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Updates from Holyrood

Alison writes a regular column for local newspapers in the North East to keep residents updated with the latest goings on at Holyrood, and on her work on important issues from around the region. Below you can find a recent column, along with links to those from previous months.

General Election

There is just one month until polling day for the General Election. If you haven't already registered to vote or have moved, it isn't too late to secure your vote. You have until Monday 20 April to submit your application. For more information, please call the local electoral registration officer on 01224 664848 or visit www.gov.uk/register-to-vote.

With the Scottish Parliament currently on its Easter break, I am spending much of my spare time knocking on doors and speaking to local voters alongside our candidates Sir Robert Smith, in West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, and Christine Jardine in Gordon.

Sir Malcolm Bruce, Gordon's Member of Parliament for 32 years, stepped down last week. He has personally helped tens of thousands of constituents. Many of the local services, community facilities and infrastructure improvements that we now take for granted he once had to campaign for. From road improvements including the Ellon bypass to rail services and Dyce station, new schools, health services, the local ambulance station and much more.

Nationally, he has been the architect of major policies such as the raising of the personal income tax threshold, delivered by Liberal Democrats in the UK Government, and helped lay the foundations for the establishment of the Scottish Parliament.

It is an extraordinary record of action and it has been a pleasure to work alongside him.

Malcolm must have knocked on every door during the last four decades but he's as determined as ever to help ensure Christine Jardine becomes Gordon's next MP. Not many people mark their retirement by continuing to work around the clock!

I don't get the impression Malcolm will put his feet up so I wish him well in all his future endeavours!

City region deal

Five years ago the coalition inherited a catastrophic economic mess. You might recall one Liberal Democrat minister was welcomed by a note from his Labour predecessor which read "I'm afraid there is no money". Our deficit was greater than that of Greece.

A credible economic plan means spending has since been brought under control and employment is at its highest ever level. In publishing its final budget last month, the coalition worked until the end, in the national interest, to restore growth and stability.

The budget contained welcome measures such as help for low and middle income earners through the raising of the tax threshold and a package of reforms to support the oil and gas industry. These are policies focused on building a stronger economy and a fairer society.

I was also particularly pleased to see that negotiations will begin between the UK Government and local councils on delivering a city region deal for Aberdeen and the surrounding area.

Liberal Democrats in the UK Government have already been behind the delivery of city deals across the country, including one for Glasgow. Now we too have a real opportunity to secure extra powers and finance.

The plan for our area could be worth £2.9 billion to our economy over 20 years, boosting jobs and growth, as well as delivering much needed investment in infrastructure.

The bid is being led by the local authorities and partners including our universities and college, transport organisations, and some of the biggest names in business.

I tabled a motion at Parliament and asked all MSPs to back the bid. I am pleased this has now gained cross-party support and hope this helps the team behind the bid make the strongest possible case.

Police Scotland's second anniversary

Police Scotland marked its second anniversary last week. However, it has been another year marred by controversies including the illiberal use of stop and search and armed police. Grampian's emergency call centres are being shut down and many police stations have locked their doors to the public or reduced their opening hours. Independent reports exposed a one-size-fits-all approach and an unhealthy targets culture.

Scottish Liberal Democrats consistently opposed the creation of a single national force. But it gives me no pleasure to see our concerns realised.

Time and again we have been told one thing only to later discover it is untrue. It has been hard to find out what is really going on behind closed doors at police HQ or on our streets. Frontline officers and staff deserve credit for keeping things running amid this confusion and uncertainty.

More cuts are coming. The chief constable has warned "extreme measures" will need to be taken to plug an £11 million black hole in its budget for this year. There is therefore a risk that things will go from bad to worse.

The only way to avoid more poor decision-making is through restoring transparency, accountability and meaningful consultation with local communities. The Liberal Democrats have argued this consistently and it is welcome that others are slowly coming around and beginning to recognise the importance of these principles. However, a great deal of work is required if the chief constable, Scottish Police Authority and Scottish Government are to get a grip and ensure the force retains your trust and confidence.

My Holyrood Columns