Conservative MSPs unite to back Bi-Fab

A quintet of Scottish Conservative MSPs turned out to stand shoulder to shoulder with GMB union workers at troubled engineering firm, Bi-Fab, during a protest at the Scottish Parliament.

Bi-Fab employs over 1400 workers at yards in Fife and Lewis, but is in danger of closure following a contract dispute with Dutch company, Seaway Heavy Lifting.

It is understood that workers at Bi-Fab have continued to work despite no guarantees over their next pay cheque.

The Scottish Conservatives have said that they will do all they can to support the GMB union as it pursues a solution with the Scottish Government and other partners.

Commenting Murdo Fraser MSP said;

“Bi-Fab is an incredibly important cog in the Fife economy and every effort must be taken to ensure that its doors remain open.

“The workforce at both yards are involved in cutting edge engineering projects that will form the backbone of the new economy and its important that this type of work is supported in Scotland.

“With Christmas fast approaching it would be unforgiveable for the hard working Bi-Fab employees to be left in the lurch. Ultimately, I would hope that the Scottish Government can offer its experience and backing to forge a solution between Bi-Fab and Seaway Heavy Lifting.”

SNP Swim Tax could close Perth Leisure centres, Holyrood told

The SNP Government’s proposed ‘Swim Tax’ could see swimming charges in Perth & Kinross soar, or even mean that facilities close, the Scottish Parliament has been told.

During a debate in the Scottish Parliament, Mid-Scotland and Fife MSP, Murdo Fraser, called on the Finance Minister to meet with officials at Perth Live Active, before the Scottish Government considers removing their charitable relief and imposing a £1 million rates bill.

In a heated debate, Murdo criticised the Government for the so called “Swim Tax” which would see business rates relief removed from arm’s length external organisations.

Live Active Leisure which runs sports halls, swimming pools and gyms in Perth and Kinross would be faced with a £1 million bill if this was approved which could lead to the closure of facilities or paring back social programmes.

Murdo believes removing rates relief will result in fewer people pursuing active lifestyles, contrary to ambitions to tackle obesity.

Commenting Murdo Fraser MSP said;

“Imposing huge rates bills on organisations that provide community sports facilities is completely counterproductive, and would undoubtedly result in pared back services or closed facilities. This isn’t the way to encourage more people to lead healthy and active lifestyles.

“Live Active provides so much more than just gym halls and offers a number of unique programmes to help vulnerable and elderly residents. If swim tax proposals get the green light, then these will all be at risk.

“Live Active have made it clear in a letter to the SNP’s Finance Secretary Derek MacKay how damaging these proposals would be. I have called on him to meet with Live Active in Perth to fully understand the scope of their operations and the catastrophic impact that dropping rates relief would have on services. It’s time to axe the ‘Swim tax’.”

