Ticket machine still needed at Portlethen station

North Kincardine councillor Ian Mollison has welcomed the extra investment at Portlethen railway station by the Scottish Government, announced this week.

Cycle shelters will be built at various stations, including Portlethen as part of a £5.27m package across Scotland.

Cllr Mollison said: “Although any investment at Portlethen station is most welcome, what is really needed is a ticket vending machine.

“I have heard of commuters who have been delayed significantly at the barrier at Aberdeen because they were unable to buy a ticket on the train. In one case a Portlethen resident felt he was being treated like a criminal. That is not the way to encourage more people to take the train.

“I have called previously for a ticket machine to be installed: it is time to repeat that call.”

Black day for local justice

It looks likely that Stonehaven court will close, despite the protests of local people. The Scottish Court Service report “Shaping Scotland’s Court Services” was published this afternoon.

It recommends that Stonehaven – along with others courts – will close in May 2014 and the business transfer to Aberdeen. This will save £50,000 a year in running costs.

North Kincardine councillor Ian Mollison said: “It is now up to Scottish Ministers to consider the recommendations, take a view, and to take any necessary statutory orders to the Scottish Parliament. With the majority held by the SNP, I suggest regrettably that it is game over. Another local facility going, going, gone.”

North East Liberal Democrat MSP Alison McInnes said: “I am disappointed that Stonehaven has been earmarked for closure along with other courts.

“They are important to the communities they serve. There are clear advantages to maintaining an effective local service and SNP Ministers need to think hard before implementing these recommendations.
 
“The ball is now firmly in the SNP’s court. Ministers have the power to save these services. They need to listen to the views of local people on the damage these closures could cause and act to protect local justice. 
 
“While we have to ensure that the country’s criminal justice system is fit for the 21st century, I am concerned that the closures could have a damaging effect on the length of time cases take to be heard.

“The loss of the local court would be of considerable inconvenience to litigants, witnesses and the police. Members of the public who are required for jury duty will also be affected.

“This is not only bad for justice in the North East but little comfort to victims of crime and their families. Justice should be done – and be seen to be done – as locally as possible.”

The full report can be accessed at: http://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/docs/default-source/scs-consultation-court-structures/response_to_the_consultation_and_recommendationspdf.pdf

Welcome for return of garden waste recycling service

North Kincardine councillor Ian Mollison today welcomed the news that seasonal garden waste recycling points will open again across Aberdeenshire later this month.

He said: “I know this is a well-used service in Newtonhill and Portlethen with residents awaiting the opportunity to get rid of clippings and cuttings.

“The collected material from around Aberdeenshire is turned into good quality compost either at Keenan Recycling at New Deer, Charlie Gray’s at Fordyce or A & M Smith in Portlethen.”

The seasonal recycling points will operate on Saturdays from April 20 to November 9 at:

• Ballater (Roads Depot, South Deeside Road) 8am to 11am
• Aboyne (Station Square car park) 12pm to 3pm
• Inverbervie (Beach Front car park, off Kirkburn) 12pm to 3pm
• St Cyrus (Ecclesgreig Road car park) 8am to 11am
• Newtonhill (Bettridge Centre car park) 8am to 12pm
• Mintlaw (Council Depot, South Street) 8am to 12pm and 12.30pm to 3pm
• Portlethen (ASDA car park) 8am to 3pm

For Portlethen residents, the garden waste recycling point will also operate on Wednesdays from 2pm to 6pm between April 24 and November 6.

Garden waste recycling facilities are also available throughout the year at Household Waste and Recycling Centres (HWRCs) in Aberdeenshire. These can be found at www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/waste or by calling Wasteline on 0845 600 3 900.

Landmark tax cut tomorrow

The income tax cut tomorrow (6 April) will be a landmark day towards achieving the Liberal Democrat goal of a fairer tax system.

The Personal Allowance will be raised to £9,440 – the largest rise in the Personal Allowance ever. Some 105,100 basic rate taxpayers people in Aberdeenshire will see their Income Tax cut for the third year in a row. That will bring the total Income Tax cut since Labour’s time in government to £600.

Due to the rise in the point at which people start to pay Income Tax, the number of the lowest paid people in Aberdeenshire who have been lifted out of paying any Income Tax will reach 9160.

Councillor Ian Mollison said: “This is a positive change which will make a real difference to people’s pockets today.

“It is clear that Liberal Democrats are delivering a stronger economy and fairer society.”

Farewell to our local police force

Goodbye Grampian Police. On Monday all eight of Scotland’s regional forces were replaced by just one, Police Scotland.

Its 17,400 officers will police more than 30,000 square miles with its 5.3m people.

Stephen House is the new chief constable. He is the former head of Strathclyde Police and a former assistant commissioner with the Met. He says the new force will bring much-needed improvements. Already he has merged CID and specialist units into one crime division, with 2,000 detectives.

