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26 February 2009

STEVENSON HAILS SIGNIFICANT FUNDING FOR FISHING PROJECTS

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the announcement of the fifty projects that will receive money under the latest round of the European Fisheries Fund. In total, more than £11 million of public money has been invested so far this year, helping to safeguard hundreds of jobs in the fishing industry.

Successful projects from the European Fisheries Fund (EFF) include making vessels more fuel efficient, improving quality in the processing sector and trialling a New Zealand system of mussel farming.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“The announcement of further funding for the fishing industry is a significant boost to everyone in Banff & Buchan whose livelihoods depend on the sector.

“As well as the money to substantially upgrade Peterhead Harbour, these funds will give many vessels the ability to harness new technology to increase their efficiency and lower their operating costs.

“There will also be a significant boost for fish processors, with companies such as Lunar Freezing in Peterhead and Whitelink Seafoods in Fraserburgh gaining substantial investment.

“I welcome the investment being made in the industry in Banff & Buchan and I am sure that we will see real improvements as a result of this funding”.

23 February 2009

STEVENSON APPLAUDS BANFF & BUCHAN SCHOOLS FOR GLOBAL ROCK CHALLENGE PERFORMANCES

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has hailed the performances of competing schools in Banff & Buchan after attending the Aberdeen round of the Global Rock Challenge, a drug and crime prevention vehicle in the form of a performing arts competition for secondary schools. The event is run by the Be Your Best Foundation, a registered charity.

The two-day event saw pupils from Peterhead Academy, Banff Academy and Fraserburgh Academy all put in strong performances that led to them winning several awards.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“I have supported the Global Rock Challenge for several years now, but every year I am consistently impressed by the standard of performances. It is wonderful to see this competition go from strength to strength, and I am delighted to have been able to see local schools compete again.

“Banff Academy and Peterhead Academy’s pupils were excellent when I saw them, and I am sure that Fraserburgh Academy’s performance the following day must have been extremely good as they finished in second place on their day. The competing pupils really were a credit to their schools and their local communities.

“The Global Rock Challenge is a wonderful initiative that pupils from throughout the region enjoy taking part in, and I am sure that the future holds only further success for it”.

£3.6 million Inverness Airport Radar Project Completed

A 36 month project to develop local radar services at the busiest airport in the Highlands and Islands has been completed.

The conclusion of the Inverness Airport radar project was officially marked at the airport today by Stewart Stevenson MSP, Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change.

Highlands and Islands Airports (HIA) has invested £3.6 million of capital in the project to deliver the airport’s first independent radar service. The regional transport partnership Hitrans also contributed £50,000 towards the costs.

The radar service allows the airport to handle air traffic more efficiently, increases its overall capacity and will facilitate the design of new approach procedures which will reduce aircraft fuel burn and noise.

Between 1999 and 2008 passenger numbers at Inverness have doubled from 350,000 a year to more than 700,000 a year. Over the same period aircraft movements increased from 27,500 per annum to 40,000 per annum.

Since 1999, the RAF has been responsible for providing a radar service to aircraft at Inverness using its local radars and air traffic controllers based at Lossiemouth. The growth in traffic at Inverness since then meant that HIA took the decision to develop its own radar service in late 2005 and embarked on a two phase project to achieve this.

The Inverness radar project contractors were:
  • Thales - responsible for the turn key contract to provide primary and secondary radar.
  • Barco – responsible for the provision of the radar display system.
  • Marshall Aviation Services – responsible for the project management of phases 1 and 2.
  • Osprey Consulting Services – responsible for the preparation of the safety cases.
  • G A Barnie – responsible for the installation of all external electrical equipment.
  • BAR-W – responsible for the civil works associated with the project.

Phase one, which started in January 2006, involved recruiting and training radar controllers, creating a radar control room at the airport and taking live data feeds from the RAF radars. Airport-based controllers provided the first Inverness-based service to aircraft in July 2007.

The second phase involved the installation of the airport’s own primary and secondary radars, securing regulatory approval from the UK Civil Aviation Authority and switching from the RAF radar data input to data from the airport’s own system. This was completed in January this year.

Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson said: "This vital investment will deliver real benefits for the economy of Inverness and the Highlands and Islands. The airport has had terrific support from the personnel at RAF Lossiemouth over the years, but it is great to see Inverness getting its own dedicated radar system. This £3.6 million investment will create new jobs, improve skills and bring greater connectivity for the Highland and Islands. It will also reduce aircraft fuel burn and cut down on noise levels.

"Inverness makes a vital contribution to Scotland's economy and I welcome this significant investment in region's infrastructure," said Mr Stevenson.

Inglis Lyon, managing director of HIA said: “This has been a unique project for us with many firsts. We started from scratch and now have dedicated high technology radars operating at Inverness. Achieving this significant development was due to the commitment, enthusiasm and expertise of all involved in the project.