SNP have a choice: keep taxes down or hammer hardworking Scots

In coming days the SNP is finally expected to break its longstanding silence on the issue of taxation.
It’s dropped enough hints about where it wants to go on this matter, revealing its dogmatic intention to make Scotland the highest-taxed part of the UK.
But now we are preparing to see in black and white for the first time what an SNP Government actually intends to do.
The very fact the Scottish Parliament is having this debate is a good thing. Finally, a grown-up issue that doesn’t involve independence has arrived at Holyrood, and we look forward to going head-to-head with our political opponents, all of whom want to hit Scots in the pocket.
The further devolution of tax powers to Scotland is welcome, and the SNP is just about to find out how challenging it is to set up a fair, sustainable and affordable taxation system.
SNP manifestos over the years have constantly suggested that tax hikes are on the horizon, and already by failing to mirror UK Government policy on income tax for those in certain brackets, it has increased the rate on some groups of workers by default.
It also charges home buyers more in taxation by setting more punitive stamp duty rates for larger properties than are in existence across the rest of the UK.
And the Nationalists have ended the council tax freeze, meaning standard family homes in place like Edinburgh, East Renfrewshire and Aberdeen have been hit with tax hikes, in some cases over £500 annually, to help fund services and get local authorities out of the financial pickle they’ve got themselves into over the years.
But it’s income tax which really sets the tone, and is the tax which people regard as the most sacred.
The SNP, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens would do well to remember that money earned by workers belongs to the workers, and government has a duty to keep its slice of the cake to a minimum, and spend the proceeds responsibly.
Instead, they think it’s their cash to play with, leaving only the Scottish Conservatives on the side of the honest, hardworking population of this country.
The SNP has been playing a careful game on this up to now. It’s terrified to alienate middle classes by increasing tax, knowing it has already haemorrhaged so much of that vote with its endless threat of breaking up Britain at the expense of all else.
But it is equally scared of the virtuous Left, who can’t think of any better way to raise money or boost the economy except dipping their hands into people’s pockets.
In their defence, Labour have been upfront about the banditry they want to embark on when it comes to people’s pay cheques. This week not one, but two, potential future leaders for the Scottish Labour Party set out how they would raid taxpayers’ accounts.
It was no shock to see arch-Corbynista Richard Leonard dictating during his set piece speech that he thought people should pay more, businesses should pay more, and households through council tax should pay more.
Perhaps more surprising was supposed moderate Anas Sarwar also signalling his intention for punishing tax hikes on ordinary workers. In his proposals, it seems almost anyone who wasn’t on the minimum wage would have to cough up more cash for him to spend, probably recklessly.
It’s a timely reminder that whoever the desperate and shambolic Labour Party pick as their new figurehead in Scotland, the consequences for the economy would be equally dire.
And it’s just not what people want. When Nicola Sturgeon, in her Programme for Government earlier this year, flirted with the idea of higher taxes, it was the strongest hint yet that workers should brace themselves to be robbed.
A survey carried out shortly after revealed the majority of people were against this idea, feeling that they already paid through the nose to support a government which has failed miserably on the stewardship of health, the economy and education. It’s astonishing more political parties can’t see this.
Scottish Conservatives, on the other hand, believe that it is wrong for Scots to have to pay more tax than their counterparts across the rest of the UK. And, if it’s affordable in future, we should actually look at the possibility of reducing the tax burden and creating a low welfare, low tax, high wage and high growth economy.
If you keep taxes low, it will persuade more businesses to invest, and make Scotland a more attractive place for workers to come from the rest of the UK and beyond. In turn, that generates growth, creates jobs and grows the tax base, meaning more tax receipts are in the pot, and public services can be boosted as a consequence.
As has been proved time and again over the years, the NHS, schools and infrastructure all benefit from a strong economy. But if you whack taxes up, you are in effect hanging a sign at the border which reads: ‘Closed for business.’
And the funny thing is, the SNP agrees with us on this, or at least it does when it comes to Air Departure Tax, the replacement for air passenger duty – the tax you pay every time you fly.
Finance Secretary Derek Mackay – the very man who’ll likely outline these tax hikes for Scotland’s workforce – believes that lowering the amount of money people have to pay to fly into Scotland will result in more visitors, and subsequently more cash for the tourism industry. It wouldn’t take long for that to make up for the drop in receipts from the ADT cut.
So if that’s the case for air travel, why’s it not the SNP’s plan for the economy more broadly? Only Mr Mackay and Nicola Sturgeon can address that question of idiotic hypocrisy.
If the Scottish Government wants a lesson in what happens when you brainlessly increase tax, it just has to look at its approach to Land and Buildings Transaction Tax, the SNP’s replacement for stamp duty.
We warned them repeatedly that if it pressed ahead with charging people more at the higher end of the scale, it would make life harder for those everywhere else. Two years on from these changes, the market has gummed up as predicted as properties aren’t shifting at the top end, making it more difficult for people to get onto the housing ladder, and move from first to second homes. Misery for them, and misery for the public purse, which has brought in tens of millions less than anticipated.
So the SNP has the evidence to hand and has two choices. Listen to the Scottish Conservatives, keep taxes down and focus on helping growth and business.
Or pander to the Left, punish the people who make our economy what it is, and pay the price at the ballot box in four years’ time.

Cavernous Fife Potholes combined depth is over a kilometre according to Confused.com

Research from comparison website Confused.com has shown that the combined depth of all potholes in Fife extends to well over a kilometre.

The data was uncovered from an FOI request where Confused.com asked for the number of potholes/road defects recorded, and the minimum depth required for a defect to be considered a pothole.

In the Mid-Scotland and Fife region, only Perth and Kinross and Fife responded with information. In Perth and Kinross the combined depth for all potholes recorded was 364m and in Fife it was 1,168m, indicating that Fifers drive on some of the worst road surfaces in the UK.

The new Conservative administration at Perth and Kinross council recently reduced the size at which they would repair potholes, meaning more defects will be tackled under their leadership.

Of the 19 Scottish local authorities that responded, the average combined pothole depth was 334.09m and each year £1.67 billion is spent on road repairs across Scotland.

