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29 December 2005

Drugs Problem Requires Unified Approach

SNP Deputy Shadow Justice Minister, Stewart Stevenson MSP, today (Thursday) called for the Executive to make a New Year’s resolution to adopt a more consensual and unified approach to tackling Scotland’s drugs problem.

Mr Stevenson said:

“The fact that Scotland has 51,000 intravenous drug users clearly underlines the fact that we must raise our game so as many people as possible are given the opportunity to kick the habit.

“This can only be done if we draw together all the strands of the fight against drugs into one unified approach. We must pay heed to what drug addicts are telling us- that they want to beat their addiction and forge a life without drugs.

“No more than one in 20 drugs users wants to stabilise their condition through the likes of methadone. This means we must make greater commitment to programmes that will wean addicts away from their addiction and promote long-term abstinence.

“We must also promote inter-agency work and information sharing to ensure a more effective and unified approaching to tackling this problem.

“The Scottish Drug Enforcement Agency recently called for greater resources, and we must ensure this call is answered. We must also hit the drug barons where it hurts - in the pocket.

“We must do more to seize the assets of drug dealers and redirect the funds into the fight against drugs in our communities. We must also ensure that a range of options is available to suit the different needs of different addicts. We cannot allow another generation of Scots to fall into drug addiction.”

28 December 2005

Financial Chaos Revealed At Scottish Socialists HQ - Auditors Report £17,000 Missing

In a blatant attempt to conceal their financial difficulties Scottish Socialists finally revealed their long-overdue 2004 party accounts over the Christmas holidays. Nationalist MSP Stewart Stevenson, who had previously taunted Tommy Sheridan, SSP party leader for all but a few weeks of 2004, about their failure to meet the Electoral Commission deadline of July 2005, commented:

“We can now see why the Trots have been so reluctant to publish their accounts. Chartered Accountants Sinclair Wood & Co, who were employed to audit the SSP accounts, are commenting that 'we have not obtained all the information and explanations that we considered necessary'.

“I note that the Socialists have not been shy in accepting public money - £48,200 in 'Short Money' in 2004 – but have utterly failed to live up to the standard Tommy set in the Parliamentary debate on 14th December that 'we should be absolutely accountable for how public money is spent'. [Note 1]

“It is time to ask whether 'Short Money' should be provided by Parliament to political parties such as the SSP who cannot properly account for how they spend money.”

The auditor's report also highlights that £16,966 has gone missing from the SSP's coffers. Party auditors Sinclair Wood & Co write in their report:

“evidence available to us was limited as a result of being unable to contact a former party official, no satisfactory explanations in that no invoices or receipts were available in respect of £16,966 paid to him during the Year Ended 31 December 2004. In addition we have not received the necessary returns from certain Regional Party Organisations.” [Note 2]

Stewart Stevenson MSP commented:

“I cannot know whether this is incompetence or fraud. Either way no further money should be provided to the SSP until a forensic audit has been completed by the Electoral Commission, the missing money recovered by civil court action or until police enquiries are complete.”

NOTES:

[Note 1]
Scottish Parliament Official Report, 14 December 2005, Col 21710
Stewart Stevenson: ... ... ... It would be useful at this stage if he were to make clear that the issue at the core of his argument is that we should be accountable for how public money is spent on each and every occasion when it is provided.
Tommy Sheridan: We should be absolutely accountable at every moment for how public money is spent.

[Note 2]
SSP Accounts for Year Ended 31 December 2004, annotated as Page 6. See also complete accounts at: www.electoralcommission.org.uk

22 December 2005

STEVENSON CONDEMNS NORTH SEA TAX HIKES

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has backed Aberdeen North MSP Brian Adam’s Parliamentary Motion regarding concern surrounding Shell’s announcement in response to Chancellor Gordon Brown’s tax hike.

Commenting on the issue, Mr Stevenson said:

“It is of great concern to hear Shell’s recent announcement that it is to cut its plans for North Sea exploration and, quite rightly, Shell is laying the blame at the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s door.  This poor decision by the Chancellor has certainly knocked the industry for six.

“Of course, this monumental decision will have a serious detrimental knock-on effect throughout the entire North Sea supply chain.  Be of no doubt that this is most certainly going to end in the loss of jobs and shall also, as a result, threaten future investment.

“I, along with my SNP colleagues therefore urge the Scottish Executive to lobby the Chancellor in an attempt to get him to review his position and find alternative means of filling the black hole in his budget.”

21 December 2005

STEVENSON SUPPORTS PARLIAMENTARY MOTION BACKING THE PURCHASE OF LOCAL FOOD

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has added his support to his SNP colleague, Rob Gibson’s Parliamentary Motion supporting local food.

Commenting on the Motion, Mr Stevenson said:

“I agree wholeheartedly with Rick Stein’s Christmas message that to source the best food, families should buy local produce. The North-east is home to some of the best producers of food who utilise locally sourced ingredients.

“Local produce has a reputation for high quality and excellent taste. More and more people are turning their backs on the bland, mass-produced fare doled out by the multi-nationals and are beginning to appreciate that the local butcher, baker or fishmonger offer great value as well as great taste.

“It also helps reduce ‘food miles’ and contributes to the environment if we all buy local. I hope that all MSPs will champion the Food Heroes Christmas Message as I do.”

20 December 2005

SALMOND & STEVENSON WELCOME PUBLICATION OF LOCAL HOLIDAY GUIDE

Local MP Alex Salmond has welcomed the inclusion of various Banff & Buchan attractions in the publication of the ‘2006 Aberdeen & Grampian Highlands Holiday Guide’ by the local tourist board.

Commenting on the guide, Mr Salmond said:

“Not many people appreciate the number of major events held throughout the year in Banff & Buchan. Turriff Show, New Deer Show and Peterhead Scottish Week generate a lot of interest and attract a huge amount of people to the area. There are also the more intimate yet fascinating events such as the Faithlie Fest in Fraserburgh and the Traditional Boat Festival in Portsoy taking place within the constituency.”

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson added:

“There are numerous attractions throughout Banff & Buchan that reflect the diverse nature of the area. The inclusion of highlights such as Slains Castle, the New Pitsligo Visual Arts Exhibition and Macduff’s World’s Ocean Day to the Holiday Guide will help raise the profile of Banff & Buchan and improve the local economy.

“Linked to this of course is the excellent work done by Peterhead Bay Authority in attracting numerous cruise ships to Peterhead as a stopping-off point and the PBA deserves our thanks for their initiative in this regard.

“I hope that this new publication will serve to attract ever greater numbers of visitors to the many attractions here in the North-east.”

STEVENSON ADDS HIS NAME TO MACMILLAN MOTION

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has added his name to his colleague Shona Robison’s Parliamentary Motion on the recent Macmillan Cancer Relief report.

Commenting on the Motion, Mr Stevenson said:

“The recent Macmillan Cancer Relief report, ‘Free at the Point of Delivery?’ highlights the financial burden that travelling to and from hospital for regular treatment places on cancer patients.  It is frightful that there is no record of the percentage of cancer patients in Scotland who are currently eligible for reimbursement of their travel costs under the Hospital Travel Costs Scheme.  It is therefore probably so that there are many cancer patients on low incomes without much-needed financial support.

“In conclusion, what is required is action and now in order to increase the number of eligible patients who are claiming reimbursement under the scheme.  This can be achieved via improved and increased awareness and advice.  Bearing this in mind, I urge the Scottish Executive to look at extending the scheme to cancer patients not receiving benefits, as is so done in the non-means-tested Highlands and Islands scheme.”

14 December 2005

STEVENSON ON DRUG MISUSE STATS

Commenting today (Wednesday) on new Executive statistics on drug misuse in Scotland, SNP Deputy Shadow Justice Minister, Stewart Stevenson MSP, said:

“I generally welcome these figures as the fight on drugs should not be seen as a partisan issue. However, this is just one piece of the information jigsaw on drugs and the Executive is still operating in a knowledge vacuum when it comes to Scotland’s drug scene.

“There is a ‘golden moment’ when addicts want to give up their habit and we must do everything we can to help addicts seize this opportunity. The Executive, however, does not know what the ratio is of people wishing to enter a methadone maintenance treatment programme to places available.

“Recent figures from January to March 2005 show 149 addicts had to wait between 6-12 months to enter a Prescribed Drug Treatment Programme, which means we could miss that golden opportunity. We must ensure that drug users are able to access the appropriate care and assistance as quickly as possible.”

12 December 2005

LOCAL MSP’s ENGAGEMENTS FOR MONDAY IN FRASERBURGH & PETERHEAD

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson will carry out the following engagements on Monday 12 December:

At 10.00am, Mr Stevenson will draw the Christmas Raffle for ‘Crossroads Caring for Carers’ at 12 Frithside Street, Fraserburgh. Crossroads manager Elizabeth Eyre and staff will be in attendance.

At 11.00am, Mr Stevenson will visit Barnardos, 64 Queen Street, Peterhead to meet with staff and hear more about their Aberdeenshire youth projects.

5 December 2005

STEVENSON WELCOMES SNP BACKING FOR FARMERS SNP COMMITS TO GIVING SUPERMARKET CODE REAL TEETH

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the decision by the Scottish National Party to commit to an independent commissioner in place of the current voluntary, and largely ineffective, code of conduct for supermarkets.

Mr Stevenson proposed the motion at the Scottish National Party’s National Council on Saturday in Perth.

Commenting on the Motion, Mr Stevenson said:

“Our farmers have some of the highest quality standards and animal health welfare standards which they must comply with. Often, this has meant significant expenditure for them to comply with EU regulations. It is simply not acceptable that having spent thousands to produce a quality product to the highest welfare standards that the major supermarkets make a dive for cheap imports produced to lower standards when it looks like the price of home-produced beef is going to rise.

