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11 October 2019

Stewart Stevenson MSP Renews Calls to Restore TV Licences to Over 75s

A new report published today by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee has criticised the UK government for seeking to "bounce" the BBC into accepting a deal that exposed it to "administering welfare benefits," and calls for free TV licences to be restored to over 75s who don’t receive Pension Credit.

North-east MSP Stewart Stevenson has slammed the Tories for their handling of the 2015 negotiations that led to the BBC making decisions regarding welfare payments – ultimately leading to free TV licences for over 75s being scrapped - and has renewed calls for them to be restored after campaigning consistently for them to be saved.

The report finds that the 2015 "flawed" funding negotiations gave no opportunity for consultation with licence fee-payers, that the BBC put itself in the "invidious" position as administrator of welfare benefits, and criticises the 2015 UK government for seeking to ‘bounce’ the BBC into accepting the measures.

The DCMS Committee has recommended that the UK government and BBC work together to find a funding formula to restore free TV licences for over 75s.

Commenting Banffshire and Buchan MSP, Stewart Stevenson, said:

“It is downright shameful of the Tories to pass the responsibility of administering much-needed welfare benefits, such as free TV licences, on to a public broadcaster, and this report rightly lays that bare.

“The report was also right to point out the complete lack of transparency surrounding the negotiations and that the BBC cannot be absolved of responsibility. I hope Lord Hall has learned his lesson – don’t do secretive back-stair deals with people you can’t trust.

“The way they handled – or mishandled - the 2015 funding negotiations by not consulting licence fee payers and allowing false reassurances to be made to over 75s is further proof that this Tory government is uncaring and incompetent when it comes to looking after our older generation.

“The SNP warned of the danger of transferring this decision to the BBC. The UK government should now atone for their mistake and work with the BBC to find a funding formula to restore free TV licences for over 75s – we will not let them off the hook over this broken manifesto commitment.”

8 October 2019

MSPs Welcome £10 billion Investment in the North-east

Aberdeenshire MSPs Gillian Martin and Stewart Stevenson have welcomed £10.1 billion of public and private investment in infrastructure projects due to be delivered in the North-east before 2030 following the Investment Tracker published today.
Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce’s investment update, shows committed future investment in the region has risen by £1.7 billion over the past 12 months.

This comes on top of £800 million worth of projects being completed since the 2018 Tracker was published, including Aberdeen Art Gallery, the Music Hall, Banchory Sports Village and the region’s new world-class events complex P&J Live.

Much of the investment in the document comes from Scottish Government funding which is scheduled for the next three years and includes projects involving transport & infrastructure, office & retail and leisure & culture, as well as health, sport & education.

Gillian Martin, MSP for Aberdeenshire East, commented:

“Digital connectivity is absolutely critical to opening up the huge economic potential of the North East.

"While this is an issue reserved to Westminster, I am delighted that the SNP has taken the initiative and committed £77 million to make sure everyone in Aberdeenshire has access to superfast broadband by 2021.”

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP, Stewart Stevenson, said:

“The Tracker tells a story of great progress for our regional economy with £2.5bn of infrastructure projects delivered since 2017 and more to come.

“The North-east’s bold investment programmes are creating an energised, connected and revitalised region, one that offers an unparalleled experience for residents and visitors alike.”

MSP welcomes financial discipline reimbursement for farmers

Stewart Stevenson MSP this week welcomed news that Scottish farmers are to receive £5.89 million in reimbursement payments from the European Commission.

Payments under the Financial Discipline Mechanism will begin arriving in bank accounts this week, with the average reimbursement worth around £374 per claimant.

The Financial Discipline Mechanism aims to keep the Pillar 1 budget in balance through the creation of a crisis reserve, which is then released back to farmers the following year, if the reserve is not required.

Welcoming the reimbursement, Mr Stevenson commented:

“I am pleased that around 15,300 Scottish farmers and crofters will receive Financial Discipline Reimbursement payments totalling £5.89 million this week. The repayment varies in relation to the total value of Direct Payment they receive, so not every claimant gets the same amount, but it averages £374.

“With farmers facing the unwelcome prospect of a ‘no deal Brexit’ and the uncertainties this will inevitably bring to their business, it is important that they are aware of the service offered by the likes of RSABI to help them through any hardships they may be facing now or in the future.

“In the meantime, I hope this small injection will be a welcome addition to eligible farmers’ finances.”

Stewart Stevenson
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