with Alex Salmond, First Minister and MSP for Aberdeenshire East

TURRIFF SHOW GOES FROM STRENGTH TO STRENGTH

I was delighted to attend the Turriff Show on Sunday and join the thousands of people who flocked to take advantage of the wide range of exciting activities and sights on offer at Scotland’s biggest two-day agricultural event.

I have had the pleasure and privilege to be a regular visitor to the show over the years and its burgeoning popularity and strong family appeal continues to make it an essential and vibrant fixture of the North East calendar.

Now in its 149th year, the show continues to go from strength to strength - with over 250 trade stands, more than 1,700 home based craft exhibits, one of the finest livestock shows and the new addition of a food court to name but a handful. Turriff District Agricultural Association must be commended for their tireless work in continuing to surpass their high standards each year and I welcome that their dedication has rightly been recognised with the 2013 Farmers Guardian Show Business Award.

During my visit, I enjoyed visiting the Old MacDonald’s inFARMation stand, which was a fantastic showcase for the artwork of local schoolchildren. I also got to meet some of the budding artists and their parents. Also, the Turriff & District Pipe Band put on a rousing spectacle which captured the summer spirit and perfectly complemented the fantastic sunshine.

I also met with numerous businesses and groups, including the National Farmers Union Scotland and the Federation of Small Businesses. Particularly in the North East, agricultural industries and small businesses are at the heart of our economy and therefore it is vital that we ensure that these crucial sectors are provided with the necessary support and conditions to flourish.

Westminster is currently failing farmers in Scotland with the red meat levy a prime example of how the UK Government is out of touch. Farmers in Scotland are being short-changed to the tune of £1.4 million every year, due to Scottish levy incomes being spent in England and Wales. While I support the repatriation of these funds to Scotland, only with independence can we put an end to such systematic flaws and protect our key industries.

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to this year’s Turriff Show and look forward to 2014 – I am sure that the Show will continue to grow, innovate and draw even larger crowds to the Haughs for its historic 150th anniversary.

BEDROOM TAX HELP FOR ABERDEENSHIRE

Vulnerable families across Aberdeenshire will benefit from £400k in funding to help protect against the damaging impact of the Bedroom Tax in rural communities.

The SNP has fiercely and consistently criticised the Tory-Lib Dem Coalition’s changes to housing benefits, which have disadvantaged thousands of people across Scotland. Scotland’s Housing Minister, Margaret Burgess, has met with UK Government representatives over recent months to make the case for additional support for the most vulnerable in our society, particularly those affected by the bedroom tax. These efforts have helped to secure a funding allocation of £3.5 million from the Department for Work and Pensions for Scotland’s rural households.

Though this funding assurance is helpful, Scotland is receiving £3.5 million out of a total allocation of £5 million for the UK as a whole – demonstrating that Scotland is disproportionately affected by Westminster’s changes to the welfare system. Indeed, it is an admission that the Bedroom Tax has failed spectacularly to make any positive impact in the Scottish context. The Bedroom Tax is, without doubt, a policy that is not welcome, does not reflect Scotland’s values or the democratic will of our people and represents what is rotten at the heart of the Tory-led coalition and with Westminster at large.

By contrast, the SNP Government is doing what it can, with its current devolved powers, to mitigate the worst of Westminster’s cuts. 100,000 vulnerable Scots will receive support through the £33 million Scottish Welfare Fund, introduced this year. This Fund administers Community Care Grants and Crisis Grants for those in need, thereby reinstating £9 million in support cut by Westminster in recent years.

With a Yes vote in 2014 we can look forward to scrapping the bedroom tax, as the SNP have promised to do, and building a welfare system that is sustainable, and better suited to Scotland’s needs.