Aberdeen SOUTH & North Kincardine
Aberdeen South & North Kincardine Constituency (Scottish Parliament)
MAUREEN WATT MSP
Maureen Watt became a Regional List MSP for the North-East in the Scottish Parliament on 19 April 2006 -- and the first Member to swear their oath of allegiance in Doric. Following the 2007 election, she served as the Minister for Schools & Skills in the first SNP Government, and was the Convener of Holyrood's Environment & Rural Affairs Committee. She was elected as the MSP for ABERDEEN SOUTH & NORTH KINCARDINE on 5 May 2011, taking the seat from the Liberal Democrats, with a majority of 6,323.
Maureen was born and bred in the North-East. Having grown up on a farm, then working as a teacher and in the oil industry before entering politics, she has considerable experience and a strong insight into challenges and needs of the North-East economy and North-East families. She is married and lives near Banchory in Aberdeenshire.
On 1 June 2012, Maureen was appointed as the Convener of the Parliament's Infrastructure & Capital Investment Committee. The Committee scrutinises legislation on matters such as housing and transport. She is also Co-convener of the Parliament's Cross-party Group on Oil & Gas.
“As an MSP it is an enormous privilege to be in a position to represent my constituents, both individually and collectively, and to help them in any way that I can. My interest and involvement in politics comes from a desire to see a better future for the people of Scotland. Through independence and a Government working purely for and in the interest of the Scottish people, I believe that we can achieve that better future.”
Contact MAUREEN WATT at her CONSTITUENCY OFFICE:
51 Victoria Road, Torry, Aberdeen, AB11 9LS.
Tel.: 01224 876743 * Fax: 01224 695397 * Text relay calls welcome
Office hours: Monday to Friday, 10.00am -- 4.00pm.
Surgeries: Appointments can be made for Mondays and Fridays at the Constituency Office. Surgery times are as advertised in the local press.
A MESSAGE FROM MAUREEN WATT MSP
It is a great honour to represent the people of Aberdeen South & North Kincardine in the Scottish Parliament. In the first term of the SNP Government, I had the pleasure of voting to abolish the GRADUATE ENDOWMENT FEE, re-establishing free education. I was pleased to support the passing of world-leading CLIMATE CHANGE legislation -- an example for the rest of the world to follow. I also voted to put more than 1,000 extra POLICE on our streets, provide more DENTISTS in the North-East and abolish PRESCRIPTION CHARGES, which were virtually a tax on ill-health. One of my biggest regrets was the refusal of the other parties to support the SNP's proposals to replace the COUNCIL TAX, which is unfair and regressive, with a LOCAL INCOME TAX. This is a much fairer system, based on your ability to pay rather than on the property you live in. Also their failure to take a stand against the scourge of CHEAP ALCOHOL. The SNP Government's proposal for a minimum price for a unit of alcohol would have saved lives and the taxpayer millions, yet it was callously blocked by the opposition parties, despite backing from health experts and police forces.I believe that good government, locally and nationally, can create a better society in which all can lead fulfilling lives. An MSP must be an advocate for her constituents and the communities they represent. The knowledge I have gained in elected office, combined with my previous experience in education, in the oil industry and as a parent are invaluable in fulfilling my duties as an MSP.
Anything you want to know about the SNP and its policies? Please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If your query relates specifically to your own locality, please tell us your ADDRESS, so that your query can be forwarded to the appropriate MSP, Constituency Branch or Councillor. We also welcome comments and suggestions regarding this website.
TWO SCHOOLS GET FUNDING BOOST
Two primary schools in south Aberdeen are to benefit from the Big Lottery Fund’s ‘2014 Communities’ programme.
The programme offers local sports clubs, voluntary and community organisations, community councils, and schools grants of up to £2,000 to support and stimulate grassroots involvement in sport and physical activity. Milltimber Primary School has received £1,620 to add a programme of after-school clubs focused on indoor athletics, whilst Kirkhill School was awarded £1,357 to develop an extra-curricular table tennis club for pupils.
The funding was warmly welcomed by Maureen Watt, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen South & North Kincardine, on May 23. She commented: “I am delighted that two schools in the south of the city are to benefit from the Big Lottery Fund’s ‘2014 Communities’ programme. That this money is going towards initiatives which encourage participation in sports is to be warmly welcomed as statistics show that those who take part in exercise in their early years are more likely to continue exercising as they grow older. Ultimately, as we move closer to next year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, I hope that its lasting legacy will be an increased participation in sports and physical activity by not only young people, but all age groups. The '2014 Communities’ programme is a fantastic example of helping people take their first steps on that journey.”
COVE RANGERS WIN AGAIN
Cove Rangers FC have secured their third Highland League championship in six seasons.
