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28 December 2004

STEVENSON REITERATES CALL FOR LOCAL DENTAL CRISIS TO BE ADDRESSED

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has urged the recently-appointed Scottish Executive Health Ministerial team to redouble their efforts to address the NHS dental crisis in the North-east.

Mr Stevenson has been campaigning for additional resources to improve dental service provision in the North-east and has raised the matter in Parliament, questioned Ministers and met with health officials.

Responding to Mr Stevenson’s calls, Deputy Health Minister Rhona Brankin said that she shared the SNP MSP’s concerns about access to dental services and outlined measures taken by the Executive to date to address this. The Minister also gave a commitment that the Scottish Executive’s response to their consultation on dentistry provision will include further measures to support NHS dentistry.

Mr Stevenson commented:

“The measures outlined to me by the Minister, which include a new “Golden Hello” package, provision for NHS salaried dentists, and increased allowances and incentives for dental graduates and dentists expanding their provision are to be welcomed.

“However, I remain concerned that while we wait for new dentists to graduate and wait for the new Banff dental centre to be built that people continue to be unable to access dental treatment here and now.

“I made a number of suggestions how this could be addressed in my response to the consultation exercise and I will be pressing the Minister further to ensure that some provision is made for this.”

24 December 2004

STEVENSON CONGRATULATES PRISON ON IMPORTANT AWARD

Banff and Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has congratulated the officers and staff at Peterhead Prison on their achievement of Full Accreditation of the prison as a site for the delivery of STOP 2000 (Core) Programmes. The award reaffirms the prison’s position as a world-leader in the treatment and rehabilitation of serious sex offenders.

However, Mr Stevenson’s congratulations to prison staff have been accompanied by condemnation of senior SPS officials, who he believes once again tried to ignore the prison’s achievement.

Mr Stevenson commented:

“This is a terrific achievement for the prison, and further testament to the dedication and drive of prison staff who have, time and time again, reaffirmed Peterhead as the jewel in the crown of the Scottish Prison Service. It is a pity that this important achievement has not been trumpeted by the SPS, and while my congratulations go to all the officers and staff at Peterhead my condemnation goes to the SPS chiefs who ignored this success and have done nothing to secure the future of the prison.

“Clearly, the prisons regular achievements are not convenient for SPS Chief Tony Cameron, and his top brass, however, I have no doubt that awards will still coming to Peterhead Prison long after those officials have been replaced.”

Emergency workers law fails to protect vital staff - TUC

Leaders of Scotland’s doctors, nurses and midwives have criticised the Scottish Executive for failing to protect vital healthcare workers under legislation debated in the Scottish parliament this week. The BMA, RCN and Royal College of Midwives claim that the Emergency Workers (Scotland) Bill, which makes it a specific offence to assault an emergency worker, has created significant anomalies which are not supportable. The three organisations called on members of the Scottish parliament (MSPs) to support an amendment lodged by SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson in the debate on stage 3 of the consultation. The amendment calls for all doctors, registered nurses and midwives to be extended the same level of protection afforded to ambulance, fire and police personnel, who will covered at all times when on duty. James Kennedy, Director, RCN in Scotland, said: 'We are told that this legislation will send a clear message that violence against emergency workers is not acceptable. However, the message that we are hearing is that the safety of nurses, midwives and doctors working in the community is not as important as that of emergency service personnel and hospital based staff.'

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to see original story on the Trades Union Congress web site click on:
http://www.tuc.org.uk

23 December 2004

Local MSP Backs Call for Recycling Old Mobiles to Help Charities

CHARITIES WANT YOUR OLD PHONES FOR CHRISTMAS

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson is backing an appeal to constituents to recycle old mobiles for charity – particularly if Santa Claus brings them a new one for Christmas.

Some of the UK's leading charities have teamed up with specialist recycling company, called the Recycling Appeal, to run an eco-friendly fundraising appeal which means every mobile donated can generate vital funds for their chosen cause.

The phones are then refurbished and resold, with a substantial portion of the proceeds going to charitable organisations. All constituents have to do is choose which charity they want to donate to such as Marie Curie Cancer Care, the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, the Royal National Institute of the Blind or the Children's Hospice Association Scotland.

Commenting on the initiative Mr Stevenson said:

"When people receive a new mobile phone for Christmas, they often forgotten about the old one. These old phones then join an estimated 75 million redundant mobiles in the UK.

“I hope that this appeal will mean that those who get a new mobile this year, choose a charity and give it a Christmas present in the shape of their old mobile."

“However it’s not only mobiles that can be recycled but also empty printer cartridges. These too can raise much-needed cash. So if anyone works in an office or have a printer at home they also have the potential to boost charity funds.

“This is an excellent initiative and I believe the people of Banff & Buchan will show much generosity by making the effort to help out important charities.”

For further information from Recycling Appeal please contact Lesley McIvor, PR Executive, on 01324 678 907 or e-mail lesleym@reycyclingpappeal.com

Notes:
  1. To donate a mobile phone or printer cartridge, simply call 08712 50 50 50 or visit www.recyclingappeal.com, stating which of the five charities you would like to support, and ask for a FREEPOST envelope. Then all you have to do is pop it in the post.
  2. If your workplace uses company mobiles or printer cartridges, you can arrange to make regular donations - Recycling Appeal will either send out freepost bags, or send a courier to the business premises every few months to collect donations.
  3. The Recycling Appeal, is five years old, has an annual turnover of £3 million and employs 100 staff in the UK, Ireland, France and Spain
  4. The company has won 'Best Inspirational Business for CSR 2004' through SBC, and 'Best Performing Business in Scotland 2003' through Scottish Enterprise. The company was also a finalist for 'Business of the Year' at the National Business Awards for Scotland as well as finalist for the coveted National Business Awards (London) CSR Award.
  5. The company has recycled almost 2million kg of mobile phone and printer cartridges since 1999.
  6. The company is ISO 14001 (Environmental Management), ISO 9001 (Quality Management), EMAS (Eco Management Audit Scheme) and Investors In People accredited.)
  7. In the next four years, Europe could recycle 50,000 tons of mobile phones - the same weight as the Forth Rail Bridge.
  8. Nicad batteries contain Cadmium, a dangerous toxic and carcinogenic substance. The quantity in landfill sites is significant, and considerable toxic contamination is caused by the effects of Cadmium leaking into surrounding soils. Cadmium poisoning can cause kidney failure in humans.
  9. Printer Ink costs more than vintage champagne; manufacturers charge consumers around £1.70 per millilitre of printer ink compared to 23p per millilitre for 1985 Dom Perignon. However, if you purchase remanufactured printer cartridges you can pay as little as 10% of the printer ink price.
  10. An inkjet cartridge takes hundreds of years to biodegrade and it takes 1.5 pints of oil to make one printer cartridge. The 17 million laser cartridges recycled in Europe in 2002 resulted in the saving of 6 million litres of virgin oil which would fill three Olympic sized swimming pools.

22 December 2004

STEVENSON BACKS PARLIAMENTARY MOTION PRAISING FISHING DOCUMENTARY

Banff and Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has signed his colleague, Mr Richard Lochhead’s Parliamentary Motion praising the recent success of the documentary ‘Gutted’.

Commenting on the issue, Mr Stevenson said:

“I was thrilled to learn that ‘Gutted’ was triumphant at the recent BAFTA Scotland awards and congratulations must go to all those concerned in producing the documentary and its stars.

“Due to the sheer volume of praise the documentary received, I would urge the BBC to repeat the programme in Scotland and screen it throughout the United Kingdom following its success.”

20 December 2004

Calls for MSPs to Give Greater Protection to NHS Staff

EMERGENCY WORKERS BILL MUST GIVE UNIVERSAL PROTECTION

Shadow Health Minister Ms Shona Robison MSP and SNP MSP for Banff and Buchan Mr Stewart Stevenson have today (Monday) welcomed the statement from the BMA, RCN and Royal College of Midwives that supports the SNP amendment to the Emergency Workers (Scotland) Bill, which calls for legislation to be extended to protect all NHS staff.

Commenting, Ms Robison said:

"The SNP has long campaigned for the Emergency Workers Bill to be extended to protect all NHS staff.

"Every employee has the right to go to work without threat of abuse or attack and this is why the Executive must award all front line staff the same rights.

"We continue to hear of nurses that are attacked in the workplace just for trying to do their job and this is why better safeguards must be put in place as soon as possible."

Speaking later Mr Stevenson said:

"My amendment to the Bill would ensure greater rights for all. There should be universal protection for staff, whether they work in the emergency services or indeed other areas of the NHS.

"This statement from the BMA, RCN and Royal College of Midwives simply proves that greater security is needed and I hope that it will spur MSPs from across the political spectrum to vote to support our NHS staff."

17 December 2004

STEVENSON BACKS PARLIAMENTARY MOTION FOCUSING ON IMPORTANCE OF SCOTTISH HISTORY

Banff and Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has signed his parliamentary colleagues’ Mr Stewart Maxwell and Mr Richard Lochhead’s motions, highlighting the importance of teaching Scottish history in our primary and secondary schools.

Commenting on the issue, Mr Stevenson said:

“The subject of Scottish history should be way up in schools’ curriculum such as the basics of maths and English. It is of huge importance that our children are taught the history of their country and the contribution of its citizens to European and World culture and civilisation.

“We must recognise the educational and cultural benefits of promoting Scottish history from ancient to modern times in our schools and note that this will allow pupils a greater understanding of Scotland in European and global contexts. Furthermore, encouraging a balanced perspective.

