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13 December 2001

Welcome For Executive Focus On Prison Performance Over Costs

“Peterhead’s Excellent Record Must Now Be Rewarded” says MSP Stewart Stevenson

Parliament today debated an SNP motion noting the Executive’s failure to bring forward an appropriate strategy for Scotland’s prisons. With the Justice Mininster’s amendment to the SNP motion stating, inter alia, “.. work to upgrade the estate must deliver prisons capable of providing sufficient humane and secure accomodation while delivering value for money”, hopes have risen that the world class unit at Peterhead will be protected.

Speaking in the debate, Banff and Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson said,

“The Executive’s amendment gives priority, clearly and unambiguously, to what prisons do over what prisons cost. After the prevarications, distortions and errors – I use that word out of charity – in the evidence given by the head of the prison service to the Justice 1 Committee on 23 October, it’s clear that ministers are not going to heed Cameron’s single-minded focus on cost regardless of outcome.

“Running a public service like a business – as Mr Cameron has often stated that he wishes to – is to fail to understand that the dividends we want are societal rather than fiscal.

“We want protection for society, punishment for offenders and reform of their future behaviour.”

Speaking after the debate, Stevenson observed,

“Staff morale in Peterhead Prison has been under pressure for some time because of the very lengthy delay in bringing forward plans for redevelopment of the present buildings which date back over 100 years.

“I now see a chink of light in that Ministers seem prepared to resist a single-minded focus on cost when society has a whole has greater concerns about successful treatment for sex offenders.

“Peterhead’s record is unassailable. For the first time we see the Executive beginning to share the priorities of the wider community. Now is the time reward Peterhead’s success.”

6 December 2001

Local Government Minister’s Statement on Finance for Councils Misses Target Completely

“Essential that Aberdeenshire gains proper funding from Scottish Executive” says MSP

Following a Ministerial statement on the Local Government Settlement for 2002-03 and 2003-04, Banff and Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has criticised the New Labour – Liberal-Democrat Executive’s continued failure to fund Aberdeenshire adequately. Speaking today [Thursday], Stewart Stevenson said,

“Today’s funding announcement continues the dismal record of neglect of the rural North-East from this Executive. Aberdeenshire’s increase leaves our area with about 91% of the Scottish average and well behind comparable rural areas.

“They continue to show how out of touch they are with the realities of life in Aberdeenshire. The prosperity of the city of Aberdeen where a similar increase has been granted is at odds with our experience in rural areas.

“Aberdeenshire Council have said that they are at the bottom of the league among rural areas in receiving financial support. This settlement does nothing to change that at a time when we need improvement in services for all our people. And with recent employment difficulties in mind, now was the time to give us a substantial increase.”

Turning to the Scottish economy and and the ability of Scottish businesses to compete, Mr Stevenson commented,

“With our national economy growing at about 1% per annum and with manufacturing industry suffering badly, this increase in Council funding will still not allow the creation of an infrastructure for growth. Business gets little or nothing from this settlement.

“The planned introduction of an Aggregates Tax next year will be particularly harmful to Scottish business and see a net outflow to the London Exchequer. This is just one example of business-unfriendly and rural-hostile policies being pursued by this government both in Edinburgh and in London.”

5 December 2001

Peoples Network Awards For The Shire

The People’s Network Awards from the New Opportunities Fund announced today include £490,474 for the installation of computer terminals in libraries throughout Aberdeenshire. Welcoming this lottery award MSP for Banff & Buchan Stewart Stevenson, himself a former technology director with Bank of Scotland, said:

“This is a much needed investment which will benefit many people in our community. The ability to freely access information is vital in the modern world. Clubs, societies and campaign groups as well as individuals will now be able to promote their interests more effectively.

“It is slightly ironic that a fund set up to help the most disadvantaged of communities in Scotland should be helping Aberdeenshire. It highlights that there are two ‘North-Easts', the prosperous city and a rural economy which runs at a substantially slower pace.

“I hope that the Scottish Executive takes note of this when it considers the levels of support required across a range of its funding including the Council, roads and new electronic communications. To date they have largely ignored our needs.”

