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28 November 2007

Transport Minister visits Upper Forth Crossing

Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson visited the Upper Forth Crossing today to announce the process for naming the bridge, marking another milestone towards delivering the multi-million pound project.

On attending an open day at the site, the Minister revealed Transport Scotland plans to manage a public consultation exercise to find a name for the new bridge.

Mr Stevenson said:

"I am delighted to see the progress on this project to improve east coast connections. The new crossing will open up economic opportunities, ease congestion in Kincardine and improve access to Alloa.

"By announcing the naming process today, we are able to take a real step forward in the overall delivery of this bridge. This approach enables us to engage with local communities to find a name befitting of this fantastic structure."

The public consultation exercise will involve placing adverts in local papers, in the three Council areas bordering the bridge, to invite suggestions from residents . Transport Scotland has received many suggestions in the past, including light hearted ones such as ‘Bridge at Jones Diary’ and ‘Blackadder Crossing.’

Following the newspaper notices, the public will have four weeks to make their suggestions. Transport Scotland will then make recommendations to Ministers, with the chosen name being announced in due course.

The project itself is the largest road construction scheme currently on-the-ground in Scotland and is being delivered by contractor Morgan VINCI, a joint venture between infrastructure services company Morgan Est and VINCI Construction Grands Projets. Construction involves one of the longest deck pushes of its kind in the world and started with the first launch of the bridge deck on Monday 22 January 2007, 90 metres inland from the river bank.

The twenty third launch took place on 16 November and the twenty fourth is scheduled for today (28 November), taking the bridge deck length to 972m. Each launch moves the deck out by 45 metres and takes two weeks. On completion, the bridge deck will be 1.2km long, weigh 35,000 tonnes and will sit on 25 piers which are each filled with 840 tonnes of concrete. There will be a total of 29 push launches.

The project also involves extensive improvements to the connecting trunk road network, with 6km of roads and 5 km of cycleways being constructed, as well as associated roundabouts.

Graham Porteous, Transport Scotland’s Project Director - Construction, said:

"The bridge is moving well towards its target completion date of November 2008

"With significant local interest in the bridge and its name, Transport Scotland believe that this will be a much welcomed process."

For further information see Upper Forth Crossing

27 November 2007

Stevenson Welcomes Extra Funding To Tackel Hospital Infections

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed news of a multi-million pound increase in funding by the Scottish Government to tackle healthcare associated infection (HAI) in Scotland. £54 million is to be invested over the next three years in a raft of measures to combat hospital infections including the establishment of a national MRSA screening programme.

The plan, which will be overseen by a Scottish Government Task Force, will also see increased monitoring of hand hygiene compliance in the healthcare sector and will "raise the bar" on hospital cleaning standards. A series of measures will also be introduced to reduce patients' risk of contracting Clostridium Difficile, as well as other hospital infections.

Commenting Mr. Stevenson said;

“Infections contracted in hospitals such as MRSA or Clostridium Difficile are a concern for many people in Banff & Buchan. There is clearly no easy solution to this long-running problem but the funding the SNP has announced should certainly make a great deal of headway in reducing these infection rates.

"We should recognise that good progress has been made in reducing hospital infections, but we should also be under no illusion that more needs to be done. Today's delivery plan is about upping the ante in the fight against hospital bugs.

"The development of an MRSA screening programme demonstrates the Scottish Government’s determination to tackle one of the main sources of hospital infection. I know this is the right way forward and I am convinced screening will reduce the risk of MRSA infection and save lives here in the North East and across Scotland."


