Murdo criticises budget in Scottish Parliament

Mid-Scotland and Fife MSP and Shadow Finance Minister, Murdo Fraser, has slammed the Scottish Government’s draft budget today labelling it one that prohibits growth and chokes off investment.

Attached below are excerpts from Murdo’s speech:

…The Finance Secretary had a choice going in to today’s debate. He could come with us, drop his plans to make Scotland the highest taxed part of the United Kingdom, and

work together to deliver an ambitious Budget focussed on growing the economy.  Or he could turn sharp Left, and embrace the anti-growth, anti-business agenda of the

Greens.  What a pity, what a tragedy for Scotland, that he chose to throw in his lot with the lentil-munching, sandal-wearing watermelons on that side of the Chamber.

…Mr MacKay was well warned by the business community as to the consequences of going further on tax than he originally intended. Yesterday the Scottish Chambers of

Commerce described such a move as ‘highly dangerous’. Today, he and his Government have shown contempt for the views of Scottish business, and have

demonstrated that they have zero interest in trying to help grow our underperforming economy.  They might as well put up a sign at the Border: ‘Scotland closed for business’.

…Derek MacKay has so many advantages with this Budget. He is a lucky man, firstly, because he has more money to play with than ever before. By his own admission, his budget for the coming year is up, in real terms, by some £501 million. That’s half a billion pounds he has to spend in the coming year more than he had in this one.

…We hear a lot in these budget debates from the SNP benches about Tory cuts, and Westminster austerity. But we now know that the reality is somewhat different. The Scottish Government’s own documentation tells us that, both in cash terms and real terms, the total Scottish government budget for the coming year is up on the previous high point of 2010-11. When it comes to total managed expenditure, there is not a cut to be seen.

…But it is not just because he has money at his disposal which his predecessors could only dream of that Derek Mackay is a lucky man. He is lucky because he has a greater range of powers over taxation than any Finance Minister before, a great opportunity to use these to build an ambitious budget, a budget for growth, a budget that will expand the tax base, a budget worthy of the extensive fiscal powers put at his disposal.

…Sadly, in place of that ambition we have a weak, hesitant, dismal set of measures, together mounting to a budget which tells us nothing about the type of Scotland we want to see, a budget which will see local services slashed while Council Taxes are being hiked, a budget which cuts funding to the Enterprise Networks and reinforces reductions in college places when we should be doing the opposite, and a budget that will make Scotland the highest taxed part of the United Kingdom, scaring away investment, and sending out a message that the risk-taker, the wealth creator, the entrepreneur, and the successful are not welcome here.

… this should have been a budget to grow the economy. Our growth rates today are one third of the UK average. Our unemployment rates are higher, our employment rates are lower, and our business confidence is well below the UK as a whole. These are the key issues that this budget should be addressing, and instead it will simply make matters worse.

…As the economy grows so tax revenues will grow with it. Our own research has shown that if Scottish growth had matched UK average figures since 2007, our Gross Domestic Product would have been £3.1 billion higher over the last ten years, that equates to nearly £1300 for every Scottish household.

…If we simply raised the proportion of higher and additional rate tax payers to the UK average then the Scottish finances would stand to benefit by more than £600 million a year in extra revenue, and what a difference that would make to the Finance Secretary’s spending power.

…So this budget today is a huge missed opportunity. It fails to address the problem of our underperforming economy. It cuts support to local government, which will mean that services are being reduced at a time when the council Tax is soaring. And it sends out a message that Scotland is the highest taxed part of the United Kingdom.

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Murdo calls for speedy resolution to gas shut-off in Scone

Mid-Scotland and Fife MSP, Murdo Fraser, has called on Scottish Gas Networks to work speedily to reconnect the 1,300 properties in Scone who have been left without gas following a fault in the network.

On Tuesday evening gas supplies to properties in Scone were lost as a result of water entering the network and SGN engineers are currently working to establish the source of the leak.

SGN have contacted all customers and have provided a makeshift customer service site in the park of the Old Parish Church and a welfare centre at the Wheel Inn. Hotplates and heaters have been made available as well as additional support for elderly or vulnerable residents.

