A week at Westminster with Gordon MP Malcolm Bruce

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A gleeful 50th birthday for JG Ross the bakers

I was privileged to attend the 50th Birthday celebrations of Inverurie bakers, JG Ross held in Trinity Hall, Aberdeen last week. This family business is an impressive success.

Started in Premnay by George Ross and his wife Betty in 1962, the couple managed to survive the worst winter in living memory, selling in snow and ice to farms and cottages in and around the locality.

Later the business moved to Port Elphinstone and four years ago completed the move to its present state of the art premises at Highclere, Inverurie.

The business has expanded organically and by acquisition, and now employs 375 people in Inverurie and across the North East.

Proposing the toast, Maitland Mackie, himself the product of one of the North East’s best known businesses, praised George and Betty, their sons Graeme and Cameron who are taking the business forward but stressed the value of employees who had helped build the business, with many presented with long service awards.

Adding music and mirth to the occasion were the Rotary Glee club who entertained us to a varied musical entertainment.

I was privileged to be in the company of such a happy and well earned extended family celebration.

Christian Aid’s Inverurie stop highlights tax campaign

I very much appreciated the Christian Aid bus stopping off at Inverurie as the last Scottish stop on its round Britain tour.

As Chair of the International Development Committee I regularly meet Christian Aid - both in Parliament and when visiting developing countries.

The local group have met with me on a number of occasions and also correspond with me individually so it was especially nice to enjoy a cup of tea and a scone with them on the top deck of their big red bus.

Their particular theme was to focus on ensuring fair taxation in developing countries to enable them to secure the revenues to fund essential services and in the long run reduce their dependency on aid.

Both I and Christian Aid agree that it is a moral imperative to support poor countries but we know in the long run that, as they develop, those sectors and individuals who generate income should pay taxes.

As it happens, the International Development Select Committee, which I chair, has recently published a report on taxation in developing countries. We recommended that the UK Government should do more to help developing countries operate effective tax collection systems, which they are already doing in a number of countries. Afghanistan’s mining ministry recently told our committee that, thanks to help from the UK, revenues had increased ten-fold and could grow even more dramatically in future.

A growing number of countries in sub Saharan Africa are experiencing sustained high growth rates, mostly on the back of oil and other mineral extraction.

In the past this has too often passed by the poor of these countries owing to a combination of circumstances. In some cases the elites have pocketed huge chunks of the proceeds. In other instances sweetheart deals or weak revenues have meant international companies have paid little or no tax.

Zambia has got round this recently by introducing a 6 per cent royalty paid on the volume of daily production valued at the prevailing rate at the London Metal Exchange. The Government are also looking at other sectors of the economy that could contribute to tax revenues.

A growing economy, fairly taxed is the key to development in all but the poorest countries – and that must be the aspiration for them too in the longer term.

Insults do not scotch inconvenient truths

The Leader of the Labour Party in the Scottish Parliament, Johann Lamont, has put her finger on an inconvenient truth – that the welfare bill will become more and more unsustainable.

The SNP, as is increasingly their wont, resorted to personal abuse. Nicola Sturgeon called her Thatcherite – the ultimate insult for Scottish lefties. However, this venom only revealed the increasing paucity of intellectual and economic credibility that afflicts the SNP.

The strategy for the SNP seems to be to try and dress up the Scottish electorate in a fluffy tartan plaid with a Brave Heart bunnet and shut out reality. This simply won’t do.

Breaking infrastructure logjam is top priority

Hardly a month goes by without proposals for thousands more houses in the Bridge of Don. Developments to the North and West of the city, both within the city boundary and across the shire, are inhibited by the stranglehold we face on infrastructure developments.

Only 1 per cent of the Scottish Transport budget has been spent in the North East in the past five years. We are all waiting impatiently for the Supreme Court ruling on the AWPR. I am sure it will rule in favour of the development but I hope it will clear the logjam – either by ruling out any further appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg or at least confirming construction of the road can go ahead regardless.

In any case, in the event of a positive decision we must move forward on this project as quickly as possible. I have long argued that work should have started on the Tipperty section of the A90, which could have been completed by now.

Upgrading of the rail link should also be given priority.

Above all, however, the city council should not delay any longer progress on the Third Don crossing. This is needed for the developments already completed. To consider building thousands more houses in the Bridge of Don without going ahead with the bridge would be sheer planning lunacy.

The majority of councillors on Aberdeen City support the crossing as proposed. They should assert that majority to give the like to the current image of the city as against progress and development.