Westminster Notes

Referendum

As discussions over the Scottish Government’s independence referendum continue, business groups in Scotland have come forward in the last couple of weeks, saying that delaying the referendum until 2014 would be extremely damaging for the Scottish economy.

CBI Scotland has also raised issues about the length of time Scotland would have to wait for a vote under the SNP’s plans.

The prospect of this referendum is therefore clearly causing uncertainty to businesses and I am urging them not delay and hold the referendum as soon as possible. We are a 500 day wait as opposed to a 1000 day wait.

Fair trade Fortnight

I have supported Fair trade for many years and it’s great to be back in Fair trade fortnight, during which the brand is promoted and people are encouraged to buy the products and support the movement. The range of goods now available is absolutely phenomenal having grown from one chocolate bar in 1992 to over 3,000 products now.

The Fair trade brand ensures that producers in developing countries are paid a minimum guaranteed price for their goods and in return, producers agree to maintain employment and environmental standards. If we buy Fair trade, we are ensuring that farmers in developing countries earn a decent living.

Fair trade and fair prices are not, however, issues experienced only in developing countries. Here in Berwickshire we have seen many farmers put out of business by unfair practices. That is why the Liberal Democrats in Government are backing a Grocery Code Adjudicator to ensure that such practices can be reported anonymously to protect farmers and hold retailers and processors to account.

Conference

Last weekend I attended the Scottish Lib Dem Conference with colleagues from the Borders. During the conference I gave a speech which outlined the work the Liberal Democrats are doing in Government to invest in our communities and make Scotland fairer.

The Liberal Democrats are committed to fair taxes and in Government, we are cutting income tax for those Scots who work hard but face rising prices and financial strain. When we entered government, people started paying income tax when they earned just six and a half thousand pounds but from this year, they will not pay a penny on their first eight thousand. That means we are taking over 90,000 Scots out of income tax altogether and cutting the bill for two million more. Thousands of Borderers will benefit from this measure which will put more money back in their pockets at the end of the month.

We’re also investing £70 million as part of a UK-wide super fast broadband strategy. Here in the Borders, we desperately need faster broadband and this funding from the UK Government will provide the boost our businesses and communities need. Our coastal communities in the Borders will also benefit from the Coastal Communities Fund which I launched at St Abbs a few weeks ago. The fund uses UK Crown Estate profits to devolve money direct from central government into cities, towns and villages and will mean that our local communities here in Berwickshire can apply for a share of this funding.

These measures show that despite the economic difficulties facing Scotland and the UK, Liberal Democrats in government are prioritising investment in Scotland’s people and communities. I know that businesses and families in the Borders will hugely benefit from these moves and I am committed to continuing this work to make Scotland a fairer, more prosperous place.

Surgeries

My next surgery in Berwickshire is in Coldstream on March 16. If you would like to attend please phone 01896 663650.