Unfortunately, SGN have given no indication of when gas supplies will return to normal.

Commenting Murdo Fraser MSP said:

“This is a serious incident and my thoughts go out to all those who are affected. Being without gas during the winter is particularly tough and I hope that elderly and vulnerable residents are able to get the support they need to ensure they are kept warm and have enough food.

“I would encourage anyone requiring assistance to contact SGN via their customer service number or access the customer service centre at the Old Parish Church or the Wheel Inn where heaters and hotplates have been made available.

“It is important that SGN engineers work quickly to identify the fault and get homes reconnected to their gas supplies as soon as possible. However, it is concerning that there is no timescale for reconnection and I would urge SGN to communicate clearly with affected residents. This is clearly a complex incident and I would call on SGN to ensure that this fault isn’t replicated here or elsewhere in the network.”

 

 

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Murdo meets with Transport Minister to discuss Private Parking Cowboys

Mid-Scotland and Fife MSP Murdo Fraser, has met with the Transport Minister, Humza Yousaf, to discuss the future of private parking legislation in Scotland.

The Scottish Conservative MSP has spent the last two years fighting on behalf of constituents who have been wrongly fined for parking violations whilst using Smart Parking’s Kinnoull Street location in Perth.

During the meeting, Murdo discussed the possibility of regulation to cap fines, introduce an independent appeals service, a single binding code of conduct and standardised signage.

The Scottish Government is working with partners to introduce a single code of conduct that applies to parking companies who are members of both the BPA and IPC.

Commenting Murdo Fraser MSP said:

“Private Parking companies have gotten away with it for far too long, it’s time to bring in clearer and tighter regulations that ensure that parking is fair and transparent.

“The Scottish Government have been helpful and it was good to meet with Humza to get an idea of their perspective and to know that regulation via legislation is not off the table. I also welcome their work towards creating a binding single code of conduct in Scotland.

“I am seriously considering a Member’s Bill in the Scottish Parliament aimed at curbing current industry practices which are not in the interest of motorists, and I will look to gather evidence on this over the coming months.”

 

 

 

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Murdo calls on local charities to apply for Post Code Lottery Cash

The People’s Postcode Lottery are making £6 million of funding available to good causes and Murdo Fraser wants charities across Mid-Scotland and Fife to secure their fair share.

 Funding will be allocated through three trusts which are designed to support different projects, with a maximum award of £20,000 available. In 2017 charities will have two opportunities to apply for funding with tranches of £3million being released in January and August.

 People’s Postcode Trust seeks applications for projects that focus on the prevention of poverty, promotion of human rights, equal rights and conflict resolution for some of society’s most vulnerable groups. In addition to this the charity also supports wildlife, grass-roots sports, arts, recreation and healthy living programmes.

The first round of applications opens from the 23rd of January and runs until the 10th of February.

Commenting Murdo Fraser MSP said: 


“There are a huge number of social enterprises and other charities operating throughout Perth and Kinross, Fife, Stirling and Clackmannanshire all of which could benefit from funding like this. 


“With the window for applications only open until the 10th of February it’s important that charities don’t think too long before submitting an application.

“Funding from the National Lottery and the People’s Postcode Lottery can make a huge difference to communities and I want people in Perth and Kinross, Fife, Stirling and Clackmannanshire to grab their fair share.”


 

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Gleneagles Hotel Youth employment award celebrated in Parliament

Mid-Scotland and Fife MSP Murdo Fraser has called on fellow MSPs to congratulate the staff and management at Gleneagles Hotel for winning the Skills Development Scotland Youth Employer of the Month award.

Gleneagles employs 34 apprentices working jobs in hospitality, management, cookery, horticulture, and hairdressing. In addition to the current 34 apprentices, Gleneagles is looking to hire 16 more apprentices to help fill other roles including green keeping.  

The Gleneagles resort hosted the European victory over the U.S. in the 2014 Ryder Cup as well as the 2005 G8 summit and several other international conferences.

