Author Archives: Peter Bellarby

SNP councillors refuse to back call for improved infrastructure for the North East

By Peter Bellarby

A senior Aberdeenshire councillor has expressed disappointment that SNP councillors refused to support a report calling on the Scottish Government to give greater priority to the vital infrastructure needs of the north east of Scotland.

At a meeting on Thursday last week, the Council was asked to consider its response to the Scottish Government’s National Planning Framework 3 (NPF3), published by ministers on 14th January. The NPF3 document provides a framework for development across the whole of Scotland, together with the government’s priorities for the next 20 or 30 years.

It also identifies nationally important developments to support its approach, including carbon capture and storage at Peterhead, improvements at Aberdeen airport and the project to develop Aberdeen harbour.

Whilst welcoming many aspects of NPF3, the Council’s response raised concerns over the lack of detailed actions to deliver the infrastructure necessary to support the levels of growth envisioned by Scottish ministers, particularly in the north east.

The report also highlighted concerns previously raised by the council and by Nestrans over the priority being given to a project to develop high speed rail between Edinburgh and Glasgow, rather than to improving journey times between the north east and the central belt.

Commenting, Cllr Peter Argyle, chair of the Infrastructure Services Committee, said, “I was absolutely astonished that the SNP group failed to back a report calling for greater priority to be given to rail links to and from the north east, rather than this unnecessary and uncosted high speed rail project.

“The Scottish Government is already spending £650m on rail improvements between Edinburgh and Glasgow, to reduce journey times by an estimated 8 minutes and increase capacity. High speed rail coming on top of this investment would be a luxury Scotland cannot afford at this stage, certainly not in isolation from the wider UK high speed rail project.

“We urgently need Scottish Government investment to improve journey times between Aberdeen and the central belt. Taking almost three hours to travel by rail from the economic powerhouse of Scotland to the central belt is inadequate in the 21st century. While there are still sections of single track around Montrose, including high speed rail in NPF3 as a priority National Development simply cannot be justified.

“It is a sad fact that of the £2.6bn of capital transport projects underway across Scotland today, none are in the north east. Indeed, the last Scottish Government project to be completed in our area was Laurencekirk station, way back in 2007. It is disappointing that the SNP failed to support the Aberdeenshire community on this issue and instead wanted to back the inclusion of this high speed project.”

Stonehaven Councillor, Peter Bellarby, added: “Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire is the economic centre piece of Scotland. This is where considerable growth is expected in the coming years. We need the infrastructure to match this and that includes transport. The railway journey to the central belt needs to be faster and one thing that would contribute to achieving this would be electrification. The journey time across Fife is particularly slow and attention needs to be paid to the railway infrastructure there as well.”

Following debate and a vote, the Aberdeenshire Alliance proposal to endorse the response was agreed and it will now be forwarded to the Scottish Government.

From:: Peter Bellarby

LIBERAL DEMOCRAT LEADER NICK CLEGG WELCOMES HOME RULE REPORT

Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats Willie Rennie MSP has today met with Deputy Prime Minister and UK Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg MP in London to present him with a copy of the report of the Home Rule and Community Rule Commission.

Under the chairmanship of Sir Menzies Campbell MP, the report was adopted overwhelmingly at the Scottish Liberal Democrat Conference.

Commenting, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg MP said:

“Sir Menzies Campbell has put forward an excellent package of recommendations which once again puts Liberal Democrats at the forefront of the debate on Scotland’s long term place within the United Kingdom.

“From the formation of the NHS to the introduction of the state pension, from the darker days of the banking crash in 2008 to the triumph of Team GB at our Olympics this year, I firmly believe that the United Kingdom is stronger when working together.

“In tough times we help each other and in good times we share in successes. This is the mark of a modern, tolerant society.

“The Liberal Democrat plan for home rule all round would enshrine this spirit in the UK’s constitutional framework.”

Commenting, Willie Rennie MSP said:

“For over a century Liberal Democrats have advocated a federal United Kingdom. This report sets out a route map to a fair and federal UK.

