Election key to securing recovery

It’s the economy, stupid, was the mantra of the Clinton campaign whenever new volunteers asked what were the election issues.

I firmly believe that when people come to cast their votes in May, uppermost in their mind will be what is going to happen to jobs, mortgages, inflation and taxes - as well as how vital services like health, education and transport will fare under the next government.

The UK now has the strongest recovery in the developed world after the United States.

We have record employment and steadily falling unemployment. Inflation has never been so low, helped by falling fuel and energy prices and low food prices.

For the first time in years, earnings are set to rise faster than inflation, meaning many people are starting to feel better off.

Of course, here in the North East this is tempered by the fall in the oil price leading to redundancies and other job losses.

Nevertheless, we have enjoyed full employment and high earnings for many years and other sectors of the local economy will benefit from the improving economic indicators.

To keep the recovery on course, we need to maintain progress towards eliminating the deficit so that public services and earnings in the public sector can start to benefit from economic growth, which could be achieved within the next three years.

The health budget, for example, needs to increase by £8 billion in England alone by 2020.

Liberal Democrats have prioritised NHS funding and will pass on the full benefit of economic growth to meet that target. Scotland will get its share through the Barnett formula.

We would also protect the education budget in real terms and this would be passed on to the Scottish Government.

Left of centre parties seem to think we can forget about the deficit before we have tackled it.

They want to borrow more and delay balancing the books.

This will extend the pain of austerity into the 2020s and could also have the effect of forcing up interest and mortgage rates.

I believe people will think very carefully when they are voting in the privacy of the polling booth.

The question is, will they risk recovery and the potential threat to their own family finances and job prospects or will they vote for an economic approach that is giving Scotland and the UK recovery, thanks to a stronger economy and, thanks to tax and pension reform a fairer society where everyone from pre-school age children to pensioners has an opportunity to get on in life?

Single police force needs to reconnect

It now appears that the merging of our eight police forces into one has been less than successful in terms of saving money, better policing and inspiring public confidence.

Many of the most experienced police officers have left the force and a series of decisions such as routinely arming the police, deploying police horses at Highland League football matches, stopping and searching children, have sapped the established relationship of respect between police and public.

The Scottish Government is asking the Treasury to waive the VAT bill even though they were warned that the merged force would lose its VAT exemption because it has become an agent of central government.

Concern has been expressed in the North-east at the loss of our emergency service to the central belt.

Some rationalisation of police forces may have been desirable for savings and efficiency, but it is clear that communities throughout Scotland but especially in the North and North East feel they have lost influence and accountability over the police.

It took many years for the former Grampian Police to build its relationship with local people.

But by the time of its demise it was respected and appreciated.

Police Scotland has a long way to go to re-establish that reputation.