31/01/2012

Gordon Wilson Agrees with my Criticism of SNP Government's Rail Strategy

I agree with Gordon.

In the Courier yesterday I noticed a prominent article drawing attention to the “embarrassing failure” of the Scottish Government’s Rail 2016 Strategy currently out for consultation. These withering words were from our former MP for Dundee East, the SNP's own Gordon Wilson.
I am pleased he has followed my lead in pointing out the disadvantages of this strategy for Dundee rail travellers. Read my concerns published on 23rd November 2011.
More specifically, he says in his formal response to the Scottish Government's consultation, that the immediate priority is ensuring that East Coast trains from London continue through Fife, Dundee and Angus to Aberdeen. It is proposed that the services could terminate in Edinburgh with ScotRail taking over the rest of the journey north.
''This will leave Aberdeen and intermediate station passengers, laden with luggage for long-distance journeys, forced to travel in ScotRail's inadequate rolling stock and having to change trains and platforms in Edinburgh,''
''This will be a nightmare for families with young children, the elderly and disabled. It also downgrades the status of Aberdeen and Dundee within the transport network.”
''One would have thought that Transport Scotland would have been alive to the difficulties likely to be faced by travellers from Aberdeen, Dundee and Fife — all heavily populated areas — and would have argued the case for retention of the service.” "Instead, the contrary is true. The paper opens the gate to loss of the direct London service.”
"The service from Aberdeen gathers passengers at intermediate points like Montrose, Arbroath, Dundee and Fife. They are entitled to have their travelling interests considered by Scotland's transport agency when it formulates policy.'

Hear hear!
If like me and Gordon you think we should "hang on to what we've got" send in your response to the consultation - the closing date for responses is 20 February 2012. More information is available from the Scottish Government.

30/01/2012

Applications via UCAS to Universities in Dundee Increase


Figures released today by the the UK University and College Admissions Service (UCAS), show an increasing number of applicants for places on degree level courses at our two Universities in Dundee beginning in August this year.
After the shenanigans about the SNP's proposed forced merger of our two Universities last year, it is good to see that applications to both institutions show a healthy increase with Abertay attracting a higher increase in applicants than Dundee.
Table showing applications to individual universities and colleges recruiting students through UCAS for autumn 2012
Code
Institution name
2011 Degree
2012 Degree
% change
A30
University of Abertay Dundee
5,622
5,898
4.9%
D65
University of Dundee
18,086
18,580
2.7%

While Scotland has bucked the trend in England of decreasing applicants to Universities, countrywide analysis of applicants indicates a decline in the number of applicants from disadvantaged areas in Scotland. This may unfortunately be the result of mounting unemployment amongst graduates. It will be important to monitor this to ensure that the decline this year if not the beginning of a trend.

UCAS ably supports students making applications to any University in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland. This begs the question as to whether this is another trusted and successful UK institution that, post independence, we should be excluded from?

Education Committee Decisions Last Monday

At the Education Committee last week (Monday 23rd January 2012) we took three key decisions.

The first was to approve the school holidays for the 2013/14. This follows the new pattern of holidays which incorporate the October holiday in the second and third weeks of October. It is helpful to declare school holidays a long time ahead as these days many parents and carers make holiday arrangements a long time ahead. This allows them to do so with the confidence that they know when they can arrange their family holidays without compromising the education of their children.
Secondly, the committee approved the four classroom extension to Kingspark School at a cost just exceeding £1m. I was fully behind this expenditure but had previously voiced concern that the council had put the cart before the horse by seeking planning permission for the proposed building work in advance of seeking approval from the Education Committee. The inclusion of architectural drawings at the Education Committee and the City Architect available on hand to answer questions, provided reassurance that a development was appropriate to the needs of the children with multiple and profound disabilities that attend Kingspark and the short timescale had not compromised proper preparation of the proposal.
Thirdly, the Education Committee were advised that following a period of consultation, the proposal for a standardised 33 period week in each of our nine secondary schools had been dropped because it had failed to persuade parents, carers and teachers of its merit. Incorporated in this design was a proposal for a daily twenty minute period of Tutor time where pupils would met their, Tutor or Key Adult. This is defined as follows in the documentation for Curriculum for Excellence: 'All children and young people should have frequent opportunities to discuss their learning with an adult who can act as a mentor, helping them to set appropriate goals for the next stages in learning.'
I asked for reassurance that the provision of each pupil's entitlement for a Key Adult would be honoured in each of our secondary schools notwithstanding the 33 period week proposal falling.


