Holyrood Happenings by Dennis Robertson: Spring is a time to reap what’s sown

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As the clocks saw us Spring forward last weekend, the light nights begin to give us some relief from the darkness of winter.

March 30 marked the official start of the General Election campaign and we will see the battle for the seat in West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine intensify in the six weeks or so that are left until polling day on May 7.

I attended SNP Conference in Glasgow last weekend and it was the largest ever, with 3000 people attending. The conference was held at the SECC and it was 150 per cent bigger than the party’s last conference in Perth just four months ago.

Party membership has quadrupled in just six months. On Referendum day membership stood at around 25,000 - it now stands at over 100,000, making the SNP the third largest political party in the UK.

The SNP has won back to back elections to the Scottish Parliament - back to back election to the European Parliament and the SNP is the largest party in Scottish local government. In just a few weeks time, the SNP can become the largest party in the Westminster elections in Scotland. More SNP seats means more influence and power for the people of Scotland. We will play a constructive role in Westminster and bring our ideas forward in a positive spirit. We will offer a real alternative to the drab Tory-Labour cuts consensus. It is time for a more responsible economic policy, one which boosts long term growth and creates jobs.

We will invest in childcare and vital public services, not waste a £100 billion on new nuclear weapons. We will make sure Scotland’s NHS is always cared for - the budget protected and its future secure in public hands. We will keep Westminster parties to their promise of more powers for Scotland.

As ever, work in Parliament has been busy, varied and interesting.

The week of March 17 was Brain Awareness Week, and I sponsored the Neurological Alliance of Scotland’s exhibit and hosted a reception called ‘Any Age, Many Lives’. The event brought together people with a range of neurological conditions, with the youngest participant aged just 2 years old. The reception featured individual case studies and highlighted the importance of lifelong person-centred care and support. It also gave MSPs the opportunity to speak directly to individuals in Scotland affected by neurological conditions and to hear about the issues that matter to them.

In Scotland, one million people live with a neurological condition that affects their daily life. Neurological conditions account for one in five emergency hospital admissions and one in eight GP consultations. A quarter of all disabled adults of working age have a neurological condition and the numbers of people with neurological conditions will grow sharply in the next two decades.

We regularly welcome schools to Parliament and we were recently joined by some primary six and seven pupils from Kinellar School in Blackburn. As usual all the children loved meeting with Mr Q, they also asked some very thoughtful questions about what it’s like to work at Parliament and I was more than happy to answer.

I spoke in the Health Committee Debate on Health Inequalities regarding the integration of health and social care. My colleagues all presented very important points; for my piece, I spoke about the importance of free or low-cost preventative screenings being vital to lowering future healthcare costs.

Aberdeenshire’s Proposed Local Development Plan is available for public comment until the 8th of May and Aberdeenshire Council are seeking your views. The plan represents the “settled view” of Aberdeenshire Council and identifies sites for development and the policies to be used when making decisions on planning applications. There will be a series of drop-in events, where communities can come along to speak to planners and find out more about future development in their area. I note that there will be a drop in session at Banchory Town Hall on April 28 from 1-7pm. Further information is available on Aberdeenshire Council’s website.

I am delighted to hear that the Charity Shop in Bridge Street in Banchory has been redecorated and encourage constituents to pop in to look at the great clothing, books, shoes and bric-a-brac for sale. It is the only charity shop in Banchory where the money made goes directly back into the local Aberdeenshire community via Aberdeenshire Voluntary Action. The shop is open 10am - 4pm from Monday - Saturday.