Every week, Liberal Democrat Secretary of State for Scotland, Michael Moore MP, writes a column for newspapers in his Borders Constituency. Here is the latest edition. 

Green Deal

Despite the fact that we are now well into March, it seems that there is no let up in the cold snowy weather and I know that at this time energy bills remain a major concern to my constituents. To help people reduce these bills and cut down their energy use, the Government has taken action and introduced a scheme called the Green Deal. This enables people to improve the energy efficiency of their homes without paying any upfront costs.

Figures released last week for the scheme which launched on 28th January in England and Wales and 25th February in Scotland show that it has already been very popular. 1,803 Green Deal assessments have been completed and over 600 Green Deal advisors and 600 firms have been accredited to deliver assessments and make energy efficiency installations.

I want to encourage people to consider getting a Green Deal assessment to see if they too can make their homes more efficient and save money. For local businesses, if you think you could complete the assessments or deliver the installations then again, I would encourage you to sign up. You can apply for both here.

Exports

For companies across Scotland, increasing exports and breaking into new markets is absolutely vital to remain competitive and grow. We have fantastic businesses in Scotland, producing world-class, top quality goods which are marketable across the world and I want to see these companies expand into new markets. To this end, I took part in a trade mission last week to Brazil, as Secretary of State, to promote Scottish business and work to address the barriers Scots businesses face when trying to trade with South America’s largest country.

Before I went on the trip, I spoke to a number of local companies about key issues they face when trying to trade with Brazil and I was pleased to be able to raise these concerns with officials during my time out there. I will continue to work with businesses locally and across Scotland to ensure they receive the support and advice they need to trade with emerging economies like Brazil and benefit from the vast opportunities on offer.

(Lib Dem Voice Co-Editor Caron Lindsay notes: I’m a big fan of Storify, so I was pleased to see the Scotland Office use the site to create a record of the whole of Michael Moore’s four day trip to Brazil. You can see it here.)

Press regulation

Discussions surrounding the introduction of a new system of regulation for the press, took a difficult turn last week when the cross-party talks on the issue faltered. I am however glad to say that agreement was eventually reached on Monday. The agreement outlines that an independent regulator will be set up by royal charter and will be able to require a newspaper to issue corrections and apologies and have the power to impose fines. The Liberal Democrats have always been staunch defenders of a free press and I am glad that the regulator will protect this while making sure that the phone hacking scandal is never again repeated.

* Michael Moore was the Liberal Democrat MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk from 1997-2015 and Secretary of State for Scotland from 2010-2013.