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28 September 2007

Stevenson Encourages Local Nominations for 'Best Rural Retailer' Awards

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson is encouraging local people to submit nominations for the annual Scottish Countryside Alliance ‘Best Rural Retailer’ awards.
 
The competition showcases the rural enterprise, produce and community spirit of Scotland. The awards aim to recognise and celebrate Scotland’s small independent retailers, who often act as ambassadors for their communities as well as promoters of local produce.
 
Commenting Mr. Stevenson said:
 
Here in Banff & Buchan we are fortunate to have some of Scotland’s best independent producers and retailers. Think of almost any type of food, and you will find that we are blessed with our own local producers –fish, beef and farm vegetables to name just a few.

“I am a strong supporter of our rural retailers and believe that, with the backing of local people, they will have a strong chance of gaining national recognition through these prestigious awards.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to showcase the best that Banff & Buchan has to offer and I would encourage everyone to consider submitting a nomination.”
 
Anyone can nominate a local retailer in one of four categories:
Best Local Food Retailer
Best Village Shop/ Post Office
Best Diversification
Best Traditional Business

Nomination forms can be obtained from telephoning the SCA office on 0131 335 0200 or can be made online at www.bestruralretailer.co.uk. The closing date for nominations is 6 October 2007.
 
-ends-
 
Notes to Editors:
 
These are the third annual Countryside Alliance Best Rural Retailer awards. The nomination phase closes on Saturday 6 October 2007 and regional judging will then take place. Scottish winners will be announced in December and four UK winners will be named at a reception in the House of Lords in February 2008.

Stevenson to launch New RSPB Strathbeg Facilities

Revamped nature reserve offers great boost for Scottish wildlife tourism
Extensive habitat restoration and refurbished visitor facilities provide unique nature experience in north east Scotland

Extensive upgrades to facilities and major habitat restoration work will feature at special open day and launch event for one of north east Scotland's most impressive nature reserves.

Visitors to RSPB's Loch of Strathbeg this Saturday 29th September will be able to watch up to 40,000 pink footed geese roosting on the stunning restored and diverse habitats surrounding Britain's largest dune loch, all from the refurbished comfort of a completely upgraded visitor centre.

Wildlife enthusiasts or those just curious about nature will also have the opportunity to get involved in multiple activities on the day, including guided walks, wildlife tracking, pond dipping, bird watching, beach clean events and demonstrations by the British Divers Marine Life Rescue charity.

Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banff and Buchan, will officially launch the new facilities and have a personal tour of the new facilities and habitat improvements at the reserve on the day.

More than £1 million has been spent during the past two years undertaking extensive habitat restoration and improvement works to upgrade the condition of the reserve habitats that play host to a multitude of birds, mammals, insects and plants. Funding for the work has been provided through European Regional Development Fund via ESEP (£480k), the National Lottery through The Heritage Lottery Fund (£367k), Scottish Natural Heritage (£150k), the Gillman Trusts (£20k), the Friends of Strathbeg (£20k) and by Shell UK(£6k) for education projects on the reserve.

Formed in the early 1720s, the 206 hectare loch and surrounding 1,052 hectares of reserve lands are a haven for wildlife, with 260 species of bird having been recorded at the site in addition to mammals such as otters, water voles, waters shrews, insects including more than 18 species of butterfly, 280 species of moth and more than 300 plant species.

However, the freshwater loch system has over the years been progressively collecting silt due to historical water management before RSPB purchased the reserve. This was degrading the ecological condition of the loch, but the works have allowed this to be stopped, along with other measures to rejuvenate the diverse habitats on the reserve and make them more suitable for the many species which live there.

New reed beds have been established, the main feeder burn into the loch has been re-routed to its original course, silt traps have been installed, and water control systems built that will allow reserve staff to maximise the potential of reed and wet grassland habitats for breeding waders and wintering wildfowl, particularly pink footed geese, which can number up to 80,000 on the reserve in winter as they pass through and refuel on their southward migration. Together with whooper swans, ducks including wigeon, teal, shoveler, pintail, and pochard, approximately 40,000 pink footed geese remain at the reserve throughout the winter months, a truly amazing spectacle. The last remaining island on the loch has also been stabilised and another that was lost in the 1970s has been recreated to preserve suitable habitat for breeding terns and gulls in the summer, and 26 hectares of willow scrub has been removed.

