UK PARLIAMENT

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          KIRSTY BLACKMAN MP                               Aberdeen NORTH Westminster Constituency

 

Born in Aberdeenshire but raised in the city, Kirsty Blackman (nee West) was elected as the SNP MP for Aberdeen North on 7 May 2015, taking the seat from Labour.  Re-elected on 8 June 2017.  Depute SNP Group Leader from 14 June 2017. 

She was formerly an active councillor for the Hilton, Stockethill & Woodside ward of  Aberdeen City Council.  Elected in 2007 and re-elected in 2012, she built up a wealth of experience working for the people of the city.

Kirsty is the SNP's Westminster spokesperson on the Economy; was the spokesperson on the House of Lords 2015-17; and a member of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee 2015-16.

Constituency Office 46 John Street, Aberdeen, AB25 1LL.  Tel.  01224 633285.  Text:  07464 606650     E-mail: kirsty.blackman.mp@parliament.uk

Like Kirsty on Facebook

       

Due to Parliamentary rules, an MP can only deal with casework from those living in his/her constituency. To enable queries to be attended to quickly, please include your name, full address and postcode in your initial message.

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BLACKFORD & BLACKMAN lead

Ian Blackford MP is the SNP Group Leader --  with Aberdeen North's Kirsty Blackman MP as Depute Leader. 

They were chosen in a ballot of the 35 MPs on 14 June 2017.  

Kirsty said: I am delighted to be elected by my MP colleagues to be Depute Leader of the SNP Westminster group. It is an absolute honour. I am looking forward to working with the new Group Leader Ian Blackford, the new executive team and the wider group, to hold the Tories to account." She will also be the spokesperson on the Economy.

 

### Ian Blackford comments:  click on  www.facebook.com/theSNP/videos/10155528151099078/

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Is WESTMINSTER now a sideshow?

In the quest for our national independence, how important is it for the SNP to continue to have a large squad in what is, basically, England's Parliament?

When the SNP won nearly all of Scotland's Westminster seats in 2015, it proved to be only a consolation prize for losing the previous Referendum.  The subsequent loss of nearly a third of our MPs was gleefully portrayed as "a great defeat" by the unionist media and politicians. Of course, it was disappointing -- but hardly a calamity! It has to be remembered that the SNP is not a conventional "British" political party. For this reason, the last two years have revealed that our elected representatives are definitely not welcomed, and barely tolerated, in the House of Commons. If that wasn't enough, some of our country's most gifted politicians have had to give their time and energy to discussion of British issues, rather than with the core aim of our party. Surely, the singular skills and acumen of outstanding strategists like Alex Salmond and Angus Robertson would be better employed in Scotland?

In the SNP's earlier years, gaining seats at Westminster was the only available option for advancing the cause of home-rule. It was thought that if the party were to win a simple majority (37 or more) of Scotland's 72 Westminster seats, it would constitute a clear mandate to instigate negotiations on our nation's independence. On 8 June 2017, the SNP won an even clearer majority (35 out of 59 seats). Despite the party also winning three successive Scottish Parliamentary elections, these have not been considered as "mandates" either. Instead, we will have to win the next referendum before we can declare Independence.

We must never lose sight of the fact that the London Parliament is merely an impediment and a sideshow as far as our country is concerned. The British House of Commons is probably the least likely place to have a rational and unemotive debate on Scotland's constitutional status, including if the country should be "allowed" to vote on the issue. So, realistically, it is the continuing popularity and effectiveness of the SNP Scottish Government that should determine the timing of the referendum. The number of SNP MPs in London should not be regarded as some kind of crucial and essential yardstick for the measurement of our nation's progress to independence. Remember that the SNP primarily exists to have NO Scottish MPs at Westminster -- and as soon as possible!

### See also Independence REFERENDUM -- coming soon? on the SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT page.

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STATISTICALLY speaking . . . 

Scots are now fairly used to being fed various "statistics", which help to perpetuate the unionist claim that their country is an economic basket-case, which has to heavily rely on subsidies from the UK Government in order for it to function, or even survive.

Not only is this a myth -- it is the complete reverse in reality! True, we have our own devolved Government, but we do not yet possess the necessary levers and powers required to control the Scottish economy. Westminster still holds all the financial cards and pulls the purse-strings. Put bluntly: Over the years, the bulk of Scotland's resources and taxes have been requisitioned to progressively bolster the ever-increasing wealth of London and the south-east of England. Despite this, unionist politicians, of whatever party, are identical in their anxiety to perpetuate the myth. All sing from the same hymn sheet when it comes to their claim that Scotland gets more than its fair share of "pocket money" from the London Treasury. They are always keen to talk up Westminster's generosity to the Scots, but very reluctant to admit just how much Scotland actually pays for the "privilege" of being run from London.  

