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30 October 2007

Stevenson Welcomes Graduate Endowment Bill

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the publication of the Scottish Government's Graduate Endowment Bill, which outlines their proposals to scrap the unpopular fee for students.

The Bill, published last week, highlights the Scottish Government's plans to scrap the fee for around 50,000 students including those who have just graduated and those who have just started new courses.

Graduate Endowment Fee was introduced for Scottish domiciled students and EU students entering a Scottish university from 2001-02 and is a one off payment on successful completion of a higher education course of three years or more.

Commenting Mr. Stevenson said;

"I wholly welcome the Education Secretary's proposals to scrap the Graduate Endowment Fee. Our education system is key to growing Scotland's economy and its reputation as a country of learning and ambition, and by easing the burden placed on students we are encouraging people to become part of a flourishing society.

"Many of my constituents in Banff & Buchan, from all ages and backgrounds, are keen to enter into further education and we must ensure that no limitations are placed on people's potential.

"Abolishing the fee is not just good news for current students but is also in the best interest of the public purse. The fee is an inefficient way of raising income with taxpayers losing around a third of all fee income collected.

"The publication of this Bill means that the SNP Government has once again delivered on their manifesto pledges. The opportunities created by scrapping the fee will mean students in Banff & Buchan can achieve their maximum potential in a flourishing Scottish education system which is fit for the twenty-first century."


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Notes:

The first students became liable to pay the Graduate Endowment Fee - currently £2,289 - on April 1, 2005.

Students with a disability and lone parents are among those who are exempt from the graduate endowment fee. Around half of graduates are currently liable to pay the fee.

Students can pay the fee in cash, by adding it to their student loan, or a mixture of both. Around 70 per cent of graduates have been adding fees to loans each year.

Approximately £17m is generated in income from the Graduate Endowment Fee annually and reinvested into the student support system. The abolition of the GE fee will not affect the fees, grants and bursaries currently payable by the Student Awards Agency for Scotland. That support system will remain.

There will be no implications for university funding, which will continue to be funded from existing budgets.

It is estimated that around £12.7m has been paid back in cash from the three cohorts of graduates liable to pay the fee with £26.3 million being added to loans. Of this £26.3m only £57,000 has been returned to the taxpayer.

29 October 2007

Stevenson Comments on Labour Vote Against £25M Package for Farmers

Commenting on the Labour party voting against a motion
supporting a £25 million package for Scottish crofters and
farmers affected by the Foot & Mouth outbreak, Banff & Buchan
MSP Stewart Stevenson said;

"Last week the Scottish Parliament gave its backing to the
Scottish Government's aid package for live stock producers, a
package that is twice the size of DEFRA's for farmers in England
when our industry is half the size.

"It was therefore astonishing that the Labour party voted
against this package. Even the LibDems, after some curious
voting behaviour where they backed Labour, had to accept the
scale of the Scottish Government's support for farmers and crofters.

"I have no doubt that farmers and crofters in Banff & Buchan
will be shocked at the Labour party’s politically motivated behaviour.

"This further betrayal will not be forgiven lightly after the
failure of the London Labour Government to come up with
compensation for Scotland's crofters and farmers."

25 October 2007

Stevenson Delighted as Scottish Governmnet Backs Farmers

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the SNP Government’s announcement of a £25million aid package to help Scotland’s farmers and crofters following the hard-hitting Foot and Mouth outbreaks this year.

Rural Secretary Richard Lochhead announced the measures which will provide much needed support to prevent long-term damage to Scotland’s livestock industry.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“I am delighted that the Scottish Government have come to the aid of Scotland’s farmers with an aid package that will do much to assist one of our most vital industries.

“The UK Government have sidestepped Scotland’s farming communities and effectively washed their hands of any responsibility to provide support. This is particularly startling when considering the outbreak originated in a UK Government licensed facility.

“The Scottish Government have throughout the summer and September outbreaks listened to the farming communities concerns and have acted upon them swiftly.

“The large number of farmers who have been affected by Foot and Mouth restrictions will be relieved to see a Government that takes effective action.

“The Scottish Government are all too aware of the importance of Scotland’s livestock industry to our communities to ignore the crisis facing the industry and leave it to suffer a meltdown.

“I have been and will continue to listen to the farmers in my constituency to ensure their concerns are taken on board and acted upon by the Scottish Government.”