In the visitor centre new interpretation boards have been installed revealing fascinating information on the species that can be seen, and a 3x2 metre painting by a local artist Kath Hamper has been hung on the wall. An interactive play area has been created for children, and a camera and TV screen will be installed in the next few weeks to beam live pictures of bustling bird communities on the reserve direct into the comfort of the visitor centre for those cold and wild days when the comfort of an armchair and hot drink are preferred. Two new wildlife observation hides have been built and relocated to optimise wildlife viewing opportunities and cut down visitor journey times between hides, and another existing hide relocated.

Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

"I am delighted that the RSPB has now completed the restoration and upgrades to the habitats and visitor facilities at the Loch of Strathbeg. Inspiring places like this, where Scotland's precious natural heritage is on show and positively promoted to the public, are vital in helping people realise the true benefits that this can bring to the region, both economically and socially. It is a pleasure and a privilege to be able to re-launch Strathbeg nature reserve."

Joanna McFarlane, Loch of Strathbeg's Community Officer, said:

"Together with all the superb habitat restoration works, the upgrade to the visitor facilities here means that the fascinating Loch of Strathbeg experience is accessible to absolutely everyone - and not just the serious bird watcher. Families can come and spend a few hours taking in the unique and boisterous drama of one fifth of the world's population of pink footed geese taking flight in synchronised unison. There are also plenty of other amazing wildlife spectacles to me remembered and treasured for months.

"The Loch of Strathbeg is a truly inspirational slice of natural heritage that would surely be close to the top of any national league table. We just hope that people all over Scotland, but particularly in the north east, will now come and visit and that we can help them to realise the incredible value of our natural heritage and their right to enjoy, cherish and protect it."


Ends.


For more information/interviews/images, please contact RSPB Scotland’s Head of Media James Reynolds on 0131 311 6500 / 07725065186.

Notes:
RSPB's Loch of Strathbeg nature reserve is roughly ten miles north of Peterhead, near Crimmond, just off the A90.
The Loch of Strathbeg formed in 1720 following a storm blowing a sand bar across the channel feeding into the sea. At 206 hectares it is the largest dune loch in the UK. It has a shallow depth range between 0.75 and 1.25 metres, although in times of drought or flood can vary.
With 260 species of birds, 280 species of moths, more than 300 different species of plants, 18 butterflies and more than 20 species of mammal, the reserve is a haven for wildlife and a spectacular place to watch nature at all times.
Historically the freshwater loch water was crystal clear, with leaping brown trout and rich beds of stonewort. However, this changed in the late 1970s and 80s when local agricultural systems intensified, leading to excess fertiliser nutrients running off from surrounding farmland. This 'diffuse pollution' caused eutrophication in the loch system, leading to massive algae blooms turning the loch a soupy green. As a result the stonewort beds and brown trout disappeared. The project works were the first phase of action to redress this issue by cleaning water from the Savoch Burn - the main stream in-flow to the loch system - before it reaches the Loch. This has involved planting a reed filter system and a silt trap. The Savoch Burn has also been 'naturalised' - returning it to its original 1.8km meander rather than a 1.2km canal route to the loch, and significantly slowing the flow rate into the loch from 2-3 hours to 2-3 days. This should reduce the diffuse pollution. At times of flood the burn will over-top along its whole length and spread through the newly-created 23 hectare reed bed combined with the silt trap which will allow suspended material to settle out prior to entering the loch system. In addition a network of water control structures have also been established that allow control of water levels within the Savoch Burn area, reed bed and adjacent wet grassland to maximise their potential for breeding waders and wintering wildfowl, particularly pink footed geese. 26 hectares of mainly scrub willow has been removed from an area of open wet fen that was in an unfavourable condition due to the encroaching woody vegetation. The last remaining island on the loch has been stabilised, and an island that disappeared in the 1970s has been re-established to provide suitable habitat for breeding seabirds, notably common terns.
The loch is presently classed by SNH as in unfavourable condition due to the water quality aspect of the habitat which the completed works are aimed at redressing. RSPB has commissioned a Loch Assessment that will investigate the situation with the nutrient rich silt in the loch and its in-flows, producing a range of options to remedy the problem. Being a shallow loch, any strong winds churn up the loch bed and re-mobilise the silts, allowing a fresh dose of nutrients to become active again. The assessment will produce a range of costed options from the do-nothing option to the full scale silt removal option via dredging etc. If we can start the process of whole-scale restoration we can, over time, return the loch not only to favourable condition, but to bring back the classic description of a system with crystal clear water with a sandy loch bed covered with beds of stonewort and leaping brown trout.
2006's hugely successful Goosewatch programme of guided walks and talks will return in 2007. Join staff one hour before sunrise throughout October and November to experience one of North East Scotland's most impressive wildlife spectacles. Hear about and witness the lives of tens of thousands of pink footed geese as they lift off into the skies above the reserve. Dates for 2007 are: Wed 17th Oct, Sun 21st Oct, ?Wed 24th Oct, Sun 28th Oct, Wed 31st Oct, Sun 4th Nov, Wed 14th Nov, Sun 18th Nov, Wed 21st Nov.
Official public events at the Open day on the 29th September begin at 11am. The Reserve launch with Stewart Stevenson MSP and other VIPs will begin at 10.30am. Events will include:
Children's pond dipping/mini beast hunts/games - 11am -5pm

