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27 February 2004

Stevenson Highlights Local GP SHortage and Out-of-Hours Cover Concerns to Health Minister

Local SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson has raised concerns over a shortage of GPs in the area and out-of-hours cover with the Health Minister in Parliament.

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, Mr Stevenson said:

“I would like to speak about some local issues in my constituency, starting with GP vacancies. We have two GP vacancies in Banff; two in Fraserburgh; one and a half in central Buchan; and, on the fringes of my constituency in a practice that is used by many of my constituents, two vacancies in Turriff.

“That is a huge number of GP vacancies, and most of them have existed for more than two years. That shows the problem against which we have to consider the out-of-hours provision. I suspect that things can only get worse. Some GPs in my constituency are telling me most vigorously that they fear that we will slip into the situation that we have with dental provision. I accept that the health board has a duty to provide GPs to those who cannot find them for themselves and that no such duty exists in dentistry.

“However, given the number of GP vacancies in the area that I mentioned, there is a real problem. For Grampian NHS Board, which supports 10 per cent of Scotland's population, but receives only 9 per cent of health service funding, the provision of out-of-hours cover is a particular problem, given the rurality of the area. It is likely that costs for providing the service in Grampian will rise faster than they will in urban areas. There is no sign that the money that is provided will solve that problem.

“My father was a GP. He used to have Dr Wilson come down from St Fillans to Cupar every year to be his locum. It is not without relevance that Dr Wilson was the grandson of David Livingstone - today we are looking for some new missionaries to fill the gaps in rural areas. The key point is that my father had to pay 17 per cent of his income to Dr Wilson each year to cover a gap of 7 per cent of his time.

“Out-of-hours cover is expensive relative to everything else. We are coming up to the deadline. We do not know how the out-of-hours service will be provided and serviced. When I met representatives of NHS Grampian a few weeks ago, I found that the plans were pretty fluid. GPs are concerned that the change in the contract will lead to their referring more injuries to accident and emergency units because they will not be paid to deal with them. That puts GPs in a difficult position.

“GPs in my constituency want categorical assurance that there will be money for personnel to provide out-of-hours care. They want to know how we are going to address the problem in our rural areas. It is clear that transport will be a big issue. We need to hear from the minister what his proposals are to deal with the situation.”

Executive Buckling on Designated Ports


“STRONG PRESSURE FROM SNP IN EDINBURGH AND LONDON”

Commenting on reports today [Friday] that the Scottish Executive may be increasing the number of designated ports where whitefish can be landed, the Scottish National Party’s Shadow Fisheries Minister Richard Lochhead MSP said:

“The SNP have consistently pressed for the ridiculous rules restricting the number of designated ports to be changed, and it appears that the Scottish Executive are now buckling under intense pressure.

“I raised this issue in the Scottish Parliament as recently as Wednesday. There is nothing confirmed yet, but reports suggest that Whitehills, Wick and Arbroath may be added to the list of designated ports. In addition, Macduff and other small whitefish ports should also be included, which are currently being discriminated against.”


SNP Westminster leader and local MP Alex Salmond– who along with his SNP colleagues Mike Weir MP (Arbroath) and Angus Robertson MP (Moray) met with UK Fisheries Minister Ben Bradshaw on Monday to discuss this issue – said:

“As well as the viability of the fishing industry, this is also about safety at sea. At present, we have the ludicrous situation that a boat finding itself in difficulty must steam to a designated port. This can lead to boats having to sail for many miles in treacherous conditions.

“If the rules are to be changed – as they must – then they must be changed now. It is intolerable that safety at sea should be compromised for one day longer because of an unintended consequence of last December’s disastrous fisheries deal in Brussels.”


Arbroath SNP MP Mike Weir said:

“I am heartened by the reports that the Executive are finally giving serious consideration to the views and concerns of local fishermen. The flaws in the permit scheme are potentially very dangerous to fishermen and disastrous for the local economy of Arbroath.

“It is imperative, however, that action is taken as a matter of urgency and that this does not become bogged down in long discussions. Arbroath fishermen need to know where they stand in relation to the designation and the permit scheme now.”


Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson also welcomed today’s news. Mr Stevenson has been pressing the Scottish Executive over the status of the small port of Whitehills in Banffshire which was faced with the loss of its last remaining fishing boat to other ports as a result of the permit restrictions. Mr Stevenson commented:

“I am pleased that things seem to be moving in the right direction. I have been in discussions with the Scottish Executive and they have confirmed to me that Whitehills is being considered for inclusion on the list of designated ports.

“In addition, following my representations, officials have agreed to add Macduff to the list. I hope therefore that the Executive will reach a sensible conclusion which will aid and assist North-east fishermen.”

