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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.
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