Adopt-a-beach (Marine Conservation Society) beach clean initiative. 10am, St Combs Beach below Tufted Duck hotel.

Guided beach walk with British Divers Marine Life Rescue seal and dolphin stranding demonstration (please note there will be no live animals). 11.30am and 12.30pm.

Wildlife Tracks and Signs guided walk. (30 mins) A hands on activity for all the family to learn useful tips about identifying the signs indicating what wildlife passed by before you. 12.30, 2 and 3.30 pm.

Farmland Birds under threat. (30 minutes). A guided walk to search for, identify and learn about some of our most threatened farmland song birds and waders. 12pm and 1.30pm.

Guided birdwatching in Tower Pool hide. 11am to 3pm. Observe the reserves thousands of geese, water birds, raptors and other species with staff on hand to help identify and spot the more elusive birds and wildlife.

To book a place on any of the walks or for more information on the forthcoming Goosewatch, please contact Joanna McFarlane on 01346532234 or email jo.mcfarlane@rspb.org.uk. For Goosewatch, members are free. Adults £2. Children £1. Places are limited, so book early.

27 September 2007

Edinburgh Airport rail improvements

Proposals for an alternative to the previous Edinburgh Airport Rail Link (EARL) project were today set out by the Scottish Government and approved in Parliament.

Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson vowed to provide good public transport access to Edinburgh Airport in order to encourage fewer people to drive there.

He also stated that the proposals will be delivered for a fraction of the cost of EARL project and without high risk.

The proposals are:
  • To add an airport station at Gogar on the Fife railway line. This will complement rather than compete with the tram project. This can be delivered sooner than Audit Scotland believed EARL would have been completed
  • To add an interchange between the tram and the rail network at Gogar, delivered in time for the opening of the tram. This will allow passengers from Fife and further North to easily and quickly access the aiport without need to travel to the city centre as now
  • To build a rail link between the Fife and Edinburgh Glasgow routes - the Dalmeny chord. This would allow Edinburgh and Glasgow trains to stop at the new airport station
Mr Stevenson said:

"The planned EARL project was hugely complex and demanded clear and co-ordinated project management. The June Audit Scotland report told us that the project did not have this. Key stakeholders confirmed this position and it is clear that no agreement had been reached on the most effective way forward to deliver EARL.

"In particular, none of the key stakeholders were willing to take responsibility for the risks associated with the construction of the tunnel. That would have meant tax payers having to take on an unlimited risk. A risk that this government is not willing to take. An Edinburgh Airport rail link cannot proceed in its original form.

"The proposals approved by parliament today will provide good public transport access to Edinburgh Airport to encourage fewer people to drive there. It will also be delivered for a fraction of the cost of the EARL project and without high risk.

"EARL was estimated to cost more than £600 million. The proposals approved by parliament today will be delivered for around £200 million - less than a third of the cost."

The Minister also set out plans for a ten year investment programme setting out how the government intend to enhance the rail network across Scotland in line with the High Level Output Specification. This would involve the electrification of the Edinburgh to Glasgow route, with benefits for the environment, performance for the passenger and lower operating costs.

It is planned that this will include up to six trains an hour on the Edinburgh/Glasgow train route, with express services travelling from city centre to city centre at a journey time of around 35 minutes.

Including investment in other central Scotland routes this could mean as many as thirteen services between the two cities every hour within ten years.

HLOS was announced in July in parliament and today's statement is in line with Minister's Scottish rail priorities.

20 September 2007

Clyde and Hebrides ferry contract

A six year contract to operate lifeline ferry services for the communities of the Clyde and Hebrides has been awarded to CalMac Ferries Ltd.

The award means that the new contract securing these vital services will commence on October 1, 2007.

Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson said:

"We are determined to maintain and improve Scotland's ferry services.

"This contract award secures lifeline ferry services across the Clyde and Hebrides.

"These ferries provide a vital link for goods and services to be transported to our remote and island communities, sustaining their economies. For these communities, a reliable ferry service is just as important as a new road or rail link in a large town or city. In fact, many would argue that it is even more important than that, as it is their only link to mainland Scotland and beyond.

"The CalMac bid has been closely scrutinised, and the contract incorporates some important service enhancements. This contract will deliver real improvements for all passengers using the services.

"I am aware of the strong feelings around the need for this tender, but completing the process was the quickest way to protect these vital services for those communities who depend on them.

"The new Scottish Government is looking at the fares structure for ferry services. We recently commissioned a study into Road Equivalent Tariff, making clear our desire to deliver a fairer deal for Scotland's ferry passengers."

The new contract provides for:
  • Extending the double vessel service to Islay that has, in the past, operated during the peak summer season so that it covers the whole summer timetable period
  • An improved winter timetable for Gigha
  • An additional Friday evening and a Saturday evening sailing between Oban and Craignure on Mull during the winter
  • An additional daily return sailing on the Ardrossan - Brodick route during the winter
  • An additional sailing each week between Oban and Coll/Tiree between late October and Christmas
  • The introduction of a performance regime intended to incentivise the operator to deliver the services to the standards laid down in the contract
The tender process began in October 2005 and has been the subject of two consultation exercises to finalise the service specification. The contract being awarded is a six year block grant public service contract under the terms of the EU Maritime Cabotage Regulation and the EU Guidelines for State Aids in the maritime sector.

V-Ships UK Ltd and CalMac Ferries Ltd were invited to tender in December 2006. V-Ships UK Ltd withdrew from the process in January 2007 leaving CalMac Ferries Ltd as the only bidder. The bid was subject to a robust and thorough evaluation by the Scottish Government assisted by independent financial, legal and maritime technical experts.

The contract, which will be worth £43 million in subsidy in year 1, will commence on October 1, 2007. CalMac Ferries Limited, a wholly-owned subsidiary of David MacBrayne Ltd, will operate the services. David MacBrayne Limited is in the ownership of Scottish Ministers.

The budgeted subsidy for the first year of operation is £43.0 million, subject to adjustments as necessary in the light of actual inflation and other factors provided for in the grant agreement. Thereafter, the subsidy will be calculated according to the terms of the detailed grant agreement, which was issued in draft to the two companies invited to tender for the contract.

The evaluation of CalMac Ferries Ltd's bid has been rigorous and thorough and has followed two strands - technical and financial. CalMac Ferries Ltd's technical bid was fully compliant, robust and technically acceptable and clearly reflected their expertise and wealth of experience in operating these lifeline ferry services. Likewise their financial bid was financially robust and provided value for money. Overall their bid demonstrated the company's ability to continue to deliver the lifeline ferry services in the Clyde and Hebrides area.

The contract will begin on October 1, 2007 and run until September 30, 2013.

17 September 2007

Stevenson Backs Local Farmers in Wake of Foot and Mouth Outbreak

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson today pledged his full backing to local farmers in Banff & Buchan in the wake of the recent re-emergence of Foot and Mouth disease in Surrey, England. The Scottish livestock industry had only just got back on its feet from the summer outbreak before last week’s blow.

Commenting Mr. Stevenson said;

“The Scottish livestock industry has been left reeling since last week’s re-emergence of Foot and Mouth in Surrey. I am fully committed to supporting the farmers of Banff & Buchan in order that the impact of this latest outbreak can be minimised as much as is possible in the circumstances.

“This second outbreak in a matter of weeks is very serious news indeed for the industry as many of my constituents, as with farmers across Scotland, have been forced to cope with a significant backlog of work as a result of the summer outbreak. It is of immense importance that this second outbreak does not ruin the livelihoods of those involved in the agricultural industry.

“Since speaking to local farmers I have been, and will continue to be, in direct contact with the Secretary for Rural Affairs in order that he can be kept up to date with the concerns of those impacted on the ground.

“Richard Lochhead’s approach in dealing with the summer outbreak was fast and effective, and showed a willingness to make tough and pragmatic decisions in the best interest of the Scottish livestock industry. The next few weeks will be a critical period as we wait for developments, but I am hopeful that Banff & Buchan’s farmers will be impacted as little as possible.”

