Thursday, 29 March 2018

Statutory Consultation On A Proposal To Rezone Existing Secondary School Catchment Areas In Dunfermline And West Fife

Agenda item 6 on Tuesday 27th March at the Education & Children's Services Committee was: Statutory Consultation On A Proposal To Rezone Existing Secondary School Catchment Areas In Dunfermline And West Fife

Following earlier rejecting rezoning proposals for Dunfermline high schools by Committee and the looming capacity crisis at Woodmill High School, on Tuesday councillors were presented with a new list of proposals for statutory consultation.  Committee papers - http://publications.fifedirect.org.uk/c64_D1A42D9E-DB6E-E246-7011B0A126540719.pdf
Prior to committee, the Fife Conservatives gave their backing to the new set of proposals. Whilst theses are not a long-term solution and indeed, the option presented, if it goes ahead, will see Inverkeithing High School over capacity by 2022 (according to the Council's own projected school roll data). However, this will also address catchment anomalies and see Dunfermline pupils attend school in Dunfermline and all the primary schools in Rosyth now go together to Inverkeithing High School. Proposals will also end the decades long practice of Torryburn pupils travelling all the way to Inverkeithing when Queen Anne is closer. 
The long-term solution is the building of new high schools to accommodate the growing population in Dunfermline and West Fife. Over 8,000 new homes have been built in the catchment areas of Dunfermline, Inverkeithing, Queen Anne and Woodmill High Schools since 2000 and another 10,000 homes allocated for development. Dunfermline and West Fife need new high schools - please see motion to Council in December 2017 - http://www.kathleenleslie.co.uk/2017/12/new-schools-for-dunfermline-lets-talk.html

Comment to the media prior to committee:
The Fife Conservatives group supports the new statutory consultation proposal to rezone existing secondary school catchment areas in Dunfermline & West Fife.

Cllr Kathleen Leslie said: “Whilst we are supportive of the new proposals brought before Committee, this result is the outcome of poor planning by previous Council Administrations.
We agreed last year that Dunfermline pupils should attend Dunfermline schools and other catchment anomalies needed amended. Torryburn Primary School pupils travelling to Inverkeithing High School never made any sense when Queen Anne was geographically closer. Just as rezoning Masterton pupils to Inverkeithing High School was completely nonsensical.

However, correcting anomalies should have been a longer-term and better thought out process, a process that had pupil well-being at the centre of it. Instead, failure to address the looming capacity crisis at Woodmill by the previous Administration whilst rapid house-building continued meant councillors were presented last July with hurried proposals which officers believed we would just rubber-stamp. This year placing requests and resilience training have been offered as some sort of way to alleviate worry and stress felt by parents and children over uncertainty of where primary 7s will go to high school. 

The capacity problem at Woodmill was recognised at least two years ago, 10,000 homes are allocated for development and the revised proposal will mean that by 2022 Inverkeithing High School will also be over capacity. Options for new high schools will not come to Committee before the Autumn.”


Links: https://www.thecourier.co.uk/fp/news/local/fife/625023/pupil-wellbeing-should-be-at-heart-of-west-fife-school-catchment-proposals/

https://www.thecourier.co.uk/fp/news/local/fife/625826/redrafted-school-catchment-zones-for-west-fife-to-be-consulted-upon/






Four public meetings for this statutory consultation will be held. Place and dates are as follows:

Dunfermline High School - Thursday 19th April 6pm-7:30pm
Woodmill High School - Monday 23rd April 6pm-7:30pm
Queen Anne High School - Tuesday 24th April 6pm-7:30pm
Inverkeithing High School - Wednesday 23rd May 6pm-7:30pm

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

In Touch - What Have I been Doing

Hello, here is an update on what I have been doing this past week. One thing about this role is, you never get bored! Variety is definitely the word for it. From a Monday morning walkabout to discussing transport and education issues at the Area Committee to assisting a resident with a potentially dangerous land issue, there has been a lot to do. It isn't just the doing either, it is the follow-up. Listening and talking with a resident is the first stage, the next is sending the email or making the telephone call (although email is my preferred route as that way a trail can be kept) but the one that often takes the longer part of what I do is the subsequent emails and back and forth between Council officer and resident. Whilst I endeavour to have each case shut within 7 days that is just not always possible due to often having to contact more than one officer and department, some matters also require a Council officer to then go and source further information. Others require me to consider and liaise with colleagues before moving a matter forward. So here is what I have been up to this past week or so. 

