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7 November 2017

Chefs for the North East

After two weeks of recess, the Scottish Parliament was in full swing this week with debates on farming and convergence payments, Brexit and the return of First Minister’s Questions.

It is clear the growing concern about our exit from the European Union on industries including farming and fishing are going to continue. I was pleased to take part in the debate about convergence payments and express fears about how Scottish farmers are going to be treated by the UK Government once a deal on Brexit is finally agreed.

During the recess period from the Scottish Parliament it became clear that newly-elected MP Douglas Ross would have to make a decision on his job as a parliamentarian and as a football referee. He failed to appear at a crucial debate on Universal Credit last week and chose instead to help referee a Champions League fixture in Barcelona.

After public pressure, he confirmed he would not be accepting refereeing appointments while parliament is still sitting – but still intends to referee fixtures at the weekend. Mr Ross should honour his commitment and properly fulfil his duties as the constituency member of parliament for Moray. His decision is an overdue but welcome first step but it is still not good enough.

Parliamentary duties, as any politician knows, don’t stop as soon as you leave Westminster or Holyrood. The work that we do in our constituency is as, if not more important. Mr Ross should be concentrating on his first job of representing his constituents not his second job of running the line. Until then, he is short-changing the people who elected him.

Meanwhile, I was delighted to hear of plans by Opportunity North East (ONE) to make the North-East a gastro go-to region recently. The chief executive of the body set up in the wake of the oil price crash, Jennifer Craw, said the organisation hoped to attract celebrity chefs like Heston Blumenthal and Nigella Lawson to come to the area and cook with our produce in events which could run throughout the course of a week.

The message was simply one of trying to find a way to tell the story of the North-East through the food and drink we have to offer. From how we land fish, to how we supply beef. Inspiration for this is being taken from the Australian Margaret River Festival and is all part of the bid to turn the area into a leisure destination. It was clear from Ms Craw’s interview on the matter that the focus is a bid to move from business trade to leisure. Of course we get many visitors from all over the world to see our historic castles and other tourist hotspots.

Stewart Stevenson
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