Gordon MP sir malcolm bruce reports back

Positive unionist pledges, not nasty separatist insults.

There are now just three months until the referendum, so what developments have there been in the last couple of weeks?

For those of us who use social media and who scroll down to the comments at the foot newspaper stories online, we are very used to the abusive messages from elements within the nationalist movement to those of us who want the United Kingdom to stay together.

But the “dark-side” of nationalism has certainly been exposed for the world to see with the cybernat attacks on Clare Lally and JK Rowling for speaking out in favour of the Better Together campaign. Alex Salmond cannot claim ignorance as the attack on Clare Lally was coordinated from his office.

To have these misogynistic, hateful and abusive comments spread around the world shocked many people and should be a wake-up call to the First Minister to rein in his supporters.

Some people think that internet insults will determine how folk vote but I am determined more than ever to make sure that people hear the arguments and get the answers to their questions in a constructive debate, by speaking to people on the doorsteps, in public meetings and at the summer fayres and galas.

This week also saw a joint pledge on more powers for the Scottish Parliament from the three leaders of the pro-UK parties to guarantee further devolution to Scotland in the event of a No vote this September.

It was the Scottish Constitutional Convention which helped establish the Scottish Parliament comprising the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Labour and non-politicians from the churches, unions, businesses and other organisations.

You may remember that the SNP turned up once for the discussions - in order to stage a walk-out.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats, Labour and Conservatives also delivered more powers for Holyrood through the Calman Commission which resulted in the Scotland Act of 2012. The SNP did not take part.

So it is the parties of Better Together who have delivered the Scottish Parliament, increased its powers and made a pledge of further devolution after the next General Election.

Local Health issues

Problems are emerging in our health service which raises questions about the Scottish Government’s competence.

Populist decisions on prescription charges and car parking have reduced funding for clinical services. NHS Grampian has the lowest net operating spending per head of any health board in Scotland.

The high cost of living in the North-east has contributed to a recruitment crisis, with recent suggestions that just under three hundred nurses and midwives are needed to fill existing vacancies.

Given this, it is unsurprising to see problems multiplying and NHS Grampian struggling to maintain services. We are facing a severe shortage of consultants; waiting time targets are being missed and concerns have been raised about hygiene and safety. Only a week ago, senior doctors warned that lives could be put at risk if vacancies in the accident and emergency section are not filled.

NHS Grampian covers a vast area. I know from personal experience how hard its doctors and nurses work to provide care for patients. They deserve support from the Scottish Government to continue doing so.

Action needs to be taken urgently if public confidence is not to be undermined.

Passports delays

Of pressing concern at the start of the summer holiday season is the news of significant delays in the processing of passports by HM Passport Office.

The Home Secretary has said that the delays have been caused by a surge in passport applications and renewals. I understand that there are around 350,000 more applications then there normally are at this time of year.

Of course, that is little consolation to anyone whose business or holiday travel plans are affected.

I have helped a number of people with urgent cases. I would urge anyone else whose travel plans may be jeopardised to contact my office – my staff will do their best to help.

A full-scale review of the service has been announced, and rightly so. With business and leisure travel from the north-east on the increase, people have a ight to expect that passport applications are processed swiftly and accurately.

I will certainly be making my views on the matter clear to the Home Secretary.