HAVING recently completed her annual constituency tour, Banff and Buchan Constituency MP Eilidh Whiteford spoke to the Times about the issues affecting the area, both at a local and a constituency level.
She says that people in the north-east are feeling the squeeze of the recession, despite the region being largely insulated from the worst effects of public service cuts and private sector downturn. She remains optimistic, however, about the region’s long-term potential.
Times: “What is the general feeling in the constituency? What have your constituents said to you over the course of their tour?”
Dr Whiteford: “The views I’ve received have been really mixed. A lot of the matters raised are specific, personal matters, while a few have been genuinely national. It’s hard to generalise. People are really feeling the impact of energy price rises and increased living costs, particularly with winter coming. On the other hand, a lot of folk I’ve met have been upbeat.”
Times: “What, would you say, are the major issues being discussed at Westminster that impact your constituency?”
Dr Whiteford: “Public sector pensions are taking on huge importance as a political issue. Nobody wants a winter of industrial unrest, but there’s a lot of uncertainty relating to government handling of the issue.
“With reference to Scotland, there’s a lot being made of the independence referendum. I’m looking forward to discussions on the future of the country.”
Times: “Libya has dominated the headlines in the past few months - what is your take on the situation there?”
Dr Whiteford: “Clearly, it’s very fraught, and I have always been of the view that civil society has to have a voice coming out of the conflict.
“The ingredients of a free and open society are freedom of association and human rights - and recognition of women’s rights. Those form the infrastructure of democracy.
“There will need to be a lot of rebuilding on the ground in the wake of the conflict, but as an inherently wealthy society, I hope that Libya’s wealth will be put to good use, and benefit everyone.”
Times: “Is there anything else you would like to say to our readers?”
Dr Whiteford: “Just that Scotland, and the north-east, have a very positive future ahead and that we need to have a real debate over where we want to go from here.
“We need vital infrastructure projects. Watching the progress of the AWPR is very frustrating. It seems to be a small group of protesters with very deep pockets are holding the area to ransom, which is stopping investment.”