“The supermarket chains have failed to show that they can act responsibly and live up to their claims that they support Scottish farmers. They have had their chance under the current, voluntary system. Now is the time to act to protect Scottish farmers and producers from the excesses of the multi-national corporations.

“In committing to statutory protection for farmers and producers, we have shown that it is the SNP which is the party that stands up for rural Scotland.”

NOTE: The Motion proposed by Mr Stevenson at the SNP’s National Council in Perth is as follows:

National Council views with great concern the irresponsible actions of the major supermarket chains regarding cheap beef imports; notes that Scotch Beef is produced to far higher welfare standards than imported beef; applauds the stance taken by Scottish farmers in taking direct action at the doors of the supermarkets to promote their quality product; believes that the major supermarket chains are not driven by the interests of either producer or consumer and considers it time for urgent action to address the situation.

National Council therefore commits the Scottish National Party to a policy of introduction of an independent commissioner to replace the ineffective ‘Supermarket Code of Conduct’ and assume the role of the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) in ensuring that farmers and producers get a fair deal for a quality product.

STEVENSON VISITS ROYAL MAIL BANFF

Stewart Stevenson MSP will visit Royal Mail’s Banff Delivery Office on Monday 5 December at 7.00am to see the festive operation in full swing on what is anticipated will be one of Royal Mail’s busiest days.

Stewart Stevenson will be welcomed at Banff Delivery Office by manager Ian Jackson and all the postmen and women who are working hard doing their bit to sort and deliver Banff’s share of the estimated Scottish Christmas postbag of 250 million items.

Stewart Stevenson MSP said: "I’m looking forward to visiting the Banff 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.

“Christmas is an exceptionally busy time for our posties and they 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.”

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.

2 December 2005

MSP congratulates Macduff Shipyard on its Order Success

Reacting this morning to the anticipated announcement of an order for a new marine research vessel to be built by Macduff shipyard in Banffshire, local MSP Stewart Stevenson said

"This is a terrific vote of confidence in John Watt and his team at Macduff. £4 million of new business is a very welcome boost to the local economy in a town where that is much needed.

"What we now need is the comparatively modest funding that will upgrade the slip and quay facilities so that this order is merely the first of many future sucesses."

It is understood that the 80ft fishery research vessel which is being ordered by the Scottish Executive will carry 14 crew members and scientists.

30 November 2005

LOCAL MSP BACKS CARERS RIGHTS DAY

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson is backing this year’s Carers Rights Day on Friday 2nd December which will see the Peterhead-based Carers’ Centre organise a special ‘carers’ rights day’.

The event will take place at the Salvation Army Hall, Windmill Street, Peterhead and officials from the Department for Work & Pensions, Citizens Advice and Crossroads amongst others will be on hand to offer advice on a range of issues.

Commenting on the initiative, Mr Stevenson said:

“It is staggering to learn that between 40 - 60% of disability benefits go unclaimed, and with many carers unaware of how to access practical help, Carers' Rights Day is designed to make carers more aware of their entitlements. The 2005 campaign is centred around older carers and the take up of benefits.

“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.

“Many people don’t get the support they need because they don’t recognise the caring role they have. If you regularly provide or intend to provide care, you need to find out about the help available. The benefits system is complicated and finding out what you are entitled to can be difficult. Claiming benefits usually involves filling out forms. Try not to let this put you off. A local Independent Citizens' Advice Bureau, disability organisation or an Age Concern branch should be able to help you with the forms. The Pension Service (Freephone: 0800 99 1234) should also be able to help you with more information about benefits and completing the claim forms.

“Remember, even if you’re not entitled to claim benefits there is a range of other ways in which you get help with being a carer, such as equipment, practical help and getting access to a break.”

STEVENSON TO PRESENT TESCO COMPUTERS FOR SCHOOLS

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson will officiate at the Tesco ‘Computers for Schools’ presentation on Friday 2 December at the Tesco Store, South Harbour Road, Fraserburgh at 2.00pm.

Mr Stevenson commented:

“I am delighted to be handing out computer equipement to local primary schools once again and I am particularly pleased that many of the schools involved this year are benefitting for the first time.

“This is the fourteenth year of ‘Computers for Schools’ and a lot of very welcome additional equipment has gone into Banff & Buchan schools during that time. I think it is important that large national chains recognise that they have a duty to put something back into the community and I congratulate Tesco on this excellent initiative.”

STEVENSON RAISES DIGITAL RECEPTION IN PARLIAMENT

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has raised the issue of lack of digital television reception in Parliament. Speaking in a debate on the subject, Mr Stevenson said that there was a “big difference between switch-over and analogue switch-off”.

Speaking after the debate, Mr Stevenson said:

“People who are lucky enough to live in the right place can already access digital television by picking up a set-top box for a reasonable, one-off cost. In Banff & Buchan however, for many people this is not an option and the increasing number of digital channels can only be accessed through cable or satellite, which are far more costly and disruptive to install.

“I note with concern the BBC’s desire to increase the licence fee by 2.3% above inflation. It is extremely frustrating that not all licence payers are able to receive the entire package of programmes from the BBC. I feel that taking this into account, it is simply wrong to expect them to pay the same level of licence fee and there is a very strong argument in favour of a ‘no see, no fee’ television licence.

“The BBC have said recently that they wish not only to see an increase in the licence fee, but an increase which is above inflation. It therefore cannot be right that my constituents are expected to subsidise the costs of channels such as BBC3 and News 24 when they cannot access those channels. It’s a bit like paying for a set meal in a restaurant but being told you can’t have your pudding because you have chosen to sit too far away from the kitchen.

“It is unfair, and the North of Scotland deserves better.”

28 November 2005

STEVENSON: WE MUST RAISE GAME IN TACKLING DRUG ADDICTION

Commenting today (Monday) on calls from the Scottish Drugs Forum for more specialist drugs services to cope with the rising number of drug addicts in Scotland, estimated at around 50,000, SNP Deputy Shadow Justice Minister, Stewart Stevenson, said:

“The figures speak for themselves and underline the fact that we must raise our game and ensure many more people are given the opportunity to kick the habit.

“We must also ensure that a range of options is available to suit the different needs of different addicts. We cannot allow another generation of Scots to fall into drug addiction.

25 November 2005

FURY OVER CLYDESDALE’S WRECKING TACTICS

Banff & Buchan representatives Alex Salmond MP and Stewart Stevenson MSP have reacted furiously to the revelation that the Clydesdale Bank has blocked moves by the Royal Bank of Scotland to look at the possibility of taking over some of its branches earmarked for closure. It is understood that New Deer is among the locations being considered by the Royal Bank.

The Royal Bank of Scotland – which announced it would be operating a lifeline mobile banking service to those communities abandoned by the Clydesdale from January – had approached the Australian-owned bank formally to survey a number of their closure-marked sites in the North-east. This request was refused. Now local MP Alex Salmond says that this goes against comments made by Clydesdale top brass at a meeting in Maud earlier this month.

Mr Salmond commented:

“The rejection of the Royal Bank approach is contrary to what we were told by Steve Reid, Head of Retail Banking for the Clydesdale, at a recent packed public meeting in Maud.

“This is an astounding revelation which will cause fury in all the communities around Scotland where the Clydesdale is pulling out, but especially in the North-east, where they now seem to be actively undermining efforts by others to keep banking facilities available in rural areas.

“To pull the plug on your branches is one thing, but to actively prevent another bank from taking your place is quite disgraceful.”

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson added:

“I am furious at this news. The Clydesdale Bank are shutting up and shipping out. Their branches are already on the property market. I find it incredible that not only are they adopting this “dog in the manger” attitude towards rural banking, but also, by implication, are quite prepared to see these branches lie empty.

“Frankly, I am appalled by this attitude and the Clydesdale Bank does not deserve to retain the loyalty of its rural customers because it has shown no loyalty whatsoever towards our rural communities and is now actively working to undermine the business base in places like New Deer.”

24 November 2005

MSP TO SEE ‘SMART CARD’ TECHNOLOGY IN USE AT PETERHEAD ACADEMY

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson will visit Peterhead Academy, Station Road, Peterhead on Monday 28 November.

Mr Stevenson will spend time with Modern Studies pupils answering questions about Parliament and politics before heading to the canteen to sample school dinners. Before doing so, Mr Stevenson will take part in a photo opportunity at 12.40pm in the canteen where he will serve pupils using the latest ‘smart card’ technology.

Next week will be the first full week of the new ‘smart cards’ which have been introduced by Peterhead Academy and which pupils can use, amongst other things, to pay for meals. The healthier the meal option chosen by the pupil, the more points they get added to their ‘smart card’ which they can save up towards the cost of various items on the “swapits” website, similar to e-bay.

Mr Stevenson will also meet with teaching staff and Academy Rector Susan Alley.

Commenting in advance of his visit, Mr Stevenson said:

“I hosted a visit to Parliament yesterday by Peterhead Academy pupils so I am delighted to be making the return visit so soon.

“The ‘smart card’ initiative sounds extremely useful and it is to be commended that the technology has been used in such a way to tie in with healthy eating for our youngsters, which is to be encouraged.”

23 November 2005

PETERHEAD ACADEMY PUPILS VISIT PARLIAMENT

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has today [Wednesday] welcomed teachers and pupils from Peterhead Academy to the Scottish Parliament. This was the latest in a series of local school visits to the heart of Scottish political life.

Mr Stevenson said of the visit:

“It is always a pleasure to receive visits from school pupils in my constituency to the Scottish Parliament. It is a useful way to show them how government works and what their elected representatives do when not in their constituencies.

