19 January 2012

Stewart's Rio+20 Green Dream

Stewart Stevenson is the Scottish Government's Environment & Climate Change Minister. He is working to ensure that Scotland is a world leader when it comes to taking positive action to reduce the impact of climate change, and he hopes people will be inspired by the green dreams of others to make changes in their lives.

This is his contribution to the Green Dream website set up in advance of the Rio+20 Climate Conference which will take place in Brazil in June 2012.

10 January 2012

Supporting Scotland's Creativity

The celebrations the length and breadth of Scotland which marked the passing of 2011 and the beginning of 2012 are something which will have been enjoyed by many thousands of people from all over the world. Scotland has a well deserved reputation of being able to mark such occasions in style, but Hogmanay is just one of the many key dates on Scotland's cultural calendar in a cultural year that will be even more packed than usual.

With the new year upon us, the Year of Creative Scotland has begun which will showcase the best of Scotland's rich culture and creative heritage. Yet for Scotland’s cultural sector to truly thrive, it needs to be fully nurtured and supported.

One of the early actions taken when the SNP Government was first elected in 2007 was to phase in the abolition or substantial reduction of business rates for small businesses. Such enterprises are the lifeblood of Scotland's economy and by reducing the burden of taxation that they have faced, the Scottish Government's actions have enabled many to survive the current economic difficulties where otherwise they would not have.

That support in the form of reduced rates bills has been particularly important to the tourism and culture sectors, with 57% of such premises in Scotland paying no or reduced rates in the current financial year. That boost to both our tourist and culture sectors will enable more people to visit Scotland with the economic benefits that such visitors bring with them.

Promoting our cultural sector and tourist industry in this way is an essential part of drawing in visitors to Scotland and helping our country weather the economic storm. Attracting tourists to Scotland has never been more important and this Year of Creative Scotland gives us a fantastic opportunity to do so. I am looking forward to the many events and attractions that will take place across Scotland over the course of the year, and in particular to those in Banffshire & Buchan Coast.

Past and present failures

The closing months of last year saw the hopes of jobs and investment through the development of carbon capture and storage technology in Peterhead raised and then severely undermined by the UK Government. Their decision to reallocate the bulk of funding that was to be available to develop this technology until the next parliamentary term is a deeply disappointing one and comes on the back of a previous project to develop CCS technology at Peterhead Power Station collapse in 2007, again as a result of the Westminster Government.

Yet such failings when it comes to creating jobs and boosting the economy of Peterhead are not a new thing, as papers from the 1980s recently released under the 30 year rule have made clear. It has come to light that in 1981, Margaret Thatcher vetoed plans for a £1.5 billion oil pipeline that would have created 15,000 jobs in Peterhead and Nigg.

Whether it is repeated let-downs over developing Carbon Capture technology at Peterhead Power Station today, or decisions not to see massive numbers of new jobs created 30 years ago, the UK Government has a long legacy of neglect when it comes to Peterhead and the wider region. Jobs on this scale would have benefited not just Peterhead itself, but households and businesses across all of Banffshire & Buchan Coast.

The repeated and infuriating failings on the part of Westminster are the clearest possible demonstration, if any more were needed, that we need the power to make these decisions ourselves in Scotland before any more opportunities are allowed to slip away.

Stewart Stevenson
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