Politics: Getting the north-east back on track
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A few weeks have now passed since I was re-elected as your MSP for Aberdeenshire East to represent the place I call home for another five years.
It has been an honour to travel to the Scottish Parliament each week and put forward the views and concerns of my constituents and I intend to continue this work built on the manifesto pledges I made during the election period.
This includes ensuring there is a Just Transition – this is particularly important here in the north-east with the oil and gas industry.
I know how important it is that we retain high-skilled people, allowing access to making a transition into other roles in the renewables sector.
I will continue to campaign for the support our workforce needs.
It is something I am currently working on to ensure the voices of those in the north-east are heard.
I will also be continuing to push for improvements to rail.
I was pleased to back a campaign by a local train driver last month calling for extended rail links in the north-east.
It is a cause I am passionate about. Aberdeenshire was badly affected by the Beeching Cuts in 1963 and as a result stations which extended into my constituency were axed.
It’s why I have been calling for the Scottish Government to look at the possibility of extending the line past Dyce towards Newmachar and Ellon.
I have now written to the Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport, Michael Matheson calling for a meeting to discuss the options for extending the train line into my constituency.
By extending the rail network from Dyce to Newmachar and Ellon more people would have the opportunity to commute for work using public transport.
In doing so it would help to reduce the number of cars travelling in to Aberdeen from elsewhere by encouraging more people to leave their vehicles at home as well as offering improved transport options for many young people who may not have access to their own transport.
This corridor of the north-east is one of the areas most adversely affected by removal of a rail line in the Beeching cuts, and I believe should be a priority when considering new rail infrastructure.
We also know young people have been adversely affected by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and are facing increasing challenges in terms of the jobs market they will enter and changes to their everyday lives which many of us had the opportunity to enjoy when we were teenagers.
We must ensure young people have better access to travel which is something I was pleased to see the Scottish Government commit to during in March with legislation being approved with the announcement of free bus travel to enable the introduction of a statutory scheme which will allow five-18-year-olds resident in Scotland to access free bus travel through the National Entitlement Card.
The Scottish Government and its partners are working to set up the new scheme, which will start operating as soon as practicable during the 2021-22 financial year.