Most importantly I extracted a commitment from the Director of Education, that he would report to an early meeting of the Education Committee about the Council's proposals for the senior phase (S4-S6) and the new S3 running for the first time from August 2012. Most controversial in these changes is likely to be the restriction to six subject choices in the new National 4 and 5 exams to be taken at the end of S4. This is 25% fewer choices than the maximum number currently available with Standard Grades which are to phased out. We were also promised that, before the middle of February, parents and carers would be invited in to their child's secondary school for a briefing on the latest phase of implementation of curriculum for excellence. It is curious that the really important decisions about plans for what will takes place in the classroom, are kept at arms length from the Committee by the Convener of the Committee and the Director of Education. 

29/01/2012

RSPB big garden Birdwatch - Still Time to Take Part

This weekend the RSPB have organised their Big Garden Birdwatch. There is still time to observe the birds in your garden for an hour and then record and send off your observations to the RSPB. A form can be completed online or printed off and posted.
With results from so many gardens, the RSPB are able  to create a ‘snapshot’ of bird numbers in each part of the UK. This is important because their previous surveys have shown that some of our birds are disappearing.
We’ve lost more than half our house sparrows and some three quarters of our starlings. And previous results have helped highlight these dramatic declines.However, it isn't all doom and gloom - these surveys help the RSPB spot problems, but more importantly, they are also the first step in putting things right.
My wife, Rowena, conducted her observations this morning and recorded, robins, sparrows, blackbirds, a starling, gulls and a blue tit in our front garden.
The RSPB look forward to finding out what you've seen.

28/01/2012

Air Pollution Alert Service is Launched

The recent adoption by the City Council of an Air Quality Action Plan for Dundee has alerted us to the fact that there are parts of Dundee where air pollution, particularly from vehicle exhaust emissions, exceeds government health guidelines. This makes the new Know and Respond-Scotland service of relevance and importance.
Know and Respond-Scotland is a free service that sends registered users an alert message, by text or email, if air pollution in their area is forecast to be moderate, high or very high. The description of the level of pollution is based upon the Air Quality Banding System.
The alert service is provided for anyone wishing to know about the quality of the air they breathe.
It will be of particular benefit to people with medical conditions that may be affected by pollution, such as asthma, bronchitis and emphysema. It may also benefit people whose breathing gets worse when air pollution increases. This early warning service allows registered users to make informed decisions and take action if necessary to minimise the effects of pollution episodes.More information about this free public service and details of how to sign up.

27/01/2012

Cautious Welcome for Barnhill Primary School Extension


Dundee City Council's Draft Capital Plan was circulated on Tuesday 24th January and will be part of the Budget meeting on 9 February. 

The inclusion in the new Capital Plan of £1m for a 4 classroom extension to and refurbishment of Barnhill Primary School is welcome. I have been calling for this for a long time including raising it on the agenda of the Education Committee last March. 

This announcement is some recognition that more accommodation is required at Barnhill Primary School to fit in the rising number of children within the school's catchment area in Barnhill, Panmurefield and Balmossiie Brae. Parents and carers with pre-school children in this part of The Ferry will be relieved that, by the summer of 2014, the school will be able to accommodate more children. 

Of course it's really early days, and the detail in the report is thin. While £1m is welcome, this is only 20% of the money previously earmarked for future spending on refurbishing and extending the school. Bearing in mind that a similar amount of money was approved on a 4 classroom extension to Kingspark School at the Education Committee on Monday 23rd January, the refurbishment will be limited and certainly not on the scale of the extension and refurbishment at Forthill Primary School a number of years ago. 

I will be talking to members of the Parent Council and the Head Teacher about this. I hope we will be able to treat this as a down payment and get the Council to increase the budget so that not only will more classrooms be in place but the other facilities in the school, such as the already overcrowded dining hall, can be extended to help keep pace with the rising number of children in the school.

26/01/2012

Labour Councillors Respond to Council's School Building Programme


The Council's Draft Capital Plan was circulated on Tuesday afternoon and will be part of the Budget Meeting to be approved in two weeks time. This report spells out the school building programme including new schools and refurbishments of existing schools.