The club plays at Allan Park, in the Aberdeen South & North Kincardine constituency of Maureen Watt MSP. She marked the occasion by submitting a congratulatory motion in the Scottish Parliament on May 20.
Ms. Watt said: “I am delighted to have the opportunity to celebrate Cove Rangers' latest achievement. To win three titles in six years is an extraordinary feat, and is testament to both the talent and determination to succeed at the club. Cove Rangers plays a vital role in the local community, and I feel that it is only right that they should receive formal recognition for their achievements. Supporters haven't had much to cheer about recently, and I hope that next season will bring further success on the pitch.”
THE TWO FACES OF "JANUS" LAMONT
Janus was a Roman god, depicted as having a head with two faces, each looking in the opposite direction. Labour's chief debunker denies there is a Scottish "oil boom", then admits it exists!
You may have never heard of the lady, but Johann Lamont is the titular head of the Labour Party in Scotland, and a leading light in the Labour-Tory "Better Together" anti-independence group. On a visit to Aberdeen on April 2, she declared: "We know that the economy is performing strongly in the North-East, and the oil and gas sector presents great opportunities for Scotland, by creating new jobs and skills. Part of the reason for this visit is to help understand how we can support the industry, and ensure that Aberdeen and the rest of Scotland can benefit from these opportunities. But we also recognise that not everyone in Aberdeen is benefitting from this boom, and even in areas of plenty we still have great poverty." Nobody would disagree with these sentiments. However, just ten days previously, Ms. Lamont had actually played down the importance of the same industry by proclaiming that "the oil boom announced on Monday by the First Minister drowned the credibility of his chief economic adviser, Crawford Beveridge, and of his Finance Minister."
This blatant hypocrisy provoked an immediate response from an incredulous Maureen Watt, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen South & North Kincardine, who has previous experience of working in the oil industry. She commented: "For Johann Lamont to come to Aberdeen and talk up the oil and gas sector, after having so publicly trashed its prospects just days ago, simply beggars belief. Anti-independence politicians always make a point of talking down Scottish oil and gas wherever they go. This is until they visit Aberdeen, and find themselves having to speak to the thousands of people who are prospering thanks to the industry. It doesn’t matter whether it is Johann Lamont or a Westminster Government minister -- it is simple hypocrisy, and people can see straight through it. People in the city know that the sector is flourishing, as company after company invests in North Sea oil and gas. This investment is not made on a whim. It is taking place because the industry is growing and anticipating increased production. These are extremely bright times for our oil and gas. Instead of these resources being further squandered by Westminster, it is essential that they are put to work on behalf of the people of Scotland. With a Yes vote in September 2014 we can use our resources to build a fairer, more prosperous country, and ensure that the benefits of oil and gas are felt in Scotland for generations to come.”
OIL AND GAS AT 30 YEAR HIGH
Investment in Scottish North Sea oil and gas is at its highest level for 30 years -- and rising -- according to a report published on February 25.
Last year, a total of £11.4billion was invested in the industry, and this is expected to rise to £13billion in 2013. The 45 projects approved in 2011-12 are, by themselves, expected to produce more than 2 billion barrels of oil and gas, worth £100billion. Unfortunately, the £25billion raised in production taxes is destined to go straight to the Treasury in London. Maureen Watt, the MSP for Aberdeen South & North Kincardine, commented: "Energy giants TAQA recently announced a new discovery in the Darwin field, NE of Shetland. The Scottish sector has untapped reserves worth up to £1.5trillion. This significant asset will help an independent Scotland to prosper and become a wealthier and fairer nation. Instead of flowing through Westminster to fund nuclear weapons and illegal wars, our North Sea resources should be paying for teachers, nurses, schools and roads across Scotland. The only way to guarantee this is to vote Yes in 2014, and ensure our oil and gas industry benefits the people of Scotland and the Scottish economy.”
### The Scottish Government's first Oil & Gas Analytical Bulletin predicts "a renewed oil boom". Production from Scottish waters could generate up to £57billion in tax revenue by 2018, and more than half the value of the total reserves are still to be extracted. The report also said Scotland's position as the European Union's energy capital had been reaffirmed. The country is estimated to be the largest producer of hydrocarbons in the EU, accounting for 64% of its total oil production in 2010. On March 11, First Minister Alex Salmond and Finance Secretary John Swinney visited Aberdeen Harbour's operations centre, where they met with oil industry leaders. Mr. Salmond said that Scotland's oil and gas sector was going from strength to strength. He added: "This bulletin shows the impact that increases in investment could have on production and revenues, and examines a range of scenarios. It demonstrates that, when the expected increase in production to two million barrels a day is taken into account, there can be little doubt that Scotland is moving into a second oil boom."