Single-Use Plastics
To rewind a little to a motion that myself and Cllr Darren Watt brought to full Council on Thursday 8th March on the phased transition away from single-use plastics at two Fife Council buildings, which I wrote about here - http://www.kathleenleslie.co.uk/2018/03/single-use-plastics-we-would-like-fife.html
We were extremely disappointed that the SNP-Labour Administration chose to play petty party politics on an issue that is so important to everyone. I do not need to go into detail here on the catastrophic damage single-use plastics do to our natural environment as I already spoken of that in the previous post (all in the above link) but I would like to think that despite their refusal to support this motion at Council it appears that at the Committee level last week the Administration has reported that it will be adding this to its zero waste strategy. At this point we will await and see what comes of that. I will also continue to encourage councillor colleagues to not use single-use items in the restaurants - you don't need a plastic knife to butter your toast! You don't need a silly wee plastic cup at the water foundation - bring a reusable bottle! 
I would also like to thank the Fife Free Press who gave us considerable coverage on this. Exactly one week after the motion was defeated I attended Kinghorn Community Council who have a working plastics sub-committee and are looking at strategies for the town's restaurants to move away from single-use plastics. I am pleased to announce that when I asked if I could attend their next sub-committee meeting this was met with agreement. An update following that meeting will be provided. Moving away from using single-use plastics is everyone's responsibility. A single-use water bottle is reckoned to take over 450 years to degrade and even then the micro plastic fibres will remain in the oceans. The damage to seabirds and marine animals is heartbreaking and we all have a role to play in ending this. Our oceans should not be a rubbish bin for plastic bottles, lighters, plastic bags, pens, cotton buds, toothbrushes, plastic razors, and the rest...


 Follow-up article


Around The Ward
Now the snow has gone (I better not speak too soon) the questions are being asked. I have had a number of both community groups and individual residents raise concerns about impact on local communities due to road closures and lack of grit bins. There is currently a Council working group looking at grit bins across the local authority - too many streets had either no grit bin or an empty grit bin. Whilst community resilience teams were in place and ready, communication with centralised services in Glenrothes was not always so straightforward. I have been documenting feedback on this and some of my colleagues are also doing this - once we have a clearer Fife-wide picture, thought can be given to how exactly to take this forward. Therefore, I am encouraging anyone adversely affected by the severe Winter weather to get in touch - whether it be concerns about elderly neighbours, access to roads (or lack of access), grit bins, salted roads or anything else, let me know. 
Last week I attended the Burntisland Castle NDP to hear about updated issues; car parking spaces, anti-social behaviour and roads affected by snow came up. A possible police campaign called "You're Asking For It" was presented by the community police officers. This was run successfully in Lanarkshire and led to a reduction in proxy purchasing - it is against the law to be proxy purchasing for anyone under-age, fines can and are issued. Additionally, I was pleased to get an update on the work of the Youth Action Group who are organising a music event during Civic Week in the town. Engaging young people in their community is so important, I cannot emphasise this enough. If young people feel they have buy in and stake in their community the chances of anti-social behaviour are reduced and people work together across the generations. 
A number of residents have contacted me with questions and enquiries and as always I have been following these up. Do get in touch if there is anything you would like to discuss. I do not have another councillor surgery this month but am very happy to meet up at a time of your suiting if there is anything you would like to discuss. If you are unsure if it is myself or an MSP (or an MP) you need to speak to then I can direct you as appropriate. 

