Thursday, 30 November 2017

In Touch - This Week

The Week - A Beginning 
This week has been busy! Sunday was the unveiling of the Victoria Cross Centenary Stone in Kinghorn which you can read about - . I cannot help but think more has to be done to push and publicise the rich history of Fife and many of its smaller towns and villages. Over the past few weeks I have visited sites that would not feature on any "tourist trail" as such but are of huge historical significance and for the erstwhile traveller and lover of history they are gems worth visiting. Fife gave the world Adam Smith and Andrew Carnegie but it has so much more.There is extensive royal history around Fife, both pre and post Union of the Crowns, there are geological finds along the coastline between Kinghorn and Kirkcaldy, and there are ancient churchyards and burial sites (pre and post Reformation) that could possibly date back as far as the 6th century. 

Kirkcaldy Area Committee - Littering
Tuesday was the Kirkcaldy Area Committee. There are 12 elected representatives on this committee - covering 4 wards. A number of significant updates were presented to councillors on local matters across the Kirkcaldy Area. Littering was on the agenda and efforts to tackle it. Enforcement officers are clearly hard at work both in monitoring areas around schools at lunchtimes to ensure litter is binned and also in chasing up dog fouling culprits. I brought to the attention of the Committee the ongoing litter problem around the Invertiel Viaduct and asked if Officers would continue to monitor. I did also state I recognised that, due to feedback from residents, that the problem had certainly been in part reduced (I shall cover that further on in this post). Unfortunately the media coverage only reported my concerns and not my recognition that the matter was being addressed and somewhat effectively. Link to coverage in the Fife Free Press -

 I must stress - the problem has declined but this is an ongoing matter 

Kirkcaldy Area Committee - Policing
A report was presented to Committee by two Police Scotland officers, covering anti-social behaviour, 101 calls and CCTV work with communities. Concerns raised at the Community Engagement Meeting in Burntisland earlier in the month were in regards to 101 calls and their being logged - find the link here - . Following that meeting and points raised the week before at Burntisland Community Council I had asked how 101 calls were being logged, I did this once again at the Area Committee. There is a concern (which I am not wholly convinced has been answered) that if one person in a neighbourhood is making several 101 calls of an evening then this is only recorded as one "incident". Police officers assured me that was not the case and that all are logged. I also asked about the mobile CCTV van, of which there is only one of in Fife. This was more of a probing question due to the non-transfer of operational responsibility for CCTV when Police Scotland was established (again see my previous post). My feelings are this needs investigated further and I intend to pursue a couple of aspects of policing in Fife - watch this space for an update. On a positive note, crime statistics across the Kirkcaldy area are down and continued engagement with youngsters is proving positive in reducing some aspects of youth anti-social behaviour. 

 Are 101 calls being appropriately logged or are positive statistics paramount?

Invertiel TRA
Tuesday was indeed a busy day as in the evening I attended the Invertiel Tenants & Residents Association. I always enjoy these evenings, there is a real sense of community and a desire to get things done that work for everyone. The ongoing litter around the viaduct was covered with a general consensus that the problem has been greatly reduced (see my earlier link - ). Perhaps the clean-up in October and a visit to the school has meant that pupils are being more actively discouraged from using that route as a short cut. Given the treacherous conditions of much of the route they were taking I really do hope they have stopped using it. It has been decided that rather than have a further meeting with the school, to engage with the community, before Christmas it would be better to wait until the new year.  Link to coverage in the Fife Free Press -

A Positive News Story - Keep Those College Places
Last week students at Fife College who were in their first year of a two year HND in Practical Journalism were informed that the second year would not run. This left students in a very worrying situation whereby they had signed up for a two year course, with the second part leading them to work towards exams in achieving the NCTJ qualification - which much print media employers would be looking for, not running. An option of completing the course is apparently available through a link with Sunderland University. However, not all students have the means or the time to do that. I intially wrote a press statement expressing my deep concerns about the proposed demise of the course but was, happily, able to update that when the programme was given a reprieve. 

