Aberdeen DONSIDE

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  ABERDEEN DONSIDE CONSTITUENCY (Scottish Parliament)

                                                                          

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MARK McDONALD MSP

Born in Inverurie and raised in Dyce, Mark McDonald was elected as MSP for ABERDEEN DONSIDE in a by-election held on 20 June 2013.  Re-elected on 5 May 2016, with a majority of 11,630.

Educated at Dyce Academy, the Univ. of Dundee (MA in Politics) and Univ. of Aberdeen (MLitt in Strategic Studies), and worked as a personal assistant to three SNP MSPs in 2003-11.  Aberdeen City Councillor for Dyce, Bucksburn & Danestone 2007-12.

Regional List MSP for the North-East from 5 May 2011 to 14 May 2013. 

Minister for Childcare & Early Years from May 2016. Formerly a member of the Devolution (Further Powers) and Finance Parliamentary Committees.  Lives at Dyce with his wife and two children.

 

               

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Contact MARK McDONALD at his CONSTITUENCY OFFICE:                                                   

Unit 12, Mastrick Shopping Centre,                                                                                                                   Greenfern Place, Aberdeen, AB16 5PY.                                                                                                                     

Tel.:  01224 789457.  

Office hours:  Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 4.30pm.

Constituent appointments and meetings are available on Mondays and Fridays during the Parliamentary term, and at other times when it is in recess.

E-mail:   mark.mcdonald.msp@parliament.scot                          

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  Mark on the MOVE

Major redevelopments at the Haudagain junction will entail a relocation of the Aberdeen Donside constituency office of Mark McDonald MSP.

The office, at 825-27 Great Northern Road, closed on March 13. It had been a key hub of the SNP for a number of years, having originally been the long-time HQ of the late Brian Adam MSP. In June 2013, it was the base for a hard-fought by-election, when activists from all over the country came to help Mark McDonald succeed Brian as the Member for Aberdeen Donside.

Picture:  Unit 12, Mastrick Shopping Centre.  See above for contact details.

Mark commented: "The new constituency office will open on Monday, March 20, at 9.30am. The telephone number and e-mail address will be unchanged. Although we won't be able to meet with constituents at the Haudagain office on March 13-18, e-mails and phone calls will still be monitored and responded to. I hope constituents will bear with me as we make the transition to the new office, and I look forward to welcoming you at Mastrick in the near future."

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PUPIL EQUITY funding

More than 2,300 schools will receive additional support from the Scottish Government’s new £120million Pupil Equity Funding scheme.

The money will be spent at the discretion of teachers and school leaders -- to close the "poverty-related attainment gap" in their schools. Allocations, amounting to around £1,200 per pupil, are based on those in P1 to S3 classes known to be eligible for free school meals. Aberdeen schools will receive a total of £2,745,600, with 2,288 pupils benefitting.

Announcing the funding on February 1, Deputy First Minister John Swinney, said: “I want every child in Scotland to have the best possible start in life, and it is unacceptable for children from the poorest backgrounds to have their chances limited by circumstances outside their control. This Government has made clear our priority is to close the poverty-related attainment gap, and this new funding is aimed at doing just that. The Pupil Equity Funding is on top of the existing £50million Attainment Scotland funding, and in addition to the action we are taking to raise standards for all, and make the improvements that are necessary to make Scottish education world-class.”

Mark McDonald, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen Donside, commented: "I am delighted that 21 schools in my constituency -- 16 primaries and 5 secondaries -- will receive a total of £1.1million of direct funding to help close the attainment gap. This is part of the Scottish Government's focus on educational attainment, and ensuring pupils can benefit from the support required. The money will be allocated to head teachers, who will be able to direct the funds towards closing the attainment gap that exists between pupils from lower and higher income backgrounds."  

### For further details:--  click on the SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT link on this page.                             

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New housing at GRANDHOME

More than 600 houses are to be built at Grandhome, a northern riverside suburb of Aberdeen.

This marks the first construction phase for the community, which could eventually expand to 4,700 homes, including commercial, retail, leisure and public space. The Grandhome Trust was enabled to proceed with the project after receiving an initial £7.9million loan from the Scottish Government's Housing Infrastructure Fund. 

In 2016-17, some £50million in grants and loans will be available from this national fund, to "help unlock strategically important housing sites across the country". This will come on top of Aberdeen City Council's Affordable Housing Programme allocation being boosted by £10.9million this year – a 70% increase on 2015. Local Government & Housing Minister Kevin Stewart (pictured) visited the site on 4 November 2016, to see the project getting under way.

