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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.”

9 July 2004

Stevenson Urges Nominations to Lend a Hand

Banff and Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson is urging local organisations who have benefited from lottery cash to put their names forward to be considered for the Helping Hands Awards, devised to mark the 10th Anniversary of the National Lottery. The National Lottery has teamed up with Lottery Monitor to launch the Helping Hand Awards in order to find the UK’s favourite National Lottery funded projects.

Commenting on the Awards scheme, Mr Stevenson said:

“It’s ten years since the National Lottery was established. During that time, a lot of worthy projects have been supported with our lottery cash. I still have issues about the amount of lottery cash which finds its way to the North of Scotland but myself and other are working to try to remedy that. I’m aware that the recent Lottery Roadshow I organised has resulted in a number of new applications going in from this area.

“To celebrate 10 years of the lottery, the Helping Hands Awards have been launched. The Helping Hands Awards is an excellent scheme to celebrate the aims of good causes which have benefited from 10 years of National Lottery funding.

“Lottery funding enables many projects to survive and to continue their offering of invaluable services to the community at large. Although projects may be nominated, they can also apply direct. I hope that local projects consider being part of the scheme.

“Nominations are being sought which excel in each of the award categories. There are six award categories: Children's Champion, Amazing Space, Inspiration, Local Legend, National Hero and UK Life and projects may apply for as many different categories as they so wish. However, please note, only completed or near to completion projects will be considered.

“Good luck to all local nominees.”

5 July 2004

Stevenson Welcomes Shell Community Cash

Banff and Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed confirmation that oil giant Shell are to extend their support for the local community by investing £70,000 in the Banff and Buchan College student sponsorship scheme. In addition, the company will support the Buchan Development Partnership with funding to the value of £45,000 over the next three years.

The commitment follows a meeting between Mr Stevenson and the Manager of the Shell Goldeneye Project, at which the local SNP MSP highlighted concerns about the disruption caused for a short period last year by the closure of the A90 between Peterhead and St Fergus Gas terminal for the transportation of an abnormal load by the Shell Goldeneye partners. In response to Mr Stevenson’s concerns Shell were keen to show their ongoing commitment to the local community, and have decided to extend their community support beyond its previous commitment.

Welcoming the news, Mr Stevenson said:

“This is terrific news, and underlines Shell’s longstanding commitment to the local community. I have to say that, with a high local employment rate and long-running commitment to supporting local initiatives, Shell is leading by example on how big business should interact with the local community.

“In particular, the support for the Buchan Development Partnership, which in turn supports a host of community projects and groups, means that everyone locally is benefiting in some way. I was also delighted that the funding for the Banff and Buchan College student sponsorship scheme, now in its third year, will also be extended, and I would like to but on record my congratulations to Shell for their community spirit.”

2 July 2004

Stevenson Adds his Support to Heart Foundation's Heart Week Campaign

Banff and Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has signed a Parliamentary Motion congratulating the British Heart Foundation (BHF) on its Heart Week campaign against coronary heart disease (CHD). The Motion notes that while heart disease rates in Scotland are falling, more people than ever before are living with the disease.

Commenting on the campaign, Mr Stevenson said:

“I wish the British Heart Foundation every success on achieving its aim of raising £1 million. The BHF does excellent in the area of providing support and information for heart patients and their families, funding research into the causes, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of heart disease. Furthermore, the BHF aims to educate the public and health professionals about heart issues.

“I am hopeful that the campaign will not only raise vital funds to help fight back against heart disease - the UK's single biggest killer - but will also help improve the nation's heart health. One of the key causes of CHD is the lack of physical activity, therefore quite rightly the campaign is focussing on this aspect and encouraging all to increase their level of physical exercise which will be an important contribution to fighting the causes of heart disease in Scotland.

“People can get involved by changing their normal routine by, for example, walking to work where possible, rather than taking the car or bus and getting sponsored for doing so. While the statistics show that death rates from coronary heart disease are falling, the number of people living with the condition is increasing. Around 1.2 million women and more than 1.5 million men are now living with heart disease and this figure is rising. With such statistics, it is therefore vital that the campaign increases awareness of the condition and encourages everyone to take greater responsibility for their own heart health.”

