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31 December 2007

A9 Bankfoot improvements move forward

A £1.5 million pound safety upgrade to the key route for northern Scotland takes a significant step forward this month (December 2007).

Transport Scotland has published Draft Slip Road and Side Road Orders for the A9 Bankfoot improvement project, signalling the start of the statutory process.

The planned junction improvements will incorporate new slip roads to and from the southbound A9. This will remove right turns into Bankfoot to and from the A9 improving safety and traffic flow on this vital road for local communities and the northern economy as a whole.

Transport Minister, Stewart Stevenson said

"The local community will be delighted that this project is moving towards the next stage. This investment will improve safety for all users of the A9 and particularly for local residents in Bankfoot.

"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, but to the whole of Scotland."

Subject to the successful outcome of the statutory process, it is estimated work will start in Autumn 2008 taking around six months to complete.

24 December 2007

Boxing clever on road safety

The Scottish Government is paying for a trial scheme to beam anti-drink adverts directly into X-Box games across Scotland.

The adverts will appear on virtual billboards within the games consoles that thousands of young Scots are expected to receive as Christmas presents.

Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson said that with latest statistics showing an increase in road fatalities, it was time to look at innovative solutions.

"With latest statistics showing an increase in road fatalities, particularly amongst young people, we must look at new ways of getting road safety messages across.

Xbox road safety campaign"This is exactly the kind of initiative we should be trying. It is innovative, it is new, and it is far removed from the more traditional methods we have been using. I believe that is what we need if we are to reverse the number of Scots families suffering the tragedy of a loved one being lost.

"Our road safety initiatives are being heard, but there are some who are still ignoring those messages. Many are paying with their lives.

"This is a huge opportunity to try and reach a new audience - 73 per cent of UK 15-24 year olds have access to a gaming console in their home. The technology is non-intrusive, subtle, but the message can be seen in the background, loud and clear.

"We will monitor the results of this trial, but I hope it can be a success. With Christmas approaching, and many young people unwrapping new consoles, this initiative has the opportunity to save lives across Scotland."

Michael McDonnell Michael McDonnell, Director of Road Safety Scotland, said:

"We need to look beyond the conventional methods of addressing key road safety issues which affect young people, and I believe that positioning of the drink-drive message in online games will serve as an ever-present reminder to young Scots about the consequences of doing. What many don't realise is that, when caught drink-driving, they will lose their licence - they're LOS 3RS - and the online message could not be any simpler 'Don't risk it'".

The project will cost £10,000 and will initially transmit anti-drink drive messages. However, if successful, the technology can deliver any road safety message needed directly into any game.

Some of the games to carry the ads will be: Need for Speed: Carbon, Need for Speed:proStreet, Project Gotham Racing 4, Pro Evolution Soccor 2008, NBA Live.

20 December 2007

Abolition of bridge tolls

Parliament today voted overwhelmingly in favour of the 'Abolition of Bridge Tolls (Scotland) Bill'.

The Bill will now go forward for Royal Assent. It is expected that tolls will be removed early next year on both the Forth and Tay Bridges.

Responding to the vote, Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson said:

"This is a great day for the people of Fife, Tayside and the Lothians. This was the first Bill the new Scottish Government introduced when we came into power, and it is the last piece of parliamentary business of the year.

"The start of a new year will bring an end to years of injustice. By February 14, no-one will be paying tolls over the Forth and Tay. I am sure people across Scotland will be delighted."

14 December 2007

Stevenson Welcomes £374.744 Million for Aberdeenshire Council

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the announcement by John Swinney, Cabinet Secretary for Finance, that Aberdeenshire Council will receive £374.744 million next year from the Scottish Government.

This money will not only enable Aberdeenshire Council to freeze the council tax but also allow the councils:

• to cut class sizes

• invest in social care including support for vulnerable people and for those with disabilities

• invest in our police services

• fund those caring for relatives and friends at risk

Welcoming the announcement from the SNP Government Mr. Stevenson said;

“This is welcome news for people in Banff & Buchan. I am delighted to see that under the SNP Government devolution is extending beyond the Scottish Parliament to local government level.