For example, since 1980-81, the UK Government has eagerly taken more than £300billion in tax receipts from the oil and gas fields in the Scottish sector of the North Sea. That works out at around £48,400 for every person in Scotland.  The money has been squandered on things like the horrendously expensive and unnecessary Trident missile system, futile military interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, and various ultra-costly developments or events in London or the "home counties" of England. Although the BBC and unionist press seemed to take inexplicable pleasure in the previous downturn in oil prices, they almost never mentioned that something like 24billion barrels of recoverable oil and gas, worth up to £1.5trillion, are still to be tapped in the Scottish sector of the North Sea and Atlantic.

### The UK National Debt now stands at £1.9 trillion, and grows at £5,170 per second !

The truth however is much worse. Factoring in all liabilities, including state and public sector pensions, the real national debt is closer to £4.8trillion -- some £78,000 for every person in the UK.      Note: 1 trillion =  1,000,000,000,000 or one million million.

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The SCOTLAND OFFICE -- what is it for ?                                                                                    

We have had our own Government since 1999. So why is there still a need for a "Scotland Office"?

Devolution could be said to have begun in 1885, with the creation of the Scottish Office and the post of Secretary for Scotland, together with the opening of its HQ in Dover House (pictured) in London's Whitehall. From 1892, the Secretary for Scotland was given a seat in the Westminster cabinet. In 1926, the post was upgraded to Secretary of State for Scotland, followed by the opening of St. Andrew's House, in Edinburgh in 1939. The re-establishment of our Parliament in 1999 resulted in most of its work being transferred to the new "Scottish Executive" -- renamed the Scottish Government in 2007.

Why do we still need a "Secretary of State for Scotland", backed up with an expensive office in London?  With some vague intention of reflecting its changed role, the Scottish Office was rebranded as the Scotland Office in 1999.  Then, in order to make the office sound "more British", it took to calling itself the UK Government for Scotland in October 2015. This was shortened to UK Government Scotland, in May 2018 A spokesman explained: “We are keen to emphasise that Scotland has two governments." Meanwhile, the main Scotland Office website makes an attempt to define its present function -- in terms which would not be out of place in an infant school:--

"The Scotland Office ensures the smooth working of the devolution settlement in Scotland. We represent Scottish interests within the UK Government, and we represent the UK Government in Scotland. The Scotland Office ensures that when it comes to reserved matters (the issues that the UK Government deals with in Scotland), the people of Scotland’s voice is heard at the highest level in UK Government."Objectives: Strengthening and sustaining the union. To act as a custodian of the devolution settlement. Scotland’s voice in Whitehall: To represent Scottish interests within Government and support the rest of Government on UK matters. Championing the UK Government in Scotland: To represent and advocate for the UK Government’s policies and achievements in Scotland."

So, by its own admission, the Scotland Office has assumed the role of an expensive and totally unnecessary propaganda unit for the UK Government. It now exists to 'sustain the Union', advocate Westminster's policies and sing the praises of its 'achievements' north of the border. Dover House used to employ two 'communications staff' -- or press officers -- at a cost of £108,439. During the 2014 independence referendum campaign these were increased to nine. Two years later, it was revealed that the cost of "media relations" had risen to £686,166. In 2015-16, the department lashed out £8,987 on "hospitality." But in 2016-17 that had skyrocketed to £61,641.

The staff has risen to 71, with their total salary bill now approaching £9million. It is reasonable to ask how this huge increase can be justified, given that the specific responsibilities of the Secretary of State for Scotland have decreasedA Scotland Office spokesman said: “The UK Government has a duty to inform the public about its policy and work. These modest year-on-year increases bring the office into line with similar UK departments. It also adds new functions such as digital communications, ensuring key information reaches as many people in Scotland as possible.”

So-called 'key information', primarily aimed at boosting support for the unionist parties, was mass-produced for the May 2015 General Election. In March of that year, the Scotland Office splashed out £936,560 on a glossy leaflet called Scotland’s Changing. It listed the 'new powers' set to be coming to the Scottish Parliament, and was sent to every household in the country.  An SNP spokesman commented:  “As the Tory Government implements massive cuts to spending on public services and slashes the incomes of the poorest through welfare cuts, people will be shocked that it is spending 430% more on press officers for David Mundell."

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EU Co-ordination Committee appointed

On 6 September 2016, the SNP Group at Westminster set up a committee to examine the impact of the UK decision to leave the European Union

Chaired by Group Leader Angus Robertson, it will include Alex Salmond, Stephen Gethins, Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh and Hannah Bardell. Mr. Gethins will "shadow" the UK Government Minister responsible for exiting the EU, while Ms. Tasmina-Sheikh will be the party's International Trade (changed from Trade & Investment) spokesperson.

                                 

Concerns over leaving EUROPE

Following the vote by the UK to leave the European Union, concern has been raised over the status of the 127,000 EU nationals currently living in Scotland.

Callum McCaig, the SNP MP for Aberdeen South, said on 24 June 2016: "I am proud of the fact that people from across the EU have chosen Aberdeen as their home. There is no doubt that these individuals contribute massively to the rich tapestry of life in our city. I am also acutely aware of the great uncertainty that they will now face, given the real possibility that they will lose their right to both live and work here. Such a lack of clarity is simply unacceptable. All those who contribute to our society, and pay their taxes, deserve to be treated with respect. Indeed, they must have clear answers over their future."

