WORK TO COMMENCE ON AWPR
After lengthy delays, I am delighted that this month marks the start of work on the long-overdue Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route.
The Supreme Court ruling of 17th October, which unanimously rejected the appeals against the proposal, will now allow the AWPR to proceed without any further delay.
The decision will be welcomed by the vast majority of my constituents, and communities across the North East, who have been frustrated by significant delays in providing this vital upgrade to local transport infrastructure.
Unfortunately the unwanted five year delay, caused by the legal challenge of protestors, has resulted in an increase of £230 million to the overall cost of the project. However, when you consider that the scheme will boost the local economy of the North East to the tune of £6 billion, creating 14,000 jobs in the process, the investment remains extremely good value for money.
The dualling of the Balmedie-Tipperty section of the A90 will be combined with the AWPR as a single construction project under one contract, ensuring further cost efficiency for the project.
From a road safety perspective, improving this section of the A90 is critical, and the delivery of both projects in tandem will finally see the communities and businesses of Aberdeenshire benefit from a transport network which is fit for purpose.
Drilling works begin on site this month, with an expected completion date for the project of spring 2018. All job opportunities under the construction contract must be advertised through local job centres, ensuring optimal benefit for the economy of Aberdeenshire.
I look forward to construction works proceeding imminently.
POSITIVE PROGRESS IN TARVES SURGERY TALKS
I have held further talks with senior representatives of NHS Grampian, and can confirm that encouraging progress is being made towards reversing the decision to remove dispensing services at Pitmedden, thereby providing the context in which the Tarves GP’s surgery could reopen its doors to patients.
On Monday 22nd October I met with NHS Grampian’s Chief Executive, Richard Carey, and Chairman, Bill Howatson, for constructive talks to confirm that they are on course with constituting the new Panel which will be tasked with considering anew the provision of dispensing services at the Pitmedden Practice. Haddo Medical Group, the operators of the closed Tarves surgery, confirmed in September that they would seek to reopen the surgery should dispensing be reinstated at Pitmedden.
I am satisfied that the Panel tasked to review the decision will be properly and independently constituted, allowing the process to be carried forward accordingly. I will be submitting evidence to the Panel, as local MSP, to express my own concerns and those of my constituents about the current situation, which all parties agree is unsatisfactory.
I am confident that a solution will be found, enabling the full provision of GP services, and ensuring that there are adequate facilities for the collection of medicines across the communities of Tarves, Pitmedden and Udny. I will be observing the process very closely, and expect a positive result by the end of the year.
TRIDENT FUNDING COULD BE BETTER SPENT FOR SCOTLAND
This week saw the Ministry of Defence announce £350 million of funding to upgrade and maintain the Trident nuclear weapon system based on the River Clyde.
This announcement falls at a time in which the UK government is implementing brutal austerity measures which are cutting vital public services and benefits, as well as reducing investment in the economy.
The people of Scotland do not need nor want nuclear weapons of mass destruction on their shores. During the last parliamentary session, the Scottish Parliament voted resoundingly against Trident being situated in our country and this is a view widely shared across civic Scotland.
There have been misleading statements in the media this week, which suggest that scrapping Trident would threaten thousands of jobs at Faslane naval base.
However, this is not the case – official Ministry of Defence figures indicate that whilst 520 employees work directly on Trident, these skills are transferable and will be just as important to Faslane as a conventional naval base, as is the SNP’s plan for the base in an independent Scotland.
The £350 million spending could be used to support additional nurses and teachers and to invest in schools and hospitals across the country.
These are funding opportunities which enrich lives, rather than threatening them. Indeed, such investment would have a significant impact and wider benefit across the North East and throughout Scotland.