My full quote to the media read as follows: 

“I am absolutely delighted to learn that students on the Practical Journalism will now be able continue onto their second year and work towards the HND. Without the second-year students would not have had the opportunity to gain the NCTJ qualification which most print media are looking for when hiring. 
Students from around Fife and Scotland believed they were setting-out on a two-year course and for them to have been told at this stage in the year that they would not be able to progress caused a great deal of uncertainty and was quite simply unacceptable.
Going to university is not the choice of many prospective students in Scotland and excessive cuts to college places in recent years, by the Scottish Government, has left fewer options available. Fife College has guaranteed this course for the 18/19 academic year, but what about beyond that? More funding has to be put into both continuing current courses and developing new college places for students in Scotland.”

The link to the Fife Free Press online article can be found here -

Being Interviewed - Burntisland Railway Station
Unrelated to that I had met with a journalism student around the same time who wished to interview me about disabled access at Burntisland Railway Station. I was more than happy to take part in this as the lack of access is deeply concerning. There are five railway stations in Fife which do not have full disabled access and when I investigated Network Rail's Access For All Fund for station upgrades none of those in Fife are in line for funding. The lack of access is of concern to my two ward councillor colleagues and we shall continue to pursue a solution. In the meantime I absolutely encourage anyone experiencing accessibility issues at Burntisland or Kinghorn to please contact me - I want to hear from you. 
 Not only interviewed but filmed and interviewed - needed some quick thinking on my part! Thank you for taking the time to speak with me. Lack of accessible station platforms must remain on the agenda 

We Work For You - Councillor Leaflet
Despite the chilly weather conditions I have been out and about delivering my councillor leaflet which lets people know what I am up to and also gives residents the opportunity to contact me with anything they wish to be addressed. If you are unsure if it a matter for an MP, MSP or Councillor do please still get in touch and I will direct you if necessary to the relevant representative if it is not a Council matter. Thank you also to those who have already been in contact via email and 'phone. 


Sunday, 26 November 2017

Today - Centenary Victoria Cross Stone Unveiling for Sergeant John McAulay VC, DCM

During the Battle of Cambrai on November 27th, 1917 non-commissioned Officer, Sergeant John McAulay, whilst under heavy enemy fire, carried his, what was to be, mortally wounded commanding officer, Arthur Kinnaird, to safety. Two German soldiers tried to intervene and thwart his heroic act but failed. Sergeant McCaulay continued the brave fight, taking command of the company, and battled on, rallying his men to push back the German attack. He was recommended for a gallantry award and was presented with the Victoria Cross (the highest award in the United Kingdom) in 1918.

Sergeant McAulay was born in the Royal Burgh of Kinghorn in December 1888, joined the Glasgow police in 1911 and at the beginning of the Great War served in the Scots Guards. Today, in Kinghorn, his descendants, folk of the town and guests came to remember his bravery and unveil the Centenary Victoria Cross Stone. A service was conducted at the beautiful Kirk by the Sea (where the Remembrance Day service was held 2 Sundays ago) with the Lord Lieutenant of Fife (Her Majesty's representative),  Provost Jim Leishman, serving Scots Guards, the Scots Guards Association, Police Scotland, and elected members in attendance. A biography of Sergeant McAulay was read by the Royal Burgh of Kinghorn Community Council's Provost, Alan McIlravie and the Victoria Cross citation read by Major James Kelly. 

Following a well-attended and moving service, which closed with the National Anthem, a parade led us up to the Kinghorn War Memorial where wreaths were laid and the stone unveiled. Today all learned of the bravery, gallantry and service of one man in the face of exceptional danger. It was also a day when we were all reminded of what millions of young men joined up to and fought for in the First World War and the sacrifice made by so, so many of them. 

Lest We Forget.

 The Kirk by the Sea

Parade from the Kirk up to the War Memorial. Led by the Scots Guards

Laying wreaths. The Lord Lieutenant, Fife Provost and Provost of Kinghorn

The Centenary Victoria Cross Stone - it has been placed next to War Memorial. "Lest We Forget"
Sergeant McAulay's medal is on display at the Scots Guard RHQ in London

Presentation to the people of Kinghorn from the Scots Guards

Meeting Her Majesty's Lord Lieutenant 

Learn More:

Monday, 20 November 2017

In Touch - This Past Week

As I am trying to place regular updates on here this post is some information on what I have been doing over this past week.