“Every child in Scotland should be taught Scottish History until at least the age of fourteen. They should all be made aware of our greatest achievements. It is time that the subject of Scottish history was given more recognition and viewed as an essential element of the education system.

“The Scottish Executive should investigate the level of Scottish history taught in our schools with a view to attaching greater importance to the subject.”

14 December 2004

INVERNESS JAIL REMAINS ONE OF SCOTLAND’S MOST OVERCROWDED

DAMNING INDICTMENT OF EXEC FAILURE TO TACKLE OVERCROWDING

Shadow Deputy Justice Minister Mr Stewart Stevenson MSP has today (Tuesday) accused the Justice Minister of burying her head in the sand about overcrowding in Scotland’s jails after a report into Inverness Prison from HM Inspectorate of Prisons stated that “Inverness is always one of Scotland’s most overcrowded prisons”

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“This is the next in a long line of reports from the HMIP that condemns the state of Scottish prisons.

“Time and time again we hear about overcrowding in jails and time and time again, the Executive refuse to act.

“While progress has been made at the prison in some areas, it is clear that this is more a result of the work of staff, not the Scottish Executive.

“Overcrowding makes it even more difficult to try and rehabilitate prisoners and in a jail where the number of inmates is contracted out to the SPS to deal with almost 50 percent more people than it should have this will be made increasingly difficult.

"Andrew McLellan's report is a damning indictment of the Scottish Executive's continuing failure to reduce prison overcrowding, and it’s time for the Minister to stop burying her head in the sand and take action.

“Therefore, the Justice Minister must bring forward her capital spending plans for the next round of prison upgrades as soon as possible.”

11 December 2004

Stewart Stevenson MSP Visits Royal Mail Peterhead at Christmas

Stewart Stevenson MSP will visited Royal Mail’s Peterhead Delivery Office on Saturday to see the festive operation in full swing on what is anticipated will be Royal Mail’s busiest weekend.

Stewart Stevenson will be welcomed at Peterhead delivery office by managers Garry Saunders and Alan Young and all the postmen and women who are working hard doing their bit to sort and deliver Peterhead’s share of the estimated Scottish Christmas postbag of 250 million items.

Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

"I’m looking forward to visiting the Peterhead Delivery Office once again to meet the staff there and see the scale of the operation. I have visited all the Royal Mail Delivery Offices in Banff & Buchan since I was elected in 2001 and this has turned into something of an annual engagement for me.

“I never fail to be impressed by the commitment of the staff to moving the absolute mountain of mail they deal with at this time of year.”

Garry Saunders, Delivery Manager said:

“Christmas is the busiest time of year, and our people really do pull out all the stops throughout the year to ensure mail is delivered quickly but even more so over the busy festive period. So we are pleased that Mr Stevenson will be coming along to Royal Mail to see first hand the hard work that goes on behind the scenes.”

Alan Young, Delivery Manager added:

“The postal staff do a fantastic job at this time of year to ensure that friends and families stay in touch through their Christmas greetings and gifts. And as usual, we urge our customers to post early so that friends and family have longer to enjoy their Christmas greetings!”


Royal Mail is expecting to deliver over 18.5 million letters and cards in the AB postcode area throughout this Christmas. The operation will involve more than 1,350 postal staff, backed by 140 seasonal workers, plus an extra 73 vehicles on top of the 332 strong transport fleet. On top of vehicles the area also uses 207 bicycles. There are 1010 postboxes to post Christmas cards.

The busiest day for Royal Mail this year is likely to be Monday, December 13.

10 December 2004

MSP Joins Forces with Scottish Gas to Help Local Carers' Charity

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has joined forces with Scottish Gas to bring assistance to local charity Crossroads Caring for Carers.

On Friday at Crossroads Caring for Carers, 12 Frithside Street, Fraserburgh, Stewart Stevenson and Colin Bruce from Scottish Gas handed over a gift of five computers to the charity courtesy of Scottish Gas.

Speaking in Fraserburgh, Stewart Stevenson said:

“Crossroads contacted me during the summer asking if I could assist with the expansion of the service they provide to carers in the local area. An upgrade to their computers and systems had been estimated at £3500, which is a huge sum for a voluntary organistion.

“I contacted Scottish Gas to see if they could assist and I was delighted by their positive response.”

Crossroads Manager Elizabeth Eyre commented:

“Crossroads provides respite breaks for people caring at home. This gives the carer a much needed break and the donation of the computers will allow us to improve our administration and the service we provide to carers.

“We do not normally have money available for the purchase of equipment and do rely heavily on donations for this purpose. All income is spent on providing care and therefore very little if any is left over for this purpose.

“We are extremely grateful to Scottish Gas for giving us this kind donation and allowing the organisation to expand its service. Without donations like this we would not be able to keep up with technology. We would also like to thank our MSP Stewart Stevenson for his help and support for our organisation.”

Colin Bruce, Scottish Gas Service Manager for Grampian and the Highlands, added:

“Scottish Gas has been working in partnership with Carers Scotland for the past six years, so we are delighted to provide these computers to Crossroads as part of our continuing programme of practical community investment.

“They have become available as part of the constant upgrading of equipment used by the company, and we have ensured that they are fully operational with many years’ life left.

“Scottish Gas’ work with Carers Scotland has enabled us to understand the many challenges that carers face in their day to day lives, and to recognise that it can be very difficult to combine work and care. Our policies enable carers to take advantage of flexible working hours, planned leave, emergency leave and career breaks. We’ve found that even the smallest adjustments, such as providing access to a telephone, can make a real difference.”

8 December 2004

Local MSP Attends Longside Park Opening

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson attended the Opening Ceremony of the Longside Community Park Project, Inn Brae, Longside on Saturday.

Members of the Longside Community Park Project attended the successful ‘Lottery Funding Roadshow’ which was arranged by Mr Stevenson earlier this year in an effort to attract more lottery applications from te area and to allow local groups and organisations direct access to advice from the funding providers.

Mr Stevenson commented:

“I am delighted that Longside Community Park Project were successful in their second attempt at securing lottery funding.

“It just goes to show that determination does pay off in the end and I would encourage other local groups to persevere and ensure that more and more lottery money finds its way to Buchan.

“I think the organisers are to be congratulated on this excellent initiative and should provide much enjoyment for the people of Longside and district.”

Stevenson Backs Parliamentary Action Highlighting Excess Winter Deaths

Banff and Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has signed his colleague, Margaret Ewing’s Parliamentary Motion on the issue of excess winter deaths.

Commenting on the issue, Mr Stevenson said:

“I have a growing concern of this issue as it is becoming all too familiar. It is not pleasant to learn that, despite an assortment of hard work to lessen fuel poverty, excess winter deaths still persist in rising.

"Some of the most vulnerable people in our society are being forced to suffer and have been offered little support from this government. We should be doing everything we can to ease the financial strain on our elderly population, so that they can live comfortably, in warm housing without the fear of being unable to heat their homes during the colder months.

“I believe that this is a shocking trend which must be reversed at the earliest opportunity via the implementation of additional measures. The Scottish Executive should not delay in reviewing the effectiveness of existing schemes as it is nothing short of irresponsible to have thousands of elderly people dying each year simply because of the colder weather.”

2 December 2004

EXEC CRITICISED OVER PRISON OVERCROWDING

TIME MINISTERS STOPPED BURYING THEIR HEADS IN THE SAND

Shadow Deputy Justice Minister Mr Stewart Stevenson MSP has today (Wednesday) accused the Scottish Executive of failing local communities after a report from the HM Inspectorate of Prisons found that overcrowding in Scottish jails means that inmates are not being fully rehabilitated for release.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“The Executive has been warned time and time again that the conditions in Scotland’s jails are abysmal.

“This is the second report in a matter of weeks that is highly critical of prison conditions and the government needs to start acknowledging that there is a problem.

“Convicted criminals need to be fully rehabilitated before they are released from prison so that the public will not be put at risk from inmates re-offending, but this cannot happen if jails are massively overcrowded.

“The Executive has refused to address the situation and as a result we are finding more and more cases being brought against them by inmates complaining about conditions, all of which is at the taxpayer’s expense.

“It’s time for Ministers to get a grip of the situation instead of burying their heads in the sand otherwise I fail to see how prison conditions will improve.”

1 December 2004

LOCAL PARLIAMENTARIANS BACKING CARERS RIGHTS DAY

Banff & Buchan representatives Alex Salmond MP and Stewart Stevenson MSP are backing this year’s Carers Rights Day on Friday 3rd December which will see the Peterhead-based Carers’ Centre organise a special ‘carers’ rights day’.

The event will take place at the Waterside Inn, Fraserburgh Road, Peterhead and officials from The Pension Service, Citizens Advice and Crossroads amongst others will be on hand to offer advice on a range of issues.

The campaign has been organised by Carers Scotland and Carers UK and the day is essentially a focus for national and local activity aiming to make Carers aware of their entitlements.

Commenting on the initiative, Mr Salmond said:

“Currently there are more than 660,000 carers in Scotland and the important role they play in the country is not given the sufficient recognition. Many carers are family members and do not regard themselves as carers. They are often not aware of their entitled to benefits nor of the wide range of support that might be available.

“Carers Scotland and Carers UK must, therefore, be congratulated on organising Carers Rights Day which has proved so successfully over the last four years.

“I very much welcome the activities being organised locally by the Carers’ Centre.”

Mr Stevenson, who recently visited local groups to highlight volunteering as part of ‘Make A Difference’ Day added:

“I am delighted that this event has been arranged and I am pleased to be taking part. Carers deserve our recognition for the work which they do and there will be a range of agencies present on the day to provide advice and assistance to ensure that carers are getting all the help which is rightfully theirs.”

