By James Calder

After a busy 2017 we had our AGM at the Royal British Legion yesterday. This was my last meeting as Convenor, a role that I have enjoyed but have decided to step down from since being elected as a Councillor. The AGM was well attended, had plenty of positions filled and we were delighted to have Elizabeth Riches, who was a Fife Councillor for 25 years in the East Neuk and stood as candidate in North East Fife in this year’s General Election, as our speaker. She delivered an excellent and inspiring speech that was well-received and it was wonderful to have her come down to Dunfermline.

We had a bit of a change of committee and a number of new office bearers which I am pleased with. This includes Russel McPhate as our new Convenor, who will bring a wealth of experience to the role, with Bryn Jones taking on the Deputy Convenor which I am also very happy about due to his enthusiasm and new ideas that he will present. We also have Tom Leatherland carrying on the role of Treasurer, which he has been excellent in over the last few years. Jill Blair has taken over the role of Secretary, and I believe she will be great in that role. Aude Boubaker-Calder carries on as Membership Secretary with Lauren Jones continuing as Fundraising Secretary and I am sure they will both carry on their good work there. I have taken on the role of Campaign’s Secretary, which I hope to use my experience leading campaigns over the past few years into use. FInally I am delighted one of our new members, Emma Jones, is taking on Press Secretary, and I am sure she will do a great job.

We have both new and experienced ordinary members in the committee, including outgoing Deputy Convenor Wendy Chamberlain, outgoing Secretary Matthew Hall, who have both done superb jobs over the past couple of years and made my life as Convenor much easier. Joining them include Teresa Little, Joanna Cockburn, Tony Martin (who I am delighted is keeping his hand in despite his retirement as Councillor), Anne O’Brien, Beryl Leatherland and Joanna Cockburn.

I’d like to thank the previous year’s committee for their hard work, it has been a pleasure and I look forward to the coming year.

The Boundary Commission have released their updated proposals for boundary changes for Westminster constituencies. The new proposal sees Dunfermline divided in two, with part of Dunfermline being placed in a new ‘Fife South’ constituency and part with ‘Clackmannanshire and Dunfermline’ consitituency. Liberal Democrat Councillor for Dunfermline South James Calder has expressed disappointment at the proposals.

Cllr. Calder has said,

These proposals seek to divide Dunfermline into two when the previous proposals would have seen all of Dunfermline and West Fife maintained in the same constituency. This is a concerning change of heart by the boundary commission, appears illogical and I am curious as to why they have come to this conclusion.

Due to this I have responded to the consultation as I firmly believe that the Dunfermline Community should remain united. I would urge anyone interested to make their views clear on this and also respond to the consultation.

In order to respond, you can follow this link.

Following the meeting of the Full Fife Council on the 5th October, Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson Councillor James Calder has expressed concern over the attitude of the SNP/Labour Fife Council Administration towards schools.

Councillor Calder has commented,

After the behaviour of Councillors in the SNP/Labour Administration in the last Full Council Meeting, I am concerned that they are out of touch with the reality in our classrooms. When I asked a question asking if  they would take action in reducing class sizes for P4-P7 after a shocking rise of over 50% for pupils in class sizes of over 30, I couldn’t quite believe the response.

The SNP Education Convenor stated that this was ‘normal’ and then dismissed the concerns of a teacher I spoke to who stated this often presented a nightmare, claiming that was just the views of one teacher. However I have had similar views articulated by a number of teachers. I would like to see some of these politicians handling classes of this size and I think teachers should be given more support.

Later in the Council meeting I was astonished to hear the SNP Council co-leader attacking opposition politicians for simply scrutinising the Council’s record in education. Claiming we were attacking education as a profession is of course nonsense – teachers are doing a great job despite the SNP.

Of course it is no surprise this attitude has been taken considering that this Administration’s political masters at Holyrood have consistently underfunded education and caused problems with their interventions over the years. We have seen Scotland slide down the Pisa International rankings. Incredibly the attitude of some of the SNP Councillors is rather than to try and fix this, they instead decided attack the credibility of these findings.

The Council Administration has to step up to the plate and take a positive attitude to fixing our educational problems, rather than trying to discredit opposition politicians who are simply holding them to account.

by James Calder

Christine Jardine making her speech

On the 29th July we had our Annual Summer Barbecue in Crossford, with this year newly elected Edinburgh West MP Christine Jardine in attendance. The event was well attended, with myself acting as chef again.

The event provided a great opportunity for people in the party to chat in a friendly environment without the pressure of any upcoming election. We also had Councillors from past and present there, alongside Christine Jardine MP.

Tony Presented with his Quaich

Before Christine’s answer dinner speech, I presented to retired Dunfermline South Councillor Tony Martin a Quaich for 25 years long services as a Councillor. Having been my predecessor in Dunfermline South, it had been obvious to me for some time that he has been an excellent Councillor, and the local Party committee agreed with me and we clubbed together to get the Quaich. Tony gave a quick speech about his experience as a Councillor, but also passed on a message to me after. He said:

Thanks to everyone for the quaich presented to me yesterday. I am very grateful for the support I have received over the years from my close friends the are Dunfermline Liberal Democrats. I was proud to represent you as an elected member for what’s was for the most part 25 happy years. I was very touched. Thanks again and good luck in the future.

