Little Change in Numbers of University Applicants from Scotland

Yesterday, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) released their statistics on applications for full-time degree level courses at Universities in the UK beginning later on this year. University

Their figures include all applications considered 'on time' for their 15 January deadline and provide a reliable indicator of demand for higher education in the UK this year.

This year's figures for application rates for 18 year olds show a modest increase for those who live in Scotland - up 0.3%. At the same time the number of applicants for University who live in England has increased by more than 0.9%.

In relation to demand for degree level courses in our Universities in Scotland, there has been a significant rise in the number of applicants from outside Scotland. it is too soon to know what effect this rise in 'other UK' applicants will have on our Universities. These applicants from England, Wales and Northern Ireland pay hefty tuition fees, up to £9000 per year for Edinburgh and St Andrews University, which is well in excess of the fees paid by the Scottish Government for students domiciled in Scotland.


Waterlogged Roads and Paths in The Ferry Yesterday

Yesterday afternoon was another period of squally rain in The Ferry. As I went round my Tuesday afternoon surgeries, I noticed lots of examples where drains could not cope with the rainfall. Now this pattern of rainfall seems the norm, rather than the exception, I think our drainage on streets and paths needs improvement.

When I visited the Forthill Sheltered Housing Complex in Forthill Drive for my surgery at 3:30pm, I noticed that the drain in the path up to the Complex entrance was blocked again and so elderly residents were having to paddle through the water to get to and from the front door of the Complex. This is a perennial issue and is just not good enough for folk who are residents in 'sheltered' housing. I have reported this to the Housing Department. I hope the residents can expect a prompt and more thorough work on unblocking the drain this time.

Later in the afternoon, I was driving down Balgillo Road East linking Balgillo Road with the Arbroath Road. Just short of the roundabout water had extended over the pavement and road on the western side of this busy road. This really would be a challenging place to walk or cycle as motorists had no room to evade the water and so prevent soaking a pedestrian or cyclists as they drove past.  I have reported this to the Council and the Roads' Maintenance Partnership.

Worrying Drop in Number of Students in Receipt of Education Maintenance Allowances

Yesterday the Scottish Government published details of the Education Maintenance Allowances (EMAs) paid in 2011/12. This report highlights that the number of teenagers from households on low incomes in receipt of an EMA had fallen by around 15% on 2009/10 levels.

EMAs are paid to young people 16-19 years old who are in full time education at school or further education college. The EMA is worth £30 a week and is means tested against total taxable household income. Payments are only made when you have 100% weekly attendance.

Our young people from the most low income households face the biggest challenge in obtaining employment, and accessing education or training. Scottish Labour introduced EMA’s to give these youngsters the financial support they need to benefit from education and to better equip them to get a job. Therefore, this significant reduction in college students receiving an EMA, particularly young women, is very worrying.

One of the likely reasons for this fall is that many applicants for places at Further Education College were not able to access the course they wanted in their local college. This was evidenced in the mounting numbers of applicants left stranded on waiting lists because courses and places have been reduced.

The Scottish Government should not be putting up barriers to the participation of students from low income households in further education. It’s time to reverse their cuts in funding for the Colleges of Further Education, including Dundee College.


Call for Single Police Force for Scotland HQ to be in Perth or Dundee

On Monday morning I attended a meeting of the Tayside Joint Police Board. This was the last but one meeting of the Board because the Scottish Government has decided to proceed with a single Police force for Scotland from 1st April 2013. On that date, the current eight regional police forces will have their powers transferred to the new national body taking shape.

While the senior management team for Police Scotland have been appointed, one key decision yet to the resolved is the location of the Headquarters.

At our meeting in Perth, it was unanimously agreed that the Convener of the board, should write to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Kenny MacAskill MSP, urging him to select Dundee or Perth as the HQ site for the Single Police Service for Scotland. Apart from both cities offering central locations and good public transport links, it was thought important to reassure the public throughout Scotland that the new Single Police Service for Scotland was not just Strathclyde Police with the rest of the country thrown in. Locating the HQ outside Edinburgh and Glasgow would help convey reassurance on that score.


Tayside Police Keen to Gather Views on its Draft Interim Local Policing Plans for 2013-2014

Tayside Police has today launched a consultation on its draft interim Local Policing Plans for 2013-2014.

