Royal Mail staff should be shown appreciation

Posties are Royal Mail’s greatest asset

Another Christmas is over. Another year has begun. I visited several Royal Mail sorting offices as I do every Christmas.

The posties do a job we all appreciate and should not take for granted. What is clear to me is that the Royal Mail’s greatest asset is the men and women who deliver letters and packages the last mile to our door.

The collapse of City Link on Christmas Eve came as a shock and with terrible timing. It shows that those private companies who are seeking to cherry pick Royal Mail business are not guaranteed market success.

The sale of Royal Mail has been criticised in some quarters. Some say it was sold too cheaply but there would have been more criticism if the shares had not been taken up. The company has been floated, freed from its pension liabilities and able to invest and compete.

The universal service obligation is a statutory obligation on Royal Mail but is also its unique selling point as it delivers to every address across the United Kingdom at a uniform rate.

It is especially valuable to Scotland where the costs of delivering to rural areas and Highlands and Islands across a sparsely populated area is borne by the revenue generated in the heavily populated conurbations south of the border.

Unlike too many private carriers, Royal Mail does not charge a premium to deliver in our area.

The people who deliver to our door often offer service above and beyond the call of duty and this is the time of year to show appreciation.

Irony as falling oil price overshadows recovery

It is ironic and, of course, disappointing, that as growth takes hold in the UK economy the price of oil has fallen sharply.

Of course, people will appreciate cheaper fuel and it will keep down inflation but for many in the North-east it means a less certain future.

We have been here before. Like all commodities, the price of oil is subject to sharp and unpredictable fluctuations.

Nobody knows how low the price will go and for how long.

Savings will have to be made and redundancies have already been announced and more will follow.

What it emphasises is the need to be cost competitive and to diversify so that our skills and technologies can find other markets. Our work force is skilled and innovative. Companies will need to adapt so that when recovery returns we have not dissipated our skills.

The falling oil price also affects investment in more expensive renewable energy.

We are in the middle of adopting global commitments to tackle climate change and reduce carbon emissions. We should not allow the gains we have made in this sector to be lost.

It is absurd for Scottish Government ministers to call on further tax cuts from the UK Government, which has already set in motion tax reductions and is considering more. But does anyone believe that an independent Scotland so dependent on oil revenues would cut taxes at a time of falling revenues?

Aberdeen City has called an oil summit to try and find a constructive response. Local, Scottish and UK Government politicians would be well advised to take part in a constructive spirit.

Time to end airport gridlock

For more than 30 years I have commuted regularly by air from Aberdeen to London and have experienced the gridlock that affects the airport at peak times. This looks set to get worse before it gets better as new offices on the commercial and industrial estates off Dyce Drive are occupied.

It is a matter of eternal regret that I was unable to persuade the airport authorities to develop the terminal on the east side of the airfield adjacent to the station (which was closed at the time the decision was made). This would have made travel in and out of town so much more efficient and reduced vehicle traffic. As it is, the station has been a success and must be part of the traffic link.

More frequent services from Inverurie, stopping at Kintore and travelling through to Stonehaven and Laurencekirk could all help to take vehicles off the roads. But we need to provide better links and access from the A96 as the Western Peripheral Route progresses all too slowly.