New schools for continued development
Plans moved ahead for new schools at Kintore and Foveran last week, reinforcing our area’s continued growth.
Aberdeenshire Council deserve credit for continuing to monitor educational needs and bringing forward development plans. New academies are under way in the Mearns, Alford and, of course, Ellon. Kintore has been one of Scotland’s growth spots meaning that its fine new primary school was full soon after it opened.
The council is required to follow a formula of new houses to school places which was flawed and has moved forward in securing funding for a new school from development. The community is also campaigning for amenities including shops, recreation and a railway station.
Foveran School showed me the plans for the community and the options for a school extension or new school on my recent summer tour and I know either way they will be looking forward to the future – and, of course, for the eventual long-awaited completion of the A90 dual carriageway.
Royal Mail private investment vital for Scotland
Opposition to the proposed sale of a majority stake in Royal Mail is predictable but ignores the rapid changes that are affecting postal services which face aggressive competition from the private sector and the already privatised Dutch and German mail services.
I helped develop the policy because I saw a continued threat to local post offices and the continuing loss of business as alternatives to mail expand. The preparation has involved legislation to keep the post office network in public ownership as a vital public service.
Royal Mail will continue to have a universal service obligation enshrined in law but will be freed from state aid and competition rules which has hampered its ability to compete.
I had hoped that enough capital would be attracted by sale of a minority stake but clearly a new owner wants control to justify their investment.
Nevertheless, employees will have a significant stake in the business. Those who argue for keeping Royal Mail in public ownership ignore the realities of the market.
Without investment and the freedom to compete, Royal Mail will lose market share and become a growing strain on public finances where, in any case funding for schools and hospitals should take precedence.
SNP assurances are desperate. An independent Scotland could not guarantee a universal service outside Scotland (any more than the Republic of Ireland can) and renationalising it would divert much needed funding away from higher priorities.
The Government’s proposals have been thought through by Liberal Democrats in Opposition and followed through carefully by Liberal Democrat Ministers, Ed Davey, Vince Cable and Norman Lamb.
Glasgow style undermines community policing
I continue to have severe reservations about the new centralised police force which appear to be applying Glasgow standards and methods inappropriate to our area.
I have already expressed anger at the ending of the Safe Drive, Stay Alive campaign. Now, we have seen an upsurge in stop and search. Both of these moves show that successful community policing, built up painstakingly over many years is being rapidly dismantled with potentially damaging consequences.
Shire Youngsters say we are better together
The recent vote conducted among Aberdeenshire schools was remarkable in the high turnout of 79.9 per cent and the overwhelming opposition to breaking up the United Kingdom – even in the SNP’s own heartlands.
Most of the young people I speak to see leaving the UK as a narrowing of opportunity. They are also internationalist in outlook and many have family and friends across the UK.
They do not want to be made foreigners to their parents and grandparents or in future their children and grandchildren. Nor do they want to be cut off from so many shared institutions such as the BBC, our diplomatic service, shared defence, and social security.
I believe Scotland will be a less attractive place for the next generation if it turns in on itself and cuts itself off from so many shared values. I suspect young people feel this too.