The draft interim Local Policing Plans set out the local policing priorities and objectives for the three Local Authority areas across Tayside including Dundee.  These Plans represent a critical part of the local delivery process for the new national Police Service Of Scotland that takes over responsibility for policing from the current  eight police forces (including Tayside Police) on 1st April 2013.  These new local policing plans demonstrate a commitment to local policing within the national planning framework which enables the police to respond effectively to the concerns of local communities as well as meet and tackle nationwide demands.

As part of this consultation, Tayside Police are keen to engage with the public, partners and staff in order to gather their views on the draft Policing Plans, prior to finalisation of the Plans in March this year.  This engagement should help to ensure that what they are proposing will continue to provide communities with a local police service that meets their needs and deals with the issues that are important to them.

Tayside Police, request that individuals and community groups consider the Plan relevant to their Local Authority area and give them your views on our proposals by completing the short questionnaire.  Further details on this consultation and how you can participate are available by clicking on the link below. 

Participation in this exercise, however, is entirely optional and you should feel no obligation to take part.  They reassure us that data from this survey is strictly confidential and will only be used for the purposes described above.  You can also be assured that your details will not be passed to any other agency.

Your views are important and will help us shape the future direction of policing in the Tayside area.  If you have any queries regarding this consultation or require further information please contact the Performance and Planning Unit on  (01382) 596712 or 596711. 

It's Confirmed that Grove, Harris, Morgan, Menzieshill and St John's will have larger classes in English and Maths in S1-S2 from August

In Budget papers issued by the Council on Thursday 24 January, the Education Director clarified that the five secondary schools in Dundee which will have larger classes in English and Maths in S1-S2 will be:
Grove Academy, Harris Academy, Morgan Academy, Menzieshill High School and St John's RC High School

In these five schools S1 and S2 Maths and English classes will increase from 20 up to a maximum of 33. This would represent a 65% increase in class sizes for these subjects.

I think parents and carers in the city whose children are will be in S1 and S2 at these secondary schools will want to know how this significant increase in class sizes will affect their child's learning and attainment in these core subjects.

The four secondary schools maintaining average class sizes of 20 in English and Maths S1-S2 will be: Baldragon Academy, Braeview Academy, Craigie High School and St Paul’s RC Academy.

Significantly, the Director of Education's paper to the Education Committee on Monday night 28 January, 'Education Department Standards and Quality', makes no case for such a change nor provides the school by school statistics on examination passes that might support a rationale for four of our secondary schools retaining smaller classes and five secondary schools losing theirs. 

Finally, I think parents and carers will wonder why this damaging proposal on class size increases in our Secondary Schools is not to be referred to the Education Committee on Monday night when Councillors will be joined by additional members representing Parents. Teachers and senior Pupils. It's hard not to think that the SNP led administration are trying to mask their abandonment of their commitment to smaller class sizes in our schools and don't think they could win the argument at the Education Committee.


Holocaust Memorial Day 2013

Sunday 27 January, is Holocaust Memorial Day which coincides with the liberation of the Auschwitz Death Camp nearly 70 years ago in 1945. 

Organisers of this international day are asking us to remember those communities which were destroyed during the Holocaust, under Nazi persecution and in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.
The theme for the 2013 Holocaust Memorial Day is Communities together: Build a Bridge.

By taking inspiration from the past, celebrating difference and ensuring respect for all we can Build a Bridge in our community and help to create a safer, better future.  Click the button below to show your support and Build a Bridge.


Saturday Evening Lectures at Dundee University February - May 2013

The Saturday Evening Lectures (free admission) arranged by the University of Dundee celebrates its 89th Anniversary this year.

The remaining five lectures in this years series are as follows:

9th February - David Mach: Mach Mania: An Artist's Portfolio.

9th March - Alyson Leslie: 'From Agatha Christie to Esther Rantzen: The British Response to Child Abuse Tragedies'.

23rd March - Fiona McLaren: 'Da Vinci's Last Commission'.

20th April - Professor Simon Baron-Cohen: 'Zero Degrees of Empathy'

11th May - Andy Wightman: 'Who Owns Scotland (And How They Got It)'.

All lectures will be held in the Dalhousie Building beginning at 6pm.

Drinks receptions will follow each lecture, and where appropriate, book-signings will be held.

