Thank you to David Duguid of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist party who is the second of the four candidates in Banff & Buchan ward to respond to the five questions from My Turriff.
What are the top 5 priority’s which you feel would benefit this region directly and what are you going to do to make them happen and how would you promote this area within Westminster to attract diverse businesses here?
1. Campaign for better connectivity infrastructure, including superfast broadband and improved mobile coverage in rural areas.
I have fought since my election in 2017 to ensure that no-one in Banff and Buchan is left behind when it comes to broadband and mobile phone connectivity. The Conservative manifesto includes a commitment to agree a £1billion deal with mobile phone operators to pool existing phone masts, and build new ones, to improve coverage in the countryside and limit black-spots. It also commits to providing full fibre and gigabit-capable broadband to every home by 2025 across the whole of the UK. Too many people in Banff and Buchan, particularly those in rural areas, are struggling with poor or non-existent broadband. The SNP Scottish Government has had responsibility for the roll-out of superfast broadband north of the border, but has fallen behind on its own targets for delivery.
2. To ensure our fishermen and seafood producers benefit from the huge opportunities of leaving the EU and the CFP.
Frustration with the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) was one of the main reasons why many people in our coastal communities voted to leave the EU in 2016. I have been a champion for our fishing industry since I was elected in 2017. There is a huge opportunity for the sector from exiting the EU. Under Conservative policy, we will leave the CFP by December 2020 and become an independent coastal state. We will then negotiate annually on access and quotas – just like Norway, the Faroe Islands and Iceland. Business in the seafood sector across the north-east need the certainty of a negotiated deal with the EU. Thanks to the Prime Minister, we now have that deal in place – we just need to get it over the line.
3. To secure a new agricultural policy post-Brexit that is fairer and better suited to Scottish farmers.
Farming is vitally important in Banff and Buchan. At this election, the Conservative party has committed to continuing farm funding at its present level for the duration of the next parliament. That will provide some certainty to farmers as we leave the EU and set up a new system to replace the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The CAP is a one-size fits all scheme that does not take into account the different needs of farmers here in the north-east to those in the Mediterranean, for example. We now have a chance to devise a fairer system that better suits Scottish producers. This will help us to continue to grow our food and drink sector and expand into new markets around the world.
4. To fight against the centralisation of our local services and protect our GP surgeries, hospitals, police stations and ambulances.
Under the SNP government in Edinburgh, there has been a centralisation agenda that has led to an erosion of local services in areas like Banff and Buchan. During my time as MP, I have campaigned to help retain the opening hours at Minor Injury Units in Turriff and at Chalmers Hospital in Banff. I have also campaigned for improved ambulance services in Turriff. Response times are very slow here because the ambulances have to travel from Inverurie, Peterhead or Aberdeen. We also have a shortage of GPs – and an ageing workforce. More must be done to help train, attract and retain key workers like doctors and nurses in this area.
5. To stand firm against plans for a second independence referendum
The last thing Scotland needs right now is another referendum on independence. The Scottish people voted decisively to stay in the UK in 2014 in what was described as a ‘once in a generation’ vote and we should stick to that. A re-run of the poll would not only be costly (the last one cost £17m including £2m for the SNP’s white paper) but it would create more uncertainty for businesses and lead to unnecessary division. We need to look forward and focus on improving our public services like the NHS, growing our economy and creating more jobs.
What are your thoughts on people throughout the Banff & Buchan constituency having to use local food banks to allow them to eat?
The reasons why people are forced to turn to food banks are complex. The last Conservative government simplified the benefits system with Universal Credit, making it easier to access support. Like any new system, there have been problems with it in the early stages, but those problems are being addressed. Last week, we announced that working-age benefits will rise in line with inflation from April, giving millions of people more money in their pockets. We will also raise the National Insurance threshold to £9,500 next year – the largest increase ever, representing a tax cut for 32 million workers. This will help people on lower incomes with the cost of living. However, we believe the best way out of poverty is through work – and under this Conservative government, record numbers of people are in work.
Recently we have had 6 bridges washed away due to heavy rain. We have been told that some bridges may not be repaired by the council. What is your policy on helping the community deal with this issue, and what are you prepared to do to sort it?
As the local MP at the time, I immediately got in touch with Aberdeenshire Council when this happened to help ensure a swift response. Some of the bridges damaged have since been repaired. Clearly, in other cases, it is taking longer. My understanding is that Aberdeenshire Council are still working on the timetable for completing the remainder of the work, and I have heard nothing to suggest that will not happen. The council faces challenges, not least on funding. Aberdeenshire is the third lowest funded local authority in Scotland, despite being one of the biggest contributors in terms of council tax and business rates each year. That won’t change under the SNP and it is one of the many reasons why we need a change of government in Edinburgh.
Given that generations of Scots have grown accustomed to devolution (live in the late 1970s and debated again from 1992), Holyrood (since 1999) and talk of independence (since 2011), is Scottish independence inevitable in due course?
Of course not. The people of Scotland were given a clear choice in 2014 what we were told was a ‘once in a generation’ or even ‘once in a lifetime’ referendum on independence. Scotland voted to stay part of the United Kingdom by a decisive margin of 55-45% and by a greater margin here in Aberdeenshire of 60-40%. Unfortunately, Nicola Sturgeon has not respected the result of that referendum – nor the 2016 referendum on EU membership for that matter. Of all the polls conducted since 2014, only around one in ten have indicated there might be a preference for independence. Scottish Conservatives have a positive vision of Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom and we want to see our industries and institutions punching above their weight. For example, Scotland’s education system was once the envy of the world. Under SNP devolved control, educational standards have slipped shamefully.
The three most influential economic powers in the world are China, the EU and the USA. After Brexit – if it happens – which should we most closely align with and why?
The British people voted to leave the EU and we must abide by that result. When we leave, we do not have to make a choice between which economic powers we are most closely aligned to. The Conservative manifesto is clear that we want a close partnership with our European neighbours and that we will also seek to strike trade deals with other economies around the world. That should not be limited to one country or another. Perhaps a better question would be, ‘which influential economic powers will wish to closely align with us?’
You can see all candidates in the Banff & Buchan constituency here and read the My Turriff statement on our transparency here.