On 12 July 2016, his Parliamentary colleague, Kirsty Blackman, the SNP MP for Aberdeen North, added: "Of the 298 new cases I and my office have dealt with in the past month, 44% have been about the EU."  Many individuals were concerned about their personal circumstances after the UK's decision to leave Europe. In addition to their residency rights, there were worries over such things as pensions and savings held in the EU, business on the continent, EU-funded projects in the city or university courses. Mrs. Blackman added:  “Scots want to stay in the EU, and the majority of e-mails constituents have sent me over the past few weeks echo that desire. Along with my SNP colleagues, I have pledged  to do all we can do stop Scots being shoved out of the EU against our wishes and against our democratic will.” 

Mr McCaig called for clarity from the UK Government as soon as possible. He said: “I have a lot of pride in Aberdeen and the rest of Scotland for voting to remain, but I worry about the likelihood that our democratic result will not be respected because of the leave majorities seen elsewhere in the UK. I have therefore written to Theresa May, the incoming Prime Minister, to tell her it is essential that the UK Government makes an urgent statement assuring all our EU nationals that they will be allowed to continue living and working in our communities --- irrespective of the outcome of the negotiations which will take place between UK and EU officials over the coming months."

### Further information on the EUROPEAN UNION page.

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Action on OIL job losses

Following the announcement that BP is set to axe 600 jobs in its North Sea oil operations, the SNP has called on Westminster to reduce its crippling taxation of the industry in order to encourage exploration.

Callum McCaig, the SNP MP for Aberdeen South, said he would be seeking an urgent meeting on the matter with UK Energy Secretary Amber Rudd. On 14 January 2016, he commented: "My SNP colleagues and I have been pressing the UK Government for months to do more to support the North Sea oil and gas industry. In what is a highly competitive international market, Westminster is not making investment in the region as attractive a prospect as it needs to be."

BP is to cut a total of 4,000 jobs worldwide, but has reiterated its long-term commitment to the North Sea. $2billion will be spent on future projects in the sector. However, Mr. McCaig said that the long-term investment would not compensate for the blow to 600 oil workers and their families. He added: "BP has been a dominant presence in Aberdeen for decades, and the North Sea has more than enough potential left in it for generations of activity. However, the company's announcement must serve as a wake-up call, and action must be taken to protect jobs and secure investment. The UK Government appears to have no solid plan to encourage new exploration and drilling projects, through tax relief for the industry. Without future projects, there cannot be future jobs. It is that simple.”

Swift action was also taken by Kevin Stewart, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen Central. He said: “I have asked the UK Chancellor to carry out an urgent review of taxation of the sector and to put in place a package of measures:  to help secure jobs, to ensure that investment in the North Sea sector continues, and to help anchor the oil and gas supply chain in the Aberdeen area for decades to come. The announcements by BP and Petrofac to cut their North Sea workforce by 600 and 160 jobs respectively is an extremely worrying situation for the North-East and beyond, and it is imperative that the UK Government takes urgent action during the current downturn in the oil price. For over forty years, the North Sea oil and gas industry has massively bolstered the UK Treasury, with billions of pounds being taken in tax receipts. I hope that until the global oil price stabilises again,  the Chancellor will introduce measures to support the workforce and industry that has contributed so much to Westminster.

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Scrap the HOUSE OF LORDS                                                                                                                             

The SNP has renewed its call for a wholly-elected chamber to replace the anachronistic and grossly undemocratic House of Lords. 

This followed a report that, on any day, the 826 unelected peers can pocket £300 -- just by being in the building for an hour. They neither have to contribute or vote on any matters to receive the funds, and can even have a snooze (picture). As the cash is paid as an allowance rather than a salary, it is not even subject to taxation.

The SNP's spokesperson on the Lords is the MP for Aberdeen North, Kirsty Blackman. In December 2015, she commented: "People may be astonished to learn that this money – which can amount to tens of thousands of pounds a year – is not subject to income tax. This is particularly galling, as the first act of some of the newly ennobled Tory peers  was to vote to end tax credits for the low-paid, and deprive working families on low incomes of this essential benefit."

“Following pressure from the SNP in the House of Commons, the Tories had to perform a humiliating U-turn on tax credits. However, the gross juxtaposition of the most privileged and pampered in the land gleefully hitting out at hard working people, will not be lost on voters. The SNP has never taken seats in the House of Lords. It is now no more than a chamber of cronies -- filled with hangers-on and people with big cheque books who pay their political bosses to get a seat guaranteed for life. They face no democratic accountability, and never have to bother with the trouble of an election."