Saturday - Kinghorn RNLI 
Saturday was a busy day and one during which many cups of coffee were drunk and far too many sweets, pancakes, biscuits and other delights were sampled! The morning began at Kinghorn's RNLI coffee morning. I cannot stress enough how vital the RNLI is to our shores. We are an island nation and simply put; the RNLI saves lives at sea. The RNLI is a charity and is run by volunteers, they operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and cover the coasts of the United Kingdom and Ireland. Kinghorn has an RNLI station and Saturday's coffee morning raised around £800 in donations. Each year Kinghorn RNLI do a coastal walk to raise funds, this year I am hoping to participate in this. Rather than me attempting to cover here all the amazing work they do here is a link to the website - https://rnli.org

Saturday - Kirkcaldy Food & Drink Fair
From the coffee morning we headed along to Fife College to visit the Kirkcaldy Food & Drink Fair organised by Kirkcaldy 4 All. There was a wonderful selection of local and national independent traders, from gin tasting, to cheeses to preserves and meats to whisky, gin and coffee along with sushi, vegetarian & vegan options to a cooking demonstration - something for everyone! I was absolutely impressed, enthused and delighted to taste so many delicious foods in one afternoon - although I am not so sure my wallet was, given the amount of things I just had to have...
I also listened to concerns by some stallholders about location of the monthly farmers market (away from the High Street which is quite unusual for a Saturday market), for those who have a restaurant on the High Street fines being issued to delivery drivers, parking charges and business rates all being noted as concerns. If we are serious about regenerating the High Street we must be more creative and I was slightly concerned to hear at today's Area Committee about a consideration of moving away from retail to leisure and tourism. I am unconvinced such activities will be able to sustain it and parking charges will be a barrier to many when they can go elsewhere to out of town retail parks and not pay for parking.


Growing Kirkcaldy - fantastic group and I look forward to learning more about their work



Burntisland Central Tenants and Residents Association
Monday was a chilly morning so wrapped up warm I headed along to the newly formed Burntisland Central TRA or CBI as it is known. There was a great turnout of local residents who were all very enthusiastic and keen to point out local issues that need to be addressed - dog fouling, vandalism, bin location, parking, seagulls and anti-social behaviour. Council representatives from Housing and the Kirkcaldy Area were also in attendance. We spent just under two hours walking around the area where residents were able to provide lots of local information. I very much look forward to working with this group. I have seen the great work of other TRAs such as Invertiel so know that much can be achieved with a community working together. 

Fife Federation of Tenants & Residents Associations
Today started meeting representatives of other TRAs around Fife at the AGM where the Chair outlined current social housing projects around the local authority and residents raised concerns and asked questions. I was struck by a question from one man in regards to the building of more housing and the need for a new GP surgery where he lived. He quoted a three week wait time to see his GP. Sadly, this is a common theme across much of Fife and Scotland. One of the reasons why the Scottish Conservatives launched the Save Our Surgeries campaign led by Shadow Health Secretary, Miles Briggs MSP. Since 2008 it is estimated 3,000 doctors have left Scotland to work elsewhere and Scotland will soon have a shortfall of 850 GPs - this is deeply concerning. Unfortunately as in education, this past decade the SNP Government has not invested and planned sufficiently and the result being the long waiting times we now see. Education and the NHS should be the priority of any government but Scotland has been stuck in a decade long obsession by the SNP Government in pushing for independence, which continues despite failing in the 2014 referendum. 

Kirkcaldy Area Committee
This afternoon the Kirkcaldy Area Committee met and us councillors had much on the agenda to debate and discuss. The link to the papers can be found here - https://www.fifedirect.org.uk/publications/index.cfm?fuseaction=publication.pop&pubid=3EF42AB5-BBF4-FA04-5084CEDBD6DCCF5D
I asked questions on a variety of agenda items including the proposed sale of a piece of Common Good Land (councillors requested further information before agreeing to the report recommendations), the use of Kirkcaldy Leisure Centre for roller hockey which has damaged the floor (again councillors requested further information before moving forward with a funding request) and the Kirkcaldy schools Attainment and Achievement report was also presented. I asked questions in regards to reducing the number of national qualifications being taken in S4 (there is an argument for reducing breadth to create depth but I would counter that with the need for wider experience and experiential learning - this goes back to my thoughts last week on the focus on reaching pre-conditioned outcomes - see link - http://www.kathleenleslie.co.uk/2018/03/next-steps-for-curriculum-for-excellence.html ) to school exclusion rates and what was being done to monitor and address these and also if there were any particular patterns behind these. 
I also asked for further information on what "positive destinations" are cited for pupils who have additional support needs (ASN). Two headteachers, an Education Officer and a Development Officer were on hand to answer our questions - of which there were many from around the table, all relevant and thoughtful. Kirkcaldy schools are all working hard to raise attainment, continue to work on literacy and numeracy, utilise PEF money and ultimately develop youngsters who, upon leaving school, enter a positive destination. Possibly one of my further questions is the tracking of these "positive destinations" and more detail on what these are and what sort of longevity does that actually mean. 
Councillors were encouraged to visit schools in their ward and across the Area - I have already been doing this and consider it to be a very important part of my remit as a councillor. Education is key (as I have stated many times before) and schools within Kirkcaldy have a group elected representatives who are all clearly very interested in progress and what they are doing - this is a very definite positive. 