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Notes to editors:

This is the first HAI plan based on evidence of the extent of infections in Scottish hospitals, following the first point prevalence survey published earlier this year, which showed the true level of hospital bugs for the first time.
The Scottish Government's new priority areas are to:
• Target skin and soft tissue infections
• Introduce a pilot MRSA screening programme in 2008-09 which will pave the way for a national screening programme from 2009-10
• Develop "care bundles" to ensure that all patients consistently receive the best care or treatment at all times. These will be aimed at reducing Clostridium difficile; catheter infections; ventilator associated pneumonia; surgical site infections; hand hygiene and urinary infections
• Reduce bloodstream infections
• Implement new policies aimed at improving hand hygiene
• Ensure that additional surveillance information is gathered and put to use in the targeted areas of general medicine and care of the elderly

Improving road safety

The first meeting of the expert group on road safety was chaired by Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson today.

The group was set up earlier this year following provisional transport statistics which showed a 10 per cent rise in fatalities on Scotland's roads for 2006.

Following the meeting, Mr Stevenson said:

"This was a very positive first meeting in which we made progress towards developing a new 10 year road safety strategy for Scotland.

"This group brings together leading experts in the field and we have agreed further work which will help us to deliver solutions to make our roads safer.

"It is clear to all of us that far too many people die or are injured on Scotland's roads each year. Saving lives will require a serious approach to tackling the complex issues involved and resources to back it up.

"The group concluded that one meeting would not be enough to get to the bottom of the complex issues of road safety and as agreed when the panel was formed, there will be further meetings arranged at the earliest opportunity to put forward specific policy proposals to the Scottish Government.

"And this government will back up those proposals up with an extra £3 million being made available over the next three years to support the proposals this group will bring forward and to take forward a new road safety strategy for Scotland which will be published in the summer."

The group includes representatives from the police, road safety experts, a driver behaviour phychologist, and the children's commissioner.

They are:
  • Chief Constable John Vine, ACPOS
  • Neil Greig, Director, IAM Trust
  • Michael McDonnell, Road Safety Scotland
  • Steve Stradling, Professor of Transport Psychology, Napier University. Expert in driver behaviour.
  • Jane Greer, Chair of Institute of Road Safety Officers and first policewoman in Fife to achieve a Class 1 Advanced Driving Certificate
  • Dr Steve Lawson, Technical Director, Road Safety Foundation and European Road Assessment Programme (EuroRAP)
  • Kathleen Marshall, Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young People
  • Bob McLellan, civil engineer with a doctorate in project/construction management. Head of transportation services at Fife Council and past Chair of the Society for Chief Officers of Transportation in Scotland (SCOTS) Engineering Committee
The full year analysis for 2006 was published yesterday, and although there has been no change in the top line figures, the Minister wants to take action to address the number of accidents across Scotland.

26 November 2007

Stevenson Welcomes Cod Quota Increase as a "Significant Step Forward"

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the 11 per cent increase in the cod quota following the EU-Norway fishing negotiations in Brussels this weekend as a significant step forward for the Scottish fishing industry.

Commenting Mr. Stevenson said;

“This 11 per cent increase represents a significant step forward for the Scottish fishing industry and comes as excellent news for fishermen and all of those employed in the fishing trade in Banff & Buchan.

“Fishermen in Banff & Buchan have worked hard all summer to secure this increase by cooperating constructively and making huge sacrifices to conserve cod stocks. This positive result is a tribute to their efforts and indeed to their patience.

“This increase in quota is the first in a decade and comes as a major breakthrough for North Sea cod. It goes to illustrate that the tide is finally turning for the industry.


“As we approach the annual EU Fisheries Council in December we can be sure that the SNP Government is working hard to secure the best possible deal for Scotland.”

23 November 2007

Stevenson Welcomes Extra Measures for Central Heating Programme

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed extra measures announced as part of the Government’s Central Heating Programme which will benefit hundreds of pensioner households in Scotland.

£7 million has been allocated to deliver help to eligible pensioners who have the greatest need and are without heating and hot water this winter. Capacity in this year’s programme will also be heightened and installations increased by 1,600 to 15,000 this financial year – more than in any previous year of the programme.

Commenting Mr. Stevenson said;

I am delighted that the SNP Government has taken this practical step to protect vulnerable pensioners in Banff & Buchan and across Scotland who are without heating and hot water in these the coldest months of the year. .

