Holyrood Headlines by Alex Salmond, MSP

Historic Edinburgh Agreement

This week represents a significant step in Scotland’s Home Rule journey. I met with Prime Minister David Cameron on Tuesday 15th October, to ratify the “Edinburgh Agreement”, confirming the Scottish Parliament’s power to hold a vote on Scottish Independence, the outcome of which will be respected by both the Scottish and UK governments.

The agreement will see a Section 30 order laid in the Scottish Parliament, conferring full legislative competence to Holyrood to hold a single question referendum before the end of 2014. This will ensure the vote will be ‘made in Scotland’ and run by the people of Scotland.

After the order has been agreed, the Scottish Government will bring forward legislation to enable the referendum to take place. The Scottish Parliament will decide upon the date, franchise, wording of the question, rules on campaign finance, besides other conditions governing the conduct of the campaign. A final decision on these matters will take full account of the responses to the Government’s consultation on the referendum, and gives the Scottish Parliament the powers to deliver.

The Scottish Government has an ambitious vision for Scotland: a prosperous and successful European nation, reflecting Scottish values of fairness and opportunity, alongside equality and social cohesion. The signing of the Edinburgh Agreement marks the start of a 100 week campaign to fulfil that ambition. It will be a campaign during which I will present a positive case for a progressive independent Scotland and the significant economic and social benefits this will entail for the North East, and Scotland more widely. I am confident this is a strong case which will win the argument, and deliver a yes vote in 2014.

Awards haul for local businesses

I am pleased to offer my congratulations to several businesses in the Aberdeenshire East constituency which have received significant recognition for their enterprises, in regional and UK-wide awards.

I have written to congratulate Alfie Cheyne, Chief Executive of Turriff-based ACE Winches, on being awarded “UK Global Director of the Year 2012” by the Institute of Directors at an awards ceremony in London on October 5. In addition, ACE Winches picked up a brace of awards at the Northern Star Business Awards.

ACE Winches demonstrates the very best in home-grown Scottish industry, performing at international level, whilst maintaining a base in Turriff and a focus on recruiting locally.

I also wish to congratulate Keenan Recycling on scooping two awards at the Northern Star event in the “Overall Small Business” and “Green Award” categories. The New Deer based firm, run by Grant and Gregor Keenan, transforms food and garden waste into British Standard accredited compost. It is encouraging to see small and medium sized businesses prospering, despite recent economic difficulties. Both businesses are thoroughly deserving of this recognition.

Broadband investment for connectivity and jobs

In this day and age, access to fast, reliable broadband is highly important and plays a significant role in our home and business lives. Connecting Scotland to a 21st century communications network brings substantial opportunities in education and employment.

I welcome news that the Scottish Government’s investment of nearly a quarter of a billion pounds in broadband infrastructure will bring 15,000 new jobs to the country over the next 15 years, with 800 jobs in the creation of the infrastructure itself, and the remainder expected in the wider economy.

There will be job creation across a variety of sectors, from e-commerce to engineering, as Scotland develops faster, next generation broadband. Investing in Scotland’s digital future will enhance opportunities and productivity for our businesses, helping ensure Scotland is an attractive market for inward investment.

In the 21st century, broadband has become vital to our infrastructure and economy and that is why it is critical that we overcome the challenges of bringing the technology to more remote parts of the country and ensure that we have a world class digital infrastructure.

Funding award for centre

I welcome the news that constituent Ruth Hickling has been awarded £20,000 in funding from the Social Entrepreneurs Fund to further develop the Owl and Pussycat Centre near Maud.

Ruth received a Level 1 award from the Fund in March 2010 to set up the Centre which works with people with additional support needs, providing ‘animal therapy’ through contact with a range of animals and birds. The recently announced Level 2 award will allow the centre to develop further.

The Social Entrepreneurs Fund was launched by the Scottish Government in 2008, aimed at individuals setting up a business with a social or environmental purpose.

I had the opportunity to visit the Centre before Christmas last year, and was particularly encouraged by Ruth’s enthusiasm and passion for the environment and wildlife and her commitment to creating an interactive and supportive therapy environment.

The recent award is most welcome, and will allow Ruth to further develop the centre.