“We know that a majority of people wish to see a stronger Scotland which works together with our partners in the rest of the UK on foreign affairs, defence and the economy.

“That ambition can be best achieved when we have a parliament not with powers on loan but with the permanent powers and responsibilities that enable it to be sensitive and flexible to local needs while able to share risks and rewards with the rest of the UK.

“We want to trigger reform across the United Kingdom and this report should act as a rallying point for those people who want change across the United Kingdom.

“We will use these plans to lead the debate, to build a consensus and secure a mandate for reform at the next general election. We urge people who like our plans to come on side and make the case for this change.”

For more information about “Federalism: the best future for Scotland”, the report of the Home Rule and Community Rule Commission, visit
http://www.scotlibdems.org.uk

BORDERS RAIL PROJECT MUST NOT BE DELAYED ANY FURTHER – HUME

Borders MSP and Scottish Liberal Democrat Transport Spokesperson, Jim Hume, has this evening said that the Scottish Government must get on with the job of delivering the long awaited Borders railway line.

The MSP made the comments in advance of an official ceremony tomorrow (Tuesday 6th November) and criticised the Scottish Government for its “botched procurement process”.

Mr Hume said:

“The SNP have already wasted time and money in a botched procurement process and until now has been unable to say when the project would be handed over to Network Rail.

“It’s vitally important that there are no more question marks over the Borders railway line.

“The SNP must make up for lost time and stick to their commitment to deliver the railway by 2014, otherwise Borderers will be left feeling short changed.”

REDUCING EMPTY PROPERTY RATES RELIEF COULD HIT LOCAL JOBS

LOCAL Liberal Democrats have criticised the Scottish Government for ignoring the concerns of business over the level of empty property business rates relief on empty property.

The comments came after the Local Government Finance (Unoccupied Properties etc) (Scotland) Bill passed the final stage to become law due to an SNP majority.

Liberal Democrat housing spokesman Jim Hume MSP had pressed an amendment which would have removed the provisions which allow the Scottish Government to reduce the level of empty property business rates relief.

The amendment had gained support from both Labour and Conservative parties, but was passed by the SNP majority, defeating opposition amendments.

North East Liberal Democrat MSP Alison McInnes said: “This was an extremely disappointing day for business in Scotland and a disappointing day for jobs in Scotland. The debate saw the SNP bulldozer in top gear, ignoring the concerns of opposition parties and respected business groups.”

Stonehaven councillor Peter Bellarby commented: “Liberal Democrats remain concerned that this will hit businesses hard and do nothing to regenerate struggling town centres. The SNP government wants to hammer businesses with high taxes when it should be helping them to recover and grow.”

North Kincardine councillor Ian Mollison added: “Reducing the level of rates relief on unoccupied properties will increase the burden on businesses. This is not the way to get Scotland out of a recession.”

DEBATE ON DRUG ADDICTION SHOULD PUT MEDICAL NECESSITY AHEAD OF MORAL PREJUDICE

Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader, Willie Rennie MSP, has condemned hysterical and simplistic approaches to tackling drug misuse ahead of next week’s Scottish Parliament debate on Scotland’s drugs strategy.

Speaking ahead of the debate, Willie Rennie warns that methadone must not be made a scapegoat for Scotland’s continuing drug problem.

Commenting, Mr Rennie said:

“The debate around drug misuse and the connected methadone programme has taken a disturbing turn in recent months with moral rather than professional judgements dominating the drugs dilemma.

“Drug related deaths reached an all-time high last year so it is vital that we give professionals all the tools they need to help people, including tools aimed at reducing the harms associated with drug misuse.

“While much of the recent focus has been on the overall number of deaths in which methadone was involved, other substances were involved in nearly 60% of these deaths.

“This shows that drug addiction is an extremely complex issue.

“The suggestion from Labour that methadone treatment should be time or cost limited risks undermining the work that drug professionals are doing every day in our communities.

