16 April 2019

Transports of Delight

Rural Bus Services

I was extremely pleased that Aberdeenshire Council has agreed to maintain the supported bus service to Gardenstown.on Saturdays.

A significant number of constituents have been in touch with me since the Council mooted withdrawing the service last year, and, following on from my own representations with the Council, these concerns have been taken on board, with funding found to keep the service running.

The success of this campaign is testimony to the strength of feeling in the village, which is, itself, a major tourist attraction in the North-east - at least partially on the basis of its scenic location. The continued Saturday service is not only good for local businesses, who depend on these visitors. It's good for those who don't, or no longer have, access to private transport.

I was discussing the issue with a former constituent last week, who, is now eligible for the free bus pass the Scottish Government provides for all Senior Citizens. I was delighted to learn that she is taking full advantage of the facility, with weekend trips across Scotland, on expeditions which she may not previously have countenanced, whether for cost or logistical reasons.

While the lady in question is a sprightly 63-year old, the real beneficiaries of this facility are those who are not, perhaps, as mobile as they once were, and can find it difficult leaving their village or even their home. This isolation, particularly notable in rural areas, has significant negative health impacts on our older folk - both physical, and mental. Everyone benefits when our Senior Citizens feel able, to travel - whether that's for recreation, shopping, or to see far-flung family members.

It's for that reason that I will continue to defend rural bus routes in the constituency vigorously - not only as economic lifelines for our local businesses, but as literal lifelines for our older folk. It's also why I would urge all my constituents above the age of 60 to apply, and get the use of, for their free bus pass.

Broadband Connectivity

On a broadly similar topic, another of the most frequently raised issues in the constituency remains its broadband provision.

While this is - theoretically - a reserved issue for the UK Government, we all know that if left in those hands, we would be waiting forever for decent broadband connectivity in our rural areas. For that reason, the Scottish Government has committed £579 million of its own money - thus far - to facilitate 100% Superfast broadband coverage across Scotland by 2021. To date, no other part of the UK has made such a commitment.

Much good work has already been done in the constituency since Holyrood made this commitment in 2017, though there remain a number of blackspots which, for geographical reasons, do not have adequate coverage. The coming two years, however, should see some of those blackspots begin to be tackled - with all the tangible benefits that provides to families and businesses in the North east.

Stewart Stevenson
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