Gordon MP sir malcolm bruce reports back

At a time when a new Forth road bridge is well under way, hundreds of billions of pounds is being invested in the Edinburgh/Glasgow rail link and preparations are under way for High Speed Rail, it is frustrating that nearly all the promised transport improvements for the North East remain just that - promises.

Journey times to the south are still a bone of contention meaning “letting the train take the strain” instead of flying is not a viable option for most people.

It is frankly ridiculous and unacceptable that we still have a single track rail link to the south.

There should be a radical upgrade of rail connections to the south starting with a clear commitment to doubling the track south of Montrose.

We all need to see rapid progress on the AWPR and Tipperty upgrade, the third Don crossing and airport access improvements

Ministers are keen to pose for photo ops giving the impression that work is about to start but compared with priorities for the central belt progress is suspiciously slow. Has the money run out?

How we help rebuild post conflict states

My committee visited Sierra Leone and Liberia last month. Our interest was to see how the UK is helping to rebuild these countries after bloody civil wars that we helped to end 12 years ago.

In Sierra Leone the UK is overwhelmingly the largest supporter. In Liberia the USA takes the lead.

Much is being done to build up the capacity of the Governments to deliver health and education services, to improve roads and to create jobs and boost livelihoods.

It couldn’t be done without our support both in money and technical advice and expertise.

Civil war has set both countries back more than a generation. Many experienced and qualified people left, and although some have returned (including the Liberian President) most haven’t.

Both countries have improved access to health and education but the quality of delivery is variable.

Liberia has achieved good improvements in maternal mortality to achieve the Millennium Development Goal. Sierra Leone, in spite of a similar health care programme has not achieved comparable results - showing the difference strong leadership makes.

The UK is bringing its Liberian health programme to a close next year - in the hope that the Government will take it forward. It will nevertheless be many years before the UK can leave Sierra Leone or the US leave Liberia if the hoped for progress is to be secured.

PM driven towards exit by his Europhobes

The Prime Minister returned from the European Council claiming victory, having said he would block the appointment of Jean Claude Juncker as the President of the European Commission but spectacularly failed to do so, securing only the support of a wayward Hungary.

The seeds of this were sown when the Conservatives left the mainstream EU Conservative European People’s Party group. He could have had a chance of promoting a more reform minded candidate, but having placed the Tories on the Euro sceptical fringes of the EU his influence was minimal.

In his defence he claimed he would not have been successful within that group but if he didn’t think he could win over Conservatives how can he claim to be influential in the EU? The problem is Cameron is being ridden by the anti EU wing of his party. He claims that he wants to renegotiate and then recommend a Yes vote, but neither that approach or threatening to leave the EU is a convincing negotiating position.

There is support for and indeed a need for reform of the way the EU works. Since the euro crisis and the opt outs on currency the EU has secured, there is clearly a difference of approach and need between those in the euro zone and those outside. The danger is that David Cameron will be driven by the siren calls of those who make ever more unachievable demands to reinforce the case for an EU exit that the PM claims is not his aim. He runs the real risk that that may be the outcome.

Most citizens want the UK to focus on jobs and less red tape and waste, and leading on those demands would surely be both popular and achievable. Last week made it harder