Peterhead Councillor Backs Towns Partnership 'Shop Local' Campaign

>> 21 July 2020

SNP councillor for Peterhead South & Cruden Stephen Smith has given his backing to the campaign launched this week by Scotland’s Towns Partnership to ‘Shop Local’ to help fuel the economic recovery.

Scotland’s Towns Partnership has launched its campaign – in association with the Scottish Government – encouraging everyone to support the businesses which are at the heart of their home communities.

The campaign follows the publication of new polling figures which showed two-thirds of Scottish residents intended to shop locally once their high streets reopen post-Coronavirus and that the successful future of town centres depends on support at a local level.

Businesses across the country have been working with Business Improvement Districts, Local Authorities and others to put in place arrangements which mean people can shop locally, but safely. These arrangements include the use of screens, distance markers and signage, the provision of hand sanitizer instore and capacity limits.

It comes at a time when the need to safely and responsibly support town centres has never been greater following the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Commenting, Cllr Stephen Smith said:

Cllr Stephen Smith and 
Cabinet Secretary Aileen Campbell
at a previous event in Parliament 
supporting Town Centres.

“These last few months have been hard for many of our town centre businesses and other small enterprises.

“Many traders – some of whom have been at the heart of community response campaigns during the crisis – have been forced to temporarily close throughout lockdown, with customers turning 
instead to large internet retailers. I therefore very much welcome this initiative and hope people will support their local businesses.*

Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell MSP said:

“It is now more vitally important than ever to consider shopping, eating and drinking locally as we all have a role to play in Scotland’s economic recovery. Simple steps like choosing to visit a nearby shop or cafĂ©, or buying goods or services from a business in your own community, help support jobs and goes a long way to fostering the vibrant selection of products and services on offer close to home.

“By following the public health advice, we can all make exploring what the neighbourhood has to offer as safe as possible. I would encourage everyone who is able to head out and discover for themselves what living locally can offer them – I know that business owners at the heart of our communities will appreciate it immensely.”

Phil Prentice, Chief Officer of Scotland’s Towns Partnership, said:

“The impact of coronavirus has hit our town centres and local businesses hard. Now is the time for us all to support them to get back on their feet in a way which recognises that we still need to stay safe and follow the public health guidelines.

“By thinking local first, we can help Scotland’s economic recovery from its grassroots, supporting our town centres within all of the public safety guidelines. The impact we can have by doing this should not be underestimated.

“The breadth of businesses in our town centres is vast. Whether you need a book, a pint of milk, a night out and a meal or some garden furniture, please think local first.

“Scotland Loves Local is all about getting people back to their roots and recognising that our town centre businesses and the people who run them are part of the fabric of our communities. Sometimes for generations, these people have been there for us. Now it’s time for us to be there for them. One of the great positives of the terrible times in which we have found ourselves has been the greater appreciation of localism. We must now harness that to keep our communities vibrant and lay firm foundations as we work to ensure our town centres are fit for the future.”

Scotland Loves Local will highlight the fact that it’s the people behind the businesses which make our high streets special – not simply the buildings and shop units which are found on them.

It also encourages people to show their support safely, following all social distancing and hygiene guidance shared by the Scottish Government as part of the ongoing vigilance to keep rates of Covid-19 suppressed.


Councillor Blackett Calls for Flexibility in Furlough Scheme

>> 30 April 2020

A councillor has made a call for some flexibility to be introduced to the UK Government’s furlough scheme at today’s virtual meeting of the full Aberdeenshire Council.

Councillors were discussing the response to Coronavirus during which Cllr Geva Blackett (SNP-Aboyne, Upper Deeside & Donside) requested the UK Government be asked to make adjustments to the furlough scheme.

Cllr Blackett used the example of a local community business engaged in heritage and tourism where being able to have their single furloughed worker spend the 20 per cent of their time they are not being paid for to safely engage in preparatory work for when restrictions are lifted would be beneficial to both the business and the community.

Speaking during the virtual meeting, Cllr Blackett said:

“Employers are able, as we know, to claim back 80% of a furloughed employee’s salary up to a £2,500 per month ceiling. Employees are not allowed to do any work for their employer while furloughed however if their contract allows, they can go and take paid employment elsewhere.

“Quite a number of employers are topping up those salaries with the remaining 20% and this is where I believe there needs to be an amendment. Many businesses, particularly those in tourism, could actually do with having someone working that 20% that they are paying for.

