City Council tonight

Following my ward surgeries at West Park Centre and the Mitchell Street Centre this afternoon, I participated in tonight’s City Council meetings.
Immediately prior to the meetings starting, along with councillor colleagues, I signed the ‘Be The Change’ declaration to show support for people with learning disabilities – see below:
Representatives of all the groups on the City Council, together with the Chief Executive on behalf of Council employees, signed the declaration, which is part of a campaign organised by ENABLE Scotland, promoted by local organisation Advocating Together (Dundee) to stop the use of offensive and hurtful language towards people with learning disabilities.    The message of the campaign is – don’t put up with it, don’t use it, let’s lose it!   
The major issue tonight at council committees was the debate over the V&A Museum of Design Dundee budget at Policy and Resources Committee.   On behalf of all the opposition members, I put forward the following amendment :
Dundee City Council – Policy and Resources Committee – 26th January 2015
Item 4 – Construction of the V&A Museum of Design, Dundee
Amendment by Councillor Fraser Macpherson
Add  :
2.1.4    notes the Chief Executive’s intention, as discussed in Para 9.3, to carry out a full review of the background to the project and its cost, but recognises that if such a review is to have any credibility it must be undertaken independently of Dundee City Council.    Committee therefore instructs the Chief Executive to engage with the External Auditor and appropriate bodies to ensure that an inquiry is established independent of Dundee City Council.    Committee also instructs that this inquiry should report its findings as soon as practicable.
In a lengthy debate, the administration conceded an independent chair for the enquiry (proposed to be procurement expert John McClelland) and establishment of a Project Board with equal representation of administration and opposition members.   After assurances given to me by the Chief Executive, I was able to withdraw the amendment.    It is now important that John McClelland’s review moves forward speedily and the project can learn from his findings to enable the V&A project to be delivered without further budget difficulty.
You can read more about the V&A discussion on the Evening Telegraph’s Twitter account and at The Courier.
Later this evening, I attended a meeting at the University of Dundee at which Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader Willie Rennie spoke with students on a variety of issues.    Willie is pictured (below) after the meeting with my Dundee LibDem colleagues Daniel Coleman and Craig Duncan:

Willie Rennie’s Dundee visit today @willie_rennie

I was delighted, along with Dundee LibDem colleagues, to welcome Willie Rennie MSP, Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, to Dundee today.
As well as media interviews and a walkabout in the West End, we also did door-knocking and speaking with local residents in Broughty Ferry.
Here’s some photographs from today :
With Willie and local party secretary Daniel Coleman at Riverside
Willie at Wave 102 Studios
Outside Dundee Contemporary Arts in Nethergate

LibDem campaigning in Leven!

Along with my Dundee local party Convener Craig Duncan, Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader Willie Rennie MSP and Tim Brett and his North East Fife LibDem team, I had a very enjoyable evening campaigning in a lovely, sunny Leven – a couple of photos below :
With Tim, Willie and Team in Leven
Willie, Craig and me – campaigning for a stronger Scotland after Scotland rejects independence

Willie Rennie’s New Year Message @willie_rennie @scotlibdems

“I am hopeful for 2014.  I’ve been checking the tea leaves and it’s going to be a good year.
I am confident the economy will continue to grow and that we’ll create more jobs, cut taxes further and increase pension higher.
I am also confident we’ll reaffirm Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom family of nations so we can share risk and reward for generations to come. We won’t undermine the progress by splitting Scotland from the UK.
My confidence also extends to a boost to nursery education to give children the best start in life.
And I am confident that there will be critical steps towards more powers through home rule for the Scottish Parliament.   Our plans means we can determine our destiny on the domestic agenda whilst sharing with the rest of the UK to benefit from the best of both worlds.
With this progress we are anchoring the UK in the centre ground.  Liberal Democrats are building a stronger economy and a fairer society so that everyone can get a chance to get on.
We can’t trust Labour to deliver a stronger economy, we can’t trust the Conservatives to deliver fairness and the SNP are too obsessed with independence to deliver either.
Scotland has a shop window to the world with the Ryder Cup, Commonwealth Games and decision on our constitutional future.  Rarely will we get such an opportunity to show who we are and how we carry ourselves.
This year we can also discover a bit more about who we are and what makes our country tick.  
I think we will show the world we are an outward looking, confident, compassionate and economically thriving nation.  That we are proud Scots who want to share in good times and in bad with our friends in Liverpool, Manchester and people right across the UK.
But to make this year the great success we want it to be we need everyone in Scotland to be a part of it.  It’s now up to you.”

