By Tony Martin

Jim Burke, former Lib Dem Councillor for Dunfermline North and local Party Convenor, sadly passed away after a battle with Cancer. Jim made his mark on many of us involved with the Dunfermline Liberal Democrats, and below is part of Jim’s Eulogy by Tony Martin.

I met Jim in 1994. A colleague of mine knocked on Jim’s door canvassing in the Fife Regional Council elections and asked if Jim would vote for me. Not only will I vote for him he said, but I want to join the Party. My friend told him I would be in touch. Two weeks later at the polling station Jim approached me and said “I thought you were going to visit and sign me up.” Well I had been busy knocking on doors. I wasn’t confident of winning. “If you had come round I would have helped,” he said. Two weeks later when I did knock on his door, he said, “Where have you been? I suppose you better come in.”

Since that day we have been friends. At the Local Party AGM later that year Jim joined the Executive Committee and year later he was Chair of the local party. Jim was a man of extraordinary ability. He showed it in everything he did. It was not lost on the Liberal Democrats and for 20 years he played an important part in the success of our local Party. Working hard in every election. Helping Willie Rennie and Jim Tolson to be elected to Parliaments. Knocking on doors, delivering leaflets, putting up boards. He was Chair of the party several times over the years, as well as Treasurer and Secretary. He was attended every social event. He loved to read Burns at our Burns evenings. A master of the barbecue every year, his barbecued pineapple was legendary. At every meeting held in his house, Jim baked a cake – an excellent cake! Attendance was always good, not perhaps because of enthusiasm for what was on the agenda, but as a recognition of excellent baking.

He was also a powerful support when things were going badly. Never wavering in his belief in the Liberal cause. Never giving up. Another of his admirably qualities.

When Jim joined the coal board it was on the same day as Jim Blake, someone who remained a friend ( indeed he was Jim’s best man) for the rest of Jim’s life. When we were an hospital during Jim’s final days,Jim Blake said to me, “Jim was quickly recognised at being very clever and really good at the job. He was quickly marked out for further training and promotion. After he came back to the pits from the merchant navy he was quickly promoted to a manager.”

In the Merchant Navy Jim was a very young Electrical Engineering Officer. The ship he served on was one of several built during the war to run freight, mostly fruit and vegetables, from South Africa to Britain quickly, outrunning U-Boats and German destroyers. The ship was light, fast, cheaply built, poorly constructed and very unstable. However they were still in use in the 1960s when Jim joined up.

One night in the Atlantic they hit a very strong storm. The ship was tossed and turned. The power line to the engine room was lost. The captain told Jim he would have to run a new cable from the bridge to Engine Room. Jim had to lash himself to the railings and with a seaman faced driving winds and rain until, after several hours, they made good the connection. There was a deck cargo of fruit on board. A young officer went out to inspect the cargo and came back shouting above the wind. “Captain I think the cargo is going to break loose. What shall I do?” “Well I would get out of the bloody way son if I were you,” replied the captain. Although he didn’t say bloody, I asked Jim what happened. Nothing, he said. The Officer was panicking. “So you saved the ship Jim”, I said. “No” he said, “the Captain saved the ship. I just did what I was told.” I think Jim was being modest.

When Jim was at the carpet factory he didn’t really like it. He thought the senior electrician was incompetent. The factory was being equipped with new machinery and this meant increasing the electrical capacity. The two other electricians, both older than Jim, didn’t now how to do the drawings and manage the project. Jim was asked if he could do it. “Yes”, he said, “but I want a rise.” “We can’t do that,” was the response, “you are the junior.” “Well that fine,” said Jim. Next day he applied to rejoin the coal board.

In 2007, after a very successful career Jim stood as a candidate for the Council. He was elected and proved an excellent Councillor. Working hard for his constituents, playing an important role in our group and being well respected across the political divide. Jim chaired the Appeals Panel and the Planning Appeals Committee. He was Vice-Chair of the Regulation Committee. He soon gained a reputation for thoughtfully coming to fair and well considered decisions.

Jim enjoyed helping his constituents and solving their problems. He had carried out a significant amount of work for an elderly gentleman. Sitting at home he received a call form the hospital.
“We have a patient here who needs a heart bypass. He won’t sign the consent form unless Councillor Burke says its OK. Would you speak to him. He is really not well.” “You silly old fool,” said Jim, “sign the form!” Jim visited him in hospital and often when he returned home.

Although not a demonstrative man Jim was a very kind person.

When a colleague Cllr Dave Herbert was very ill, coming to the end of his time and not finding that easy, Jim visited him frequently – taking him out for walks, going out for coffee and importantly talking to him. Dave’s stroke was making him frustrated in not being able to communicate as he wanted. Jim was patient, kind and there for Dave right up until the end.