SALMOND & STEVENSON WELCOME BOOST FOR BEEF SECTOR

Banff & Buchan representatives Stewart Stevenson MSP and Alex Salmond MP have welcomed the announcement from the Government that it is to end the Over Thirty Month Scheme (OTMS) for cattle.

Both SNP members have been pressing for the lifting of the scheme. Mr Stevenson raised the matter with Ross Finnie at a meeting early last month and Mr Salmond has been lobbying Ministers in London and has tabled Parliamentary Questions on the subject.

Welcoming the news, Mr Stevenson said:

“Farmers in my constituency will very much welcome this news and I am delighted for the industry that the Over Thirty Month Scheme is to end, for which my constituents have been pushing for some time.

“The scheme cost a ridiculous amount of money per animal as well as a substantial loss to the farmer over the beef price. In reality, the ending of the scheme should have been announced long before now if the Government had heeded the advice of the Food Standards Agency.

“As a next step, we need the Scottish Executive to support moves to reclaim our former overseas markets once full export status is achieved and to get Scotch Beef back on the dinner plates of Europe.”

Mr Salmond added:

“I am pleased that the Government have finally agreed to act after all the lobbying and pressure from farmers, politicians and the NFU.

“We have an excellent high-quality product in Scotch Beef and the best beef is of course produced right here in the North-east. I am therefore keen to see the moves announced by the Government implemented as quickly as possible so that maximum benefit can begin to accrue to North-east farmers.”

30 November 2004

STEVENSON CALLS ON GOVERNMENT TO ‘SHOP LOCAL’

Local SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson has called on the Government to be more supportive of ‘home-grown’ and ‘home-produced’ food during a debate in the Scottish Parliament.

The MSP was supporting an SNP amendment in Parliament which supported a public procurement policy that ensures where possible that food is sourced locally.

Speaking during the debate, Mr Stevenson said:

“Although supermarkets dominate the market, the biggest buyer of food is the Government through its various arms and agencies. The Government should be doing more to support our primary producers.

“In that respect, I make no apology for returning to the subject of pork. Although our welfare standards for pork production are incredibly high, standards in the rest of the EU – the free market within which we operate – are not so high. What happens? Because produce is cheaper in other countries, the Government and others buy from there. The Government needs to address that matter.”

Speaking afterwards, Mr Stevenson added:

“Sourcing food locally is all about maximising the benefit to local producers and processors, reducing ‘food miles’, supporting the local economy and, perhaps above all else, getting a quality product. The North-east is renowned for the quality of its meat, seafood and other produce and our farmers, fishermen and producers deserve our support.”

26 November 2004

Banff Referendum a Step Closer

With the availability of the new electoral register at the beginning of December, Stewart Stevenson MSP is stepping up preparation for his consultation with Banff and Macduff residents on proposed developments.

Speaking in Banff, Mr Stevenson said,

“The detail of the work necessary to organise a fair and trustworthy referendum has been greater than I had anticipated. In fairness my colleague Alex Salmond MP warned me that I might have bitten off more than I could chew. But I am now in position to move ahead.

“Obviously we would all have preferred to have moved sooner and with knowledge of Tesco's detailed proposals. But we should not wait any longer.

“Of course the result of the vote cannot bind the Council or Scottish Executive who will have to make the decisions. But it will be a significant input to their decision-making process.

“The sensible dates would seem to be a Friday and Saturday towards the end of January. We need a suitable question to ask and I putting up my own suggestion so that people can respond with feedback.

“Failing any significant change in circumstances, the referendum is now on.”

24 November 2004

STEVENSON WELCOMES EXTRA TOURISM PROMOTION FUNDS

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed a new initiative from Visit Scotland, which will make additional funds available to tourism businesses across Scotland annually. The Visit Scotland Challenge Fund is designed to help the promotion of tourism.

Mr Stevenson said of the scheme:

“Tourism already contributes well over £4 billion per annum to the Scottish Economy. It is also an important part of the North-east economy. Tourist enterprises have been hit hard over the past few years due to foot and mouth and this summer’s poor weather.

"It is crucial therefore that Visit Scotland, Scotland’s main tourist promotion body, makes further resources available to those involved in tourist industries.

"I understand from Visit Scotland that groups of businesses will be encouraged to work together to access the fund to generate all year round tourism. The Fund will provide an excellent incentive for businesses to work together on a specific promotion.

"Grants of £2,500 to £50,000 will be available for proposals from groups of businesses. They will also benefit from building on Visit Scotland’s marketing activity.

“There will be an application round in February and June and funds can be used for marketing activities such as direct mail, exhibitions, online communications or market research.

“Those looking to apply should contact their local tourism office in the first instance to discuss their project. These local offices can also assist with helping to develop the project and offer advice on completing the application form.

“I would encourage people to apply and I hope that this will go some way to assisting tourist-related businesses in my constituency.”

STEVENSON SLAMS PROPOSED CUTS IN LOCAL BENEFITS SERVICES

Banff and Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has signed his colleague, Brian Adam’s Parliamentary Motion expressing concern about the impact of proposed cuts by the Department of Work and Pensions in local provision of benefits advice.

Commenting on the issue, Mr Stevenson said:

“Should the proposed cuts go ahead, then it is unfortunate that the outcome will most likely be a likely reduction in benefits uptake by many vulnerable people which is a great shame. What I find deplorable is the unfair geographical spread of the cuts, leaving Grampian, Tayside and Fife without any local offices whatsoever.

“As a result, there shall be a consequential increased workload that will fall on local authority and voluntary sector money advice services, when they already work to capacity and are in huge demand.

“I feel that the Scottish Executive should make representations to protect the interests and incomes of the vulnerable in Scotland. More must be done to ensure that those in society that have the greatest need still have access to appropriate local advice and assistance.”

23 November 2004

STEVENSON WELCOMES FALLEN STOCK SCHEME

Banff & Buchan SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the commencement of the National Fallen Stock Scheme this week.

The Scheme has been introduced as a result of new regulations which ban the routine burial of fallen livestock on the farm. Local farmers have been keen to see the scheme introduced and have raised the matter previously with Mr Stevenson, asking him to keep pressurising the Government in an effort to get a start date.

Commenting on the scheme’s introduction, Mr Stevenson said:

“It has been a rather tortuous journey but I am pleased that there is now a scheme in place, which also has a 30 per cent discount to farmers.

“I will now be keeping a close eye on how the scheme operates and trust that there are no further difficulties for local farmers with the scheme.”

17 November 2004

ABERDEEN PRISON REPORT PROVES EXEC’S SHODDY LEADERSHIP

Shadow Deputy Justice Minister Mr Stewart Stevenson MSP has today (Wednesday) said that the HM Inspectorate of Prisons report into conditions at Aberdeen Prison were further proof of the Executive’s lack of action to improve conditions in Scottish jails.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“While some progress has been made at Aberdeen prison, this is more a result of the work of staff than action from the Scottish Executive.

“The Executive has already been challenged over human rights issues because of the state of our prisons and this is yet another example of shoddy leadership.

“One quarter of inmates are unable to provide a negative test for drugs which is worrying enough but the fact that the building itself is substandard is cause for greater concern.

“Windows that are broken cannot be replaced due to a lack of funds and instead are filled with wooden blocks that are clearly not fit for purpose. This combined with severe overcrowding could cause the Executive further problems.

“This situation is untenable and the Executive must stop burying their heads in the sand pretending that the problem will go away, otherwise my greatest concern is that we won’t of seen the last of compensation claims from prisoners.”

MSP BACKS PARLIAMENTARY CALL FOR EFFECTIVE DIABETES TREATMENT

Banff and Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has backed a Parliamentary motion noting the worrying rising number of people with diabetes in Scotland as evidenced in the recent report from Diabetes UK Scotland, Diabetes in Scotland and the UK 2004.

Speaking on the issue, Mr Stevenson said:

“The recent report informs that that there are 148,000 people in Scotland diagnosed with diabetes, which is a rise of 28,000 since 1996. It is also worrying to learn that at least 65,000 people in Scotland are undiagnosed, as highlighted in the report, and that this number is growing year-on-year. In addition, it is concerning to discover that many are unaware of the risk of death from insulin deficiency.

“Recognition must be given that diabetes is associated with chronic ill-health, disability and premature mortality and that long-term complications, including heart disease, strokes, blindness, kidney disease and amputations, make the greatest contribution to the costs of diabetes care. And many of these long-term effects could be avoided with earlier detection and more effective treatment.

“More needs to be done to get the message across that diabetes is not a mild condition. Diabetes is in fact one of the most serious health issues facing Scotland and the rest of the UK today and if society keeps on ignoring its importance we could be facing a potential health time-bomb."

10 November 2004

STEVENSON BACKS CALL FOR ACTION ON BEEF BAN

ACT ON FOOD STANDARDS AGENCY ADVICE BY LIFTING THE OVER 30 MONTHS SCHEME

Scotland's Farming and Public Health Ministers Ross Finnie and Andy Kerr are being urged to act on the advice of the Food Standards Agency and lift the ban on beef exports. The call by Highland MSP Fergus Ewing is being backed by Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson, who was accompanied by Mr Ewing at a meeting with Ross Finnie last week.

Commenting, Fergus Ewing said:

"The Food Standards Agency is independent of Government. It was set up to be the public watchdog on food and the guardian risks to public health. It has told Ministers 4 months ago that the Over Thirty Months (OTM) rule can be replaced in two stages with BSE testing of cattle older then 30 months. Yet the Government have failed to act on this advice, apparently because the English Chief Medical Officer disagrees with the FSA.

