Campaigning to keep our Dundee Fire Control Room

Today, along with my colleague Alison McInnes, Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson and MSP for the North East, I toured the Dundee Fire Control Room.   Alison and I are campaigning for the retention of the Dundee Fire Control Room that has a vital role and must be retained.
I was hugely impressed with the professionalism and local knowledge of the control staff Alison and I spoke with.  
Alison is pictured below outside the control room and Macalpine Road Fire Station:
Alison said, “There is a compelling case for retaining fire control rooms in Dundee and Aberdeen.
“Fire control rooms should not be considered backroom assets alongside former HQ buildings.    They coordinate and mobilise front line operations with the benefit of a wealth, sometimes decades worth, of local knowledge.      That is why they cannot be sold off without impacting upon the ability of the fire service to respond swiftly to emergencies and without eroding the service provided to local communities.
“I am also concerned that a smaller network of control rooms will be less resilient and I hope that the Fire Board will heed these concerns and decide to keep the control room in Dundee open when it considers the matter again in January.”
I was interviewed about this matter on Wave 102 News today.   You can hear the interview by clicking ‘play’ below:

Monday meetings

Today, I had the pleasure of holding two West End surgeries jointly with Alison McInnes, MSP for North East Scotland.    These took place at the Mitchell Street Centre and at Harris Academy.
Alison and I also attended the latest meeting of the cross-party Remploy Action Group that took place at the City Chambers.   Alison and I are pictured (right) prior to the meeting today.
This evening, I attended City Council committee meetings at which:
* I proposed that changes proposed to the Hospital Fund and Johnston Bequest do not go ahead.   Having read the last will and testament of Robert Johnston (1639) and the detail of the Dundee Churches and Hospital Act 1864, it is quite clear that these funds were left to give maintenance to “the poor” (Hospital Act) and “the aged and impotent people” (Johnston Bequest).   The proposal before councillors tonight was to henceforth use the funds for a welfare rights service.   However well-intentioned, this proposal does not meet the terms of the bequests and that much is obvious to anyone who has actually read these terms.
* I was elected to serve on the Tay Road Bridge Joint Board.
* I welcomed progress to provide modern apprenticeships and asked for the detail as to when these can be delivered.

