2019 New Year Message

I climbed to the top of Bennachie with my six year old son on Friday -his first time. On an unusually mild day for the time of year and in the sparkling sunshine, you could see for miles.

It’s a stunning view up to the Glens of Foudland to the West, North to Oldmeldrum, East towards Ellon and the coast and SE towards Aberdeen where I could pick out the A96.

It is a landscape dominated by farm land, dotted with wind turbines and studded with a mix of industrious towns and dormitory settlements. New houses are being built from the Bridge of Don to Inverurie all the way West to Huntly.

At a similar age to my son I climbed Bennachie during a sponsored walk by Auchterless Church Sunday School. I reflected the institutions that dominated my childhood have changed and we are part of a huge experiment.

No not BREXIT but social media and the dominance of the individual interacting in a far less formal way. The church and formal club membership has reduced. People have many more contacts but in the loose and high speed virtual clubs of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Travelling around the constituency I see schools, charities and community groups competing for time and input with our busy modern lives. I thank all the coaches, club leaders, coordinators and volunteers who keep the faith with real world human interaction.

So much of our media and news is no longer from newspapers or even TV journalists but is gleaned from whatever is trending. Unfortunately, that ends up being an echo chamber with little if any journalistic input to interpret and report facts not just opinions.

The reality is the NE is the economic miracle of Scotland. The City and the Shire have well run Councils. The schools despite a shortage of staff do well on a national scale and the economy sustains well paid jobs with barely 1% unemployment.

There are clouds. We are worryingly short of GPs and struggle to attract consultants to ARI. There is a demographic time bomb in the medical profession and Government needs to be honest about care.

Scotland is diverging from the rest of the U.K. on tax. Despite the good intentions this is bad economics and will be felt most distinctly in the NE with higher Council Tax, higher income tax bills and punitive business rates.

BREXIT and the threat of a second independence referendum is destabilising and whether at Westminster or Holyrood politicians must consider the real-world effects of their procrastination.

It is ironic at Westminster and Holyrood both Governments are in a minority struggling to get legislation past. Has the country turned into a basket case? No, people are at their best solving problems so much better than rigid legal rules.

I propose we need less but better government and would encourage my colleagues at Holyrood to have more faith in individuals and markets to find solutions and not always reach for more legislation. The State does not always know best.

So in 2019 we must finally get a grip of BREXIT. The whole of the U.K. must be an outward looking nation beyond the horizon of the EU rekindling relationships such as the Commonwealth. The two Governments of Scotland must work to a common cause and stop the politics of grievance.

We must be a welcoming nation to talented employees and minds seeking education at our excellent universities. The Scots have made an impact where ever they have settled and migrants to Scotland will be valued and welcomed.

In this decision vacuum people can take back control show their tenacity and original thinking. And maybe just maybe if they can look away long enough from their smart phones, tablets and stop speaking to Alexa, they can remember speaking to one another and interacting is the most basic and valuable human instinct.

Having different opinions is a strength and tolerance is essential if we are all to move ahead together.

Here is to a happy and prosperous new year.