“Methadone is responsible for saving and stabilising many lives and could be regarded as a success for thousands of individuals.

“The key issue is getting people into treatment as soon as possible and ensuring that a whole range of recovery options are available. Another big issue is whether individuals stay engaged with treatment and enjoy a good relationship with the key workers involved in their care.

“Every drug addict is different. There should be no one-size-fits-all approach.

“We need a flexible and patient focussed approach. Politicians should not seek to restrict options for moral reasons but ensure that trained professionals are able to deliver the service they think best for the patient.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Alison McInnes MSP added:

“Rather than a narrow focus on methadone, the debate around Scotland’s drug strategy should focus on the wider issue, and give people the chance to turn their lives around with support that addresses all the issues in the life of the addict, not just the addiction.

“Drug misuse is a health problem, but the solutions are not only medical. Individuals also need help with things like mental health, housing and lack of work skills.

“Scottish Liberal Democrats want to see more help for addicts in recovery with volunteering opportunities and sheltered employment.

“We should be doing more to promote the initiatives of the Scottish Drugs Forum in this regard.”

RENNIE: SNP SHOULD BRING FORWARD PUBLICATION OF INDEPENDENCE WHITE PAPER

Willie Rennie MSP, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, has called on the SNP government to bring forward the date for the publication of its white paper on independence.

The SNP government is due to publish the white paper in November 2013 but with so many questions being asked by Scots on the implications of independence, including Scotland’s EU status, Mr Rennie believes the SNP should publish its details plans as soon as possible.

Commenting, Mr Rennie said:

“Many contrasting opinions have been bandied around on an independent Scotland’s membership of the EU. It is clear that it is not straight forward.

“The devil is in the detail but so far we have seen precious little detail from the SNP. With the collapse of their legal case for EU membership their credibility on this issue has taken a severe blow.

“The SNP should consider bringing forward the publication date for its white paper so that the fine print of their plan for independence can be scrutinised.

“Alex Salmond should be seeking agreements with the twenty-seven countries that will have the final say on Scotland’s EU status should Scots vote for independence.

“To do this, EU leaders must be clear what the SNP thinks independence means for Scotland and for the wider European Union.

“It is not just in Scotland’s interests that this work is done, it is in the SNP’s interests too. As they haven’t got any agreements yet they obviously need to time to engage with the EU 27.

“If they are confident of their case they should embrace this.

“It is a complex issue and it will require detailed negotiation. Scotland cannot wait another year before we know the basis for those discussions.”

INDEPENDENCE IS NOT AN EXTENSION OF DEVOLUTION – LORD WALLACE

Lord Wallace of Tankerness speaking at the Law Society of Scotland’s debate on Thursday 1 November 2012 said:

“We must bust the myth that somehow independence is an extension of devolution, a continuation along the path which we set out on at the 1997 referendum.

“The truth is that independence means the end of devolution. Any lawyer can tell the difference between a constitutional settlement which evolves within the UK and one which means the creation of a new state outwith the UK.

“Devolution has worked and is working for Scotland. It has flexibility, it is dynamic as this year’s Scotland Act – implemented without a referendum – has shown; and it means power exercised in Scotland over a vast range of Scottish issues, whilst retaining the benefits and security of a stable, successful, political, economic, social and cultural union.”

McINNES: CONCERN OVER ASPS CALL FOR MORE POLICE POWERS

Commenting on the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents (ASPS) calls for the right to search suspects’ homes without a warrant, Scottish Liberal Democrat Justice spokesperson Alison McInnes said:

“The current limits on the police’s powers of search and entry are in place not only to protect suspects’ human rights, but to ensure that due process is followed in gathering evidence. They are not meant as a restriction, but rather as a safeguard.

“I have serious concerns over the ASPS’ calls for powers to be extended. Unless they are able to provide concrete evidence that current arrangements are harming the delivery of justice in Scotland, then I fail to see how handing more powers to the police in this area would be a good move.”

