Fire at Replacement Primary School in Whitfield Currently Under Construction

Early yesterday evening a plume of smoke was seen rising from the site of the replacement primary school in Whitfield, which is currently under construction. Initial fears that the fire might take hold were dispelled when it was realised that the fire had been confined to the car park area where a pallet of insulation material had been set alight.

Parents and carers with children anticipating moving into their new school in April will be relieved that the damage at the school site is not extensive.

The fire does however raise questions about the adequacy of site security and how flammable materials were apparently left in a position where they could be set alight. I have written to the Chief Executive and Director of Education to request reassurances that the Police and main contractor, Robertson Construction, have been asked to review security arrangements at this site in Whitfield. We don't want a fire on the scale of the one that destroyed Morgan Academy on our hands.


New Bus Service Begins Connecting Ethiebeaton Park, Pamurefield, Barnhill and West Ferry with Broughty Ferry

I am pleased that on Monday 15 August, the new Travel Dundee bus service 206 will begin to run on a route connecting Ethiebeaton Park, Pamurefield, Barnhill and West Ferry with Broughty Ferry. The service will operate six days a week Monday - Saturday. Each day there will be six services on the continuous loop.

This will restore public transport links to the heart of Broughty Ferry and replace the Service 69 previously operated by Stagecoach.

This improved route should provide a more regular bus service for folk who felt cut off following the much maligned reorganisation of the Travel Dundee bus services last summer. I am pleased that the voices of the fare paying public and Councillors have been eventually been listened to. 

The timetable is below - click on the image to enlarge it:


Damaging Gap in Higher Education Fees for our Universities in Dundee

During the Holyrood elections in May there was an admission by all political parties that Higher Education in Scotland was underfunded by comparison with Universities south of the border. The gravity of the issue has been exacerbated by the revelation of the differences in the size of the gap in funding between Scottish Universities and the SNP. The SNP claim was that by 2014/15 the annual gap could be just over £93 million. However official estimates from the Office of Fair Access show the gap almost three times higher than the SNP claim, at £268 million. 

The SNP solution to this was to propose to charge higher fees to applicants residing in England. Now in government again, the SNP's progress in closing the gap presents two threats to our two Universities in the City. 

Firstly, the new much higher fees in Scotland for students from England will not be introduced until academic year 2012/13 so that there is no top up funding for our Universities until Autumn 2012 at the earliest. In other words another year with a level of funding that the government in Holyrood have already admitted is not enough. This will lead to more damaging cuts. 

Secondly, the slow pace at which SNP government ministers are introducing these changes means that it likely that the new regulations to sanction the fee changes will not be in place until November this year. By that time, many applicants will have already made their choices for University entrance in 2012/13 and sent off their UCAS forms. I am concerned that, many applicants and their parental financial sponsors may well be put off by the uncertainly that will be created by not knowing what fees will be charged if they were to apply to any university in Scotland. 

This SNP electoral promise is now seen through as a slight of hand conjuring up money where none really exists, at least for the next year or so. This neglect is quietly undermining our Universities. As two of our larger employers in the city this has serious implications for the Dundee economy; when our Universities catch a cold the rest of the Dundee economy sneezes.


Preventing Another Lost Generation of Our Young People

On Tuesday the Waste: a Future You Report was published. The responses of more than 750 young people across the UK paint a depressing picture of the impact of unemployment on their mental health.

Shockingly, it revealed that:
- more than a quarter are so depressed they have contemplated suicide and
- others turn to drink or drugs in the face of serial rejection and bleak prospects.
Of those surveyed in Scotland, 28 per cent said they had contemplated suicide, compared with 25 per cent south of the Border.

A third of Scots often felt their "life was being wasted", while two-thirds said being classed a Neet - Not in Education, Employment of Training - made them "feel bad about themselves".

Scottish unemployment fell to 208,000 between January and March, putting the rate at 7.7 per cent - the same as the UK average. However, Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) recently found the unemployment rate for young people to be around 20 per cent, almost three times the overall figure.

Lucy McTernan, chief executive of CAS, said: "The evidence from Scottish advice bureaux shows that young people in Scotland have been hit hard by the recession, and that this is really causing a wave of anger and despair across their generation.!"

In February 2011,  CAS published a survey of Scots aged 18 to 25, Being Young Being Heard: The impact of the recession on young people in Scotland. The results of their survey apparently took CAS by surprise. The scale of the crisis in our youth is much greater than is generally realised. 