Mr. Stewart commented: “I am really pleased the first loan from this important Scottish Government fund is being used to unlock a key housing site. The first phase of 600 houses will include at least 90 affordable homes. Today's announcement underlines this Government’s determination to increase the pace and scale of development to deliver more homes. I look forward to further loans and grants being granted to projects across the country. We have listened to our partners, and are putting in place measures to support the increase in the supply of homes across all tenures; support jobs in the construction industry, and encourage inclusive growth in the wider economy. We have committed to delivering 50,000 more affordable homes --- with 35,000 available for social rent -- over the next five years, backed up with investment of more than £3billion. Projects such as this one today marks another step on the road to delivering that pledge.” 

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KINGSWELLS loses bus services

Hundreds of Kingswells residents have signed a petition after FirstBus announced it was going to axe services to the west Aberdeen outer suburb.

FirstBus has proposed that the No. 11 (Northfield circular via Woodend) and the No. X4O (Dubford circular via Aberdeen Royal Infirmary) will no longer be routed via the village or its park-and-ride. The No. 11 service will now be Woodend -- Northfield via Kittybrewster, while a consultation will take place at a later date to “examine options" for the remainder of the X40 route between Dubford and the ARI. The No. 4 (City Centre -- Dubford via ARI) was completely withdrawn on Sept. 17, but partly replaced by new No. 8 and 9 services. The company has cited low usage and competition from its Stagecoach rivals as reasons for the changes. 

Mark McDonald, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen Donside, met with FirstBus managers on 9 September 2016. He said: “I was anxious to speak to senior representatives of the company face-to-face and determine what their motivations were. Many of my constituents are worried and stressed about how they are going to get around the city if these changes come into effect. These vital services are taking people to hospitals and medical centres. I have received a lot of e-mails, phone calls and letters from those who will be personally affected by the loss of these buses, and I communicated all of their concerns to FirstBus."

Following the meeting, Mr. McDonald said: “I am pleased that FirstBus has realised how important the 11 and X40 services are to my constituents. The company has agreed to meet with many of the people who have contacted me about the proposed axing of these buses. It is a step in the right direction to resolving the many issues that have been created over the past couple of weeks after announcements of the route closures." The MSP has also called on Aberdeen City Council to hold a public meeting in Kingswells to discuss the impact of the services being removed.

###  Stagecoach will continue to operate its No. X17 (Aberdeen -- Westhill) and No. X18 (Aberdeen -- Alford) services via Kingswells.

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NORTHFIELD Total Place

Northfield Total Place is a 'place-based approach that seeks to improve outcomes' for the Aberdeen communities of Northfield, Middlefield, Cummings Park, Heathryfold and Mastrick.

Community planning partners (including public and third sector), community organisations and members of the public work together to identify priorities and put solutions in place, using the best available resources to meet the unique needs of the people in the area. They were the winners of the Star Awards 2016 for Innovation in June.

A consultation event was held at Sunnybank Football Club in Heathryfold on 3 September 2016. Mark McDonald, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen Donside, spent some time talking to those hosting stalls and some of the members of the wider community who took part. He commented: "It was good to see local folk engaging in a discussion about how to improve their community and make it a better place to live, work and play."  Kirsty Blackman, the SNP MP for Aberdeen North and Cllr. Jackie Dunbar (Northfield & Mastrick North) also attended.

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Mark is Minister for CHILDCARE & EARLY YEARS

Following the appointment of the new SNP Cabinet on 18 May 2016, all three of Aberdeen's MSPs became Junior Ministers.

Mark McDonald (Aberdeen Donside) is the new Minister for Childcare & Early Years. Mr. McDonald, who was previously co-convener of the Parliament's Mental Health Group, will be responsible to the Cabinet Secretary for Education & Skills, John Swinney.

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Reform of COUNCIL TAX

When it achieved power in 2007, one of the first decisions of the SNP Government was to provide substantive help to families by freezing the level of the Council Tax they had to pay -- and the freeze has been maintained for nine years. If re-elected in May, the Government has plans to go further, with an ambitious and progressive reform of the tax.