"The problem is not in Brussels but in London: there is no barrier in the EU. Brussels recognise that the UK are at the same risk status as rest of the continent, but the UK is the only state in Europe with domestic and export restrictions on beef. Many farmers think that it is disgraceful that the UK Government is prepared to spend £400 million on a scheme which is unnecessary.

“My constituent Mr Ruaridh Ormiston, of Ormiston Highlands, breeders of Highland Cattle has told me that even now with the ban in place there were foreign buyers from Denmark and Germany who attended the Highland cattle sales last month, and some of whom apparently bought up stock with the ban still in place, leaving the beasts in the care of Scottish breeders.

“He has pointed out that the OTM scheme costs a ridiculous £1,200 per animal to the government as well as a substantial loss to the farmer over the beef price and subsequent replacement costs.

“Surely we should let London run our policy when the independent watchdog, the FSA says that it is not necessary to continue with the ban? And of course, even when it is lifted, it will take a long time to re-establish trade links which were lost - and so the sooner the ban is lifted the sooner that hard work can begin.

“I am challenging Mr Finnie to make it clear to Westminster that we all prefer there should be a lifting of the ban for all the UK - but if they refused, we should use the powers of devolution to the benefit of our own farming community. If he does so, and speaks up for Scotland, he will surely maximise the pressure for common sense to prevail in England as well.”

Stewart Stevenson added:

“The OTM scheme is one of the issues that is frequently mentioned to me by farmers and was raised with me again at the recent ‘Farmers’ Forum’ in Turriff which I organised.

“It is quite clear that the current situation is unsustainable and the Government, be it in Westminster or Edinburgh, must make progress on this issue very soon.”

4 November 2004

STEVENSON WELCOMES NEW CROSS-PARTY GROUP ON FOOD

MSP ASTONISHED AS GREENS ATTACK LOCAL PRODUCER

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the new Cross-Party Group on Food which was formed at a meeting in the Scottish Parliament last night.

The SNP MSP has been a long-time supporter of initiatives to highlight local food and produce and to support local food producers. Last month, Mr Stevenson visited Downies of Whitehills with Euro-MP Ian Hudghton to highlight Scottish Food Fortnight.

Speaking from his Scottish Parliament office, Mr Stevenson said:

“The formation of this new Cross-Party Group is a welcome development and one which I wholeheartedly support. Among non-MSPs at our inaugural meeting, we had a wealth of knowledge and expertise from across various organisations charged with food promotion and encouraging healthy eating and I hope that local food producers will be able to come to future meetings and tell MSPs first-hand of their experiences in the marketplace.

“I was particularly pleased that our first speaker was Ian Sandison of Aberdeenshire Council who is in charge of sourcing food for the council’s schools. The council certainly seem to have made good progress in supporting local producers and that is exactly the sort of attitude I wish to see in the public sector.

“However, the one sour note of the event was when Green Party leader Eleanor Scott stated that schoolchildren should be encouraged not to drink the excellent water and water products which are produced locally by Sangs of Macduff and are now available to schoolchildren in Aberdeenshire Council’s schools.

“This was a quite astonishing statement to make in view of the fact that these products are produced by a successful local company and are infinitely more healthy for children than certain brands of cola I could mention. The Greens need to think again about how they view our successful local food and drink producers if they wish to be taken seriously.”

3 November 2004

FINNIE GIVES STEVENSON COMMITMENT ON CATTLE PASSPORTS

Banff & Buchan SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson has been given a commitment by Rural Affairs Minister Ross Finnie that he will look at including more genetic information on cattle passports as a means of reducing the amount of red tape farmers will encounter under the national beef envelope scheme.

Presently, cattle passports issued by the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) contain details of the animal’s parents, but beef envelope regulations require confirmation of the animal’s genetic origin from the previous generation. Local farmers have complained to Mr Stevenson that the cattle passports do not contain the information needed for the beef envelope and will result in more paperwork for farmers.

At a meeting with Ross Finnie in Edinburgh this week, the Minister gave an assurance to the SNP MSP that he would look into the situation with a view to getting this information included on the passport.

Welcoming this commitment, Mr Stevenson said:

“While we may disagree on the implementation of the national beef envelope, Ross Finnie took on board the point made to me on numerous occasions by local farmers that the cattle passports were inadequate for the amount of information required on genetics to comply with the beef envelope.

“I am pleased that the Minister saw the validity of the argument put to me by local farmers and I trust that his discussions with BCMS will result in at least one less piece of paperwork for farmers in my constituency.”

30 October 2004

Stevenson Visits Home-Start Deveron

Banff and Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson paid a visit to Home-Start Deveron in Banff earlier today as he participated in CSV Make a Difference Day.

CSV Make a Difference Day remains the UK’s biggest single day of volunteering action and activities range from environmental clean-ups to integrated events involving children with learning difficulties, and from special tea parties arranged for older people to complete renovation and renewal of community facilities.

Home-Start Deveron volunteers provide support for families with young children who are experiencing difficulties, providing friendship, practical help and support.

Speaking in Banff after his visit, Mr Stevenson said:

“I was pleased to meet with a number of volunteers who are providing this valuable service. Home Start Deveron’s recent move to their new premises has resulted in more volunteers coming in and they have been able to increase the work they do and I congratulate them on this achievement.”

28 October 2004

STEVENSON SECURES FINNIE ASSURANCE ON CONSULTATION WITH FISHERMEN

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has secured an assurance from Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Ross Finnie that working fishermen be consulted during the Fisheries Council in Brussels in December before any significant decision affecting them were made. The SNP MSP challenged Mr Finnie at Question Time in the Scottish Parliament today.

Speaking afterwards Mr Stevenson said:

"After last year's debacle over area boundaries, where a brief glance of the map by any working fisherman would have revealed them to be impractical and incorrect, this is a move in the right direction.

"I welcome the plans from the Minister to work more closely with working fishermen this year

"Only by ensuring that real life experience is part of the decision making process will we avoid such obvious errors in the future.

"But until fishermen and their communities are allowed to wrest control of their destiny from the EU's pernicious Common Fisheries Policy the threat to our vital industry remains.”

27 October 2004

STEVENSON BACKS PARLIAMENTARY ACTION RAISING AWARENESS OF ENERGY EFFICIENCY WEEK

Banff and Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has signed a Parliamentary Motion highlighting the importance of Energy Efficiency Week which runs from Monday 25th October to Sunday 31st October.

Speaking on the issue, Mr Stevenson Said:

“The Energy Efficiency Week which is organised by the Energy Savings Trust, is very important indeed. In society today, many people are failing to link energy use with its effect on the environment and that every year thousands of tonnes of extra carbon dioxide are produced to create energy that is consequently wasted.

“The time has come for each and everyone of us to get involved in saving energy by turning off lights in unoccupied rooms and turning off at the plug electrical appliances that are not being used.

“It is worth being reminded that a great deal of change is possible through the carrying out of the simplest of tasks.”

Local Minister's Sermon in Scottish Parliament

Rev Pauline Steenbergen, temporary Minister at St Fergus, Crimond and Lonmay Parish Churches delivered ‘Time for Reflection’ in the Scottish Parliament yesterday (Wednesday). Rev Steenbergen was welcomed to Parliament by local MSP Stewart Stevenson. The text of her sermon follows:

The Rev Pauline Steenbergen: Speaking on the radio, an Iraqi woman living in Glasgow burst open my sleepy eyes. "Your country is stunningly beautiful," she said. "Every day here, I see new shades of green." Those comments opened my eyes and changed the way in which I saw my own land. Look out of your windows and see a stunning Scotland in full-blast autumn colour today.

There is plenty of beauty in rough, rugged Buchan, where I live. Not wild waves, biting winds and thick haar, but the people, language and culture are its treasure. Every day at bus stops, in playgrounds and in post offices, we see huddles of human beings doing what they call in Doric "haeing a news". A rough translation is "stopping what you are doing, standing still, listening and communicating".

In Buchan, news travels fast. Where I minister, in Crimond, which is famous for writing the melody for psalm 23; in St Fergus, which is associated with the gas terminal; and in Lonmay—where the granda of Elvis was from—I often hear what is going on in my life or my manse long before it even happens.

If I stopped speaking, if we mingled for a moment in the chamber and if we reflected together, what is new for you? What letters, e-mails, phone calls or conversations burst open your eyes this morning? What is new for you in a new building and a new era? Who is new?

If you and I are truly agents of change—bringers of a new nation—what new things do we long for today, fight for this week and pray for this year for the people whom we serve and the folk whom we love? Most of all, what desires do you and I have for change deep within ourselves?

I believe in a living and creative God who brings the new to make us new. Isaiah the prophet heard God say:

"Cease to dwell on days gone by ... don't brood over past history. Here and now I will do a new thing ... it is happening already."

This autumn, something new has the power to remodel you and me and thereby refashion our Scotland. "Embrace the new whole-heartedly," Jesus said to his pals. "No one uses a new piece of cloth to patch up an old coat. No one pours new wine into fusty old wineskins." Well, Jesus did not say that, but he would have if he had been from the north-east. New wine requires new wineskins.

What will 27 October 2004 bring you and me? Let us see, hear, taste, touch and smell a Scotland where every day there are new shades of green.

26 October 2004

Buchan Minister to Lead Parliament's ‘Time for Reflection’

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson will welcome Rev Pauline Steenbergen to Holyrood this Wednesday when she will lead the Scottish Parliament in ‘Time for Reflection’ before the Parliamentary business commences.

Rev Steenbergen is currently filling in at the vacant charge of St Fergus, Crimond and Lonmay and is well known locally.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“I am delighted that Pauline will be leading the Scottish Parliament in ‘Time for Reflection’ so soon after we have moved into the new building.