“The Scottish Government, in making this announcement today is supporting Aberdeenshire Council to deliver key local and national services to benefit people across the area.

“Under the SNP the council’s funding will increase by 4.6% in Aberdeenshire.

“I urge the Council to confirm that with this money they will freeze the council tax and avoid the 3.5% rise that would otherwise land on people’s doorsteps next year.

“People across Scotland suffered the weight of a 60% rise in Council Tax for over 10 years under Labour with the support of their LibDem allies.

“It is unfortunate that Labour, instead of welcoming this deal, are scaremongering, especially among vulnerable groups. The SNP Government is increasing the funding available for people with disabilities, mental health issues and victims of domestic violence amongst others.

“The SNP Government is taking action to ensure Aberdeenshire Council can meet all their commitments to people in the area and that local authorities have the financial freedom to respond to the needs of their local community.

“I hope politicians of all persuasions will welcome the announcement today and that Aberdeenshire Council will be one of the first to commit to freezing the unfair council tax.”

Stevenson Welcomes Funding Award for Banff & Macduff Community Council

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the news that Banff & Macduff Community Council has been successful in applying for a £10,000 Awards for All grant. This award will be used to fund the construction of a new path through a wooded area in Banff.

Banff & Macduff Community Council ascertains, co-ordinates and expresses the views of the community it represents to statutory and public authorities and bodies including the Aberdeenshire Community Council.

Awards for All Scotland is supported by the Scottish Arts Council, the Heritage Lottery Fund, Sportscotland and the Big Lottery Fund. It awards grants of between £500 and £10,000 for people to take part in art, sport, heritage and community activities, and projects that promote education, the environment and health in the local community.

Commenting, Mr. Stevenson said:

“I am delighted to hear that Banff & Macduff Community Council has been successful in gaining £10,000 after applying for an Awards for All grant for art, sport and community initiatives. I congratulate all of those involved in the Community Council for their success in securing these funds.

“As an important community organization, Banff & Macduff Community Council is a very deserving recipient of this funding. By coordinating the views of local people it represents the community’s interests in a very democratic way.

“This funding will go a long way to ensuring that the Community Council can continue its positive work in the Banff and Macduff area. I am told that this money will be used to construct a new path through a wooded area popular amongst ramblers in Banff to make it safer and more accessible to walkers. This is a fine example of a practical initiative which has come from local people to improve life in their community.”

7 December 2007

Stevenson Congratulates Local Winner at SCARF Awards in Parliament


Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has attended an awards ceremony in the Scottish Parliament organised by Save Cash and Reduce Fuel (SCARF) in which a number of school children from the North East participated.

SCARF, a company established to promote sustainable use of energy and tackle fuel poverty held a presentation of awards to winners of their 2008 Energy Efficiency Calendar Competition. The competition attracts around 4000 entries from primary school pupils, who are asked to submit illustrations which raise issues in relation to energy efficiency in the home.

Mr. Stevenson congratulated local prize winner, Emma Findlay from Clerkhill Primary School, Peterhead and met with representatives of SCARF to discuss the issue of energy efficiency and the challenges of fuel poverty faced locally in the North East.

Speaking after the event Mr. Stevenson said:

“I was delighted to see SCARF bringing its vital message of domestic energy efficiency to the Scottish Parliament. Fuel poverty is an issue of great concern, particularly in the North-east and one which I am happy to see the SNP Government is tackling with practical measures like the extension and improvement of the Central Heating Programme.

“The awards ceremony was an extremely positive event binging young and old together to celebrate the hard work put into the calendar by the winning pupils, but also to push the issue of energy efficiency in the home to the fore.

“The Energy Efficiency Calendar has a very wide circulation and I was extremely pleased to see that one of my constituents had succeeded in having her illustrations published in this year’s edition. I extended my sincere congratulations to the winner from Peterhead who has represented her area in an outstanding fashion and should be very proud.