6 November 2001

Chalmers Hospital at Petitions Commitee

Following a meeting of the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee today, Banff and Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the news that a 10,000 signature petition – supporting the redevelopment of Chalmers Hospital in Banff - has been referred by the Committee to the Scottish Executive and Grampian Health Board for comment. Speaking from the Scottish Parliament this morning, Mr Stevenson said:

“Today’s decision is an important milestone in the campaign for the redevelopment of Chalmers Hospital and the surrounding community who rely on good quality healthcare within the Banff area.

“With 10,000 signatures this was an extraordinary achievement for the Chalmers Hospital Action Group who have been fighting against the threat to services at our local hospital. This petition has put the issue of rural hospital services back on the agenda in the Scottish Parliament.

“The logic of the argument was clear to the Public Petitions Committee and I believe that this continued pressure on Grampian Health Board and the increased awareness of this issue within the parliament will ensure that the plight of underfunded rural hospitals can no longer be ignored.”

19 October 2001

Macduff Distillery A Worldwide Success Story

Stewart Stevenson MSP says "Water Directives Should Not be Implemented In Scotland"

Stewart Stevenson, MSP for Banff and Buchan, visited his local whisky distillery today [Friday, 19th] as a guest of the Macduff Distillery management and of the Scotch Whisky Association. Commenting afterwards, Stewart Stevenson said,

"This was my first visit to a distillery although far from an introduction to this excellent Scottish product. I had not realised that our local Glen Deveron single malt was as large an exporter as to be among the largest brands of malt in the world. The £100 million in duty waiting to be paid to the London Exchequer from one single warehouse in Macduff shows how important we are to the national economy.

"In an age of increasing fears about adulteration of food products, Scotch Whisky stands out as something whose purity is guaranteed. My own small sample certainly bore that out!"

Turning to future threats to the whisky industry, Mr Stevenson added,

"As a large user of water, the whisky industry would, like our local fishing industry, be severely affected by any moves to introduce the EC's Water Directives to Scottish law. The Directive has been introduced primarily to control water use in the European Community in southern countries where it is scarce resource.

"We are permitted to rule that it need not apply in Scotland where the rainfall is more than adequate for our needs. In the case of Macduff Distillery it would be particularly inappropriate since they have their own private water supply.

"I shall now be writing to the Scottish Executive to re-inforce input from a number of quarters about how badly introduction of such measures not designed for Scotland would be for local industries such as whisky and fishing."

26 September 2001

Unpaid And Overworked

What Future Lies Ahead For Local Agencies In The Voluntary Sector Asks Stevenson MSP?

Speaking today in Parliament Banff and Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson spoke of his concern about the lack of funding provided to local agencies in the voluntary sector. Although the Scottish Executive has increased its funding to £39 million this year, the local agencies are not seeing the benefit. Commenting on North East examples: Grampian Addiction Problems Service and Buchan Alcohol Service Information Service Stevenson said:

“Local unpaid voluntary organisations aren’t given a lot of recognition for their work and suffer greatly from limited funding. Due to the lack of funds such organisations don’t have the ability to develop the much-needed services that the communities require.

“Local agencies also suffer from participating in unsuccessful bids when the money could be used to deliver a more productive service. It is obvious that to see that the service will, in turn, decline as a result.

“Workers in the unpaid voluntary sector are suffering from low morale, which is at an all time low. This is completely understandable as who wants to give their time and effort to a cause in which you are not only unrecognised but also undervalued and misused.

“The Scottish Executive should eradicate the local communities’ problems by directly funding the local agencies who really want to see the problems disappear”.

31 August 2001

Alarm at Threat to Rural Hospitals in Grampian

"Grampian University Health Trust's Financial Problems Must Not Be Allowed To Reduce Clinic Provision in Community Hospitals" says MSP Stevenson

Following a meeting with Grampian Health today [Friday] it emerged that the current review of Health Board spending presents a very real threat of cut-backs in rural areas. It appears that the number of consultants' clinics in community hospitals throughout Grampian will be reduced. Speaking after the meeting, Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson said,

"I went to this meeting with a number of questions about Chalmers Hospital services in Banff. In the event the answers indicated that the Health Board 'thought it likely' that clinics in community hospitals would have to be reduced.

