More vandalism

I was really disappointed to hear reports of more vandalism in the Perth Road area. The Tayside Hindu Cultural and Community Centre in Taylor's Lane has had graffiti daubed on it. It is disgusting that this should happen to any place of worship. I hope that those responsible are caught and dealt with accordingly. I would urge anyone with information about this to contact the police.

National Care Service

I was very pleased when Labour leader Iain Gray MSP announced that Labour will implement a National Care Service to work along with the NHS if Labour is elected at next year's Scottish election. Today Labour announced the setting up of an expert group to look into how we can deliver on this policy. I welcome this, this is a very important area of policy. We should work hard to develop a system which delivers high quality care services consistently across the country. Labour 's announcement from today is below:


Scottish Labour Leader Iain Gray has announced the next step in the most ambitious reform of elderly care in Scotland since the creation of the NHS. Labour intends to create a National Care Service within the lifetime of the next Parliament.

At a press conference in Glasgow, Mr Gray announced the membership and remit of the Expert Group on Future Options for Social Care, which will be chaired by Sir John Arbuthnott, to advise on the creation of the new service.

The Expert Panel will undertake a series of ‘listening exercises’ across Scotland and produce a report by April next year setting out the principles that will underpin a National Care Service and how it will improve the experience of people requiring care, their carers and their families.

Scottish Labour Leader Iain Gray said:

“Almost every family in Scotland will know what it is like to care for an elderly relative. It can mean a daily battle with the NHS or social work for services that vary enormously across the country. Scottish Labour introduced Free Personal Care for the elderly and we are proud of that. But the time has come to improve the delivery and consistency of care.

“I want Scotland to have a National Care Service on which our people can depend within the lifetime of the next Parliament. This is about the local delivery of national standards of care and an end to the postcode lottery. Just as our predecessors rose to the challenge of the last century and created the NHS, we must rise to the challenge of the twenty-first century and ensure our elderly and disabled citizens receive the social care they need.

“The involvement of people of the calibre of Sir John Arbuthnott, and the other members of the panel, shows how seriously we are taking this challenge to improve the experience of people requiring care, their carers and their families.”

Sir John Arbuthnott said:

“This is one of the greatest challenges facing society in coming years. The rapid increase in the older population is fully recognised. The help and support that assures the wellbeing of older people and allows them to participate as fully as possible in their communities is a priority. They have much to offer in wisdom and experience.

“Colleagues on the expert group have longstanding experience in providing care and treatment for this age group. But we will also welcome the the views of the voluntary sector, including churches, faith groups as well as of families who provide much of the front line love and care. The views of older people are also central.

“It is time to revisit the way in which the balance of treatment, care and wellbeing is provided to best effect.”





At the Labour Party Scottish Conference held in Oban in October 2010, Iain Gray announced our intention to establish a National Care Service. To assist in that task we agreed to set up an expert panel, led by Sir John Arbuthnott.

Title and Remit

The expert panel should be called The Expert Group on Future Options for Social Care.

The remit is as undernoted:

To make recommendations on the establishment of a National Care Service for Scotland; recognising the need to shift the balance of care to community settings; acknowledging the important role of carers and all care providers; ensuring an equally high and fair standard of care across the country, and improving the experience for people requiring care, their families and their carers.

The Expert Group will be expected to specifically consider:

- the funding available for a merged social care budget from both local authorities and health

- future needs and demographic trends

- governance arrangements for a national care service based on reform of CHCPs

- the role of all care providers

- the scope for including services for those with learning disabilities, physical disabilities and mental health issues alongside older people’s services

- managing the transition from the existing pattern of service to the new national care service.


The Expert Group will be chaired by Sir John Arbuthnott.

He will be joined by David Manion, Chief Executive of Age Scotland and Councillor Harry McGuigan as announced at Conference.

In addition, the following have agreed to be members:

Dr Alistair Noble – GP

Professor Brian Williams – Royal College of Physicians, former Consultant Geriatrician

Professor June Andrews – Dementia Development Centre, Stirling University

Peter Scott – Chief Executive, Enable Scotland

Hugh Clarke – Retired Head of Fieldwork Services, Glasgow City Council Social Work Services.

All Group members are serving in an independent expert capacity.


It is proposed that the initial output of the Group will be a short paper setting out the principles that would underpin a National Care Service. This would be available at the end of March/beginning of April.

In the period leading up to this, there would be 4 ‘listening sessions’ – one in January, two in February and one in March. At least one will be held outside the central belt, probably in Inverness.


Tuition Fees

I was very disappointed to see the result of the tuition fees debate today. I am appalled at the violence which has taken place, I'm not sure that it helps to make the case. It is clear that politicians should not make promises that they will not keep. The Lib Dems could have argued their case. Politics is about choices, yes these are difficult financial times but this was a choice to cut higher education funding in England (and this will have a knock-on effect due to the Barnett formula).

Labour's Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland Ann McKechin MP has commented on this;

“Tonight will be seen as a betrayal of young people throughout the United Kingdom.

“The impact of the decision will damage higher education not just in England but in Scotland too and we should not let the LibDems and Tories forget that.

“After the countless promises made by Liberal Democrats against fees increases it not just a black day for education but also one for honesty in politics.

“We are now moving to a system where England will have the highest public university fees of any industrialised nation in the world and Scotland will also take a huge hit in funding. Access to higher education will be set back for a generation. This Government has comprehensively failed to protect the future for our younger generation.”

