Monday 

I attended a meeting with MP for Banff & Buchan, Dr Eilidh Whiteford, at the Muller processing plant at Tullos to discuss the future of dairy farmers in the North East. My SNP colleagues and I will do all we can to help secure a sustainable future for them. 


Tuesday 

I spoke at FCO questions in the House of Commons. Click on the link below to hear my question to Minister for Europe, David Lidington MP. 

Photograph: Parliament TV 

Photograph: Parliament TV 


Wednesday 

I arrived at LBC studios for my phone-in, to find Iain Dale's seat taken by John Stapleton. We sallied forth and fielded calls from the public, which you can catch below. 

 

Thursday

I was back in the Commons once again to ask why the Liberal Democrats were being kept on life support by peerage. Click on the image to watch my exchange with Leader of the Commons, Chris Grayling MP. 

Photograph: Parliament TV 

Photograph: Parliament TV 

Friday 

Earlier this week, I penned this opinion piece on Muller and our dairy farmers here in the North East of Scotland. 

In the North East, there is a lot at stake over Muller’s milk.   

Muller’s decision to close their plant at Tullos leaves North Eastern dairy farmers facing a serious situation.

As it stands, they have two choices.

They can either agree to pay 1.75p per litre of milk transport surcharge to send their milk over hundreds of miles to Muller’s dairy in Bellshill which is about to receive a cash injection of £15m to diversify the products it can produce. 

1.75p per litre may not sound like a lot, but bear in mind that a single cow produces on average over 30 litres every two milkings in a day, and that an average dairy can have over 200 animals. Over 74 million litres of milk are produced here in the North East of Scotland.

It is important to realise that dairy cow milk yield rose from a 1970s average of 3,750 litres per cow per year (that’s 12 litres/21 pints per day) to over 7,445 litres (24.5 litres/42 pints per day) in 2012.

These figures indicate an almost eight per cent (530 litres per cow) increase in the average yield per cow per year just between 2007 and 2012.

There is no escaping the potential implications of these costs.

The other alternative is for them to seek new contracts, leaving them in a position even more uncertain than that which they are currently dealing with.

We have 43 dairy producers in the North East. I met with some of them last week, alongside representatives from the National Farmers Union. The consensus was that Muller’s decision to close their Aberdeen processing plant came as a surprise, and we went on to discuss potential alternatives to bring to Muller.

The following day, Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP and I met with Muller to discuss the situation at the plant.

They gave their assurances that a consultation period had been decided upon, and that the alternatives would be considered.

This was encouraging, but the fact is that dairy farming in the North East has to have a future. The Aberdeenshire earth is not ideally suited for large scale crop production, and grazing animals are a backbone of agricultural output here.

Of course, the closure of the plant will also affect the 98 workers who are employed there. The milk processing factory, not far from the city centre in Aberdeen, requires investment, but it is the only facility close to the North East farmers who send milk to Muller, and the majority of them do.

Imagine, then, that these farms will fill trucks with their milk, which will then undergo a round trip to Bellshill and back to Aberdeenshire before reaching shop chillers and then the cornflakes and cups of tea of local people here.

If there is an alternative to this, it is vital that we do all we can to identify it. That is exactly why I and my SNP colleagues have approached discussions concerning this situation with a pro-active attitude and open minds.

In the North East, there is a lot at stake over Muller’s milk.    


Saturday

Joined my neighbours for the Strichen Gala Fundraiser, where the soup and sweets went down a treat. Great to have Gillian Martin there with us.


Sunday

One of the best things about campaignıng are the people that you meet on the doors, a statement that I'm sure Gillian Martın will agree with!