### The continuing buoyancy of the Scottish North Sea oil and gas industry is resulting in an ever-increasing demand for office space in Aberdeen. The news came in a report by the Los Angeles-based CBRE Group (previously Coldwell Banker, Richard Ellis), the world's largest commercial property company. Last year, a record 830,404 sq.ft. of office space was taken up in Aberdeen, compared to 736,000 sq.ft. in 2011 -- which was nearly double that of 2010. At 480,400 sq.ft., the current office space available is now at its lowest since 2000. Edinburgh and Glasgow are also experiencing an increase in office rentals. Maureen Watt MSP warmly welcomed the report's findings. On February 19 she commented: "These figures from CBRE are fantastic news for the city of Aberdeen. There is no doubt that a significant factor in this rise is its role as the powerhouse of Europe’s oil and gas industry. That the sector continues to grow is incredibly positive news for the city."
LABOUR VOTES AGAINST CONCESSIONARY BUS PASSES
Labour Party members of a Scottish Parliamentary Committee have failed to support the continuation of concessionary bus passes for the elderly and disabled.
On March 20, the Infrastructure & Capital Investment Committee voted through subordinate legislation to enable the continuation of the National Bus Travel Scheme. However, this was without the support of its Labour members. The committee Convener is Maureen Watt, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen South & North Kincardine. She commented: "Labour's refusal to back this legislation raises serious questions as to whether the party intends to completely withdraw its support for concessionary travel. This would be despite a commitment they made in their May 2011 manifesto to sustain the scheme. Many elderly and disabled people living in Aberdeen City and Shire rely on concessionary travel for general mobility, or even just to visit their friends and family. That the Labour Party could be set to remove its support for this vital lifeline is extremely worrying indeed. This is yet another damning indictment of the Labour Party’s direction north of the border, and emphasises that it has totally abandoned its traditional roots. In 2006-07, the budget for concessionary travel was £159million. By 2014-15, funding will have increased to £192million. Despite this 20% increase, the SNP Government has shown a clear commitment to maintaining the scheme."
Apparently acting on instructions from London, the Scottish branch of the British Labour Party suddenly announced, in October 2012, that it intended to set up a "Cuts Commission", whose remit would be to find some way of abolishing some or all of the most popular measures introduced by the SNP Government at Holyrood. These include: the Council Tax freeze, ending of university tuition fees, free medical prescriptions, free personal care for the elderly -- and concessionary bus passes. Labour's new-found enthusiasm for Thatcherite Tory policies is widely seen as a clumsy attempt to undermine the achievements of the SNP Government: by suggesting that somehow Scotland is "too poor" to afford the luxuries of "something for nothing" universal benefits. UK Labour has thrown its weight behind the stringent austerity measures being enacted by the Westminster Tory-Liberal administration, and is at pains to prevent Scotland being seen to be enjoying comparative prosperity as a result of its more efficient and financially prudent Government.
NORTH-EAST’S FOOD & DRINK SUCCESS STORY
Did you know that the North-East contributes 14% of Scotland’s agricultural output, and 11% of the total employment in the Scottish food and drink sector? This was revealed in a debate on Food Policy at Holyrood on March 12.
Maureen Watt, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen South & North Kincardine, took part in the debate and highlighted the important role the NE plays in the country's trade in fine produce. Ms. Watt, who is a farmer's daughter, particularly praised the primary producers, farmers and fishermen of Aberdeen City and Shire. In her speech, she said: “We all tend to moan about the weather in the North-East, but our temperate climate and abundant rain make for excellent conditions for growing crops and raising animals." On March 22, in a second Parliamentary debate, she congratulated the Scottish Association of Young Farmers Clubs on reaching its 75th anniversary. 18 of Scotland's 77 YFCs are in Aberdeenshire and Moray, where agriculture is hugely important.
"Moreover, Aberdeen City and Shire remain the most important fishing region in Scotland and the UK, with over £100million of fish landed per annum at Peterhead alone. Indeed, today much store is put in adding value, and I would like to highlight the success story of Joseph Robertson Ltd. in my constituency. At one time, their main business was 'breading' fish, but they now supply a wide range of food to several supermarkets. This year, Robertson's has been selected to take part in the Asda Supplier Development Academy 2013, which is backed by Scottish Food & Drink. Previous participants in this programme have seen their sales increase by as much as 330%, so this is a great accolade for the company. I am glad of this opportunity to praise the vital contribution Scotland’s producers make to our food supply chain and economy. Whether it be fish, beef, fruit and vegetables and, of course, whisky, the North-East is full of success stories built on Scotland’s global reputation for the highest standards of quality. And we can look forward to building on this success in the future."