John Denham who made an excellent speech in the House of Commons has also commented upon the vote tonight.

The video here shows a video of Dundee University Rector Brian Cox discussing his views on university funding. I think that his idea of everyone involved in university life joining together to discuss how to fund universities and student support.


Scrutiny Committee

The City Council's Scrutiny Committee met on Wednesday afternoon. The committee heard a report back on some issues concerning earlier reports about Park Place Nursery School and it was good to hear that the nursery has made progress on all the issues raised in the report. I questioned some of the reports which we receive. It seems to me that some of the external regulatory bodies go out of their way to make negative comments some of which go against their own policies.

Fairtrade at the Flower and Food Festival

This morning I had a very good briefing from officers about the ways in which fairtrade can be promoted at the excellent Dundee Flower and Food Festival. I am pleased to say that there will be a greater effort to promote fairtrade at this excellent event. I look forward to seeing the fruits of these efforts, well done to everyone involved.


Fairtrade Forum

This morning I chaired a meeting of the Dundee Fairtrade Forum. This meeting looked mostly at how Fairtrade Fortnight will be celebrated in Dundee. The focus for this will be on fairtrade textile's. It is important that we treat everyone who provides services for us as we would wish to be treated ourselves.

City Council Meetings

Monday evening saw meetings of the City Council and various committees. The Education Committee saw some interesting reports. There was a report about primary schools getting synthetic grass games areas I welcome this, I also welcome the fact that there is to be some public access to these areas. I was disappointed that the Convener of Education told my colleague Kevin Keenan that the all-weather pitch at St Paul's Academy was run by Dundee Leisure. This is not the case and there seems to be a problem with making it accessible to the public - what's the problem?

My colleagues in the Labour Group and I are concerned that we are not getting enough information about the future of council services. We moved to defer spending on education department's Music Centre until we had a full report on all property related issues in education and also the full council budget. The report before us tonight was flimsy and did not make the case that the spending was unavoidable. I was pleased that the Chief Executive restated that he has made representations to ensure that HMI(e) and Learning and Teaching Scotland jobs should be retained in Dundee if the merger goes through.

At the City Development Committee I was pleased to see a report on future rail services in Scotland. I agree with the report that we need to ensure that the Tay Estuary Rail Study should be treated seriously by Network Rail and the Scottish Government. I am committed to working with anyone to try and bring better rail services to Dundee.

I was disappointed that the Administration pushed through plans to increase car parking charges both for off street car parking which is being forced on us by the Con Dem government's increase in VAT. Unfortunately the Administration pushed through on the Convener's casting vote plans to increase on-street parking charges. This was not necessary as there is no VAT on these charges.

The Social Work and Health Committee considered a very interesting report on a Charter of Rights for People with Dementia. This comes from the Cross-Party Group in the Scottish Parliament on Alzheimer's which is chaired by my colleague Irene Oldfather MSP. There was an excellent report from the Care Commission on the Out and About Support Service. I am clear that this report should have been sent to Scrutiny Committee rather than the Social Work and Health Committee. I was also disappointed that proposals were made to change the Elms Close Support unit. Again I think that any changes to this needed to consider the whole picture of where the council is going I do not feel that was available to the committee this evening.


Weather update

Prior to the start of business at the City Council meetings this evening the City Council's Chief Executive made a statement about the ongoing weather situation. He rightly paid tribute to the public sector workers who have worked hard over the past week to try to deal with the severe weather conditions. The City Council's website has the latest information from the council about the weather. The council's policy was outlined and there was some discussion about the problems which have occurred. The main concern was what is being done to ensure that the elderly and sheltered housing areas are given some priority.
As ever, if you have any particular concerns about the council's reaction to the poor weather please get in touch with me.


Resignation of Bishop Vincent Logan

I am very sorry to hear that Bishop Vincent Logan has tendered his resignation as Bishop of Dunkeld. He has done a great deal of good work not just for the Catholic community in Dundee and throughout Scotland.

I first met Bishop Logan when I was an undergraduate student, he was also a great help to me when I was researching for my PhD and made a number of church resources and historic records available to me. He was always very interested in my historical research into nineteenth-century Dundee.

When I was National Secretary of the Bishops' Conference of Scotland's Justice and Peace Commission Bishop Vincent was always very supportive. He has always had a strong vision of the importance of promoting justice and peace.

Bishop Vincent has served the Catholic Church well in his role and he has also played a wider role than that in the life of the city of Dundee and the wider area of Dunkeld Diocese and right across Scotland.

I hope that Bishop Vincent's health improves and that he has a long and happy retirement.

I was also sad to hear of the untimely death of the former Bishop of Brechin John Mantle, he had served his diocese well and also the wider community in Tayside.

Concern over vandalism

I have expressed my concerns about the spate of vandalism to cars in the West End in the early hours of Saturday morning. I have spoken to Tayside Police about the situation.

I am appalled to hear about the spate of vandalism to cars in Windsor Street and Place and in Magdalen Yard Road, it is galling to hear of other incidents of such vandalism across Dundee. I hope that the culprits are caught and punished appropriately. I will be speaking to Tayside Police to find out what actions they are taking. Nobody wants to have to pay for repairs to vandalism at any time of the year but this is a particularly bad time for people to have extra expense. I hope that anyone who has information about vandalism takes appropriate action and contact the police.