This week MSP’s returned to Holyrood from the summer recess, and it was a little earlier than in previous years.
The Summer Parliamentary recess period was shortened to allow for Parliament to sit for 3 weeks before the purdah begins for the run up to the referendum on the 18th September.
There are now less than 50 days to go until the referendum, and the countdown is well and truly on. Next month, Scotland will be asked to make the most important decision of our generation. This referendum will give us an opportunity that we may never get again; an opportunity to live in a fairer, more prosperous country. I am pleased to see so many people engaging with this debate, regardless of their particular views. As ever, if you see the Yes trailer or campaigners out and about, please do not hesitate to discuss any queries you may have about independence with them.
We often get asked as MSP’s if summer recess means we are on holiday, but for us it is the exact opposite. Recesses give me the chance to really focus on the constituency, with more opportunities to visit groups and organisations, and to attend events throughout Aberdeenshire West. This summer, I have been all over the constituency from Braemar and Ballater to Kemnay and Aboyne, and we have been spoiled so far with some brilliant sunny weather.
The last two weeks have seen two of the great annual events of the summer; Banchory Show and Aboyne Games. The weather at Banchory was fantastic and there was a great turnout. I spoke with many of the stall holders, including Home Start Deeside and the newly re-branded ‘Legion Scotland.’ Mr Q was delighted to be recognised at the Show by a young lad, Jamie, who had previously met us whilst on an educational visit to the Scottish Parliament.
Unfortunately, Aboyne Games did not benefit from the earlier good weather, but I was impressed that in spite of this it was still well attended. I was really pleased to speak with Tarland Area First Responders, as well as Children First, and to hear about some of their recent work. It was great to hear that the First Responders group are hoping to expand across Mid Deeside, and they are always on the look out of for more volunteers. If anyone is interested in becoming a First Responder, or would like to find out more about what is involved, more information can be found at their website; http://www.tarlandresponders.org/.
The Commonwealth Games was a brilliant success for Scotland, and I would like to give a huge congratulations to Team Scotland on surpassing their previous record for medals taken at any Commonwealth Games,. They finished in 4th place after winning 19 gold medals, 15 silver and 19 bronze medals. This achievement is testament to the hard work of the Team Scotland athletes, coaches and support staff and their preparation and dedication.
The support from the home crowd at sporting venues in Glasgow and Edinburgh has been second to none. The people of Scotland turned up in their thousands and have played their part in cheering Team Scotland on to personal bests and a record number of medals. Hopefully the bar has been set for future Scotland Teams, and I am sure that the amazing achievements which we have all watched will have a knock-on effect for the next generation of young Scottish athletes.
Of course, it was great to see photographs of Deeside featuring in the opening ceremony. We really do have such a fantastic countryside here in Aberdeenshire West, and it was great that whilst the world’s eyes were on Scotland, Deeside played a part and the North East could share in the limelight.
The 4th August marked 100 years since the beginning of World War 1, with a number of events held throughout Scotland, and the world, to mark the anniversary. The Queen attended a special service to mark the date at Crathie Church, and a service was also heard at Glasgow Cathedral to focus on the contribution of Commonwealth nations to the war effort. During the four year conflict, millions of lives were lost with Scotland’s losses among the highest per capita, with almost 145 000 Scots killed. The First World War changed this country forever, and we should never forget the sacrifices of those who lost their lives serving their country.