|Trudy Cunningham and me in gardening mode at Dundee West Church this morning!
|The Fete stalls were really busy!|
|And yet again, Mr Ferrier, Head Teacher, was a good sport (and rather cold and wet!)|
* At last night’s City Council meetings, despite the support of petitions signatures from hundreds of Dundonians and the powerful and compelling case made by delegations in support of my motion on the plight of the Palestinian people in the Gaza strip, I was heavily outvoted by a cobbled-together Labour/Nationalist amendment that represented the lowest common denominator of standing up for nothing. As I am reported in today’s Courier, it is sometimes better to lose the vote but do what you consider to be morally right.
* I raised questions about the City Council’s poor performance on re-letting of council houses and on the provision of controlled entry systems at the Housing, Dundee Contract Services and Environment Services Committee.
* Tonight, at West End Community Council, there was a very interesting presentation by Lisa Toon of the Association of Scottish Neighbourhood Watches. In response to one of my questions, Lisa said that the number of Neighbourhood Watches in Dundee is lower than average and it would be good to see the number increase across the city. Lisa outlined ways the Association of Scottish Neighbourhood Watches can support Neighbourhood Watch initiatives and I am keen to encourage neighbourhood watch schemes in Dundee that can assist local communities prevent crime in their local area.
Earlier this week, I mentioned some of the criticism by certain propagandists of the motion I have placed on the City Council’s Policy and Resources Committee next Monday, expressing concern about the plight of the people of Gaza. There’s been something of a predictable campaign by these people, who have a few things in common – few (if any) live in Dundee (most e-mails, some with very inappropriate content, emanate from outwith the UK) and most writers are in a state of denial about the behaviour of the Israeli government and military over the Gaza blockade.
The letter in today’s Courier continues this theme of denial and I have responded to the Courier as follows:
Subject: Letter to the Editor
In meddling in the affairs of a local authority outwith her own area of Fife, Flora Selwyn (Courier Letters 11th June) claims that I should “leave foreign affairs to the Government.”
She fails to appreciate that local authorities procure goods and services and it is the responsibility of councillors to ensure they do so in an ethical manner.
Cllr Fraser Macpherson
Dundee City Council
It is interesting – and extremely heartwarming – to note the huge outpouring of support for my actions by local Dundee people. On Monday, I will collect a petition in support of my motion to the City Council, signed by hundreds of local people. I am very grateful to those who have organised the petition for all their efforts and to everyone who has signed it.
The people of Dundee have a reputation for fair-mindedness and the city has a proud record of supporting what is right. Of all the e-mails and letters I have received, perhaps the most telling quote made was originally said by Archbishop Desmond Tutu : “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
“I have raised this issue in light of my concerns over the continuing plight of the Palestinian people and of the humanitarian situation caused by Israel’s continuing blockade of the Gaza Strip.
“The Gaza blockade by Israel has brought terrible hardship to Gaza’s one and a half million citizens. I agree with the International Committee of the Red Cross which has made clear that Israel is in violation of its obligations under international humanitarian law.
“I am rather concerned by the use of some selective quotes by Stanley Grossman of Scottish Friends of Israel to suggest there is not a humanitarian crisis in Gaza when this is far from the case. There has been a huge level of concern shown by people across the world about the plight of the people of Gaza and I would draw Mr Grossman’s attention to the concerns raised by respected organisations such as the Red Cross and Oxfam.
“I have raised this matter as it is important that Dundee City Council, as with other local authorities, has an ethical procurement policy. It is very clear from feedback from many constituents that they too are concerned for the plight of the people of Gaza and it is to be hoped that, with international pressure, Israel will lift its blockade of the Gaza strip.”
In addition to the launch of Barney’s Fund that I mentioned last night, yesterday :
* The Courier covered the background to the motion I intend to bring to the City Council’s Policy and Resources Committee on 13th June. This surrounds the plight of the people of Palestine, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the issue of the boycott of Israeli goods. I am hoping that cross-party discussions prior to 13th June will achieve a cross-party consensus on this matter.
* The Courier also highlighted my view on the forthcoming Scottish Liberal Democrat leadership election.
After my two Monday surgeries at Harris Academy and the Mitchell Street Centre, I attended City Council committee meetings yesterday evening at which :
* I sought assurances that local suppliers in Dundee would benefit from a new Housing Department Decoration Card Scheme.
