Letters to the Editor

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politics

Picking fights with Westminster

Madam,- Before the ink was dry on local newspapers (P&J Tuesday 23rd June) and before Alex Neil had set a muddy foot in Westhill, he had already put the boot in to Westminster twice.

The Secretary for Social Justice and Communities unveiled plans for more affordable homes across the north-east, visiting Westfield at Broadshade, Westhill where Aberdeenshire Council, not because of the Scottish Government’s housing strategy, but in spite of it, is providing 30 new “real” council homes as well as mid-market rental properties.

Alex states that “efforts to meet demand for low-cost housing has been hampered by budget decisions at Westminster.”

Housing is a matter devolved to Scotland and the responsibility lies with Holyrood ministers to prioritise.

Further, before he embarked on his tour as part of a nationwide consultation aimed at reducing inequality, Alex Neil had already been having a conversation with himself about a “poverty time-bomb” because of Westminster cut-backs.

I was privileged to be part of the real conversation which took part after the press release had been sent out. Granted, there were concerns raised about benefit cuts and how to access information.

I was grateful to be able to highlight the concerns of many in-work residents and would-be tenants about the inequality facing people in Scotland over the lack of affordable housing due to housing grants to councils and housing providers being slashed by the Scottish Government some years ago; an act of folly from which smaller registered social landlords won’t recover from, if indeed they are still around.

Others raised the issue of the council tax freeze preventing councils being able to offer services to the most vulnerable; the removal of local accountability of police and fire, the removal of decision-making of local authorities, money spent on free prescriptions and cuts to further education were all cited as barriers to equality.

Alex took all of these suggestions on the chin, making no promises, as he quoted in this paper “because we don’t know how much money we will have”.

We should remember this last quote in 2016 when we get sight of the SNP’s manifesto for the next five years. Will the priorities highlighted by you and I over the next few months via these public conversations be their priorities or will their obsession to pick any fight with Westminster continue to be the real barrier to a more equal Scotland?

Yours etc

Iris Walker

Councillor for Westhill and District

big brother

Scaremongering tactics

Madam- Parents please pay attention.

You are about to be invaded by BIG BROTHER

This was the underlying message of the presentation at a NO2NP meeting in East Kilbride on Monday night.

No this is not a joke. An Act of Parliament from Holyrood has entered your everyday life as parents without you knowing it.

Your parental rights have just been invaded by a plethora of buzz words like Named Persons, GIRFEC, SHANARRI, My World Triangle, Cycle of Change etc - and no, these are not pop groups!!!!

Your child’s reports from school will all be based around the SHANARRI framework and it is so easy to fall foul of one of these “indicators”: is your child always Safe, Healthy, Achieving, Nurtured, Active, Respected, Responsible and Included?

If not, you as parents could very easily get referred to “other agencies” - no scaremongering, it’s true.

This is all to do with the wellbeing (not welfare) of your children and it seems you do not have any rights to oppose this scheme.

Your child will have a named person, who will undermine your rights as a parent and determine whether your child is being given the “correct” parenting.

This Act has been brought into being without adequate public consultation of parents by Holyrood (how many of you knew about that consultation in 2013?

I never heard about it on the news) and it was not even in the SNP’s 2011 Manifesto. George Orwell could have written this.

Make no mistake: your child’s education, home life, weekend activities and the way you look after them are ALL going to be scrutinised by the state.

You will have no say in how your child’s life from birth to 18 years of age will be managed, if you disagree with the named person’s views.

Your child will have constant monitoring and assessment throughout this time frame and your capacity to secure their wellbeing will constantly be under state scrutiny..

Yes, if you are deemed to be getting in the way of your child’s wellbeing, you are deemed to be a bad parent—you just could not make this up.

I ask that you contact your local Councillor, MP, and MSPs and reject this Act, which will come into full force in August 2016 – it has to be stopped now. You can also sign a national petition against the scheme, which you will find at no2np.org.

Yours etc.,

Boyd JR Park

address supplied

Road accidents

Operation Zenith

Madam- It is sad to notice that the local newspapers are having to report on the tragic and often fatal accidents to Motorcyclists.

