Aberdeen SOUTH & North Kincardine

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                       Aberdeen South & North Kincardine Constituency (Scottish Parliament)

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MAUREEN WATT MSP 

Became a Regional List MSP on 19 April 2006.   Minister for Schools & Skills and Convener of the Environment & Rural Affairs Committee 2007-9. 

Elected as the MSP for ABERDEEN SOUTH & NORTH KINCARDINE on 5 May 2011, taking the seat from the Liberal Democrats.  Re-elected on 5 May 2016.

Convener of the Infrastructure & Capital Investment Committee and Co-convener of the Cross-party Group on Oil & Gas, 2012-14.  Minister for Public Health Nov. 2014 -- May 2016.  Minister for Mental Health since May 2016.

Maureen was born in Aberdeen, and worked as a teacher and in the oil industry before entering politics. She  has considerable experience, and a strong insight into the challenges and needs of the North-East economy and Aberdeen families. She is married and lives near Banchory in Aberdeenshire.   

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Contact MAUREEN WATT at her CONSTITUENCY OFFICE:                                                                                     

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       51 Victoria Road,

       Torry,

       Aberdeen, AB11 9LS                                                                                                                                                

       Tel.:  01224 876743   *  Fax:  01224 695397                                 

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.

E-mail:    Maureen.Watt.msp@parliament.scot                           

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A MESSAGE FROM MAUREEN WATT MSP                                                                                          

It is a great honour to represent the people of Aberdeen South & North Kincardine in the Scottish Parliament. 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. Image

 

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ImageAnything you want to know about the SNP and its policies? Please e-mail us at contact@aberdeensnp.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, MP, Constituency Branch or Councillor. Also check out other news in FACEBOOK and TWITTER, by clicking on the links on this page.

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Access to COVE HARBOUR 

Local fishermen continue to be denied vehicle access to Cove harbour, on the southern outskirts of Aberdeen.

The landowner, Pralhad Kohle, whose house overlooks the bay, has blocked the entrance for some time and, by continuing to do so, has stoked up considerable resentment from Cove residents. The harbour has been used by fishing boats since the 1700s, and by an increasing number of recreational craft in more recent years. Jim Adam, chairman of the Cove Fishermen's Association, delivered an 11,000-signature public petition to Aberdeen City Council. He said:  “We are very encouraged by the support from the Council. It’s very positive and has opened up a number of avenues, but we would like there to be an amicable solution." The fishermen have the strong support of Maureen Watt MSP. She has joined with her SNP colleague Stephen Flynn (the councillor for Kincorth, Nigg & Cove), in proposing that the Council should explore the possibility of using the purchase powers contained in the Community Empowerment Scotland Act 2015 to facilitate a community buyout of the harbour. 

Mr. Adam said that despite his association intimating that it would welcome a dialogue with Mr Kolhe, "apparently he is solely focussed on pursuing matters via the courts." A procedural hearing is due to take place on January 19, and scheduled for the courts in February or March. He added:  "As you can imagine, legal expenses are mounting high. In the past we have been overwhelmed by the support and generosity of those supporting our cause -- not only for the fishermen, but also to preserve the rights of other users of the harbour area. We will shortly be kicking off another 38 Degrees fundraiser and, on behalf of all harbour users, I trust we can rely on generous support." 

### More information at:--  https://www.facebook.com/Save-the-fishing-boats-of-Cove-Harbour-Aberdeen-252760711577507/

Donate at:--   https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/save-the-fishing-boats-of-cove-harbour

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Changing HOLYROOD's voting system                                                                                                          

The Aberdeen South & North Kincardine Constituency Branch has moved to radically change how MSPs are elected in Scottish Parliamentary elections.

Despite winning more constituencies than it did in 2011, the SNP Government was unable to achieve an overall majority in 2016. 65 of the Parliament's 129 seats are required for a majority. The party won 59 of the 73 constituency seats, but was only awarded an additional four MSPs by the extremely complicated d'Hondt Regional List system currently in operation.

ASNK's resolution to the 2016 SNP Annual National Conference asked delegates to support the adoption of the Single Transferable Vote (STV), which is the party's preferred electoral system, and is already used for Local Government elections. The full text of the resolution was as follows:--

 

SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT VOTING SYSTEM.

Conference notes that having four different electoral systems in use is potentially very confusing for voters. Conference also notes that Schedule 4 of the Scotland Act 2016 gives the Scottish Government control over all aspects of elections to the Scottish Parliament, including the franchise, the number of MSPs elected, and the voting system used.