The Dalhousie Building is located on the main campus of the University, on the corner of Old Hawkhill and Hunter Street. There is a pay and display car park opposite, which is open to the public, just behind the Globe Bar.

Overflow theatres may be in use if lectures are heavily subscribed, so be sure to arrive early if you would prefer to be seated in the main lecture theatre, as seating will be filled on a first come-first served basis on the night.

Tickets are available by emailing, or from the events office on 01382 385564.


SNP's Broken Promises on Primary Class Sizes in Dundee

"Under the SNP, Dundee City Council will continue to deliver new schools, smaller class sizes, breakfast clubs in every school ....."

".... And as every parent knows, smaller classes means more teacher time and better learning." 

(April 2012 SNP Dundee Manifesto - see below)

"Removing the restrictions of class sizes of 18" is proposed by SNP in Council Budget Paper last week providing a saving of £595,000 per year.
(January 2013 Budget Paper see below)


Dundee to Aberdeen - Great British Railway Journeys

It's a great week for Dundee and North East Scotland on BBC TV.

Bob Servant Independent starts tonight and yesterday on BBC2 we had Michael Portillo on Great British Railway Journey's - Dundee to Aberdeen.

Verdant Works, Arbroath Smokies, the Bell Rock, Auchmithie, Montrose Basin and the Caledonian preservation Railway from Brechin to Montrose all feature.


Call for Clarity About Which Secondary Schools in Dundee Will Have Larger English and Maths Classes in S1/S2

Last week, the SNP led Administration of the Council made a shock announcement about their cuts in staffing at our Schools. From August 2013 they have proposed to withdraw smaller classes in Maths and English in the first two years at five of the nine secondary schools in Dundee. These classes are currently capped at 20 and will, under these proposals, increase to a maximum of 33 pupils.
The Education Convener, Councillor Hunter justified this by saying that four secondary schools had less positive exam results and keeping the smaller classes for them would help improve their results. Presumably, by that line of reasoning, exam results in those schools where the smaller classes are being withdrawn will be undermined.
But so far the Education Convener has avoided spelling out which four secondary schools will retain their cash for these smaller Maths and English Classes in S1 and S2 and which will lose out. Parents and carers who have children moving from Primary to Secondary School this summer have a right and a need to know this now. They need to know because whether a secondary school will or will not have smaller classes in Maths and English is something that might sway their decision about which school to request for their child.
These parents and carers shouldn't be asked to wait for his announcement until after the Budget Meeting on Thursday 14 February, because they must finalise their parental choice for a secondary school by the Council's deadline. Placing requests must be submitted to the City Council by the first Monday in February which this year falls on Monday 4 February. 
Of course Councillor Hunter could have chosen to put this on the Agenda of the Education Committee called for Monday 28 January, but I notice that he has avoided doing this when I looked at the papers that have been issued. As Convener, he still has the opportunity to put this on as a late item and allow Senior Pupils, Parent Council Representatives and Teachers from our schools to have their say along with Councillors.
Like his predecessor, Councillor Fordyce, Councillor Hunter can try and hide the issues that are really important from the Education Committee but he must come clean and tell us where his axe is going to fall in Maths and English Classes. Parents and carers won't thank him from hiding this from them when they have to make their placing decisions over the next few days.
The nine Secondary Schools in Dundee are:
  • Baldragon Academy
  • Braeview Academy
  • Craigie High School
  • Grove Academy
  • Harris Academy
  • Menzieshill High School
  • Morgan Academy
  • St John's RC High School
  • St Paul's RC Academy


Bob Servant Independent BBC Six Part Comedy Series Starring Brian Cox & The Ferry Starts Wednesday Night

Bob Servant Independent starts on BBC4 on Wednesday 23rd January at 10pm. It will be repeated on Friday evenings on BBC2 Scotland at 10pm.

This new comedy series, from BBC Scotland, brings Neil Forsyth's comedic creation, Bob Servant, to the small screen for the first time. It stars Brian Cox and Broughty Ferry. Brian continues in a role he has made his own following the earlier BBC Radio transmission of "Delete This at Your Peril: The Bob Servant Emails" and Broughty Ferry that supplies most of the wonderful locations for the series.

