The North East of Scotland is extremely well placed to, not only lead the change to a sustainable and renewable energy future, but also to be at the forefront of developing new technologies and expertise for energy transition that can be exported across the world.
Earlier this month, to pick just one example, the SSEN Substation near New Deer became the world’s largest installation to replace traditional sulphur hexaflouride (SF6) gas – used for insulating electrical switchgear – with a new g3 SF6-free gas that has 99% less global warming impact than SF6.
As a point of reference, SF6 is >20,000 times more harmful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
On the subject of exports, I was delighted at the news last week that the process began for the UK’s accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) – a trading bloc of 11 nations in the Asia-Pacific region and some of the fastest growing markets in world.
Much has also been reported of the prospect of a free trade agreement with Australia – already part of CPTPP – particularly its impact on our agriculture sector.
I regularly engage with farmers, NFU Scotland and other food and drink trade bodies on a wide range of issues – including the concerns raised in recent reports.
There is much for all of Scotland’s food and drink producers to be positive about in a free trade deal with Australia and the other CPTPP nations.
This is a huge opportunity to increase exports to rapidly growing markets that have a high demand for precisely the kind of high-quality produce Scotland has to offer – whisky, beef, lamb to name but a few.
We have less to fear from Australian imports than some would have us believe. Import volumes are expected to be relatively low and the UK Government remains resolute on our manifesto commitment that we will not compromise on animal welfare, food, safety and environment standards in this and any other trade deal.
Last month, the news came that the Johnson and Johnson single-dose Janssen vaccine was approved by the UK Medicines and Healthcare Regulating Authority (MHRA) for use across the UK. This will mean millions more doses available later this year.
The fantastic UK vaccination programme has reached another milestone. At the time of writing, 75% of UK adults had been given at least one dose and over 50% are now fully vaccinated.
Banff and Buchan’s recent move to level 1 means more businesses can reopen and we can take more steps towards our economic and social recovery from the pandemic. Recent events remind us that we must not be complacent, and with recent rise in cases – particularly in the Central Belt – please continue to stay safe and follow any and all rules that apply where you are.
I was delighted to see Aberchirder and District Men’s Shed awarded a well-deserved Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. I have watched with great interest as this fantastic community facility has grown over the last few years.
It was also great to see so many local groups and individuals from Banff and Buchan shortlisted as finalists for the Inspiring Aberdeenshire awards. This includes the Portsoy Area Action Team who are up for the COVID-19 Response Award for their work in helping local communities during lockdown. I wish all the finalists from Banff and Buchan the very best of luck.