A New Year Message from Alison McInnes MSP

Looking back at the year that’s gone…
It is the close of another year, a time to reflect on the past 12 months and look forward to the challenges of 2013.
Let me start by thanking all those who fought the council elections in May. Although we knew it would be a tough campaign, it was still so disappointing to lose so many hard working local councillors.  However, in contrast to some other areas, here in the North East we still have a strong cohort of local councillors standing up for liberal democracy and I will continue to work with them in local campaigns.
It has been a busy year for the Liberal Democrat group in the Scottish Parliament. I believe our group of five MSPs, ably led by Willie Rennie, has maintained a strong presence in parliament and in the media.  Strong liberal voices speaking out and working hard, listening to our communities.
And more than ever, there is a real need for liberal voices, because this last year has fully exposed the centralising and controlling instincts of the SNP Government.  It is a government that displays a casual disregard for parliamentary scrutiny.  Despite promising to govern as if they were still a minority, we have seen the government – time after time – push through legislation unamended, deaf to concerns. 
Openness and transparency were never words that were readily associated with the SNP government (we learnt in the summer that they organised secrecy workshops to train civil servants in dealing with freedom of information requests regarding independence). 
But October was a turning point – we discovered that the SNP government would go to the Court of Session to prevent the publication of a non-existent document.
The extent of Alex Salmond’s cover-up (over whether he had legal advice on EU membership for a separate Scotland) was exposed to the whole nation – we now know that we can’t trust this government to answer a simple yes or no question, let alone give Scottish people access to important facts that will affect their future.
October was the month when we learned that when Alex Salmond says ‘yes’ it can mean anything really. 
That was followed by incidents where the First Minister and his Education Secretary had to be dragged to the chamber to apologise for misleading parliament, not once but twice.
We have worked constructively where we can, not opposing for the sake of it.  For example, we supported the Government’s Bills on minimum pricing for alcohol, social care self directed support, long leases, and criminal cases (punishment and review).  Last year Liberal Democrats worked constructively to deliver changes in the budget with extra funding for colleges, social housing and early intervention secured.  This year we hope to be successful in reversing proposed savage cuts to college budgets and securing extra funding for nursery education.
But when necessary we have been a vigorous opposition.  When we believe that legislation is ill thought out, or budget decisions will damage our communities we have made our voice heard.  Our most vigorous opposition has been to the Police and Fire Reform Bill. This Bill paved the way for the single Scottish police force and single fire service to come into being in April.  The SNP bulldozed through their centralising reforms, paying no heed to concerns expressed by communities, politicians or chief constables. The opposition parties tabled a total of 125 amendments to this Bill.  They were aimed at improving accountability, re-strengthening the role of local authorities and creating greater transparency.  The government rejected them all.
I believe this legislation is a destruction of the community foundations that our police and fire and rescue services are built upon and as the Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson I led for the party on this. Needless to say we did not vote for the legislation.
Concerns remain over accountability, local control and political independence.  I have not been convinced by arguments put forward as to how the new services will function in practice.  Over the last month we have witnessed the unedifying sight of the chairman of the Scottish Police Authority and the new chief constable engaged in a public power struggle over where responsibility lies. It’s barely 100 days since the legislation received Royal Assent and already the centralising Act is in turmoil. I also continue to have serious doubts over the outline business case and estimated savings.  
Justice issues remain to the fore at parliament, with the government’s proposals to remove the need for corroboration in criminal trials and reforms to criminal legal aid causing controversy.  Scotland’s justice system is under sustained attack from the Scottish government at the moment.  The SNP portrays it as pursuing a reforming agenda, but I fear there is a cavalier disregard for the founding principles of our criminal justice system, and we will do what we can to resist wholesale changes.
I have invested a great deal of time in campaigning for prison reform, particularly for changes to the women’s prison estate.  You could be forgiven for thinking that the description of conditions for woman offenders in Scotland were pulled straight from the pages of a Dickensian novel and not from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate reports: overcrowding, poor sanitary conditions, food not fit for consumption, excessive use of solitary confinement and a lack of adequate medical facilities have all been features of Scotland’s only prison for women offenders – HMP Cornton Vale. 
Our justice system has for too long been failing women offenders and our communities. The chronic overcrowding that has been the hallmark of Cornton Vale has led to an increase in violence and self-harm. It has also fostered an atmosphere which is in no way conducive to rehabilitation and efforts to break the cycle of re-offending.
For too long, the SNP Justice Secretary dodged his responsibility to improve the scandalous conditions that where getting worse on his watch. Again and again, I and others implored Kenny MacAskill to support calls for a new, purpose-built facility to house women offenders. Again and again Mr MacAskill refused to act and pointed to the cost of building a new prison.  However, I am pleased to report that at last we have worn him down.  He announced last month that a new prison will be built. This is a welcome chance to have a fresh start in our approach to rehabilitation. I’m pleased that the Justice Secretary has finally agreed with me that the cost of doing nothing is a price a tolerant liberal society should not be prepared to pay.
Constitutional Matters
In May, The Scotland Act was passed, devolving significant new financial powers to our parliament.
In October The Edinburgh Agreement, successfully negotiated by our Liberal Democrat Scottish Secretary Michael Moore was signed. This set out a proper basis for the referendum and crucially, thanks to Michael Moore’s steely resolve, ensures that one single question is posed. Both governments agreed that the referendum should have a clear legal base, be legislated for by the Scottish Parliament, be conducted so as to command the confidence of parliaments, government and people, deliver a fair test and decisive expression of the views of people in Scotland and a result that everyone will respect. It must be held before the end of 2014.
The North East in Parliament
College mergers, transport infrastructure, Union Terrace Gardens, hospital waiting times, council funding, rural GP practices, local job losses, farming regulations, retained fire stations, the oil and gas industry and road safety are all issues I have pursued through debates, oral questions and Ministerial contact.
The coming year
The next 12 months will be testing for Liberal Democrats across the UK, as the Westminster government tackles the economic mess left by Labour, while here in Scotland we gear up for the 2014 independence referendum. These will be challenging times but nonetheless there will be opportunities too for us to stand up for our beliefs as Liberal Democrats. We should be proud of the role Liberal Democrats are playing, locally, nationally, and throughout the UK.
With best wishes
Alison McInnes MSP
Liberal Democrat MSP for North East Scotland
PS: If I can be of assistance, please get in touch:

Yesterday’s election – our many thanks

I am not long back from the AV referendum count at DISC after three hours sleep last night and a 22.5 hour working day on polling day, so I’ll try to keep this necessarily short …

The election result has been exceptionally disappointing for the Liberal Democrats and in Dundee it was no different.   I would like to take this opportunity to thank all who voted Scottish Liberal Democrats in Dundee yesterday and also place on record my appreciation to Alison Burns in Dundee City West, Allan Petrie in Dundee City East and our team of party workers for all their hard-working efforts in such difficult circumstances.