Full transmission dates and times – 

Episode 1 – “Launch Day”

Wednesday January 23rd BBC4 10pm
Friday January 25th BBC2 Scotland (Sky Channel 970) 10pm

Episode 2 – “A Local Man”
Wednesday January 30th BBC4 10pm
Friday February 1st BBC2 Scotland (Sky Channel 970) 10pm

Episode 3 – “Women and God”

Wednesday February 6th BBC4 10pm
Friday February 8th BBC2 Scotland (Sky Channel 970) 10pm

Episode 4 – “The Media”
Wednesday February 13th BBC4 10pm
Friday February 15th BBC2 Scotland (Sky Channel 970) 10pm

Episode 5 – “The Debate”
Wednesday February 20th BBC4 10pm
Friday February 22nd BBC2 Scotland (Sky Channel 970) 10pm

Episode 6 – “Election Day”

Wednesday February 27th BBC4 10pm
Friday February 29th BBC2 Scotland (Sky Channel 970) 10pm


Update on Dog Fouling in The Ferry - Not the Bob Servant Solution

My recent press coverage about shortages in the supply of the Council's free dog poo bags resulted in many follow up conversations with folk in Broughty Ferry and beyond.
For some responsible dog owners, it's the shortage of dog bins in certain locations such as Ferryfields and Central Broughty Ferry which is the issue. I have taken this up with the Environment Department. For others, it is concern about the irresponsible dog owners who, despite the bags and bins from the Council, don't clean up after their dogs. 

Dog owners can be reassured that I am not about to take the approach adopted by Bob Servant the Independent Candidate in the Broughty Ferry parliamentary by-election. By the way it's screening on BBC4 and BBC2 Scotland from later this week. In a telephone phone-in on the local radio station, he advocates banning all dogs from Dawson Park.

But seriously, I would like to see some fixed penalty fines being issued to errant owners who don't clean up after their dogs. The Council has these powers, but rarely seems to make use of these. This might make dog walkers think twice about not cleaning up after their dogs.

On a more positive note, I was notified about Dog Training Classes that run at the Brooksbank Community Centre on Pitairlie Road. They provide dog training to around 80 dog owners and their dogs every week. 
Monday night 6 - 7pm is for Puppies and 7 - 8pm is for Adult Dogs. These classes are repeated on Saturday mornings 10 - 11am and 11 - 12am £5 per week Concessions £3.  Brooksbank Centre, Pitairlie Road, Dundee DD4 8DG. Phone:  01382 432450


Check Out the Latest Flythrough Showing VandA at Dundee in its New Location

If you've decided to stay inside rather than venture out in the snow to the Public Consultation Event about the new location and design for the VandA in Dundee, then check out this video:

More details about the Consultation Event which will also be open 10:00 - 16:00 at Abertay University in Bell Street on Saturday 19 January 2013

Multiple Road Closures in The Ferry to Facilitate Replacement of Electrical Supply Cable

Major disruption for drivers that use Claypotts Road in The Ferry is signalled by Dundee City Council's publication of a Traffic Order which is due to come into force on Monday 4 February 2013. 

Dundee City Council propose to make an Order under Section 14(1) of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 for the purpose of facilitating works laying a new 33kv electrical cable. The Order is expected to be in force for nine weeks from 4 February 2013. Its maximum duration in terms of the Act is eighteen months.

The effect of the Order is to prohibit temporarily all vehicular traffic in:

  1. A92 Arbroath Road, Dundee eastbound between Kingsway East and Gotterstone Avenue
  2. St Vincent Street, Broughty Ferry between Queen Street and Brook Street
  3. Brook Street, Broughty Ferry between St Vincent Street and New Road
  4. Douglas Road, Dundee between Kingsway East and Kemnay Place
  5. Kemnay Place, Dundee between Douglas Road and Arbroath Road
  6. Claypotts Terrace, Broughty Ferry between Grove Road and Claypotts Road
  7. B978 Claypotts Road, Broughty Ferry between Claypotts Terrace and Queen Street
  8. A930 Queen Street, Broughty Ferry (Phase 1) between Claypotts Road and Fort Street (westbound only)
  9. Queen Street, Broughty Ferry (Phase 2) between Fort Street and St Vincent Street (westbound only)
  10. Access to Queen Street, Broughty Ferry from all side streets between Claypotts Road and Rowanbank Gardens (not all side streets will be closed at the same time)