Conference believes that the Single Transferable Vote (STV), which is the party's preferred electoral system and used for Local Government elections, is accepted and understood by voters. Conference resolves that implementing STV in Scottish elections would remove an element of complexity from Scottish elections by reducing the number of different electoral systems, help to raise turnout and ensure all MSPs must win a personal mandate from voters.

ABERDEEN SOUTH & NORTH KINCARDINE CONSTITUENCY BRANCH.

 

Amendment:--

Delete from "Conference believes" and insert: "Conference reaffirms the party's long-held view that all elections in Scotland should be fought under fair proportional representation.

Conference believes that following the third Local Government elections in 2017, under Single Transferable Vote (STV), there is an opportunity to assess this electoral system and its operation in practice, including whether it is accepted and understood by voters.

Conference therefore considers that the Scottish Government should review STV alongside other systems of proportional representation that include a personal mandate and are in operation elsewhere, including modified forms of STV. Conference believes that a single electoral system for Local Government and the Scottish Parliament would reduce complexity and help raise public understanding of elections."

EDINBURGH CENTRAL CONSTITUENCY BRANCH.

 

Douglas Daniel, Kirsty Blackman MP and Cllr. Stephen Flynn spoke for the resolution. Although nearly all of the delegates indicated they wanted to change Holyrood's voting system, they were unsure whether they wanted to replace the current Additional List regimen with STV. The amended resolution was subsequently passed overwhelmingly.

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David is the LOCAL HERO

The state opening of the Scottish Parliament took place on Saturday, 2 July 2016, with the main event being a colourful procession down Edinburgh's Royal Mile.

Each of the Parliament's MSPs had the opportunity to nominate a "local hero", who was given the opportunity to take part in the procession. Maureen Watt, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen South & North Kincardine, chose David Forbes to represent her constituency. David is the volunteer chairman of Future Choices, and was nominated because of his dedication to volunteering and care, giving up much of his time to the organisation over the past 8 years. The charity provides a social setting for people with physical disabilities and supports inclusion by providing transport to a supportive environment. It meets every Tuesday, in the Inchgarth Community Centre in Garthdee.

On 9 June 2016, Ms. Watt said: "By happy coincidence, my nomination of David has come during Carers Week (June 6-12), an annual campaign to raise awareness of the challenges faced by carers, and to recognise the contribution they make to families and communities throughout the country."

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Maureen is Minister for MENTAL HEALTH

The list of new Cabinet Secretaries and Ministers announced on 18 May 2016 once again included MAUREEN WATT, the MSP for Aberdeen South & North Kincardine.  All three of the city's MSPs are now Junior Ministers.

Ms. Watt was appointed as Minister for Mental Health, moving from the Public Health portfollio she had held since 21 November 2014. She will be responsible to the Cabinet Secretary for Health & Sport, Shona Robison. Ms. Watt commented: "I am proud to have been appointed as Minister for Mental Health. This makes Scotland the first and only country in the UK with a ministerial post dedicated wholly to such illnesses, and shows the importance the SNP Government places on improving services. This is also Mental Health Awareness Week, which highlights the fact that mental illness is one of the most important public health issues in Scotland today. One in three people are affected by psychological problems in a given year.

To date, good progress has been made to improve mental health services. Since 2006, funding is up by 40%. The number of child psychology posts have doubled, and the Scottish Government recently announced £50million to improve waiting times for treatment. An additional £150million has been allocated to improving mental health services, and later this year we will be publishing a ten-year plan to transform the services across the country. But we are committed to doing so much more, and my appointment is just the beginning. I want us to focus more on prevention and early intervention. That’s why we’ll deliver an “ask once, get help fast” approach by the end of this Parliament. We will also look at new and innovative ways to deliver the services --  for example, by bringing together healthcare and education we can ensure better treatment for our young people.

Improving primary care treatment is also a priority. Around 90% of mental health problems are dealt with in primary care settings. Part of our £150million investment will be used to fund new ways of responding to mental health issues in and around GP surgeries. At present, too many people with mental problems face difficulties when seeking support from the UK Government’s Department for Work and Pensions. The SNP Government will use new powers coming to the Scottish Parliament to pursue a different approach – with dignity and respect at its heart. We will ensure mental and physical health conditions are treated with parity. Big strides have been made, but there’s much still to do. Over this Parliamentary term we will transform the support available to people facing mental health issues."

