Monday, 14 December 2009

Poetry plea

I wanted to share this little poem that I received from a constituent...

Dear Mr Rennie

Please make an appeal

Go go to Gordon

Secure the best deal

For all of the people

Who you represent

We cannae hae less

than 30 percent.

On Copenhagen

The Future depends

All eyes are all watching

The World is agog

Turn back the tide

We're fed up with smog

Cut the emissions

We all can breathe Free!

Today is the Future

Our World's destiny

Sunday, 6 December 2009

St. Dunstan's

I joined Derek O'Rourke and his team at the Co-op in the Kingsgate Shopping Centre, Dunfermline to help promote their fundraising effort for the St. Dunstan's charity.

St. Dunstan's wants an independent future for blind ex-Service men and women. For almost a century, it has been giving invaluable physical and emotional support to blind and visually impaired ex-Service men and women. With the help of their unique expertise, experience and comprehensive range of services, they enable them to lead independent fulfilling lives.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Carers' Right Day


As part of the nationwide Carers' Right Day I set up my stall on Dunfermline's High Street and was overwhelmed by the demand for information and support for the cause. A couple travelled from Glenrothes to lend their support.

I heard story after story about the difficulties that carers face including on finance and respite care.

Carers are entitled to just over £50 per week carers allowance and now a new pension credit. To find out more log onto Carers UK website.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Government slipping on carbon capture

Energy Secretary Ed Milliband refused to back the critical 2014 carbon capture pilot deadline today in the House of Commons. This could have signficant consequences for Longannet Power Station and the battle with climate change.

To explain, 2014 is the date which the government set for the establishment of the carbon capture demonstration project. That date was set so that the technology could be rolled out across all coal fired power stations by 2020 which is a crucial date for meeting the government's objectives on cutting carbon emissions and for the battle against climate change.

So if the pilots are not set up by 2014 we won't meet the 2020 deadline - it's that tight according to experts. That's why today's refusal to back the 2014 deadline is so concerning. It wasn't as if Ed Milliband did not understand what he was being asked as he was asked twice - once by the Tory front bench and once by me.

Why did he refuse to back the date, I hear you say. Well it's because E.on, who owns Kingsnorth in Kent, have said they don't plan to build their new coal fired power station there until 2016 - well after the carbon capture deadline. The Government have been bizarrely wedded to Kingsnorth for some time and they seem determined to push it through at any cost, even if it means missing their climate change targets.

As the MP for Longannet Power Station, Kingsnorth's only rival in the competition, you'd expect me to back Longannet but it's more than pork barrel politics that interests me here. My fear is that the Government may allow Kingsnorth to derail the whole project and set back the UK's efforts on climate change.

I’m also worried that any further delays to the competition, which has already been delayed several times, could delay investment at Longannet. Carbon capture and storage has huge potential locally, particularly as the Forth Valley is one of the biggest contributors to carbon emissions in the UK, with Grangemouth, Mossmorran, Cockenzie, and in particular Longannet.

I've written to the Energy Secretary to appeal to him to stick to the deadlines his Government set itself.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

A retreat for miscarriage of justice victims

I had a very productive meeting to explore the establishment of an all party parliamentary group on miscarriages of justice.

Paddy Hill, Gerry Conlon, Vincent McGuire and John McManus joined MPs to discuss the setting up of the group and the creation of a retreat to provide medical, social and financial support and advice for miscarriage of justice victims on release from prison.

I have been working with MOJO (Miscarriage of Justice Organisation) on this issue for some time and am in discussion with the Justice Department on the development of a business plan for the retreat.

Reisgnation on nuclear submarine disposal programme

A government adviser has resigned in protest at the sacking of a colleague from the MOD advisory group which is deciding how to dispose of the UK's decommissioned nuclear submarines. Peter Lanyon says his position is no longer tenable as his views and those of his sacked colleague were not being considered. Dr Jane Hunt, a specialist in Environmental Projects at Lancaster University was sacked from the advisory group of the Submarine Dismantling Project and has now resigned from its steering group. In a letter to the project Dr Hunt said that the MoD is adopting a "decide, announce, defend" approach and feels she must resign as a member of the Steering Group as her membership implicity condones the actions of the MoD.

The UK has 27 nuclear submarines, of which 8 decommissioned subs are being stored at Devonport in the South West and 7 at Rosyth in Scotland waiting to be dismantled. The project has to decide how to deal with the radioactive and non-radioactive hazardous wastes in the short and long term.

Below is the text of her resignation letter.

3rd November, 2009

To: All Members of the SDP Steering Group

I have been saddened and disappointed by the path that is being trodden by the SDP. During the ISOLUS consultations there appeared to be a genuine attempt by the MoD to engage with public concerns and to manage the project with a degree of openness and transparency. Since that period, the MoD has increasingly abandoned this approach, has failed to implement its commitments both in relation to its responses to earlier consultation and to the Advisory Group, and has exhibited a growing reversion to ‘decide, announce, defend’.

Some examples of this are:

· The Advisory Group has been repeatedly presented with MoD decisions with little or any opportunity for comment. When the Advisory Group has given advice, this has often been ignored, or when apparently accepted, not implemented. Information on the MoD progress and project developments has not been provided to the Advisory Group in a timely fashion which would enable scrutiny, comment and advice.

· Most recently, the MoD announced at the July Advisory Group meeting that they were starting the process of selecting potential sites. I reminded the MoD they had previously agreed to involve the Advisory Group in the process of site selection, most particularly in determining the criteria to be used. This, I believe, would have led to a more robust and defensible list of potential sites, as well as being good practice. The MoD said they would take account of this agreement. At the next meeting, without any further communication with the Advisory Group, the MoD announced two possible dismantling sites and made clear there was a list of potential storage sites. They did not provide a rationale or explanation for their decision.

