Holyrood Headlines with Alex Salmond, MSP and First MInister

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The Mourning After

ON Monday I assisted Grampian Police in launching their latest anti-dink driving campaign, titled ‘The Mourning After’.

One quarter of fatal collisions in Grampian are drink related and the impact this can have on communities and families is enormous. Therefore, unlike previous campaigns whereby the focus was on consequences for the individual involved, this campaign notes the wider implications of the offence.

The campaign was drawn up by grassroots Police Constables Gemma Booth and Clare Doherty, who have seen first-hand the devastation that drink driving can have in the region. After dealing with numerous fatal and serious collisions, they wanted to highlight the action that the public can take to prevent drink driving occurring in the first place.

The Scottish Government has long called for a reduction in the drink-driving limit to 50mg which would bring Scotland into line with the rest of Europe. It strongly believes that reducing the drink-driving limit will save lives. The majority of Scots recognise that drink driving is dangerous and deplorable in our society but there are still too many people dying every year on our roads as a result of drivers being over the limit.

The current limit leaves too much room for confusion and sadly we are still seeing hundreds of drivers each year ignore the warnings, putting lives at risk through drinking and driving. It is reckless and totally unacceptable.

If a driver loses his or her license they will be one of the fortunate ones. All too often lives are lost with families and communities left to pick up the pieces. Clearly attitudes have to change but it is also of paramount importance that friends, family and colleagues take the opportunity to intervene and stop drivers from undertaking such behaviour.

Giving Communities a Voice

LAST week the Scottish Government launched a wide-ranging consultation on how communities can help shape the proposed Community Empowerment and Renewal Bill.

The Community Empowerment and Renewal Bill was a 2011 SNP manifesto commitment to make it easier for communities to take over public sector assets that are not used or underused, and to help communities deal more effectively with vacant and derelict property in their areas.

The consultation considers a number of factors including the right to become more involved in making decisions on local budgets, prioritising the needs of public sector organisations and giving local authorities the power to enforce sale or lease of empty homes. It is hoped that the measures will allow for a higher level of community contribution to budgeting decisions, whilst offering greater understanding of the processes involved. In turn, this will lead to greater independence locally and will inspire creativity, revitalising our areas.

We are already proud of our communities in Scotland and in Aberdeenshire East our people are our greatest asset, but these proposed powers will allow for more powers to do much more and to have a direct say on what matters to them most. After all, who knows more about communities than those living within them?

I would advise groups interested to take the time to read the consultation and consider what they feel would make a difference. Anyone can access the consultation through the Scottish Government website or by contacting the Government directly.

Revenue Scotland –A Fairer Scheme for Scotland

FOLLOWING the devolution of some taxation powers to the Scottish Parliament in the Scotland Act 2012, Finance Secretary, John Swinney, recently announced the establishment of Revenue Scotland, which will be responsible for the administration of Scotland’s devolved taxes.

This is hugely significant for the Scottish Parliament. Although the fiscal powers devolved in the Scotland Act fall way short of what is required, the establishment of Revenue Scotland to oversee these means that, for the first time, the decisions surrounding those taxes will be taken by those who care about Scotland most – the people of Scotland.

In the first instance, Revenue Scotland will focus on administration of the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) and the replacement for the UK Landfill Tax. It will work closely with Registers of Scotland to prepare for the LBTT and with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency on the replacement for Landfill Tax. It will be set up as an administrative unit of the Scottish Government in 2012 and by 2015 it will have been established in statute at arm’s length from Ministers, in line with international good practice.

Revenue Scotland and Registers of Scotland will deliver a service of tax collection that is more efficient and better value for money, with savings of millions of pounds for the public purse. The Scottish Government will consult on the appropriate powers for Revenue Scotland as part of the Tax Management consultation to be launched before the end of the year.

The Scottish Government is saving the Scottish taxpayer money with efficient collection and treating the taxpayer fairly with a move to progressive taxation.

It is only right that the people of Scotland determine their own taxes and I would encourage as many people as possible to take part in the consultation on the proposed Land and Building Transaction Tax.