“I believe also that this is the first time that the Minister from Banff & Buchan has led the prayers in Parliament so I am doubly delighted by Pauline’s attendance.

“I hope I will be able to welcome other Ministers and faith leaders from the constituency in the near future.”

25 October 2004

Almost 50% of High Court Cases not processed on Time

LITTLE COMFORT TO THOSE AFFECTED BY CRIMES - STEVENSON

Shadow Deputy Justice Minister Mr Stewart Stevenson MSP has today (Monday) said that the findings of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service Review suggest that there are still major problems with the processing of cases through the High Court, which will be of little comfort to the people who have been affected by these crimes. Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“The findings of this report suggest that there are still major problems with the processing of cases through the High Court.

“The Lord Advocate set these targets to restore the public’s faith in the judicial system, and while these may have been met in some areas, only just over half of the most serious cases have been brought to court within the 9 month guideline.

“The fact that some of the most serious cases are being delayed will be of little comfort to those who have been affected by these crimes.

“The purpose of the time limit is to prevent injustice and ensure that the Crown Office and the Procurator Fiscal Service prepare cases quickly.

“We badly need to speed up the processing of cases and ensure quicker access to justice for both the victims and those accused of the crime.”

MSP Welcomes Aberdeenshire School Report

Banff and Buchan SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson has written to the Headteacher of Mintlaw Primary School, Morag McGowan, congratulating her and her staff following the publication of the latest HM Inspector of Education (HMIe) report on Mintlaw Primary School. Commenting on the report Mr Stevenson said:

“This is an A1 report, which has been achieved due to the immense dedication and enthusiasm of the headteacher and staff at Mintlaw primary. The school is leading the way in providing a very high standard of education.

“Numerous key strengths were identified during the report and I am sure that the efforts of all involved at the school has not gone unnoticed by parents, nor the wider community.

“The school is a prime illustration of what can be attained, and I am sure that Mintlaw Primary will go from strength to strength.”

22 October 2004

MSPs' Farmers Surgery Highlights Rising Costs

LOCHHEAD & STEVENSON PLEDGE TO TAKE UP LOCAL ISSUES

Shadow Rural Affairs Minister and North East SNP MSP Richard Lochhead and Banff and Buchan SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson have hailed their farmers surgery earlier this week in Turriff a success. Farmers from across Banff and Buchan and Gordon used the opportunity to raise a range of pressing issues with the two MSPs who have in turn pledged to raise them in the Scottish Parliament with Rural Development Minister Ross Finnie. Such issues range from the rising cost of fuel and fertiliser to the need for measures to attract new entrants to the sector.

Speaking after the meeting Mr Lochhead said:

"There was unanimous concern expressed over the impact rising fuel and fertiliser costs that threaten to cripple local farming operations. One farmer told us his fuel costs had risen by 40% and fertiliser by 30% in the past year alone. No wonder, farmers are waiting nervously for their next set of accounts.

"The running sore of the beef national envelope continues and it is opposed not only by farmers that expect to lose out, but by those who expect to benefit financially and that speaks volumes about this controversial decision.

"We have also agreed to investigate the potential for biomass and biofuels as an extra source of income for farmers and a means by which they may be able to access cheaper energy in the future. Stewart Stevenson and I will be raising these issues in Parliament and also at a forthcoming meeting with Ross Finnie."

Stewart Stevenson added:

"Despite the very real challenges that face the industry, farmers are optimistic that if the policies are right then farming in the North East will prosper. However, measures have to be found to attract new entrants to the sector and to attract the necessary skills that are required in modernising farming.

"If the supermarkets were able to pass on some of their profits down the supply chain then farmers would receive more of a reward for their produce and that is something that has to be revisited. Questions arose over the effectiveness of the Code of Practice signed by the supermarkets as farmers are not all getting a bigger slice of the cake and part of every pound between the farm gate and the plate remains unaccounted for."

14 October 2004

SNP Calls for More Drugs Rehab Places

SNP Spokesperson for Drugs Policy and Prisons Stewart Stevenson today welcomed the report published today by Professor Neil McKeganey at the Centre for Drug Misuse at Glasgow University on the use of methadone when treating drug addicts.

Speaking following the publication of the report, Mr Stevenson highlighted the continuing problem of access to rehabilitation services for addicts, and stated that this must be the first priority for the Executive in this area.

He said:

"While I welcome the publication of today's report, it's clear that the major challenge in this are is the lack of places on rehabilitation programmes for drug addicts. Waiting lists for rehab places, whether they are for abstinence or methadone based programmes, continue to be a huge barrier to combating Scotland's drugs problem and the Executive should act now to sort this out."

"Treatment for addicts should be provided on the basis that each individual should get the best programme for them. But this requires a mix of different programmes across Scotland and this is simply not happening."

"For example, Prison Governors are facing budget cuts at the same time as our prison population is rising, which impacts severely on their ability to fight the scourge of drugs in prisons."

"The Executive is failing us all by its inability to provide enough rehab places."

12 October 2004

MSP Gives New Post Office Stamp of Approval

Cornhill Post Office® re-opens on Monday 18 October in the former Police Station at Knock View, Aberchirder Road, Cornhill and gets a stamp of approval from MSP for Banff & Buchan, Stewart Stevenson.

The Post Office® will be open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9.00am to 12.00pm in refurbished premises and will be run by the new sub-postmistress Mrs Veronica Irvine.

Mrs Irvine has lived locally for nearly 30 years and is well known by the local community. She will run the office from the former Police Station alongside her B&B facilities.

Stewart Stevenson MSP lives locally officially opened the new Post Office®. He said:

“This is excellent news and I am delighted that Cornhill, Ordiquhill and district is getting its Post Office back.

“Not only will the same level of services will be available as before, but Clydesdale Bank customers in the area will also be able to access their current accounts at the new Post Office. I am especially pleased for the elderly people in the area who faced a journey to Aberchirder or Portsoy to access their nearest Post Office branch.”

Helen Belford, Rural Transfer Advisor for Post Office Ltd said:

“Post Office® services are at the heart of every community, particularly in more rural locations. We work extremely hard to keep services in rural areas and wherever there has been a period of closure we do all we can to ensure customers have access to Post Office® products are services as quickly as possible.

“We are pleased Veronica has taken on this role and would like to wish her luck and encourage local people to use the Post Office® where she will be providing a full range of services. There is some work underway to ensure the pavement area outside the office is suitable for easy access and we would like to thank Mr Stevenson MSP and local councillor Jack Mair for all their efforts with this.”

8 October 2004

Stevenson Comments on Prison Inspector's Annual Report

Commenting on the publication of the Chief Inspector of Prisons Annual report this week, local MSP and Shadow Deputy Justice Minister Stewart Stevenson said that it comes as no surprise that there has been little improvement due to the blight of slopping out and prison governor’s budgets being cut.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“We have just learned that there are a record number of prisoners in our jails. So it is no surprise that HM Chief Inspector Andrew McLennan is saying that prison officers and prisoners agree that over-crowding is the number one issue in prison.

“But with slopping out still a blight on our prisons and governors’ budgets being cut it is no surprise that we see no improvement.

“One area where we can make a short term improvement for society is in the area of prisoners with drug habits. Many users only end up in prison because they cannot get a place on rehab programs.

“And those that come out with their addiction controlled through what the Inspector describes as ‘an impressive range of interventions’ often return to their chaotic lifestyles because no arrangements have been put in place for continuing treatment after release.

“It is time for real progress. The Inspector’s report repeats many of last year’s criticisms. We cannot have another year like this.

“On Peterhead Prison specifically, the cut in the Governor's budget will make it difficult to provide adequate support for the programs for which Peterhead is justly famous. Holiday periods must also be better resourced so that prisoners are not simply locked up for long periods doing nothing productive to address their behaviour.

“Ending slopping out is a priority and we must have early indication of when planning for Peterhead's new facilities will start. All in all, this report makes a compelling case once again for a new-build facility for Peterhead Prison.”

MSP’s Concerns That Water Plan Means More Red-Tape for Farmers

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has written to Rural Affairs Minister Ross Finnie with concerns that planned regulations on water abstraction for agricultural purposes will mean an increase in red-tape for farmers.

Mr Stevenson wrote recently to NFU Scotland branches in his constituency with his concerns and invited feedback. NFU Scotland nationally have made a submission to the Scottish Executive with detailed proposals for minimising the effects the planned regulations will have on farmers and Mr Stevenson has lent his support to this move.

Mr Stevenson said:

“It does strike me that this is yet another layer of administration that some farmers will be forced to deal with, which concerns me. When I was first elected, I visited a farmer who raised the subject of ‘red tape’ and administration with me and I asked him to give me a practical example by showing me the paperwork relating to one animal. The paperwork he showed me took up the entire length of his kitchen table and ever since then, I have been very conscious of the amount of time our farmers have to spend on paperwork”.

In his letter to Ross Finnie, Mr Stevenson states:

“I have had sight of the submission made to your department by NFU Scotland and can tell you that this accurately reflects the views of those farmers in my constituency who have either contacted me specifically on this matter, or raised it in passing.

“I strongly suggest that the proposals to remove small farmers from the need for registration along with the requirement that controls should only be required where there are sound environmental reasons for so doing represent a common-sense approach to this issue and would urge you to take on board the concerns of farmers and the suggestions by the NFU.”

Stevenson Sits in on Children's Panel Hearing

Banff & Buchan MSP and Shadow Deputy Minister for Justice Stewart Stevenson attended a Children’s Hearing session in Aberdeen this morning at the invitation of the Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration.