"The House of Lords is nothing more than an affront to democracy. It shines a light on the utter failure of Westminster’s creaking not-fit-for-purpose ‘democracy’, and yet it grows and grows in numbers. Even the Tories want to clip its wings by reducing its role even further. This Christmas, as the peers ponder how to spend their lavish tax free allowances, the message is simple. Don’t reduce its powers and make it even more of a useless relic. Get rid of it – close it down for good in 2016 – and replace it with something that remotely resembles a democratic chamber."

### See also More PEERS appointed by the Tories below.

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Cheering the decision to BOMB

On the evening of 2 December 2015, the UK House of Commons voted by 397 to 223 in favour of bombing targets in Syria. The Tory Government was supported by a large number of Labour MPs.

Kirsty Blackman MP (Aberdeen North) commented: "MPs clapped and cheered tonight at a call to drop bombs on people. I don't have words to express how angry I am that they think this is appropriate." Chancellor George Osborne also exuded this inexplicable joy when he addressed the Council on Foreign Relations in New York on December 7. He crowed: "Britain has got its mojo* back, and we are going to be with you as we reassert Western values, confident that our best days lie ahead."  He added that it was a "source of real pride" that the UK had joined other nations in launching air strikes.

All of the SNP's 56 MPs voted against military intervention, but this was negated by 66 Labour Members who were quick to support the Tory Government's warmongering. SNP Parliamentary Leader Angus Robertson said: "Military intervention in Syria, without a credible peace-building plan, will only make the situation worse. This cannot be another Libya, where the UK has spent 13 times more on bombing the country than on its reconstruction. The situation in Syria has already spurred one of the worst humanitarian crises in decades, and there is scant evidence that the Prime Minister’s military action will do anything to improve the lives of these people."

"Yesterday I took the time to meet Syrian exiles to discuss their experiences and hear their views. It was heartbreaking to listen to people who are merely surviving on hope. They told me that Daesh must be defeated, for the sake of people in Syria as well as for the safety of people in Europe and Britain. But this will not be achieved by the Prime Minister’s bombing campaign. I am a proud co-sponsor of today’s cross-party amendment opposing bombing in Syria and calling for a comprehensive strategy against Daesh. We must not repeat the mistakes of the past, and engage in military action without a comprehensive and credible plan to win the peace. Instead of the Prime Minister’s foolhardy motion, the UK must step up its support for the International Syria Support Initiative, and other diplomatic efforts, to secure a ceasefire in Syria and a political transition to stable representative government."    *mojo (US slang) = uncanny personal power or influence.

 

The United Nations has invited Scotland's First Minister to host an international women's summit on Syria.

On 29 November 2015, Nicola Sturgeon said the initiative had come from a meeting with Staffan de Mistura, the UN's special envoy for Syria, who suggested Scotland could have a key role in the peace process. Ms. Sturgeon said: “In particular, he has asked for our support in training female Syrian peacemakers in negotiation and communication skills, to best prepare them to maximise their role in the talks. In recent months, the world has been both touched by the plight of refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria, and horrified by the terrorist atrocities of Daesh."

"Scotland is welcoming refugees into our communities, and we have also provided funding for aid agencies responding to the crisis in Syria and neighbouring countries. However, we are also open to exploring other avenues to assist where we can. This is work which I hope can involve politicians across the political spectrum in the Scottish Parliament, but most importantly can also play a small but important part in helping the people of Syria find a lasting peace.”   

###  The SNP's "Don't Bomb Syria" petition attracted over 100,000 signatures. 

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TAX OFFICES face closure 

HM Revenue & Customs is set to close its 17 offices in Scotland by 2021, with the net loss of over 2,000 jobs. The UK Government plans to replace them with two large "regional centres" in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

The Aberdeen office -- at Ruby House, near Golden Square -- will close by 2021, with 120 losing their jobs. The Inverness centre will also go by 2018, with the loss of about 50 positions. Apparently, staff in those offices will not automatically move to one of the new regional centres. On November 12, Callum McCaig, the SNP MP for Aberdeen South, said he would be seeking answers as to whether this will prompt wholesale compulsory redundancies.

Mr. McCaig commented: "HMRC can dress up this announcement any way they like. The fact of the matter is they are closing offices without making employment provisions for the people who currently work there. They have also not clearly outlined what this decision will means for the immediate and short-term future of their employees in Aberdeen. Like many other MPs, I received a letter which claimed the closure plans would make the tax authority 'more fit for the future'. Well, I don’t think it is fit to make mass changes without providing the necessary information for people whose jobs look set to be affected."

"At a time where thousands are being detrimentally affected by radical changes to their own personal tax credits, the loss of their local office will damage the confidence people have in receiving adequate support and help from the HMRC. It is very disappointing that such a major announcement has come without further details and information. This decision appears to be a short-sighted one, and I hope HMRC can provide me, and the people I represent, with the answers we need to determine how this 'modernisation programme' will impact on the people of Aberdeen."

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KIRSTY'S OFFICE

Kirsty Blackman opened her new office, at 46 John Street, Aberdeen, on 6 November 2015.

              

Kirsty says all constituents and others are welcome to drop in anytime.