Commenting Murdo Fraser MSP said;

“This report underlines the extent of damage to road surfaces in Fife. Potholes are an issue that simply won’t go away and Councils across the country need to commit to repairing them as quickly as possible.

“The Conservative administration in Perth and Kinross has made tackling potholes an immediate priority and reversed the SNP’s decision to increase the size at which they would fill holes.

“Of the local authorities reporting data, only road surfaces in Edinburgh were worse than Fife, which is very disappointing.. Some Councils have taken a gamble on paying compensation claims rather than repairing surfaces and this is not on.

“I would call on Fife Council to look at their current repair programme as it is clear that the Kingdom is home to some of Scotland’s worst roads.”

Murdo, Liz and Miles back “Save our Surgeries” campaign in Mid-Scotland and Fife

Mid-Scotland and Fife MSPs, Murdo Fraser and Liz Smith, joined Scottish Conservative Health Spokesman and Bankfoot native, Miles Briggs MSP, in launching the Tories new “Save our Surgeries” campaign.

The Scottish Conservatives have put out the SOS following growing pressure on GP surgeries across Perth and Kinross, Fife, Stirling and Clackmannanshire.

There is an acute shortage of GPs across the country and Education Spokesperson Liz Smith believes that a lack of those in training is impacting the service. It was recently revealed that a third of all GP trainee places were going unfilled in Scotland.

The Scottish Conservatives are calling for 11% of all NHS spending to be ring-fenced into general practice.

Commenting Murdo Fraser MSP said;

“GP practices are under more pressure than ever. More patients, increasingly complex health needs and greater demands on their time has seriously weakened the lure of general practice to recently qualified doctors.

“For too long general practice has been the poor relation when it comes to healthcare funding and we are calling on the Government to front up and give it the support it needs to survive.

“Across Mid-Scotland and Fife doctors are stretched to breaking point, it’s time to ‘Save our Surgeries’.”

Commenting Liz Smith MSP said;

“Crucially, there is a shortage of those entering the profession and the Scottish Government must address this head on, most especially in terms of medical undergraduate places offered by our universities.

“Likewise, too many of the doctors who do train in Scotland leave the profession  to work elsewhere.

“Furthermore, for surgeons or other clinicians looking to become GPs later in life red tape often gets in the way of doing so.

“Ultimately, general practice needs its funding to be ring-fenced otherwise queues at the surgery door will only continue to grow.”

Murdo invites Minister to Dunkeld to see Wind Farm invasion

During a debate on banning fracking, Mid-Scotland and Fife MSP, Murdo Fraser, invited SNP Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse to Dunkeld to meet with local residents concerned about the over-development of onshore wind projects in the area.

Many local residents have contacted the MSP to raise concerns that they felt under siege by wind farm applications in the area, with both the Griffin and Calliacher developments already constructed.

Despite pleas from local residents, and opposition from local Councils, the Scottish Government have imposed wind farms across the country. Many believe that these have had a negative impact on tourism and the local environment.

Commenting Murdo Fraser MSP said;

“The Scottish Government’s decision to ban fracking rides against not only their own scientific evidence but their own policies to tackle fuel poverty.

“Outlawing fracking because of a lack of public support flies in the face of their recent record on planning which has imposed industrial-scale windfarms on small rural communities, like Dunkeld.

“I have invited the Minister to Dunkeld to see first-hand the impact of inappropriately sighted wind farms and to listen to the views of residents whose lives have been blighted as a result of this.”

 

Closing tourist information Centres a backwards step

Mid-Scotland and Fife MSP, Murdo Fraser, has hit out at plans to close three Perthshire tourist information centres.

VisitScotland Chairman, Lord John Thurso, yesterday announced that the Aberfeldy, Dunkeld and Blairgowrie sites are all due to close within the next two years.

Regional tourist information hubs will remain in Perth and Pitlochry with visitors now expected to access other information via apps and web pages.

Visit Scotland has said that the affected employees will be offered a redundancy package or a chance at redeployment elsewhere.

Commenting Murdo Fraser MSP said;

“This news is extremely disappointing for everyone involved in the tourism industry in Perth and Kinross. The advent of smart phones has undoubtedly improved the visitor experience but there is still a place for physical tourist information sites, particularly at these three locations.

“With mobile internet access patchy at best across much of rural Perth and Kinross, it’s ambitious to think that tourists will be able to use the internet and access app content whilst out and about.

“I would encourage VisitScotland to think again when it comes to closing these site, as nothing comes close to replacing the insider information offered at these three tourist information centres.”