25 February 2004

MSP Urges Permit Change for Banffshire Port

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson has contacted the Scottish Executive's Deputy Fisheries Minister, Allan Wilson MSP, to express his concerns after learning that Whitehills fishermen will not be allowed to land their catch as, under the new EU Haddock permit scheme, Whitehills Harbour is not a designated port.

Mr Stevenson has urged the Minister to immediately review and amend the regulations as they affect small posts such as Whitehills.

Mr Stevenson said:

“Businesses and fishermen in Whitehills are, rightly, extremely concerned that the new haddock permit system effectively bans fish landings at Whitehills.

“This is complete lunacy especially since it appears that foreign vessels working the same fishery area are not liable to the same permit scheme.

“I fear that this bureaucratic nonsense will inevitably put lives at risk and I have urged the Scottish Fisheries Minister to act now and take account of the special circumstances at Whitehills.”

Mr Stevenson also highlighted that as well as the added cost of fuel, wages and time at sea for local skippers, there could be a serious economic knock-on effect on other local businesses reliant on landings at Whitehills harbour.

“On-shore businesses will be seriously affected if these boats are forced to travel to other ports instead.

“This proves once again that the UK Fisheries Delegation went into the Common Fisheries Policy talks last December with their ears covered and their eyes tightly shut.”

20 February 2004

Stevenson Welcomes Response on NHS Dentistry Issue

Banff and Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the response from Deputy Minister for Health and Community Care Tom McCabe regarding NHS dental service in Grampian. Mr Stevenson has been campaigning for increased resources from the Scottish Executive to attract more dentists to the North-east and this response was the latest of a series of exchanges and meetings involving the MSP on the subject.

Commenting on the issue, Mr Stevenson said:

“I am encouraged by the response from the Deputy Minister and at least the Scottish Executive have acknowledged that the Grampian area faces particular difficulties.

“I welcome the proposed changes to the existing initiatives and the introduction of several new measures to assist in the recruitment and retention of dentists providing NHS dental services in Scotland.

“I have been calling for more flexibility to the ‘golden hello’ incentive scheme. I am pleased therefore that the Minister has confirmed that grants under the Scottish Dental Access Initiative will increase and that the conditions of the grants are being looked at with the view of making them more flexible.

“All in all, I am hopeful that increased grants will help to encourage more dentists to establish their practices in the North-east. However, this is far from a final solution to the problem and I shall continue in my efforts and discussions in this regard.”

12 February 2004

MSP Welcomes Transport Minister's Positive Response on A90 Blackspot

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed a response received from Transport Minister Nicol Stephen on road safety on the A90 south of Fraserburgh.

Mr Stevenson took local concerns to a meeting with the Transport Minister in November after several fatal accidents on the A90 near the Invernorth and Gash junctions. At that meeting, Mr Stevenson obtained a pledge from the Minister that he would study the reports of recent accidents on this particular stretch of road with a view to improving road safety.

Mr Stevenson commented:

“This area has been the scene of a number of serious accidents in recent years, including two fatal accidents in recent months. I met with the Transport Minister Nicol Stephen recently to discuss this issue with him.

“I am pleased that the Minister has agreed that the accident record of this stretch of road warrants further attention. The road is now to be included in those to be subject to the next stage of the process which will involve a detailed examination of the scene.

“The Minister has given a commitment that measures identified will be implemented in the new financial year so I hope that the examnation process can be done fairly quickly.”


In a letter to Mr Stevenson, the Minister for Transport states:

“My officials have assessed the accident record for this location. They have informed me that in view of the accidents that occurred in the latter part of 2003 they have included this section of trunk road in the list of sites currently being investigated by BEAR to determine whether any Accident Investigation & Prevention measures can be implemented to improve safety. Any measures identified will be included in the 2004-05 programme of safety improvements.”

Road safety and accident prevention is one of Stewart Stevenson’s priorities. In recent weeks he has obtained a commitment from Aberdeenshire Council that safety improvements will be carried out on the Fraserburgh-Rosehearty road at the ‘Point of the Dyke’ and has also received answers to Parliamentary Questions on the dualling of the A90 between Balmedie and Tipperty which revealed that upgrading is being considered.

11 February 2004

Stevenson Welcomes Clydesdale Bank Move on Aberchirder Opening Hours

Local SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the news from Clydesdale Bank officials that the opening hours of the Aberchirder Branch are to be amended and extended.

Mr Stevenson met with community representatives and received a petition from Aberchirder Community Council in December following the Bank’s decision to reduce the level of service provided in the Banffshire town. The MSP also attended a public meeting organised by the Community Council at which senior Clydesdale Bank officials were in attendance.

