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Fife

Forth Road Bridge cable swinger behind bars

July 27 2016

A “distraught” dad who carried out a high-wire act on the Forth Road Bridge in the middle of the night swinging from a cable has been jailed. The bizarre antics of Darren Petrie brought all traffic on the bridge to a halt and also shut down the shipping channel in the firth below. Petrie, upset over lack of child contact issues, was up on the bridge for more than an hour in the dark last winter. He clambered up on to a suspension cable and then crossed over the central beam before swinging from a safety cable. He had initially been placed on a restriction of liberty order for nine months at the end of March but decided to remove his tag in June. Petrie, 28, of Tulloch Court, Cowdenbeath, returned for sentencing at Dunfermline Sheriff Court on Wednesday. He previously admitted that on January 22 at the Forth Road Bridge he behaved in a threatening or abusive manner. He stood on the main suspension cable of the north tower of the bridge causing all southbound traffic to be stopped. Next, Petrie crossed over the central support beam, causing all northbound traffic to be halted and the shipping channel underneath to be closed. He then took hold of a safety cable and started swinging from it. Police were called to the scene at 12.15am, the coastguard service was then alerted and it was 1.30am before Petrie came down from the bridge. Defence solicitor Stephen Morrison had previously told the court: “It appears he was distraught about a former relationship and contact with his children.” The solicitor admitted “considerable disruption” was caused. When imposing the original sentence, Sheriff Craig McSherry slammed the antics of Petrie telling him: “This incident caused huge disruption and massive inconvenience to others as a result of your selfish actions.” Sheriff McSherry was unimpressed to see Petrie back before him, saying: "I put you on a restriction of liberty order on March 30 to run until December 30. On June 4 you cut off your tag and said you thought the order was over." He jailed Petrie for six months.

Fife

Councillors advised to pass controversial St Andrews taxi rank plan

February 13 2018

Controversial plans to create a night-time taxi rank in St Andrews should be pushed through, councillors have been told. Members of Fife Council’s North East Fife Area Committee have been advised to approve the creation of a new waiting area along the length of the town’s Bell Street. Council officers have proposed the creation of the rank between 6pm and 8pm, despite objections to the proposals, claiming the plans balance the need for evening taxi provision with those of local businesses. Taxi operators first raised concerns in 2016 about a lack of space for waiting vehicles in the Bell Street rank. A review established by Fife Council was conducted, with the findings backing plans for the length of the route to become a taxi rank in the evening. In a report prepared for councillors before Wednesday’s meeting in Cupar’s County Buildings, Ken Gourlay, the region’s Head of Transportation, said: “A review of the current arrangement was commenced in May 2016 and a webpage was setup on Fife Direct to aid communication with taxi operators and to allow them to input to the review. “Various options were considered as part of the consultation exercise with the option for the whole of Bell Street becoming a taxi rank between 6pm and 8am being favoured by the majority of consultees.” However, objections to the plans were received from several sources, relating to the removal of parking spaces for the general public and issues with loading bays for local businesses. The local authority has chosen to dismiss these, claiming there remains adequate parking within walking distance on South Street, Greyfriars Garden and St Mary’s Place Mr Gourlay adds: “The proposed alterations to the taxi rank are considered necessary to meet the demand for taxi provision in the evenings and balance the needs of the daytime and night-time economies within St Andrews town centre. “The current proposal is considered to represent a reasonable balance between the needs of shoppers, retail and taxi provision.”

Fife

Cupar cheerleader heading Stateside for World Championships

September 1 2017

A Cupar teenager is heading to the home of cheerleading to show America how it should be done. Bell Baxter High pupil Emma O’Connor has been selected to represent Team Scotland in next year’s Cheerleading World Championships in Florida. The 15-year-old was selected after an arduous audition process, but having made the grade she will now head stateside to represent Scotland against the world’s best. Her mother, Siobhan, said: “When she came back from the auditions in Glasgow she told me she thought she had nailed it. “Then when she found out she came downstairs to tell me and she was buzzing with happiness.” A member of Cupar’s Diamond Allstars cheerleading squad, Emma got into the sport after taking up dancing at the age of just two. As part of Team Scotland she will begin training in September, joining up with squad members every second Sunday for gruelling four hour sessions. However, the ten day trip to the United States will not come cheap, and Emma is now looking to raise funds to help cover the costs of her American adventure. “We’re still at the excitable stage of things but we’re going to sit down and develop a plan of action,” said her mother. “I’ve already asked at Morrisons about bag packing and hopefully some local businesses can help as well.” Anybody willing to help can email Siobhan at shovey19@hotmail.com.