The SNP has won a famous victory across Scotland and they deserve congratulation for their slick, professional campaign.    They have promised the earth.   Their majority government has no excuses for failure to deliver.   So let’s wait to see the effect of on council services of their unfunded 5 year Council Tax freeze, how long they put off an independence referendum, and if they deliver on the many other costly promises they have made.

I am by nature a party loyalist, and my natural instinct is always to be supportive to the party and the leadership.   But I am gutted at what happened the Scottish Liberal Democrat vote in Scotland yesterday and the loss of so many good, hard-working MSPs.     I am awfully relieved at the re-election of our North East regional MSP Alison McInnes and at the election of Willie Rennie to the parliament – the Scottish LibDem MSP to watch.   But I cannot pretend it was anything remotely like a half decent night for the Scottish Liberal Democrats.   But we’ll bounce back.   In the immortal words of Yazz, the only way is up.

Campaigning in the West End for Fairer Votes!

My Dundee Liberal Democrat colleagues – parliamentary candidates Alison Burns (Dundee City West) and Allan Petrie (Dundee City East) have met up with Alison McInnes, Liberal Democrat MSP for North East Scotland, in the West End to show their support for the Yes to Fairer Votes campaign.   They are pictured below in Taylor’s Lane.

Alison Burns said, “At the moment, MPs can be elected with fewer than one vote in three. With fairer votes, MPs would have to aim to get more than 50% of the vote to be sure of winning. This is good for democracy.”

Allan Petrie added, “We need political reform now and the Alternative Vote is our best chance. For far too long we’ve had a situation where a monkey could get elected just by wearing the right colour of rosette.

That must change if we want the right people in government taking decisions on our behalf. We must say goodbye to First Past the Post, and vote Yes to AV.”

Alison McInnes MSP said, “I am delighted that Dundee Liberal Democrats are campaigning for a YES vote on 5th May. The campaign for Fairer Votes is gathering momentum in Dundee and across Scotland.”

Liberal Democrats campaigning for local policing

As featured on tonight’s STV News and on local radio, North East Scotland MSP Alison McInnes, together with myself and Dundee Liberal Democrat colleagues, today launched a petition outside Tayside Police’s Headquarters that invites the public to support the campaign to stop Scotland’s emergency services being centralised into Scotland-wide force.

Alison then visited the Broughty Ferry and West End shopping areas to meet local people and explain why she and the Liberal Democrats oppose the abolition of Tayside Police and Tayside Fire and Rescue and believe that centralised police and fire services would be to the detriment of areas of Scotland outside Strathclyde & the central belt.

Alison said, “The SNP Scottish Government is aggressively pursuing the creation of a single nationwide police force and a one-size fits all approach to policing. It is clear that this proposal is being driven by personal preference rather than facts.

“However the Justice Minister has failed to give any details of where the £200 million savings that he purports will be made is to be found. In reality, it will be hugely expensive, increase political interference and could reduce the number of officers on the beat. Indeed there are fears that the proposals could result in the loss of up to 4,000 officers across Scotland.”

Allan Petrie, former Dundee Councillor and now Convener of Dundee Liberal Democrats, added, “The Scottish Government has failed to account for the costs of implementing a merger. This could amount to millions of pounds and was the reason similar plans were previously scrapped both here and in England and Wales.

“Tayside is already one of the most efficient police forces in the country. It would be extremely foolish to see an efficient force like Tayside become part of a Scotland wide force, to the detriment of the people of Dundee, Angus and Perthshire.”

Allan added that a merged Fire Service could result in re-opening the debate over the future of the Balmossie Fire Station. He said it was very clear that the people in Barnhill, Monifieth and across Broughty Ferry who are served by Balmossie do not want to see the fire station downgraded and he was concerned that, in a single Scotland-wide fire service, local voices would be drowned out.

