16 November 2016

City universities must not be hardest hit again, says Macdonald

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has today pledged to use a parliamentary question next week to demand that Aberdeen and Robert Gordon universities are not in the firing line again when it comes to next year's grant settlement from the Scottish Funding Council.

The two city universities were among the hardest hit by the Scottish Funding Council grant settlement this year. Aberdeen University and RGU both saw a cut in teaching grants and research funding of 3.9% in the current financial year, amounting to an overall reduction of £3million for the University of Aberdeen and £1.4million at RGU. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“Both Aberdeen University and RGU have been hit this year by the cuts imposed by the Scottish Funding Council on behalf of the Scottish Government.

“Both institutions have announced job losses among teaching staff this year, and only recently Aberdeen University revealed that Medical School staff could face compulsory redundancy before Christmas.  

“It is vital that these two universities do not face further funding cuts when next year’s Scottish Government budget is announced, which is why I will be asking about the impact of funding cuts on Aberdeen and Robert Gordon universities."

10 November 2016

Macdonald welcomes North East MSYPs to Holyrood

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald met with members of the Scottish Youth Parliament at Holyrood this week, to hear the views of young people on a wide range of issues. 

On Tuesday evening MSPs and Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament (MSYPs) from up and down the country came together to focus on the views and voices of young people in Scotland. The Parliamentary reception focused on the Scottish Youth Parliament’s 2016-2021 Manifesto, Lead the Way.

Lead the Way is based on an analysis of the 72,744 consultation responses from young people all over Scotland, and outlines their views on everything from climate change to physical assault on children. At the reception, MSPs got the opportunity to meet with their local MSYPs to discuss the issues affecting young people specifically in their area.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“I enjoyed the opportunity to meet some of the MSYPs representing Aberdeen and the North East, and to discuss the work of the Scottish Youth Parliament and its manifesto, Lead the Way.

“The Scottish Youth Parliament is an excellent way for young people to develop an interest in politics, and to develop skills that will come in useful when they go to university or start looking for work. 

“I was delighted to welcome Piotr Teodorowski, MSYP for Aberdeen Central and other MSYPs from the North East, to the Scottish Parliament this week.”

Piotr Teodorowski, MSYP for Aberdeen Central, added:

“The Scottish Youth Parliament event was a great opportunity for myself and other MSYPs to visit Holyrood and to meet with our local MSPs. 

“Participation in the Scottish Youth Parliament gives young people the ability to improve life in their local communities. I am enjoying my time as an MSYP and would encourage other young people to get involved.”

No reason not to pay National Minimum Wage, says MSP

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today called on Ministers to ensure that crew on vessels operating on Scottish Government contracts are paid the National Minimum Wage. 

After raising the issue in parliament, Mr Macdonald received an answer which said that requiring employees on public contracts to be paid a living wage higher than the national minimum wage “is unlikely to be compatible with EU law”, implying that the national minimum wage itself would not be challenged by Europe.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“I am pleased to learn that the Minister is meeting with Seatruck, which is paying its crew less than the National Minimum Wage, while operating on a Scottish Government contract, after the issue was raised at Holyrood and by the RMT union in Aberdeen last Friday in its SOS2020 campaign.

“Seafarers needs to hear that this issue is resolved without delay, and that people working on Scottish Government contracts are receiving at least the National Minimum Wage.”

MSP calls for action on payday loans to protect consumers

Lewis Macdonald MSP has backed calls from a national debt advice charity for the Financial Conduct Authority to look at tightening the regulations around the payday loan market.

StepChange Debt Charity, the UK’s biggest debt advice charity, made the call after their report found that regulations had “not fixed” the payday lending market, with some payday loan providers still not engaging in best practice.

Last year, 12% of those who contacted StepChange Debt Charity from the North East Scotland Region had a payday loan debt, with their average payday debt balance at £1,301. Although the charity has reported fewer and fewer people seeking help with payday debt, those who are turning to payday lenders do not always get a fair deal.

Lewis Macdonald MSP said today:

“It is vital that more action is taken to prevent payday loan companies taking advantage of those who find themselves in financial trouble, often through no fault of their own. 

“Too many people become trapped in a cycle of debt, borrowing more and more just to pay off existing loans. 

“People in the North East deserve to be protected from the poor lending practices which are often employed by payday lenders. That is why I am backing calls by StepChange Debt Charity for regulations around the payday loan market to be tightened further by the Financial Conduct Authority.”

Stepchange Debt Charity Scotland’s Public Affairs Officer James Stewart said: 

“Regulation can make a significant difference to broken markets and FCA action over the last few years has gone some way to fixing the worst excesses of payday lending, but there is clearly still work to be done. 

“It is essential that the FCA review of the payday lending cap is broad enough to fix areas of consumer detriment and poor lending practices. There is also a clear and immediate need for the Government to examine more affordable forms of borrowing for financially vulnerable people, who are often left with nowhere else to turn in their hour of need.

“It really can happen to anyone, so that’s why it’s important for the public to know that there are free debt advice organisations out there like StepChange Debt Charity who can help.

“If you are borrowing to cover your household bills, or stuck in a cycle of minimum payments, the time to act is now.”

07 November 2016

Still time to see sense over control room closure says MSP

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has today called on the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) to see sense and reverse its decision to close the Aberdeen fire control room before it’s too late. It follows the news that tomorrow staff will begin relocating to Dundee to work from Portacabins until the new facility is up and running. 

Lewis Macdonald MSP said:

“There is still time for the SFRS to see sense and reverse the decision to close the control room. The Mounthooly building in Aberdeen, is a state of the art facility with more than enough room to expand to cover areas outside Grampian. It’s surely remarkable that the SFRS is going ahead with the closure even before the new facility in Dundee is up and running. 

“The fire service has already lost several experienced staff from the control room, and there are serious concerns that local knowledge will disappear altogether when Mounthooly closes. If this decision goes ahead it would be yet another example of the SNP’s centralisation agenda, taking vital services away from communities in the north and north east.”

11 October 2016

MSP backs Bailey Gwynne recommendations

North East MSP Lewis Macdonald has backed the recommendations made in today’s report into the killing of Aberdeen teenager Bailey Gwynne. 

Speaking after the publication of the report, Lewis Macdonald said today:

“No-one wants to see a tragic event like this happen in our schools ever again, and it is therefore vital that the recommendations made in today’s report are addressed by both Aberdeen City Council and the Scottish Government. 

“The report highlights an issue with the law in this area, which requires headteachers to have consent in some cases before they search pupils for offensive weapons. It also highlights the need to review the law about the sale of weapons online. 

“The family of Bailey Gwynne and his friends have already experienced what can happen when young people carry weapons. There is an urgent need to review the law in both these areas if we are to keep pupils safe when they go to school.”

04 October 2016

Macdonald calls for common sense on offshore safety training

North East MSP Lewis Macdonald has called for common sense to be applied with regard to offshore wind safety training in the renewable energy sector.  

It follows concerns raised by oil and gas workers that they are being denied the opportunity to move into the renewables industry because of unnecessary and expensive duplicate safety training.  

The North East MSP has written to Lena Wilson, the chair of the Scottish Government’s Energy Jobs Taskforce to ask her to intervene and ensure that common sense is applied.

Lewis Macdonald said:

“Oil and gas workers are more than adequately trained to make a smooth transition into the offshore wind industry. It makes little sense that they are having to pay for safety training that they are already well versed in. 

“Common sense needs to be applied here. At a time when workers are losing their jobs we should be trying to remove any unnecessary barriers that prevent them from making the transition into the offshore renewables sector. 

“The workforce have a lot to offer the offshore wind industry and it is not acceptable this opportunity is being missed.”

28 September 2016

Macdonald calls for local approach to teacher recruitment

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today called on the SNP to ensure a local approach to teacher recruitment and retention, as part of its education governance review. 

After asking a question in parliament on the issue, Lewis Macdonald said today:

“The Northern Alliance of local authorities in the North and North East of Scotland are working together to try and meet the challenges of teacher recruitment and retention. What John Swinney needs to do is work with these councils to support their efforts, and focus workforce planning on meeting the needs of individual councils, rather than the “national picture” as a whole. 

“Recruitment and retention of teachers in Aberdeen are simply more difficult than in the Central Belt and the SNP must reflect this when they present their plans for education governance next year.

“In particular, the damaging practice of penalising local authorities which struggle to recruit and retain teachers must end, as it simply takes resources away from those councils which need more support to attract school staff to their area. 

“John Swinney must take on board these concerns before developing plans for education governance.”

27 September 2016

NHS Grampian patients deserves better cancer care – Macdonald 

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today called on the SNP to keep their promises on cancer treatment times, after it emerged that the number of people in the Grampian region treated for cancer within the 62-day target time had fallen in the last three months. 

In the period April to June 2016, just 85% of NHS Grampian patients were seen for their first cancer treatment within 62 days of their referral – despite SNP Ministers pledging that 95% of people should be seen in this time. During the previous three months, January to March 2016, this figure had been 87%.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“Early diagnosis and treatment are essential in the fight against cancer, which is why the SNP’s failure to meet its own targets on cancer treatment times is so disappointing. 

“This failure is about so more than numbers on a spreadsheet. Each percentage point represents patients in NHS Grampian whose treatment is delayed because years of underfunding at North East hospitals have left services stretched. 

“Targets will only work if they are funded properly, and it is clear from these figures that the Scottish Government has not been providing the funding and support need by NHS Grampian to treat cancer patients across the region. 

“Cancer patients and their families deserve much better than this, and the SNP is failing to deliver.”

21 September 2016

Lewis Macdonald crowned a Sporting Champion

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has been crowned a Scottish Sporting Champion by the Scottish Sports Association (SSA).

In the lead up to May’s Scottish elections Lewis Macdonald signed up to the SSA’s VoteforSport campaign: “I pledge as a Sporting Champion to recognise the unique role, value and potential of sport in Scottish Society.”

In becoming a Scottish Sporting Champion Lewis Macdonald said today:

“Aberdeen is home to hundreds of sports clubs and organisations, aimed at participants of all ages. Aberdeen FC Community Trust works with people of all ages from school children to sheltered housing residents, while Aberdeen Sports Village regularly holds swimming and table tennis sessions for over-50s. The city is equally well-known for its more unusual sports clubs and facilities, such as touch rugby, skateboarding and climbing. 

“I am delighted to have been endorsed as a Scottish Sporting Champion, and will continue to do my part to raise awareness of the value of sport, and the benefits that participants can enjoy.”

Kim Atkinson, CEO of the Scottish Sports Association, said “We are delighted to welcome Lewis Macdonald MSP as a Scottish Sporting Champion.

“While the last Parliamentary session witnessed the most successful performance cycle for Scottish sport, along with successes across many sports in increasing membership and volunteering at the grassroots of sport, the successes of Scottish athletes in the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics this summer have already set a new standard which we hope can be exceeded in this Parliamentary term.”

 “Almost one-fifth of the Scottish population are members of one of 13,000 sports clubs. We are delighted that as a Scottish Sporting Champion Lewis Macdonald can help us to provide an opportunity for this enormous community of interest to be appropriately recognised and to have a voice in Holyrood.”

15 September 2016

MSP welcomes local success at Beautiful Scotland awards

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today tabled a parliamentary motion, congratulating the Aberdeen winners at the Beautiful Scotland awards.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“These awards are a credit to all the community groups and volunteers who work so hard to mark Aberdeen a better place to live. 

“Powis Residents Group is to be commended for their efforts in improving their urban environment, and it is clear that the judges appreciated their hard work and innovative approach to using recycled materials in their green spaces. 

“I am particularly pleased that work done to repair and redevelop Seaton Park after last winter’s storms was recognised by the Beautiful Scotland judges. The Friends of Seaton Park have done a fantastic job to restore the gardens back to the former glory, and beyond, as was evident at the recent Seaton ParkFest.

“All the winners are to be congratulated on their well-deserved awards.”

14 September 2016

National figures masking NE unemployment crisis - Macdonald

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has today warned that the Scotland-wide fall in unemployment is only “masking” the continuing jobs crisis in the North East. Figures show that the number of people signing on for Jobseeker’s Allowance rose by over 1,000 in the North East over the last year, despite a fall in the figure nationally. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“Figures which show a fall in unemployment across Scotland are only masking the problems we continue to face in the North East. The oil and gas crisis, and the impact the downturn is now having on other industries in Aberdeen and the North East, has led to 1,066 more people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance over the last 12 months. 

“Even this figure is thought to be artificially low, with many oil and gas workers preferring to use up their redundancy payments rather than turning to the Job Centre for financial support. 

“There is little for the North East to celebrate in today’s unemployment figures, as anyone who lives and works in the region knows only too well. SNP Ministers cannot simply look at the national figures and pat themselves on the back when North East jobs are being lost and businesses closing down every week.

“The Scottish Government can and must do more to support workers in the oil and gas industry, as well as those who depend on the wider North East economy for their employment.”

08 September 2016

UK Government must reconsider decision to exclude Scottish Universities from post-study visa scheme – Macdonald

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has written to the UK Government calling on it to reconsider the decision to exclude universities in the North East and across Scotland from a post-study work visa pilot designed to attract talented students from around the world. 

Lewis Macdonald MSP said:

“I agree with Professors Ian Diamond and Ferdinand Von Prondzyniski that the decision by the UK government is a missed opportunity. Piloting the scheme in the North East would allow us to attract talented students to the region and help address the skills shortage which has been well documented.”

“Post-study work visas have already been piloted in Scotland under the Fresh Talent Initiative set up in 2005 to attract qualified students from around the world. It seems bizarre therefore for the UK government to exclude Universities in the North East and across Scotland and to concentrate the pilot scheme in England.”

26 August 2016

Clarification needed on HMICS recommendations - MSP

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has today called on HM Inspector of Constabulary for Scotland, Derek Penman, to clarify which of his 30 recommendations regarding police call handling have been met, and which still remain outstanding.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“In June this year, Mr Penman told me that he anticipated 18 of the 30 recommendations would be discharged by the end of that month. Yet in the Police Scotland paper presented to the SPA board meeting yesterday, it was revealed that, in fact, only 11 recommendations have been discharged in full, with a further three partially discharged. 

“Presumably the further six-month delay in the planned date of closure of the Aberdeen police control room and the Bucksburn service centre is a result of the failure to meet the HMICS recommendations. 

“Police Scotland cannot close centres in Aberdeen or Inverness until all these recommendations have been met and until the new contact, command and control system has been independently assured. Given that less than half of the recommendations made in November 2015 have been met, there must be some doubts as to whether Police Scotland can have everything in place by March 2017.

“I have written to Derek Penman to seek clarification on why so few of the recommendations have been met, and to ask if he shares my concerns regarding the new March 2017 deadline. 

“The safety of any changes is of vital importance, but of course the best choice SNP Ministers can still make is to reverse the closure plans and maintain local control rooms and call centres in the North of Scotland.”

25 August 2016

A bad week for public services in Aberdeen - Macdonald

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has said that today’s announcement about the closure of the police control and service centre in Aberdeen, hot on the heels of the news that the fire control room in the city is to close in November,  amounts to a bad week for public services in Aberdeen.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“Only a few days ago, Aberdeen learned that its fire control room is to close in November and now we have confirmation that our police control room and service centre will be closing their doors in March 2017.

“This has been a bad week for public services in Aberdeen, and for the staff who have fought so hard to keep these vital facilities open. 

“Communities in the North East have been hit doubly hard with the closure of police and fire control rooms. The priority has to be ensuring community safety and the constant change in plans from both services can only undermine public confidence in the service they provide. 

When police control room and service centre closures were first announced two years ago, staff were given a timetable for the closures to be carried out. Today’s announcement makes the fourth separate timetable published in that time.   

“The Aberdeen facilities cannot close until the new Central Belt system has passed an independent assessment, as ordered by HM Inspector of Constabulary for Scotland in the aftermath of the M9 tragedy. As of today, the majority of the HMICS recommendations have not been implemented, and that no doubt is the reason for the further delay in the planned closures. 

“The double closures announced this week really hammer home the damage that the SNP centralisation agenda is doing to our local communities. Surely now it is time for Ministers to stop and think again before this damage becomes irreversible.”

Macdonald – Time for SNP to get Scotland back to work

Following the publication of the Scottish Government’s GERS figures, which show North Sea oil revenues have fallen from £1.8bn to just £60m in the last year, North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald said today:

“People across the North East have been aware of the scale of the crisis in the North Sea oil industry for some time. Now that this has been confirmed by the latest Scottish Government GERS figures, Ministers must act to support the many businesses and working people who have been hard hit by the downturn in the oil industry. 

“The message from the oil and gas industry itself is clear: there are funders out there, and public agencies can help, but tough times call for new ways of attracting investment if the industry is to prosper.

“Nicola Sturgeon must now recognise that planning for yet another referendum is not the right priority for the Scottish Government. Like it or not, the people have spoken, and the economic challenges which would face an independent Scotland would be far greater today than they would have been in 2014.

“SNP Ministers need to acknowledge that the slump in the oil price has had a damaging effect on the economy of the whole of Scotland, not just the North East where most of the damage has been done. 

“Now is not the time to be talking about independence. Instead of inflicting yet another referendum on the voters and on the economy, the Scottish Government should concentrate on getting Aberdeen and Scotland back to work.”

23 August 2016

Closure of Aberdeen fire control room “premature”, says MSP

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today criticised the decision by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service to close the Aberdeen fire control room on 8 November, five months before replacement facilities in Dundee are ready to use.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“The SFRS took a bad decision two years ago, when it decided to close the Aberdeen control rooms. To make matters worse, they have now taken the premature step of closing the facility. 

“The decision by the SFRS, backed by Scottish Ministers, to close control rooms in Aberdeen and Inverness is yet another example of the SNP’s centralisation agenda, taking vital services away from communities in the north of Scotland. 

“It is particularly hard to understand in the case of the Mounthooly building in Aberdeen, which is a new, state of the art facility with more than enough room to expand to cover areas outside Grampian. 

“Instead, SFRS have spent large sums of money on a new building in Dundee which they have confirmed today will not even be ready until March next year. Until then, firefighters taking calls from Aberdeen and the North East will be working out of portacabins. 

“Given that mistakes in the police control room closure plans may already have cost lives, it seems bizarre that the SFRS are going ahead with their own closures before the new facility is even up and running. 

“This is indicative of the SNP’s centralisation agenda, which has seen public services moved from the north of Scotland to costly new centres in the Central Belt. It is communities in the North East and North of Scotland who will pay the price for this SNP obsession.”

17 August 2016

“Twice as tough” to rehabilitate North East young offenders – MSP

It will be twice as tough to rehabilitate young offenders from the North East as long as they are held in the Central Belt, North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald said today.

His comments follow the publication of the inspection report on HM YOI Polmont, near Falkirk, by Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland, David Strang. He found that “only just over a third of the population engaged constructively in daily activities” and that “a sizable proportion of the young men spent extended periods of the day locked in their cells.” The report goes on to say that while staff are rightly concerned about safety and security, there is “a disproportionate emphasis on control… [which] may well undermine the ambition to enable young men to prepare for a positive future.”

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“The Scottish Prison Service has used the education and activities programme at Polmont as its main reason for not returning young offenders from the North East to HMP Grampian, where they can be nearer family and therefore have a better chance of being rehabilitated. 

“Now it has emerged that only a third of the inmates at HM YOI Polmont are engaged in any daily activity at all because prison staff are worried about having too many young men out of their cells at the same time. 

“Education and retraining are vital if these young men are going to be successfully rehabilitated. 

“I have today raised my concerns with the Chief Executive of the Scottish Prison Service, Colin McConnell, and pressed him to look again at the decision to hold young offenders from the North East at Polmont as a matter of urgency, with a view to moving these young men to HMP Grampian as soon as possible.

“After all, if staff at Polmont are worried by having too many young offenders in the one place, the custom-built facilities at Peterhead for local offenders would seem to provide the obvious solution.”

28 July 2016

MSP welcomes Lottery funding for local organisations

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has welcomed the announcement by Awards for All Scotland of funding worth almost £20,000 to support two Aberdeen organisations. 

The Mixing Bowl, a community-led food interest group launched in June 2014, has been awarded nearly £8000 to support the Deeside Local Food Festival, taking place this year at Cults Academy on Sunday 18 September. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“Deeside has a lot of great food products to showcase, and it is welcome news that The Mixing Bowl is to receive financial support from the Big Lottery Fund through Awards for All Scotland for its excellent community initiative.

“The Deeside Local Food Festival is an opportunity for people across Aberdeen to taste the best the region has to offer, and I am delighted to table a motion in the Scottish Parliament congratulating The Mixing Bowl on their success.”

Sunnybank Community Centre Association also received almost £10,000 of funding from Awards for All Scotland to hire English tutors for area residents whose first language is not English and for people who wish to improve their literacy.

26 July 2016

MSP calls for urgent action on Grampian cancer detection

Following the publication of the final report on the Scottish Government’s Detect Cancer Early scheme, North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald said today:

“The failure of the Scottish Government’s Detect Cancer Early initiative will have serious implications for those who face a cancer diagnosis in the coming months and years. 

“It is particularly worrying to see that NHS Grampian has some of the worst figures in the country for the early detection of breast, lung and colorectal cancer. An early diagnosis is vital in increasing the patient’s chance of beating the disease. 

“Yet again, the SNP has failed to meet its own health targets, and in the NHS Grampian area these targets have been missed by miles. The continued under-investment in health services in the North East has had a long-term impact on the delivery of diagnostic tests, vital in ensuring the early diagnosis needed for recovery.

“SNP Ministers are not providing the funding needed to meet new targets and deadlines, and it is patients who are paying the price. NHS Grampian’s numbers for Stage 1 diagnoses of lung, breast and colorectal cancer are desperately low, and urgent action is needed by the Scottish Government to ensure they increase, thereby increasing the chances of cancer survival in the North East.”

Workers should not pay the price - Macdonald

North East oil workers should not pay the whole price of the of the downturn in the oil and gas industry, North East Scotland Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald said today, as trade union members working for Wood Group on seven Shell platforms  in the Central and Northern North Sea began industrial action. 

Lewis Macdonald, who represents many thousands of oil industry workers in the North East, said today:

“The North Sea oil and gas sector is facing a difficult time, and the industry needs to find more efficient ways of working to secure future production and jobs. That must not mean offshore workers paying the price for the downturn, when they are the very people the industry will need when the price recovers.

“Members of Unite and RMT who work for Wood Group on Shell contracts have voted overwhelmingly in support of strike action, but they have not take this decision lightly. Rather than simply cut terms and conditions, employers and operators need to work with their employees on identifying efficiencies, as others in the sector have done. 

“This industrial action highlights the importance of involving trade unions in discussions with operators, employers and government at every level. This is the only way long-term solutions are going to be found which are supported by all those involved in the oil and gas industry.”

13 July 2016

Ministers must do more to support oil apprentices - Macdonald

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has asked SNP Ministers to do more to support apprentices in the oil and gas industry who lost their jobs.  

The Scottish Government’s own figures show that 118 apprentices have been made redundant, but 46% of them have not yet found new jobs. Only 33% have found new employment through the SG’s adopt an Apprentice scheme.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“Nicola Sturgeon herself announced the enhanced Adopt an Apprentice scheme with great fanfare in January 2015. I am sure she will be disappointed that the initiative has been able to help so few of those apprentices made redundant since then. 

“The Scottish Government and its agencies need to increase the support they offer to oil and gas apprentices. If they fail to do so, many young people will be unable top achieve their fill potential and they skills they have already acquired will be of no benefit to the oil and gas industry.”

Business Rates Review welcomed

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has welcomed the Scottish Government’s review of business rates and the remarks made by the review group’s leader Ken Barclay calling for businesses to submit their ideas to reform the current system. 

Lewis Macdonald said:

“The business rates review commissioned by the Scottish Parliament is very welcome indeed, as this provides a great opportunity for businesses across the North East to put forward their concerns and proposals. 

This will hopefully lead to significant improvement in the way in which business rates can react to the wider economy and facilitate business growth and investment in the long-term. 

I am confident that the experience and skills of the team handling the review will achieve a positive outcome for businesses across the North East.”

8 July 2016

Macdonald calls for reconsideration of Post Office plans

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has called on Post Office Ltd to reconsider plans to relocate their main Union Street post office just months after finishing major renovations at their current premises. 

The proposals are to move to new premises inside the WH Smith store just over the road from the newly-renovated Post Office. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“It is only a few months since renovations were finally completed at the current Union Street Post Office, giving the people of Aberdeen access to a bright, modern Post Office with all the latest technological innovations. 

“Now Post Office Ltd is proposing to move to an in-store premises, inside WH Smith, which will inevitably reduce visibility and accessibility. If these plans go ahead, questions have to be asked about the money wasted on the renovations at the existing Union Street Post Office. 

“Post Office Ltd says they need to make the move to save money, which is obviously an important consideration for any business. But they also have a responsibility to provide services to the public in a suitable environment. 

“it is only right that Aberdeen has its own Crown Post Office, not one hidden away in a retail outlet, and I hope that Post Office Ltd will take the comments of the public on board when they make their final decision. 

6 July 2016

Ministers must not backtrack on rail promises, says MSP 

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald says Scottish Ministers must not back track on their promise to ensure that the single track outside Montrose is dualled as part of plans to improve journey times between Aberdeen and the Central Belt. 

Upgrading the rail line between Usan and Montrose was announced as one of the projects that would be taken forward by the Scottish Government as part of the extra funding announced at the same time as the Aberdeen City Deal on 28 January, three months before the Holyrood elections. 

However, a recent answer to parliamentary questions by Lewis Macdonald answered today reveal that dualling the track is only being “considered” as part of plans to improve journey times and that detailed specification will not be published until 2017. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“After SNP Ministers made promises in the run up to the election, many people will be surprised that the pledge to dual the Montrose stretch of the East Coast line is only being “considered”.   

New Transport Minister Humza Yousaf now appears unable or unwilling to specify any details regarding the feasibility study highlighted by his boss, Keith Brown, in parliament last month. 

“The SNP made a clear commitment to tackling this problem when they announced infrastructure funding at the same time as the Aberdeen City Deal, stating that “double tracking at key pinch points” would be one of the projects given their financial support.  

“Ministers now need to get on and deliver that promise, rather than discussing options and looking at other solutions. They have promised to dual the rail line at Montrose, the only stretch of single track between Aberdeen and London, and it is now time they got on and did so.”

5 July 2016

MSP pledges support for 2 million Scots with long term conditions

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald joined a leading health and social care organisation at the Scottish Parliament recently to pledge support to the 2 million people in Scotland living with a long term condition, equivalent to 4 in 10 of the population.

Mr Macdonald met staff from the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (the ALLIANCE), a network organisation for national and local charities as well as people living with long term conditions, disabled people and unpaid carers, and spoke to members of the ALLIANCE team about their ‘2 Million Expert Voices’ manifesto, which calls for the views and experiences of people accessing support and services to be heard and used to lead change in health and social care in Scotland.

Lewis Macdonald said;

“It is vital that the voices of service users are heard when it comes to shaping health and social care in Scotland.

“These are the people who know best what works and what doesn’t work in the services currently provided, and what is needed to help them deal with the impact of long term health conditions.”

Ian Welsh OBE, Chief Executive of the ALLIANCE said: 

“We welcome the chance to meet MSPs ahead of the opening of the new session of the Scottish Parliament to discuss how we can ensure that people living with long term conditions, disabled people and unpaid carers enjoy their right to live well, with support and services that put them at the centre.”

 

To find out more about the ALLIANCE, visit www.alliance-scotland.org.uk

4 July 2016

Police control room plans must be urgently reviewed - Macdonald

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has called on Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority to review plans to close Aberdeen’s police control room and 101 service centre after a key IT programme was scrapped late in Friday night. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“The Aberdeen police control rooms are currently due to close in October 2016, at which point all call handling for the North East is supposed to be dealt with by the Central Belt, with officers in Grampian then given their orders dispatched from a “North of Scotland” control room in Dundee. 

“The collapse of the planned IT system must throw into doubt not just that October closing date, but the overall plans for centralizing control room functions within Police Scotland. 

“Scrapping the IT system at such a late stage is typical of the problems which have afflicted this project from the start. According to HM Inspector of Constabulary for Scotland, only ten of the 30 recommendations made in his report on call handling have been delivered in full eight months after his report was accepted by the Scottish Government. 

 

“Surely now the control room closure plans need to be urgently reviewed. As the costs of IT failures mount, the idea of switching from real control rooms in Aberdeen and other cities to a virtual one for the whole of Scotland should be scrapped too.”

Police control room plans “falling apart” - Macdonald

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has called on Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority to revisit plans to close Aberdeen’s police control rooms in the wake of the scrapped IT programme which was to have been an integral part of the creation of a Virtual Service Centre in the Central Belt. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“The Aberdeen police control rooms are still due to close in October 2016, at which point all call handling for the North East is supposed to be dealt with by police officers and police staff in the Central Belt, with officers dispatched from the Area Control Room in Dundee. 

“The collapse of the planned IT system which would have made all this possible must throw into doubt not just that October closing date, but the overall plans for Contact, Command and Control within Police Scotland. 

“Scrapping the IT system at such a late stage is indicative of the problems which have afflicted this project from the start. According to HM Inspector of Constabulary for Scotland, only ten of the 30 recommendations made in his report on call handling had been fully discharged by the end of May 2016. 

“Police Scotland’s plans to handle all of Scotland’s emergency and non-emergency calls in the Central Belt are falling apart, and it is now time to consider scrapping the project for the sake of public safety and confidence. 

 

“If Police Scotland or the Scottish Police Authority won’t take this responsibility,  then Ministers must step in and take action before more control rooms are closed for good.”

1 July 2016

North East ambulance numbers “cause for concern” - MSP

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has warned that the North East could face a shortage of ambulances at busy times, and has written to the Chief Executive of the Scottish Ambulance Service to raise his concerns.

Lewis Macdonald said today: 

“It is becoming increasingly clear that there are times in the North East when there are simply not enough ambulances to cover the area. 

“In March this year, it took almost 30 minutes for an ambulance to reach an accident on the outskirts of Elgin, in which a young boy had been knocked off his bike. He sadly died, and his parents are right to raise their own concerns with the Health Secretary over ambulance shortages in the Grampian region. 

“Considering the importance of responding quickly to emergency calls, especially where serious injuries are involved, it is vital that the public feel confident that the Scottish Ambulance Service is assessing need in the region properly, and investigating thoroughly when there are shortages of this kind. 

“We have just mounted a long and successful campaign to ensure that ARI has a major trauma centre; having the staff, expertise and equipment to deal with these serious injuries will be far more effective if patients can make it to the major trauma centre within 45 minutes.

“I am seeking assurances from the Scottish Ambulance Service that they have fully considered the needs of North East Scotland, given the number of serious accidents on our roads and the risk posed by agriculture, fishing and the offshore oil and gas industry. 

 

“It is important that the NHS Grampian region is given all possible support to ensure the major trauma centre at ARI is a success and to save the lives of local people, and this includes ensuring that the North East has the ambulances it needs to serve our communities at all times.”

30 June 2016

SNP concede new social security agency could be outwith Central Belt

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today received a parliamentary answer which suggested that from Ministers that the SNP Government is considering locations outwith the Central Belt for the headquarters of the new benefits agency. 

Speaking after Social Security questions at the Scottish Parliament this afternoon, Lewis Macdonald said:

“For too long, central government at Westminster kept civil service jobs in and around Greater London.

When Labour led the first Scottish Parliament, we worked hard to disperse Scottish Government civil service jobs around for the country, for example, Food Standards Scotland in Aberdeen and Scottish Natural Heritage in Inverness. 

That approach seemed to come to an end when the SNP came to power in 2007, with more and more government agencies being centralised back to the Central Belt. Scottish Enterprise Grampian, for example, was abolished and the Scotland-wide energy team was relocated from Aberdeen to Glasgow. 

Aberdeen City Council leader Jenny Laing has called for the new social security agency to be located in Aberdeen where thousands of jobs have been lost in recent months. Now that SNP Ministers have promised to consider many potential locations “the length and breadth of Scotland” I have no doubt Jenny Laing and others in Aberdeen will press this case with even greater vigour.” 

20 June 2016

Macdonald questions rates relief changes for renewables

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today called on SNP Ministers to reaffirm their commitment to farm-scale renewable energy projects, after the impact of changes in the rates relief system for the current financial year was highlighted by North East farmers. 

Previously, renewable projects developed by farmers for their own use, such as wind turbines or solar panels, qualified for 100% rates relief. However, farmers were told on 25th April that this policy had changed, their entitlement to full rates relief had gone, and that they had just 21 days to apply for any relief at all. 

Only projects which are partly owned by the community and make payments to benefit their local areas now qualify for rates relief, Voluntary contributions made by farmers to community projects don’t count unless the community is also a part-owner of the scheme in question. 

Lewis Macdonald said:

“This is a disappointing move from a Scottish Government that claims to support renewable energy projects of all shapes and sizes. 

“Without the 100% rates relief previously applied to small-scale renewable energy projects, many farmers would not have been in a position to develop wind turbines or solar panels on their properties and they may well find that this unexpected tax hike has turned profitable schemes into financial burdens. 

“This is exactly the kind of short-sighted thinking the SNP have criticised the Tories for across the UK, and now we find that the SNP are guilty of doing the same thing.

“I have written to the Cabinet Secretary for Finance to ask for his assurances that the Scottish Government is still committed to supporting small-scale renewable energy projects, and to call for a full and proper consultation with stakeholders before these extra costs are repeated in 2017.”

16 June 2016

Macdonald calls for “early progress” on ARI Major Trauma Centre

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today called on Ministers to make early progress in establishing a Major Trauma Centre at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary after months of uncertainty while Ministers reviewed their own policy earlier this year.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“It was good finally to get a Minister confirm in Parliament that there will be a major trauma centre in Aberdeen, but Health Minister Maureen Watt was unable to say when it would be up and running.

“When Alex Neil made the original promise two years ago, he said the four major trauma centres would “be operational from 2016,” but the Scottish Government news release issued on Tuesday quoted Health Secretary Shona Robison as aiming only to “have the necessary preparation work… completed by the end of the year.”

“And today Maureen Watt insisted that the Government “would not be pressed" into meeting that timetable if it meant putting in place a trauma network which was "not thought through."

“That reply raises further questions Ministers need to answer. 

“Why is a trauma network with four major trauma centres “not thought through”, when it was first announced by the present government in April 2014? Is it because the time and efforts of clinicians and planners were diverted for six months to allow SNP Ministers to hold a review of their own decision which was not necessary and which was never completed? 

“Surely now the Scottish Government should make up for that lost time, and put in place the resources the NHS will need to deliver on the SNP's clear commitment from 2014, that the four major trauma centres would be operational this year.”

15 June 2016

“No more delays” for ARI major trauma centre - MSP

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today called on Ministers to ensure that there are no more unnecessary delays to the delivery of a major trauma centre at ARI, after it was revealed that only the preparation work will have been completed by the end of 2016.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“In 2014, Aberdeen along with Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow, were promised major trauma centres by the end of 2016. 

“The unnecessary delays imposed by the Health Secretary had put that deadline in doubt, but she reaffirmed that there would be a major trauma centre at ARI by the end of the year in recent press reports.

“However, now we learn that in fact only the “preparation work” for the four major trauma centres and the wider Scottish trauma network will be complete by December 2016. 

“Of course, it is vital that the major trauma centre at ARI is properly planned, but the SNP have had two years to carry out this work, and they need to press on without delay. 

“There must be no more delays to this important project, and I hope that as soon as the new implementation group has completed its preparation work, that we will see practical evidence of changes and improvements to major trauma care in Aberdeen. 

“I will be raising this issue in parliament tomorrow, and I hope that the Health Secretary will give me, and the people of Aberdeen, assurances that our major trauma centre will be operational as soon as possible.”

14 June 2016

MSP seeking answers on Aberdeen – Central Belt rail improvements

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today tabled a series of parliamentary questions in an effort to find out more about the timescale for improvements on the rail line between Aberdeen and the Central Belt. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“Improvements to journey times between Aberdeen and the Central Belt were pledged as part of the Scottish Government’s contribution to the City Region Deal. However, there are several questions which need to answered regarding how soon we can expect to see work begin on those improvements. 

“Keith Brown MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work, said last week in parliament that Network Rail was already carrying out a feasibility study into the planned improvements, and it is important that all the relevant organisations are aware of that process and get the chance to contribute. 

“Rail travellers in the North East have waited long enough for improvements to our journey times to and from the Central Belt, and while it is vital that the work is carried out as quickly as possible it is also important to ensure that any feasibility study takes into account a range of views.  

“I have tabled today a series of parliamentary questions to try and establish when work on the feasibility study started, and when stakeholders can expect to become involved in this important process.”

13 June 2016

Government’s support to train 20 teachers “a drop in the ocean”, says MSP

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today welcomed the news that 20 oil and gas workers will be helped to retrain as teachers, but warned that the Scottish Government’s contribution amounts to “a drop in the ocean” in the context of the oil jobs crisis facing the NE. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“Any commitment to support the recruitment and training of teachers in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire is welcome, given the desperate staff shortages in our schools. 

“However, there are dozens of teacher vacancies in the North East and thousands of people who have lost their jobs in the oil and gas industry so help with retraining for “up to 20 people” is only a drop in the ocean compared with what we need.

“The Scottish Government’s Transition Training Fund was recently revealed to have helped just 91 people since it was announced with much fanfare at the start of the year. What we need is a step change in the number of people assisted, not just another small-scale intervention.  

“I have today tabled a series of parliamentary questions to try and establish the details of this new scheme, and to ensure that as many people as possible are helped back into work.”

10 June 2016

Macdonald welcomes confirmation of ARI major trauma centre

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today welcomed official confirmation that Aberdeen will be a major trauma centre after Health Secretary Shona Robison finally put the First Minister’s pledge on the parliamentary record. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“It is good that the Health Secretary has finally put the First Minister’s commitment to four major trauma centres in Scotland on the parliamentary record, after she failed to take the opportunity to do so during the health debate on 7 June. 