Remembrance Sunday
Sunday November 12th started off with the Remembrance Day service at the Kirk by the Sea in Kinghorn. It was a cold and breezy November morning and the church service included a short and very moving interview with surviving Second World War, former POW,  Arthur Gunn. His story was a reminder from a veteran of all they had gone through in a war that claimed millions of lives. A short procession to the War Memorial after the service and wreaths were laid by the RNLI, local groups and then by myself on behalf of Fife Council, something which was a great honour for me. Like countless families across the UK I have grandparents and great-grandparents who served their country in both the First and Second World Wars, with my parental great-grandfather being stationed at the Kinghorn Battery during the First World War. 

In just over a week's time Kinghorn will mark the centenary of John McAulay who was awarded the Victoria Cross for his role in the Battle of Cambrai. A service will be held in the town which will see some of his descendants attend.

I laid the wreath on behalf of myself and the 2 other Ward 9 elected representatives.  "Lest We Forget"

Last week was a very difficult and worrying week for employees at BiFab which employs over 1,400 staff (a mix of permanent and agency) across Burntisland, Methil and the Isle of Lewis. The engineering firm was on the verge of administration last week leaving hundreds of Fife workers with uncertainty about their future. Bi-Fab is currently working on a contract for the Beatrice Offshore Windfarm - the renewables sector being one which the Scottish Government has been keen to promote. The Scottish Government offered a loan if required and the UK Government made it clear they were ready to stand with Edinburgh in offering support. Thankfully a deal to conclude the contract between Seaway Heavy Lifting and JCE Offshore (partners to Beatrice Offshore Windfarm) was reached and work is guaranteed until next April. Local elected representatives will be watching this closely, workers do not need more uncertainty in the lead up to the festive period. I was interviewed by BBC Scotland News and commented in local paper, The Fife Free Press, expressing my concerns and urging for a solution to be found.

My comments:

"I am deeply concerned by the potential job losses at BiFab. The Scottish Government is very focussed on the renewables sector. I would urge that it steps in at this stage and provides assurances to hundreds of employees across Fife who are now facing uncertainty about their future.
"BiFab employs staff locally in Burntisland and this leaves both permanent and agency staff in a very worrying position, particularly in the run up to the festive period. I shall be following this closely."

Catchment Area - Dunfermline Schools
Anyone who has been following this blog will know that I have written quite a bit about school catchment and rezoning in Dunfermline. Following rejecting proposed catchment changes back in the October meeting of the Education & Children's Services Committee (see link - )
this month's meeting set out a timeline to bring new proposals to the table. The situation now is that Woodmill High School will potentially be 50 pupils above capacity, however, I would consider that number is likely to be lower due to placing requests. I have stated throughout this that there are two issues here:

1. Poor planning - extensive house-building throughout the previous Administration led to an understanding their would be a capacity issue (this was recognised as early as 2013) and therefore, this sudden rush to rezone. Plans for an additional 240 homes in Masterton have been released this week. If you are going to build houses there has be sufficient and competent local infrastructure in place. 
2. Dunfermline needs new high schools - it is not only capacity but also the condition and suitability of Woodmill, St Columba's and Inverkeithing High School. There is £50 million set aside in the Capital spend for new high schools but the remainder of the money has to be sourced from the Scottish Government. Prior to May's local elections the SNP and Labour were very keen to blame each other in their demands for new high schools. Interestingly both have become deafeningly silent on the need for new schools which is why I made a deliberate point to mention it at Committee earlier this month, a comment that was picked up by local media.

The Education & Children's Services Committee meets again in January when the timeline for rezoning will be on the table again, we await to see. Meantime I will continue to push for and investigate further information for seeing a proper discussion and way forward for high schools in Dunfermline. See the links to the narrative on new high schools:

My comments in last week's Dunfermline Press:

 "Politicians from across political parties in Fife have spoken of the urgency for new high schools in Dunfermline and now is the time to act. The council also needs to recognise and plan more effectively for the impact of extensive housebuilding on local infrastructure."

