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Fife Council accused of hypocrisy over budget cuts

February 28 2018

Anti-austerity group Fife's People's Assembly has accused Fife Council of hypocrisy over budget cuts. The groups's Tam Kirby said the local authority had shown its "true colours" after it announced 190 job losses and reductions to services, including the number of educational psychologists and nursery posts. At last week's budget meeting, councillors were forced to make tough decisions faced with a cutback of £12.8 million in 2018/9. Council co-leader Councillor David Alexander said "genuine efficiency savings, not cuts" had been made. But Mr Kirby said: "Forty councillors last Thursday voted for 'the best they could do' and cut even more from services, and announced another 200 job losses. "This is sheer hypocrisy and is a clear case of political opportunism. "They are happy to stand for election telling us all that they are against austerity. They are happy to have their pictures taken when we hold demonstrations and protests. But when it comes to the crunch, they renege on their own election promises." Mr Alexander, Fife Council's SNP co-leader, said it was unlikely there was a council in Scotland which had not reduced expenditure. "When it comes to fighting austerity Fife Council has exceptional mitigation measures in place," he said. "In this budget we mainstreamed our welfare support officers who up until now have only been funded year by year. These staff members, and others, do an outstanding job in helping people through the benefit cuts quagmire imposed by Westminster. "The Scottish Government faces a £200m cutback in real terms from the Conservative Government for 2018/19 yet not one word of criticism is directed at Theresa May. We will continue to see budget reductions for the foreseeable future — in 2019/20 the reduction is expected to be £300m. "Rather than just accept these reductions the Scottish Government increased some taxes and reduced others." Mr Alexander said 70% of people would see either no change or a reduction in tax. He added: "However, the additional money from the Scottish Government and our modest council tax rise of 3% has allowed us to fund a wage increase for staff that, if accepted, for the first time in years breaks the 1% barrier. "We have to become ever more efficient and we are. "Many, if not all, of our budget reductions are genuine efficiency savings, not cuts. No job losses will be through compulsory redundancy."


Golf coach has £3,000 worth of equipment stolen

October 2 2017

A St Andrews golf coach has had £3,000 worth of clubs and equipment stolen. Tom Ogilvie, who is a teaching professional at The Duke's course, believes whoever made off with his clubs might try to sell them. He urged anyone who sees them for sale to contact police. "I've been keeping an eye out on Gumtree and eBay," he said. His golf bag, containing 14 clubs, and waterproofs were in the back of his car in Thomson Street, Dundee, when they were taken. The 22-year-old parked his car in the street, which is off the Perth Road, on Friday night and discovered the clubs were gone the next morning. The thieves managed to gain entry to his car without smashing any windows. "The value of the clubs is probably about £2,200. The irons and woods were pretty much brand new," said Mr Ogilvie, of Broughty Ferry. "On top of that, they took my waterproofs worth £800. "They were on the back seat of the car. I've got tinted windows and it's impossible to see into the back of the car." He added: "They're pretty important to me." The clubs are in a black, Titleist branded bag, which has a name tag attached. Inside the bag were clubs with black and yellow covers bearing the Duke's course logo. Police Scotland is investigating the theft.  