· Commitments given to the Advisory Group – such as the adoption of peer preview – have not been implemented.

· Commitments in response to previous consultation recommendations are similarly not being implemented; it is also clear that strong public preferences are also being ignored. For example, the influence of industry on the selection of sites is apparent: there are other viable sites for dismantling, despite strong public rejection of industry influence on decision making. There are numerous commitments contained in the MoD’s responses to consultation which the MoD have not implemented.

· A Ministerial statement confirmed that the Advisory Group’s remit included scrutiny of the project. It has been impossible for the Advisory Group to properly fulfil this role, as we have not been provided with sufficient information or involvement.

The apparent lack of respect that the MoD has for the Advisory Group and its advice seems to be manifested in the poor management and servicing of the Group, which range from lack of consideration of facilities for the disabled to late and inadequate paperwork to poor and inaccurate note-taking.

The role of the Advisory Group, despite its Terms of Reference, appears to be to add credibility to the Project rather than being any genuine attempt to seek and consider advice. The Project can make no claim to good governance, and the legitimacy of its decision making is seriously undermined , when its Advisory Group is continuously sidelined in the way that it has been.

It seems my own advice is uncomfortable for the MoD and therefore ignored and seen as trouble making rather that what it is: a genuine attempt to improve the governance of the project through fair and honest consultation and open and transparent decision making. The MoD seems to have no proper understanding of what these terms mean in practice and it appears they are unwilling to learn. The current trajectory of the SDP is, in my opinion, leading it towards increasing problems in this domain.

The MoD have made it impossible for me to advise the Steering Group appropriately as I have been excluded from membership of the Advisory Group and its consultation sub group.

Given that the MoD is reneging on previous commitments taken in response to consultation, is failing to properly elicit and consider expert advice, and is adopting a ‘decide, announce, defend’ approach , I do not feel I can continue as a member of the Advisory Group, as my membership implicitly condones the actions of the MoD. I therefore submit my resignation to the Steering Group.

Yours sincerely

Jane Hunt (Dr)

Friday, 6 November 2009

North Queensferry Primary School visit the Commons

I had a great time with the pupils from North Queensferry Primary School who visited London this week.

They were bright, enthusiastic and thoroughly enjoying their visit to Parliament.

Carnegie and Duloch Primary Schools Catchment Review

This is the text of a letter from Donna Manson to parents, carers and other interested parties regarding the catchment review for Duloch and Carnegie Primary Schools:

"Public Consultation on the rezoning of the catchment area for Carnegie Primary School and Duloch Primary School

The result of the public consultation regarding the three options for rezoning the catchment area for Carnegie Primary School and Duloch Primary School will be discussed by the Education & Children’s Services Committee on Thursday 12th November at 10.00am.

A copy of the full committee paper and appendices can be found at www.fifedirect.org.uk/committtees

Once you have accessed this site, you should scroll down the calendar to the 12th November and click on Education & Children’s Services Committee. At the bottom of this page you will find the committee report and appendices.

The recommendations, to be discussed by the committee, are as follows:

1. In the light of the results of the public consultation, to approve Catchment Option A (catchment split at Trondheim Parkway)

2. To agree to dual catchment arrangements continuing at Duloch Primary School

I will write to you again on Friday 13th November informing you of the outcome of the committee’s discussion and provide you with further information regarding P1 enrolment procedures for August 2010 intake.

Yours sincerely

Donna Manson

Area Education Officer"

Monday, 2 November 2009

Housing debate at the Scottish Lib Dem Conference

On Saturday I made a plea for more funds to be provided for the construction of more rented homes in Fife. At the Scottish Federation of Housing Association's Meeting at the Lib Dem Conference I cited my regular advice surgeries and office calls as evidence that there is a great need.

The housing waiting list in Fife is long and it's not getting shorter. Big families in small overcrowded homes combined is a common feature.

In particular there is considerable demand for suitable accommodation for elderly people with special needs. The council are unable to keep up with the demand for adaptations to homes and elderly people resent the declining warden service for sheltered accommodation.

Another common problem is the rented accommodation trap. Working people on low incomes who are desperate to avoid homelessness often accept private lets that they cannot afford. As a result they run down their savings to keep up with the payments but when they have run out they face eviction and homelessness - but this time without any savings.

The SNP recently cut £4.6m from Fife's housing capital budget because they reckon we have sufficient homes already. I have been pressing them to reverse this cut. Just how can they say we have enough!

Thursday, 29 October 2009

My speech on the TA

For the first time ever, I had the Defence Secretary on his knees. Before his speech, he was begging for forgiveness, but unfortunately it was only for the fact that he has to leave early for an appointment at 5 o'clock. I forgive him if he leaves, but I am sorry that he will miss the brilliant speech that I am about to give...

Read the rest of my speech on the Territorial Army at TheyWorkForYou

I knew there must have been some benefits to Gordon Brown as Prime Minister!

I received this letter from Fife Police regarding the survey of residents that they conducted which shows that residents believe that crime has dropped in the village thanks to extra police presence to protect the Prime Minister.

Even though crime levels were not very high before most North Queensferry residents appear to feel safer thanks to the PM. I'm glad there is at least one benefit to having Gordon Brown as Prime Minister! So many people can't wait to see the back of him.