“This is a pragmatic response by the Scottish Government to the problems faced by pensioners whose existing system has broken down beyond repair. It will give extra priority to these pensioners and extend the capacity of the Central Heating Programme to avoid longer waiting lists and ensure that the system reaches the most vulnerable groups in our communities.

“Fuel poverty is an issue frequently raised with me by my constituents in Banff & Buchan and these measures will go a long way to tackling that problem. I am extremely pleased to see that the SNP Government is addressing the issue of fuel poverty by improving the Central Heating Programme and making it more responsive to the needs of pensioners in Scotland.”


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Notes to editors:
Scottish Gas, which manages the central heating programme, will identify from existing information from applicants and inspections, those who are likely to be without heating and hot water and those who are the most vulnerable. Those people will be given greater priority than they have at present.
The central heating programme helps pensioners in fuel poverty by providing a new central heating system where they do not have one or, for pensioners most likely to be in fuel poverty, replacing partial and inefficient systems. The programme also replaces systems that have broken beyond repair.
This is not an emergency repair scheme and the greatest impact on fuel poverty is achieved where a system is provided for the first time. The practical situation is that a pensioner who is eligible for a new system and whose present system is broken beyond repair, may not be able to make other arrangements until the system is replaced. This is a particularly acute problem in the winter.

15 November 2007

Stevenson Hails Budget's Good news for North East Dental Services

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed this week’s budget spending review by the Scottish Government which contained much good news for health and dental services in the North East.

The news came as John Swinney MSP, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, made his announcement to the Scottish Parliament today, which included the establishment of a third dental school in Aberdeen and improvements to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

Commenting Mr. Stevenson, a long-time campaigner for increased dental services, said;

“I am delighted at the Scottish Government’s announcements of a new third dental school in Aberdeen plus improvements to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary. This comes as excellent news for health services in the North East and for the people of Banff & Buchan.

“While Labour and the Lib Dems for years paid lip service to establishing a dental school at Foresterhill and failed to take any firm action, the Scottish Government has now taken the initiative and committed to a new school in Aberdeen.

“Since elected I have consistently campaigned for increased dental services in the North East. A new dental school for Aberdeen will go a long way to increasing the number of dentists and improving dental provisions here in the North East and across Scotland. I strongly welcome this much-needed boost to our dental services.”

14 November 2007

Budget Review Brings Historic Opportunity for Council Tax Freeze: More Good News and Tax-cuts for North-East

Banff & Buchan SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed today's budget spending review by the Scottish Government which has opened the way for a historic council tax freeze in Aberdeenshire Council and throughout Scotland. This would effectively mean a tax cut for the people of the Aberdeenshire Council area.

The news came as John Swinney MSP, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, made his announcement to the Scottish Parliament today, which included more good news for the the North-east.

Welcoming the opportunity for a historic tax freeze, Mr Stevenson said:

"In the 10 years since Labour have been in Government on their own or in coalition with the Liberals, council tax payers in the Aberdeenshire Council area have had to put up with an 85 per cent rise in their council tax.

"I am delighted that John Swinney has come to an historic agreement in partnership with COSLA over a freeze in council tax over the coming year.

"This meets the SNP's commitment to make life fairer and wealthier for the people of the North-east and I warmly welcome that."


Mr Swinney also announced that there would be a 50% cut in business rates for small businesses next year followed by a further 50% the year after with all businesses rated under £8000 paying no rates from 2010. Welcoming this boost for local businesses Stewart Stevenson said:

"As part of our wider economic strategy the SNP is determined to support the small business sector which had been let down under the Labour and Lib Dem administration.

"Small businesses drive the local economy, not least in Banff & Buchan. They are a source of entrepreneurship and innovation and create a huge number of jobs as 98% of all businesses are classified as small in Scotland

"The SNP Government's plans for cutting business rates are designed to target small businesses in Banff & Buchan and deliver meaningful help to them while at the same time benefiting the wider economy."

