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30 June 2004

Stevenson Visits Scotland's Premier Farming Showcase

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson paid a visit to the second day of the Royal Highland Show at Ingliston on Friday.

Mr Stevenson used the opportunity to meet with farmers, NFU officials and exhibitors. Among those he met with were supermarket giant Tesco, who have stores in Banff, Fraserburgh and across the North-east. The MSP took the opportunity to restate his desire to see fair prices paid to farmers and producers and for more locally-sourced produce to be available in supermarkets.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Stevenson commented:

“The farming industry is not without its concerns and challenges, such as the national beef envelope to give but one example, but I detected a more optimistic industry than has been the case for some time now.

“I took the opportunity to meet with officials from the Tesco supermarket chain while I was there. It is my wish to see much more products in our supermarkets sourced from local suppliers and producers and I will be meeting with Tesco shortly in that regard.

“Such a policy keeps more money in the local economy and accrues more benefit to local producers. It also cuts down on ‘food miles’ and the pointless burning of fuel to transport items from miles away which are available locally.

“I have previously raised this matter in Parliament when NHS, Prison Service and other Government procurement was being discussed. The private sector must not be allowed to escape the same level of attention. While I recognise that many supermarkets already carry selected local products, the situation could be far, far better and I want to see the hard-earned cash of local people benefiting local business.”

24 June 2004

Stevenson Adds His Support for Men's Health Week

Banff and Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has backed a Parliamentary Motion supporting Men’s Health Week seek which aims to encourage men to undertake regular medical advice and early treatment for disease and injury.

Commenting on the issue, Mr Stevenson said:

“It is great to see many sectors such as health care providers, public policy makers, the media, and individuals coming together to publicise the week. Special recognition must be given to Men's Health Forum Scotland for the power of good that it does.

“Research has shown that men have a lower life expectancy, higher suicide rate and a higher death rate from diseases such as cancer and heart disease than women. Furthermore, it is recognised that men are less likely to have chronic diseases identified and treated early and that men attend their GPs less than half as often as women. Hopefully the activities of Men’s Health Week will ensure that this trend of men shying from their GP will reverse.

“Attention must be given to the simple fact that regular medical examinations, preventive screenings, exercise and healthy eating habits help save lives and can lead to men living longer with a higher quality of life. The importance of annual health examinations and early detection cannot be overstated.

“I am sure that Men’s Health Week achieved its aim of heightening the awareness of preventable health problems and encouraging early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys. It must also be noted that recognizing and preventing men's health problems is not just a man's issue. Because of its impact on wives, mothers, daughters, and sisters, men's health is truly a family issue.”

Question Time for SPS Management

Banff and Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has today (Thursday) questioned the First Minister, Jack McConnell, over serious concerns about the senior management of the Scottish Prison Service (SPS). Speaking in parliament Mr Stevenson highlighted a catalogue of concerns, including an instance of the former deputy Justice Minister being thwarted by senior officials over a planned prison fact finding visit. The SNP MSP asked the First Minister whether the government could still have confidence in SPS senior management.

Mr Stevenson asked: “Does the First Minister think it is a high level of performance…that the SPS management has sat for four years on the proposal to address slopping-out at Peterhead Prison. Are your aware, First Minister, that in 2002 Richard Simpson - the then Deputy Justice Minister – was told by the SPS that permission to visit a French prison could not be obtained, while simultaneously I obtained such permission as an opposition backbencher, including permission for the Deputy Justice Minister to visit that prison. Does he agree that it is entirely unacceptable that the head of the Scottish Prison Service could not answer entirely predictable questions from the Scottish Parliament Justice Committees in both 2002, and learning nothing, again in 2004. Is the First Minister aware that my concerns are widely shared across parliament, and that progress cannot be made in the prison service without effective management.”

In response to Mr Stevenson’s questioning the First Minister stopped some way short of giving his full backing to SPS management.

Speaking after First Minister’s Question Time, Mr Stevenson said:

“The senior management of the SPS have become not only an embarrassment to the government, but as the ‘Reliance’ prisoner escort fiasco demonstrates, they have become a liability as well.