SUPPORT OUR FISHERMEN
As a result of low prices currently being fetched at the quayside in Peterhead, increasing amounts of white fish are being left unsold, turned into fishmeal, or withdrawn from sale.
John Wallace, chief executive of the Peterhead Port Authority, expressed his concerns in a letter to the North-East Scotland Fisheries Development Partnership. Catches of cod and haddock have been particularly affected by the recent downturn in demand. Maureen Watt, who regularly attends meetings of the partnership, is urging people in Aberdeen City and Shire to support our fishermen by purchasing more fish. On March 8, the MSP for Aberdeen South & North Kincardine, commented: "John Wallace’s warning is a stark reminder of how important it is to support the Scottish fishing industry, and the fishermen who risk their lives in harsh waters. Whilst it is vital that we continue to encourage major retailers, such as supermarkets and restaurants, to stock up on, and pay a fair price for locally-landed fish, individuals can also make an enormous difference by regularly purchasing fresh fish, particularly where they have a local fishmonger."
"Aberdeen has an age-old fishing heritage. The industry continues to play a prominent role in places like Torry, where hundreds of workers are employed in local factories and offices, supplying fish to outlets throughout the UK, Europe and beyond. Moreover, at a time when serious concerns are being raised over the quality of the meat in processed foods, buying fresh, locally-sourced Scottish fish is a surefire way of knowing exactly what is on your plate. It is a particularly nutritious food: high in protein and low in saturated fat, and a major source of omega-3 and vitamin D. So support the Scottish fishing industry -- and buy local!"
McINTOSH DONALD'S FUTURE SECURED
On March 4, MAUREEN WATT MSP expressed her delight following the news that the future of McIntosh Donald had been secured. The company's red meat processing plant is at Portlethen, in her Aberdeen South & North Kincardine constituency.
It is one of several businesses that have been acquired by the Birmingham-based 2 Sisters Food Group. Ms. Watt commented: “Safeguarding the future of the plant was essential for both the 280 employees and the local community. The Scottish Government must be congratulated for its role in this process, and I am sure that this news will be welcomed by all those associated with McIntosh Donald." Ranjit Singh Boparan, founder and chief executive of the 2 Sisters Food Group, said: “We are delighted to be acquiring Vion UK’s poultry and red meat businesses. They have faced significant uncertainty and tough trading in recent months, but today’s acquisition secures a viable future. We are delighted that the Scottish and Welsh Governments are supportive of this deal, and we look forward to working with them and developing a sustainable future for these businesses." The company has also become the owner of plants in Coupar Angus in Perthshire and Cambuslang in South Lanarkshire.
The Dutch company Vion NV had 12 premises in Scotland, employing 2,300 people. In November 2012 it put all of them up for sale, apparently to allow it to concentrate on its core markets in the Netherlands and Germany. Vion had acquired McIntosh Donald in 2008, along with the Grampian Country Food Group. Earlier in the year, it had announced the closure of its Hall's of Broxburn subsidiary in West Lothian. The plant ultimately closed on February 6, with the loss of 1,700 jobs. However, the "Hall's" brand was acquired by the Brown's Food Group of Kirkconnel, Dumfries-shire on January 30, so will continue to be available in Scottish shops.
Community Food Initiatives North-East (CFINE) was established in 1997, and now operates more than 80 community food outlets in Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire and West Lothian. The charity distributes supermarket food surpluses -- such as fresh fruit, vegetables and dried goods -- to needy families, at affordable prices.
The vital function of food distribution charities is fully supported by the Scottish Government. Maureen Watt, the MSP for Aberdeen South & North Kincardine, highlighted the good work of CFINE and other organisations, as part of food distribution strategies implemented in conjunction with Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Councils. This was in addition to providing broader support and advice to combat the underlying causes of poverty. At Parliamentary Question Time, Ms. Watt received the following response from the Minister for Housing & Welfare, Margaret Burgess: "…It is shocking that in oil-rich Scotland many families now have to rely on food banks. Many low-income families, who have never needed help before, are now facing real hardship, made worse by the effects of welfare reform and rising fuel prices. The Scottish Government is using all the levers it has at its disposal to tackle poverty and inequality in the country. We are committed to tackling the long-term causes of poverty through early intervention and prevention. Our approach includes funding interventions that are designed to maximise household incomes and to improve children’s life chances. Examples include £11million for 2013-2015 to build on the success of the family nurse partnership initiative, and the establishment of £272million early years change funds over this Parliamentary session."
On March 4, Ms Watt commented: "I am grateful that the Minister joined with me in congratulating CFINE, and confirming the importance of it and similar organisations-- not only with food but also with debt advice. These charities play a crucial role in helping those who need it the most. I also welcome the Government’s commitment to not just relieving the symptoms, but tackling the long-term drivers of poverty, through early intervention and prevention."
