with Alex Salmond, First Minister and MSP for Aberdeenshire East

Bedroom Tax Help for Aberdeenshire

Figures published this week show that over 45,500 hard-pressed households in Scotland claimed £15.4 million in emergency housing help from April to November last year. These figures represent almost a fourfold increase on those in 2012/13.

Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) are a responsibility reserved to the Westminster government, but payments are made by local authorities to housing benefit claimants who qualify for support.

The Scottish Government has contributed an additional £20 million in funding for DHPs in 2013/14 to help those families who are struggling most to meet the costs of the Bedroom Tax. This has brought the total amount of funding to over £35 million – the maximum amount permitted under current UK legislation.

In Aberdeenshire, households claimed £613,157 between April and November last year – showing a sharp increase from £45,276 in 2012/13.

What these figures reveal is that people in the North-east and throughout Scotland are paying a heavy price for decisions made by the Tory-led UK government.

The Scottish Government is, by contrast, doing all that it can do within its current powers to soften the blow.

Later this year we get the choice to choose between two futures: one in which Scotland continues to pay the price for Westminster’s failing, or one in which we gain the powers to design a welfare system suited to our needs – the needs of the people who live here.

Only A Mile From 
Farm to Plate

On Friday I had the great pleasure to visit two fantastic businesses in my constituency – Formartine’s Visitor Centre and Moss-side Farm near Tarves.

Formartine’s is an excellent place to buy locally produced food and drink, with a great café and outdoor playground for the kids.

It’s in a prominent spot on the road between Meldrum to Methlick, with access to walks on the Haddo Estate. On the menu at lunchtime was Mossie’s Pork – sourced from Ian Davidson’s farm just over a mile away.

I met Ian (or “Mossie” as he’s almost universally known) at Methlick Cricket Club’s 10th Anniversary Dinner in October last year where I was delighted to congratulate him on being named UK Pig Farmer of the Year 2013.

I promised that I would make a visit to Moss-side farm in the New Year, and it was great to hear about plans afoot to develop the business further. By no means is Mossie resting on his laurels.

It’s always encouraging to see producers from Aberdeenshire gaining due recognition at such a level for their achievements.

Further still, it’s extremely positive to see two neighbouring businesses working so closely together, supporting the local economy and cultivating the area’s strong reputation for quality produce.

Wild Fisheries Review

Last weekend, on the banks of the River Tay at Dunkeld, I opened the 2014 salmon fishing season and announced a review of wild fisheries in Scotland.

It is absolutely vital that our salmon and freshwater fisheries are robust, sustainable and fit for purpose in the 21st century and the review will have at its core two aims: to develop a modern, evidence-based management system for wild fisheries, capable of responding to our changing environment; and to manage, conserve and develop wild fisheries to maximise sustainable benefit.

Scotland is famed globally for its salmon and trout fisheries, with game and coarse angling worth £134 million in expenditure to the Scottish economy.

It is an industry which supports 2,800 jobs across the country. Aberdeenshire East boasts several prolific fisheries – on the Don, Ythan, Ugie and Deveron – providing employment and supporting local businesses.

Management of wild fisheries is often a complex and emotive area which has been the subject of many reports and investigations in recent decades.

Until recently, however, there has been relatively little in terms of meaningful change. We must do more to ensure the system is the best that it can be looking forwards and this is exactly what the review, chaired by Andrew Thin, will seek to do.