I live in one of the rural villages on the South Deeside Road and we see them most weekends as they ride past our houses at speeds well in excess of the legal limits, even within restricted zones.

However, there are also very many riders who one can watch with envy as they ride safely by enjoying a day out on their Motor bike.

Operation Zenith is a remarkable project in that is seeks to promote the safety of these road users who seem determined to put themselves and innocent others at risk with their dangerous and illegal driving habits.

Last year we invited the Police to use our property to monitor and record them but needless to say the offer was declined.

It would be very reasonable to suggest that in some accidents it was the fault of the car driver, but it must also reflect that the excessive speed of the Motorcyclist might have not only have prevented the accident, but also the severity of the result.

Yours etc.,

Name supplied

Overhanging hedges

A Request

Madam- Can I once again through “The Piper”, ask people to consider the responsibility they have to others by keeping their hedges and other vegetation under control. On an annual basis, my colleagues and I are approached by constituents as they try to walk along paths and streets in our town.

In particular this affects carers with prams, wheelchair users, sight-impaired folk, tall people, who all have to get around these obstacles, sometimes having to walk on the road.

This is not a deliberate act but the growth is something which nature supports with lots of rain and some heat, encouraging the lovely vegetation to grow.

Unfortunately this makes for difficulties as aforementioned.

So please folks, can we look at the hanging overgrowth around our houses and ensure it’s not getting in the way of anybody passing.

Yours etc.,

Linda Clark,

Councillor for Banchory and Mid Deeside

via email

Community concerns

Closure of Alford Branch of Royal Bank of Scotland

Madam- Donside Community Council are extremely concerned about the planned closure of the Alford Branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland. The Alford Branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland is the only one within the valley of Donside.

The Donside Community Council area measures 530 sq miles and stretches from Corgarff and Strathdon over to Lumsden, down past Alford to Tillyfourie. It is the largest geographical area covered by a Community Council within Aberdeenshire and as such we represent a vast area.

Alford is a main country town which is the hub of the area where people come to do their shopping, banking, medical needs etc. Alford also has many diverse businesses, internationally recognised visitor attractions and a wide range of community facilities. A new community school campus incorporating nursery, primary and secondary schools (combined role of approximately 935) and community facilities is due to open in October 2015. Local businesses work hard to retain existing customers and to encourage more visitors to the Alford area. The population of Alford and the surrounding area has grown significantly over the last few years and there are several active housing developments in the area. Throughout the Donside Community Council area there is an active and fluid business community which is dependant on local reliable banking facilities.

Alford and the surrounding communities have a large elderly population which relies heavily on locally delivered services, and access to personal banking is definitely seen as an essential service. People from throughout our area travel a great distance to come to Alford for shopping, banking, doctor and pharmacy services, social interaction etc.

Tourism is an important aspect to the life of our country town and having banking facilities is a necessity. Alford is indeed the “Gateway to the Cairngorms National Park”, which is very important to the area for skiing, walking and outdoor activities.

In June 2014 the Alford Branch of the Clydesdale Bank closed its doors, thus depriving the thriving community of an essential service and now with the planned closure of the RBS Branch this is devastating news for the whole community. Indeed, The Royal Bank of Scotland made pledges to customers who moved from the Clydesdale Bank to the RBS at the time. As stated earlier, the Alford Branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland is the only one within the valley of Donside.

A great number of elderly people in the community do not have access to online banking. Also elderly people like to communicate face-to-face when conducting personal business. Some local residents already travel approximately 20 miles to get to Alford and then will have to travel another 19 miles from Alford to access banking facilities. Not everyone in the area has access to their own car and has to make use of Public Transport. In this part of the world it is very difficult to get around by bus and the service provided is not reliable, and the routes served do not make it easy to make a journey to banks in Westhill or Inverurie - it could take a whole day to travel from Strathdon to Westhill and get back home again.

The Night Safe facility is essential to help local businesses ensure the safety and security of their cash income. Many businesses in the village do not accept card payments and these businesses need reliable access to “cash change”.

In conclusion it can be seen that the Royal Bank of Scotland is a much valued and needed service in the community and we would urge RBS to reconsider plans to close the Alford Branch.

Yours etc.,

Donside Community Council

via email