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

“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

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.

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

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

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.