Category Archives: Small Business

Scottish Government Underspend a body blow for Angus investment

Angus Liberal Democrats have reacted angrily to news that the SNP Government has left £444 million unspent last year, despite closing key services across Angus and failing to invest in local infrastructure.

Accounts have emerged showing that the Scottish Government has underspent:

  • £92 million on Justice
  • £10 million on the Procurator Fiscal Service
  • £102 million on Infrastructure
  • A whopping £165 million on Education
Sanjay Samani and Cllr David May visit the Closed Police Counter in Montrose

Sanjay Samani and Cllr David May visit the Closed Police Counter in Montrose

Lib Dem Campaigner for Angus, Sanjay Samani said,

“The SNP have been steadily closing down services in Angus. They have closed Sheriff’s Courts, Police Counters, Noranside Prison and Angus College. They have failed to build a flyover at Laurencekirk that we desperately need to protect drivers. Yet in all these departments there was plenty of money left to be spent.”

“Meanwhile our SNP elected representatives, Mike Weir MP, Nigel Don MSP and Graeme Dey MSP, have done absolutely nothing to stop the closure of key Angus services by their SNP colleagues in Edinburgh. This has cost Angus jobs, made it harder for students to study, left Laurencekirk junction unsafe and had a negative impact on our local economy.”

“The SNP have blamed all the cuts on Angus services on Westminster, and yet they had close to half a billion pounds left to invest.”

Lib Dem Montrose Cllr David May said,

“As an ex-teacher and head master, I am appalled to see £165 million go unspent on Education. The merger of Angus College with Dundee and loss of hundreds of college places has had a huge impact on our young people, just trying to get on in life.”

“In Montrose we have a major issue with parking on double yellow lines that are not being policed due to SNP cuts, that they have blamed on Westminster, despite having £92 million left over.”

“Sanjay and I have backed Jill Fotheringham’s campaign for a flyover at Laurencekirk for many years. The news that on Infrastructure £102 million was left unspent will be a body blow for those desperate to see safety at the junction improved.”

Sanjay Samani concluded,

“We have an SNP MP and two SNP MSPs who have badly failed Angus residents. This year they will blame cuts on Westminster to gain votes at the General Election. Then we will see a big spending spree in the run up to Scottish Elections in 2016 and they will try to claim the credit.”

“The SNP need to stop playing politics and start investing in Angus.”

Visit to Highland Scene, Montrose

I visited Chris Banks owner of Highland Scene and Chair of the Montrose Business Association, as part of his fact finding tour of the small businesses across Montrose and the rest of Angus.

I heard from Chris about the effect the recession has had on which products are selling well, the impact of internet shopping and about the premium paid in business rates for shops to be on the High Street. I run my own small businesses and it is clear that Chris and Highland Scene have responded quickly to the recession by adapting the products he sells. When there are empty shop fronts across Scotland, it is great to see small, local, shops weathering the storm so well.

It was fascinating to hear how business rates can be as much as double from one end of the High Street to the other. Making a business succeed in the centre of the High Street can be extremely challenging for small, locally owned shops during a recession. Montrose and towns across Angus are blessed with varied high street shopping that is not dominated by national chains. We need to keep a careful watch to ensure that continues to be the case.

Sanjay with Chris Banks, owner Highland Scene, Montrose

Post Office Diversification Fund in Scottish Budget welcome

I am congratulating the Scottish Lib Dems for their successful inclusion of the Post Office Diversification Fund in the Scottish budget. The diversification fund will help secure the future of local post offices by helping them offer a wider range of goods and services to their communities.

The news that a Post Office Diversification Fund has been included in the budget is great news for Angus villages and towns. With state owned banks refusing to lend to sound Scottish businesses at reasonable rates, the fund will assist post office owners to expand and widen their services. By helping the businesses become more profitable, it will hold off the risk of closure.

I learned that the risk of further closures is still serious. Under the last Tory government over 4,000 Post Offices were closed. Under Labour 608 more in Scotland have closed, and yet the boss of Royal Mail is paid a salary of more than £1 million.