Jim was a keen traveler. With Norma he loved to go to Lake Garda, “a paradise on earth” he said. He also liked river cruises on the European rivers. Always enthusiastic when he returned. Telling you about it and wanting you to share his pleasure

Jim faced up to his health issues in a very stoic way. His failing eyesight meant had to stop driving. That didn’t stop him doing things, for himself, the party and his family and friends. He got on with it. Without complaining. Still making an effort. An example to us all.

When he was diagnosed as terminally ill, he was so strong it was truly amazing. His concern was not for himself but for Norma and his daughters Alison and Lesley. He told me the bad news in late April last year, but didn’t tell his daughters until after Alison’s wedding so as not to spoil it for her. He so enjoyed the wedding, showing me all the photos. He daughters happiness and Norma’s comfort was his main concern during his final illness.

When I asked how Norma, Alison and Lesley were coping, he said “Their fine. They have been supporting me at all the difficult times. Do you know Tony that I have the best daughters in the world?” “No you haven’t,” I said, referring to mine. “Ok,” he said, “but you have to admit mine have the better Father!”

When I told a mutual friend of ours, Teresa Little, that Jim’s illness was terminal, being a committed Catholic and believing in the power of prayer, Teresa’s immediate reaction was to say she would pray for him. The next week I visited Jim and told him of how friends had reacted to the bad news. I said to him, “Teresa said she will pray for you. However I told her you are an atheist therefore it may be against your principles.” The conversation moved on but later Jim said to me “Tony I wish you hadn’t done that.” “What?” I replied. “When you told Teresa not to pray for me. After all God doesn’t know I am an atheist does he?” He was laughing at me.

We’ve seen a rise in vandalism in Dunfermline, with incidents including parked cars being damaged overnight.

Both Lauren and Bryn Jones have been leading the Dunfermline Liberal Democrat campaign against the nuisance of vandalism.

Launching the campaign in Dunfermline Central, Lauren said: “Not only does mindless vandalism cost us all money, it makes our town a less cheery place to live.”

The Dunfermline Lib Dems are encouraging concerned citizens to report suspicious activity to the police on 101, and to report any graffiti to the council.”

The Dunfermline #INTogether campaign team

The Dunfermline #INTogether campaign team

Today is the day of the EU Referendum, and after many weeks of campaigning one thing is clear- almost all experts, whether they are economists, scientists, civil servants or prominent business leaders agree we are stronger staying in the EU.

Here are some great reasons to vote remain:

1-A stronger economy: By accessing the Single Market British businesses are able to trade freely and sell their goods around the EU

2-Safer Streets: We can work together with other EU countries to make sure cross border crime is dealt with and criminal suspects extradited

3-Lower Prices- our trade with EU countries makes sure we get the best prices

4-Investment in Fife- the EU has invested in jobs in Fife

Today for a stronger Britain vote Remain

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Tomorrow, the British citizens are going to decide the fate of their nation. This will influence the future not only of the UK but also of the continent and the world where we and our children are going to grow.

Here in the UK, we like to drink a good French wine or Belgian/German beer, eat pasta from Italy or oranges from Spain. These are everyday examples and that all thanks to Globalisation.

I know that Globalisation is often regarded as the big swear word in the mouth of a lot of so-called patriotic politicians who claim the “loss and preservation of British identity”. This process has existed for centuries now but it boomed during the last one thanks to the advancement in technology, transportation and, of course, migration. Nowadays, we can all see the benefits of it. It helped the quality of our life in various aspects such as

  • science (including medicine) and research. Researchers worldwide are working together to explore new topics and find cures to the diseases which harm us in order to make the world a better place;
  • The interactivity between cultures giving the opportunity to understand people around the world and to be able to help others when problems arise. This giving a thought about how knowledge is shared and give benefit to our own culture.
  • Economically, living in a globalised world allow us to benefit of an almost free trade not only for goods but also skills thanks to migration.

I could quote way more example of a globalised world but it will miss the point I want to do today.

As one of 3 millions immigrants of the EU, I live, work and build my life over here. I mean as an Expatriate of the EU (why talking about British expatriate in the EU and EU immigrants in the UK – another negative comment about us. Let’s put everybody at the same level) Since the beginning of this Referendum campaign, my unfortunate companions and I are treated like we were vermin by the Leave campaign. They advance we are taking the money and the jobs of the good British people.

Let me get my/our voice out before The Big Day as I will be voiceless tomorrow. I am resident of the UK, I pay my taxes and participate in the British economy. I did my studies in Brussels, did an unpaid internship in London and had to pay with my own money my food and accommodation. When the time was to move in a definitive way, I registered myself as a job seeker and had to follow the rule and weekly appointment without getting any benefits from the UK government. I survived with my fiancé with one small salary while I was doing small temporary part-time jobs which didn’t give me access to any benefit in-between jobs (not enough NI contribution they said).