Fife

Police tackling Fife graffiti menace

October 8 2016

A number of youths have been apprehended in relation to spate of graffiti  incidents across Fife. Four teenagers have been traced by officers following a flurry of spray-paint incidents on the region’s streets. The problem has particularly blighted Kirkcaldy town centre, where several streets have been targeted by the vandals. PC Cameron Lee said: “For us it has been a huge issue, so much so that we were getting complaints as we were walking around the town centre, “People were approaching us constantly about it, and it was something we wanted to get sorted. “It was difficult because of the times of night they were doing it and the places they were doing it had no camera coverage.” Buildings, phone exchanges and signs have all been targeted in towns across Fife in recent months, with many of the “tags” — the term used to describe the unique symbols used by each painter — incorporating names such as “Nacho”, “Moira” and “Agnes”. Four teenagers have now been apprehended. PC Lee said many graffiti artists mistakenly think their crime is victimless. “Those that are responsible, don’t see it as much of an issue," he said. “They see it as victimless and harmless, but for those who are involved in the High Street it is not nice for people to see.” Fellow PC Mark McCulloch added: “There is a financial implication as well as obviously it needs to be cleaned up. “Visitors to the town notice graffiti and we want to keep it as visually pleasing as we can.” David Henderson, chair of Kirkcaldy West Community Council, said: “We don’t need this in our town. “It is an ugly mess and it is a big job to get rid of it.”

Fife

Police target metal thieves in Fife day of action

March 20 2017

Fife became the frontline in Scotland’s war against metal thieves. Drivers of lorries and vans were being pulled over at industrial sites throughout the region as police targeted unscrupulous scrap dealers as part of the nationwide clampdown. Officers gathered at Kirkcaldy’s Randolph Industrial Estate, along with locations in Thornton and Inverkeithing, pulling over vans and lorries and checking documentation to determine the origin of any scrap material being traded. The measures were being taken as part of Operation Scandium, led by British Transport Police and assisted by local Police Scotland officers. Backed by other government agencies, including HM Revenue and Customs and the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, it follows a spike in recent years of scrap metal theft. Though recently introduced legislation is thought to have deterred some criminals, PC Mike Greig, who was part of the initiative at Thornton, said there remained a need for targeted campaigns. He said: “These days are very useful for us. We’re working in joint partnership with the British Transport Police and targeting stolen scrap metal throughout Fife, and we’ve been looking at flatbed lorries and vans in particular today. “There has been a reduction in scrap metal theft over the last three or four years, and hopefully new rules regarding scrap metal have helped to curtail the theft of scrap further.” New laws introduced in September of last year has made it harder for scrap metal thieves to sell material to dealers. Cash transactions have been banned and all materials taken by scrap dealers must be traceable, a move hailed by the construction trade, which has been particularly blighted by theft in recent years. PC Greig said that home and business owners could take some simple steps to prevent them from becoming victims, saying: “Make sure your perimeter fences are secure. “We were speaking to a chap who had his lead acid batteries stolen and he’d had to buy a cabinet to secure them. “Also, the use of security lights are important in keeping premises safe.”

Fife

Just champion – Fife black pudding wins top title

May 10 2016

It’s a red letter day for Fife black pudding experts. For butchers Watsons of Leven have been crowned this year’s Scottish black pudding champions after winning the final judged under the leadership of Wendy Barrie of the Scottish Food Guide. As East of Scotland champions, Watson’s black pudding was mystery shopped and tested against the other regional champs from Hawick, Dingwall, Largs and Wemyss Bay. Head judge Wendy said: “Five black puddings, they were delicious puddings and it wasn’t easy to decide. “We revisited some of them, we cooked some more samples and we take it very very seriously, our black puddings. “We did get a clear winner in the end.” The deciding factor was a combination, balance with texture and taste with no one thing overwhelming anything else. “It is a culmination of factors and it has to look good so that it appeals to the consumer,” she added. Wendy said the five finalists were all very different, but all had something which was “rather appealing”. “The Watsons black pudding was a delicious exemplar of its kind and I think will sit very well on a British and world plate.”