“It is disappointing that clinicians at Aberdeen and Dundee have faced six months of unnecessary uncertainty waiting for the results of a review which was apparently never completed and which has not made any recommendations to Ministers. 

“Earlier this year, the Health Secretary insisted that no decision would be made until she had received these recommendations, so I am glad that we have changed her mind. 

"The consultants, NHS staff, trade unions and general public who campaigned for a major trauma centre in Aberdeen have won a hugely important victory. No doubt those who were commissioned to review the original decision from 2014 will wonder why Ministers have wasted their time."

Oil and gas job losses felt “most keenly” in NE - Macdonald

Responding to Oil & Gas UK’s latest figures on losses in and related to the oil and gas industry, North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald said today:

“These figures are a clear indication of the impact the oil and gas crisis is having on our economy and on the individuals who have lost their jobs. 

“While the 120,000 figure may come from across the UK, there is no doubt that this crisis is being most keenly felt in Aberdeen and the North East because of the concentration of job losses in this area.  

“The recent announcement by Aberdeen City Council of its second North Sea Oil summit, involving industry leaders, trade unions and politicians, could not have come at more important time for the industry, and I hope that both the UK and Scottish Governments will give their support to this event, and take action to protect jobs and businesses in the North East economy going forward.

Macdonald questions rates relief changes for renewables

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today called on SNP Ministers to reaffirm their commitment to small-scale renewable energy projects, after the impact of changes in the rates relief system was highlighted by North East farmers. 

Previously, renewable projects owned by farmers, such as wind turbines or solar panels, qualified for 100% rates relief, in an effort to encourage such projects in rural areas. However, despite farmers receiving a letter on 1 April 2016 confirming the usual 100% rates relief, on 25th April they received a further communication stating that this policy had changed and that they had just 21 days to apply for any relief at all. 

Only projects which are community-owned and make payments to benefit their local areas now qualify for the rates relief, though the system does not take into account any voluntary contributions made by farmers to community projects.

Lewis Macdonald said:

“This is a disappointing move from a Scottish Government that claims to support renewable energy projects of all shapes and sizes. 

“Without the 100% rates relief previously applied to small-scale renewable energy projects many farmers cannot afford to have wind turbines or solar panels on their properties, and Scotland’s renewable energy industry will suffer.

“This is exactly the kind of short-sighted thinking the SNP have criticised the Tories for employing in England and Wales, and now we find that they are introducing the same restrictive measures north of the border. 

“That is why I have written to the Cabinet Secretary for Finance to ask for his assurances that the Scottish Government is still committed to supporting small-scale renewable energy projects, and that there will be a full and proper consultation with stakeholders before any further changes are made to Scotland’s renewable energy industry.”

8 June 2016

MSP calls for update on police control room recommendations

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today called for an update on the progress that has been made in meeting the recommendations contained within HM Inspectorate of Constabulary for Scotland’s report into call handling. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“I have written today to Derek Penman, HM Inspector of Constabulary for Scotland, in order to ask what progress has been made on his control rooms report, and whether calls to the police can be safely handled from the Central Belt given the problems already experienced and the ongoing issues with the provision of a new IT system.

“The 30 recommendations contained within the HMICS report into call handling in Scotland must be met in full before Police Scotland can even consider taking further action to close police control rooms in Aberdeen and Inverness. 

“The HMICS report also called for “independent scrutiny” of the changes before closure plans can continue, and it is time that we had an update on how the recommendations are being met and implemented, and what plans are in place to ensure that independent scrutiny can take place. 

“There can be no cutting corners on this issue, and until HMICS is satisfied that emergency and non-emergency calls can be handled safely, the control rooms in Aberdeen and Inverness must remain open, even if that means they stay open longer than Police Scotland had planned. 

“If the recommendations cannot be implemented effectively, then it is time to reconsider the closure plans in their entirety, and look at keeping control rooms in the north of Scotland open permanently.”

3 June 2016

MSP congratulates Aberdeen winners of voluntary award

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today tabled a parliamentary motion congratulating two Aberdeen organisations on receiving the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.

AbSafe and Cairns Counselling have both been awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, equivalent in status to an MBE, for the contribution made by their volunteers to their local community. The announcement of winners across Scotland was made as part of Volunteers Week 2016. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“This is a prestigious award and both AbSafe and Cairns Counselling are to be commended for receiving the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.

“Volunteers Week is an excellent opportunity to recognise and celebrate the contribution made by volunteers in organisations across Aberdeen and the North East, and AbSafe and Cairns Counselling will have more to celebrate than most thanks to this award.  

“Both organisations are to be congratulated on their achievement and I am happy to table a parliamentary motion to mark their recognition.”

31 May 2016

Muller job losses more bad news for NE economy - Macdonald

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today urged Scottish Ministers to do more to halt job cuts in the North East food processing industry, after Muller announced the closure of its East Tullos dairy, with the loss of 90 jobs. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“The news that yet more food processing jobs are being moved out of the North East is deplorable, and will only add to concerns about the local economy. 

“The workers at Muller’s East Tullos dairy need and deserve the full support of Scottish Ministers, ideally to save their current positions or to provide meaningful support for the future.

“Scottish Ministers set up a taskforce when Young’s in Fraserburgh announced widescale job losses, but so far little has been achieved in terms of protecting jobs or restoring confidence in that part of the region.  

“It is time the SNP Government lived up to their election pledge to govern for the whole of Scotland and not just the Central Belt, and take decisive action to protect jobs and support workers in all sectors of the North a East economy.”

Early decision needed on major trauma centre - Macdonald

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today called on SNP Ministers to spell out their plans for Scotland’s major trauma network, after Nicola Sturgeon pledged her “personal commitment” to a major trauma centre at ARI on the eve of the Scottish Parliament elections earlier this month. 

The SNP leader’s visit to Aberdeen on 3 May followed months of uncertainty, after Health Secretary Shona Robison had announced a “review” of the commitment to four major trauma centres, which had been announced by her predecessor Alex Neil two years before. Doctors at ARI were then consulted by Scottish Government representatives in March on a new proposal featuring only two major trauma centres, in Glasgow and Edinburgh. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“Following a strong campaign on this issue by Labour and by NHS staff, Nicola Sturgeon came to Aberdeen on the eve of poll, and declared that she had “always been persuaded” of the case for a major trauma centre at ARI. Now those fine words need to be translated into an actual decision by Ministers, to allow staff at ARI to press ahead with planning for putting a major trauma centre in place.  

“NHS Grampian confirmed recently that, despite Nicola Sturgeon’s well-publicised comments, they have been formally advised that no decision has yet been made. 

“I have therefore tabled both written and oral parliamentary questions, to press for an early decision in favour of Aberdeen, and to encourage Minister to bring a positive announcement to the Scottish Parliament as early as possible. I have also asked them to explain what has now happened to their original decision to have major trauma centres in all four of Scotland’s major cities.  

“The election is behind us, the SNP have now formed a minority government. It is time for them to deliver on Nicola Sturgeon’s promise of a major trauma centre for Aberdeen.”

30 May 2016

Macdonald welcomes funding announcement for SHMU expansion

North East Labour MSP and Labour spokesperson on Culture Lewis Macdonald today welcomed the news that Station House Media Unit (SHMU) has secured £1million of funding to improve and expand its Woodside base. 

After tabling a motion at the Scottish Parliament welcoming the announcement, Lewis Macdonald said today:

“This is great news for SHMU and for all those in the communities served by their projects.

“From Tillydrone to Torry, Aberdeen communities have benefited from having access to services offered by SHMU, whether they have been involved in one of their training programmes or just enjoyed listening to local broadcasts on SHMU FM. 

“This grant of £1 million from the Scottish Government Regeneration Capital Grant Fund will allow SHMU to go ahead with their ambitious plans to improve the facilities on offer at Woodside, and to expand the services they can offer local communities.  

“That is why I am delighted to table a motion congratulating SHMU on their success in applying for the grant, and I wish them every success in achieving their ambitious aims for the Aberdeen communities they serve.”

25 May 2016

Macdonald calls for urgent action after Shell announces job losses

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today called for urgent action, after Shell announced that a further 475 jobs were going to be cut at their Aberdeen headquarters by the end of 2016. 

The job losses, part of 5000 worldwide, are a result of Shell’s merger with BG earlier this year.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“This is very bad news for those who work for Shell and BG, although there were fears of job losses when the merger was first announced. The sheer scale of these job losses is even worse then expected, and will have a severe impact on the North East economy. 

“There is now an urgent need for the national summit offshore unions have been asking for in recent months, and it is time the Scottish and UK Governments worked together with employers, unions and local councils in the North East to find ways to improve competitiveness without job cuts of this scale.   

“Action must be taken now, for the sake of all those employed in the industry and all those in Aberdeen and across the country who depend on oil and gas for their livelihoods.”

MSP calls for young offenders to be returned to North East

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today called on the new Governor at HMP Grampian to do more to ensure that young offenders from the North East can be housed nearer to their homes and families. 

HMP Grampian was designed to house young offenders in a separate wing from the main population, but since trouble among the adult prisoners in May 2013 they have been kept at HMYOI Polmont in the Central Belt. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“The new Governor at HMP Grampian, Allister Purdie, was closely involved in the design of the new Peterhead prison, so I am sure it is a particular disappointment to him that two years after young offenders were first moved to Polmont they have still not been returned to the North East. 

“Contact with family is vital for a prisoner’s successful rehabilitation, and many families are finding it difficult to travel to Polmont on a regular basis. 

“The Scottish Prison Service says that they don’t want to return North East young offenders to HMP Grampian because the educational and support services on offer are not as good as those at Polmont.  

“That is why I have written to the new Governor to ask what steps are being taken to improve the services on offer, and to ensure that young offenders whose families are based in the North East are moved nearer to home as soon as possible.”

18 May 2016

Macdonald pledges support for World IBD Day

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today pledged his support for the Crohn’s and Colitis UK More IBD Nurses – Better Care Campaign, launched on May 19th to mark World IBD Day. 

A new survey conducted by Crohn’s and Colitis UK has found that 100,000 patients in the UK with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) don’t have access to adequate care. IBD Nurses are instrumental in improving the quality of life for patients with IBD as well as helping to cut significant costs to the NHS, yet many health services are not offering the recommended nursing level.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“People affected by IBD in Aberdeen and the North East  should be able to access the services and support provided by specialist IBD nurses, particularly as they are proven to improve quality of life. 

“I would like to see more specialist IBD nurses locally to ensure that those affected by IBD have access to the crucial care they both need and deserve.”

Isobel Mason, Nurse Consultant and IBD Nursing Development Manager at Crohn’s and Colitis UK said;

“It seems inconceivable that these roles need justifying when there is so much evidence of the contribution specialist nurses bring to patient care. 

“More than 100,000 people are not being offered the health support they deserve or is recommended, and many more are struggling to be seen by a service that is under pressure.” 

For more information about the More IBD Nurses – Better Care Campaign starting on World IBD Day please visit www.crohnsandcolitis.org.uk/worldibdda

17 May 2016

Aberdeen control room closure in July “astonishing”

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today described the news that Aberdeen’s police control room is now scheduled to close on 6th July as “astonishing”. 

Lewis Macdonald said:

“It is only a week since Police Scotland were forced to admit that they would have to tender again for IT for their planned new “virtual control room” in the Central Belt, because the first tender process had been unsuccessful.

“It is less than three weeks since local SNP candidate Kevin Stewart told the audience of a BBC Radio Aberdeen hustings broadcast that the ongoing review of the closure process could result in the Aberdeen control room at Queen Street remaining open.

“In fact, last year’s report by HM Inspector of Constabulary Derek Penman following the M9 tragedy called for all closure plans to be halted until existing problems with staffing had been resolved. Given the time needed to do that properly, and the problems with IT, it is hard to believe that this announcement is in line with Mr Penman’s recommendations.

“This should have been the time to take a step back and revisit the closure plans, not to speed up the process as if nothing had changed. 

“It is not a good start for Nicola Sturgeon on the day of her re-election to the post of First Minister. The people of Aberdeen and the North East must hope it is not a sign of things to come.”

Lewis Macdonald pledges National Epilepsy Week vote of support

North East Labour MSP is saying yes to Epilepsy Scotland’s call to action to do more for people with epilepsy.  

Newly elected MSPs are being asked to help and pledge their vote of support starting from National Epilepsy Week (16-22 May).  

Lewis Macdonald said today: 

“I fully support Epilepsy Scotland’s campaign to ensure that all those who need health and social care can access those services. 

“There are over 55,000 people of all ages living with epilepsy across Scotland, including thousands here in the North East.  Research findings suggest that while just over half of people with epilepsy have seizure control, seven in ten could become seizure free if they received optimum care.  

“It takes time to increase public knowledge and understanding which is why National Epilepsy Week is important.  If highlighting my vote of support for epilepsy through social media and the press gets people talking and learning a bit more about epilepsy, that’s what matters.”

Epilepsy Scotland Chief Executive Lesslie Young said: 

“Our message is simple; investing in epilepsy management now can save lives as well as unnecessary costs for the NHS.  Being able to access appropriate resources helps those who develop this common neurological condition today and for years to come. 

“These are challenging times, but I believe the benchmark of a truly caring and inclusive civic society is the way in which we respond and meet the varied yet basic needs of our most vulnerable individuals and their families. Support from our MSPs will help to achieve this.”

16 May 2016

Riverbank School award welcomed in Scottish Parliamen

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has today tabled a parliamentary motion congratulating the staff and pupils at Riverbank School on being receiving a Level 2 award from UNICEF under the Rights Respecting Schools awards scheme.  This is the third time the Tillydrone school has received the highest award possible from UNICEF UK and Riverbank School is the only one in Britain to have achieved this honour. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“I am delighted to use my first parliamentary motion of the new session to welcome Riverbank School’s impressive achievement. 

“All credit must go to the staff, pupils and parents who have put so much work into the school’s projects, including supporting their partner school in Uganda and raising money for young Syrian refugees. 

“I have heard first hand from Tillydrone Vision about the excellent work that the whole Tillydrone community is doing to support the school in Uganda, and it is right that Riverbank School is being recognised by Unicef UK for the important role it has played in the project.  

“I am sure that Riverbank School pupils past and present will have benefited enormously from taking part in the the Rights Respecting Schools scheme and I am sure MSP colleagues will want to join me in congratulating them on their achievement.”

10 May 2016

Macdonald calls for rethink on police control room closures

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has today called on Chief Constable Phil Gormley to reverse plans to close Aberdeen’s police control rooms, after it emerged that the contract to provide an IT system for the new virtual control rooms in the Central belt has been cancelled. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“Police Scotland’s cancellation of the IT contract for its Contact, Command and Control division casts fresh doubt over their plans to close control rooms in Aberdeen and in Inverness. 

“The system of Virtual Control Rooms in the Central Belt would be entirely reliant on this new IT system, as was made clear to me when I visited one of these sites at Bilston Glen, Edinburgh in February. 

“After the M9 tragedy, HMICS made it clear that the planned closures should not go ahead unless systems and staffing were in place for the new Virtual Control Rooms to operate safely and effectively. 

“I believe that the cancellation of the IT contract by Police Scotland casts doubt over the safety of future Contact, Command and Control, and that plans to close the Aberdeen control rooms should be reversed.  

“Given the choice between pouring yet more money into yet another unsuccessful Scottish Government IT project, or investing in the excellent control rooms and staff Police Scotland already have, it seems to me the choice is clear. Plans for control room closures should be abandoned without further delay.” 

19 April 2016

Macdonald welcomes “progress” on ARI

Lewis Macdonald, Labour candidate for Aberdeen Central, welcomed fresh evidence of progress in addressing issues in the general surgery service at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, following the release of information from NHS Grampian today.

Responding to the release of further parts of the report by the Royal College of Surgeons, which was published with extensive redactions in November 2014, Lewis Macdonald said:

“I argued at the time that more of this report could and should be made public, and I am pleased that this has happened today.

“The Scottish Information Commissioner has reached a judgment on what can and cannot be released at this stage, and I believe that judgement will be accepted as accurately reflecting the legal rights of all concerned.

“Most importantly, it appears that real progress has been made in implementing the recommendations of the report, which were published 18 months ago, and that the general surgery service at ARI is now fit for the future.

“What matters now is that NHS Grampian is enabled to press ahead with the work it has been doing over the last two years to establish ARI as one of Scotland’s major trauma centres. 

“Given that we are in the middle of an election campaign, it is essential that every party states where it stands on this vital issue”

6 April 2016

Abandon plans to downgrade ARI, says Labour

Scottish Labour candidate for Aberdeen Central Lewis Macdonald has called on SNP Ministers to abandon plans to remove major trauma centre status from ARI, after a devastating report was published ahead of tomorrow’s meeting of the Board of NHS Grampian. 

The report to Thursday’s Board meeting is from the Area Clinical Forum, which represents the medical and allied professions in Grampian. Referring to “the risks of a decision to locate two major trauma centres in Scotland in Edinburgh and Glasgow”, it concludes that “the risks of this decision are of serious concern”. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“Shona Robison told me in parliament on 4 February that it was important to listen to the views of clinicians, yet representatives of the Scottish Government consulted clinicians in Aberdeen in 17 and 18 March and only asked them to comment on a two-centre model with major trauma centres in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

“Now it is time for the SNP to listen to the views of clinicians in Grampian, which could not be clearer. 

“Their plans to provide major trauma centres only in the Central Belt should be abandoned, and the SNP should match Labour’s guarantee that Foresterhill will be one of Scotland’s future major trauma centres. 

“If they fail to do so, people will be bound to conclude the SNP only listen to views they want to hear.”

30 March 2016

Macdonald welcomes support for ARI major trauma centre petition

Scottish Labour candidate for Aberdeen Central Lewis Macdonald has welcomed the support given to a campaign calling for ARI to be one of Scotland’s major trauma centres, as an online petition passed the original 1000-signature target in just five days. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“The fact that it has only taken five days to meet our original target of 1000 signatures shows just how concerned the people of Aberdeen and the North East are about the consequences if ARI does not become one of Scotland’s major trauma centres. 

“Support has come from across the north of Scotland and beyond, and from across the political spectrum. The future status of ARI, and the future of healthcare services in the NHS Grampian region are clearly issues that strike a chord with a lot of people. 

“We have now set a new target of 2,500 signatures, to give local residents who have not yet added their support the opportunity to do so.”

24 March 2016

ARI trauma centre petition launched by Scottish Labour

Scottish Labour candidate for Aberdeen Central Lewis Macdonald is calling on the public to back Aberdeen consultants and surgeons and sign a petition calling for Aberdeen Royal Infirmary to be one of Scotland’s trauma centres. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“We have heard from doctors at ARI, who couldn’t have been clearer about their concerns if Aberdeen misses out on becoming one of Scotland’s major trauma centres. 

“This petition will give the people of Aberdeen and the North East the chance to have their say on the issue.  

“The public will rightly be concerned about the consequences if ARI is not chosen as one of the major trauma centres, and it is only right that their opinions are considered too.”

23 March 2016

ARI trauma centre – Doctors know best

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald is calling on Health Secretary Shona Robison to take her own advice, and listen to doctors in Aberdeen.  

His comments followed the release of a letter signed by 57 clinicians at ARI opposing SNP Government plans to have only major trauma centres in Scotland, both in the Central Belt. 

Lewis Macdonald said:

“When I first raised concerns about rumours of an SNP U-turn on establishing a major trauma centre in Aberdeen, Shona Robison told me that “it is important that we listen to the clinicians across the whole of Scotland”. 

“It is now time for her to take her own advice, and for the opposition expressed in the letter from clinicians at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary to be taken on board. She needs to tell us whether the SNP will or will not pledge to support a major trauma centre in Aberdeen at the forthcoming election. 

“Recent meetings were held to allow Scottish Government advisers to speak to North East doctors about the major trauma plans. However this does not appear to have been a meaningful consultation, as the only option that was presented was a two-centre model in Edinburgh and Glasgow. 

“As the consultants and surgeons from ARI point out in their letter, not only would this leave 25% of the country without the access they need to a major trauma centre, but it would seriously affect NHS Grampian’s ability to recruit and retain staff. 

“This message from ARI doctors could not be any clearer. We need a Scottish Government which is prepared to listen to the experts and act accordingly.”

22 March 2016

Obstruction of access to Cove Harbour "quite extraordinary" - MSP

Following the submission of a 10,000-name petition to local Labour councillor Neil Cooney on Monday, North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has described the deliberate obstruction of access to Cove Harbour by local landowner Pralhad Kolhe as "quite extraordinary."

Lewis Macdonald met Jim Adam, chair of the Cove Fishermen’s Association, at the privately-owned pier to see for himself the actions taken by Mr Kolhe to try to deny fishermen and other users the free access to the beach and harbour that the local community has enjoyed for centuries.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“The Cove fishermen, and the wider community, are being prevented from using their harbour by the actions of a single landowner. Mr Kolhe appears to be making quite extraordinary efforts to drive the Cove community away from the harbour area.

"He has blocked access to the pier and to nearby land with boulders, and he has ignored formal notification from Aberdeen City Council that these obstructions should be removed. He has also built up a bund of loose stones which will make it difficult for vessel-owners to move their boats to safety in the event of stormy weather.

"As well as local fishermen, this anti-social behaviour is also denying access to divers, kayakers, and those who simply want to visit Cove Harbour on a sunny day. I hope this wider community will continue to work together to secure the access to the harbour enjoyed by previous generations."

Jim Adam, Chairman of Cove Fishermen’s Association added:

“It was good that Lewis Macdonald was able to visit Cove Harbour, to see our problems first hand. It is important that the issues here are widely understood."

SNP broke promise on HMYOI Grampian - Macdonald

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today accused the SNP Government of breaking the promise it made when the new prison in Peterhead was built, that the new facility would also house young offenders from the North East. 

Young offenders from the Grampian region have been housed in HM Young Offenders Institute Polmont since May 2014, when there were violent incidents among the adult male population at the new prison in Peterhead. At the time, this transfer was thought to be temporary. 

However, in a recent letter the Justice Secretary has revealed there are “no plans to relocate young offenders from Polmont to HMP Grampian”. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“This revelation flies in the face of all the promises made by the SNP when they proposed closing Craiginches and replacing it with the new Grampian prison in Peterhead. 

“Despite not being involved in the violent incidents at HMP Grampian in May 2014, young offenders were moved to Polmont where they have been housed ever since. 

“Experts know how vital family contact is for rehabilitation, which makes the refusal by SNP Ministers to move North East young offenders home all the more difficult to understand. 

“Their latest excuse is that HMYOI Grampian cannot offer the same range of activities and educational services as Polmont, but this must also have been the case when the Peterhead jail first opened. 

“The new Grampian prison at Peterhead is fast becoming an expensive white elephant for the SNP, just one more example of a promise made to the North East of Scotland which has now been broken.”

21 March 2016

SNP Ministers letting down victims of crime - MSP

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today warned that the Scottish Government’s failure to introduce the promised victim surcharge is letting down victims of crime in the North East. 

The victim surcharge was part of the Victims and Witnesses Act (2014) but it has now been revealed that the surcharge will not be implemented before the Scottish Parliament election in May

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“The victim surcharge would not have brought victims back to their families or healed injuries resulting from an assault, but it would have gone a long way to helping those affected by crime to deal with some of the practicalities. 

“The surcharge was supposed to be funded by offenders’ fines and could have helped victims clean up crime scenes or pay for counselling, but two years on we are still waiting for this part of the Act to be implemented. 

“SNP Ministers have let down victims of crime in Aberdeen and the North East through their failure to implement such an important aspect of the legislation in a timely fashion. 

“Hundreds of victims could have benefited from the victim surcharge in the time since the Victims and Witnesses Act was passed. Thanks to SNP Minsters’ delay they have missed out on the financial support which should have been available years ago.”

18 March 2016

Decision needs to be made on ARI trauma centre status– Macdonald 

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald is calling on Health Secretary Shona Robison to end the uncertainty about the previously planned network of four major trauma centres in Scotland, including ARI, after it emerged that the SNP Government’s “review” is based on a study which Ministers knew was planned but chose to disregard in making their announcement. 

Lewis Macdonald said: 

“The Scottish Government’s announcement in April 2014 of a major trauma network, centred on four hospitals including ARI, implemented the key recommendations of a report by the Major Trauma Oversight Group (MTOG) of NHS Scotland’s National Planning Forum which had input and support from clinicians working in relevant fields. 

“From answers to parliamentary questions this week, it appears that the Government's U-turn is based on a mathematical model of trauma care, Geospacial evaluation of systems of trauma care for Scotland, which doesn’t take the geography of Scotland or any other factors into consideration. 

“The Health Secretary must not put more faith in a mathematical model than in the evidence and support of major trauma clinicians across Scotland, who backed the initial findings and recommendations of the MTOG group, and the Scottish Government’s decision in 2014.

“She should now confirm that Aberdeen Royal Infirmary will be a future major trauma centre, to allow the NHS in the North and North East to cope with the geographical and medical demands of a widely dispersed population, something which cannot be fully reflected in a mathematical model. 

“The proposed U-turn by SNP Ministers poses the biggest threat to the standing of ARI in a generation. They need to act now to confirm that ARI will be a major trauma centre in the future. They must not expect staff or the public in the North East to wait until after the next election before a decision is made.”

17 March 2016

Macdonald congratulates People’s Project winners

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today tabled a parliamentary motion congratulating the STV North winners of the National Lottery People’s Project, including Sunnybank Community Centre Association in Aberdeen. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“The People’s Project is a great way for local organisations to promote the excellent work they do in their communities, and to be in with a chance of securing National lottery funding to further their initiatives. 

“Sunnybank Community Centre Association does excellent work through Sunnybank Family Workshops to bring together people of all ages and from all backgrounds, offering a range of activities in arts and sports, day trips for younger children and English classes for young and old. 

“The £50,000 Sunnybank has been awarded by the People’s Project will help support these activities, as well as offering the opportunity to expand the classes on offer and invest in new IT resources for the English classes. 

“At a time when immigration and refugees are in the news on a daily basis, it is great to see the Sunnybank community doing its part to help recent arrivals living in Aberdeen settle in and feel at home in the city.”

16 March 2016

Ministers must explain missing million, says Macdonald

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today called on SNP Ministers to explain the missing million in funding for teacher recruitment in Aberdeen.

After asking a question at the Scottish Parliament today, Lewis Macdonald said:

"Scottish Government Ministers failed to explain their policy on teacher recruitment in Aberdeen and across the North of Scotland, and failed to explain why Aberdeen City Council finds itself more than a million pounds down due to circumstances beyond their control.

"Education Secretary Angela Constance today confirmed not only that they have failed to support local councils in tackling the challenge of recruiting teachers, but that they are actually penalising those councils which face the greatest challenge.

"Aberdeen City Council face a fine of £340,000 as a result of the shortfall in teacher recruitment in the city, even though they can demonstrate they are doing everything possible to close that gap.

"The council are so committed to ensuring school students in Aberdeen have at least the same standard of teaching as other cities that they are investing £750,000 this year in teacher recruitment. Yet instead of supporting these efforts, SNP Ministers are intentionally undermining them by clawing back funding of £340,000 already allocated for teacher recruitment.

"That means council taxpayers in Aberdeen are over £1m out of pocket, between the additional costs of teacher recruitment as a result of Aberdeen's geographic position, which Ministers should help with, and the penalty which the SNP Government chooses to impose. This is a double whammy for Aberdeen, and those responsible for it should be held to account."

11 March 2016

Community spirit at local bookie as MSP wins for Instant Neighbour 

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald was invited by William Hill to place a charity bet during a recent visit to the bookmaker on Union Street and managed to win £83 for local charity Instant Neighbour by betting on Aberdeen to beat Partick Thistle. 

Mr Macdonald was given a tour of the shop by area manager Mark Morris and shop manager Eleanor Matheson. William Hill has been based in its location on Union Street for 21 years and views itself as very much part of the local community.  

Mr Macdonald was shown the steps that the bookmaker has taken to ensure responsible gambling including the new industry self-exclusion measures that enable problem gamblers to actively ‘bar’ themselves from any bookmakers from April this yea, and was also shown the current measures on gaming machines such as the new £50 limits, responsible gambling messaging and alerts and how staff record interactions with customers. 

Lewis Macdonald MSP said: 

“It was good to see the community spirit at the bookies and meet such dedicated staff. I’m delighted that Instant Neighbour will benefit from my winning bet – which also saw Aberdeen continue their excellent form.

“More importantly, it was great to see the measures that William Hill are taking to ensure that their customers enjoy a flutter safely and responsibly.” 

Shop Manager Eleanor Matheson (pictured with Mr Macdonald) said: 

“It was a pleasure to welcome Mr Macdonald to William Hill and to show him the workings of a local bookmaker and make a donation to such a worthwhile cause as Instant Neighbour.”

11 March 2016

Macdonald calls for a Credit Union nation

North East Labour MSP and Aberdeen Central candidate Lewis Macdonald has joined calls to make Scotland a Credit Union Nation.

Mr Macdonald is giving his support to the Credit Union Charter, which the Association of British Credit Unions Limited (ABCUL) has launched outlining the key ways the Scottish Parliament can help improve the nation’s financial health by supporting credit unions.

Credit unions are financial services providers locally owned and democratically controlled by the people who use them. They do not have any external shareholders or investors looking to generate profits from them.

The Credit Union Charter calls for employers to make saving and repaying loans via payroll deduction a standard workplace benefit for people across Scotland, and for every school in the country to have a credit union champion to help pupils learn about saving and budgeting.

Lewis Macdonald said today: 

“I’m delighted to support ABCUL’s Credit Union Charter. Encouraging regular saving and responsible borrowing is a key way to build financial health, and organisations like Grampian Credit Union, North East Scotland Credit Union and St Machar Credit Union play a vital role in Aberdeen in helping people get – and stay – on top of their finances.

“Research has shown that money worries and debt problems can lead to ill health, absence from work and low productivity. So educating young people about money and making it easy for adults to save and borrow with a credit union via their employer can help save public funds and boost the Scottish economy.”

ABCUL Scotland Policy Officer Karen Hurst said: “It’s no coincidence that the most successful credit union movements around the world have established close links with employers to help people build up savings and access affordable credit when they need to.

“We’re delighted to have the support of Lewis Macdonald MSP for our campaign to make Scotland a Credit Union Nation – something that would benefit the whole country.”

Scotland has just over 100 credit unions serving more than 375,000 people – including 52,000 junior savers – who are saving £454 million and borrowing £276 million. Everyone in Scotland has a credit union they can join, and with 7 per cent of the population using a credit union, Scotland has the fourth highest level of credit union membership in Europe (after only the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Poland).

10 March 2016

SNP need to take university budget cuts more seriously - Macdonald

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has called on Education Secretary Angela Constance to look into the impact of higher education budget cuts on staffing at Aberdeen University and RGU. 

Speaking after he asked a question on the issue in the Scottish Parliament today, Lewis Macdonald said:

“It is remarkable in the context of 100 redundancies at RGU and further job losses at Aberdeen University that the Cabinet Secretary for education has given no thought to the impact her government’s cuts will have on teaching at higher education institutions. It is as if she has simply washed her hands of the whole affair. 

“Aberdeen’s two universities have been hit particularly hard by SNP budget cuts, and this will have an inevitable impact not just on teaching, but on research too. 

“The Education Secretary must now look again at this issue, and carry out a much-needed impact assessment into the implications of budget cuts at RGU and Aberdeen University.”

4 March 2016

OGA support for Aberdeen City Deal welcome - Macdonald

Following the publication today of the Oil and Gas Authority’s Corporate Plan for 2016-2021, North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has welcomed the organisation’s commitment to supporting the Aberdeen City Region Deal. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“The OGA’s commitment to “proactively support” the Oil and Gas Technology Centre (OGTC) as part of the Aberdeen City Region Deal is good news for the North East and good news for the future of the North Sea oil and gas industry. 

“The OGTC has a key role to play in maximising recovery from North Sea fields, as well as skills retention and developing new technological innovations for the industry. The support of the OGA for this project will be vital to its success. 

“While the funding committed for a further round of seismic exploration by the OGA is also welcome, the UK Government must be willing to continue investing in such projects as long as they continue to protect the future of the North Sea industry.”

3 March 2016

Macdonald welcomes new schools in Tillydrone and Torry

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today welcomed Aberdeen City Council’s commitment to build new primary schools in Tillydrone and Torry as part of the approved education budget for 2016/17. 

After tabling a Scottish Parliament motion welcoming the announcement, Lewis Macdonald said today:

“I am delighted that the Council has prioritised new schools in these areas, both of which lost perfectly good schools under the previous council administration in 2008.

“St Machar Primary School in Tillydrone and Victoria Road in Torry were both closed despite strong opposition from local people, and despite evidence from objectors that demand for school places in these areas was only going to increase. 

“Labour argued at the time that it made no sense to close schools in areas where populations were actually going up, and that the SNP and their coalition partners were sacrificing the interests of local families in order to make cuts which would only cost more in the long run.

“I am glad that Labour in the City Council has now acted to right those wrongs, and since I raised the closures in the Scottish Parliament it is right to acknowledge these plans at Holyrood too. It means that SNP MSPs like Kevin Stewart, who oversaw the closures of St Machar and Victoria Road as deputy leader of Aberdeen City Council, will now have the opportunity to recognise their mistake by signing my motion.”

2 March 2016

Aberdeen medics must make their voices heard on trauma centre

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today called on Aberdeen doctors and health service staff to make their voices heard in supporting of keeping one of Scotland’s major trauma centres at the ARI.

Speaking after asking a question in parliament on the issue, Lewis Macdonald said today:

"The SNP said in 2014 that they would establish major trauma centres in Scotland's four largest cities, including Aberdeen and Dundee, but they have since admitted that they are "reviewing" and may go back on that commitment.

"Health Secretary Shona Robison claimed today that she was seeking a consensus on this issue among clinicians in all four centres, so it is essential that doctors, nurses and all those involved in the delivery of acute care at ARI make their voices heard.

"Specialties like neurosurgery, cardio-thoracic surgery and interventional radiology are vital to treatment of major trauma, and ARI is well-served in these areas. Equally, these specialties are anchored here by the fact that major trauma is dealt with in Aberdeen and by the promise of a major trauma centre and a trauma network in the future.

"If we want to secure the future of ARI as a flagship hospital in the Scottish NHS, health staff need to make their views known now."

1 March 2016

Macdonald to raise questions over consultant vacancies

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald plans to emphasise the importance of a major trauma centre to Aberdeen and the North East when he questions Health Minister Shona Robison tomorrow in Holyrood about consultant vacancies at the ARI. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“NHS Grampian, like many public services in the North East, has found it difficult to recruit staff to the North East in recent years This has been down to a number of factors, not least the high cost of living and an unwillingness on the part of some professionals to leave other areas of Scotland. 

“If Aberdeen is to attract the brightest and the best consultants and surgeons, then we need to ensure that the ARI continues to operate as one of Scotland’s flagship hospitals. Without a major trauma centre, it will only become harder to convince consultants to make the move north. 

“When I last asked the Health Secretary about the SNP Government;s future plans for their major trauma network, she admitted that they were reviewing their original proposals for four centres across Scotland. If this number is to be reduced to three or even two major trauma centres, one of those must be in Aberdeen. 

“Not only will this guarantee the future of a range of health services in the North East for generations to come, but it will help NHS Grampian to resolve the recruitment problems it has faced when it comes to consultants and senior medical and nursing staff. 

“I will be seeking a guarantee from the Health Minister that Aberdeen will be home to one of Scotland’s major trauma centres, and that it will not be the North East that misses out yet again under this SNP Government.”

25 February 2016

RGU jobs are the cost of SNP cuts

Today’s announcement that RGU is looking to make 100 people redundant over the next few weeks is a direct of result of SNP cuts to higher education, North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald said today.

Responding to the news that RGU is looking to cut its staff costs by £4 million, and make additional savings of £2m from operating costs, Lewis Macdonald said:

 “The 100 people that lose their jobs at RGU will be paying the price of decisions taken in the Scottish Parliament this week.

“SNP MSPs voted through the Scottish Government budget, despite warnings from Labour and from trade unions that it would cost thousands of jobs across Scotland.

“Higher education is facing grant cuts in the current academic year of over 3%, and the four universities worst affected are Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and RGU, all facing cuts of 3.9%.

“In the case of RGU, the Scottish government grant for 2016/17 is set to fall by £1.43m. If this reduced level of funding was to be maintained in ensuing years, this would mean a cut of £5.7m by 2020.

“That money has to come from somewhere, and in this case most of it is to come from cutting people’s jobs. At a time when Aberdeen is struggling with the impact of the oil and gas downturn, more job losses as a result of Scottish Government cuts is the worst possible news for this city and region”.

17 February 2016

Claimant count shows Government action “too little, too late” 

The significant increase in those claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance across Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire is a clear sign that the minimal actions taken by the Scottish and UK Governments to tackle the crisis are too little too late, North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald said today. 

Lewis Macdonald said:

“The number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance in Aberdeen has increased by nearly 70% since this time last year, and by an incredible 92% in Aberdeenshire.

“These figures are an illustration of the human cost of the oil and gas crisis, and clear evidence that the SNP’s delayed reaction is simply too little too late.

“What we are seeing today is a result of thousands of people who were made redundant several months ago, now signing on for the first time as their redundancy money runs out. That means many of the people losing their jobs today may not show up in official figures for some months to come. 

“For months Ministers preferred to stick their heads in the sand, pretending there was no crisis in the North Sea. Action should have been taken much sooner, then perhaps we would not be faced with such damaging unemployment figures in the North East.

“The SNP were simply wrong not to take action sooner, and today’s figures show it is ordinary men and women who are paying the price for this delay.”

12 February 2016

Macdonald welcomes launch of housing manifesto

North East Labour MSP and Aberdeen Central candidate Lewis Macdonald today welcomed the launch of a housing manifesto for the North East by the region’s housing associations and Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“A shortage of affordable housing in Aberdeen and the North East is just one of the problems faced by our public services when they try to recruit staff to work in the area. 

“The manifesto launched today by North East housing associations in conjunction with Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce contains valuable suggestions for ways to resolve this housing shortage. 