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Earlier opening for AWPR                                                                                                                             

The 28-mile AWPR by-pass is scheduled to open for traffic in the winter of 2017.

It was initially thought that it would take to 2018 for the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route to be completed. The early conclusion of the £745million project is also likely to bring forward the timetable for contructing a new relief road at the heavily congested Haudagain junction. Aberdeen Roads Limited, and its construction contractor AWPR CJV, held open days in 10 communities at or near the route of the AWPR and its "Fastlink". They took place in Balmedie, Bridge of Don, Dyce, Newmachar, Westhill, Cults, Peterculter, Altens, Stonehaven and Ellon. 

Much of the new by-pass lies within the Aberdeen South & North Kincardine constituency of Maureen Watt MSP. She commented:  “Many people are affected in different ways by the project, and these open-day sessions enabled them to obtain more information and highlight any minor issues. Transport Scotland has ensured that community engagement is a key part of the AWPR's progress, and all enquiries are welcome while construction is under way. It is also a good opportunity for those with a general interest in the project, and young people considering careers in civil engineering, to see the processes involved in such a complex and major undertaking.”

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BUDGET proposals welcomed

New measures that set have set out Scotland’s finances were announced on 16 December 2015.

The draft Budget included £500million being provided to the NHS. Education will receive £33million -- designed to close the attainment gap between children in the richest and poorest areas. Rates for 100,000 small businesses will be zero-rated or reduced, and the police budget will be protected. John Swinney, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Constitution & the Economy,  also announced measures to protect the most vulnerable, by supporting the Scottish Welfare Fund’s Crisis & Community Grant programmes, as well as freezing Income Tax and Council Tax for a ninth consecutive year.

Maureen Watt, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen South & North Kincardine, commented: “I was pleased to hear such encouraging policies in John Swinney's draft budget. The Scottish Government was elected to protect our most vulnerable people against Westminster's harsh austerity cuts – which it has done and will continue to do. A significant issue facing my constituents in Aberdeen and in surrounding areas is the cost of living, which has led to difficulty in the city attracting teachers and care staff. The Council Tax freeze will therefore give relief to people facing the challenge of living costs, while hopefully encouraging new talent to move to the area. The SNP Government is also wholly committed to supporting and protecting our NHS. The £500 million-- on top of the £13billion already in its budget -- will go some way to ensuring people will have access to this vital service.”

Ms Watt's comments were endorsed by her Parliamentary colleague, Kevin Stewart, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen Central. He said: “I welcome the announcement that the SNP Government has kept its promise, and will freeze the Council Tax for a ninth consecutive year. This is good news for hard-pressed Scottish households, who have on average benefitted by £1,500 from the freeze.”

### More details at:  http://news.scotland.gov.uk/News/A-Budget-for-growth-and-reform-2087.aspx

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ALTENS and COVE get grant

Altens & Cove Community Association has been awarded funding to the tune of £3,340.00

It is planned to use the money to pay for a family open day, which will bring different nationalities together for various cultural displays and activities. The grant came from the Communities & Families Fund, a programme jointly run by the Scottish Government and the Big Lottery Fund. Altogether, £6million in grants has been given to local grassroots projects.

On 15 December 2015, Maureen Watt, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen South & North Kincardine, commented: “This is fantastic news for the Cove and Altens communities. I am delighted that the hard work of their association has been recognised by the Communities & Families Fund and that funding has been secured. I look forward to hearing more about the proposed event, and attending if possible."

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High FEMALE EMPLOYMENT rate

The latest Eurostat  figures show that Scotland’s female employment rate is second only to Sweden in Europe.

From April to June 2015, the rate stood at 70.6%, while Sweden’s was 74.0%. The UK is in eighth place at 67.4%. Scotland also recorded the second lowest female unemployment rate among the 28 EU countries at 4.9%. Only Germany recorded better with 4.2%.

On 16 November 2015, Maureen Watt, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen South & North Kincardine, commented: “Once again the Eurostat figures show that Scotland is among the best in Europe for women’s employment. This is something we can be proud of, but it also means we can look to countries like Sweden and Germany to see what further improvements we can make. We recognise how effective role models are in encouraging more women to believe in themselves, and the Scottish Government is supporting a range of training in this area.”

