ELECTION 2021: 'Underfunded' north-east councils falling behind on infrastructure investment
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VITAL infrastructure investment is floundering in the north-east due underfunding of Scottish local government, the Conservative candidate for Banffshire and Buchan has claimed.
Mark Findlater was in Buckie last week in his bid to wrest the seat from the SNP, and top of the list was the issue of infrastructure as the area looks to emerge from a year of pandemic restrictions. His visit took in Buckie Harbour, which has been declared a strategic port by owners Moray Council.
He said: "Councils in the north-east aren't getting their fair share of funding from the SNP Scottish Government compared to the other local authorities in Scotland.
"Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire and Moray are underfunded to the tune of £140 million.
"Infrastructure investment is essential. If we want an economic recovery in the north-east we have to make sure goods can get to and from here.
"Hospitality is an important part of the economy in Banffshire and Buchan Coast and and we need accessibility for visitors. At the moment Aberdeenshire has set aside £2.5 million to sorting out potholes alone."
Mr Findlater went on to point out that it was not just about ensuring the north-east has a fit-for-purpose road network, important though that is.
"It's not just the roads, but bridges, too," he continued.
"In Aberdeenshire, we're playing catch-up; as soon as one bridge is fixed another develops a serious problem and there are 1800 bridges in Aberdeenshire.
"I'm trying my hardest to get a new road bridge over the Deveron. It's been calculated that it would cause the economy £30 million-worth of damage if the Banff bridge was closed. It's already in the yellow category which means it could have a serious event within the next 20 years."
Rural broadband was another area of infrastructure Mr Findlater identified as in dire need of improvement.
He said: "We really need to sort out rural broadband.
"For example, farmers these days are expected to do so much online and over the last year we have teachers expected to teach online and in many areas the broadband simply isn't up to it."
He went on to highlight the importance of fishing communities, saying that his time as the chairman of Rosehearty Harbour Advisory Committee has served to reinforce his belief.
He added: "We need to support our fishing communities which in turn support the shipbuilding industry, such as Macduff Shipyards, who are in Buckie, too.
"The UK government has set up a £100 million fund for investing in harbours and I'd love to see the harbours in Banffshire and Buchan Coast working together to make use of this. The bidding hasn't started yet so I'd urge that the various authorities get in touch with their MP as soon as possible."
Also standing in Banffshire and Buchan Coast are: Karen Adam (SNP); Jason Duncan (Freedom Alliance); David McHutchon (Restore Scotland); Alison Simpson (Liberal Democrats); Georgia Strachan (Labour).