12 November 2007

Stevenson Takes Questions from Fraserburgh Primary School Pupils

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has visited Fraserburgh South Park Primary School as part of an MSPs in Schools programme. Mr. Stevenson was briefed by pupils of two P7 classes on the issues that mattered to them. He then participated in a question and answer discussion session where pupils questioned him on a range of local and national issues

Commenting Mr. Stevenson said;

“I am delighted to have been invited to visit Fraserburgh South Park Primary School and given the opportunity to observe the first rate staff and pupils here in their normal working day and to see the excellent facilities at the school.

“I took part in a question and answer session with the P7 pupils, an experience which I thoroughly enjoyed. I was questioned on a broad range of topics from local issues affecting students themselves such as homework and education choices to wider social and political issues of national significance.

“I was highly impressed at how well informed, articulate and assertive this group of young people showed themselves to be. They are a credit to their parents, teachers and to their school. Indeed, the experience was not entirely different from taking questions in the Chamber –certainly a good reflection on these students!”

9 November 2007

Local MSP Welcomes Extra Funding From Scottish Government for Banff & Buchan College

Universities and colleges across Scotland are to receive an extra £100 million capital funding package, it was announced this week.

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the news that Banff & Buchan College is to receive an additional £368,000 of funding from the Scottish Government.

Making the announcement, Cabinet Secretary for Education & Lifelong Learning Fiona Hyslop MSP said:

"This SNP Government is serious about supporting our colleges and universities. We are determined that Scottish money, held on account at Westminster, should be used to meet Scottish priorities. That is why we are choosing to invest these funds in Scottish universities and colleges.

"The investment, which is in addition to any settlement from the forthcoming spending review, will also support our plans to create a Smarter Scotland by helping to expand opportunities for Scots to succeed."


Stewart Stevenson MSP added:

“I am delighted that this additional funding for next financial year will come to Banff & Buchan College.

“The College, under the excellent leadership of Principal Robert Sinclair and his dedicated team, is proving itself an excellent innovator in delivery and many other fields so I am quite sure that this funding will be put to very good use indeed.”


Chair of the Scottish Further and Higher Education Funding Council John McClelland said:

"This additional investment by the Scottish Government is very welcome. It will help the Council to accelerate its capital programme, address backlog problems and provide modern, sustainable facilities in our colleges and universities, which are attractive to students and businesses."

Howard McKenzie, Acting Chief Executive Association of Scotland's Colleges said :

"We welcome this announcement with vigorous enthusiasm as its timing is, from our perspective, almost perfect. This funding means that projects that have been awaiting funding for some time can now progress, and those that are 'next in line' can move further up the queue - benefiting everyone.

"Ultimately, however, the real winners from today's announcement will be Scotland's students who will see a direct benefit in terms of the facilities and equipment available to them.”

Stevenson Welcomes New Procurement Rules

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed new procurement rules will help small and medium sized enterprises better compete for public sector contracts.

Cabinet Secretary for Finance & Sustainable Growth John Swinney announced a change to the Scottish Government's contract rules to allow suppliers to use an intermediary to raise finance without prior permission.

Factoring and invoice discounting can be an important source of finance to businesses and SMEs in particular. The Government has published guidance for other public bodies and expects them to follow suit.

Commenting on the announcement, Mr Stevenson said:

"We can make a significant contribution to sustainable economic growth by reducing barriers to public contracts and making it easier to do business. This SNP Government listens, and this is a good example of what can be achieved when we listen carefully to the views of our regulatory advisors in business.”

Andrew Watson of the Federation of Small Business Scotland said:

"This announcement shows that the Scottish Government is leading the public sector in opening up more choice and opportunities for small businesses. Removing unnecessary restrictions like this can make a real difference to a small business. This simple rule change will allow those businesses which use factoring services to bid for public sector contracts, improve competition and ultimately deliver better value to taxpayers."