“I took the opportunity to discuss the issue of affordable energy with SCARF representatives and raise with them the various problems relating to fuel poverty faced by my constituents in Banff & Buchan”

4 December 2007

SNP Government Six Times More Popular in the North East than London Labour Government

A new YouGov poll commissioned by the Scottish National Party shows that the people of Scotland prefer the SNP Scottish Government to the UK Labour government by a huge margin of 5 to 1, and that amongst people in the North East this margin increases to 6 to 1.

Commenting on the poll, Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson said;

"These sensational poll figures shows that not only do the people of Scotland prefer the SNP government in Scotland over the Labour government in London by an overwhelming margin of 5 to 1 but that in the North East the margin is even greater at 6 to 1.

"These figures are of huge significance. It is clear that the minority SNP government is thriving and delivering for the people of Scotland and Banff & Buchan, while the London Labour government is sinking fast in a sea of financial sleaze and internecine warfare."

-ends-

Notes:

The poll question and results were as follows:

Thinking about the performance of the Scottish Government and the UK Government which one do you think is doing a better job?

Scottish Government: 54%
UK Government: 11%
Neither: 27%
DK: 8%

The breakdown for Labour voters was:

Scottish Government: 34%
UK Government: 30%

The breakdown for the North East in comparison to Scotland as a whole is shown in the table below:
Scotland North East
Scottish Government 54 56
UK Government 11 9
Neither 27 23
Don't know 8 12


YouGov Survey Results for the Scottish National Party
Sample Size: 1111; Fieldwork: 28th - 30th November 2007

Campbeltown - Ballycastle ferry service

Fresh moves to re-establish a ferry service between Campbeltown and Ballycastle took a step forward today when Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson announced to Parliament that a new economic appraisal of the route is to be undertaken.

Following talks with his Northern Ireland counterpart Nigel Dodds MP, Mr Stevenson said that Ministers have agreed to jointly fund work into the case for restoring the service using the Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance (STAG) system.

The Transport Minister said:

"After years of no movement on a Campbeltown-Ballycastle service, I am delighted to announce that I have agreed with Northern Ireland Minister Nigel Dodds to carry out a fresh economic appraisal of the route.

"Communities on both sides of the water have campaigned long and hard for the reinstatement of this service, believing it would bring economic and tourism benefits to the local communities involved and Scotland more widely.

"This appraisal will examine that case.

"Both Governments are in agreement that the previous appraisals carried out in 2000-01 are now too old to be of any practical use in assessing the case for reintroducing the service, or estimating the associated costs and benefits involved. A new appraisal now will allow us to re-examine the economic viability of the route.

"The STAG appraisal will be completed this summer, and at that stage, we will agree with our colleagues in the Northern Ireland Executive, the next steps to be taken.

"The Scottish Government has set aside funding within the budget announced by John Swinney last month for a Campbeltown - Ballycastle ferry service, and we remain absolutely committed to doing all we can to progress this for the local communities involved."

The STAG appraisal of a Campbeltown-Ballycastle ferry service will be completed by summer 2008.

During the First Minister's visits to Belfast on 18/19 June, and at the British Irish Council on 16 July, Northern Ireland Ministers indicated their willingness to work with the Scottish Government to consider ways in which the project might be taken forward. The Scottish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive agreed to examine the case for restoring the ferry service.

Since then officials from both administrations have discussed joint working arrangements for taking the project forward. The Transport Minister has discussed with his counterpart in Northern Ireland, Nigel Dodds MLA MP, at the end of November. During that discussion, it was agreed that a fresh economic appraisal, using the Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance (STAG) should be undertaken.

This STAG appraisal will allow both Governments to assess the economic viability of the route. It will also allow us to identify the preferred ferry service option, together with the key terms of a service specification, which might be used for a future tender exercise, and a detailed review of the vessel availability.
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