IN THE days after the election, the sea of blue which has engulfed most of the north-east of Scotland, leaving only a tiny scrap of yellow in the heart of Aberdeen, confounded analysts and politicians alike.

Tommy Sheppard’s sweeping dismissal of the region as lost to Conservatism forever raised hackles, especially for those of us who work so hard to reach people in some of the most disjointed constituencies in the country. I agree with many of his points about the SNP needing to make the decision to commit to the left-wing, but in making such broad statements he has exemplified the most common of all criticisms of the Scottish Government we hear up here: the central belt is all that counts.

This is the real truth of Aberdeenshire: it’s an idyllic place, where extraordinary wealth holds sway through landowners and oil executives. There is also deep deprivation, but it is mostly hidden from view. In most of Aberdeenshire, the deprivation doesn’t look like the estates of Glasgow or the smoking tomb of Grenfell Tower. It looks like a cottage on a wealthy landowner’s estate where the windows are single-glazed and the people inside haven’t had a working shower for a year, but they daren’t risk pushing for what they’re entitled to in case the laird decides to up the rent.

It looks like people who can just about get to work and back but the next MOT will leave them without transport because they live miles from the nearest public transport route — and without their car they’ll lose their job. One in 10 people receiving out-of-work benefits are sanctioned in Aberdeenshire — the highest rate in Scotland.

The links to poor infrastructure are clear to anyone who knows the area. Yet the people who are struggling to feed their families or buy shoes for their kids will go unnoticed by the majority in the area as it doesn’t look like poverty — not how we imagine it.

The oil crash has left tens of thousands of people out of work, and has resulted in unexpected knock-on effects. These unemployed people are not the Daily Mail’s idea of a scrounger on benefits, but they lived their lives using lines of credit based on their high-paying jobs. Negative equity leaves them trapped in homes they can no longer afford. Many have moved away, leasing out their homes to try to recoup some of the mortgage.

Labour/Tory coalitions have invested in high-cost corporate sectors rather than independent, community-based initiatives. In the Shire, what were once rural farming villages became commuter towns, and now their ageing populations are retiring to live with family elsewhere, and younger people cannot afford the homes they leave behind.

Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire have been protected somewhat from the most vicious of the Thatcherite fallout because we mostly had fishing, farming and oil rather than key manufacturing and mining industries. The effects have been more subtle, more protracted, but just as real. They’re coming home to roost, and the Tory MPs now occupying the area will have to deal with them if they’re going to do their jobs. They’ll have to go to Westminster to talk about the sanctions regime, food banks, and ensure our fishers aren’t sacrificed as they were in 1970.

Aberdeenshire is far from lost. It’s more important than ever that we drive discussion towards ensuring people understand we have responsibilities to each other and that the wealth masks a lot of struggles, that the luxuries of the wealthy should not come at the expense of people going hungry less than a mile away.

We lost the seats in Aberdeenshire for a lot of reasons, but it’s not because the electorate are irredeemably Tory. We owe them better than to validate their belief that whether they’re ignored by London or Holyrood, it’s all the same.
Fiona Robertson


Welfare cuts show how deal with DUP is funded 

THE UK Government is to cut Scotland’s budget by £4 billion over the next four years (Vulnerable will be hit under cuts of £4bn per year, The National, June 30). Now we know where Mrs May found the £1.5 billion to buy DUP votes. What price could the 13 recently elected Scottish Tories get for Scotland from Mrs May for their votes?
Norman Henderson

BEFORE Theresa May’s government appointed Sir Martin Moore-Bick as head of the Grenfell Tower inquiry I’d never have guessed that an administration would blatantly flaunt their incompetence, lack of feeling, ineptness and insensitivity (more than they did in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy).

This is a man who, when a judge, allowed Westminster council to rehouse a woman and her children 50 miles away from family, friends and home.

How many Moore insults for these poor people?
Amanda Baker

THE sight of the Conservative benches cheering the defeat of the Labour amendment regarding the public sector pay cap was an affront to common decency. To witness this kind of behaviour in a democratic parliament beggars belief — especially considering the subject being voted on.

What makes it more galling is that as “Colonel” Davidson’s stormtroopers quietly slid into line with this betrayal they lost all claim to represent the people of Scotland, a large number of whom are these workers who were counting on some relief from austerity.

The Tory party’s willingness to condemn decent hard-working public service workers to another year of austerity just to score a political point was, at least, mean spirited and, at worst, calculated.

They had the chance to force May to abandon the failed austerity project and to allow some relief to some of the population, the so-called “just managing”. As for the Scottish contingent, they should hang their heads in shame rather than bray like donkeys.
Ade Hegney

JEREMY Corbyn has confirmed the impending Brexit MayHem by sacking three shadow cabinet members over an amendment to remain in the single market, which Corbyn is against, and so aligns himself with Theresa May.

We now have a “hard Brexit” in sight. Out of the single market and out of the customs union, and even with a “deal” it is a hard Brexit. It is time for reality to kick in. All talk about safeguarding jobs, or open access to the single market without costs but with all the benefits, as before, is a chimera of the first order.

Liam Fox is now opening preliminaries on free trade with the US, which the Chancellor maintained we would not do while still a member of the EU. So, that sends a signal that we are set up for a possible walk away on the mantra “no deal is better than a bad deal” with the EU. The cliff is looming.

It defies logic if one imagines Corbyn to be diametrically opposed to the Theresa May line on Brexit when Prime Minister’s Questions takes place. It is simply shadow boxing.

The Westminster scenario where fissures are appearing in the two main Unionist parties means we are heading for chaos. Labour will implode, the Tories will stay cohesive and fall into line as power and the destruction of Labour in England will sway the pro-EU faction.

So far, David Davis has had to follow the agenda set out by the EU. He cannot veto anything, so No 10 will simply walk away and Corbyn will concur.
John Edgar

I WISH to correct an error in the Iolaire disaster feature (Isles’ ‘blackest day’ to be remembered, The National, June 30). There were no soldiers on board the vessel when it foundered.

The majority of those who drowned were naval reservists or merchant marine seamen from the isles of Lewis and Harris.

The time, the place and most of those who perished coming from the same community that had sustained heavy war losses makes the Iolaire disaster more poignant than the sinking of the Titanic or The Herald of Free Enterprise.
Donald J MacLeod