After 2 years of looking for a professional job, a lot of discrimination at all levels, I am finally settled with my first career job and preparing our wedding in Scotland.

Making things short, I struggled my way in the UK and now I am taking part of its economy. I never stole money from you, British citizens, as the so-called politicians of the Leave campaign and I am just a full benefit to the British economy.

When you are going to the polling station tomorrow think of what Britain could look like if the 3 millions of EU Expatriates living here stopped working at once and how badly it could impact the UK if we are closing the boundaries becoming isolationists and not expansionists. Look at us and not what “they” say about us.

Do you want to teach your (future) children to working in harmony or in fear of each other? Me… I know my answer… But I won’t be able to express it tomorrow.

The choice is yours… For you, for me, for the UK.

Follow Aude on Twitter (@AudeLibDems) or on her Facebook page

Bryn Jones

Bryn Jones

By Bryn Jones

Much of the coverage of the EU referendum has focused on the divisions in the Tory party, Jeremy Corbyn’s lacklustre support for the Remain camp, and the constant accusations of scaremongering from both sides. I want to reflect on what’s at stake in this referendum, and why Liberalism favours sticking it out with Europe.

Our ability to trade freely and openly with others makes our country more prosperous. In difficult economic times it’s tempting to turn our backs on the world and look inwardly, but to do this is to shoot ourselves in the foot. British businesses depend on free trade with Europe. We depend on other countries investing in Britain, buying from Britain and selling to Britain. And being part of the single market makes Britain an attractive country to do business with.

What’s at risk in this referendum is losing our place at the negotiation table for the single market. Some leave campaigners insist we can stay in the single market but leave the EU, but the cost is our ability to influence the rules of the market. We don’t want to find ourselves paying into a system we have no control over.

As a Liberal I believe that if we reach out and work with our neighbours, trade openly with them, and see ourselves as part of the global community, we can all benefit. Businesses benefit from being able to trade freely across borders, without being stifled by restrictions and tariffs. In turbulent economic times, we need to remain in the EU now more than ever.

James Calder wants action on the new Forth Crossing

James Calder wants action on the new Forth Crossing

It has been announced by the Scottish Government today that the construction of the new Forth Crossing has been delayed, several weeks after the election. This has raised concerns of many in Fife after the disaster of the Forth Road Bridge closure last year.

Dunfermline Liberal Democrats Convenor has raised his concerns, commenting, “Last year we saw what happened when the Bridge closed down, and like many in Dunfermline I view this latest development with concern.”

“We need to ensure the Scottish Government explain fully how this has come to place after being assured until recently that the Bridge construction was on time. We also need to make sure the Forth Road Bridge is given the maintenance funding it needs so that we do not find ourselves without a crossing to Edinburgh again.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie also commented, “The long predicted delay of the construction of the new Forth crossing has finally been admitted by the SNP Government.”

“They tell us it is a coincidence that this has been announced just weeks after the Scottish elections.”

“And now they have been unable to explain why just 25 days lost due to bad weather means that the opening of the crossing has been delayed by 180 days. “

“We need the urgent publication of the documents associated with this delay. People deserve answers.”

Willie Rennie speaking at the Q&A

Willie Rennie speaking at the Q&A

By James Calder

Last night two of the Dunfermline Liberal Democrats (Aude Boubaker and myself) attended a Q&A event hosted by the European Movement in Scotland. The panel was made up of speakers of various different backgrounds who all were united in their belief that Scotland and Britain are stronger in Europe. The chair was Derek Hammersley, and the speakers included Alyn Smith MEP, Professor Frank Müller, John Purvis CBE and our own Party Leader, Willie Rennie MSP.

The evening began with opening statements from each of the panellists followed by opening to the floor for a Q&A session. One of the themes running throughout the evening was to explain the reasons for staying the EU based on facts and good reasoning, which seemed to resonate well with the audience who wanted to look beyond the increasingly sensationalist media coverage of the campaign.

The first speech came from Professor Müller, a history academic from St Andrews University who originally came from Germany before becoming a naturalised British citizen. He provided a thoughtful speech, showing that his experiences of moving to the UK, marrying a British citizen and raising a family itself showed the benefits of cooperation. His academic focus is on nationalism, which also gave him further impetus to support the EU project which in his view, helped to show that people from the different member states have much in common but not always the same – we share the same tolerances of religion, concern for the environment but we also still have our different national customs which the EU does not seek to change.  He also argued against the claims of the EU attempting to be a superstate, in that 99% of UK tax collection is done nationally, and that if it was a superstate, it was a ‘strangely shy one.’

