West End Christmas Week Launch

Saturday morning saw the launch of the West End Christmas Week at the Community Fayre at Dundee West Church. The fayre was really good with lots of local organisations taking part. Also in Dundee West Church today there was a coffee morning, it was good to see so many local people at this great community event.

West End Christmas week continues this week, with the highlight being the Christmas Concert and Light Switch on on Thursday night starting in Dundee West Church at 6pm with the light switch on at 7pm.

The photograph shows the various stalls at the community fayre.


Christmas Light Night & Nativity Play

Tonight I joined thousands of others in the centre of Dundee for Christmas Light Night. The new Christmas Lights in the City Centre appear to be an improvement on the old lights, which were starting to show their age.

I do have an issue with celebrating Christmas in November but I recognise that I'm fighting a bit of a losing battle on that one.

This is a great community celebration with many families present in the city centre. The picture here shows the City Square and the vast crowds just after the Christmas Lights were switched on. It is great that the community can come together in this way and demonstrates that Christmas is about more than consumerism.

As I said earlier I am pleased that the council has recognised that this is a celebration of Christmas and not some 'Winter' festival. I was pleased to see a large crowd gather at the Steeple Church to watch the 'Dundee Nativity'. This was very well put together and I would like to thank all those who were involved in putting it together.

This was a very good production with not one but two donkeys having a walk-on part. The picture shows the 'nativity' scene.

I am looking forward to the Christmas Lights being switched on in the West End after the Christmas concert at Dundee West Church next Thursday. This will be another great community event.

It is far too early but I suppose that the new lights in Reform Street sum up the message of tonight's festivities:

Christmas Light Night

Tonight sees Dundee's Christmas Lights switched on, yes that's right Christmas Lights not Winter Lights. I am pleased that after a daft year of calling the celebrations 'Winter Light Night' the council SNP Administration saw sense last year and called the celebration by the name by which it should always have been known, Christmas Light Night.

I am looking forward to tonight's event and I hope that the weather stays fine, (Fingers crossed!) There is something for everyone tonight and I know that families will really enjoy the event. You can download a full programme from here.


Lift Problem at Dundee Station

A number of constituents raised their concerns with me about the fact that the lift at Dundee Station has been broken for a number of days. I am disappointed to see that the lift at Dundee Station has been out of order. I understand that passengers who need to use the lift have to use the parcel lift, this mean that they have to go outside of the station to get to this lift. This is unacceptable in the modern day, obviously it is always possible for a lift to break down but the alternative must be much better than the one available today. It is not right to treat the disabled or parents with children in prams as second class citizens. I will be contacting Scotrail to find out what they are doing about the lift in the station. I think this makes the point that Dundee Station needs to be refurbished much more eloquently than I can. We need a modern station which meets the needs of Dundonians and visitors to the city. I will be making this point as strongly as I can in my response to the Scottish Government's consultation on the future of the rail network in Scotland.


Development Management Committee

Monday evening saw the November meeting of the Development Management Committee. There was a pretty light agenda for this meeting. The application for a bistro and take-away at the White Horse Pub created some controversy with one councillor being ruled out of order over his questioning, eventually the application was rejected.

Tayside Fire and Rescue Board Performance Monitoring Sub-Committee

On Monday morning I attended a meeting of the Performance Monitoring Sub-Committee of Tayside Fire and Rescue Board. This sub-committee looked at the work of the internal auditors of the Fire and rescue Board.

I asked a question about fuel security in the fire service, the details I asked about can be found on page 9 of this document. I was pleased to be told that there were no concerns over theft of fuel. The concerns are over an IT system designed to monitor fuel usage which was meant to save time and be more accurate but which is not fully operational yet. This is disappointing but I was reassured that there was no suggestion that fuel was going missing.

Feast of Christ the King and Dundee Evangelical Christian Alliance Worship Service

On Sunday I attended two church services, the first was at St Andrew's Cathedral in the Nethergate and was the Mass for the Feast of Christ the King, the second was at St Peter's Free Church in St Peter's Street and was the annual worship service for the Dundee Evangelical Christian Alliance. In ecclesiastical terms these were quite diverse events, yet interestingly shared much. The music at both services was superb, each in their own way. Both services thanked those who serve in public office, for my part I very much appreciate that. I like what I do and don't do it for thanks or praise but try to do what I think is right and do my best. But it is nice to be thanked from time to time.

At St Andrew's Cathedral Bishop Vincent Logan preached on Matthew's Gospel (Mt 25: 31-46) which talks about feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger and clothing the naked. This passage finishes with the line what you did to least of these you did it to me. Bishop Vincent pointed out that, 'we rarely hear of the ongoing catastrophe which sees one child dying every four seconds. The silent killers are poverty, easily preventable diseases and illnesses. The gap between rich and poor is high, and widening.'

Whether your motivation is religious or not Bishop Vincent is absolutely correct that something needs to be done about poverty. Poverty needs to tackled both in Dundee and right across the world. Tackling deprivation and inequality is what I want to do in politics.

The service at St Peter's Free Church heard about some of the practical work being done by churches and faith based groups in Dundee to tackle problems like poverty and the often related problems of drink and drug addiction. The main speaker Os Guinness spoke on service and on how important it was to serve. I think that interestingly both messages are linked in that those of us in public office are called to serve the poor and the needy. This is certainly something that I try to keep in my mind in my work serving the people of the West End.

Bishop Vincent Logan has announced his retirement and will soon be replaced as Bishop of Dunkeld I would like to wish him a long and healthy retirement when it comes. The minister of St Peter's Free Church, Rev David Robertson is currently ill, I would like to wish him a full recovery.

I would like to thank all those who gave me such a warm welcome at these services.


A Co-operative Agenda for Local Government

On Saturday I spoke at the Scottish Co-operative Party's Campaign Convention. The focus of the event was on local government. I was also pleased that the event was co-sponsored by SERA, the Labour environmental campaign.

The Co-operative Party has some great ideas for local government. I hope that in Dundee we will be able to implement some co-operative policies after the next election. CO-operative policies are about empowering local people whether they are service users or employees. It is important our local policies for next year's election include co-operative policies. Next year has been designated by the UN as the International Year of the Co-operative. So 2012 is an important year for co-ops.

Schools Leaders Scotland Conference

Last Friday I was very happy to take part in a Question Time style panel at the School Leaders Scotland Conference in St Andrews. I have to say that I admire those who serve in leadership roles in our schools. There were some really testing questions. In many respects the most important one was about how to tackle deprivation. It is important that councils and others work across all 'silos' to tackle the scourge of deprivation in our community. We cannot expect schools and teachers to find solutions to these very difficult issues. Eradicating deprivation is the reason why I am interested in politics. Eradicating poverty and allowing everyone in the country to achieve their full potential is crucial to the future of our country.

West End Local Community Planning Partnership

On Thursday of last week there was the quarterly meeting of the West End Local Community Planning Partnership. The meeting looked at a number of interesting items, not least the West End Community Plan. The local police also outlined the work which they are doing to try and catch the vandals who are smashing headstones in Balgay Cemetery. Tayside Fire and Rescue highlighted their success in bringing down the number of problems caused on Bonfire Night, this is a particularly good piece of partnership working where a variety of organisations work together to effectively deal with a problem.

The main item was probably another presentation on proposals for a park and ride scheme to the west of Dundee. I would be grateful to hear local people's views on whether there is a need for this and whether the proposed locations would be good or not.