Glenrothes DJ reverend to audition for X Factor

December 21 2016

A Glenrothes DJ turned reverend is hoping X Factor judges will be singing from the same hymn sheet when he auditions for the show. Reverend Scott McCrum from Christ's Kirk got as far as an audition with the talent show's producers at his last attempt and is planning to try again in 2017. Rev McCrum, whose varied jobs outside the clergy include being a DJ and hair transplant consultant, said: "I had some videos online and I got quite a lot of good feedback. I sent them to X Factor for a laugh and I got called down to Manchester. "I really wasn't expecting that and wasn't prepared for it. I definitely didn't do my best so I'm going to go back next year and have another crack at it." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0QeRYr-kOs Rev McCrum was caught on camera demonstrating Psalm 23 because he records services for sheltered housing residents who are unable to make it to church. The enterprising minister, who runs a company providing light and sound systems, has also been trying to attract more young people to the church. A hall at Christ's Kirk has been kitted out with disco lights and each weekend a bouncy castle and play equipment is laid out for "Funday" school. He added: "I start every sermon with a joke to get people laughing. Usually, you get to the sermon and a lot of people drift off." But there is also a serious side to Rev McCrum's work. He set up the church's Depression and Anxiety Support Group after struggling with his own mental health. "I wanted to set up a group to serve other people who have this problem and this has proved to be something people needed," said Rev McCrum. "I chose to 'come out' about my depression when I was still a full time DJ after two 20-year-olds in one of the towns I regularly played in committed suicide within a few months of each other. "I decided that depression was actually nothing to be ashamed of and so people needed to be willing to stand up to the stigma that prevented people seeking help." Church projects were recently boosted by a visit from Fife crime writer Val McDermid. Ms McDermid spoke at the church last month, with the event helping to raise more than £2,000.


Jury in Mary Logie murder trial hears closing speeches

December 14 2016

A jury has been told the trial of the woman accused of killing Leven grandmother Mary Logie is not a popularity contest. Defence lawyer Murray Macara QC said his client Sandra Weir, who is on trial at the High Court in Edinburgh, was a drug user who had incurred debts. He described 82-year-old Mrs Logie, who was known as Rae, as someone who was "tidy" and "frugal with money". Mr Macara told the jury: "If it was a popularity contest...the defence has to concede there would be no contest. "None of this makes Sandra Weir a murderer." It was the eighth day of the trial of Weir, who is accused of murdering Mrs Logie by repeatedly striking her on the head and body with a rolling pin or similar instrument at the pensioner's home in Green Gates, Leven, on January 5. A special defence of alibi has been launched,claiming that around the time of the murder Weir was elsewhere in Leven. Mr Macara challenged a suggestion by the prosecution that Mrs Logie had been attacked twice, once before 9.20am on January 5 and again later that day. And he reminded the jury that Mrs Logie's door had been unlocked during the day. In his closing speech, prosecutor Alex Prentice QC alleged Mrs Logie had been murdered for money. "I suggest there's a motive in this case and that is simply greed. Greed for heroin, greed to purchase drugs," said the advocate depute. "She would do anything for heroin and I suggest, ladies and gentlemen, even murder." He continued: "This case is slightly unusual in the sense that the time of the event that led to death is not fixed in the evidence. "One view is Mrs Logie has been attacked prior to 9.20am and when Sandra Weir was out walking...nothing happened to Mary Logie. "Later, when Sandra Weir returned, my invitation to you is it was not simply discovery of Mary Logie but another attack." He told the jury that Mrs Logie was "dependable" and had been expected to pick up an order from a local bakery on the day she died. "She didn't turn up that Tuesday and there was no explanation," said Mr Prentice. Prosecutors dropped a number of the charges against Weir. She now faces charges which allege she stole quantities of money, two rings and a bank card belonging to Mrs Logie from her home. The offence was allegedly committed between April 1 2010 and January 5 2016. Prosecutors also amended a charge which originally claimed Weir stole £4,460 belonging to Mrs Logie. The charge now states Weir stole ‘a sum of money’ belonging to Mrs Logie. The trial before Judge Michael O'Grady QC continues.


Man denies murdering Julie McCash and David Sorrie at vigil for teenager who fell from cliffs