John Purvis came next, providing an insight from a former Conservative MEP. He mentioned the first 7 years of his life were in war, followed by living in Hamburg for 2 years which had suffered from the devastating effects of the war.  He argued the EU provided a movement for peace by pooling sovereignty. He recollected his friendship he gained with MEPs from across the EU, making the point “could anyone have imagined this in 1945?” Going on to discuss that the EU is the biggest economy and trading bloc in the world, the UK would have less strength if we left, and could destabilise both the UK and world economy, as well making us weaker compared to adventurist powers in the East such as Russia and ISIS. Finally he showed that the EU has a democratic structure, due to it having elected Ministers and the democratically elected EU Parliament making its decisions.

Willie Rennie was next on the podium, helping to put forward the strongly Pro-EU Lib Dem position. He indicated his delight that we had a cross-party effort to remain in the EU. He also feels this is an opportunity to express who we are and what we want to achieve in this world. While he mentions the material benefits such as more jobs, the European Health Insurance card, the fact we can move feely across Europe, peace and prosperity as well as the EU arrest warrant, he went on to make the emotional case for us to stay. For him, it is about who we are, whether we are a country looking out and not in. A country that trusts our neighbours, mentioning together we can achieve so much more. Or are we going to hark back to previous generations, to the colonial period? For Willie is about the future. He quotes the late Charles Kennedy, who had multiple identities, a “Highlander, Scottish, British and European.” He also makes the point that there are people in Scotland who are thinking of voting to leave, and we need to do a lot more to get out there and persuade people of why we are better being part of the EU.

The speeches ended with Alyn Smith MEP, who represented the SNP showing that even across the independence divide there is consensus we are better off in Europe.

We then moved onto questions, which broached various topics such as the economy, trade, democracy and bureaucracy. In general there was a fair amount of consensus, although at times some on the Panel (not Willie fortunately) went a bit too Party-political for my taste. I asked a question how leaving the EU would affect our trade both inside and outside the EU, with Willie Rennie answering that it cannot be any better than it is now, and a good chance it could get worse. The Panel were in agreement, with Professor Müller mentioning we will not see any improvements but could also be seen as in break of contracts with our trade agreements with states outside the EU. Aude also asked about EU citizens from other countries like herself, who are excluded from voting, could be affected. The answers tended show the panel were sympathetic to her situation and also that they could not answer her question fully right now as they don’t know.

The evening was an interesting and informative night and certainly provided better information than what the media has been reporting. There is another such evening taking place tomorrow in Dunfermline at 7.00pm at the Dell Farquharson Centre, Nethertown Broad Street. Although Willie Rennie will not be there it should be another interesting and informative evening.

Lauren and James want healthier meals

Lauren and James want healthier meals

School Meals in Dunfermline and West Fife have found themselves at the brunt of cuts. This includes healthy-eating options such as salad bars being phased out. Lib Dems James Calder and Lauren Jones are campaigning to save healthy school meals.

Lauren Jones commented, “It’s important for kids to learn about eating healthily from an early age, and schools should take a leading role in that education. We all need to work on eating healthier food, but children especially need a good diet to help their bodies and minds develop, and to teach them good habits for later in life.”

James Calder added “Parents are rightly concerned by his cut on school children’s meals and a setback to encouraging healthy living!”

IMG_1190More Jobs

One in every ten UK jobs is linked to our trade with the EU. 200,000 UK businesses trade with Europe.

Being in Europe means we attract investment worth £66 million a day to the UK. Remaining in Europe safeguards millions of UK jobs.

Lower Prices

Families save an average of £450 a year because the UK is in Europe.

Everything from food, flights and phone calls are cheaper. We still trade with the rest of the world but we get a better deal by negotiating as part of Europe – strength in numbers.

Safer Streets

Criminal gangs and terrorists operate across borders – our police and security services must too.

The European Arrest Warrant means criminals can’t escape justice simply by fleeing abroad. 7,000 criminals have been deported from the UK to face justice at home. Leaving Europe would put that at risk.

James and Bryn want recycling bins on the High Street

James and Bryn want recycling bins on the High Street

The Dunfermline Lib Dems have started a campaign to improve recycling facilities in the centre of Dunfermline. In particular, in areas such as the High Street there is a lack of recycling bins next to public bins.

Dunfermline Liberal Democrat Convenor James Calder has mentioned, “Fife has become one of the best places in Scotland for recycling, but while on the High Street campaigning a few of us remarked that there is an obvious lack of recycling bins.”

“The Kingsgate Shopping Centre has plenty of recycling bins. Other Towns and Cities have bins for both recycling and general waste. We should see the same in Dunfermline and the centres of other towns in Fife and I am happy to support the campaign for better High Street recycling.”

Lib Dem activist Bryn Jones added, “Dunfermline Town Centre should be leading the way on recycling. I’m supporting the drive to bring in recycle bins, and make the town a little bit greener.”