For more information, log onto: www.cfine.org/
Scotland's police were merged into a single national force on April 1. The Police Service of Scotland (short title POLICE SCOTLAND) consists of 17,500 officers and 6,700 support staff, and will have an annual budget of £1.2billion.
The interim headquarters will be in the Scottish Police College, at Tulliallan near Kincardine in Fife. Stephen House was appointed Chief Constable on 1 October 2012. Fourteen local commanders, including those for Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire & Moray, have been appointed to lead their respective areas. They will oversee Local Police Plans --- "tailored" to each council ward in the country, so that policing reflects the nation's diverse communities. In the Scottish Parliament on January 31, Maureen Watt, MSP for Aberdeen South & North Kincardine, asked Cabinet Secretary for Justice Kenny MacAskill what role local stakeholders and communities will play in informing and developing policing strategy.
The Cabinet Secretary said: “We are working very closely with all the new local commanders, as we support them and their partners in trialling new local scrutiny and engagement arrangements before the new structure goes live on April 1. Both the local commander for Aberdeen City and the local commander for Aberdeenshire and Moray are regular attendees at our quarterly network events; and the two national advisers, whom we fund through the Improvement Service, visited the North-East pathfinders on January 18. I can assure the Member that it is recognised that making our communities as safe as they can be is a matter not simply for the police and councillors. The police service will need to engage with all those others who have served on community planning partnerships. There will be a commitment to introduce community engagement plans for all 353 multi-member wards across Scotland. Only by working collectively will we ensure that our communities are as safe as they can be.”
Ms. Watt commented: “I am grateful that the Cabinet Secretary was able to offer these assurances to people across Scotland. Community focused policing and close cooperation with local people are crucial to providing security and peace of mind. I also welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to sharing best practices, as they emerge through the on-going pathfinder trials in several council areas.”
HUNTINGTON'S YOUTH SERVICE
Aberdeen City & Shire were among the areas represented at a Scottish Huntington's Association event at Holyrood on January 25.
Huntington’s disease is a degenerative neurological condition which causes loss of concentration and memory, and mental health problems. It can also affect a person’s ability to walk, or care for themselves independently. The charity’s Youth Service currently has a staff of five to support 150 Scottish children and young people with the disease. This costs £1,000 yearly for each individual. The Association is internationally regarded as the best of its kind, and is committed to its long-term future. However, financial assistance it receives from the Big Lottery Fund is due to end in March 2014.
Maureen Watt (pictured), the SNP MSP for Aberdeen South & North Kincardine, met with a group of young people at the Scottish Parliament, to learn about their experiences of living with Huntington's. She commented: "I was delighted to be given the opportunity to meet with these inspirational youngsters, and learn more about how Huntington’s disease affects them and their families. This event also gave me the opportunity to find out more about the exemplary work being done by the Youth Service, which is facing an uncertain future. It would be a major blow if such an organisation, recognised across the globe as a model for good practice, was to be lost. From my previous visits to Dee View Court in Kincorth, I know only too well how important it is to provide effective support to people living with neurological conditions. Therefore I am delighted to back the retention of the Youth Service."
The project manager of the Huntington’s disease service in Sweden is Carina Hvalstedt. She said: "The Youth Service provided by the Scottish Huntington’s Association is the best of its kind in the world, and one which many other countries, including our own, often try to copy. It provides valuable emotional support and counselling, and runs annual summer camps and trips away so that young people can forget their troubles and enjoy themselves. It would be a major loss, not only to the families of Scotland that rely on the Youth Service for support, but also the wider international community if it ceased to exist.”
For information about the work of the Scottish Huntington’s Association, log onto www.hdscotland.org.
PORT COULD EXPAND INTO NIGG BAY
Aberdeen Harbour Board is drawing up plans for a major expansion of the port. New breakwaters and quays could be constructed in Nigg Bay, to the south of the main harbour.
The port already contributes over £510million to the economy annually, and supports in excess of 11,000 full-time jobs. In recent years, measures have been taken to meet the ever-expanding needs of customers. For example, the navigation channel leading into the docks has been deepened and widened, and deep-water berthing has been provided at Torry Quay. Further investment in the North Sea oil and gas sector up to and beyond 2040, coupled with the ever-growing offshore renewables industry, will result in the port of Aberdeen seeing an increase in shipping traffic over the coming years. The Harbour Board is hoping to provide sufficient berthing capacity and deep water to enable much larger larger vessels to dock at Aberdeen. Importantly, this would include big passenger cruise ships, which would be a considerable boost to the tourist industry of the city and north-east. The development would cost an estmated £300million.
