Holyrood Happenings by Dennis Robertson MSP: We won’t just serve Scotland

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I was delighted to learn of the Scottish Government’s increase in funding to Aberdeenshire Council as a further demonstration of the SNP’s commitment to the area.

This funding boost will be welcomed by people across Aberdeenshire West. The Local Government Finance Order, agreed by Parliament on Thursday, delivers an additional £107m to local government in Scotland – and shows that the budget allocated to Aberdeenshire Council has risen from £406.050 in 2014/15 to £414.723million in 2015/16.

The SNP in Government is providing a fair deal for local government and is delivering on key policies benefiting local people – from the council tax freeze which is protecting family budgets during tough economic times, to free school meals for P1 to P3 children, which will give our youngest pupils the best possible start in life.

I understand that Mid Deeside officially opened the first Public Access Defibrillator (PAD) recently in Aboyne. The Bellwood Area Residents Association (BARA) applied for grant assistance with the installation of a defibrillator and were successful, thanks to the effort of local groups. I note also that special thanks should be given to Roberta Milne, whose generous donation made the installation of the defibrillator possible.

A meeting will take place on Tuesday, March 24, for those interested in finding out information about siting defibrillators in their area; it will be hosted at the Aboyne Community Centre Coffee Bar. For more information please contact Barry Hauxwell at Barry.Hauxwell@wanadoo.fr.

Constituents should note that Aberdeenshire Council’s yearly inspection programme will see seven bridges in Marr subject to temporary closures this month to allow for routine inspection and engineering works. The works involve the use of specialist under bridge access equipment, and further details of closures can be found on Aberdeenshire Council’s website.

The Chancellors Statement will have been published by the time this goes to print, we will hear the final UK Government budget of this Westminster Parliament. The First Minister spoke at the London School of Economics last week, and highlighted the lack of consultation and impact assessment which characterises UK budget decision-making. She also argued that, in recent years, this has led to decisions which have harmed our most vulnerable citizens and damaged jobs and growth.

This UK Government’s cuts have had the biggest impact on those on the lowest incomes. Many measures have also hit disabled people hard. In Scotland, 80% of the households who would have been affected by the bedroom tax, but for our action to mitigate it, included a disabled person. The House of Commons Library found last year that the Coalition’s tax and benefit changes have affected women almost four times more than men.

The Scottish Government asked the UK Government to take steps in this budget to encourage investment, in an effort to reverse the mistakes it made four years ago, and to announce a significant increase in the work allowance to help ensure that those in work have a better chance of lifting themselves and their families out of poverty.

By offering an alternative to the austerity agenda, we can ensure that fiscal consolidation is consistent with a wider vision of society - a society which strives to become more equal, as part of becoming more prosperous and fiscally sustainable.

Nicola also highlighted a fundamental difference between Westminster and the Scottish Parliament: transparency. During the referendum campaign, we were in Scotland repeatedly told by the Westminster politicians that Scotland was an equal and valued member of the United Kingdom - that, contrary to how many of us feel, our voice did matter within the Westminster system. So don’t be at all surprised, if the SNP, the Scottish Government - indeed Scotland as a whole - now starts to take those Westminster politicians at their word.

We have now less than seven weeks until we nominate our MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine. If we the SNP get the opportunity, we intend to be a constructive voice in the months and years ahead. We won’t just serve Scotland’s interests, we will also seek to play our part in bringing about positive, long-lasting and progressive change right across the UK.

I visited Alford Community Campus... which I’m confident will be a great asset to Alford and the surrounding community.