Last week I attended the regular Police Community Engagement meeting in Burntisland, being the last of its kind to still run in Fife, I have been informed. Anti-social behaviour was high on the agenda with me asking questions about youngsters drinking and causing a disturbance at the Castle area around the Haugh Road on a Friday evening, in particular. Youth anti-social behaviour has been a long running issue for residents, not only in the Castle but across the town (and to a wider extent at various pockets across Fife) and whilst I absolutely must stress this is only a very small minority the distress it can cause to residents can be long lasting and impact on their health and well-being, particularly in areas with older residents. Projects, with success, have been run in the Templehall area of Kirkcaldy which have included football and have involved the community police with the result being a fostering of better relations and a reduction in anti-social behaviour. Now a session has been organised in Burntisland to run on Wednesday December 13th at 6pm at the Beacon Leisure Centre, it will be run by the YMCA with youth workers and the police - do come along and give it a go. Whilst, I believe, everyone recognises you will never be able to catch the attention of all those who are contributing towards anti-social behaviour, I do think this can and does make an impact and the knock on effect in communities means that trust can be built between the police and local young people. 

What concerned me the most though was that if one person calls 101 to report anti-social behaviour or other ongoing concerns is if that person calls back later in the day/evening on what is considered to be of the same/ongoing incident that is only logged as one report on the "call card". This troubles me a lot as quite often in a neighbourhood there will be that one person who others will turn to who, often, by default taken on the role of their voice but if that one person makes all the calls it is once incident. In short if you want 5 complaints/concerns logged (and thus, creating more likelihood of a rapid response) you need 5 different individuals to call! 

Police numbers have suffered greatly under this Scottish Government who centralised all policing in 2013 - thus merging regional police forces who had far greater local knowledge. Frustration has been voiced time and time again about residents having to call a central call centre and then have to actually explain where they are as that link between police and community has been severed. All of the community police that cover Ward 9 are doing an exceptional job but as they themselves have pointed out, 60% of what they do is not crime related and with a focus on Kirkcaldy, smaller towns such as Burntisland and Kinghorn do not always have the coverage of policing they need - particular on weekend evenings. 

Centralisation of Scotland's police has come at a high cost, a Freedom of Information request obtained by the Scottish Conservatives shows that since April 2013 there have been 1,426 men and women leave the police. Further concern is that the number of discontented staff working for the single force has resulted in one in three wanting to leave within three years and, most worryingly, 3159 have left since the April 2013. This does not make for good reading and when attending meetings such as the Community Engagement one and listening to the very real worries and concerns residents have it does make me wonder what the future holds for our already embattled single police force and of course the widely opposed merger of the British Transport Police with Police Scotland. It all highlights this government's obsession with centralising services and wresting control away from local people and communities. 

My first "In Touch" leaflet as your Ward 9 Scottish Conservative & Unionist Councillor has begun to be delivered so expect one through your letterbox over the next few weeks. There is lots of information on what I have been working on across the Ward and at Fife Council and also a small survey on the back where you can write to me with any areas of concern that you would like addressed. Alternatively I can be contacted via email or 'phone - see details on "About Me" page on this site. 

One other remark from this round-up of news is at the Education & Children's Services Committee this month committee members heard the 2 Youth Parliament representatives speak on the ongoing matter of teaching vacancies and recruitment across Fife. They were asked what they thought may be barriers to young people taking up teaching as a career. Elected representatives heard a list of reasons which included workload, pay, treatment of staff by pupils and stress. I felt that they echoed concerns that teachers themselves have often spoken of. However, I would add to their thoughts by saying that yes, it is laden with bureaucracy and often there is a lack of support, but it can also be a highly rewarding profession that can leave a conscientious teacher with a feeling of - they did make that  difference to a child's life. They did make that positive contribution. Therefore, I would say that despite all the ongoing issues with curriculum, governance and bureaucracy, if it is what you want to do and feel you have something to give then go for it. All too often we become bogged down in the negative (on pretty much all topics) but sometimes lets look at the positives too...