The Minister for Youth & Women’s Employment, Annabelle Ewing, will join representatives from other European countries in Brussels this week to discuss how they are tackling gender inequality in the workplace.

### Eurostat data can be found athttp://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/home                  

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AFFORDABLE HOMES target exceeded

The Scottish Government has exceeded its five-year target of delivering 30,000 affordable homes by March 2016.

The Government's aim of delivering 20,000 social rented homes, including 5,000 council houses, has also been achieved. The number of new houses built in Scotland has risen by 6% over the past year. There were 15,436 homes completed in Sept. 2013 to Sept. 2014 -- 901 more than in the previous year. Scotland's national total equates to 289 per-thousand-people, compared to 214 in England and 194 in Wales. In the same period,  there were 11,828 private sector-led starts, an increase of 10%. The number of social sector houses started also rose by 5% to 3,593. Aberdeen City acquired 652 new homes, 189 more than in 2012-13.

On 18 November 2015, Alex Neil, the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Communities and Pensioners' Rights, commented: “I am delighted that we have now met our commitment to deliver 30,000 affordable homes ahead of our target date of March 2016. We believe in a fairer Scotland for all --  and good-quality affordable housing is central to making that a reality. Despite a challenging financial environment, we have invested in excess of £1.7billion to meet the target, re-introduced council house building and protected existing housing stock through abolishing the right to buy. High-quality, energy-efficient, affordable homes form the cornerstone of socially and economically sustainable communities. We have worked hard with the housing sector to deliver these homes, as well as developing innovative funding initiatives such as Government Guarantees, loans, grant recycling and new sources of private funding, to help both buyers and developers."

The figures were welcomed by Maureen Watt, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen South & North Kincardine. She commented: "The Scottish Government has made a £200million increase in the housing budget for 2015-16 compared to the previous year, and has succeeded in delivering 30,000 affordable homes during the lifetime of this Parliament. Increased investment in house building has helped stimulate growth in the Scottish economy, and led to more starts in the private and social sectors. These figures will provide further encouragement for Scotland’s house building industry."

Minister for Housing & Welfare Margaret Burgess subsequently pledged that the SNP Government would invest £3billion to deliver 50,000 new affordable homes over the next five years. The new target is a 67% increase in affordable housing supply, with 70% of the new target being for social rent. The additional housebuild is expected to support, on average, around 20,000 jobs per year and generate in excess of £10billion in economic activity over the course of the Parliament.

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Community will own MARYCULTER woodland                                                                    

Inevitably, concerns have been raised over the impact the new Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route (AWPR) will have on the highly scenic area of Maryculter, to the south-west of the city.

In its appeal for funds to preserve the Kirkton of Maryculter Wood (coloured in red on the map), the Maryculter Woodlands Trust said: "The land around the woodland has long been thought of as an area with development potential and this has now become a reality. To the east, the AWPR bypass will drive through the ancient woodland of the Kingcausie Estate. Further east, the Blairs development project will consist of 280 homes and a golf course. To the south, the AWPR will continue its southward track, skirting the Chapelton (of Elsick) development, where thousands of homes will be built. The chance to purchase the wood for the community means that we could have one place that will remain wild, and be a refuge not only for people but for the animals displaced by roads and houses."

On 8 September 2015, it was announced that, as part of its National Forest Land Scheme,  the Scottish Land Fund would contribute £196,000 towards a community buyout of the 67-hectare woodland.  The Fund supports rural communities to become more resilient and sustainable through the ownership and management of land and land assets. It provides practical support and funding so that local people can work together to develop their ideas and aspirations, put in place effective structures, and plan and complete viable land acquisition projects. It is funded and delivered by the Scottish Government, in partnership with the Big Lottery Fund and Highlands & Islands Enterprise.

Maureen Watt, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen South & North Kincardine, said: “This is fantastic news. With Kirkton of Maryculter Wood belonging to the local community, it paves the way for fresh ideas on to what to do with, and how to maintain the land in its natural state. Everyone will get to have a say and it will be a tremendous asset. The Scottish Government is committed to distributing money to good causes and local organisations that can really make a difference. Instances like this demonstrate how important it is to fund organisations like the Scottish Land Fund, to ensure that local initiatives like the Maryculter Woodlands Trust benefit.”

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City benefits from new GOVERNMENT PROGRAMME

The Programme for Government 2015-16 was unveiled by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on 1 September 2015.

