Author Archives: Neil Alexander

Scotland’s national drink could be costing more for a dram in Scotland

The SNP Conference in October is proposing a new tax on whisky, to “mitigate the impact of this cost of living crisis”.

The Scottish whisky trade is one of our biggest assets in Scotland, with exports of £4.51bn in 2021. To Moray, whisky is a key part of the barrel in our local economy. You don’t need to look far to see a distillery across our area, with Moray Council listing 16 across the region.

The motion has been penned by the Glasgow Southside branch of the SNP, Nicola Sturgeon’s own local branch! How can a Scottish First Minister not understand how important this trade is to us in Moray? Or has she turned a blind eye?

This new levy on whisky may be reasoned as a consequence of the Tory-led cost of living crisis, but in real terms, a higher cost would mean Moray is hit even harder. Distilleries would suffer the cost, and that could in turn impact jobs in Moray.

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Don’t pause, support the games industry

Scotland, the country that gave the world the Grand Theft Auto series and Minecraft on console. We have 147 game development companies, with over 2000 people employed in the industry. There’s no doubt, over the past few years the gaming industry has grown exponentially. Recent industry-led reports have even shown that Scotland is growing faster than the rest of the UK.

As a Games Designer and having worked in the industry the past few years, I’m worried about what the future may hold for our games. The video games industry in Scotland and the United Kingdom face massive funding shortages since leaving the European Union. A shortfall that is yet to be adequately addressed.

In May, the European Games Developer Federation (EGDF) announced record-breaking levels of funding support from Creative Europe, a scheme that the United Kingdom is no longer a part of thanks to the calamity that has been Brexit. This announcement also detailed plans for the MediaInvest fund, a scheme that will provide vital support to new startup companies in the industry – a possible vital lifeline in helping these new companies to survive.

Whilst it’s welcome news from a Scottish perspective that Kate Forbes, Finance & Economy Cabinet Secretary, will invest £45m into 300 “high-quality” tech startups, there’s no clarity on how and if this will even reach the aspiring video games industry. The plan also mentions establishment of 5 ‘scaler hubs’ to support this scheme and improve access to “ensure new and existing tech innovators have access to high quality commercial education”. Being a ‘tech’ company could mean a great many things. So what funding support is there to plug the massive hole of possibilities left by Britain leaving the EU? There is the much smaller UK Games Fund, which allows grants of up to £25,000 per company (barely enough to cover the yearly salary of one full-time employee). In the last round of funding, 21 companies were given funding by this grant – only 3 were from Scotland.

£25,000 a year in a possible grant. Enough for one full-time employee. How will that sustain a new startup? Games can take years to make from the initial concept.

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Moray Deserves Better – Douglas Ross Should Resign

The people of Moray deserve better from our elected Member of Parliament. Douglas Ross should resign now as an MP. Let someone do the job who actually wants to make a positive difference in the lives of those who live and work in Moray.

Our MP has not only backed down on calling for a Prime Minister that has committed a criminal offence to resign, but he has also got a track record for missing key votes that would benefit his Moray constituents due to his commitments as MSP and as a Scottish party leader.

Only last week, our MP was absent for a vote for an emergency VAT tax cut from 20% to 17.5% that would have saved Moray residents an average of £600 per household. This at a time where there is a cost-of-living crisis in our country.

The Scottish Conservatives have already proven to be led by someone with the backbone of a jellyfish. Our former Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie called Douglas Ross out for his lack of backbone after he withdrew his letter of no confidence in the party-animal Prime Minister.

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Moray matters – our first gain in 2022!

I live in Elgin, Moray. Moray matters because our first gain of the 2022 elections was here. From my work I can just about see the Moray Council building just down the road. When I heard around my lunch break that we had a LibDem councillor elected unopposed, I could have ran down the street and celebrated like Martin Compston when Scotland qualified for the Euros.

Our first elected councillor in Moray since 2003. Yes, unopposed as only 3 people stood in a 3 member ward. However, for a region which currently has no local party branch, this is a brilliant result. A massive congratulations to our new councillor for Buckie, Christopher Price – our first Liberal Democrat Moray councillor in the multi-member ward era.

In 2007, there were 3 candidates for the Liberal Democrats in Moray. In 2012 our party only had 1 person standing. The number went back to 3 in 2017. In 2022, we have 6 candidates with each in a different ward – giving more people in Moray a bigger opportunity to vote LibDem than in any of these previous elections. It would be remiss to not mention that this is in massive part due to the hard work of our leader in Scotland, Alex Cole-Hamilton.  It was him that got me signed up to stand in my home, something I’ve never done before.

Looking across the wards and candidate lists, it’s a real shame there is no locally established campaign – due to the lack of a local party. In these wards there are real opportunities in the future to increase the Liberal Democrat representation in Moray council. My own ward, Elgin North, is one of the two Elgin wards. I’ve only lived a short time in Elgin, but the community here has made me feel at home. I joined the local rugby club, Moray RFC, back in January and my partner and I have been made to feel so welcome and at home at every possible opportunity – they’re good people here. Caring and kind, pillars of their local community.

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Dunblane, a lesson we cannot forget

Twenty-six years ago, Thomas Hamilton shot and killed sixteen primary school kids and their teacher, before turning the gun on himself. The weekend just past was the 26th anniversary of that dark day. I wasn’t even two years old when it happened, growing up in a house just up the hill from the school. This is another piece I wasn’t sure about writing, it might be even more personal than my last article.

I may have been a toddler, but the news footage I’ve seen since – of my frightened parents haunts me to this day. I hope no one ever needs to endure what they did that day. Going into a school not knowing if their own child was dead or alive. We were one of the lucky ones, my brother and sister were unharmed.

The community response to such tragedy is something we as Liberal Democrats cannot forget. A local community, in the face of such horror, came together and made a difference.

The Snowdrop Campaign was led by the people of Dunblane. Their petition gathered 750,000 signatures calling on the government to change gun control laws – this was long before the days of Change.Org. A community came together. They changed the law for the better. A town of less than 10,000 people.

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I’ve taken a long time to finally write this piece. This year I have been elected to represent the Scottish Liberal Democrats on the Executive Committee. I wanted to help improve our relationship between our membership and decision-making bodies in the party. Thinking of this, it made sense that now was the right time. I want to start conversations by communicating my views and my history in the party.

I started my active political following and involvement in the run-up to the 2010 election, a happier time when “Cleggmania” was running wild. Who then, honestly, could say they foreseen Brexit? We as a society have never been more politically polarised than we find ourselves in modern day Scotland.

Back then I was a naive young teen, passionately believing in the liberal ideals of freedom, fairness, equality. I was always brought up with the mantra of treating others as you would expect to be treated yourself – in their own way, my parents fuelled the fires of my earliest political ideals.

Looking at how divided we are in Scotland before and since that referendum in 2014, there can be no doubt – something has to change. I passionately believe that federalism needs to be implemented now, for the United Kingdom to survive.

In Wales, the tide may not have changed – but the waves are certainly starting to blow over the beach. Opinion polls in 2016 showed a favour for remaining in the United Kingdom of 40-50%. A poll last year showed that this gap may only now be around 7%. No matter how you look at this, there is clearly an altering of public opinion.

That is why federalism is the only way to stop the tides of division and bring our society together. I openly say that as someone who voted in favour of Scotland becoming independent.

At the time, I disagreed about our future in the UK with our party. This was a horrible time for me in politics. I felt self-doubt. Political confusion. Was our party truly my party too?

The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community

Freedom. Fairness. Equality.

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