Labour's Education Spokesperson in the City, Councillor Laurie Bidwell said: 
"The intention to build two new Primary schools, extend another and refurbish seven further primary schools in the City is welcomed. But clearly we need more detail to know what is planned. I hope an early report to the Education Committee will help clarify which schools are involved and to what the planned programme spend will cover."

Coldside Labour Councillors, Mohammed Asif and Helen Wright said:
"We are right behind the proposal to build a new Primary School with Community Facilities in our ward which we have called for. Parents and carers will welcome the new investment in the Education of their children. We hope the inclusion of community facilities will replace the Highwayman and help put the heart back into the community. We also welcome the inclusion of Dens Road Primary School in the refurbishment programme. Of course it's early days but like our constituents we will need to know which of our Coldside schools is to be replaced by the new build school and where this is to be built."

Lochee Labour Councillor Tom Ferguson said:
"I welcome the proposal for a replacement Primary School with community facilities in Menzieshill. Co-housing a new Primary School with community facilities will be advantageous for the community of Menzieshill. I also welcome the inclusion of Ancrum Road and St Mary's RC School in the refurbishment programme. Of course the report is short on detail at the moment. We need to know which primary school will be replaced and whether the new community facilities will be additional or a replacement for the existing Community Centre and Library. I will be talking to parents, constituents and Head Teachers and the Community Centre staff about this in the coming weeks."

Councillor Laurie Bidwell said: 
"The inclusion of £1m for a 4 classroom extension to and refurbishment of Barnhill Primary School is welcome. Parents and carers in Barnhill, Panmurefield and Balmossie Brae with pre-school children will be relieved that the school will be able to cope with the rising pre-school population in the school's catchment area."

Holocaust Memorial Day Thursday 26 January 2012



Today is International Holocaust Memorial Day.


Holocaust Memorial Day provides a focus for learning lessons from the Holocaust, Nazi persecution and subsequent genocides and apply them to the present day to create a safer, better future. On Holocaust Memorial Day we share the memory of the millions who have been murdered in the Holocaust and subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur in order to challenge hatred and persecution in the UK today.


The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust is a charity which works to raise awareness of HMD. You can find out more about what we do on our website. we share the memory of the millions who have been murdered in the Holocaust and subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur in order to challenge hatred and persecution in the UK today.


The Nazi concentration camps were liberated by allied troops from 1944, the largest camp – Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated by Soviet troops on 27 January 1945, and it is on this day that we mark Holocaust Memorial Day.


Find out more about the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust on their website.


25/01/2012

British Transport Police Surveillance at Gray Street Level Crossing

Earlier today British Transport Police were monitoring motorists and pedestrians at the Gray Street level crossing in the Ferry. They were using their mobile facility, which has CCTV and can record motorists and pedestrians who foolishly try to beat the lights and barriers when a train is approaching. Folk who are caught on camera are usually referred to the Procurator Fiscal.


I am glad British Transport Police are back in The Ferry because, when they visited in August they found many folk ignoring the warning lights. Of course an additional reason for their visit is to monitor movements at the level crossing while the pedestrian underpass is closed. I hope motorists learned their lesson the last time the Transport Police were handing out their fixed penalties!

24/01/2012

Clementine of Broughty Ferry is Shortlisted for Telegraph Magasine's, Best Small Shops in Britain Award

Congratulations to Clementine of Broughty Ferry owners, Jan McTaggart and Carole Sommerville, who are setting off to London to attend The Telegraph Magasine’s Best Small Shops in Britain Award Ceremony. This will be presented by Mary Queen of Shops, Mary Portas.

Clementine’s customers voted for the shop, online in October 2011, ensuring that the small, local greengrocer made it on to a shortlist of just three retailers for the Best in Food category. All the shops will be visited by a judge from The Daily Telegraph and the winner announced at a ceremony in London on Wednesday 22 February 2012. 

The awards, now in their sixth year, invite customers to vote in nine categories, from women's and men's fashion to interiors, food, wine and books.

I am pleased that their dedication and creative approach to retailing combined with the fine quality of their produce, often locally sourced, has been widely recognised in our community by customers who have voted for them.