Alison Burns, Liberal Democrat candidate for Dundee City West, said, “Inevitably, with a single force run from either Edinburgh or Glasgow, bureaucrats would be given far too much say over local policing without full awareness of local circumstances and issues.

“This policy poses the greatest challenge to our local police service for a generation and would be disastrous for Dundee and Tayside.”

From my own perspective, it is clear, speaking to constituents in the West End today that they are very concerned by these Fire Service and Policing centralisation proposals. People in Dundee value local Police and Fire services and centralising the services into a national service is something they view with concern.


“We are concerned that a one-size-fits-all approach to our emergency services will leave our area worse off. We are concerned that it will lead to a loss of local accountability, increase political interference and reduce the numbers of officers on the beat and firefighters in our local fire stations.

Help Alison and the local Scottish Liberal Democrats oppose the proposed centralisation of the Police and our Fire and Rescue Services by signing our petition and returning it to: Alison McInnes, Dundee Liberal Democrats, Freepost SCO3668, Dundee, DD4 7ZR.

“I/We the undersigned oppose any moves toward a single nationwide Police Force or Fire and Rescue Service”.

Some photos from today :

Above:   From Left – Me, Alison McInnes, Alison Burns and Allan Petrie

Above :  Alison McInnes in the West End

Above :  From left – Alison McInnes, Alison Burns and I take the petition to Blackness Fire Station

Saturday across the North East!

Yesterday, along with colleagues from Dundee Liberal Democrats, I campaigned at the Angus Council Carnoustie and District by-election in the morning and met with LibDem colleagues from across North East Scotland in Aberdeen later in the day.    Here’s a couple of photographs from yesterday!

Above :  In Aberdeen with colleagues Allan Petrie (left) and Alison McInnes MSP (centre)

Above :  Campaigning in Carnoustie!

Liberal Democrat support for V&A at Dundee

Earlier this week, my LibDem colleague Alison McInnes, MSP for North East Scotland, met with Graham McKee, the project leader for the V&A at Dundee initiative.

Alison said after the meeting, “I have followed this project with keen interest and it was useful to get an update from Graham McKee on the next steps. We discussed the winning design and viewed the model of the innovative design currently on display in an exhibition at Parliament. The stunning design for the new centre for design innovation has been created by Kengo Kuma and Associates.

“The V&A at Dundee is a welcome addition to the growing arts offered in the city but will also bring significant benefit to the economy of Dundee by creating 900 jobs and an estimated 300,000 visitors per year.

“That is why it is essential that the detailed preparatory work goes ahead promptly now that the winning design has been chosen and I therefore welcome the £5 million of funding committed by the Scottish Government to take forward the V&A project.”

Yesterday, responding to the announcement that up to 170 new jobs could be created in Dundee by Spanish wind turbine manufacturer Gamesa, regional MSP Alison added, “The creation of new jobs in the renewables sector is to be welcomed.

“Gamesa’s interest in siting the logistics and manufacturing centre in Dundee is likely to lead to others following suit. Scotland is widely acknowledged as a centre for renewable engineering expertise and Dundee is a good place to invest.

“I would urge the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise and Dundee City Council to do all they can to clinch the deal.”

Surgeries return!

With the start of the new school term this week, my weekly surgeries started again last night at Blackness Primary School. If you go to , you can see the weekly surgery list.

In addition to my weekly surgeries, this afternoon, Alison McInnes MSP, John Barnett & I held a joint surgery for the West End – at Blackness Library.
Next week, during a visit to Dundee by Vince Cable MP, John Barnett will be adopted by the Liberal Democrats as our Westminster Parliamentary Candidate for Dundee West. John is without doubt the most experienced politician the LibDems have adopted as a parliamentary candidate for the constituency in many years. An able and effective communicator, he will give Labour and the Nationalists a real run for their money in Dundee West at the General Election.
Originally from Angus, John studied law at the University of Dundee and spent 20 years in international business. Recently involved locally in management consultancy and the heritage sector, he is undertaking postgraduate studies in economics. John is married with two children at school. Here’s a photo (above right) of John Barnett and Alison McInnes MSP at Blackness Library this afternoon.