“As usual, there was a high level of knowledge about the Parliament and about politics in general. I hope that this will ensure that they continue to take an interest in politics in the future.

“The pupils were able to see all aspects of the Parliament, including the debating chamber, the various lobbies and the committee rooms. They were also able to watch some of the afternoon’s debates and see politics in action.

“The interest in the Parliament building has been huge since the move to Holyrood and I look forward to welcoming more groups to the Parliament in the future.”

16 November 2005

MSP SEEKS NOMINATIONS FOR ‘EPILEPSY SCOTLAND EMPLOYER OF THE YEAR’ AWARD

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson is seeking nominations for Epilepsy Scotland’s Best Practice Certificate and Employer of the Year Award which is being supported by the Scottish Executive Health Department.

Mr Stevenson – a member of the Parliament’s Cross-Party Group on Epilepsy – met recently with representatives from Epilepsy Scotland in the Scottish Parliament.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“I recently attended the launch of the Best Practice Certificate and Employer of the Year Award. Epilepsy is far more common than most of us realise with approximately 1 in 130 adults being affected. This equates to almost 40,000 Scots.

“Epilepsy Scotland is on the look out for organisations that are ready to help someone with epilepsy at work and whose workplace is prepared to do the right things to assist an employee who either has or develops epilepsy.

“Epilepsy-friendly practice can take many forms such as the provision of extra training, offering alternative duties, arranging transport and generally offering the option of flexibility for those affected by epilepsy.

“Nominations for the awards can be made by either employees or employers, so if you believe that your organisation is an example of good epilepsy-friendly practice then get nominating.

“Organisations that make the short-list will be notified by mid February and succesful organisations will be presented with their award at a presentation ceremony on 20 April 2006 in Glasgow. Best of luck to all entries.”

15 November 2005

LOCAL MSP WELCOMES BEEF LABELLING PROPOSALS

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the announcement from the Scottish Executive Rural Affairs Department (SEERAD) that it is consulting on proposals to require beef sold in restaurants and other food outlets to have its country of origin labelled.

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

“This is a move in the right direction and I know that it will be welcomed by local farmers who have consistently pressed for clearer labelling of beef so that the consumer can make an informed choice.

“This follows the direct action taken by local farmers during the summer in response to the major supermarkets importing cheap Brazilian beef when they did an excellent job of promoting Scottish beef direct to supermarket customers.

“It is entirely right and proper that customers of restaurants should also know where their beef comes from. Many establishments in the North-east already proudly state on their menus where their beef is from and I have always viewed that as a very strong selling point for those places that do so.

“I strongly believe that such a move will not only boost the Scottish beef sector but will also give a boost to those establishments which have local beef on their menu.”

14 November 2005

STEVENSON ON TORY METHADONE CLAIMS

Commenting today (Monday) on claims by Scottish Conservative leader Annabel Goldie that the Scottish Executive “is spending £11 million a year on publicly-funded drug addiction” through its methadone prescription initiative, SNP Deputy Shadow Justice Minister, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“Any contribution to the debate on drugs use in Scotland is to be welcomed. Methadone can be used an entry door to treatment and rehabilitation for dug users, but the latest figures show there are 51,000 heroin users in Scotland and the methadone use figures suggest that less than half of these addicts are getting the support they need.

“The major challenge in drugs is to tackle the dealers and suppliers of drugs. Until we do, the number of drug addicts in Scotland will continue to be a problem. The best way to tackle the Mr and Mrs Bigs of Scotland’s drugs trade is to go for their assets and ensure that the trade in illegal drugs in not a profitable one.

“Moves to increase resources available to SDEA are the most important single measure that can be taken to tackle the scourge of drugs in our society.”

Commenting on the provision of treatment for drug addicts, Mr Stevenson added:

“The important thing is to ensure that services are available across Scotland to help those who are addicted to drugs. The present piece-meal provision, which leaves addicts waiting for up to 12 months for treatment in many areas of Scotland, is clearly unacceptable.

“We must ensure that drug addicts get the help they need as soon as possible to give them the best possible chance of beating their addiction.”

10 November 2005

DON'T MAKE HISTORY HISTORY

LOCAL MSP URGES EXECUTIVE NOT TO REMOVE HISTORY FROM SCHOOL CURRICULUM

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson has backed a motion urging the Executive not to make history history, after Education Minister Peter Peacock suggested that history will be removed from S1 and S2 in Scottish schools as part of an ongoing review of the curriculum.

Mr Stevenson said:

"This is extremely alarming. There have been indications that history generally - and Scottish history in particular - is not being valued by the Executive, but we now see that there is a proposal to remove history altogether from the first two years of secondary school.

"Scottish history should not be treated as a luxury, it must be recognised as a vital part of the curriculum.

"History helps Scotland's pupils understand their country, and for many this is an interesting and exciting part of their school experience.

"The Minister is bending over backwards to be an apologist for the British world view so dominant in schools throughout the UK. Such a move would not even be countenanced in other countries who have a pride in promoting their nation's history, as we should also.

"The current review of the national curriculum must ensure that Scottish history and culture are embedded in the curriculum. Scotland's children deserve to know and understand their own heritage."

9 November 2005

MSP WELCOMES RORA ROAD SAFETY IMPROVEMENTS

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed a commitment from Aberdeenshire Council to introduce new road safety improvements at Rora.

The move comes after Mr Stevenson was contacted by local community groups and took the matter up with the council, supporting their request that improvements be carried out. The road at Rora is a busy cross-country route used by many to travel to the St Fergus Gas Terminal.

Following a traffic survey of the area which confirmed that there was a problem with speeding, the council have brought forward proposals which have the support of local community groups. These include new road signs, improved visibility roadmarkings and an electronic speed warning sign.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“The community have fought long and hard for these measures so I was pleased to be able to support their case help push things along.

“The traffic survey was crucial to establishing that there was indeed a problem in this area and I am grateful to the council for listening to the concerns expressed by myself and others.

“I hope that these measures can now be completed soon and that we shall see an improvement in road safety for local residents and road users alike.”

MSP BACKS ROAD SAFETY WEEK

Banff and Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has highlighted the importance of Road Safety Week, which runs from the 7th - 13th November.

Commenting on the initiative, Mr Stevenson said:

“It is astonishing to learn that every day, ten people are killed and ten times as many are seriously injured on Britain's roads alone. We need to raise consciousness of road safety.

“Traffic is the biggest killer of 12-16 year-olds in Britain. Last year alone, deaths of 12-19 year-olds on foot rose by 26% from the previous year (from 87 in 2002 to 110 in 2003). Each and every one of us should make certain that we do all that we can to encourage drivers to slow down, especially around schools and in residential areas.

“If a child on foot is hit by a vehicle travelling at 35mph, they are more than twice as likely to die than if they were hit at 30mph. Staying well within speed limits is therefore essential for the safety of children who are walking and cycling.

“All road users should carry that thought uppermost in their minds when driving and be wary of road safety and especially the dangers that exist for children.”

STEVENSON WELCOMES LOCAL LOTTERY CASH

Banff & Buchan MP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the latest lottery pay-outs made by Awards For All. The local beneficiaries are engaged in a wide variety of sport, arts, heritage, health, environmental, educational and community activities.

Commenting on the good news, Mr Stevenson said:

“My warm congratulations go to the six local groups that were successful in receiving these latest lottery awards. I am certain that these awards shall prove most beneficial and will ensure that the groups continue in their existence providing a valuable service within their communities.

“It is amazing the difference a lottery award can do for a group The awards in question are substantial sums and I know that they will be valued immensely by the groups and their members and supporters.

“Once again I am pleased for the successful local groups this time round and have my fingers crossed for those who await to learn of any outstanding application in this regard. For my part, I shall endeavour to continue to press for a fair distribution of lottery cash to the North-east.”

Dental waiting list hits 15 months - The Scotsman

by LOUISE GRAY, the Scotsman

PATIENTS are having to wait a 15 months for specialist orthodontic work in Glasgow as waiting lists lengthen amid the nation's "crisis in dentistry".

Scotland's largest dental school also had a waiting time of almost a year for restorative surgery. All specialities had an overall waiting time of six months, a rise of 40 per cent since last year.
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Opposition MSPs said the problem was indicative of a dental crisis, as fewer dentists provide national health services and hospitals struggle to recruit consultants.

However, the Glasgow Dental Hospital said the problem was under control after investing in more staff and putting on extra clinics.

The figures were revealed in a parliamentary question from Stewart Stevenson, the Scottish National Party's MSP for Banff and Buchan. The answer from Andy Kerr, the health minister, revealed that the waiting time for orthodontics - usually the fitting of braces - was 64 weeks in June 2005, compared with 30 weeks in the previous year.

Patients waiting for restorative surgery had a median wait of 46 weeks, down from 52 weeks a year before. Overall, the median waiting time for all specialities was 26 weeks, compared with 18 weeks in June 2004.

The Executive pointed out that waiting lists have fallen to 1,492 patients waiting more than 26 weeks for a first outpatient appointment at the hospital in June 2005, a reduction of 64 per cent since 31 December, 2004. A spokesman said: "We are committed to reducing waiting times across Scotland, with particular priority being given to seeing and treating those patients who have waited longest."

But Mr Stevenson said the possibility of speedy treatment in Scotland was "remote indeed", with distressed patients contacting MSPs every day to report that they were unable to get access to treatment.

He said: "It is quite clear that dental services at all levels are facing crisis levels of delays of services." Mr Stevenson said that patients across Scotland are not only waiting longer for secondary care but also finding it difficult to access a dentist in the first place. The average Scot now has to wait more than a month for an NHS dental appointment and travel 24.5 miles to reach the clinic.