Cabinet Secretary for Finance John Swinney MSP also announced that he would chair the Public Procurement Reform Board to accelerate the pace of reform in procurement - worth £8 billion every year. He said:

"I am determined that procurement reform will deliver results. To drive that forward, I will act as Chair of the Public Procurement Reform Board. I hope that shows the Scottish Government's determination to deliver on this agenda and the high priority we attach to it.

"Let me send a clear message. Individuals or public organisations that prefer not to collaborate on contracts, e-procurement, best practice and policy will be expected to be able to justify their position on objective business grounds.

"I thank John McClelland for the work he has done so far as Chair. In addition to serving as a member of the Board, I have asked John McClelland to continue to advise me on good practice, new opportunities and ways we can accelerate the pace of change.

"We now have, for the first time, detailed management information and analysis showing there are significant benefits to be gained from working together on procurement.

"New performance indicators flowing from the reform programme will be implemented early in the New Year and all organisations in the public sector will be asked to report accordingly. These will help raise performance and establish an environment where measurable, continuous improvement is the norm. I am determined to deliver results for the people of Scotland."


An estimated 1,600 businesses in Scotland use factoring or invoice discounting. The total value of finance raised in this way by Scottish businesses in 2006 amounted to around £500 million.

A83 set to reopen

The A83 road is to reopen tomorrow (Saturday) following a recent landslip in Argyll.

Scotland TranServ, which has been working to remove debris and make the road safe, has given the all clear for the road to open over the weekend.

In recent days, a specialist helicopter from Inverness has been called in to assist in the clear up process. Yesterday, high pressure water pipes were used to carry out a controlled landslip of the remaining hazardous material above the road, and the work is now at such an advance stage that the road can now reopen.

There remains a final stage of work to remove the last of the debris which will happen during a temporary 24-48 hour closure early next week, but it is expected that the road will be open permanently towards the end of next week.

Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson said:

"This has been a frustrating time for everyone. The reality is that we are at the mercy of nature, and the weather has hampered efforts this week, but the experts on the ground have been battling as hard as they possibly can to make the road safe. I am sure local communities will be delighted with the good news today.

"Having visited the site on Monday, I have seen for myself the sheer scale of the problem that has faced our roads engineers and know just how concerning this incident has been for local people and businesses. The engineers have worked as fast as they can to open the road, recognising the crucial importance of the A83 for local communities, businesses, and tourists.

"I am delighted that the road is now opening again on Saturday. With one final piece of work due early next week, it looks like local communities can now look forward to the road being open permanently towards the end of next week."

A83 at the Rest and Be Thankful will be re-opened to single lane working, controlled by traffic lights from the hours of 0800 Saturday November 10, until 0800 Monday November, 12. Before this can be undertaken, it is necessary to carry out a package of measures including erection of safety fencing, removal of debris from the carriageway, drainage ditches and the slope and the removal of the temporary diversion signage. This work will be today to allow safe passage of traffic once the road is re-opened.

There remains further work regarding final removal of debris and this will require a further road closure of between 24 to 48 hours on Monday. This is weather dependent, but forecasts indicate the weather window will be Monday November 12 /Tuesday November 13.

8 November 2007

Norwegian Oil Fund Shows Way Forward for Scotland

The SNP has obtained figures showing the extent to which Norway’s Government Pension Fund has grown since it was first established.

Set up in 1990 as the Petroleum Fund with an initial payment of £174 million Sterling, the value of the Government Pension Fund Global was at 30 June 2007 1,939bn Norwegian Kroner – the equivalent of a staggering £174 billion Sterling at current prices. By 2010, the fund value is forecast to have spiralled to a staggering 2856.4bn NOK – or £257 bn Sterling at today’s prices.

Commenting local MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“These figures are simply extraordinary. From a seedcorn investment equivalent to just £174 million pounds in the 1990’s – made almost 20 years after the first oil started flowing ashore - Norway’s careful husbandry of her oil and gas resources has seen the national fund grow in value a thousand-fold.