12 September 2007

MSP Supports International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer

Banff and Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has highlighted the importance of International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, which takes place on Sunday 16th September.

Commenting on the initiative, Mr Stevenson said:

“There is an urgent need to preserve the ozone layer, which filters sunlight and prevents the adverse effects of ultraviolet radiation reaching the Earth's surface, thereby preserving life on the planet.

“The awareness day was designated by the United Nations to commemorate a very important day in world history. In 1987, 24 countries met in Montreal and announced to the world that the time had come to stop destroying the ozone layer and in so doing, these countries committed themselves to rid the world of substances that threaten the ozone layer.

“The ozone layer acts as a giant umbrella over the earth and protects us from exposure to the sun's ultraviolet radiation. When the ozone layer thins, high levels of UV radiation reach the earth's surface and threaten our health and our environment dramatically. Each 1% reduction of the ozone layer leads to a 2% increase in the incidence of non-melanoma skin cancer as well as to a higher incidence of cataracts and blindness.

“To date, 184 countries have ratified the Montreal Protocol, which seeks the elimination of substances that destroy the ozone layer as its final objective and I hope that we continue to see progress in this regard.”

11 September 2007

Stevenson Welcomes Pilot Scheme to Protect North Sea Cod Stocks

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed a new scheme to protect North Sea cod stocks is to be tested using on-board independent observers.

Under the initiative, skippers will be given extra days at sea if the observers conclude that cod is less than five per cent of the total catch on the trip. The observers from an independent monitoring agency will verify catches. Funded by the Scottish Government and jointly developed with the industry, the pilot scheme aims to test how effective such incentives are in conserving cod stocks.

Commenting Mr. Stevenson said;

"The new Scottish government from the beginning pledged a fresh start for Scotland's fisheries. That means looking at new ideas to assist the recovery of North Sea cod stocks.

"This scheme will reward Scottish skippers who are able to use their expertise to avoid cod. It is essential to harness the skill and knowledge of fishermen in order to allow other forms of fishing with minimal by-catches of cod.

"The observer pilot has been worked up with the industry over the past two months. It builds on the launch last week of real-time area closures scheme also jointly developed with the industry, whereby fishermen can temporarily avoid fishing in areas with high concentrations of small cod.

"The Scottish government is fully committed to ensuring healthy stocks of cod, as is everyone in the Scottish fishing industry, and in identifying sensible solutions which achieve that.

"I believe the pilot will provide us with valuable information which will help us set about building a better plan for recovering cod stocks This is certainly good news for the fishing industry in Banff & Buchan."

10 September 2007

Stevenson Welcomes Announcement on Agricultural Subsidy Appeals Reform. New Deer Show Commitment Led to Announcement

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has warmly welcomed the announcement by Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs Richard Lochhead that he has appointed an independent group to review the appeals system for farm subsidies. Former NFU Scotland President John Kinnaird will head the review team.

The announcement is a direct result of a commitment given by local MP Alex Salmond at a meeting with local farmers at last year’s New Deer Show that if the SNP won the 2007 election he would reform the appeals system which had been a cause of great concern among the farming community.

The SNP’s election manifesto contained the following commitment:

“…we will introduce a truly independent appeals panel in response to the existing system’s shortcomings. SEERAD officials should not sit in judgement on decisions made by colleagues”.

Speaking today, Mr Stevenson said:

“I am delighted by this announcement and particularly pleased that John Kinnaird, with his depth of knowledge of the system and its shortcomings, has agreed to head-up the review.

“This is yet another example of the fresh approach of the new SNP Government and one which I am sure will be welcomed by North-east farmers.

“It is clear that the SNP is delivering on its manifesto commitments for our agriculture industry as this announcement follows on from the commitment given at the Royal Highland Show to introduce a support scheme for new entrants.”

7 September 2007

Stevenson Highlights Importance of Advice Week

Banff and Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has shown his support for the Citizens Advice service's annual Advice Week, taking place from 10th – 16th September.

Commenting on the matter, Mr Stevenson said:

“Advice Week is an annual Citizens Advice service-wide event where events and activities are held all around the UK to promote bureaux as vital local charities, to raise much needed funds and to recruit the 5,000 new volunteers we need every year. The first one opened for business in September 1939 as World War II began, staffed entirely by volunteers and with financial support from local councils and we must remember that CAB’s are charities.

“Every Citizens Advice Bureaux is an independent registered charity and without the contribution of over 20,000 trained volunteers and financial support from trusts, lottery funds, companies and individuals, they could not continue to provide their vital service in local communities – helping people to solve problems before they become crises.