September 15 2017

A man accused of murdering two people at a Dundee vigil following the death of a teenager in Arbroath denies the charges and claims he was acting in self-defence, a court has heard. The alleged stabbing took place at around 5am, just hours after Ralphie Smith, 18, fell from cliffs at Arbroath, the High Court in Edinburgh was told. The prosecution and defence have agreed evidence that Julie McCash, 43, sustained a single penetrating wound to her chest, and David Sorrie, 32, sustained a wound to his abdomen, from a knife held by Robert Stratton, which resulted in their deaths. Stratton, 43, has lodged special defences of self-defence and incrimination. A friend of the woman killed during the disturbance described her frantic efforts to resuscitate her. Wendy McKinney, 44, said she found Julie McCash’s lifeless body on Drumlanrig Drive after violence broke out as friends and relatives gathered to offer comfort to Ralphie’s family on February 26. Ms McKinney and her son, Darren Wallace, both admitted they had taken cocaine earlier that day and had been drinking. Ms McKinney said Dundee hairdresser Ms McCash had a stab wound just above her stomach and was showing no signs of life. She was giving evidence at the trial of Robert Stratton who faces a string of charges including the murder of Ms McCash and David Sorrie at a house on Drumlanrig Drive on February 26. Stratton denies all the charges. The court also heard evidence from Darren Wallace, 25, who said he heard Stratton say “who started on my wife?” He said: “Julie said she didn’t start on her but she was arguing with her. “He came across and he stabbed her. I thought it was a punch, but he stabbed her.” He said Stratton’s partner Lee Kinney had earlier been “shouting abuse” at the accused. “Everyone in the house got involved,” he said. He and his mother had been at another house on Drumlanrig Drive with Ms McCash and Ralphie’s mother Nicola Duffy, among others, until 5am. Mr Wallace told defence lawyer Edward Targowski QC he had taken cocaine at this house. Mr Targowski asked: “Were other people taking cocaine?” Mr Wallace said: “Yes”. He also told Mr Targowski that, following an argument between his mother and Ms Kinney, his mother, helped by Ms McCash, had lifted Ms Kinney up and taken her out the door. He said his mother then took Ms Kinney “by the wrists” in the garden and led her to her own gate. Mr Targowski put it to the witness that “there was a large number of people, a group of people, attacking Lee”. Mr Wallace said: “I totally disagree.” The first witness called was Police Constable Kyle Stewart, who said: “It was very emotional. People were shouting, crying and wailing.” Stratton denies murdering Ms McCash by striking her on the body with a knife. He further denies running towards Mr Sorrie while brandishing two knives, attempting to strike him on the body with the weapons and pursuing him and striking him on the body with a knife, and murdering him. He also denies a charge of assaulting his partner Ms Kinney by seizing her by the throat, throwing her to the ground, seizing her by the arms and hair and repeatedly pushing her on the body, picking her up and carrying her away, all to her injury. He further denies assaulting Ms McKinney by running towards her while brandishing two knives. It is claimed he attempted to strike her on the body with the knives. He also denies possessing cocaine. The trial continues.


It’s a rap – Newport spoof filmmaker signs off with music video

April 18 2017

A BT worker from Newport has ended a series of short films about the town by busting a few rhymes. Simon Rankin said Newport-On-Tay: A Place To Rap would be the final instalment in his series of clips about his beloved home town. The 46-year-old, who made headlines after featuring in four films titled Newport-on-Tay: A Place To Be, said the departure of his main collaborator was partly behind his decision. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMnwHcSdCCE He had been working on the project with local musician Raz Ullah, who is moving to Manchester. "It might be the last one we do, so we wanted to go out with a bang," said Simon. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGv2piaeais "We just wanted to do something a bit more contemporary, to show Newport in a more contemporary light. "We're trying to spread the word further. "I've sent it to Chuck D but he's not responded yet. He might think we've rewound rap by about 20 years." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=exp3l2zRzdk Born in St Andrews, Simon lived in Leeds before moving up to Newport in 1984. He said: "When I joined Facebook about three years ago, I started to put pictures of Newport up and started writing silly comments. "My friend, Mark, suggested we film one, and we did." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ZEcpsE0YiU He added: "We've done four episodes and Christmas ones. "I suppose never say never, but I didn't really want to do it until it ran into the ground."