I hope you have enjoyed reading this post, please do get in touch if you would like to discuss anything mentioned here or any matter that is of concern.

Kathleen 




Thursday, 15 March 2018

Next Steps for Curriculum for Excellence - Scotland Policy Conference

I have recently pondered on the fact that in the past few months I have spent more time considering the curriculum, the attainment gap and all matters on educational policy than I ever did during my years of teaching. Perhaps that is because, like colleagues across the country and the world, I was so busy with the everyday lesson planning, target setting, marking and well-being of my pupils that the policy-building side was something abstract and distant. Often you go through the motions without asking the bigger questions - the why. The "how do I do this" was always there, but the "why do I do this" was missing, the wider picture. Being a reflective practitioner is something teachers are always encouraged to be but all too often workload and time restraints do not allow for the amount of reflection that is really needed. 

When the Curriculum for Excellence was introduced just over a decade ago it was met with much fanfare as being revolutionary in its thinking and how it would change the way education was delivered, children learned and open up endless creative opportunities within the classroom. However, whilst politicians are more or less unanimously agreed that CfE should remain in place, there are increasing calls for a radical rethink and reconsideration of its delivery and a need to ensure it remains relevant in an ever changing world. Falling exam performance, declining PISA scores,  excessive mountains of paperwork, jargon, lack of clarity between agencies (think SQA and Education Scotland) have all left many a teacher demoralised and many a politician calling for the need to depoliticise (irony?) the curriculum and get education fully back on track. 

Tuesday's policy conference in Edinburgh was entitled: Next Steps for Curriculum for Excellence - supporting teachers, tackling the attainment gap and priorities for the Education Bill. The conference was opened and chaired by Liz Smith MSP, Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills. A morning of robust debate and discussion with a panel of guest speakers made for much thought and reflection. Whilst it could be entirely possible (given the way I like to write) for me to write pages and pages on the conference, instead I have picked out some of the key themes discussed and attempted to outline parts of the narrative and then my thoughts. The full recording of the conference can be found on - (currently awaiting online upload to the RSE website - see here - https://www.rse.org.uk )

Prof Graham Donaldson spoke of the danger of the "improvement trap" - there is a better understanding of high quality learning at both the local authority and the national level and collaboration but the risk is that all the work is for a set of purposes that are now less relevant therefore, there is a need for continued debate and review. The global pace of change means that change must continue to happen at the educational level, it must be an evolutionary process and with increasing both interdependence and competition the employment prospects for school leavers continue to alter - the curriculum has to prepare young people for that. One of the first questions posited to the audience was - what do young people become as a result of all the learning - or how do we balance the small world of curricula with the big world of learning? Which goes far beyond the school and learning is, indeed a life-long process. I cannot provide a one paragraph answer here and nor did the panel, it was more open-ended up subject to thought, consideration and to take away and reflect upon. 

Whilst the "attainment gap" and the closing of it is a common and central theme now of any educational policy discussion, what I hadn't heard discussed before was the "experiential gap" - the experiences that young people have that develop their understanding of the world, their relationships, their aspirations and their own characters - in many cases, due to family circumstance, this is only available to be developed at school - is school always doing that? Is it the right environment to do this or does more have to be done to work with families to close this gap? Again, this isn't an attempt to answer a question it is more to think and reflect. 