“Scottish Labour has already pledged to build 60,000 affordable homes across Scotland, 45,000 of which will be council or housing association homes. In addition, we have pledged to take action against unreasonable rent increases in the private sector – something which many tenants in Aberdeen will have experienced. 

“The recruitment crisis in our public services in the North East cannot be fixed by housing alone, but our policies will go a long way towards making Aberdeen a more affordable place to live for public sector workers.”

 

10 February 2016

Lack of offshore data holding back support efforts - Macdonald

The SNP needs to respond to calls from the Offshore Co-ordinating Group, set up earlier this week by offshore unions and backed by the STUC, for more accurate and up-to-date information on the scale of North Sea jobs crisis, North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald said today.

After asking a question at the Scottish Parliament on the issue, Lewis Macdonald said:

“Energy Minister Fergus Ewing quoted a figure of 10,000 notified redundancies but this does not include contractors who have lost their positions, workers whose fixed term contracts have come to an end or apprentices whose apprenticeship has been ended early. What is also missing is an accurate assessment of the total number of jobs lost across Scotland and the wider economic impact this has had. 

“Now that offshore unions have added their voice to calls for more accurate information on oil and gas job losses Ministers must take their concerns seriously, and ensure that action is taken to compile clear statistics about job losses in the North Sea. 

“Without this information is impossible for agencies like the Energy Taskforce, the DWP and PACE to effectively support the industry. How can they respond when they have no idea of the scale of the crisis they are facing?

“For too long the SNP have been dodging the issue, and the oil and gas workers who have been made redundant or who face an uncertain future deserve much more than that.”

SNP “passing the buck” on City Deal financing

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today called on the Scottish Government to step up and make the financial contribution needed to fund all the devolved aspects of the Aberdeen City Region Deal. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“SNP Ministers have been quick to pass the buck when it comes to the disappointing levels of funding announced for the Aberdeen City Region Deal. 

“Yet the Scottish Government is responsible for £1.5 billion worth of the projects contained within the City Region deal because they lie in areas devolved to the Scottish Parliament. In that context, the funds announced by the SNP fall far short of the total needed to fund the projects for which they have responsibility. 

“More powers for the Scottish Parliament means more responsibilities too. If SNP Ministers are making decisions about transport, housing and infrastructure projects, they also have to find the money to pay for them. No amount of bluff or bluster from SNP Ministers or backbenchers will disguise their failure to back most of the devolved projects proposed in the Aberdeen city deal.

“It is time Scottish Ministers stopped blaming everyone else for their own failures. SNP Ministers should step up and commit to funding the devolved projects or the public will soon realise that their pledges of support for the North East are just empty promises.”

NHS Grampian staff deserve more support from SNP

North East Labour MSP and Aberdeen central candidate Lewis Macdonald today warned that the Scottish Government is letting down NHS Grampian staff.

Figures published this week show that only 94.8% of those attending A&E at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary were seen within 4 hours of arrival – compared to the SNP target of 98%. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“Now more than ever we need a health service based on patient need not the ability to pay, with the resources to deliver the care Scots deserve. 

Under the SNP Government in Edinburgh, NHS staff are being overworked and undervalued. We know that only a third of our NHS workforce believe there are enough staff for them to do their jobs properly and it is patients who pay the price here in Aberdeen and across the NHS Grampian region. 

“NHS Grampian has again failed to meet the SNP’s target for seeing patients within four hours of arriving at A&E – but this is not the fault of the hard-working staff at the ARI and other North East hospitals. How are staff supposed to hit the targets the Scottish Government has set without the support and resources they need? 

“We need to ensure that our NHS, founded in the 1940s, is ready to face the challenges of the 2040s.

“Scottish Labour would take the pressure off of our hospitals by delivering better quality care at home. Our national care-workers’ guarantee would guarantee a living wage and better terms and conditions for care workers, creating a workforce to deliver the care vulnerable Scots need.”

9 February 2016

Macdonald demands answers on North Sea job losses

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has today called on the SNP to answer important questions on the scale of job losses in Scotland following the oil price slump. 

Ahead of an oral question on the issue tomorrow (10 February) Lewis Macdonald has written to Energy Minister Fergus Ewing to demand that the Scottish Government publishes a full analysis of the impact of the oil jobs crisis on the Scottish economy, to ensure that those facing redundancy can be given the proper support and advice. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“The Energy Jobs Taskforce cannot possibly do its job properly without access to up-to-date and accurate information on the scale of job losses currently affecting the North East and the wider Scottish economy. 

“SNP Ministers are still quoting Oil & Gas UK’s estimated figure of 65,000 job losses across Britain from September 2015, and it is high time that detailed figures were produced for Scotland to ensure that government agencies are equipped to respond to the needs of those who have lost their jobs.

“At the recent Fraserburgh jobs fair, organised to support workers in the fish processing industry, a third of those attending had been made redundant from oil and gas jobs. Many of those had been given inaccurate advice regarding their eligibility for benefits, and had spent their redundancy packages supporting their families while they looked for a new job.

“Without information on how many workers have lost their jobs, it is impossible for government agencies to respond properly, and impossible to ensure workers are being given the right advice. 

“The SNP have been dodging these questions for far too long, and those affected by the crisis deserve answers.”

8 February 2016

MSP calls on Audit Scotland to look into NHS 24 failings

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today called on the Auditor General to look into the failings of the NHS 24 IT project, which has already cost the public purse over £117 million. 

The new IT system at NHS 24 failed on its launch day in October 2015, and staff across Scotland have since returned to using the existing IT system while more money is spent to iron out the bugs in the new project. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“The answers I have received from Scottish Ministers on this issue have not fully explained what went wrong with the new NHS 24 IT system. Nor have they convinced me that a new system was needed in the first place, given that staff are now using the old IT system again with no technical problems. 

“Audit Scotland needs to look into this project in greater depth, not just with regards to the public money which is being spent to fix the mistakes in the multi-million pound IT project, but also to establish whether such a project was needed in the first place and whether the testing carried out prior to its launch was robust enough to identify any problems. 

“At a time when we are hearing daily about the financial pressures faced by our public services, it is vital that Audit Scotland clarifies why such a significant amount of money was spent replacing the IT system at NHS 24 when that same IT system is continuing to work so effectively.

“That is why I have today written to the Auditor General, Caroline Black, to ask her to conduct a more in-depth investigation into this project, from its inception to the latest costly failings.”

3 February 2016

Not clear why these jobs have gone so soon - Macdonald

There are still many unanswered questions about the loss of over 600 jobs at Young's Seafood in Fraserburgh, North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald said today. 

After writing to the Scottish Government in December, Lewis Macdonald has been told by Business, Energy and Tourism Fergus Ewing MSP that Young’s chose “an earlier exit than planned” from the Sainsbury’s salmon contract. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“It is clear that the hard-working staff at Young’s are paying the price for commercial decisions made by those higher up the company. 

“Many jobs could have been secured at least in the short term if the company hadn’t requested an earlier exit from its contract with Sainsbury’s. 

“Pete Ward, Chief Executive of Young’s, has previously told me that the company had "done all within its control to mitigate the impact of Sainsbury's decision on our employees”.

"I have therefore written to him again to ask why Young's decided to pull out of Sainsbury's early, and what the impact of that decision has been on workers at the factory in Fraserburgh.”

29 January 2016

Macdonald calls for action to tackle nuisance calls

As Which? research finds Scots want to see further action to tackle nuisance calls, North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald attended a cross-party Parliamentary event in the Scottish Parliament on 28th January to raise awareness of this modern day menace. 

New Which? research as part of the Calling Time on Nuisance Calls campaign has found that nearly nine in 10 (85%) want the Scottish Government to crackdown on nuisance calls and a similar number (87%) want the Westminster Government to take action. 

The research in Scotland also found nine in 10 (90%) people want to see the director of a company held personally accountable and fined if the firm makes calls without the necessary permission.

Lewis Macdonald said:

“This research clearly shows that nuisance calls are an increasing problem, and that the public is looking to the Scottish Government to take action. 

“This is far from a new problem and Scottish Labour has been calling on the SNP to set out their plans to tackle nuisance calls for some time.

“In the meantime, North East residents can report nuisance calls using Which?’s online tool and can register their mobiles to the Telephone Preference Service by texting REGISTER to 80057.”

Which?’s Calling Time on Nuisance Calls campaign in Scotland, supported by more than 19,000 people, is urging the Scottish Government to publish an action plan setting out how it will work with business and regulators to tackle nuisance calls, including:

·         Cracking down on businesses breaking the rules and holding senior executives to account.

·         Helping vulnerable people to cut the number of nuisance calls they receive.

·         Ensuring that new Scottish Government policy doesn’t lead to more nuisance calls.

28 January 2016

More should be done for North Sea - Macdonald

Following the UK Government’s announcement regarding the North Sea oil and gas industry, Lewis Macdonald said today:

“Another £20 million for seismic exploration in the North Sea is good but it does not go far enough, and the UK Government needs to do much more to encourage investment in the UK oil and gas industry. Without more support for exploration a sustainable recovery in the industry remains a way off.

“Today’s announcement makes the Scottish Government’s failure to address their responsibilities in relation to the oil jobs crisis even more striking.

“Earlier today, I asked the Energy Minister Fergus Ewing how many jobs have been lost in the oil and gas sector since the downturn and the best he could do was to quote industry estimates of 65,000 job losses which were published in September 2015, over four months ago. 

“We know from local reports that many more people have lost their jobs since then, yet the Scottish Government has still produced no assessment of its own of the scale of the crisis.

“This brings into doubt their whole approach to tackling the crisis facing the North East.”

27 January 2016

Macdonald calls for teacher support not punishment

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today called on the Scottish Government to stop punishing Aberdeen City Council for their difficulties in recruiting teachers, and to instead offer them the support they need. 

Speaking today after asking a parliamentary question on the issue, Lewis Macdonald said:

“Only the SNP could see the problems experienced in recruiting teachers in the North East as an opportunity to cut the budgets of the councils involved. 

“In any sensible world this would be an issue addressed by offering more support, but the Scottish Government is instead choosing to punish Aberdeen City Council – a measure that will only hurt the city’s children when further education services have to be cut to balance the books. 

“This financial penalty is the equivalent of a child being given detention for not doing homework when they couldn’t afford pencil and paper. Nobody would think that was fair, and the situation facing Aberdeen City Council isn’t fair either.”

25 January 2016

Change of government could change police closure plans 

Reacting to the announcement by Police Scotland that closure plans for the police control rooms in Aberdeen and Inverness and the Aberdeen service centre have been pushed back by several months, North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald said today:

“On the one hand, it is disappointing that the new Chief Constable Phil Gormley has not reviewed his predecessor’s plans to close every control room in the North of Scotland, or even agreed to meet me to talk about it.

“On the other hand, Police Scotland have clearly accepted the criticism made by HM Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland Derek Penman that the unseemly rush to close the call centres was adding to the risk to the public, and they have therefore extended the date of the planned closures from March to October this year. 

“This means that Inverness and Aberdeen will be staffed and operational beyond the date of the next election, and that a change in government at Holyrood could lead to a change in these plans.

“Scottish Labour is clear that these control rooms will not be closed if we win the next election. Now it is up to voters in the North East to have their say in May.”

Struggling with energy bills? Help is available says local MSP

This week (25-31 January) is “Debt Awareness Week” when organisations across the UK seek to raise awareness of the importance of dealing with debt.

To mark the initiative local North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald is highlighting the availability of free financial help and advice from independent charity, The Scottish Gas Energy Trust (SGET) as well as Scottish Gas and StepChange Debt Charity.

SGET provides grants to help pay off gas and electricity debts and to purchase energy efficient white goods such as washing machines and fridge/freezers.

Lewis Macdonald said today: 

“January can be a financially difficult time for many families, and I would encourage anyone who is worried about their energy bills to get in touch with the Scottish Gas Energy Trust for help and advice. 

“You don’t have to be a Scottish Gas customer to use this service and their advice is free.”

Imelda Redmond CBE, Chair of Trustees at the Trust, added:

“The Trust is committed to helping as many people as possible whether through direct financial assistance, help with the purchase of appliances or through the many voluntary organisations we fund to provide money and energy debt advice."

The Trust has provided more than £85m of help and assistance to 175,000 people since it was established in 2004.

Scottish Gas also provides direct help for customers. This includes helping thousands of people, who are having difficulty paying their bills, with an interest free debt repayment plan. The company also helps millions of people with energy saving measures and has 1.5m customers registered on a Priority Services Register, which offers additional help for disabled or chronically ill customers and those of pensionable age.

More than 9,000 people have also been helped by a Scottish Gas/StepChange Debt Charity partnership which sees those in need receive specialist support and advice from trained professionals. 

For more information please contact Scottish Gas on Freephone 0800 048 0202 or check out their website: http://www.britishgasenergytrust.org.uk/ 

21 January 2016

City Deal: the money needs to be now

Now that all parties have accepted the principle of an Aberdeen City Deal, they need to put their money in the table and get on with it, says North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald.  

Responding to news that the Scotto’s and UK governments have agreed joint funding of the Aberdeen City Region Deal Lewis Macdonald said today:

“Everyone now appears to recognise the urgency needed to bring forward this investment. 

”What we need now is for both governments to commit funding immediately in order to make this happen. The Scottish Budget for 2016/17 does not currently include any provision for the Aberdeen City Deal under either transport, environmental protection or water. All of these are critical to the plans which were part of the City Deal bid. 

“The councils and private sector, have committed to putting money on the table, now we need the Scottish Government and the Treasury to do the same.”

19 January 2016

North East fire and rescue services hit hard – Macdonald

Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s Member’s Business debate in the Scottish Parliament on “Protecting Frontline Fire and Rescue Services”, North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has warned that the Aberdeen and Grampian area is being hit disproportionately hard by decisions made at Scottish Fire and Rescue Service headquarters in Perth. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“Public services across the North East have been hit hard because of SNP budget cuts, and the fire service is no different. 

“In January 2014, it was announced that the brand new control room at Mounthooly in Aberdeen would be closed and replaced with another new facility in Dundee, despite Mounthooly being recently fitted out and capable of further expansion. The fire service have already lost several experienced staff from the control room, and that local knowledge will disappear altogether when Mounthooly closes later this year.

“At the end of last year, the SFRS also announced that their North East workshops for vehicle repairs would also be located in Dundee, despite prior indications that it would be sited in Portlethen. Yet again, the North East is paying the price for budget cuts imposed from Edinburgh by SNP Ministers. 

“Perhaps most seriously for public safety, it has become clear that fire service staffing is a major concern in the North East, with a report last October from Her Majesty’s Fire Service Inspectorate stating that Aberdeen is running under complement. 

“Staff shortages mean that while there are six fire engines based in Aberdeen, one is often not available due to a lack of crew. This could have a serious impact on the ability of firefighters to tackle a major incident in the Aberdeen area.

“The Member’s Business debate on 20 January is a timely reminder that frontline fire and rescue services are being hit hard by the cuts and centralisation agenda set by SNP Ministers. These are services which need to be funded and supported throughout the country, but which in Grampian are losing out at every turn.”

Macdonald welcomes retention of Purple Flag status

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has tabled a parliamentary motion congratulating Aberdeen Inspired, along with its partners Aberdeen City Council, Police Scotland and Unight, on being awarded Purple Flag status for the third year running. 

Aberdeen is the only Scottish city to retain the award, which recognises efforts to promote the safety of visitors and residents at night.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“Aberdeen Inspired and all those invoked are to be congratulated for retaining Purple Flag status for Aberdeen. 

“The city clearly has an innovative and successful approach to making our streets safer at night. 

“Unfortunately, one integral part of that approach, the Designated Place run by Alcohol Support, is set to close its doors on April 16th. After that date, those found drunk and incapable on the street will no longer be taken to the safe environment at Albyn House, but will find themselves in A&E or police cells instead. 

“Purple Flag status is an asset for the city of Aberdeen, and all those involved in securing the award are to be commended for their hard work.”

14 January 2016

“No calls will be answered within Dundee,” Police Scotland confirm

Police Scotland have now confirmed that, if their plans to close control rooms in Aberdeen and Inverness go ahead, no calls will be answered by the control room in Dundee either. 

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has now received a reply to questions he asked in parliament last week, and a subsequent letter he sent to SNP Justice Secretary Michael Matheson MSP.

The letter, from a senior in the Contact, Command & Control Division of Police Scotland, confirms that if their plans go ahead “no calls will be answered within Dundee” as all call handling will be undertaken within the “Virtual National Service Centre operating over three locations, namely; Bilston Glen, Motherwell and Govan.”

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“When proposals to close police control rooms first came forward, both the SNP Government and Police Scotland gave the impression that if the control room in Aberdeen closed, the control room in Dundee would stay open. They forgot to mention that it would not take any calls from members of the public.

“Those SNP elected representatives in Dundee who welcomed the outcome of this process clearly have some questions of their own to answer. Did they know that this outcome was what the Scottish Government has planned?

“The centralisation of police Contact, Command & Control is bad news right across the North and North East, and the SNP appear content to do without local knowledge entirely.”

13 January 2016

Timeline on new dialysis unit welcome – Macdonald

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today welcomed confirmation of the timelines for building and commissioning the planned new renal dialysis unit at Kincardine Hospital in Stonehaven. 

Lewis Macdonald, who called a debate on the new unit at the Scottish Parliament on 7 October 2015, said today:

“This is great news for dialysis patients in Kincardine and the Mearns, and for all those who have been involved in raising funds for a new unit.

“Local campaigners have raised a large part of the £1m needed to make this happen and they continue to support this fantastic project.

“NHS Grampian have kept their side of the bargain, by progressing this project and now setting out a clear and definite timeline for the new unit to be built, starting before the end of this year.

“They have also promised that the unit that unit will be commissioned by the spring or early summer of 2017, and that is great news for all concerned. 

“Underfunding of the NHS in Grampian is a continuing problem, but it is a credit to both NHS Grampian and the community that a project like this will be made to happen.”

Swinney “tall tales” need explaining - Macdonald

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has called on Deputy First Minister John Swinney to explain his recent claims regarding the start date for work on the Haudagain roundabout and local government funding for Aberdeen City Council when he appears before the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee this morning.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“As a member of the Economy Committee, I intend to take full advantage of the opportunity to press the Deputy First Minister on some the tall tales he has been telling recently regarding funding and projects in the North East. 

“During his Budget statement in December, Mr Swinney’s announcement that work on the Haudagain would begin ahead of schedule was warmly welcomed. However, that welcome soon turned frosty when Transport Scotland contradicted his claims, and confirmed that the Haudagain project would not actually begin until construction of the AWPR was complete in winter 2017 at the earliest.

“On top of that, the local government funding figures have revealed that yet again Aberdeen City Council is one of the lowest funded councils in the country, with the SNP missing their own target that no council will receive less than 85% of the national average. 

“The Scottish Government has missed this target every year since it was introduced in 2012/13, and Mr Swinney’s defence has always been that he will not renegotiate settlements in the middle of a spending review period. However, we are now in a new spending review period yet it appears nothing has changed for the residents of Aberdeen. 

“Swinney and his fellow Ministers have some serious questions to answer over the lack of investment in and financial support for Aberdeen, and I intend to make sure the people of Aberdeen get those answers at the meeting of the Economy Committee on 13th January.”

12 January 2016

Macdonald secures flooding funding commitment 

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today secured a commitment from the Scottish Government that everyone affected by the recent flooding in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire should be able to benefit from a £1500 grant. 

Speaking after a Ministerial statement on the flooding in parliament, Lewis Macdonald said:

“I am reassured that the Scottish Government has agreed to ensure that everyone affected by flooding in the North East will be able to benefit from the recent announcement of a £1500 grant for homes and businesses.  

“Deputy First Minister John Swinney offered assurances that the grants will be fully funded by the Scottish Government, and that local councils will not end up out of pocket.

“In addition, I secured a guarantee from Mr Swinney that he does not intend any form of means testing to be applied to the £1500 payments, and that anyone whose home or business has suffered damage will be able to secure funding to carry out repairs and replace damaged items.”

11 January 2016

Families shouldn’t have to choose between eating and heating

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has condemned new figures which reveal the SNP Government plans to cut the fuel poverty budget by £15 million. 

The latest estimates suggest that 30% of households in Aberdeen live in fuel poverty. 

Lewis Macdonald backs plans for a Warm Homes Act, which will change building and planning regulations to tackle fuel poverty.

Lewis Macdonald MSP said today: 

“No family in Aberdeen should have to choose between heating and eating. 

“In 2001 the last Labour-led Scottish Government set ambitious legislation to eradicate fuel poverty by 2016. We know the SNP Government will miss that target, with the latest estimates showing that 30% of all households in Aberdeen live in fuel poverty. 

“So it is deeply disappointing that the SNP Government in Edinburgh are planning a huge cut to the fuel poverty budget. 

“Scottish Labour will take real action on fuel poverty. We will deliver ground-breaking legislation in the form of a Scottish Warm Homes Act. 

“With new powers coming to Scotland we have the chance to really do things differently. After nearly a decade in office and with a majority in Parliament there are no excuses for the SNP failing to deal with fuel poverty.” 

“I have written today to Michael Matheson to ask him to clarify his intentions, and I know people in both Dundee and Aberdeen will be very interested to hear what he has to say.”

7 January 2016

Macdonald seeks clarification on police control room plans

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has called on the Cabinet Secretary for Justice to clarify comments he made in the Scottish Parliament that all 999 and 101 calls currently dealt with at Aberdeen would be handled at Bilston Glen in Edinburgh. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“The comments by Justice Secretary Michael Matheson appear to be the first admission by SNP Ministers that there will be no 999 or 101 calls taken at the new facility in Dundee, and that this will operate only as a centre for dispatching officers after calls are taken in the Central Belt. It also appears to be the first time Ministers have said that calls presently made to Aberdeen would be answered in Edinburgh under current Scottish Government plans.  

6 January 2016

Minister finally confirms no police calls to be taken in Dundee

During today’s Portfolio Questions, Justice Secretary Michael Matheson finally confirmed that calls to the police from the north of Scotland will be taken in the Central Belt and not in Dundee.

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald said today:

“The SNP has been trying to hide the fact that the new Dundee facility will not have any call handling capacity and is only going to operate as dispatch centre since Police Scotland’s closure plans were made public. 

“Today, however, was the first time a Minister has admitted that all calls from the north of Scotland, including Dundee and Angus, will be taken in the Central Belt, despite the presence of a new Police Scotland facility in Dundee. 

“This is centralisation on a massive scale. Calls from a significant geographical area are now going to be taken by operators working in a narrow corridor in the Central Belt. 

“This is the truth that the SNP has been trying to keep from the people of Dundee and Angus, but they have finally given their public backing to the plan.”

5 January 2016

Macdonald pledges help for first time buyers

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today backed the party’s first manifesto pledge ahead of May’s vote, to effectively double the help first time buyers currently receive towards saving for a deposit.

Under Scottish labour’s plan a person who currently saves through a first-time buyer ISA with a government top up to the value of £3,000 would be entitled to an additional £3,000 from a Scottish Labour Government to help toward the cost of a deposit to buy a property.

This means that the average couple in Aberdeen each saving £100 a month would be able to save for a £15,000 deposit within three years. 

Under the SNP Government the number of people in Scotland aged 34 and younger who have bought their own home with a mortgage has fallen by 15%. Just 28% of those aged 16-34 in Scotland now own their home with a mortgage – the lowest level since the Scottish Parliament was established in 1999.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“Everyone deserves a home, but too many young people in Aberdeen are either living with their parents or stuck in expensive rents unable to get that first foot on the housing ladder.

“Home ownership is a big ambition for hundreds of thousands of young people in Aberdeen but for too many it remains an ambition rather than a reality.

“The expectation of home ownership, seen as almost a right for previous generations, is out of reach for too many people. That has to change.

“Under Scottish Labour's plan we will effectively double the help for young people trying to scrape together a deposit, investing an additional £3,000 for first time buyers saving as part of our plan.

“We'll fund our promise by reversing the SNP's plans to cut air passenger duty. A tax cut costs money, and we think that money would be better spent helping make the aspirations of young people in Aberdeen a reality rather than making a plane ticket cheaper.

“Scottish Labour will use the new powers coming to Scotland to reject austerity and give young people in Aberdeen the chance to turn aspirations of home ownership into reality.”

21 December 2015

Macdonald seeks Fraserburgh update from Ministers

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today called on Cabinet Secretary for Finance John Swinney MSP to update the workforce at Young’s in Fraserburgh on the progress that is being made by the Scottish Government to resolve their employment issues. 

After asking a question on 26th November regarding reports that Marine Harvest, who won the Sainsbury’s salmon contract from Young’s, were unable to meet the terms of that contract, Mr Macdonald secured a promise from John Swinney that  he would “ ensure the reports to which Mr Macdonald referred are looked into, and that any relevant issues are raised with Sainsbury’s.”

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“John Swinney and his SNP colleagues have had more than enough time to investigate the situation at Marine Harvest, and to establish Sainsbury’s response to reports that their salmon products are being supplied from outside of Scotland and processed in Poland and France.

“This situation is a real mess and it is the workers at Young’s in Fraserburgh who are suffering. It is time Ministers gave them some clear answers. 

“It is still over a month until the next meeting of the Fraserburgh Taskforce on 29th January, by which time many Young’s employees will have received redundancy notices – unless action is taken now by all involved to find a suitable solution. 

“The Scottish Government needs to take the lead on this, and it will be disappointing if nothing has been achieved since my question on 26th November.”

18 December 2015

Macdonald welcomes local support for Barnardos

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today welcomed the support local people have shown for the work of Barnardos in Aberdeen, after carrying out a foodbank collection in his office over the last two weeks. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“It is very easy at this time of year to focus on our own families, and our own festive celebrations. 

“But I have been delighted by the support shown by local people for our foodbank collection, and I hope that our contribution will make a small difference to some of the local families who are finding it especially tough to make ends meet at Christmas.

“In an ideal world there would be no need for foodbanks, but the fact is that even in Aberdeen there are families who are struggling to put food on the table. 

“The work done by Barnardos and other foodbanks throughout the region is invaluable, and Aberdonians are clearly happy to support that work. 

17 December 2015

SNP offer no answers on Forth Road Bridge compensation - MSP

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today called on the Scottish Government to commit to bring forward plans for compensating haulage companies from the North East for the disruption caused by the unexpected closure of the Forth Road Bridge. 

Speaking after asking a parliamentary question on the issue today in Holyrood, Lewis Macdonald said:

“Transport Minister Derek Mackay failed to answer my question about compensating businesses affected by the closure of the Forth Road Bridge.  

“Of course it is important that the Forth Road Bridge is reopened as soon as it is safe to do so, but the fact is that for every day the bridge remains closed, businesses across the North East are losing money. 

“Each journey to the Central Belt or further south is costing haulage firms from North East Scotland up to £95 more than usual, meaning that they are losing money on every job. 

“At this busy time of year this is a huge impact for haulage firms, and I hope the Scottish Government will now make a commitment to compensating those businesses which have been affected by the Forth Road Bridge closure.”

Swinney must come clean on Haudagain claims – Macdonald

SNP Finance Secretary John Swinney must come clean on his apparent attempt to mislead the Scottish Parliament on the schedule of work on the Haudagain roundabout, says North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald.

Mr Swinney appeared to abandon the Scottish Government’s previous insistence that work on the Haudagain could only happen after the AWPR was completed, in his Budget statement to MSPs on Wednesday afternoon.

“in light of the excellent progress on the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route,” he said, “I am today confirming that work will begin in 2016-17 on the improvements to the Haudagain roundabout.”

It quickly became apparent that these bold words were not backed up by the Budget document, which said only that “In 2016-17 we will… progress design and development work on the A90 Haudagain Roundabout,” or by the Scottish Government’s updated Infrastructure Investment Plan, which continued to say: “Ministers have committed to improvements to Haudagain Roundabout following completion of the AWPR.”

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald said today:

“John Swinney gave the impression that government plans for improvements at the Haudagain had changed, when they had not. Even his own backbenchers appeared to believe that he had announced a new start-date for work on the Haudagain roundabout, when that was not in fact the case.

“That is why I raised a Point of Order at Holyrood yesterday afternoon, to give Mr Swinney the opportunity to set the record straight. He still needs to do so.

“Both Transport Scotland and the Scottish Government itself have confirmed that work on the Haudagain will not begin in 2016-17, but will only “start… following completion of the AWPR,” which is currently scheduled for the winter of 2017-18.

“John Swinney clearly has some explaining to do, and the sooner he does it the better.”

16 December 2015

U-turn on Haudagain better later than never - Macdonald

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has today described the Scottish Government’s U-turn on starting work on the Haudagain roundabout in 2016/17 rather than 2018/19 as “better late than never”, after Finance Secretary John Swinney made an announcement during today’s Scottish Budget speech that the project would now commence two years earlier than planned. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“The SNP’s U-turn on the Haudagain is what they should have planned from the outset, and it has been a long time coming. 

 “Scottish Labour has been saying for years that the Haudagain could be started long before the AWPR was completed, and SNP Ministers can no longer hide the fact that we were right.

 “Times have obviously changed since last year when Transport Minister Keith Brown was insistent that work on the Haudagain would not and could not start before the AWPR was finished.

“I am pleased that the SNP have finally seen sense and made a U-turn on their previous stance on the Haudagain. It is just a shame that we have had to wait so long for it to happen.”

Macdonald welcomes windfarm court ruling

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has welcomed the decision by the UK Supreme Court to reject Donald Trump’s bid to prevent the development of the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC) in Aberdeen Bay. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“This ruling is excellent news for the North East and excellent news for the Scottish renewables industry as a whole. 

“Now that the highest court in the land has rejected the last-ditch legal arguments against the Aberdeen Bay windfarm going ahead, there is nothing to stop quick progress being made on its development.

“Like the AWPR, the EOWDC project has been held up by interminable court action by a single objector. Once again, a vital development in the North East has been put at risk because of a refusal to accept the findings of court after court, which is deeply disappointing.

“I hope we will now see quick action to get construction started on the EOWDC, as a project of this scale will put Aberdeen firmly at the centre of offshore wind development across Europe”

15 December 2015

MSP urges Young’s and Sainsbury’s to think again at Christmas

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today called on Young’s Seafood and Sainsbury’s to reconsider the decisions they have made which have led to hundreds of jobs being under threat at Young’s Fraserburgh plant. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“Staff at Fraserburgh are the ones who are being hit hardest by these commercial decisions. It is time that management at Young’s and Sainsbury’s both realised the impact the loss of contracts or relocation of work can have on hard-working families, and reconsidered the decisions which have been made. 

“Young’s, having lost the salmon contract with Sainsbury’s, then made the internal decision to end whitefish processing at Fraserburgh, despite not having lost any whitefish contracts, and seemingly regardless of the fact that this would leave hundreds more staff out of work in the North East town. 

“Sainsbury’s have continued to experience problems with their salmon supply since switching from Young’s to an alternative processor. Surely now is the time to rethink their contract options, and look at a dual contract to save jobs in Fraserburgh and secure a reliable supply of Scottish salmon. 

“Young’s staff and their families have not had much to smile about recently, and they have been acutely aware of the lack of priority given to saving their jobs. 

“It would be the best Christmas gift possible if Young’s and Sainsbury’s could take a hard look at the effect of their decisions, and give some hope to those skilled and hard-working staff facing a festive season with the fear of redundancy in the New Year.”

14 December 2015

New Chief Constable must address NE concerns - Macdonald

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today wrote to the new Police Scotland Chief Constable, Phil Gormley, to seek a meeting about the pressure facing control room and service centre staff over the festive season.

Lewis Macdonald said today: 

“Call handling staff have been living with the threat of redundancy for many months. 

“It is no surprise that many have left, but it means even more pressure on those who are still there.

“That pressure will become severe as we approach Christmas and New Year, with no sign of extra staff being recruited to help out in the short term.  

“That is why I have written to Chief Constable Phil Gormley to bring this issue to his attention, and to ask for an urgent meeting to discuss what can be done about it.”

Macdonald condemns overspend on failed NHS 24 project

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today condemned the Scottish Government for a £42m overspend on the project to install a new IT system at NHS 24 – an IT system which failed on the same day it was launched in October and which is still not operational.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“This is a significant overspend on a new IT system which is still not being used by NHS 24.

“Staff were forced to resort to using pencil and paper to handle calls after the new system failed on its launch day, and since that time they have been using the old IT system to deal with enquiries. 

“Questions need to be asked about the spiralling cost of this project, and how much more is likely to be spent on resolving the on-going issues with the new IT system. Was a brand new system even required, or could improvements have been made to the existing IT system at a fraction of the cost?

“This is turning out to be a hugely expensive white elephant for SNP Ministers at a time when health budgets in the North East and across the country are being pushed to breaking point. That £42m could pay for thousands of nurses, instead of paying for the failures of IT consultants hired by the Scottish Government.”

Macdonald calls for update on Stonehaven dialysis progress

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today called on NHS Grampian to go public with its timetable for building a new renal dialysis unit in Stonehaven, now that campaigners have raised almost £1million. 

Fundraisers in Stonehaven, including the local Rotary Club, patients and staff, have managed to raise the £950,000 needed to build the new unit and fit it out with beds, dialysis machines and other essential equipment. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“The campaigners who have been fighting to have a new dialysis unit built in Stonehaven have lived up to their end of the bargain, raising an incredible amount of money for the capital expenditure on a major project. 

“Now it is the turn of NHS Grampian to ensure that there are no delays to this important scheme, which could see the travelling and treatment time for kidney patients in the Mearns cut by several hours each week. 

“That is why I have called on the Chief Executive of NHS Grampian, Malcolm Wright, to publish a timetable for this project as soon as possible. 

“Now that Stonehaven fundraisers have done the hard work, and raised almost a million pounds, they shouldn’t be made to wait any longer than necessary for their new dialysis unit.” 

12 December 2015

Campaign to save control rooms continues, says MSP

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today praised Unison members out campaigning to save jobs at the Aberdeen control room and service centre for their commitment to protecting policing services in Grampian. 

Lewis Macdonald joined campaigners collecting signatures for a petition to save local services on St Nicholas Street in Aberdeen.

Lewis Macdonald said:

“I was delighted to support trade union members so committed to save local jobs and services and collecting support from so many local people out doing their Christmas shopping. 

“These services really matter to the public in the North East and of course the jobs matter to the people doing them as well. 

“It was particularly good that this campaign is supported by colleagues from control rooms in Dundee and elsewhere in Scotland, because everyone in the police service knows that if these closures happen they will have knock-on impact on the service right across the country. 

“The campaign to save these centres will go on up to the election and beyond, and I would like to thank everyone who signed the petition today.”

11 December 2015

Macdonald pledges support for Age Scotland campaign

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has pledged his support to Age Scotland’s campaign to tackle loneliness among older people this Christmas. 

Figures released by Age Scotland as part of its campaign ‘No-one should have no- one at Christmas’ show that 40,000 older people will spend Christmas Day alone, while 1 in 10 feel lonely most or all of the time.  

Lewis Macdonald said:

“It’s very sad to think that there are older people in our communities who will be alone this Christmas, and who have no-one to share these special occasions. Age Scotland is trying to change this: help them to help an older person this festive season and support its ‘No one should have no one at Christmas’ campaign. 

The effect of loneliness can be damaging to the health of older people, and Age Scotland is encouraging everyone to recognise the risks of loneliness and reach out to their older family members, friends and neighbours.

“Anyone who finds themselves alone this Christmas can always contact Silver Line Scotland, a free, 24-hour service, providing information, advice and friendship.”

As the festive season approaches Age Scotland is calling on people to remember those facing Christmas alone and help make a difference to older people’s lives by donating £5 today and texting ‘LONE15 £5’ to 700701 to help an older person receive vital benefits advice to help with money worries.  The Charity is also asking everyone to check in on older neighbours, relatives and friends, and take part in our online campaign to raise awareness of the issue on social media.  

To help Age Scotland support lonely older people, and to find out how to help by donating, volunteering or signing its petition calling on Government to take action, go to:  www.agescotland.org.uk. 

Alternatively, anyone who is alone this Christmas can give Silver Line Scotland a call.  It’s free and an adviser will be happy to talk 24 hours a day - just call 0800 4 70 80 90.

10 December 2015

Macdonald calls for NE to respond to Network Rail consultation

Local Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today called on North east residents to respond to Network Rail’s consultation on its Scotland Route Study, published today, which puts forward a series of proposals which will improve journey times between Aberdeen and the Central Belt. 

The report identifies the stretch of single track near Montrose as a major problem for all journeys between the North East and the destinations further south. If that is solved, phased electrification between Aberdeen and the Central Belt could become a real possibility for the 2020s.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“Anyone who travels regularly between Aberdeen and the Central Belt will welcome the recognition by Network Rail that the stretch of single track at Montrose is a major problem. 

“These basic improvements must be made to allow electrification of the line between Aberdeen and Edinburgh to improve journey times travelling north and south. 

“The proposals published today are part of a consultation that will shape the way Scotland’s railways develop – and which will influence those with responsibility for making long-term funding decisions. 

 

“I would encourage people across the North East to respond to the consultation with options to improve rail travel between Aberdeen and the Central Belt, and between Aberdeen and Inverness, to make sure that the region doesn’t miss out when final decisions are being made.”

AECC decision good news for Aberdeen - Macdonald

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has welcomed the decision by Aberdeen City Council’s Planning Development Management Committee to approve plans for a new Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre at the former Rowett Research Institute site in Bucksburn.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“The current AECC has been a great asset for the city, but it will not allow Aberdeen to compete in the 2020s and beyond 

“The approval of plans for a new exhibition and conference centre is good news for Aberdeen, and will mean that the city can continue to host Europe’s biggest energy events, as well as bigger and better acts on stage.

“This is welcome news for Aberdeen and the North East, and I look forward to work starting on this important new project.”

8 December 2015

Designated Place “adds value” to Purple Flag bid - Macdonald

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today called on NHS Grampian and Police Scotland to reconsider their plans to withdraw funding from Aberdeen’s Designated Place in March 2016, as the service “adds value” to the city’s current bid to renew its Purple Flag status. 

