Monthly Archives: September 2012

Shuffle the Deck

You always know what’s going on when groups of MPs are huddled together in excited groups and the mobile phones are gripped even more intently than usual. Yes, it’s reshuffle day and expectant would-be Ministers are waiting excitedly for that call from Number 10. With one call, the fortunes of the politically ambitious can be either be made or thwarted and it’s an experience that is unlikely to trouble this Honourable Member.

Last week saw reshuffles take place in both Westminster and Holyrood, with very different and distinct messages coming from the respective Governments.

At Westminster, the coalition tensions are now almost at boiling point, with Liberals determined to have their agenda pushed more robustly in Government; whilst Conservative MPs become even more irritated with their Liberal partners. What eventually happened was that the Liberal numbers were increased around Whitehall, whilst there was a lurch to the right to satisfy the Conservative backbench.

In Scotland, a reshuffle was also undertaken following the decision by former Perth and Kinross Council leader and all round political good guy, Bruce Crawford, to stand down after years of service. The First Minister used this opportunity to bolster his ministerial team by putting an almost exclusive focus on economic growth. With the Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, securing a brief on infrastructure we now have the First Minister, the Deputy First Minister and Finance Secretary, John Swinney, with responsibility to ensure economic growth and to work to mitigate against the worst excesses of Westminster austerity policies.

Nicola Sturgeon also combines her role with ensuring that the Scotland’s constitutional issues are addressed. This, of course, makes perfect sense as they are intrinsically linked and are almost entirely inter-dependent on each other. I think that the Scottish people recognise that the Scottish Government can do so much with the economic powers that we have. We can ensure that Scotland is better protected and we can invest where we can. But it’s like playing a game of golf with just a few clubs at your disposal. What Scotland needs are the big drivers, and that means securing the full range of economic powers that would come with independence. Having the constitution linked with the economy, the Scottish Government are then in a better position to demonstrate just how that interconnection works.

So there we are, a tale of two reshuffles- one based on political expedience and one based on Scotland’s priorities.

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This article first appeared in the Blairgowrie Advertiser on Thursday 13th September 2012

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Why Scotland Needs its own Immigration Policy

Perthshire is growing, and we are going to have to adjust to being one of the most dynamic parts of the country for inward migration.

The population of Perth and Kinross rose by 11% over the decade to 2011 and now stands at 149,521. This is the fastest population growth in Scotland and demonstrates that Perthshire remains a desirable place to stay. To give some regional perspective, for the same period, Dundee’s population growth was 0.1%.

We are growing so quickly because of the high quality of life we enjoy and because there is convenient access to major population centres throughout Scotland. As we often say, from Perth, you are within minutes in some of the most dramatic scenery in the country and within an hour you are in reach of Glasgow and Edinburgh.

But Perthshire people know that we live in one of the most beautiful places in Scotland and I think it will come as no surprise that other people want to come here to live.

Perthshire, of course, is at the top end of a rise in population throughout Scotland. Up until a few years ago there was a fear that Scotland’s population could fall below the iconic five million mark for the first time since the mid 20th century. But our population growth is still tentative and it is feared that the long term trend may once again be downwards. We also have an ageing population and looking to the future we will have more and more inactive people relying on an ever smaller economically active work force.

It has primarily been Eastern European migration that has fuelled Scotland’s population growth, as well as an increase in out birth rate. Immigration, of course, remains a very controversial topic. In England there is a raging debate about curbing immigration. Indeed, the UK Government remains determined to drastically reduce immigration and they have put in place tough and prohibitive immigration rules to address what has become almost an obsession.

In Scotland, we occupy just over a third of the landmass of the UK, but we have 8.4% of the population. We are one of the least populated parts of Western Europe. Yet we are saddled with a UK immigration policy that could have been designed to be as unhelpful as possible to our population and immigration needs.

We need a specific Scottish agency which could serve our immigration priorities, our population necessities and our demographic needs. What we’ve currently got does not meet our needs and is making matters worse.