 

The office also accepts donations for local foodbanks.

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State BROADCASTER's role in Scotland

In its manifesto for the 2015 UK General Election, the SNP called for control over all TV and radio broadcasting to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

The current BBC Charter is due to expire at the end of 2016. A new charter should include input from the Scottish Government and Holyrood at all stages. BBC Scotland should also receive a fairer share of the Corporation's income. This would amount to an additional £100million, if this was directly linked to the amount of revenue raised from Scottish licence fee payers. In addition, any replacement for the current licence fee should be based on an individual's ability to pay.

Following the state broadcaster's flagrantly biased reporting in the run-up to the Scottish Independence Referendum, former First Minister Alex Salmond called for the  BBC's Scottish division to be placed under the control of the Holyrood Parliament. Speaking at the SNP spring conference in March 2015, Mr. Salmond said he was “surprised and disappointed” that the BBC had allowed itself to be influenced by a similarly biased press, largely opposed to a Yes vote in favour of independence. He added:  “Some of the experience of the referendum has scarred the BBC, and there has been some gain from it already from our perspective. This week, Nicola Sturgeon will take her rightful place in the TV debates on the General Election. In 2010, the BBC successfully contested the SNP's court action which would have enabled me to appear in the broadcast debates. But, in reality, I don’t think the broadcasting issue in terms of how Scotland is treated will be properly resolved until we have broadcasting under the remit of our democratic Parliament in Scotland.”

In her address to the  Edinburgh International Television Festival on 27 August 2015, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon again called for broadcasting in Scotland to be the responsibility of the Holyrood Parliament. This should include the launching of a new BBC Scotland television channel and an additional  Radio Scotland station. Ms. Sturgeon pointed out that less than half of the Scottish population thought that the BBC accurately reflected their lives.  She added: "The UK has changed dramatically since devolution but broadcasters are still catching up with its consequences."  Of course, this can only be regarded as a short-term fix. More BBC outlets will not necessarily lead to the Corporation treating Scotland any differently!  What we need is our own national Scottish Broadcasting Service -- but that will only come when we gain full self-government. 

Kirsty Blackman, the SNP MP for Aberdeen North, has asked BBC managers why it is so difficult to opt out of paying the licence fee, stressing that it was also unfair for people having to pay this six months in advance. On a visit to the BBC studios in Beechgrove Terrace, Aberdeen on 22 August 2015, Mrs. Blackman said she had voiced her concern over the broadcaster's lack of competence in responding to complaints.  She added: "We also talked about the jobs the BBC provides in Aberdeen and the number of  programmes it makes locally. The SNP's manifesto commitment was to increase the amount of spend the Corporation has in Scotland. Currently, the BBC is undergoing a charter review. I know many will have strong views on the BBC. I would urge them to submit their views to one or both of these public consultations so decisions can be taken on an informed basis."

    ► Nicola Sturgeon speech at:   http://news.scotland.gov.uk/Speeches-Briefings/Alternative-MacTaggart-Lecture-1c65.aspx   

    ► BBC Trust at:   www.bbc.co.uk/bbctrust/who_we_are/audience_councils/scotland/

    ► UK Government consultation at:  www.gov.uk/government/consultations/bbc-charter-review-public-consultation

    ► Scotland's Future (Culture & Broadcasting) at:  www.gov.scot/Resource/0044/00444494.pdf

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Kirsty visits ABERDEEN AIRPORT

KIRSTY BLACKMAN, the SNP MP for Aberdeen North, toured Aberdeen International Airport on 7 August 2015.

The visit followed an announcement that a policy consultation on Air Passenger Duty (APD in Scotland would be launched in the autumn.  After it was included in the Smith Commission's final recommendations, the UK Government's latest Scotland Bill could include the devolution of APD to the Scottish Parliament. The managers of Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow Airports have been pressing for a reduction or abolition of the duty for some time.

Mrs. Blackman commented: “Today I had an interesting tour of Aberdeen Airport, where I learned all about the inner workings of the facility, and I would like to thank all of the staff who took the time to meet with me. I was able to hear of their future plans to improve and transform the airport, and I have offered what support I can to assist with this. The announcement of the policy consultation allowed me to discuss the Scottish Government’s future plans for APD and how Aberdeen would be affected. This tax has impacted on our airport disproportionately."

"Over recent years, there has been uncertainty about the Aberdeen to Heathrow route because the return trip sees passengers taxed twice. I understand that the high cost of APD has also dissuaded other airlines from introducing new routes from Aberdeen. With devolution of APD, we can set a rate that allows our city to stay connected to the world and grow our local economy. The consultation this autumn will be important in making sure that APD gets set at the right level."

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Compensation for loss of WINDPOWER subsidies   

Foreign investors in the Scottish renewables sector could be set to launch multi-million pound compensation claims against the UK Government, over its plans to axe subsidies for onshore wind projects.

Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing had earlier warned of the likelihood of costly legal battles, after the UK Government -- seemingly jealous of Scotland's progress in the development of wind-powered energy -- pulled the plug on future funding for the industry. The SNP has called for "maximum flexibility" from Westminster on the implementation of its policy. Crucially, it has requested that subsidies for all projects which are already in the planning process should be continued.

Callum McCaig MP (Aberdeen South) is the SNP spokesman on Energy & Climate Change in the House of Commons. On 28 July 2015, he said he would be writing to the UK Government's energy minister, calling for her personal pledge to continue funding for projects in the planning stage. He added: “The possibility of legal action should not come as a surprise to the UK Government. They were warned by the Scottish Government that this could happen if it ever reneged on promises to investors in Scotland’s renewables industry. To say the least, this early closure of the Renewable Obligation is not a sensible decision, and it has unnecessarily exposed the UK Government -- and Scottish taxpayers -- to the risk of judicial review.”

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Blackman slams EVEL plans                                                                                         

In anticipation of the Tory Government's highly controversial policy of "English Votes for English Laws" (EVEL)  being implemented, new computer software is being  introduced  into the House of Commons.

MPs currently vote by funnelling down ‘Aye’ or ‘Nay’ lobbies, with their votes being counted manually. In a belated  bid to modernise the procedure, the House spent £5,000 last year on developing software which would enable votes to be counted electronically. A further £9,900 was spent on tablet devices, and £4,900 for i-Pads. The UK Parliament is obviously lagging far behind Holyrood, where MSPs have been using individual electronic key-pads on their desks to vote since the Scottish Parliament was restored in 1999. 

Taxpayers' money has already been spent on other measures, to ensure that Scottish MPs will in future be locked out of some House of Commons votes. In anticipation of the Tory proposals for "English Votes for English Laws",  a further £1,700 was spent on adapting the original software to record "double majorities." This would  ensure that the votes of Scottish MPs’ are not recorded for English-only divisions --  despite the proposals not gaining initial support from the Parliament, and forcing the Tory Government into a humiliating climb-down.

The information was unearthed in response to a Parliamentary Question by Kirsty Blackman, the SNP MP for Aberdeen North. On 25 July 2015, she commented:  “The Tories’ EVEL proposals are in complete disarray, as can be seen from the UK Government’s humiliating backtrack when challenged by MPs. It must now be asked why an extra £1,700 of taxpayers’ money has now been splashed out,  in addition to the £5,000 spent on adapting software last year -- all to ensure Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs are locked out of certain votes.

“If the Tories’ EVEL proposals are passed, Scottish MPs will be demoted to a second-class status. Whilst it is not the largest sum of money to be wasted by the Westminster establishment, it speaks volumes about their attitude towards Scotland and the rights of our democratically elected representatives. This waste of cash really hits home when you consider the Tories’ just passed a budget – supported by Labour inaction – that is attacking working families and the most vulnerable in our society. It is clear for all to see that the priorities of the Westminster establishment are more focused on protecting its own interests than serving the people they are meant to represent.”

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WELFARE slashed again -- with Labour support

The UK Government's draconian Welfare Reform & Work Bill aims to slash tax credits for those in work, and cap the level of social security families can receive. Around 346,000 families and nearly 200,000 children in Scotland are expected to be the worst hit by the new measures. 

MPs voted on the Bill's second reading on 20 July 2015, and -- thanks to the Labour Party -- successfully passed it on to its next stage. Nearly all of Labour's MPs, including their sole Scottish member, abstained from voting. Only 48 followed the SNP into the No lobby. Their failure to oppose the Tory war on the needy was condemned by Kevin Stewart, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen Central, who sits on the Scottish Parliament's Welfare Reform Committee. He commented:  "The Tories have already severely slashed the welfare budget, and these new measures will again target the most vulnerable in our society. Over the last few years, through both my work in Aberdeen and on the Welfare Reform Committee, I've seen the human cost of Iain Duncan Smith's ruthless cuts."

"This latest money-saving exercise is utterly callous. It appears to have been thought up with no knowledge or regard for the struggles many people face. Tax credits are one of the few ways that the UK Government is helping working families keep their heads above water, but that support is now being snatched away too. It is a travesty that half a million children in Scotland will be at risk of falling into poverty -- and Labour is doing nothing to stop it.   This Bill has to be defeated before it can become law, and be allowed to condemn a generation to Dickensian levels of poverty and inequality.”

Kirsty Blackman, the SNP MP for Aberdeen North, was equally incensed. She added: "There was an opportunity to stop this cold-hearted Bill in its tracks. The SNP was joined by every other party in opposition except Labour. Had their MPs not abstained there would have been enough votes to defeat the Tories. Thousands of families now face being worse off because of Labour MPs failing to vote. Perhaps Labour should consider replacing their red rose with a shirking violet. A bit closer to blue, with an inability to oppose the Tories or stand up for the many who will suffer under this legislation.”