Those living in A to D lower-band properties -- at least 75% of all households – will pay the same, or even less, than they do today. The Council Tax Reduction scheme will be extended. 77,000 families will benefit by an average of £173 per year, while another 54,000 families in higher-band properties – more than 33% of which are pensioner households –  will be entitled to an exemption from the changes. The SNP Government will also consult with local authorities on the assignment of a portion of devolved income tax raised in Scotland. This will have the aim of reducing the Councils’ reliance on funding from central government, and make the authorities more accountable to local people.  It is estimated that when the planned changes take effect, 75% of local government funding will be 'locally grounded.'

Mark McDonald, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen Donside, commented: “The reforms meet the key tests of making local taxation fairer, more progressive and locally empowering, and are in line with the principles agreed by all the parties on the Commission on Local Tax Reform. Three-quarters of households in Scotland will pay the same or even less, while those at the top will pay a bit more, in order to fund a major new investment in our local schools. Support for low-income families, and additional protection for those in higher bands -- many of whom are pensioners -- is particularly welcome. Local authorities will be consulted on the assignment of a portion of devolved income tax, which will empower and incentivise administrations -- including Aberdeen City Council -- to support economic growth and make them more accountable to local people. Overall, these plans will protect the majority of household incomes in the city, supporting investment in local schools and making local taxation fairer and more accountable." 

"These are proposals I will be proud to campaign on, and opposition politicians in the North-East should join me in backing these fair, progressive reforms. Other parties have a duty to set out their plans on Council Tax before the election. While Labour is planning to hike up taxes across the board -- hurting even Aberdeen's lowest-income workers -- the SNP has chosen to take a more positive approach."

### Further details on the reforms at:  www.snp.org/council_tax_reform_explained

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   Major expansion of ABERDEEN AIRPORT

Details of a £20million redevelopment of Aberdeen International Airport have been announced.

On a visit to Aberdeen on 1 February 2016, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that the redevelopment programme would result in the main passenger terminal being doubled in size, and would be the biggest transformation of the airport since 1977. The changes include an expansion of the departure lounge and international arrivals facilities, an expanded security search area, increased executive lounge capacity, new baggage reclaim areas, and more shops and restaurants. The upgrades are expected to be completed by 2018. The airport has been owned and operated by AGS Airports Ltd., a subsidiary of Ferrovial S.A. of Madrid and Macquarie Group Ltd. of Sydney, since December 2014. The company also owns Glasgow and Southampton Airports.

Scotland's third busiest airport is at Dyce, in the Aberdeen Donside constituency of Mark McDonald MSP, who warmly welcomed the announcement and the ever-increasing services becoming available to and from Aberdeen. He commented: "Expansion of the airport, and an increase in availability of overseas destinations, will open up the city and the North-East to the wider world. It comes at a time when control of Air Passenger Duty (APD) is set to be devolved to the Scottish Government. Presently, APD makes it more unaffordable for Scottish families to travel, and is also a disincentive for tourists who want to come here. The SNP Government recognises this, and intends to reduce the tax by 50%, with the ultimate aim of abolishing it altogether."

Statistics provided by the Aviation Trust show that aviation accounts for 20% of Scottish exports and 88% of our international visitor arrivals. The UK's Air Passenger Duty currently ranks as the highest air passenger tax in the world and --  intentionally or not --has been used by the Westminster Government to discourage airlines from developing routes to and from Scotland. It has been regularly cited as a major reason why airports such as Aberdeen lose out to foreign competitors. In addition to costing the country over two million passengers per annum, a 2012 report commissioned by the airports warned that, by this year, APD will have cost our economy up to £210million in lost tourism spend per annum. On 28 October 2014, the managers of Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow Airports joined forces to call for APD to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament. Subsequently,  the Smith Commission on Devolution recommended its transfer.

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Support for OIL workers and R&D

Workers in the oil and gas industry who are facing redundancy, and companies in the sector which are aiming to develop new technologies, will receive financial assistance from the Scottish Government.

The SNP Government's £12million Training Transition Fund will offer grants to enable laid-off workers to support their re-employment through retraining or further education. Organisations like Skills Development Scotland will provide training and education for other specialist jobs. Financial assistance for individuals who require to maintain any licences necessary for other work in the energy sector will also be available. Scottish Enterprise will pump in an additional £12.5million to help research and development by oil and gas companies, to enable them to develop new technologies and access advice from industry experts. This new funding will be in addition to the substantial investment for Aberdeen and the North-East, announced earlier by the SNP Government.