* I welcomed a new food waste collection pilot scheme, but asked how the number of separate collections to households can be avoided by collecting different collections at the same time. As things now stand, there is potential for some households to have 5 separate collections – general waste, blue bin (paper/cardboard), brown bin (garden waste), green box (plastics, bottles etc) and now the new food collection. It is clear from the reply given that the Waste Management Department has given thought to rationalising the number of collections, which is to be welcomed. Given the likely requirements on local authorities by 2013 to collect food waste, it is good that the City Council is moving this pilot forward now.
* I questioned the Chief Executive about progress on shared services, during discussion of a report on an overview of local government, undertaken by the Accounts Commission.
* I sought assurances that the City Council will work with residents across the city who are keen to form new Community Councils.
* I welcomed a report that will result in a new cremated remains section in Western Cemetery. Having worked with the Western Cemetery Association to move this forward, I paid tribute to the Director of Leisure & Communities and his staff for all the work done with the design proposal.
Earlier today, I spoke in the City Square at the Commemoration Event of the dreadul events in Gaza in 2008/9 in which, during Israeli bombing, many innocent Palestinean civilians were murdered, including 357 children.
The event was organised by Tayside for Justice in Palestine and included an art installation by Dundee artist Pat Donachie that depicted deaths of the 357 children – an installation of shoes and coffins to which he has added all the names of the children who perished.
As well as being a commemoration, the event also saw the launch of fundraising for a Scottish ship to take part in a flotilla to break the ongoing blockade. The fundraising is going well – as I said in my speech, Dundee people are always generous supporters of worthwhile causes and it was good to learn that nearly £1000 was raised yesterday outside the mosque in Brown Street in the West End.
Above : Edith Constable of Tayside for Justice in Palestine addresses the commemoration event
Above: Pat Donachie’s art installation
I will have the pleasure of speaking at the above event this Saturday (22nd January) at 1pm – full details are given in the poster below and at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As reported in yesterday’s Courier, there has been some progress and I paste below the content of a letter to the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign Dundee from the Lord Provost. Having spoken with the City Council’s Legal Manager last week about the legal aspects surrounding a boycott of Israeli goods, I am continuing to pursue this matter.
Petition to Lord Provost and Meeting of 27 July 2010
I refer to the meet we held on the 27 July 2010 and the Petition that was handed over at that meeting. I would apologise for the delay in responding to you, but Officers of the Council have been liaise with other Scottish Local Authorities who you advised us were considering approving a boycott of Israeli companies and goods.
Not buy products from Israel
The City Council’s Legal Officers have considered this proposal, and are firmly of the opinion that the City Council could not agree to boycott the purchase of goods and services from Israeli companies. Further, our Officers contacted Legal Officers in Glasgow, Edinburgh and West Dunbartonshire Councils and the first two Councils have firmly confirmed that they would strongly advise their Councils that any such boycott would be unlawful. West Dunbartonshire Council has not replied, despite numerous reminders. In conclusion, I believe the City Council could not agree to your proposal. I would wish to point out that the City Council has not made any payments to Veolia Waste or Eden Springs since 2008.
Fly the Palestinian Flag
At the meeting I advised you that the Palestinian flag has been flown within the City Chambers for many decades. I agree with your compromise suggestion that the Twinning Flags shall be flown in the City Square as soon as arrangements can be made.
The next flotilla
In the event of the next ship leaving Dundee, I would support efforts to deliver supplies and goods to the people of the Gaza Strip.
I would close by offering you my best wishes and hope that your cause will be furthered by the support I am offering on behalf of Dundee City Council.
John R Letford
Lord Provost of Dundee
Specifically, my constituents wished to raise the possibility of flying the Palestinian flag in the City Square (or the flags of the countries of all our twinned cities) and the City Council implementing a boycott of Israeli products or services, given the suffering caused by their blockade of Gaza and the illegal action against the aid flotilla that the City Council has already unanimously condemned at its meeting on 14th June. Ali handed the Lord Provost a petition calling for such a boycott. It already over 2500 signatures of local people on it – and more will be collected – showing the strength of feeling Dundee people over this issue.
I am very supportive of my constituents over the boycott issue but appreciate that the officers of the council will have to be satisfied of its legality and conformity to procurement and Best Value regulations. Thus far, the Chief Executive and the Legal Manager have raised issues they believe do not make a boycott permissible, but, given that one of my constituents brought with him information from the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign