FHA calls for “bedroom tax” to be suspended for further investigation

FHADunfermline MSP Bill Walker has expressed dismay at a report by Fife Housing Association (FHA) highlighting the impact and consequences of the UK Government’s “bedroom tax”.

Under the changes coming into force 1st April, social tenants deemed to have one bedroom too many will have to pay an average of £9 extra per week, while those with two bedrooms extra must find around £16.

FHA expects one in five of their tenants to be affected. Many are extremely vulnerable, have serious health problems or are already struggling financially. Alarmingly, most have no immediate affordable accommodation alternatives. Read more of this post

Dunfermline MSP commends fund-raising local businesswoman after CHAS visit

CAP&CHAS 004Dunfermline MSP Bill Walker has congratulated the “outstanding” fund-raising efforts of a local businesswoman, after her recent charity fashion shows raised over £21,000 for the Children’s Hospice Association Scotland (CHAS).

Laura Campbell, owner of La Vida Boutique in Cairneyhill, managed to sell over 600 tickets for her two shows at Keavil House Hotel in Crossford, exceeding her fund-raising target.

Speaking after a visit with Mrs Campbell and fellow fundraiser Garry Gibb to Rachel House hospice in Kinross, Mr Walker said: Read more of this post

Dunfermline High School officially opens

DHS 004Dunfermline High School has officially opened, with pupils performing in a music-filled launch ceremony.

The opening began with pipers welcoming guests at the main entrance. Clarsach Duo, consisting of Amy Sinclair and Megan Jarvie, played harp music to greet guests outside the Assembly Hall.

Soloists, a wind band and a choir performed in between various speeches, including introductions by Head Boy and Head Girl, Alexander Johnstone and Amber Russell, and an address by the Provost of Fife, Jim Leishman. Read more of this post

S4M-06012: £90K Funding for Saline Environmental Group

That the Parliament congratulates the Saline Environmental Group in West Fife on receiving £90,000 in funding from the Big Lottery Fund’s Community Spaces Scotland scheme, which will be used to construct a pathway between Saline village and Kinneddar Park along with a bridge and fitness equipment en route; understands that the project represents the first phase of a larger initiative to link four communities by providing easily accessible pathways that can be used for access and recreational purposes such as walking, cycling, horse riding and mobility vehicles, and commends the aims of the Community Spaces Scotland scheme to support communities in becoming more involved in their local environment, make better use of spaces and places and become healthier and more active.

Supported by: Nigel Don, Richard Lyle, Kenneth Gibson, Colin Beattie, Sandra White, Mike MacKenzie, Kevin Stewart, David Torrance

Date Lodged: 19/03/13

New College, New Name, New Principal

CollegeFriday 15 March 2013 was an historic day for Fife when the Partnership Board, overseeing the merger of Carnegie and Adam Smith Colleges, gave their formal approval of the merger proposal and their commitment to form a new college in Fife.

Following a consultation process involving students, staff, stakeholders and employers the Board agreed to recommend that, from the planned Vesting Day on 1 August  2013, the new organisation should be known as Fife College, which was the name supported by the majority of respondents.

The new college Principal will be Hugh Logan who is currently Principal of Motherwell College. Mr Logan was previously Principal of North Highland College, and has held a variety of posts in colleges as well as working in industry and secondary education. Read more of this post

£90K funding for Saline pathway project

Big Lottery FundSaline Environmental Group is to receive £90,000 funding from a total of almost £5m granted across Scotland through the Big Lottery Fund’s Community Spaces Scotland scheme.

The grant will be used to construct a pathway between the west Fife village of Saline and Kinneddar Park, along with a bridge and fitness equipment en route. The aim is to encourage local people to have a greater interest in their environment.

The project represents the first phase of a larger initiative to link four individual communities by providing easily accessible pathways that can be used for access and recreational purposes such as walking, cycling, horse riding and mobility vehicles. Read more of this post

Queen Anne High School’s ‘glowing’ inspection reports

Queen Anne HighLocal MSP Bill Walker has congratulated Dunfermline’s Queen Anne High School on an Education Scotland inspection that found the school to be performing exceptionally well. HM Inspectors found outstanding examples of the Curriculum for Excellence in practice and rated the school as “excellent” or “very good” for every evaluated aspect of its work.