Mary Logie murder trial: Grandmother suffered 31 head and neck injuries as she “tried to defend herself”

December 6 2016

A paramedic told a court tragic Fife grandmother Mary Logie had "defensive injuries" which left her hands  "swollen like boxing gloves". Giving evidence on the second day of a murder trial at the High Court in Edinburgh, Alan McIntyre said he arrived at Mrs Logie's home on January 5 to find her dying on her living room floor. She had suffered blunt force trauma to her head, which the court later heard was consistent with having been hit with a rolling pin. The court also heard that Mrs Logie had suffered a total of 31 head and neck injuries. "Her hands were swollen like boxing gloves," said Mr McIntyre, 60. He added: "These are defensive injuries." He was giving evidence at the trial of Sandra Weir, 41, who is accused of murdering Mrs Logie at the pensioner’s home in Green Gates on January 5 this year. When questioned by Alex Prentice QC, for the prosecution, Mr McIntyre said Mrs Logie's injuries were "incompatible with life" and efforts to resuscitate her were futile. She was pronounced dead by Mr McIntyre at 8.51pm. The paramedic told Mr Prentice that a stain on the carpet suggested that there had been an attempt to clean up blood. He said: "I could see, like a circle of blood that looked as if it had been cleaned." Mr McIntyre said there was fresh blood on top of the stain. Forensic pathologist Ian Wilkinson was next to give evidence. In his report, he stated that Mrs Logie had sustained 31 injuries to her head and neck. She had suffered "extensive fracturing to the skull", which Dr Wilkinson said was consistent with having been hit by something with curved and straight surfaces, such as a heavy rolling pin. Mr Prentice asked the witness if the injuries could have been caused some hours before death was pronounced, and if they could have been caused close to the time of death. Dr Wilkinson said he could not rule out either scenario. Defence QC Murray Macara asked if Mrs Logie's brain had been weighed as part of the post mortem. Dr Wilkinson said the weight "might be regarded as the lower end of normal". He also said there were signs of Alzheimer's. "She had pathological features which are seen in individuals with Alzheimer's disease but to tell you how significant these were in life it would need to be correlated with her behaviour," said Dr Wilkinson. Prosecutors claim Weir, of Leven, stole from Mrs Logie on various occasions over a near six-year period. The indictment alleges she took a bank card or cards in the pensioner’s name. She is also said to have stolen greeting cards containing money, cash, two rings as well as what is described as “correspondence”. The charge states this occurred between April 2010 and the day of the alleged murder. She faces another charge of using a bank card in Mrs Logie’s name to steal a total of £4,460. A further allegation claims Weir fraudulently used a debit card to buy £314 of goods at a shop in Leven. A separate fraud charge then claims she pretended to be authorised by the Guide Dogs for the Blind charity to collect cash for them. Prosecutors also accuse her of possessing drugs and attempting to pervert the course of justice. Weir — also known as Gaughan — has lodged a special defence of alibi in connection with the murder charge. The trial before Judge Michael O'Grady QC continues.


Fife officer cleared of data protection charges

January 5 2017

A Fife policewoman who admitted using a known criminal to further her own career has been cleared of charges under the Data Protection Act. Nicole Short, 30, was found not guilty of accessing crime files and intelligence database entries relating to Dale Innes and his brother Matthew Innes while on duty at Glenrothes Police Station. The police constable's trial had been repeatedly delayed due to injuries she sustained in the incident which led to the death of Sheku Bayoh in Kirkcaldy in May 2015. Ms Short had been due to stand trial in early 2015 but was said to have sustained "significant injuries" and following psychological and neurological assessments there were doubts the hearing would ever go ahead. As the trial got underway on Thursday, the court heard that in October 2012, an intelligence briefing issued by the former Fife Constabulary referred to Matthew Innes and a notorious local drug dealer. Ms Short told defence QC Shelagh McCall her ambition was to become a detective constable and as part of a performance review she was tasked with gathering intelligence on a "level one" drug dealer. She said she met former school friend Dale Innes on three occasions after they began chatting online. She said they were not "dates" but attempts to get close to him to build a case against his brother. She said: "Quite simply I would have done anything for my job." Depute Fiscal Mr Kapadia asked her: "Is it fair to say you were using Dale Innes to further your own career?" She replied: "I suppose so." The intelligence briefing had mentioned an unknown male associated with Matthew Innes. Ms Short said: "The only thing I was focused on was finding out who this unknown male was." The depute fiscal suggested Short had gone "under cover". She answered: "Dale knew I was a police officer. He knew my name, my family. Sorry, I'm going to disagree with you there." Mr Kapadia asked why she did not pass intelligence about the man or details about the make and model of his car to police. Ms Short said she did not have the chance because she was suspended over the data protection matter and was "completely cut off". Sheriff Jamie Gilchrist QC found Short not guilty of the charge. Mr Bayoh died after being arrested and restrained by police officers. The case is currently being investigated by police watchdog, the Police Investigations & Review Commissioner (PIRC). Police Federation bosses say Short suffered "significant" injuries during the incident that led to the 31-year-old's death. She remains on sick leave.


