Sanjay SamaniCampaigner for Angus, Stonehaven & Mearns

TAG | Arbroath

Angus Liberal Democrats have reselected me to be their candidate for next year’s General Election.  I have campaigned on behalf of Angus residents for many years and as candidate at the 2010 General Election and again at the 2011 Scottish Elections.  
 
It is a real honour to be selected to represent the Angus Lib Dems again and I would like to thank the members for their continued support.
 
Angus & Mearns Select Sanjay Samani as their General Election candidate
 
There has been a clear message from voters in every election since 2010.  We are all fed up with the the same old politics, where our voices are not heard and we feel we cannot make a difference.
 
Angus voters made it very clear that we want to remain part of the UK at the Independence Referendum, but also that we want the way we do politics to change.  All political parties are committed to further devolution to Scotland and, as a Lib Dem MP, I would work for Home Rule for Scotland.
 
But that does not go far enough.
 
Only the Lib Dems are both committed to changing politics and could also be in government to force through the changes we all need.  Labour and the Tories have repeatedly blocked change.  The SNP cannot and will not be part of the government.  The Lib Dems gave you a say on voting change, but our plans for giving you real power to sack your MP, clean up money in politics and having an elected House of Lords have all been blocked, by hard right wing Tories and Labour – desperate to hold on to power.
 
With only 6 MPs, the SNP cannot make a difference and as they are determined to split our country apart, are not worried about how Westminster is run.
 
Only with a Scottish Lib Dem can people in Angus be confident that their MP is working for real change to make sure their voice is heard.
 
Montrose Lib Dem Cllr David May welcomed my selection, saying,
 
“Sanjay has backed keys campaigns in Angus and in particular the Montrose area.  This includes better funding for flood prevention and coastal erosion across Angus and the need to back plans to develop the Harbour here in Montrose.  He has backed small businesses, the need to reinstate traffic wardens and backed the need to ban Legal Highs.”
 
Sanjay has also criticised the SNP for their huge cuts on college places, closure of our police counters and lack of action on a flyover at Laurencekirk. 
 
“Sanjay understands that all MPs should work hard on local issues for their constituents, but that they also need to drive through changes at Westminster so that our views are heard.  All too often SNP MPs sit on their hands on Westminster issues because they are only worried about independence. Angus voters gave a huge majority for being part of the UK and they need an MP who can and will deliver more powers for Scotland and clean up politics at Westminster.” 
 
Chair of the Angus & Mearns Lib Dems, Clive Sneddon said,
 
“Sanjay is a worthy candidate and I am delighted that he has agreed to represent the party again at the General Election. Sanjay has stood up for families working in Angus and the elderly. He will work hard to represent everyone in Angus at Westminster.”
 

Worries have emerged as part of a recent consultation response to Scottish Government plans, which will shape the nation’s future flood management response, with Angus Lib Dem Cllr David May claiming rural areas such as Angus and Mearns look certain to lose out.

The SNP government’s Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act 2009 has been described as a “big step forward … providing a unique opportunity to shape new ways of working and creating a modern, sustainable approach to flood management fit for the 21st century.”

A number of Angus communities have suffered flood misery in recent years and, at a time when major financial challenges face councils, Angus infrastructure services convener David May has attacked the way money is dished out for flood schemes.  Presently under this government, funding depends on the number of properties directly affected.

Mr May said:

“The funding formula means that urban areas — by their very nature more densely populated — are going to be advantaged and areas such as Angus and Mearns will lose out.

“Having in the past year regularly visited areas affected by flooding, I call on the Scottish government to reconsider their policy.”

“Given financial pressures facing councils, so it is more important than ever to make sure we receive adequate funding and do not lose out just because of our location and population.”

Highlighting the specific across Angus, Mr May continued,

“In March this year Angus Council agreed some short term measures to improve the Barry Burn Flood Protection Scheme. However, although these short term measures have been met from the council’s roads budget it is unlikely the Council will be able to fund the potential longer term solutions under investigation for Carnoustie.”

“A similar situation exists in Arbroath, which experienced significant flooding beyond the usual risk areas. The removal of the dedicated government grant scheme has thrown plans for flood protection schemes into complete disarray.  Added to this, is the confusion created by the phased introduction of the new Flood Risk Management Act (2009) which changes local authorities’ responsibilities and powers.”

“We are doing what we can locally – today we will be discussing the latest report on the Brechin Flood Protection Scheme. Although this is a relatively modest scheme by national standards, it still comes with a price tag of £13m. Flooding needs to be considered at a national level, as the resources required to properly address it are clearly beyond the financial means of local government.”

Sanjay Samani, Liberal Democrat North East Regional Candidate added his support for Mr May’s comments, saying:

“By funding the new flood prevention schemes for the new act based on population, the SNP Government is being too simplistic.  They have announced funding for a new Flood Forecasting Service.  The information from this service must be used to target central government funding for flood prevention.”

PHOTO: Sanjay Samani and Cllr David May visit the site of flooding in Brechin with Provost Ruth Leslie Melville:
Sanjay Samani visiting flooding site in Brechin

Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham recently announced plans for a Flood Forecasting Service, providing £750,000 of Scottish Government funding.  Liberal Democrat campaigner for Angus and Mearns, Sanjay Samani, welcomed the announcement, but called on the Government to do more on planning flood prevention as well as forecasting.

The announcement of the investment for flood forecasting is very welcome.  We all remember the devastating effects of flooding throughout Angus, Mearns and Stonehaven last year.  Local emergency services can now be better prepared in case these tragic events occur again in future.