### See also Effect of AUSTERITY CUTS in Aberdeen on the ABERDEEN CENTRAL page.

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Debate on CITY REGION DEAL

Aberdeen and the North-East could benefit from a £2.9billion City Region Deal, which would consist of grants and borrowing powers to secure the area's economic future.  Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Councils hope to submit their formal bid to the UK and Scottish Governments in the coming months, with the funding secured before the end of the year.

Kirsty Blackman, the SNP MP for Aberdeen North, led a Commons debate on the issue on 30 June 2015.  She described the City Deal initiative as being long overdue for the area, which had suffered due to delays to major infrastructure projects, and problems with transport connectivity. Aberdeen's status as the Oil Capital of Europe must be maintained.

"It is vital that there is action to ensure Aberdeen continues to be competitive and a global centre of excellence. With the challenges of a mature field and a low oil price, we need to get very good, very quickly at performing in this new environment. Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire need to become world leaders in things like oil platform decommissioning. We have the talent and the skills locally, and we have the ability to export those skills as other fields across the world reach the end of production. The city is also uniquely placed to take the lead in renewable technologies."

Callum McCaig (Aberdeen South), said the Deal had the backing of all parties in Aberdeen, and warned there was no guarantee that the city would remain as a global hub. "The expertise, the clusters of experience and knowledge there is in our city and our region is truly world class. But -- and it is a but -- there is no guarantee we will continue in that role. We need the investment now, otherwise we potentially face the prospect of losing the 'goose', which in many ways lays the 'golden egg'."

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More PEERS appointed by the Tories

Prime Minister Cameron has appointed 46 new peers, so that the Lords “more accurately reflects” the Tory majority in the House of Commons. This takes the total to 826. 

Kirsty Blackman MP commented: “In a time of belt-tightening and austerity, it is obscene that the Prime Minister thinks it appropriate to appoint new Lords. We already have a second chamber which is almost unrivalled in size. The last thing we need is more rich political donors receiving a massive tax-free allowance for their loyalty. David Cameron  has ruled out Lords reform. In the absence of reform, he should not be making further appointments. The more Lords we have, the higher the potential spend in each year. If the Conservatives are serious about reducing public spending, they need to start closer to home, and put the brakes on further Lords claiming tax-free money from the state.

“It is an absolute affront that a Government determined to make our poorest and most vulnerable even poorer intend to make their moneyed friends and cronies even richer. On average, only 483 of the 800+ peers turn up each day. They do not receive a fixed salary, but can claim a daily allowance of £300 (tax-free), even if they only attend a sitting for a few minutes!  Lords claimed 3.6 times the minimum wage in 2013-14 -- simply by showing up for work on 142 days. How can an equivalent wage of nearly £90 per hour be justified when we’re ‘all in this together’? If this Government really believes £7.20 per hour is enough for people to live on, they must stop increasing the number of peers."

"The SNP is obviously of the opinion that elected representatives should make the laws, rather than over 800 ermine-clad peers. who are paid by the state, but answerable to nobody. We do not believe the House of Lords is democratic and we will continue to refuse to sit in the bloated, ridiculous, unelected second chamber. We can't even get rid of them at the next election as they are appointed for life. What a totally unaccountable, ridiculously expensive and bloated undemocratic system. It is time for the House of Lords to go, and be replaced with a wholly-elected chamber.”

 

SCOTLAND BILL faces amendments in Lords

The UK Government's Scotland Bill -- already watered-down from the Smith Commission's modest proposals --  will also face amendments in the House of Lords.

This prompted an incredulous response from Kirsty Blackman MP, who is the SNP spokesperson on the House of Lords. On 5 July 2015, she commented: "That this out-of-touch, unelected group looks set to have more influence on amending the Scotland Bill than Scotland’s elected MPs is completely ridiculous. Just last week, 58 of our 59 MPs voted for amendments to the Bill, but were overruled by the Tories, who only have one Scottish MP. To add insult to injury, the Tory Government now looks set to take on board amendments from the unelected Lords. David Mundell and David Cameron need to understand that they can't just simply bypass the democratic will of Scotland's people.  They should recognise the unprecedented mandate given to the SNP at the General Election, and deliver the powers that were voted for –- rather than demonstrating arrogance in ignoring Scotland’s voice, while listening to the undemocratic absurdity of the House of Lords.”

### See also Still waiting for the new "POWERS" on the SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT page.

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Moratorium on FRACKING

In a House of Commons debate on the UK Government's Infrastructure Bill, SNP MPS backed a moratorium on the highly controversial practice of "fracking" for shale oil and gas. 

Hydraulic fracturing -- or fracking -- is being suggested for the recovery of deposits of gas and oil from shale rock in Scotland and Northern England. It involves drilling deep into the earth, sometimes close to urban areas. Water, sand and chemicals are injected into the basic rock at high pressure, which allows gas to flow up to the wellhead. In addition to the highly toxic chemicals used in drilling, other natural but dangerous chemical and radioactive substances, released from the coal and shale,  can lead to contamination of ground-water and soil, and leak into the atmosphere.