There are clearly some concerns about the vehicle stop points and the carrying of guns which the police are conscious of. It's helpful that the police undertook this listening initiative. It shows they are sensitive to local opinion.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Camdean Primary School visit Westminster


Pupils from Camdean Primary School in Rosyth visited Westminster on Tuesday as part of a week long visit to the city.

They enjoyed an official tour of the Palace followed by a talk from the education department and finally from me.

Afterward they went for a whistle stop tour of the central London.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Update on new Carnegie Primary School construction

The following information is intended to provide a brief synopsis of the progress to date on the construction of the new Carnegie Primary School in the east of Dunfermline.
"All members of the Fife Council team working on the project are cognisant of the challenging timescale to open the school for the new academic term August 2011.
  • The new Carnegie Primary school is being procured and will be constructed by a contractor appointed under a traditional single stage design and build contract.
  • Initial 'expression of interest' tenders were invited with an advertisement in the Official Journal of the European Journal (OJEU)
  • 31 'expression of interests' were received.
  • Of the 31 submissions, a preferred shortlist of 5 contractors was reached with formal tender invited in July 2009.
  • Over the past 3 months, design work has been undertaken by the contractors, responding to the Council's tender document, brief and vision for the new school.
  • Of the 5 shortlisted contractors only 4 decided to submitted formal tender returns on 23 October 2009.
  • The Fife Council team are currently evaluating these detailed tender documents, with a recommendation of the preferred contractor to be made to the Building Fife Future Project Board in December 2009/January 2010.
  • Upon selection of the preferred contractor, detailed design for the school will commence.
  • Work to construct the school is programmed to start in May 2010.
  • At this present time the Fife Council's Education and Property Services team are satisfied that the project is on programme to be completed by end of July 2011 and open for the new academic term August 2011."

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Mystery owner sought for Culross house


I'm on the hunt for the owner of an abandoned home in the centre of the historic village of Culross. The issue of ownership was raised with me by neighbours who were concerned about the condition of the home. However, investigations at the Land Registry revealed no clues as to ownership. Now I'm appealing to you to help with the hunt.

Families throughout West Fife are desperate for a home so to leave this one empty is a calamity. The eighteenth century two storey stone built terraced house is an integral part of the historic village. It’s a lively community and to add another family to that life would be fitting.

Do you know who owns this house?

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Dunfermline Building Society: NO ANSWERS

I'm not impressed with the response from the Government and the Financial Services Authority to the Dunfermline Building Society Inquiry. Neither addressed the fundamental question:

"If the management and board of the Society were so reckless why didn't the FSA identify this and act?"

Instead they duck and dodge, providing lots of noise and detail but no clarity.

I think the Scottish Affairs Select Committee should send the Government's response back and tell them to try again.

Treasure in Inverkeithing


As a child I was fascinated by treasure and discovery, frequently undertaking quests in the countryside.

Well recently I had the opportunity to hand out some treasure to nursery children in the form of book chests. Fife Council's Bookstart scheme aims to entice young children into the habit of reading.

Entertained by Aiken Drum at Inverkeithing's Civic Centre children from Inverkeithing, Aberdour and Beanstalk nurseries the children each received a selection of books in their own special treasure chest.


Wednesday, 7 October 2009

A brush with the law at Pitreavie Playgroup

A bustling, vibrant playgroup at Pitreavie Playing Fields was my visit this morning. Led by parents this chairity received a glowing report from the inspectors.

Take a look for yourself... www.pitreavieplaygroup.com

Monday, 5 October 2009

Puppy walkers on the march

Today I joined the South Fife puppy walkers for a Coffee Morning in Crossford Scout Hall. There were lots of puppies and working guide dogs...waiting to meet me!

To find out more log on to www.guidedogs.org.uk

Rosyth to become 'nuclear graveyard' - UK, News - The Independent

Rosyth to become 'nuclear graveyard' - UK, News - The Independent: "Mr Brown said: 'We will not allow the Rosyth area to be frozen by nuclear dumping or becoming a nuclear graveyard. The Government proposals cannot be allowed to go ahead.'"

This is not a report from today, but fifteen years ago - twelve of which Labour have been in charge! It's about time the Prime Minister used his power to remove these seven nuclear submarines from Rosyth Dockyard.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Talk Matters - confidential counselling service

I was delighted to be asked to open the new Talk Matters premises at Dickson House in Elgin Street, Dunfermline a couple of weeks ago. Talk Matters is a confidential counselling service available for people in Fife with a wide range of problems including anxiety, anger, stress, depression or bereavement.






Friday, 2 October 2009

CLAUDE - Clear Audio Systems

Following news that the RNID criticised the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for their lack of facilities for deaf customers, I was invited to meet CLAUDE Clear Audio Systems.

The Fife company provides advice and supplies the full spectrum of audio equipment so that the 15% of the population that have hearing difficulties are not excluded.

The company made contact with me after I kicked off a campaign to improve the service offered by call centres to their deaf customers.

I'll now be contacting the Edinburgh Festival Fringe to get the two together.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Visit to North Queensferry Primary School

Yesterday I had the pleasure of discussing politics and the challenges of the world with a vibrant and intelligent group of young people. Primary Six and Seven at North Queensferry Primary School refreshingly engaged.

The pupils had been learning about how Westminster works and had ran their own election with imaginative policies and eye catching election gimmicks.

Teachers Cara Biseker and Isla Gaze had successfully inspired their pupils and had cunningly influenced their pupils to promote a pay rise for teachers in their manifestos.

I'm looking forward to Primary Seven visiting Westminster in November. I'm sure they'll love it.



















