Holyrood Headlines with MSP and FM, Alex Salmond

Scottish Government support for business pioneers

ON Monday I met with Martin Dickie, Cofounder and ‘Beer Pirate’ of BrewDog, at the company’s new purpose-built state-of-the-art brewery in Ellon. The visit marked Sunday’s announcement of a £551,000 funding boost from the Scottish Government.

This fantastic investment will allow BrewDog to create a further 20 full-time jobs at the site, and increase production ten-fold. On top of this, the new facilities at Balmacassie will see their use of Scottish-sourced barley increase from 10% to 50%.

BrewDog is one of 32 companies awarded a share in £9 million of grant support from the Scottish Government in the latest round of food and drink funding. The Food Processing, Marketing and Cooperation (FPMC) scheme means that since 2008, 159 Scottish projects have benefited from £38 million support.

BrewDog is a flourishing company, an increasingly important local employer in Aberdeenshire East, and a phenomenal success story by anyone’s standards.

This investment will give the company greatly increased brewing capacity to keep up with the overwhelming global demand for their product, help to grow the business further and enable expansion into a new non-alcoholic malt-based soft drink range, as well as production of low alcohol content beers. It will also enable them to relocate production that currently takes place elsewhere.

The company aims to put Scotland at the forefront of the global craft beer revolution, and this assistance will certainly help them in achieving that goal.

Chairing a summit for Inverurie retail success

THIS week I joined the local business community in Inverurie and representatives of Aberdeenshire Council for an Inverurie Retail Summit to set a positive course for the retail sector in the town.

I offered to chair the event, which was designed to bring together interested parties in a bid to take constructive action for the local economy and town centre traders.

Towns like Inverurie, with the initiative and resourcefulness to come up with a strategy for future progress, are likely to weather any economic difficulties well. To look at informed and effective ways to influence a town’s ability to deal with the economic climate is by no means an indication of a town suffering with economic difficulties. Rather, to take such a proactive approach to dealing with potential problems is an indication of a progressive and driven business community, looking to the future.

Some cracking ideas were heard and these were backed by great willingness for all parties to work together for the benefit of Inverurie. It was agreed that the Council representatives present would feedback to the Senior Management with the view to producing a new Retail Impact Assessment for the proposed new supermarket at Harlaw Road. It was also agreed that a concerted effort would be made towards freeing up the land needed to create the Inverurie Inner Relief Road, which would also release a significant amount of space for parking. There was also enthusiasm for further business meetings focusing on business banking and youth and disability employment and I offered to assist in setting up these seminars. There was similar agreement that there would be no resistance to good ideas for signage in the town, a consensus that marketing Inverurie to commuters could prove beneficial and a general enthusiasm to pursue twinning with a comparable fast-growing, thriving town abroad.

There were certainly issues raised that have a good chance of moving forward and this highlights why initiatives like this are so productive. This was a truly first-class event, demonstrating direction, vision and a shared enthusiasm to build on Inverurie’s solid, retail reputation. To think collectively towards a town’s future shows a high degree of enterprise and ingenuity and the Inverurie Business Association is to be commended on its forward-thinking and progressive action.

Breakthrough in Tarves talks

LAST week I met with the Chief Executive of NHS Grampian, Richard Carey and other key NHS Grampian officials, to discuss the closure of Tarves GP branch surgery and the removal of dispensing at Pitmedden. Representatives of the Haddo Medical Practice, along with community council representatives and community activists were also involved in the productive talks.

All present agreed that the current situation is unsatisfactory and, during the constructive discussions, the Health Board agreed to work with the local community to make progress in the matter.

A number of ideas were discussed and the Health Board committed to engaging with the community representatives over the coming months towards the objective of restoring dispensing at Pitmedden and allowing Tarves GP branch surgery to remain open. It was a positive result and NHS Grampian has agreed to reconsider the closure before the end of the year given the strength of local need.

I welcome the Health Board’s flexibility at the talks and its willingness to work with the community in the interest of local health care. The community representatives and the local activists have worked hard and are to be commended on their commitment to persuading the Health Board to have a change of heart.

This was a big step forward, ensuring maximum community involvement, and can certainly be described as a breakthrough for Tarves, Pitmedden and the surrounding areas.