32nd – and last – summer tour of Gordon
I am writing this part way through my 32nd constituency and last summer tour of the Gordon constituency . I started the idea of touring the whole constituency the summer after I was elected in 1983 and have done it ever since.
When I started it was a novelty. A couple of my Liberal colleagues did it but no-one else. Now, it appears, the majority of MPs have followed this example.
It means I get to many of the smaller communities I might not otherwise visit during the year. It gives people the chance to meet me and raise any issues they wish. But I also pop into schools, shops, community halls etc. and find out what’s new and what is going on.
I found Jonny and Ali Aspden, the young couple who have taken over Udny Post Office, hard at work fitting out the former shop as a cafe aiming to serve breakfasts and light lunches and, of course, keep the post office running. I wish them well in their enterprise.
I also popped into the super new hall in Newmachar – the Axis Centre, with its coffee shop and catering facilities, a huge all purpose hall with stage, storage and indoor sports facilities, gym and other rooms and facilities – a very appropriate venue for a growing community.
I am sure it will be well supported by the community but I would urge anyone living in the area who has not checked it out yet to do so.
In the city part of the constituency the talk was all about when the third Don crossing will start (and finish) and what is happening to the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route and everything that hinges on it.
I have also been accompanied by the Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate, Christine Jardine, who is committed to following the practise if she becomes Gordon’s next MP.
Yes vote could halt
In the middle of this tour I had two independence referendum meetings, one in the Thainstone Centre, broadcast by the BBC, and one organised by the church and business Community in Oldmeldrum.
I get the impression as we get closer to the vote that the majority of people attending such meetings have made up their mind and are wanting to check out how both sides are presenting their case.
I remain astonished that the Yes campaign continues to rely on its own assertions that independence will be agreed within 18 months and entirely on their terms – in spite of strong evidence to the contrary.
I have championed the cause of Home Rule for Scotland all my life. I am proud to have played a key role in shaping the Scottish Parliament. I was annoyed with Labour when in 1979 they offered a fairly weak Assembly unfairly elected by first past the post. It accelerated the demise of the Labour Government.
I was delighted to work with the much more broadly based Constitutional Convention which laid the foundations for the Scottish Parliament, elected by a proportional system with all the powers of the Scottish Office – and more.
I was disappointed that the tax base we got close to agreeing was quashed by Gordon Brown but I am pleased that under Liberal Democrat Secretaries of State for Scotland significant tax powers – income tax, landfill and stamp duty – are being delivered and I am sure more will follow.
By contrast, the SNP took no part in the hard and detailed work – which, I think, explains why they are so inadequately prepared to make the case for outright independence. For example, a currency union can only be agreed by the rest of the UK and Scotland and would involve conditions that would make the tax and spend priorities of the Yes campaign totally undeliverable. That would be in neither party’s interests.
We have a currency union and can keep it by staying in the UK.
“Yes” are even more confused in asserting that the Pound is an asset shared by Scotland. It is, of course a medium of exchange underwritten by the Bank of England which is a UK institution whose Governor and directors are appointed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
This applies to many other bodies such as the BBC, the British Council, the Research Councils and our overseas embassies. Leaving the UK means leaving these behind.
Swallowing the assertions of the Yes campaign and ignoring the huge uncertainties of a Yes vote is a dangerous course. Scotland contributed to the recession and has participated in equal measure in the recovery now taking hold thanks to the Liberal Democrats in coalition. This could all be put at risk across the UK by the many uncertainties that would follow a Yes vote.