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23 December 2002

Post Office Regulator “Out Of Touch With Scottish Needs and Interests” – Stevenson

Banff & Buchan SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson has branded Post Office regulator PostComm as short-sighted and out of touch. The claim follows a meeting with Scottish management of Royal Mail to discuss the future of postal services which Mr Stevenson and other North-east SNP MSPs had requested.

Mr Stevenson commented:

“It is vital to our rural areas that the universal service obligation which ensures that every part of Scotland has access to vital postal services is maintained. There is a growing feeling that this is being neglected by the regulator, PostComm. This is not surprising as the board of PostComm has no Scottish representation and shows little sign of understanding the unique needs of rural Scotland.

“I will be writing to PostComm urging them to bring forward plans for an update to the universal service obligation and to simplify the regulations to allow the Post Office to have the necessary funding to enable them to deliver a service to rural Scotland.”


Commenting on the Government’s plans to make benefit and pension payments through bank accounts, a change which will affect Post Offices, Mr Stevenson continued:

“The Post Office is being discriminated against again in the Government’s plans to pay benefits into bank accounts as people are being encouraged to use commercial banks rather than continuing to support their local Post Office. I am calling for an information campaign to ensure that people are informed that they can continue to receive pension and benefit payments at their local Post Office and also do their banking their in future.

“It is vital that the new modernised Post Office has the opportunity to compete successfully and remain as it always has been as a vital cornerstone of our villages and towns throughout Scotland.”

‘Yule Be Lucky!’ MSP Candidate Tells Her Supporters

“PARLIAMENTARY HOPEFUL IS ANYTHING BUT” - STEVENSON

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has revealed an astonishing gaffe by his Lib Dem opponent at next May’s Scottish Parliament elections.

The Liberals’ candidate for the Banff & Buchan Scottish Parliament seat has already raised the white flag – just weeks after announcing her selection as a candidate. In her website, Gordon councillor Debra Storr admits that a Liberal vote is a wasted vote by conceding defeat stating that “Banff & Buchan is an unlikely win for the Liberal Democrats”.

Commenting on the amazing admission, Stewart Stevenson said:

“I am all for honesty in politics and I congratulate my opponent for being so up front with the electors about the prospects of the Liberal Party in Banff & Buchan.

“This must surely be the first time that a candidate for election cannot be described as a ‘Parliamentary hopeful’ because she is clearly anything but!

“Debra Storr recognises the damage that the Liberal administration in Aberdeenshire has done to her party locally and with it, her prospects. People are unlikely to forget the unkept cemeteries, the cuts to schoolchildren’s transport and the farce of closed public toilets. People are paying more council tax for less services under her administration and are not going to forget that.

“Debra Storr has her own problems to deal with and would be well advised to look after her own council ward, where I know there is much concern about a landfill site and her attitude towards local businesses and voluntary organisations, who have taken a dim view of her recent activities.”


Note: The full quote on the Liberal Democrat website – www.debrastorr.org.uk - is as follows: “Don't worry. You may have seen in the press recently that I have been asked – and agreed - to stand for the Scottish Parliament in Banff and Buchan next May. However I am intending to continue as your councillor here [Belhelvie and Balmedie]. Frankly, Banff and Buchan is an unlikely win for the Liberal Democrats but I feel it is important to help my friends in the north.”

MSP Welcomes International Boost For Cruden Bay Golf Course

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the publication of the ‘Golf in Britain’ map published by the British Tourist Authority which includes Cruden Bay Golf Course among the 146 courses around Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland featured on the map.

Mr Stevenson commented:

“The British Tourist Authority has in the past shown itself to be no friend of the North-east of Scotland, having missed us out completely from one of their recent publications. I am therefore pleased to see that they are making a greater effort this time to be more inclusive of the facilities we have to offer visitors.

“It should not come as any great surprise of course that Cruden Bay should be included in a golfing map of Britain. It is already recognised as one of the top courses in the world and this is a testimony to the club and the staff there who do so much to maintain and promote the course and I congratulate them on their efforts.”


Banff & Buchan MP Alex Salmond added:

“I was privileged to be asked to speak at the Cruden Bay club’s centenary dinner a few years ago so I know how committed and dedicated a team they have in place there.

“I hope that Cruden Bay’s inclusion on the golfing map will help provide a boost to the local tourism industry and have some knock-on effects for the many other tremendous courses which Banff & Buchan has to offer the golfing visitor.”