The Scottish Executive is currently conducting a review of the Children’s Hearing system and Mr Stevenson was keen to see it in operation and meet with staff involved.

Commenting after the hearing, Mr Stevenson said:

“This was a very useful insight into what may actually go on at a Children’s Hearing as I suspect many people, MSPs included, do not actually have a clear picture of the processes relating to social work and juvenile justice.

“It is clear that the staff involved are striving to achieve the best possible outcome in terms of both the individual concerned and the wider community and their dedication to this shone through.

“Today’s visit has also reinforced my determination that nothing should be done which undermines the Children’s Hearing system and it has certainly given me a much better view of the work which is carried out in this regard.”

MSPs to Hold Special "Farmers' Surgery"

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson and Shadow Rural Affairs Minister Richard Lochhead MSP are to hold a special open meeting specifically for local farmers.

The SNP MSPs will be available to hear the views of local farmers on a range of issues on Monday 18 October in the Union Hotel, Turriff at 7.00pm.

Commenting on the plan, Stewart Stevenson said:

“This idea basically came about because of the wide range of farming-related issues which both Richard and myself have been dealing with over the summer.

“There are several issues causing concern at the moment to farmers such as the Beef Envelope plan and water abstraction regulations which both Richard and myself have raised with Ross Finnie. This will be an opportunity for farmers to feedback on the responses received from Ministers and to further develop the arguments we need to take to the Scottish Executive on these and other issues."

Richard Lochhead added:

“I am looking forward to this meeting, particularly since I am now the Shadow Minister for Rural Affairs.

“I am keen to engage with all sectors of the farming community to allow me to effectively represent their views in Parliament. As a North-east MSP, I have always taken a keen interest in farming issues, indeed, due to my Constituency Office being located in the Thainstone Centre I am now ideally placed to meet members of the farming community.

“The SNP continues to campaign on behalf of our rural communities and input from this meeting will be invaluable in allowing us to carry on that vital work.”

7 October 2004

Stevenson at Autism Event

Banff and Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson was guest speaker at a recent event to raise awareness of autism. Autism is a lifelong development disability that affects the way an individual communicates and relates to people around them, for which there is no cure.

Speaking at the event, Mr Stevenson said:

“Autism sufferers face all sorts of difficulties in their day to day lives as it can severley cause problems with their social interaction, their inability to read situations and the difficulty of understanding others’ feelings or experiences. Due to the fact that the exact cause of autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) is still not fully known, getting the right kind of help and support is crucial for individuals with an ASD so that they can go on to fulfill their potential.

“It is clear as we learn that many sufferers are not diagnosed until well into their teens, the area of diagnosis is an area which should be given priority. Also, once diagnosed, more has to be done in the area of post-school suport for adult sufferers so that they can be provided with a vital source of support rather than simply left to their own devices once they have completed their education.

“Obviously, more research is needed in the area of Autism and service providers such as health, education and social work need to forge together to ensure that sufferers are given every opportunity in life that most of us merely take for granted. Although the Scottish Executive do have policies regarding this subject, it is clear that not much is being delivered.

“Individual sufferers need to be consulted more as it is them who know at first hand the problems and the key issues therefore they need to be involved in the process of service provision.

“From attending this event this evening, I am pleased to hear of pilot projects which have been launched to ensure early intervention and quick diagnosis of sufferers will previal so that their needs can be met and I wish the projects every success.

“Finally, the Government need to recognise their role as it is simply unacceptable to leave the meeting the challenge of Autism to voluntary organisations who do a power of work and show immense dedication.”

Stevenson Speaks on Mental Health at SAMH Event

Banff and Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson, along with South of Scotland MSP Adam Ingram were the speakers at an event organised by the Scottish Association of Mental Health (SAMH), which focussed on the issue of mental health, highlighting the Mental Health Act which is due for implementation in April 2005.

Speaking at the event, Mr Stevenson said:

“With the recent results of a survey finding that one in four of us will be affected by mental health and the staggering statistic that Scotland has the most highest rising rate of suicide in young men within Europe, it is vital that the Mental Health Act, when implemented, does in actual fact address these very worrying facts.

“The Scottish Executive seem to believe that by simply introducing legislation they are solving all problems when this is not the case – the job is far from done once the legislation is introduced. What I find slightly worrying is the lack of trained individuals working in the field of mental health services. Today, we are seriously lacking people going in to the profession such as pyschiatric nursing and this trend needs to be addressed now. All steps must be taken to encourage people to train in the mental health service sector and to seek employment in our country once qualified. This must initially be done at school level by showing that this area of employment can be very rewarding emotionally and the importance attached to it.

“The bottom line is that there is not enough long-term thinking regarding this issue. Problems will not be solved in passing an act and trying to implement it as quickly as possible. The user of mental health services needs to be heard and their views taken into consideration and acted upon. It is vital that people who suffer in this regard are provided with on-going support.”

6 October 2004

Prison Report Shows Little Improvement

FINDINGS NO SURPRISE DUE TO SLOPPING OUT AND CUT BUDGETS 

Commenting on the publication of the Chief Inspector of Prisons Annual report today (Wednesday), Shadow Deputy Justice Minister Mr Stewart Stevenson MSP has said that it comes of no surprise that there has been little improvement due to the blight of slopping out and prison governor’s budgets being cut.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“We have just learned that there are a record number of prisoners in our jails. So it is no surprise that Andrew McLennan is saying that prison officers and prisoners agree that over-crowding is the number one issue in prison.

“But with slopping out still a blight on our prisons and governors’ budgets being cut it is no surprise that we see no improvement.

“One area where we can make a short term improvement for society is in the area of prisoners with drug habits.

“Many users only end up in prison because they cannot get a place on rehab programs.

“And those that come out with their addiction controlled through what the Inspector describes as ‘an impressive range of interventions’ often return to their chaotic lifestyles because no arrangements have been put in place for continuing treatment after release.

“It is time for real progress. The Inspector’s report repeats many of last year’s criticisms. We cannot have another year like this.”

5 October 2004

Stevenson Comments on Cabinet Reshuffle

POLICIES NEED DITCHED, NOT JUST MINISTERS

Banff & Buchan SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson has commented on the First Minister’s Cabinet reshuffle in which Malcolm Chisholm has been demoted and Andy Kerr becomes the new Health Minister.

Mr Stevenson commented:

“Only a few weeks ago, Jack McConnell’s office was insisting that there would not be a reshuffle this year. Now, after a summer dominated by public fury over failed policies – particularly hospital cuts and closures – panic has set in.

“Jack McConnell has demoted and sacked ministers but until he ditches his failed policies, the public will see little difference.

“Whether it is Malcolm Chisholm or Andy Kerr who presides over GP out-of-hours changes and lack of NHS dentists, it is the policies which led to these situations that should be axed, not just the Minister.”

4 October 2004

Stevenson Welcomes News on Scottish Agricultural College

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the news from the Principal of the Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) of the new business plan for the Craibstone facility near Aberdeen.

There had been concerns for some time now that both the Craibstone campus and Auchencruive in Ayrshire would be closed and the SAC centralised in Edinburgh.

Now, in a letter to Mr Stevenson who has been working alongside Craibstone’s MSP Brian Adam to secure its future, SAC Principal Professor W McKelvey has confirmed that education, consultancy, veterinary centre activities and a research and development team will be maintained in Aberdeen.

Mr Stevenson commented:

“In broad terms I welcome the news from the Principal about the business plan being proposed for Craibstone which sees core activities maintained and building improvements to the Ferguson Building and the Veterinary Centre.

“Where I am cautious and what I do not wish to see is several years down the line for the SAC or the Scottish Executive to come back with further proposals for downgrading or closure. That will be as unacceptable then as it is now and I want to see Craibstone flourish as a centre of excellence for North-east agriculture training and support.

“I pay tribute to the work of my SNP colleague Brian Adam, MSP for Aberdeen North, in helping to secure this commitment. I know the huge amount of work he has put into this. I would also pay tribute to the students who travelled to Edinburgh to lobby their MSPs on more than one occasion and look forward to continuing to work with them to secure the SAC for the future.”

21 September 2004

Stevenson Commends Citizens Advice Week

Banff and Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has backed a Parliamentary Motion commending the vital work of Scotland’s 77 citizens advice bureaux and supporting the recent ‘Advice Week’.

Commenting on the issue, Mr Stevenson said:

“Citizen Advice Bureaux provide a first class service, offering free, impartial and confidential advice to all and it must be remembered that this is very cost effective. In last year alone, they handled over 400,000 issues and secured nearly £26m for clients. Furthermore, they provide excellent advice on issues such as benefits, debt, employment, housing and consumer affairs, which is increasingly necessary in today's society.

“Acknowledgement must go to the fact that the use of client evidence means that citizens advice bureaux speak with authority and relevance on changing social issues from both a local and national perspective. Both paid members and volunteers deserve recognition for the power of good that they do via their tireless efforts and the giving generously of their time to ensure that a high level of service, which has come to be expected, is maintained.

“In Banff & Buchan, we are fortunate to have an excellent local CAB providing a valuable service and I am pleased to be supporting Advice Week in this way.”

20 September 2004

Stevenson Comments on Reliance Proposal

Commenting on proposals by the Scottish Prison Service to have Reliance escort prisoners from Peterhead on supervised home visits as part of their preparation for release, local MSP and opposition spokesperson on prisons Stewart Stevenson said:

“Reliance cannot be trusted to undertake this very sensitive task. Their track record to date gives no confidence that they can replace trained professional Scottish Prison Service staff.

