Like many people in our region, I am angry and frustrated that the Scottish government continues to ignore the views of local people on windfarms. In recent months, two windfarm applications in our area that had been rejected locally were approved by the Scottish government.
To see local decisions overturned like this is an affront to local democracy. It sends a signal to potential developers that they can ignore local views because they can just appeal to the government anyway. I think wind energy has an important role to play as part of a balanced energy policy, but Dumfries and Galloway is being asked to shoulder an unfair burden. I really fear for the impact on our environment and tourism industry if more and more of our beautiful countryside is covered with turbines.
I started a petition on my website at www.russellbrownmp.com/windfarmpetition and the response has been phenomenal. Almost 2000 people have signed it and I will be presenting it to the Scottish Ministers soon. It has really struck a chord with local people and the government simply cannot continue to ignore us.
For the first time, this year munitions workers will be recognised in the official Armistice Day Parade at the Cenotaph in Whitehall. Last year I started a campaign to get formal recognition for munitions workers and it’s fantastic to see this first success.
Munitions workers – the majority of whom were women – played a vital part in the war effort and deserve to be recognised by our country. Our nation owes a debt of gratitude to these heroes on the home front. This campaign has really inspired people locally who want to pay tribute to the sacrifice of munitions workers. When last year I asked local people for information, you responded in your hundreds with details of parents, relatives and friends who worked in the munitions factories during the war.
Hard-pressed motorists across Dumfries and Galloway have seen petrol and diesel prices soar. In a rural area like ours using a car is a necessity for many, but local people often face far higher petrol prices than elsewhere.
Families are finding it really tough to get by and it is a slap in the face when they see petrol and diesel cheaper in other parts of the country. The petrol companies are quick to raise prices on the forecourt when crude oil prices increase but are much slower at taking them back down again when they drop. That isn’t fair, and I was pleased when the Office of Fair Trading announced earlier this summer they were going to look into it.
Sheriff court closure
The Scottish government seems to be determined to press ahead with plans to close Kirkcudbright Sheriff Court, with business transferring to Dumfries, despite the outcry when the proposal was first raised. I have written to Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill to ask him to drop these plans and retain the court.
I don’t think the government has considered the sheer size of our region and the distances they expect victims and families to travel. Not only would the courts be much less accessible for local people, but I have real concerns about lengthy delays to the justice system because there will be fewer courts to deal with cases. Scotland’s justice system must serve all the people of Scotland and it isn’t acceptable to centralise justice like this.
I am hopeful that the UK government’s reshuffle, which saw a new Transport Secretary take his post, will mean it may be open to rethinking its Coastguard cuts. It made a grave error with its announcement last year to close both Coastguard stations that cover Dumfries and Galloway. Our region has over 200 miles of coastline and it beggars belief that any government would recklessly put lives at risk in a bid to save cash. The in-depth knowledge built up at the Liverpool and Clyde Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centres will be lost forever. I am seeking an urgent meeting with new Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin to make it clear the government needs to reverse its decision.