Pedestrian thoroughfare and vehicular access to premises will be maintained where possible.  The road closures will be carried out on a rolling programme, however it may be necessary to close more than one road at any time.  An alternative route will be available via:

  1. Strips of Craigie Road/ A930 Dundee Road West/A930 Dundee Road/West Queen Street/B978 Claypotts Road
  2. Queen Street/Gray Street/Brook Street
  3. Gray Street/King Street/Castle Street
  4. Kingsway East/Longtown Road
  5. Douglas Road/Arbroath Road
  6. Grove Road/Strathern Road/Duntrune Terrace/Claypotts Road
  7. West Queen Street/Dundee Road/Fairfield Road/Arbroath Road
  8. Fort Street/Forthill Road/Balgillo Road/Ballinard Road/Claypotts Road
  9. Abertay Street/Nursery Road/Forthill Road/Fort Street
  10. Local diversions will be in place

Please forward any comments you may have regarding this proposal to Mark Cobb, Network Management Team, City Development Department, Dundee House, 50 North Lindsay Street, Dundee DD1 1LS, no later than five working days prior to the commencement date. If you have any queries please contact Mr Cobb on 01382 433082.


Public Consultation on Revised Design and Location for V and A at Dundee Thursday 17 - Saturday 20 January 2013

Now is your opportunity to see and comment on the latest revised design and location for the VandA at Dundee.

The new plans are available at the public consultation at the University of Abertay Dundee from today Thursday 17 January through to Saturday 19 January 2013, 10am - 4pm at the 
Bernard King Library, University of Abertay Dundee, Bell Street, Dundee DD1 1HG - look for the big yellow banner!

View Larger Map


SNP Education Cuts in Dundee Reveal Shocking Abandonment of Class Size Reductions in our Primary and Secondary Schools

In the latest round of Education Cuts in Dundee, the SNP Administration are proposing to remove smaller class sizes in Primary One classes where previously introduced in the City Primary Schools. This is an shameful abandonment of their local and national promises to voters to introduce a maximum class size of 18 in Primary 1-3 classes. This will be very disappointing for parents and carers whose children are coming up to P1 in the schools where this had been introduced. 

They are also proposing to abandon the universal provision of smaller class sizes - an average of twenty - for Maths and English in S1 and S2. In a divisive move, they are proposing to remove this from five of the nine secondary schools in Dundee apparently having regard to the Council's Fairness Strategy. This means that Maths and English classes in the five secondary schools can be will be as large as 33 pupils. This would represent a huge increase.

I think many parents will think this will be rough justice if this applies to their children in their Secondary School. I am sure there will be immediate demands in the city by parents, carers and teachers to know which schools this will apply to and what effect it will have on teaching and learning in Maths and English for children in those schools affected.

It seems that so many of Labour's steady improvements to the staffing levels in our schools are being carelessly removed by the SNP's successive cuts in Education in Dundee.

Although we were told in a report to Council earlier this week that, we had to to maintain teacher numbers, as part of the local government settlement between the Scottish Government and Councils, here we are again seeing further cuts in teacher numbers with up to thirty more front line teacher posts disappearing this year.


Welfare Rights and Wrongs for Older People in Dundee

At the Policy and Resources Committee last night we considered a report, "Hospital Fund and the Johnston Bequest",  which recommended that:
"..... a budget of £25,000 be provided from the Hospital Fund and Johnston Bequest to pilot a targeted welfare benefit advice service for older people in Dundee 2013/14."

What could be controversial about such a proposal at a time when, according the Department of Work and Pensions, 1 in 6 pensioners in Dundee are living on a low income? Additionally, that group of older people in our city will be finding their incomes severely squeezed by significant rises in their day to day living costs for essentials such as food and fuel. It is also widely recognised that as the benefit system is turned on its head, some of our older citizens will need help to navigate their way from one set of cash benefits to another and with submitting Internet only applications for government cash benefits. Furthermore, we know that our existing welfare rights advice agencies in the city are already under pressure.

While most Councillors were satisfied with reassurances that the new focus for some of the resources from these funds was legally acceptable, Liberal Democrat Councillor Fraser Macpherson, moved against this proposal with an amendment which read:
"I move as an amendment, that there should be no change to the current arrangements whereby from time to time, when funds allow, all 29 Councillors on the City Council are invited to nominate another deserving pensioner for addition to the list of beneficiaries and that the Chief Executive should be instructed to investigate the possibility of funding a pilot welfare advice service for older people in Dundee ass part of the process for setting the 3013/14 Revenue Budget."

