It was a brilliant year for Scotland in 2014; we truly took our place on the world stage as we hosted the Ryder Cup, the World Sheep Dog Trials and the Commonwealth Games.
And it was also the second year of Homecoming Scotland, which saw a variety of events taking place throughout the year, the length and breadth of Scotland. The eyes of the world were focused on our nation and it was truly a year to be proud of our country.
September saw Scotland being asked whether or not to become an independent country, and Scotland voted no. This wasn’t the resulted I worked towards and hoped so much for, but we must accept the will of the Scottish people. Scotland’s Referendum was an incredible triumph for democracy, with a record 85% turnout and the new wave of democratic engagement and activism, which has been inspired by the campaign, shows no signs of stopping. It was hugely gratifying to see such a high turnout from our 16 and 17 year olds, and there remains cross party Parliamentary support in Holyrood to allow our young people to vote in all future elections.
Recently, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has expressed confidence that the powers necessary to allow 16 and 17-year-olds to vote will be devolved to Holyrood in time for the next Scottish Parliament elections in 2016. Speaking outside Number 10 Downing Street after her first meeting with Prime Minister since she took office, Ms Sturgeon said she believed both Scottish and UK governments would give the matter the required focus to allow the franchise to be extended before the 2016 vote.
May 7, 2015, will see the United Kingdom being asked to vote in the General Election. It is increasingly likely that the result will see a hung parliament, and it is therefore vital that Scotland returns more SNP MPs to help deliver a progressive policy agenda at Westminster. The SNP have the strongest levels of support we have ever had going into a UK election - following our extraordinary membership and polling boost since the referendum - but we take nothing for granted. We have great opportunities at the General Election to advance Scotland’s interests - the more votes and seats the SNP win, the more the Westminster establishment will have to pay attention to what people in Scotland want.
So - 2015 is set to be another fantastic year for Scotland.
The Year of Food and Drink, 2015 will see events being held throughout the country. This will be a chance to spotlight, celebrate and promote Scotland’s natural larder and quality produce to our people and our visitors. In Aberdeenshire West we are hugely lucky to have some of the finest quality food and drink in the country, if not the world and I hope that constituents and visitors alike will continue to buy local and to enjoy the fantastic produce we have to offer.
The Year is a Scottish Government initiative led by EventScotland and VisitScotland that will capitalise on the momentum created by the previous Year of Food and Drink in 2010 and Homecoming Scotland 2014.
I was delighted to learn that Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) plan to move from their current site at Craibstone to a new campus at Thainstone, near Inverurie. Thainstone is already an important centre for Scottish agriculture and making education a part of that will be ideal for both the mart and the college. This is an ideal opportunity for the college to work more closely with the industry.
The plans are part of SRUCs Scotland wide strategy of commitment to continuing education, research and advisory services to the land based industries. SRUC is planning the move because they have recognised constraints at the current Craibstone site including housing, AWPR and other developments. The Thainstone site is seen as an opportunity to establish agricultural, forestry and land based third sector teaching facility in the heart of Aberdeenshire’s agricultural community.
This time of year often sees people making resolutions to take forward in to the New Year. Whether it’s to exercise more or to spend more time with loved ones, I hope that whatever you chose to concentrate on in the New Year that this year is a happy one for you and all of your family. I am looking forward to the year ahead and to continuing to represent the constituents of Aberdeenshire West. I will be hosting surgeries throughout the constituency in February, if you would like to meet with me please contact my constituency office, based in Kintore, on 01467 631364.