He said: "If dental care in the community is ineffective, one of the immediate consequences are that problems escalate and become ones that require hospital care.

"The statistics that we see in Glasgow Dental Hospital is an indication of the failure in general dental care and it shows how if you do not get a grip on a problem when it first manifests itself, it begins to get away from you."

Professor David Wray, the clinical director of the Glasgow Dental Hospital, said there has been an "unacceptable" delay for secondary dental care across Scotland in recent years.

But, he insisted that significant investment of more than £500,000 in Glasgow has turned around the problem. The hospital has taken on a new consultant orthodontist, a new children's dentist, an extra dental hygienist and two part-time restorative dentists. Consultants have also been asked to put on extra clinics, mostly in the evenings.

"We have got the problem cracked and I think it is because of significant investment by health services and because we have very successful in getting consultant staff to respond by doing evening clinics and extra clinics," he said.

"By December, there will not be a single patient in the dental school waiting for more than 26 weeks in any department. We will have completely eliminated our waiting list problems."

However, Prof Wray said that there would be problems treating people in the future unless the Executive invests in dental schools, academia and training up more consultants. Categories [Media] [Health and Community Care]
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to read the original story click on:
http://news.scotsman.com

8 November 2005

SALMOND WELCOMES NEW MOBILE BANKING SERVICE FOR BUCHAN

ROYAL BANK STEPS IN TO GAP LEFT BY CLYDESDALE CLOSURES

Banff & Buchan MP Alex Salmond has warmly welcomed the announcement from the Royal Bank of Scotland that it is to commence a mobile banking service for the Buchan area.

The new service will start in January and will serve the communities of Cruden Bay, Strichen, Maud and New Deer which have all either lost or are about to lose their Clydesdale Bank branches.

Commenting, Mr Salmond – a former economist with the Royal Bank of Scotland - said:

“This is tremendous news for the communities concerned and will go a very long way to address the problems caused by the wholesale withdrawal of the Clydesdale Bank from most of the rural North-east.

“This new service will be a lifeline for those local businesses which have been abandoned by the Clydesdale as well as those personal customers who may be elderly or have their employment within the village.

“I am delighted that the Royal Bank have listened to the approaches which were made to the other Scottish banks and have decided that rural Buchan is worthy of a banking service.”

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson added:

“While the Clydesdale may have taken a commercial decision to close a quarter of their branches and open new outlets in the south of England, at least one of their competitors feels that rural banking has a future and I am thrilled by today’s announcement.

“Aside from the loss of a valuable service, one of the main fears expressed to me by constituents was the knock-on effect that the bank closures would have on local shops as people are forced to bank elsewhere.

“Now however, with the new mobile banking service, there is still every incentive for people to carry on banking in their own community and, importantly, keep spending their money locally.”

4 November 2005

STEVENSON CONDEMNS EXECUTIVE'S ‘STAGGERING INABILITY’ IN DRUGS FIGHT

SNP Deputy Shadow Justice Minister Stewart Stevenson MSP today (Friday) condemned the Scottish Executive’s ‘staggering inability’ get to grips with Scotland’s illegal drugs trade.

Mr Stevenson was commenting after an answer to a parliamentary question he tabled revealed that, from 1999-2005, only £5.6 million in assets were seized from drug dealers in Scotland.

The answer to a further question also revealed that, despite the total value of Scotland’s drug trade being commonly accepted as between £3bn and £5 billion, the Executive “does not hold the information necessary to enable a reliable estimate [of the current value of the drugs trade] to be reached”.

Mr Stevenson said:

“These answers show the staggering inability of this Executive to get to grips with the drugs crisis gripping Scotland.

“This is a sorry indictment of the Executive’s justice strategy. It has been accepted in the Chamber that the value of Scotland's drug trade is between £3bn and £5bn, yet in the last six years, less than one per cent of this has been seized, massive sums of money are still flowing into dealers' pockets.

“If the Justice Minister really wants to say that crime doesn't pay then she should set targets that aim to dismantle the profit from drugs.

“This scourge of society must be contained and nullified, however this can only happen with data and facts and at present the Executive are operating in a knowledge vacuum. It is an absolute disgrace that the Justice Minister does not even have the tools to put a figure on the value of the illegal drugs trade.

“The Minister hasn’t got a clue when it comes to knowing how much money Scottish drug dealers are raking in. I therefore urge her to set up a commission to examine the worth of the illegal drug trade in Scotland.”

And, calling on Ms Jamieson to ensure additional support for the Scottish Drug Enforcement Agency (SDEA), Mr Stevenson added:

“The SDEA have taken a substantial amount of drugs off our streets. However, a note of caution must be raised as many people believe that the amount of drugs shipments seized only equates for ten per cent of the overall amount of drugs being shipped into the country.

“It is clear to me that the officers of the SDEA are dedicated to fighting the menace of Scotland’s drug dealers. However, the Minister needs to pin her colours to the mast by wholeheartedly supporting the SDEA.

“Real resources are needed so that the officers have the right tools to do their job. We need to hit the dealers where it hurts; in their pockets. The SDEA needs strong guidance and firm financial backing from the Justice Minister. The SNP is committed to this, but is Ms Jamieson?”

NOTE:

The full text of Mr Stevenson’s questions, and the answers, are given below:

3 November 2005
Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Executive what its estimate is of the current value of the drugs trade. (S2W-19763)
Cathy Jamieson: The Scottish Executive does not hold the information necessary to enable a reliable estimate to be reached.

1 November 2005
Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Executive what the most common assets recovered from drug dealers have been since 1999, showing the monetary value and broken down by (a) local authority area and (b) parliamentary constituency. (S2W-19762)
Colin Boyd, QC: Since April 1999, there have been 248 Confiscation Orders made in criminal cases where an accused person has been convicted of drugs offences. A Confiscation order is an order for payment of a sum of money by the accused.

The most common assets realised to make payment of Confiscation Orders are houses and flats, bank accounts, insurance policies and investments, motor vehicles and sums of cash seized by the police at the time of arrest for the original offence.

The monetary value of the Confiscation Orders made since 1999 is listed in the table below. The information is not held in the format requested, but is recorded by individual police force reporting the drugs case and is shown in that format:

Year (1 April to 31 March) /Number of Orders /Monetary value /Reporting Police Force

1999-2000 15 £807,283.13 Information not held
2000-2001 12 £117,284.75 Information not held
2001-2002 32 £532,812.96 Information not held
2002-2003 30 £560,248.89 Information not held

2003-2004
1 £1,500.00 Central Scotland Police
2 £18,205.47 Dumfries & Galloway Constabulary
1 £11,098.97 Fife Constabulary
5 £166,873.40 Grampian Police
8 £320,695.15 Lothian & Borders Police
5 £64,699.62 Northern Constabulary
7 £270,692.05 Scottish Drugs Enforcement Agency
22 £349,312.22 Strathclyde Police
2 £51,438.16 Tayside Police
Total for 2003-2004 53 Orders £1,254,515.04

2004-2005
1 £10,040.00 Central Scotland Police
2 £54,687.79 Dumfries & Galloway Constabulary
6 £104,831.44 Fife Constabulary
4 £319,059.58 Grampian Police
10 £107,916.84 Lothian & Borders Police
3 £17,545.84 Northern Constabulary
7 £187,174.55 Scottish Drugs Enforcement Agency
21 £383,420.23 Strathclyde Police
3 £37,029.80 Tayside Police
Total for 2004-2005 56 Orders £1,221,706.07

2005-2006 (Orders up to 20-10-05)
1 £10,000.00 Central Scotland Police
2 £17,300.00 Dumfries & Galloway Constabulary
3 £83,350.43 Fife Constabulary
6 £275,566.59 Grampian Police
9 £283,357.21 Lothian & Borders Police
3 £41,354.39 Northern Constabulary
3 £154,510.34 Scottish Drugs Enforcement Agency
20 £217,490.89 Strathclyde Police
2 £55,701.10 Tayside Police
Total to date for 2005-2006 49 Orders £1,138,630.95

Totals from
1999 – 2005
248 Orders £5,632,481.79

Property obtained through unlawful conduct can, without the need initially to secure a criminal conviction, be recovered by the Scottish Ministers through their powers of civil recovery under part 5 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. Civil recovery does not proceed on the basis of a person having been convicted for a particular offence and it is not necessary for the Civil Recovery Unit to specify the particular unlawful conduct which gave rise to the acquisition of an asset.

I can, however, confirm that since part 5 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 came into force, £988,581.99 has been realised through the powers of civil recovery. A further £1,800,854.61 has been forfeited to the Scottish Ministers through the cash seizure powers contained in the Act.

27 October 2005

STEVENSON BACKS CALL FOR GOVT. ACTION ON BIOFUELS

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has given his backing to Parliamentary calls for Government action to stimulate new renewable fuel projects.

Mr Stevenson said:

“I am very keen to see action taken by Government – be it Scottish or Westminster – to promote the production and use of environmentally-friendly biofuels.

“This is a subject which is vitally important, not only in terms of the environment, but also because there is huge interest in the agriculture sector among farmers who are interested in getting involved in the emerging market for energy crops.

“As the cost of conventional fuels continues to increase, mainly due to Chancellor Gordon Brown’s tax take at the pumps, environmentally-friendly fuels are going to become more and more important in the future. Scotland should be getting its act together now and getting in ahead of the game on this issue.”

Note: Text of the Motion is as follows:

S2M-3448: Economic Opportunity of Biofuels— That the Parliament supports the production of biofuels, including ethanol, biodiesel and vegetable-based oils, both as a boost to the economy and in keeping with obligations to the Kyoto Protocol; believes that biofuel production would also benefit farmers, particularly in areas such as the Highlands; recognises that green fuels are being used already in Sweden, the United States of America, Brazil and other countries, to the success of their agricultural economies, and considers that the Scottish Executive should continue to stimulate new renewable fuels projects through grants and petitioning Her Majesty's Government to reduce taxation on all biofuels.