Christmas messages from Nick Clegg and Willie Rennie @nick_clegg @willie_rennie

As we mark the loss of close friends and distant heroes it’s important to take a moment to think and reflect on the year.
Christmas is also a time to make a special effort to reach out to others.  Whether it be the distant friend, the estranged family member or the quiet neighbour, Christmas is a good excuse to make new.


It’s also a time to reflect on the year past with its successes and its challenges. It’s no different for me.  

The progress with the Liberal Democrats in the last year has been significant.

We’re delivering our £700 tax cut for those on low and middle incomes.

Pensions are rising thanks to the Liberal Democrat triple lock that guarantees decent increases every year.

There’s higher employment with over 1 million new jobs in the private sector.

And the economy is growing with improving prospects for years to come.

We’re building a stronger economy and a fairer society so that everyone can get a chance to get on. Without the Liberal Democrats this would not be happening.  

Scotland is heading in the right direction thanks to the action taken by Liberal Democrats in Government. We are anchoring politics in the centre ground.

But we don’t like to stand still as there is so much more to do.

That’s why we are pressing the Scottish Government to improve early education, particularly for two year olds, to match what is being delivered in England by the Liberal Democrats in Government. We know it can change lives for the better.

Despite the Scottish Government’s White Paper we still don’t know what the nationalists’ independence plans will mean.  It is no less risky because of the White Paper.  And why would we undermine the progress we are making with the UK economy, cutting taxes, increasing pensions and more jobs by breaking up the country. We should share that progress together. 

It’s why we’re also making the case for more powers for the Scottish Parliament with the Liberal Democrat Home Rule plans.  With more tax and constitutional power we can determine our own destiny on the domestic agenda whilst sharing risk and reward with the family of nations that is the UK.  It’s the best of both worlds.

My compliments of the season to all.”

From Willie Rennie … Conference in Dundee

Dear Fraser,
It was great to see so many in Dundee over the weekend for what was a fantastic spring conference.  You can catch up with all the news from conference here or at our new Facebook page.
Feedback from members has been positive with the emotional debate on mental health and heated debates on housing benefit reform and secret courts receiving special recognition.  Eastleigh by-election winner Mike Thornton made a surprise appearance to the delight of the conference.
In my speech on Saturday, I recalled the efforts of Jo Grimond who led this party from the fringes to the mainstream of politics and urged members to embrace his spirit as we head towards the next election.
What our Eastleigh win shows is that where we deliver a strong local campaign and get our strong national messages across, we can win.
With best wishes,
Willie Rennie MSP