Friday, 17 November 2017

Have Your Say - Scottish Government Governance Bill - Consultation

Scottish education is changing, in that I mean the governance of schools - how schools are run, powers held by headteachers, Regional Collaboratives and engagement between school and home. 

The Education (Scotland) Bill will begin to make its way through Holyrood next year. Now is the time to Have Your Say.

A public consultation has now been launched, the Scottish Government believes these changes will "improve educational outcomes for young people" - now is the time to have your say on this. 

Below are the links to the Scottish Government website page Empowering Schools and then the Consultation itself. Please take the opportunity to participate.

I have written in earlier posts about my thoughts in regards to changes to educational governance in Scotland -

Friday, 10 November 2017

In Touch - What Has Been Happening This Week

This week has been particularly busy at both the Ward and the Council level and I still have one more meeting to go this evening.

The week started off on Sunday with me paying a visit to Kirkcaldy to check out a couple of things that I had alerted Council officers to some weeks ago. One was the repainting of double yellow lines on a residential street. This could seem fairly mundane but for residents who are affected by motorists parking along streets where they should not be this is important and of relevance. I am pleased to note that Fife Council did act and the lines have been repainted - please do contact me if you note any such issue on your street. Alternatively you can contact Fife Council directly to log the matter - just contact their call centre on - 03451 55 00 11 - this number can be used to report anything from Council housing repairs to faulty lampposts to damaged fences. Or you can give me a call if you fancy a chat! 

Do please contact either myself or the Council directly if you see any maintenance work you feel needs to be carried out

On Monday I held a councillor surgery in Abbotshall Church but was not inundated with residents which is making me consider that possibly this is not the best way to contact residents, I am hearing similar reports from other councillors. Therefore, the question will need to be considered - do I keep doing surgeries or instead provide the contact information on the usual noticeboards but not have fixed times and dates for them? I tend to find constituents contact me primarily through email and then telephone and of course, through meeting them at TRA meetings, Community Councils and other community groups. Remember - we work for you. My contact details are on this website so do get in touch if you have any concerns, questions, enquiries or suggestions. 
Tuesday was the Education & Children's Services Committee where the now long running proposed rezoning of pupils in parts of Dunfermline and West Fife was addressed for the final time this year. Due to being unanimously rejected by elected representatives for the second time (please see earlier links - and )

an amended timeline of engagement has been laid which should hopefully see all decisions made by August 2018 meaning that pupils affected will have a much longer period of time for adjustment and the Council has also committed to a resilience programme to be put in place, which I am in favour of. However, the issue of catchment and capacity is only part of it, Dunfermline needs new high schools - 2 within the town and Inverkeithing High also needs to be considered as part of any proposals on the school estate. Continued house building along with declining condition and suitability of these schools means moves have to now be made to consider the possibility of building new schools. Following committee I released a short press statement that said: 
"Whilst I fully believe this was the best decision at this stage we need to address the wider issue. A looming capacity crisis has been created due to continued house building around Dunfermline and no long term solution to the school estate. Two of the high schools in the proposal, Woodmill and Inverkeithing, need to be replaced. At this stage Fife Council must begin the process of locating funding for new schools. All pupils deserve to be taught in classrooms and schools fully equipped for the 21st century. Rezoning is a short term solution to a long term problem."
Both the above links tie into that discussion rather than starting it again here and repeating the same information. 

The ongoing matter of littering around Invertiel and school pupils using a shortcut around the viaduct has led to myself and representatives of Invertiel TRA being hopeful we can have further engagement with the school later in the month to try and develop a strategy that will include school and community and reach a resolution. As I wrote in my last post, an extension of the fence is unlikely due to costs and the feasibility of it actually working. Therefore, it is time to consider other solutions and as I very much believe in people working together within communities I believe we can reach a satisfactory conclusion. I shall update as and when more information becomes available. I am also going to be contacting Network Rail to try to establish land ownership around the site.  (You can find the previous Invertiel link here - )