Judges are currently visiting Aberdeen to assess Aberdeen Inspired’s bid to renew its Purple Flag status, which recognises a commitment to a safe and secure night time experience, and the Designated Place at Albyn House can play a huge part in that process. 

The Designated Place, run by Alcohol Support Ltd, provides a safe alternative to custody cells or A&E for those found drunk and incapable on the city’s streets. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“The Designated Place is a unique service in Scotland, allowing police to get on with the job of policing the streets, and A&E staff to focus on looking after those facing real medical emergencies.

“In the month when Aberdeen is being judged on its efforts to renew its Purple Flag status, it is disappointing for the city that a project which adds value to the bid is having its funding withdrawn.  

“If NHS Grampian and Police Scotland are unable or unwilling to reconsider their decision, then perhaps it is time the Scottish Government looked into what action it can take to protect the Designated Place service. After all, the First Minister was extremely supportive of the aims of the Designated Place in her former role as Cabinet Secretary for Health.

“This is a project which has enormous value to the people of Aberdeen, and it should not be allowed to fall by the wayside because of restrictions on the budgets of Police Scotland and NHS Grampian.”

Macdonald backs Warm Homes Act for NE families

Scottish Labour plans for a Warms Homes Act will protect the poorest families in the North East from the worst effects of our winter climate, North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald said today. 

Nearly 1 million households in Scotland live in fuel poverty, including many in Aberdeen and the North East.

Labour’s proposed Warm Homes Act will overhaul planning and building regulations so Scots can take advantage of home-grown sustainable heating technologies, and place a duty on landlords to improve properties and address fuel poverty.

Lewis Macdonald said:

“It is a national disgrace that in modern day Scotland so many of our low income families are struggling with energy bills despite being in work. 

“Many families in Aberdeen and the North East live in fuel poverty and in the coldest climate in the country, and that’s why I want to see action. 

“Scottish Labour will introduce a Warm Homes Act which will overhaul regulations and get Scotland ready for an energy efficiency revolution so that no one has to live in a home which they can’t afford to heat.

“This is a hat trick for a better Scotland. A Warm Homes Act will create jobs, tackle fuel poverty and mean we live up to our aspirations to be a world leader in tackling climate change.”

7 December 2015

MSP questions “independent assurance” on police control rooms

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has called on HM Inspector of Constabulary for Scotland, Derek Penman, to clarify the details of the “independent assurance” he has called for before Aberdeen’s police control room and 101 service centre can be closed. 

In his recent report on call handling, Mr Penman stated that Police Scotland’s new plans, which include the creation of a “virtual control room” in the Central Belt must be approved by the Scottish Police Authority and receive “independent assurance” that the new system will work effectively. Only then can plans to close the Aberdeen control room and service centre and the other surviving control room in Inverness go ahead. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“Mr Penman has been very clear about the need for independent scrutiny of Police Scotland’s new call handling system before any planned closures can go ahead. 

“His recent report on call handling requires independent assurance, and he robustly repeated that call when he gave evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Sub Committee on Policing on 3rd December. 

“However, we have yet to hear what format this independent scrutiny will take, or indeed who the independent experts will be. It is vital that whoever carries out the independent scrutiny has a clear mandate and the power to make the right decisions for the safety of our communities. 

“That is why I have today written to Derek Penman to ask him to clarify the details of the independent scrutiny his report requires. 

“There has been too much misinformation and uncertainty already surrounding Police Scotland’s control room closure plans, and it is important that HMICS is clear about this essential aspect of his report.”

4 December 2015

Time for urgent action on Fraserburgh jobs, says MSP

The Scottish Government needs to show the same sense of urgency on fish processing jobs on Fraserburgh, as steel jobs in Lanarkshire, North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald said today. 

Meeting staff representatives at the factory today, along with USDAW officer Kate Cumming, Lewis Macdonald heard concerns of the workforce that their plight has been forgotten on the run up to Christmas. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

I wanted to brief the workforce on questions I have asked in parliament and elsewhere about the salmon contract with Sainsbury's which Young's lost earlier this year.

What I heard from Young's staff was a huge sense of frustration that neither the Scottish Government nor any of the commercial companies involved seems to be focused on saving jobs and protecting people's livelihood, with 300 fish processors set to lose their jobs over the next six months. 

Just over half of these jobs are being lost as a direct result of the salmon contract gong elsewhere, but 130 jobs are set to be lost because of a commercial decision by Young's to transfer whitefish processing from Fraserburgh to Grimsby. 

At a time when every effort is rightly being made to save the Scottish steel industry the workers in Fraserburgh wonder why their case has been forgotten. While the steel jobs taskforce is meeting every fortnight, the Fraserburgh taskforce hasn't met for two months and isn't planning to meet for two months more.

I will be raising my concerns urgently with the Scottish Government that they need to talk directly with both Young's and Sainsbury's at the highest level in order to protect as many of these jobs as possible. 

Speaking on behalf of the workforce, USDAW shop steward Alex Moonan said:

We welcome the fact that Lewis Macdonald is raising these issues. It is time that jobs here in the North East are taken just as seriously as jobs elsewhere in Scotland. 

3 December 2015

No visit, but new hope for Tilly Community Hub - Macdonald

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today regretted that Nicola Sturgeon has said she is too busy to accept his invitation to visit Tillydrone, but welcomed a commitment from the First Minister to consider a new bid for funding to build a new Community Hub for the area. 

Aberdeen City Council’s initial bid for financial support from the Scottish Government’s Regeneration Capital Grant Fund was rejected, prompting Lewis Macdonald to invite Nicola Sturgeon to visit Tillydrone to hear from local people about the community’s needs.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“It is disappointing that the First Minister will not visit Tillydrone again, after she promised Scottish Government support the last time she visited at my request.

“However, her promise to consider a new bid for funding for the Tillydrone Community Hub could yet be good news for the area. 

“Aberdeen City Council can now submit a revised application early, to allow feedback from Scottish Government officials to be incorporated into the final bid. 

“The First Minister may have declined my invitation to visit Tillydrone, but she can still play a part in supporting the area by backing this vital funding bid.”

Lewis Macdonald supporting Small Business Saturday

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald will be supporting the annual Small Business Saturday event by visiting independent retailers in Aberdeen’s West End on Saturday 5th December. 

Small Business Saturday has been taking place on the first Saturday of December since 2013. The grassroots campaign aims to support, inspire and promote small businesses, and encourages consumers to “shop local” and see what small businesses in their area have to offer. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“I have supported Small Business Saturday UK since its launch in 2013. It is a fantastic opportunity for small businesses across the city to put themselves on the map, and for shoppers to experience something more than High Street brands. 

“The West End is just one of Aberdeen’s many vibrant shopping areas, home to dozens of small business offering everything from cafés and restaurants to clothing stores and galleries. 

“With Christmas just around the corner, now is the perfect time for Aberdeen’s shoppers to see what small businesses have to offer.”

Maura Tighe, owner of Gallery Heinzel on Thistle Street, has organised a “Find Westie the Reindeer” gift trail, to encourage shoppers to visit stores they might not usually go into. Shoppers who follow the snowflake trail and “Find Westie” will be rewarded with treats and discounts for West End stores.

Maura Tighe said today:

“I am looking forward to another successful Small Business Saturday for the independent retailers in the West End and across Aberdeen. 

“All the small businesses in the area hope that Christmas shoppers will take a detour from Union Street and the shopping centres to try out independent shops and cafes.

“I am delighted that Lewis Macdonald is supporting Small Business Saturday, and I look forward to welcoming him to the West End on Saturday 5th December.”

2 December 2015

New Chief Constable urged to look again at police control rooms

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald is urging the new Chief Constable of Police Scotland, Philip Gormley, to take the opportunity of a fresh start to look again at plans to close the Aberdeen control room and the 101 service centre in Bucksburn.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“This is the beginning of a new era for Police Scotland, and no doubt Mr Gormley will want to make changes and stamp his authority on the organisation. 

“This is an ideal opportunity for the new Chief Constable to review plans to close the 999 control room in Aberdeen and the 101 service centre in Bucksburn, which led the way not just in Scotland but across the UK.

“Six hundred people have already signed a petition calling for these closure plans to be abandoned and HMICS raised concerns about the way the process has been carried out. I am sure the new Chief Constable will want to be briefed about the closure plans and their impact on local policing as soon as possible. 

“I will be writing to Mr Gormley to highlight the concerns of North East residents, and to urge him to reconsider these damaging plans.”

Macdonald welcomes support for Aberdeen City Region Deal

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today welcomed evidence to the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee of wide support for the Aberdeen City Region Deal. 

At today’s committee Lewis Macdonald asked for the views of Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce, industry body Oil & Gas UK and new regulator the Oil & Gas Authority. 

James Bream, Research and Policy Director at Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce, made clear in his evidence the importance of the Aberdeen City region Deal to the future of the North East economy. 

Chief Executive of industry body Oil & Gas UK Deirdre Michie also stressed the importance of infrastructure and connectivity, not just to the regional economy but to the oil and gas industry as a whole, and the future prospects of the sector across the UK. 

Andy Samuel, Chief Executive of the Oil & Gas Authority, also expressed the regulator’s support, given the importance of the City Region Deal to the industry and its supply chain.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“We heard very important evidence about the current position and future prospects of the oil and gas industry in the North East and across Scotland.

“There are clearly some key issues for both industry and government to address, but particularly support for the Aberdeen City Region Deal. 

“This is important not just to the Aberdeen City region, but to the whole of Scotland and the UK. When the industry itself and its regulator both agree, then the Scottish Government and the Treasury should pay attention.”

30 November 2015

MSP supports Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Week

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald is supporting international Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Week 1-7 December, highlighting the impact of living with Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis, the main causes of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). These are unpredictable diseases that affect more than 300,000 people in the UK and as many as 26,000 people in Scotland - a higher incidence rate than anywhere else in the UK.

National patient charity, Crohn’s and Colitis UK, have joined other international groups to raise the awareness and understanding of these complex, life-long and potentially life-threatening conditions.  

Lewis Macdonald said:

“There will be hundreds of people in Aberdeen and the North East who suffer from these hidden, often misunderstood and dreadful conditions. That is why it is important to support events that will raise awareness of Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis.

“It is particularly important that we try and reach out to those people who may be feeling isolated or coping badly with their health because of their conditions. Increasing awareness and educating people about the impact of these diseases can help tackle that isolation.”

As part of the Awareness Week, Crohn’s and Colitis UK are asking people to share their 7 days of IBD and other activity through digital and social media to highlight what it is like to live with this condition every day. To find out more about the awareness week and all the activities please visit www.crohnsandcolitis.org.uk/awarenessweek 

27 November 2015

Police staff consultations “must be repeated” - Macdonald

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today called on Police Scotland to ensure that any consultations which have already taken place with Aberdeen police staff over their future job options are repeated next year when they will have all the information they need to make a decision on their future. 

One-to-one consultations are currently proceeding with police staff based at the 101 service centre in Bucksburn, despite the fact that the closure plan has been halted and will not proceed until staffing is up to standard at other service centres. In addition, independent assurances that the Central Belt facilities would be able to cope will be needed before Police Scotland can proceed with the Aberdeen closure. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“Police Scotland are asking police staff working in Bucksburn to make a vitally important decision on the future of their employment without having all the facts at their fingertips. 

“No-one is able to say when the Aberdeen service centre is now slated for closure or even when they expect to submit their revised plans for independent scrutiny, as required by HMICS. 

“It is unreasonable to expect anyone to accept a voluntary redundancy or early retirement package, or an offer of alternative employment without even knowing when this offer would begin. 

“Staff consultations have to be meaningful to be effective, and this is simply not the case with the current round of talks. These consultations must be repeated in 2016, when staffing levels at other centres are up to standards and once HMICS has the independent assurance it needs to proceed. 

“It is unfair and unrealistic to expect police staff to make decisions that will impact on their whole family without all the necessary information. That is why I have written to Assistant Chief Constable Val Thomson, the officer in charge of Contact, Command and Control, to ensure that these consultations are repeated at a more appropriate time. 

Macdonald supports 16 Days of Action in Aberdeen

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has tabled a parliamentary motion in support of the events organised by Aberdeen Violence Against Women Partnership and others as part of the 16 Days of Action campaign. 

16 Days of Action, which started on 25th November, is an annual event which started in 1991, and aims to eliminate violence against women and girls. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“This is an excellent campaign which offers hope to thousands of women across the world. 

“But we also have to remember those women here in Aberdeen and the North East who are affected by domestic violence, sexual harassment or intimidation in the workplace. 

“The events organised by Aberdeen Violence Against Women Partnership, RAS Aberdeen, Grampian Women’s Aid and Aberdeen City Council will help raise awareness about these issues, and may also help some of those women affected to seek help. 

“That is why I am happy to table a parliamentary motion in support of this worthwhile campaign.”

MSP criticises Bank for pulling out of city neighbourhoods

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today criticised Lloyds Banking Group for its plans to close the Bank of Scotland branches serving Rosemount and Old Aberdeen.

The Aberdeen Mile End and Aberdeen University branches are to close, ending long periods of service to their local neighbourhoods in April next year. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“This is disappointing news for those who prefer to do their banking in a local branch rather than online. 

“The Bank of Scotland has continued to provide that local service in both Rosemount and Old Aberdeen, after others have gone, so it is disappointing that they have now abandoned that approach.

“After the scandals which engulfed the banking sector over recent years, a return to valuing local contacts with local customers would seem like a better way forward than further centralisation and local closures.

“I will now ask Lloyds Banking Group how they engaged with the local communities in Rosemount and Old Aberdeen before these decisions were taken. Their customers deserve no less.”

26 November 2015

Macdonald presses for urgent action over Young’s job losses

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today secured a promise from Finance Secretary John Swinney to look into reports that Scottish salmon for Sainsbury's is now being processed in Poland, after the supermarket chain ended its contract with Young's in Fraserburgh.

Lewis Macdonald raised reports in Parliament today that the company which won the contract at Fraserburgh's expense, Marine Harvest, has failed to meet the terms of the contract from its Scottish plant and is instead processing salmon in Poland and elsewhere.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

"John Swinney confirmed today that hundreds of jobs in Fraserburgh are set to go in the new year, while Sainsbury's are exporting their jobs.

"I called today for Ministers to meet with Sainsbury's urgently, and to press them to source quality Scottish produce in Fraserburgh rather than overseas.

"The Scottish Government supports a food and drink strategy which emphasises quality and sourcing in Scotland. If Ministers are serious about that, they need to stand up for workers here in Scotland and demand that Sainsbury's do the same."

Macdonald to raise concerns over progress at Young’s

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald will be asking a parliamentary question later today on the job losses at Young’s fish processing plant in Fraserburgh. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“Many jobs have already been lost at Young’s and others are still under threat. This is a crisis which has hit the community of Fraserburgh hard in recent months. 

“I will be taking this opportunity to press Ministers about what progress has been made by the Scottish Government and its agencies since the inaugural meeting of the Fraserburgh Taskforce on 2nd October. 

“Scottish Ministers need to address these concerns, which is why I will be raising the issue in Parliament later today.”

19 November 2015

Macdonald congratulates North East pharmacy award winners

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today congratulated North East winners in the 2015 Scottish Pharmacy Awards.

Five out of the ten honours were awarded to individuals or teams from the North East – the first times in the Scottish Pharmacy Awards’ 13-year history that so many of the accolades have gone to one region. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“The success of NHS Grampian pharmacists, along with students and staff at Robert Gordon University, is something for the North East to celebrate. 

“Pharmacists play a crucial role in supporting GP surgeries and the work of hospital doctors and consultants, and it is clear from these awards that NHS Grampian is lucky enough to have recruited some of the best pharmacists in the country. The awards given to RGU students and staff are also a positive sign for the future of pharmacy services in the North East.

 “The hard work of pharmacists across the North East deserves to be recognised. That is why I have tabled a parliamentary motion to recognise the record-breaking achievement of NHS Grampian and RGU in this year’s awards.”

12 November 2015

Macdonald seeks assurances over fire engine repairs

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has called on the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service to offer assurances to North East communities that plans to close the vehicle workshop in Aberdeen will not lead to a reduction in the quality of repairs. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“The decision by the SFRS to locate the vehicle repair workshop for the whole of the North East to Dundee is disappointing, and will undoubtedly lead to job losses in Aberdeen. 

“However, concerns have also been raised about the impact this decision will have on the quality of the repairs carried out, and the time in which it will take to get vehicles back on the road.

“Will the SFRS transport broken-down fire engines along the A90 to Dundee, or will they look to use local garages as and when required? And if that is the case, what assurances do the public have that these repairs will be up to scratch?

“It is vital that our region’s fire engines remain on the road, and that communities can depend on them to be there when needed.

“These doubts are a result of the SFRS decision to locate the North East workshop in Dundee. They must now provide reassurance that services will not suffer as a result.”

11 November 2015

Aberdeen tenants hit hardest by SNP housing failures - Macdonald

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today called on the Scottish Government to do more to tackle the housing shortage in the North East, as new figures show that Aberdeen remains the most expensive place to rent a home. 

The downturn in the oil industry means average rents in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire have fallen by 2.7% over the last year, but the cost of renting a two-bedroom property is still the highest in Scotland at £874. The same property in the Lothians would cost £829 and in Glasgow just £668. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“It is clear that Aberdeen is being hit hard by the housing shortage. Rents are still well beyond the means of most families, and the high cost of living is creating a public sector recruitment crisis. 

“Aberdeen City Council has committed to build 2,000 affordable homes by 2017 and that commitment must now be matched by Scottish Government action.

“NHS Grampian, Aberdeen City Council and Police Scotland are all struggling to attract and retain staff, and this situation will not improve until rental costs start to fall to more manageable levels. 

“Unless the SNP takes action to address high rental costs, including the possibility of an Aberdeen weighting, this recruitment crisis is only going to get worse.”

10 November 2015

“Disappointing” response to HMICS call handling report - Macdonald

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today criticised the Cabinet Secretary of Justice’s response to the HM Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland report on call handling, after he failed to respond to questions about the future of the Aberdeen control room and service centre.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“The HMICS report clearly calls for independent assurances before any further actions are taken with regard to call handling in Scotland. 

“Yet the Cabinet Secretary rejected any suggestion that this independent scrutiny might conclude that the best way forward for police call handling is to keep open the two facilities in Aberdeen. 

“It appears that the future of Aberdeen’s control room and service centre has already been decided, and that the independent scrutiny called for by HMICS will end up as nothing more than a box ticking exercise, before Police Scotland and SNP Ministers continue with the plans as they now stand. 

“It is disappointing that the Cabinet Secretary refused to address these concerns when I questioned him in the Scottish Parliament today.

“This report could have been an opportunity to make real improvements in the way Police Scotland manage their call handling procedure.  Instead, SNP Ministers are determined to continue with business as usual, regardless of the impact this will have on local policing in the North East.”

Macdonald welcomes independent scrutiny of call centre closure plan

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has welcomed the report from HM Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland which has identified serious failings in Police Scotland’s plans to close control rooms and service centres across the North and North-East.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“There is clearly no confidence in the way that Police Scotland has managed changes to the call handling system from the centre. The call from HM Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland for “independent assurance” before any further stages of the call handling project go ahead demonstrates Police Scotland’s failings in this area. 

“This will come as no surprise to the staff at the 999 control room at Queen Street and the 101 service centre in Bucksburn who have experienced these failings first hand.

“Perhaps the most striking aspect of the report for North East communities is that the gazetteer used by call handlers to look up addresses “does not fully meet operational requirements”. If the IT system used to identify locations is not fit for purpose then the local knowledge of operators becomes even more important.

“This issue has to be resolved before Police Scotland can even consider closing the Aberdeen control room and service centre, at which point calls made in the North East would be answered miles away by operators in the Central Belt. 

“The Scottish Government and Police Scotland must accept these recommendations in full. Anything less will further undermine public confidence in policing in our local communities.”

9 November 2015

Macdonald supports “Calls for Cancer” campaign

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has added his support to Cancer Research UK’s ‘Calls for Cancer’ campaign, which sets out what political parties should do to ensure cancer patients are diagnosed earlier and have greater access to the best possible treatments.

Lewis Macdonald said:

“Every year nearly 3,000 people are diagnosed with cancer in the NHS Grampian region, and while survival rates are improving there are still too many people dying from this terrible group of conditions. 

“The “Calls for Cancer” campaign highlights the importance of early diagnosis, and NHS Grampian must be given the financial support it needs to improve its waiting times for diagnostic tests. At the moment, only 77.6% of patients in the North East are seen within six weeks, compared to the Scottish average of 91.1%

“The political will to beat the disease must match the pace of progress in research.  That’s why I’m backing Cancer Research UK’s campaign, to help bring forward the day when no-one’s life is cut short by cancer.”#

Macdonald signs Marie Curie pledges on palliative care

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has signed up to Marie Curie’s pledges on palliative care, calling for all patients with a terminal illness to be given access to the services they need. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“Easy access to good quality palliative care is quite simply essential for those patients facing a terminal illness. 

“Figures from Marie Curie suggest that in Scotland 11,000 people a year miss out on the palliative care they need, often because they do not know what help is available or whom to ask for help. 

“I am happy to sign up to Marie Curie’s three pledges, to support constituents across the North East in getting access to the care and support they and their families need when faced with terminal illness. 

“Everyone should have the right to palliative care if and when they need it, and I am delighted to support any efforts to help achieve that aim.” 

4 November 2015

Macdonald welcomes Scottish Labour Tax Credits plan

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has welcomed the news that nearly 10,000 working families in Aberdeen will be protected from Tory cuts to Tax Credits by Scottish Labour. 

Party leader Kezia Dugdale announced in her keynote speech to Scottish Labour conference in Perth last week that she will use the new powers coming to the Scottish Parliament under the Scotland Bill to reverse the impact of the Tax Credit cuts, paying for the move by cancelling planned SNP tax cuts on air passenger duty and Tory cuts for higher rate tax payers. 

Lewis Macdonald said today: 

“Tax credits work. They make work pay for families in Aberdeen, the North East and across Scotland. They lifted hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty, and they allow families to aspire to more than just making it to the end of the month. 

“That’s why the Labour Government introduced them in the first place and why Scottish Labour would use the powers coming to the Scottish Parliament to reverse the Tories plans to cut them. 

“Once again, SNP Ministers are failing to act. They would rather complain about the powers they don’t have than use the ones they have been given – powers which would allow them to reverse the damage done to working families by this Tory government. 

“This is about what we stand for and who we stand with. Labour will use the Scotland Bill to put the needs of working families first.”

28 October 2015

North East police merger decision “disappointing” - Macdonald

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has called on Police Scotland to maintain its commitment to policing in Aberdeen following the news that the two North East Divisions are to merge.

Division A, covering Aberdeen City, will merge with Division B, Aberdeenshire and Moray from 1 January 2016, despite concerns about the impact such a move will have on local policing. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“Police Scotland’s decision to merge the two North East Divisions is a disappointing one, and there is hard work ahead for local officers to ensure that policing standards are not affected. 

“The commitment to maintain the North East headquarters at the Queen Street site in Aberdeen for the immediate future is to be welcomed. As Scotland’s third city, it would be unthinkable for Aberdeen to be without a police headquarters of its own.

“Clearly, decisions will need to be made about the relocation of the North East headquarters when the lease on the current Queen Street site comes to an end, and I will continue to engage with Police Scotland in an effort to ensure that a strong presence in maintained in the city. 

“I will also continue to engage with senior officers to ensure that the best practices currently employed by local officers are not lost as a result of the merger. Aberdeen and Grampian have an excellent reputation for a community policing culture, which must be strengthened and not weakened by this merger.

“The North East has been hit hard by Police Scotland cuts imposed by SNP Ministers. Senior officers need to work with staff and the public to ensure that this is decision does not lead to any deterioration in the quality of policing services.”

27 October 2015

Macdonald invites First Minister to return to Tillydrone

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today invited First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to visit Aberdeen and meet the community in Tillydrone again, after the Scottish Government refused to reconsider an application for funding for the new Tillydrone Community Hub. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“It is disappointing that the First Minister has not agreed to reconsider the Tillydrone Community Hub funding application. 

“Nicola Sturgeon visited Tillydrone at my invitation in August 2013, when she promised the community that the Scottish Government would make up for the impact of the Third Don Crossing, a project visited on Tillydrone by councillors from the SNP and other parties.  

“Unfortunately, we have seen very little action from SNP Ministers to back up this promise. Not only has the recent application for financial support to build the Tillydrone Community Hub been rejected, but in 2013 the Scottish Government also failed to support the Tillydrone Development Trust’s plans for the Wallace Tower.

“Scottish Government support for projects like SHMU is, of course, to be welcomed, and will have a positive impact on the Tillydrone community, as well as others across the city. However, this was a chance for the SNP to back community infrastructure in Tillydrone itself, and they have failed to take it. 

“That is why I will be writing again to Nicola Sturgeon, to ask her to return to Tillydrone before the end of the year. 

“The First Minister made promises to the people of Tillydrone regarding support for the local community, and mitigating the impact of the Third Don Crossing. It is only right that she should return to answer questions on how she now intends those promises will be kept.”

13 October 2015

Too many Aberdonians earning less than Living Wage - Macdonald

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today spoke out after new figures from the Office of National Statistics revealed that 25,000 people in Aberdeen earn less than the living wage.   

The Scottish Labour MSP highlighted the failure of the SNP Government in Edinburgh to back Labour plans to extend the living wage to more workers in low paid jobs like cleaning, caring and hospitality.   

He also branded Tory plans to cut Tax Credits as the ‘new poll tax’ that would leave thousands of families in Scotland worse off.   

Lewis Macdonald said today:  

“Too many people in Aberdeen still do not get a fair day's pay for a fair day's work, and incomes are only going to be hit harder when the Chancellor's plans to slash tax credits hit thousands of families across Aberdeen and the North East.

“Independent experts say these changes will leave the poorest families in Scotland more than £500 worse off.   

“Aberdeen is still perceived as an area where it is easy to find a job, but the oil and gas crisis has had a major impact on employment in and around the city. Unfortunately, the cost of living remains high in the North East, and workers on less than the living wage really struggle to make ends meet.

 "These figures show how wrong it was for the SNP and the Tories to vote against Labour's plans to extend the real living wage to more low paid jobs like cleaners, carers and hospitality staff when we put forward amendments in the Scottish Parliament last year to make the living wage part of public sector contracts."   

5 October 2015

Scottish Parliament to debate Stonehaven dialysis unit

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has secured a Scottish Parliament debate in support of efforts to build a new dialysis unit at the Kincardine Community Hospital in Stonehaven. 

The Members’ Business debate on the local fundraising campaign will take place on Wednesday 7th October at 5pm. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“I am delighted to have the opportunity at Holyrood to praise the support efforts of fundraisers, patients and NHS staff to ensure that a new dialysis unit is built in Stonehaven. 

“The new unit will make a huge difference to the lives of kidney patients who live to the south of the city. 

“Fundraising efforts by the Stonehaven Rotary Club and other local campaigners have already raised well over £700,000, and the support of NHS Grampian staff and management has been key in ensuring that the project goes forward. 

“It is only right that this excellent local campaign is given the recognition it deserves, which is why I am delighted to offer my support through this week’s parliamentary debate.”

2 October 2015

North East policing faces serious staffing crisis - Macdonald

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has called on SNP Ministers to take action over the results of a recent poll of Police Scotland staff and officers which shows a third of the workforce is intending to leave in the next three years. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“Policing services have been decimated in the North East since the creation of Police Scotland in 2013, with the closure of police station counters and the plans to close the 999 control room at Queen Street and the 101 service centre at Bucksburn.

“The results of this survey will come as no surprise to police officers and police staff based in the North and North East of Scotland. Morale is extremely low among the workforce, and there is no sign of any improvement on the horizon. 

“It is clear that decisions made by Police Scotland have led to this situation, and unless SNP Ministers are willing to take action then we face a staffing crisis in our local police services in the very near future. 

“We have already seen two tragedies, currently under investigation, which may turn out to have happened because of under-staffing. This situation will only get worse if the workforce is cut by a third over the next three years.

“Working for the police should be a job to be proud of and SNP Ministers must ensure no further damage is done to this reputation, and to the morale of those currently working for Police Scotland.”

16 September 2015

No reassurance for Aberdeen from Justice Minister – Macdonald

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today condemned the Scottish Government for failing to provide any financial support to the police service centre and control room in Aberdeen in the wake of the recommendations on call handling from HM Inspector of Constabulary Scotland. 

The HMICS report noted that the “pressure of call demand on remaining staff (in Aberdeen) is unacceptably high” and that “the current practice of diverting unanswered calls (to Govan, Bilston Glen and Motherwell) creates additional risk”. In addition, HMICS called for Police Scotland to develop contingency planning for the “retention of service centre staff” in Aberdeen and elsewhere.

Speaking after asking a parliamentary question on the issue, Lewis Macdonald said today:

“Michael Matheson’s answer today suggests that he is not planning to spend the £1.4 million of extra funding announced to meet the HMICS recommendations in Aberdeen, despite the serious problems identified by HMICS in his report on call handling in the North East. 

“The only promise I heard today was that Aberdeen will miss out on the staff recruitment recommended by HMICS, so that more staff can be hired for control rooms in the Central Belt.

“In fact, the Justice Secretary’s only crumb of comfort for staff at Queen Street and Bucksburn is that if recruitment elsewhere does not  happen at the required pace, then the Aberdeen facilities may remain open for a little longer than planned. 

“The SNP has ignored the wishes of the people across the North East on the closure of the police control room and service centre. Scottish Labour will give those same people the chance to have their say in a public meeting next week on the progress of the single police force. 

“The Shadow Justice Secretary, Graeme Pearson MSP will be in Aberdeen as part of his roadshow to gather views on Police Scotland, and I would encourage all those who have experienced problems as a result of cuts to services to attend and contribute.”

15 September 2015

Macdonald calls for clarity on call centre job losses

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald will use a parliamentary question on Wednesday 16th September to ask SNP Ministers to confirm the scale of job losses at the 101 police service centre in Bucksburn, and the 999 police control room on Queen Street.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“I understand that nearly half of the highly trained call-takers working in the Bucksburn service centre have left since closure plans were confirmed at the beginning of last year. 

“Staff at both the control room and the service centre have been taking redundancy packages or leaving to take new jobs, and nobody can blame them for doing so. Yet Police Scotland have done nothing to recruit new staff, increasing the pressure on those who have stayed at their posts. 

“This month’s report from HM Inspector of Constabulary Derek Penman called for recruitment at the Aberdeen service centre and the police control room to start again immediately, in order to ensure standards are maintained.

“The only way for this recruitment to be a success is for the staff to have job security; and the only way to achieve that is to reverse the closure decision and keep the police control room and service centre open. 

“SNP Ministers have presided over a significant drop in the number of well-trained civilian staff taking calls from the public in the North East. The results are both a poorer service, and more police officers taken off the front line to fill the gaps.

“For too long Michael Matheson and his colleagues have refused to address these issues. That is why I will be asking him in the Scottish Parliament tomorrow to confirm the scale of the job losses so far and to spell out what he intends to do to resolve the staff shortages for the future.”

11 September 2015

Macdonald welcomes support for City Deal
 
North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has welcomed the decision to set up an Economic Leadership Board as part of the bid for an Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire City Deal. 
 
Lewis Macdonald said today:
 
"The backing of North East businesses is vital for the success of the City Deal bid, and the support of such an eminent and committed local business leader as Sir Ian Wood is especially important.
 
"It is the local economy and local firms which will benefit if the bid is awarded, so their support in these early stages is to be welcomed.
 
"Aberdeen City Council should use the expertise of these business leaders to progress the bid and to ensure that the City Deal is delivered effectively."

Macdonald questions “retreat to the Central Belt” by DWP

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has written to Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith to raise concerns about the centralisation of complaints and enquiries on behalf of constituents in Scotland.

All complaints and enquiries from MSPs and MPs on behalf of their constituents will now be handled by one team of staff based in Glasgow. Previously, these enquiries would have been handled by the local District Office, such as the North of Scotland District Office in Inverness.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“This looks like yet another retreat to the Central Belt by a central government department.

“When issues surrounding benefits and welfare reform are making the headlines on a daily basis, it is the wrong time for the Department for Work and Pensions to centralise and scale down its complaints and enquiries service in Scotland.

“Members of the public who are ill or have a disability now face a battle just to ensure they are able to get the money they need to survive, and it is vital that MSPs are able to support their constituents when there are issues with their applications.

“Reducing the enquiries department to just one Glasgow-based team will surely lead to delays in dealing with these cases, increasing the stress and worry for the applicant who needs their benefit payment just to get by.

“That is why I have written to Iain Duncan Smith to ask why this decision was made, and whether the DWP gave any consideration to the impact it would have on the lives of ordinary people.”

Macdonald commends local collection for refugees

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has today tabled a parliamentary motion congratulating the efforts of the Aberdeen Solidarity with Refugees group and other volunteers to raise money and collect donations for refugees living in camps at Calais.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“The tremendous success of these collections has shown just how much the plight of these refugees has struck a chord with the North East public.

“Volunteers have given up their time to collect and pack the generous donations from Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire residents, and the items collected will make a real difference to the lives of refugees with winter approaching.

“It is only right that the hard work of this grassroots movement is recognised and celebrated in the Scottish Parliament.”

9 September 2015

MSP seeks answers on Aberdeen police control room future

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has called on the Scottish Government to spell out the measures it intends to take to implement the recommendations of the recent report into call handling by HM Inspector of constabulary, Derek Penman.

The report called for new staff to be recruited to replace those who’ve left Aberdeen’s 999 control room, as well as the 101 service centre in Bucksburn since the end of 2013, and for closure plans at the two facilities to be suspended.

After tabling a series of questions regarding the specific details of the HMICS recommendations, Lewis Macdonald said today:

“Derek Penman was very clear in his recommendations regarding the future of the 999 control room in Aberdeen and Bucksburn’s 101 service centre.

“There are too few staff at either facility to cope with demand, and recruitment needs to begin immediately in order to fill those vacancies. Police Scotland has been forced to make these cuts in the first place because of the draconian budget cuts imposed by SNP Ministers, so it is only right that they foot the bill to fix their mistakes.

“The Scottish Government has some serious questions to answer regarding the future of the North East’s control room and service centre. The HMICS recommendations deal with the short-term needs, but it the responsibility of Michael Matheson and his colleagues to look again at the long-term plans.
“It is clear the process has been mismanaged from the start, and the only way to guarantee that levels of service are restored is to scrap the closure plans and give highly-trained call-handling staff at Aberdeen and Bucksburn security for the future.”

8 September 2015

Macdonald calls for publication of Disclosure Scotland figures

North East Labour MSP has called on the Scottish Government to come clean about cuts in the numbers of police officers and staff working on Disclosure Scotland applications.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“Justice Secretary Michael Matheson claimed in answers to recent parliamentary questions that “this information is not held centrally”. This would suggest that SNP Ministers are not willing to admit how many police officers and staff are working on clearing applications for Disclosure Scotland, a Scottish Government agency.

“In 2012 the Scottish Government published the number of officers and staff who were working on Disclosure Scotland checks for each of the eight police forces existing at that time. Now that they have centralised the police service they have all the information in one place, but refuse to disclose the figures to Parliament.

“People are bound to ask how bad the situation has become when Michael Matheson won’t even admit he knows the answer himself.

“Delays in Disclosure Scotland checks can have serious implications for NHS and other public sector employees, as staff are often unable to take on a new job until disclosure checks have been carried out.

“Ministers must now come clean, and publish this information without delay.”

3 September 2015

Aberdeen service centre recruitment needed urgently - Macdonald

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald will today call on the Scottish Government to back an HM Inspector of Constabulary report recommendation for vacancies at the North East's 101 service centre in Bucksburn to be filled.

Recruitment was halted in January 2014 when the closure of the facility was announced by Police Scotland, and this has left both the service centre and the 999 control room desperately understaffed as staff leave to find alternative employment with a more secure future.

Speaking ahead of today’s Ministerial statement on policing, Lewis Macdonald said:

“The HMICS interim report on call handling is clear – Police Scotland have allowed staff numbers at the Bucksburn service centre and elsewhere to dwindle before putting in place an adequate alternative.

“New recruits are urgently needed to relieve the pressure on staff and to ensure that the public are able to speak to a local operator when they call to report a crime.

“Whether Police Scotland will be able to find anyone interested in a job that may only last a few months is another matter. That is why Ministers should abandon plans to close the service centre and the city’s 999 control room. It is the only way to ensure staff recruitment and in turn to guarantee that the public is getting the service it needs.

“The uncertainty surrounding the future of call handling in Scotland is affecting staff morale and damaging public confidence in the police. Decisive action must be taken to ensure that confidence is restored across Scotland, not just in the Central Belt.”

2 September 2015

Macdonald condemns SNP response to HMICS report

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today condemned Justice Secretary Michael Matheson’s response to questions about the HM Inspector of Constabulary’s interim report on call handling in Scotland.

Speaking after raising the issue of inadequate resourcing for the closure-threatened 101 service centre and 999 control room in Aberdeen, Lewis Macdonald said today:

“Michael Matheson completely misrepresented the HMICS findings in his answer to my question.

“Derek Penman, HM Inspector of Constabulary, has concluded that the plans to close service centres and control rooms across the North and North East have been under-resourced, and that this had led to pressure on staff and a loss of public confidence in police services.

“This is an interim report, and Mr Penman does not comment on the policy decision to close control rooms, only on how badly it has been done. The decision to close is the responsibility of the Scottish Government, yet Michael Matheson and his SNP colleagues seem to be happy to pass the buck for this decision to anyone but themselves.

“The only way to resolve this resourcing problem is to recruit more staff, and the only way to recruit more staff is to give prospective employees job security by scrapping the closure plans.

“Michael Matheson showed today that is he not listening to the people of Aberdeen and the North East who have said loud and clear that they want local police services retained.”

Macdonald backs Labour’s “Fit for the Future” consultation

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald is backing a major consultation for Scotland’s family doctors to tackle the crisis in Scottish general practice.

Scottish Labour has launched “Fit for the future.’ The party will contact Scottish GPs asking for their opinions on a range of ideas including: 

• Training more GPs
• Cutting down red tape for substitute GPs.
• Ensure practices notify Health Boards on unfilled posts.