The "future direction" of Curriculum for Excellence was addressed by a lively and informed panel which drew on an eclectic mix of members - there was Mark Stewart of the Scottish Youth Parliament, the headteacher of Clifton Hall School, a former headteacher and Neil McLennan - a senior lecturer at Aberdeen University (again, watch the recording to see the full commentary). The panel opened its discussion with again the need to update, change and being evolutionary, Neil McLennan referred to an "egalitarian meritocracy" - how do you square that?... 

One point that came across succinctly was that we need a national conversation not a debate. I would agree, there has been too much debate, too much arguing and too much of the Scottish Government "do as we say" top-down approach. Young people themselves, being the main stakeholder, teachers and headteachers all need to be included in that conversation. I would also argue that industry needs a place at the table too - as the market and supply and demand changes, the curriculum whilst developing key skills in literacy and numeracy must also adapt. Nothing should be static. 

Experiences & Outcomes - anyone who has taught in Scotland in the past decade will know this term only to well, commonly referred to as the "Es and Os". In any walk of life if we are to have an experience can we determine the outcome prior to the experience? Therefore, why is the Curriculum for Excellence loaded with pre-determined outcomes to all experiences? That question was posed by head of Clifton Hall School, Rod Grant. We appear to be evidence driven with targets and outcomes - there is more of a focus on the outcome than the learning. I felt like shouting out - yes, this is exactly what I was saying particularly in the two years I was teaching prior to being elected. Working in education for youngsters with additional support needs (ASN) there was a focus on life skills, on giving the youngster the experience. Many ASN children will not ever be able to live fully independently and many will have limited experiences of the workplace. This is not to say we should not work to realise their full potential, but the development of life-skills are just, and I would argue, more important, than ensuring they have ticked the box to have achieved National 2 Maths. I often found that in the drive to complete the paperwork, to tick the boxes much of what I was doing when teaching in ASN was to push pupils to get their National 2 English and Maths - and to what end? The stress that it often caused them without a full understanding of how this would future proof their work prospects? "Teaching to the the test" we kept being told is not what we were there for. More often than not it felt like that. A list of short and long term targets of where they were at point X they outcome they would reach at point Y and as a result progress to Z. No. Life is not like that and particularly for the differing and varying of complexity of additional support needs the youngsters had. Data collection kills learning - how gladdened I was to hear those words expressed. 


I was particularly pleased that Keir Bloomer, Convenor of the Education Committee of The Royal Society of Edinburgh, was to address the conference. I have read quite a bit of his work and heard him speak in his capacity on Reform Scotland's Advisory Board. More can be found on his work here - https://reformscotland.com 

A key point from his speech, which is, in my view, particularly relevant at the present time as the Education Bill comes before Holyrood; there has been a neglect of piloting when introducing initiatives. The first thing that sprang to mind was the proposed Regional Improvement Collaboratives - read more here on my thoughts - http://www.kathleenleslie.co.uk/2017/10/educational-governance-local.html
The question was asked, why are there now fewer qualifications studied than pre-CfE? The narrowing the of the curriculum has reduced both opportunity and breadth - exactly the opposite of what this curriculum was supposed to see as its outcome...

The Welsh Perspective
Again, without producing extensive detail, I would really recommend watching the recording, we were given a presentation on a similar initiative to the improvement collaboratives, that is now in play in Wales. Wales has 22 local authorities and 4 consortia. Arwyn Thomas of GwE took us through the key points to bear in mind when establishing this model:
* Purpose
* Trust - a strong relationship with the local authority
* Joint service
* Clear governance
* Financial procedures
* Accountability
* Middle tier
* Developing national policy locally - in the Scottish context, will this remain?
* Strong leadership at all levels

All of that made for positive sound-bites but again I pondered, where was the accountability? Perhaps the Wales initiative has worked. Currently I am not in possession of evidence to determine if that is the case. However, cautionary notes were - the consortia must have a local flavour. Voices must be heard - parents, teachers, communities - as so often in education - communication is key. Does competition and competing aims and objectives get in the way of collaboration? There has to be a balancing act between meeting the needs of the individual school and at the same time one coherent, workable message to all within the consortia. Are the local authorities priorities still met? What is the role of locally elected representatives to scrutinise policy? Next week the Kirkcaldy Area Committee will sit and the papers bring an annual report on Attainment & Achievement - elected representatives scrutinise these papers, we ask questions, we seek answers. Will this still happen once the Regional Improvement Collaboratives are established and the only link with the local authority is the chair/convenor of each Education Committee in the collaborative? Again, thinking of Keir's comments - why no piloting? Perhaps because piloting never fits comfortably with a top-down approach.

