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30 November 2009

Construction industry invited to bid for Forth Replacement Crossing contract

Eight of the world’s most respected construction and specialist engineering companies have been invited to tender for the principal contract to build the landmark Forth Replacement Crossing.

A total of 39 companies expressed an interest in becoming involved following publication of the contract notice in June this year. A final eight, who submitted pre-qualification questionnaires indicating their financial and technical capabilities, have consolidated into two consortia and will be formally invited to bid for the work. 

Vinci, Balfour Beatty, Bam Nuttal and Morgan Est have formed the Forthspan consortium, while the Forth Crossing Constructors group comprises Dragados, Hochtief, American Bridge International and Morrisons.

Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson said: “The Forth Crossing Bill has just been introduced to Parliament and the issuing of the formal invitation to tender demonstrates that delivery of the Forth Replacement Crossing remains on schedule.

“The long-term future for the existing Forth Road Bridge remains uncertain and it is vital we act now to preserve cross-Forth travel and ensure sustainable economic growth for communities across Scotland continues in the future.

“The construction industry has already signalled its enthusiasm for this project and we look forward to receiving high quality bids from some of the biggest and most experienced construction companies in the world.

“We are determined this project should provide a value-for-money solution and we are confident it compares favourably with other similar structures across the world. It will be funded directly by the Scottish Government from existing capital budgets, ensuring best value for the taxpayer."

The companies comprising each of the consortia have an excellent track record in delivering high profile bridge projects across the globe. Forthspan’s experience includes delivering for the 2004 Athens Olympics the £655m Rion Antirion Bridge, a 2.8km cable stayed bridge linking the Pelopannese Islands to mainland Greece, and the £330m Second Severn Crossing completed in 1996 which carries the M4 over the River Severn between England and Wales.

Forth Crossing Constructors experience includes completing construction in 1999 of the £768m Oresund Bridge which forms part of the Oresund link connection between Denmark and Sweden, and are currently undertaking the replacement of the seismically vulnerable eastern span of the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge, at a contract value of around £1bn.

Both consortia will enter into dialogue with Transport Scotland over the next year to discuss their proposals for the project. Participants will be invited to submit a final tender by late 2010, outlining firm proposals and price.

It is anticipated the award of the Forth Replacement Crossing contract will be made in spring 2011 and construction is expected to begin later that year. The contract, which is anticipated to be priced between £900m and £1.2bn in today’s prices, includes detailed design, construction of the main crossing and approaching roads.

This will include:
  • a motorway standard two lane carriageway with hard shoulders, spanning approximately 2.7km in length, comprising a cable-stayed bridge with three “mono-towers”, two central spans of approximately 650 metres each and approach viaducts;
  • trunk road connections north and south of the bridge, including approximately 5.5km of new or improved two or three-lane motorway standard carriageways with hard shoulders and two flyover junctions;
  • an Intelligent Transport System (ITS) including gantry displays to inform drivers of new variable speed limits.
A separate procurement exercise will be undertaken later for two separate, smaller contracts associated with the scheme but which will be delivered early in the project programme.

These will see Junction 1A on the M9 upgraded and ITS provided on the M9 Spur south to Newbridge, as well as ITS provided in Fife from Admiralty Junction to Halbeath.

The Forth Replacement Crossing scheme was announced to Parliament in December 2008 and will utilise the existing Forth Road Bridge to carry public transport, motor cycles less than 50cc,  pedestrians and cyclists. This has resulted in an estimated saving of around £1.7bn on the original estimated cost of the scheme and provides a sustainable increase in capacity to meet future demand. The new crossing is expected to be open to traffic in 2016.

Transport Scotland have been holding a series of local public exhibitions at North Queensferry, South Queensferry, Kirkliston and at the Holyrood Hotel in Edinburgh. These feature leaflets, maps, new artist impressions and a Virtual Reality Model (VRM) of the scheme, as well as information on the Parliamentary Bill and supporting environmental documentation.

