Jenny Marra MSP stands up for Dundee in City Strategy debate

Speech in the Scottish Parliament

19 January 2012

Presiding Officer,

I rise to make the case for the City of Dundee.

The Deputy First Minister will be aware of some of the current initiatives in Dundee but let me briefly re-cap.

The V&A is due to be built by 2015 and already the surrounding streets like Union Street – the main old thoroughfare down to the Dock boasts new businesses and an air of prosperity. Private fundraising is well underway.

We wait, with baited breath for an announcement of renewables jobs.

Our port is ready, we have a trained workforce, we have new build for suppliers.

The Government’s agreement with Gamesa fell through, but we are pinning hopes on the latest Memorandum of Understanding that the First Minister signed with Scottish and Southern Energy before Christmas.

We hope this will yield jobs by Easter.

But this isn’t enough.

So Labour in Dundee has been busy campaigning on other initiatives to bring deserved prosperity and opportunity to our City.

This Christmas, I announced our campaign to bring the El Sistema Big Noise project that runs successfully in Stirling’s Raploch to Dundee. Backed by local musicians like Ged Grimes from Simple Minds, and entrepreneur Chris van der Kuyl from the Smith Group, we think that Dundee children would benefit enormously from the rise in concentration, attainment, confidence and optimism that El Sistema brings.

It is perhaps even more necessary now that SNP’s Dundee City Council is taking £3.5 million out of this year’s education budget targeting music and PE teachers.

This is on top of the £4.5 million cut to Dundee’s schools that the SNP made last year when we were told by the Nationalist Education Convenor that it would make "education in Dundee better".

This year the SNP is telling Primary 4 children that they can’t start learning to play a musical instrument now, but they can wait ‘til Primary 5.

Perhaps this is delayed preventative spend.

But I know the Government will agree with me that El Sistema is a perfect example of preventative spend, and this is one of my suggestions for the City Strategy allocation of money for Dundee.

Yesterday I wrote to Dundee City Council asking them to "Go Dutch".

In Holland, local authorities are bulk buying energy on behalf of their local residents. Ed Miliband changed the law as Climate Change Secretary that allows local communities to collectively bargain for their energy.

Local authorities in Manchester are already taking this forward with Government agency – The Energy Savings Trust.

I have asked Dundee City Council this week to set up such a scheme that would see Dundee’s 14,000 Council tenancies fuel bills fall by 20%.

That’s a Government action that people would like.

And I ask the Deputy First Minister to consider similar schemes for all Scottish cities in her strategy.

It is a project of low cost, high results that the Scottish people would thank her for.

Over 2,000 Dundonians have now signed up to my campaign to bring the National Football Academy to Dundee.

Dundee is ideally placed in the centre of Scotland, is accessible for elite athletes from all parts of the country coming to train, and is the only major city in Scotland without an indoor football academy.

The Deputy First Minister’s colleagues on Dundee City Council have backed Labour’s campaign and have pulled together a working group to put together our bid.

We expected an announcement from the Sports Minister on the bidding process before Christmas but we are sure that it will come soon.

For years, visitors and commuters who use the trains in and out of Dundee have been baffled by how expensive it is.

It is cheaper to buy a single ticket from Dundee to Perth and another from Perth to Glasgow than it is to buy a direct ticket.

That is because Dundee falls outwith the subsidised zone, which is designed to boost local economies and encourage business.

I ask the Deputy First Minister, as part of the strategy and at no cost, to liaise with ScotRail and Transport Scotland to consider whether Dundee can be included in the subsidised zone.

Last, but by no means least, the Dundee’s Labour group leader and I have jointly called for a high-level jobs task force for Dundee.

The group, which should be chaired by a prominent local business person should pull together all initiatives and resources that we have to make the case for jobs in Dundee to companies nationally and internationally.

Dundee’s allocation of the City Strategy money could go towards levering in investment, whether that takes the form of bolstering our economic development department, or seed funding the jobs task force, we look forward to hearing the Government’s proposals.

 

 

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