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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.

Reflecting on the referendum

It was straight back to business as the Scottish Parliament returned just four days after the referendum result was announced. Last Wednesday I spoke for the Liberal Democrats in the Chamber about the campaign, the result and what it means for the future of our country.

With a turnout of 85 per cent, it was a victory for democracy. There was an appetite to be involved and people realised their vote counted. This was no dry constitutional debate; it enlivened people around the country. I have certainly never seen anything like it in my twenty or so years of being involved in politics and I hope we can sustain the energy and interest that this debate sparked.

People agreed we could and should have a better future and a fairer Scotland. What we disagreed on was whether we needed to leave the UK and set up a completely new state in order to do that.

Palpable on polling day was the sense of purpose as people poured into the polling stations to cast their votes. There was a quiet determination among many voters, as has been evidenced by the result.

Incredibly, two million people rejected independence - the highest ever endorsement for a political decision in Scotland. Across Aberdeenshire 60% of voters said no thanks to independence. Even in areas that some like to think of as SNP heartlands, the offer of separation was decisively rejected.

Listening to many nationalists, it is clear that they are struggling to come to terms with the result. It is disappointing that those who regularly invoked the 'sovereign will of the Scottish people' and the mutual respect agenda of the Edinburgh Agreement during the campaign are now so lukewarm about acknowledging that the citizens of Scotland rejected independence.

The First Minister has said that there is no such thing as a no vote, only a deferred yes. He has alleged that that no voters were "tricked" and duped, that older no voters should look in the mirror and justify their choice to the younger generation, and that what has now been established as the settled will of the Scottish people can somehow be overturned. Such comments are hugely insulting and divisive, and not befitting of someone who should be speaking on behalf of all Scots.

We must all agree that the vote was fair and robust and that it settles the question of independence.

Everyone who voted cares about Scotland. It is now time to work together, seek common cause, and bring about the better country that everyone agreed was worth striving for. It is time to embrace change within our United Kingdom.

Votes for 16 and 17-year-olds and the Scottish Youth Parliament

I was delighted that young people, given the opportunity to vote for the first time, embraced the independence debate.

Schools held hotly-contested mock referendums and teenagers packed into the Hydro arena for Radio 1's Big Conversation. They regularly spoke at public meetings and joined us on the campaign trail. Indeed, it was clear to me that many are among the best informed of all the electorate.

Liberal Democrats have long supported votes at 16 and it is great that other parties now agree we should seek to extend this right for all future elections. I am hopeful that our decision to enable them to make a choice in this most important of decisions might act as a catalyst for change across the UK.

The Scottish Youth Parliament is also a great way for younger people to get involved in politics. Nominations are now open to anyone aged 14 to 25 and the closing date is 31 October. For more information, please visit www.syp.org.uk/elections.

Make your views known on controversial armed police policy

The SNP promised us that the new national force wouldn't impose sweeping changes upon our communities from a distant HQ. But that is exactly what has happened.

In the North East, firearms were previously locked in police cars and only accessed by trained officers when required. Following the creation of Police Scotland these officers now carry guns at all times and have even been spotted attending routine incidents and patrolling in pubs, supermarkets and on our high streets.

A number of constituents have already contacted me to express grave concerns about armed police officers routinely patrolling our streets and I have vigorously pursued this issue at Holyrood. That is why it is welcome that the Scottish Police Authority is now belatedly reviewing this policy and seeking your views.

If you share my concerns, I would urge you to take part before the consultation closes on 17 October. This is your chance to challenge those in charge!

To find out more, please contact me or visit http://www.spa.police.uk/performancepages/247613/.

My Holyrood Columns