Post Offices are essential services in many towns and villages across Angus. I visited Glamis Post Office, which is the last remaining shop in the town. It was saved from closure by a hard fought campaign by the owners, Hugh and Ann Nicoll and local residents. Its success is partly due to expanding the range of goods sold, and it is now the village shop as well as a Post Office. In spring and summer, their cafe provides lovely refreshments for tourists and locals.

Not all villages can count on a strong campaign in defence of their Post Office. The Diversification Fund secured by Scottish Liberal Democrats at Holyrood will ensure a fair chance for all village Post Offices to stay open.

Sanjay visiting Glamis Post Office with Cllr Alison Andrews and owner Hugh Nicoll

Nick Clegg launches pledge to renovate harbours to supply off shore wind farms

Nick Clegg, leader of the Lib Dems, yesterday launched a pledge to invest £400m, identified from savings elsewhere, in renovating shipyards and harbours, specifically for building, maintaining and supplying off shore wind turbines. It is expected that this will create as many as 57,000 new green jobs.

I have campaigned for the Scottish SNP Government to make a similar commitment to invest in Montrose Harbour. This commitment is just what Montrose needs to secure its future and I would call on other parties to match the Lib Dem commitment.

You can read more details about the pledge by clicking here to go to the Liberal Democrat website.

Brechin wins Town Centre Regeneration Funding

Brechin recently secured Town Centre Regeneration funding (TCRF) from the Scottish Government. As widely reported, Brechin has secured £1.8m for plans to improve the High Street.

Brechin’s success is great news for the town and could not come at a more crucial time for Brechin. Visiting the High Street, and seeing how many shops have closed in recent years, it is a worry that Brechin could lose its heart. Thankfully, these funds can help Brechin secure its own future.

The loss of Woolworths was a big blow for Brechin. Winning this funding will help Brechin attract businesses back to the High Street. In particular it is an opportunity for the Council to make the most of its Buy Local campaign, keeping the High Street’s individual character and supporting local suppliers.

Loss of High Street services hits young people particularly hard as they do not have access to transport to take them to out-of-town shops and amenities. I would support calls by local young people to take the opportunity to provide them with activities in the town centre. It is crucial that towns ensure there is plenty for young people to do, and places for them to go.

There is concern that the requirement that all TCRF money needs to be spent by March 2010 is too strict. I sincerely hope that the Scottish Government will be flexible about time scales for spending these grants.

Hopefully the SNP will not politicise this unique opportunity to halt the decline of our High Streets. And, in particular, that should let Brechin complete its redevelopment in the most sustainable, long term way.

Montrose Harbour Development & Infrastructure Study

On Wednesday, I visited Montrose Harbour with Terry Wood of the Harbour Board and Montrose Liberal Democrat Cllr David May. We toured the properties surrounding the northern part of the harbour, many of which house derelict, empty buildings. These are a sad reminder of businesses lost to the area. However, they provide a real opportunity to improve the harbour’s infrastructure and provide space to expand for future development.

Sanjay Samani with Terry Wood, Montrose Harbour Board and Cllr David May

The future development plans for Montrose Harbour are excellent, and I will be supporting them in any way I can. Angus Council is conducting a study on how to best improve the infrastructure around the harbour, to improve access and attract more business. Again this is an excellent approach, supported by the Harbour Board.

I also talked Jim Raeper, Technical Manager, about opportunities for Montrose to win exclusive contracts to survey, service and possibly construct offshore wind farms. Three wind farm developers have already approached Montrose, which is Angus’ only commercial port, to discuss opportunities. Developing the harbour infrastructure seems to be an obvious plan to secure jobs and business for the whole of Angus.

Offshore wind power will be central to Scotland’s future energy supply and it is crucial that Angus does not miss out. Embracing and supporting green energy production will put Angus at the heart of Scotland’s sustainable future.

Sanjay Samani with Terry Wood and Jim Raeper, Montrose Harbour Board

Montrose Harbour already supports over 500 jobs around the county and winning new business could generate hundreds more. Improving the infrastructure will attract more business for Montrose Harbour and provide access to a first class port for all Angus businesses. This will be an investment to create jobs throughout Angus, and I am sure that everyone in Angus would want to support the Harbour’s development plans and the Council’s infrastructure study.

To that end, I would call on the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise and the Westminster Parliament to pay close attention to the outcome of the Council’s study and act quickly to secure a positive future for Montrose and the whole of Angus.