Back Third Don Crossing Petition
I am appalled that the Labour group on Aberdeen City Council are seeking to scrap the Third Don crossing that has been years in the planning. To me it demonstrates a parochial and small minded attitude that could make the North East a laughing stock.
Over the past thirty years, thousands of houses have been built north of the Don – in the city in Bridge of Don and Danestone; and in the shire at Balmedie, Newburgh Potterton, Pitmedden, Ellon and elsewhere. Yet we have actually closed a bridge, and utterly failed to manage the resulting traffic into the city.
The bridge currently proposed will also contribute to alleviating congestion on the dreaded Haudagain, as well as providing alternative public transport routes.
As people will know, I am a strong supporter of a commuter rail link between Inverurie and Stonehaven. Nevertheless, with the development that has taken place, this bridge is essential and long overdue.
Nor should we be fooled by the suggestion that the council should look at alternative routes. This has already been done and the present proposal emerged as the best option.
Of course there are people living at both ends of the bridge who will be concerned and we should do everything reasonable to reduce the impact and provide compensation – but given the intensity of development on both sides of the river it is impossible to pick a location that has no impact.
The Labour group has only 17 of the 43 councillors and, given the SNP, Liberal Democrats, Conservatives and at least one independent councillor have all supported the bridge in the past, there should be a majority to carry on with the proposals.
That is why I have launched a petition to demonstrate the strength of support for the bridge to try and secure a council majority.
You can sign on line by going to my website www.malcolmbruce.org.uk or by phoning 01467 623413.
The most parochial comment comes from a Labour councillor who purports to represent the people of the Bridge of Don, who chose to ignore the people of Bridge of Don, and said that as many of the people who would benefit from the bridge live in the shire, the city should not take account of them.
I would point out that people travelling in and out of the city from the shire are contributing to the economic life of Aberdeen.
If Labour gets its way – the economic life of the North East could take a nose dive.
Oil and Gas will not float a separate Scotland
The independent Office of Budget Responsibility has downgraded the projection of oil revenues to 2040. This has prompted a row over how much an independent Scotland could rely on receiving from the North Sea.
Well, you can take your choice on a range of assumptions but two things are clear – revenues are volatile and they are in decline.
That doesn’t mean that the UK Continental Shelf does not have a bright future. It clearly does with very substantial reserves still to be developed. However, the cost of bringing oil ashore from smaller fields and the tax relief from decommissioning on which the Government made significant clarification in the budget all mean that, even as production is extended into the distant future, the tax revenues will be proportionately less.
Even if Scotland – in or out of the UK - had control over all the fields in the jurisdiction it would not provide reliable income year on year – and certainly could not cover the cost of Scottish benefits, interest on our share of the National Debt and current deficit, or overseas representation, development assistance, defence etc. That would require a dynamic economy across more sectors than energy.
What is clear is that, after a real setback in the 2011 budget the industry and government are working much better together to unlock new investment – so that the immediate challenge is skills shortages that require us to attract and train new people in the industry in large numbers. It is good news that young people who previously shunned the industry now see that it offers career opportunities.
Quick and easy Parliament enquiry on interest rates worth a try
The spat between George Osborne and Ed Balls over Barclays interest rate setting scandal was less than edifying and made you feel like calling out “Boys, boys!”
The need for an enquiry is clear. The issue is what sort. There is a case for a judge led enquiry, however, these cost a lot and take a long time when we need a short, sharp investigation with clear recommendations.
I think it giving Parliament a chance to demonstrate it can deliver. It will have extra resources including counsel to advise.
If it degenerates into party political bias, it will taint the process and could still require a complete independent approach.
Parliament is planning legislation on banking reform next year so it is to be hoped that Andrew Tyrie’s parliamentary enquiry can come up with recommendations in time.