Willie Rennie’s New Year Message

Scotland must resolve to confront great evils of new century
After the merriment of Christmas, New Year is a time to look forward.   A time to set new goals and ambitions.  A time to confront those things that we have put off in previous years.
For most, this will mean eating less and exercising more but as a nation we are confronted with far greater challenges than losing a few pounds.
The welfare state was constructed and sustained with the goal of eradicating what Beveridge called “the five giant evils of society” – squalor, ignorance, want, idleness and disease.
These were the challenges facing a country emerging from war and confronted with a society eager to move on but shackled to issues holding it back.
The challenges faced by Scotland today are of a different time, but are no less great than the trials faced by our parents and grandparents.
Scotland must resolve to confront the three great evils that face us in a new century – a demographic time bomb, the advance of climate change and the stubborn pervasiveness of poverty.
In the next 25 years, the number of households in Scotland headed by someone over the age of 65 is projected to increase by 60%.   If the actuarial tables are right, my hill running days will be over and I will be one of over 1.5 million Scots collecting a pension, using care services and nursing my worn out knees!
The challenge that this presents us as a country is not one that can wait another year. The start that has been made to shifting our budget priorities away from reactive to preventative spending is welcome and the Scottish Government deserves praise of the Change Fund it has set up to address some of these long-term issues.
There is still time to defuse the demographic time bomb, but this year we must go further and faster with measures that spend money to save money.
The next great evil of the modern world is climate change. Much has been made of Scotland’s world leading climate change legislation but 2012 was the year we missed our first target.
In 2013, we must do better. Tackling climate change cannot be left to next year, it cannot wait another year.
We need investment in insulation for homes, schools and hospitals, we need to accelerate the development of market-ready renewable energy and we need to continue to develop the culture of recycling.
Finally, the enduring challenge of poverty. In his 1942 report, Beveridge called it squalor and although that label has become less frequent in the last 70 years, the shame that we feel for its presence in our country has not.
Inequalities in health and educational attainment are on the up, but short term political advantage is often put in the way of longer term gain for the country as a whole. 2012 has been a year when every issue, large or small, has been seen through the prism of the independence referendum.   We can’t afford to let this go on.
The three evils facing us in the modern world must be confronted in their own right.   The population is not going to get any younger, the ice stop melting or deprivation evaporate overnight no matter what the result in 2014.
It’s time to get serious with these issues. I resolve to play my part.   I hope you do to.

Willie Rennie’s Christmas Message

Over the last year journalists, opponents, perhaps even some supporters were writing us off.  How could a group of five MSPs, cut by two thirds in the Scottish Parliamentary Elections, make any impact on the Scottish political scene?  Although our opponents will always deride us in public, I know that in private they are fizzing that Liberal Democrats continue to punch above our weight.
Scotland is, by and large, a tolerant, liberal, understanding, compassionate country.  Its people are altruistic and generous.   These familiar values at Christmas, but they form the core of the liberal approach to politics all year round.
That is why our liberal message will endure and I am determined that we will have our say in all the big issues facing Scotland in the years in ahead.
In the short-term, that inevitably means carving out a distinct liberal approach to the debate over our country’s future. While I will be campaigning with the other parties to secure Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom, I also want to use the campaign to set out my vision for Scotland.
Our Home Rule plan transfers more financial power to the Scottish Parliament so we have responsibility for raising what we spend, transfers more power to local communities to reflect the diversity of needs and priorities for different parts of Scotland and retains our strength as part of the UK. With these detailed plans, a no vote in 2014 doesn’t need to mean no change.
Despite the pace that the referendum debate has moved at over the last twelve months, it is still the economy, jobs and cost of living that continues to occupy the minds of most. 
The coalition government’s choices are not easy and our popularity has suffered and many good councillors have lost their seats as a result.  Yet if doing the wrong thing is necessary in order to become popular then count me out.  Creating an enduring economy that is more balanced across the UK, is environmentally sustainable and is fairer is something that I know my colleagues in the Coalition Government are determined to achieve.  
Over the last year, Liberal Democrats have invested in green technologies through the Green Investment Bank headquartered in Edinburgh. We have cut income tax for two million Scots on low and middle incomes by hundreds of pounds to help make work pay.  We have created opportunities for young people through the Youth Contract, argued for more college funding, stood up to vested interests and worked constructively with others when we can.
These are the actions of strong liberal voices across Scotland who will never cower but head into the New Year with our heads held high ready to do our bit to meet the challenges we face.

From Sir Menzies Campbell QC MP … Federalism – the best future for Scotland

Dear Fraser,

We have published today the report of the party’s Home Rule and Community Rule Commission which I had the privilege to chair.