The statement outlined the legislation that the Scottish Government will introduce between now and the end of March 2016. It emphasises the importance of supporting the economy, creating a fairer society and improving public services.

Support for the oil and gas industry will come from a six-month extension to the Energy Jobs Taskforce, progress on the AWPR bypass, investment in rail improvements between Aberdeen and Inverness, and continued transformation of the country’s digital infrastructure. The Scottish Government has also renewed its commitment to the NHS and the education system. For instance, Tullos Primary School in Torry, Aberdeen will be a beneficiary of the £100million Attainment Fund.

Maureen Watt, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen South & North Kincardine, welcomed the investment. She commented: "The Programme for Government includes a comprehensive plan for tackling inequality in our society from a variety of angles. There will be further investment to increase the number of apprenticeships from 25,000 to 30,000 a year by 2020, and £16million will be spent this year to support the youth employment strategy. A lack of affordable housing is also an issue in Aberdeen, and I welcome the announcement that an additional £195million will be invested over the next three years to extend the Help to Buy scheme.”

### See also A Stronger Scotland on the SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT page.

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CRIME declines in North-East

There has been  a decline in crime in Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire and Moray.

Aberdeen saw a reduction in five crime categories in April--June. Dishonesty was down by 11%, violence by 13.5%, anti-social behaviour by 11.2%, and housebreaking and car break-ins by 33%. In 2006-07, police in the city recorded 331 instances of the handling of offensive weapons, including knives. However, this fell to 135 in 2014-15, a drop of 59%.

Aberdeenshire and Moray recorded a 12.5% decline in serious assaults. However, there was an increase in drug offences.

Nationally, recorded crime is at a 41-year low. Violent crime is down by 52%, and crimes of handling an offensive weapon (including knives) down 67% since 2006-07. The No Knives, Better Lives campaign has been effective in educating young people about the risks and consequences of carrying a knife. Between 2006-07 and 2013-14 the number of young people under 19 convicted of handling an offensive weapon fell by 80% – from 812 to 165.

The latest quarterly statistics also show that the SNP Government has succeeded in delivering and maintaining its target of 1,000 extra police officers since it came to power eight years ago. As of June 30, there were 17,272  -- an increase of 6.4%, or 1,038 officers, since 31 March 2007. By contrast: in England and Wales, police numbers have already fallen by over 15,000 since 2007 to their lowest level since 2001, and are expected to drop even further.

The figures were welcomed by Maureen Watt, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen South & North Kincardine, on 27 August 2015. She commented: “The reports demonstrate that not only are the police working hard to protect their communities, but they are also achieving results. Criminals are getting a clear message that if they commit a crime -- no matter what -- they will be caught and punished. I would like to thank all the officers and support staff of Police Scotland for all that they do to prevent and detect crime, for protecting the public, and for helping to ensure all our communities are safer."

“Of course, the figures show that there is still work to be done. I will continue to communicate with the police, if and when my constituents need their assistance, and I would encourage others to look into joining neighbourhood initiatives to keep officers in the loop with incidents in their community. The latest publication shows that, through working in partnership with Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority, the Scottish Government continues to honour the commitment it gave when it was first elected."

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Multi-storey CAR PARK for ARI

Aberdeen Royal Infirmary is to have a new multi-storey car park, which will be built opposite the main hospital entrance in Foresterhill Road.

It is estimated that around 11,000 vehicles visit the hospital every day -- bringing patients, staff, visitors and deliveries. Currently, there are only 800 parking spaces available to cope with this huge volume of traffic. The new parking block will have five or six storeys, with space for 1,000 cars, and there are plans to connect it to the main hospital building via a covered walkway. Balfour Beatty will be the main contractor, with work due to begin early next year. Construction of the building is being funded by oil tycoon Sir Ian Wood, who will donate £10million from his family’s charitable trust. Sir Ian said he was considering financial backing for other big projects in the city.

Maureen Watt, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen South & North Kincardine, commended this latest development at the ARI. Speaking on 29 July 2015, she said:  “It goes without saying that the city of Aberdeen is grateful for the immense generosity of Sir Ian Wood in donating such a large amount towards the cost of providing this much-needed facility. The new car park will make a big difference to many people, both in the city and the North-East, who have occasion to visit the ARI. Going to hospital can be a worrying and stressful time. The last thing people should be worrying about is whether they can find somewhere to park before even setting foot in the premises, so this multi-storey car park is exactly what is needed."