Nigg Bay is in the Aberdeen South & North Kincardine constituency of SNP MSP Maureen Watt. On 11 December 2012 she commented: "“The fact that Aberdeen Harbour is currently nearing capacity is a demonstration of the enormous success of the Scottish North Sea oil and gas sector. It is extremely positive for Aberdeen Harbour Board to be so confident of this success continuing that it proposes such significant expansion plans. Of course it's very early days, but it is absolutely essential that people in the area are given every opportunity to examine the proposals for Nigg Bay, and contribute their views to the Harbour Board. I will be contacting the Board to discuss how they plan to give local residents that opportunity. Aberdeen prides itself on being the Energy Capital of Europe. It is clear that the port currently plays a fundamental role in both the local and national economy, and that working to maintain this position for the future is essential. A key factor in achieving this will be to ensure that the port has the capacity to meet the increasing demands of both the oil and gas sector, and the offshore renewables industry. I look forward to Aberdeen Harbour Board developing their proposals so that we can all see and contribute to their vision for Aberdeen.”
PORTLETHEN RAIL STATION GETS INCREASED SERVICES
The long-fought campaign by MAUREEN WATT MSP for better rail services in the North-East has been successful.
In a big boost for Portlethen and other commuter towns, the revised ScotRail timetable, effective from 9 December 2012, will lead to improved services for passengers, more stops at several stations and expanded Sunday services. On Monday-Saturday, many NE stations, including Portlethen, will gain five more stops per day. On Sundays, Portlethen will gain four more stops, and there will be two additional Edinburgh-Aberdeen services and one extra Aberdeen-Edinburgh service.
Ms. Watt (pictured) said: "Following a survey of Portlethen residents in July 2010, we campaigned tirelessly on the issue, so I am delighted to see that our lobbying of First ScotRail and Transport Scotland paid off. I am glad to see this vast improvement in services and, in particular, welcome the expanded services on Sundays. While this is indeed welcome progress, I am determined to continue to campaign for improved rail services and facilities for the people of the North-East, and still hope to see the installation of automated ticket sales and electronic information boards at Portlethen station. I hope that the new services will meet the needs of travellers, particularly commuters, and will encourage people to use public transport more often. I look forward to receiving feedback on the difference the improved train frequency has made to the communities affected.”
### On January 15, Maureen Watt wrote to ScotRail, calling on the company to ‘introduce a sensible and logical approach’ towards train fares to and from Portlethen. Ms. Watt said that constituents had informed her that, for some reason, travelling to and from Glasgow from Portlethen can be 135% more expensive than Aberdeen. This disparity could offset the service improvements which the MSP has achieved for the town, with Portlethen's commuters finding that they can save on fares by boarding or leaving the Glasgow service at Aberdeen station. Ms. Watt commented: “It is absolutely ludicrous that my constituents face paying such inflated fares to travel to and from Portlethen. ScotRail’s recent improvements to the services at Portlethen station were extremely important and very welcome. However, it appears that they are willing to see this good work go to waste by encouraging people to use nearby stations instead. I have written to ScotRail outlining my concerns, and it is my hope that they will act upon them.”
On 9 December 2012, the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that Aberdeen will be one of 12 cities that will benefit from funding to make it a "super-fast fibre broadband" city.
The news was welcomed by Aberdeen South & North Kincardine MSP, Maureen Watt, who added that she has also succeeded in her efforts to ensure that more of her constituents will receive the service. Having been alerted to the fact that BT’s Kincorth exchange, which has gone live with fibre broadband, would not be providing this service to a number of homes in Cove, Ms. Watt raised the issue with the organisation. She was subsequently contacted by BT who stated that their plans had changed, and those homes served by ‘cabinet 14’ would now be included in their roll-out program for the coming year. This means that a number of constituents, who would have otherwise missed out, will have access to this vital service.
Ms. Watt commented: “I was extremely pleased to learn that my constituents who are served by this cabinet will be receiving fibre broadband after all. The high-speed broadband provided by the Kincorth exchange is essential for local families and businesses, and it would have been a travesty if some residents with a particular postcode were prevented from receiving this critical service”
### On January 29, Maureen Watt welcomed the news that BTs superfast fibre broadband is now accessible for many homes and businesses in Portlethen. She said: "I raised the issue of superfast broadband for Portlethen with BT a number of months ago so, naturally, I am extremely pleased to see that progress has begun. However, whilst it is my understanding that two cabinets are already up and running, with a further three to be connected in the near future, not all of the town will be served. I would therefore encourage BT to ensure that the entire population has access to this essential service as soon as is viably possible.”
