Pathways to Sport

My colleague Laurie Bidwell and I are seeking a briefing from officers of the council regarding Pathways to Sport. This comes after a debate on a report by the Health and Sport Committee which took place in the Scottish Parliament last week.

Pathways into Sport

Scottish Labour's spokespersons for Leisure, Arts and Communities, Councillor Richard McCready, and Education, Councillor Laurie Bidwell, on Dundee City Council today called for assurances that Dundee City Council's attitude towards sport is joined up. They were speaking after the Scottish Parliament discussed a report from its influential Health and Sport Committee on 'Pathways into Sport'. They have requested a meeting with officials in the Education and Leisure and Communities Department of Dundee City Council to discuss the issues raised in the report.

Councillor Richard McCready said, 'The provision of sports facilities is an undervalued aspect of the work of the council. It is easy to dismiss as an 'extra' which can be cut in times of economic hardship. Clearly these are difficult economic times but we also need to take a long term view of things. The promotion of sport can have an impact on health, educational attainment and economic activity, we should not underestimate its importance. I hope that the Education and Leisure and Communities departments of the council will be able to reassure us that the issues being raised in the Scottish Parliament's report are being dealt with in Dundee.'

Councillor Laurie Bidwell said, 'PE is an important part of the education syllabus, it is important that we get it right for Dundee's children. Our school estate, which has been improved by the schools built under our watch, is a great resource for the promotion of sport both during the school day and for local communities outside the school day. I think that there is a lot which we are doing in Dundee which is to be commended, I hope that we can have the opportunity to look at the recommendations from this Cross-Party Group of MSPs and see what we could do better in Dundee.'

The main recommendations of the Scottish Parliament's Health and Sport Committee are set out below, further information on the Committee's investigation can be found at

1. PE
The Scottish Government should not sign off any new local authority single outcome agreement that does not feature the two-hour target unless the local authority has already met the target of the Scottish Government and is content that the local authority is firmly on track to meet the target by August 2010. If any school is unable to meet the target by August 2010, the headteacher should be obliged to provide a report stating the reasons why this is the case. Each primary school pupil should receive a physical literacy assessment to ensure that by the time each pupil reaches secondary school they have the necessary skills to learn specific sports. Pupil report cards should refer to a pupil’s physical literacy skills. There is still a very real need for a general upskilling of all primary school classroom teachers in the teaching of PE. 2. Active Schools
The Scottish Government should organise a conference on the Active Schools programme to ensure that this programme is taken forward to 2011 and beyond. 3. The need for integrated, local sports provision
Each local authority should have a sports strategy that includes the following elements: - Teaching of PE and transition into sport outside of school;
- Facilities including (1) the maintenance and upgrading of facilities and (2) improving access to local authority facilities, including use of the school estate; and
- Capacity building in local sports clubs.
The Committee believes there is a need for a national initiative led by the Scottish Government of sportscotland to ‘unlock the potential’ for schools to be more widely used by the wider community.


Welcome for historical visits

Today, my colleague Laurie Bidwell and myself today made comments about the Scottish Government's plans to subsidise visits to historical visits by Scotland's school pupils. Our comments are below. As a historian I welcome anything which encourages an interest in our country's history.
I think though that we should encourage our children to take an interest in all of Scotland's history rather than in a narrow range of historical sites. For example, it is easy to argue that the Scottish Reformation had at least as big an impact on Scottish identity as Culloden or Bannockburn. I think that the Scottish Government should be looking at ways to celebrate the 450th anniversary of the Reformation next year.
Closer to home, I also think that we should look at ways of promoting Dundee's heritage. Verdant Works and RRS Discovery operated by Dundee Heritage Trust help us understand Dundee's history and are well worth a visit.
Qualified Welcome for Historical Visits programme
Dundee Labour Councillors Laurie Bidwell and Richard McCready today provided a qualified welcome to the announcement, on 10 September, by the Scottish Government of funds to encourage school pupils to visit Bannockburn, Culloden and Burns’ birthplace. Both councillors recognise the importance of promoting Scotland’s history, but they believe that there is much more to Scotland’s history than Bannockburn, Culloden or Robert Burns and more appropriate ways of funding this.

Councillor Laurie Bidwell said:“Visits to museums and sites of historical significance are an essential part of the education of every pupil in our schools. At first glance it seems commendable that the Scottish Government has provided conservation charity the National Trust for Scotland with additional £180,000 funding to subsidise school parties visiting Bannockburn, Culloden and Robert Burns' birthplace. This is, perhaps, better understood as a back door bailout to National Trust for Scotland which has recently acknowledged financial difficulties and has been discussing the mothballing of some of their properties. If the government want to encourage school visits, I think it should remain true to the spirit of the concordat with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (CoSLA) and local councils. A key plank of this agreement was an end to ring fencing of funding. This is another example of the SNP government in Holyrood breaking that agreement. It would be better to stick to the Concordat and give the cash to local authorities so that our history teachers can arrange visits to places that they judge best fit in with the history curriculum in their schools.'