Details of the funding were announced by the First Minister during a visit to Aberdeen on 1 February 2016. Nicola Sturgeon held a number of meetings in the city, including with the Chamber of Commerce and BP executives at their Dyce headquarters. Ms. Sturgeon said: "There is no doubt that conditions facing the North Sea oil and gas sector are extremely challenging. The downturn in the oil prices is having a very real impact on the workforce, with significant and hugely concerning job losses. This is not just distressing for those individuals affected. It has a wider impact on the industry, with the risk that the highly-skilled workforce is lost to the sector as they look for opportunities elsewhere. It is therefore absolutely crucial that we take every possible action to retain the expertise that the industry has built up over decades, so that it remains flexible enough to capitalise on exploration investment and future oil price rises. The Training Transition Fund will augment the work of the Energy Jobs Taskforce, which is already providing much-needed help to people affected by redundancy."

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DYCE 3G pitch delayed -- again

Aberdeen City Council has been asked to give an assurance that there will be no further delay in the provision of a 3G football pitch for Dyce, in the northern suburbs of the city.

At the end of 2013, it was announced that a new football and rugby pitch would be provided at Dyce Academy's playing fields. The all-weather pitch in Central Park would be for the use of both the school and local football and rugby clubs. Its 3G (3rd generation) artificial turf will consist of layers of synthetic fibres and rubbers made to look like grass. It is very expensive so, consequently, the Scottish Government contributed over £300,000 towards the cost. The money came from its Cashback for Communities programme. This is funded through the implementation of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, which empowers the Government to confiscate the ill-gotten gains of crime and invest it in community projects. The programme funds facilities and activities largely, but not exclusively, for young people 'at risk of turning to crime and anti-social behaviour as a way of life.'

Aberdeen City Council was awarded the funding back on 16 December 2013, with the stipulation that the local authority would contribute £255,000 towards the scheme; commence initial work on the project within 12 months; and complete the work by 28 February 2015. In January, Mark McDonald, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen Donside, wrote to the Council and the Scottish Government after concerns were raised by the local community about the total lack of action by the local authority in developing the pitch. After being contacted by Dyce Amateurs Football Club, Mr. McDonald also asked SportScotland to provide clarification on the status of the financial support, including any possibility of the Council being granted an extension to the current deadline. 

On 7 October 2015, the Council told Mr. McDonald that it 'anticipated' a contractor being appointed by the end of the month; work on the pitch to start in November; and completion 'expected' by the end of February. However, on 2 December 2015, the Council said that the 'likely' completion date had been moved to April 27. Mark McDonald commented: “I am disappointed that work will not start on the site until January – over two years since funding became available -- with likely completion in April. The Dyce community has been calling for delivery of their pitch for quite some time, and this is yet another disappointing blow for the area. The project has already seen a number of setbacks. Aberdeen City Council should stop dragging its feet, and deliver the pitch by the new completion deadline. Communities such as Stonehaven and Northfield are already benefitting from their new 3G pitches, and I would like to see my constituents in Dyce enjoying the same -- without further delay."

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  STRATHCONA HOUSE will be demolished

The Rowett Institute's historic Strathcona House (pictured) is to be demolished. This was agreed by Aberdeen City Council on 27 October 2015, as part of its plan to build a new Aberdeen Exhibition & Conference Centre (AECC) on the site in Bucksburn, a northern suburb of the city.

The decision was taken despite strong opposition from the local community, evidenced by a 590 signature petition (totally ignored by the administration) and from Canada, where Lord Strathcona (1820-1914) is famous for the part he played in founding the Canadian Pacific Railway. 

Mark McDonald, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen Donside, who had campaigned vigorously to save the building, commented:  “I am very disappointed that Aberdeen City Council has once again failed to listen to the public when taking decisions that have an impact on the survival of the city's architectural heritage. Historic Scotland had considered the building to possibly be of Category-C listing status. It is also a place held in high regard by people world-wide, due to its links with the academic field of nutrition, and the work conducted there on rationing during wartime. When it appeared clear that retention of the building in its current location would not be supported, the SNP Group moved an amendment which asked for a feasibility report on its possible relocation. Alas, even this measure was not backed -- and so another piece of the city's heritage will be lost." 