Monday, 28 September 2009

Scotash - promoted by the government worldwide

Scotash is a vibrant and growing company in West Fife that takes ash from Longannet Power Station and turns it into cements and grouts saving on quarrying, cement energy costs and landfill for the ash. It's won so many awards for innovation and the environment that I can't keep count.

They are such a hit that the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office has decided to promote Scotash on all its 167 websites throughout the world. The only others to receive this special treatment are Bodyshop, Unilever , BAe Systems and the Co-op.

By way of example, the Botswana link attached

http://ukinbotswana.fco.gov.uk/en/about-the-uk/environment/working-with-industry

Monday, 21 September 2009

Rosyth nuke subs - we need answers

For twenty five years we've had redundant nuclear submarines in Rosyth Dockyard. Yet despite endless promises about future disposal they are still with us and look set to remain there for many years to come if the latest news is of significance.

Two top advisers have been sacked in what seems to be a deep dispute in the team taking forward the planned disposal programme.

I've taken up the matter with the MOD and want answers. Above all else what's vital is that we put an end to this endless deliberation of the options. One sub has already developed three holes in the ballast tank. The community has been patient and tolerant of these subs but that patience is being tested now. The MOD should not take Rosyth for granted.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

No slash and burn but planned cuts


Planning to save rather than slash and burn cuts is what Nick Clegg has set out at the Lib Dem conference in Bournemouth. And today it's the turn of the central bureaucracy which is far too top heavy. His proposals include cutting the number of MPs to 500 from 638.

On the wider programme of saving we, all politicians, must not stick our heads in the sand and pretend that life has not changed. The country's debt is rising - fast - and any party that pretends otherwise is not being real.
That's why Nick is right to set out now that cuts - some deep - will be required to make the books balance. By doing it this way, in advance, we can seek the support of those who know best, those who run the services, about ways to reduce spending in an organised and structured way that protects the services that matter most and ditches those that don't make sense.

Too often we make last minute, slash and burn cuts. What Nick has set out is a sensible way to proceed. Of course the Conservatives are wrong to propose cuts now when economic recovery is the priority but cuts will be needed in future as the fruits of that recovery will not be sufficient to cover the debt as Labour pretends.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Culross deserves empty homes from National Trust for Scotland

I can understand why the National Trust for Scotland are having a tough time if Culross is an example of how they manage their affairs.

Almost from when I was first elected I have been urging the Trust to make available for rent the empty homes they own in the small village of Culross on the banks of the River Forth.

Four properties have been left empty for years whilst many people languish on the housing list. They promised two years ago that it was being dealt with and said they were considering refurbishing them for holiday lets. Yet nothing, absolutely nothing, has been done and now the natives are getting restless - I'm with them.

Every week I get a string of people seeking my assistance to secure a home of their own to rent and as the weeks go by I feel increasingly frustrated that not only has the Scottish Government cut Fife's house building budget by £4.6million but now one of Scotland's biggest charities has homes that are already built but refuse to release them.

I think it's now time the Trust handed over the properties to a housing association. They are desperate for homes to let out and am sure would bite their hand off for these properties.

Friday, 18 September 2009

T in the Park cleaners update

I've only just received this email from Big Day Out. It seems we may be getting somewhere with Easywaste and Big Day Out agreeing to mediation.

The mediation needs to be quick so that the cleaners get paid next week.

*BIG DAY OUT LTD*
PO Box 25341
Glasgow
G2 5XS

18th September 2009

Mr Willie Rennie MP
Dunfermline and West Fife Constituency Office
2nd Floor
1 High Street
Dunfermline
KY12 7DL


Dear Mr Rennie

Thank you for your letter of 16th September.

As you are probably aware we are in dispute with Easywaste, who were the waste management contractor for this year's T in the Park.

There were major failings in Easywaste's delivery at the event which resulted in both ourselves and Perth and Kinross Council having to take significant remedial action in terms of additional resource all at the expense of Big Day Out Ltd.

Without exaggeration, the problems caused by Easywaste's poor delivery could well have brought about cancellation of the event which would have had catastrophic consequences.  
Fortunately Tayside Fire Brigade, Perth & Kinross Council and other contractors worked co-operatively with us and we were able to continue with the event.

As you would expect, we were not prepared to pay the full contract price to Easywaste, however, they feel that this should still be paid.  We have made an offer to them which goes beyond what we think a legal settlement would result in as we want to ensure that those individuals that did work are paid in full, however, it seems that Easywaste still wish to make their projected profit in addition to that.  

Through our legal team we suggested mediation which was rejected, however, Easywaste's recent actions, including blaming the nonpayment of their staff on ourselves through public meetings and talking to the Daily Record, seem to have backfired on them, not least because it is their legal responsibility to pay the individuals regardless of any dispute with us.

After the recent coverage in the newspapers it would appear that they are now prepared to consider mediation and our lawyers hope to progress this as soon as possible.

It is of serious concern to us that individuals working at T in the Park have not been paid, however, we need Easywaste to come to the table to make this happen.

Best regards.

Geoff Ellis
*Festival Director*
 

T in the Park cleaners left out of pocket

Many of my constituents have not received their pay for the hours spent cleaning up after T in the Park.

This is the letter they have received from their employers Easywaste Solutions which informs them that because they haven't been paid then the employees won't be paid.

So the workers lose out because the bosses of Easywaste and Big Day Out can't reach an agreement.

Below is the story from the Daily Record today.

I've been onto the company to ask for the immediate payment of the wages.





Workers who cleaned up T in the Park site left out of pocket as firm refuses to pay up



HUNDREDS of workers who cleaned up after T in the Park demanded their wages at an angry meeting last night.


