This summer, as droves of Scots departed these shores for resorts on the Med, Adriatic, Caribbean or Black Sea, here was one Scot was glad to be in Scotland. I relish the six weeks recess as a welcome escape from airports, cramped aeroplane seats, security checks and mountains of Committee papers.
Summer recess allows me to take part in SNP campaigning, and to get round some of the myriad of sea festivals, agricultural shows, community events and to hold local surgeries. For these I usually join with local SNP parliamentarians, councillors and candidates in dealing with the multitude of issues which arise.
One annual highlight of my summer is an extensive mobile surgery tour of the Aberdeenshire area, this year reaching 17 towns and villages over a 3 day period, from Fettercairn to Banff. While in Stonehaven, Maureen Watt MSP and I visited the open air swimming pool. At 72 years young, this art deco pool - the only surviving example of a filtered heated seawater pool in Scotland - is going from strength to strength, thanks to a dedicated band of volunteers. It was great to hear the Friends of the Pool membersʼ future development plans, which include constructing a paddling pool and installing solar panels to cut energy costs. I will be supporting local efforts to raise the necessary funding for the project.
Also with Maureen Watt, Books Abroad, a Rhynie-based charity, which in 2005 dispatched over 200,000 school books to over 1,000 schools in the developing world, was a very interesting visit. Established in the early 1980ʼs their efforts ensure that teachers, principally in Africa and Asia, have textbooks theyʼd otherwise go without. Now that Iʼve seen them at work, Iʼm determined to make sure the excellent work they do is publicised more widely.
I was also able to join SNP Parliamentary Candidate for the Western Isles, Alasdair Allan, on a programme of visits in the Uists and Barra, visiting, among other places, the military bases in Benbecula, shellfish companies in both Grimsay and Barra, and the new community owners of the South Uist Estate.
I was delighted to revisit the Southern part of the Western Isles constituency, meeting people on issues as varied as the future of the fishing industry and the state of the Uist causeways, as well as meeting local SNP members who are preparing to repeat Angus Brendan MacNeil's achievement at the Westminster election, this time by electing SNP candidate Alasdair Allan to the Holyrood seat next May.
By the time you read this, Iʼll be back into the hectic round of committees, group and plenary meetings in Brussels and Strasbourg where, as always, you can count on your SNP MEPs to ensure that Scotlandʼs voice is heard loud and clear at the heart of Europe. With independence, Scotlandʼs voice would be so much