Stevenson Criticises Government Over Foot & Mouth Report

Local SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson has accused the Government of trying to rewrite history over its failed attempt to water down a report from the European Parliament which was highly critical of its handling of last year's foot and mouth outbreak.

The cross-party report from the European Parliament was adopted by an overwhelming majority of MEPs (481 for, 32 against) in Strasbourg.

It concluded that the UK Government's handling of the crisis had traumatised farmers, broken animal welfare laws, and generated miles of unnecessary red tape, and that burning pyres and mass burial sites damaged the environment and people's health.

Commenting on the report, Mr Stevenson said:

“I think there is general agreement among most neutral observers that the outbreak of Foot & Mouth disease last year could have been handled far better by the then Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries & Food.

“UK Labour MEPs were the only ones to vote against the report and that was because they were instructed to do so by London in an attempt to rewrite history.

“It is vital that we avoid at all costs the circumstances which could lead to another outbreak of Foot & Mouth disease which so devastated the farming industry last year and had huge knock-on effects in those areas, such as the North-east, which were free from the disease. Any contribution which analyses where procedures fell down and how the situation could have been handled better is therefore to be welcomed.

“I hope that DEFRA and the Scottish Executive draw some useful lessons from this report.”

Local MSP In Broadband Meeting With BT Chief

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has met with BT’s Head of Scottish Affairs to discuss the provision of Broadband in Buchan.

BT’s Ian Shanks came to Peterhead last week at Mr Stevenson’s request and met with the MSP and representatives from the Peterhead Business Forum, the local branch of the Federation of Small Businesses, Scottish Enterprise and Aberdeenshire Council, as well as local businessmen.

Commenting on the meeting, Mr Stevenson said:

“This was a useful meeting and exchange of views and gave those taking part the opportunity to put their concerns and questions to one of BT’s senior management team in Scotland.

“BT have set a trigger level of 650 expressions of interest before the Peterhead exchange will be upgraded to include Broadband facilities. Currently, the number of expressions of interest stands at 147.

“However, with over 1000 BT business subscribers and over 8000 BT personal subscribers in Peterhead, I am confident that number will increase once people know more about how Broadband can be applied to their home or business situation.

“To that end, a number of initiatives were discussed at the meeting about raising public awareness of the issue. One of these is a planned ‘Broadband Roadshow’ early next year which Scottish Enterprise will help in arranging. In the meantime, I can highly commend the website www.broadbandpeterhead.com as well worth a visit for those wishing to know more. It has been set up by local man Alan Dow in an effort to promote Broadband and raise awareness.

“It is essential that this area of Scotland is not left behind in the new technological age.”

6 November 2002

MSP Welcomes Rathen Road Safety Audit

Banff & Buchan SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed an assurance from the Scottish Executive that BEAR Scotland are to carry out a review of road safety at the Rathen turn-off on the A90.

However, the MSP expressed concern that a previous survey apparently carried out in 1998 had not been acted upon. Mr Stevenson commented:

“I am pleased that a BEAR Scotland are to undertake a review of road safety at this junction. Rathen has grown over the years as the A90 has become busier so it is understandable that there are concerns over safety locally.

“It would appear though that a similar survey was carried out by BEAR’s predecessors, Mouchel, in 1998 but little appears to be known of the results of this and I have asked the Minister to look into this.

“In the meantime, this is progress and I have asked that this be carried out as soon as possible in order that the findings may be acted upon swiftly.”


Note: Scottish Parliament Written Answer S1W-30461 states:

Stewart Stevenson (Banff & Buchan) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Executive what plans exist for the construction of a stacking lane at Rathen near Fraserburgh on the A90.

Lewis MacDonald (Deputy Minister for Transport): There are no current plans for improvement works at the Rathen junction on the A90. However, in view of local concerns, BEAR Scotland Limited has been asked to carry out a review of road safety at this location.

31 October 2002

Stevenson Calls For Finnie To Build Alliance To Save Fishing Industry

During the SNP’s fisheries debate in parliament today Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson called on Fisheries Minister Ross Finnie to spend more time in Europe meeting and canvassing Ministers and officials from other Governments to build an alliance for Scottish white fisheries.

Speaking after the debate, Mr Stevenson said:

“It is no use Ministers simply turning up at meetings to press an argument when it is well-established that the real decisions in Europe are made well in advance by the informal contacts which I am asking the Minister to promote.