“We also recognise the pivotal role that the RAF has played since 1999 in providing radar services at Inverness. Its cooperation and support have been crucial to achieving a smooth transition to the airport-based service which will ensure a safe and efficient operation at Inverness in the years ahead.”

Steve Hill, vice president and managing director of Thales UK’s air systems business, said: “This contract was of huge strategic importance to Thales as it is the first Thales STAR 2000 primary and RSM 970 S secondary radar in the UK. It represents a significant opportunity for Thales to expand its UK radar market and we now look forward to building on this success and becoming one of the leading suppliers of primary and secondary radar in the UK civil market.”

19 February 2009

M74 project nears completion

Work to extend the M74 in Glasgow moved a step closer to completion today as the foundations were laid for its link up with the M8.

The project - the largest infrastructure scheme currently on the ground in Scotland - is a key part of the Scottish Government's current £2.5 billion programme of investment in transport infrastructure over the next three years.

Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson said that, in addition to providing hundreds of jobs for the construction industry, completing the M74 from Carmyle to the Kingston Bridge and the M8 will return significant benefits to Scotland and its businesses by offering a quicker, safer and more efficient routes to get their goods to market, reducing congestion in and around Scotland's largest city, and capturing the long term economic benefits that the Commonwealth Games will bring in 2014.

The Transport Minister, who was speaking at the site of the M74/M8 Westbound viaduct, where the erection of the piers of the junction is now underway, said:

"Today marks the beginning of a significant phase of construction of the M74 Completion project - a symbolic moment when two of Scotland's major motorways are brought together.

"While our investment in transport infrastructure will be crucial in the sustainable growth of Scotland's economy for years to come, it is also bringing jobs to the hard-pressed construction industry now. Transport Scotland's work alone supports over 25 per cent of the civil engineering contracting sector's workload in Scotland.

"At its peak this project will support around 900 jobs - many of them young trainee professionals who will gain valuable experience in their respective professional trades. Experience which they can carry forward beyond this project and into other projects across Scotland. Through this and other major infrastructure projects in Scotland we are providing our most valuable asset - our people - with a firm footing for the future, and Scotland with sustainable economic growth."

Chair of South Lanarkshire Council's Enterprise Resources Committee, Councillor Chris Thompson, said:

"We are delighted at the progress being made by the M74 completion project. People will now be able to see the road beginning to take shape and realise, when complete, the positive impact it will have on journey times throughout the west of Scotland. The project is also providing hundreds of specialist construction jobs, something which is very welcome in the current economic climate."

David Welsh, Interlink M74 Joint Venture Project Director, added:

"We have made significant progress on site since being awarded the M74 Completion project in March last year. A number of new recruits, many from the local area, have joined the Joint Venture team bringing additional skills and experience. We have developed strong relationships with our client and are working closely with them to ensure the project is successfully delivered."

The M74 Completion, which will continue the M74 motorway from Fullarton Road Junction, near Carmyle, to the M8 motorway west of the Kingston Bridge, is anticipated to open in 2011, completing the missing link between the two motorways.

The project is a partnership between the Transport Scotland, the principal funder, and Glasgow City, South Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire Councils.

The contractor is Interlink M74 JV, a joint venture comprising Balfour Beatty, Morgan Est, Morrison Construction and Sir Robert McAlpine, four of the UK's major civil engineering contractors.

It is anticipated that the road will open in 2011 costing just under £445 million plus an allowance of approximately £12 million for possible treatment of mine workings along the route.

Recent Transport Scotland investment across road and rail - either in longer term maintenance or specific infrastructure construction - has supported nearly 13,000 jobs

Over £2.5 billion will be invested in Scotland's strategic transport networks over the three years, supporting the economy through the efficient movement of goods and people

This programme includes a new railway between Airdrie and Bathgate linking Edinburgh and Glasgow, the Borders railway, and support for the delivery of the Edinburgh Tram Project. Additionally we are investing the Glasgow Airport Rail Link, the M8 between Newhouse and Baillieston and upgrading the A80 to motorway between Stepps and Haggs - all to be completed in time for the 2014 Commonwealth Games

A freephone helpline will be available 24 hours, 7 days a week on 0800 328 1697 for members of the public who have any queries in relation to the M74 Completion works.

18 February 2009

Affordable bus fares

A further £4 million funding package will help the bus industry maintain affordable fares for passengers.

The money will be used to offset fuel duty increases by matching the 2p increase announced by the Chancellor in the pre-budget report last December.

Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson said:

"Large increases in fuel prices over the last 12 months have had an adverse effect on many of our businesses and communities. The bus industry has not been immune from these effects.

"In order to mitigate the impact of the fuel duty increase we are giving bus companies this extra money to help ensure that the costs are not passed on to passengers through increased fares.

