Councillors’ greetings for 2015...

Councillor Carl Nelson: There is no doubt 2014 was an exceptional year in many ways. Scotland delivered two magnificent sporting events that made you proud to be Scottish – the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, and the Ryder Cup in the beautiful setting of Gleneagles. Millions of people throughout the world enjoyed these wonderful sporting events.

Then we had to elect new representatives to the European Parliament. Later, after an arduous campaign that lasted over two years, we had the opportunity to vote in the Referendum on Thursday, September 18.

Nothing could be more important than deciding if you wanted your country to become Independent. The highest ever turnout in an election emphasised how important it was to everyone. Yes, 2014 was a truly memorable year.

Now we look forward to 2015. A new Royal baby will be born which will be a special occasion for the whole country. Then in May we will have the General Election to decide who will be our next Prime Minister, and which Party or Coalition will govern the country for the next five years.

At this time we should spare a thought for all those suffering in conflicts throughout the world. Many are left homeless and hungry, not knowing what the future holds for them. Let’s hope these conflicts can be resolved and the millions of displaced people can return home to a normal life.

I wish everyone a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year.

Councillor Alison Evison: Before Christmas, I visited the Christmas Tree Festival at Portlethen Church with my eldest daughter. The many sparkling lights combined to create an atmosphere of peace and an opportunity to reflect, at what can be a very hectic time. Each tree was sponsored by a local business or community organisation, and seeing them all there together was testimony to the vibrancy and renewed optimism in this growing area.

There are indeed many local projects moving forward and I hope that 2015 will see these reach their goals. Plans for the Men’s Shed are developing and progress is being made towards the school and community facilities at Hillside. In January a meeting will be held to discuss the amenities offered by Nicol Park.

The North Kincardine Public Art Group has exciting ideas to enhance our use of the local environment, while the Maryculter Woodland Trust is stepping on with its work to protect and conserve the local woods for public use.

These are just a few examples of local residents coming together to improve facilities in the area.

In 2014, the Referendum did create divisions between people. As we enter 2015, the falling oil price and increasing budget challenges mean that communities will face challenges that can better be addressed by working together.

I look forward to continuing to work with the many dedicated, yet too often unacknowledged, volunteers from North Kincardine who give so much to make things happen.

Councillor Peter Bellarby: The old year draws to a close and the new year starts with all our hopes and expectations that things will go well for us all.

Looking back over 2014 there were some bad things. Coastal flooding again hit Stonehaven. Our hearts go out to all affected.

I am very keen that there is a specific coastal flood warning system that includes Stonehaven, so that people can take action if flooding is likely.

There were many good things in 2014. There was the return of the Highland Games, the launch of the land train, the Feein’ Market, The R W Thomson Rally and the Harbour Festival to name but a few. More recently, the excitement of the children in the procession to the switching on of the Christmas tree lights was something I particularly enjoyed.

At the end of the year we have Open Air in the Square, the Fireballs and a ceilidh in the Town Hall. They put Stonehaven firmly on the list of ‘must see’ places.

All of this can only happen with the enthusiasm and hard work of all those involved, whether they are doing it professionally or as part of a voluntary contribution to our community.

Other good things in 2014 were progress in dealing with flooding with the Arbuthnott drain finished and approval by Aberdeenshire Council to provide a long term flood alleviation scheme for the Carron.

So to 2015, when there must be further progress on flood alleviation.

Let’s continue with all the good work done in the community by the large number of groups and societies in Stonehaven. By working together we can make Stonehaven an even better place.

Councillor Graeme Clark: This year promised to be, and turned out to be, an eventful year for Scotland. The Commonwealth games in Glasgow, the Ryder cup at Gleneagles, the 700th anniversary of Bannockburn and of course, the Independence referendum. The eyes of the world were on us this year.

The referendum campaign kept me busy and, although my side lost, I was amazed to find standing-room only at most of the meetings I attended. The engagement of the public and the 84% turnout can only be good for our country’s future. As usual the people of Kincardine and Mearns got on with their work to enhance life in our communities.

Without the dedication of our volunteers, the Stonehaven area would be a poorer place. The recent incident in Glasgow also reminds us how professional our emergency services are.

Locally, there is much to be done. The low oil price is a big concern and the need for food banks plus an increase in fuel poverty figures shows that not everyone is enjoying the prosperity that exists in the oil capital of Europe.

In Stonehaven we need to push for an improved town bus service, more services devolved to Kincardine hospital, the building of the flood defences and a solution to the retail provision in town.

I’d like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy and prosperous New Year and I look forward with hope to a long hot summer for Kincardine and Mearns.

Councillor Bill Howatson: New Year is a time for looking back – and forward. Personally, the highlight for me in 2014 was the formal opening of the new Mearns Academy in Laurencekirk – a project that I have strongly supported since I became a councillor in 1999. It took time and the efforts of many to bring the new academy to fruition, but to see it completed and hosting future generations of students is both satisfying and thrilling.

The old school served students, parents and staff well despite cramped conditions, and the new campus is set to continue a fine tradition of endeavour and success in south Aberdeenshire.

Looking to 2015, times are going to be tough for the public sector. Councils and health boards will have to make difficult choices in prioritising expenditure, and collaborate effectively to provide public services.

A key factor will be the joint health and social care agenda, a new way of thinking between partners to provide a seamless service to individuals and communities.

But equally, as individuals, we must all ask what we can do for our communities, as well as what can our communities do for us.

A very happy and prosperous New Year.