Scotland the Brave
Earlier this month I travelled to the United States to build on economic links and encourage inward investment in Scotland. The focus during the tour of Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Francisco was on innovation, tourism and jobs.
As part of the trip I had the honour of attending the premiere of the film “Brave” which is expected to bring a boost of £140 million to the Scottish economy.
Disney-Pixar and VisitScotland have come together in a unique collaboration to showcase Scotland across the globe. This will be VisitScotland’s biggest ever worldwide tourism campaign, and the Scottish economy can look forward to the benefits. Millions will see Brave, and they’re going to see for themselves an animated vision of our beautiful country.
The film features the voices of many of our Scottish stars including Craig Ferguson, Billy Connolly, Robbie Coltrane, Kevin McKidd and Kelly Macdonald. It is a fantastic film which sets Scotland as a wonderful and enticing world destination.
Further fall in crime
I am extremely encouraged by figures released this week showing that recorded crime in Grampian has fallen by a further 5% in the past year, down by a total of 22% since the SNP took office in 2007.
Across Scotland, the Recorded Crime statistics are also extremely encouraging, demonstrating a fall in recorded crime last year, to its lowest level since 1975.
The figures also revealed that the number of crimes involving handling offensive weapons have fallen by 10% since 2010/11, and by 44% since 2006/7. The number of crimes involving handling an offensive weapon is now at its lowest level in 18 years.
This drop is great news for everyone, and shows the Scottish Government is working to produce a safer and stronger Scotland.
Crime is at a 37 year low, fear of crime is down, and the risk of being a victim of crime in Scotland is falling.
This is testament to the hard work of police across Scotland, and stresses the importance of the SNP Government’s commitment to recruiting over 1200 additional police officers since it took office, while officer numbers down south are being cut by 16,000.
People are feeling safer in their communities and - despite the relentless scaremongering from opposition parties – record police numbers underline how decisions for Scotland are best made by those elected by the people of Scotland, rather than leaving matters in the hands of Westminster politicians.
Last week marked Carers Week which champions the 660,000 unpaid carers in Scotland.
Scotland’s incredible army of voluntary carers is a support structure without which the Health Service could not effectively function. It is only right that during Scottish Carers Week, we all recognise and pay tribute to the work that they do.
Indeed, the role of carers is set to become even more important as our population ages and Carers Week is a timely reminder for people of the invaluable work that is already being undertaken.
The first Carers Parliament will be held in the Scottish Parliament on Monday 1st October and will focus on Services and Support. Two delegates will be selected from each Scottish Parliament constituency and I would encourage carers to apply at www.carerscotland.org .
Last week’s program of events coincided with the announcement of additional funds to support college students who are unpaid carers. Funding of £50,000 has been committed by the Scottish Government to help to ensure young carers who are trying to juggle the burdens of caring for a loved one with studying at college will not be disadvantaged by their sacrifices.
This funding announcement was the latest in a wide package of support measures for unpaid carers, with the Scottish Government set to invest £46 million over the next three years.
In Government, the SNP continues to work hard to support carers by beating our manifesto promise of 10,000 weeks respite care, extending the Energy Assistance Package which helps push the cost of 7,000 carers’ heating bills down and, most recently, providing additional support for young carers. We are not complacent however and we will continue to seek new ways to support carers and the invaluable role that they play.
On track for rail improvements
I was delighted to welcome ambitious new plans for targeted investment in Scotland’s rail network over five years. Plans for improved punctuality, better journey times and affordable fares are all included as part of the new rail franchise from 2014 that will be put out to tender.
Of particular significance for Aberdeenshire East, are the anticipated upgrades to the Aberdeen - Inverness Rail Line in Phase 1, improving commuter access to both towns and creating new stations at Kintore and Dalcross. The longer term objective is to create an hourly service between the two cities with an average journey time, calling at all stations, of around 2 hours.
The roll out of WiFi across the Network from 2014 is also a boost.
I am particularly pleased with the Scottish Government announcement of the creation of Community Rail Partnerships that will afford local passengers and communities the ability to influence the infrastructure decisions that affect their area.
The Rail 2014 consultation had a huge response rate with the travelling public making clear the importance which they put on reliability and punctuality. This set of measures will help to ensure an improved service, increased punctuality and easier commuter access for rail passengers.