Wednesday was a chilly day and I really felt it considering I spent a good part of the afternoon in a graveyard! Like so many small towns along Fife's coastline, Burntisland is one with a wealth of history which made me absolutely delighted to be invited along to a bulb planting at Kirkton Old Church. Pupils from the local primary school were planting bulbs at the gates of the Old Church and graveyard. Unbeknownst to me the site dates back to around the 11th century and is in the process of being carefully cleaned and gravestones restored, where possible. Floral Action Burntisland (FAB) had organised the bulb planting with the project being led by Burntisland Heritage Trust and supported by Fife Council. The first records mentioning a church in the town date from 1130 although there may have been a Christian site within the settlement before that and the site may have been dedicated to St Serf - a saint linked to many churches around Fife and Central Scotland. Rather than me attempting to write more about this from a fairly recent visit I would suggest that interested readers go to the following link which has a huge amount of fascinating information. One word to note - once the restoration work is finished the site will be open to visitors, do please ensure you were suitable footwear and leave the places as you arrive - no littering, no dog fouling. History is something to be treasured and preserved and this beautiful little graveyard and its long story are ones that we hope will encourage visitors to Burntisland. 

 Some of the ladies from Floral Action Burntisland           Me next to a headstone - possibly of some of my ancestors

Photographs are courtesy of Fiona Fisher (There are some other ones which may appear in next week's local paper)

Yesterday was a day of lengthy meetings. Its that time of year when the budget has to be set and for those of us who are Opposition councillors this means setting our "alternative" budget to the Administration. All of us within the group have been tasked with working in small teams to meet with Council Officers and discussing options that are on the table in regards to the local authority's expenditure for the year. I cannot really go into any details on this just now as none of it is public so it is suffice to say that it makes me (and I would imagine most elected representatives) pause for thought when we consider the impact proposed changes could have on others. It is certainly not a task I take lightly and given my own background in education I am well aware of the areas of concern when it comes to funding, once details are public then these conversations can be opened up. 

The day was rounded off with a meeting organised by Council Officers on PEF - that is Pupil Equity Funding for those unaccustomed to the term - it is an acronym you are likely to hear a lot more about over the coming months. Having sat through committee on Tuesday most of what was covered by officers I had already heard much but as with nearly everything, there is always more to learn. Whilst I have certain reservations about aspects of it and will be following closely how money is spent, I am remaining open minded as ultimately this is about closing the poverty related attainment gap. Youngsters only have one opportunity at education, it is fundamental that they receive every possible opportunity so that all, no matter their background, have the chance to realise their potential. To note schools will publish details on their website of PEF received and where it will be spent. I feel that this is such a vast topic it really needs a whole post dedicated to it, something I intend to do once I have gathered and analysed further information. 

That leads us to today, Friday. This morning I had a meeting at Fife House which ties in with a number of things written on this post but again I cannot talk about it at this point in the lead up to budget proposals. What I will say I did take from it is - not for the first time since being elected, I am realising that it is absolutely imperative as an elected representative I listen to the various opinions and concerns of a wide body of narrative and thought. Things are rarely as they first appear and rare is it to find a two dimensional issue. 

On a wider, national issue, the Scottish Conservatives are running a "Save Our Surgeries" campaign - in response to GP shortages, patient waiting times and not being able to get onto a patient list for a GP practice. I put a post on Facebook earlier this week and it has now had a reach of over 10,000 ! Clearly something people are concerned about - I would absolutely urge anyone with concerns to contact myself if you are in my Ward or one of our MSPs or your local Scottish Conservative councillor. Here is a link to a short post I wrote on it - 

Anyway, enough of my opining for today. Tomorrow is Armistice Day and then the following is Remembrance Sunday. Please remember to observe the 2 minute silence. All we have today in our democracy, freedom of expression and free speech - all that makes us what and who we are, is due to those who gave their all in the past. Lest We Forget. 

Monday, 6 November 2017

Save Our Surgeries

Today I shared a post on my councillor Facebook page addressing the GP crisis in Scotland. The Scottish Conservatives have launched a "Save Our Surgeries" campaign in response to the GP crisis in Scotland as a result of a decade of mismanagement under the SNP. 