The consultation document was written by Dr Richard Simpson, Labour’s Public Services Spokesperson and a former GP and psychiatrist with over 30 years experience.

Lewis Macdonald will write to local GPs in Aberdeen and the North East urging them to make submissions to the consultation, and is calling on constituents to come forward with their ideas and experiences of their community surgeries.

The move comes after a summer where the crisis in general practice has been made clear, with a £1 billion drop in investment in the past ten years, cuts to medical student numbers and GP vacancies lying unfilled.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“Labour is talking about better plans and better ideas, and we are putting them to the people who matter – family doctors themselves. We think our plans can make a real difference to general practice in Scotland, and benefit patients across the country.

“We’ve seen a range of problems across NHS Grampian, not least the closure of the Brimmond Medical Group GP surgery this month. The closure is a direct result of a shortage of doctors, and those surgeries which are due to take on Brimmond’s patients will only be able to do so if they can recruit more GPs themselves.

“Recruiting and retaining medical staff is a problem in Aberdeen and across the North East and we need to find a solution.  Scottish Labour’s “Fit for the Future” consultation will allow local GPs to feed in their experiences and their suggestions.

“The Scottish Government has made a complete and utter mess of general practice in Scotland.  It was their decision to drop the share of funding for general practice in Scotland by over £1 billion and their decision to cut funding for medical students. The result has been understaffed overstretched practices with patients’ not receiving timely care.

“However if we act now we can fix these problems. Scottish Labour are taking ideas to the Scottish medical community for our plans. It is then a matter for the SNP Government if they want to look at Scottish Labour’s positive plans, or simply continue to sit on their hands.”

Good News for Dementia sufferers in Aberdeenshire

Following the announcement that the Big Lottery Fund has awarded the Mearns and Coastal Healthy Living Network £366,470 over the next 5 years, Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has called on the Scottish Parliament to recognise and congratulate the good work done by the Mearns and Coastal Healthy Living Network in their work with older people.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“This is great news. I wholeheartedly congratulate the Mearns and Coastal Healthy Living Network for choosing to use the funds for assisting those with dementia to remain as independent as possible.

"This funding will allow older people living in Kincardine and Mearns to remain part of the community by expanding the activities already carried out by the Mearns and Coastal Healthy Living Network.

“The funding also helps to relieve the pressure on the management team as they can now include forward planning which allow them to concentrate on improving the lives of older people in the Mearns”

28 August 2015

Macdonald calls for action on young offenders

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald is calling for action by the Scottish Government to ensure HMP Grampian reaches the standards that would allow young offenders to return to the region.

The young offenders were moved over a year ago, following riots by the adult male population at the newly-opened Peterhead jail. At that time, the Scottish Prison Service said that the young offenders would be returned to the North East, where they could be nearer to family, once new procedures were put in place.

However, a recent letter from Chief Executive Colin McConnell has revealed that the SPS no longer has any short-term plans to return North East young offenders to HMP Grampian, despite this being a major part of SNP plans for a community-facing jail.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“For almost a year, young offenders from the North East and their families have been in limbo, uncertain when they would be returned to HMP Grampian.

“Now, the SPS have announced that this move is off the cards, as they are unable to provide the same levels of support and expertise at HMP Grampian as they can at Polmont.

“This puts the SNP’s whole plan for a community-facing jail, serving adult male and female prisoners and young offenders, into doubt. Yet this was the very reason that Aberdeen’s Craiginches prison was closed in favour of the new facility in Peterhead.

“Questions have to be raised regarding what steps were taken by Scottish Ministers to ensure that the services to support young offenders were in place before the Peterhead jail opened. There must also be concerns that HMP Grampian is unable to provide the best quality support for the adult population if it is unable to do so for young offenders.

“Contact with families is a vital part of rehabilitation and the decision to keep North East young offenders housed in the Central Belt will undoubtedly make it extremely difficult for many family members to visit.

“The Scottish Government must ensure that HMP Grampian has the support it needs to be able to rehabilitate offenders of every age, otherwise the SNP’s so-called “superjail” risks becoming nothing more than an embarrassing failure.”

27 August 2015

Take the chance to look again at police room closures - MSP

Sir Stephen House’s decision to stand down as Chief Constable of Police Scotland gives Ministers a fresh opportunity to look again at plans to close police control rooms in the North and the North East, says North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“Sir Stephen House proposed to close the police control rooms in Aberdeen and Inverness, and the 101 service centre at Bucksburn. Those plans should now be scrapped.

“There is speculation that Sir Stephen House’s decision to go has been prompted by the M9 tragedy, which in turn followed closures of police control rooms in Central Scotland and in Fife.

“That incident is currently under investigation, and Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland, Derek Penman, also intends to “comment where appropriate on future plans” for Police Scotland’s Contact, Command and Control centres (CCC).

“I have only this week had a reply from Justice Secretary Michael Matheson, who has failed to suspend the closure programme as I asked him to. Now, with Sir Stephen House’s departure, SNP Ministers have a chance to think again.

“The 101 service centre at Bucksburn was a trail-blazer for a modern way of handling calls, not just in Scotland but across the UK. The 999 control room at Queen Street would also stand comparison with any police control room across the country.

“Yet Sir Stephen House saw fit to close these centres, and to have no police control rooms north of the Central Belt.

“If any good is to come of Sir Stephen House’s resignation, these plans have to abandoned and high-quality services guaranteed once again across the North and North East.”

Police Scotland need to come up with Albyn House alternative - Macdonald

Following the disappointing news that Aberdeen’s Alcohol & Drug Partnership is pulling its support for the Designated Place at Albyn House, North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has called for Police Scotland to find an alternative option for those found drunk and incapable on the city’s streets.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“The decision by the ADP to pull its support for Albyn House is very disappointing.

“Police Scotland and NHS Grampian provided the funding for the Designated Place, and it is their responsibility to ensure that alternative provisions are made for those people who would usually have been taken to Albyn House.

“The last thing we want to see is people who are drunk and incapable being taken to A&E when they have no actual medical problems. This will only increase the already-heavy workload and lead to security issues managing potentially abusive patients.

“Police Scotland has a duty to deal with these individuals, whether by using services like the Designated Place or elsewhere, and they must not rely on the NHS to do their job for them.”

Local MSP hails ten years of Transition Extreme

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has tabled a parliamentary motion congratulating Transition Extreme on its tenth anniversary, and the progress the centre has made in the last ten years supporting young people in the North East.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“Transition Extreme is a fantastic example of a successful social enterprise, and one that Aberdeen should be proud of.

“In the last ten years the Alternative Academy has helped turn around the lives of dozens of young people, putting them on the path to a more positive destination. These are young people who may well have been left behind if it weren’t for facilities and staff at Transition Extreme.

“I am sure that the next ten years will see Transition Extreme continue and even expand the services they offer to young people in the North East.”

21 August 2015

Macdonald calls for increased commitment on solar power

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has called for SNP Ministers to give more support to solar power in Scotland after Fergus Ewing responded to parliamentary questions by offering to include solar in the Scottish Government’s Renewables Routemap for the first time.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“I am glad the Scottish Government to include solar power in its Renewables Routemap this year where it has failed to do so in the past.

“Scotland could benefit enormously from solar power projects, whether on public or private land, or on the roofs of public or private buildings.

“If solar power is to maximise its potential, the renewable energy industry needs the support of the Scottish Government – something which has been lacking so far.

“While Fergus Ewing’s pledge to make the Scottish Government’s commitment to solar “more explicit” is to be welcomed, this needs to be backed up by action. Otherwise Scotland will miss out on a golden opportunity to benefit from solar power.”

20 August 2015

SNP Ministers must listen to former leader on policing - Macdonald

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has called on SNP Ministers to take heed of former leader Gordon Wilson’s recent comments on Police Scotland.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“When the former leader of the government party says that government has got it wrong on policing, we must hope that Ministers are listening.

“When somebody so senior in the SNP says that local communities and local councils do not have enough say in the provision of police services in their area, then it is time for Ministers to act – not least because such changes would save Police Scotland a £20m VAT bill.

“When a long-standing representative of Dundee recognises that the policing challenges are different in the North East and North of Scotland, then Police Scotland should listen and act accordingly.

“Policing in North East Scotland has been hit disproportionately hard by the way the SNP have carried through these changes. Ministers must surely now accept mistakes have been made and ensure no further damage is done.

“Reversing the planned closure of Aberdeen’s police control room and call centre is the easiest way to send a message to police officers, staff and the communities they serve that lessons have been learned.”

19 August 2015

Macdonald welcomes Dolphinwatch success

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has tabled a parliamentary motion congratulating RSPB Scotland on the success of this year’s Aberdeen Dolphinwatch.

In the third year that the attraction has been running, Dolphinwatch has trebled visitor numbers from 1,668 in 2014 to 5,038 this summer.
Lewis Macdonald said today:

“Dolphinwatch has been a tremendous success for RSPB Scotland and for Aberdeen, and shows that a busy harbour can operate side by side with marine mammals.

“When I visited Dolphinwatch earlier this summer, I was joined by visitors from all over the UK and even from overseas. Like most visitors this year I was lucky enough to catch sight of a few dolphins!

“RSPB Scotland is to be commended for promoting wildlife tourism in the North East, and I am sure that Dolphinwatch will continue to be a popular tourist attraction for many more summers to come.”

18 August 2015

The Garioch leading light in Scottish solar power - Macdonald

North East Labour MSP and Shadow Energy Minister Lewis Macdonald has welcomed new figures which show the Aberdeenshire district of the Garioch is leading the way in solar power generation in Scotland.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“The AB51 postcode, including Inverurie, Oldmeldrum and Rothienorman, is Scotland’s leading light when it comes to solar power generation.

“This area of the North East boasts around 10,000 250W solar panels, more than any other postcode area in Scotland according to figures from Scottish Renewables and the Scottish Agricultural College.

“It is welcome news that North East landowners, farmers and homeowners are setting the pace when it comes to the installation of solar panels. I hope that the North East will also lead the way in social landlord and community-owned solar projects in the years to come.

“Solar power has a valuable role to play in Scotland’s future energy supply, and small-scale projects should be wholeheartedly supported by both industry and government.”

28 July 2015

Macdonald backs calls for investigation into AWPR funding

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today backed calls for an urgent investigation into the SNP funding of the AWPR and other capital projects around Scotland.

An investigation by The Guardian has found that Scottish Government agency the Scottish Futures Trust is proposing a new model of capital project funding which would increase private sector involvement and increase the costs to taxpayers.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“The AWPR was supposed to be the flagship of the SNP’s capital project funding model.

“Instead, the figures from the Scottish Futures Trust proposals show that the cost of the AWPR is likely to escalate to over £1.5bn by the time the debt to the private sector is paid off in 2048, nearly double the cost announced by transport Secretary Keith Brown in December 2014.

“This is a worrying development for the North East, and for any area where so-called public sector projects will now find themselves at the beck and call of private investors.

“It is vital that Audit Scotland launches an investigation into the Scottish Futures Trust and the SNP Ministers who hold the purse strings.

“Construction of the AWPR must not be affected by this latest development, but neither should North East taxpayers end up paying for SNP mistakes.”

27 July 2015

Victims “have waited too long for help” - Macdonald

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today called on Justice Secretary Michael Matheson to explain to the victims of crime in the North East why they are still waiting for the introduction of the Victim Surcharge Fund.

The Victim Surcharge Fund was one of the measures introduced by the Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Act to try and make life easier for those affected by crime. The fund was to have been paid for by offenders’ fines, and Victim Support Scotland would have managed payments to victims who needed help dealing with the impact of crime.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“The Victim Surcharge Fund was supposed to make life easier for victims of crime. Yet more than 18 months after the legislation was passed by the Scottish Parliament, victims across the North East are still waiting for the Fund to be implemented.

“Victim Support Scotland, the organisation which was supposed to be managing the Fund, is now under review itself. How much longer are victims of crime going to have to wait before the get the help SNP Ministers promised?

“The money from the Victim Surcharge Fund won’t bring back murdered family members or heal injuries, but it would have gone some way towards making life easier for the victims of crime I have represented in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.

“It is vital that the Scottish Government addresses this issue urgently. If Victim Support Scotland is unable to manage the fund, then perhaps it is time the SNP looked at alternatives.

“Victims of crime have already waited too long for the implementation of this legislation. It is high time the SNP kept their promises to those affected by crime in the North East.”

24 July 2015

Time for SPA to step in over control rooms - Macdonald

North East Labour Lewis Macdonald MSP today called on the Scottish Police Authority to step into the row over the future of Aberdeen and Inverness police control rooms and call centres, following comments from Assistant Chief Constable Val Thomson that Police Scotland intends to go ahead with the planned closures.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“Assistant Chief Constable Thomson’s comments are completely at odds with the terms of reference of HM Inspector of Constabulary Derek Penman’s inquiry into existing and future call handling capacity.

“Vic Emery and the Scottish Police Authority are supposed to hold Police Scotland to account. It is time that they now stepped in and required Police Scotland not to take any further action towards closures at Aberdeen and elsewhere until the HMICS report has been published and considered.

“The SPA is responsible for the oversight of Police Scotland decisions, and it is vital that they are not posted missing when action needs to be taken.

“It is inconceivable that the police service should continue to plan and prepare for control room closures which are themselves under scrutiny as part of an ongoing inquiry by HM Inspector of Constabulary.”

22 July 2015

Macdonald welcomes terms of reference of inquiry into police control rooms

North East Labour Lewis Macdonald MSP today welcomed the news that the HMICS inquiry into the M9 tragedy will also take evidence on the planned closures of Aberdeen police control room and call centre, as well as the police control room in Inverness.

Speaking after Derek Penman, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary Scotland, published the terms of reference of his inquiry, Lewis Macdonald said:

“This inquiry has been sparked by the tragic incident involving the deaths of John Yuill and Lamara Bell. It is right that it considers not just the specifics of this case, but the wider question of police control rooms across Scotland.

“The news that HMICS is to examine the proposed closure of Aberdeen police control room and call centre as part of his review is welcome news for the North East, and for those who have raised concerns about these plans.

“SNP Ministers must now ensure that no further steps are taken that could lead to the closure of the Aberdeen facilities before the final HMICS report is published in October. Any such steps would potentially undermine the HMICS inquiry and its conclusions.”

Tory plans for solar power “devastating” for Scotland - Macdonald

Labour’s Shadow Energy Minister Lewis Macdonald MSP today condemned Conservative proposals to end the Renewables Obligation support for community and small business solar projects between 1MW and 5MW in size.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“Tory proposals to end financial support for community and small business solar power projects are yet another blow to the renewables industry in Scotland.

“Hard on the heels of the announcement that financial support for onshore wind turbines is to end a year early, the UK Government has published a consultation on ending a similar scheme for solar power in 2016.

“Scotland is being hit disproportionately hard by these policies, and the impact is being felt throughout the renewables sector.

“The Scottish Government needs to take action not only to mitigate the damage caused by the removal of the subsidies themselves, but also to restore confidence in the industry. Otherwise the actions of Tory Ministers could set renewable energy in Scotland back years.”

21 July 2015

NHS diversification welcome - Macdonald

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today welcomed a report by the Royal College of Nursing illustrating the vital roles played by nursing staff in senior clinical roles.

Speaking after the publication of the report on 21 July, Lewis Macdonald said:

“The publication of the RCN report provides welcome recognition of the important role played by the advanced nursing practice workforce within Scotland’s NHS.

“NHS Grampian’s out-of-hours service, which is run by advanced nurse practitioners, is just one of the projects singled out by the RCN, but all the examples in the report are proof of what can be achieved when the NHS embraces diversification and alternative ways of working.

“Resources are tight throughout NHS Grampian and in healthcare services across the country. The work done by nurse practitioners, physician associates and pharmacists in providing treatment and support in the community and in clinics and surgeries is a valuable resource, and one that should be given more support.”

17 July 2015

Macdonald welcomes increase in private power

North East Labour MSP and Shadow Energy Minister Lewis Macdonald today welcomed the increase in small-scale renewable energy projects in the North East.

Figures from SmartestEnergy show that the number of renewable energy projects run by communities, landowners or farmers has increased from 150 in 2013 to 241 in 2014. These 241 projects have the combined capacity to create 538 MW of power, compared to 413 MW in 2013.

Speaking after visiting the Udny Community Wind Turbine today, Lewis Macdonald said:

“The increase in small-scale renewable energy projects in the North East is to be welcomed. 

“Onshore wind has seen one of the biggest growths, from 95 projects in 2013 to 162 last year. People who live and work and work in the countryside are clearly reaping the benefits of installing turbines on their own properties. 

“The example of Udny, which was the first community-owned wind turbine on mainland Scotland, shows that local people can benefit enormously from renewable energy projects.

“The Udny Community Trust has helped dozens of local projects, from supporting the annual Christmas lights in Pitmedden to restoring the church bells in the parish. Local people have had the opportunity to enjoy training in new skills such as dry stone walling and first aid thanks to investment from the Trust.
“None of this would have been possible without the community turbine which has supported projects in and around Pitmedden and Udny Green for the last four years.

“Wind turbines are not always popular with local communities, but this scheme has shown how their presence can have a positive impact on rural towns and villages.

“Renewable energy is not always about large scale wind farms or hydro schemes. Smaller projects can be just as valuable if resources are managed well.”

3 July 2015

Scottish Enterprise investment in AECC welcome - Macdonald

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has welcomed the announcement that Scottish Enterprise is to invest £10 million in the new AECC development.
Lewis Macdonald said today:

“This is an important boost for the AECC project and for the city of Aberdeen.

“I have been lobbying Scottish Enterprise to call for public money to be made available for the development, in the same way that funds have been invested in conference facilities in Glasgow and Edinburgh, so today’s announcement is welcome news.

“I am sure that Scottish Enterprise backing will help the AECC project to go from strength to strength, and that the finished development will be a real asset to the North East.”

Macdonald calls for answers as local trains are axed

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has called for answers from the SNP Government in Edinburgh on Scotland’s railways, as it emerged that the local service to Inverurie is among the routes affected by Sunday timetable cuts.

Services across Scotland will be reduced by a third this Sunday 5th July due to ongoing disputes with train drivers’ union Aslef.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“The Scottish Government has some serious questions to answer on their decision to award the ScotRail franchise to Abellio.

“Passengers will be looking for an explanation from Scottish Ministers as to how this situation has arisen and what they are doing to sort it out. There is also the question of whether penalties will be imposed on Abellio for the failure to maintain services, and if not why not.

“The axed local service to Inverurie, and other affected routes across Scotland, need to be back up and running as quickly as possible. There is a real concern that once a service has been out of action for some time, there may be a risk of it being axed permanently, cutting off a vital lifeline between rural Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen.”

Royal Mail gets its teeth into Dog Awareness Week

Royal Mail is holding its annual Dog Awareness Week in the North East, with support from the Communication Workers Union and a wide range of organisations and animal charities including Dogs Trust and the PDSA.

The campaign aims to further raise awareness of the issue of dog attacks on postmen and women and other members of the public, highlight the need for responsible dog ownership as well as appealing to dog owners to keep animals under control.

The number of attacks rises by over a quarter during the school holidays and in the summer months when parents and children are at home and dogs can sometimes be unsupervised in the garden or out onto the street without restraints. 

Dog attacks are a significant hazard, faced by postmen and women on a daily basis. Over 300 Scottish postmen and women were attacked by dogs from April 2014 to April 2015, down two per cent on the previous year. Royal Mail is committed working with customers to drive this number down as every dog attack is one attack too many.

Lewis Macdonald said:

“The Royal Mail’s Dog Awareness Week continues to go from strength to strength raising awareness of the problems of dog attacks and the problems our postmen and women face when they are delivering the mail. However, last year there  were still too many incidents in  the North East and across Scotland, and we need to reduce this number further as even one dog attack on a postie is one too many.

“However, it is not just postmen and women that are at risk from dog attacks. I myself was the victim of a dog bite several years ago while out delivering leaflets for a local political campaign!”

Rob Jenson, Royal Mail Operations Director for the North, said: “We know that most dogs are not inherently dangerous, however, even the most placid animal can be prone to attack if it feels its territory is being threatened. Our first priority as an employer is to ensure the welfare and safety of our people who provide a valuable service to our customers. We appeal to Scottish dog owners to keep their pets under control.”

“Royal Mail’s main aim is always to prevent attacks. Royal Mail believes that if we feel that there is a risk from a dog, or any other animal, at an individual address, we are committed to working with the customer to agree simple steps to ensure we can continue to deliver the mail safely.” 

1 July 2015

Solar power could have a bright future - Macdonald

Shadow Energy Minister and North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today welcomed the progress made by solar power projects in Scotland, but called on the Scottish Government to ensure that we do not fall behind the rest of the UK.

Speaking ahead of a visit to the solar rooftop at the National Trust for Scotland's solar rooftop on the National Trust for Scotland's Pitmedden Garden in Aberdeenshire at the weekend, Lewis Macdonald said:

“The beautiful weather at times this week has highlighted the bright future that solar power could have in Scotland – though of course modern solar panels can even generate power during a typical Scottish summer.”

“Installation of solar power projects across the UK has increased dramatically over the last few years thanks to the 50% fall in the price of solar panels. Unfortunately, Scotland is somewhat lagging behind our neighbours, and more must be done to capitalise on this sustainable and popular low carbon power source.

“Scottish Ministers need to investigate the potential of solar projects on Scottish Government and public land, and I tabled parliamentary questions on this very subject. In addition, while the consultation on removing planning restrictions on roof-mounted solar panels is welcome, it is action that the industry needs not more words.

“The successful example at Pitmedden Garden could be replicated at facilities all over the Scotland if the will was there. The Scottish Government needs to switch on to the potential of solar power.”

Sunday rail services “vital” to North East - Macdonald

Responding to the news that ScotRail will have to temporarily reduce the number of rail services on Sundays because of a shortage of drivers, Lewis Macdonald has called for protection for routes serving North East communities.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“Abellio states that this reduction in Sunday services is a result of the contracts they inherited from the previous franchise owners. However, as the new franchisee, they have a responsibility to maintain services.

“It is vital that the routes serving rural communities in the North East are not cut to allow Central Belt trains to keep running.

“Even with a full timetable, there are only five trains between Aberdeen and Inverness on a Sunday. People who live in the North East and the North, where there are few if any public transport alternatives, should not be the ones who have to pay for Abellio’s staffing issues.

“It is time for the Scottish Government to step in and ensure that Abellio is doing its job of providing rail services throughout the country.”

Macdonald welcomes Haudagain exhibition

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today called on the Scottish Government to do everything possible to bring forward the start of work on the Haudagain Improvement scheme.

Speaking as a public exhibition on the Haudagain plans opened at the Lord Provost Henry E Rae Community Centre, Lewis Macdonald said:

“The Haudagain has been a thorn in the side of Aberdeen drivers and commuters for too long, and it is welcome news that progress is finally being made.

"However, Scottish Ministers should do all they can to bring forward the start date for work on the Haudagain, which is not currently slated to begin until completion of the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route in 2018.

“Local residents and drivers should take the chance to attend the public exhibition and give their views on the proposals. Everyone in Aberdeen has an opinion on the Haudagain, and this is an opportunity to make sure those opinions count.”

23 June 2015

Named Person event cost “hard to understand” - Macdonald

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today said it was “hard to understand” why the Scottish Government spent £100,000 on four publicity events, including one at Hampden Park, when big cuts are being made to front-line services.

After releasing answers to parliamentary questions he had asked on the costs of these events, Lewis Macdonald said today:

“The Scottish Government has held four information events in preparation for the launch of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act, at a total cost of £100,000, but their national event at Hampden Park was open to only 90 people.

“At a time when so many public services are facing major cuts, those who attended the Scottish Government promotion event at the weekend received gift vouchers as a reward for their attendance, in addition to their expenses.

“I asked these questions after being contacted by constituents in the North East who were concerned about this use of public money. I suspect even more people will find this expenditure hard to understand when they learn how much has been spent with so little benefit to anyone.”

22 June 2015

Broadford cost to the public purse “too high” - Macdonald

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today renewed his calls for the owner of Broadford Works to obey the dangerous building notice imposed by Aberdeen City Council, and ensure that the site is kept secure.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“Only this weekend we have seen people climbing on the roof of Broadford Works, further evidence that the site is still not secure even after Aberdeen City Council imposed a dangerous building order on the owner.

“Ian Suttie must take the action required of him to secure the site, or it won’t be long until firefighters are attending yet another incident at Broadford Works.

“Figures I obtained from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service show that firefighters have spent nearly 90 hours dealing with incidents at Broadford Works since March 2014.

“That is 90 hours of expensive deployment paid for by the public purse, 90 hours when firefighters are unable to attend other incidents, and 90 hours when they are running all the risks associated with fighting fires in poorly maintained and hazardous buildings.

“Aberdeen City Council must ensure that the dangerous building notice is fully enforced. Firefighters should not have to risk their lives unnecessarily simply because the Broadford Works site is not being kept secure.”

18 June 2015

Macdonald welcomes Peterhead CCS approval

Shadow Energy Minister and North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today welcomed Aberdeenshire Council’s decision to approve a planning application for the onshore elements of a demonstration carbon capture and storage project, which will involve capturing carbon from Peterhead's gas-burning power station and storing it in a depleted oil reservoir offshore.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“This is good news for the plan to develop a carbon capture and storage plant in the North East.

“Planning approval for the onshore elements of this facility is a step forward in the UK's pioneering CCS project for gas.

“This development will give the industry a welcome opportunity to demonstrate that the new technology involved in carbon capture and storage will work at scale, and that it could have a role to play in our energy supply future.

“Progress in this area is to be welcomed, and I look forward to further progress in the months to come.”

‘Tories have shifted the goalposts on wind energy’– Macdonald
Scottish Labour Shadow Energy Minister Lewis Macdonald today condemned the UK Government’s decision to close the Renewables Obligation scheme early, putting onshore wind projects in Scotland at risk.

Lewis Macdonald said:

“Over 5,000 jobs depend on the onshore wind sector in Scotland. These jobs are now at risk because the Tories have decided to shift the goalposts.

“Onshore wind is the cheapest and most developed form of clean energy investment and an area where Scotland has led the way.

“The Tories' decision to prematurely end the Renewables Obligation scheme will hit Scotland hard, and disproportionately harder than other parts of the UK.

“The UK Government must come clean immediately, and clarify how the grace period will work and which projects in Scotland will be put at risk.”

17 June 2015

Macdonald backs calls for North Sea seismic

Shadow Energy Minister and North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today backed calls for speculative seismic exploration in marginal areas of the North Sea as a way of extending the lifespan of the UK continental shelf.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“Today’s Oil & Gas UK conference in Aberdeen will rightly focus on the current crisis facing the oil industry, and the possible solutions for ensuring that industry has a future.

“The last UK Government Budget set aside £20m for seismic exploration, a vital tool in exploring marginal areas of the North Sea. Without further exploration, there is a real danger that the UK oil and gas industry will stagnate, and potentially lucrative areas may not be explored for years or even at all.

“It is important that financial conditions encourage production in UK waters today, but further exploration is vital for the long-term future of the industry. The UK Government should increase its financial commitment to seismic exploration and back industry efforts to expand exploration in the North Sea.

“Companies operating in the North Sea are looking to cut costs at the moment. Government sharing the risk of finding more oil and gas can help protect the future of the industry, and protect offshore workers from the threat that costs are cut at their expense."

12 June 2015

Warm words of Heat Policy Statement “not enough” - Macdonald

Shadow Energy Minister and North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today called on the Scottish Government to catch up with England on its planning policy for air source heat pumps, saying that its pledge to review the situation was “not enough”.

Following the publication this week of the Scottish Government’s Heat Policy Statement, Lewis Macdonald said:

“In England, homeowners do not need to apply for planning permission to install an air source heat pump; in Scotland, planning permission is needed if the house is less than 100m away from another dwelling, making it almost impossible for anyone living in urban areas to benefit from this heating source.

“Scottish Labour has highlighted the planning discrepancy for air source heat pumps between Scotland and England over several years. Today’s Health policy Statement was the perfect opportunity for SNP Ministers to take action on this, but they have once again failed to do so.

“This is a simple policy change that would make a real difference to the use of this renewable technology in heating our homes and reducing emissions, but instead of actually making the change, Ministers instead have offered us only a review.

“A policy statement should be about the result of policy reviews, not an announcement that they are going to happen.

“The SNP must focus on action rather than publishing glossy documents full of warm words.”

Local MSP welcomes Tillydrone cinema launch

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today gave his backing to the launch of the Crombie Club community cinema in Tillydrone through a motion at the Scottish Parliament.

Speaking ahead of the launch event at St Georges Tillydrone Church on Monday 15th June, Lewis Macdonald said:

“St Georges Tillydrone Church is to be commended for its latest community initiative, setting up a children’s cinema club in time for the school holidays.

“Families in the area will benefit enormously from having this new facility right on their doorstep, and the cinema club will hopefully expand to involve other groups within the Tillydrone community.

“I have tabled a parliamentary motion to mark the launch of the Crombie Club on 15th June, and I look forward to the community cinema going from strength to strength over the coming weeks.”

11 June 2015

Ministers must ensure ARI report publication - Macdonald

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today called on the Scottish Government to publish a Royal College of Surgeons report into consultants at the ARI, in order to ensure that staff and patients in Grampian have access to all the facts.

After speaking in today’s debate on health at the Scottish Parliament, Lewis Macdonald said:

“We know the RCS inspection uncovered evidence of misconduct by consultants and staff within the General Surgery department at the ARI – but until the final report is published in full, staff and patients of NHS Grampian are being left in the dark about what has been going on.

“The Scottish Government may not have a legal duty of candour to publish reports of this nature, but they have said they will put a duty of candour into the Health Bill they will bring forward later this year, so now they have the opportunity to lead by example.

“That is why I called today for the Cabinet Secretary for Health to ensure that the RCS report is made public, in full, as soon as possible. Patients have a right to know the reasons behind decisions involving their medical staff, and it is a mistake for Ministers to keep them in the dark.”

Macdonald calls for votes at 16 in EU referendum
North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today called for MPs of all parties to support Labour's amendments on votes at 16 in EU referendum, after backing the Scottish elections franchise Bill at committee this morning.

Speaking after today’s Devolution (Further Powers) Committee meeting, Lewis Macdonald said:

“This legislation was passed unanimously, with all parties agreeing that giving 16 and 17-year-olds the opportunity to vote in Scottish Parliament and local authority elections is a good idea.

“The referendum gave us a chance to see what happens when young people become engaged with politics, and no-one wants to lose that enthusiasm.

“It is the same reason why Labour also plans to table amendments at Westminster, to ensure that 16 and 17-year-olds are able to vote in any EU referendum.

"Labour has worked with other parties to deliver votes at 16 in time for the Scottish Parliament next year. Now we need other parties to back our amendments at Westminster to deliver votes at 16 in the European referendum too."

10 June 2015

Ministers must ensure ARI report publication - Macdonald

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today called on the Scottish Government to publish a Royal College of Surgeons report into consultants at the ARI, in order to ensure that staff and patients in Grampian have access to all the facts.

After speaking in today’s debate on health at the Scottish Parliament, Lewis Macdonald said:

“We know the RCS inspection uncovered evidence of misconduct by consultants and staff within the General Surgery department at the ARI – but until the final report is published in full, staff and patients of NHS Grampian are being left in the dark about what has been going on.

“The Scottish Government may not have a legal duty of candour to publish reports of this nature, but they have said they will put a duty of candour into the Health Bill they will bring forward later this year, so now they have the opportunity to lead by example.

“That is why I called today for the Cabinet Secretary for Health to ensure that the RCS report is made public, in full, as soon as possible. Patients have a right to know the reasons behind decisions involving their medical staff, and it is a mistake for Ministers to keep them in the dark.”

9 June 2015

Macdonald backs Gaelic language support

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today backed North East public bodies in their efforts to develop Gaelic language plans, and to support the development of the language in and around Aberdeen.

Lewis Macdonald, who will take part in a Members’ Business debate on the 10th Anniversary of Labour’s Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005 at the Scottish Parliament later today, said:

“Aberdeen is a multi-cultural, mutli-lingual city these days, and of course that cultural mix includes the history and heritage of Scottish Gaelic, as well as hundreds of people who actually speak the language. As Scotland’s third city, it is vital that proper importance is given to developing and supporting the Gaelic language as part of the rich tapestry of city life.

“Aberdeen City Council is in the process of adopting its own Gaelic language plan following the examples of Aberdeenshire Council, the University of Aberdeen and the Cairngorms National Park. 

“In Aberdeen, Gilcomstoun School already provides Gaelic-medium education at nursery and primary levels, while Hazlehead Academy offers the full range of Gaelic exams for both learners and native speakers up to Advanced Highers level.

“But it is not the sole responsibility of local councils to support Gaelic education. The Scottish Government has to ensure that pupils wishing to study Gaelic or other modern languages are afforded the opportunity to do so, without losing the chance to use their skills to study other languages too.

“Recent figures have shown that the number of pupils obtaining qualifications in all languages is falling. This is a pattern which has to be reversed, for the benefit of Scottish communities and for Scotland’s place in the UK and Europe.”

8 June 2015

Macdonald backs calls for more support for carers

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald used the start of Carers Week to call for more support for carers in the region.

Labour MSPs will back amendments to the Carers (Scotland|) Bill which would strengthen the powers of the Care Inspectorate, giving it responsibility for inspecting the standards and provision of carer services across Scotland.

This will mean that support groups and information and advice centres for carers must meet a national standard.

There are an estimated 59,818 carers in North East Scotland who too often feel isolated, and Scottish Labour’s plans will deliver the extra support they deserve.

Speaking at the start of this year’s Carers Week, Lewis Macdonald MSP called on Scotland’s other political parties to back their plans.

Lewis Macdonald said:

“Carers Week is one of the most important weeks of the year. For too long the work of Scotland’s unpaid carers has gone unrecognised and unsupported.
“Carers UK estimate that Scotland’s carers save Scotland £10 billion a year.

“That’s why I will be voting to strengthen the powers of the Care Inspectorate, to make them responsible for carers’ services and support. I hope the other political parties at Holyrood will put people before politics and deliver a better deal for Scotland’s carers.”

5 June 2015

Windfarm decision welcome news for the North East - Macdonald

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald welcomed the news that plans to develop the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC) in Aberdeen Bay have moved a step forward.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“This decision is welcome news for the North East and the whole of Scotland.  The local economy will benefit from the development of the Aberdeen Bay windfarm for years to come, while the country’s energy industry needs this kind of development in order to develop offshore technology to its highest standards.

“While one more court judgement, on the onshore aspect of this project, is still to come, I hope today’s decision will allow this vital project to proceed as soon as possible.”

4 June 2015

Macdonald welcomes NHS Grampian appointment

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today welcomed the news that NHS Grampian has appointed Malcolm Wright as its new Chief Executive.

Speaking after the announcement was made earlier today, Lewis Macdonald said:

“Malcolm Wright has already begun to turn things round during his six-months as Interim Chief Executive at NHS Grampian. His decision to see the job through over the period ahead is very much to be welcomed.

“I know that Malcolm Wright is fully aware of the challenges which remain to be met at NHS Grampian, and he will be under no illusions that a lot of work is still to be done.

“Many areas are still under-staffed. Too many patients have to wait too long for vital diagnostic tests and for treatment. In addition, he and his team are still following through on the findings of two critical reports from Health Improvement Scotland and the Royal College of Surgeons.

“Malcolm Wright has already made progress in these areas, and I look forward to working with him to ensure that NHS Grampian continues to improve further in the coming months.”

3 June 2015

Macdonald calls for support for Stonehaven dialysis unit

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has tabled a parliamentary motion commending fundraisers in Stonehaven for their efforts to build a new kidney dialysis unit at Kincardine Community Hospital.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“Patients in Stonehaven and the surrounding area needing kidney dialysis currently have to travel long distances into Aberdeen before then spending the whole day in the existing unit at the ARI.

“A dialysis unit at Stonehaven would make it so much easier for these patients to receive treatment close to home, and the fundraisers are to be commended for their efforts so far to make this dream a reality.

“However, once the dialysis unit is up and running it will need continued support to ensure that it continues to operate effectively.

“The motion I have tabled today will allow MSPs from all parties to express their thanks to those involved in the fundraising.”

1 June 2015

Owner of Broadford Works “must take responsibility” - Macdonald

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today called on the owner of Broadford Works in Aberdeen city centre to take responsibility for keeping the site secure.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“There has again been a spate of fires at Broadford Works, causing fear and alarm to local residents and major costs to the emergency services.

“The owner of the site has failed to keep up safety and security in recent months. Ian Suttie must take responsibility for keeping this site secure 24/7 because if he does not these incidents will happen again.

“I believe the time has come for Mr Suttie to act, and I hope the City Council will now require him to do so.”

MSP welcomes Council u-turn on school admissions

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today welcomed the change of heart by Moray Council to admit 13 P1 pupils to St. Peter’s R.C. Primary School in Buckie.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“I raised this issue with the council after being contacted by a number of parents at the beginning of May. The position at that time was that pupils were being refused admission, despite living locally and in some cases having older brothers or sisters at the school. The Council at that time told parents that they simply could not admit all the pupils that had applied.

“I’m delighted that they’ve now reconsidered their position, and that they’ve written to me today to confirm that all these children can now be accommodated. They have also confirmed that they have reviewed the Council’s Admission Policy in relation to cases of this kind.

“This is the right decision by the Council, the right result for the families and the right outcome for the school. I am glad to have been able to help, but it is the active campaign by parents and families which has made all the difference.”

18 May 2015

MSP issues call for local heroes to join bone marrow register

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald is backing blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan in its search for more local heroes in Aberdeen and the North East to join its bone marrow donor register and help in the fight against blood cancer.

The charity has revealed today that, in Aberdeen and the surrounding area there are more than 3,700 selfless people willing to donate their stem cells, or bone marrow, to save the life of a stranger. More than 550,000 people are currently on the Anthony Nolan register across the UK.

Anthony Nolan was the world’s first bone marrow register. The charity has been saving lives for four decades by matching remarkable people willing to donate their bone marrow to patients in desperate need of a transplant.