In a nutshell, Councillor Macpherson, supported by Conservative Baillie Scott, wanted to keep the status quo whereby periodically, all 29 City Councillors were asked to nominate a deserving pensioner in their ward for an annual lifetime 'pension' of £70.

I thought that, in the context of the Fairness Strategy for Dundee which the Council had previously adopted, this proposal was a creative and constructive way of using some of the resources from these bequests, to benefit a wider number of older people. Furthermore, this proposal has the prospect of adding a more significant sum to many, not just a few, pensioners' pockets. 

The amendment by Councillor Macpherson (West End), supported by Conservative Baillie Scott (The Ferry) was defeated by 26 votes to 2.


New Youth Worker for Two Broughty Churches

On Sunday evening, I attended St James Parish Church in Fort Street for the Commissioning Service for Youth Worker Gary Torbet. 

In a joint initiative with Broughty Ferry Baptist Church, Gary will be working with the young people in both churches. 

As part of the background work to establish this shared Youth Worker post in Broughty Ferry, members from both congregations met the well established Radiate Youth Leadership Partnership which brings together three local churches in the Cathcart area of Glasgow.

It was really good to catch up with Gary, who is one of my former students at the College of Education where he qualified in youth and community work in the 1990's. 

I was delighted to be present at the beginning of this positive new development  for our young people in The Ferry.


Residents in Beaumont Terrace Want an End to Potholes in Their Road and Pavements

Just one of the many sections of crumbling road
 & pathway surfaces in Beaumont Terrace
Last week, I met residents in Beaumont Terrace in The Ferry who had contacted me to complain about their pavements and road surfaces. Over the years a long standing resident reported that they had noticed a steady decline in the state of these. 

They took me for a walk round their Terrace to point out what they are concerned about and I took the opportunity to take some photos. From my observations and pictures it's clear that general wear and tear and recent bouts of bad weather have damaged sections of the road and pavements. Some previous patches and sections of infilling over section for the road that had been dug up are crumbling as they lose adhesion.

I have written to the Roads' Maintenance Partnership and asked them to inspect Beaumont Terrace and repair the worst of the existing holes. 

But that won't be enough, except for the short term. After successive batches of patch and mend, the residents I met in Beaumont Terrace think their road and pavements needs to be completely resurfaced and that it must be their turn soon. I agree. 

I have also written to the Council to find out where this street is on the waiting list for resurfacing. I shall be urging that Beaumont Terrace is prioritised. 


Bob Servant Emails is Rebroadcast by Radio Scotland Catch it On Air or on iPlayer

The Bob Servant Emails, with Brian Cox, is currently being re-broadcast on BBC Radio Scotland at 1.45pm on Fridays from 11 January 2013. 

It's claimed that Bob is a hero for our troubled times. He takes on internet spammers so we don't have to.

Born and bred in Dundee, Servant sees himself as a people's champion. His extraordinary self-belief stems largely from his dominant position in Dundee's notorious Cheeseburger Wars of the early 1980s ..... He continued his Midas touch in the 1990s by running what he often claims to have been the 'largest window cleaning round in Western Europe'. And now, he's taking on the internet spammers of the world. 

To catch the 1st episode (1 of 6) on iPlayer - Olga, Sasha and the Jamaica Lakers - use the link below - available for 7 days from the broadcast date.
Link to iPlayer for Programme 1


Public Access is Maintained as Work Progresses on Upgrading Coastal Pathway

Earlier in the week, I noticed that work is progressing on the last section of the upgrading of the coastal pathway running between the Stannergate to Douglas Terrace in Broughty Ferry. This major contract has been jointly funded by Dundee City Council and SUSTRANS. This particular section of the pathway runs between Grassy Beach and Douglas Terrace.

I think that many of the regular walkers and cyclists who make use of the pathway will be relieved to know that public access will be maintained while the extensive work is undertaken. This should ensure that dog walkers, leisure and commuting cyclists and other users can continue to use the pathway day by day.

Judging by the reduced width of a short section of available pathway, it will require some patience and good sense at busy times when folk coming in opposite directions meet in the 'narrows'. In the long run, I think constituents will accept that our temporary inconvenience will be worthwhile when they can enjoy using the complete upgraded pathway in the Spring.