Councillor Richard McCready said:”I welcome this announcement and the opportunity that it gives for pupils to visit Bannockburn, Culloden or Burns’ birthplace but there is much more to our country’s history than these sites. I think that it would be good if the Scottish Government also supported visits to other important historical sites. In order to understand Dundee’s history, a visit to Verdant Works or Discovery Point would be appropriate. It is impossible to understand Dundee's 19th century history without understanding the industrialisation of Dundee and Verdant Works and Discovery Point help to do this.”


City Council and Committee Meetings

Monday night saw meetings of the City Council and its committees, for the agenda please click here.

I raised a number of issues on the Leisure, Arts and Communities Committee.

The first item was investment in a new hammer cage at Caird Park. I welcome this investment it is important that the council takes its responsibilities to provide sports facilities seriously. I asked if the council has a sports facilities strategy? I was told that it did and that I would be given a copy of this. This is a very important area of policy, but it is often not given the importance it deserves. I believe that the council should continue to support sports facilities in Dundee.

The last item was about the development of a visitor centre at Camperdown Park. I said, 'I am delighted to see progress being made on this important issue. Camperdown Park is an excellent resource for the city and for visitors to the city. Over the summer I had the pleasure of taking visitors to Camperdown Park from France, Ireland, the USA and even from Lanarkshire and they were all impressed with the facilities that are there. This will improve the Park and be a particular improvement for the wildlife centre.'

'I welcome this report which implements a Labour manifesto commitment, all we need to do now is find an ongoing and sustainable use for all of Camperdown House.'

Dundee Ice Arena

On Monday afternoon I attended a meeting of the Health and Safety sub-committee of Dundee Ice Arena. I am on the Board of the Ice Arena and I am always impressed by the work I see there. On Tuesday I'll be at the Bar and Catering sub-committee at the Ice Arena.

If you haven't visited the Ice Arena please click on their website and look at what's on.


Disappointed at no City of Culture bid

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is organising a competition to name the UK's city of culture in 2013. I believe that Dundee would be a strong contender for this award and I am very disappointed that Dundee did not put forward a bid. I hope that a bid will be forthcoming in the future. I think that this would help to promote the excellent work done right across Dundee regenerating the city through culture. I do hope that it is not the fact that this is a UK award which prevented the SNP administration in Dundee from applying.

Below you will find a statement which I have put out about this important issue.

Disappointed at no 'city of culture' bid

Councillor Richard McCready, Scottish Labour spokesperson for Leisure, Arts and Communities on Dundee City Council, today expressed his disappointment that Dundee has not applied to be UK City of Culture in 2013. Councillor McCready believes that Dundee would be a strong contender for the title and that victory in such a contest would enhance Dundee's reputation and make a contribution to the campaign to site V & A in Dundee.

Councillor Richard McCready said, 'I was disappointed to see that Dundee had not applied to be the UK City of Culture. Dundee has spent a lot of time and effort on promoting culture in the city in order to regenerate the city. Dundee has a well deserved reputation for cultural excellence and I think applying for this accolade would have enhanced Dundee's reputation. After looking at the criteria for this award I think that Dundee would have been a strong contender for this reward.'

'I fully support the campaign to ensure that the V & A opens in Dundee I believe being named UK City of Culture would have made this more likely. I hope that Dundee will apply for this accolade in future years. Investment in culture in the city in recent years has played a major part in changing perceptions of the city. Dundee has much to be proud of in cultural terms. The Rep, DCA, the universities and Dundee College along with the city council put Dundee at the forefront of cultural provision. Dundee is at the forefront of cultural provision in Scotland and can, I believe, hold her own in the UK context.'

'I hope that Dundee will be the UK City of Culture before too long. Dundee is a great city with excellent cultural provision, everyone in the city should be proud of the city's cultural achievements.'

'I note that cities from across the UK have applied for this accolade I would be very disappointed if Dundee City Council had not applied because this is a UK accolade. It is important that everyone in the city works together to promote the excellent cultural provision in Dundee.'

For details of the City of Culture programme see the DCMS news release

Co-operative Party Conference

On Friday I attended the Co-operative Party's annual conference held in Edinburgh this year.

It was good to hear about alternative plans for the economy and how we can change society. One of the key note speakers on Friday was Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray and you can read his speech here.

One of the reasons why the event was in Scotland this year is that Scotmid Co-operative is celebrating the 150th anniversary of its founding. Scotmid stores are found across Scotland and the Morning, Noon and Night store on Blackness Road is a Scotmid Co-op store. I am a member of the Scotmid Co-op, if you want to read more about the history of Scotmid click here.