Two thirds of UK patients will not find a matching donor from within their families; instead they turn to Anthony Nolan to find them an unrelated donor.
In Scotland the charity works with the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service and Scottish Fire and Rescue Service to recruit donors, but currently a perfect match can only be found for 60 per cent of transplant patients.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“There are more than 8,000 heroes on the register here in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, but the challenge continues. I’m calling for more volunteers to sign up today, to help Anthony Nolan fight blood cancer. It is something truly heroic to give a stranger a second chance at life and I am proud to champion this cause to my constituents.”

28 April 2015

Macdonald welcomes support for rescue workers

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has welcomed the promise of Scottish Government support for Scots rescue workers who wish to travel to Nepal, to help those affected by the recent devastating earthquake.

After raising the issue in the Scottish Parliament today, Lewis Macdonald said:

“Aberdeen has a large and vibrant Nepalese community which is deeply concerned and affected by this tragedy. Many have heard from family and friends about the terrible conditions they are facing throughout Nepal in the aftermath of the earthquake.

“It has already been reported that five junior Scottish Fire and Rescue Service officers from Aberdeen will be heading to Nepal as part of the International Search and Rescue Service, and it was reassuring today to hear Minister Humza Yousaf pledge Scottish Government support for emergency workers who wish to go to Nepal to do what they can for the affected communities.

“The Scottish people will no doubt be generous with their donations to the appeals for financial support, such as the fund set up by the Nepalese Himalayan Association of Scotland, but it is vital in these first days and weeks that those with the relevant experience and expertise can be supported to help the aid effort in Nepal.

“I know that the affected communities in Nepal, and here in Scotland, will be grateful for all the support they receive.”

31 March 2015

Macdonald calls for SNP honesty over university funding

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has called on the SNP to be honest about the changes it has made to university funding and the impact this is having on institutions across Scotland, including job losses announced recently at the University of Aberdeen.

After raising the issue during today’s Topical Questions, Lewis Macdonald said:

“This month’s cut to the Research Excellence Grant will cost the University of Aberdeen nearly £1.6 million in 2015/16. This is mostly as a result of the scrapping of the Global Excellence Initiative, which funded world-leading research projects at Scottish universities and which was worth over £1.2 million to Aberdeen University last year. This has had a significant impact on the ability of the university to continue some of its research projects, and jobs will be lost as a result.

“I am glad that the University of Aberdeen has decided to invite staff to take early retirement or voluntary redundancy over a longer 16-week period, rather than the shorter timescale initially proposed.

“However, the fact remains that the Scottish Government’s scrapping of the Global Excellence Initiative has been the catalyst for these cuts.

“The Minister today claimed that the Global Excellence Initiative was always supposed to be time-limited, yet he was unable to provide any evidence for this claim. He failed even to tell me whether the decision to cut the Global Excellence Initiative had been made by the Scottish Ministers or the Scottish Funding Council.

“Staff who face an uncertain future at the University of Aberdeen, and perhaps other higher education institutions, deserve to know why their jobs are at risk. The SNP now need to be honest about why this important funding has been scrapped and whether the universities most affected can expect any support from the Scottish Government.”

26 March 2015

Oil industry facing a “deeper crisis” - Macdonald

Following the announcement of further job losses at Shell and Taqa, Shadow Energy Minister and North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald is calling on Scottish Ministers to take urgent action to respond to the deeper crisis now facing the oil industry.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“The announcement of a second round of job cuts at Shell and Taqa is a blow to the North East and to oil and gas workers who now face an uncertain future.

“Changes are also being imposed on the terms and conditions of those working offshore.

“While some of those losing their jobs in the North Sea will find work in other oil provinces around the world, the reality is that for many older workers and those with families, this is simply not an option.

“This deepening crisis stresses the urgency of infrastructure investment in and around Aberdeen. It is critical that the Scottish Government takes action to anchor the UK oil industry in the North East.

“Ministers need to support transport and housing projects, as well as developing skills if we are to ensure the long-term survival of the North East oil industry.

“We have always said that changes to the tax regime would not be enough. It is time that Ministers stepped up and took action to project jobs and develop infrastructure in Aberdeen.”

23 March 2015

Macdonald calls for HMICS to look into North East policing

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald is calling on HM Inspectorate of Constabulary Scotland to look into the impact of cumulative cuts and changes to policing in the North East since the creation of Police Scotland.

In response to a letter from Derek Penman, HM Inspector of Constabulary Scotland, asking for proposals for future inspection reports, Lewis Macdonald has suggested an examination of how officer and staff recruitment and retention have been affected by a series of cuts to services in Aberdeen and the surrounding area.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“The North East has been hit particularly hard by changes introduced by Police Scotland. Plans to close police station counters, the service centre at Bucksburn and the control room at Queen Street and proposals to merge the two North East Divisions have all damaged the morale of officers and staff.

"The cumulative impact of these changes is not only damaging morale, but is also eroding local accountability – something we sought to counter when we proposed amendments to the original legislation.

“HM Inspectorate of Constabulary Scotland should look into this issue, and establish how policing in the North East is being affected by these constant cuts.

“Officers and staff are doing their best under very difficult circumstances, and I am sure they would be very interested in the findings of an HMICS inspection on this issue.”

19 March 2015

Macdonald welcomes Ofcom licence for Aberdeen TV station

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has today welcomed the announcement by Ofcom that it has awarded a licence to STV to deliver an Aberdeen television channel.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“This is welcome news for the city of Aberdeen. Not only will we now have our own local TV channel, dedicated to news from the North East, but similar schemes in Edinburgh and Glasgow have also created over 50 new jobs.

“The partnership with Robert Gordon University and North East Scotland College means that students will be able to gain valuable experience by working alongside trained journalists to deliver live news content.

“I look forward to the first STV Aberdeen broadcast and the opportunities it will create for the city.”

17 March 2015

Macdonald calls on SPA to act for the whole of Scotland

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has condemned the Scottish Police Authority’s response to his concerns about holding board meetings in the Central Belt, and has called for Scottish Ministers to take action.

Speaking after receiving a reply from Vic Emery, Chair of the SPA, Lewis Macdonald said:

“It is clear from Mr Emery’s response that he simply does not understand why residents of Aberdeen feel alienated by his decision to hold future meetings of the Board only in the Central Belt.

“Mr Emery should remember that the name of the organisation he is employed to oversee is Police Scotland, not Police Edinburgh or Police Glasgow and he should act accordingly.

“Arguing that those members of the public in Aberdeen who are interested in following the proceedings of SPA meetings can do so online misses the point completely. SPA board members are employed to represent the interests of the whole of Scotland and they can only do this if they meet far away from the Central Belt, not just in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

“It is astonishing that the SPA Board can be so unaware of increasing concerns about the centralisation of Police Scotland.  It should be the job of the SPA to ensure that these concerns are addressed, not add to them.

“It is clear that Scottish Ministers need to step in and ensure that the SPA is doing the job it was set up to do.”

13 March 2015

Macdonald welcomes Future Fund for young people in Aberdeen

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has welcomed Scottish Labour’s Future Fund – a new deal for Scotland’s young people, announced by Jim Murphy at Scottish Labour conference earlier this month.

The Future Fund will invest £1600 for every 18 or 19 year old in Aberdeen who isn’t currently at university or college or in a modern apprenticeship.
The money will be available to invest in relevant training, set up a business, or buying work tools.

The fund will also act as a powerful incentive to employers to take on young people as they will come with £1,600 of training support.

Lewis Macdonald said:

“This fund is a welcome opportunity for the young people of Aberdeen.  For too long our young people who aren’t in education or training have been ignored by governments in Westminster and Holyrood.

“This investment will let young people set their own path in life, giving them the money they need to invest in their future and become masters of their own destiny.

“Scottish Labour is committed to helping Scotland’s young people make the most of their potential, and this fund will help to achieve that”.

Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy said:

“Parents worry that their kids won’t have the chances they had when they were growing up. That the next generation’s horizons have become more narrow, more limited.

“Young Scots in Higher Education get an average of £1600 spent on their fees.

“But what of those thousands who don’t go to university, or who don’t get an investment through a place at college or an apprenticeship?

“They shouldn't get left behind. They deserve the same support to fulfil their potential.

“We want to redress the balance to help those young people who want to enter the world of work straight from school.

“The Future Fund will also act as a powerful incentive to employers to take on young people who come with £1,600 of training support attached to them.”

11 March 2015

Macdonald calls for North East rail support from Ministers

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today called on the Scottish Government to support Aberdeen City Deal proposals on rail travel in the North East by ensuring that the project to dual the last stretch of single track on the East Coast main line is included in the next round of Network Rail improvements.
After raising the issue in a parliamentary question today at Holyrood, Lewis Macdonald said:

“The stretch of single track at Usan, near Montrose, has been a hurdle to improving journey times between Aberdeen and the Central Belt for too long.

"Aberdeen City Council knows that improving rail journey times to and from the North East is essential to the success of the City Deal, and it is vital that SNP Ministers support any measures that will go towards achieving this aim.

“The next round of Network Rail improvements will take place during Control Period 6, between 2019 and 2024, and the Usan project must be included if rail journeys are to improve and compete with other transport options.

“That is why I raised the issue in Holyrood today, calling on Ministers to make a decision on whether the track dualling project will be included in its instructions to Network Rail for Control Period 6, linking an enhanced local rail network around Aberdeen with the Central Belt.”

5 March 2015

Local MSP supports Marie Curie Great Daffodil Appeal

Wearing his daffodil with pride, North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald lent his support to Marie Curie’s Great Daffodil Appeal at the Scottish Parliament on 4 March.

Lewis met staff and heard about the work of the charity that cares for terminally ill people and their families across Scotland and supported a Marie Curie campaign pledging support for people with a terminal illness.

The Great Daffodil Appeal is Marie Curie’s biggest fundraiser, which encourages everyone to give a donation and wear a daffodil pin in March. The money raised will help Marie Curie Nurses to provide more free care to local people with terminal illnesses in their own homes and in the two Scottish Marie Curie Hospices in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Speaking after visiting the Marie Curie stand in Holyrood this week, Lewis Macdonald said:

“I was delighted to learn more about the work of Marie Curie Nurses in the North East, and to support their campaign to ensure that all terminally ill people in Scotland will get the care they need, when they need it.

“There will be many families in Aberdeen who have benefited from the hard work and dedication of Marie Curie Nurses, who do a fantastic job supporting the care already provided by NHS Grampian and local councils.”

Richard Meade, Head of Policy and Public Affairs Scotland said: “It’s thanks to the support of MSPs such as Lewis we can spread the word about the Great Daffodil Appeal and raise vital funds to support terminally ill people in Scotland. With the support of the Scottish Parliament Scotland will lead the way in caring for people with a terminal illness.”

To find out how you can get involved in the Great Daffodil Appeal visit www.mariecurie.org.uk/daffodil or call 0845 601 3107


3 March 2015

Macdonald calls for hospital to be named after Mary Slessor

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald is suggesting that the replacement for Aberdeen Maternity Hospital should be called the Mary Slessor Women’s Hospital, commemorating the famous Aberdonian who spent nearly 40 years working to improve the lives of women and children in Nigeria. He will make the call in a speech in the Scottish Parliament this afternoon to mark 100 years since Mary Slessor died in Calabar.

Speaking as NHS Grampian launched a consultation on naming its two new health buildings on the Foresterhill site, Lewis Macdonald said:

“Mary Slessor devoted her life to the physical and spiritual well-being of women and children in Nigeria after growing up in poverty in Aberdeen and working in a jute mill in Dundee.

“The dedication Mary Slessor showed in helping the women and children she worked with in West Africa illustrates the best of Aberdeen. It would be a fitting tribute if the city where she was born and spent her childhood years was to name its new women’s hospital in her honour.”

2 March 2015

SPA decision on Central Belt meetings “unacceptable” - Macdonald

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has deemed the Scottish Police Authority decision to hold all future meetings in the Central Belt “unacceptable”.

After the SPA announced that it was reversing its previous policy of holding public meetings around the country, Lewis Macdonald said:

“This is an unacceptable decision by the SPA and its Chairman, Vic Emery, which flies in the face of promises made about local accountability when Police Scotland was established.

“The Scottish Government chose not to appoint a single member of the SPA from the North East. They have since endorsed plans to close the police control room in Aberdeen and the police service centre in Bucksburn. There is even a proposal now to abolish the Aberdeen City Division of Police Scotland.

“Rather than centralising the very body that is meant to uphold local accountability, this latest proposal is final proof of the folly of setting up a public body without a single member from the Grampian region.

“I am calling on the Scottish Government and the SPA to withdraw this disgraceful proposal with immediate effect.”

27 February 2015

Macdonald welcomes Oil & Gas UK appointment

North East Labour MSP and Shadow Energy Minister Lewis Macdonald has welcomed the appointment of Deirdre Michie as the new Chief Executive of Oil &Gas UK from 1 May 2015.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“The work carried out by Oil & Gas UK in support of the North Sea industry is of vital importance at this challenging time.

“Deirdre Michie brings a wealth of industry experience to the role of Chief Executive. In addition, she will lead the industry from Aberdeen, not London, a decision which illustrates just how important the North East is to the UK oil and gas industry as a whole.

“I look forward to working with Deirdre Michie and her Oil & Gas UK team to support the offshore oil and gas sector and the people who work there in these difficult months.”

19 February 2015

SNP Ministers silent on city police plans

SNP Cabinet Secretary for Justice Michael Matheson was today silent when asked by North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald to reject any proposal from Police Scotland that would leave Aberdeen without a dedicated police division or a senior police officer of its own.

Speaking after raising the issue in the Scottish Parliament, Lewis Macdonald said:

“Police Scotland proposals for a merger of the Division serving Aberdeen City with the Division serving Aberdeenshire and Moray would have a serious impact on policing in Aberdeen.

“Scotland’s third city could become the only major city in Western Europe without its own police division or senior officer. Police Scotland’s A Division currently serves not only Aberdeen but also the whole offshore oil industry. The idea that the Oil Capital of Europe would be without its own Chief Superintendent of Police would cause astonishment in most countries around the world.

“I gave Michael Matheson the chance today to stand up for the people of Aberdeen and reject these proposals. He chose to remain silent.

“SNP ministers have closed prisons, courts and police stations in the North East since 2007 and Aberdeen’s fire and police control rooms are next in line for closure. It is disappointing that Michael Matheson seems to be following the same approach as his predecessor, Kenny MacAskill.

“It seems communities will get no help from the SNP when it comes to preventing more public sector closures in the North East.”

MSP supports pancreatic cancer care in North East

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald showed his support for improved Pancreatic Cancer research, awareness, diagnosis, treatment and care by visiting an awareness exhibition at the Scottish Parliament this week.

After meeting representatives of Pancreatic Cancer UK and Pancreatic Cancer Scotland Lewis Macdonald said:

“I was pleased to be able to show my support for pancreatic cancer patients, and the charities who work on their behalf. It is vital that we learn more about what needs to be done to change pancreatic cancer’s shockingly low survival rates.

“Patients with a range of pancreatic conditions can benefit from treatment by the Hepato-Biliary surgeons in the General Surgery department at ARI, who were recently given a glowing report by a Royal College of Surgeons inspection team.

“Survival rates are still desperately low, and more must be done to ensure a quicker diagnosis so that any treatment option has the best possible chance of being effective.”

One person across the UK is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer every single hour. In Scotland, pancreatic cancer is the 6th biggest cause of cancer death, with 770 cases diagnosed, and 742 deaths recorded in 2012. 5-year survival rates in Scotland are just 3.2%, below the UK average of 4%. These are the lowest survival rates of the 21 most common cancers.

18 February 2015

Bus passengers should share in savings, says MSP

North East Labour MSP and Shadow Energy Minister Lewis Macdonald today wrote to First Group Chief Executive Tim O’Toole, to question why some bus fares in Aberdeen are going up when oil prices are at their lowest level for five years.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“First Aberdeen passengers will be very disappointed that bus fares are going up when the wholesale price of oil has fallen by half over a matter of months.
“The company claim that running buses costs them more. The truth is that, while fuel prices are going down, profits are going up.

“First Group have said that they would not cut fares to reflect the low price of oil, because they had already committed to buying this year’s fuel at last year’s prices.

“These hedging agreements, common throughout transport industries, are rarely for 100% of a company’s fuel costs. It is high time First Group passed on the savings it is making on fuel to passengers.

“First Group shareholders enjoyed profits of £9.9m at the end of 2014. It is only right that customers should also benefit when falling oil prices mean that the company’s costs are cut.”

11 February 2015

Macdonald calls for debate on offshore industry crisis

North East Labour MSP and Shadow Energy Minister Lewis Macdonald today tabled a parliamentary motion on the offshore industry crisis, in order to debate the issue at Holyrood.
 
Lewis Macdonald said today:
 
“There has been a great deal of discussion about the economic impact of falling oil prices, but not enough has been said or done about the human cost of the current crisis in the North Sea.
 
“Oil and gas companies are continuing to cut jobs and investment in North Sea projects. However, it is important that the industry remains focused on long term prospects, rather than making short term savings at the expense of essential maintenance or leading to a loss of skills offshore which will have serious consequences in future.
 
“It is vital that offshore unions are involved in industry's response to the current threat to future production and jobs, and I welcome the support of unions like RMT and Unite for the motion I have tabled today.”

9 February 2015

Save City Police Service, says MSP

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has said Police Scotland should drop plans to merge its Aberdeen City Division with the neighbouring division that covers Aberdeenshire and Moray.

In his response to the consultation today, Lewis Macdonald argued that no comparable city in Western Europe would be left without a senior police officer or a distinct police division of its own.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“There is a real risk of Aberdeen being treated as just another town, rather than recognised as a major urban centre in its own right.

“Merger of these police divisions could potentially leave Aberdeen with no ranking officer and no police headquarters.

“Aberdeen already faces the loss of its police and fire control rooms, and has seen the closure of Aberdeen Prison and a rundown in the police forensic service.

“Scotland’s public services need to understand that Aberdeen is Scotland’s third city, and the dynamo of the Scottish economy. SNP Ministers have been too quick to close down services in the Granite City: it is time for that to stop.

“Retaining a distinct Aberdeen City Division and a separate division for Aberdeenshire and Moray will be good for local communities and for the police service itself.”

3 February 2015

Ministers need to get on the front foot - MSP

North East Labour MSP and Shadow Energy Minister Lewis Macdonald today called on the Scottish Government to get on the front foot in addressing the developing crisis in the oil industry, which threatens thousands of jobs across Scotland.

After using today’s Topical Questions session at Holyrood to call for an emergency response system that could support the industry in good times and bad, Lewis Macdonald said:

“I asked Fergus Ewing today if we were any nearer to a co-ordinated government and industry response to the gathering storm in the North Sea, and he told me how much the Scottish Government was doing to help those who have already lost their jobs.

“That support for people who have been made redundant is absolutely vital, but the Scottish Government needs to do more. The whole Scottish economy will be affected if there is a prolonged period of low oil price, as many in the industry now expect, so there has to be an economy-wide response from government at every level.

“That is why Scottish Labour will continue to call for a Resilience Fund, and for urgent action to protect the wider Scottish economy from the inevitable ups and downs in the price of oil.”

28 January 2015

SNP HAVE LET LOCAL COMMUNITIES DOWN ON FRACKING – LEWIS MACDONALD
 
The SNP have let down communities across Scotland after they failed to back a local referendum on fracking, Scottish Labour said today.
 
The SNP Government today published its policy on fracking, which fails to give local communities the final say. Scottish Labour has said that local communities should have a veto on fracking through a referendum.
 
The Scottish Government today only promised a public consultation on fracking, which doesn’t go nearly far enough.
 
The statement from SNP Energy Minister Fergus Ewing also failed to meet another key element of Scottish Labour’s triple lock system by leaving Scottish communities with fewer protections than Labour forced on the Tories.
 
Scottish Labour would introduce a triple-lock system to halt any onshore fracking taking place in Scotland until environmental and health safeguards are in place. This involves: 
-       A local referendum before final planning approval is given;
-       Halting any fracking in Scotland until the lessons of fracking in the rest of the UK are learned;
-       A comprehensive review of the baseline conditions before any planning application is granted;
 
Scottish Labour has repeatedly called on the UK Government to suspend the current licensing round for Scotland until the power over licensing is devolved to the Scottish Parliament through the Smith Agreement.
 
Scottish Labour’s Shadow Energy Minister Lewis Macdonald said:
 
“I am pleased that the Scottish Government has finally agreed to Scottish Labour’s demand to use the planning process to halt fracking for the time being. But today’s statement doesn’t go nearly far enough.
 
“It’s disappointing that after lots of noise from the SNP over the last few days they have let down communities across Scotland. The SNP Government had the chance today to confirm that no fracking will take place without the consent of the local communities affected, but failed to do this.
 
“We won’t just have a public consultation. We will give Scots a local veto over fracking.
 
“It’s essential that SNP Ministers confirm that no fracking will take place in Scotland until we learn the lessons of what happens elsewhere in the UK. Scotland has been a guinea pig before on the poll tax. It can’t happen again on fracking.
 
“Scottish Labour has set out a triple lock system that will stop fracking in Scotland now. Under Scottish Labour’s plan no fracking will take place in Scotland without the local community affected giving its approval in a referendum.
 
“Once again SNP Ministers are prepared to ride roughshod over the views of people in communities across Scotland. It’s time for the SNP to think again on fracking.”

27 January 2015

The SNP should stand up for workers and back Labour’s £10 million resilience fund.
 
The SNP should back Scottish Labour’s calls for a resilience fund.
 
That’s the message from Lewis Macdonald, who urged the SNP to “take responsibility” ahead of next week’s oil summit in Aberdeen.
 
Scottish Labour would use £10 million from Barnett consequentials to set up a resilience fund, to protect local economies threatened by a jobs crisis.
 
The falling price of oil is the biggest threat to jobs in Scotland since Ravenscraig and Macdonald has urged the SNP to work with Scottish Labour to protect Scottish jobs, and deliver a resilience fund in the Scottish budget.
 
Scottish Labour Oil and Gas Spokesperson Lewis Macdonald said: 
 
“With less than a week until the Aberdeen Oil summit the Scottish Government have the opportunity to send a message that they are finally taking the oil crisis seriously by meeting Scottish Labour’s demands for a resilience fund.
 
“The reality is that the SNP have been posted missing as the price of oil has fallen. Petty politics and pointing fingers isn’t good enough when thousands of jobs are at risk.
 
“It is time for the Scottish Government to take responsibility and protect jobs in Scotland. John Swinney must amend his budget and use the Barnett bonus to establish a resilience fund. It will offer protection to families across the North East faced with the prospect of job cuts.”

12 January 2015

Macdonald welcomes good news from ARI

Whatever went wrong with general surgery at ARI last year, the fault was not with the surgeons whose cases prompted the investigation in the first place, it emerged today.

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald was very concerned that liver and pancreatic surgery (the hepato-biliary service or HPB) was named in the terms of reference for the inquiry conducted by the Royal College of Surgeons, but that the conclusions of the investigating team remain unpublished.

Lewis Macdonald said:

“I was keen that NHS Grampian should be asked at its annual public review what conclusions were reached by the Royal College about liver and pancreatic surgery in Aberdeen.

“Malcolm Wright’s public statement today is a welcome and long-awaited development for the surgeons and staff of the HPB service and their patients. They must have been very concerned after NHS Grampian took the decision to publish only certain parts of the Royal College of Surgeons report, because of a threat by legal action by other consultants whose work was put under the microscope.

“The Royal College investigation found that liver and pancreatic surgeons were performing well and were meeting all the required national standards, before discovering that there were real problems elsewhere in general surgery which might affect other patients.

“Because those conclusions have not been published, there has been a real risk that patients might wonder if liver and pancreatic surgery is unsafe, when the opposite is actually true.

“That is why the public statement by Chief Executive Malcolm Wright and Chief Medical Director Nick Fluck at the NHS Grampian Annual Review that the RCS had “categorically not found any problems” within the HPB service and that surgeons are “working to all national standards” is particularly welcome. This will go a long way to reinforcing the confidence of patients being treated by the HPB service, and will help boost the morale of staff who may have felt undermined by the partial publication of the RCS report.”

9 January 2015

SNP still has questions to answer on NHS Grampian - MSP

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today welcomed the news that the postponed NHS Grampian Annual Review is to be held today in Aberdeen.

The original meeting on 17th November 2014, and due to be attended by then Health Secretary Alex Neil, was pulled at short notice, a matter of days before Mr Neil lost his job.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“I am sure the people of Aberdeen and the North East will join me in welcoming the fact that the Annual Review of NHS Grampian is finally taking place, giving them the chance to hear from the new Chair and Chief Executive and to put questions to the newly-appointed Cabinet Secretary for Health, Shona Robison.

“However, it is disappointing that the public missed the opportunity to cross-examine her predecessor, Alex Neil, along with the former Chair and Chief Executive, who were all in charge of NHS Grampian while the serious problems now identified were having a major impact on healthcare services.

“This is an opportunity for a fresh start for NHS Grampian, but there are still serious questions that need answering, months after the original Annual Review was postponed to allow the new Chief Executive time to settle into his post.

“Only this week, the Accident and Emergency department at ARI has experienced a surge in demand which placed severe pressure on the ability of the hospital to continue operating as normal. Problems still exist within the General Surgery department, identified in a Royal College of Surgeons report last year and not yet resolved, while the shortage of nursing staff is affecting morale and the ability of healthcare workers to safely take care care of their patients.

“These are all issues which must be addresseed at the Annual Review today, and members of the public will no doubt seek an explanation about what has gone wrong at ARI in recent months. More importantly these issues need to be resolved; something which can only be achieved if the new Chair and Chief Executive are given the financial and practical support they need from the Scottish Government that has been lacking so far.”

30 December 2014

OIL PRICE FALL MUST NOT COMPROMISE SAFETY 
 
The falling price of North Sea oil must not be an excuse for oil companies to cut back on spending on offshore safety measures.
 
That’s the message from North East MSP, Lewis Macdonald, Scottish Labour’s Energy spokesperson in the Scottish Parliament.
 
He was speaking on the day it was revealed that 30 years ago, the then Conservative Energy Minister, Peter Walker, decided against spending any of his departmental budget on safety research and development.
 
This revelation brought widespread criticism in particular from the families of those who perished in the Pipe Alpha disaster in 1988.
 
Mr Macdonald said: “The falling oil price is putting severe pressure on oil companies. We’ve already heard about proposed job cuts amongst sub-contractors and of plans to cut wages but there can be no compromise on safety.
 
“The lessons of Pipe Alpha have made the North Sea a much safer place to work. That safety regime cannot be jeopardised by budget cuts caused by the falling price of Brent crude.
 
“That’s one of the issues I’ll be raising when Aberdeen City Council hold their oil summit early next year.”

22 December 2014

Government action needed to secure the future of the North Sea oil industry
 
Scottish Labour repeated its call for government action to secure the long term future of the North Sea oil industry.
 
The call comes after the Financial Times today reports Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) projections, which show oil revenues in an independent Scotland would have slumped to one fifth of the SNP’s prediction before the referendum.
 
The Financial Times today reports that OBR projections put oil revenues at £1.25bn in 2016/17 instead of the £6.9bn predicted by the SNP.
 
This comes as the oil firm Shell has confirmed plans to withdraw their share in the Sean field in the southern North Sea.
 
Scottish Labour called for the Scottish Government to:
 
- Make available its assessment of the long-term impact of a falling oil price on the North Sea oil industry
- Publish an updated Oil and Gas bulletin
- Order an inquiry into how their pre-referendum predictions were so wrong
- Attend an oil jobs summit called by Aberdeen City Council
 
At the weekend, Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy, Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls and the leader of Aberdeen City Council Jenny Laing called for the UK Government to urgently bring forward a strategy to increase investment in the North Sea oil industry.
 
Scottish Labour's Shadow Business, Energy & Tourism Minister and MSP for North East Scotland  Lewis Macdonald said:
 
"With experts saying it may be years before the price oil recovers it is urgent that the Scottish Government does everything it can to protect the jobs of thousands of people working in the oil industry.

"The SNP built an entire economic case for an independent Scotland on oil revenues of £6.9bn. Those predictions lie in tatters today. Nationalist ministers must learn the lessons of the past so we can secure the future of such a vital industry.
 
"Scottish Labour has called for the Scottish Government to provide their assessment of the long-term impact of the falling oil price on the North Sea oil industry, a call we repeat today. The oil workers deserve to know what the future holds for their industry. It's time for some action from the SNP Scottish Government."

19 December 2014

MSP welcomes appointment of NHS Grampian Chair

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today welcomed the appointment of Professor Stephen Logan as the new Chair of the Board of NHS Grampian.
Lewis Macdonald said:

“I would like to congratulate Professor Logan on his appointment and wish him all the best in what will be a challenging job in the coming weeks and months.

“Stephen Logan meets the essential requirements of knowing the business of health care inside out, and having lived and worked in Grampian over many years. He has a wealth of experience within NHS Grampian itself, as well as a wider understanding of the Grampian area through his work in other sectors.

“His background in medicine from both academic and practical perspectives will be a great advantage in dealing with the serious issues raised by the recent HIS and RCS reports about the problems within NHS Grampian.

“Stephen Logan has a big job on his hands to rebuild public trust in local health services and to restore morale among staff, but he is ideally place to take on this challenge, and I look forward to working to support him in his efforts to achieve these aims.”

18 December 2014

First Minister “missing the point” on oil prices - Macdonald

Labour Shadow Minister for Energy Lewis Macdonald MSP today warned that the First Minister is “missing the point” about the impact of falling oil prices on job security and exploration and production investment in the North Sea.

Speaking after the issue was raised by Scottish Labour’s new Deputy Leader Kez Dugdale at First Minister’s Questions today, Lewis Macdonald said:

“Nicola Sturgeon did not appear to grasp the seriousness of the situation facing workers in the North Sea.

“In quoting a report from OPEC claiming that oil prices will go back up again she is missing the point that it is low prices now that are putting jobs and businesses at risk in Aberdeen and the North East. OPEC can hardly be described as an objective observer on this issue anyway, having decided only a few days ago to maintain current production levels and so drive down prices further.

“Kez Dugdale was right to raise the biggest new challenge facing families in Scotland this Christmas. Labour will continue to press the Scottish Government to take the crisis in the North Sea seriously.

“We need government at every level to press employers in the oil industry to put long term confidence ahead of short term cost cutting. Global market cost pressures should not be met by slashing people and cutting jobs.”

17 December 2014

Continuity, confidence and job security vital offshore – MSP

Lewis Macdonald, Labour MSP for North East Scotland and the new Shadow Minister for Energy, today highlighted the need for continuity of employment, investor confidence and job security for workers in protecting the North Sea oil and gas industry.

After challenging Energy Minister Fergus Ewing on the issue at Holyrood, Lewis Macdonald said today:

“Hundreds of jobs have already been lost in the North Sea and thousands more could be at risk if companies react to the falling oil price by shedding staff.

"The Scottish Government cannot halt the catastrophic decline in oil prices but they can and must take action to mitigate the effect it is having on companies operating in the North Sea.

“It cannot make sense to let staff go when they are going to be needed again when the oil price picks up and projects come back online. The Scottish Government needs to work with industry and unions to find a way to maintain employment levels even during financially difficult times.

“I am glad the minister agrees that losing staff would be the wrong response to a falling oil price, but we now need to see those words turned into action by the Scottish Government to address the jobs issue directly with employers. Continuity of employment, investor confidence and job security for workers are essential for the future of the North Sea.”

16 December 2014

Macdonald welcomes new energy role for Scottish Labour

North East MSP Lewis Macdonald today welcomed his new job dealing with the North Sea oil and gas industry on behalf of Scottish Labour, following Jim Murphy’s front bench reshuffle.

Lewis Macdonald, who will shadow Business, Energy and Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing, said:

“I am delighted to be taking up this challenge at such a critical time for the North Sea oil and gas industry.

“I will be pressing Fergus Ewing in Parliament tomorrow on how the Scottish Government will respond to the growing number of job losses in Aberdeen and the North East.

“Oil and gas are of vital importance to the North East and to the wider Scottish economy, which Jim Murphy has recognised that by appointing me to this post today.

“I will do what I can to ensure that nobody ever again takes the energy sector for granted, and that government at every level works with employers and trade unions to support jobs and skills in the energy industries.”

12 December 2014

No cost saving, but AWPR deal better late than never, says MSP

The private finance deal to build the Western Peripheral Route is welcome, even though it is years behind schedule and the total scheme cost has not come down at all, says North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald.

Following the announcement by the Scottish Government that the project is to be funded by the European Investment Bank, by a group of investors managed by Allianz Global investors and by borrowing “a bank-term loan”, Lewis Macdonald said:

“This is a case of better late the never. It has taken over two years for the Scottish Government to find private sector partners to fund this project, in marked contrast to the billions of pounds of public money and the rapid procurement process which they applied to the new Forth Crossing.

“Their lack of urgency in finding private funding is in line with their approach to this project as a whole. It is easy to forget that, when the SNP came to power, the AWPR was scheduled to be finished in 2008. They should not be boasting now about a completion timetable of winter 2017-18.

“But ten years late is better than never, and people across the North East will be impatient to see this project delivered.

“It is also important to emphasise that there has been no reduction in the overall estimated scheme costs of £745m, despite any spin to suggest that money has been saved. The reality is that the taxpayer will be paying £25m a year for 30 years to the Scottish Government’s private finance partners. People in the North East will feel it’s worth the money. but it’s just a shame it’s taking so long to get started.”

11 December 2014

Aberdeen missing out again on local government funding - MSP

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has called on the Scottish Government to keep its promises on local government finance and ensure that Aberdeen City Council gets the funding it is entitled to receive.

Following today’s announcement of the Local Government Finance Settlement for 2015/16, Lewis Macdonald said:

“The SNP promised that no council would receive less than 85% of the Scottish average when it came to local government revenue funding – yet Aberdeen City Council has come in below that figure for the third year in a row, with a shortfall of around £17.5m in 2015/16.

“It is little wonder Aberdeen residents feel that the SNP has forgotten them – NHS Grampian is underfunded to the tune of £30m a year and yesterday we heard about new plans to reduce the Police Scotland presence in the region. Now SNP Ministers have failed again to keep their own promises on local government finance.

“At a time when everyone has to tighten their belts, it is unfair that the people of Aberdeen are expected to tighten theirs a little further than the rest of Scotland.

“Aberdeen City Council is going to have to manage a difficult financial situation in order to provide much-needed local services – a situation which the Scottish Government could resolve by making sure they have the funds they are entitled to receive.

Police Scotland merger plans “a concern” - MSP

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today expressed his concern over Police Scotland plans to merge the Aberdeen City Division with the Aberdeenshire and Moray Division to create a single division for the whole Grampian region.

Following yesterday’s announcement of the plans, Lewis Macdonald said:

“This announcement will cause grave concern among Police Scotland officers and staff, as well as for the wider public.

“Local accountability had already been reduced to a minimum by the SNP through their refusal to accept any of Labour’s amendments when the legislation was going through the Scottish Parliament. 

“Now we learn that Police Scotland’s plans for the future will mean that Aberdeen City Council and communities in the city will no longer have the attention of one police division, but will have to share those resources with two other councils and over a much wider geographical area.

“We need to know if this proposal is about saving Police Scotland money, rather than providing the people of Aberdeen with appropriate and adequate policing. The SNP have placed impossible budget constraints on Police Scotland, and this kind of damage to local policing is the result.”

10 December 2014

North Sea jobs a growing concern, says MSP

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald is to raise growing concerns about the loss of jobs in the oil and gas industry with the Scottish Government.
Lewis Macdonald said today:

“This week’s report to Oil & Gas UK, OPITO and the UK Government has raised some big issues about the future of the oil and gas industry in the North Sea, which need to be addressed urgently by both industry and government.

“Hundreds of jobs have already been lost in the North East as global oil prices have fallen to around $65 a barrel, and hundreds more jobs are clearly at risk.

“Oil prices are beyond the control of governments, but there are things which governments and public agencies can do to support the regional economy at what is clearly a difficult time.

“That is why I will be raising these issues in the Scottish Parliament, to press Ministers on what they are doing to mitigate the impact of these job losses on the North East economy.”

4 December 2014

Guidelines on online crime must go further - Macdonald

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today welcomed the publication of new guidelines to police and the courts on how to handle offensive messages on social media, but warned that there are many other online crimes which are not being dealt with effectively by the authorities.

Lewis Macdonald said:

“These guidelines are a positive step in tackling online abuse and harassment through social media, and I welcome the action taken today by the Lord Advocate to clarify this issue.

“However, social media abuse is just one of many online crimes, most of which are not being dealt with effectively by the police or the courts.

“For example, STV online raised concerns about the Aberdeen-based Facebook page “Delboy’s Deals” is selling cut-price alcohol and cigarettes, yet the authorities have failed to act.

“The Press and Journal also highlighted the recent case of a North East woman who was targeted by an online fraudster through a dating site. Even though she had extensive evidence of his crimes, police dismissed her concerns apparently because she had not lost any money, which misses the point that a significant crime was intended.

“It is vital that all forms of online crime are dealt with robustly by the authorities. That is why I will be writing to the Lord Advocate to raise my concerns about the lack of guidelines for other types of offences, so that victims of fraud and contraband sales can have the same protections as those abused and harassed on social media.”

3 December 2014

Surgeons’ report will come out eventually, says MSP

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today said the Royal College of Surgeons’ report into general surgery at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary is bound to come out eventually, despite efforts by some of those under investigation to prevent it being published.

Following today’s Ministerial Statement on the Healthcare Improvement Scotland report, and a Scottish Labour debate on wider NHS issues, Lewis Macdonald said:

“Shona Robison said today that NHS Grampian aimed to publish the Royal College report at some point, and that would help patients understand what has been going on at ARI.

“The Cabinet Secretary told Parliament that the reason NHS Grampian had been unable to publish the full report so far was because of legal action by the very same consultants whose conduct led to the review in the first place.

“Patients need to know that the recommendations arising from the report will be implemented, but they also have a right to know what caused the problem in the first place.”