Easywaste Solutions employees lived in tents for up to five weeks while tidying up after the music festival.


But boss Lloyd Gailey is refusing to pay them because he is in a dispute with festival organisers Big Day Out.


One worker, Robert Simmons, 33, said: "I feel completely humiliated.


"We spent weeks up there grafting to make sure the festival site was returned to its original state.


"We were sleeping in tents in the pouring rain for weeks to get the job done. Now we are left with nothing.


"It is a disgrace. My family are going to suffer because of this. I am a bricklayer by trade but I was made redundant a few months ago and I took this job on because I was desperate for cash."


Dad-of-two Robert was one of dozens of workers who met Easywaste boss Gailey yesterday to demand payment.


He said: "Quite a few were unemployed and signed off getting benefits for the period of the job, so they are now being left with absolutely nothing.


"I understand that Easywaste have an issue with Big Day Out but I don't see why that should affect us. I made an agreement to work for Easywaste and I would expect them to honour that.


"They are a big company and they can afford to pay my wages."


Some workers on a rate of £6 an hour are due more than £1500 after working at the site in Balado, Kinross, for five weeks.


But Gailey, 48, said: "We have not been paid what we are owed by Big Day Out and so we cannot pay the workers.


"Lots of these guys were unemployed anyway so this was just a wee extra for them."


A spokeswoman for Big Day Out insisted: "Easywaste did not fulfil the terms of their contract and a significant resource was diverted to other suppliers by Big Day Out to rectify this situation.


"We hope the contracts that these individuals have with Easywaste Solutions will be honoured."

Monday, 7 September 2009

Referendum would be reckless

Psephologists will tell you that it all depends on the question. Phrasing can deliver widely varying responses to pollsters.

Who would reject a land of milk and honey? But if that land of milk and honey were to come at a high price the respondent may choose an alternative.

That's why I wasn't surprised that, in response to a question from Brian Taylor on Reporting Scotland, most voters said they would like to have their say on Scotland's future. However, this was rather amateur journalism (unusual for Brian) as he should have tested opinion by giving respondents a range of options to prioritise like tackling the recession, improving the nation's health, raising standards in education or even tackling scourge of drugs in addition to the question on a referendum on independence.

Politics is all about priorities and choices and to isolate Scotland's independence issue from all others is not living in the real world. That's why Tavish Scott was right this week.

To indulge in a month or, more likely, six month referendum campaign on Scotland's constitutional future in the middle of this country's worst recession in decades would be, at best, a distraction, or, at worst, reckless. Scotland's Government and Parliament would be paralysed and unable to devote sufficient time and resources to creating jobs and business.

I personally would always rate an independence referendum reckless or a distraction as there will always be something more important and, what's more, a majority of the voters backed parties who agree but the argument is even stronger in the current economic climate.

Until pro independence single issue parties, like the SNP, can convince a majority of voters to back them that won't change. If we were to concede that crucial democratic point the door would be open to referendums on a full range of subjects supported by minorities and we would would face demands for frequent repetitions of the independence referendum.

I simply don't understand why the minority SNP think they have the right to impose their priorities on the majority. They claim to be democrats after all.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Sunday Mail - come on don't rip off our kids

I've got one unhappy 12 year old at home today. After my morning ramble up the hills this morning I dropped into Kinnesswood store to collect the Sunday Times and Sunday Mail.

My 12 year old son was delighted to see the special offer in the Mail for a FREE Star Wars toy emblazoned on the front page. Yet when he tried to redeem the voucher and collect his FREE toy he was told he was three hours too late.

In fact there we only sufficient toys to last 30 minutes - one box. Apparently the shop assistant has faced lots of angry children - and parents - today. It was hardly her fault but she was on the front line.

If the Sunday Mail values its brand it should immediately ensure that all stores have sufficient FREE toys to meet demand. And because today's vouchers are only valid for today they should accept these vouchers throughout this week.

Come on Sunday Mail - don't rip off our kids.

Monday, 31 August 2009

Come and hear Chris Huhne MP

Come and hear

Chris Huhne MP

Shadow Home Secretary and Lib Dem Leadership contender at the

Dunfermline Liberal Democrats Annual Dinner

Friday 11th September

Pitfirrane Arms Hotel, Crossford

Tickets at £25 are available from the Lib Dem office on 01383 841700 or email info@dunfermlinelibdems.org.uk

“A former financial journalist, who went on to make a fortune in the City, Chris Huhne has made much of the experience he gained before becoming an MP in 2005. He has certainly never lacked ambition.”

BBC website

Chernobyl children from Ukraine

One of the first groups of Ukrainian children from Chernobyl to visit the UK in years was hosted in Dunfermline over the summer.

I've been working with the Chernobyl charities to persuade the UK Government to waive the VISA charges for these and thousands of other children. The Government don't charge Chernobyl children from Belarus but seem to think it is acceptable to charge for Chernobyl children from Ukraine.


After a positive meeting with ministers in July I've heard nothing despite numerous calls. These charges are big sums for the charities but are peanuts to the Government. The charities have scraped sufficient funds together this year to bring over children from Ukraine but it is not sustainable in the long term.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Scrapyards - from dirty and polluting to saviours of the environment

I've paid a visit to the car scrapyard in Inverkeithing - UPULLIT which is owned by Copart

I visited them to discuss issues surrounding the implementation of the government's car scrappage scheme and also how they are contributing to the reduction of waste to landfill through their operations at the site.