"The record of the current Council, in terms of protecting and respecting the heritage of the city, leaves a lot to be desired, and yet again they have failed to take the opportunity to improve their reputation. Local authorities are supposed to safeguard local heritage for future generations. When historians look back at our time, it is likely they will consider the present Council to be one of the worst guardians of our heritage in a generation. Yet again, we have another example of cultural collateral damage committed by this administration.” Strathcona House is actually the latest in a long list of Aberdeen's historic and iconic buildings that successive philistine Labour-controlled Councils have decided to knock down or (in the case of the Wallace Tower) relocate.

### The Rowett Institute, founded in 1913 for research into nutrition and health, is on Greenburn Road, Bucksburn. Strathcona House first opened in January 1933, to house its medical and science students. On 1 July 2008. the institute merged with the University of Aberdeen's College of Life Sciences & Medicine to become the Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health.

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AIRLINE merger leads to job losses

Loganair was founded in 1962 and is based at Glasgow Airport. It is the main carrier between the mainland and Scotland's islands.

Although labelling itself as "Scotland's Airline", Loganair really operated as a franchisee of British Airways until October 2008, when it switched to Flybe. In early August 2015 it was announced that it was to "join forces" with BMI Regional, to create a new "regional" airline group under the control of Airline Investments Ltd. (AIL). The combined group will have 46 aircraft, flying 47 routes across 10 countries.

Within weeks, AIL said that it intended to close its engineering base at Aberdeen International Airport, with 80 of its 120 posts being moved to Bristol in England. As an apparent "sweetener", the sign outside BMI's hangar at Dyce would be changed to Loganair. The company's chief executive said: “These proposed changes enhance both sister airlines and offer natural efficiencies that will strengthen both carriers." But vague excuses like "natural efficiences"  have often been used in the past when other "branch factories" were closed in Scotland.

The airport is in the Aberdeen Donside constituency of Mark McDonald MSP and the Gordon constituency of Alex Salmond MP. On 2 September 2015, both politicians voiced their concerns over the expected job losses, and have written to the company to request a meeting to discuss alternative options. Mr. McDonald commented: “Whilst the relocation plans announced by BMI are concerning, I believe that there is still the opportunity to secure a future for Aberdeen Airport as a base for engineering operations. Given the cross-sector engineering skills that exist in Aberdeen, I remain hopeful that there can be a constructive dialogue with Aberdeen International Airport and BMI  to explore alternative options which will safeguard jobs and investment.”

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More ATTAINMENT FUND cash for city schools

Four schools in Aberdeen are to benefit from additional resources provided from the Scottish Government’s Attainment Scotland Fund.

The £100million fund, launched in February 2015,  focuses on improving literacy, numeracy, health and wellbeing in primary schools, with the clear objective of giving their pupils --  regardless of background -- the best start in life. On 18 August 2015, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon affirmed the SNP’s unwavering commitment to improving education in Scotland, by announcing that the fund will be extended to help a further 57 more schools in 14 local authority areas. This will boost the total number of schools benefitting from the fund to more than 300.

In Aberdeen, the  Riverbank, Manor Park, Tullos and Bramble Brae Schools will benefit from the funding. Mark McDonald, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen Donside, commented: “It is particularly welcome news that Bramble Brae and Manor Park in my constituency will benefit. The funding has been specifically targeted to areas with the highest level of poverty. Primary school education is the foundation for lifelong learning, and this additional investment will improve the life chances and opportunities for pupils as they progress into secondary and tertiary education. The four Aberdeen schools will be assisted in narrowing their 'attainment gap.' Although there is evidence of the 'gap' closing --  particularly in Higher results -- this fund demonstrates that the SNP Government is committed to the aim of eliminating it completely. This fantastic initiative will contribute towards making Scotland the best place in the world to grow up, and has been delivered despite harsh Westminster cuts."

As part of a major policy statement on education, the First Minister also announced the creation of the Aspirations Package for schools. This will be delivered in conjunction with organisations like Speakers for Schools and Children’s University, as well as local employers and entrepreneurs, to ensure young people can access the experience, knowledge and networks they need to help them succeed. Ms. Sturgeon said: "My priority as First Minister is that every young person should have the same advantage that I did when I was growing up in Ayrshire. They should know that if they have the talent. and work hard enough, they will be able to fulfil their potential."

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Continuation of GP SERVICES

Alternative local GP services have been announced for patients who have been attending the Brimmond Medical Group practice in Bucksburn, which closed at the end of September 2015.