“When prisoners are returning to their communities for supervised home visits prior to release it must be done in the company of prison officers who know and understand the risks associated with the individual prisoner concerned.

“The alternative is to return prisoners to their communities after long sentences with no experience of the outside world. This carries with it the very real risk that all the excellent work done inside prison fails to connect with real life on the outside and I have written to the Justice Minister insisting that SPS staff are present on home visits.”

17 September 2004

Local MSP's Support for Scottish Food Fortnight

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson is encouraging local food producers and retailers to get involved in Scottish Food Fortnight, which starts tomorrow (Saturday).

The SNP MSP will be accompanied by Ian Hudghton MEP on a visit to Downies of Whitehills on Tuesday next week to highlight the excellent seafood products available and produced locally. Mr Hudghton will also visit Aberdeenshire Larder on Monday in Ellon with local councillor Alan Cameron as part of Scottish Food Fortnight.

Speaking from his Constituency Office, Mr Stevenson said:

“Banff & Buchan is home to some of the very best of Scottish produce from the harvest of the sea to the produce of the rich Buchan land and is synonymous with quality.

“Scottish Food Fortnight is all about increasing awareness that local Scottish food is of the highest quality and meets rigorous safety standards. Buying locally produced food also helps reduce ‘food miles’, strengthens local food networks and helping create a spin-off for farm shops, rural producers and processors and independent shops.

“With an abundance of local bakeries, quality butchers who can trace their meat back to the farmer and fish and seafood shops right on our doorsteps, we really need to make the most of them and give our tastebuds and our families a treat by getting into the habit of getting out of the supermarkets and into the small independent retailers where quality is the watchword.

“I’m very excited by the possibilities that events like Scottish Food Fortnight opens up for local producers and I’m proud to be playing my part in promoting it.”

16 September 2004

Stevenson Comments on Holyrood Report

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has today commented on the Holyrood Inquiry Report published by Lord Fraser.

Mr Stevenson said:

“Lord Fraser has clearly stated that the Holyrood project was not in 'a viable and healthy condition' when it was handed to the Scottish Parliament in June 1999 and that the Parliament was clearly misled on the real cost figures of Holyrood.

"The vast majority of the population will agree that the Parliament still has many obstacles to overcome. However, this hasn’t been helped with previous decisions such as being the wrong site by the wrong architect and being built under the wrong contractors due to the bias of Donald Dewar and his advisors against Calton Hill.

"Scotland paid a heavy price for these mistakes and for the deliberate deception and concealment for which Lord Fraser points the finger at senior civil servants. Hopefully, Scotland can move on with the key lesson of openness and transparency being learned.”

13 September 2004

Executive Spend on Agency Staff Doubles in 4 Years

MINISTER HAS NO CLUE ABOUT FULL EXTENT OF STAFF ON PAYROLL

SNP MSP for Banff and Buchan Mr Stewart Stevenson
has today (Monday) revealed that the Scottish Executive is not fully aware of how many temporary staff it employs and that the amount of money spent each year on agency staff has more than doubled since 2000, up to over 2.5 million pounds. Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

"Over the last 4 years, the amount of taxpayer’s money that has been spent on agency staff has more than doubled, and even then we cannot tell the full extent of the cost, as only people from recruitment agencies have been counted.

"It seems as though the Executive has no clue how many agency staff they have at any one time in each individual department, and indeed the true cost of employing them.

"It is totally untenable that any large organisation is completely unaware of how many people they have on their payroll, especially at a time when the Executive have admitted that there will have to be cuts made to the civil service.

"While it is understandable that from time to time temporary staff may be needed, the fact still remains that over 2.5 million pounds has been spent in the last year alone.

"The figure has steadily crept up over the last four years, and questions must be asked about why employing short term staff has become such common practice."

MSP Welcomes Finnie's Constructive Response on Field Margins

Banff & Buchan SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed a response from Agriculture Minister Ross Finnie that he has taken on board the concerns of local farmers about Cross Compliance regulations on field margins.

Mr Stevenson met with local farmers recently who expressed concern at reports that regulations stipulating that fallow margins must be left around arable fields may be brought in.

Local farmers with small acreages argued that any requirement for two metre margins around crops would disproportionately affect small farmers and those with small field enclosures.

Mr Stevenson commented:

“There was genuine concern among local farmers that any such measure would disadvantage them. In particular, arable farmers with small field sizes would have seen a bigger percentage of their land having to lie fallow than large-scale farmers with no guarantee this would have counted towards set-aside.

“Such a measure would inevitably have led to larger field sizes and the potential for boundary hedgerows to be uprooted – quite the opposite of what the Government wishes to encourage.

“I am pleased that Ross Finnie has recognised the folly of this idea and its rejection will allow farmers to continue in their role as guardians of the countryside.”

In his letter to Mr Stevenson, Ross Finnie states,

“On the issue of field margins in this context, your comments have been taken on board. I intend to make an announcement on Cross Compliance (Good Agricultural & Environmental Condition) in due course”.

9 September 2004

Moray Firth Dolphins Get MSP’s Support

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson is signing up to the Moray Firth Partnership’s campaign to help safeguard the Moray Firth bottlenose dolphin population.

Mr Stevenson will sign the ‘Dolphin Defenders’ pledge tomorrow (Friday) at Macduff Marine Aquarium, Banffshire at 11.30am.

The bottlenose dolphins living in the Moray Firth are the most northerly group in the world, but they are a fragile group and they need help to keep them safe. One of the best ways to help is to encourage everyone locally to change something about their behaviour that will help safeguard the dolphins and their environment.

The Dolphin defenders campaign, which is funded by BP, involves a number of different elements aimed at different age groups. The first initiative asks people to make a pledge, either on one of our special posters or via our website, to change something about their behaviour. Small changes can make a big difference, such as:
  • Not dropping litter and taking litter home;
  • Being careful what you flush down the toilet or sink;
  • Not hand feeding or swimming with dolphins.

8 September 2004

Stevenson Welcomes Cornhill Post Office Re-Opening

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the news that Cornhill will once again have Post Office facilities from next month.

The Banffshire village lost its Post Office in April when the local shop closed but villagers will be able to access postal and other services once again from 18 October when the new Post Office opens in the former Police Station.

Welcoming the news, Mr Stevenson – who lives just outside Cornhill – said:

“This is excellent news and I am delighted that Cornhill, Ordiquhill and district will be getting its Post Office back.

“The same level of services will be available as before and I am especially pleased for the elderly people in the area who faced a journey to Aberchirder or Portsoy to access their nearest Post Office branch.

“Our Post Offices are under threat from the Government’s desire to pay pensions and benefits direct to bank accounts but the banks have all but withdrawn from country areas. With local support, Post Offices can fill that gap and provide an essential service in each of our rural communities.”

30 August 2004

Stevenson Welcomes MLC Report on Healthy Eating as Boost for Farming

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed a report from the Meat & Livestock Commission (MLC) which highlights reductions in the fat and salt content of red meat over recent years and provides further evidence of its nutritional benefits as a boost to the local farming industry.

Mr Stevenson – whose Banff & Buchan Constituency is one of the prime meat-producing areas of the country – commented:

“Modern breeding and feeding techniques along with improved butchery methods have helped to ensure that red meat is much leaner. For example, the fat content of port has been reduced by over 30 per cent making pork in this country virtually the leanest in the world. Today, fully trimmed raw beef typically contains only 5 per cent fat.

“For those who choose to consume meat as part of a balanced diet, there are considerable nutritional benefits, bot in terms of weight maintenance and the provision of iron, zinc, B vitamins and other trace elements.

“The MLC report makes clear the improvements made in meat and meat production as people’s lifestyles change. Your local independent butcher – and there are 17 of them across Banff & Buchan – is well-placed to provide advice on this. I always buy my meat from local butchers shops for the high quality product and service they provide.”

MSP Welcomes Banffshire School Report

Banff and Buchan SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson has written to the Headteacher of Fordyce Primary School, Sheila Smith, congratulating her and her staff following the publication of the latest HM Inspector of Education (HMIe) report on Fordyce Primary School. Commenting on the report Mr Stevenson said:

“This is an absolutely glowing report, which is a great credit to the headteacher and staff at Fordyce primary. The school is providing a very high standard of education, and I am pleased also to note that the teamwork and effectiveness of the headteacher and staff in establishing partnerships with parents and the wider community has been acknowledged by HM Inspector.”

“The school is a shinning example of what can be achieved, and I look forward to visiting the school to meet staff and pupils one day soon.”

Stevenson Welcomes MLC Report on Healthy Eating as Boost for Farming

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed a report from the Meat & Livestock Commission (MLC) which highlights reductions in the fat and salt content of red meat over recent years and provides further evidence of its nutritional benefits as a boost to the local farming industry.

Mr Stevenson – whose Banff & Buchan Constituency is one of the prime meat-producing areas of the country – commented:

“Modern breeding and feeding techniques along with improved butchery methods have helped to ensure that red meat is much leaner. For example, the fat content of port has been reduced by over 30 per cent making pork in this country virtually the leanest in the world. Today, fully trimmed raw beef typically contains only 5 per cent fat.

“For those who choose to consume meat as part of a balanced diet, there are considerable nutritional benefits, bot in terms of weight maintenance and the provision of iron, zinc, B vitamins and other trace elements.

“The MLC report makes clear the improvements made in meat and meat production as people’s lifestyles change. Your local independent butcher – and there are 17 of them across Banff & Buchan – is well-placed to provide advice on this. I always buy my meat from local butchers shops for the high quality product and service they provide.”

26 August 2004

MSP's Fury at Further A90 Delay

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has reacted angrily to a response from Lib Dem Transport Minister Nicol Stephen that the Hatton Bends realignment scheme on the A90 has been delayed once again.