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Fall in hospital INFECTIONS

A Health Protection Scotland report published on July 7 shows that "C.diff" (clostridium difficile) infections in patients aged 65 years and over in Scottish hospitals have fallen to the lowest level on record.

When compared to the previous quarter, there was a decrease in clostridium difficile infections across all age groups: Patients aged 65 and over, by 19.4% (at their lowest level since monitoring began), while infections for  patients aged 15-64 went down by 29.5%.  MRSA infections decreased by 35.3%, when compared to the previous quarter. However. incidences of MSSA increased slightly by 3.8% over the same period

Minister for Public Health Maureen Watt commented: “There is no doubt we have made considerable progress in tackling healthcare-associated infections in our NHS. We have seen huge reductions in infections across the board since 2007. That is a tribute to the hard work of NHS staff at all levels, who are doing all they can to ensure we have some of the safest hospitals in the world. But there is more we must do. We will continue to work closely with Health Protection Scotland and the Healthcare Associated Infection Task Force to carry on reducing these infections and support health boards deliver further improvements for patients. We are taking forward the recommendations which came from the Vale of Leven report, to improve the systems in place – such as creating local infection taskforces, and working to give the Healthcare Environment Inspectorate the power to close wards to new admissions.”

### Full report at: http://www.hps.scot.nhs.uk/news/newsdetail.aspx?id=21031

 

Improvements in A&E waiting times

The statistics also showed improvements in waiting times for patients in Accident & Emergency (A&E) departments.

In week-ending 28 June 2015, 94.7% of people were seen within four hours at Scotland's core A&E sites. This is an improvement from 93.9% the previous week, and the best performance since weekly reporting began. During May, 93.5% of attendees at A&E services were seen -- and subsequently admitted, transferred or discharged -- within four hours. This compares with 92.8% in April, and the fourth consecutive improvement since January 2015.

Maureen Watt, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen South & North Kincardine, said: "The latest figures show A&E performance is steadily improving, with weekly figures getting closer to meeting our world-leading targets. However, we cannot afford to lose momentum now. Our focus remains on hitting that target, ensuring the best possible service for patients across Scotland. Furthermore, monthly performance has improved by over six percentage points since January – showing that our NHS staff are continuing to work hard towards delivering a first class service for Scotland. Long waits of over eight hours have significantly lessened by nearly 90% since weekly reporting began in February."

“It is vital that, with ongoing support from the Scottish Government, health boards continue to deliver strong performance in the summer months, to ensure they are in the best position they can be before heading into next winter. We have put record funding and staffing in place, and are committed to tackling delayed discharge, including through the integration of health and social care. That means we have the strong foundations in place to ensure our NHS continues to deliver quick, high-quality care for the people of Scotland.”

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TTIP is threat to NHS                                                                                                                          

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a proposed free trade agreement between the European Union and the United States of America.

The new agreement has the support of the UK Government, which says that it would create jobs and economic growth by reducing tariffs, harmonising regulations and generally making it easier for businesses to trade with the US. However, the SNP is concerned about a potential loophole in the deal, which would apparently enable large US multinational companies to take legal action to block any moves to remove large parts of the National Health Service from corporate ownership.

On 18 February 2015, Maureen Watt, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen South &  North Kincardine, added her support to the campaign to protect the NHS. She commented: “The status of Scotland’s NHS as a publicly-owned and operated institution is too important to be put at risk from the TTIP. It must be protected, and the SNP will do everything in its power to ensure that happens. This is why SNP MSPs are pledging that if the NHS is not explicitly exempted from the agreement, we will call on the Prime Minister to veto it." The Unite trade union shares the SNP's concern about this threat to the NHS, and Ms. Watt (pictured) was one of the first MSPs to sign their pledge in the Scottish Parliament.

Ms. Watt -- who is the Minister for Public Health -- added: “The Scottish people have the opportunity to secure meaningful influence and power in Westminster by voting SNP in May. The more SNP MPs there are, the more we’ll be able to ensure that Westminster does not lose sight of the things that are most important.  Protecting Scotland’s NHS is at the heart of our campaign, and our MPs in any hung Parliament will use their clout to protect our budget from the UK Government's agenda of austerity, patient charging and privatisation."

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BUDGET benefits for Aberdeen

The economy and future of Aberdeen are set to benefit from the 2015-16 budget delivered by Finance Secretary JOHN SWINNEY.