25 October 2005

MSP PRAISES BACK CARE AWARENESS WEEK

Banff and Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson is highlighting Back Care Awareness Week.

“The aim of BackCare Awareness Week is to highlight the importance of good back care. Two out of five adults will experience back pain sometime in the next 12 months, and it costs the UK a staggering £6 billion each year in benefits, treatments and lost production. In the past, the prescribed treatment was bed and lots of rest. Nowadays though it is recommended that sufferers keep as active as possible - without overdoing things.

“Good posture encourages your muscles, joints and ligaments to work as nature intended. It means your vital organs are in the right position and can function at peak efficiency. Good posture can also contribute towards the normal functioning of the nervous system. Without good posture, your overall health and total efficiency may be compromised.

“Regular, controlled exercise can help ease back pain. Walking, swimming, cycling, yoga, t'ai chi and simple stretches are just a few 'back-friendly' activities. However, before taking up a regular programme of exercise, it is always of importance to consult your GP or back care specialist.

“BackCare is a UK charity that helps people manage and prevent back pain by providing advice, promoting self-help, encouraging debate and funding scientific research into better back care. For those wishing further information, they should call 0870 950 0275 (Monday and Friday, 9am to 12pm; Wednesday and Sunday, 6pm to 9pm) or go to www.backcare.org.uk.”

MSP WELCOMES ABERDEENSHIRE SCHOOL REPORT

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

“This is an excellent report, which has been achieved due to the immense dedication and enthusiasm of the headteacher and staff at Stuartfield School. 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. It is pleasing to hear that the school was praised for the efforts of staff to develop pupils’ confidence and broader achievements. In addition, Stuartfield School was found to have good day-to-day communication with parents, partnership with the School Board and the PTA.

“The school is an exceptional example of what can be attained, and I am sure that Stuartfield School will go from strength to strength.”

Note:

HM Inspector identified the following key strengths at the school.
  • A very positive, supportive and inclusive school ethos
  • The quality of pupils’ learning experiences at P6/P7
  • Efforts made by staff to develop pupils’ confidence and broader achievements
  • Day-to-day communication with parents, partnership with the School Board and PTA, and the use of resources from the wider community
Judged as very good:
  • Pastoral care
  • Climate and relationships
  • Equality and Fairness
  • Partnership with parents, the School Board and the community

11 October 2005

STEVENSON HIGHLIGHTS BREAST CANCER AWARENESS MONTH

Banff and Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has highlighted the importance of Breast Cancer Awareness Month taking place in October.

“Breast Cancer Awareness Month has the aim of increasing awareness of the disease among both the public and health professionals, raise funds for research into the cause, prevention and cure of the disease, and offer vital information and support to those affected by it.

“Breast cancer is a malignant tumour in the breast, whereby the cancer attacks the tissue in which it started and can spread to other parts of the body. The good news is that nine times out of ten, lumps in the breast aren't cancerous. In fact, many women have naturally 'lumpy' breasts, caused by other harmless conditions such as cysts. However, it's always best to check any lumps or changes in your breasts with your doctor - sooner rather than later.

“It is vital to stress the importance of self-examination, especially when you view the statistic that breast cancer is the second biggest cause of death from cancer in women in the UK and that early detection of breast cancer can in some cases increase survival rates to 90 per cent. Age is possibly the biggest single risk factor in breast cancer: women over 50 are particularly at risk. It's by no means unheard of for women under this age to have breast cancer, but it is less likely. Finally, we must’ve forget the fact that men also can develop breast cancer.

“For those wishing to find out more, Breast Cancer Care is a national charity that offers information and support to people affected by breast cancer. It can provide services to women and men with the disease, their families, friends, partners, and members of the public and healthcare professionals.

“The charity operates a free national helpline on 0808 800 6000 and publishes various factsheets and leaflets. For more information about the charity, call 020 7384 2984 or visit www.breastcancercare.org.uk.”

6 October 2005

STEVENSON ON PRISONERS RIGHT TO VOTE

Commenting on the ruling by the European Court of Human that banning prisoners from voting breaches their human rights, SNP Prison Spokesperson Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

"If we deprive criminals of right to liberties, then it does not seem disproportionate to deprive them of the right to vote. It would seem surprising to many, that we might offer prisoners an influence in changing the law under whose rule they are imprisoned.

"I shall be asking the Scottish Executive how they will be addressing the matter."

20 September 2005

STEVENSON DISMAYED AT NATIONAL DENTAL INSPECTION PROGRAMME OF SCOTLAND

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has expressed his dismay at the findings of the National Dental Inspection Programme of Scotland in Primary 1 children throughout Scotland during the school year 2003/2004.

Commenting on the report, Mr Stevenson said:

“The aim of the report was to determine the current level of obvious tooth decay experience in Primary 1 children in Scotland and to therefore observe the dental health trend over time. The target set by the Scottish Executive in 1999 was that at least 60% of Scottish 5 year olds will have no obvious decay experience by 2010. However, currently only 51% of Scottish 5 year olds fall into this category therefore the Scottish Executive has fallen short of its target.

“In overall terms, there has only been a small improvement in the level of dental health in Primary 1 children. But there are still too many of these chuildren with decay experience. Another problem is the fact that dental inequalities continue to persist, with children from socially deprived backgrounds having high levels of decay.

“Parents need to ensure that their children are given regular routine dental check ups so that any problems can be discovered early on so that corrective action can be taken immediately. As we all know, prevention is better than cure and it is therefore vital that our youngsters are very familiar with a good dental hygiene routine from the earliest age.

“The lack of accessible NHS dentistry provision in the North-east is certainly not helping this situation.

“There is a lot more work to be done in this area of dental care for our youngsters. Children need to have a good oral hygiene routine which needs to be encouraged by parents, schools, healthcare professionals and others. Action needs to be taken to ensure that the unacceptably poor levels of dental health endured by Scottish children is dramatically reduced at the earliest opprtunity.”

19 September 2005

STEVENSON CHALLENGES FINNIE ON BEEF LABELLING

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson raised the issue of clearer labelling for Scottish beef with Rural Affairs Minister Ross Finnie at Question Time in the Scottish Parliament.

The SNP MSP was speaking following recent concerns about inferior welfare standards in countries from which the big supermarkets are importing cheap foreign beef. Mr Stevenson was keen that the high standards to which Scottish beef is produced should be given greater prominence on the labelling of the product.

Speaking at Question Time in the Scottish Parliament, Stewart Stevenson said:

“Will the minister give some thought to the welfare standards under which our excellent Scottish beef is produced, given that those standards are substantially ahead of our main competitors in South America? Is there scope for introducing labelling about welfare standards so that people are aware, when they are making their purchasing decisions, of the conditions under which beef is produced for their plate?”

Minister for Rural Affais Ross Finnie responded:

“There are two elements to that. As I said in my response to Andrew Arbuckle, I stress to the supermarkets and to their representatives the high quality and high standards of animal health in Scottish produce, which Stewart Stevenson pointed out.

“The second element is that we have no powers beyond controlling safety or very basic standards in imported products. The World Trade Organisation does not accept our going above base levels to even higher standards unnecessarily; that would cause an issue.

“However, all Scottish producers and all those who promote red meat in Scotland are very clear about labelling so that consumers know exactly what they are getting. We should perhaps make the consumer more informed, not just about quality but about the associated issue of animal health and welfare standards.”

13 September 2005

STEVENSON PRESSES POSTCOMM ON FUTURE OF RURAL POSTAL SERVICES

Stewart Stevenson, SNP Member of the Scottish Parliament for Banff & Buchan, today [Tuesday] pressed officials from Postcomm on the future of rural postal services.

Further competition is being introduced into the postal network on 1 January 2006 and Mr Stevenson sought reassurances about the impact on rural services. The SNP MSP raised these issues with Nigel Stapleton, Chairman, and Sarah Chambers, Chief Executive of Postcomm, at a briefing by the regulator in Parliament.

Mr Stevenson focussed on the non-availability of new services created by competition entering the market in the most rural Council area in Scotland, Aberdeenshire, where 1% more people in the area live in a rural setting than even in the Highlands.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Stevenson said:

" People in rural areas suffer from less access to public services than those in urban communities. One of the key services that has been available to people in rural areas has been the postal service. Regardless of where individuals live in rural Scotland, they have been guaranteed postal deliveries on a daily basis and access to the network at a universal price. I am determined to ensure this continues.

"Postcomm gave me the reassurance that before they make any change in arrangements regarding postal deliveries, they must be satisfied that the Royal Mail will be able to continue a daily delivery and collection service in every community at an affordable price. This is absolutely essential to ensure rural communities do not lose out in the changes that are taking place.

"It is unimaginable that new postal service providers will offer a service to rural communities at a lower price than the Royal Mail. But these services may be available in urban communities. It is vital that while rural communities are not getting the benefit of cheaper services, they can be guaranteed a universal service on a daily basis and at an affordable price.

"Postcomm are unable to give guarantees about the extent of the rural post office network in the future but I will be pressing the Government to understand the significance of maintaining a comprehensive post office network throughout the rural areas of my constituency.”

8 September 2005

MSP CALLS ON COMMUNITY TO READ AND RESPOND TO PRISON CONSULTATION

Following the first round of meetings between the Scottish Prison Service and interest groups, local MSP Stewart Stevenson has called on people in Peterhead to respond to the public consultation launched last week.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

"We can choose between the loss of hundreds of jobs from our area with the closure of the prison and the £12 million that is worth to Peterhead or we choose new jobs with a new build prison.