If they win they will be off to Spain to enjoy their award, a three-night stay for two at Hacienda de San Rafael, southern Spain, including flights.


Clementine owners Jan McTaggart and Carole Sommerville were delighted to hear of the nomination:

‘We’re very grateful to all those customers who took the time to vote for us. We’ve been working hard to make Clementine a success and we get lovely compliments from customers every day – but this is incredibly exciting.

We’re sure that, in addition to the locally sourced produce available in the shop, our weekly ‘Soup in a Bag’ has been a great way to get the shop noticed and attract regular customers.’

Clementine of Broughty Ferry
103 Gray Street DD5 2DN 01382 738 939
Open Mon – Sat 9.30am to 5.30pm
www.clementineofbroughtyferry.com  

23/01/2012

Well Qualified and Growing Population Positive Indicators for Dundee in Agenda for Cities Report


While the Cities Outlook Report 2012, makes it clear that Dundee is really suffering in the current economic recession, there are two positive statistics in the report which shouldn't be lost:
the qualifications of the population and recent population growth.

One prominent and favourable statistic for Dundee in the Agenda for Cities Report is that our city is amongst the top ten cities in the UK for educational qualifications.

Over one-third of the adult population has a university degree, higher degree, diploma or its equivalent.

This shows the very high skills base that Dundee possesses to attract potential businesses and to drive the city’s future economic growth.

Another promising feature recorded in the report has been the turn-around in the city’s population. Over the past two years the city has achieved an encouraging increase in population of over 2,000.

Our well qualified population and our increase in population are both positive indicators which should help the city make the best of the economic recovery when it comes.

22/01/2012

Supporting Dundee Born and Read

On Friday morning, I visited my local library in Broughty Ferry and showed my practical support for the Evening Telegraph's Dundee Born and Read campaign by donating some children's books.


I know from personal experience how important it is to grow up in a home with books and have access to a local library.


I hope the Dundee Born and Read campaign encourages more children in our city to read for pleasure.


I also hope that it will help build links between children and their local libraries where a wonderful range of books is available.


Links to Leisure and Culture Dundee - listing of Library Opening hours.

21/01/2012

32 Period Week Proposal to be Withdrawn but Parents Still Require Urgent Answers


At the next Education Committee (Monday 23rd January 2012) there is a report about responses to the consultation about the 33 period week. This consultation was about a proposal to standardise the school week across the 9 secondary schools in Dundee. 

It is clear from the committee report that this proposal neither persuaded parents and carers nor teachers. With such a mixed response, it is not surprising that the proposal has been withdrawn.

There is however a crucial question which is not contained within the report and requires answers at the Education Committee.

In the presentation which was used at the consultation events, the preferred timetable had thirty one periods of 50 minutes with the addition of one daily twenty minute period, called Tutorial, which combined the functions of registration and some roles connected with guidance. Attenders at the consultation were all told that Tutor Time was necessary as part of meeting the new pupil entitlement in the Curriculum,for Excellence. More specifically, that each pupil should have one teacher that knows her/him particularly well. How will this entitlement now be met for every one of our pupils in her/his secondary school?

It is long overdue that the Education Committee are informed about the next steps the Education Department are proposing for the introduction of Curriculum for Excellence in our schools, not merely providing a report telling us what it isn't going to do.

20/01/2012

Conundrum of Keeping King Street Clean


I have recently received complaints from residents in Central Broughty Ferry about the state of the gulleys and road margins, especially in King Street. My picture show accumulations of sludge and grit in the gutters. As well as being unsightly, if this is left to wash down the drains, it it likely to block them. 

Trying to respond to this problem thoroughly is a challenge. Mechanised street sweepers can't get to the road margins because of 24x7 bumper to bumper parked cars. Car parked close to the pavement don't leave much room for a broom either. 

One suggestion that has been passed on to me which is apparently used in parts of Edinburgh is to use occasional one day parking restrictions on one side of a street so that the sweeping vehicles can have a clear run. This would clearly cause real parking difficulties on those days. I think residents and businesses in Central Broughty Ferry need to be involved in a debate about whether the disruptive pain of occasional parking restrictions would be worth the gain of cleaner streets. If there are other constructive suggestions, it would be good to hear them. 