New Primary School for Drumoak

Kincardine and Mearns Area Committee has agreed that it would like to see a two court hall/community facility at the new primary school to be built in Drumoak to replace the existing school. The matter was discussed at the meeting of the Committee held on Tuesday. Councillors agreed to recommend to the Policy and Resources Committee the scheme design for the new school. The new primary school will have capacity of 145 with core facilities for a possible future expansion to 170. There will also be nursery provision.

Sustainability has been a key consideration in the design of this school and attainment of the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method “Very Good” rating has been targeted as a minimum standard with the project aiming for an “Excellent” rating. In an effort to utilise renewable energy sources, south facing roofs will accommodate arrays of photovoltaic panels with electricity generated, but not consumed on-site, being sold to the National Grid by contractual agreement. In line with Council policy on fuel choice, the development will be heated using biomass and the emphasis will be on fuel being manufactured and delivered from local sources.

The estimated costs for the baseline costs of the school have increased to £7.4M. This is because the Education, Learning and Leisure service have requested some additional space including a catering kitchen and because of the photovoltaic panels. However, this panels will generate an income with a payback time of about nine and a half years. The additional expenditure to provide a two court hall will likely be up to £450,000.

Speaking at the meeting of the Area Committee, Peter Bellarby, Councillor for Stonehaven and Lower Deeside, said:

“The present primary school at Drumoak is dreadful. Why is it dreadful? It is not because of the staff, who do a really good job in difficult circumstances. It is because of the state of the building. There is water dripping down the inside of walls. There is temporary accommodation in portacabins at the other side of the playground with no toilets there. Children have to cross the playground whatever the weather to access the toilets. The school is grossly over capacity. There is a clear need to have a replacement school.

“We, the Council and Councillors, have listened to the community in the past. Concerns were expressed at the original choice of site which parents thought was too close to an electricity sub-station. So we moved the site away from the sub-station. There was a clearly expressed wish to have the school constructed as soon as possible. And that’s what we agreed the last time the new school was considered by this Committee. We added to the officers’ recommendations that the school should be constructed as soon as practicable.

“We need to listen to the community again and respond positively to the clearly expressed wish that there should be a two court rather than a one court hall. There are some additional reasons to support having a two court hall. One is the standards for new primary schools that were agreed to at the last meeting of the Educational, Learning and Leisure Committee. These standards include having a two court hall for a school size over 145. There is also the present dilapidated community hall, presently unused. I propose that the Committee instruct officers to commence the process of disposing of this. The community are quite happy to see this. The proceeds can go to the Council’s capital fund.”

The proposals will be finally decided at the meeting of the Policy and Resources Committee to be held on November 15.

Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route announcement

Aberdeenshire Council has welcomed today’s decision from the UK Supreme Court.

Leader Jim Gifford said: “It’s the decision that we’ve all been waiting for and I’m delighted that after a decade of planning, enquiries and legal proceedings, we finally have the green light to move ahead with this project.

“The majority of residents and businesses in the North East of Scotland have been waiting for progress on the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route for far too long. Today marks the beginning of the delivery of the most significant piece of major infrastructure in the North East of Scotland, since the discovery of oil in the North Sea in the 1960s.

“I’m delighted that at last we can get on with this project which is seen very much as the key to unlocking the full potential of Aberdeenshire, particularly the Energetica corridor up to Peterhead.

“Of course, the road won’t be built next week. We now move into a phase of land purchasing and procurement, but at last we can set realistic timescales, develop project plans and move forwards with identifying funding streams for this work.

“Aberdeenshire Council is committed to working with Aberdeen City Council and Transport Scotland to see the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route become reality as quickly as possible.”

Peter Bellarby also welcomed the decision and said: “I am pleased that the final stumbling block has been overcome so that work can begin in earnest on this project, which is vital for the North East of Scotland. The link road south to Stonehaven is a very necessary part of the project so that we don’t have all road traffic going north from Stonehaven and the south funnelled onto the A90 towards Aberdeen.”