However, ensuring that flooding is prevented is even more important than forecasting when it will happen.  The SNP Government made it a requirement that Councils prepare for flooding in the Flood Risk Management Act passed by parliament last year.

The SNP Government must make use of the information from the forecasting service to ensure that funding for flood prevention is provided where it is most needed.  Funding should not be based on a simplistic count of population, but has to be targeted to where flooding is most likely to occur and cause devastating damage to homes, farmland and businesses.

PHOTO: Sanjay visiting a flooding site in Brechin with Montrose Cllr David May and Provost & Brechin Cllr Ruth Leslie Melville:

Sanjay Samani visiting flooding site in Brechin

I am backing the Arbroath Abbey World Heritage Campaign. I have signed the petition online in order to demonstrate his support to secure World Heritage Status for Arbroath Abbey from the UN.

Given the Abbey’s connection to the Declaration of Arbroath, it is fitting that the Abbey be granted World Heritage Status. I believe that this will encourage even more visitors to come to visit Arbroath Abbey and share in the exceptional site and its history. As well as recognising the Abbey’s importance to Scotland, it would also provide a boost to our tourism industry both in Arbroath and Angus as a whole.

I would also ask Angus residents to sign the petition if they have not already done so, as the backing of local people plays a big role in securing the status. Furthermore, having World Heritage Status will help to preserve Arbroath Abbey for future generations.”

I understand that the Campaign’s website was attacked by hackers, and details of those that signed up to the petition online were deleted, which is a huge disappointment. If you originally pledged your support on the website, I would encourage you to return to the online petition and put your name down again, as I have done.

I am backing the Scottish Lib Dem campaign to get the SNP Government to support businesses and particularly hotels, facing huge increases in their businesses rates. Speaking to a debate on this issue at the Scottish Liberal Democrat Conference, I highlighted the issues facing tourism during a year of celebrations across the whole of Angus.

Jeremy Purvis MSP, Lib Dem Shadow Secretary on Economic affairs, introduced a motion to press the Scottish Government to support hotels facing rises of up to 120% in the 2010 Business Rates revaluation. He called for the SNP to provide transitional relief, staggering increases over a number of years, in the same way as the previous Lib Dem / Labour Government had done whilst in power, and is standard practice across the rest of the UK.

In Angus, the recession is already hitting Scottish Hotels and Tourism. In February, a stately home, the Castleton House, near Glamis, closed its doors as a hotel.

This year, there are bicentenary celebrations for the Royal Montrose Golf Course and the Bell Rock Lighthouse as well as the 150th anniversary of J M Barrie’s birth in Kirriemuir. All of these celebrations have developed great relationships with local hotels and B&B’s. But already a lack of hotel beds in Angus limits how big their events can be and how much extra business they can bring to the local area.

I spoke to Fraser Ogston, the owner of two hotels in St Andrews, who will open a third in Arbroath in April. He had little idea of what his business rates will be, particularly with the rates revaluation. How can hotel owners plan their business without knowing what their taxes will be?

Sanjay with Fraser Ogston in front of Ogstons in Arbroath

The issues with business rates go further than the hotel industry and transitional relief, however. In particular, business rates are discouraging investment to tackle climate change, as any savings made on energy bills are swallowed up in increased rates. I talked to a shipyard owner, Harry Simpson of Mackay Boat Builders, again in Arbroath, where they rebuilt a workshop building, with one with an insulated roof, motion sensitive lights and taps, and a better working environment for staff. With little warning their rates were doubled, not least because they were taken over the threshold for small business relief.

How can it make sense that a business that has added no new capacity, is no longer regarded as small, simply because they have replaced a building with a greener, safer one?

Sanjay with Harry Simpson at Mackay Boat Builders

I visited Arbroath’s Signal Tower Museum on a cold, frosty morning. I was delighted to hear from Cllr David May, Convener of Infrastructure Services, that the museum secured £450,000 of investment in the recently passed Angus budget.

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the museum, the displays are fresh, informative and give a real feel for what life was like for ordinary folk living in Arbroath over the years. Staff there indicated that there were a huge number of items the museum would dearly like to share with the people of Arbroath. Therefore, it is wonderful news that the historic Signal Tower Museum has secured £450,000 for significant renovation from Angus Council.

David mentioned that the model of The Bell Rock Lighthouse, acquired by Angus Council, is included in the BBC’s History of the World in 100 Objects. It is no wonder then, that Angus Council want to support Arbroath and put the town at centre stage for the Bell Rock Lighthouse Bicentenary celebrations.

This significant investment in the Signal Tower is long overdue and I congratulate Angus Council in their vision in investing in Arbroath to help the community celebrate its rich engineering history. It will benefit the whole of Angus, not only in the Year of the Light, but well into the future.

David had said “ This allocation of funding on Arbroath’s Signal Tower is not just for the 2011 international celebrations of ‘the Year of the Light’, but in my view is very much part of our Council’s commitment to heritage tourism. This is a fundamental part of our wish to boost Arbroath. As tourism is one of Angus’s key economic drivers, this considerable investment in the Signal Tower is hugely welcome. I am just disappointed that the SNP did not support us in celebrating Arbroath’s heritage.”

Sanjay visiting Arbroath's Signal Tower Musuem

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Printed (Hosted) by 1&1. Published and promoted by Tina Ng-A-Mann on behalf of Sanjay Samani (Scottish Liberal Democrats), both at 19 Cedar Place, Perth, PH1 1RL.

© Sanjay Samani 2010-11.

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