The Facebook page can be found here - 

Scotland is now short of over 800 GPs, with an estimated 3,000 having left Scotland over the past decade. SNP proposals for a further tax grab are only likely to exacerbate this problem not remedy it.
British Medical Association (BMA) data also suggests that as many as 1,500 doctors are set to retire by 2020. The Scottish Conservatives would like to see prioritising of GP services by having 11% of all NHS spending going to local practices to boost recruitment, retention and working conditions. 

Keeping in mind the GP surgery is most often the first point of contact a patient will have with a doctor, it is imperative that there are enough GPs and that people are not waiting weeks to be seen. It is not uncommon at all now to have to wait for 4 weeks for an appointment with a GP - only a few years ago that would be 2 weeks maximum. 

I am looking for residents across the Ward I represent to contact me to discuss any concerns they have with waiting times, follow-up appointments, duration of appointment and if they can even get onto a GP list to begin with. 

Please contact me via the usual channels - email, telephone, Facebook and I will be happy to discuss further. 

Below are a couple of links to the Scottish Conservatives website with further information. Our Shadow Health Secretary, Miles Briggs MSP is working hard to address SNP failings and gather more information on a Scotland wide basis. Your views matter. 


Wednesday, 1 November 2017

In Touch - Update - What Have I Been Doing

I will begin this with apologies to my regular readers, some of whom have contacted me to ask what has happened. There have been a few reasons for my absence on here, one of which is family related, however, having not only missed writing I realise that others have missed my ramblings/rants/thoughts/opinions. In short, I have a voice and I intend to use it.

I was elected to represent local people and speak for them and also to represent a political point of view. There can be few (I would very much hope) elected representatives who do not see it as a priority to speak up and speak out and although speaking out can be controversial it is something that anyone in a position to do so should do. Being elected also means to stop and listen - to listen to the voices of those who put us there and remember we are there for them. We are not there to preen our own ego and bask in our success at the ballot box - that, in my opinion, would be a failing of duty. In the words of Britain's greatest leader, Sir Winston Churchill: "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen". 

In this post I am going to put my constituents back "in touch" with what I have been doing this past couple of weeks. The first is the NHS and what is worrying me greatly. As stated above I have had an ongoing family related matter with an elderly grandparent and whilst I cannot in anyway fault the wonderful staff at the Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy where she had to spend a night I was absolutely struck by the shortage of staff on the ward. She was held within the admissions unit rather being transferred and on more than one occasion I had to actively seek out a nurse and then a doctor - I walked along corridors with patients lying in side rooms but very few visible staff. The second experience of the NHS this past week has been with my sister who following suffering serious headaches and dizziness went to the A&E at the Queen Margaret Hospital in Dunfermline - the hospital that has been stripped bare of many of its functions by this SNP Government, where there was no doctor on duty. She was examined my a nurse who advised a trip along to the Vic due the concerns from my sister's description of her symptoms. Upon arrival at the Vic she sat for 3 hours to then be asked a series of questions by a nurse who then told her he would "have a chat with my boss" and returned a few minutes later to state she would not be seen by a doctor but did she live with anyone. My sister answered yes, indeed she did. At which point she was given a pamphlet to read on head injuries and advised to let her husband read it too in case she displayed any symptoms such as convulsions or passing out. Is this what our NHS has come to? Diagnosis by description not observation? The Scottish Conservatives are currently running a "Save Our Surgeries" campaign which is focusing on the reduction in GP services over the past decade (since the SNP came to power). A 6% fall in GP practices combined with a 12% increase in practice lists over a 10 year period - simple Maths will tell you that something is seriously amiss there. Just as with other public services the SNP has presided over a decline in service provision that is impacting every single day at the ground level. I am keen to hear from residents within my Ward on how they feel GP provision is - waiting times and follow up times for hospital consultations - do please get in touch. This link provides further information on Scotland's GP services under the SNP - 

