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Monday, 12 July 2010

Mike Russell MSP, the man who wanted to sell Argyll & Bute's forests now wants to be their SNP candidate for the Holyrood election

So with the news that Jim Mather MSP is standing down at the next Scottish election the SNP in Argyll & Bute are now looking to select their next candidate.

Mike Russell MSP has announced via Argyll News that he would like to offer himself as the SNP candidate in fact they go on to also explain that to be the MSP for Argyll & Bute you really need to be a Minister in the Holyrood Government to be the MSP for Argyll & Bute.

Given they have had George Lyon (LibDem) representing them for eight years and Jim Mathers (SNP) for three years, both who have been Ministers in different Scottish governments, as their local MSP you can understand why

Argyll News goes on to provide a good argument on why therefore Mike Russell MSP would be a good choice to represent the people of Argyll & Bute in Holyrood.

I am now going to put forward a reasoned argument on why choosing the Liberal Democrat candidate on Thursday May 5th would be a much better idea.

I can't tell you at this stage who the candidate will be as we are currently in the final stages of that process and our members in Argyll & Bute won't make their final decision until the end of next week.

But I can tell you why Mike Russell MSP shouldn't be the MSP for Argyll & Bute after polling day.

Back in February last year the SNP government had a crazy idea that they were going to sell off 25% of the forests in Scotland, including Argyll & Bute where over 400 people are employed within the forestry industry.  The Scottish Liberal Democrats led by environment spokesman Jim Hume MSP mounted a campaign collecting over 30,000 signatures across Scotland to stop the SNP plans in their tracks.

Alan Reid MP and George Lyon MEP who ran the campaign to stop the sell off in Argyll & Bute held a public meeting in Lochgilphead chaired by Robert Beaney of the Forestry Commission Trade Unions where over 240 local residents squeezed in to hear about the plans proposed by the SNP.

The two politicians spent time meeting community groups and forest contractors who raised their deep concerns about the impact that the privatisation plans will have on local jobs and local community projects which use Forestry Commission land.  Many of them such as the Kintyre Way, the Dalriada Project, the Loch Awe Improvement Association and the Mid Argyll Cycle Club could be threatened if the Forestry Commission land is handed over to the private sector.

Who was the SNPs Environment Minister who was proposing these plans to sell off 25% of Scotland's forests?

Mike Russell MSP.

This man was then sacked by Alex Salmond because of the huge public outcry.

Mike Russell is dangerous, his plans could have seen thousands of acres of Scottish forests sold to developers.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats campaign was mounted against the SNP’s attempts to effectively sell off publicly owned Forestry Commission forests to private timberland investment companies. The proposal was hidden deep within the Climate Change Bill and would have seen the most commercially viable forests being leased to private investment companies for up to 75 years.

Unsurprisingly when this privatisation by the back door approach was debated the SNP were backed by the Tories, the SNP’s unlikely but ever loyal bedfellows in Holyrood.

The 25% of forests targeted for this leasing option was the most commercially viable proportion of Scotland’s forestry estate and equated to about 40% of production for the Forestry Commission. Removing this from public ownership would have significantly diminished essential Forestry Commission income for investment in maintaining Scottish forests and projects including the 7stanes network and for creating new leisure access initiatives such as mountain biking, walking, orienteering and other community woodland initiatives elsewhere. A further worry was that Forestry Commission jobs were undoubtedly under threat, and local timber companies dependent upon cutting rights granted to them by the Forestry Commission faced an uncertain future if those cutting rights had been taken away or if wood prices were set higher than is affordable for local companies.

The campaign to stop the sell off was a success, but we must remain vigilant to ensure the SNP don't try to sneak it through another time in another Bill.

So, when it comes to voting for your next MSP in Argyll & Bute on Thursday May 5th, when you think of voting SNP think of Mike Russell's plans to sell off 25% of the forests in Scotland, which would have included all of the forests in Argyll & Bute.

A scary thought indeed and that is why Mike Russell should not be the SNP candidate in Argyll & Bute and never the MSP.

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