"This new funding comes on top of the considerable support we already give the bus industry which including the £40 million from local authorities amounts to some £280 million per year. This investment is intended to help the industry drive down fare costs, encourage more routes and enable more older and disabled people to access these important services."

Gavin Booth, Chairman of Bus Users UK, welcomed the increase, he said:

"Anything that helps to keep bus fares down in these difficult financial times is a great benefit to bus passengers. The increase to the Bus Service Operators Grant is another indication of the Scottish Government's positive attitude towards the users who make more than 500 million bus journeys in Scotland each year."

The Bus Service Operators Grant provides bus operators with a rebate of almost 79 per cent of the fuel duty they have paid. The aim of BSOG is principally to benefit passengers. It does this by helping operators to keep their fares down and to enable them to run services that might not otherwise be commercially viable.

12 February 2009

STEVENSON WELCOMES TRIAL SCHEME TO RAISE BANFF & BUCHAN RECYCLING RATES

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the announcement that communities in Banff & Buchan will take part in a new trial scheme to raise the rate of recycling in the area.

The trial covers approximately 7,500 homes, including Aberchirder, Banff, Macduff, Whitehills, Portsoy and around 1,500 rural households west and north of the River Deveron. The scheme will see all of these households, including the rural properties, having their recycling and food waste collected every week.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“I welcome any move that will help to increase the levels of recycling taking place in Banff & Buchan. Although Aberdeenshire faces particular challenges, we must keep striving to reach the Scottish Government’s target of recycling 40% of waste by 2010/11.

“I hope that this scheme will prove to be a success and can be rolled out across the region, helping to increase the rate of recycling being done. By making it easier for residents of Banff & Buchan to recycle their waste, I am confident we will see real increases in recycling rates.

“Successful recycling schemes require active cooperation between local government and ordinary people, and I am hopeful that this scheme will further encourage that in Banff & Buchan”.

11 February 2009

STEVENSON WELCOMES SIGNIFICANT SAVINGS FOR BANFF & BUCHAN RESIDENTS AS SNP PLEDGE TO FREEZE COUNCIL TAX UNTIL 2012

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed a commitment from the SNP Government that funding will be made available for a Council Tax freeze until 2012 – meaning that the average Council Tax payer in Aberdeenshire will save up to £246 over the four years of the SNP Government.

Finance Secretary John Swinney also reaffirmed that the SNP was determined to scrap the unfair Council Tax despite opposition obstruction, and will seek a majority mandate in 2011 to ensure the final abolition of the tax and the introduction of a system based on ability to pay which would ensure the biggest tax cut in a generation for low and middle income families the substantial saving.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“Under the SNP people will pay not a penny more in council tax in 2011 than they did in 2007. People across Scotland will have saved over £70 by this year and save even more in the years to come.

"In these tough economic times this is good news for hard pressed families and council tax payers. The SNP has already delivered its promise of a council tax freeze in its first year in Government and looks set to achieve a continuing freeze for the coming year.

"That and this new pledge of a council tax freeze for the full term of the Parliament goes way beyond that promise and is good news for the people of Banff & Buchan. If the opposition had still been in power we would have seen council tax continue its steep climb upwards. In Aberdeenshire council tax rose by a massive 93% in the ten years before we came to power.

"If council tax had increased at the same rate that it did under the previous Labour/LibDem Executive, average council tax payers in Aberdeenshire would have been faced with paying an extra £246 by 2012.

“However, the system of council tax remains fundamentally unfair and the SNP are determined to see it finally abolished when we can secure the necessary parliamentary majority following the next Holyrood elections in 2011.”

10 February 2009

STEVENSON DELIGHTED AS THREAT OF FOOD PREPARATION CHARGES IS ENDED

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed news that no local authority in Scotland will be able to charge pensioners for help with food preparation. Following Lord Sutherland's Independent Review of Free Personal and Nursing Care last year, the Scottish Government agreed that the existing legislation on food preparation lacked clarity.

Working with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (CoSLA), these regulations will clearly outlaw charging for food preparation. The previous Labour/Lib Dem administrations failed to pass robust legislation, allowing this anomaly to exist and enabling some local authorities to charge for food preparation. There is now no prospect of such a charge being introduced in Banff & Buchan.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“After years of hesitation and inaction from the previous Labour/Lib Dem administration, the SNP Government is introducing tighter legislation to ensure that all local authorities provide food preparation without charging individuals.

"Scotland's Free Personal Care policy is rightly respected and admired for providing real support and benefit to some of our more vulnerable older people. The universal nature of the Free Personal and Nursing Care policy was always intended to ensure that care is provided on a fair and equitable basis, but different approaches to food preparation charges caused significant confusion.

“This move has brought an end to the confusion and ensures that there is no prospect of such a charge being levied by Aberdeenshire Council”.