I have also been out and about with the ongoing issue of littering and access around the Invertiel Viaduct. I am very pleased to report that, as promised, the school organised the Community Payback Team to clean up the area at the viaduct where the worst of the litter was - it looks so much better! Now, we just need it to be maintained. I have made an earlier plea about the need to recycle waste, and in particular - plastics. Much of the rubbish lying about was empty water and juice bottles that pupils had been throwing away on their return journey to the school after lunch. The Tenants and Residents Association (TRA) and myself have now made the suggestion that we meet with school prefects to  get them on board in reminding the younger ones to put rubbish into the recycling bins but also to stop them using the route by the viaduct as a shortcut. Last Friday I went with two representatives of the TRA to the school and with staff we headed out (wearing wellies, thank goodness!) to look at the route pupils take. Not only is it incredibly muddy (and I mean some serious mud, my wellies were caked in it) but it is dangerous, I shudder to think how they negotiate the route on a rainy day. 
 Thanks to the Community Payback Team the area looks a lot better. Now the challenge is to ensure it is kept like that. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. 

 The fence, as I have now discovered does not even begin to close off access at the second arch of the viaduct. I struggle to understand how this was ever allowed to go ahead. 

We have also noted that the £2,000 that was provided for the fence has been a complete waste of money. The fence not only was too short at one section of the viaduct (again, see my earlier article) but there is a whole other section of around 20 metres that would need to be fenced off to even begin to address the issue and even then the lack of fence around the school perimeter means another route would be easily found. I believe key to this is breaking the habit. This is why I am really keen to have senior pupils involved and to meet and speak with local residents who are being affected by littering - we all have a role to play in keeping the environment clean, safe and respected. I believe this would be a great opportunity for some positive interaction and fostering of good relations for the future between the school and local community. Please see link -

I also attended the Burntisland Castle Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP) group just over a week ago - I really enjoy these meetings. The interaction and opinions of residents certainly keeps us councillors on our toes! The Castle NDP have been working hard to give residents a voice and to bring things to the local community that local people want and need. One particular issue that has been long running is speeding along the Haugh Road and the need for speed reducing measures. Residents voted back in September that with some of the funding money received they would like to see speed bumps installed, finally these are to be given the go-ahead. Although this was not a project I was involved in from the beginning I am very keen to see them continue to excel and engage within the community. I have also been informed this week by the community police that 20mph signage along the Haugh Road is minimal - taking a drive along today I noted you have to be around 200m along the road before a small "20" notice appears on a lamppost and there is no signage on the road. I have taken some photographs and am asking Council Officers to have this remedied.

The Youth Action Group also spoke of ways to try and engage with young people in the town and are working to have a youth café up and running (on a Friday evening, I believe), their energy and enthusiasm is something we all need to reflect upon. Both in all my years of teaching and this past few months as a councillor I have heard, albeit from only a few people, that young people are seen to be causing problems and trouble within sections of local communities and whilst there is no denying there are issues, the youth group in the Castle demonstrates how that energy can be harnessed and focused and I look forward to seeing how their group evolves and develops over time.

Last week Reform Scotland held a one day conference in Edinburgh entitled "How Does Scotland Compare With Other Countries: Can School Governance Reform Make A Difference". Speakers included the Education Secretary as well as a representative if the OECD - this is a long topic so isn't for this post and as I am currently working on a piece of work relevant to this there is no need to detail it any further at this stage. However, last week's conference provided members of the audience with much to take away and digest, it was also a great opportunity to speak to people from many different fields of work and experience.
With Sarah Atkin, Frank Lennon & Iain White

Finally, this evening I attended Kirkcaldy West Community Council where a representative of Fife Coast and Countryside Trust brought to the agenda a proposal to look at a joint initiative with Kinghorn on exploring and promoting the "Kinghorn - Kirkcaldy Geological Trail".  As the name suggests it would provide walkers, tourists and locals with information on Fife's ancient (325 million years ago, to be precise...) past and the many rock formations and fossils that can be found. The potential for this project is enormous and could also provide a great natural learning environment for local school children to visit. More information can be given by emailing:  

Tomorrow I am off to another conference and and then to get in touch with a number of people at Fife Council to follow up residents enquiries and push for updates on matters I have requested information on. 
 A resident spoke to me about a loose slab on the pavement that could be a potential hazard - this gets reported to Fife Council - remember this is the sort of thing you contact your local representative to act on. 

My contact details can be found on this page if any constituent has a matter they would like to discuss. 


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