Employment reasons to be cheerful
The North East of Scotland is fortunate to enjoy full employment and well above average wages. Last month’s figures showed unemployment across the Gordon constituency at 1.0 per cent.
Of course, the biggest single driver of our economy is oil and gas, and if activity falls in this sector unemployment starts to rise.
However, others sectors are important and we need to encourage diversity across our economy.
In spite of the overall flat-lining of the UK economy, employment statistics have been surprisingly resilient. General unemployment and youth unemployment are both falling and the numbers in employment are at record levels.
Investment in offshore developments is on the rise. Whisky sales are soaring, giving rise to concerns about the adequacy of stocks given how long it takes to bring Scotch whisky to market.
The food sector is also performing fairly well although the cost of ingredients is squeezing margins for some.
This leads to the conclusion that the economy is patchy and by no means all parts are in recession. We need a sustained upturn in construction. We need to build our skills base and we need our trading partners’ economies to strengthen.
However, there are reasons to be cheerful even if we have a long way to go before the corner is turned in terms of both growth and the public finances.
Green deal boost for North East homes
Last week also saw the launch of the Green Deal which will give people the chance to improve the energy efficiency of their homes. This could include double glazing, cavity or solid wall insulation or the installation of condensing boilers.
The homeowner will not need to put up the money and the repayment will be covered by the savings over the lifetime of the investment.
Given our colder climate and, in many cases, the poor energy efficiency of our homes I would urge North East folk to take advantage of this scheme.
We still need our High Streets
The news that DE Shoes, who have a shop in Inverurie, are looking for staff redundancies highlights the challenges facing our High Streets.
Some of this may be due to recession but there are also changing patterns of shopping with more people buying on line – factors contributing to the decline of Jessops, Blockbusters and HMV.
Nevertheless, our local High Street stores offer helpful and friendly personal service which, I believe is still needed and appreciated.
So whether it is shoes, furniture, electrical goods or jewellery or indeed any other goods and services, I hope people will still consider the value of having local shops and support them.
Two referendums make us look confused and divided
As someone who has consistently supported reform of both the United Kingdom and the European Union I nevertheless wonder what our friends make of the prospect of two referendums within the space of five years.
The SNP want to break up the UK but for Scotland to be a member of the EU. The Tories want to keep the UK but are prepared to contemplate leaving the EU.
This makes us loom confused and divided at a time when all our efforts should be directed towards rebuilding our economy and restoring our public finances.
If we turn in on ourselves for the next five years I suspect we may find the rest of the world has moved on and left us behind.
I will continue to make the case for reform but I will vote yes to keeping the UK together and keeping the UK in the EU.
Mill site adds to Inverurie’s dynamics
I was delighted to read of Kirkwood Homes further plans for the redevelopment of the site of the former Tait’s paper mill in Inverurie (above). Like many people, I was disappointed when the mill closed and was not wholly convinced that its closure was inevitable.
Nevertheless the acquisition by a local company with a clear commitment to making the most of this invaluable site was very welcome and, having been briefed on the plans I am confident that this can become a development magnet for our region which may well sustain more jobs than the paper mill has in recent years.
Being close to the railway and the A96, only a few minutes from the airport and close to the Western Peripheral Route (which we all hope will be operational in a very few years), the site should attract a high quality of companies and employment prospects.
Inverurie is a dynamic town with a diverse economy and the redevelopment of the paper mill site should only add to this.