The introduction of  the hybrid Bill – the first of its type ever taken forward in Scotland - begins the first of three parliamentary stages running in parallel with the procurement process. It is anticipated Parliamentary scrutiny of the Bill will be completed by November 2010.

Last call for £1m station regeneration fund applications

The deadline for applications for cash from a new £1 million fund to help create new businesses and premises for community projects has been set for 1 February 2010.

The Stations Community Regeneration Fund (SCRF) was launched by Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson in May this year and has been created to bring redundant or disused station buildings back into use for the benefit of passengers or the local community.

Funding is available from Transport Scotland to contribute towards the costs of structural repairs and to provide up to 50% of the costs of fitting out station premises for their intended use.

Applicants with new business ideas or projects which benefit rail passengers or the local community are invited to apply for a funding contribution.

The fund has already received strong demand from businesses and community groups around Scotland since its launch and Transport Scotland is keen to hear from more groups or organisations seeking funding.

Head of Network Relations and Futures at Transport Scotland Gary Bogan said:

"The Stations Community Regeneration Fund has already received some excellent applications and we want to ensure everyone has the chance to access this money.

"Targeted investment like this can lead to a real improvement in the station environment by bringing redundant buildings back into use, new employment opportunities can be opened up and communities benefit through the creation of new local facilities.

"The deadline is now looming and we would encourage anyone still interested in accessing funding to pull their application together soon."

The Stations Community Regeneration Fund will be managed and administered by ScotRail with applications being evaluated by Transport Scotland. Funding for the scheme has been made available following the decision to extend the ScotRail franchise with FirstGroup until 2014.

Anyone seeking more information should contact ScotRail at SCRF@firstgroup.com or by telephone on 0845 601 5929.

The scheme is one of 28 initiatives which will benefit from an investment fund of more than £70 million, managed by Transport Scotland, which has been created to improve Scotland's railways.

29 November 2009

Stewart Stevenson Pledges Support for Scottish Launch of Charity Campaign

WHY DO 17 BABIES DIE EVERY SINGLE DAY IN THE UK?

Scottish National Party MSP for Banff & Buchan, Stewart Stevenson, has attended a special Scottish Parliament reception to launch the Why 17? campaign in Scotland, which asks the question, ‘Why do 17 babies die every single day in the UK?’

Sands, the stillbirth and neonatal death charity, held the reception at the Scottish Parliament on 18th November 2009, to raise awareness of the 17 babies who are stillborn or die shortly after birth every day in the UK. The figures for Scotland are no less shocking; almost every day a baby is stillborn in Scotland and a further 3 babies die shortly after birth every week; this is nearly 500 babies dying every year in Scotland.

At the event, Stewart Stevenson was presented with Sands’ report, Saving Babies’ Lives Report, 2009 which, backed up by new research, highlights several problem areas that are contributing to this level of baby loss, the long-lasting impact of these deaths, and recommends changes that could save babies’ lives.

Stewart Stevenson, pictured at Wednesday’s event with local constituents Heather Turriff and Libby McRae of Fraserburgh and Peterhead Sands, pledged his support for the Sands campaign, saying: “I was shocked to discover that almost 500 babies are stillborn or die shortly after birth every year in Scotland alone, and that many families in my local constituency will have experienced the tragic loss of a baby in this way. Sands Saving Babies’ Lives Report, 2009 clearly outlines the key issues, problem areas and recommendations for change, and I am fully committed to supporting Sands in their call for action now to make a difference so more lives can be saved in the future.’

The facts in Scotland today:
  • 325 babies were stillborn in Scotland during 2008 – that’s 1 in every 200 babies born in Scotland. The stillbirth rate has not changed significantly since the 1980’s.
  • 168 babies died within four weeks of their birth in 2008 in Scotland - 122 within the first seven days of their lives.
  • Scotland has one of the highest perinatal mortality rates in Europe (babies who are stillborn or die within the first 7 days of life). Mortality is highest in city areas with the worst social deprivation and poorest general health indicators.
  • Ten times more babies are stillborn than die of cot death every year in Scotland.
“The devastation my family and I felt when our daughter Amy was stillborn was indescribable”, says Susan Lynagh from Neilston, Glasgow. “No parent whose baby has died wants any other parent to suffer in this way, which is why I am passionate about raising the profile of stillbirth. I want to raise awareness that almost 500 babies are dying every year in Scotland and I’m urging MSPs to sit up, and take note of all the hundreds of Scottish parents devastated by their babies’ deaths. We need a co-ordinated, national strategy to tackle stillbirths and neonatal deaths and we need it now.”