However there are serious concerns about the new force’s accountability, its centralisation and for the jobs of the 6,200 civilian staff.

Scottish Liberal Democrats were against the merger, arguing it was wrong in principle, rushed through to save money, and without any democratic oversight. SNP, Labour and Conservatives all backed the merger.

There is conflict too between the chief constable and the head of the new Scottish Police Authority, Vic Emery, over its power to set force budgets and personnel policy.

North East MSP Alison McInnes, the Scottish Liberal Democrats’ justice spokeswoman, and said the merger endangered Scotland’s tradition of community-based policing and local accountability.

“Policy and strategy will be heavily controlled at national level, even though Scotland is a very varied, diverse country. Plans for local commanders to liaise with local councils and agree local policing plans is no substitute for direct oversight and authority.”

All eight independent police authorities, which were made up of local councillors and oversaw the previous forces, agreeing budgets and policing plans, have been scrapped. The new authority’s 13 members are appointed by Justice Secretary Kenny McAskill, who also approved Mr House’s appointment.

Alison also questions the chief constable’s decision to have armed officers on permanent patrol across the country. “That might be necessary in urban Glasgow but outside major cities the policy is alien to Scotland’s unarmed policing tradition.

“We are on a dangerous road here. With much greater control from the centre, the big decisions about what style of policing we have and what the major priorities will be set by a single police authority board, which is a group of 13 unelected people. There’s a democratic deficit now, quite clearly.”

Several departing chief constables have also been openly critical. One, Colin McKerracher, until Sunday the chief constable of Grampian, said he was “horrified” when the merger was first proposed in 2011. In his final interview with the Press & Journal last week, Mr McKerracher said he believed policing had become a “political football” at Holyrood.

“The government are saying that this new service will be locally focused,” Mr McKerracher was quoted as saying. “But the one thing that is changing is that there is no local police board able to select a chief constable and style of policing for the area. There will also be no power to hold their chief constable to account. So they are now fairly toothless policing committees.”

North Kincardine Councillor Ian Mollison said: “I look forward to hearing from local officers at the Kincardine and Mearns Area Committee, but the reports will merely be a courtesy from the police. Locally elected councillors will have no authority at all. And the public have no democratic say whatsoever on how their local police force is run. It is all down to a quango appointed by one man – the Justice Secretary.”

Plans in hand to repair storm damage

Plans are in hand to repairs storm-damaged paths and bridges in the Newtonhill area. 

Local councillor Ian Mollison said: “Over the winter there has been significant damage caused by heavy rains. A number of homes were also badly damaged and their owners – and insurance companies – are dealing with the consequences, with advice available from Aberdeenshire Council. 

“Meanwhile council officials have been assessing the damage caused to the Core Paths network. 

“Only recently the council received Scottish Government approval for its Core Paths plan. There is now more of an onus on the council to maintain the paths and ensure they are walkable. 

“Importantly the track from Muchalls to Newtonhill and northwards is a Core Path. 

“Council officials have carried out an initial assessment of the remedial works.

“I am told the total cost of these works and other substantial repair works required at both Stonehaven and further south on the Coastal Path and other Core Paths far exceeds the council’s annual path maintenance budget for next year.

“In the Newtonhill area, officials propose to look at progressing with repairs to the path to Newtonhill Beach and the approach to the footbridge over the Elsick Burn at the beach (at a total cost of around £6000) as a priority in May/June. Similarly the path from the railway bridge at Muchalls to the cliffs and beach should hopefully be done at the same time (at a cost of around £3000) if a contractor can undertake the work within this overall timeframe.

“Progression of the restoration work around Elsick Mill will largely be dependant on the owner but the council will make a contribution of around £4000 in order that works are not delayed.

“Further south towards Muchalls the replacement of the footbridge over the Pheppie Burn will cost around £35,000. Officials say that while this is of a high overall priority, the cost currently exceeds the available budget.

“It will be dependant on funding being forthcoming either through Bellwin funding from the Scottish Government, a capital bid or some other alternative source. As a local councillor I would certainly support the council dipping into its coffers to fund this work.”

Plans set out for roads maintenance

Local councillors have given the go-ahead for the road maintenance programme for the coming year. Overall Aberdeenshire Council has earmarked £26.8m for this and a further £5.3m for winter maintenance and other emergencies.

Here is some of the work which is planned locally:

Newtonhill

Resurfacing work – Skateraw Road (where the bus turns), and Park Place at Newtonhill Road junction

Footpaths – Newton Road, Chapel Road (west side), Anderson Drive, and Villagelands Road.

New lighting columns – Windyedge Court, and Cliff View

Portlethen

Resurfacing work – Portlethen to Old Portlethen, Oak Drive, Broomfield Road (part) Findon to Uppertown, road to station car park, Viking Place, Ninian Place, Argyll Place, Piper Place, Claymore Place, Easter Court, and Easter Drive.

