A VOICE FROM WESTMINSTER
I was disappointed that a meeting scheduled with Harland and Wolff, the new owners of the former BiFab yard in Methil, was postponed last week. I’m hoping to catch up with them soon to get more details of their plans for the yard and the timescales for re-opening. One very encouraging sign is that they have started recruiting and at the time of writing they were planning to hold an online recruitment day this week.
I had a very useful meeting with some of the traders in the Kingdom Centre in Glenrothes to talk about their experiences during lockdown and what needs to be done to regenerate the Centre when the restrictions start to be lifted. The rise of online shopping was causing a real challenge to traditional shops even before the pandemic struck. I was pleased to hear the positive feedback about the financial support that’s been offered by both the UK and Scottish Governments but it’s obvious that the Kingdom Centre, which is effectively Glenrothes’ High Street, needs significant investment from its owners. I remember as a newly elected councillor way back in the 1990s saying it was a bad move to let the whole Centre become the property of a single private company and I’m afraid the problems we predicted then have been all too evident.
I shared the anger of many people when the UK Government announced a 45% increase in its planned stockpiles of nuclear weapons, at an additional cost of around £8 billion. To add insult to injury, a few days later they revealed that the size of the Army is to be cut by 10,000 soldiers. Even if you don’t share my view that possessing weapons of mass murder is morally indefensible, the additional weapons will never serve any useful purpose. The money should be used to maintain the strength of conventional forces, to fill the gaping hole in Britain’s defence equipment budgets, to provide the basics such as reliable heating and hot water in soldiers’ living accommodation, or to give more support to service personnel and their families whose mental health has been damaged by their experiences.
Recently we’ve seen definite signs that spring is here, and along with encouraging news about Covid restrictions I’m hoping that we can all start feeling a bit more optimistic about life. It’s a particularly important time for people of many religious faiths and I was pleased that the timetable for easing of restrictions allowed at least a limited reopening of places of worship ahead of last weekend. In the Christian tradition we are now in Holy Week which culminates with Easter Sunday; the Jewish Passover began last weekend; and Muslims have just marked Lailat ul Bara'h, the Night of Forgiveness, and are preparing for the Holy Month of Ramadan. Whether or not you attach any religious significance to this time of year can I wish everyone a happy and hopeful Easter.