with Alex Salmond, First Minister and MSP for Aberdeenshire East

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ENCOURAGING ENGAGEMENT ON CARERS’ LEGISLATION

I had the opportunity this week to attend the seconnd annual Carers’ Parliament in Edinburgh and met with people from all backgrounds, from all parts of Scotland who care for family, friends and vulnerable people in their communities.

During the visit, I was delighted to announce plans to bring about specific legislation from the Scottish Government that will promote, defend and extend the rights of carers and young carers living in Scotland.

A widespread consultation on this proposed legislation will start before the end of the year and I would encourage local carers and interested individuals, families and organisation to take part.

This legislation is a significant step forward in recognising and addressing the needs of the 657,000 unpaid adult carers and up to 100,000 young carers who look after their families, friends and neighbours.

This SNP Government recognises the vital role that carers play in looking after some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.

We know that being an unpaid carer can be a challenging and, at times, isolating experience and we are determined to do all that we can to make sure that we are fully supporting carers in Scotland.

Recognising that there is more that can be done in this respect, the Scottish Government will consult on legislation which will strengthen the position of carers and young carers and I’m delighted to say that the formal consultation period will commence in the coming weeks.

£2M FUND TO BOOST TOWN CENTRES

The Town Centre Housing Fund, announced this week by Local Government and Planning Minister Derek Mackay, will create opportunities for local authorities, housing association and private developers to help bring empty town centre properties back into use as affordable housing.

The Fund, which was allocated for in Scotland’s 2013 budget, is open to applications until October 2013.

The scheme is designed to complement other initiatives in motion to improve town centres across the country.

It is vitally important that town centres should be vibrant and bustling – not just the geographical, but the civic hearts of our communities.

I have had the great privilege to work with constituents, local businesses and other stakeholders since becoming MSP for Aberdeenshire East, helping to work with the challenges that our traditional market towns face to remain attractive to both shoppers and residents in an age of online shopping and ‘out-of-town’ supermarkets.

Unfortunately vacant premises in our town centres can impact upon our local economies more generally and the Town Centre Housing Fund will bring disused properties back into use as part of on-going regeneration efforts.

I would certainly be keen to see any interested developers in the constituency of Aberdeenshire East taking advantage of this support to help boost our town centres