Bob Servant Independent Preview at the Gardyne Theatre

Panel discussion and q and a
I was delighted to be invited to the the BBC preview of two of the Bob Servant Independent episodes at the Gardyne Theatre. The reality earlier tonight didn't disappoint; in fact it exceeded my expectations. 

Neil Forsyth's comedic creation has been transported from the page and radio to the TV screen by BBC Scotland. This new series focuses on Bob's campaign to be elected as MP for Broughty Ferry in a by-election. 

In the preview of these first two episodes, Bob Servant is 'broughty' to life as he and Broughty Ferry are centre stage. I won't say much more as I don't want to reveal the story line. But on this showing, I think Bob Servant. the Independent candidate, would certainly have livened up our local elections in the Ferry last May and challenged me on canine issues.

The Bob Servant Independent series of six half hour programmes will be coming to our TV screens soon on BBC2 Scotland and BBC Four.


Disappointing News for Dundee and Broughty Ferry from Network Rail

Network Rail has just published its UK business plan for 2014 to 2019 which it has sent to to Rail Regulator for approval. 

The plan proposes to invest £4 billion over the five year period in Scotland on improving the rail infrastructure  such as track, bridges and new stations.

Priorities in Scotland, set by the Scottish Government, include electrifying the line between Glasgow and Edinburgh, and completing the Borders rail link.

Unfortunately this means that the extension of the electrification of the East Coast mainline from Edinburgh to Aberdeen does not appear as a priority in the plans for 2014-19. 

It is positive that the future of through trains has been secured on the London Kings Cross to Aberdeen East Coast mainline route by the ordering of replacement 'bi-mode trains' with underfloor diesel engines to operate on non-electrified routes.  But the lack of ambition in the electrification programme on the Edinburgh to Aberdeen route is a disappointment. 

The future of rail services is an important practical issue for Dundee rail passengers. It is also a strategic issue for the City as we anticipate a significant  growth in tourists when the VandA opens in Dundee.


Misconceptions about Welfare Benefits

A TUC sponsored UK poll conducted by You Gov has exposed a significant gap between popular opinion and reality about matters such as the value of unemployment benefits, the proportion of fraud and the percentage of the welfare budget spent on cash benefits for unemployed people.

These differences between popular opinion and reality are about important current issues and what's more the misconceptions are held by a significant proportion of the electorate; us.

For example, this poll revealed that:
  • "On average people think that 41 per cent of the entire welfare budget goes on benefits to unemployed people, while the true figure is 3 per cent.
  • On average people think that 27 per cent of the welfare budget is claimed fraudulently, while the government's own figure is 0.7 per cent.
  • On average people think that almost half the people (48 per cent) who claim Jobseeker's Allowance go on to claim it for more than a year, while the true figure is just under 30 per cent (27.8 per cent).
  • On average people think that an unemployed couple with two school-age children would get £147 in Jobseeker's Allowance - more than 30 per cent higher than the £111.45 they would actually receive - a £35 over-calculation.
  • Only 21 per cent of people think that this family with two school-age children would be better off if one of the unemployed parents got a 30 hour a week minimum wage job, even though they would actually end up £138 a week better off. Even those who thought they would be better off only thought on average they would gain by £59."
TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady said:
"It is not surprising that voters want to get tough on welfare. They think the system is much more generous than it is in reality, is riddled with fraud and is heavily skewed towards helping the unemployed, who they think are far more likely to stay on the dole than is actually the case. Indeed if what the average voter thinks was true, I'd want tough action too.
But you should not conduct policy, particularly when it hits some of the most vulnerable people in society, on the basis of prejudice and ignorance. And it is plainly immoral to spread such prejudice purely for party gain, as ministers and their advisers are doing, by deliberately misleading people about the value of benefits and who gets them.that the could more easily gain acceptance of cuts in social security benefits if they made the public wary of supporting what were referred to in the 19th century as the 'undeserving poor'."

Link to Survey Results


More Cuts to Bus Services on Their Way

Earlier today The Herald reported that commuters face more cuts to local bus services following the Scottish Government’s under funding of the concessionary travel scheme.

It will be the Scottish Government’s fault that bus passengers face paying higher fares, but getting less of a service in return in 2013.