A number of other topics were considered, including early years provision, which I believe is central to many of the building blocks of education and was pleased to see it be given the coverage it has lacked for too long. However, I would prefer to write a separate post on that as I feel it does not do the sector justice to cover it in a few lines here - what appeared to be an argument for formal provision was given and a counter-viewpoint that excess hours in a formal setting is not always conducive to the development of a child. 

A couple of concluding remarks that leave some food for thought are:
* 69% of teachers would not recommend it as a career (presentation by NASUWT)
* The three biggest concerns to teachers are - 1. workload 2. Behaviour 3. Pay  
* Poverty is a major factor in the drive to close the attainment gap but schools cannot do it all - breaking up of local authority services is difficult to understand (there is more I can comment on this)
* Parental confidence - this apparently lessens as children move through school - why?
* Accountability is dominating everything
* Experiences & Outcomes - the focus appears to be on the (pre-determined) outcome

Tuesday was undoubtedly the type of day I enjoy, when not out in my Ward and meeting and talking with constituents. It had a flavour of academia which to me, is always a valid and valued way to spend the day. Indeed, I began this post talking about life-long learning and the quest for knowledge and answers probably explains so much about my chosen career as a teacher and then going into politics. No doubt this year will bring much more thoughtful and fruitful debate and discussion as the Education Bill moves its way through parliament.

Kathleen

Friday, 9 March 2018

Single-Use Plastics We Would Like Fife Council To Lead The Way

Yesterday my colleague, Cllr Darren Watt and I brought a motion to the full Council meeting asking for the transition away from single-use plastic products in both Fife House and Rothesay House - the two main buildings of Fife Council (both in Glenrothes). The text of the motion read as follows:

"Council recognises the devastating impact plastic pollution is having on our environment and the escalating costs of recycling such materials. Council acknowledges we must lead by examples, step up our own efforts and encourage others to follow suit.
Fife Council will begin by transitioning away from single-use plastics commencing at Fife House and Rothesay House, Glenrothes."

Proposed by Councillor Darren Watt
Seconded by Councillor Kathleen Leslie

Unsurprisingly, the SNP-Labour Administration put up an amendment. It read:

"Council welcomes the growth of community-led strategic to combat the spread of the use of plastics in fife such as the pilot project proposed by the Cowdenbeath Area Committee which, if successful, could be rolled out to every community in Cowdenbeath/Lochgelly area.

Council agrees, whilst local initiatives like the compostable carrier bag scheme are welcome as is the elimination of plastics straws and cups from premises occupied by the Council and the Sports and Leisure Trust, that the impact of plastic pollution can only be effectively countered by a Fife-wide strategy.

Council notes that a Council wide Zero Waste Resources Strategy will be considered by the Environment, Protective Services and Community Safety Committee when it meets next week, and that preventing waste, particularly single use plastics, will be fundamental to the implementation of the Strategy, as it may be agreed."

I have since looked at the upcoming Committee papers and see little that offers any real commitment or timescale. 

Given the precise and non-politically aligned nature of our amendment we approached the SNP proposer of the amendment and asked if it would be possible to conjoin our motion onto theirs. We felt that their amendment failed to address the specifics of the issue and that by conjoining it we could have consensus. Instead we were advised that our motion could lead to job losses and was not possible. We were shocked by this as this was not our intention nor do we believe it would be the outcome. The text of our motion read "begin transitioning away from single-use plastics" - "begin" - as in there is plastic cutlery available in the Council's restaurant but there is also stainless steel cutlery, so why not begin with that? Then move onto looking at encouraging staff to use in house cups/mugs for their coffee and tea, rather than the difficult to recycle cardboard/plastic takeaway cups? Then look at the water dispensers provided and instead of using the small plastic cups, bring your own cup - given that some local authorities do not even provide water dispensers this was no big ask. Many just have the taps in the kitchen! As one SNP councillor was keen to point out yesterday - Scottish drinking water tastes better than water elsewhere (I do not happen to disagree). 