26 November 2009

Train Cascade Plan Announced

ScotRail TRAINS ARE ON THE MOVE

More than 60 ScotRail trains will start switching routes from September 2010 following the arrival of new electric trains in Ayrshire and Inverclyde.

The Transport Scotland investment in 38 new electric Class 380 trains will add 9000 seats to the Scottish rail network.

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From Ayr in the west to North Berwick in the East, customers will see benefits from the planned ‘cascade’ of different types of trains.

Ayrshire and Inverclyde passengers will be the first to gain, with the Class 380 trains arriving from September 2010.

In December that year, trains will once again run on the Airdrie to Bathgate rail line, with new stations created, others upgraded and existing single rail track double tracked and electrified.

The link will offer new services between Edinburgh and Glasgow, including direct services from Helensburgh/Milngavie to Edinburgh served by Class 334 trains.

And from March 2011 Edinburgh - North Berwick services will also be served by new Class 380 trains.

Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson said:

“We are delighted to see the progress being made by Siemens towards the delivery of the Class 380 rolling stock.

“Rail patronage is increasing and this vital investment in a new fleet of environmentally friendly trains will deliver not only benefits for passengers through improved facilities, more trains and more seats on the network, but also help us meet our ambitious Climate Change targets by encouraging people to leave the car at home in favour of more sustainable forms of transport.”

Steve Montgomery, managing director of ScotRail, said:

“The arrival of the Class 380s will trigger a cascade of different classes of trains across the network. Our priority under the cascade is to deliver extra capacity where it is needed most and, of course, to release trains to serve on the new Airdrie-Bathgate line. “

Stevenson Welcomes Gamrie Pupils to Scottish Parliament Awards



Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed Alanah Ironside (9) and Lisa Baxter (10) to the Scottish Parliament to receive prizes from the SCARF calendar awards. The two pupils attend Bracoden Primary School in Gamrie and were amongst the thirteen winners from schools across the North East of Scotland.

The SCARF Calendar Awards saw around 4,000 entries this year from school pupils who designed calendar entries that will encourage people to be more energy efficient and environmentally friendly. The winning entries were voted for by North East MSPs at an event held earlier in the year.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“I was delighted to meet Alanah and Lisa during their visit to the Scottish Parliament and to see them win the awards that their artwork so clearly deserves. They were both extremely impressive entries and worthy winners.

“I know that their parents and teachers will have been delighted at their success and it is extremely encouraging that pupils at Bracoden Primary School clearly care deeply about the environment.

“All of the winning entries quite clearly got to the heart of the kind of changes we need to make as a society if we are to combat climate change and the finished calendar is extremely impressive. I hope that Alanah and Lisa enjoyed their visit to Holyrood and that we will see a large number of entries from pupils in Banff & Buchan again next year.”

25 November 2009

Stevenson Welcomes Latest Round of Funding for Fishing Industry

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the announcement of a further £9.3 million package for the Scottish fishing industry under the European Fisheries Fund. This takes the total level of funding from the fund over £25 million for 2009 and sees significant funding for fishing and processing businesses in Banff & Buchan.

The funding includes £381,953 for Mapco Ltd in Peterhead towards refurbishing their processing building and installing fish drying, refrigeration and packaging equipment and £73,256 for Fraserburgh Freezing & Cold Storage Ltd towards purchasing and installing a blast freezer. The funding also contains assistance for young skippers to buy a share of their vessels.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“It has been a difficult time for many in Banff & Buchan’s fishing and fish processing industries recently with the economic climate and tough fishing restrictions combining to damaging effect.