I shall also be referring this issue to the Broughty Ferry Local Community Planning Partnership. Meanwhile, I have also asked the Council's Environment Department to try to clean up as best they can.

19/01/2012

Support Dundee Born and Read

The Evening Telegraph is running a great campaign,

Dundee Born and Read

They are trying to collect over 5000 books for school children in Dundee.

Too many children in our city are growing up in homes with few if any books. This is important. We know that children who grow up in households where books are plentiful go further in school than those children growing up without books. Developing good reading habits at home, which starts with being read to, helps children get ready for school and not start school at a disadvantage. Having books at home helps enhance literacy and learning.

I want to not only congratulate D C Thomson on this public spirited initiative but to also to urge Ferry folk to generously support it.

Donations of new or second hand books suitable for youngsters aged 3 to 12 are wanted. Please deposit these in the drop off boxes at our Branch Library in Queen Street. Schools in the city will then distribute the books.

18/01/2012

This Is Our Faith Launch at St Paul's RC Academy

On Tuesday evening I attended the launch of This Is Our Faith at St Paul's RC Academy.This Is Our Faith, the new syllabus for Catholic religious education in Scotland, now governs the teaching of religious education in Scotland's Catholic schools. This launch engaged, Teachers, pupils and parents from every Roman Catholic School in the Diocese of Dunkeld along with parish Priests.

This Is Our Faith is the first religious education syllabus to be originated wholly in Scotland and designed to meet the needs of young people in Scotland. The Holy See's granting of the Decree of Recognitio is a rare and momentous achievement and pays testimony to the great efforts of so many people who have contributed to the development of the new syllabus.

This is Our Faith is the document which:
  • is the official guidance which governs the teaching of religious education in Catholic schools in Scotland
  • deals with the nature of the Catholic school, the purpose of religious education, the role of the teacher, the 8 Strands of Faith and the 'core learning' in faith which young people are expected to experience from P1 through to S3
  • will help parents, teachers, catechists and clergy to ensure that young people can:
  • develop their knowledge and understanding of Catholic faith
  • nurture respect for other Christian traditions and world faiths
  • experience opportunities for spiritual growth
  • acquire the skills of reflection, discernment and moral decision-making
  • commit to beliefs, values and actions in a positive response to God’s invitation to faith.
I think This Is Our Faith is an impressive document which will not only have an important role in our Catholic Schools but also provide inspirational resources for teaching and learning for all teachers of Religious and Moral Education (RME).



17/01/2012

Captain Scott Reaches South Pole - 100th Anniversary

100 years ago today, Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his expedition reached the South Pole. They found that the Norwegian explorer Amunsden had beaten them to the pole by a month.
Dundee has a special connection with Scott and his series of expeditions to Antarctica. This is celebrated at Discovery Point in the city.

16/01/2012

Shocking Supply Teacher Gaps in Dundee Secondary Schools - Nearly 1 in 4 requests for supply cover cannot be met


Based on figures supplied by the City Council Education Department:
There were 157 requests to the Council for supply cover from Dundee secondary schools since the school year began in August 2011.
 
I am very disappointed to learn that just under one in four of these requests were not filled (43 out of 157).

Is this the unfortunate result of a money saving ploy, to reduce the wages of short term supply teachers, which has now backfired? 
 

The requests for a supply teacher are made when a teacher is unavailable chiefly because of illness, and for other reasons such as bereavement, professional appointments , maternity leave and attending staff development sessions.

From August 2011, short-term supply teachers have been paid at £70 per day for the first five days of any deployment, and for a maximum of 25 hours (comprising 22.5 hours’ class-contact and 2.5 hours set aside for preparation and correction, pro-rata for those who work less than a full week). In the past, supply teachers were treated on a par with permanent teachers, and paid according to their length of service.

With the approach of important national exams, it is crucial that pupils are taught by the appropriate specialist subject teachers at all times. I would like to know if this is indeed the case when supply cover has been 'successfully' requested.


Parents and carers will be concerned that their children’s education will be suffering, especially if examination classes are affected running up to the SQA examinations in May.

