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I am absolutely delighted to give the first maiden speech from an Aberdeen SNP Member of Parliament. Since 1935, Aberdeen North has been represented in the House of Commons by the Labour party. My predecessor, Mr Frank Doran, represented the people of Aberdeen; indeed, he represented Aberdeen South, Aberdeen North and the former Aberdeen Central constituency during his time in Parliament. Mr Doran represented the city over a 30-year period before taking the decision to retire. I did not know him well, but he was an able parliamentarian who was known for sticking to his principles and was highly regarded here. I wish him well in his retirement.
It is an absolute pleasure to represent the beautiful, urban constituency of Aberdeen North. Aberdeen is a city famed for its granite and its oil. Its folk are known for being thrifty and incomprehensible. Although it is true that the Doric takes some learning—it is less a dialect and more a language in its own right—thrifty we are definitely not. Aberdonians are hugely generous, regularly featuring in top 10 lists for charitable giving.
My constituency is bounded to the north by that of my right hon. Friend Alex Salmond. It covers part of Bucksburn and a little of Bridge of Don, including the stunning Brig of Balgownie. Moving on a wee constituency tour, down through Seaton, we have Pittodrie, the home of Aberdeen football club—the Dons—where Sir Alex Ferguson is best known as a former Aberdeen manager. He led us to great success in the 1980s, but we have not quite been able to reach those heights again.
The constituency follows the freezing North sea down to picturesque Footdee, and the bustling Aberdeen harbour, one of the UK’s busiest ports. There, the Aberdeen North constituency meets the Aberdeen South constituency. The boundary sweeps up to Union Street, a mile-long triumph of engineering and architecture, although it is a street that has seen better days. Aberdeen City Council had the opportunity to draw people back into the heart of the city by creating a bustling city square where St Nicholas House once stood but, in clear and complete disregard for the will of the people, it chose to press ahead with the horrendous Marischal Square project, which will hide views of the city’s finest historical buildings, including Provost Skene’s House and Marischal College.
Moving on in our constituency tour, Rosemount has a thriving set of wee businesses, each filling a niche that cannot be found on the high street. Through Midstocket and King’s Gate, you can see why Aberdeen is called the granite city—granite is gloriously abundant. Kingswells is a thriving community with a strong community council working hard to improve the area. In Summerhill and Sheddocksley, there is post-war housing and the Somebody Cares food bank, which is doing great work that it should not have to do. The Lang Stracht is the home of the famous Aberdeen Journals, where the Evening Express is made and where The Press and Journal has the highest circulation of all Scotland’s regional papers.
Mastrick, Northfield, Heathryfold and Middlefield are areas where regeneration is a buzzword, where members of the community are working so hard to improve their areas. There, folk in our oil-rich city are struggling to make ends meet. Cornhill, Stockethill and Ashgrove are full of older people and young families living in council housing and ex-council housing. In Aberdeen, we are in the midst of a housing crisis. Decades of Tory right to buy have decimated our housing stock. Elected representatives in Aberdeen receive more casework from those struggling to find a home than they receive about anything else. Surely a right to a secure tenancy is more important than a right to buy? Thankfully, the Scottish Government have taken affirmative action; the manifesto that I stood on backed a big increase in investment in housing in Scotland and across the UK.
Rosehill, Hilton and Berryden are a mix of student living and comfortably-off families—three-storey townhouses, granite tenements and the recognisable Aberdeen four-in-a-block. Then we have Woodside and Tillydrone—and another food bank. Instant Neighbour had to make appeals to the public earlier this year as, in Scotland’s third city, a food bank had run out of food. Lastly, there is Old Aberdeen and Aberdeen University, which was founded in the 16th century. In 1593, there were two universities in Aberdeen. At the same time, England only had two.
My constituency is hugely varied. Throughout the campaign, I spoke to many people on the doorstep, and I met the most informed, most engaged and most interested electorate I have ever been faced with in Scotland. We are not at some post-referendum saturation point with politics. People in Scotland have a clear vision for the future. They clearly voted for the anti-austerity SNP and our progressive politics, and they have a clear vision for the future of Scotland.