We were asked by the party conference last year to set out clear and detailed plans for achieving home rule for Scotland – substantial domestic powers while remaining part of the UK. We were asked to build on the report of the Steel Commission, and that is what we have done.

In fact the recommendations are much stronger on the need for federal United Kingdom than many commentators were expecting. That is in no small measure because of the large number of representations the Commission received from party members and the strong views expressed at our special consultation event at the spring conference in Inverness.

The report makes it clear that devolution alone will not do the job.   More devolution will not provide a stable future for the United Kingdom.

Our recommendations give Scotland the best of both worlds.   We get strong domestic powers, not least on social justice, wealth and the economy.   But we also get the strength, equity and global voice from being part of the United Kingdom.

We have set out how new powers for Scotland and a new relationship with the rest of the United Kingdom can be achieved ahead of similar change elsewhere in the UK. But we are clear that the best future for Scotland is within a federal United Kingdom.

I should also point out that we have included very strong recommendations to increase the powers that local communities and councils have over their areas.

This will be unique Liberal Democrat territory among the political parties.   We don’t think the decentralisation of power should end at Holyrood.    Our plans stop in their tracks the centralising controls of government ministers over local councils.

The Times has said, “the plan represents the most developed proposal for Scotland’s constitutional future yet from any of the opposition parties at Holyrood…with sweeping new powers for councils…and an end to the power grab.”

The whole package of proposals will be debated on Saturday 27th October at our autumn conference. I hope you will come to Dunfermline and be part of our debate. You can register through

Best wishes,

Menzies Campbell MP

Chair, Home Rule and Community Rule Commission

Willie Rennie’s Dundee visit

I was delighted to welcome Willie Rennie MSP, Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, back to Dundee yesterday.   In addition to doing a joint West End Ward surgery with me at the Mitchell Street Centre, Willie and I also visited Maggie’s Centre, the Shelter shop on Perth Road and the Wave 102 studios.
Here’s some photographs from Willie’s visit:
Willie and I had a really enjoyable visit to Shelter’s shop in Perth Road, managed by Karen Kelbie and her super team.    Here’s Willie (left) and me (right) with some of the team, including Andy Moodie, regional manager.
Willie and me at Maggie’s Centre, with Valerie Busher, Maggie’s Community Fundraising Development Manager (far right) and Mr Kemlo, service user (second right)
Willie, interview by David Proctor of Wave 102 News

Willie Rennie to visit Dundee

I’ll be pleased tomorrow to welcome back Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader, Willie Rennie MSP (pictured right), to Dundee, in a visit that will see Willie and myself meet the great team at Maggie’s Centre, who recently celebrated the centre’s 9th anniversary.
During his visit, Willie will also visit local businesses in the West End and will take part in a joint surgery with me at the Mitchell Street Centre (see below) at 4.20pm, to which all West End residents are very welcome to attend.

Willie Rennie – campaigning in Dundee

Yesterday, I and my local party colleagues had the pleasure of another visit from Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader Willie Rennie MSP to support our Dundee City Council election campaign.    Here’s some photos from a great day!

Willie with me at Harris Academy, where we discussed the Harris Academy re-building project
Willie with my Strathmartine Ward colleague Iliyan Stefanov, who is campaigning for road safety improvements on Strathmartine Road
And … Willie with Ferry Ward candidate Craig Duncan, a hard-working campaigner for all in Broughty  Ferry

Here’s the party’s latest news release :

Voters have been urged to back a local champion on Thursday, not a cheerleader for independence.  The call came from Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader Willie Rennie, who has joined forty seven campaigns in eighteen council areas, personally talking to thousands of voters on their doorstep. 

During his visit to Dundee yesterday, Willie Rennie said:

“Throughout my campaigning across the country, meeting thousands of voters, I have found increasing concern about the SNP and their independence goal.  People have told me how much they value their local Liberal Democrat who sticks up for their community.  They have told me they want a local champion who will sort out the pavements and potholes and back the local school and the home helps.  