“Even Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks recognised recently that the Norwegian approach was the correct one. However, with oil prices currently nudging US $100 per barrel and the resulting revenues which are flooding into Treasury coffers, now is exactly the time to start investing this extraordinary windfall for future generations.

“The last 30 years represent a sad story of missed opportunities and squandered resources. By seizing the initiative and establishing a Fund for Future Generations, instead of repeating the failures of successive UK governments over the past 30 years, Scotland can begin to mirror the successes of our neighbour across the North Sea."

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Note to Editors: In an interview with the Guardian from 27 October 2007, Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks said: ‘If you could replay history, the idea as in Norway of building up a national [oil] fund is actually quite an attractive one.

Stevenson At Museum of Scottish Lighthouses to Mark National Recognition

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson will tomorrow (Friday) unveil a plaque at the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses, Fraserburgh at 3.15pm to mark the museum’s collection being one of only ten in the country officially recognised by the Scottish Government as being of national significance.

Speaking in advance of tomorrow’s ceremony, Mr Stevenson commented:

“I am delighted for the museum staff and indeed the whole of Fraserburgh that the collection at the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses has been recognised in this way.

“It is a tribute to the staff there but is also a huge accolade for the Broch. We in the North-east have always known that the lighthouse museum is a bit special but it is terrific to have that recognised nationally.”


Douglas Connell, Chair of the Recognition Committee, which oversees the Recognition of collections of national significance, said:

“To achieve Recognition status, the applicants had to demonstrate the uniqueness, authenticity, comprehensiveness, and national value of their collection. This first round announcement highlights the wonderful diversity of Scotland’s collections and we are confident the scheme is recognising the best the country has to offer.”

The Recognised collections are:

the Entire Collection cared for by Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, Glasgow
the Entire Collection cared for by Scottish Fisheries Museum, Anstruther
the Entire Collection cared for by Museum of Scottish Lighthouses, Fraserburgh
the Entire Collection cared for by Pier Arts Centre, Stromness
the Entire Collection cared for by Surgeons' Hall Museum, Edinburgh
the Collection of Historic Musical Instruments cared for by University of Edinburgh
the Archaeology Collection cared for by Dumfries and Galloway Museum Service
the Entire Collection cared for by Scottish Maritime Museum, Irvine
the Entire Collection cared for by Burns Monument Trust, Alloway
the Core Collection cared for by Scottish Railway Preservation Society, Bo’ness.

Transport agency launches new road safety plan

Transport Scotland launched its first-ever Strategic Road Safety Plan today (08 November 2007). The plan sets out its goals for the next decade and the challenges the agency faces in delivering them.

Road accidents cost the public an estimated £1 billion each year, however the human and emotional cost runs far deeper. By taking a proactive approach to tackling this, Transport Scotland’s accident investigation unit will deliver the agency’s safety objectives for the forthcoming ten years.

Stewart Stevenson, Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change commented on the plan

“It is clear that there are far too many unnecessary deaths on Scotland’s roads each year. This Scottish Government wants to do all it can to reduce the number of tragedies experienced by families across the country. We want to work with all our agencies and the experts to see what more we can all do to improve safety.

“Transport Scotland’s knowledge and expertise, through the Strategic Road Safety Plan, is an important component in our vision of a safer Scotland.

“Our work does not stop there though. We have set up an expert group on road safety, and will look at what further action could be taken. That group will meet for the first time later this month. Their views will help inform a new Scottish Government road safety strategy for Scotland. ”

By making the best use of both their knowledge of the trunk route network and how to effectively reduce accidents, Transport Scotland aims to remove risk while prioritising initiatives that will prevent accidents and mitigate the effects when they do occur.

The strategy will deliver actions grouped under seven key themes, including ‘Risk Reduction’ and Vulnerable Road Users.’ Of particular note is Transport Scotland’s planned efforts to tackle the issues of young driver and motorcycle safety through targeted campaigns and events.