“I believe the Minister heard and understood my call and I insist that he should not be deflected from this by any concerns that officials in Scotland or in London might have about his taking control of this fight for vital Scottish interests.”


Continuing, Mr Stevenson challenged the Minister to take courage in his hands. He said during the debate:

“’Mr Finnie, you must be prepared to break the rules if not the law because the crisis in Scottish fishing is such that we can no longer stand back from the decision-making process and despite what his discomfort may be elsewhere, Scottish Ministers must become directly engaged in saving this vital industry’.

“20,000 jobs are at stake and if Scotland were to lose its fishing industry then the effect on employment and our economy would be greater than any job loss in recent times.”

9 October 2002

Salmond And Steenson Meet Minister On Peterhead Bay Project

Banff & Buchan representatives Stewart Stevenson MSP and Alex Salmond MP met with Scottish Executive Minister Lewis MacDonald in Edinburgh today to discuss assistance for Peterhead Bay Authority’s £22 million bay calming project.

The project, which would help secure and create jobs in the North-east, has been dealt a blow by news that oil company BP is relocating its operations to Aberdeen.

Speaking in Edinburgh today, Stewart Stevenson said:

“This was a useful meeting today with the Minister. The Minister indicted that he appreciates the benefits that Peterhead Bay Authority’s breakwater project will bring to the area and is keen to allow opportunities to make progress with this project.

“The Minister’s immediate focus is on opening the door to Public Works Loan Board funding for the bay authority.”


Banff & Buchan MP Alex Salmond added:

“On the subject of direct assistance, the Minister accepted that myself and Stewart Stevenson had made a number of interesting points which he will now examine. In particular, the possibility of East of Scotland Objective 2 funding from Europe was discussed.

“However, the Minister was unable to confirm that grants would be available for the bay authority’s project but would examine ways in which that could happen. It was also indicated that officials would shortly be meeting with representatives of Peterhead Bay Authority and that subject to progress made there, the Minister was open to meeting with members of the bay authority.”

5 September 2002

Banff & Buchan MSP Comments on Ministerial Statement

Commenting following an official statement from the Justice Minister today (Thursday) that Peterhead Prison is to stay open, Banff and Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the reversal of the decision to close HMP Peterhead, but condemned the Executive’s failure to commit to the rebuilding the world renowned prison – and investing in what is recognised as a centre of excellence.

Mr Stevenson said:

“We are delighted that Peterhead Prison is to stay open and be upgraded – we never expected anything less - but the failure of the Executive to announce long-term investment in the prison remains a matter of concern and frustration.

“Indeed, the failure to commit to the long-term investment, demanded by the public and parliamentary response to the Estates Review, serves only to undermine the government’s own justice policy, and continue the damaging erosion of morale amongst those in the front line in the SPS.

“It was proper for the Minister to pay tribute to the dignified and effective campaign pursued by the community of Peterhead, and in particular the partners of prison officers who have been inspirational.

Commenting on the Justice Minister’s announcement that there will be a further consultation on the publication of the Spencer report into the delivery of sex offenders programmes, Mr Stevenson commented:

“I look forward to digesting Alec Spencer’s report, and trust that his investigation will reflect and take forward the overwhelming case for long-term investment in the sex offenders facility at Peterhead.”

21 August 2002

Stevenson Meets NHS Chief On Chalmers Hospital

Banff & Buchan SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson has met with NHS Grampian Chief Executive Neil Campbell to discuss the future of Banff’s Chalmers Hospital.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Stevenson commented:

“This was a very useful and constructive meeting and I found Mr Campbell very open and honest in his approach and his answers to my questions. The Chalmers development definitely will go ahead as it is one of a number of priorities identified by NHS Grampian. However, I was assured that these differing priorities are not competing against each other for resources.

“While we are not at present in a position to know what form the development will take, it is anticipated that the November board meeting of NHS Grampian will see the matter brought forward for board approval. Mr Campbell has given me an undertaking to intervene personally if it looks like the timetable is slipping to ensure that Chalmers Hospital is definitely on that month’s agenda. Once it is discussed and approved by the Board we will then be in a position to know what the likely timescale is for work to commence.

“I hope to meet with the Chalmers Hospital Action Committee in the coming days in order to brief members face-to-face and respond as far as possible to any questions they may have.”