1 July 2004

MSP gives Jimmy Shand's laundry an airing

A Classic of the Parliamentary Sketch Genre, 1st July 2004

ROBERT McNEIL'S SKETCH, the Scotsman

WHERE does one start with yesterday in parliament? With the Land Rover called Alf? With the humping of wardrobes? Or with Jimmy Shand’s laundry?

The debate, supposedly a celebration of volunteering, brought forth strange confessions and peculiar tales.

But let us begin with Jamie Stone (Lib Dem), who wandered hither and yon, even stoating into the press gallery at one point. There was some mention of money. Then he was down beside Rosie Kane (Socialist) with his wallet out. Perhaps he was offering to top up her salary.

Meanwhile, Stewart Stevenson (SNP) announced: "When I volunteered for this debate" - groans - "I didn’t realise, of course, that I would have the most dreadful frog in my throat." Well, if it’s so dreadful, why doesn’t he get another one?

This amphibious wittering led him inexorably to extol the virtues of Banff Rotary Club (Provisional Wing). When he’d been in business, he added, his blood pressure had been measured at 140 over 90. Then, when he became an MSP, it had dropped to 110 over 40. He put this down to the fact that he was content. Nothing that a good boot up the arse couldn’t sort out.

Certainly, he was content to haver about James VI, who wrote in 1604 about smoking causing problems in the brain. Clearly, then, Stewart is on at least 60 a day.

Ted Brocklebank (Con) must be on another planet, if he thought he could mention Maggie Thatcher without provoking horror. She hadn’t meant the stuff about there being no society, but was really a kind person. In the corner of my eye, I could see security preparing the large syringe.

Unabashed, Ted continued with the observation that most volunteers were "white, middle-class ladies of a certain age".

This claim outraged Karen Whitefield (Lab), who said: "In my constituency, I threw a party for volunteers. Seventy odd people" - that’s no way to speak of your guests - "all came along to have a cup of tea and a piece of cake." Yes, I’ve heard folk speak warmly of Karen’s sticky buns. Her point was that these were not all old ladies. Mind you, nobody lives long enough in Airdrie to be old.

Karen went on to describe the activities of the 8th Airdrie Chapel Hall Scout Group and an organisation in Shotts "that wears many hats". Yes, let’s hear it for the Shotts and District Millinery Volunteers.

Thus inspired, Fergus Ewing (SNP) told us with ill-advised pride that he was big in the Girl Guides. Apparently, he’s an ambassador for the weird sect. Less distressingly, Fergus praised the four MSPs who’d recently volunteered for Mastermind and were now due to take on the Daily Mail (specialist subject: the poetry and wit of Adolf Hitler).

Fergus also praised the aforementioned Stewart, who had once served as Alex Salmond’s chauffeur and, in an unconnected incident, had once washed Jimmy Shand’s laundry. As we awaited an explanation for this, Fergus switched subjects to reminisce about his mountain-rescuing days when he’d driven a Land Rover called Alf.

At this point, I half-expected the Colonel from Monty Python to interrupt proceedings by pointing out: "Now, this is all getting a bit silly. Let’s have good, wholesome entertainment, and less of this namby-pamby flim-flam."

Good, wholesome Rosie Kane (Socialist), who seemed to be wearing some sort of harness, noted the jovial atmosphere in the old nuthouse and put it down to the impending end of term. "I feel like bringing my Kerplunk in," she said. Good. I just hope she’s still got all her marbles.

Marble-headed Patrick Harvie (Green) reminisced fondly of the days when he helped his parents to throw newspapers from a van at people’s houses. Later, they expanded into furniture, and young Patrick had his work cut out lobbing wardrobes hither and yon. It was all part of some recycling malarkey.

Speaking of malarkey, the aforementioned Jamie had at last sat down. Whereupon, he stood up immediately to announce: "I was going to make a big rude comment about Ted Brocklebank, but I won’t."

It was an interesting point, and one I’m sure his doctor will take into account when next called to the Stone household by anxious relatives ("He’s on the roof again dressed only in his sou’wester, doctor"). Categories [Media]
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