The plan marks a shift to a more proactive approach to safety, particularly in the early identification of potential accident locations and the consequent removal of risk to minimise accident effects. This is in contracts to the traditional approach, which looks at historic accident locations to develop remedial measures.

As part of this new approach, Transport Scotland is using intelligent solutions, demonstrating innovation and working with partners, while sharing best practice with roads authorities across Scotland and throughout Europe.

The Strategic Road Safety Plan is now available.

6 November 2007

Major upgrade work ready to let freight trains take the strain

Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson today marked the completion of £4 million worth of improvements to rail freight services across Scotland.

The Mossend to Elgin work will now enable up to 12.3 million lorry kilometres of freight to be transferred from the nation’s roads.

This morning Mr Stevenson saw two of the largest containers to be used on the route being loaded onto the freight train at WH Malcolm’s Depot at Grangemouth before waving it off on its journey to Aberdeen.

The train was met upon its arrival at Guild Street in Aberdeen by Councillor Kevin Stewart, Chair, NESTRANS, and Councillor Martin Ford, Chair of the North East Scotland Freight Development Group (NESRFDG).

The Mossend to Elgin Improvement work will enable larger containers – the largest of which is 9 ft 6” high - to carry up to 1.3 million tonnes of freight by rail between the central belt and the north-east of Scotland.

Clearances have been increased along 270 miles of track, involving track slewing, and lowering at 29 structures on the network. The project will keep businesses competitive by delivering more of their goods in less time whilst improving the environment by transferring freight from the roads.

Stewart Stevenson, Minister for Transport said:

“Congestion causes daily frustration to drivers, clogs our transport arteries, and is damaging to Scotland’s economy. This Scottish Government is determined to do all we can to combat the number of cars and lorries on our roads.

“This investment is vital, allowing businesses to take their lorries off our roads and onto rail. Stretching from central Scotland all the way north to Elgin, this freight project will relieve pressure on roads such as the A9 and A90. Anyone who has ever experienced the volume of heavy goods vehicles on these roads will welcome this announcement.

“This scheme will deliver real environmental and economic benefits for Scotland and I encourage freight operators, hauliers and customers to make full use of this excellent opportunity .”

Ron McAulay, Network Rail Director Scotland commented:

“I am delighted that Network Rail has been able to deliver this important project on time, and under budget.

“There are obvious advantages to transporting goods by rail. It is a more environmentally friendly option than the equivalent journey by road, it can offer a less expensive option to companies transporting freight and it allows more goods to be transported in a single journey.

“The work which Network Rail has carried out on the Mossend-Elgin link allows freight to be transferred in greater bulk and opens up greater options for freight operating companies. We believe this latest work will help to encourage even greater use of rail freight in Scotland and we look forward to working with the freight operating companies to deliver it.

NESRFDG Chair Councillor Ford said:

"Reducing carbon emissions is one of the key challenges facing us. Shifting passengers and goods to more energy efficient modes of transport such as rail is a key part of the strategy to reduce the unsustainable environmental impacts of transportation.

“This scheme also delivers economic benefits, offering a choice for the movement of containerised goods.

“Gauge enhancement is part of ‘future proofing’ the north east against road congestion and higher energy prices."

2 November 2007

Stevenson Welcomes Scottish Government's Commitment to Housing

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the Scottish Government’s commitment to end Scotland’s housing shortage by putting forward measures designed to increase access to housing in Scotland.

Commenting Mr. Stevenson said;

“I welcome the Scottish Government’s proposals to increase housing provision in Scotland. It is one of the most frequent issues raised with me by my constituents experiencing difficulties in finding suitable housing.

“It is all too often that my constituents in towns in Banff & Buchan simply cannot find accommodation which is suitable to their needs, and this is particularly so when considering the lack of available council housing.

“There is such a low turnover of council housing in the North East that people can wait for a number of years before getting a house. By focusing on building 35,000 new homes each year by 2015 this Government has put in place the most radical measures to combat the housing crisis in a generation.

