Breaking through the ‘glass ceiling’

07 May 2011..Dennis Robertson MSP Aberdeenshire West / Scottish National Party pictured in the garden lobby during the MSP registration session. Pic - Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament
07 May 2011..Dennis Robertson MSP Aberdeenshire West / Scottish National Party pictured in the garden lobby during the MSP registration session. Pic - Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament

As Nicola Sturgeon MSP was officially sworn in as First Minister of Scotland last week, she made changes to her Cabinet which now has a 50/50 gender split.

The gender split in the Cabinet has been widely hailed as a significant political achievement in breaking through the ‘glass ceiling’ of appointing women to key roles. The new Government team includes Shona Robison and Angela Constance in the high profile Health and Education roles, as well as Aberdeen South MSP Maureen Watt as the Minister for Public Health.

One of the new First Minister’s flagship commitments is to improve childcare provision to ensure that more women can return to work. The Scottish Government is investing £329 million over the next two years to expand childcare provision and has launched a series of adverts encouraging parents and carers to register for funded nursery places. Three and four year olds in Scotland are now entitled to 600 hours a year of funded childcare – 16 hours a week during term time, while provision is currently being expanded for disadvantaged two year olds.

Improved childcare provision can make all the difference when it comes to enabling families to work and addressing the barriers to employment that still affect too many women. The First Minister has set out the SNP’s ambition to see childcare provision expanded from 16 hours a week to 30 hours a week during the next Parliament, an expansion that will make an incredible difference to the lives and finances of thousands of families.

Locally, I have been made aware of the proposal to move Ballater Post Office, which is currently based on Netherley Place, to The Co-op on Golf Road. I understand that the Co-op would be refurbished to incorporate a bright new post office alongside a modern convenience store. The proposed change is due to take place in February of 2015. A six-week consultation process has now opened and the Post Office are welcoming input from Ballater residents; views can be expressed via the website at postofficeviews.co.uk using the code for the branch of 115801.

I would strongly encourage all constituent’s to have their say on this vital community service.

I am delighted to hear that Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) is to move from their current site at Craibstone to a new campus at Thainstone. The plans are part of SRUC’s Scotland-wide strategy of commitment to continuing education, research and advisory services to the land based industries. SRUC is planning the move because they have recognised constraints at the current Craibstone site including housing, the AWPR development. The Thainstone site will create a great opportunity for the SRUC to establish an agricultural, forestry and land based third sector teaching facility in the heart of Aberdeenshire’s agricultural community. The North East of Scotland already has a tremendous rural tradition on show at Thainstone mart and I am confident that having the SRUC based there will be ideal for the industry as a whole.

The South West Aberdeenshire Citizens Advice Bureau, which is based in Westhill, has recently received funding to continue to provide outreach support in various areas such as Ballater, Braemar, Strathdon and Tarland.Appointments can be booked by calling 01224 74 77 14.

This year, the Citizens Advice Bureau celebrates their 75th anniversary in Scotland; the first bureaux were set up in September 1939 as an emergency response to the outbreak of World War Two and, 75 years later, they have evolved into an everyday part of community life. However, they are as valued and as depended upon as much as ever. Whether you have concerns about your debts, child care, custody arrangements or consumer issues, the Citizen’s Advice Bureau are a fantastic source of support and information.

Finally, I would like to express my congratulations and welcome to the newly appointed chief executive of Aberdeenshire Council, Jim Savege, who will take over the role from Colin Mackenzie in February 2015, and has extensive experience.