A VOICE FROM WESTMINSTER
There was good news last week with the publication of the Scottish Government’s Draft Infrastructure Plan outlining around £24 billion of investment over the next five years. The plan is open for public consultation on the Scottish Government’s website. I know the residents who suffered serious losses in last month’s floods will be pleased to see the announcement of a big increase in spending on flood defences and I’ll be writing to the Minister to make sure Fife gets its fair share of the extra money.
The news from the Post Office was far from good when we heard that the constituency is to lose yet more Post Offices with the closure of two in Glenrothes following earlier closures in Markinch, Methil and Leslie. If the Post Office is going to rely on local shopkeepers to run the service for them, they need to make it worth their while. Local shops want to provide a service, but they also need to feed their families and pay their staff wages and too often they’re saying that running a Post Office generates too much work for little or no reward.
I had a very useful meeting (virtual, of course) with representatives of SGN who are hoping to run a world leading project in Levenmouth to offer residents the choice of using hydrogen instead of methane for their domestic gas supply. The Scottish Government has already committed financial support and we’re waiting to hear if the UK Government, through the energy regulator Ofgem, will follow suit. If we’re serious about tackling climate change one of the biggest challenges will be to provide carbon free heat and power to tens of millions of homes and businesses who currently rely on methane gas.
Still on the renewable energy front – it was hugely disappointing that SSE turned their backs on BiFab and chose a contractor thousands of miles way to do the work on an offshore windfarm that’s being built just off the Fife coast. While it’s easy to criticise SSE the fact is that the UK Government’s “Contracts for Difference” programme could have required them to use much more local suppliers and they chose not to. I have a letter on its way to the UK Government asking for this scheme to be amended for future contracts. Scotland has some of the world’s richest resources of renewable energy and it doesn’t make sense for so much of the benefits to be shipped to the other side of the world.
At the time of writing I’m still going through the details of the UK Government’s new scheme of support for workers during the coronavirus restrictions. Although I welcome the fact that the Chancellor has listened, at least in part, to our demands, the early signs are that the new scheme will exclude even more than the three million who were deliberately excluded from the original schemes. In fact, the Chancellor as good as admitted that huge numbers of jobs will be lost despite his latest announcement.