James Calder

By Russel McPhate

I first joined the then Scottish Liberal Party, as a 17 year old, in 1983 and was active in student politics as well as my Constituency – Glasgow Hillhead. I moved to Shetland in 1987 to complete my Legal training and was active in the local party as well as Shetland Campaign against Douneray Expansion and Shetland’s anti-Poll Tax group – SCRAP. At the end of 1990 I arrived in Dunfermline and attended my first Dunfermline AGM in 1991 at which I was, in the best Liberal tradition, “volunteered”  to join the Committee! During the 90’s I held a number of positions on the Committee including Treasurer and while I was mainly an Agent at election times I had the honour of being the Party’s candidate for the 2001 general Election. After 2002 I took more of a back seat – mainly as my children were born in 2002 and 2004 – but over the last few years I have again been more of an active member and have returned to the Committee.

It has been as difficult, if not more difficult, a few years for Dunfermline Liberal Democrats as it has been for the party nationally. To go from having an MP, an MSP and 6 Councillors across 5 wards at the start of 2010 to having just 1 Councillor and losing our deposit at the 2015 General Election was extremely traumatic for the party and during the hard years it was only a small band of activists – and the prodigious leafletting of Tom and Beryl Leatherland ! – that kept us going. Fortunately, we have benefitted from the Lib Dem Fightback that started in 2015. Our membership has grown and is not too far off where we were in the 90’s. we have a whole new team of activists – including, but not limited to, Wendy Chamberlain, Lauren Jones and Bryn Jones – all of whom have worked very hard and were excellent candidates in the 2017 Council elections. We have a new Councillor, James Calder, who is already marking himself out as one to watch on Fife Council and who is a very able replacement for the excellent and long serving Tony Martin who did so much for Pitcorthie, and for us, over many years.

It has been busy – 2 General Elections, 2 Referendums, a Scottish Parliament election and a full set of Council elections in just under 3 years. There has been no time to draw breath or to take stock. We managed to increase our vote share between the 2015 and 2017 General Elections (unlike the party nationally) and we put up a very creditable fight in the 2017 Council elections. However, what that showed us is that it is not possible to overcome poor poll ratings nationally with a few weeks or months campaigning – no matter how good. We now have a period of a few years before the next Scottish parliament and Council elections and we have the time to grow our membership; engage with our Communities and build our profile. We cannot elect an MP, or even an MSP, without an upturn in the national fortunes but we can contribute to that upturn and improve our position and we absolutely can get more Liberal democrat Councillors elected by using that time wisely.

During the 90’s and into the naughties a similarly placed Dunfermline local party managed to pull itself up from 4th place in the Constituency to 2nd and into a position where Willie Rennie could win his famous By-election victory. We increased our membership and we also managed to increase our number of Councillors. We have the people and the energy to do it again and I look forward playing my part in that process.

The Liberal Democrat  leader Vince Cable has reacted to the Budget yesterday, in which is was announced that Britain has sunk down the international league table for growth.

Vince Cable has said,

Today’s Budget saw the UK slip from the top of the growth league to deep into the relegation zone. Each person in Britain is set to be £687 worse off per year compared to forecasts before the election.

And as living standards are squeezed, the Government is setting aside £3.7bn to cover the cost of a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

The Chancellor found more money in the Budget to plan for Brexit than he did for our struggling NHS, schools and police.

And the Labour Party are little better and their support for Brexit makes their fantasy economics all the more unrealistic.

A Liberal Democrat budget would have looked very different today. Founded on a vision of a high-tech, high-skilled economy that is green, open and entrepreneurial.

We would invest £6bn per year in our NHS & Social Care system, paid for by a penny on income tax. And Lib Dems would kick-start the economy back to growth with productive investment of £100bn over ten years to build more homes and infrastructure for the next generation.

Today’s Budget reinforces our belief that Britain is better off in Europe. We are fighting to remain in the Single Market and the Customs Union, and to give the people a vote on the final Brexit deal.

As more facts emerge, the public must be given a chance to Exit from Brexit.

You can also read about the main budget failures here.

By Cllr. James Calder

It has been over 6 months now since I was elected as the Liberal Democrat Councillor for Dunfermline South and I have to say it has been very exciting for me. It has been enjoyable to represent the people of Dunfermline South and also to be helping to advance Liberal Values in the Council.

To recap at the election I was one of 7 Lib Dems elected to Fife Council, and the only Lib Dem elected in the West Fife area. As such, for me it has been important that I am carrying the weight of our area of Fife in the Party too.  I was also fortunate that my predecessor in Dunfermline South, Tony Martin, was an excellent Councillor, and I have been aiming to try and keep up his good work in the local area.

Within the Ward I have been working on a number of issues. As Dunfermline has been hit significantly in front-line cuts in staff for Parks, Streets and Open Spaces, I have been fighting for more funds for our Green areas and in particular for staffing, as many have asked me about this. I have also been working to improve the roads locally, and have had some notable successes, including in Fir Grove, the roundabout between Morrison Drive and Masterton Road and it now looks as though there will be resurfacing on Morrison Drive too. I am also seeking improvements to pavements, including within Pitcorthie and Abbeyview. Another issue I have been tackling recently has been Amazon lorries going through residential areas, and I am pleased to say that after discussions with Amazon they will be looking to put signage up both outside the warehouse and on the Motorway to redirect lorries away from the residential parts of town.

I would also like to add that much of these successes also depended on the help and assistance of the local Community Councils, and it has been a pleasure to have been attending them.

Outside of the wonderful job of improving Dunfermline South and Dunfermline as a whole, I have also been fortunate in being made the Fife Liberal Democrat Education spokesperson. In this role I have been taking on a number of issues. I have helped to ensure that children at Masterton Primary continue to go to school in their city of Dunfermline. I have been challenging the Council Administration on teacher numbers, and the Scottish Government on the fact that Fife receives a lower share of Scottish Attainment Challenge Funding than I believe it should be. One of my key successes was getting the Council Administration to agree into looking to make the School Uniform grant for children with lower income backgrounds higher, as in Fife we are both below the Scottish Average and the Scottish Government recommendations.

Overall it has been an exciting time, and I would like to thank the hard work of everyone else who has made this possible, including the local Liberal Democrat team. I will continue to work my hardest as a local Liberal Democrat Councillor.

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.