New bespoke Dunfermline-based tour guide business

Carnegie TouringDunfermline MSP Bill Walker has welcomed the launch of a new bespoke tour guide service for visitors to Dunfermline, Fife and further afield in Scotland.

Carnegie Touring, founded by former Fife councillor Gerry McMullan, provides holiday itineraries tailored to the needs and interests of tourists. In addition, short excursions include “From the Palace of Culross to Dunfermline, the Ancient Capital of Scotland”, “In the footsteps of Andrew Carnegie” and “The Ancient Capital of Scotland, its Kings and Queens”.

Dunfermline MSP Bill Walker said: “I’m very pleased at the launch of not only a new business based in Dunfermline, but one that aims to promote Dunfermline and beyond and which should increase footfall to our scenic part of the country. Read more of this post

Cairneyhill businesswoman hosts fashion show for CHAS

CHASA big-hearted Cairneyhill businesswoman is hosting a charity fashion show in Crossford with proceeds going to children’s hospice charity CHAS.

Laura Campbell, owner of La Vida Boutique, has raised around £60,000 for charitable causes over the last three years, including £22,500 in 2012 for Help the Heroes. She now hopes to raise thousands for the Kinross-based branch of CHAS, the Scottish charity that provides hospice services for children and young people with life-shortening conditions. Read more of this post

Senior diplomat says EU and UN would embrace independent Scotland

Mark Malloch BrownDunfermline MSP Bill Walker has welcomed a former UN Deputy Secretary-General’s comments that the EU would be “anxious to embrace” an independent Scotland and that some reports on Scotland’s future UN membership have tried to “make a mountain out of a molehill for political reasons”.

Mark Malloch-Brown, who was also a Foreign Minister in Gordon Brown’s Labour government, told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland program:

“I don’t think they (the EU) would have any particular reason to want to make things tricky for Scotland. I think the fact that Scotland would likely remain very pro-European would mean they’d be anxious to embrace Scotland and bring it in.

“So if they were going to make the issue embarrassing for anybody it’s more likely they’d make it embarrassing for London with whom they have bigger problems.” Read more of this post

Tourism Initiatives

Scottish Tourism Week in March is an annual event raising awareness of tourism’s importance to Scotland’s economy. I recently signed up in Parliament to support this event. Dunfermline has so much potential as a destination but, as I continually hear locally, much of this is unfulfilled. My chief ambition as MSP is to see Dunfermline regenerated and attracting more visitors.

The ancient capital of Scotland should be on visitors’ itineraries. We have an abundance of historic buildings all around us, not limited to the Abbey and Palace. We have such amenities as the Carnegie Hall, Alhambra, Odeon, Carnegie Leisure Centre, big-name stores, excellent restaurants, cafes and pubs. 2013 is the Year of Natural Scotland, and we have the wonderful Pittencrieff Park. We also have good travel links to Edinburgh and Glasgow and are surrounded by beautiful towns and villages, such as historic Culross and Limekilns. Read more of this post

2013/14 Budget

Scottish Finance Secretary John Swinney’s completion of the Scottish Government’s spending plans for 2013/14 is a major achievement in difficult times. Mr Swinney has to work within a budget fixed by Westminster at £30 billion, which has decreased over the last 4 years by a whopping 8% in real terms.  By law, the budget must be balanced with no borrowing.

Since NHS spending is protected, “health and wellbeing” take almost 40% of public spending. The remaining 60% is divided among many competing areas, ranging from local government and infrastructure to education and justice. Many painful decisions must be made and not everyone will be satisfied with the outcomes, but those politicians calling for more spending should say where they would get the money from. Read more of this post

S4M-05671: Forestry Commission Developments

That the Parliament commends Forestry Commission Scotland on its programme for 2013 in Fife and elsewhere in Scotland; understands that this includes the objective of seeking to identify ways to integrate farming and forestry with the aim of encouraging farmers to see woodlands as of benefit to their farm business and foresters to think about how new woodlands can be designed to reduce their impact on farming, and believes that its other objectives include creating 100,000 hectares of new woodland over the next 10 years, establishing a skills programme to tackle youth unemployment, developing renewable energy in the national forest estate and holding events in the Year of Natural Scotland 2013.

Supported by: Richard Lyle, Angus MacDonald, Kevin Stewart, Colin Beattie, David Torrance, Colin Keir, Sandra White, Nigel Don, Margaret McDougall

Date Lodged: 19/02/2013

Dobbies in Dunfermline seeks Local Charity of the Year

Dobbies Garden World in Dunfermline is inviting applications for a Local Charity of the Year from charities based within a 20-mile radius of their Fife Leisure Park store. Their chosen charity-partner will become the first recipient of fundraising activities at the Leisure Park store for the remainder of 2013.