Alison campaigning with Chris in Maryfield

We had an enjoyable day today at the Maryfield by-election.

Alison McInnes, MSP for North East Scotland was in Dundee today, campaigning for Chris Hall, our Liberal Democrat candidate in Maryfield.

Alison and Chris toured local sheltered housing complexes and also spoke with residents in the Baxter Park and Maryfield areas about local issues. I took the photos!

Alison commented on the warm reception from residents.

She said, “There is keen interest in this by-election from local people and it is clear that people in the area are looking for their new councillor to campaign actively on local issues including road safety, condition of pavements, tackling graffiti and a whole host of other issues.

“I am pleased that my colleague Chris Hall has been campaigning hard on the issues of concern to local people.”

Chris is a hard-working candidate and he’s making a great impression in the Maryfield Ward.

Joint Surgery with Alison McInnes MSP

Alison McInnes, LibDem MSP for North East Scotland, is visiting Dundee tomorrow.
We are jointly visiting Radio Tay’s studios to discuss with Bauer Radio, who own Radio Tay, our concerns about the recent changes to Tay FM evening programming, which removes local output.
Later, from 1pm to 1.45pm, we are holding a joint surgery at the Paton’s Lane Sheltered Lounge, for all residents in the area.

McInnes issues Dundee tax cut challenge

Issued by my colleague Alison McInnes MSP today :

Alison McInnes, Lib Dem MSP for the North East is backing Tavish Scott’s call to the other political parties in Scotland to work with the Liberal Democrats to cut the income tax rate by two pence in the pound.


Mr Scott, the newly elected leader of the Liberal Democrats in Scotland, believes that as families across Scotland have to tighten their belts because of the current economic climate, the Government should do the same.


Under the Liberal Democrats’ plans, around 50,000 workers in Dundee, could save money. The average earner in Dundee could save £298.


Liberal Democrats have identified areas where the Government is wasting or misdirecting public money. We think that this money is better back in peoples’ pockets. We are absolutely committed to protecting schools and hospitals, which is why none of the savings will come from these frontline services.


Commenting, Mrs McInnes said, “It’s the measure of a political party that it can respond to urgent new demands. That’s why this Party needs to be ready. People are hurting now. The British economy is in meltdown. People want to hear what we can do for them.


“People in Dundee are tightening their belts. It’s right that Government does as well. Families are feeling the pinch. They have to make sacrifices just to make ends meet. We Liberal Democrats will respond to that.


“Families in the North East are being hit hard by rising prices. Energy costs up by half, food costs up by 30 pounds a month, inflation the highest for 16 years. We can’t let this go on. We can’t turn our backs. We’ve got to find ways to help people out.


“We have to say what can be done to put money back into peoples’ pockets. We should use the Scottish Parliament’s power to cut income tax by two pence in the pound. This could save 50,000 workers in Dundee money. The average earner in Dundee could save £298 a year. Putting money back in the pockets of people who need it most is our practical ambition.


“The Scottish Government’s Budget comes out in a few days time. That Budget cannot be ‘business as usual’. It has to cut the cost of living. It has to put families first.


“So this is our challenge to Scotland’s other parties. Are they up for helping people across Scotland? Are they up for helping people in Dundee? Do they support hard pressed families at this tough time? Will they work with us to make it happen?”

News release from Alison McInnes MSP

News Release from Alison McInnes
Liberal Democrat MSP for North East Scotland

McInnes dismayed by radio jobs threat

North East MSP Alison McInnes has contacted the owners of Radio Tay after plans emerged for standardising evening and overnight broadcasts across seven Scottish stations.

Bauer group anticipates redundancies or reduced hours as a result of the decision to centralise broadcasts between 7pm and 6am. As a result, listeners in Dundee will be listening to Clyde FM’s Glasgow-based broadcast, rather than the local programmes currently aired by Tay FM.

Mrs McInnes has written to Bauer group urging them to rethink the proposals. She commented: “This decision seems short-sighted. My immediate concerns are for those staff who will be made redundant because of this decision if it is allowed to stand.

“I also wonder how the decision will play out in terms of Bauer’s audiences. Evening and night-time shows have dedicated followers and in the era of online radio where so much choice is available, it seems strange to reduce the local distinctiveness of stations such as Tay FM.”