This followed prompt action by Mark McDonald, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen Donside, who sought assurances that GP services in the area would continue, and to ensure that the affected patients were kept abreast of developments. The MSP set up several meetings with representatives from the practice and NHS Grampian officials, including Chief Executive Malcolm Wright. Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing & Sport Shona Robison and Mr. McDonald also attended a meeting at NHS Grampian's HQ, to facilitate discussion between senior NHS officials, local representatives and leading GPs on a wide range of local issues, including the Brimmond centre. 

Since the announcement, NHS Grampian has undertaken a tendering process to ensure a continuation of services, in which Gilbert Road Medical Group and Scotstown Medical Group have demonstrated a desire to provide medical services for Brimmond patients. Scotstown Medical Group will be founding a new practice called New Dyce Medical Group, which will use the existing  Dyce Health Centre premises for the care of patients who reside in the immediate Dyce area, and for residents in and around Fintray, Newmachar, Kingseat and Whiterashes. Gilbert Road Medical Group, whose premises are just a five-minute walk from the Brimmond Medical Group, will provide a service to those resident in Bucksburn, Stoneywood, Newhills, Craibstone, Blackburn, Kinnellar and Clinterty.

On 24 July 2015, Mark McDonald commented: “This announcement by NHS Grampian provides patients with the certainty of future service provision and will, I am sure, be welcomed by the communities who were affected by the announcement by Brimmond Medical Group. It is vital that patients are kept updated with any further developments concerning them, and I hope that NHS Grampian will continue their dialogue with communities -- to ensure that everyone is fully aware of the changes, and have the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the new arrangements. Now that the future of primary care in the north of the city has been outlined, it is vital that all the practices involved continue to focus on as smooth a handover as possible, with priority given to those with complex medical conditions.  I look forward to meeting with the practices concerned,  in order to discuss their plans further.”

###  More information can be obtained by contacting NHS Grampian's helpline on 01224 558484.

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The "HAUDAGAIN TRIANGLE"

Aberdeen City Council has been requested  to bring forward its planning proposals for the triangle of land that will be left on the completion of the new link road at the Haudagain junction.

On 1 July 2015, Mark McDonald, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen Donside, commented: “The plans for the new road demonstrate the Scottish Government's continuing commitment to address the difficulties at the Haudagain roundabout. I hope that residents will take the opportunity to view the plans and offer their feedback on them. It is now imperative that Aberdeen City Council bring forward their proposals for the triangle of land that will be left bounded by the three major roads. The residents who occupy the properties in this area deserve to have some certainty regarding their future."

“There also needs to be ample opportunity for the community to have their say on any proposals the Council brings forward. and I hope that as well as announcing its plans as early as possible, the administration will also allow a suitable period for genuine consultation with the community, so that it is able to offer feedback on what is proposed.” Mr. McDonald will also be personally interested to hear of the Council's plans. The triangle includes the MSP's present constituency office at 825-827 Great Northern Road.

### See also New link road at HAUDAGAIN junction (and map) below.

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Lack of support for NORTH SEA OIL                                                                                          

An oil and gas expert has strongly criticised the UK Government over its protracted delay in offering financial support to the industry.

Speaking on 24 February 2015,  Prof. Alex Russell, of the Dept. of Petroleum Accounting at Robert Gordon University and Chair of the Oil Industry Finance Association, said: “The UK Government has been very slow. They are trying to time it just prior to the General Election. They are playing politics with the future of the North Sea oil industry.” He also warned that “the pace of change from Westminster has been just dire, absolutely dire” and concluded that “the UK Government has been very tardy about making things happen.”

This followed a warning from the industry's Sir Ian Wood on 16 January 2015, when he called for tax relief for the sector to be made within three weeks. Sir Ian said that delaying any changes until the March budget would be too late, as companies were already preparing to take decisions on their future investment plans. Although there has been a welcome recovery in global oil prices, the Scottish Government says that three key measures are still urgently required to support the industry: (1) An investment allowance to provide support for fields that incur higher costs to develop; (2) An immediate reversal of the increase in the Supplementary Charge implemented by the UK Government in 2011; and (3) The introduction of an exploration tax credit, to help increase levels of exploration and sustain future production.

