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23 May 2016

Stevenson welcomes offshore wind announcement

Banffshire & Buchan Coast SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the announcement that SSE have reached financial close on their Beatrice Offshore Wind Project in the Moray Firth, meaning the project will now progress.
Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“This announcement is excellent news for the economies of Banffshire, the wider North-east of Scotland and the Highlands.

“The Moray Firth is well placed to see some of the economic benefits of this multi-billion pound renewables projects which will support skilled jobs and more work for downstream suppliers.

“With further multi-billion projects in the pipeline for the Moray Firth the future for our harbours and for skills transfer from the oil & gas sector, which generates spend in our local economy, is very positive.

“The Scottish Government has shown welcome and global leadership on renewable energy – already powering through the target of generating half of Scottish electricity consumption from renewables.

“But this new project shows the potential to go even further – almost quadrupling Scotland’s offshore wind capacity – and will make a huge contribution to meeting our ambitious renewables and climate change targets.”

Tory priorities all wrong as Trident price tag rockets

The SNP has launched a renewed attack on the Tories’ obsession with nuclear weapons after UK government’s intention to press ahead with renewal of Trident, in spite of spiralling costs, was confirmed in the Queen’s Speech.

Earlier this week new figures from CND revealed that replacing Trident will end up costing taxpayers at least £205 billion. Their report suggested this figure might even underestimate the final costs, given that so many Ministry of Defence projects have run vastly over budget in recent years.

Despite costs running out of control, Prime Minister David Cameron remains hell-bent on replacing the UK’s nuclear weapons system – which will continue to be based on the Clyde just 30 miles from Scotland’s largest population centre.

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson has slammed the Tory Prime Minister’s “stubborn and senseless” pursuit of Trident replacement. The SNP MSP has joined calls warning that spiralling costs risk putting vital services at risk under a government at Westminster wedded to austerity.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“Two weeks ago the people of Scotland again elected a parliament with a clear majority of MSPs opposed to the obscenity of nuclear weapons in Scotland.

“On that basis alone it would be a democratic outrage for the UK Government to press ahead with their stubborn and senseless plans to renew Trident.

“And with new analysis showing the cost of replacing Trident skyrocketing to over £200 billion it becomes increasingly clear that the Tories have lost all sense of priority – persevering with an austerity agenda which is damaging the lives of disabled and vulnerable people in our communities, while throwing caution to the wind on weapons of mass destruction.

“Trident serves no military purpose. It is a status symbol which just gets more and more expensive, while the Tories keep dodging a democratic vote on its future.

“As the price tag for Trident shoots up, that means other budgets get squeezed – money that could be better spent on schools, our NHS, building affordable homes and vital public services.

“Worryingly, it seems there’s no limit on what David Cameron is willing to spend on a new generation of nuclear missiles – but the boys and their toys approach to governance over such a dangerous vanity project means that Tory cuts will have to fall elsewhere.”

15 May 2016

Tory Apprenticeship Levy to Clobber Scotland's College Budgets

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has backed calls from the Scottish National Party for the Conservative UK Government to clarify exactly how much money it is planning to take away from Scotland’s colleges through the introduction of its Apprenticeship Levy.

The matter was raised in the House of Commons at Business Questions when SNP Treasury spokesperson Roger Mullin MP asked Nick Boles, the Tory Minister of State for Skills, whether Scotland’s colleges would be exempt from the Levy given that they are the largest providers of apprenticeship education. Mr Boles said that the Levy would apply to all employers throughout the UK with a payroll bill of more than £3million.
Scotland has a significant number of large colleges with a payroll bill of more than £3million and Colleges Scotland estimate that the Levy could cost Scotland’s colleges £1.9million per year.

Commenting Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“It now looks increasingly likely that the Conservative UK Government is going to clobber Scotland’s colleges with this Levy.

“Colleges Scotland have estimated that this will cost college budgets £1.9million per year – a huge sum to take away and with absolutely no clarity from the UK Government as to what is going to happen to this money.

“The real irony is that Scotland’s colleges are among the biggest trainers of apprentices in the UK, but could now have their budgets slashed by the UK Government in a move that could end up putting apprenticeships at risk.

“It is not surprising that the introduction of the Levy remains a matter of fundamental concern for the Scottish Government and the UK’s other devolved administrations. It encroaches on devolved responsibilities and is causing considerable concern for colleges and other employers.

“The Conservative UK Government has no control over how the Scottish Government or the other devolved administrations provide apprenticeships, so to imply otherwise by collecting what amounts to an employment tax is misleading for any employer with operations outside England.

“The Conservative UK Government must now offer urgent clarity over the Levy and urgently consider the wider implications of its introduction. It must explain exactly why it seems intent on hitting Scotland’s colleges and employers and what will happen with the money it is taking away.”
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