“However, I welcome this latest round of investment that takes the total for the year to more than £25 million. It is clear evidence of the importance that the SNP Government attaches to our fishing industry and our determination to support it through the difficult times.

“Encouraging more young skippers into the industry, and helping to fund measures to maximise the profitability of all those involved, are steps that will help secure the future of the industry.

“This kind of support is vital to the industry and will be welcome news to many people.”

Stevenson Congratulates Peterhead Business on Scooping Prestigious Award

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the news that TWMA’s base in Peterhead has won a green business award for the development of its TCC Rotomill product. TWMA is an industry leader in the handling and treatment of hydrocarbon-contaminated drill cuttings and waste materials.

The award was one of eight given to Scotland’s most environmentally friendly businesses at the tenth Vision in Business for the Environment of Scotland (VIBES) awards in Edinburgh on Tuesday night.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“Businesses have a key role to play in protecting our environment, through the development of practices and products that are both environmentally friendly and profitable.

“I am delighted that TWMA has had its efforts recognised and been awarded one of these prestigious awards. Being environmentally friendly provides important economic opportunities as well as challenges for businesses, something that TWMA has clearly recognised.

“The VIBES awards have established themselves as an important date in the business calendar and it is extremely welcome that their work in Peterhead has been recognised in this way.”

M74 Completion sets apprentices on the road to career success

Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson welcomed fifteen young people on the road to career success today as they were formally inducted to an M74 Modern Apprenticeship scheme.

The apprentices, who are mainly from the Glasgow and South Lanarkshire area, started working on the project last year as a result of the M74 Employability Partnership. They will now have the opportunity to maximise the benefits of this work experience as they start out on the Interlink M74 JV led Modern Apprenticeship scheme that allows them to become 'time-served' within two years.

Speaking at the induction Mr Stevenson said:

"The M74 Completion project is playing a vital role in providing employment for the construction industry in a period of economic difficulty, around 900 jobs at the project’s peak. Supporting and developing young people is a key part of this and I am delighted with the ways in which Interlink has proactively developed training opportunities for these young people and ensured their training will continue beyond the M74 Completion project.

"Not only will these Modern Apprenticeships provide the candidates with a strong starting point for their careers, the valuable experience and transferable skills they will gain as a result will stand them in excellent stead for the future.

"Transport Scotland's work alone supports over 25 per cent of the civil engineering contracting sector's workload in Scotland. Access to skilled employees is key to the success of our major infrastructure projects and investing in our people through programmes such as the Modern Apprenticeships is essential, not only to meet current needs, but also to ensure ongoing sustainable economic growth for Scotland."

The scheme, which has been developed by contractor Interlink M74 JV in conjunction with Construction Skills, will offer real employment opportunities for all fifteen involved.

Glasgow City Council’s Executive Member for Business and the Economy, Cllr George Ryan, said:

"I am very proud of the role we played - along with Interlink, the Glasgow East Regeneration Agency and our local government partners - in establishing the M74 Employability Partnership.

"That project has given these young people the skills and opportunity to secure Modern Apprenticeships on the biggest engineering project in the country and support from Interlink in forging long and successful careers in a great industry."

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

"This is a fantastic day for the civil engineering industry as employers have been working for a number of years to put these apprenticeships in place; all candidates will be registered with Scottish Building Apprenticeship Council. We at Interlink are delighted to show faith in the future of the industry and the young people of the Glasgow and surrounding areas."

The Apprenticeships will cover key construction roles such as formwork, steelfixing, plant operation and general construction. The young people will serve their time with one of the four joint venture partners and remain there to complete their apprenticeship after the new M74 is open in 2011.

The M74 Completion project – one of the largest infrastructure schemes 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. The scale and nature of the scheme allows the contractor to develop a Modern Apprenticeship programme that covers a diverse range of construction skills.

Completing the M74 from Carmyle to the M8 will return significant benefits to Scotland and its businesses by offering a quicker, safer and more efficient route to get their goods to market. The project will also reduce congestion in and around Scotland's largest city and capture the long term economic benefits that the Commonwealth Games will bring in 2014.

