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Welcome to Banffshire and Buchan Coast Liberal Democrats web site. Designed to keep you up-to-date with local events as well as what's happening nationwide. Contact us now if you would like to join the local Better Together campaign.

Sir Malcolm Bruce visits Fraerburgh Harbour Master

Sir Malcolm Bruce MP and Ann Bell MBE are shown developments at Fraserburgh Harbour

As part of the UK Government the Liberal Democrats are now the only party that can deliver social justice in coalition with the Conservatives. We will continue to work toward a fairer Britain.

"We will work towards delivering a fairer society that the Labour Party and the Conservative Party have failed to deliver when previously in government on their own during the past 50+ years. We will work hard re-build a stable, green economy for each and every one of us. We will reform politics so that every person and every vote counts. Fairness will be our aim in all that we do as we seek to provide a stable government that serves the whole of the UK."

"You can find out more, including how to keep in touch or join the Liberal Democrats, on this site."

Recent updates

  • Article: Aug 28, 2014

    The Fabian Women's Network invited Disability Rights UK to send someone along to their event to discuss and debate "Disability, Let's Talk About The Barriers", so I went, and I did.

    I said that Disability Rights UK doesn't want to see the debate framed in terms of "inclusion for the ill and disabled" or in terms of "the damaging narrative in which the most vulnerable are demonised and blamed rather than supported and included". The problem with such a framing is that it risks portraying disabled people as one group who are all passive recipients of care and it doesn't do enough to recognise that disabled people can make important contributions to society.

    Personally, I think it's important to make more of a distinction between different experiences of disability. It's important that we come together as 'disabled people' to unite on significant campaigns for rights, like rights to independent living; but we also need to understand our differences. Disability clearly encompasses enormous variety and any categorisation is problematic. But broadly there are people with severe impairments or health conditions, who need a lot of support and major adjustments to be able to participate in society; and people whose impairment, with simple adjustments or even none at all, mean they can take part much more easily.

    Of course some impairments are permanent, some fluctuating, some progressive; and attitudes towards people with different impairments differ as well (for instance, attitudes towards someone with schizophrenia are different to attitudes to someone with a hearing impairment - both face barriers, but the barriers are different).

    Disability Rights UK talks of people with lived experience of disability or long-term health conditions - to give a sense of this variety.

    For me, after being at Disability Rights UK for three years, I still find that if we talk only about "disabled people" we can risk downplaying our differences. If we do that, people may have an image in their mind of who a 'disabled person' is - perhaps someone with a permanent physical or sensory impairment. I am concerned about the many people who live with pain, fatigue, severe confusion, depression, the most significant learning disabilities and autism and also other challenges from homelessness to alcohol or drug problems.

    Disabled people are great contributors to our society - for instance, are twice as likely to be informal carers as non-disabled people - but we cannot assume that there is just a minor barrier to remove and full participation will flow.

    People who just need straightforward adjustments can work and contribute if they have the right support. A big "if", of course. But people living with major pain, fatigue or confusion face far greater challenges. They may not be able to work (either temporarily or permanently), or only be able to with intensive individualised support and major adjustments (for instance, annualised hours - so you can work when you are able to and not when your condition is bad - an arrangement that can work for some types of work, and could be expanded to suit people with fluctuating conditions).

    Millions of people of course have this experience of being unable to do much short-term: people who are laid up in bed for a week with flu or laid up in hospital for a fortnight after an accident. But if you are living long-term with a health condition, you may need care and support long-term; and face challenges in being able to contribute fully.

    I would like to see greater recognition of the fact that there is a group of disabled people who will need long-term care and support; and will need intensive, and sometimes expensive, support to be able to make choices and participate in society. Someone with significant dementia, for instance, can make choices about important day to day issues if offered options in creative ways (not necessarily through language).