I am calling on the Education Convener to let parents and carers know whether she will:
  • prioritise reducing the number of unfilled gaps in supply cover to an absolute minimum;
  • urgently explore alternative and more effective ways of providing supply cover in our schools and
  • avoid using the non filling of requests for supply as a way of making more savings. 
Supply teachers provide a very valuable and important service to schools. It is clear that supply teachers need to be properly treated if we are to attract enough qualified teachers to cover for absent members of the permanent teaching staff in our schools.

14/01/2012

Commenting on the Next Round of Education Cuts in Dundee

The announcement on Thursday 12 January of the Council's planned cuts of £0.7 million in Education in 2012/13 is to be regretted. This needs to be seen against the backdrop of 99 fewer teachers in our schools as a result of the £4.7 million cut to the budget in the 2011/12 financial year. To add to the woes of our schools, most of next year's cuts will also fall directly on our schools.

The removal of visiting Music and PE teachers from our primary schools will effectively narrow the curriculum for many children. Expecting every primary class teacher to take their own class for PE is a backward step. At a time when we are conscious of trying to encourage all young people to adopt a more physically active lifestyle, I have serious doubts as to whether our primary schools will be able to fulfil the government's standard of two hours of quality PE for each child each week.

The reduction in the number if visiting instrumental teachers will further cheese pare at our once outstanding schools' music service in our city. Starting music tuition a year later is a backward step because music makers need to start young. Reducing the instrumental tuition by a year risks lowering the number of our young people who may engage in the Dundee Schools' orchestras and bands and reduce those that might enter for SQA examinations in music. 

At the Policy and Resources Committee on Monday 9 January, the Leader of the Council, Councillor Ken Guild, informed us that he had written to the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, John Swinney MSP, to let his know that he had accepted the financial deal on offer from the government. Part of that deal includes a commitment by the Council to maintain teacher number in Dundee. When our SNP led Council cuts Music and PE teachers, there is a risk that the council will incur a financial penalty which will lead to even more cuts in our schools

On top of these additional cuts, the effect of reducing the pay of short term supply teachers is making it difficult to recruit them. 
Between August 2011 and January 2012 nearly a quarter of the requests for supply cover from our Secondary Schools were unable to be met. This represents another stealth cut that will affect the quality of teaching and learning in our schools. 


Dundee children and young people deserve better!

12/01/2012

Improvements to the Pedestrian Underpass at the Gray Street Level Crossing

The temporary closure of the pedestrian underpass at the Gray Street railway crossing in Broughty Ferry began on Monday 9 Jan 2012. 


While this three week closure has been arranged to allow Network Rail to build a new entry point to the down platform for trains towards Dundee, there will also be a bonus for users of the underpass. 

The City Engineer has confirmed that he has arranged what will amount to more than a superficial makeover of the underpass while it is closed.

Following complaints by the Community Council and elected members like me, the City Engineer has confirmed on Saturday that after the building works by Network Rail, he has arranged for a deep clean of all surfaces in the underpass. New roof lighting will also be installed throughout the tunnel. Across the bottom of the tunnel there will be a new full width steel plate walkway. The existing handrails will also be painted. Thereafter it is hoped that a regular clean up of the surfaces in the underpass will undertaken by offenders through the Community Payback scheme. 

I think these are all worthwhile improvements, which residents and visitors will appreciate. I hope this will increase public safety at the level crossing by making the pedestrian underpass more user friendly. Hopefully these improvements will put an end to the underpass as a smelly, ill light and grubby place to be avoided.

10/01/2012

2012 International Year of Cooperatives

The United Nations General Assembly has declared 2012 as the International Year of Cooperatives, highlighting the contribution of cooperatives to socio-economic development, particularly their impact on poverty reduction, employment generation and social integration.

Here is Dundee I hope this means that that there might be official encouragement for a revival of interest in developing cooperatives as an alternative and additional means of developing new enterprises. It would be good if the dynamism of cooperatives such as the Edinburgh Bike Cooperative, which recently announced ambitious expansion plans, could take root in our city.

09/01/2012

Temporary Closure of Gray Street Pedestrian Underpass Starting Monday 5 December

The City Council have announced that there will be a temporary closure of the Gray Street pedestrian underpass for eighteen days beginning on Monday 9 January 2012. This is to facilitate improvement work to the station platforms, including creating a new access to the down platform (for trains towards Dundee).


I trust this temporary closure will not tempt any pedestrians, especially children and young people at our local schools to try to cross the level crossing at the last minute as the safety barriers are coming down. 