"These clinics are a very important part of the delivery of acute services through local hospitals throughout Grampian. By the Health Board's own admission they enable a superior service to be provided to our rural communities.

"This threat arises because of overspending within the University Trust in Aberdeen and from lack of funding from the New Labour/Lib coalition in Edinburgh. However the impact may be most acutely felt within rural communities. If the current clinics enable delivery of a superior service then withdrawal will, by definition, provide a poorer quality of healthcare to people outside the city."


Turning to funding of health-care in Grampian Health's area generally, Stevenson commented,

"New Labour's recently announced funding for our area has resulted in 10% of Scotland's population receiving only 9% of the funding. If, as appears likely, rural areas are hit once again it is further proof that Labour neither understand or care about rural communities."

17 August 2001

Unsafe Aberdeenshire Roads Stymie Walk-In Protest

"This highlights potential risks to casualties who could be forced to travel 50 miles for Accident & Emergency treatment" says Local MSP Stevenson

Following the withholding of permission today [Friday] for a small nunber of protestors to walk from Banff to Aberdeen over four days, Banff and Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has spoken out:

"While we must respect police advice that the planned walk by Chalmers Hospital Action Group members from Banff to Aberdeen would be dangerous, it raises important issues.

"A road that is dangerous for a small group of adults to walk in broad daylight must represent a real risk to casualties who might have to travel on a dark winter's night for Accident and Emergency treatment. Withdrawal of facilities at Banff's Chalmers Hospital could turn that risk into tragedy.

"Given that the stated intention of the walkers was to conform in every respect with the Highway Code, the reported suggestion by Aberdeenshire Council that they would charge walkers for the provision of an escort is monstrous.

"I'm sure that this set-back will not deter Chalmers Hospital campaigners. Rather it will stiffen their resolve in the fight to keep the long promised re-build at the top of Grampian Health's priorities."


Linking this refusal to the long-running campaign for the restoration of free school buses for children throughout Aberdeenshire, Stevenson continued;

"Paradoxically the Liberals on Aberdeenshire Council have spent the better part of a year assuring worried parents that their roads are safe for children to walk to school even on dark winter mornings.

"It will be a challenge for the Council's political leaders to explain how their roads are safe for our youngsters but too dangerous for a small group of highly disclipined adult walkers campaigning for a vital community facility."

26 July 2001

Important That Community Rallys Round Chalmers Hospital Campaign

"Encouraging Discussions with Grampian Health Executives" says Stevenson

Following discussions about the future of Chalmers Hospital in Banff with Chairman of Grampian Health, Jim Roy and Chief Executive, Neil Campbell, MSP for Banff and Buchan, Stewart Stevenson commented,

"The lengthy uncertainty over the re-development of the Chalmers Hospital in Banff has been disappointing for a community which depends on this facilty. Staff have continued to provide a first class service despite the difficulties caused by the old-fashioned design and a considerable maintainance backlog. We must hope that the present level of vacancies does not grow further as morale continues to be hit.

"The timescale for key decisions about the Chalmers is now relatively short. I have been assured that we shall know where we stand by the end of October. Indications are that re-development will remain a high priority for Grampian Health but we must continue to campaign to ensure that that outcome is delivered from the present review."


Speaking about the steps which are expected after the October decision, Stevenson said,

"It is important that local people start to consider now, precisely what it is we need from our local hospital. After the principled decision to re-develop for which we presently campaign, I understand that Grampian Health will undertake a period of consultation about the services required in any new Banff facility.

"If our campaign is successful, as I expect it will be, we must avoid further delay by being able to respond rapidly to the expected consultation.

"The signs from Grampian Health's new executives are encouraging. I believe there is a willingness to listen. But we must make sure that we speak with one voice and be seen to speak for Banff."


Note:

There will be a meeting organised by Friends of Chalmers Hospital at 7.45pm tonight [Thursday] in St. Mary's Church Hall, Banff.
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