2 December 2014

MSP calls for urgent action on NHS reports

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today called for NHS Grampian to take urgent action to implement the recommendations made by Healthcare Improvement Scotland and the Royal College of Surgeons in their reports.

Lewis Macdonald said:

“These reports both confirm that urgent action needs to be taken to deal with inappropriate behaviour by a small number of senior doctors which are at the heart of the problems in NHS Grampian.

“The reports vindicate the commitment and dedication of the vast majority of frontline staff, and confirm that levels of patient care and safety are just as good at the ARI as at other Scottish hospitals.

“However, it is clear that a small group of individuals have consistently undermined NHS Grampian management, and the main criticism of the Board and the executive team is that they didn’t deal with this problem sooner.

“NHS Grampian has accepted the recommendations in these reports; they must now act urgently to ensure that they do so as swiftly as possible.
“Public confidence in our local NHS is vital. That requires three things:

- action by the Board and management team, with full support from the Scottish Government;
- publication of the conclusions of the Royal College of Surgeons report into general surgery, to make clear that there are no more issues being kept from the public;
- and, in the New Year, appointment of a new Chair and permanent Chief Executive of NHS Grampian who are based in Grampian and committed to restoring the very high standards in patient care of which this region has always been proud.”

28 November 2014

MSP calls on East Coast companies to look north of central belt

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has today written to the Chief Executives of Stagecoach and Virgin Trains, asking for their assurances that improvements will be made to journey times to and from the North East when the two companies take over the InterCity East Coast franchise in March 2015.

Lewis Macdonald said:

“I was concerned that the lengthy press release issued by Virgin Trains and Stagecoach after being awarded the franchise made no mention of Aberdeen or any station further north than Stirling.

“Direct trains from London to Aberdeen and Inverness are an important part of the East Coast franchise, and passengers in these areas were well served by the previous operator, East Coast Main Line.

“Not only are these services an important link to the UK for the those who live in the North East, but they are well used by offshore workers from across the North of England.

“I am concerned that Virgin Trains and Stagecoach make no reference to their plans for services north of the central belt, and I have written to the companies’ chief executives asking them to spell out the improvements they plan to make on the Aberdeen route.”

Health board wrong to suppress report, says MSP

NHS Grampian’s decision to suppress the findings of the Royal College of Surgeons report on general surgery at ARI is profoundly wrong, North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald said today.

He spoke out after it was revealed that NHS Grampian is refusing to publish any of the content of the Royal College of Surgeons report, other than the recommendations at the end.

Lewis Macdonald said:

“It is clear that the review by the Royal College of Surgeons goes right to the heart of the problems at ARI.

“It is equally clear that NHS Grampian is now refusing to publish the report because of the threat of legal action from some of those whose conduct has been investigated.

“Whatever failings this report has uncovered, they appear to have led directly or indirectly to the removal of the Chair, Chief Executive and Medical Director of NHS Grampian.

“NHS Grampian’s decision not to publish the report in full, with or without the names of the individuals concerned, means that it will not be possible for patients, staff or the general public to know what the failings are or why they resulted in the decapitation of the local NHS.

“I can appreciate that the Board’s legal advice may have been not to publish the names of those whose conduct has been considered by the Royal College of Surgeons. I cannot, however, see any just cause for the suppression of this report and I will be raising my concerns as a matter of urgency in the Scottish Parliament next week.”

25 November 2014

MSP calls for control room closures review

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today called on Michael Matheson MSP to ask police and fire authorities to suspend plans to close control rooms in Aberdeen, and carry out a full review into the implications of their proposals.

Lewis Macdonald said:

 “Michael Matheson has an opportunity as the new Cabinet Secretary for Justice to take a fresh approach to some of his predecessor’s most controversial and damaging policies.

“Kenny MacAskill was always happy to put the blame onto Police Scotland and the SFRS, saying unpopular decisions were “operational matters”. The fact is that the buck stops with the Cabinet Secretary.

“That is why I have written to Michael Matheson to urge him to take a strong lead on this issue, and to ask the police and fire authorities to suspend any further closure plans for Aberdeen facilities while they review the overall proposals.

“Nicola Sturgeon promised that her new Scottish Government would try harder in the North East. This is an area where a new Minister can make a real difference, if he chooses to do so.”

21 November 2014

New Justice Secretary must reconsider control room plans - MSP

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald will call on Michael Matheson MSP to review the planned closures of Aberdeen’s police and fire control rooms, as his first action as Cabinet Secretary for Justice.

Speaking after today’s Cabinet reshuffle, Lewis Macdonald said:

 “As soon as Michael Matheson is confirmed in post as the new Cabinet Secretary for Justice, he will receive a letter from me urging him to review plans to close the police and fire control rooms in Aberdeen.

“We have already heard horror stories from Dumfries and Galloway about the impact the closures there have had on the ability of police officers to do their jobs. This is reason enough for Ministers to agree to a review before there are any further closures.

“This a golden opportunity for Mr Matheson to reverse some of the worst of Kenny’s cuts and closures, and I will be urging the new Cabinet Secretary to review this decision urgently when he takes office.”

MSP urges young people to take part in referendum survey

Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald is urging young North East voters to take part in a Scottish Parliament survey about their experiences during the referendum.
An online survey has been developed by the Devolution (Further Powers) Committee and asks young people aged 16 and 17 their views on their experience of voting in the referendum and the extent to which their experience of voting in the referendum has led to a broader engagement with political debates.

In addition, schools, colleges and youth groups are being encouraged to submit video clips which convey the views of young people.
Lewis Macdonald said:

“As deputy convener of the Devolution (Further Powers) Committee, I am particularly keen to hear from young people across the North East about their experience of voting for the first time in this year’s referendum.  We saw an unprecedented level of interest and democratic engagement around the referendum and I am determined to ensure young people continue to be engaged in Scotland’s democratic and political processes.

“This online survey aims to gather information from 16 and 17-year-old first time voters as part of the Committee’s efforts to engage with young people on a long-term basis. 

“In addition to this survey the Committee is hosting events in different parts of Scotland, including at Lochaber High School, Fort William, on Monday and in Aberdeen in the New Year.

“As a Committee and as a Parliament we are working on a cross-party basis to respond to the hopes and aspirations our young people have for the future of Scotland.” 

The Scottish Parliament online survey went live on 21 November (https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2XVXMYL) and is being promoted through schools and other education and youth organisations.  It runs until the end of the year and the results will be published shortly after.

20 November 2014

NHS Grampian must make RCS findings public - Macdonald

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today called on NHS Grampian to publish a Royal College of Surgeons report into standards at the ARI at the earliest possible date.

The Royal College of Surgeons carried out an urgent two-day review at the ARI in September 2014, after staff raised concerns about the general surgery department, and the final report is now with NHS Grampian.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“The involvement of the Royal College of Surgeons was at the request of senior staff at the ARI, and it is vitally important that the findings are made public as soon as possible.

“It is important for patients and staff to understand what is happening at NHS Grampian, and this report can shed some much-needed light on the issues facing the general surgery team.

“That is why I have written to Chief Executive Richard Carey, asking him to ensure that the RCS report is published at the earliest possible date.”

19 November 2014

New First Minister must get out more, says Macdonald

Scotland’s new First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, needs to get out more if she is to keep her promise to support Aberdeen and the North East, according to North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“Nicola Sturgeon’s appointment as First Minister is a big step up, and I wish her well in her new job.

“I welcome her commitment to build positive working relationships in Aberdeen and the North East, particularly with Labour-led Aberdeen City Council.

“But if she is really to support the North East, she needs to get out more. The new First Minister must seek to understand all of Scotland, not just the Central Belt.

“In the last two years, Nicola Sturgeon has visited Aberdeen only once in her role as Minister for Cities, which must be some kind of record.

"She came to Aberdeen on 8 August 2013, when I invited her to come and listen to the views of people living in Tillydrone about the Third Don Crossing. She also met the then Leader and Chief Executive of Aberdeen City Council while she was here.

“She will need to come to Aberdeen a lot more often in the next few months, if she is really to get to grips with the economic and cultural significance of the North East to Scotland as a whole.

“She also needs to understand that the level of Scottish Government funding of Aberdeen’s local council is lower now than under any previous government of any party, at less than 80% of the Scottish average per head for the first time in the last two years.

 “If Nicola Sturgeon wants to make a real difference in Aberdeen and the North East, she needs to address funding issues, but above all she needs to get out more.”

17 November 2014

Macdonald calls for publication of reports

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today called on Health Secretary Alex Neil to publish two key reports on NHS Grampian as soon as possible.

The Royal College of Surgeons has reviewed the general surgery department at ARI, looking at professional standards, while NHS Health Improvement Scotland has inspected the management of the hospital as a whole.

Both reports were prompted by concerns raised by medical staff, but neither has yet been published. After meeting Alex Neil at Foresterhill today, Lewis Macdonald said:

“Both of these reports will be vital, if patients and staff in Grampian are to understand the crisis which has led to the resignation of the entire local leadership of the NHS board.

“Alex Neil cancelled the 2014 public review of NHS Grampian, which was scheduled for today, and Ministers have been dodging tough questions on this subject for too long. It is essential they tell us what they know, by publishing these external reports on ARI.

“I am particularly keen that people should see the report by the Royal College of Surgeons, which will be absolutely vital in understanding what has been going on at ARI.

“The report by Health Improvement Scotland is due to be published on 2 December, and again it will be vital reading for all those concerned with healthcare delivery in Grampian.

“People in Grampian have waited for too long already to find out what’s going on in their local health service. It’s time for Ministers to tell them.”

14 November 2014

Local MSP backs Call. Push. Rescue. campaign

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald is backing British Heart Foundation (BHF) Scotland’s campaign to create a nation of lifesavers and help to save 5,000 lives a year, by ensuring his staff are trained in the latest technique: Call.Push.Rescue.

In the UK 30,000 cardiac arrests each year occur outwith hospitals, often at home or in the workplace. Less than one in ten people survive – partly because people don’t have the skills or confidence to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

BHF Scotland is urging people to sign up to its new, quick-and-simple CPR training programme which will enable schools, workplaces and community groups to become completely self-sufficient in teaching the three simple steps that could save a life: Call. Push. Rescue.

After two of his Aberdeen constituency staff were trained in CPR at the Scottish Parliament this week, Lewis Macdonald said:

“I am delighted to support the British Heart Foundation Call. Push. Rescue. campaign, and was keen to ensure that people working with me and dealing with the general public were trained in the basic skills that could one day save a life.

“The expansion of this programme throughout Scotland’s schools is to be welcomed, and although no-one ever wants to find themselves in a situation where CPR skills are needed, this campaign will ensure that more people are able to step in, should the worst happen.”

To help the BHF create a Nation of Lifesavers visit bhf.org.uk/lifesavers

12 November 2014

Minister dodging tough questions, says MSP

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today condemned the cancellation of next Monday’s annual public review of NHS Grampian, and accused Health Secretary Alex Neil of dodging tough questions about his role in the health service crisis in the North East.

Lewis Macdonald said:

“This decision not to hold the annual public review this year comes on the same day that the Health Secretary claimed he did not know in advance of NHS Grampian Chair Bill Howatson’s intention to tender his resignation.

“The NHS Grampian annual public review would have been chaired by Alex Neil, who has been at the heart of this whole sorry saga.

“It would have been an ideal opportunity for him to hear what the public in Grampian want from their local health services, and would have allowed him to respond accordingly when appointing a new Chair and Chief Executive.

“It would also have allowed the public to interrogate Alex Neil on his claim that he did not know in advance of Bill Howatson’s resignation.

"Many people in Grampian will be deeply sceptical when Ministers say this was nothing to do with them. Now Alex Neil is dodging having to answer those questions.”

Macdonald welcomes return of Flybe base to Aberdeen

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today welcomed the news that airline Flybe is to re-open its base at Aberdeen International Airport, creating 100 jobs.

Lewis Macdonald said:

“This is welcome news for Aberdeen International Airport and for the city of Aberdeen.

“The recent announcement of a new service between Aberdeen and London City coupled with the airline’s decision to reopen its base in the city is an strong indication of the increasing demand for air routes between the North East and the rest of the UK.

“I am delighted that Flybe have reversed their earlier decision to close their Aberdeen operation. This announcement, along with the airport’s recent success in the Airport Operators Assocation awards, will only add to Aberdeen’s ever-growing reputation and importance in the aviation sector.”

11 November 2014

MSP calls for SNP to support Low Pay Action Plan

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today called for the SNP to support Scottish Labour’s Low Pay Action Plan, and ensure that thousands of Aberdeen workers are paid the Living Wage.

After revealing figures that showed 23,000 workers in Aberdeen are being paid less than the Living Wage, Lewis Macdonald said today:

“There is a misconception that everyone in Aberdeen works in the oil industry and takes home a six-figure salary at the end of the month.

“In reality, 23,000 full and part-time workers in Aberdeen don’t even earn the Living Wage – and in a city where the cost of living is incredibly high, this will inevitably lead to poverty and deprivation.

“Scottish Labour has developed a Low Pay Action Plan, which aims to establish a National Living Wage Strategy, extend the living wage to public contracts and increase the minimum wage to £8 by 2020.

“The SNP were wrong to vote against Labour’s amendment on the Living Wage during the debate on the Procurement Reform Bill earlier this year, but I hope they see sense and work with us to help deliver better pay for workers across Scotland.”

6 November 2014

Salmond dodging questions on local leadership of NHS Grampian

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today called on the First Minister to stop avoiding the difficult questions on the future of NHS Grampian, and answer public concerns about local leadership and frontline services.

During First Minister’s Questions today, Lewis Macdonald asked for a guarantee that the next Chair of the Board of NHS Grampian would live and work in the region. Following Alex Salmond’s failure to answer that question, Lewis Macdonald said:

“Twice in the last month I have asked Alex Salmond questions about real issues facing NHS Grampian, and twice he has dodged the issues I have raised.

“Instead of addressing the question of the next Chair of the Board of NHS Grampian, all Alex Salmond did was confirm that interim Chief Executive Malcolm Wright will meet local MSPs. This is, of course, something that every Chief Executive of NHS Grampian has done on a regular basis.

“The new Chair of the Board must live and work in Grampian if he or she is to have an understanding of the particular needs of health care in the North East, and that those needs must be their number one priority.

“This can only be achieved by local leadership, and the fact that Alex Salmond is dodging these kinds of questions will make staff and patients in the North East very nervous.

“Alex Salmond’s seven years as First Minister are coming to an end with his local NHS in unprecedented crisis.

“NHS Grampian has lost its Chair, Chief Executive and Medical Director, it is under-funded to the tune of £30m in the current year and Alex Salmond, as MSP for Aberdeenshire East, will not even agree that the Board should be lead by someone who lives and works in Grampian.

“That is a pretty dismal outcome for seven years in charge of Scotland.”

Macdonald welcomes Oil and Gas Authority appointment

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has welcomed the appointment of BG Group’s Andy Samuel as the first Chief Executive of the new Aberdeen-based Oil and Gas Authority.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“I would like to add my congratulations to Andy Samuel on his appointment, and look forward to working with him on all issues affecting the North Sea oil and gas industry.

“He is clearly an experienced individual through his work with BG Group and Oil and Gas UK , and I am sure he will use that experience to make the Oil and Gas Authority another success for Aberdeen.”

4 November 2014

Minister fails to answer NHS Grampian concerns - MSP

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today expressed grave concern about Alex Neil’s failure to guarantee that the next Chair of the NHS Grampian Board will live and work in the region.

After receiving a reply from Alex Neil on the issue, Lewis Macdonald said today:

“After Bill Howatson resigned as Chair of the NHS Grampian Board, I wrote to the Cabinet Secretary for Health to voice public concerns that the next Chair would not be based in Grampian and would have little or no understanding of the needs of the North East.

“With the departure of the Chair, the Chief Executive and the Medical Director announced in recent weeks, local leadership in the delivery of healthcare in the North East has never been more important.

“The men and women appointed to run NHS Grampian must be selected on the basis of their ability to fight for the needs of patients in the North East, and not because of their willingness to dance to Edinburgh’s tune.”

17 October 2014

MSP urges public to have their say on corroboration

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald is encouraging local residents to give their views on the proposed safeguards which would be put in place should corroboration be abolished.

Under the current legal system, evidence is required from at least two different and independent sources of evidence in support of each crucial fact before a defendant can be convicted of a crime. The Scottish Government wants to abolish this requirement.

When the Scottish Government brought forward a bill to abolish corrobation without safeguards, serious concerns were raised from many in the legal establishment and from opposition politicians.

As a result Kenny MacAskill, the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, was forced to establish a review to analyse what additional safeguards would be required, were corroboration to be abolised.

That Review, established in February 2014 and led by Lord Bonomy, has now made suggestions as to what safeguards could be put in place. These could involve changes to guidelines for police evidence gathering, confession evidence, jury size and verdicts. Lord Bonomy is now asking the public for their views, to help inform the Review’s thinking ahead of its final report to the Scottish Government, due next April.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“It is incredibly important that we have the right checks and balances in place before we consider the removal of corroboration.

“We all rely on our justice system in many different ways and we need to have faith in the intergrity of that system.

That is why Lord Bonomy’s review is so important – and why the expert group needs to hear from people in the North East when his panel visits Aberdeen on 23rd October.

“The experiences and opinions that the public share can help ensure that the recommendations made in April are the right ones.”

16 October 2014

MSP seeks assurances on new NHS Grampian Chair

Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today called on the Scottish Government to ensure that the new Chair of the Board of NHS Grampian is someone who lives and works in Grampian, and who understands the problems facing health service users in the region.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“I was deeply disappointed by the circumstances of Bill Howatson’s resignation. Coming hard on the heels of the departure of Medical Director Dr Roelf Dijkhuizen, it seems to suggest that the local leadership of NHS Grampian are not getting the support they need from SNP Ministers in Grampian.

“That is why I have written to Alex Neil, the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, seeking his assurance that the new Chair of the local NHS will be based in Grampian, and will understand the particular needs of patients and service users in Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and Moray.

“The last thing the health service in this region needs now is a placeman or woman who will simply do whatever Edinburgh wants.”

14 October 2014

NHS Grampian chairman paying price for SNP failures - MSP

Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today called on Scottish Ministers to take responsibility for the problems at NHS Grampian, as it was announced that the Chairman, Bill Howatson, has resigned.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

"I am disappointed and concerned that Bill Howatson has felt he had to resign as Chair of NHS Grampian, so soon after the Medical Director was pushed out the door.

"The problems of NHS Grampian are not down to local leadership. They are fairly and squarely the responsibility of successive Health secretaries, since Nicola Sturgeon chose not to implement the recommendations of the National Resource Allocation Committee in 2007.

"A shortfall in funding of over £30m a year simply means the NHS cannot hope to meet the health needs of people in Grampian.

"Alex Neil has to take responsibility for the shortcomings of healthcare here, resulting directly from his failure to provide adequate resources to NHS Grampian.

"At the same time, he must give an absolute guarantee that the next Chair of NHS Grampian will be someone who lives and works in Grampian, and will be empowered to fight for NHS Grampian, not a placeman appointed to do Edinburgh's bidding."

9 October 2014

Fire Service report welcomed by MSP

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today said a Scottish Fire and Rescue Service report into allowing firefighters to respond to medical emergencies should be considered carefully.

The report praised two pilot projects, in Maud and Braemar, which had been established by Grampian Fire and Rescue Service, but called for more evaluation before the scheme was rolled out nationwide.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“Any measure which has the potential to save lives should be considered carefully.

“This particular innovation will be of great interest to those who live in rural areas, where a fire station staffed by trained first aiders may be much closer than the nearest ambulance.

“However, it is vital that the jobs and responsibilities of firefighters and paramedics are protected if such a scheme is rolled out across Scotland.

“Firefighters can provide an excellent first response, but they still need to be backed up by qualified medical professionals.”

8 October 2014

MSP - police drivers must be allowed to do their job

Another police officer charged with careless driving has been given an absolute discharge, after Sheriff Susan Raeburn recognised that constable Stewart Dick was seeking to attend an emergency in the belief his attendance was required to save a life.

Following the news of his discharge at Elgin Sheriff Court, North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald said today:

“This is yet another example of emergency drivers being taken to court for exercising their judgement in the way they have been trained to do.

“Police officers can and do save lives by driving at high speeds to serious incidents, and yet this is the third case of this kind involving police and ambulance drivers in the Grampian area in only a few months.

“These are highly-trained and experienced drivers, and the Crown Office needs to take these factors into consideration before jumping to conclusions about whether court action is appropriate.”

SNP has let down Aberdeen tenants - MSP

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today called on the Scottish Government to do more to tackle the housing shortage in Aberdeen and the North East, as new figures from Citylets show that rents in the city are up 6.4% on last year.

The average rental cost in the city centre is now £1066, compared to £876 in Edinburgh and just £669 in Glasgow.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“It is clear that Aberdeen is being particularly badly hit by the housing shortage. Not only are rents increasing well beyond the means of most families, but any properties which do come on the market are being snapped up in a matter of days.

“Scottish Ministers must keep their promise to build 35,000 new homes by next year, and they must do more to encourage developments in the North East.
“The city is already facing a public sector recruitment crisis because of the high cost of living, with NHS Grampian, Aberdeen City Council and Police Scotland all struggling to attract and retain staff.

“Unless the SNP takes action to address high rental costs, including the possibility of an Aberdeen weighting, this recruitment crisis is only going to get worse.”

7 October 2014

MSP welcomes Aberdeen Art Gallery funding

Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today welcomed the decision by the Heritage Lottery Fund to award a £10m grant to Aberdeen City Council for the project to upgrade Aberdeen Art Gallery. 

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“This is excellent news for Aberdeen City Council and its vision for city centre regeneration in Aberdeen.

“The decision by Heritage Lottery Fund to award £10m to the Aberdeen Art Gallery project is an indication of its importance to the city.

“Aberdeen City Council is to be congratulated on its success in securing funding for the redevelopment of Aberdeen Art Gallery and Cowdray Hall, and I look forward to welcoming further successes throughout the current fundraising campaign.”

6 October 2014

SNP needs to back health campaigns with investment

Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today called on the Scottish Government to back up its bowel cancer screening campaign with more investment for NHS Grampian’s over-stretched departments.

Following the launch of the Scottish Government’s campaign to encourage more people to complete and return home screening kits, Lewis Macdonald said:

“The home screening kit is a worthwhile campaign, and one that will undoubtedly help medical staff to make early diagnoses.

“Yet nearly 10% of patients in NHS Grampian whose screening results indicate the need for further testing are forced to wait more than 8 weeks for a colonoscopy, according to the latest NHS statistics. A further 42% have to wait between 4 and 8 weeks before being seen compared to the Scottish average of 36%.

“This delay is yet another symptom of the SNP’s underfunding of NHS Grampian, and undoes all the work achieved by public health campaigns like this one.

“Home screening must be supported by properly-funded clinics to provide a timely diagnosis if North East residents are to have the best chance possible of surviving bowel cancer.

Virgin decision on Aberdeen flights disappointing - MSP

Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today described the decision by Virgin Atlantic to drop its Little Red service from Aberdeen to Heathrow as disappointing, and called on the Scottish Government to do more to develop a fully-fledged infrastructure strategy for the North East.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“It is a matter of regret that this service has failed to secure the passenger numbers which Virgin Atlantic was hoping to attract.

“Clearly the users of these vital links will be disappointed that their options for travelling to London and onward to other destinations has been cut as a direct result of their failure to capture a larger share of the market.

“This raises important issues about the lack of action by the Scottish Government in recent years regarding new air routes, as well as the need for a wider city strategy for Aberdeen and the North East.

“Nicola Sturgeon has failed in her time as Minister for Cities to develop an economic city strategy for Aberdeen, which would link new transport infrastructure with new routes from Aberdeen International Airport.

“She now needs to tell us what the SG will do to support competition on the vital Heathrow route going forward."

2 October 2014

MSP highlights success of Food Standards Agency in Aberdeen

North East Scotland Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today highlighted the success of the Food Standards Agency Scotland, as a central government agency based in Aberdeen.

Speaking before the debate on a Bill to replace FSA Scotland with a new agency, which will continue to be based in Aberdeen, Lewis Macdonald said:

"Donald Dewar was First Minister when the then Scottish Government decided to base the Scottish arm of the new Food Standards Agency in Aberdeen, and that decision has been a resounding success.

“FSA Scotland has used the concentration of scientific knowledge and of food production and processing in the North East to deliver its services right across Scotland.

"At a time when too many Scottish public services are being centralised into the Central Belt, FSA Scotland shows that a public body based in Aberdeen can achieve excellence in its field.

"Leading Aberdeen academics like Hugh Pennington and Philip James made the case for a food standards agency at the time of mad cow disease and the E.coli tragedy in Lanarkshire back in 1996.

"It is essential that the promise Ministers have given to base the new agency in Aberdeen is honoured, in order to provide the best possible service in future years."

30 September 2014

MSP warns Ministers over cancer waiting times

Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today warned Scottish Ministers that their decision to underfund NHS Grampian by more than £30m is continuing to have serious implications for patients in the North East.

Figures published today by Information Services Division on cancer waiting times show that NHS Grampian missed both its major targets for cancer treatment between April and June this year, and that one NHS Grampian patient had to wait 218 days between their “urgent referral” and the first treatment date.

Following the publication of these figures, Lewis Macdonald said:

“NHS Grampian may have missed its targets for treating cancer patients, but it is SNP Ministers who need to take responsibility for these failings.

“Health services in the North East are stretched to breaking point because of the missing £30m and it is patients who are paying the price.

“It is essential that cancer patients are treated as quickly as possible in order to give them the best possible chance of survival. The SNP need to provide what funding and resources are required to ensure that this happens.

“If the Scottish Government wants NHS Grampian to meet its targets, then it needs to provide the funding it promised and not short-change patients in the North East.”

15 September 2014

MSP welcomes business support for No vote

Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today welcomed the results of a poll of North East business owners and managers which showed that 65% are planning on voting No in Thursday’s referendum.

The poll, carried out by Aberdeen Grampian Chamber of Commerce, received 500 responses from member organisations.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“This poll shows that the great majority of business men and women in the North East are rejecting the uncertainty of independence in favour of a No vote and the increased devolution offered by Labour and other parties.

“It is clear that Alex Salmond and the Yes campaign have failed to convince key business figures in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, and this is a pattern that we are seeing repeated all over the area as we knock on doors and speak to the public.

“Independence is just too great a gamble, and there are too many unanswered questions for business owners to take such a risk.”

14 August 2014

Long wait for NHS investment disappointing - Macdonald

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald is calling on the Scottish Government to start work on the proposed cancer care centre and women’s hospital as soon as possible, and to ensure that the people of Aberdeen and the North East benefit from the project before the end of the decade.

After raising the issue in Parliament today Lewis Macdonald said:

“John Swinney’s answer was full of warnings about the difficulties involved in securing NPD funding for projects like the proposed cancer care centre and women’s hospital.

“This is not what the people of Aberdeen and the North East want to hear. They want action on this project within the year, and they certainly want to know that they are going to benefit from this investment before the end of the decade.

“Swinney said today that NHS Grampian will receive only £17.1m out of £347.8m capital investment in the NHS in Scotland this year: only half of Grampian's population share.
“There is a real risk that the next Scottish Parliament election will pass us by without the first brick being laid on the proposed cancer care centre and women’s hospital. Ministers must make capital investment in NHS Grampian a priority for the sake of patients across the North East.”

SNP claims about a Yes vote reach a new low, says Macdonald

Desperate efforts by the SNP to persuade voters it's safe to vote Yes to independence reached a new low today, as Agriculture Secretary Richard Lochhead claimed farmers could still market their products in the rest of the UK as "Produce of Britain" in the event of a Yes vote.

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald wrote to the Scottish Government in June, after a constituent expressed concern about no longer being able to use the Union Jack trademark or to market his produce as British if Scotland were to leave the UK.

John Forbes, who farms near Stonehaven, supplies supermarkets across Britain and believes the fact he is a producer in the UK's home market gives him a commercial advantage over producers from other European countries, such as Ireland or Denmark.

Richard Lochhead finally replied this week, to say that "Britain is a geographical term," so he reckons Scottish farmers could still call themselves British whatever happened.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

"People who thought the British Government, British citizenship, British passports, the British Army, British qualifications and British produce were all to do with the United Kingdom will be astonished to find a government minister who thinks "Britain" is only a geographic expression. It is as if he wants to deny the last three hundred years of our common history and identity.

"The SNP want voters to believe that they have nothing to lose by voting Yes. This is perhaps the first time they have said you can vote for a separate Scotland and still call yourself British.

"Scottish farmers currently have the best of both worlds, because they can sell their premium produce worldwide under the Scottish brand and sell everything else in Britain as home-produced.

"The idea that Scottish farmers would still be regarded as home producers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland if Scotland left the UK is absurd. Fortunately, most farmers know better than to believe that tall tale, and they will vote No in their thousands in September."

7 August 2014

MSP calls for clarity over NHS Grampian funding

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald is to ask John Swinney in the Scottish Parliament whether the Scottish Government proposes to fully fund the costs of a proposed new Cancer Centre and Women’s Hospital in Aberdeen.

Following the announcement that these projects would be taken forward using private capital under a NPD public-private partnership, with the costs to be paid back by the public sector over 25 or 30 years, Mr Macdonald has written to both the Scottish Government and NHS Grampian to find out whether the revenue costs will be met from new Government money, or from NHS Grampian’s already hard-pressed budget.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“NPD funding will provide the initial capital to enable NHS Grampian to build a new cancer care centre and maternity hospital, but this money, and interest, will have to be paid back over the next 25 or 30 years.

“I want to know if the Scottish Government will pay back the private investors who invest in this NPD project, or whether money will have to be taken from NHS Grampian’s budget to cover the costs.

“That is why I will be asking John Swinney MSP to explain in Parliament just who will be meeting these costs, which are likely to be extensive given the scale of the projects. Announcing plans is not enough; people in the North East are entitled to know how they are to be paid for.”

31 July 2014

Macdonald raises emergency drivers concerns

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has written to the Lord Advocate, to raise concerns about the prosecution of emergency drivers in the North East.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“We have seen two examples of emergency drivers facing prosecution just for doing their jobs in Aberdeen this summer. In one a police officer was given an absolute discharge, and in the other the case against an ambulance driver was dropped on the day she was due to appear in court.

“The public rely on the experience and skill of these emergency drivers to ensure that help is on hand when it is needed. If drivers are worried that they will face prosecution for speeding or going through a red light, even though they are trained to do so safely, then it is the public who will suffer.

“Following discussion with the Scottish Police Federation and Unite the Union, I have raised these issues with the Lord Advocate, asking him to review the Crown Office’s approach to how cases against emergency service drivers are dealt with.

“Emergency service drivers need to know that they have the backing and confidence of the authorities, and I believe an urgent review is required.”

24 July 2014

HMP Grampian failings affecting families - MSP

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has called on Kenny MacAskill to step in and take action to resolve the ongoing problems at HMP Grampian.

Young offenders and some adult prisoners were removed after trouble at the jail nearly three months ago, and no date has yet been set for young offenders to be returned to the North East.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“Kenny MacAskill said when he closed Craiginches Prison that the new HMP Grampian would be a community-facing jail, housing male and female prisoners and young offenders under the same roof.

“But now young offenders have been moved to Polmont, with no indication of when they might return to HMP Grampian. Families are finding it difficult to visit, which can only make it harder for young offenders to change their ways.

“If Ministers cannot deliver the community-facing jail they promised when they closed Aberdeen’s prison, then they should tell us why.

“As opponents of the closure of Craiginches said at the time, replacing a prison in Aberdeen with one in Peterhead risks being seen as an expensive failure.”

22 July 2014

MSP calls for control room rethink

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has urged Kenny MacAskill to reconsider the closure of Aberdeen’s police and fire control rooms in the light of recent events in Dumfries and Galloway.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“Dumfries and Galloway was the first area to lose its police control room, and we are already hearing horror stories about delays and problems with emergency and non-emergency calls.

“A local councillor in Dumfriesshire called the non-emergency number and was “deeply worried” to find that the Govan-based operator was unable to find his location – even with all the computer systems that Ministers claim will render local knowledge obsolete.

“The North East is a rural area, much like Dumfries and Galloway, and operators based in Dundee, Edinburgh or Glasgow are going to have the same problems identifying locations when the facilities at Mounthooly, Bucksburn and Queen Street are closed.

“Kenny MacAskill might claim that the closures are a matter for Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, but they are being forced into these decisions by the SNP’s draconian budget cuts.

“Services cannot be allowed to suffer for the sake of saving money or it will be our North East communities which will pay the price.”

27 June 2014

Macdonald calls for timetable at ARI

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald is today calling on the Scottish Government and NHS Grampian to set out the timetable for proposed new capital spending of £120m NPD finance at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

Lewis Macdonald said:

“I am writing to Health Secretary Alex Neil and the chair of NHS Grampian today, to ask them to publish a timetable for the plans announced this week for new maternity and cancer care centres in Aberdeen.

“This scheme involves a private partner spending £120m and being repaid with interest from the public purse over 25 to 30 years.

“It took 11 years on the AWPR to get from a decision to support the project, taken by Labour First Minister Jack McConnell in 2003, to an announcement of the private partner who will pay towards the development only a few weeks ago.

“Part of that delay was due to legal action, but part was due to the many months it took to get a public private NPD scheme in place.

“We do not want similar delays at ARI.

“The Scottish Government must tell us whether building at ARI will begin before the next election in 2016.

“There would be nothing worse than to have a funding announcement now, only to find nothing is going to happen for years to come.”

26 June 2014

Action needed now in cancer and maternity care - MSP

SNP Ministers need to say whether the proposed replacement healthcare facilities in Aberdeen will be delivered in the term of the current SNP Government, and to be clear about how they will be funded and staffed, says North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald.

Speaking after Finance Secretary John Swinney announced £120m of private sector funding through NPD finance for new maternity and cancer care facilities at ARI, Lewis Macdonald said:

“There are three important questions John Swinney did not answer.

“When will these new facilities be delivered? Is this a commitment to be delivered before the next election in May 2016, or is it another project to be delivered after many years’ delay, as with the Aberdeen by-pass and the Haudagain roundabout?

“NPD involves a private sector partner putting up £120m in capital up-front, and the public sector paying this back with interest over 25 or 30 years. Will this revenue cost be met by the Scottish Government, or will it fall on the hard-pressed budget of NHS Grampian?

“Finally, given years of under-funding of NHS Grampian since the SNP took office in 2007, will they provide the funds to staff maternity and cancer care services properly, or will these new facilities be as under-staffed as the ones they are replacing?”

Macdonald blasts SNP and Tories over rent rise failure

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has criticised the SNP and the Conservatives for failing to back plans to make private rents in Scotland fairer.

Scottish Labour proposed to limit rent reviews to once a year and to cap how much rents could rise by during the passage of the Housing (Scotland) Bill yesterday, but the amendments were voted down by the SNP and Conservatives.

Lewis Macdonald MSP said today:

“Rents are rising fast in Scotland, nowhere more so than Aberdeen. The average rent in Aberdeen is now £1066 compared to just £699 in the rest of the country.

“Our proposals would have offered some relief to the 17,000 private renters in Aberdeen who are struggling with the spiralling rents. People who are finding themselves forced to choose between heating their homes or paying for the weekly shop in order to find the money for the rent.

“The SNP clearly had no interest in listening to the concerns of private renters and have no plan in place to tackle poverty in the sector.

“Labour will continue to make the case for fair rents in Aberdeen and the North East, even if the SNP has backed private landlords over private renters with this decision.”

25 June 2014

Macdonald backs MS Society benefits campaign

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald met local people with multiple sclerosis at the MS Society “Voices for Change” event in Aberdeen at the weekend, to hear their concerns about the impact of welfare reforms.

Lewis Macdonald, who is Deputy Convener of the Cross Party Group on MS at Holyrood, said today:

“MS is an illness which disproportionately affects people living in the North and North East of Scotland, and the support of the local branch of the MS Society is vital for people living with the disease in Aberdeen and the surrounding area.

“The issues which come with such a debilitating and unpredictable disease have a real impact on people’s employment opportunities. Added to the costs of living with a disability, many face significant financial hardship as a result.

“I am happy to support the MS Society’s campaign for a fairer benefits system. The MS Society has gathered personal accounts from people with MS in Aberdeen about the impact of the welfare reforms and will be publicising these views this summer.”

Sarah Richard, Policy and Campaigns Manager at the MS Society commented:
“People with MS are really concerned about benefits and some of the stories we heard at the Voices for Change event in Aberdeen back up the need for substantially different ways of doing things.

“People are waiting many months for decisions about vital disability benefits and decisions are often made with little understanding of how the condition affects the individual. We are very grateful for people in Aberdeen taking the time to share their views and to those like Lewis who came along to listen. The MS Society will use this evidence to continue to push for change”.

19 June 2014

MSP welcomes dangerous buildings legislation

North East Labour Lewis Macdonald has welcomed the passing of a new law making it easier for councils to deal with dangerous buildings in private ownership, after the Scottish Parliament approved a Member's Bill from Labour's David Stewart MSP today (Thursday).

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“The Buildings (Recovery of Expenses) (Scotland) Bill will help Aberdeen City Council re-coup their costs of dealing with various building standard issues. It is estimated that only that only 50% of debts are recovered across and that currently there could be over £3.9 million outstanding across Scotland.

“In the North East 304 Dangerous Building notices were issued in 2011-2012. These are not just unsafe to the public, they are an eyesore. These buildings have a detrimental effect on the surrounding area by driving down house prices on a street or making town centres seem unwelcoming.”

The Buildings (Recovery of Expenses) (Scotland) Bill is the first Opposition Member’s Bill passed this session and received unanimous support by all parties in the Parliament.

Speaking after the Stage 3 debate, Labour MSP David Stewart said:

 “I am delighted that my Bill passed stage three with support across the chamber, and this is the culmination of 4 years hard work.”

“During its passing through Parliament and during the evidence session in the Local Government and Regeneration Committee it was clear that this measure had widespread support from Local Authorities and the wider building sector. It is a testament to what can be achieved when ordinary Members and the government work co-operatively.”