I have written to the Head Teachers at Eastern Primary School and Grove Academy to draw attention to this temporary closure and the potential hazard this might pose for their pupils walking to and from school. They have readily agreed to draw this to the attention of their pupils.

08/01/2012

Protecting the Seawall - Rapid Council Response

Coned off section of Fisher Street
above breach in the sea wall
On Thursday, I wrote to the City Engineer about a breach in the sea wall in Broughty Ferry, which I had identified after the recent storm force weather. On Saturday, I received thanks for bringing this to the the Council's attention.


I was also relieved to be told that the sea wall from Grassy Beach to Beach Crescent had been inspected on Friday and the immediately affected area had been coned off as a precautionary measure. I have also been informed that permanent repairs are to be carried out commencing on Monday 9 January 2012. Other areas of lesser remedial works to the sea wall will apparently be carried out at the same time.

In relation to the engineering report I had requested, it was reassuring for residents to know that the City Engineer had already instructed an inspection of the full Dundee coastline after the recent storms. Additionally he confirmed that consultants had already been appointed to carry out a study of the Dundee coastline and that the outcome of that study will be reported to a Council Committee.

Well done to the Council for responding promptly and comprehensively.

07/01/2012

Call for Repairs to the Sea Wall in Broughty Ferry and an Engineer's Report

On Thursday afternoon, I had a look at the stretch of the sea wall that runs alongside Douglas Terrace to the Broughty Ferry Lifeboat station. I was concerned about what I was able to observe.  After the recent spate of gale force winds, there is evidence of damage to the sea wall with sections of dislodged stonework. In some places it is also clear that storm force waves have got behind some sections of the wall potentially undermining it.

I have written to the City Engineer to request an immediate inspection of the entire length of the wall from Grassy Beach (underneath the walkway) to the Harbour with immediate repairs instructed where the wall has been undermined. I have also requested a report to go to a future meeting of the City Development Committee assessing the adequacy of the sea wall bearing in mind the recent weather patterns and the potential threat to the footways and roads that runs alongside the wall. 

The photograph I took on the beach shows an obvious breach in the sea wall beside Fisher Street in Broughty Ferry. The hole in the sea wall extends back underneath some distance. I think the full extent of this undermining and further erosion of the stonework along the wall needs to be examined as a matter of urgency.

06/01/2012

Cabinet Secretary for Education, Mike Russell, was Allegedly Embroiled in the Abertay and Dundee University Merger Fiasco



Based on papers reportedly released under Freedom of Information laws, it alleges that Cabinet secretary Mike Russell in the SNP Government at Holyrood was 'meddling' in the possible forced merger of Abertay and Dundee Universities. This appears to be different from claims that the ill advised proposed merger between the two Universities in Dundee was the responsibility of the Scottish Funding Council - the Quango who fund Universities and Further Education Colleges in Scotland - and not SNP government ministers.


"EDUCATION secretary Mike Russell has been accused of an “unhealthy” level of “meddling” in the affairs of Scotland’s higher education sector after it was claimed he was central to talks over a possible merger of two universities.
Details released under Freedom of Information laws reportedly show Mr Russell was briefed on the possible merger of Dundee and Abertay universities by the Scottish Funding Council.
Documents show the SFC prepared a seven-page briefing note for the government before it asked the universities to consider a merger.
The paper was sent to Mr Russell’s department on 24 August, three weeks before the proposal was first made public.
In the note, the SFC recommended a merger, with Abertay being absorbed into the bigger University of Dundee.
Jenny Marra, Labour MSP for North-East Scotland, said the document showed there had been a “Machiavellian plot” by the SNP to merge the universities.
Tory education spokeswoman Liz Smith MSP there had been an “unhealthy” amount of “meddling” in the merger talks, which subsequently failed, allowing the two institutions to remain independent.
She said: “The ongoing revelations about the botched Abertay/Dundee merger are symptomatic of a Scottish Government which increasingly thinks it knows best.”
However, a Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “There is no proposal to close any university or college by this government – and never will be."]
“Ministers have been clear throughout that the potential merger of Abertay and Dundee universities was a matter for the universities and the funding council – not ministers.”
The Scottish Government has said colleges and universities should explore collaboration and possible merger as a way of saving money."