Marchers unite for workers’ rights in Kirkcaldy

May 6 2017

Campaigners for workers' rights marched through Kirkcaldy to celebrate May Day. Organised by Fife Trades Union Council, the event was supported by Unite and GMB, as well as Fife People's Assembly and trade union members from Dundee. It was only Fife's second May Day march after the event was relaunched last year. Invited speakers at the rally included Scottish Trade Union Congress and Refuge Fife. Tom Kirby from Fife People's Assembly said the day was not about politics. However, with sweeping gains made by the Conservatives in the local elections and the general election just weeks away, some marchers said it was also about taking a stand against Tory policies. "We're starting a tradition in Fife where the working class can come together," said Mr Kirby. "This is about celebrating what unites us and not what divides us. "That's why we don't have any political speakers. We have community speakers." But John Gillespie, who chairs Unite's Fife area activist committee, said: "We can't have the right taking over the country. "It's important, with the general election coming up, that workers have a voice. "It's important that we have people in government at Westminster who will put a stop to austerity. "We can't have people going to foodbanks and suffering from benefits sanctions in this day and age. It's not acceptable." Fife Labour leader David Ross was joined by re-elected councillors including Altany Craik and Judy Hamilton. Mr Craik said: "This is about solidarity among everybody in the working community. "It's a chance for everyone in the labour movement, whatever their party, to show their support." Mr Ross said: "There is significant opposition to Tory austerity, and so-called welfare reform is having a direct effect on people in Fife. We need to demonstrate our opposition to that." Also at the event was Roger Mullin MP and David Torrance MSP of the SNP. Mr Torrance said: "This is about workers' rights and equality, and ensuring that working conditions are kept and improved. "Trade unions have played an important part in improving these conditions over the years."


Petition calling for cash to fix Fife’s unadopted roads

January 30 2018

A Conservative councillor has launched a petition to convince Fife Council’s SNP and Labour administration to allocate funds for unadopted roads. Cupar councillor Tony Miklinski wants the power-sharing authority to include £150,000 towards improving unadopted roads when it agrees its budget on February 22. However, the move to reinstate funding for unadopted roads, which was phased out in 2015, comes at a time when the council faces making savings of £29 million to balance the books. Mr Miklinski said: “Yes, the budget is very tight, but at the end of the day you have got to ask yourself where do you want to spend the money, and the answer is on keeping people safe, and that includes making sure there is salt in the grit bins and making sure roads are passable. “Ten per cent of the roads people live on are not adopted for historical reasons. It’s a challenge but the Conservatives are looking to put £150,000 back into the budget.” The petition states the six-figure sum available for unadopted roads started to be cut in 2009 and eventually disappeared in 2015. This means residents living on these stretches have to pay for carriageway improvements, including fixing potholes, themselves. Mr Miklinksi admitted that £150,000 “doesn’t go far”. Fife Council’s Labour co-leader David Ross has suggested that a council tax rise could be implemented in April to help fund local services. This rise is expected to be 3%. Mr Miklinski said the Conservatives would be opposing the increase. He added: “I don’t think there’s a politician alive who doesn’t want more money to spend. “But the way to do it is through growth and by generating more money to spend on what people want, rather than tax.” Ken Cochran, secretary of Kemback, Pitscottie and Blebo Community Council, has signed the petition. He said: “The main problem is potholes and getting them properly filled. Residents are dealing with huge potholes. “These people are paying council tax and are not getting their road maintained. “In the past Fife Council had a budget to carry out repairs but that goodwill gesture is gone. It would be nice if it was reinstated.”