 

Sturgeon must give assurances to Perth based SSE

Mid-Scotland and Fife MSPs, Murdo Fraser and Liz Smith, have warned that the creation of a new Scottish Government backed public energy supplier could put jobs at SSE HQ in Perth under pressure.

In a speech to SNP Conference, Nicola Sturgeon, announced that the Scottish Government was moving forward with plans to create a state-based energy supplier that would provide energy to customers at close to cost price.

However, Perth based energy giant, SSE has previously warned that a government supplying power on a large scale risks distorting the market and deterring investment.

Commenting Murdo Fraser MSP said;

“SSE is the biggest private sector employer in Perth and Kinross and helps employ thousands of people around the country. Ensuring that these jobs remain viable in the wake of a new government backed supplier is incredibly important.

“There are relatively few FTSE 100 companies based outside of London and it is with tremendous pride that SSE is headquartered in the Fair City.

“More competition is needed in the UK energy sector, the big six acknowledge this, but the entrance of a government backed non-profit has the potential to seriously destabilise the market.”

Commenting Liz Smith MSP;

“Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP must give assurances that the creation of a new Government backed supplier will not unduly affect the thousands of people already employed in the energy sector in Scotland, particularly in Perth at SSE.

“Furthermore, with questions over how a government supplier would operate and whether it could actually offer savings to customers the Scottish Government cannot be seen to risk the energy market for a shot at some good PR.

“I would encourage householders across Perth and Kinross to shop around for the best deal to ensure that they are on the cheapest possible energy tariff.”

Perthshire experts named on Economic Advisory Council

The Scottish Conservatives new independent economic advisory council will include the voices of two Perthshire based experts, Graham Halstead and Ian McCormick.

The Scottish Future Growth Council will advise the party on key economic issues with its work programme including plans to solve the country’s productivity puzzle.

The group will be chaired by former Scotland Office Minister Lord Dunlop, who worked on creating city deals for Scotland whilst at Whitehall.

Biographies for Ian and Graham are included below.

Commenting Murdo Fraser MSP said;

“In announcing the creation of our own growth commission we are committed to creating policy initiatives with expert analysis and advice.

“I am delighted that Ian and Graham will be contributing to the work of this group. Their CVs speak for themselves and it is excellent to have two Perthshire-based voices on the group helping bring perspective from a Perth and Kinross vantage point.

“The Scottish Future Growth Council has an extensive work programme and I look forward to seeing their ideas for tackling the “productivity puzzle” and how this can apply in Perth and Kinross.”

Scottish Conservatives set up new expert group to look at growth

DLNbzR3W4AAcyiwThe Scottish Conservatives are today underlining their ambitions for Scotland by announcing the creation of a major new independent economic body to set out fresh thinking on future growth.

Comprising some of Scotland’s pre-eminent figures in commerce, industry and academia, the Scottish Future Growth Council will advise the party on key economic issues – such as how to solve the country’s “productivity puzzle”.

The group will be chaired by former Scotland Office Minister Lord Dunlop who, in his time in government, pioneered the successful City Deal plans across Scotland.

The unveiling of the group comes as new figures have demonstrated Scotland is lagging behind the UK on business growth.

They show the number of new businesses in Scotland grew by just 1.6 per cent last year, the lowest in the UK.

That compares to a UK average of 4.5 per cent.

Announcing the group today, Lord Dunlop said he hoped it would deliver fresh ideas to help make Scotland “the best part of the UK to do business.”

The group’s reports will assist the Scottish Conservatives’ on-going policy review set up following the General Election of this year.

Shadow finance secretary Murdo Fraser said the formation of the group demonstrated the party’s intent to provide a credible alternative to the SNP, ready to take over in Government in 2021.

The new group will work independently of the Scottish Conservatives and will focus specifically on devolved policy-making, and ways in which Scottish Government policy can boost Scotland’s performance.

Scottish Conservative shadow finance secretary Murdo Fraser said:

“Having gone from being the third party of Scottish politics to now looking to challenge the SNP to be in government, the Scottish Conservatives are looking to expand our policy offer in advance of the next Scottish elections.

“We are delighted to have assembled such an impressive team of business leaders and economists to advise us on economic and financial matters, under Andrew Dunlop’s leadership. This demonstrates the scale of our ambition.

“With productivity being a key issue for the Scottish economy, we have asked this group to look first at this important area, and come back with suggestions on how productivity can be improved.

“I am sure that their conclusions will be of interest to everyone who wants to see our economy improve.”