With hundreds of cars for sale in parts or whole this is a significant business for West Fife and makes a valued contribution to the reduction of waste which has an impact on the environment.
I was impressed by the strict health and safety measures and the dedication to make this a thriving business.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Landfill tax changes could hit carbon capture

In the last budget the government sneaked out a proposal to increase landfill tax on PFA (power station ash) from £2.50 a tonne to £40 a tonne (up to £72 by 2012/13).

The industry is very concerned that this may have an impact on the financial viability of coal power generation at a time when another arm of government is seeking to make the sums add up on carbon capture technology. It is estimated that the proposal alone could increase electricity generation from coal by 5-10%.

The Treasury say that there are now alternative/commercial uses for PFA but the market has been extensively exploited (see Scotash) and it is doubtful there is more capacity.

The consultation is available at

http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/d/Budget2009/bud09_landfill_tax_964.pdf

See document page 19 and 20 and paragraph 3.8 in particular.

In addition indigenous coal is higher ash than imported thereby incentivising power generators to import more coal to save on landfill.

Therefore, the UK coal industry will be disadvantaged by

  • The desire to raise more tax

  • Indigenous coal being higher ash than imported coal

  • Deep mined coal being higher ash than UK surface mined and imported coals.

Rather than helping the environment this tax could damage if it.

It seems to be a simple case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

My fourth summer tour starts tomorrow

With around sixty stops in six days I start my fourth Summer Tour of the constituency tomorrow. to bend my ear in person come and join me at any of the following locations...

Monday 24th August
8.45 - 9.10am - Masterton Primary School (outside school gates)
9.25 - 9.55am - Ali's Mini Market, Thane Place, Dunfermline
10.15 - 10.45am - John Connelly Court, Dunfermline
11.05 - 11.35am - Hanover Court, Kilmartin Way, Dunfermline
12.10 - 1.10pm - Kingsgate Shopping Centre, Dunfermline
2.10 - 2.40pm - Seath House, 5 Transy Place, Dunfermline
2.55 - 3.30pm - St. Leonards Primary School, Dunfermline (outside school gates)
3.45 - 4.15pm - Whitelaw Court, Whitelaw Place, Dunfermline
4.30 - 5pm - Halbeath shop, Dunfermline
5.15 - 6.15pm - Touch Community Centre, Dunfermline

Tuesday 25th August
8.45 - 9.10am - Hill of Beath Primary School (outside school gates)
9.25 - 9.55am - Friary Court, Inverkeithing
10.10 - 10.55am - Crossgates Post Office
11.10 - 11.50am - Dalbeath Crescent shops, Cowdenbeath
12.10 - 1.10pm - Kingseat Post Office
2.10 - 2.40pm - Wilma's, Brock Street, North Queensferry
2.55 - 3.30pm - Inverkeithing Primary School (outside school gates)
3.45 - 4.15pm - Fraser Avenue, Inverkeithing
4.30 - 5pm - Deas Road, Inverkeithing
5.15 - 6.15pm - Inverkeithing Post Office, Main Street

Wednesday 26th August
8.45 - 9.10am - Saline Primary School (outside school gates)
9.25 - 9.55am - Saline Post Office
10.10 - 10.40am - Steelend old shop
11 - 12noon - Sivewright Court, Kirk Street, Kincardine
12.10 - 1.10pm - High Street, Kincardine
2.10 - 2.40pm - Culross Post Office
2.55 - 3.30pm - Crombie Primary School (outside school gates)
3.45 - 4.15pm - Newmills Post Office
4.30 - 5pm - Co-op, High Valleyfield
5.15 - 6.15pm - Spar, Cairneyhill

Thursday 27th August
8.45 - 9.10am - Townhill Primary School (outside school gates)
9.25 - 9.55am - Co-op, Townhill Road, Dunfermline
10.05 - 10.35am - Nethertown Broad Street, Dunfermline
10.45 - 11.15am - Newsagent, Forth Street, Dunfermline
11.30am - 12.15pm - Shops, Turnstone Road, Dunfermline
12.30 - 1.10pm - Co-op, East Baldridge Drive, Dunfermline
2.10 - 2.40pm - Wellwood Shop
2.55 - 3.30pm - Oakley School Campus (outside school gates)
3.45 - 4.15pm - Blairhall Post Office
4.30 - 5pm - Carnock Post Office
5.15 - 6.15pm - Robertson Road shops, Dunfermline

Friday 28th August
7.30 - 8.30am - Ferry Toll Park and Ride
8.45 - 9.10am - Camdean Primary School, Rosyth (outside school gates)
9.25 - 9.50am - Spar, Sherbrooke Road, Rosyth
10 - 10.45am - Calum MacDonald Court, Admiralty Road, Rosyth
11 - 11.55am - Post Office, Hilton Road, Rosyth
12.10 - 1.10pm - Co-op, Castlandhill Road, Rosyth
2.10 - 2.40pm - Queensferry Road/Park Road junction, Rosyth
2.55 - 3.30pm - Duloch Primary School, Dunfermline (outside school gates)
3.45 - 4.15pm - Co-op Pharmacy, Hospital Hill, Dunfermline
4.30 - 5pm - Post Office, Limekilns
5.15 - 6.15pm - David Sands, Duncan Crescent, Dunfermline

Saturday 29th August
9.30 - 10.30am - ASDA, Halbeath
10.45am - 12.15pm - Dunfermline High Street

Friday, 21 August 2009

Super Carriers – refits in France?

The Ministry of Defence is seriously considering turning its back on Rosyth dockyard and awarding the contract for the refit of our new super carriers to yards in France, Spain or Holland.