Murdo’s motion has received cross-party parliamentary backing so far.

Commenting Murdo Fraser said:

“As one of Scotland’s biggest names in hospitality it is great to see the Gleneagles Hotel offer these opportunities for modern apprentices.


“Increasing the number of modern apprentices is crucial if we are to create jobs for young people whilst also closing the skills gap. Winning this award is a huge achievement for the staff and management at Gleneagles and further underlines their importance to the local economy.

“The tourism industry in Scotland brings in over £8 billion annually, hotels such Gleneagles are a reminder of why Perth and Kinross remains a premier destination for visitors.”  


 

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SNP run Perth and Kinross Council considering swingeing cuts despite tax hikes

Mid-Scotland Fife MSP, Murdo Fraser, took time in parliament yesterday to question the Finance Minister Derek MacKay on heavy cuts in local services being considered by SNP-run Perth and Kinross Council.

This is despite planned increases of up to £500 in the Council tax for the coming year.

The Shadow Finance Minister raised the fact that officials at PKC were considering cuts in the following areas:

  • 24 fewer secondary teachers in English and Maths
  • Scrapping primary school swimming lessons
  • Reducing the opening hours of community campuses
  • Increasing cost of school meals from £2.10 to £2.70
  • Scrapping the community warden scheme
  • Cutting 94 care home places across the region

In response the Finance Minister, Derek Mackay, insisted that spending decisions were for local authorities to make and that the Scottish Government was continuing to generously fund local services.

Murdo is calling for front-line services to be protected, especially as local authorities are planning large increases in council tax..

Commenting Murdo Fraser MSP said:

“Modest properties across Perth and Kinross are set to see substantial increases in their council tax bills, yet despite this, the SNP-run council is considering a whole raft of damaging cuts to services.

“At a time where bed-blocking is a huge problem it seems almost inconceivable for the Council to be considering cuts to care home places. At a time where the performance of our children in literacy and numeracy is slipping, 24 teachers in English and Maths face the chop. And at a time when community safety has never been more important this SNP-run Council is considering getting rid of the community warden scheme.

“It is time for the SNP to come clean. We know that Scottish Government funding from the UK is up more than £500 million over the current year, yet Councils up and down the country are expected to make tough decisions whilst increasing tax at the same time.

“I would urge the SNP administration on Perth and Kinross Council to think hard before deciding to cut services along the lines planned.”

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Murdo to give lecture at Blackwatch Museum

MSP turned historian, Murdo Fraser, is set to give a lecture on his recent book on the Scottish Civil War of 1644-45 at Perth’s Black Watch Museum on Thursday the 19th of January.

Although more accustomed to lecturing his political opponents Murdo will take time to narrate the story behind the personalities and relationships involved in Scotland’s bloody civil war.

Murdo spent several years, in between raising a family and representing his constituents, researching and writing “The Rivals: Montrose and Argyll and the struggle for Scotland” before it was released in October 2015.

The lecture will take place at Perth’s Black Watch Museum between 7pm and 830pm on Thursday the 19th of January.

Tickets, including a drinks reception, are available from the Museum website online priced at £9 for non-members and £7 for friends.

Commenting Murdo Fraser MSP said:

“Perth’s recently refurbished Black Watch museum is a fantastic venue and it will be a pleasure to give a talk on my book ‘the Rivals: Montrose and Argyll and the struggle for Scotland’.

“The relationship between Argyll and Montrose shaped the Civil War and I look forward to being able to describe the events, personalities and relationships involved in this conflict.

“Politics has changed a lot in 400 years and the price of failure is no longer met at the Maiden but there is a certain parallel between what happened in the 17th century and modern day constitutional politics.”

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Murdo slams First Minister on Forth Road Bridge Closure

During First Minister Questions, Mid-Scotland and Fife MSP, Murdo Fraser, called on Nicola Sturgeon to clarify when the new Queensferry Crossing will open following yesterday’s 17 hour closure of the existing Forth Road Bridge.