Mark McDonald, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen Donside, commented: “As the weeks pass, without action by Westminster to support the oil & gas sector, there is a great deal of concern for the long-term damage that is being done to the industry. No wonder Professor Alex Russell has condemned the UK Government's inaction as ‘playing politics’ with the future of the oil & gas industry. When there is money to be had, Westminster moves like lightning. But when support is needed they move at a snail's pace. These comments, from a respected expert, underline the real anger that exists amongst those involved in the industry. Westminster should have taken action weeks ago and further delays will only undermine the long-term future of our oil & gas sector. In the short term, the sensible measures proposed by the Scottish Government would help to support the jobs of thousands of workers. Even more important -- a strong team of SNP MPs elected in May, and holding the balance of power at Westminster, will always speak up for the interests of the North Sea, and will ensure that the industry always gets the support it needs.”

###  The Scottish Government will maintain its support for people affected by job losses in the oil and gas sector, whilst pushing the UK Government to implement exploration tax credits to boost production.

Following the announcement of further job losses in the industry, Kevin Stewart, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen Central, raised the matter at First Minister’s Questions in the Scottish Parliament on 26 March 2015.  Mr Stewart said: "This is clearly a very difficult time for the industry in Aberdeen, but I welcome the continued support of the First Minister and the Scottish Government in helping people back into work. Our Government is doing all it can do to support the oil and gas industry in the North-East, as it continues to push the UK administration to introduce an exploration tax credit. When a similar incentive was implemented in Norway, it boosted production in their sector by more than 400%. The recent Westminster budget included a welcome -- if long overdue -- partial reversal of the Tory-Liberal coalition’s disastrous tax raid on the North Sea, but it is clear that more action is needed from the UK Government, and needed urgently."

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New link road at HAUDAGAIN junction                                                                                       

The final plans for major improvements at the busy A90/A96 Haudagain junction went on public display at the Middlefield  Community Centre in Manor Avenue on 24-25 April 2014.

A new £3million  link road (pictured) -- by-passing the heavily congested roundabout -- will consist of a dual carriage-way running NW from the A90 (North Anderson Drive at its junction with Manor Avenue), to the A96 (Auchmill Road at its junction with Manor Drive). In addition, there will be branch connector roads to Manor Ave. and Logie Ave. The development will require about 130 houses to be demolished. In order to avoid major traffic holdups at the junction caused by the construction, work on the  new road layout  is scheduled to begin following the completion of the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route (AWPR) in spring 2018.

Transport Minister Keith Brown  had previously met with Middlefield residents to provide them with an update on the Government's plans for the roundabout. The meeting, on 17 March 2014, had been arranged by Mark McDonald, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen Donside and Russell McGonigle, the chairman of the Middlefield Regeneration Group, after local residents requested the Transport Minister come to listen to their views and answer their questions. Mr. Brown outlined the timescales for works to take place. After the meeting, Mr. McDonald commented: “I am pleased that the Minister has come to the Middlefield community to listen to the views of residents. The meeting gave residents an opportunity to put questions to the Minister directly, and to question him on the timescales and the issues which will affect the people in the area as the project goes ahead. It is great news that the Scottish Government will be putting forward its design options for the local community to examine in more detail, and this will give folk a better idea of what is likely to happen when the road is constructed.” Mr. McGonigle said: “There was robust questioning from residents. What we wanted to get was some certainty around this project. I am pleased that we now have that certainty, and appreciate the Minister being very clear with us about the Scottish Government’s plans to take this project forward. Following this meeting, I think we can now be sure that the Government is committed to delivering this work, and the community will be looking forward to seeing the plans in more detail at the end of April.”

For some months, the Labour-led Aberdeen City Council had  attempted to justify its politically-motivated efforts to speed up improvements at the junction, despite the opinion of various experts that the AWPR bypass would have to be completed first.  At a full Council meeting, the administration voted to push for a two-year timescale for delivery, despite their officers telling them that it would take a minimum of three and a half years to rehouse Middlefield residents adequately. Senior Labour councillors refused to rule out evictions, and claimed that residents could be rehoused in newbuilds, despite there being no firm plans to build the necessary houses.  Despite having written to the residents in September 2013, advising them of the Council's wishes to press ahead with the works, Council leader Barney Crockett later accepted the Scottish Government’s timescale for carrying out the changes after the AWPR had been completed.

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WINNING FOR SCOTLAND!

The SNP won all three ABERDEEN constituencies in the Scottish General Election on 5 May 2016.

 

Election result:     ABERDEEN DONSIDE.  

Mark McDonald            SNP             17,339

Liam Kerr                     Con.              5,709

Greg Williams              Lab.               5,672

Isobel Davidson        Lib. Dem.         2,261

 

SNP HOLD.          Maj.  11,630         Turnout 50.6%