and how a decision will be made.  I fear that this is a tactic which hopes to create a situation where people will just accept the decision and move on.

I have launched a petition against the closure and I hope that local people will show their support.  You can sign the petition here

It is important that Police Scotland hear the voice of the people of the West End, please sign the petition.


Commercial Waste Recycling - No Increase in Fly-Tipping

At Monday night's Neighbourhood Services Committee there was a proposal put forward which was designed to make sure that commercial operators do not use the Household Waste Recycling Centres at Riverside and Baldovie.

I support making commercial operators pay the appropriate rate for the disposal of waste.  I had some concerns about the way in which this will be implemented though.

I was very concerned that there appeared to have been little thought about the lay-out of the sitesand about how council employees are empowered to be able to challenge anyone who should not be using the centres.

The council was proposing to use new digital resources and some works to help implement the policy, yet there was no evidence that funding was available for this.  It was suggested in the report that this policy would lead to an increase in income.  I want to see that the council delivers on what officers and the SNP Administration say they can deliver.  So I was pleased to be told that the council will report back in around eight months on its performance against increasing income from commercial waste.

I also want to see more items that otherwise might end up in one of the Household Waste Recycling Centres either reused or recycled.  We must do more to prevent resources which could be re-used being binned.

However my main concern would be that this policy ends up creating an unintended consequence which is a rise in fly-tipping.  I think people who shouldn't be using the Household Recycling Centres at the moment know that they shouldn't be using them.  Business ethics might not be their strong point.  I wonder if it is naive to think that these people will accept that they cannot use these sites and then register as commercial operators and pay to dump their rubbish.  I hope they do but I fear a rise in fly-tipping.  This would would be bad for the environment and the amenity of the city and also bad for the finances of the council.  I received reassurances that this would not be the case but I do worry that this policy is counter-productive.