“Liberal Democrats take pride in providing a good service to local people.  Liberal Democrat Councillors listen to what people want, do something about it and report back. 

“This contrasts with the offer from the SNP.  With the referendum approaching fast rather than a local champion you’ll get a cheerleader for independence by electing an SNP Councillor.

“Alex Salmond’s support for Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers over phone hacking shows that the SNP will do anything to secure independence.  It shows every one of their councillors will be a cheerleader for independence spending every moment on the local council plotting and planning to break up Britain.”

“Up and down Scotland, Liberal Democrat councillors like Fraser Macpherson in Dundee are listening to their constituents. They are working hard for their local community, they are involved in local groups and most importantly – they are getting things done.”

Dundee Liberal Youth

Following the launch of the Dundee LibDem local election campaign yesterday afternoon, I had the pleasure of attending the first public meting of Dundee Liberal Youth, taking place at the Dalhousie Building at the University of Dundee.

There was an excellent turnout to hear Tim Farron and Willie Rennie speak – here’s a photo and a short video of a short part of Tim Farron’s presentation from an excellent event:
Joe Setch of Dundee Liberal Youth introduces Willie Rennie MSP

Dundee Council Elections – a superb LibDem launch!

Dundee Liberal Democrats had a superb start to our local election campaign today, with a visit from Willie Rennie, Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, and Tim Farron, Liberal Democrat President.     Here’s some of us campaigning with Tim and Willie this afternoon: 
Willie was on Radio Tay news this afternoon about the Dundee Liberal Democrat campaign – click ‘play’ to listen:

Willie Rennie visits Dundee College

Willie and me at Dundee College yesterday
Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats Willie Rennie MSP was in Dundee yesterday to visit Dundee College with me, touring the new Gardyne Campus and also discussing college funding cuts with Principal Christina Potter, Depute Principal Grant Ritchie and Assistant Principal Leslie Dick.    
Speaking after the meeting, Willie said:

“It was great to visit Dundee College today with local Liberal Democrat Councillor Fraser Macpherson.
“Dundee College helps people from a range of backgrounds to get up and on in the world with new skills and knowledge.  Improving the life chances of thousands of people of all ages is something we should support and nourish.
“That’s why it makes no sense to cut £40 million from college funds next year which could mean fewer places students and teaching posts might have to go.
“The Scottish Government has the money available to fill this gap as a result of consequentials from Westminster. So the SNP should get the year of to a good start and reverse this cut.
“This would support colleges like Dundee and the great work it does with students and communities.”
What was obvious from yesterday’s meeting is that the new Gardyne Campus facilities are superb but for the college to grow and provide the educational benefits for Dundee students, it is vital that there is clarity from Scottish Government about funding for Dundee College and other further education colleges across Scotland.
The recent announcement from the Education Secretary still leaves colleges across Scotland in the dark about their individual funding allocations and, as a result, planning for next year has been made extremely difficult.
What is obvious is that last year’s 10.4% cut is to be followed by a cut of up to 8.5% next year and this has a hugely detrimental consequence for college places, courses and staff jobs.      Our colleges are vital to the future of the Scottish economy.

North East Scotland Liberal Democrat Regional Conference

Later yesterday – after a drive up to Aberdeen’s rather impressive Cults Academy campus – I had the pleasure of speaking at the North East Scotland Liberal Democrat Regional Conference.

