The campaign against legal highs run in the Angus titles of Johnston Press was praised this morning by the Secretary of State for Scotland.
Following a meeting with senior officers of Angus Council, the Rt Hon David Mundell MP spoke to Janet Thomson, Angus Content Editor, to discuss issues which affect the various burghs in the county, and steps being taken by the UK government to address them.
The visit to Forfar was part of the Secretary’s visit to all 32 local authorities in Scotland; today he met with councillor Iain Gaul, leader of Angus Council; Mr Richard Stiff, the local authority’s chief executive, and Councillor Paul Valentine.
After the meeting Mr Mundell said: “We have had a very productive discussion. As Secretary of State, what I am committed to doing is working closely with all of Scotland’s local authorities.
“The UK Government still has a large number of responsibilities, many of which councils are directly involved with, such as the welfare system.
“I want to have a direct relationship with local councils and hear the specific issues that they have that arise from the work of the UK government.”
Among the topics discussed were the rollout of Universal Credit which will come to Angus next year; investment for the east coast main (railway) line and the upcoming strategic defence review.
He continued: “Angus is one of the authorities which has the greatest interest in the Armed Forces’ footprint in Scotland. We in the Scotland Office are committed to getting the best possible outcome for Scotland from the Strategic Defence Review and we want to make sure Angus Council is fully part of the discussion and debate.
“It is a big exercise and it is very important that Angus Council is part of that.”
Two other issues which have been hot topics recently in Angus have been applications for wind farm developments, and the sale of ‘legal highs’ in shops in Montrose, Arbroath with a proposed shop in Forfar.
For the former Mr Mundell commented: “The government has changed the arrangement for wind farm subsidy, which I fully support.
“I think we have reached the point where, if wind energy is viable, then it should be capable of funding itself.
“I think we have also reached the point where, in many parts of Scotland, people feel overwhelmed by wind farm development and are particularly disappointed, as was confirmed in some information released yesterday, that the Scottish Government seem determined to over-ride the wishes of local people and local councils in pushing through wind farm developments which have been rejected locally.
“I think many people across Scotland feel, in relation to on-shore wind development, that enough is enough and that we have large chunks of rural Scotland which have taken their fair share of on-shore wind and that we need to move the focus on to off-shore and other renewable sources.”
Praising the “Supporting Safer Communities” campaign against legal highs, which has run this year in the Forfar Dispatch, Kirriemuir Herald, Brechin Advertiser, Montrose Review, Arbroath Herald and Carnoustie Guide and Gazette, Mr Mundell said: “There has been mounting concern about these substances and that is why there is legislation going forward which will, I hope, deal with it.
“The bill is in the Lords at the moment.
“It will make it an offence to possess and supply such substances which have this psycho-active effect. Anyone looking at what is contained in these products, even a non-expert, could be absolutely clear that they couldn’t have a positive effect on the person.
“I think your newspapers, people locally here in Angus, have done a really great job in highlighting the issues and concerns, and that partly resulted in legislation which will hopefully clamp down.
“That legislation has to be enforced and we have to make sure that, even if they are not doing it in a shop on the high street, they are not doing it at all, whether it is in clubs or pubs or anywhere else.”
Full details on the Secretary’s visit will appear in next week’s papers.