“In response to my catalogue of concerns, and the concerns of others from across the parliament chamber, I was pleased that the First Minister underlined the importance that the Scottish Executive place on the effectiveness of management. It is telling however that Mr McConnell stopped well short of offering his full backing to the SPS management, and who can blame him. The Chief Executive of the SPS, Tony Cameron, has consistently failed in his job, and like one of his ‘Reliance’ prisoners, Mr Cameron should now be released from the prison service.”

22 June 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.”

4 June 2004

MSP Undertakes Blindfolded Driving Challenge

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson will be the special guest of the Grampian Society for the Blind at their ‘Drive of your Life’ 125th Anniversary event at Grampian Transport Museum, Alford on Saturday 5 June (tomorrow) at 11.30am.

Grampian Society for the Blind has arranged ‘Drive of your Life’ as an opportunity for blind and partially-sighted clients to experience what it feels like to drive a car, which will be dual-controlled, take place on a track and have an experienced instructor present. Mr Stevenson will undertake his challenge at 11.30am.

The event is arranged as a fundraiser for the Society and also features a barbeque and other attractions. Further information is available from Grampian Society for the Blind on 01224 625622.

3 June 2004

HEP C Compensation - "Further Delays Intolerable" says Local MSP

Banff and Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has criticised Health Minister Malcolm Chisholm over continuing delays to the Scottish Executive’s Hepatitis C compensation scheme, which is intended to provide payments to victims of Hepatitis C inadvertently infected with the disease through use of contaminated blood products provided by the NHS.

The scheme has already been subject to considerable criticism from MSPs and support groups who state that the payments are “derisory” and that the scheme has already taken too long to establish.

Commenting on the issue, Mr Stevenson said:

“The Minister had previously given an assurance that his team of medical experts had nearly finished their work to decide the tests that would be used to establish the eligibility of claimants for the scheme. Further assurance was also given regarding proposals for its administration and that it had already been developed and would shortly be discussed with relevant patient organisations.

“I am aware that the Minister said that a public announcement would be made last month which would make clear to claimants what they needed to do in order to make a claim. Mr Chisholm also said that this information would be directly available to patient organisations, clinicians dealing with patients affected and individuals who had already stated their interest in making a claim.

“I am furious that after over a month, there has still been no announcement from the Government. I have been contacted by numerous constituents on the matter and they desperately need to know who they go about claiming the compensation that is so rightfully theirs.

“Hepatitis C sufferers have already had to come to terms with the massive effect that the disease can have on every aspect of their lives. It has taken long enough for the Executive to accept, even in principle, that they should have any form of compensation, in many cases considerably lower that that being offered in similar cases in other parts of the world.

“These sufferers have been left in limbo by the Executive with minimal communication regarding the progress of this scheme and a support infrastructure which is wholly inadequate, few places more so than our own region, where for many sufferers the nearest group is Ireland.

“I am appalled at this further delay by the Executive and therefore urge them to make an announcement regarding the progress of the scheme’s establishement as a matter of urgency. There can be no more excuses for drawing out this process any further: these people have waited long enough already and deserve better treatment.”

Stevenson Delight At Banff Dental Announcement

Banff & Buchan SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the announcement from the Deputy Health Minister today that NHS Grampian has been awarded £0.5 million to fund a new dental unit in Banff.

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.

Speaking from his Scottish Parliament office, Mr Stevenson commented:

“This is very welcome news indeed and I am delighted that Banff is to get this new facility.

“This is of course only part of the solution as NHS dentists will still have to be recruited to staff the facility, which is planned to have four surgery units, a hygienist and a dedicated dental x-ray facility.

“NHS Grampian have confirmed to me that they are in the process of appointing a design team for the new facility which they say will be likely, but not necessarily, be located at Chalmers Hospital.

“I am delighted that the lobbying efforts of myself, colleagues and the people of Banff and district have borne some fruit in the shape of this commitment today. I hope now that the project will proceed as a matter of extreme urgency and help solve the local dental crisis which currently exists.”
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