17 June 2014

Emergency drivers must be allowed to do their job - MSP

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has today written to Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, calling for emergency drivers working for the police, ambulance and fire services to be able to do their jobs without fear of unfair prosecution.

Lewis Macdonald said:

“Grampian has seen two high-profile cases in recent months, where a police firearms officer and an ambulance driver have had charges brought as a result of driving decisions they have taken while responding to emergencies.

“In one case, the sheriff granted an absolute discharge, and it appears that the case should never have been brought to court. In the other case, the procurator fiscal abandoned the charge before it came to court, but only after the driver’s working life had been put on hold for months.

“Kenny MacAskill has questions to answer about why these drivers were even charged in the first place, and I want to know whether the guidance on these matters has changed since the creation of Police Scotland.

“If I needed the emergency services, I would like to think that they were doing everything they could to get to the scene quickly and safely in line with their professional training and using their professional judgement, not forced to delay because of fears about being unfairly prosecuted.

“The last thing we need is risk-averse emergency services, and the public need to know what is going on.”

12 June 2014

Government needs to answer Scottish farmers’ concerns, says MSP

North East Scotland Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today called on the Scottish Government to answer farmers’ questions over the future of farm produce sales in the rest of the UK, in the event of a yes vote later this year.

After Richard Lochhead failed to answer a direct question at Holyrood today, Lewis Macdonald said:

“Scottish farmers have legitimate and valid concerns about the future of farm produce sales which the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs simply refused to acknowledge.

"Richard Lochhead failed to confirm what would happen to Scottish farm produce currently marketed in other parts of Britain as "Produce of Britain," which amounts to nearly 90% of Scottish produce sold outwith Scotland."

“This is yet another example of the SNP’s refusal to tell the people of Scotland the truth about the implications of independence. Farmers, and the wider community, deserve better.

“That is why I will be writing to Richard Lochhead, to ask him to actually answer the simple question I put in parliament today, in an effort to get to the truth on this issue.”

11 June 2014

Macdonald welcomes “long-awaited” action on AWPR

North East Scotland Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today welcomed the news that a preferred bidder has been named for the AWPR project – but warned that the people of Aberdeen will not tolerate any further delays.

Speaking after the announcement that Connect Roads is the Scottish Government’s preferred bidder, Mr Macdonald said today:

"Residents of Aberdeen will be pleased to finally see some long-awaited progress on the AWPR project. We now need to see urgent and early action on the Haudagain roundabout.

“The Scottish Government must now ensure that their preferred bidder, Connect Roads, starts work as soon as possible, and that there are no further delays in getting this vital project completed.

“Aberdeen has already had to wait too long for work on the AWPR to start. SNP Ministers must now play their part in ensuring there are no further delays.”

10 June 2014

NHS Grampian needs money not meddling, says MSP

SNP Ministers were today accused of meddling in the management of NHS Grampian instead of providing the health board with the money it needs to do its job, after further revelations about a "service review" of patient care at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

Responding to news that NHS Grampian had "invited" Government officials from Edinburgh to review operations, following complaints by "a small number of clinical staff," North East Scotland Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald said:

"Every week brings new revelations about the consequences of SNP under-funding of the NHS in Grampian.

"Last week, it was concern about recruiting medical staff for the Emergency Department at ARI.

"This week, we learn that Edinburgh officials are meddling in the internal management of the hospital, although they have failed to say what the issues might be.

"The simple fact is that the present SNP Government took on a commitment in 2007 to work towards fair funding under a revised National Resource Allocation, then failed to deliver, so NHS Grampian's budget this year still falls more than £30 million short of what it needs to do its job.

"The NHS in Grampian needs the resources it was promised, not meddling and micromanagement by officials from the very government which is letting patients down."

6 June 2014

Chief Constable has questions to answer - Macdonald

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald is writing to Chief Constable Stephen House in an effort to establish how many Grampian police officers have resigned since the creation of Police Scotland.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

"Kenny MacAskill refused to answer my question on police resignations in Parliament this week on the basis that this was the responsibility of Police Scotland. Therefore I am writing to Chief Constable Stephen House in an effort to get to the bottom of this mounting crisis.

“Communities across the North East deserve the truth about local policing, not excuses and a lack of accountability. The Chief Constable should be able to answer such a straightforward question about his own police force, and I look forward to being able to share his answers with the public.

“Kenny MacAskill has refused to take responsibility for local policing problems in the North East; I hope that the Chief Constable is able to take a more honest and open approach.”

Traffic jam findings “no surprise” to local MSP

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald says the news that Aberdeen has the worst traffic jams in Scotland will come as “no surprise” to local residents.

Commenting on a Direct Line survey which found Aberdeen drivers travelled at an average of 12.7mph in rush-hour traffic and suffered delays of 6.5 minutes on their journeys Lewis Macdonald said:

“Aberdeen residents have been waiting a long time for work to start on the AWPR and the Haudagain roundabout. This survey shows just why it is vital that these road improvement projects are completed as soon as possible.

“The Scottish Government has already admitted that the Haudagain will not be completed until 2018. Aberdeen drivers will want to know why this traffic blackspot cannot be dealt with sooner.

“Traffic jams of this magnitude not only affect daily commuters, but they are bound to have an impact on local businesses. SNP Ministers must ensure that there are no more delays or Aberdeen’s rush-hours will become even more congested.”

4 June 2014

Continuing sense of crisis in North East policing - Macdonald

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald is today warning that the continuing sense of crisis in North East policing will only get worse unless issues regarding recruitment and retention of officers are taken seriously by the Scottish Government.

Speaking after putting his question to Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill at Holyrood this afternoon, Lewis Macdonald said:

"Kenny MacAskill today failed to answer a simple and straightforward question about police officer numbers in the former Grampian region. These are numbers you would expect a Justice Minister to have at his fingertips, and he had plenty of time to ask the Chief Constable for the relevant information.

“The Minister failed to take the opportunity I provided to reassure the people of North East Scotland that the SNP takes their concerns seriously. His failure to answer a simple question showed a lack of respect for parliament, but more importantly a lack of understanding of the growing concerns about these issues in and around Aberdeen.

“There is a lack of clear information about how Police Scotland resources are deployed from area to area, which is why I have tabled a parliamentary question in an effort to fill in the gaps and provide North East communities with the answers they deserve.”

Macdonald calls for answers on police exodus

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald is today calling on the Scottish Government to come clean on the exodus of former Grampian Police officers from the new Police Service of Scotland.

Speaking before putting his question to Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill at Holyrood this afternoon, Lewis Macdonald said:

"Time and again over the last twelve months, I have discovered that up-and-coming police officers I have been dealing with in and around Aberdeen have quit Police Scotland and left the police service altogether.

"I am pressing SNP Ministers to reveal the scale of this exodus, because the number of local leaders leaving the police service is bound to have an impact on the quality of the service in the North East.

"Kenny MacAskill has been very reluctant to say how far the number of police officers based in Grampian has been cut, compared with the days of Grampian Police. The Chief Constable has also declined to say how many cops are actually based here now.

"Until they answer these questions we can only guess the reasons for refusing to give like for like figures, but the suspicion has to be that there are fewer police officers here now than a year ago.

"The communities I represent are entitled to know what the impact of creating Police Scotland on their local areas. That is why I am pursuing this issue today, and I will continue to press Kenny MacAskill to tell the whole story about police numbers in the North East."

29 May 2014

Stonehaven court closure “a sad day” for local justice - Macdonald

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has warned that North East communities will be hit hard by the loss of Stonehaven Court, which closes its doors on 30 May after almost 250 years of dispensing local justice.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“The community in Stonehaven fought hard to retain their local court. Despite their objections, and concerns raised about capacity and backlogs at Aberdeen Sherriff Court, SNP Ministers went ahead with the closure regardless.

“This is a sad day for local justice. This closure will also have an impact on people across the North East who will struggle to have their cases heard in an already over-stretched Aberdeen court.

“The North East has suffered disproportionately from Kenny MacAskill’s cuts; Stonehaven court, police station counters at Bucksburn and across Aberdeenshire and finally the closure of local police and fire control rooms. The closure of Stonehaven court is another sad day for local justice.”

28 May 2014

Consult on seven-night sleeper service, says MSP

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has today pressed the SNP Government to consult the public on running sleeper trains between Aberdeen and London seven nights a week instead of the current six.

After asking a parliamentary question today, seeking assurances that the new franchisee would continue to run direct services between London and the North East, Lewis Macdonald said:

“Keith Brown said today that increasing the current sleeper service from Aberdeen to seven nights a week would be a matter for dialogue between government, franchisee and the public. I have therefore written to the Minister to ensure that this dialogue is high on his list of priorities.

“The sleeper service will only be able to compete with flying if the new franchisee provides a direct, reliable, comfortable and high-quality service. Doing that seven nights a week instead of six would be a step in the right direction.”

23 May 2014

Macdonald adds support to epilepsy campaign

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald showed his support for new SIGN national guidelines on managing epilepsy in adults by signing a gold standard ticket at the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday 21 May. 

He took part in a Sign up to SIGN event, held by the Epilepsy Consortium Scotland (ECS), to promote forthcoming revised guidelines covering 50,000 adults with epilepsy and to highlight National Epilepsy Week (18-24 May).

Mr Macdonald said today:

“People living with epilepsy in the North East deserve to have access to the best possible care, whenever they need it. The proposed SIGN guidelines would help to ensure equal access to epilepsy care and treatment across the country. 

"I’m supporting National Epilepsy Week because this is a common, serious neurological condition which many of us still know too little about. National Epilepsy Week is a good opportunity to raise awareness and to promote the guidelines proposed by ECS.”

21 May 2014

SNP have questions to answer on All Energy decision, says MSP

The Scottish Government has questions to answer on what part it played in moving the All Energy annual conference from Aberdeen to Glasgow next year, says MSP Lewis Macdonald.

Following revelations that this week’s All Energy conference is to be the last to be held in Aberdeen, the North East Labour MSP has tabled a series of parliamentary questions and demanded answers from SNP Ministers.

“It is astonishing that the organisers of this annual event are abandoning Aberdeen for Glasgow,” Lewis Macdonald said today. “It is even more astonishing that SNP Ministers don’t appear to have lifted a finger to prevent it.

“SNP Energy Minister Fergus Ewing is speaking at All Energy today (Wednesday). He is the SNP Minister in charge of government support for conferences, and he is the Minister in charge of Scottish Enterprise.

“Did Fergus Ewing not know what was going on, and did he really do nothing to prevent it?

“Alex Salmond is fond of describing Aberdeen as “the Energy Capital of Europe”, yet here is the UK’s leading All Energy conference moving out of Aberdeen without Alex Salmond having anything to say about it.

“This is the same Alex Salmond who announced in February that Glasgow would be the “co-headquarters” of his government’s energy department in the event of a Yes vote next September. Aberdeen might be “the Energy Capital of Europe” today, but it would clearly not be the energy capital of an independent Scotland if Alex Salmond had his way.

“If SNP Ministers knew about these plans and supported them, they need to come clean about what they have done. If they didn’t know, the question is why not?”

14 May 2014

MSP concerned over loss of research jobs

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today expressed concern over the loss of research jobs at the James Hutton Institute.

His intervention comes after the announcement that The James Hutton Institute, based in Invergowrie and Aberdeen, is to cut up to 70 jobs.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“The loss of any jobs  is disappointing, especially skilled science jobs here in the North East

“Once again, Aberdeen is looking at a reduction in the number of public service staff in the city. In  isolation, a voluntary redundancy scheme for 70 people across Aberdeen and Dundee doesn’t sound like much. In the context of cuts in control rooms, and the under-funding of local government and the NHS in Grampian, it is another blow to public services in Aberdeen.”

7 May 2014

Macdonald wins promise of joined up approach

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today secured a promise that the Scottish Government will consider a more joined up approach to the recruitment crisis facing public service employers in Aberdeen.

Lewis Macdonald used a parliamentary question to ask Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon what her government would do to help public services like NHS Grampian and local councils to recruit and retain staff in the face of the high costs of housing and transport in the Aberdeen City region.

Speaking after his exchange with Nicola Sturgeon today, Lewis Macdonald said:

"Any progress is welcome, and the Deputy First Minister's offer to consider how to join up the approaches of public sector employers in Aberdeen does at least recognise that there is a problem to be solved, and the government needs to help solve it.

"That on its own will not be enough. We need urgent action to follow up that commitment, because NHS Grampian already has an urgent problem in recruiting staff. Aberdeen City Council will need to do even more to find new teachers for next August than they did last August. The costs of renting or buying a home in Aberdeen ramp up every week.

"Joining up policy is a first step, but it must be followed by positive decisions from the Scottish Government to support public sector jobs in Aberdeen. I will continue to work in the Scottish Parliament to secure those decisions, on behalf of all those who work in or benefit from public services in the North East."

1 May 2014

Macdonald calls for better access to MS treatments

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald will today pledge his support to the MS Society campaign “Treat Me Right”. The campaign, launched to mark MS Week 2014, aims to ensure that people living with MS across the North East have better access to treatments.

MS Society figures reveal that people with MS often face significant barriers in accessing licensed treatments, getting the information to decide what is right for them and being referred to the specialists who can help.

MS Week (28 April – 4 May) has already featured a number of events at the Scottish Parliament, including a parliamentary reception yesterday evening, and the debate on the Treat Me Right campaign will be held at 12.30 today.

Lewis Macdonald will be speaking in the debate in support of the thousands of people in the North East affected by MS.

Speaking today, Mr Macdonald said:

“MS is a real problem in the North East and North of Scotland. The prevalence of the disease is 20% higher in the Grampian region than in Scotland as a whole.

“I have been aware for many years of the challenges facing people with MS and their families, and speaking in this debate is an excellent opportunity to highlight some of the problems they face.

“The MS Society’s campaign highlights the impact that NHS funding can have on the lives of patients. NHS Grampian must have the funding it needs to ensure people with MS can have access to the most modern and effective treatments available.

“I am pleased to offer my support for the Treat Me Right campaign, both in the Scottish Parliament and in the North East. More can and must be done to get people with MS the treatments they need.”

24 April 2014

Macdonald calls for SNP action on fire control closures

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has called on Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill to step into the row over fire control closures, and to work with unions, staff and communities to come up with better proposals.

After speaking in a Member’s Business debate on the issue, Lewis Macdonald said today:

“It is clear that the closure proposals agreed by the SFRS in January will do little to achieve their aims of providing a safe and efficient fire service while making the necessary savings required by the SNP Government.

“Ministers cannot continue to deny any responsibility, while staff members and union leaders across the country express legitimate concerns about the impact these closures will have on the ability of the fire service to do its job.

“The Fire Brigades Union’s own submission to the SFRS Board called for the retention of two control centres in the North, highlighting the skills and knowledge needed to deal with emergencies in rural areas, and the specialist requirements of the oil and gas industry in Aberdeen.

“The SFRS’ own appraisal document agreed that retaining Aberdeen along with Edinburgh and Glasgow was the most financially viable option. Despite this wealth of evidence, the SFRS voted to close Aberdeen and Inverness, and the SNP Government seems unwilling or unable to call Board members and their decisions to account.”

22 April 2014

Macdonald calls for answers on police and fire closures

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has called on Police Authority and Fire Board members to appear before a Parliamentary committee, to answer questions on their decisions to close all police and fire control rooms north of the Central Belt.

After petitions from North and North East residents were debated at Holyrood today, Lewis Macdonald said:

“These petitions from Aberdeen and the Highlands and Islands have highlighted the complete failure of both Boards to consult the public in the communities where they plan to close services.

Communities have been left feeling that the North and North East have been ignored and forgotten by the Scottish Government, which will inevitably lead to a loss of public confidence in the police and fire services in these areas.

“Staff have been ignored too. The Fire Brigades Union Scotland told the Fire Board that ‘the best solution for the North Service Delivery Area requires the retention of a Control room in both the North East and North West of Scotland to recognise and ensure a robust response to the unique risks and challenges presented by these large areas.’ Their views have been ignored, as have the views of Unison who speak for civilian staff in the police control room and service centre.

Board members of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and the Scottish Police Authority need to explain why they rejected the sensible and safe approach put forward by their own staff, and why they made no effort to consult local communities.

“That is why I hope the Public Petitions Committee will call on these Board members to appear in person, and account for their decisions to the people of Scotland.”

27 March 2014

“Weasel words” on 999 control rooms condemned

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today condemned SNP Ministers for their “weasel words” on 999 control room, after Justice Minister Roseanna Cunningham refused to take any responsibility for planned closures from Dumfries to Aberdeen.

Following a debate at the Scottish Parliament today, Lewis Macdonald said:

“Members from all parties today called for Ministers to listen to concerns about these closure proposals.

“The SNP’s Aileen McLeod said the Scottish Government should consider control rooms shared by a range of emergency services, and I and I Labour colleagues called on Ministers to step in and halt the closure process.

“The SNP’s Justice Minister made it very clear that she was not interested in shared control rooms on her watch, and in any case any such decision in future would only affect surviving control rooms in the Central Belt.

“Above all, Roseanna Cunningham refused to intervene to require the Police and Fire Boards to consult local staff, local councils or local communities.  As far as she was concerned, we should all leave it to the “consummate professionals” running the services, accountable to the Boards which Ministers appointed.

“This shows that the SNP Scottish Government don’t even have the courage to admit to decisions for which they are ultimately responsible.  It is little wonder that staff whose jobs are threatened are to ballot on industrial action.”

MSP calls for transparency on North East police numbers

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today called for transparency on police officer numbers in the area of the former Grampian Police.

His intervention comes following publication of official statistics earlier this month, which failed to show how many Police Scotland officers were based in each of the former police force areas.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

"I asked Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill to tell me how many officers were now based in Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and Moray, compared with the number of officers employed by the former Grampian Police.

"He would not give me a direct answer to my parliamentary questions, but instead referred me to the latest figures published by Police Scotland for 31 December 2013.

"Those statistics show how many officers are employed in "local policing" in each division, which in the case of the former Grampian Police area comes to a total of 1132 officers.

"This compares with 1512 officers in the last year of Grampian Police, but the official statistics fail to show how many of the officers employed in "regional policing" and "national policing" are actually based in the former Grampian police force area.

"Many people will worry about why the police are so anxious to make it difficult to compare police numbers in the North East now with before the creation of a single national police force.

"Former Grampian police officers have been leaving the force in large numbers, and Police Scotland are finding it difficult to recruit replacements in this area. If police numbers are going down, at the same time as civilian staff are losing their jobs and control rooms are threatened with closure, it will add to the widespread concern that the Scottish Government is pulling its resources out of the North East.

"That is why I have written to the Chief Constable today, and tabled further questions to Kenny MacAskill, demanding that the full figures for police officers based in Grampian are published without delay.

"If numbers are not going down, Ministers have nothing to hide. If they are going down, the public in the North East have every right to know."

19 March 2014

Use rail link to create jobs, says Macdonald

A rail link to the planned new harbour at Nigg Bay could help create business and jobs in Aberdeen, Lewis Macdonald said at the Scottish Parliament today.

The North East Labour MSP asked Scottish Government Ministers what they were doing to support big projects in the Aberdeen city region, and highlighted the proposed expansion of Aberdeen Harbour as a key project for future economic growth.

“Expanding Aberdeen Harbour is seen by all parties as a national priority,” he said today. “The Government’s National Planning Framework also supports new roads to serve Nigg Bay, but it makes no mention of a rail link.

“The East Coast Main Line from Aberdeen to London is not far away, and we mustn’t miss the opportunity to link up sea and rail when the new harbour is built.

“Offshore windfarms already mean lots of big kit going offshore from the North East coast. Decommissioning of oil platforms could also create jobs in and around Aberdeen.

“Rail is a much better way of transporting such big chunks of metal around the country, and that is why a rail link to Aberdeen Harbour could create a lot of business and jobs in both offshore renewables and decommissioning.”

Lewis Macdonald pressed deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon to work with the Harbour Board and Network Rail to make it happen, and she undertook to do so.

“I’m glad it’s now on the agenda,” he said afterwards. “It’s never too early to start planning ahead!”

27 February 2014

Hamilton staff must not be “left in the lurch” - Macdonald

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has raised the issue of staff redundancies at the Hamilton School with Dr Alasdair Allan MSP.

After meeting with the Minister for Learning, Science and Scotland's Languages today Lewis Macdonald said:

“The closure of the Hamilton School and the liquidation of the business have led to 78 members of staff being made redundant. It is important that these people are not left in the lurch because of issues outwith their control.

“I have been approached by past and present Hamilton School staff concerned about the situation at the school, and these employees are now facing an uncertain future through no fault of their own.

“That is why I have called on Alasdair Allan to take action to assist affected staff, and I welcome his positive approach at this time.”

26 February 2014

Control room staff “abandoned” by SNP - Macdonald

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today called on SNP Ministers to stop telling each other how well it’s all going and to start listening to police and fire service staff.

After speaking in a Scottish Labour debate on control room closures, Lewis Macdonald said:

“It is clear that Kenny MacAskill and his SNP colleagues are continuing to wash their hands of any responsibility for the cuts and closures within Scotland’s police and fire services.

“Staff in across the North East and the North of Scotland will lose their jobs, services will be affected and lives could even be lost, yet Scottish Government Ministers remain unconcerned.

“Launching a staff consultation on fire and police control room closures after the final decisions have been made is a ridiculous gesture, and has fooled no-one.

“Kenny MacAskill has abandoned control room staff, and the public, to their fates. What use is a Justice Minister who claims he has no power to intervene in the running of his own police and fire services?”

Macdonald to raise control rooms at Holyrood

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald will raise the issue of fire and police control room closures in a Scottish Parliament debate this afternoon.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“Scottish Labour has brought today’s debate to Holyrood in order to raise the concerns expressed by staff and members of the public regarding the closure of police and fire control rooms in Aberdeen and across Scotland.

“SNP Ministers have turned their backs on those affected by the closures, blaming the Scottish Police Authority and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Board for every unpopular decision. This is not good enough, and today’s debate will call on the Scottish Government to listen to police and fire staff who will lose their jobs if these closures go through.

“The weight of public opinion is behind the affected staff in Aberdeen, and this is a situation which is replicated all over the North and North East. The public realise that these closures will affect the excellent services they currently enjoy, and they are rightly concerned.

"Today we will find out whether the SNP intend to continue ignoring this issue, or if they will finally accept that Ministers need to step in and stop these closures now.”

13 February 2014

Action needed to ensure cleanliness standards met

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today called for standards of cleanliness at Woodend Hospital to be increased, after the Healthcare Environment Inspectorate report.

Lewis Macdonald said:

“Whilst the report into cleanliness standards at Woodend Hospital were generally encouraging, with patients speaking positively about their experiences whilst in hospital, the requirements and recommendations made by the HEI must be followed without delay.

“Basic requirements, such as having enough non-vinyl gloves and sinks to ensure that patient care is not compromised should be addressed immediately.

“The cleaning of commodes, and ensuring that all items are cleaned to a standard which reduces the risk of infection, is an issue which all staff should be aware of and take action where they see a need.

“Staff training is vital, not only in clinical care but also in standards of cleanliness and I am pleased that NHS Grampian, despite having to deal with a shortage of funding from the Scottish Government, have recognised this and are addressing these issues.”

7 February 2014

MSP questions police and fire decisions

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has tabled parliamentary questions which raise serious issues about the involvement of SNP Ministers in the recent decisions to close police and fire control rooms.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“The processes followed by both the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service Board and the Scottish Police Authority in coming to their decisions were questionable to say the least.

“Neither of them made any attempt to consult with staff, unions or local people. In the case of the police authority there were only a few days between the publication of the recommendations and the final decision to allow anyone to have their say.

“In the case of the fire board, the estimated cost of a new fire control room in Dundee was slashed by over a million pounds at the last minutes, apparently to make it easier to justify closing the existing up-to-date fire control room in Aberdeen.

“Kenny MacAskill and Roseanna Cunningham have been keen to distance themselves from these issues. Yet Dundee-based SNP Ministers claim to have convinced senior police and fire officers to close the Aberdeen control rooms even before the police and fire boards met.

“That is why I have tabled these questions today. The public has a right to know who is making the decisions when it comes to the protection of their communities.

6 February 2014

Cross Party initiative launched to tackle North East scourge

Lewis Macdonald MSP, MSP for North East Scotland, showed his support for people with multiple sclerosis (MS), a particular scourge in the North East, at a launch meeting last night in the Scottish Parliament.

The meeting was the launch of Scotland’s first Cross Party Group on MS, a grouping of MSPs, the MS Society, voluntary organisations and others who are committed to tackling the issues that affect the 10,000 people in Scotland living with the neurological condition.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Macdonald, who is the Vice Chair of the Group, said: “I am delighted to be involved in this initiative. MS is a condition that affects hundreds of people in my constituency, both those diagnosed with the condition as well their families and friends.

“Indeed, the incidence of MS is believed to be higher in the North East and the Northern Isles than anywhere else in the world. The Cross Party Group is a means of raising awareness of the experiences of people affected by MS and working together with a common purpose and I’m pleased to be part of this dedicated group within the Scottish Parliament.”

Rebecca Duff, Head of Policy and Communications at the MS Society in Scotland added: “The MS Society looks forward to working with Lewis Macdonald MSP to make a positive difference to the 10,000 people with MS in Scotland and their families.

“MS is a common but very unpredictable condition that mainly affects people in their 20s and 30s, often bringing with it significant physical, emotional and financial consequences. The Cross Party Group is an important vehicle for helping ensure that people affected by MS can access the services and support that they need when they need it. The support shown for the Group has given us a fantastic start and we look forward to making an impact together over the coming months.”

31 January 2014

Truth of SNP stitch-up “plain for all to see”

The truth about the responsibility of SNP Ministers for the closure of the Aberdeen police and fire control rooms has been exposed – by a press release from the SNP themselves.

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today highlighted the boasts of SNP Government Ministers that they had stitched up these moves to curry favour with constituents in Dundee, even before this week’s formal Board decisions had been made.

Speaking before the final decisions were announced, Shona Robison MSP, Minister for Commonwealth Games and Sport said: “We had met the Chief Officers of both services and pointed out the quality of the services that could be offered from the city and the logistical advantages which Dundee can offer.”

Minister for Parliamentary Business Joe Fitzpatrick MSP added: “The case we had made was not just about jobs for Dundee but about Dundee being in the best position as an ideal location for both services.”

Yet the Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Edinburgh MSP Kenny MacAskill said on a visit to Aberdeen on Wednesday: “These decisions are operational and, quite correctly, we have taken the view that there should not be political interference in operational matters.”

Earlier this week Perth MSP and Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs Roseanna Cunningham in claiming the decision was not for MSPs to make added: “I am not a trained firefighter, nor am I somebody who is in a position to be able to make decisions on the safety of the communities of the whole of Scotland in terms of delivery of fire and rescue services.”

Lewis Macdonald said:

“Here we have SNP Ministers boasting that they have stitched up a decision to close the Aberdeen control room, while their colleagues who have Ministerial responsibility pretend it’s nothing to do with them.

“I will be demanding that First Minister Alex Salmond sorts this out, and that these control room do not close without proper consultation with the people of the North East.”

30 January 2014

Dark day for Aberdeen emergency services - Macdonald

Speaking after the Scottish Police Authority voted to go ahead with proposals for the closure of the Aberdeen Service Centre and Control Room, on the day that the local fire control room was also closed, North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald said that today was a dark day for Aberdeen’s emergency services.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“These decisions mark a dark day for Aberdeen.

“Closing three control facilities in the city in one day has decimated emergency services in the region, leaving hundreds of staff with an unsure future, while reducing the level of service which the public had come to expect under the Grampian Police and Fire Services.

“The Chief Constable himself praised the standards at the Aberdeen Service Centre, yet his own report recommends it for closure. The Aberdeen staff providing those high standards are being rewarded by losing their jobs, meaning that their experience and excellence will be lost to Police Scotland for good.

“With these decisions to remove yet more services from Aberdeen, 2014 will be remembered as the year the SNP government centralised Scotland’s public services.

“SNP Ministers are ultimately responsible for the decisions taken by the Boards they have appointed. It is time that they accepted that responsibility and gave the people of the North East their say before these vital services are closed.

Macdonald calls for action over fire control decision

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today called on the Scottish Government to take responsibility and step in after the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service Board approved proposals to close Aberdeen’s control room.

Speaking after SFRS Board meeting in Dundee today, Lewis Macdonald said:

“This decision makes a mockery of the claim that the creation of the single fire service is about saving public money. The SFRS have voted today to close a modern, purpose-built facility in Aberdeen. At the same time, they agreed to spend over £2million to build a similarly-equipped control room in Dundee.

“Kenny MacAskill is quick to point the finger at the SFRS when it comes to these unpopular changes, but the simple fact is that the buck stops with him. A decision has been made which flies in the face of any rational approach to saving public money, and responsibility for that decision rests squarely with the SNP.

“It is unacceptable for a Scottish Government Minister to hide behind a Board he appointed, especially when it takes decisions of this kind.”

29 January 2014

Ministers must take responsibility - Macdonald

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has called SNP Ministers to step into the row over the future of the police and fire control rooms in Aberdeen.

Speaking after the Justice Secretary’s visit to Aberdeen today, Lewis Macdonald said:

“Kenny MacAskill and his deputy, Roseanna Cunningham, have both been in Aberdeen in the last two days, to claim the credit for specialist units in Grampian, which are already doing a good job.

“It seems that SNP Ministers are happy to take the plaudits for other people’s hard work, but they are quick to run away and hide behind their own appointed Boards when they come to make unpopular decisions.

“The Justice Secretary cannot stand idly by while the police and fire services are decimated across the North of Scotland. He must step up and instruct both Boards to hold full public consultations into the proposals on the table.

“Ministers cannot take the credit without being prepared to accept the responsibility.”

Macdonald calls for police control room consultation

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has called on Board members at the Scottish Police Authority to consult the public about plans for the closure of police control rooms and service centres.

Speaking ahead of the SPA meeting on 30 January, Lewis Macdonald said:

“Closing the police control room at Queen Street and the service centre at Bucksburn will cost hundreds of jobs, and have a serious impact on service to the public.

“With proposals that all police operations north of the Central Belt should be directed from Dundee, communities in the North and North East will be rightly concerned about future levels of service.

“Police Scotland have recently held public consultations on proposed closures of police station counters and the future of traffic wardens. Closing control rooms will have an even greater impact on our communities yet it appears there are currently no plans for a full public consultation.

“Before making such drastic cuts, the SPA must at least allow the public to have their say.”

28 January 2014

SFRS Board must consider Aberdeen - Macdonald

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has called on the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service Board to reject the Chief Fire Officer’s recommendation for the closure of the Aberdeen control room, and to examine the facts and figures behind the report.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“I have written to all the members of the SFRS Board asking them to consider the value in retaining the Aberdeen control room.

“The creation of the SFRS was supposed to be about savings, yet we have a report from the Chief Fire Officer that finds that keeping the Aberdeen control room is the cheapest option, then recommends closing it. He proposes instead that SFRS should spend over £2m on building a new control room to serve the North of Scotland from Dundee.

“In addition, the report only gives financial considerations a 10% weighting when it comes to making a final decision on which control rooms should be retained.

“I am calling on Fire Board members not simply to endorse the report's recommendations, but to take the opportunity at the meeting on 30 January to get to the truth behind the facts and figures. If they do this, it will become apparent that retaining Aberdeen is the best option for the SFRS and the Scottish taxpayer.”

23 January 2014

30th January D-Day for Aberdeen

Scotland’s police and fire services must not abandon Scotland’s third city in the rush for short-term savings, North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald warned today.

Speaking ahead of decisions by their respective boards on the future of police and fire control rooms, Lewis Macdonald said:

“Aberdeen is by far the largest centre of population in the North of Scotland, as well as the fastest-growing local economy in the UK outside London.

“The Scottish Police Authority and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service both meet on 30 January to consider the future of police and fire control rooms in the city. If both services vote to close their Aberdeen facilities, it would be hard to escape the feeling that the city had been abandoned by the public sector.

“These discussions are bound to cause concern to police staff who work in Aberdeen’s control room at Queen Street, and in the service centre at Bucksburn. Many police staff jobs in the Grampian area are already under threat.

“They will also cause concern to the wider public in Aberdeen and the North East, especially at a time when so many other Scottish Government services appear intent on abandoning Aberdeen.

“The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service postponed a decision last year on the future of the Aberdeen fire control room at Mounthooly, which serves the whole Grampian area. There has been a vigorous campaign against closure by local members of the Fire Brigades Union, but that decision could still go against Aberdeen.

“The idea of the oil capital of Europe potentially being left with no police control room, no fire control room, no police service centre and no local prison seems unbelievable, but all of those closures have happened or could happen in this term of the Scottish Parliament.

“That is simply unacceptable in this day and age, which is why I am calling on the police and fire boards to maintain their commitments to Scotland’s third city, even if the Scottish Government will not.”

22 January 2014

Macdonald calls for Government support for flood prevention

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today called on SNP Ministers to support Aberdeenshire Council’s planned flood prevention scheme for Stonehaven.

After raising the issue in a parliamentary question, Lewis Macdonald said:

“The council’s flood prevention scheme is set to make a difference, but at a capital cost of £10 to £12 million.

“The risk of flooding is a serious and growing risk across the North East in an era of climate change, and Aberdeen City Council has only this week brought in an imaginative scheme for flood prevention which will reduce the threat of flooding in the Gilcomston and Queen’s Cross areas of the city.

“The challenge in Stonehaven is even greater, and so is the cost of dealing with it. That is why I am calling on SNP Ministers to help fund the capital costs of that scheme.

“The way the Scottish Government supports council flood prevention schemes is changing over the next couple of years, and I am very keen that Aberdeenshire Council and the residents of Stonehaven do not lose out.”

21 January 2014

MSP welcomes schools initiative by asthma charity

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today welcomed plans by the Aberdeen-based Asthma and Allergies Foundation (AAF), for an asthma education initiative in city schools.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“The AAF In-School Asthma Initiative will help educate young people with asthma, and their classmates, about how to react in an emergency and how to save lives.

“Staff and volunteers from AAF will be visiting schools across Aberdeen, giving pupils a demonstration of what to do if they or a friend have an asthma attack, as well as providing equipment and educational material for the school itself.

“This project will make a real difference to the awareness of children and young people in Aberdeen, especially with conditions like asthma and allergies on the increase, and I am delighted to offer my support.”

20 January 2014

MSP calls for Bucksburn U-turn

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has called on Police Scotland to reconsider their decision to close the public counter at Bucksburn Station, in the light of renewed efforts to maintain contact with the local community.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“The recent Community Surgeries at Bucksburn Police Station are a welcome initiative and will hopefully encourage local people to engage with their local officers.

“I am disappointed that despite this recognition of local needs, there is as yet no indication that Police Scotland intend to retain the public counter at Bucksburn.

“While it is good for local officers to speak to the public, it would be a waste of resources for officers to spend their time in the station dealing with minor enquiries, something which could become the norm if the civilian staff manning the counter lose their jobs.

“Police Scotland must reconsider their decision to close the public counter or one-off events like these will soon be the only contact the public have with the police.”

17 January 2014

MSP calls for East Coast assurances

Following the announcement that three private companies have been shortlisted to run the East Coast rail franchise, North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has called for assurances that any successful bid must include direct trains from Aberdeen to London.

Lewis Macdonald said today:

“The quality of the East Coast trains under public ownership has produced a best in class service for rail journeys from the North East to Edinburgh, Newcastle, London and stations in between. Putting this service out to tender is an opportunity missed to develop a model public-sector rail service.

“That said, whichever company wins the contract must continue to provide through trains the whole length of the route, with no need to change train at Edinburgh.

“Direct trains to Aberdeen provide an important link for offshore workers from the North East of England, a vital part of the workforce in an industry which is critically short of skilled staff.

“The current East Coast service also allows English students to attend Scottish universities. Not only do these young people make an important contribution to their place of study, but they are also the business leaders and investors of the future and they should be encouraged to study and live in the North East. 

“Additionally, the railway line between London and Aberdeen is a tourist artery for Scots visiting London and other English cities, but also for English people coming to visit Aberdeen and Royal Deeside.

“For all these groups, the moment you have to change train is the moment you decide to go somewhere else. Bids which do not feature direct trains to Aberdeen must be rejected by Ministers out of hand.”

16 January 2014

More must be done for cancer patients – MSP

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald has called on the Scottish Government to do more to help recruit a cancer specialist to deliver radiotherapy for children in Aberdeen and across the North of Scotland.

After raising the issue today in a Members’ Business debate, Lewis Macdonald said:

“Recruitment of public sector workers is difficult in Aberdeen due to the high cost of living. Unions are calling for the Scottish Government to consider supplementary pay for NHS staff in the city, a measure which would go a long way to resolving the current difficulties.

“The SNP have contributed to many of these problems by failing to provide NHS Grampian with the levels of funding promised under the NRAC formula. Ministers must act now to prevent more young cancer patients facing a traumatic and difficult journey south for treatment.”

15 January 2014

AECC deserves support – Macdonald 

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald today called on Ministers to provide the same kind of support for Aberdeen’s new conference centre as they have given to Glasgow and Edinburgh in recent years.

Speaking after raising a question in Scottish Parliament today, Lewis Macdonald said:

“Local Government Minister Derek Mackay today acknowledged that the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre is of “national and international significance” and deserves to be supported accordingly.

“He did not make a commitment to invest Scottish Government or Scottish Enterprise funds in Aberdeen City Council’s plans, in spite of the fact that the AECC hosts Scotland’s largest conference, Offshore Europe, every two years. He did, however, promise that Scottish Enterprise would give “due consideration and all due support” on the basis of a business plan.

“What was truly extraordinary about today’s discussion was the intervention of Aberdeen Central SNP MSP Kevin Stewart who told the Minister that in his opinion “it may not be wise to invest in a new facility” in Aberdeen, because of the debt built up during the period when Kevin Stewart was himself the leader of Aberdeen City Council.

“Aberdeen deserves better than that, and I hope Mr Mackay will continue to treat Mr Stewart’s unwise interventions with the disdain they deserve.”