"One in every five young people aged 16 to 24 are now unemployed. For 16- to 17-year-olds, this figure jumps to one in every three."

"These two research reports emphasise just how devastating it is for young people to be out of work and not in education or training. It would clearly be wrong if we in Dundee were ignoring this message and not responding by ensuring more successful transitions from school to work, education or training.

I have written to Michael Wood, the Director of Education and the SNP's Education Convener, Councillor Liz Fordyce asking for review of what is being done in our secondary schools by teachers and other professionals to ease the path from school to work or training or university of our young people. I am sure there is room for improvement. I think that parents, carers and especially our senior school pupils should expect that we would be active in finding more pathways to a positive post school destination.


Worrying Decrease in Job Creation in Scotland as Young People Leave School, College and University

Yesterday the Bank of Scotland Purchase Manager Index monitor was published. It found that the number of new jobs being created in Scotland "stalled" in the past three months and that the number of new business start ups was at its lowest for six months. 

The drop in Scottish job creation is worrying given it comes at a time when normally expect to see an increase in jobs due to seasonal upturns.

The downturn in the number of new jobs is particularly concerning as it comes as our young people are leaving school, college and university and are looking for work. With youth unemployment remaining stubbornly high this downturn will undoubtedly hit young people hardest.

The SNP administration of the City Council must ensure that our school leavers are better qualified and have the job skills to confidently enter the job market. 

The SNP government in Edinburgh must redouble its efforts to stimulate growth and create jobs to ensure the strong levels of growth and employment we all want to see.


Smartphone Version of my Blog Launched

I've launched the smartphone version of my blog so that constituents in Broughty Ferry can read of my work on their mobile phones that can access the Internet.

The address to type into the browser of your phone is simply :
(There's no http://www. beforehand )

Sales of smartphones (mobile phones which can access the Internet) are forecast to outstrip the sales of PCs this year for the first time ever, with the numbers buying standard mobile phones declining.

More and more information is being made available on smartphones, including politics, and my new smartphone website means that constituents can keep up to date with my work for them when they're not at a PC or laptop.


Happy Birthday NHS

The NHS celebrates its 63rd birthday this week. Launched by Aneurin Bevan in July 1948, I think the NHS is Labour's most enduring and cherished public service.

We can be thankful that NHS Scotland is not about to be reorganised by David Cameron. This does not mean however that the NHS in Scotland is immune from cutbacks. In fact staff numbers in nursing and midwifery are in significant decline; reduced by the SNP government in Holyrood. Recent publication of official NHS Scotland workforce statistics showed that over the first six months of 2011, 1,600 Whole-Time Equivalent (WTE) NHS staff have lost their jobs, including over 700 nurses and midwives. 

At the time, Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health, Jackie Baillie MSP, said:
“The SNP said they would cut NHS managers, but it is clear from these new figures that it is frontline nurses that are being forced to bear the brunt of the SNP’s cuts. It is simply unacceptable. 

“Cuts on this scale will place enormous pressure on the staff that are left behind. There are real concerns about patient care and increased risk of Hospital Acquired Infections like C.diff as staff struggle to cope.”

The published statistics show that
  • The total number of staff in post (WTE) as at 31 March 2011 is 133,325.6 (excluding GPs & GDs) compared with 134,964.2 (WTE) as at 30 September 2010. This is a decrease of 1.2% (1,638.6 WTE). (figures extracted from Table OAQT1 on p.7)
  • The number of nursing and midwifery staff in post as at 31 March 2011 is 57,166.9 (WTE), compared to 57,878.3 (WTE) as at 30 September 2010, a decrease of 1.2% (711.4 WTE). (figures extracted from Table NMQT2 on p.23)

The full figures are available at


Grove Heating System - Consultant's Report Witheld

In the Courier this morning, there is an article about the difficulties with the heating and ventilation system at Grove Academy. This is based on comments from outgoing Head Teacher, John Hunter, who drew attention to this in his address to parents, carers and pupils at the Grove Prize Giving in the Caird Hall on Wednesday 29 June. 

In essence his complaint is that the heating and ventilation system at Grove has yet to consistently deliver an optimum temperature for teaching and learning throughout the school. In a new school, this should be expected to be like Golidilock's porridge; classroom temperatures that are neither too hot nor too cold; just right. 