STEVENSON DELIGHTED BY MASSIVE INVESTMENT IN PETERHEAD HARBOUR

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the substantial investment being announced by the Scottish Government as part of a £19 million upgrade of Peterhead Harbour. The development will see a new harbour facility built on an unused embankment adjacent to the existing quay, substantially increasing the harbour’s capacity.

The investment will boost the area’s economy by protecting 50 jobs and creating around 100 new posts.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“This is a development of massive significance to Banff & Buchan, securing as it does Peterhead’s position as our biggest fishing port. Given the challenges being faced by the fishing industry, this investment will play a significant part in securing a sustainable future for the industry.

“Once complete, the improved harbour will increase berthing facilities at the harbour and ensure it can cope with the largest, most modern pelagic vessels. I am delighted at the vote of confidence in our fishing industry which this move represents.

“As well as creating new jobs, the new development will see substantial benefits for the local economy and will see Peterhead become one of the best fishing ports in the world.”

5 February 2009

STEVENSON URGES BANFF & BUCHAN BUSINESSES TO TAKE PART IN UNIQUE COLLABORATION

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has called upon businesses in Banff & Buchan to join BusinessClub Scotland, a unique collaboration of all Scotland’s major business organisations. With funding from the Scottish Government, BusinessClub Scotland will ensure that firms across Scotland capitalise on the business opportunities from the Year of Homecoming, the 2014 Commonwealth Games and other major events in Scotland. The new initiative will be led by the Scottish Council for Development and Industry but carries the support of all of the major business organisations in Scotland.

The key objectives of BusinessClub Scotland are to:
-Improve business competitiveness
-Build supply chain networks
-Facilitate procurement around events
-Extend the reach of existing networks
-Provide direct business engagement and targeted networking at events to win business
-Develop expertise in event management and delivery

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“BusinessClub Scotland offers businesses in Banff & Buchan a real opportunity to compete for lucrative contracts connected to the major events we see across Scotland every year.

“Glasgow 2014 alone will be spending up to £200m on goods and services in the run up to the Games, and there is no reason why businesses in Banff & Buchan cannot successfully win contracts for some of that money.

“There are great opportunities for businesses to supply services to events, to showcase their products and to make national and international contacts through targeted networking opportunities. That is why I hope businesses in Banff & Buchan will be quick to sign up and see real benefits from membership in this scheme”.

STEVENSON CONDEMNS ANTI-STUDENT LABOUR PARTY AS THEY SCORE A MASSIVE OWN GOAL WITH STUDENT NUMBERS

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has slammed the Labour party after their attempt to blame the SNP Government for a fall in student numbers backfired spectacularly. The numbers being quoted in their attacks relate to students who enrolled in 2007, and would have had to meet application deadlines four months before the election.

Far from showing a fall in student numbers under the SNP, the figures reveal that the anti-student policies of the Lib Dems and Labour had successfully driven potential students away from university.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“This latest attack is an own goal of massive proportions that only serves to highlight how badly the previous administration failed students in Banff & Buchan. The figures reveal the extent to which the Lib Dems and Labour succeeded in scaring potential students away from higher education.

“With policies like the graduate endowment piling up the debts that students had to face, it is hardly surprising that student numbers declined on their watch. That is why students across the country were delighted when the incoming SNP Government abolished the back-door tuition fee as one of our first acts.

“The fact that these figures show that the number of students applying in the final months of the previous administration fell means there can be no doubt that the Lib Dems and Labour are anti-student parties whose policies were hugely damaging to local students.

“Education should be based on the ability to learn, not the ability to pay and the Lib Dems and Labour should be hanging their heads in shame at the results of their total failure to support that principle.”

STEVENSON DELIGHTED AS SNP SECURE FUNDING FOR CONTINUED COUNCIL TAX FREEZE

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed today’s decision in the Scottish Parliament to pass the Scottish Budget, one week after Labour, the Lib Dems and the Greens voted it down endangering £1.8 billion of increased funding and putting thousands of jobs at risk.

The budget contains £70 million to fund a second year’s freeze in council taxes, without which council tax bills in Aberdeenshire would have to rise by around 17%. This represents a saving for band D council tax payers of £189.41 in Aberdeenshire.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“In the decade before the SNP came to power council tax rose by 93% in Aberdeenshire in year after year of council tax hikes.

“Although the Lib Dems were perfectly content to see this spiral of council tax increases return last week when they voted against the budget, I am glad that they have now seen sense and voted to put the necessary money in place for councils to freeze council tax for a second year.

“In the current economic climate, the last thing that people in Banff & Buchan need is a sharp increase in their council tax bills, and I know they would have been less than impressed at the willingness last week of the Lib Dems to expose them to that risk..

“Thankfully the SNP have now successfully convinced them to back this year’s budget, but residents of Banff & Buchan will not be quick to forget their previous actions”.
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