    Next, I said that Disability Rights UK doesn't want to see the debate framed in terms of "barriers" either. There is something negative and disempowering about the term even though it is used with the best of intentions to highlight the multitude and magnitude of the problems that disabled people face everywhere they turn: on transport, at work, in education and at leisure.

    It's true that disabled people have had rights under the Disability Discrimination Act of 1995, which are now under the Equalities Act 2010, which are meant to have swept away the barriers created by employers and others. Not that this has happened across the board, of course - though thanks to disabled people Britain is more accessible than it was 20 years ago.

    But the term "barriers" frames the problem as something for "them", the employers and providers and others, to deal with and remove for the sake of "us", the disabled people. Instead of thinking in this traditional way, we could also think in new creative ways about how to deal with the barriers ourselves. That fits in with the discourse about independent living and personal control.

    I'll give two examples, one from history and one about disability. The Maginot Line was a huge defensive barrier built by the French on the border with Germany to stop future invasions. But when World War II came, the Germans simply went around it.

    The disability example is somebody with a visual impairment who can't read everyday printed material. Rather than requiring a public service provider to give them information in large print or Braille, for example, they could influence the provider to ensure their website is accessible (sadly some websites still aren't) and then use text-to-speech software so that they could listen to all of the material themselves. That way, they've both solved the problem themselves and influenced change in a provider, they've empowered themselves and maybe they've found a creative solution that can help other people as well. This approach depends on thinking up creative solutions and on turning barriers into opportunities. It is easily said and hard to do, because creative thinking is sometimes in short supply.

    The third point I made was in response to the outline from Kate Green, the Shadow Spokesperson for Disabled People, about Labour's plans to change the Social Security system for the better as Labour bids to win the 2015 election. She talked about reforming the work capability assessment among other such things. It all sounded potentially pointless to me given that Ed Balls has declared that Labour would not reverse any of the Coalition's austerity cuts and has agreed with the welfare cap that George Osborne proposed in his latest Budget. This is a limit on the amount that can be spent on benefits for working age people, set at £119 billion in 2015/2016.

    What it means is that money spent on, say, improving the work capability assessment - which would help disabled people - means money not spent on some other group, children, say, who are equally deserving. Whether one political party would be able to make the £119 billion work harder and smarter than others is one on which the jury is out.

    I'll end with a comment pertinent to the Cabinet reshuffle news that the role of Minister for Disabled People has gone to Mark Harper. The disability campaigner and blogger, Sue Marsh, said that the government always places ministers for disabled people in the DWP. Why? Because the government thinks that disability is a work issue and a benefits issue rather than anything else.

    This agenda is shared by all three main parties and shows how politicians as a group view disabled people. Instead, she argued, why isn't disability seen as a citizenship issue? There could be a disabled people's minister in a central department like the Cabinet Office, so disability can be addressed in the Department of Transport or Education or anywhere else where disability is an issue.

  • Article: Aug 28, 2014

    Alison McInnes, Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP for North East Scotland, today welcomed the publication of a new report aiming to boost efforts to secure greater gender equality in politics across the UK.

    The Sex and Power 2014 report published today by the Centre for Women and Democracy sets out six recommendations to make faster progress towards gender parity in public life.

  • Article: Aug 27, 2014

    Last week we submitted evidence to the snappily-titled 'fifth independent review of the work capability assessment' - the fifth and final review of the process determining if sick and disabled people are awarded Employment and support allowance (ESA) while they are unable to work.

    We responded to the independent review because, six years after ESA was introduced, we're still seeing evidence of delays, inaccuracy and inconsistency in decision making, compounded by a poor quality process hampered by poor communications and bad quality customer service. To tackle this, we've made the case for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to implement our three campaign asks to make ESA fit for work.

  • Article: Aug 27, 2014
    The last time I went to see a GP I had to explain what a learning disability was. I don't think that I should have to do that - all doctors should have an understanding about it.

    It can be scary enough going to hospital without worrying about whether my doctors even understand about my learning disability. I have been working as a volunteer for Mencap for 20 years, and I am shocked and saddened that so many people with a learning disability die avoidably every year.

