Turriff Advertiser 7 Feb

At times, it can seem that there is not much happening in Westminster beyond Brexit.

However, the daily business of parliament continues – often away from the media spotlight.

For example, I am one of several MPs on the House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee, which examines issues of importance north of the border.

This week, the committee published a report following an inquiry into The Future of the Oil and Gas Industry.

As someone who worked in the sector for 25 years, I enjoyed contributing to this process and taking evidence from a wide range of stakeholders.

The industry has a bright future – but it needs to develop new ways of working.  The good old ‘boom’ days are in the past.

The industry is recognised as a key part of the UK Government’s industrial and clean growth strategy, and it is important that the UK Government makes a decision soon on the proposed Oil and Gas Sector Deal, something the committee has made clear in its report.

The Sector Deal will help promote the development of centres of excellence in the North East, in areas such as subsea engineering.

Other oil producing nations such as Norway and Brazil are also making rapid progress in this area so there is no time to lose.

While we move towards a ‘low carbon’ economy, the cleaner burning of fossil fuels will play a major role in energy and heating provision in the coming decades.  The report also highlights the need for the carbon footprint of the exploration, production and transportation of hydrocarbons also needs to improve.

There was particular interest in Carbon Capture Usage and Storage (CCUS) technology as a means of reducing net CO2 emissions.

I am pleased that this technology is being trialled and developed at the St Fergus gas terminal near Peterhead

 

Also this week, the Scottish Affairs Committee continued a separate inquiry into relations between the UK and Scottish governments.

We heard from former First Minister of Scotland Lord McConnell and the first deputy first minister of Scotland, Lord Wallace, as well as former Scottish Secretaries, Baroness Liddle and Michael Moore.

As the UK prepares to leave the EU and powers return from Brussels, we must ensure that the devolution settlement reflects that shift.

One suggestion was to create an equivalent of the EU Council of Ministers to cover the four home nations of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Whatever form it takes, we must do everything we can to ensure all our governments work together for the benefit of people across the UK.

 

Away from constitutional politics, I was concerned to read figures earlier this week showing that fewer than half of those diagnosed with dementia are receiving support packages offered through the Scottish Government.

Grampian was at the foot of the table, with fewer than 20% - or one in five – taking up the offer of help.   

This may be down to people thinking they can manage without support, or not being fully aware of what is available.

Either way, with more and more people diagnosed, families and individuals affected by dementia should explore every avenue of possible support.