Afterwards Christine Jardine gave her speech. It was great to hear from a newly elected MP her experiences on campaigning but also on how she has found being an MP since being elected. Her insights of how the current Tory Government are performing (apparently as poor from the point of view of someone working at Westminster as it seems to be for the rest of us from afar) were especially interesting.

I would like to thank Christine Jardine for coming to be our speaker, everyone who helped with organising and most of all to everyone who came to help make it such as successful event. I look forward to next year.

 

Woodmill High SchoolWith the publishing of The Local Benchmarking Framework Report by Fife Council for 2016/17, Fife Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson, Councillor James Calder, has commented this shows the need for Fife to receive a higher level of Scottish Attainment Challenge Funding.

James Calder has said, “With all indications that Fife should be due significantly higher levels of Scottish Attainment Challenge Funding due to the high numbers of children from disadvantaged backgrounds, the 2016/17 Local Benchmarking Framework Report has given further signs that Fife schools should be receiving more from the Scottish Government.

“While we are making progress in Fife, we are still below the national average in S4-6 exam performance on all levels of children from disadvantaged backgrounds. This shows Fife should be a priority for the Scottish Government’s Scottish Attainment Challenge Funding.

“My question is why does the SNP Scottish Government instead feel Fife children don’t even deserve to be in the top 10 of local authorities when it comes to funding?”

After the recent announcement by the Scottish Government that Fife would only receive £1 million in Scottish Attainment Challenge Funding, Fife Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson Councillor James Calder has expressed concerns that children locally are missing out. This compares with over £5.6 million for Dundee.

Cllr. James Calder has said, “In Fife we have the third highest number of pupils living in the areas with most deprivation and the fifth highest number of pupils attending schools with high levels of deprivation. This indicates to me that Fife Council should be receiving very high share of the resources required from the Scottish Attainment Challenge Funding.”

“Amazingly despite the indications that Fife should be one of the highest recipients of this important funding to help address the attainment gap, the Scottish Government has decided to see fit that we are not even in the top 10 local authorities when it comes to funding. This seems to be ludicrously unfair and I call on the SNP Government to review their formula in deciding how tis funding is delivered to ensure Fife children get their fair share.”

The Dunfermline Liberal Democrats have welcomed Vince Cable as new leader. Cable became new leader today and takes charge in turbulent times for the UK.

Dunfermline South Councillor and local Party Convenor James Calder has commented,

Vince Cable provides the experience and gravitas that is required by our politicians at such a turbulent time. With Brexit negotiations being handled disastrously so far by Theresa May’s Tories, he will keep the Government on its toes.

Vince not only has a wealth of political experience, but is also a well renowned economist. I am sure that he will provide an excellent guiding hand as leader of the Liberal Democrats.

Woodmill High SchoolWith the long-awaited release of the Dunfermline and West Fife catchment area review, James Calder, Councillor for Dunfermline South, is raising concerns on the impact for both parents and children in the area. Children in the catchment areas for schools such as Masterton Primary would be moved to Inverkeithing rather than go to school in Dunfermline.

Councillor Calder has commented, “Parents and children will rightly be concerned at the proposals. In particular I am worried that children in Masterton aren’t getting to go to their local High School and are being bussed out of town. After so many years of problems with capacity at the Primary School, this acts as a double-blow.”

“We should be seeking to ensure children can go to their local High School. We can surely do better and ensure that all children in Dunfermline can go to school in Dunfermline. For that reason I will continue to make the case at the Council on behalf of local parents and children.”

By Aude Boubaker-Calder

Aude and James at Fife Pride

On this first of July, Kirkcaldy was the centre of the first celebration of its kind in Fife. Known as well as the Lang Toun , Kirkcaldy welcomed the first Pride event of the Kingdom.

Councillor Jame Calder and myself, Aude Boubaker-Calder, joined the festivities organised by a local LGTBQ+ activist group Fife Pride.  The festivities were kicking off a bit before 1pm where the parade strolled on the High Street where a lot of the Saturday and Payday shoppers stopped to see this coloured-rainbow assembly celebrating Love for everyone disregarding gender and beliefs.

The parade finished on “The Square” where a massive marquee was waiting the celebrants with food, drinks but also various animations and stands representing associations and businesses supporting the LGTBQ+ cause.

There was a wonderful turn out for a first time event with the hope from the organisers and the participants of a come back the next year!

James with Lib Dem leader Tim Farron

Last week the General Election took place and in Dunfermline and West Fife our candidate was James Calder. Although he was not elected, he increased the Lib Dem share of the vote locally from the previous election and gained a significant number of votes.

Nationally the Liberal Democrats were successful in gaining seats, including big hitters such as Jo Swinson in East Dunbartonshire and Vince Cable in Twickenham. In Edinburgh West, one of our neighbouring constituencies, Christine Jardine gained the seat back from the SNP.

James Calder has commented,

It was an honour to stand as a candidate for Dunfermline and West Fife. I would like to take the time to thank all those who supported me and I will continue working for Liberal Values locally. Nationally  I was delighted with the Liberal Democrats’ improvement in our support. It sends an important message to both of our Governments:

This was a  big no to another divisive second Independence Referendum to the SNP Government at Holyrood, who lost huge numbers of seats.

This was also a big no to Theresa May’s plans for a Hard-Brexit – she lost her majority and she should now be seeking to compromise and look for access to the Single Market to keep our economy strong.