    Healthcare is one of the most important issues for people with a learning disability. In 2007, Mencap released the Death by indifference report, which told the stories of 6 people who died needlessly in hospital.

    After the Death by indifference report came out, 74 deaths and counting was also released. It highlighted 74 more cases of people who died needlessly in hospital. It showed that not enough had changed. We know that 1,200 people still die avoidably every year. This needs to stop.

    There are 1.4 million people in the country who can have weakened healthcare due to there not being enough knowledge among GPs. This needs to change.

    In 2010, Mencap launched the Getting it right campaign for doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals. The idea is to increase the knowledge there is about treating people in hospital who have a learning disability. More than 200 hospitals signed up to the charter, promising to make sure hospital passports are used and that staff understand the Mental Capacity Act.

    There are 1.4 million people in the country who can have weakened healthcare due to there not being enough knowledge among GPs. This needs to change.

    To help do this, I'm speaking at a conference at the Royal Society of Medicine on 17 September. This is a very important conference because there will be lots of doctors there who want to learn more about learning disability.

    I'll be speaking with my colleague, James Bolton, Mencap's policy officer for health, about Mencap's work to make healthcare better for people with a learning disability. We will update on how it went after the event, so watch this space

  • Article: Aug 27, 2014

    introduction of 'turn up and go' assistance at London train stations could be moving a step closer. Transport for All have written to the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) to urge them to listen to the views of older and disabled passenger and introduce 'turn up and go' assistance at rail stations in London. ATOC recently commissioned a survey into stations where disabled people do not pre-book their journeys as recommended.

  • Article: Aug 27, 2014

    Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie will tell an audience inWillie RennieWillie Rennie Edinburgh this evening that Scotland's global reputation would be trashed if the nationalists follow through on their threat of defaulting on Scotland's share of the UK debt.

    The remarks comes after Finance Secretary John Swinney confirmed that his party would default on an independent Scotland's share of UK debt if it did not get its way on a currency.

    Speaking at an event with leading members of the Edinburgh Asian community, Mr Rennie will say:

    "One of the first acts of a newly independent Scotland would be to tell the rest of the world we were defaulting on our debt. This would trash our global reputation before we'd have time to raise the saltire up the flagpole outside St. Andrews House.

    "You don't have to be an economics professor to know that refusing to pay your mortgage comes with consequences.

    "The price of the default will be high with the international markets refusing to trust an independent Scottish Government that it will repay future debts.

    "That is why I want Scotland to stay part of the UK, where we can share risk and reward across broader shoulders. This position is in stark contrast with the nationalists reckless passion for their independence plans.

    "Increasingly desperate nationalists are now resorting to idle threats that could cost Scotland dear. Their passion for their cause blinds them to the consequences of their position.

    "Refusing to take on an independent Scotland's share of the debt would look like and smell like a default. Those are not my words but the words of Crawford Beveridge, Alex Salmond's currency advisor.

    "We may not like it, but the powerful forces that are the international money markets would see John Swinney's refusal as a default. And with that comes consequences which the nationalists have not addressed.

    "If on day one of an independent Scotland Alex Salmond refused to shoulder our share of debt, the international markets would eat us alive. It would be families, employees and businesses across Scotland who would pay the price with higher mortgage bills, credit card payments and personal loan charges.

    "Only today, 130 businesses raised their concerns about the nationalists independence plans. 130 employers, who all play a significant role in driving our economy forward and creating jobs in fishing, mining, food, whisky and technology sectors. It would be foolish and reckless for the nationalists to brush off their concerns.

    "It would foolish for the nationalists to make an assumption that their position in government outranks the experience of 130 employers operating in Scotland as part of the UK. It would be reckless for the nationalists to seek out comfort in their own voices whilst the employers of hundreds of thousands of people across Scotland demand answers to unanswered questions in currency, tax and pensions.