BIG RISE IN NEW HOUSING ASSOCIATION HOMES
The number of properties built in Aberdeen by housing associations has rocketed by almost 700% over the last 3 years. The figures were welcomed by MAUREEN WATT, MSP for Aberdeen South & North Kincardine.
Speaking on 2 October 2012, Ms Watt said: “It’s fantastic to see such an astronomical rise in the number of housing association homes that have been built in the city of Aberdeen. Since 2008, the figure has increased substantially year on year. This shows that, under the SNP Government, new high-quality affordable homes are being built in record numbers."
Houses built 2008-11:
Year No. built
2011-12 Not yet published
ENERGY SKILLS ACADEMY
In his Budget Statement to the Scottish Parliament on 20 September 2012, JOHN SWINNEY, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment & Sustainable Growth, said: “I am announcing today that I will allocate resources to establish an Energy Skills Academy to support the development of skills for a diverse Scottish energy economy in oil and gas, renewables, thermal generation and carbon capture and storage techniques.”
Maureen Watt, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen South & North Kincardine, who is also the Co-convener of the Cross-party Group on Oil & Gas, commented: "I heartily welcome the resources that have been allocated for the creation of an Energy Skills Academy. This will go a long way to addressing the current skills shortage in the North-East, which is especially important given the rapid expansion in our oil and gas and renewables sectors. The Cabinet Secretary said himself that these measures confirm the Scottish Government’s absolute determination to do all it can to support the young people of Scotland. This is therefore not just good news for the industry and for the economy but, most importantly, will help to prepare our young people to prosper in an increasingly reindustrialised Scotland.”
POLISH TRANSLATION FOR PARLIAMENTARY DEBATE
The Great Polish Map of Scotland is a three-dimensional map of the nation in the grounds of a hotel at Eddleston, near Peebles. It was constructed in the 1970s by Polish nationals, in recognition of the hospitality shown to Polish servicemen in Scotland during World War II.
The map recently achieved B-listed status by Historic Scotland for its contribution to the nation’s heritage, and was the subject of a Parliamentary debate initiated by Christine Grahame, the SNP MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale. In a first for Holyrood, the debate and webcast were simultaneously translated in English and Polish. On 19 September 2012, Maureen Watt MSP commented: “It is fitting that the Polish language has become the first to be translated in the Chamber. Poland and Scotland share a historical bond which endures to this day. This bond is most keenly evidenced in the ethos of the Great Polish Map of Scotland which, I’m delighted to learn, will now be protected for future generations after being awarded listed status. It is estimated that there are currently around 60,000 Polish people living in Scotland, including a sizeable community in my Aberdeen South & North Kincardine constituency. It is important that we make the Parliament accessible to all of those who speak another language.”
### The Aberdeen SNP website featured a full Polish translation of the SNP's manifesto for the elections to Aberdeen City Council in May 2012. The YES SCOTLAND campaign began to use Polish online messages and graphics in January. Łączą Szkotów kampania dla niezależności!
EASTER ANGUSTON FARM
SNP MSP MAUREEN WATT has hailed the work being done by VOLUNTARY SERVICE ABERDEEN (VSA) at Easter Anguston Farm, near Peterculter, an outer western suburb of the city.
The farm provides vocational training for individuals with learning difficulties, who are taught a variety of practical land-based skills such as horticulture and agriculture. By working alongside staff, the trainees maintain and sell produce from the land.
Ms Watt visited the 70-acre site in her constituency on 9 August 2012, and handed over a cheque for £150 which she had received from partaking in an array of surveys. She commented: “I was extremely pleased to visit Easter Anguston Farm to discuss the incredibly positive work which is being done by VSA. The trainees all clearly enjoy their different roles, and their enthusiasm is a delight to see. The farm has long been popular amongst the local community. With an array of attractions: the garden centre and café & farm shop, the nature trail and children’s play area, it is easy to see why. Certainly, I would encourage anyone who hasn’t had the opportunity yet, to pay the Farm a visit. I hope that the contribution I've made will help the Farm to continue to flourish.”
WATT HAILS PUBLICATION OF OIL AND GAS STRATEGY
OIL COMPANIES UNDETERRED BY INDEPENDENCE
MAUREEN WATT MSP has welcomed a report by Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce, which showed that the majority of member companies did not think the Independence Referendum in 2014 will be a factor that will unduly influence further investment in the North Sea oil industry. In the study, oil and gas firms reported increased optimism, but said their main concerns were brought about by the unexpected rise in tax introduced in the UK Government's budget last year.