Welcoming the news contained in a letter from the Bank, Mr Stevenson said:

“This is very good news and is, I believe, broadly in line with what the community wanted to achieve.

“We now have slightly increased opening hours on Fridays and the bank is now open once again on Thursdays to cope with customer needs at the end of the week when most bank branches are at their busiest.

“In addition, I am aware that the Clydesdale Bank is keen to provide some sort of out of hours ‘advice service’ where customers can still talk to staff about their requirements and access information and advice and I look forward to this being developed.

“I should like to congratulate Aberchirder Community Council on an excellent and successful campaign. It’s now up to the community at large to make use of the facilities they have fought so hard to preserve.”


The new opening hours with effect from 15 March 2004 will be:

Mon, 9.15am to 12.00pm; Thu, 2.00pm to 4.45pm; Fri, 2.00pm to 4.45pm

2 February 2004

Stevenson Gets Commitment from NHS on Renal Dialysis Provision

Banff & Buchan SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed a commitment given during a meeting with officials from NHS Grampian that there is to be a "substantial increase in provision" of renal dialysis services in Peterhead.

Mr Stevenson - who has campaigned consistently for increased dialysis provision in Banff & Buchan - extracted a specific commitment to the Peterhead expansion at a meeting in NHS Grampian's Headquarters in Aberdeen.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

"This is excellent news indeed and I am pleased not only for those dialysis patients using Peterhead Hospital who will see the facility expanded but especially for those who are currently having to travel much further afield to receive their treatment in Aberdeen.

"While it is likely to be several months before NHS Grampian is able to make an announcement on the specifics of the new arrangements, I hope that the necessary work can be carried out as soon as possible in order to minimise the inconvenience for those who are forced to travel to Aberdeen for dialysis.

"It is important that people are able to receive medical treatment in their own locality, especially in renal dialysis cases as a long journey to and from Aberdeen takes a severe toll on patients who have to endure it."

Stevenson Urges Government Departments to "Shop Local" in Parliament Debate

Banff & Buchan SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson has urged the Scottish Executive to ensure that public bodies “shop local” as far as possible in the purchasing of its food supplies for hospitals, prisons and schools.

Mr Stevenson believes that such a policy would bring benefits to the local economy, ensure fresher produce was used and cut down on transport costs.

Speaking during the debate, Mr Stevenson said:

“We have to use our procurement system in a constructive way to deliver on our objectives, but the NHS is but one strand of the considerable public procurement budget. I understand that food for patients currently costs about £55 million a year. If we extend that, it becomes an extremely substantial figure.

“We want to aspire to higher standards of welfare and production; in many ways, our standards are higher than those of other countries in the European Union and they are much higher than those of countries further afield. That is particularly the case with regard to pigs: the cost of pig-meat production in Scotland is higher than it is elsewhere because our welfare requirements are higher. At present, procurement practice discriminates against buying that higher quality food.

“Local production means local employment, which is often not taken into account in relation to tenders. Of course, local employment means more money circulating in local areas. If we procure food locally, we reduce food miles and we reduce pointless consumption of fuel.

“I have to commend the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs as having a policy substantially in advance of that which exists, at this point, in Scotland. Procurement in the NHS in Scotland concentrates on procurement departments and procedures. In England, however, DEFRA has launched a sustainable food procurement initiative that includes five priority objectives: to raise production and processing standards; to increase tenders from small and local producers; to increase consumption of healthy and nutritious food; to reduce adverse environmental impacts of production and supply; and to increase the capacity of small and local suppliers to meet demand. That is what we are after in Scotland.

“DEFRA has also addressed the difficult issue of how that interacts with European Union procurement policy and have solved the problem by referring to standard schemes. The point is made—in relation to the EU's procurement rules—that we are permitted to specify delivery frequencies, freshness and taste as criteria that might give local suppliers a competitive advantage provided that a foreign supplier is not denied the opportunity to compete on equal terms by setting up here. That is quite legitimate.

“I commend the DEFRA guidelines to the Executive. If it lifted them and copied them, we would probably be happy. Only a word or two would have to be changed.”


Stewart Stevenson has previously tabled a Motion in the Scottish Parliament on local procurement which has the support of MSPs from 7 political parties. The text of that Motion is as follows:

S2M-335# Mr Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (Scottish National Party) : Local Sourcing by Public Bodies— That the Parliament considers that the Scottish Executive should take steps to ensure that public bodies such as the NHS, the Scottish Prison Service, local authorities and educational establishments source their foodstuffs, as far as possible, from local sources and suppliers; further considers that the Executive should put in place a programme to offer assistance to public bodies in achieving this aim, and believes that in so doing benefit will accrue to Scotland's farmers, growers, food processors and producers, and also to the Scottish economy.
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