The successful charity will be concerned with the welfare of children, elderly people, people with disabilities or with major health concerns, or else with environmental, wildlife or conservation issues. In-store fundraising events at Dobbies could include collection tins at till points, themed charity events, and fundraisers being invited into the store at key trading times. Read more of this post

S4M-05655: UK Government’s Digital Benefits Push

That the Parliament expresses concern at the findings of the report by Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS), Voices From the Frontline, Digital by Default, which has been published in response to the UK Government’s digital strategy; understands that the strategy aims for 80% of benefits applications to be completed online by 2017; notes that the report states that CAS “is concerned that a digital by default approach to welfare benefits could exclude some of the most vulnerable and marginalised members of society from accessing the very services they rely upon”; understands that the report cites numerous examples of job seekers without access to computers or the internet who have faced difficulties applying for benefits and who, despite applying for work in writing and by telephone, have received sanctions from their Job Centre for not doing so online; believes that the UK Government needs to recognise that, while the internet can be a hugely important resource for job seekers, it is not reasonable to expect everyone to have the level of skills, ability or access required; notes that, in 2009-10, the Scottish Household Survey estimated that a third of homes do not have internet access, dropping to less than half of households on an annual income of less than £15,000; considers that computers and internet access are a significant expense for unemployed people already trying to budget on benefits that are not rising in line with inflation, and further expresses concern at the impact of library closures, in light of councils withdrawing services under what it sees as the UK Government’s austerity drive, on people who can only access the internet using these services.

Supported by: Richard Lyle, Bill Kidd, Kenneth Gibson, Mike MacKenzie, Colin Beattie, David Torrance, Gil Paterson, Dennis Robertson, Stuart McMillan, Christine Grahame, Colin Keir, Dave Thompson, Sandra White, Nigel Don

Date Lodged: 18/02/2013

S4M-05650: Council Budgets for 2013-14

That the Parliament recognises the efforts made by councils across Scotland in approving their budgets for 2013-14 during these difficult economic times; considers that councils face many pressures and challenges to live within their reduced budgets, just as the Scottish Government must live within the reduced block grant that it receives from the UK Government; welcomes particularly instances where attempts have been made to prioritise the needs of vulnerable members of society, and commends what it considers the growing number of councils agreeing with the Scottish Government to implement another year of the council tax freeze, which it believes is a significant step toward preventing people on low incomes from falling into poverty.

Supported by: David Torrance, Colin Beattie, Richard Lyle, Colin Keir,Nigel Don

Date Lodged: 15/02/2013

Police station site could be possible location for new city centre hotel

Dunfermline stationDunfermline MSP Bill Walker has drawn attention to the need for further hotel capacity in Dunfermline city centre, suggesting the current police station as a possible location.

He said: “Strenuous efforts are being made to promote Dunfermline as a tourism destination. We are about to undergo a £1m city centre regeneration, plus a multi-million pound flagship museum and art gallery is planned for the heritage quarter. The new Forth Replacement Crossing, on target to open in 2016, will make Dunfermline effectively the gateway to Fife, encouraging visitors to enjoy our many attractions such as Abbot House, the Carnegie Hall, the Alhambra, Pittencrieff Park and so on. Read more of this post

InVite to host innovative Business Networking Showcase in Dunfermline

InViteDunfermline-based InVite Business Networking is holding its first ever InVite Business Networking Showcase on 22nd March. The event takes place in the Vine Conference Centre in Dunfermline’s Garvock Hill and aims to promote local small and medium-sized businesses to the community and to other businesses.

The programme includes topical seminars delivered by local business, aimed at sharing ideas to encourage local business growth. Attendees are invited to approach the thirty stands where stand holders will be discussing their businesses, sharing ideas and seeking to forge bonds.

Dunfermline MSP Bill Walker said: “I wish InVite great success with this event, which they hope will become annual. Read more of this post

Public Health Minister launches Fife Autism One Stop Shop in Dunfermline

Bill Walker MSP-1Public Health Minister Michael Matheson has officially opened an autism One Stop Shop in Dunfermline’s Viewfield Terrace. The facility will act as an autism support and information hub for individuals, their families and professionals and will signpost people towards further support services.

The Fife One Stop Shop is the first of six of its kind to launch across Scotland, funded through the Scottish Government’s Scottish Strategy for Autism in association with Scottish Autism, the National Autistic Society and Autism Initiatives.

Mr Matheson said: “Autism impacts on the whole life experience of people with autism and their families, who may need to be supported by a wide range of services such as education, employment, housing or social care. Read more of this post

Pope Benedict XVI

I was saddened to hear of the failing health of Pope Benedict XVI and his decision to resign as Pope. I hope he has a peaceful retirement.