Inspectors also produced a report on the associated learning community, which they consider to be a high-performing service. Rating “very good” in all aspects, its key strengths include well-targeted provision for young people, adults and community groups, well-trained and highly motivated staff, highly developed partnerships and positive collaborative working. Read more of this post

S4M-05983: Six Nations

That the Parliament commends all teams on their performances at the Six Nations Championship 2013; congratulates Wales on retaining the championship with what it considers a magnificent 30-3 victory over England in Cardiff; applauds Italy’s first Six Nations win over Ireland, of 22-15; considers that Scotland gave a creditable performance in taking third place in the championship after a hard-fought 16-23 game against France, and looks forward to a highly competitive and entertaining championship next season.

Supported by: Nigel Don, Bill Kidd, Mike MacKenzie, Angus MacDonald, Richard Lyle, Kevin Stewart, Maureen Watt, Dennis Robertson, Dave Thompson,Chic Brodie, Colin Beattie, Sandra White, Bob Doris, Stuart McMillan, Colin Keir

Date Lodged: 18/03/2013

Debt counselling charity aims to help Dunfermline constituents become debt free

CAPChristians Against Poverty (CAP) recently met with Dunfermline MSP Bill Walker to explain how the award-winning charity’s free service can help Dunfermline constituents escape the misery of debt. The confidential service is available for everyone regardless of age, gender, faith or background.

CAP supports thousands of clients each year by negotiating fair repayments with utility companies, mortgage lenders, councils and loan companies, based on what clients can afford. It has a growing network of over 200 centres throughout Scotland and the rest of the UK.

Julie Mann, Centre Manager of the Dunfermline Debt Centre, and Helene Kelly, Debt Coach and Links Coordinator for Fife, told Mr Walker about CAP’s combination of financial education, budgeting advice and insolvency services. Read more of this post

Energy Savings

Scottish Gas customers will now receive a half-yearly review using their personal energy consumption to advise of cheaper internal tariffs. I hope other energy companies will provide this too. It’s important for customers of all energy companies to be aware of the best energy deals, whether this means switching tariffs or suppliers.

The difficulty is, of course, not knowing what price increases are around the corner if you take the trouble to switch to a variable-rate tariff. In light of ever increasing price hikes, insulating your property is an important step to reduce your bills. The Scottish Government, in conjunction with other bodies, frequently helps to finance cavity wall and loft insulation. I try to publicise such offers on my website when I hear of them, but you can also keep an eye on the Scottish Government’s website. Read more of this post

Defence U-turn

Less than two years ago, the UK Ministry of Defence promised that over 6,000 army personnel currently based in Germany would relocate to Scotland, with hundreds destined for Rosyth. HMS Caledonia was even renamed MoD Caledonia.  Now we know none will come to west Fife and few will relocate elsewhere in Scotland.

Right at the beginning I expressed reservations about the relocation, as I feared army demand pushing out our traditional naval presence in west Fife. I shall always argue for a strong naval presence on the east coast of Scotland. We need it to guard our North Sea oil and gas industry, our fishing grounds and the sea routes to the Continent. However, this U-turn has cost Fifers an estimated £500,000 in setting up a Fife Defence Transition Task Force. The UK Government should be called to account for this. Read more of this post

Tulliallan Police HQ

Tulliallan Castle is to be retained as the headquarters of the new national police force for Scotland, housing continuing training, conference services, planning, and offices for the chief constable and a number of other senior officers and staff.

I would challenge the claim that Tulliallan is somehow “isolated”, when it is in fact close to the motorway network via the Kincardine and Clackmannanshire Bridges. But I do accept that the Castle’s listed status might have made conversion into a hi-tech command and control centre difficult and expensive. Therefore, the choice of Randolphfield in Stirling as the operational hub may well be a good one, especially considering the forecasted low cost to convert the existing Central Police HQ.

The above was originally written for Bill’s Dunfermline Press column. This version may vary slightly.

Marie Curie Cancer Care visits Scottish Parliament

Bill Walker MSP with Marie Curie nurse Fiona Minto

Dunfermline MSP Bill Walker joined Marie Curie Cancer Care at the Scottish Parliament this week to learn more about the work carried about by the charity to provide free end of life care to people with terminal illnesses.

Sporting one of the charity’s daffodil pins in support of the annual Great Daffodil Appeal, Bill Walker spoke to Marie Curie nurses and staff about the free end of life care available to local communities across Scotland.

During the event, sponsored by Mary Scanlon MSP, Mr Walker was also informed about the importance of donations in helping Marie Curie nurses provide more free care to people with terminal illnesses in their own homes or one of the charity’s hospices. Every 5 minutes someone in the UK dies without the care they need at the end of their life. Each donation received by Marie Curie helps look after more people at the end of their life in their place of choice. Read more of this post

West Fife Villages youth volunteers visit Scottish Parliament

08Mar2013 003Young volunteers from West Fife Villages have enjoyed a visit to the Scottish Parliament – including a tour, photos with Commonwealth Games mascot Clyde and last minute tickets to watch First Minister’s Questions – following an invitation from local MSP Bill Walker.

The group, from Oakley, High Valleyfield and Blairhall, included pupils of Queen Anne and St Columba’s RC High Schools, volunteers on the Blairhall MUGA project, and recipients of the Democracy and Citizenship Award and Fife Council Youth Work Oscars.

The visit came about after Dunfermline MSP Mr Walker invited Anne Farrell and Claire Dunlop to Parliament after they won, respectively, West Fife Citizen of the Year and West Fife Young Citizen of the Year. He extended the invitation to the youth volunteers at the request of Community Education Worker Corrine McGinley. Read more of this post

S4W-13624: Extension of Stirling-Alloa-Kincardine railway line

Bill Walker: To ask the Scottish Government whether and, if so, when it will consider extending the restored Stirling-Alloa-Kincardine railway line to encompass Dunfermline and Edinburgh.

Date Lodged:12/03/13 Read more of this post

Duloch Juniors Big Lottery award

Big Lottery Fund

Dunfermline-based Duloch Juniors Football Club has received £1,345 to encourage children to participate in training sessions and league matches. The Big Lottery Fund award will purchase goals, cones and football strips.

MSP for Dunfermline, Bill Walker, said: “Congratulations to Chairman David MacNamara and Duloch Juniors.

“It’s great to see young people taking part in sport, and I wish the club success with their league match ambitions.” Read more of this post

MSP Bill Walker welcomes Vine relaunch in Dunfermline

Bill Walker and Tim ThomsonLocal MSP Bill Walker recently visited the newly renamed Vine Conference Centre in Dunfermline to officially launch its rebranding.

For the past 6 years, the building has operated as the Vine Venue but the management felt this did not fully promote what it has to offer. The Centre boasts an auditorium capable of seating 550 people and has rooms available for smaller meetings and interviews.

The Centre has onsite parking for 90 cars and is located just five minutes walk from the Queen Margaret Train Station and a few minutes drive from Halbeath Road. Keen to support the local economy, the management use a Dunfermline-based company to provide corporate hospitality. Read more of this post

S4W-13486: Kincardine Bridge guardrails and footpaths

Bill Walker: To ask the Scottish Government when reconstruction will begin on the guardrails and footways of the Kincardine Bridge.

Date Lodged: 06/03/13

Answered by Keith Brown, Minister for Transport and Veterans, (14/03/13): The scheme is in the current trunk road programme and will be taken forward at the earliest possible opportunity, when funding allows. Accordingly, it is not possible at this stage to provide any start dates for the specific aspects of the works required.

S4W-13485: Kincardine Bridge northern approach

Bill Walker: To ask the Scottish Government when realignment will begin on the northern approach to the Kincardine Bridge.