It was a well-attended event and party leader Willie Rennie was on top form, speaking about defending Scotland’s colleges from SNP cuts, against police centralisation and the need to support affordable housing.
 Above :   Willie Rennie addresses the event
 Above :   I address the conference
Above :  Beautiful morning in Aberdeenshire, on the way up to the conference

Willie Rennie on the SNP’s college funding cuts …

Dear Fraser,
Today at First Minister’s Questions I asked if the SNP government would use some of the £67 million of extra funding they have received from our government at Westminster to fill the £40 million college funding gap.
The SNP took the decision to cut college funding, which could threaten nearly 9000 student places next year and compromise the depth and quality of the subjects on offer.
Liberals have always understood the importance of colleges in giving people, no matter what their background, the opportunity to gain the skills needed for secure, well paid jobs.
As such, we have offered a solution to the SNP government – use the extra money to protect college places.
The First Minister did not commit to doing this today, so it is up to us to keep the pressure up and stand up for Scotland’s colleges.
Please join our new campaign today –
Willie Rennie
Leader, Scottish Liberal Democrats

At last Friday’s meeting at the University of Abertay Dundee on the future of post-16 education in Scotland, I stressed the need to reverse the SNP college funding cuts and I view Willie Rennie’s highlighting this at FMQs today as very helpful.   The SNP college cuts amount to a staggered £40 million.   It is estimated that 9000 student places are at risk next year due to these cuts.     There must be pressure put on the SNP to back Scotland’s colleges in the run up to the budget before these cuts have a lasting impact on the quality and depth of courses on offer.


ASLDC, the Scottish LibDems’ Association for councillors and campaigners, held a “Kickstart” event yesterday in Perth – a really useful event in preparation for next year’s council elections.

Ace blogger Caron has already done a resume of the day that’s rather better than anything I could have written (so have a read of it!)   I enjoyed speaking to the excellent turnout about blogging in a joint session with Caron, in which social networking and microblogging were also covered.

Willie Rennie gave a great speech to round off a really worthwhile day.  
Willie talks to the group
Some of the audience
Me in full flow!

Congratulations to Willie Rennie!

As one of the first Scottish Liberal Democrats to declare for Willie Rennie as our new party leader, I was delighted to learn earlier today that Willie has become Scottish Liberal Democrat leader.

Here’s the party’s news release 

Rennie new leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats

17 May 2011

Willie Rennie has been appointed leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

He accepted the appointment at North Queensferry, with one of the party’s oldest members and one of the youngest.

Commenting, Mr Rennie said:

“I’m delighted to be the new leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

“We need to reflect on the disappointment of the Scottish Parliament election results and move on and up. I’m here today with Jimmy Gordon and Neil Alexander. Two of our oldest and youngest members. I want to connect with the party at all levels.

“Scotland needs a strong Liberal voice at all levels of government. And I am determined to see that strong Liberal voice flourish.

“I will be working with my colleagues in the Scottish Parliament to stand up to the SNP bulldozer. We will not sit on our hands in the face of an SNP majority – we will be that Liberal voice standing up for the values that Scotland holds dear.

“Scotland needs us to stand up for local services, for long term solutions and for making our country a place that finds opportunities for aspirational Scots.”

Commenting, Liberal Democrat MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk Michael Moore added:

“This is great news. Willie will be a first class leader for the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

“Willie and I have worked together for many years. His energy, integrity and commitment make him the right person to lead our party in Scotland.

“As an experienced politician and a veteran campaigner he is ideally placed to promote our values in the new Scottish Parliament and throughout Scotland too.”

The Scottish Liberal Democrat Leadership

I am saddened to learn that Tavish Scott has decided to step down as leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats. Tavish has been an excellent leader of the party and the bad, very bad, result on Thursday is not of his making.   I’ve texted him this afternoon to pass on my personal thanks to him for his service as party leader – Tavish visited Dundee on numerous occasions and, as I said to him, the party owes him a great debt of gratitude.   

There’s one other person I have sent a text to this afternoon – Willie Rennie, new MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife.   I urged Willie to stand for the party leadership.   Willie is the obvious choice for the leadership of the Scottish Liberal Democrats – he’s able, articulate and committed.   I hope he will decide to stand;  if he does, he will certainly have my support.

Willie Rennie with myself at a party conference