It seemed that if we pushed for no single-use plastics then it would put people off going into the restaurant and the knock on effect would be job losses and possibly an end to the restaurant! I find this quite incredible given that up and down the country the overwhelming majority of people try to recycle as much as possible and reduce their plastic waste and many coffee chains are now offering discounts on "bring your own" coffee/tea cup (the ones that you can easily carry on the go) - are Fife Council staff such that they wouldn't use the restaurant if they couldn't get a plastic knife and fork?! Is that really what some Councillors think? If we were to believe that then surely when supermarkets introduced a 5p plastic bag charge everyone would stop shopping in them?! 

No, that is not the case. Nor do I believer that either Labour or the SNP are so naive as to believe that moving away from single-use plastics in two Council buildings would result in the doom-filled scenario presented to us yesterday. Given the SNP Scottish Government has continued to push for a Zero Waste Scotland which will include a reduction in landfill, increased recycling and introducing the 5p plastic bag tax, I really find it difficult to believe there was anything to oppose yesterday. 

Well except one thing - the motion was a Conservative one. That in itself ensured it could not be allowed to be passed. After all, Conservatives couldn't be seen to be leading the way in protecting the environment, could they? This was nothing but petty party politics and was particularly unfortunate considering that during my research of the motion I discovered other Scottish Councils where there appears to be some cross-party consensus. 

I spoke yesterday (text below) about how Fife Council has been a leader in waste reduction strategy and recycling which has therefore, doubled by disappointment at the outcome and added to that by an email update this morning which reminded councillors of the reduced opening times of recycling facilities in Fife. Read of that what you will. 

Here is what I said yesterday (below the text please find the relevant links to this story).

Single-Use Plastics

"First, I would like to thank my colleague, Cllr Watt for bringing this motion to Council today. Single-use plastic products have long been a bugbear of mine. Therefore, I was pleased to see him take a lead on making progress to move away from such products in both Fife House and Rothesay House.

Around a decade ago I watched a documentary on what is referred to as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”, I am sure most of you will have heard of it. I was absolutely shocked and disgusted by the fact that such accumulation of plastics – the majority of them single-use, from around the world, had formed on the ocean’s surface. An area is now reckoned to be possibly around twice the size of France. There have since been discovered to be similar formations in both the North and South Atlantic.

The damage this has caused to marine life continues to grow – seabirds and whales washed up on beaches with stomachs full of discarded lighters, bottle tops, plastic bags and other plastic debris – estimates are around 1 million seabirds a year die globally as a result of ingesting discarded plastics. David Attenborough’s Blue Planet in December horrifyingly illustrated the damage being done by plastic, the team filming it said there was very rarely a time they filmed when they did not come upon plastic in the sea.

A recent study by Newcastle University found that such is the scale of the problem, that microscopic animals in the deepest trenches of the Pacific Ocean, some 11km down, had traces of fibres that had originated in plastic bottles and packaging. Dr Alan Jamieson who led the study has stated that an estimated 300m tonnes of plastic now litters the oceans, with around 5 trillion plastic pieces floating on the surface.

What can we do? To introduce a move away from single-use plastics here in two Council buildings may seem a small and inconsequential step, given the information I have just provided. However, Fife is already a leading local authority in promoting recycling of household waste – including plastics, our schools through programmes such as Ecoschools, teach environmental awareness from an early age – I believe 79 schools in Fife currently have a Green Flag. Council facilities such as libraries provide recycling facilities as does the FSLT – much progress has been made.

Single-use coffee cups are notoriously difficult to recycle due to them being made of mixed materials and we really don’t need plastic cutlery when there is already an alternative provided. Instead of using throwaway plastic cups for water why not bring a refillable water bottle, they are cheap to purchase and provided they are BPA free and cleaned properly, they can last for years.  With the best will in the world not all of these end up being recycled and find their way into landfill or discarded where they end up in the sea.


Therefore, let us continue to be a leader and reduce the damage being caused by single-use plastic products simply by moving away from providing them. I ask you to support this motion."

Cllr Kathleen Leslie

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