The SNP regards fracking as potentially dangerous to both people and the environment. Although all of its MPs voted for an 18- to 30-month ban on the process, their motion failed because most Labour's MPs abstained. On 27 January 2015, Kevin Stewart, the SNP MSP for Aberdeen Central, blasted Scottish Labour MPs -- including its two in Aberdeen -- for failing to back the ban. Mr Stewart said: “Scottish Labour have shown themselves to be a complete sham on fracking. After a weekend of posturing, Jim Murphy and his colleagues failed to back a moratorium in practice."

Energy Minister Fergus Ewing subsequently announced the Scottish Government's own moratorium on planning consents for 'unconventional' onshore oil and gas wells, including those employing  hydraulic fracturing.  A full public consultation will be held to ensure that the voices of communities throughout Scotland are heard on the issue. Mr. Ewing has also requested the UK Government not to issue any further 'fracking' licences in Scotland.

As part of the UK Infrastructure Bill, a separate vote on full implementation of the Wood Review on the oil and gas industry was passed. This was despite a Labour and Liberal Democrat move to water down its full recommendations --  in order to maximise oil and gas revenues contributing towards a realisation of the much-heralded UK "economic recovery". Mr. Stewart said the bid to undermine Sir Ian Wood's recommendations "merely served to betray hard-pressed oil workers in Aberdeen."  The Oil & Gas UK industry body has also strongly criticised attempts to derail full implementation of the review.

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WINNING FOR SCOTLAND!

UK GENERAL ELECTION RESULT  8 June 2017:--

ABERDEEN NORTH

Kirsty Blackman            SNP            15,170

Orr Vinegold                  Lab.            11,031

Grace O'Keeffe              Con.             5,304

Isobel Davidson         Lib. Dem.        1,693

Richard Durkin               Ind.                522

SNP HOLD          Maj. 4,139          Turnout 59.2%

 

NICOLA STURGEON meets with the SNP's 35 MPs on 12 June 2017

 

UK General Election 2017

59 candidates (36.9%) and 35 MPs:--

Kirsty Blackman (Aberdeen North), Brendan O’Hara (Argyll & Bute), Neil Gray (Airdrie & Shotts), Philippa Whitford (Ayrshire Central), Patricia Gibson (Ayrshire North & Arran), Stuart C. McDonald (Cumbernauld, Kilsyth & Kirkintilloch East), Martin Docherty-Hughes (Dunbartonshire West), Stewart Hosie (Dundee East), Chris Law (Dundee West), Douglas Chapman (Dunfermline & Fife West), Lisa Cameron (East Kilbride, Strathaven & Lesmahagow), Tommy Sheppard  (Edinburgh East), Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North & Leith), Joanna Cherry (Edinburgh South West), John McNally (Falkirk), Stephen Gethins (Fife North East), Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central), David Linden (Glasgow East), Patrick Grady (Glasgow North), Carol Monaghan (Glasgow North West), Stewart M. McDonald (Glasgow South), Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West), Peter Grant (Glenrothes), Ronnie Cowan (Inverclyde), Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey), Alan Brown (Kilmarnock & Loudoun), Angela Crawley (Lanark & Hamilton East), Martyn Day  (Linlithgow & East Falkirk), Hannah Bardell (Livingston), Marion Fellows (Motherwell & Wishaw), Angus MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar), Gavin Newlands (Paisley & Renfrewshire North), Mhairi Black (Paisley & Renfrewshire South), Pete Wishart (Perth & Perthshire North),  Ian Blackford (Ross, Skye & Lochaber).         

 

Appointments: Ian Blackford (Group Leader); Kirsty Blackman (Deputy Group Leader and the Economy); Hannah Bardell (Trade & Investment); Joanna Cherry (Justice & Home Affairs); Stephen Gethins (International Affairs & Europe); Peter Grant (Europe);  Neil Gray (Social Justice); Marion Fellows (Small Business, Enterprise & Innovation); Mhairi Black (Pensions & Youth Affairs); Drew Hendry (Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy); Brendan O'Hara (Culture & Media); Stewart M. McDonald (Defence); Douglas Chapman (Defence Procurement); Philippa Whitford (Health); Angela Crawley (Equalities, Women & Children, Family Support, Housing, Child Maintenance & Disability); Martin Docherty-Hughes (Industries for The Future); Stuart C. McDonald (Immigration, Asylum & Border Control); Patricia Gibson (Consumer Affairs); Chris Law (International Development & Climate Justice); Alan Brown (Transport, Infrastructure & Energy); Angus MacNeil (Environment & Rural Affairs); Carol Monaghan (Education, Armed Forces & Veterans); Alison Thewliss (Treasury & Cities); Gavin Newlands (Sport); Lisa Cameron (Mental Health); Tommy Sheppard (House of Lords, Scotland Office & Cabinet Office); Deidre Brock (Devolved Government Relations, Northern Ireland and Fair Work & Employment); Chris Stephens (Trade Unions & Workers' Rights); Pete Wishart (Shadow Leader of the House of Commons & Constitution); Patrick Grady (Whip).