Holyrood Headlines with MSP and First Minister Alex Salmond

Showcasing Scotland at the Olympics

ON Friday I will be travelling south to join the many thousands of people lucky enough to be in the Olympic Stadium to witness the opening ceremony take place in London.

Given Danny Boyle’s involvement, I expect that event to be a spectacular and memorable curtain raiser for the 2012 Games, with our very own north east talent such as Emeli Sande and Annie Lennox tipped to entertain the crowds as part of the extensive programme.

During these Games, many of Scotland’s elite sportsmen and women – such as Inverurie’s very own Hannah Miley – will also compete at the summit of their sport with a real chance of bringing home a medal.

Every one of these Scottish Olympians has shown quite incredible dedication to their sport. Just winning selection for the Games is a fantastic achievement of which they should be extremely proud. I wish every one of them – and indeed every one of the athletes from teams all across the world – the very best of luck in the coming weeks.

However, the significance of these Olympics to Scotland is not simply about the sporting action or the athletes.

These Games present us with an unmissable opportunity to promote Scotland to the many thousands of visitors and businesses who will flock to London in the coming weeks from across the globe. It is absolutely crucial that we take this once-in-a-lifetime chance to show them what a great place Scotland is to invest in or visit and what superb, high quality produce we export all around the world.

That is why the Scottish Government has set up Scotland House in Pall Mall, right in the heart of London for four weeks, to showcase the absolute best of Scottish business, culture, food and drink and sport to overseas visitors, international business people and journalists.

Scotland House is a concept that was hugely successful at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester, Melbourne and Delhi. This kind of effort has contributed to foreign investment in Scotland and associated jobs continuing to rise despite the global downturn.

During an exciting first week of events, visitors to Scotland House will be given a fantastic, warm reception as we sell what our great country has to offer. It will also give us a chance to remind sports fans and others that Scotland will be next in line as we prepare to welcome Commonwealth athletes in 2014.

The next few weeks are going to offer some fabulous memories and, with any luck, a few Scottish medals. But my hope is that the legacy of the Olympic Games in London is about more than medals, and we can capitalise on this opportunity to boost our economy and secure jobs for Scotland.

First-rate facilities for creative talent

LAST week I had the opportunity to tour the basement conversion at Aberdeen College to see the work underway to create a state-of-the-art facility for hair and beauty, photography and TV, radio and sound production. 

With 30 per cent of Aberdeenshire school leavers attending the College, I was pleased to see the substantial progress at the site, which is due to be ready for the new term.

The space will include hair salons, beauty rooms, photo labs and a TV studio, which have all been designed to maximise the practical learning experience of the students. 

I was also impressed by the newly completed facilities for Music and Performing Arts students which allow students to tread the boards in a fully operational 96-seater Theatre.

These superb new facilities will allow the College to further develop the talent of our young people, encouraging important practical and vocational experience which will prove invaluable in the world of work. 

Dairy action plan

FOLLOWING the mass demonstrations at Westminster by dairy farmers from across the UK, the Scottish Government’s 5 point dairy action plan is to be welcomed. The proposals have been drawn up to help tackle the current pricing crisis in the industry and find better ways to support Scotland’s dairy farmers.

The plan was launched after the Rural Affairs Secretary, Richard Lochhead, met with representatives of NFU Scotland. 

The action plan includes measures such as asking Defra Minister Jim Paice to appoint an independent facilitator to assist with the current negotiations; writing to retailers demanding clarity for consumers; commissioning a long-term strategic review of the industry and ensuring the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society (SAOS) have resources to accelerate their work.

It is clear dairy farmers are angry and frustrated about the current situation, and I can understand why. The Rural Secretary is working hard to find a solution that meets the needs of our farmers and helps them to continue in business. It is important that we find a way to maximise the potential of the sector while ensuring farmers are paid a fair price for their valuable product.

Recent talks between dairy farmers and processing firms at the Royal Welsh Show resulted in a deal in principle being struck, meaning firms buying milk would have to give a reasonable notice period when changing process to allow farmers to opt out of any agreements. This is a good step forward but the test of success will be when they are paid a decent return on their produce – indeed one above the cost of production.

The Scottish Government will continue with plans to consult on legislation to ensure fairness for our farmers.