“The Citizens Advice service is one of the UK's largest voluntary organisations as well as one of the best known in the UK - 95% of people have heard of the organisation and nearly half have used a CAB at some stage in their life.

“I hope that the advice week will help to raise awareness amongst people in communities across the country of the work that they do and of how they can help them. For those wishing for more information, they can access the website: www.citizensadvice.org.uk.”

Stevenson Supports Street Football Project

Banff and Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has thrown his support behind the planned Streetfootball which comes to Banff later this month with weekly sessions organised for Fridays.

Commenting on the night-time initiative, Mr Stevenson said:

“This is an excellent initiative in order to deal with the issue of youth disorder and I commend the local Brighter Horizons group, who is steering the scheme for such a creative method for distracting young people.

“This scheme, which is free, will hopefully give teenagers something to do and at the same time curb anti-social trends among young people at weekends on the streets of Banff.”

Stevenson Visits New Fraserburgh Brewery

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has today (Friday) visited Fraserburgh brewery, Brew Dog. Mr. Stevenson was invited to visit the recently opened brewery by owners/directors Martin Dickie and James Watt to view the facilities and discuss various issues of interest to the new business.

Brew Dog is an independent brewing company established by Mr. Dickie (24) and Mr. Watt (25) in April 2007. The company produces natural beers with no additives or preservatives and were runners up in the recent Shell Scotland Livewire Awards for Young Entrepreneurs.

Commenting after the visit Mr. Stevenson said;

“I was delighted to get the opportunity to visit this excellent local business. It is fantastic to see an innovative new business with such potential for success setting up in our local town of Fraserburgh. As local MSP I have always strongly supported small and medium size businesses in Banff & Buchan such as Brew Dog for the benefit of the local economy.

“I was highly impressed by the brewery’s facilities and their top quality produce. Indeed as I was not driving on this occasion I had the pleasure of sampling the freshly brewed beers which are made from only natural ingredients and can attest to their superior standard.

“The entrepreneurship shown by Brew Dog’s two young directors is extremely commendable and sets an excellent example to other young people in the area. I wish them every success with their new business.”

6 September 2007

Stevenson Welcomes Government Crack Down on Binge Culture

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the Government’s decision to tackle Scotland’s excessive drinking culture by curbing cut price alcohol deals in supermarkets and shops.

The Government has outlined proposals to ban any promotion that provides alcohol free or at a reduced price on the purchase of one or more of the product or another product. It is hoped that the new regulations will be created in 2008 for implementation in early 2009.

Commenting Mr. Stevenson said;

“I welcome the Government’s moves to bring Scotland’s binge drinking culture to an end. In towns such as Peterhead and Fraserburgh, as with other communities throughout Scotland, it is far too often the case that people are drinking purely as a means to get drunk.

“This inevitably leads to a high level of antisocial behaviour in the streets where we live and large numbers of people dying in our hospitals of alcoholic liver disease. The facts speak for themselves - over 60 per cent of prisoners admit they were drunk when they offended, and six people die every day from an alcohol related illness.

“This Government does not want to curtail people’s right to have a good time and enjoy alcohol in a responsible manner, but the proposed legislation will take the right step towards making people adopt a conscientious attitude to drinking. It will naturally take time for cultural attitudes to change in the long term, but I am confident these measures will see the beginning of healthier and safer towns in Banff & Buchan and across Scotland.

“There is a role in this cultural shift for the NHS, the police, the alcohol industry, and for our schools. We need to communicate with the public about taking responsibility and drinking sensibly. This Government’s proposals signal our intent to step up the pace of action on antisocial drinking."

4 September 2007

Abolition of Bridge Tolls Bill

The Abolition of Bridge Tolls (Scotland) Bill has been introduced to Parliament.

The legislation will enable the Scottish Government to abolish tolls on the Forth and Tay road bridge.

Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson said:

"I am delighted that the Scottish Government's first Bill has been published today. If passed, all road bridges in Scotland will be free thus ending years of injustice for the communities of Fife, Tayside and the Lothians. We believe that it is unfair and unacceptable that the two road bridges into and out of Fife are the only remaining toll bridges in Scotland

"The proposal of a bill has received support in parliament, and more importantly, from the general public. We hope to remove tolls at the earliest opportunity, subject to due Parliamentary process."

The primary objective of this Bill is the removal of the remaining tolls from the Forth and Tay Road Bridges as soon as practicable.
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