“Scotland has come to the point where the escalating costs of purchasing a house are making it extremely difficult for people to get on the housing ladder. These proposals will make inroads into Scotland’s housing crisis and allow people to break into the private housing market.

“At the heart of the Government’s moves is the need to balance a thriving private housing sector, by providing assistance for those who want to buy their own homes, and the need for a social housing sector which is fulfilling its role satisfactorily and providing a steady turnover of housing.

“The reforms put forward this week are a huge step forward which will no doubt benefit people in Banff & Buchan and across Scotland for generations to come.”


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Notes:

Communities, councils, social landlords, developers, tenants and lenders are being invited to comment on the housing proposals put forward by the Scottish Government, which include:

• Challenging Scotland's local authorities, developers and builders to increase the rate of new housing supply in Scotland to at least 35,000 a year by the middle of the next decade

• Increasing the role of local authorities as landlords by offering financial incentives to councils that have the capacity to fund new council housing

• Ending the Right to Buy on new social housing built by councils and housing associations

• Establishing a Scottish Sustainable Communities Initiative to encourage local authorities and their partners to bring forward proposals for sustainable new settlements to meet demand in particular areas

New Ferry Order For Islay

Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL) has announced an order for a new ferry which will be operated by CalMac Ferries Ltd (CFL) on the routes serving Islay from the mainland.

Agreement has been reached with the Remontowa yard in Gdansk, Poland to build an 89.90m long vehicle/passenger ferry. Delivery of the new ferry is expected in Spring 2011.

The overall cost of procuring the vessel and bringing her into service will be £24.5 million and is being financed by a loan from the Scottish Government. All interest and capital repayments will be met by CMAL.

CMAL’s Managing Director, Guy Platten said:

“The Remontowa tender was one of 4 received and represented extremely good value in a very challenging shipbuilding market. The delivery of the vessel in spring 2011 reflects the huge demand for new shipping worldwide and the scarcity of vital components including engines. CMAL and CFL have been working very closely together on this project and are convinced that the ship will be cost-effective, provide value for money, and will meet all of our technical requirements. This new vessel demonstrates the commitment to continue to modernise and improve CMAL’s assets and to maintain reliable and affordable lifeline links to island communities. Once delivered it will provide the operator with the resources needed on the routes from Kennacraig to Islay to offer a first-class service.”

Welcoming the news the contract has been signed, the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change, Stewart Stevenson MSP said,

“We are absolutely committed to delivering first class ferry services for our remote and island communities. That is why we recently announced a study into a road equivalent tariff, and that is why we are today giving a firm commitment to a new vessel for Islay. This service is a lifeline for the community on Islay. Once delivered, the new vessel will provide much needed additional capacity, as well as bringing service improvements to local residents, businesses and tourists. Our commitment to ferry improvements does not stop there. We want to deliver a fairer deal for ferry passengers across Scotland."

The new vessel will be a modern Ro-Ro Euro Class B passenger vessel designed to carry 550 passengers, up to 88 cars, as well as coaches and commercial vehicles. The ship will also be capable of carrying dangerous goods.

Passengers will be accommodated on two well-appointed decks, with access gained at the lower of the two from an enclosed passenger gangway. There will be two lifts, one on each side of the ship, to all decks. The ship will also be built in line with DPTAC guidance on facilities for customers with mobility impairments.

1 November 2007

Stevenson Highlights New Free Grafiti Removal Scheme

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has highlighted the Graffiti removal service available in Aberdeenshire, which is free of charge.

Commenting on the service, Mr Stevenson said:

“We all know how graffiti can blight communities, therefore I would like to bring it to everyone’s attention that there is a free graffiti removal service available for members of the public and businesses who find themselves victims of this crime.

“I certainly welcome this service as it can be very expensive to remove graffiti and even more so if the offenders offend time after time in the same place.

”If you have suffered from graffiti, you should call Aberdeenshire Council’s Wasteline on (0845) 600 3 900 or text (07624) 802722 with details of the location of the graffiti.”
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