"The Scottish Prison Service consultation document should be read carefully. I will be happy to supply. copies to anyone requesting one. Or it can read at www.sps.gov.uk

"The vital thing is for people to contribute to this public consultation. I intend to publish my response later this month and will be happy to include views, including those differing from mine, in that document if people make me aware of their views."

Speaking of the contribution made by the prison Stewart Stevenson continued,

"The many local people who work at the prison are respected by us all for their contribution to the safety of our community. Their presence among us is a key reason why serious sex offenders stay away after release from jail.

"If we fail to support the jail's work we stab these dedicated friends in the back.

"The community showed its support 3 years ago and should do so again."

1 September 2005

MSP Welcomes Launch of North East Prisons' Consultation

"Vindication of Campaign to Save Peterhead Prison" says Stevenson

With the publication today [Thursday] of the terms of the Scottish Prison Service consultation on the future of prisons at Aberdeen and Peterhead, Shadow Prisons Minister and MSP for Banff and Buchan, Stewart Stevenson has commented on the options described.

"I am pleased to see that the prison service has formally recognised the outstanding contribution made to public safety by Peterhead Prison staff and the strong community support for their efforts.

"Looking after some of Scotland's most serious sex offenders and preparing them for a life after prison free from further offending is the challenge staff face every day. Their achievements have won international recognition.

"With the opportunity to develop their work in a new prison, fit for purpose and efficient, the long term future is taking a substantial step forward to being assured with the launch of this consultation."

Speaking on the options in the SPS document, Stevenson said,

"The SPS have recognised that any option less than replacement of Peterhead's original 1888 building is simply not on.

"With Parliament ruling out closure in 2002 after a sustained, community-wide campaign led by prison officers' partners, the choices now offered both involve a new build prison at or near Peterhead.

"Redevelopment of our prison, coupled the co-location of Aberdeen, on the existing Peterhead site is the obvious option (Option 4). I trust that Aberdeenshire Council will at today's meeting start to examine the ways in which this can be made the more attractive option for the SPS.

"Nonetheless we should not yet rule out a new build on a green field site at Peterhead (Option 5).

"It is the time for 'keeping the heid' and delivering the new prison and the economic benefits it will secure for our community"
.

9 August 2005

EWING & STEVENSON VISIT INVERNESS PRISON, DISCUSS ANTI SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR ORDERS WITH COUNCIL & MEET CO-OP MANAGERS ON LOCAL SOURCING OF PRODUCE

Local Inverness SNP MSP Fergus Ewing will be joined by Banff & Buchan MSP and Shadow Justice Spokesperson Stewart Stevenson MSP for a day of visits in Inverness on Tuesday 9th August.

The MSPs will visit Inverness’s Porterfield Prison to discuss current issues affecting the running of the prison with Governor Alastair MacDonald and prison staff at 9:30am.

This will be followed at 12pm with a meeting with Highland Council officials, Gordon Fisher, Director of Housing and Helen Ross, Head of Housing Strategy to discuss the Council use of ASBOS (Anti Social Behaviour Orders) at the Town House, Inverness.

At 2pm the MSPs will tour the CO-OP supermarket at Telford Street, Inverness and meet with Ken MacKenzie the Chief Officer of the Co-Op in Scotland to discuss local sourcing of produce.

2 August 2005

STEVENSON COMMENTS ON SLOPPING-OUT CLAIMS

Banff and Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has warned that further slopping claims could cost the public purse millions. Speaking after the publication of the Scottish Prison Service's 2004-05 Annual Report, Stevenson said,

“We can now see that the budget provision for slopping-out claims has risen from £28 million to £44 million in a single year. The Executive were warned in 1999 that choosing to delay the ending of slopping-out could cost. It has – big style.

“With over 1,000 prisoners likely to pursue legal action, it will surprise few if the bill rises even more next year.”

Turning to the situation at Peterhead Prison, Stevenson commented,

“I have previously welcomed the consultation about the replacement of the present Peterhead Prison building. We must move rapidly to a new build and cap possible claims from inmates. Public money is better spent on rehabilitation than on compensation.

“A new prison building on the existing site can be delivered quickly. I estimate that a delay of a year in solving Peterhead's problems could cost over £6 million.”

31 July 2005

MSP ATTACKS BEEF IMPORTS ‘CULTURE’ OF MAJOR SUPERMARKETS

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has hit out at what he has termed the ‘imports culture’ of the major supermarket chains and the damage this is causing to the home beef industry.

Reports indicate a significant proportion of beef on supermarket shelves is now imported from South America, where farmers claim it is not produced to the same high quality standards as Scottish beef.

Speaking at Turriff Show, Mr Stevenson said:

“I am extremely concerned by the current situation facing beef farmers in my constituency. Currently, farmers are receiving less for their cattle than they were in 1995. That simply cannot be right.

“Sainsbury’s, for example, has apparently doubled its intake of beef from South America. Indeed, beef imports from Brazil increased by 29% to over 11,000 tonnes in the first quarter of 2005.

“Our farmers have some of the highest quality standards and animal health welfare standards which they must comply with. Often, this has meant significant expenditure for them to comply with EU regulations. It is simply not acceptable that having spent thousands to produce a quality product to the highest welfare standards that the major supermarkets make a dive for cheap imports produced to lower standards when it looks like the price of home-produced beef is going to rise.

“The supermarket chains must act more responsibly and start living up to their claims that they support Scottish farmers.

“I give praise where praise is due and I must single out Morrisons who are deserving of a special mention for taking over and announcing an expansion of the former Kepak meat plant at Turriff.
“Their support of the local farming industry through their recent expansion announcement is welcome. I am sure that this will see an increase in the amount of quality North-east beef being sold and positive benefits accruing to the rural economy from it.”

28 July 2005

MSP AND MEP PLEDGE ACTION ON EU WASTE DIRECTIVE

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has shown concern for the Waste Incineration Directive which is due to be implemented throughout the European Union on 28 December 2005. The directive would introduce minimum technical requirements and stringent operating conditions on the disposal of waste through incineration and co-incineration.

Mr Stevenson highlighted the case of tallow, rendered fat, which when burned can be used as a clean and efficient biofuel. Under the Animal By-products Regulation which is currently in force, the tallow is burned in steam raising boilers. Tallow is classified as carbon neutral and is therefore more environmentally friendly than other high carbon-emitting fuels such as heavy fuel oil.

All of these concerns have been voiced by NFU Scotland and the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers.

Commenting on the proposals in the Directive and their implications, Mr Stevenson said:

“Unfortunately, under the new proposals, new operating conditions will be introduced for the disposal procedure. This would require those in the rendering industry to install expensive new equipment to monitor the disposal of the tallow. Instead of doing this, many in the industry are likely to revert to burning heavy fuel oil, which burns with a larger proportion of CO2 emissions. The average increase in costs is estimated at £25/tonne.

“In the short term, we would hope that tallow would be made exempt from the proposed Directive. If we want to solve the problem permanently, however, a suitable strategy would be to reclassify tallow as a product rather than waste.

“I have therefore written to the Scottish Executive regarding the implementation of the directive and have urged them to make representations to the European institutions.”

Speaking in Peterhead, SNP MEP Alyn Smith said:

“It is concerning to hear that yet again it seems one side of the European Commission does not know what the other side has been doing.

“Hopefully we will be able to raise this issue with the folks in Brussels in time to stop these unforeseen consequences occurring.

“Scotland could do so well out of renewable energy and that debate is not just about the well known sources like windfarms. The energy mix in Scotland would make other countries green with envy, we'll be making sure that this directive does not trip us up.”

20 July 2005

MSP’s CONCERNS THAT NEW WATER PLANS WILL COST FARMERS

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has written to Rural Affairs Minister Ross Finnie with concerns that proposals from SEPA on water abstraction for agricultural purposes will mean increased costs for farmers.

Mr Stevenson wrote last year to NFU Scotland branches in his constituency with his concerns on the water abstraction proposals and invited feedback. NFU Scotland nationally 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.

Now, concerns have been raised that farmers abstracting more than 10 cubic metres of water per day will have to pay to be regulated by the new rules.

Mr Stevenson said:

“I said at the time that this seemed like yet another layer of administration that some farmers will be forced to deal with, and it seems I was unfortunately right.

“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”.

“I support the NFUS view that it is fundamentally unfair to expect farmers to pay a registration fee so they can be bound by more red tape.

“The answer is for the Scottish Executive to properly fund SEPA to carry out its duties instead of SEPA having to soak farmers for these new registration fees.”

SNP: SCOTLAND'S FISHING INDUSTRY MUST HAVE MORE FINANCIAL SUPPORT

SNP Leader Alex Salmond MP and Banff and Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson today (Wednesday) backed the Scottish fishing industry's call for extra funding to help meet the strict European legislation by 2007, which will require many trawlers to install new engines estimated at around £300,000 per boat.

Many people in the fishing industry are already struggling to make ends meet and cannot afford to meet the cost themselves. At present, the European Commission has not committed to provide any extra aid for Scotland's fishermen.

Mr Salmond said:

"It is high time burdens were taken off the fishing industry, not put on. This is the latest in a long line of restrictions or costs on an industry that has real potential but has been undermined by successive UK governments and by almost endless rules from Brussels.

"I fully back the fishing industry's call for additional financial support, otherwise many skippers in my constituency will face a huge cost barrier to continuing in the industry.

"For every £1 earned by the catching sector a further £2.50 is generated in upstream industries, and for each full-time job at sea there are a further two full time jobs onshore. If we don't get this right the impact will be felt in businesses across the north and north east of Scotland."