Speaking on 8 May 2012, Ms Watt said that this strengthened the case for Scotland being given full responsibility for offshore taxation. “This is an informative report that highlights the holes in unionist claims about alleged uncertainty in the industry caused by the independence referendum. The majority of companies polled said that the referendum was of no concern, which is completely at odds with the negative scaremongering by the unionist parties. In fact the opposite is true. It is the taxation regime of the anti-independence parties that is creating uncertainty. Successive Westminster Governments (Tory-Lib Dem and Labour) have consistently caused damage with their ever-increasing "windfall taxes" on the Scottish North Sea oil sector."
“The UK's fiscal instability is the only uncertainty causing harm to the industry -- not the independence referendum, as the AGCC report makes clear. The UK has had three massive tax hits in the last nine years, which is why Scotland needs the full powers of independence. This would allow the Scottish Government to tailor the North Sea tax and regulatory framework: to ensure extraction levels are maximised, and to give its full support to the industry. We would make the most of a trillion pound asset base, including the setting up of an Oil Fund. Investing a share of the returns from oil and gas production into a fund, similar to that in Norway, will continue to provide for future generations – instead of being squandered by successive UK Governments.”
SCOTTISH ECONOMY IS OUTPERFORMING UK
SNP Aberdeen South and North Kincardine MSP MAUREEN WATT has welcomed the publication, on 18 April 2012, of two sets of statistics which show that Scotland is outperforming the UK, both in economic growth and employment.
Labour market statistics, covering December 2011--February 2012, show that employment in Scotland is rising and unemployment is falling. On the same day, GDP figures show a better performance here than in the rest of the UK and the Eurozone. In comparison to the UK as a whole, Scotland now has: a lower rate of unemployment; higher rates of employment, and "headline employment", for 16-24 year olds; a higher rate of female employment; and lower economic inactivity.
Also published was the latest national report by Scotland’s Chief Statistician, which shows that the Scottish GDP grew by 0.5 % annually to the end of December 2011. During the fourth quarter of 2011, our GDP fell by only 0.1%, which compares favourably with that of the UK and the Eurozone, where both saw their GDP fall by 0.3%.
Electricity & gas supply made a significant contribution to the stronger Scottish figures, where output grew by 5.3% in Scotland in the last quarter of 2011, compared to a fall of 5.3% in the UK as a whole. The volume of our manufactured exports grew by 4.8% during 2011, remaining unchanged until the last quarter. The food & drink sector made the largest contribution to annual growth with an increase of 8.4% over the year. There was also significant annual growth in exports of transport equipment (7.9%) and textiles, clothing & leather (19.4%), both of which have returned to pre-recession levels.
Ms Watt commented: “These new statistics show that the action being taken by the Scottish Government is paying dividends. The figures reveal that not only has there been the biggest fall in unemployment in Scotland for over a year, but that we have also lower unemployment, higher employment, and lower economic inactivity than the UK as a whole. As encouraging as these figures are, there is no room for complacency. That’s why I welcome the announcement from First Minister ALEX SALMOND that he will once again write to David Cameron to stress the importance of increased capital spending for £300millions worth of ‘shovel ready’ projects, which will boost growth and support thousands of jobs in Scotland.”
ABERDEEN WESTERN PERIPHERAL ROUTE
A small group calling themselves RoadSense spent many months, and thousands of pounds in taxpayers' money, objecting to the building of the vital Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route (AWPR). Their final appeal, to the UK Supreme Court, was dismissed on 17 October 2012.
A large part of the 28-mile by-pass will be in the Aberdeen South & North Kincardine constituency of Maureen Watt MSP. She commented: "I am glad to see that the final effort by a handful of objectors to continue holding back this much needed piece of infrastructure has rightly failed. People in the North-East have been crying out for work on this road to begin, and the frustration they have felt as a result of the legal obstacles thrown in its path has been enormous. RoadSense has had their day in court -- In fact they’ve had three -- and their complaints have been comprehensively rejected. We can now move on and get work started on the road as quickly as possible. The AWPR will bring real benefits to people in Aberdeen and the North-East, reducing congestion and speeding up journey times. It is an essential piece of infrastructure that will benefit people and businesses alike and was a key part of the SNP's recent manifesto. The construction of the road will also bring important employment and training opportunities to the region, with the Scottish Government having previously confirmed to me their intention of ensuring the construction contract contains a community-benefit clause."
WINNING FOR SCOTLAND!
The SNP won all three ABERDEEN constituencies in the General Election on 5 May 2011.
Election Result: ABERDEEN SOUTH & NORTH KINCARDINE
Maureen Watt SNP 11,947
Greg Williams Lab. 5,624
John Sleigh Lib. Dem. 4,994
Stewart Whyte Con. 4,058
Marie Boulton Ind. 1,860
Ross Willett Nat. Front 214
SNP GAIN FROM LIB. DEM. Maj. 6,323 Turnout 52.5%