A letter I received from the Armed Forces Minister Bill Rammell confirms other confidential reports I have received. It reads as follows:

“As part of the development work, a range of options to establish the best value for money solution are being examined; these naturally include undertaking the work in UK dockyards such as Rosyth.”


Only “include”!


To even consider foreign yards when we have top notch facilities and a highly skilled workforce that is perfectly capable of doing the work on our doorstep only confirms that the MOD has lost its marbles.


We’ve already invested £50million in Rosyth Dockyard so that it can take the carriers, which will be the biggest ships in the Royal Navy.


The MOD number crunchers seem to think that by no longer supporting a yard they will cut their costs but whilst this may look good on a balance sheet it will not be good value for money.


This is the MOD that thought it was good value for money to spend an extra £1billion on the carriers without creating one extra job or any additional capability just to stay within the treasury’s annual spending limits.


Rosyth is the logical place, in fact the only place in the UK, to refit the carriers in future and the Labour government must tell those MOD officials to rule out foreign yards now.


(Pics: Top is Nazaire in France; 2nd is Rosyth; 3rd is Navantia Ferrol in Spain and 4th is Cherbourg in France. The letter is below.)









Tuesday, 18 August 2009

ASDA 24 Hours - but not really

I'm puzzled as to the ASDA definition of 24 hour opening.

One of the highlights of our successful Stockton on Tees holiday was the ASDA which was a stone's throw away from our camp site (the one with the top notch showers).     It proclaimed 24 hour opening but as we battled our way with the kids through the bucketing rain we couldn't work out why the masses of Stockton we not taking advantage of this fantastic opportunity.  The car park was empty - not a sole to be seen.

The answer?  24 hours didn't really mean 24 but only 14 and on a Sunday only 6.  Or did it only apply to the cash machines?  Do ASDA work on constantly switching time zones?

I can tell you we are only just recovering from the unfulfilled expectations.  ASDA - we need answers.

www.asda.co.uk

Stockton on Tees - a wasted opportunity

Former industrial areas can be transformed into attractive tourist
spots. Look at Glasgow's riverside and Leith. Liverpool is another that
has transformed with restaurants, conference facilities and more.

After a week camping in beautiful Northumberland I dragged my young
family to Stockton on Tees to a camp site that received an enthusiastic
review from Dom Jolly. For a couple of days we planned to use this site
as a central location for day trips to North Yorks, Hartlepool Maritime
Museum, the cinema and bowling.

The Caravan Club camp site was pristine with first class showers. The
cooling towers, sewage works, overhead flight path and motorway didn't
put us off too much (!) although it was quite a contrast with Hadrian's
Wall country.

What was truly disappointing was how millions of pounds of investment in
the development of the Tees barrage and riverfront had been wasted.
There were new bridges, walkways and the creation of a permanent high
tide for the full gamut of water sports.

This was a real opportunity to turn a depressed town into a bright
attraction. Yet when we visited there few boats and canoes in the water,
walkers on the bridges and walkways or foodies in the few pubs and
restaurants.

Instead the river was full of rubbish, the walkways were full of weeds
and the only wildlife I saw was a rat.

The investment had been a fine one but come on Stockton get your act
together.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

FSA mute commentators

If admitting mistakes is a crucial step in the healing and learning process then the Financial Services Authority will never heal nor learn. They are supposed to be the guardians of our financial sector but have failed to admit their part in the demise of Scotland oldest and biggest building society - the Dunfermline.

There are strongly competing claims about whether the Society could have been saved earlier this year.

The advocates for survival claimed that the over stringent capital adequacy requirements combined with the short sited Treasury which didn't recognise the society's importance to confidence in the 'safe' mutual sector meant it was sacrificed. They point to the recent West Bromwich solution as the model that could have been adopted for the Dunfermline.

The Treasury believed that the society would not have been able to service any injection of capital and was not sufficiently important to the financial sector to warrant an investment of public funds to keep it an independent Scottish mutual. They also point to the partially failed IT system which cost the society dear with millions being written off.

To me it's quite clear that the damage was done between 2005 and 2007 when the society diversified into more risky ventures including commercial lending, buy to let mortgages and second hand mortgages. Yet all this was done with the knowledge and acceptance of the Financial Services Authority.

In fact the FSA recommended the services of an independent expert to review their commercial lending portfolio. I assume, because it is not said, that the FSA were satisfied with outcome of that experts report because no action/recommendations were made following the report. That's when the damage was done - and yet the FSA was just a blind observer and mute commentator.

The society's management admitted their mistakes, not just as some means to deflect any further criticism but because they truly cared for the institution that they devoted many years of their lives to and wanted to explain what went wrong.

The Scottish Affairs Select Committee report into the break up of the society is a good report. It would have been even better if it had also taken evidence from members and staff from the society and senior executives like Peter Weanie who was a driving force behind the more risky strategy. But it was a good report none the less and should help members, staff and the wider community understand what happened so we can learn and move on with the Nationwide.

Monday, 27 July 2009

JT

For many years a jovial ex miner called JT would enjoy his early morning constitutional from Lochore, where he lived, along the coal road to Kelty road end.  Most mornings my son, Alexander, and I would join him on the short trip to the school bus at the end of the road. 

JT always had a new tale to tell, a colourful anecdote or a bit of political commentary.  He would speak to everyone - whether he knew them or not.  A friendly face.  He never failed to cheer up my morning.

Last week JT Murphy passed away, at the ripe old age of 94.  Like so many I'll miss him. <<JT.JPG>>

Thursday, 23 July 2009

The world has changed

Thanks to Labour's mismanagement and the world economic crises the public finances here in Britain have been devastated. That's why everything we wanted to do when the public funds were available will not be possible to do now that they are not.