Mr Stevenson added:

"This is precisely the wrong time for a new burden to be placed on Scotland's fishing industry, just when they are beginning to recover from the previous draconian cuts imposed by the EU's Common Fisheries Policy.

"The industry has lost 1,200 fishermen from the north east of Scotland in the last couple of years.

"This is another issue where we must get support from Europe to re-engineer our fleet if these regulations go ahead."

19 July 2005

MINISTER TELLS STEVENSON OF PRISON PLANS

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the announcement from Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson that the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) are to consult on options for prison services in the North-east over the coming weeks.

The commitment from the Minister came in a Parliamentary Answer in response to a question tabled by the SNP MSP. Among the options being discussed, a new-build jail for Peterhead is considered to be the front runner.

Speaking in Peterhead today, Mr Stevenson said:

“I very much welcome this response from the Justice Minister. A new-build jail for Peterhead is very much the lead option.

“The staff at the prison have an excellent track record. Now they need the modern premises that will enable them to build on success and further ensure public safety.

“Peterhead Prison already provides hundreds of breadwinner jobs for the town and contributes around £12million to the local economy. A new jail will mean a substantial increase in employment and possibly worth £20million to the local economy.

Note: The Parliamentary Question and answer is as follows:

Stewart Stevenson (Banff & Buchan) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Executive what progress it has made in updating its plans for the prison estate. (S2W-17707)

Cathy Jamieson: I asked the Scottish prison Service (SPS) to update its Prisons Estates Strategy in light of the Napier judgement and other developments since the Estates Review was completed in 2002. As part of that work, SPS will be discussing options for prison services in the North-east of Scotland with a range of local and national interests over the coming weeks. SPS will then report to me. I will thereafter decide on the way forward.

18 July 2005

Stevenson Welcomes Healthy Improvement to Local School Menus

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed news that new healthier menus will be introduced in local primary schools after the summer break. Previously each school devised its own menu along pre-determined guidelines but new standards under the Hungry for Success initiative have led the Council's Catering Services to adopt a new approach.

The new menus will meet nutritional recommendations set by the Scottish Executive in the Hungry for Success initiative, having been nutritionally analysed and balanced over each week. The selections featured on the new menus will have lower fat, salt and sugar content and provide sufficient iron, calcium and vitamins.

A standardised menu now covering all schools has been compiled, and the SNP MSP has written to Aberdeenshire Council’s Chief Executive, Alan Campbell, urging the council to use locally sourced produce, to ensure high quality and freshness.

Speaking from his constituency office, Mr Stevenson said:

“Providing our children with healthy and nutritious food at school is one of the most important contributions we can make to the future well-being of our nation. Here in the North-east we produce and harvest the finest of natural foods, and it therefore makes sense for schools to take advantage of this position.

“There is the potential for a double win, with local schools getting healthy, fresh, high quality foods, and the local economy also getting a boost from schools local sourcing. I have written to Aberdeenshire Council urging them to make use of this welcome opportunity.”

STEVENSON: POLICE MUST BE GIVEN POWERS TO TACKLE KNIFE CRIME PANDEMIC

SNP Depute Shadow Justice Minister, Stewart Stevenson MSP, today (Monday) called for Scottish police to be given additional resources to tackle the “scourge” of knife crime.

Mr Stevenson made the call following the release of new figures from Strathclyde Police, which showed that, since January, there had been 13 murders, 145 attempted murders and 1100 serious assaults in the area.

Mr Stevenson said:

“These are shocking figures which graphically show that Scotland is indeed in the grip of a knife pandemic.

“Police in Strathclyde and throughout Scotland must be given the resources and powers they need to tackle this growing problem. Anyone found carrying a knife should face the full force of the law.

“However, we must also do more to combat the underlying culture of acceptance towards knives in Scotland and the factors that contribute to cases of knife-related crime.

“The Executive must tackle the underlying causes of these crimes; drinks, drugs and deprivation.

“It must also be recognised that knives are not a means of protection against possible assault. They are lethal weapons and we must do all that we can to ensure everyone in Scotland views them as such.”

4 July 2005

FINNIE RESPONDS TO STEVENSON ON SUPPORT FOR YOUNG FARMERS

Banff & Buchan SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson is urging farmers to respond to a Scottish Executive consultation in the coming months on the Scottish Rural Development Plan.

Mr Stevenson was speaking after receiving a response from Farming Minister Ross Finnie on support for new entrants to agriculture. The SNP MSP had queried why a support scheme existed in Northern Ireland for young farmers, but not in Scotland.

It emerged that the Department for Agriculture & Rural Development in Northern Ireland had launched such a scheme last month. The Northern Irish scheme supports the establishment of young farmers under 40 years of age by providing an interest subsidy on loans.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“I know that there is support for such a scheme as the issue of support for young farmers is one which is raised with me frequently.

“I wrote to the Minister on the matter seeking to know when young farmers in the North-east will have access to the same support as their counterparts in Northern Ireland.

“Mr Finnie has responded that his department is starting to draw up plans for the new Scottish Rural Development Plan which is set to run from 2007 and a formal consultation will be undertaken in the coming months. The Minister recognises that the current age structure in farming is too high and I therefore hope that some positive measures will be forthcoming to secure the next generation of North-east farmers.”

Note: The Department for Agriculture & Rural Development for Northern Ireland (DARD) launched the new entrants scheme for young farmers on 6 June 2005.

Speaking at the launch, the Minister Jeff Rooker said: "The aim of the New Entrants Scheme is to support young, progressive farmers who are prepared to invest in innovative measures which will help make their new businesses genuinely competitive in the more market-focused environment that is emerging in the wake of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform."

The proposed scheme has a number of conditions attached which require applicants to achieve a minimum level of competence in farming, environmental and animal welfare practices.

The Minister continued: "Having the necessary skills base will be a vital factor for any farm business wishing to remain viable in the competitive markets that exist today and in the future. They are also part and parcel of what is now regarded as responsible farming practice. I am confident that these conditions will not be a barrier to applications from progressive, young farmers wishing to build a long term career in the Northern Ireland agricultural industry."

1 July 2005

STEVENSON: EXECUTIVE MUST END JAILING OF UNDER-16s

SNP Deputy Shadow Justice Minister, Stewart Stevenson MSP, today (Friday) called for the Executive to take immediate action to end the holding children at the Polmont Young Offenders Institute.

Mr Stevenson made the call after it emerged that 11 children had been held at the institute in the last year, more than 12 months after inspectors advised against the policy.

Mr Stevenson said:

“It totally unacceptable that children under the age of 16 are being held at the Polmont Young Offenders Institute and this shows the Executive’s assertion that it is providing more secure accommodation places for children up for the lie that it is.

“The UN states that a child must only be imprisoned 'as a last resort' and locking young children up in institutions like Polmont could cause incalculable harm.

“The best interests of these children must be the Executive’s primary consideration, and action must be taken immediately to stop young children being locked up.”

27 June 2005

STEVENSON RAISES THE ISSUE OF DEAFBLIND AWARENESS WEEK

Banff and Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson highlights the importance of Deafblind Awareness Week (DAW), which starts today and runs to 3rd July.

Commenting on the initiative, Mr Stevenson said:

“DAW is a health and social campaign that aims to highlight and raise the awareness of this little-known disability. There are approximately 23,000 people living with deafblindness in the UK, many of these have some residual hearing or sight. This campaign aims to educate the general public and medical profession.

“Deafblindness has been described as one of the loneliest conditions in the world. Understanding your surroundings without sight or hearing is beyond comprehension as well as the lack of understanding of the disability can lead to feelings of isolation and helplessness.

“This awareness week is a great opportunity to raise public awareness about issues facing people who live with deafblindness, therefore the celebration of Deafblind Awareness Week is vital for a number of reasons. It provides many great opportunities, including: to bring together old friends and make new ones while having fun, to celebrate the achievements of people within the deafblind community to introduce the general public, community groups and corporate bodies to issues facing people living with deafblindness to raise the public profile of deafblindness, which will in the long term assist with issues of resourcing and securing funds for services to promote the range of services available to educate the general community about deafblindness.

“Those wishing to discover more information on this topic should contact 01733 358100 (voice/text) or go to www.deafblind.org.uk.”

23 June 2005

LOCAL MSP WELCOMES LOTTERY CASH FOR BANFF AND BUCHAN

Banff and Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the news a substantial sum of new lottery cash will be heading its way north announced by Awards For All.

Commenting on the announcement, Mr Stevenson said:

“My congratulations go to the four successful organisations which have been awarded lottery cash. I am certain that the organisations will put this funding to good use and I am delighted to learn that this funding will ensure the continued service of these organisations.

“It is well known that on previous occasions my constituency has found itself far from the top of the lottery funding league table. However, I continue, along with my colleague Alex Salmond MP, to ensure that we move up the table and get our fair share of the funding pie. One such way that we have achieved this was the creation of lottery surgeries which we held bringing together the main lottery bodies and made our case to secure a larger share of lottery funding for the North-east.

“I once again give my congratulations to the organisations which have benefited in this regard.”

Note: The local awards are:

Auchnagatt Playgroup £2125
Peterhead Community and Education Centre Playgroup £1394
Portsoy Primary Parents Support Group £4450
Sandhaven and Pitullie Harbour Trust £5000
Buchan Heritage Society £2500

22 June 2005

STEVENSON BRINGS TO THE FORE HUNTINGTON’S AWARENESS WEEK

Banff and Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson highlights the importance of Huntington’s Awareness Week which runs from 20th - 27th June.

