Season’s Greetings

As 2011 draws to a close, I wish to extend my best Christmas and New Year wishes to everyone.
My thoughts, at this time of year, go out to those for whom the festive period is a challenging time, particularly the elderly and the infirm, our Armed Forces and their families, and others who cannot be with their loved ones.
Personally, I have had a busy 2011.  I was honoured to be returned as Dunfermline MSP in the historic SNP landslide election to the Scottish Parliament.  Serving my constituents since May has been a privilege and pleasure. My staff and I are all new to our roles but we have now set up an efficient and cheerful office in the East Port, which Annabelle Ewing MSP officially opened in September.  I would like to thank my employees and volunteers for their dedication in supporting the constituency.  If that were not all enough, I also became a married man and, a grandfather!
This last year has had tests for our community but there have been successes too. Amazon, the online retail giant, opened its new fulfilment facility near Halbeath, which will create around 1,500 jobs.  Our Carnegie Leisure Centre reopened too, equipped with affordable, first-class recreational facilities in the heart of town.  Earlier this month I was particularly pleased to be asked to officially open the Sustainable Technology Centre at Carnegie College, a training facility for those wishing to enter the renewable energy and conservation sector.
On the downside, the Westminster Government pulled the plug on the ground-breaking Carbon Capture and Storage project already well underway at Longannet Power Station. The required funding was just 10% of the tax revenues flowing every year to London from Scotland’s North Sea and Atlantic oil and gas fields. The project would have created hundreds of new long-term, skilled jobs, as well as having great environmental significance. Now, instead of Fife leading the way, Scotland may well have to import the expertise in the future.
However, we look forward to more positive things in 2012. Work will be well underway on the Forth Replacement Crossing, which is on target for completion by 2016 and has come in significantly under budget. Due to wear and tear and high-volume traffic, a new crossing is vital to secure transport links for commuters, commercial businesses and tourists alike. The new bridge will have a dual two-lane motorway and hard shoulders, plus wind-shielding to improve its reliability.
Early in the New Year, the Scottish Government will be announcing its plans to deliver next generation broadband to all. Not only will this be a bonus for home-users, it is critical to Scotland’s future, ensuring we remain commercially competitive in the global digital environment. It will also encourage rural economic growth and allow more people to work from home.
Despite cuts imposed by the Westminster Government to the Scottish budget, there will still be help for hard-pressed householders next year. The unfair Council Tax will remain frozen, and the Scottish Government will be continuing the Fuel Poverty and Energy Efficiency Program.  The Scottish Government will also be implementing the Warm Homes Fund.
These are just a few of the initiatives to encourage Scotland’s economy to prosper and our communities to flourish. Further information can be found on the Scottish Government’s website and I look forward to Dunfermline seeing the benefits of all these measures.
Serving the constituency has been a pleasure and privilege, and I am filled with optimism for the coming years.  In May 2012, I shall step down as a Fife Councillor in order to concentrate entirely on constituency and parliamentary duties. I have served with Fife Council for five years, a year longer than intended to separate out Council and Scottish Parliament elections, following the voting confusion of 2007.  I look forward to my replacement working supportively with the Scottish Government for the good of Dunfermline and Scotland.
Whatever your own plans and expectations are for 2012, I wish you good health and happiness.

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