Buses are a real lifeline for many communities and residents in our city, particularly for those on low incomes and those people who do not have access to their own transport. For many elderly folk, their bus pass and access to a regular bus service is the difference between being cooped up at home or getting out.

If the SNP led Holyrood Government require bus operators to provide the same concessionary travel scheme with less money, on top of the cut to the bus operators' grant, then the consequences are clear - more fare hikes, more service cuts and more job losses.

It seems the Edinburgh government's intention is to make these cuts and to try to blame the bus companies, while at the same time refusing to support greater regulation of the bus industry. This approach means bus workers and those who rely most on bus services, usually those on lower incomes, will unfortunately pay the price.


More Dog Bins Requested in Ferryfields

Just before new year, in a blog posting and the associated press coverage, I highlighted concerns about the repeated shortage of the Council's free dog poop bags at collection points in Broughty Ferry.

In response, I have been contacted by some constituents in Ferryfields who wanted me to recognise that in their area the most pressing shortage was a lack of dog poo bins.

More specifically, they pointed out that currently Ferryfields (north of the Arbroath Road) only has two dog bins for the entire estate and really requires at least another two particularly on the access road as some dog owners simply drop bags when used. 

Furthermore, they observe that the access road side walks do not appear to be looked after by anyone and they think this should be a Council responsibility. 

They also drew a comparison between their new housing estate and the Sandy Park Children's play area on the opposite side of Abroath Road in East Balgillo. In the vicinity of the Sandy Park, they observed five or six dog bins alone. More than reasonably therefore, they conclude that there is a shortage of dog bins in Ferryfields. They think they have a good case for obtaining more bins for their development and I agree.

I have raised this shortage of dog bins in Ferryfields with the Environment Department.


Pedestrians Want Their Pavement Back

In late September 2012, I reported to the Council that an resident had tripped on a hole in the pavement on the southern end of Claypotts Road in The Ferry. 

Furthermore, her trip had led to a nasty fall from which she sustained two black eyes and a crushed pair of glasses.


After a two month interval, work started on resurfacing this section of pavement. 

That was in early December.

Five weeks in on and work seems to have been suspended. 

The path is fenced off by safety barriers and traffic signs indicate that pedestrians should use the pavement on the other side of Claypotts Road.

What residents want to know is when work on this stretch of pavement will be resumed and then completed. 

I have written to the Transportation section of the City Development Department and posed these questions so that I can find some answers for my constituents.


Taxi Cab Parked Irresponsibly on Approach to Central Broughty Ferry

Residents have complained to me about the irresponsible long term parking of a black taxi cab right up to the junction of Dundee Road and West Queen Street in Broughty Ferry. 

They are concerned about the obstruction to sight lines for folk driving east from Dundee into The Ferry. As they turn off the main road over the railway bridge, towards Brook Street and central Broughty Ferry, their view of the road is obstructed.

Driving from the Ferry over the railway bridge towards the junction, the Cab appears to be turning the corner ahead rather than being parked.

Another source of complaint is that the cab is parked in a row of vehicles which might appear to be all parked in this prominent position to display their advertisements. As these advertisement on wheels are apparently 'mobile', they apparently evade the controls which apply to advertisements that might appear on a fixed site such as a billboard. But these advertisements on wheels are, for many folk, an unwelcome intrusion.

I have passed on my constituents' concerns to the Licensing Department of the City Council and asked them to use their powers and influence to get the vehicle shifted from its current location. I have also asked the City Development Department to sparingly insert double yellow lines to make it easier to keep this corner clear in future.


Broughty Ferry Dook New Year's Day January 2013

An enthusiastic crowd turned out to witness the 2012 Broughty Ferry Dook yesterday. The spectators lined the harbour and any nearby vantage point such as the ramp running up to the Castle. Luckily for them and the dookers, the wind had almost dropped and the sun was shining. 
At 2:30 pm what looked like another record turnout of brave or foolish folk (depending on your viewpoint) bravely took to the water, if only briefly. Organised by Ye Amphibious Ancients' Bathing Association (the Phibbies), who have been in existence nearly 130 years, this is the largest New Year's Day dook on the East Coast of Scotland. 

Well done Joyce McIntosh, President of Ye Amphibious Ancients' Bathing Association, the organising committee and the sponsors.