Fife

Calls for action to tackle Kirkcaldy graffiti menace

August 27 2016

“Who is Nacho?” This is the question perplexing the people of Kirkcaldy as a graffiti menace continues to run riot through the town. Community leaders have called on artists to can their habit and stop defacing the town following a huge upsurge in illegal spray painting. Several streets have been vandalised in recent weeks, with buildings including the former Tesco supermarket and Fife College having been “tagged”. Local MSP David Torrance is among those calling for action to see the culprits brought to justice and is urging for police to utilise the town’s CCTV network. He said: “I’m extremely disappointed that this has happened. “A lot of work is done to make the town look good for visitors but all of that has been undone. “It is a problem that Kirkcaldy has never had before but the town has an extensive CCTV system so the police must be able to catch them.” Town centre buildings, phone exchanges and signs have all been targeted by graffiti artists in recent weeks , with many of the “tags” - the term used to describe the unique symbols used by each painter - incorporating names. By far the most popular of these is “Nacho”, while “Moira” and “Agnes” tags are also common sights on the town centre streets. David Henderson, the chair of Kirkcaldy West Community Council, has also been alarmed at the upsurge in graffiti. As well as encouraging town centre residents to report any suspicious activity they may see, he said that he had concerns about the wider impact that such daubings would have on people’s perceptions of the town centre. “It’s quite worrying,” he said. “The situation is beginning to look quite desperate. “The police seem to have more important things to deal with. “As the priorities get tighter the resources get smaller and something has to give.” jowatson@thecourier.co.uk.

Fife

Budget cuts will make Fife Council services “unrecognisable,” says leader

February 8 2017

Council services in Fife will be “unrecognisable” in several years if funding cuts from central government continue, it has been claimed. David Ross, the leader of Fife Council, said that the public had every right to be concerned about the impact of budget cuts on services as he outlined his administration’s spending plans ahead of next week’s budget. He confirmed that council tax is to rise by 3% across the board, in addition to the increases already imposed on high bands by the Scottish Government. However, despite further savings, Mr Ross still expects the council to be operating with a budget gap of around £41 million by 2019/20. Asked if the public should be concerned, he said: “Absolutely. “We’ve been making savings for many years, but the current year and next year have been significantly worse. “It’s predicted that will go on, and if it does then the council and council services are going to be unrecognisable in a few years time. “We think people value their local services and we will do our best to protect them. “But it will mean cuts and job losses over time.” A new efficiencies programme, Enabling Change, is to be introduced, which Mr Ross claims will save around £35 million over the next three years. Much of this is to be achieved by allowing more staff to work remotely and an increased use of online and phone services for public interaction. However, it is believed that around 279 full-time equivalent jobs could be lost over the next three years. He added that he hoped that many of these could be achieved through early retirement and said that everything would be done to avoid compulsory redundancies. Asked how difficult balancing the books had become, Mr Ross added: “It is very hard. “Part of the problem is because of the efforts we have put in, people don’t necessarily feel the cuts. “There is an element of we’re crying wolf but some services have been cut back, particularly health and social care." Impact of council tax rise Owners of larger homes will also experience a “significant impact” from increases in council tax, Mr Ross warned. He has claimed that the current system of taxation is “broken” and said that it impacts unfairly on older people or those who are asset rich yet cash poor. Mr Ross has confirmed that council tax in the region will rise by 3% from April across all bands, with those in bands E- H also to be affected by revised bandings approved by the Scottish Government. “We’ve been allowed after a ten year freeze to put council tax up by up to 3% and we’re going to do that,” he said. “If we didn’t do it, it would mean us making an extra £4.6 million in cuts. “There is our 3% across the board increase, and on top of that the Scottish Government has increased the E- H banding, which will have a significant impact on people with bigger houses. “We have no control over that, we have to implement it.” With increases from both Fife Council and the Scottish Government combined, homeowners living in band H properties can expect to pay around £600 more per year in tax. Those living in band E, the lowest affected by the Holyrood re-bandings, can expect to pay closer to £150 a year extra from April. For people living in homes in bands A to D, which will only be impacted by Fife Council’s 3% rise, costs will increase by £22 a year for those in the lowest band, rising to an extra £33 per annum for those in band D. While sympathetic to those facing increased charges, Mr Ross blamed the rise on previous Scottish Government decisions. Adding that he would like to see a new taxation system introduced, he continued: “We think the council tax system is broken. “We recognise that it has all sorts of unfair elements in it and we think a new system needs to be devised. "We recognise that not everyone in a big house is necessarily well off, particularly older people whose family have moved on, and they’re now being faced with huge increases in bills. “If for the last ten years we could have raised the council tax by 1% we wouldn’t have had this problem.”