6 August 2002

Stevenson Urges Local Groups To Respond To Lottery Distribution Consultation

Banff & Buchan SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson has urged local clubs and voluntary groups to have their say in the Government’s consultation on Lottery funding distribution policy.

Mr Stevenson, who has been campaigning for more lottery cash to come to the North-east, has welcomed the review and has called for the lottery bodies to take action to address those areas which receive less than their share of lottery cash.

Mr Stevenson said:

“The North-east has historically fared less well than other areas in terms of securing our share of lottery funding.

“Thanks to initiatives like the recent Lottery Roadshow which visited Banff and which I was pleased to be associated with that pattern is changing but there is still some way to go.

“This consultation looks at the distribution of lottery funds root and branch. The application process is certainly an issue which needs to be looked at. With so many different lottery bodies something as simple as a single application form for example would make the process that bit simpler.

“This is the chance for local groups who have experience of lottery applications – successful or unsuccessful – and those who are thinking about applying to influence the decision making process. I want to see it become as easy as possible for applications to be made to the lottery and for more and more cash to come to the North-east. The National Lottery is the North-east’s lottery too.”


Anyone who wishes a copy of the Consultation Document can obtain one by contacting Stewart Stevenson’s Office on 01779 470444 or by e-mail at msp@stewartstevenson.net. The consultation period closes on 30 October 2002.

15 April 2002

MSP Meets Justice Ministers

Banff and Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has today met with the Scottish Executive Justice Minister Jim Wallace and Deputy Justice Minister Dr Richard Simpson concerning the ongoing consultation on the future of Peterhead Prison. Mr Stevenson was accompanied and supported at the meeting by a delegation from Aberdeenshire Council compromising of Mr Chris White (Aberdeenshire Council’s Area Manager), Cllr Allison McInnes (Lib/Dem Convener of Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Committee), and Cllr Stuart Pratt (SNP Peterhead councillor).

Following the meeting Mr Stevenson commented:

“This was a forthright and unexpectedly lengthy meeting which provided an ideal opportunity to challenge the very foundations of the Executive’s proposals to close Peterhead Prison.

“Today’s meeting also coincided with the presentation of a petition, signed by over two thirds of Peterhead Prisons inmates, adding their support for the retention of Peterhead as a dedicated sex offender prison. Significantly, this blows the Executive’s claim, that Peterhead is too remote, out of the water, and I made that clear to the Minister.

“I also took the opportunity to advise the Minister about the findings of my recent fact-finding trip to the privately operated Parc Prison in Wales.

“I also drew the minister’s attention to the recently completed study by the English and Welsh Prison Service. Despite having been conducted by the same consultants as the Scottish study, it had reached very different conclusions about the best way forward.”

Summing up after the meeting, Mr Stevenson said,

“There is strong cross-party support for Peterhead’s prison. The minister has committed to undertake further research into options for Peterhead.

“Overall I took encouragement from the Minister’s assurances that this is a genuine consultation, and that he is not simply going through the motions. Indeed, the Minister indicated that he would undertake additional research in advance of the ending of the consultation period.

“I shall certainly be continuing to put the case forward over the coming months vigorously.”

10 April 2002

MSP Visits Private Prison On Fact Finding Trip

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson visited Parc Prison in Bridgend, Wales yesterday as part of his research into privatisation in the prison service. Parc Prison is operated by Securicor and includes a dedicated long-term prisoner sex-offender unit.

Speaking from Cardiff, Mr Stevenson said:

“This was an extremely useful and worthwhile visit. It showed me clearly why there should be no place in the Scottish Prison Service for private profit.

“The sex-offenders at this private prison were clearly just marking time. There was little evidence of any of the innovative techniques employed at Peterhead Prison which has helped make it a world centre for the treatment and rehabilitation of sex-offenders.

“I had been led to expect this private prison to show innovation. In fact I found a prison where the majority of sex-offenders had to share a cell. In view of the nature of their offences, I found this astonishing.

“In contrast to the average cost per prisoner at Peterhead of around £23,000 per year, the supposedly efficient privately-run Parc Prison actually costs substantially more at £31,000. This throws into considerable doubt the use of Parc and other private prisons in England and Wales as comparators to justify the SPS claims that private prisons save money. I saw absolutely no evidence of this.

“At Parc Prison, I saw staff who tried hard but who lacked the motivation and training to deliver the cost-effective service we see for sex-offenders at Peterhead.