    "Anything short of detailed answers from the nationalists on these crucial concerns about their plans can only spell bad news for employees and businesses."

  • Article: Aug 27, 2014

    Scottish Liberal Democrat Shetland MSP Tavish Scott has said that Tavish ScottTavish ScottNicola Sturgeon's independence promises to Shetland show that the nationalists do not understand local calls for more power.

    Speaking from his Shetland constituency today, Mr Scott said:

    "This shows that the SNP just don't get it. Islanders don't want more powers administered by a central belt, distant government. They want control over their own resources. The nationalists plans simply move power from London to Edinburgh. Liberal Democrats want home rule all round.

    "Islanders will be wary of centralising nationalists bearing gifts. Given that the SNP's power promises are conditional on a vote for their independence plans, Nicola Sturgeon's whistle stop tour from Edinburgh is a gun to the head - vote for us or else you get nothing. Islanders are not taken in and that is why Shetland will vote No Thanks in three weeks time."

  • Article: Aug 27, 2014

    Scottish Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury and HighlandsDanny AlexanderDanny Alexander MP Danny Alexander has said that a powerful intervention into the independence debate from a group of 130 employers demonstrates the lack of a credible economic case for the nationalists independence plans.

    An open letter signed by a group of 130 business leaders including Weir Group chief executive Keith Cochrane, Audrey Baxter of Baxters Food Group and Boyd Tunnock argued that remaining in the UK provides the best opportunities for jobs and growth.

    Commenting, Danny Alexander MP said:

    "This letter is from a large group of the very people who create the wealth and jobs that our prosperity depends on. The signatories run small and large firms in every part of Scotland, employing tens of thousands of people. I urge everyone in Scotland, particularly those who are still undecided on how to vote, to take the opinions of these wealth creators seriously.

    "They are crystal clear - the business case for independence has not been made and Scotland is thriving as part of the UK. This powerful intervention comes after the SNP's currency fiasco, fantasy oil revenues and extraordinary threat that an independent Scotland wouldn't pay its share of the UK's debts. There simply isn't one credible economic argument for independence. The Scottish economy is growing and creating jobs as part of the UK - Scottish business is right that we shouldn't put that at risk."

  • Article: Aug 27, 2014

    Northern Isles MP and Secretary of State for Scotland Alistair Carmichael has today called on major supermarket chains toAlistair CarmichaelAlistair Carmichael do their bit to support Motor Neurone Disease Scotland after taking the ice bucket challenge.

    Mr Carmichael was commenting after being doused in iced sea water at Tingwall Pier in Orkney and donating to Motor Neurone Disease Scotland. Mr Carmichael's ice bucket challenge video is now available to view on Youtube.

    Speaking after a hot cup of tea and a change of clothes, Mr Carmichael nominated supermarkets selling bags of ice to make a donation to the charity.

    Commenting, Mr Carmichael said:

    "People who are aware of Gordon Aikman's campaign to raise awareness and funds for Motor Neurone Disease Scotland cannot fail to be impressed by his bravery and enthusiasm in hugely challenging circumstances. I was delighted to take part in the ice bucket challenge and am pleased to report that the feeling has now returned to my fingers and toes.

    "Ice is not usually in short supply across the Northern Isles but the ice bucket challenge has seen something of a run on bags of ice in Orkney and Shetland recently.

    "I think that it is right that those profiting from these extra sales should give something back. I nominate the major supermarket chains to get involved and back this campaign."

    You can watch Mr Carmichael's ice bucket challenge video at http://bit.ly/1lvraNq.

  • Article: Aug 26, 2014
    In me association.org.uk

    Deep unease with the way the Department for Work and Pensions responded to an evidence-based review (EBR) of proposals to improve the Work Capability Assessment has been expressed this week by a group of charities and patient groups - who had called for the descriptors to be changed so they better suit the needs of people with fluctuating and progressive conditions.