Weekly Update: 22nd September 2018

 

Bank Closures

In a speech to Parliament, during the debate on bank closures, I expressed my dismay at the contempt RBS has shown towards the bank’s loyal customers. 

The debate sought to highlight the negative impact that bank branch losses have on Scottish communities.  This is evident in Dumfries and Galloway. 

My speech paid particular attention to Langholm, Annan and Lockerbie – where branch losses have greatly impacted the elderly and the vulnerable.  In Langholm, for example, due to closures, the nearest branch is now 30 miles away.  This is a prohibitive distance for many of the most vulnerable in our society.  Though improvements have been made to broadband coverage across Scotland, thanks to Scottish Government investment:  a lack of faith and confidence in digital options coupled with a preference for face-to-face engagement precludes many of the elderly residents of Dumfries and Galloway from being able to access their banking services. 

I wrote to RBS CEO Ross McEwan who deftly ignored my concerns regarding the elderly and vulnerable of Dumfries and Galloway but delighted in outlining RBS’s profits this year.

The UK government owns 62% of RBS after the bank was bailed out by the taxpayer.  They must act to reverse these closures and thus, reverse the damage they have done to the local economy.

 

Culture

The Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee, of which I am convener, sat this week.  The committee was taking evidence from experts on the recent fire that struck the Glasgow School of Art.

The school is unquestionably one of the most important pieces of art that Scotland has ever produced.  We have a responsibility to thoroughly investigate this tragedy and make the best decision for the future of Mackintosh’s masterpiece. 

 

Brexit

In a debate on Representing Border, I crossed swords with Leave supporter Oliver Mundell MSP on all things Brexit.  Scotland, we must not forget, voted to remain within the EU and the single market and customs union by extension.

In spite of Theresa May’s unwavering insistence upon the much maligned Chequers plan - it is evident that the UK Government is in disarray regarding its negotiations with the EU.  European Council President Donald Tusk, amongst others, has stated unequivocally that the Chequers plan cannot work.  The proposal is undeliverable because it seeks to undermine the ideological foundations upon which the single market was designed.

The Salzburg summit was the final hammer of the final nail for Chequers.  EU leaders will never agree to the UK picking off selective parts of the single market.  Theresa May was nothing short of humiliated in Salzburg and no one could seriously argue that Chequers has any remaining viability after what transpired this week. 

I will continue to push for Scotland’s unhindered access to the EU single market as I see no feasible alternative to the catastrophic economic damage that Brexit will bring. 

 

Transport

Transport Scotland launched an online survey to garner views on transport investment in south west Scotland.

The survey seeks the opinions of people living or working in the south west of Scotland on the problems and opportunities for the transport network in region.

The survey is part of the work going on to produce a South West Scotland Transport Study which is considering possible improvements to road, rail, public transport and active travel on key strategic corridors in the region

Good transport links are fundamental to the growth and prosperity of any region.  This survey presents an excellent opportunity for the people of the south west to have their voice heard on a matter which impacts their daily lives.

I would encourage all interested parties to participate as constructive engagement with the people in the region is the best way to ensure we get a transport network that works for everyone.

Participants have until the 14th of November 2018 to respond to the survey.

 

Economy

I was heartened to hear that the growth in Scotland’s economy had exceeded expectations in the second quarter of this year.

According to official figures announced by Scotland’s Chief Statistician, the economy in Scotland grew by 0.5% in the second quarter of 2018.  Outperforming growth in the UK which was at 0.4%.

In the first half of this year, Scottish GDP grew by 0.8% - ahead of the UK at 0.6% over the same period, and already higher than the 0.7% growth forecast by the Scottish Fiscal Committee for 2018 as a whole.

The last year has seen the Scottish economy grow by a total of 1.7%, whilst the UK’s growth stands at 1.3%.

However, as with everything it seems, this good news is dampened by ongoing Brexit uncertainty.  Until that small matter is resolved, it seems any celebration of economic success may have to be tempered.  

With leaving the EU set to cost the Scottish economy up to £12.7billion a year - the equivalent of £2,300 for every person in the country, it would be ill-advised to bring out the champagne just yet. 

 


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