18 July 2007

Acting as a Good Government Should

Since taking our place in government this May the SNP has already made its distinctive mark on Scottish politics. With the summer recess now upon us, as we look back over the last few weeks we can appreciate the many achievements secured thus far by the new SNP government. In our short time in power we have courageously delivered on our manifesto commitments despite the odds sometimes looking unfavourable. Saving the Accident and Emergency Units of the Ayr and Monklands Hospitals is but one example where the SNP remained determined to deliver on its promises in spite of the apparent obstacles.

To mention only a few successes, the SNP has lowered class sizes, abolished bridge tolls on the Forth and Tay Road Bridges and indeed the structures are now in place to replace the current unfair council tax with a more just local income tax. However at every turn the government has acted in a responsible manner and has at no point used its authority to force legislation through parliament. It is therefore living up to its commitment to bring a new style of consensual, cooperative and effective governance to Scotland and fulfilling its duty to serve the interests of the Scottish people.

Strengthening Scotland’s Voice in International Negotiations
The SNP has clearly raised the game of Scottish politics on a local level, working for people in the constituencies across Scotland, on a domestic level, in Parliament and indeed even on an international level. Since being sworn in as First Minister Alex Salmond has been actively engaging with other countries and promoting Scotland on the international stage.

This was illustrated on the First Minister’s recent visit to Brussels where he made the persuasive case for Scotland to lead the UK delegation at future EU fisheries talks. With 68% of the UK catch, one sixth of the EU’s 65,000 kilometres of coastline and the largest fishing zone of any single EU country, it is ludicrous that Scotland takes a backseat role when decisions which directly affect its fishing communities are being made. The SNP will heighten Scotland’s profile on the international arena and ensure that it plays a significant role in EU negotiations, particularly those on fisheries. No longer will Scotland be left standing in the background while its fate is being decided by other member states.

A Boost for Aberdeenshire Schools
Schools in Aberdeenshire received a major boost this week when SNP Government Minister for Children and Early Years, Adam Ingram announced that Aberdeenshire Council will receive an additional £3.5 Million in funding for schools in the area. The extra money will be invested in upgrading school grounds and buildings. This comes as very positive news for schools in Banff & Buchan as it has recently become apparent that a number of school buildings owned by the council are in need of improvement. This will also assist schools in accommodating smaller class sizes in the near future.

It is the children of the area that will to reap the benefits of this funding. Their education and wellbeing will be greatly enhanced by this investment in their school facilities. Schools are the places our children reside every day and where they are educated and prepared for their future. This is why it is vital that schools are kept in optimum condition to provide children with an environment where they can learn, develop and grow to the full of their potential. The SNP government understands this fundamental necessity and recognises that the way to truly invest in Scotland’s future is through early intervention and investment in Scotland’s youth.

4 July 2007

Power Struggles at Holyrood

Power Struggles at Holyrood
Last week saw a great battle waged between the parties at Holyrood. However, this time it was not fought out in the Debating Chamber but on a very different terrain – the tug o’ war field. Each party came out in great sport to take part in a tug o’ war event in Holyrood Park in aid of Barnardo’s Scotland. The event was sponsored by Halifax Bank of Scotland who donated £250 for every team entered to help Barnardo’s continue their vital work with vulnerable children in Scotland. The evening was a huge success, raising over £4,500 for children and young people’s support services.

I had the great honour of officially opening the worthy event which was thoroughly enjoyed by all. All kinds of people, both men and women, pulled together for the event, from MSPs and parliamentary staff to representatives from the Press and the Civil Service – indeed even Jack McConnell turned out in style dressed in sporting shorts to lend his weight to Labour’s resistance. For my part, I left it to some of my more robust colleagues to make up the SNP side. After many amusing struggles, comically commentated on by the BBC’s Brian Taylor, the brawn of the well-built Tories triumphed in the end. The SNP’s two teams put up a strong fight however, and immensely enjoyed the fun and games of the light-hearted evening. After all, it was all in the name of a bit of fun and an excellent cause. And to be fair, after winning the election in May we in the SNP can happily watch the other parties take pleasure in some sporting glory.

Celebrating Our Local Maritime Tradition

I had the pleasure last week of attending the launch of the fourteenth annual Scottish Traditional Boat Festival in our local burgh of Portsoy. The festival has one of the largest collections of traditional boats in Scotland and is always a fantastic family weekend for local people and tourists alike. Each year it pulls in thousands of visitors, greatly contributing to tourism in the area and thus the local economy. The financial impact of the festival on the vicinity was estimated last year at about £2M so it is clearly of enormous value to our region.

This year’s festivities saw a spectacular flotilla of thirty small boats arrive at Portsoy plus more than 100 historic and modern boats on display. There was far more to the festival than just boats however, with a host of amusements available to be enjoyed by all. Amongst other activities these included maritime activities, craft demonstrations, live music, dance and drama, a food fayre and a road run. The Festival works throughout the year to teach people, particularly young people, of the rich traditional culture and skills of the North East and to encourage them to participate in, appreciate and enjoy this wealth of culture that we have at our disposal. The weekend was not without ceremony either with the Earl of Wessex on the scene to launch the festivities. Indeed there was something for everyone at this festival which celebrated not only age old Scottish maritime tradition but also the many cultural attributes, old and new, of our local area of Banff & Buchan.

Stewart Stevenson
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