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Notes:

The main elements of the package are:

Payments of £6 a head for breeding ewes. This will cost an estimated £19 million.
Payments for the emergency welfare scheme already under way and cancellation of the second instalment of sheep dip charges.
Payments of £200,000 to the Royal Scottish Agricultural Benevolent Institute to help individuals in need of support and £60,000 to the Royal Highland Education Trust to help raise the profile of Scottish food and farming in the wider community.
Further investment of up to £1 million for enhancing the resilience of the red meat sector in the longer term.

24 October 2007

Aberdeen To Ellon upgrade moves a step closer

A multi-million pound upgrade to a key route linking local communities and businesses in the north east takes a significant step forward next week (1 November 2007).

Transport Scotland will publish Draft Orders for the A90 Balmedie to Tipperty dualling project, signalling the start of the statutory process for the £51- £64million scheme.

The public and interested parties will have an opportunity to comment on the preferred route and are encouraged to visit Transport Scotland’s exhibition on 1 and 2 November in The White Horse Inn, Balmedie between the hours of 12:00 noon and 8:00 PM on both days.

The planned 5 miles (8.5 kilometres) of new dual carriageway, with fly-over junctions, will complete the missing dual carriageway link between Aberdeen and Ellon thus improving traffic flow and safety, particularly at peak times.

Transport Minister, Stewart Stevenson said

“The A90 is a key artery in Scotland’s trunk road network, and today is a significant milestone in our efforts to improve safety on this important route.

“Local communities will be delighted that this project is moving towards the next stage. This investment will improve connections for businesses and communities across the North East.

“This Scottish Government is committed to providing a first class transport network which will support and grow our economy. This project plays a vital part in the delivery of our vision, bringing benefits not just to the North East, but to the whole of Scotland.”

Subject to the successful outcome of the statutory process, it is estimated work will start in 2010, taking around two years to complete.

22 October 2007

Stevenson Supports Energy Saving Week

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has given his backing to Energy Saving Week, which takes place from 22nd – 28th October.

Commenting on the initiative, Mr Stevenson said:

“I urge all to get involved in this exciting event as it is the perfect way for everyone to make a commitment to save energy at home. By committing to save just 20% of the energy we use everyday, together we can help fight climate change. Of course, energy efficiency is the cleanest, safest and cheapest way of reducing carbon dioxide emissions

“The theme of this year's event is a 'Community a Day' with the seven days (from Monday to Sunday) being: Women’s Day - Cafe Direct, Work Day - Royal Mail and postal workers, Digital Day - The online community via Facebook, Families Day - P&G’s ‘Future Friendly’ campaign, Men’s Day - DSGI and gadget enthusiasts, Home Improvers’ Day - B&Q and DIY enthusiasts and Faith Day - faith communities.

“If each of us were to undertake at least one of ten small measures such as: turning lights off when leaving rooms and only boiling enough water that is required, then this will help to reduce the amount of energy that we consume on a daily basis.

“For those wishing for more information you can call the Energy Saving Trust Scotland on 0131 555 7900 or by visiting the website: www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/Scotland.”

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Notes: 10 measures are:

1. Turn your thermostat down. Reducing your room temperature by 1◦C could cut your heating bills by up to 10 percent. You could save around 40 pounds per year.

2. Is your water too hot? Your cylinder thermostat shouldn't need to be set higher than 60oC /140oF.

3. Close your curtains at dusk to stop heat escaping through the windows.

4. Always turn off the lights when you leave a room.

5.Don't leave appliances on standby and remember not to leave appliances on charge unnecessarily.

6.If you're not filling up the washing machine, tumble dryer or dishwasher, use the half-load or economy programme.

7.Only boil as much water as you need (but remember to cover the elements if you're using an electric kettle).

8.A dripping hot water tap wastes energy and in one week wastes enough hot water to fill half a bath, so fix leaking taps and make sure they're fully turned off!

9.Use energy saving light bulbs. Just one can save you 100 pounds over the lifetime of the bulb - and they last up to 12 times longer than ordinary lightbulbs.

10.Do a home energy check. Just answer some simple questions about your home and we'll give you a free, impartial report telling you how you can save up to 300 pounds a year on your household energy bills.

12 October 2007

Public local enquiry on Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route

A Public Local Inquiry will be held to consider objections to the proposed Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route, it was confirmed today.

While the objection period is still open, it is clear, on the basis of objections received so far, that there will be a need to consider these formally.

Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson also announced additional facilities to lodge objections via a Transport Scotland project website.

Mr Stevenson said:

"It has always been likely that a scheme of this size would be subject to a public local inquiry. Now the final set of orders have been published we will move forward to the next stage in the statutory process.

"The objection period for the road and compulsory purchase orders has another two weeks to run. It is important that people who wish to submit objections do so within that timeframe."

"I am pleased that a dedicated e-mail address has been set up for objections. In view of disruption caused by the postal dispute, this will provide an alternative means of submitting objections."

Background

The Public Local Inquiry is part of the statutory process for building a road project of this scale. An independent Inquiry Reporter will be appointed as soon as possible. The Inquiry will be held in the Aberdeen area early in 2008 at a location to be confirmed. The Inquiry Reporter will report back to Scottish Ministers with recommendations.

The timescale for delivering the PLI has always included provision for a PLI. The PLI It is expected to happen in early 2008.

11 October 2007

Minister welcomes start of £22m South Ayrshire scheme

Transport Scotland has announced the start of a £22million road improvement project that will provide additional overtaking opportunities on the A77.

The work, due to start at two locations at Glen App on 15 October, will create additional good and safe overtaking opportunities.

This project will also open up economic opportunities and benefit the tourist industry by improving journey times to and from Cairnryan and Stranraer ferry terminals.

Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson said:

“This is vital work which will improve safety on the A77.

“£22 million of investment will bring improved connections for locals, businesses and tourists allowing them faster and more reliable access to our key transport hubs of Cairnryan and Stranraer.

“It will also provide more overtaking opportunities, making the road safer for all who use it.

"The A77 is vital to the local and national economy of this country, and this Government is committed to delivering a safer and more efficient transport network that helps to build a stronger economy for Scotland.”

The work at Glen App, which involves constructing just over half a mile of new carriageway, is expected to last around 18 months. It will be carried out in conjunction with a carriageway widening project at Haggstone, two and a half miles north of Cairnryan ferry terminal.

The project is being undertaken by contractor RJ McLeod.

Traffic management will include the use of temporary traffic lights, lane closures and speed restrictions.

This section of the A77 carries around 3,500 vehicles a day and forms part of the main economic lifeline linking central Scotland to the south west ferry terminals at Stranraer and Cairnryan..

Drivers using the A77 in this area, particularly those travelling to and from the ferry terminals, should plan their journeys in advance as the works are expected to cause some delays. Road users can find helpful real-time information at www.trafficscotland.org.uk.

For further information about the project see project page.

8 October 2007

Stevenson Attends Fundraiser Concert for Community Radio Station

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson and has attended a concert to raise funds for Kinnaird Radio Limited, a Fraserburgh community radio station. The concert included performances by a vocal harmony group from Dublin plus local band, Keep Rock Live! Mr. Stevenson was accompanied by Eilidh Whiteford, the SNP's Prospective Banff & Buchan Parliamentary Candidate for the next Westminster election.

Commenting after the concert, Mr. Stevenson said;

“It is a pleasure to have been invited to attend this highly entertaining and very worthwhile event. The music has been first-rate, from both local and national performers, and the cause – to raise funds for a local community radio station - has been very worthy indeed.

“Kinnaird Radio Ltd is a Fraserburgh based community radio station which positively promotes community interests in the surrounding area and provides a forum for local issues to be debated.

“It is therefore vital that we support and promote the radio station as an important means of local communication and an outlet for people to be informed of and involved in the local issues that affect them. I am delighted to see such good will and local support for the station this evening and trust that the funds raised will prove a huge help in continuing to provide quality local broadcasting.”

Stevenson Visits Local Medical Practice

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has visited Macduff Medical Practice. Mr. Stevenson was invited to visit the local medical practice by the Royal College of General Practitioners (Scotland) to view the facilities and discuss various issues of interest to Practice staff.

Commenting after the visit Mr. Stevenson said;

“I am delighted to have been invited to visit Macduff Medical Practice, to view the excellent facilities here and meet with staff.

“I believe that engaging with health professionals on a one-to-one basis is an excellent idea for politicians and a valuable way to keep in touch with the realities of today’s NHS.

“Health issues are never far from the top of the agenda at my constituency surgeries and today’s visit has been a very positive experience in witnessing at first hand the procedures within a local medical practice and hearing the issues of relevance to NHS staff.”
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