Fife

Church bell return sparks Glenrothes musical mystery

January 18 2017

The returning sound of a church bell to central Glenrothes has sparked a musical mystery in the town. Reverend Alan Kimmitt of St Columba’s Church is leading the search for the writer of a song dedicated to the bell at the iconic building. Having stayed silent for around two decades, the bell rang out across the town once again on Sunday following an extensive refurbishment project. However, having been handed a song for the congregation to perform at the weekend’s dedication several months ago, Mr Kimmitt is appealing to readers of The Courier to help trace the person who penned the lyrics. Titled “The Vesper Bell” and sung to the tune of A Scottish Soldier, he hopes that members of the community may be able to shed some light on the mystery. “It was given to us by one of our members around six months ago,” he said. “Sadly she died and we don’t know where the song came from and we have no other leads. “The song is about the bell ringing out across the New Town. “St Columba’s used to hold prayers every evening at around 9.30pm, and the bell would ring out then. “We performed the song on Sunday, but all that we know is that it was probably written in the 1960’s.” The lyrics were handed to the church last year as preparations were made ahead of the reinstatement of its bell. Originally from a church in Ayrshire, the chime, within its distinctive 70 ft tower, had stayed silent for around 20 years before a refurbishment project allowed it to sound out once again at the weekend. Delighted to have it back in action, Mr Kimmitt added: “There has been great support from the congregation, friends of the church and other bodies, such as the Fife Environmental Trust and the Church of Scotland trustees. “We were a bit worried that the bell might wake some people up on Sunday morning but we’ve had a lot of really positive feedback. “It’s been a really uplifting project.” Anybody with information about the song can email info@st-columbas.com. The Vesper Bell Around the valley - Glenrothes valley, A sound comes o'er the air Resounding sweet and clear A bell is pealing — its music stealing A call to everyone to come and pray And as you hear its roundelay At the close of the day — come to church and pray And there-at-hush of eventide You will find peace and rest.   Come hear the story — the Gospel story Of Christ the Lord of life — who came to this world's strife He lived among men, revealing God them He died on Calvary for you and me, And He says — where there is two or three Come to worship me, there I'll surely be, Your heart’s love is the entrance fee, Come unto Me and rest.   Come now ye weary — whose life is dreary Just let your burden fall before the Lord of all The Man of Sorrows keeps life's tomorrows Safe in the hollow of His hand So as you  hear the roundelay At the close of day — come to Church and pray In the quiet hush of the eventide You will find peace and rest.

Fife

SNP expected to dominate as counting begins in Fife

June 8 2017

The SNP looked on course to continue its domination of Fife's UK Parliamentary seats as counting got underway. Nicola Sturgeon's party look likely to return at least three of its four current MP's in the Kingdom, based on early evidence from counts taking place in Glenrothes. However, the battle for the North East Fife seat looked too close to call from early indications, with the Liberal Democrats launching a strong bid to oust Stephen Gethins from his post. Despite having had two visits from his party leader in recent weeks, the Liberal Democrats are understood to have rallied their support in the constituency, with its candidate, former councillor Elizabeth Riches, said to be doing well according to early samples. It coincided with bookmakers shortening their odds for Tim Farron's party to reclaim the seat, which was once the former stronghold of Sir Menzies Campbell. Predictions from early ballot boxes also suggested a boost in support for the Conservative Party, however, current SNP MPs  are all expected to retain their seats. Douglas Chapman was expected last night to hold on to his Dunfermline and West Fife seat for SNP, but perhaps not with the majority he won it in 2015. He swept to victory with a 10,352 majority then, winning the constituency from Labour’s Thomas Docherty. As counting began he was considered a safe bet but Belinda Hacking was expected to give him a decent fight for the Conservatives. Mr Chapman said he had worked hard on his campaign but it was too early to voice confidence that it had been enough. There were also early suggestions that the Labour Party had managed to rally its numbers in its former mining strongholds, however, these were not expected to be significant enough to overturn large SNP majorities held by Mr Grant, Mr Mullin and Mr Chapman. Results for the Glenrothes, Kirkcaldy and North East Fife were being tallied at the Michael Woods Centre in Glenrothes, while the papers for Dunfermline and West Fife were being counted at Glenrothes High School. The first Fife results were expected to be announced shortly after 2am.

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