“When I meet Justice Minister Jim Wallace on Monday I will be putting it to him that the advice he has received from the Scottish Prison Service is deeply flawed.”


SNP Westminster leader Alex Salmond added:

“This blows away the case for privatisation and reduces to tatters the Government’s arguments.

“The more we find out about private prisons, the more ridiculous the Government’s position is, and the more suspicious we become of the motives of the cabal at the top of the Scottish Prison Service. Jim Wallace seems to be listening very carefully to a small handful of people who are hell-bent on privatising Scotland’s prisons with no regard to the consequences for public safety that entails.”

14 January 2002

Justice 2 Committee in Inverness

"Labour's Land Reform Bill Timid" says MSP Stewart Stevenson

The Scots Parliament's Justice 2 Committee will be meeting in Inverness' Town House today [Monday] to take evidence on the New Labour-Liberal Democrat Land Reform Bill.

In advance of today's meeting Banff and Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson hit out at a number of gaps in proposals for the community right to buy provisions:

“Evidence given to the Committee so far suggests that far from being an attempt to radically change patterns of land ownership in Scotland, the Executive's Bill is a damp squib.

"This Bill may only change ownership of about one thirtieth of Scotland's land. In the crofting counties, the Bill makes only modest proposals to extend local ownership but in the remainder of Scotland, the barriers to community right to buy are formidable.

"A substantial proportion of land in Scotland is owned by companies or by family trusts. The present proposals would exclude such land from the general 'right to buy' in the Bill..

"Labour are trumpeting that they have delivered on a 100-year commitment. Their timid Bill actually means that in another 100 years, the majority of Scotland's land could remain in the hands the very people who have a stranglehold on it today."

10 January 2002

No Plans To Help Deck Hands After Decommissioning

“Minister must consider remember that only owners are being compensated”
says MSP Stewart Stevenson

In Response to a question from Banff & Buchan MSP, Stewart Stevenson, the Rural Development Minister, Ross Finnie made clear that the Scottish Executive has no plans for support of people employed on fishing vessels that are being decommissioned.

Speaking after Parliamentary Questions today [Thursday], Mr Stevenson said,

“I find it very disappointing that the Minister was unable to give any information about the number of people be affected by decommissioning.

“With the first Press Forward even now being broken up for scrap at Sandhaven, it is now urgent that the Scottish Executive take steps to ensure that the several hundred deckhands and engineers across Scotland who may lose their jobs are properly looked after.”

Turning the general effects of decommissioning, Mr Stevenson commented,

“The owners of vessels leaving the fishing industry are being compensated. I have pointed to the wider impact since the outset. Crews could be losing out and local businesses that have supplied and serviced the decommissioned vessels will also suffer.

“I am astonished that no information about this has been gathered. Once again support for the people in the fishing industry is inadequate and late.”

3 January 2002

Disregard for Economic Impact of New Aggregates Tax

“Another Stealth Tax from Brown to Penalise Scotland” says MSP Stewart Stevenson

Parliamentary Answers received during the Scottish Parliament’s Christmas recess reveal that the Scottish Executive has no strategy for dealing with the effects of the introduction of the Aggregates Tax in Scotland.

Speaking today, Banff & Buchan MSP, Stewart Stevenson commented;

“The introduction of the Aggregates Tax will clearly place substantial new burdens on both Scottish quarries and on the capital projects that use aggregate products.

“With a tax of £1.60 per ton, roads, railway maintenance, new schools & hospitals will pay substantially more for their cement, stone and tar. And yet the Scottish Executive tells me that ‘Assessment of economic impacts of taxation measures is a matter for HM Treasury.’

“This indicates a blatant disregard for Scotland’s economic health.”

Speaking about the very different response of the Northern Ireland Assembly’s Executive, Stewart Stevenson said,

“There has been a vigorous response to the imposition of Gordon Brown’s new stealth tax in Northern Ireland. Debate there convinced all political parties that the return of money via a very small reduction in National Insurance would be far less than the cost of the tax.

“Like so many other new taxes, the effect is a net transfer of money to big cities such as London. And the successful campaign to restrict imposition of the new tax in Northern Ireland shows the way.

“It appears that the Labour-Liberal coalition in Scotland have not even put the case to London despite the evidence from Northern Ireland that it is actually possible to get London to listen when the case is overwhelming.

“If Labour in Scotland cannot stand up for our economic interests, it is time they moved over and made way for people who will. Only the SNP will always fight for our interests.”
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