“I have written to the Scotland Office and the Leader of Aberdeenshire Council reiterating what I hope will be viewed as a constructive suggestion to aid and assist local businesses during this time.”


Gordon MP Thomson Stands Down As An Aberdeenshire Councillor

>> 24 April 2020

SNP MP for Gordon, Richard Thomson, has written to the Chief Executive of Aberdeenshire Council to formally tender his resignation as a councillor for the Ellon and District ward of the local authority.

Mr Thomson - a former newspaper journalist - was elected as the Member of Parliament for Gordon at the December 2019 UK General Election. He was first elected to represent Ellon & District on Aberdeenshire Council in 2012 and served as the Vice-Chair of the Council's influential Scrutiny and Audit Committee from 2012-2015, before being appointed as Co-Leader of the Council in June 2015 at the head of a minority administration - a position which he held until the 2017 local government elections.

During that time, he oversaw a comprehensive review of the council's decision making processes; co-signed the Aberdeen City Region Deal; and introduced a business rates relief scheme to support local small businesses through the 2017 revaluation - the only one of its kind in Scotland.

Since 2017, Mr Thomson has led the main SNP/Labour Opposition Group on the council - a position he stood down from two weeks ago to be replaced by Huntly, Strathbogie and Howe of Alford Councillor, Gwyneth Petrie.

Speaking following his announcement, Mr Thomson said:

"It has been an honour and a privilege to have had the chance to serve as a Councillor for Ellon and District and as a member of Aberdeenshire Council. I'd like to thank everyone I've worked beside over that time who has helped me along the way and made it such a worthwhile experience.

"When I was first elected, it never occurred to me that I might end up leading the council just three years later. I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to try to make the Ellon & District ward, as well as Aberdeenshire, a better place to be, and to be able to have helped so many people along the way.

"Since 2017, I've also thoroughly enjoyed leading the council opposition and helping a new group of councillors to find their feet. Under the leadership of Cllr Petrie, I know the group I'm leaving will be in excellent hands.

"Now the council budget process is completed and my SNP Group colleagues have had a chance to elect a new leader, the time is right for me to step back from the council and concentrate 100% on being the MP for the Gordon Constituency.

"While my role might have changed, my determination to make the North East and Scotland the best they can be most definitely hasn't. I look forward to continuing to work alongside all Aberdeenshire Council colleagues as we deal with the current pandemic and everything beyond."


Aberdeenshire SNP Group Elect New Leader

>> 8 April 2020

Cllr Gwyneth Petrie, who represents Huntly, Strathbogie and Howe of Alford, has been elected as the new leader of the SNP Council Group in Aberdeenshire.

The vacancy arose following the election of the previous Group Leader, Cllr Richard Thomson, as the MP for Gordon. Cllr Stephen Smith will remain in his position as Deputy Leader of the SNP Group.

Cllr Petrie has been a Councillor since 2015, when she was elected in a by-election.

Commenting, Cllr Petrie said:

“It is an honour to become the Leader of the SNP Group in Aberdeenshire.

“I’m stepping into this position at a deeply challenging time for Aberdeenshire, and all of the people who we represent here. Our priority at this time absolutely has to be steering Aberdeenshire through this pandemic, and that will rightly mean working collaboratively with colleagues across the Council. We, as a group, stand ready to do that.

“Once we are through this pandemic, then we can focus once again on delivering the priorities of our group, which have been well established under the excellent leadership of Cllr Thomson, and continuing to hold the administration to account.”

Offering his congratulations to Cllr Petrie, outgoing Group Leader Richard Thomson said:

"I'd like to offer Gwyneth my warmest congratulations on her election. She's someone who since her election has earned great respect both inside and outside the council in her community. I know she'll do a fantastic job in holding the current political leaders to account as we prepare to offer SNP leadership of the council once more.

"It has been an enormous privilege to have served as SNP Group Leader since 2015 and to have had the opportunity to lead the SNP Group into administration for the first time in the council's history. I am pleased to have been able to play my part in shaping Aberdeenshire for the better as both council leader and opposition leader and to be able to hand over a group which is in good health and which is once again the largest group on Aberdeenshire Council.

"Clearly, the present pandemic has put politics as usual into abeyance for the time being. However, I know that under Gwyneth's leadership, the SNP group will continue to show that it has the ability, the commitment and the understanding of how the council works to be effective public servants and to do what needs to be done for our communities in the period ahead."


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