Date Lodged: 06/03/13

Answered by Keith Brown, Minister for Transport and Veterans, (14/03/13): The scheme is in the current trunk road programme and will be taken forward at the earliest possible opportunity, when funding allows. Accordingly, it is not possible at this stage to provide any start dates for the specific aspects of the works required.

S4W-13486: Kincardine Bridge southern approach

Bill Walker: To ask the Scottish Government when reconstruction will begin on the southern approach viaduct of the Kincardine Bridge.

Date Lodged: 06/03/13

Answered by Keith Brown, Minister for Transport and Veterans, (14/03/13): The scheme is in the current trunk road programme and will be taken forward at the earliest possible opportunity, when funding allows. Accordingly, it is not possible at this stage to provide any start dates for the specific aspects of the works required.

Switching off the lights for WWF’s Earth Hour

WWF Earth HourBill Walker, MSP for Dunfermline, is lending his support to WWF’s Earth Hour on 23 March by switching off the lights and celebrating the power of the planet.

As lights are being switched off across the world, WWF is encouraging people to think about the kind of energy we use and where it comes from.  By celebrating the power of our planet through renewable resources such as hydro, wave and solar, many MSPs are pledging their support for clean, renewable energy as part of our efforts to tackle climate change.

Mr Walker is urging constituents, local businesses and organisations to join them, and thousands of others across Scotland, by “switching off” at 8.30pm on Saturday 23 March to show support for action against the impacts of climate change on people and wildlife. Read more of this post

S4M-05826: Bespoke Scottish Tours

That the Parliament welcomes the launch of Carnegie Touring, a new tour operator that arranges bespoke holidays and excursions in Fife and further afield in Scotland; understands that, in addition to creating itineraries tailored to the interests and needs of individual visitors, Carnegie Touring also offers a range of excursions such as St Andrews, Home of Golf, The Tranquillity of the Highland Lochs and Mountains, From Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyrood and In the Footsteps of Andrew Carnegie, and wishes Carnegie Touring well in its aim to help visitors discover significant locations that can sometimes be overlooked in tourism itineraries.

Supported by: Richard Lyle, Nigel Don, Kevin Stewart, Graeme Dey, Chic Brodie, Colin Beattie, Willie Rennie, Colin Keir, Sandra White

Date Lodged: 05/03/2013

S4M-05810: Eilidh Child Wins Gold in Gothenburg

That the Parliament congratulates Dunfermline Pitreavie Athletics Club member Eilidh Child on what it considers to be her magnificent performance at the European Indoor Athletics Championships in Gothenburg; understands that Eilidh won gold in the 4 x 400 metres women’s relay and silver in the individual 400 metres women’s race, where she also recorded a personal best, and wishes her every success in her preparations for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014.

Supported by: Kenneth Gibson, Stuart McMillan, Mark McDonald, Mike MacKenzie, Kevin Stewart, Maureen Watt, Colin Beattie, Richard Lyle, David Torrance, Chic Brodie, Neil Findlay, Bob Doris, Colin Keir, Dave Thompson, Sandra White

Date Lodged: 04/03/2013

Dunfermline MSP talks to Talking Newspaper

Bill Walker and Jim JarvieDunfermline Sound, the talking newspaper for visually impaired people in West Fife, recently interviewed Dunfermline MSP Bill Walker on a range of constituency and Scottish Parliamentary issues.

Magazine Editor Jim Jarvie posed questions ranging from how laws are made in the Parliament to why there are apparently so many empty seats in the Chamber. Scottish independence was, of course, a talking point.

Listeners asked Mr Walker about local issues such as pedestrian access to the Forth Road Bridge. Currently, pedestrians can only gain access via the eastern side steps, which impacts on the visually impaired, wheelchair users, cyclists and people pushing prams. Mr Walker said that he has been in touch with Chris Waite, the Forth Road Bridge Communications Manager, regarding potential improvements to the steps. Read more of this post