The city will receive a better deal than ever before, by sharing in the Scottish Government's £10.8billion local government allocation -- including an extra £11.3million from the new 85% funding floor formula. Aberdeen will also benefit from a £6.1million boost to its housing stock, plus investment in the new Torry-Kincorth Academy and the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary campus. This comes on top of the Government's financial contribution to the Aberdeen Community Health & Care Village and Woodside Health Centre, the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route and the Aberdeen-Inverness rail improvements.

On 5 February 2015, Maureen Watt, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen South & North Kincardine, commented: "I believe that the budget's investment in key areas over the coming year will substantially benefit the people of Aberdeen. Especially welcome is the increase in spending on health and social care in NHS Grampian, which has had its frontline budget increased by almost £246million since 2007. This is the largest increase awarded to any health board in Scotland. Top-class services are also being developed through the new cancer centre and the women’s hospital at the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary campus."

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ENERGY JOBS Taskforce

The Scottish Government has set up a new Energy Jobs Taskforce, to support the country's oil & gas sector.

Chaired by the chief executive of Scottish Enterprise Lena Wilson, the taskforce will report to the Scottish Energy Advisory Board, and will focus on supporting jobs across the energy sector, with an initial emphasis on oil & gas. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has also guaranteed that Modern Apprentices (MAs) facing redundancy in the oil & gas industry would be offered continued training, pending alternative employment. Specific support will also be made available through the Adopt An Apprentice programme, which offers incentives to re-employ MAs who have been made redundant.

On a visit to Aberdeen and Westhill on 14 January 2015, the First Minister commented: "While oil prices are at a low level we need to pull together to support the industry. For example, it is essential that the UK Government immediately introduces tax breaks to enable the oil & gas sector to weather the current storm." Membership of the  Energy Task Force will include industry bodies and commercial interests, as well as cross-Government representation. Ms. Sturgeon attended its first meeting in Aberdeen on Jan. 28, and later addressed 60 delegates at an Aberdeen Oil & Gas "summit meeting" at the Exhibition and Conference Centre on Feb. 2. The First Minister stressed that investors needed a “strong signal that the North Sea is open for business. I hope oil companies will do all they can to avoid making apprentices redundant. It is essential that Scotland retains and improves their expertise and skills."

Welcoming the creation of the taskforce, Maureen Watt, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen South & North Kincardine, said : “The North Sea has made an enormous contribution to the Scottish and UK economies over the last 40 years. In order to prolong the life of the industry beyond 2050 and maximise economic benefits, it is now vital that the Westminster Government maintains the momentum for urgent fiscal and regulatory change in the oil & gas sector. The recent drop in the price of a barrel of crude oil -- combined with the UK Government's chronic mismanagement of its oil & gas fiscal policy, and other challenges facing the industry -- poses a threat to a number of jobs. So I am delighted to see the formation of the new Energy Jobs Taskforce, to maintain jobs across the sector and mitigate the potential impact of any losses.”

Kevin Stewart, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen Central, added: “Our oil & gas industry is resilient and I am sure that it will weather this current downturn. However, it is essential to ensure that those who make their livelihoods in the industry are supported, and in particular those young folk who are new to the industry. The guarantee given to modern apprentices shows our Government’s commitment to tackling youth unemployment, and I am pleased that it continues to support young people.”

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New homes at CRAIGINCHES site                                                                                                    

Affordable homes -- many overlooking the River Dee -- will be constructed on the site of the former Aberdeen Prison at Craiginches in Torry.

The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) is in the process of transferring the land, between Grampian Rd. and Wellington Rd. (pictured) to the Scottish Government -- for onward sale to the Sanctuary Scotland Housing Association, which will build 127 flats and terraced houses on the site. In order to attract key workers to  Aberdeen, the target market for the new development will be council workers, medical staff and schoolteachers. Pending planning approval, construction will start in early 2016, with completion scheduled for autumn 2017.

Craiginches Prison closed in January 2015, with its unwilling residents being transferred to the new HMP Grampian in Peterhead. Demolition of the 13 prison buildings began soon after, and was completed on July 14. All that remains is the high granite boundary wall, which contributes to a significant narrowing of Wellington Road -- one the city's main arteries. Aberdeen City Council says it plans to remove this traffic bottleneck by buying the necessary land, demolishing the wall and adding a second lane to the southbound carriageway. 

