In the Scottish Parliament it was announced the new ScotRail franchise will go to Dutch based firm Abellio.
As part of his statement, the Transport and Infrastructure Minister outlined significant investment to improve existing stations, but I was disappointed that he failed to mention whether any funding would be provided to re-open a station in Reston, on the East Coast mainline.
I’ve long been a supporter of the re-opening of Reston Station, which took a step closer in April when the council pledged to provide £1.28 million for the project. The SNP Government is now under pressure to match this funding and make the new station a reality.
Re-opening Reston would provide a huge boost to Berwickshire, making it more convenient and cost effective to take the train to Edinburgh or south of the border. And this investment would be cost effective, because it would provide a rail service to around 10,000 people in the local area. I’ve written to the Minister asking for a meeting with myself and local rail campaigners. I shall keep you updated as to my progress.
Also in Parliament, the Finance Secretary published his draft Budget for 2015/16.
This was a budget with a difference, because for the first time it included two new taxes which were devolved to the Scottish Parliament as part of the Scotland Act 2012.
The new rates for Land and Buildings Transaction Tax, which replaces Stamp Duty next year were announced. Much coverage focused on the tax hike for family homes costing more than £325,000 but I was concerned about implications for farmers in the Borders. Because we have many areas with high quality arable land, many farms being sold would fall into the new higher taxation bracket and some farms sales could see as much as a £10,000 rise in their tax bill.
The Borders economy needs a buoyant agricultural property market and putting extra taxes on farms will not help this. If the market was to slow down, this could have an impact on the sector and on jobs.
It has been revealed that the Scottish Borders Council is failing to meet Government recycling targets. New statistics from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency show that Borderers recycled or composted 41% of household waste.
This sounds a reasonable figure, but it is well below the SNP’s target of 50% and last year means the council put 29,000 tonnes of waste in landfill. The SNP’s target for recycling has no chance of being met while the green bin service is withheld in the Borders.