Footpaths – Juniper Place, Broomfield Road, Broadhaven Road, Sedge Place, Whinpark Circle, Clashfarquhar Crescent (part), Burnside Gardens (part), Dunvegan Crescent, Oak Drive, Cookston Road, Muirend Road (part), and Argyll Place (part).

New lighting columns – Dunvegan Avenue, Claymore Avenue, and Aspen Way.

New street signs – Thistle Drive area.

North Kincardine Rural

Resurfacing work – C25K at Backhill eastwards, U61K south of Seal Quarry, U145 between the B979 and Backburn, C5K from Greenloaning to Auchlunies, and from Upper Murskie west to Corsehill, U59K at Townhead, U60K near Blue Hill, B979 at junction with the U67K, B9077 at Batchart junction and near North Lodge, U63K at Burnhead, C12K, C59K, U61K, U67K.

Haunching (road edges) – C30K at Redmyre, and at the B9077 junction. 

Muchalls

Renew various street name plates.

Other work such as renewing road markings, street name plates, reflector studs and signs as well as cycle track maintenance will also take place.

North Kincardine councillor Ian Mollison said: “It is vital that our roads are in a good condition.”

Aberdeenshire Core Paths plan adopted

A plan outlining Aberdeenshire’s Core Paths could encourage more physical activity after it was approved by councillors. It sets out routes across Aberdeenshire – including between Muchalls, Newtonhill and Portlethen – making it more accessible and easier for residents and visitors to get about towns, villages, waterways and spectacular areas of natural beauty.

Since 1997, the council has been working with landowners and communities to improve the rural paths network in many parts of the area.

The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 placed various new duties on local authorities, one of which is to prepare a Core Paths Plan. It states the plan should be “sufficient for the purpose of giving the public reasonable access throughout their area”.

The council collated information obtained from 2006 and 2008 consultations and used this to draw up a draft plan of Core Paths in the area for final consultation. That took place in 2009, and since then objections to the plan have been addressed and it has also been considered by the Scottish Government. It has asked for amendments, particularly in light of objections made to the plan, and once the document has been updated it will be available to the public in its final form.

Members of the council’s infrastructure services committee formally approved and adopted the Aberdeenshire Core Paths Plan, subject to the necessary amendments.

Core Paths are intended to provide opportunities for walking, cycling, horse riding and access to water. They can be multi-use paths, or may be more suitable for a particular activity, and can also provide functional paths in and around communities as well as recreational routes for leisure. Core Paths have to provide the basic framework of paths to meet communities’ needs, minimise any potential conflict with land management and be well-signposted, well maintained and welcoming.

The aim of the Aberdeenshire Core Paths Plan is to ensure that there is at least one path for settlements with a population over 100. This focus on routes close to settlements provides access for the largest numbers of people and has the added benefit of encouraging more physical activity, which in turn improves health and discourages car use for shorter journeys.

The total length of the proposed core paths network of paths and tracks is nearly 500 miles. The council is working on a process for identifying priorities for developing and improving paths and once this has concluded specific path improvements and development will be identified.

For more information on core paths and outdoor access in Aberdeenshire, see www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/outdooraccess/index.asp

Relief as local firm bought over

The McIntosh Donald plant at Portlethen is being bought from Vion UK by the 2 Sisters Food Group. 

Local Liberal Democrat councillor Ian Mollison said: “The sale of the plant as a going concern is welcome. It brings to an end the immediate uncertainty hanging over the workforce and the farmers who supply the abattoir.

“The staff will be eager to hear first hand the new owner’s plans for its new Scottish sites.”

Last call for council’s broadband postcards

Local councillors have united to urge Kincardine and Mearns residents to take part in an Aberdeenshire Council broadband survey. 

Liberal Democrats Peter Bellarby and Ian Mollison made the call after thousand of postcards were delivered by Royal Mail throughout the shire. 

Cllr Bellarby said: “The aim is to test demand for improved broadband services throughout Aberdeenshire. To take advantage of Scottish Government support the council must provide evidence of demand from residents and businesses. The completed postcards will be crucial.” 

Cllr Mollison added: “Although Aberdeenshire Council has already agreed to invest £18 million in broadband in the area, the Scottish Government has a key role to play in ensuring that the North East is at the forefront of 21st century communications. We need everyone’s help.” 

Although the deadline is 28 February, there will still be time for late submissions. Cllr Mollison explained: “There was a problem with the deliveries in the rural part of my North Kincardine ward. This took time to overcome and as a result the council is not being strict about the deadline.”
 
New postcards can be collected from the council offices such as the area office in Stonehaven or from local libraries. Alternatively email your name and address to econdev@aberdeenshire.gov.uk.