While Ken Guild, a Councillor in the Ferry and the Leader of the Council feigns surprise, he should know that these concerns have featured in the reports by John Hunter to meetings of the Parent Council. So this is nothing new, but one that the is overdue for sorting out.

As a result of the acknowledged heating and ventilation difficulties, Robertson's apparently employed a consultant to look into the issue. John Hunter has obviously had access to this but while I have requested a copy, so far none has been supplied. I hope that this will not be like other secret reports on the Education Department that have been repeatedly denied to opposition Councillors. I shall be raising the consultant's report again with the new Director of Education, Michael Wood, when I meet him this afternoon. 

While Councillor Guild is right to point out that the new Grove is leased from the developer, Robertson Construction, and not yet owned by the Council, this does not mean that there is nothing the Council can do. In fact as the lessee (the customer), the Council should complain to Robertson's about the heating and ventilation system. If the lessor is not fulfilling their contract satisfactorily, the Council should have avenues for redress.

The regulations governing working temperatures in Scottish schools are contained in The School Premises (Scotland) Regulations, dating from 1967 and updated in 1973 and 1979. Minimum temperatures are 17˚C for classrooms, 18.5˚C for toilets and medical, changing and shower rooms, 13˚C for cloakrooms, corridors and gymnasiums and 10˚C for games halls. The maximum temperature is 28˚C. Significantly, the World Health Organisation has recommended a lower upper limit of 25˚C (75˚F). I think most of us would find 28˚C (82˚F) roasting and more conducive to falling asleep rather than helping us to engage in learning. 
Apparently the Consultant's advice is that teachers should open more windows to reduce the temperature. This however seems a rather expensive way to regulate the temperature in a classroom since it affects the school's energy bills which have been soaring since the Grove moved into its new buildings. 

I think parents, carers and teachers associated with Grove Academy need reassurance that this issue is being sorted out.


Road Safety Improvements Due for Busy Road Junction in The Ferry

At the meeting of the City Development Committee on Monday 27 June, road safety was one of the matters considered. It was agreed that in Broughty Ferry, improvements to the busy and accident prone junction between Fairfield Road and Strathern Road would be targeted. Road users and residents can expect changes to be introduced during the coming year. 

This will be welcome news for pedestrians and drivers alike who find this a tricky junction to negotiate at peak traffic times; especially traffic movements from Fairfield Road joining or crossing Strathern Road.


Bags of Success as Clementine of Broughty Ferry Celebrate Their 1st Birthday

Carole Sommerville and Jan McTaggart
This weekend, Jan McTaggart and Carole Sommerville, the co-owners of Clementine of Broughty Ferry, having been celebrating the first birthday of their business. It's just a year since they opened the doors at 103 Gray Street to the Ferry’s only independent greengrocer.

Jan and Carole are delighted with business and
acknowledge the loyal support that their customers have demonstrated over the last 12 months. 
One of the great successes of Clementine's has been ‘Soup in a Bag’ – everything you need to make the soup of the week, including the stock cubes (water not included). Jan and Carole have come up with more than 50 recipes and have sold nearly 10,000 bags over the course of the year.

Speaking at their shop earlier in the week, Jan said: ‘It’s been a great year and getting to know our customers has definitely been a highlight. They obviously appreciate the personal service we offer and they know that we keep our prices reasonable.’

Carole added: ‘And we’ve enjoyed great support from our local suppliers, it’s been really interesting to work with local farmers and wholesalers. We often get produce straight off the farm and that freshness makes such a difference to the quality and taste.’

So let's raise a soup spoon to salute an innovative retailer in the Ferry who deserve our continuing custom and their success! 

Clementine of Broughty Ferry, 103 Gray Street, Broughty Ferry, DD5 2DN, 
Telephone 01382 738939 Website and Facebook


Demolished Beach Shelter Opens Up Magnificent Views of Broughty Castle

Residents in The Ferry and regular holiday visitors alike will notice that the derelict beach shelter on The Esplanade has been demolished.  They will be delighted to see the back of this blot on the landscape. 

Residents will be relieved that in time this area will be sensitively redeveloped as part of the Castle Green Masterplan. 

In the meanwhile, the cleared area will provide more parking spaces at the beach and of course its demolition opens up magnificent unobstructed view of Broughty Castle.