Highlands and Islands Labour MSP David Stewart returns post-election for his monthly update on constituency issues for our readers.
I AM DELIGHTED to be able to write my first political review for insideMoray as we start the fifth session of the Scottish Parliament.
The dust has settle and the political landscape has seen some changes. Yes, Scottish Labour have reduced in size, the Conservatives have increased and become the main opposition Party and the SNP return as the Government although not as a majority Government, but a minority.
On a personal level I am delighted to be returned along with my colleague Rhoda Grant as Regional MSPs covering the Highlands & Islands which of course includes Moray. Thanks to all who voted for Scottish Labour and special thanks to all our supporters and valued volunteers.
As we go to press, Government portfolios have not been decided, so the Shadow Cabinet and opposition all await this announcement before forming their own teams.
As always I will do my best for all the constituents across the Highlands, Islands and Moray and should you have any issues that you think I can help with, then please make contact with me by post at:
David Stewart MSP
PO Box 5717
Or by telephone on 01463 716299 or by Email on email@example.com
Baxters of Fochabers
Locally, I am concerned to hear that Baxters of Fochabers are looking at shedding up to 80 jobs as they go into a period of transformational change to make the company more competitive for the European market.
This is a large number of jobs and for a small scattered community to lose so many is a real concern. I understand that there will be a period of consultation with staff and the plans are that the jobs will go over the next two years.
I have written to HIE and the Scottish Government asking what form of support has been offered to the company and the workers to allow them diversify? What other opportunities in relation to local employment have been looked at and I have written to Baxter’s asking them what measures can be taken to retain as many of these jobs as possible.
As I write this article I am delighted to learn that after months of championing the cause of local farmers and professionals, including staff at the Scottish Rural College, Inverness, we managed to persuade the SAC Consulting Group to do a U-turn on closing the post mortem facility.
This whole issue need not have happened had there been proper consultation with all stakeholders instead of the SRUC trying to undertake an apparent review by stealth. They tried to do this by considering and consulting with 40 chosen farmers picked by the SRUC which was a less than satisfactory means of carrying our such a review.
Now the specialisms within the facility currently based in Inverness will remain albeit at a different location. Well done to all who campaigned to retain these vital services.
In the last session of Parliament I was the Scottish Labour Spokesperson on Transport and whilst I held this brief, I strived to put road safety and better connectivity at the top of the agenda.
I have been trying to persuade Governments to introduce a form of graduated Licence in the hope that it will better prepare our young and new drivers for travelling on our roads. Of concern is the fact that 12.5% of all road collisions in Scotland relate to or involve a driver aged between 17 and 19. However, alarmingly in Highland and Grampian that figure rises to 15.7 %.
I am determined to continue my work in this area and I have received an update in correspondence with the Under Secretary of State for Transport, Andrew Jones MP, that the UK Government had just announced a £2 million research programme to identify the best interventions for learner and novice drivers.
This follows constant and continual pressure by my team and I on this issue over the years.
The Next Five Years
There are many areas where I hope to focus over the coming years. Securing a fair, equality driven society where everyone is entitled to the same level of care and support is a key one, as is the NHS, currently I am the Parliamentary Diabetes champion.
Other areas of focus are the economy and education, plus poverty in all its forms. Moray has a raft of varying business interests and is made up of many vibrant and diverse communities.
We politicians need to work with these communities, with the local industries and with local businesses and promote Moray and the rest of the Highlands & Islands at every opportunity we get.
Let’s face it, Moray itself is an ideal place to live, work and visit and we need to build on that experience and do so together. Let’s make Moray Stronger.