Holyrood Headlines with MSP Alex Salmond

Business Banking Summit

I am encouraged by the initiative that Inverurie Business Association (IBA) continues to show towards improving the business sector and overall economic fortunes of the local area.

At the inaugural IBA Summit which I hosted in September, there was clearly a feeling among those assembled that businesses felt they have an unequal relationship with their banker, and lending opportunities are proving difficult in the current climate.

My suggestion was for the IBA to “call in the banks” for a collective discussion on how they can offer better support for local business. My constituency office worked closely with the IBA in organising the event, and will continue to assist with their future activities.

On Tuesday 27th November, representatives from RBS, Lloyds, Santander and Clydesdale were invited to the IBA’s Business Banking Summit, to present current support available to small and medium sized businesses.

The banking representatives were eager to stress that they are open for business and looking to grow their lending books, particularly in the Aberdeenshire area which is weathering the economic storm well. They stressed a willingness for local managers to build business banking relationships and that discretionary lending is available for viable proposals, even in more difficult sectors.

Aberdeenshire Council’s Business Development Executive, also gave a presentation on grants and loans available from the Council to support small businesses.

There was a strong turnout for the event, and some very forthright questions addressed to the banks from local business people, who are very eager to work cooperatively.

The Inverurie Business Association sets a fantastic example for towns and communities across the North East, and across Scotland, for community-focused efforts to improve the local economy from the ground up.

Work on AWPR underway

Constituents across Aberdeenshire East, and people throughout the North of Scotland, will breathe a sigh of relief this week as work gets underway on the Western Peripheral Route.

This promising progress follows the ruling of the UK Supreme Court on 17th October, which finally marked an end to unwanted legal objections to the scheme which had caused significant delays.

On Monday 26th November, Transport Minister Keith Brown visited the site, and was met by graduate engineer Callum Murdoch, who has moved to Aberdeen to work on the project. It is particularly encouraging that from the very first day of work on the project we are seeing evidence of the positive impact the AWPR/Balmedie-Tipperty scheme will have upon job creation and training and employment amongst young people.

The project is a superb opportunity for employment, and there will be obligations upon contractors to advertise jobs locally, and to offer graduate placements and apprenticeships. The long term benefits are clear: maintaining Scotland’s position at the forefront of construction engineering globally.

The ground investigations will be ongoing for 6 months and will form the basis for potential contractors for the main construction works to submit bids in Spring 2013.

From my discussions with constituents over recent years, it is clear that there is an overwhelming majority in the North East who are in favour of the scheme and recognise that it is a vital for the region’s continuing economic development. The AWPR/Balmedie-Tipperty scheme will create 900 jobs directly, in the construction phase, with a boost to the local economy of £6 billion, creating 14,000 jobs over a 30 year period.

Though I understand that lengthy delays caused by the legal challenge have caused frustration, I am delighted that work is proceeding apace and on course to completion by Spring 2018.

UK Government must act on shovel-ready projects

The Inverurie Health Centre and Community Maternity Unit has featured on a programme of “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects that could get underway now if the UK Government reverses some of its cuts to capital expenditure and invests in growth.

The Scottish Government is pressing the UK Government to provide an immediate boost to capital investment to protect recovery and create jobs. This follows a 33% cut to Scotland’s capital budget by Westminster.

The list of these projects – which could be delivered by the end of 2013-14 – shows a range of infrastructure projects worth £800 million. The list of projects focuses on transport, economic development projects, regeneration, further education, health and sport. It also includes £40 million of additional grant funding for affordable housing and £34 million in maintenance of our trunk roads.

These significant projects, including the Inverurie Health Centre and Community Maternity Unit, could get underway now, rather than being delayed. The local projects have the potential to boost employment in the area, push money into the local economy and improve healthcare provision.

The Chancellor now has the opportunity to listen to the Scottish Government and take action to address the UK Government’s drastic cut in Scotland’s capital budget.

The Scottish Government is doing all it can within its current powers by focussing on investment in schools and affordable housing.

This issue highlights the limitations of the current constitutional arrangements which delay infrastructure work while we await the green light from Westminster. With the full fiscal and economic powers of independence, Scotland could create the best possible environment for economic success.