Dundee West End Councillor Fraser Macpherson added: “Radio Tay provides an excellent local radio service for Tayside & North Fife and any drop in the amount of local output would be a regrettable step. I am hoping that Bauer, the station’s owners, will reconsider this decision.”

Alison McInnes MSP on climate change

Was pleased to see North East Scotland MSP (and Scottish Liberal Democrat Climate Change spokesperson), Alison McInnes, last week call for the Scottish Government to take real action against climate change, so that Scotland takes a leading role in tackling this global challenge.

Alison said, “Just over a year ago the First Minister outlined his new Government’s priorities. He devoted a good deal of time to talking about the environmental challenges, the need for a Scottish Climate Change Bill, and the all-encompassing nature that action against climate change must take. But, 12 months on, every day it seems more and more as though the First Minister’s words were just that – words, and nothing more.

“We cannot, however, accuse the Government of doing nothing since they have come to power. Ministers have found the time to ditch their manifesto commitment to binding annual reduction targets of 3 per cent. They have committed to a huge increase in spending on roads, while at the same time delivering budget cuts to public transport. They have cut funding for sustainable travel initiatives and turned down planning applications for wind farm developments, while at the same time proclaiming that ‘coal is King’.

“For all the rhetoric, we have yet to see evidence that the Government has any substantive policies that will help meet the Bill’s targets. Setting an emissions target is important, but actually taking action that will allow that target to be met is where the real work lies.”

· Liberal Democrats want to see 100 per cent renewable electricity by 2050 and binding annual emissions reduction targets to set a clear trajectory towards an 80 per cent reduction by 2050. Liberal Democrats in Westminster have set out plans to make the UK carbon neutral by 2050.

· The Scottish Government must end its prevarication and inconsistency and come forward with substantive policies to tackle climate change. The Budget – with its simultaneous cuts to public and sustainable transport, increased spend on motorways and relatively low investment in green energy – offers no clarification. The Government’s astonishing delay in coming forward with a comprehensive energy strategy is also damaging. Scottish Renewables say the bill will be “meaningless” without a clear energy action plan. Ambitious targets are not in themselves sufficient. Targets are easy, delivery is hard.
· The Government doesn’t need to wait for the Climate Change Bill before it takes steps to curb harmful emissions – a year has passed without concrete action on energy use and sourcing, travel and transportation, waste production and disposal, estate management, and procurement of goods and services. The Scottish Government and the public sector could take the lead right now.

You can read Alison McInnes’ speech to the Scottish Parliament last Wednesday by clicking on the headline above.

Surgeries – and litter!

A useful time at lunchtime yesterday with a joint surgery with Alison McInnes MSP at Dundee University Students’ Association – good in particular to speak with two of the DUSA office bearers about issues affecting the student community and, in particular, how the City Council can assist.

This morning participated in a West End Community Council organised litter pick in the West End – mainly covering Perth Road, Hawkhill and the lanes in between. As you can see from the photos below, it was extremely productive!

Monday to Thursday!

It has been an exceptionally busy week … on Monday, had a very useful and constructive meeting with Alison McInnes, MSP for North East Scotland, about a variety of local and regional issues.

Also met with representatives from NCR and, apart from an administration group meeting on budget matters, the City Council’s Development Quality Committee met for some four hours in the evening, including debate over a number of highly contentious planning applications.

One of the items I spoke on was the decision of the Scottish Government Reporter to uphold an appeal (and quosh enforcement action) against the committee’s decision to refuse planning approval for a flat conversion at the Meadowside/Victoria Road junction.

When this matter came before committee in March, it was in my old Tay Bridges Ward (it is not in the new West End Ward) and I was highly supportive of the decision to refuse permission. The application failed on two counts (a) contravening policy on decent space standards and (b) poor air quality. The Reporter has again failed Dundee and I am highly critical. I am grateful to the Courier for highlighting my concerns in yesterday’s edition.

Apart from chairing the TACTRAN Board in Forfar on Tuesday, I attending my employer’s Christmas reception in Edinburgh and to give a degree of “balance” (having mentioned the Glasgow Christmas lights recently!) here’s a couple of Edinburgh Christmas photographs!

Spent much of yesterday catching up on constituents’ issues and we are awarding the winner of the West End Children’s Window Spotting Competition at lunchtime today.