Commenting on the initiative, Mr Stevenson said:

“Every year, the Huntingdon's Disease Association organises a week of 'grand calorie events' up and down the country to raise awareness of Huntingon's disease (HD) and to help people put on a few pounds. The idea is to teach people that those with HD need extra calories.

“Huntington's disease is an inherited, progressive neuro-psychiatric disorder and every child born to a parent who has Huntington's disease has a 50 per cent risk of inheriting the Huntington's gene. The disease affects males and females equally and currently there are between 6,000 and 10,000 sufferers in the UK.

“Although, at present, there is no cure, the Huntington's Disease Association offers regional care advisers who can provide help and support. It 's important to remember that the condition affects different people in different ways such as people with a progressive form of the disease may experience many different symptoms, such as involuntary movements, difficulty with swallowing and speech, weight loss, emotional changes and depression. Around-the-clock nursing care is needed in the later stages of the disease and secondary illnesses, such as pneumonia, are often the actual cause of death.

“In order to find out more, the Huntington's Disease Association, set up in 1974, is a registered charity supporting families affected by Huntington's. It also provides support, advice and education to professionals caring for families affected by the illness. For further information, call 020 7223 7000 or go to www.hda.org.uk.”

STEVENSON: HAULIERS NEED ACTION NOW, NOT IN 10 to 15 YEARS’ TIME

“FUEL TAX AND WORKING TIME DIRECTIVE FINAL NAIL IN COFFIN FOR MANY”

Banff & Buchan SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson is reiterating calls for the London Government to adopt the SNP’s fuel duty regulator plan immediately to help Scotland’s haulage industry.

Mr Stevenson made the comments after Transport Minister Alistair Darling announced plans for a road charging policy which would charge drivers between 2p and £1.30 a mile. The scheme would take about 10 to 15 years’ to come to fruition by which time many Scottish hauliers would have gone to the wall.

Mr Stevenson commented:

“The Government has produced a vague notion as a possible solution at a time when local hauliers are facing incredible pressures.

“Why is Alistair Darling spending so much time talking about transport policy for 10 to 15 years’ time when Scottish business - especially the haulage sector - faces serious threats now?

“The haulage industry is facing a bleak financial future. It is being subjected to the highest fuel tax burden in the EU and the working time directive will be the final nail in the coffin for many.

“Instead of protecting Scottish industry, Gordon Brown is inflicting huge damage on the Scottish economy and the freight industry in particular.

“The time of the SNP’s fuel duty regulator has now come.”

20 June 2005

STEVENSON QUESTIONS HEALTH MINISTER ON NHS 24

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson questioned Minister for Health Andy Kerr on NHS 24 service delivery at the Scottish Parliament’s Question Time.

Mr Stevenson asked the Minister whether he had any plans to create local call centres for NHS 24. The move follows criticism in the media of standards of service delivered by NHS 24.

Commenting afterwards, Mr Stevenson said:

“Local delivery of health services will always be better than remote delivery because local delivery draws on local knowledge.

“NHS 24 is a useful resource for people but should not be viewed as a replacement for dialling 999 in cases of emergency.

“Plans are underway in the NHS in England and Wales to computerise health records which will mean that healthcare professionals faced with a patient or casualty who is not known to them can access their medical history in making their assessment of what treatment is required.

“Currently, NHS 24 is handicapped by not being able to access their callers’ medical records. While we wait for computerisation of medical records in Scotland, local NHS 24 ‘mini-centres’ can make a positive impact on service delivery and I am pleased that the Minister recognised that in his response to me.”

19 June 2005

RELIANCE CONTRACT MORE EXPENSIVE THAN PUBLIC SECTOR

Shadow Deputy Justice Minister Stewart Stevenson MSP today demanded that Scottish Executive Ministers account for their contract with Reliance Custodial Services following reports that the deal struck with the private company may end up costing more than the previous publicly run service.

Professor Sheila Bird of the Royal Statistical Society has revealed that the cost of the Reliance prisoner escort contract could rise to as much as £150 million as a result of her analysis of the current performance and payments being made to Reliance. Should Reliance succeed in improving their performance to that previously achieved by the public
sector, payments to them will also rise to the point where the cost exceeds the previous public sector cost.

Speaking today [Sunday], the Mr Stevenson said,

"We knew from the start that the Reliance contract was bungled. Now Professor Bird has calculated that after a run of escapes and unauthorised releases this arrangement may now cost the public purse even more than the previous arrangements.

"In addition to this news, there is further evidence of trouble in the management of Reliance.

“Companies House records reveal six resignations from the board of Reliance Secure Task Management Ltd since they were awarded the contract from the Scottish Prison Service. Three of these were as recently as 18th May. With a board of only seven, this suggests a company in crisis.

"Ministers must now account for this financial and organisational chaos to Parliament."

16 June 2005

STEVENSON BRINGS TO THE FORE DIABETES WEEK

Banff and Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has lent his support to Diabetes Week.

Commenting on the event, Mr Stevenson said:

“Diabetes Week is the annual campaign by Diabetes UK to increase the public's knowledge of diabetes, its symptoms and effects, and to raise funds for research into a cure and I am certain that it shall prove to be very successful indeed.

“With numerous fundraising events happening across that UK, there are many ways to get involved and help make this year the best ever. People are free to organise their own event or simply participate in an already organised event to ensure that the issue of diabetes is raised.

“Diabetes mellitus is a condition in which there's an excessive amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood to which there are currently around 1.4 million people in the UK diagnosed with the condition. However, it is worrying to learn that it's estimated that a further 1 million have the diabetes without knowing it.

“Treatment for the disease can prove to be very successful and Diabetes can be managed by a combination of healthy diet, regular physical activity and sometimes tablets and insulin injections.

“Diabetes UK supports 200,000 members. The charity aims to help and care for people with diabetes and their families, to represent and campaign for their interests, and to fund research into the condition. Diabetes UK also advises the health profession, produces publications and operates a careline. For more information, please call 0845 120 2960 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm) or go to www.diabetes.org.uk.”

14 June 2005

STEVENSON QUESTIONS EXECUTIVE ON NEW ENTRANTS SCHEME FOR YOUNG FARMERS

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has questioned Scotland’s farms Minister Ross Finnie on the lack of a new entrants scheme to help Scottish young farmers.

Mr Stevenson was speaking after it emerged that the Department for Agriculture and Rural Development in Northern Ireland had launched such a scheme last week. The Northern Irish scheme supports the establishment of young farmers under 40 years of age by providing an interest subsidy on loans.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“This scheme must be very welcome indeed for the Northern Ireland agriculture industry and I am sure that it will be beneficial to farmers in Ulster.

“However, our own Scottish Executive Environment & Rural Affairs Department (SEERAD) advise that they have no such equivalent scheme here which would undoubtedly assist young farmers in Banff & Buchan who want to enter the industry.

“I know that there is support for such a scheme as it is a subject which is raised with me at the regular meetings I have with farmers and interest groups.

“I have therefore written to Ross Finnie on the matter seeking to know when young farmers in the North-east will have access to the same support as their counterparts in Northern Ireland.”

8 June 2005

SNP WELCOME PROPOSAL OF NEW PRISON IN NORTH EAST

SNP Stewart Stevenson MSP for Banff and Buchan today (Thursday) commenting of reports that that a new prison could be built in the North East.

Mr Stevenson said:

“When Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson visited Peterhead Prison at my invitation last August, I proposed a new prison at Peterhead to solve problems at both Craiginches and Peterhead.

“It has been clear for some time the conditions at Peterhead need improved urgently. The best solution is a new prison to replace Peterhead, which is incapable of being brought up to modern standards.

“I welcome the beginning of the end of a period of great uncertainty about the future of our prison, and am sure that others will join with me in that.”
Speaking about possible plans for Craiginches Prison in Aberdeen, Stewart Stevenson added:

“It has been clear that Craiginches has been under pressure and that redevelopment on the existing site was simply not possible.

“Consolidating two prisons into one based at Peterhead will create the opportunity for a modern efficient unit with a long term future.

“There will be a number of issues associated with any changes that affect Craiginches. It is vital that the Scottish Prison Service address any concerns that arise.”

6 June 2005

MSP HELPS OUT FOR VOLUNTEERS’ WEEK IN FRASERBURGH

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson will be lending his support to Volunteers’ Week at an event in Fraserburgh tomorrow (Tuesday).

Volunteers’ Week is a chance to celebrate the contribution made by the 22 million volunteers who give up their time to help organisations and communities across the UK.

North Aberdeenshire Volunteer Network plans to mark Volunteers’ Week with a ‘Thank You’ event for volunteers to be held at Aden Country Park. They will also be taking part in the launch of the gardening project at Dover Lodge, 117 Charlotte Street, Fraserburgh at 3.10pm on 7 June. This event marks the start of the environmental phase of the Fraserburgh Practical Health Project and involves a group of pupils from Lochpots School. MSP Stewart Stevenson will be there to offer support and encouragement as well as demonstrating his gardening skills.

Mr Stevenson says:

“Anything I can do to raise the profile of volunteering and encourage young people to become involved is positively worthwhile.

“I have been involved in helping to highlight Volunteers’ Week for several years now, ranging from simply being a driver for the Carers’ Support Project to this year assisting the pupils of Lochpots School with their project.

“This demonstrates the huge range and breadth of opportunities available for people to get involved in their local community and to enjoy themselves whilst at the same time making a positive contribution.”

Mary Cox, Network Co-ordinator at the Volunteer Centre, says:

“If you’re not already volunteering then Volunteers’ Week is a fantastic opportunity to find out what you can do and how you can get started. Modern volunteering is enjoyable and flexible and can give you skills for a new career, as well as improving your well being and reducing stress and depression.”

To find out more about volunteering opportunities in your area contact Mary on 01771 622111.
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