Welcome to the first in a new weekly email from me to update you on the work I have being doing on your behalf, both in Parliament and in the Constituency. I hope this will give you an insight into the goings on in the corridors of Westminster, as well as the local work I do here in West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine.
I challenge anyone not to have been buoyed by the news last week that a significant breakthrough has been made in the efforts to develop a vaccine for Covid 19. Now, whilst the Government are determined to roll this, and other vaccines, as soon as we can safely do so, and no one can deny that the Pfizer and BioNTech news is great news, we must all still abide closely to the rules and regulations both of Scotland’s Government’s have put in place to protect public health.
Of course I and others recognise the huge impact, on society and the economy that these restrictions have, but, in following the rules now, in doing our bit for just a little longer, we will ensure that we can bounce back quicker when we do get mass testing in place, roll out the vaccine and beat this virus.
I for one cannot wait until we can rid ourselves of these masks, hug loved ones again, get to Pittodrie and enjoy a pint in a pub without pre-ordering or having to eat a ‘substantial meal’. Those days are returning. Soon. But for now- it’s still hands, face space and zoom quizzes with family (which of course have the bonus of a mute button for annoying relatives!)
The Brexit talks continue apace. I still, passionately, believe that a deal is in Britain and especially Scotland’s best interests. However, it cannot be a deal at any cost. We must have powers over state aid and we must have control of our fisheries. Our claims to be an independent, sovereign state would have no credibility if we did not control our own waters or have the levers at our disposal to promote and support British businesses. So, we must be prepared to walk away if that is what it takes.
In saying that, whatever the result of the talks, and I fervently want them to succeed, I know this country will thrive. And I want to see an independent Britain being the closest partner to, greatest ally of and most steadfast champion of our European friends in the decades ahead. It is in all our interests for British and European efforts on climate change, facing Russian aggression, promoting democracy and human rights around the world to be aligned. I look forward to doing my small bit in that regard as Chairman of the APPG for Sweden. Indeed, my wife and I had lunch with the Swedish Ambassador and his wife last month to discuss how better to bring our two nations together. Sweden has always been a friend of Britain within the EU, and there is no reason that relationship shouldn’t flourish and grow in the post Brexit age.
Locally, I had a mini surgery tour in the mini recess in October. It was so good to be able to get out and about and meet constituents. Our new ‘outdoor’ surgeries will continue to be the basis of how we do surgeries I think- not least because it gives anyone passing the opportunity to stop and chat to me and raise any issues they might have.
I continue to press the Council, Scottish Water and Stewart Milne to take action to avoid further flooding in Stonehaven, as we saw in the summer. I’m afraid the responses we have had so far are far below what the people of Stonehaven deserve.
Remembrance was very different this year, but I was delighted to be able to join a small gathering at Skene Church to pay tribute to all of the fallen, and remember all those who have served our country, from across West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine. Thank you to all of you who took time to mark this incredibly important and poignant day in different ways this year.
Places for People in Banchory and Stonehaven continues to be an issue and I have called for the council to have the bollards and restrictions removed. It is not only bad for business or damaging the aesthetic of the towns, but also seriously restricts the ability for those with limited mobility to get to shops, cafes etc and so I still harbour hope that as we move forward, the council will relent and remove these needless barriers from our town centres.
Lastly, a word on bridges. We have, right now, a situation in West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, where bridges are, literally, falling down due to a lack of maintenance over the past few decades. At Abbeyton, Oatyhill, Park and Invercauld, bridges have either been closed, demolished or had restrictions placed on them. I have been working with local community groups, businesses and organisations to make representations to the Scottish Government and UK Government for more funding and a recognition that just because we live in rural Scotland, our issues are just as important as those in the central belt. Indeed, in terms of connectivity, I have argued, that the loss of a bridge in the Mearns or Deeside actually has much more of an impact on communities than the equivalent in Glasgow or the West. We should not be forgotten or passed over simply because we live in the North East.
I remain hopeful that the Scottish Government will realise this and release the funds that should enable the council to invest in our essential infrastructure. But if not, the UK Internal Market Bill , which is currently going trough Parliament, will enable the UK Government to spend on specific projects in Scotland for the first time since devolution so there may be another avenue through which we may get the money we need to keep the north east connected.
Anyway, I hope this finds you all as well as can be expected at this difficult time and I hope that this gives you some insight into the work that I am doing on your behalf.
I look forward to emailing again next week with more news and updates on the things I’ve been working on.