I wish the Conclave well in their election of a new Supreme Pontiff to lead the Catholic Church.

Charity calls for deaf children’s mental health services

National Death Children's SocietyThe National Deaf Children’s Society has joined forces with the Scottish Council on Deafness to launch the ‘Helping Hand’ campaign, backed by Dunfermline MSP Bill Walker. The campaign, which launched on Tuesday, asks the Scottish Government to provide mental health services for deaf children and young people in Scotland.

“Being deaf is not just about ears and education. Emotional support is just as important,” said Anne Lennon, Director of the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) in Scotland.

“Quite often a deaf child can feel very isolated and alone, and without the right support they can often develop mental health problems. We want to see more chances for deaf children to have access to positive role models, a dedicated specialist Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) for deaf children and young people who do need extra help, and improved deaf awareness in all schools across Scotland. With the right support deaf children and young people can achieve whatever they want to achieve.” Read more of this post

Bill Walker MSP calls for Dunfermline applications to Spirit of the Community Awards

ClydesdaleCommunity groups across Scotland can now apply to a £175,000 awards scheme aimed at making a real difference to local areas. To celebrate their 175th anniversary, Clydesdale Bank has launched the Spirit of the Community Awards, which will make substantial donations to voluntary groups who go the extra mile in the three categories of education, employability and environment.

Dunfermline MSP Bill Walker said: “I would encourage Dunfermline third sector groups to apply for funding. The awards are for groups who can demonstrate their support for the community, including but not limited to promoting access to financial education, protecting and improving the environment, and equipping people for the workplace.”

The top three winners in each category will receive £10,000 funding. In addition, five highly commended initiatives in each category will each receive £5,000 to support their community activity. A further £10,000 will go to one of the top three winners, meaning one organisation will receive £20,000. Read more of this post

Dunfermline MSP Bill Walker supports Scottish Tourism Week

MSP's-Sign-Up-Scottish-Tourism-Week-38[1]Dunfermline MSP Bill Walker has signed up to support Scottish Tourism Week, the annual event aimed at promoting tourism in Scotland and raising awareness of its importance to our economy. This year, it takes place from 4th to 13th March.

Mr Walker said: “I’m proud to represent a city with so much to offer as Dunfermline, a city that’s really going places. Any Scot or visitor to Scotland would be doing themselves a disservice if they missed the opportunity to see for themselves the capital of medieval Scotland.

“A walk through our town centre reveals an abundance of buildings of architectural and historical significance, and of course our magnificent Abbey is famously the burial place of King Robert the Bruce. Read more of this post

New Forth Crossing Bang on Target

FRC“Excellent progress” is being made on the Forth Replacement Crossing, according to Dunfermline MSP Bill Walker on a recent visit to the newly built Contact and Education Centre adjacent to the Forth Road Bridge.

Mr Walker said: “All the signs are that the Forth Replacement Crossing construction is fully on target for completion in 2016. Some parts of the work are already complete ahead of schedule, such at the new roundabout now opened on the M9 motorway and, here in Fife, the ITM traffic flow system and improved bus lane heading south on the M90.

“From the Fife coast, you can easily see the construction work progressing on the mid-Forth Beamer Rock, on which the central tower of the new bridge will sit.  Even the Contact and Education Centre, which will later be converted into a Visitor Centre, was finished ahead of schedule. Read more of this post

S4M-05582: Scottish Autism Launches One Stop Shop

That the Parliament congratulates Scottish Autism on its Fife One Stop Shop, which was officially opened in Dunfermline on 5 February 2013 by the Minister for Public Health, Michael Matheson; understands that this is the first of six new One Stop Shops across Scotland to launch under the Scottish Government’s Scottish Strategy for Autism; further understands that around 1 in 100 people in Scotland are affected by autism; notes that Scottish Autism offers people with autism, their families and professionals information and advice about autism and helps them to access further support services, and wishes Scottish Autism success in helping make a positive difference in the lives of individuals and families affected by autism.

Supported by: David Torrance, Kenneth Gibson, Richard Lyle, Dennis Robertson, Mike MacKenzie, Chic Brodie, Nigel Don, Kevin Stewart, Murdo Fraser, Colin Keir, Colin Beattie, Angus MacDonald, Dave Thompson, Clare Adamson, Mark MacDonald

Date Lodged: 05/02/13

MSP Bill Walker urges Fifers to call Home Heat Helpline

Bill Walker MSP at the Scottish Parliament launch of the Home Heat Helpline, with Christine McGourty, Director of Communications & Public Affairs, Energy UK

New research reveals that around 19,600, or 12%, of households in Fife are entitled to help with their energy costs, a figure comparable with Scotland taken as a whole. The news has prompted Dunfermline MSP Bill Walker to encourage Fifers to call a free helpline offering information about available assistance.