In a response to Mr Stevenson – who along with local MP Alex Salmond has been campaigning for the upgrade to be carried out – Nicol Stephen states that “difficulties have been experienced in the negotiations to acquire the necessary land which makes it likely that Compulsory Purchase Order procedures will require to be utilised. There have also been difficulties . . .with a nearby pipeline.”

Mr Stevenson commented:

“I have to say that I find this situation totally unacceptable. Successive Scottish Executive Transport Ministers have given varying explanations for the delay since 2000 and we appear to be no further forward.

“In April 2000, former Transport Minister Sarah Boyack advised then-MSP Alex Salmond in a Parliamentary Answer that work would commence on improving the Hatton Bends in 2001/02. At a meeting with Deputy Transport Minister Lewis Macdonald in March 2002, I was advised work would start by the end of 2002. The tender process then had to be re-advertised as only 2 contractors submitted bids and a new start date of September 2003 was given. This was then changed to October 2003 due to 'land and design problems'. Now, we appear to have an entirely new set of factors.

“I am not at all satisfied with this spectacular lack of progress from the Scottish Executive during the last four years and my constituents are most certainly not satisfied. With no local rail link into Aberdeen, a good road network is essential to keep the local economy moving and this delay is intolerable.

“I am again calling on the Transport Minister to get a grip of the situation and move heaven and earth, but mostly earth, to get this project completed as soon as possible.”

24 August 2004

Stevenson Seeks Boost For Voluntary Sector

Banff & Buchan SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson has called for the ‘compensation culture’ to be addressed before it severely inhibits the activities of local voluntary groups.

Mr Stevenson commented:

“It concerns me that it is very often the case nowadays that valuable community effort is being under-utilised because of the fear of legal claims against voluntary groups. Indeed, the so-called ‘compensation culture’ which afflicts society these days is one of the reasons why so few events are able to go ahead without public liability insurance being in place.

“The increasing cost of obtaining public liability insurance is one of the great deterrents to local community groups to stage events and it is high time that some common sense was injected back into this area.

“There are currently moves at Westminster to put a duty on event organisers to issue a ‘Statement of Inherent Risk’ to participants, and by signing up, participants accept the – usually minimal - risks involved.

“We simply cannot afford to lose so much of our voluntary activity because it is dismissed as risky in terms of the possibility of being sued.”


Mr Stevenson has written to the Scottish Executive seeking their support for voluntary activities and asking them to look at the legislation currently being considered by Westminster.

In her reply to Mr Stevenson, Communities Minister Margaret Curran states:

“I do clearly recognise the issues you raise in respect of barriers to voluntary activity in Scotland. I am committed to supporting all of those who make a valuable contribution to the people and communities of Scotland through their work in the voluntary sector and volunteering. As such, the Scottish Executive will continue to work with the voluntary sector to enable us to respond effectively to barriers to volunteering, both now and in the future.”

Stevenson Raises Farmers' Concerns On Beef Scheme With Finnie

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has written to Agriculture Minister Ross Finnie with concerns on the national beef envelope plan following meetings with farmers and NFU officials where the issue was raised as one of great concern.

Mr Stevenson commented:

“Ross Finnie must take farmers’ concerns about the effect of the Beef Envelope proposals seriously. The distorting effect will damage everyone involved in the industry and destroy our chances of re-establishing Scots Beef as a significant international product.

“That the NFU had its largest response ever to a consultation exercise with over half its members physically turning out to meetings to express their view gives some indication of the depth of feeling which exists on this subject.”


In his letter to Mr Finnie, Mr Stevenson also challenges the Minister on ignoring the results of SEERAD’s own consultation:

“I understand that SEERAD’s own consultation produced a similar result and I am disappointed therefore that you did not pay heed to the results of your own department’s consultation exercise. My farming constituents should be very interested in understanding your reasons for commissioning a consultation and then ignoring the results.”


Mr Stevenson has called on the Scottish Executive to reverse the decision to implement the scheme or, failing that, to introduce it at zero per cent in order that the expected difficulties can be identified and neutralised without causing hardship to farmers.

MSP Comments on Ministerial Visit

Commenting following the visit by Justice Minister, Cathy Jamieson MSP, to Peterhead Prison today (Tuesday), Banff and Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“This was an extremely useful visit which allowed the Minister to meet with staff, and see at first hand the fabric of the prison as well as the vital work that is done within its walls. I know that the Minister was impressed by the dedication of staff, and in particular the total culture which exists throughout the prison focussed on addressing offending behaviour.

“Peterhead plays a crucial role in the criminal justice system, a role which could not be replicated elsewhere, and I hope that the Minister will now commit to securing the long-term future of the prison and the difficult work that it does.”

10 August 2004

Local MSP Announces Annual Surgery Tour

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson has announced details of his annual surgery tour of Banff & Buchan communities.

Starting next Monday, the SNP MSP will be visiting over 40 towns and villages in his marathon surgery tour over the next two weeks. Mr Stevenson’s Mobile Office will be stopping at places as diverse as Boddam in the east and Bogton in the west and all points in between.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“My mobile surgery tour encompasses many small villages and communities and gives me first hand experience of hearing and seeing some of the issues on the ground.

“I think it is important for constituents to be able to meet their MSP in their own locality and the summer tour gives me the opportunity to get into some of the smaller communities that I may otherwise not be able to call upon.

“I always enjoy the summer tour immensely so I am very much looking forward to getting out on the road.”


The surgery tour kicks-off on Monday 16 August in New Pitsligo. Mr Stevenson will reach his milestone 250th surgery on Wednesday 18 August when he calls at Sandend.

Note: The surgery tour will take place over 5 days from 16 to 27 August. Surgeries will be held in the Scottish National Party caravan and no appointment is necessary although constituents are welcome to phone the office in advance to advise their attendance. Details of venues and times are attached and will be advertised in the local press.

5 August 2004

Audit Scotland Report Shows Gaps in NHS Information

HEALTH MINISTER MUST GIVE CLARIFICATION ON SPENDING

Shadow Deputy Health Minister Mr Stewart Stevenson MSP has today (Thursday) said that there needs to be clarification from the Health Minister about how money is being spent in the NHS after an Audit Scotland report found that while there is an increasing amount of funds being pumped into the service, more must be done to show how the money is truly benefiting patients.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“While it may be reassuring to hear that an increasing amount of money is being spent on the NHS in Scotland, what we are still unsure of is how this will truly benefit patients.

“The Auditor General has recognised that there are holes in the system and that there is an information gap surrounding the overall performance of the health service.

“There clearly needs to be a further explanation about how targets that the Executive has set will be achieved, otherwise it will be almost impossible to say for certain whether the overall performance of the health service has improved.

“The Health Minister must now make it clear about how money is being spent so that conclusions can be drawn about whether the Executive is doing what is best for Scottish patients and indeed NHS staff."

30 July 2004

Cautious Welcome To Agri-Fuel Tax Rise Halt From MSP

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has cautiously welcomed reports that a planned 2.42p per litre increase in red diesel duty has been postponed in the meantime. However, Mr Stevenson urged the UK Government to confirm that not only was this increase postponed but it would be scrapped indefinitely.

Mr Stevenson said:

“Although I welcome the postponement of this increase, due to the uncertainty of the world oil market, I am deeply concerned that this increase may be brought in by November.

“The main users of red diesel are farmers who use it on agricultural machinery and although it is substantially cheaper than diesel at the forecourt, any increase by the Treasury will hit the pockets of farmers who are still suffering from a downturn due to recent health scares like foot and mouth and the BSE crisis. Indeed some farmers are living well below the poverty line, which is appalling considering the vital role they play in this country’s economy.

“It is well known that the agricultural industry in North-east Scotland plays a vitally important part in the local economy and as the region is substantially made up of rural communities, fuel duty increases both commercial and domestic put a grave strain on these areas.

“I will therefore be urging the UK Treasury to abandon indefinitely this ill-thought out increase.”

22 July 2004

Local MSP Comments on Kirkburn Mill Jobs

Commenting on media reports concerning Kirkburn Mills in Peterhead today, local MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“I regret the loss of these local jobs and it is obviously a difficult situation for those who are employed there and their families.

“However, I am pleased that by working with the company we have secured a position where the number of job losses forecast in the press just one month ago has been halved.

“I’ll obviously continue to work with the company and the workforce to provide any assistance that they require.”

14 July 2004

Justice Minister to Visit Peterhead Prison

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has received confirmation that Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson has accepted his invitation to visit Peterhead Prison and this will take place on Tuesday 24 August.

Welcoming the news, Mr Stevenson commented:

“I am delighted that the Justice Minister has accepted my invitation to visit Peterhead Prison. This provides a first-class opportunity for the Minister to see the world-renowned work carried out in Peterhead to make the streets of Scotland safer places.

“It will also allow the opportunity to press home the irrefutable case for a new-build prison on site. If the SPS had invested in Peterhead before now, we would not have the ridiculous situation where criminals are suing the Government using public money because the courts have upheld their complaints about slopping-out.

“Tony Cameron and the Scottish Prison Service have had the solution to the problem of slopping out at Peterhead Prison on their desks for some considerable time.

“The POA and officers at Peterhead have come up with a workable solution which has passed several risk assessments and would provide prisoners with access to night sanitation. Once again we see that it is Tony Cameron and the SPS hierarchy who are intent on creating difficulties for Peterhead Prison when they should be giving the prison and the staff the support they deserve.

“I am sure that the Justice Minister will find her visit useful and will recognise where the real problem lies.”
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