After persistently campaigning for more affordable housing to be provided in the North-East, Maureen Watt, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen South & North Kincardine, is delighted the site will now be used to attract people to locate in Aberdeen. She commented: “I saw a great opportunity arising from the newly vacated site of the former prison. When the decision to build much needed homes at Craiginches was announced in August last year, it was a great result for the North-East. I am please to see the plans progressing swiftly, and hope that it will not be long before public sector workers can benefit from these new homes. This development will significantly boost the local economy and job market by improving local recruitment and retention of staff.”

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Expansion of ABERDEEN HARBOUR

Aberdeen Harbour Board's plans for a major expansion of the port is regarded as a national priority by the Scottish Government.  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 estimated £320million.  

Nigg Bay is in the Aberdeen South & North Kincardine constituency of SNP MSP Maureen Watt.  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.”

On 24 June 2014, Ms. Watt welcomed the harbour's enlargement as being one of 14 large developments being given national priority by the Scottish Government.  The National Planning Framework 3 (NPF3) and Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) will entail long-term development and local planning policy in transport, town centres, energy and infrastructure -- balancing economic growth with environmental protection. Ms Watt said: “I am delighted that Aberdeen Harbour has been identified as a national priority in the Scottish Government’s planning vision for the future. This will directly support the city's economy and will have positive and far-reaching effects for many years to come, while protecting our unique environment.” NPF3 was announced by Derek Mackay, the Minister for Local Government & Planning, who added: “This strategic focus will support the regeneration and reindustrialisation of Scotland, as well as improving transport and connectivity links, and ensuring sustainable development through support for green networks and low carbon energy supply.”

### More information at:  http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Built-Environment/planning/National-Planning-Framework and http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Built-Environment/planning/Polic

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"TAX PIRACY" on oil industry                                                                                                            

The SNP has joined senior oil industry figures in condemning plans for yet another ill-thought-out tax on the industry -- described as ‘tax piracy’ in the 3 March 2014 edition of the Press & Journal.

Malcolm Webb, chief executive of Oil & Gas UK, said that people in the industry  were still “scarred” by the London Treasury’s £10billion oil and gas tax grab in its 2011 budget. The UK Government now plans to impose an additional £1billion tax on 'bareboat chartering'' of rigs and flotels (floating hotels) coming to the Scottish sector. 

Mr. Webb has strongly urged that the proposed measure be withdrawn, due to "the serious adverse impact it will have on investor confidence.”  Meanwhile, in his briefing for the International Association of Drilling Contractors, Alan McRae, head of the taxation advisory group of PwC (Pricewaterhouse Coopers) stated: “(UK) Government policy promised fiscal stability and a considered process for changing tax policy. That has simply not happened. Double taxation could happen as a result of the UK and the asset owner’s home country both wanting to tax the profits from asset ownership.”

Maureen Watt, the SNP MSP Aberdeen South & North Kincardine, commented: “The last thing our oil sector needs is yet another ill-thought-out tax bombshell. It’s no wonder industry leaders are up in arms. These industry concerns come less than a week after the UK Cabinet flew into Aberdeen to promise fiscal stability for Scotland’s North Sea industry. It is notable that the Prime Minister didn’t mention this during his visit – even though he must have been aware of the industry's views. In just ten years, there have been 16 substantive changes to the fiscal regime in the North Sea. No industry can possibly operate at its best when faced with such challenges."

“These warnings come as we learn that the value of Norway’s oil fund has soared past the £500billion mark – serving as a stark reminder of how successive Westminster Governments have squandered Scotland’s fantastic natural resources. In contrast to the approach taken by Westminster, the Scottish Government is clear on the need for closer co-ordination and co-operation between the industry and relevant bodies. With independence, Scotland will have the fiscal powers to support the industry, by ensuring it is no longer subject  to sudden and unexpected tax hikes as has happened under the UK Government. The wealth from Scotland’s oil will no longer be squandered, but will benefit future generations through the establishment of our own oil fund.”

Picture:  The map shows the 6,000 square miles of the Scottish North Sea sector "annexed" by the UK Blair Government in 1999. The grab was made with the full approval of Donald Dewar's Labour-Liberal administration at Holyrood.

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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 SOUTH & NORTH KINCARDINE

Maureen Watt            SNP       13,604

Ross Thomson            Con.      10,849

Alison Evison              Lab.        4,994

John Waddell        Lib. Dem.     2,284

 

SNP HOLD.         Maj. 2,755          Turnout 54.2%