The Home Heat Helpline (0800 33 66 99) is an impartial and confidential service connecting people and families on low incomes, and those in poor health, with support worth an average of £160. The help available includes discounts, rebate schemes, and grants for insulation and new boilers.

Speaking at the helpline’s recent Scottish Parliament launch, Mr Walker said: Read more of this post

West Fife minister addresses Scottish Parliament at Time for Reflection

Rev Jayne Scott & Rev Dr Martin Scott 1West Fife Minister, the Rev Dr Martin Scott, recently addressed members of the Scottish Parliament at their weekly Time for Reflection. Dr Scott is Secretary of the Ministries Council of the Church of Scotland and lives in Culross, where wife, Jayne, is Minister at Culross Abbey.

Dunfermline MSP Bill Walker, who proposed Rev Scott to the Presiding Officer as a speaker, said:

“I was pleased to welcome Martin and Jayne to the Parliament. Martin’s words were thought-provoking and appropriate both for Parliament and for the wider social context. Read more of this post

S4M-05567: £2.8m Heritage Lottery Funding for New Dunfermline Museum and Art Gallery

That the Parliament warmly welcomes funding of £2.8 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund toward the establishment of a flagship museum and art gallery in the heritage quarter of Dunfermline; understands that the new facility will incorporate the Carnegie Library, archives and local history services; believes that the museum and art gallery will add to the historical diversity of architecture in the heart of Dunfermline, which includes the 11th century-founded abbey where Robert Bruce is famously buried, the palace established by King Malcolm Canmore when he made Dunfermline the capital of Scotland, the 16th century-founded Abbot House and the ancient Pittencrieff Park; considers that the new museum and art gallery will boost the profile and economy of Dunfermline, and is confident that they will remind locals and visitors alike of the cultural heritage of the “Auld Grey Toun”.

Supported by: Bill Kidd, Kenneth Gibson, Dennis Robertson, Richard Lyle, Chic Brodie, Mike MacKenzie, Kevin Stewart, David Torrance, Nigel Don, Colin Keir, Colin Beattie

Date Lodged: 04/02/13

New flagship Dunfermline museum receives £2.8m cash boost

Dunfermilne MuseumDunfermline MSP Bill Walker has welcomed the Heritage Lottery Fund’s announcement today of a £2.8m grant towards the establishment of a museum and art gallery in the historical heart of the Auld Grey Toun.

The new flagship museum will link two existing listed buildings in Dunfermline’s heritage quarter – the Carnegie Library and a former bank – to create a combined museum, art gallery, library, archives and local history service. This latest funding follows £6.8m already allocated by Fife Council and Carnegie Dunfermline Trust.

Mr Walker said: “This will be a 21st century building complementing and diversifying the layered history of the heritage quarter, showcasing stunning views of the Abbey and Abbot House. It will be for the enjoyment of locals and visitors alike, and will increase the footfall in Dunfermline’s heritage quarter, including the Glen, Abbey, Abbot House and the palace, as well as further along the road to Andrew Carnegie’s Cottage. Vitally, it will also bring more people to the shops and cafes. Read more of this post

S4W-12779: Forth Replacement Crossing Contact and Education Centre Visitors

Bill Walker: To ask the Scottish Government what estimate it has made of annual visitor numbers at the Contact and Education Centre at the Forth Replacement Crossing once the centre is fully open to the public.

Date Lodged: 31/01/13

Answered by Mr Keith Brown, Minister for Transport and Veterans, (13/02/13): The primary purpose of the Contact and Education is to provide an information point for those affected by the works. No estimate has been made of annual visitor numbers and the booking system ensures that the numbers within the building can be managed.

S4W-12778: Forth Replacement Crossing Contact and Education Centre

Bill Walker: To ask the Scottish Government when the Contact and Education Centre for the Forth Replacement Crossing will be fully open to the public.

Date Lodged: 31/01/13

Answered by Mr Keith Brown, Minister for Transport and Veterans, (13/02/13): The Forth Replacement Crossing (FRC) Contact and Education Centre provides a permanent location for those affected by the FRC works to speak to a member of the project team face to face. This facility opened to the public on 7 January 2013. Booking requests to visit the project exhibition can be made through the project website

S4W-12777: Forth Replacement Crossing

Bill Walker: To ask the Scottish Government whether the Forth Replacement Crossing remains on target for completion by 2016.

Date Lodged: 31/01/13

Answered by Mr Keith Brown, Minister for Transport and Veterans, (13/02/13): Yes, the Forth Replacement Crossing remains on target for completion in 2016.