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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.”
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