I wish a wonderful Christmas to all

Happy last Christmas card

I started inviting primary schools in Gordon to help design my Christmas card about 15 years ago. This year I made the selection for my last Christmas card before I stand down as the local MP.

The winner was Eilidh Henderson from Kennethmont School. Her sister, Kirsten, designed the winning card two years ago. Clearly, there is talent in the Henderson family. Her design based on ‘Oh Christmas Tree’ showed Santa, Rudolf, a snowman and an elf singing lustily next to a Christmas tree.

Congratulations to all the winners and to all those who took part and thank you to the teachers who encouraged and inspired their pupils to enter.

The card is sent out to nearly 1000 people ranging from the Prime Minister to local schools, hospitals and all the local and national organisations I deal with throughout the year.

No shoe in for Alex in Gordon

So, Alex Salmond has finally ended his teasing and announced he intends to be the SNP candidate for Gordon at the General Election.

Let me raise some issues on behalf of the majority of voters in Gordon.

How does he justify trying to return to the Westminster Parliament he despises and seeks to, in his words, “rumble up?” He already left and took a year’s salary in severance pay which he refuses to repay.

How can he seriously represent the interests of constituents in two Parliaments 400 miles apart?

How can he represent the wishes of the nearly two thirds majority of the people of Gordon who rejected the proposition he has spent his whole life trying to promote - namely the break-up of the UK? We voted no.

Now we should tell him we meant it.

As we wait and wait for our bypass, the dualling at Tipperty, the resolution of the Inveramsay Bridge whose completion was promised by the last election, only 1 per cent of the Scottish transport budget has been spent in the North East.

The Times summed up his bid as follows: “In plotting his return to power at Westminster Alex Salmond makes too many assumptions... Gordon will be no pushover.

Christine Jardine will fight on two fronts - the cuts in health and infrastructure that have followed seven years of council tax freezes by the SNP Government and the decisive 60 to 40 percent rejection of independence by Aberdeenshire at the referendum.”

This is backed up by the social media where there is clear support for voters to unite behind Christine as the candidate best placed to represent the aspirations of the majority of people in Gordon.

Uncertainty over oil prices and housing tax

The plummeting oil price is a real cause of concern for the North East economy which so far has been relatively protected from recession.

I will not make any predictions about the future direction of the oil price.

Those who do are nearly always proved wrong. It would be complacent to assume it will quickly bounce back.

Saudi Arabia appears to be content to let the price stay low. Russia, desperately dependent on oil revenues will need to sell as much as possible and this will keep the price down.

On top of this, John Swinney has added uncertainty to the North East housing market with his announcement of new rates for the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax, Scottish replacement of stamp duty, which has been complicated by George Osborne’s reduction of some rates for England and Wales in the autumn statement.

Transactions on houses costing above £300,000 will be more in Scotland than in England and Wales, with the differential widening as prices rise.

This could make it difficult to attract key people into the public and private sector.

It could also encourage people who have a choice as to where they live, and many in the oil and gas sector do to choose to live south of the border, depriving the North East and Scotland of their tax and spending power.

These uncertainties need to be monitored closely.

And finally I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a wonderful Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous New Year.