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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.

Liberal Democrats celebrate victory over stop and search

So-called consensual stop and search will be scrapped in Scotland. No ifs and no buts.

This comes after a 18-month long campaign I spearheaded for Scottish Liberal Democrats. Our campaign was vindicated by the publication of a report by the Advisory Group on Stop and Search, chaired by John Scott QC. The report made it clear that the use of the tactic "lacks any legal framework and is of questionable lawfulness and legitimacy, with poor accountability".

Following the publication of the highly critical report, justice secretary Michael Matheson promised to act on its recommendations - that the use of consensual stop and search must cease and a code of conduct regarding statutory stop and search must be introduced. At the end of September, as a member of the justice committee, I voted in favour of amendments to the Criminal Justice Bill to make that the law.

Clear action over GP crisis is needed

Recently, during a question time session in Parliament, I challenged health secretary Shona Robison on the problems facing GPs here in the north east. I was not alone in raising questions - the health secretary faced a barrage of questions from 8 MSPs representing many parts of Scotland.

I was underwhelmed by what she had to say. Instead of admitting that there is a real problem that requires urgent action, she rehashed the same comments we have heard from the Scottish Government before, implying that enough is being done. It is clear, however, that this is not the case.

In Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, a number of GP practices have announced closures or changes to their way of operating. Instead of long-term solutions, we are offered short-term changes that will impact, not only on the patients of the closing practices, but on others as other surgeries will now have to accept more patients. This is not a sustainable position. And instead of answering my question about what assessments are made to ensure patient safety under these circumstances, the cabinet secretary chose to completely gloss over it.

Unanswered questions over T in the Park

The last couple of weeks have seen yet more controversy caused by the SNP government. Culture secretary Fiona Hyslop faced questions over her approval for funding of T in the Park. While it may be an important event in Scottish cultural calendars, it is a private event organised by a multi-million pound enterprise.

One of the main concerns is that the festival organisers, DF concerts, were given £150,000 in state funding. It is alleged that this happened after a former special adviser to Alex Salmond, who worked for DF concerts as a project manager, set up a meeting between the chairperson of the organisation and Ms Hyslop. This may just be a coincidence but it has led to allegations of cronyism.

Fiona Hyslop's appearance before the education and culture committee to answer questions was first pre-empted by the release of 600 pages worth of documents relating to this funding request. Pages of these documents were completely blacked out causing the committee members to question how seriously the SNP government takes transparency and parliamentary scrutiny. During the committee, her answers were sparse and did not inspire any confidence. There are calls for Ms Hyslop to return to committee to face further questioning.

Celebrating Camphill communities

This month saw the marking of Camphill Communities' 75th anniversary. The organisation, which was originally founded in Aberdeen, now has 11 communities across Scotland - six of them in the North East. It also has a global appeal, with more than 100 communities worldwide in countries such as the US, Sweden, Germany and India.

I was pleased to sponsor a parliamentary reception on 16 September to celebrate the anniversary. Camphill provides caring environment to children and adults with learning disabilities and I have had the pleasure to visit a number of their Scottish sites. I am always struck by the warmth of the communities and their welcome. It was a pleasure to return the favour and welcome staff, residents and members of their families to the parliament for the evening.

My Holyrood Columns