The Conservative MSP claimed that yesterday’s travel chaos could have been avoided had the new bridge, complete with wind shear protection, opened in December last year as previously promised by the First Minister.

In response the First Minister criticised the HGV driver for failing to note weather warnings and stated that the Bridge was still on track to open in June.

Commenting Murdo Fraser MSP said:

“Whilst it is all very good for the First Minister to state that the Bridge is due to open in June, if it had opened in December, as she previously promised, commuters, businesses, and motorists traveling through Fife would not have had to deal with yesterday’s travel chaos.

“Workers across Fife who depend on the Forth Road Bridge for getting to and from their place of work have already had to put up with lengthy bridge closures under this SNP administration and are desperate for a government that can be trusted when it comes to transport.

“It is symptomatic of this Government that broken promises are heralded as successes and I would encourage the First Minister to concentrate on ensuring that the new bridge actually opens on time.”

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Mental Health Services cut back in Perth and Kinross

Mid-Scotland and Fife MSPs, Murdo Fraser and Liz Smith, have raised serious concerns over the provision of mental health services in NHS Tayside following news of the paring back of services at the Murray Royal in Perth.

As a result of doctor shortages, General Adult Psychiatry inpatient services in Angus and out-of-hours crisis response in Perth and Kinross will be moved to Carseview in Dundee. At the Murray Royal the out-of-hours assessments are being transferred, between 3am and 9am on weekdays and weekends, to Carseview in Dundee.

NHS Tayside are short of nearly 13 whole-time equivalent junior doctors which is making it impossible to offer services at three sites. The health board have blamed a national shortage of psychiatrists for exacerbating issues.

Commenting Murdo Fraser MSP said:

“It is very concerning to hear about the loss of this valuable service from the Murray Royal in Perth to Carseview in Dundee.

“Clearly there continues to be severe pressures on the NHS across Scotland, particularly in mental health services and this is something that the SNP Government must address quickly.”

Commenting Liz Smith MSP said:

“These changes will inevitably worry patients and families across Perth and Kinross and are symptomatic of a wider problem of recruitment within our NHS. Clearly the Scottish Government is failing to address these challenges and I would call on them to listen to our universities who have previously flagged up issues relating to junior doctor training.

“Mental health services are facing enormous pressures and if we are to meet these challenges head on then units like the Murray Royal will need to be equipped with staff to meet demand.

“NHS Tayside have made this decision due to a culmination of factors and I would encourage the Scottish Government to help them navigate these challenges.”

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Murdo calls on Mid-Scotland and Fife Energy Businesses to apply for Ignite funding

Mid-Scotland and Fife MSP, Murdo Fraser, is calling on businesses in Perth and Kinross, Fife, Stirling and Clackmannanshire to consider applying for a new business grant aimed specifically for social enterprises specialising in energy.

The Centrica-backed business accelerator programme, will provide financial investment and support through the “Ignite Big Energy Idea” scheme.

Thus far, there have been 25 successful applicants, with Dundee based IRT Survey’s benefitting from the programme. The only criteria is that the idea must make a positive difference to society.

Ignite is the UK’s first impact investment fund that focuses on energy, providing firms with the funding and expertise they need to help achieve their potential and make a positive impact on society.

Enterprises must submit their applications to the Big Energy Idea before 31 January. If shortlisted, they will be asked to pitch to a panel of industry and social enterprise experts in February.

Murdo Fraser MSP said:

“Innovative businesses across Perth and Kinross, Fife, Stirling and Clackmannanshire could benefit from a programme which has already distributed more than £8million across the UK and I would encourage those eligible to apply for support.

“Turning ideas into reality is expensive, especially if they are socially beneficial, and it is great to see Centrica use the Ignite scheme to drive innovation in this area.

“We have already seen a business in neighbouring Dundee grab this opportunity and I believe that there are others across Mid-Scotland and Fife that are potentially sitting on the next big idea.

“Improving Scotland’s energy efficiency and drawing more of our heat and transport energy from renewable sources is a big challenge and one that schemes like this can support.”

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