Of course we can reallocate budgets, cut waste and ditch projects that we don't need but funds are now tighter so we need to make choices. Labour and the Tories may wish to try to fool voters but the Lib Dems will be straight about what needs to be done.

Fresh Start for Britain builds on Nick Clegg's successes of recent months. It sets our our values and principles in a way that I am confident people will warm to. It promotes our desire to make this country a fairer, safer, greener place and stronger in the world. Take a look - it'll be worth your time.

Monday, 20 July 2009

SNP academic snobbery

I'm fed up with snooty people like the SNP's candidate for Glasgow North East, David Kerr, belittling the achievements of those of us who were educated at Paisley (now West of Scotland Uni) and Glasgow Colleges (now Glasgow Caledonian Uni).

It's far too easy to run us, and those institutions, down without recognising what we and they achieved and continue to achieve.

I am proud to say that I was educated at Paisley, where I secured my degree in biology, and at Glasgow, where I secured my diploma.

The institutions have a good reputation for their partnerships with industry and for improving the life opportunities of thousands of people of all ages and from a wide diversity of backgrounds.

In fact I would argue that Paisley and Glasgow Colleges gave a bigger lift or added value to their students than those institutions that Mr Kerr thinks are only worthy of any consideration.

Now I'm not seeking a battle with the ancients. I have worked closely with academics and management from their science departments and have the greatest respect and admiration for their achievements. It's people like David Kerr that give the ancients a bad reputation. All I'm asking is for a bit of mutual respect.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Trident - initial gate delayed

It's good news that the Government has decided to delay the initial gate decision on Trident until after the Non Proliferation Talks next year. It'll help to give those talks a chance.

We had strongly criticised the Government's rushed decision on Trident in 2006. We said that the big decisions should be delayed until after the NPT talks - actually in 2012 - 2014 at maingate.

However, what this does show is that the Government are either playing fast and loose with their timetable or it was never that tight anyway.

It calls into question Labour's original proposition on Trident. What can we believe now? There must be a full debate on Trident and soon. We are at a crossroads and we need to openly debate the choices.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Labour MP thinks Scotland gets "shed loads" of money

It's clearly the prevailing view amongst Labour MPs in England that Scotland gets enough Government money or "shed loads" as Rob Marris, MP for Wolverhampton South West, put it today in Treasury Questions.

If it were true I could take the criticism from him, but it's not. Scotland doesn't get shed loads just a fair share considering our circumstances. However, we need to reform the Barnett formula with a system that reflects the needs of different parts of the UK. We also need a new funding arrangement for the Scottish Parliament that includes raising more of our own money.

But if Rob Marris and his Labour colleagues were to recognise the debilitating effect the construction of the new Forth Crossing is having on the development of our transport network in Scotland perhaps they would take a more enlightened view.

We've already had the SNP refusing to consider the use of all the tools in the box which has not only created a huge amount of uncertainty about the funding of the vital new Forth crossing but has also caused fury in other parts of Scotland where they see the SNP refusing to fund their essential transport projects. I'm disappointed that the SNP has put narrow ideology ahead of the transport infrastructure needs.

The solution is actually quite simple. If the UK refuse to help fund the new crossing, despite their previous commitments to do so, and the SNP refuse to set aside their ideological opposition the UK Government should give the Scottish Parliament borrowing powers. Calman has proposed it. Everyone agrees it should happen. We just need Westminster to act - and fast. Perhaps Rob Marris might even help!

"River Forth Crossing (UK Government Assistance)

9. Willie Rennie (Dunfermline and West Fife) (LD): What recent discussions he has had with the Scottish Executive on UK Government assistance for the construction of a new crossing over the River Forth. [286199]

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Stephen Timms): My right hon. Friends the former Chief Secretary to the Treasury and the Secretary of State for Scotland met the Scottish Finance Minister in March to discuss financing for a new Forth bridge.

Willie Rennie: I warmly welcome the acceptance that the UK Government should help the Scottish Government to fund this vital new crossing, but when will the Government come forward with real new money to help to pay for the bridge? Will they also consider speedily bringing in new borrowing powers for the Scottish Government, so that they can spread the cost over a number of years, as has been proposed by the Calman commission?

Mr. Timms: I am glad to recognise the importance of the second Forth crossing, and to support the importance of its construction. Funding, however, is a devolved decision, and this is a matter for the Scottish Executive to determine. My right hon. Friends offered flexibility to help within the economic framework applying to the UK as a whole, and I hope that that flexibility will allow the project to proceed.

Rob Marris (Wolverhampton, South-West) (Lab): Can my right hon. Friend assure me that the Government will hold firm on this? Scotland already gets shedloads of extra money under the Barnett formula. It is entitled to raise its own taxes, and this Government should stand firm against this bridge, for which it wants even more money.

Mr. Timms: My hon. Friend makes a forceful point. Let me simply say that this is an important project, but it needs to be carried out within the economic framework applying to the UK as a whole. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor has just set out some of the Government’s constraints and objectives in relation to the public finances over the next five years, and this decision needs to be made within that context."

Web monitoring - value for money?

I'm attempting to ascertain the value of all this internet monitoring that the Government is sponsoring. A constituent and expert has told its ineffective and therefore a waste of money. Here's the answers to the questions I have posed. Does anyone have any suggestions on how I should approach this issue?

http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2009-07-09a.282033.h&s=speaker%3A13712#g282033.q0

http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2009-07-09a.282032.h&s=speaker%3A13712#g282032.q0

ZDNET UK News Website has covered the issue.