City Deal needs to deliver a vision for the region
Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire have been working in partnership for many months to present their plans for a City Deal to the UK and Scottish Governments. I hope that agreement in principle may be achieved before the General Election.
Glasgow and a number of large city regions in England such as Manchester and Leeds/Sheffield, have already agreed proposals which will inject in each case hundreds of millions of pounds into infrastructure and key investment.
Our region is smaller than these but no less deserving and in real need of a visionary future compatible with its role as a global oil and gas services and support centre.
Now is a good time to move ahead when, in a period of economic difficulty, we can look forward to something transformational.
We will need to do better than the recent rows over the city centre redevelopment.
The Union Terrace Gardens rejuvenation has been abandoned and the potential to create an iconic open space in the gap left by the demolition of St Nicholas House has been lost by a single vote after a bitter wrangle.
So far the opportunity to make our city and region the beacon for investment, tourism, recreation and an enviable lifestyle, which it could be, has been squandered.
It is essential that the partners in the proposed City Deal up their game and come up with something transformational and unifying. Surely we can do it if we put our minds to it?
New academies rise – and a new swimming pool for Inverurie?
The debates about our new academies are testimony to what Aberdeenshire has brought forward in investing in our schools estate.
New academies are in the process of being established in Laurencekirk, Alford and Ellon and now plans are afoot for a new academy for Inverurie.
The location of the new Ellon Academy was debated long and hard before the present site was selected. The split site in the centre of town has long been an issue.
The opening of the new Meldrum Academy, for which I campaigned long and hard, while it helped ease overcrowding at Ellon did not resolve the site problem.
So an out of town site across the Ythan was the outcome.
It is to be hoped that, in the end common sense solutions can be found to resolve the issues associated with linking it to the town.
The new academy for Inverurie inevitably raises debate about the appropriate provision for the whole area.
In particular, the need for extra capacity is driven in large part by developments in Kintore which requires a second primary school urgently and offers nearly enough forward numbers to require a secondary school.
However Kemnay Academy, which currently takes pupils form Kintore has recently been upgraded.
What seems clear is that a new Inverurie Academy should be built on the existing site regardless of the needs elsewhere.
This time I hope the opportunity will be taken to include a new swimming pool.
The Garioch Swimmers which for many years included Hannah Miley have achieved extraordinary results with very outdated facilities.
I was glad to start the campaign for an Olympic swimming pool in Aberdeen which is now a reality.
Nevertheless, young swimmers, indeed all swimmers in the Garioch area deserve new facilities.
I hope that Aberdeenshire Council will look hard at all the options to enable them to plan for a new swimming pool as part of the new Inverurie Academy development.
Fast broadband key to the rural economy
Work is continuing apace on the installation of superfast or at least fast broadband across our region.
This is a combined effort drawing funding from the private sector and all tiers of government from local councils, the Scottish and UK Governments and the European Commission.
I hope the Government will drive to deliver fast broadband to all our communities as it is now a driver of the economy.
Farmers cannot submit claims without access to the internet. Rural businesses and home working depend on it.
It will reduce travel and fuel emissions and make it possible to access services and pursue economic activity in almost all locations.