Westminster comment - Continuously improving education

As children across the constituency, resplendent in new shoes, slightly too big uniform and huge bags return to school this week, the weather, typically, manages to shine brightly on them after a wet summer! I wish them all, especially those entering P1 and S1 every success in the new academic year.

Education was also in the headlines as the new term begins, as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon gave a passionate outline of the staunch commitment of the Scottish Government to continuous improvement for the education of all children throughout Scotland. I specifically welcome the extension to the Attainment Fund, focusing on improving Primary literacy, numeracy, health and well-being and the launch of the Read, Write, Count plan that also reinforces our commitment to improving standards for all Scottish school pupils. The SNP is highly ambitious in its on-going plans to ensure Scotland becomes the best place to grow-up in the world and we will all continue to work tirelessly to achieve that vision.

As the new academic year begins it is great to see the investment of £260,000 in schools in Aberdeenshire, under the Inspiring Learning Spaces scheme.

The money will be used specifically to create inspiring learning environments that are flexible and motivating, promoting the principles of the Curriculum for Excellence. I’ve had several invitations to visit high schools in the area to chat to them about my work as an MP, so I hope I’ll soon see this new fund being put to good use.

This week around the constituency I have enjoyed meeting Europe’s biggest horse, despite my allergies! My thanks to the impressive World Horse Welfare Centre, who I understand are soon to celebrate a milestone anniversary. The centre at Belwade Farm is Scotland’s largest horse rescue and rehoming centre where up to 70 horses and ponies can undergo rehabilitation at any one time.

I was particularly interested to hear about the international work that the charity do, including the training and development that they do with communities where the horse is a vital tool for existence. I will be visiting many rural communities when I visit Kenya soon with the One Campaign and I hope to see horse welfare training being put into action there. I was also extremely impressed by the facilities that are available at the centre. I’m sure I’ll be popping in for a coffee to their bistro with fabulous views very soon!

I also visited the Stonehaven Caravan Club, who generate £4million pounds annually for the area. Tourism is one of my major interests and I am delighted to see a business do so well and promote our area to visitors so professionally.

I wonder if the model that has been developed at the site in Stonehaven may be used by small communities in our constituency, seems to be a great way of attracting tourists and making use of land which has maybe fallen into disuse?

Along with Dennis Robertson MSP, I visited Morrisons Banchory store to discuss their ideas to support and promote the produce of local farms. We had a very interesting visit, although I must admit I do prefer being in the supermarket in my less formal clothes! Morrisons are starting to come up with some solutions to the massive problems that we are seeing with the relationship between our farming industry and the retail sector. I hope that other retailers will engage and that the work that the Scottish Government, led by Richard Lochhead, cabinet secretary for rural affairs and the environment, can achieve a fair deal for our farmers.

Dennis and I also met with RBS recently, in relation to the closure of its branch in Alford.

The meeting, whilst a little disappointing at times, was constructive and RBS have agreed to review their plans for the alternative banking which they were proposing to instigate. I will continue to work with the community and the businesses in the area in the hope that we can find a solution which will be sustainable and work in the best interests of Alford.

Finally my congratulations to my colleague Dennis Robertson MSP, on his re-selection at the branch meeting as our SNP candidate for the 2016 Holyrood election. 2016 will be another election year, so I’m sure I’ll meet many readers on the doorsteps!

My constituency office is really coming together and all being well we will be set up and well established before parliament sits again at the beginning of September. In the meantime, please feel free to contact me on stuart.donaldson.mp@parliament.uk