For more information on the project please visit www.m74completion.com and to find out more on Modern Apprenticeships visit http://www.cskills.org/

24 November 2009

Stevenson Meets With NHS Grampian Chief Executive on Fraserburgh Birthing Unit

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson has met with NHS Grampian Chief Executive Richard Carey to discuss concerns over the continued closure of the Fraserburgh Birthing Unit. Mr Stevenson was joined at the meeting by SNP Westminster candidate for Banff & Buchan Eilidh Whiteford.

When NHS Grampian proposed closing the maternity unit at Fraserburgh in 2005, Mr Stevenson joined local campaigners on a march in Fraserburgh and met them at the Scottish Parliament when a delegation travelled down to hand in a petition to the then Health Minister, as well as raising the matter in Parliament, meeting with Ministers and speaking at Parliamentary Committees on the subject.

In addition, Mr Stevenson travelled to the Isle of Skye to view the highly successful birthing unit in Broadford and suggested to NHS Grampian that this be considered as an alternative to closure, a move which was ultimately adopted.

Speaking after his meeting with Mr Carey, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“This was a very useful meeting with Mr Carey. I expressed to him the deep concern that exists locally about not only the closure of the birthing unit but also its future. This is a much-valued facility, as was made very clear by the community-led campaign to save the facility and its future must be secured.

“I was very pleased to receive that assurance from Mr Carey and his senior officials who attended the meeting. Mr Carey made it clear that NHS Grampian remains committed to the long-term future of the birthing unit in Fraserburgh, having spent several hundred thousand pounds setting up the facility.

“The key in all of this seems to be the vacant post of Team Leader at the Unit. This is now being advertised nationally in order to attract the right calibre of applicants. Mr Carey was at pains to stress that the Team Leader must be safe and effective in clinical practice as patient safety is – quite rightly - of the highest importance given Fraserburgh’s location as over an hour away from ARI.

“I accept entirely that patient safety must come first, but at the same time, patient care should be delivered locally as far as possible and I re-emphasised the importance of getting the birthing unit open again as soon as safely possible.”

SNP Westminster candidate for Banff & Buchan Eilidh Whiteford added:

“Given the long struggle to save this facility for the Broch, it is quite understandable that people are suspicious when they see that the birthing unit has been closed for this length of time.

“I think NHS Grampian have been left in no doubt about the strength of feeling locally and I look forward to progress being made towards re-opening the unit for expectant mums from Fraserburgh and district.”

Fraserburgh councillor Brian Topping, who has been supporting the campaign by raising the matter in Aberdeenshire Council said:

“I am very pleased at the commitment which our MSP has secured from NHS Grampian.

“I was proud to support the local mums by getting the council to back their campaign and I will continue to press for the birthing unit to re-open as soon as possible.”

Contractor for £2.2 million A82 BA Bridge replacement announced

A £2.2m bridge upgrade on the A82 is set to get underway following the award of the works contract for the Ba Bridge replacement Transport Minister, Stewart Stevenson, announced today.

Transport Scotland has awarded the contract to RJ MacLeod, who will undertake replacement of the existing narrow sub-standard bridge with a new modern and safer structure.

Mr Stevenson said:

"This Government is committed to investing in improvements on the A82 and this project is just one of a number of upgrades scheduled for the A82 in the coming months.

"This vital work will improve road conditions and safety on the A82 as well as improve transport links to northern Scotland and our island communities.

"This announcement underpins this Government’s commitment to implementing the A82 route action plan, including measures such as road widening at selected locations between Tarbert and Inverarnan and between Corran Ferry and Fort William, as well as climbing lanes and overtaking lay-bys, road alignments, junction improvements, and hard strips."

The works are expected to start in January 2010 and take 12 months to complete. A temporary road and bridge will be established adjacent to the existing route to allow traffic to continue to use the A82 while these works are being undertaken.

Due to the location of the bridge within an environmental conservation area, extra care is being taken to plan these works in harmony with the diverse local ecology.

A mixture of safety, maintenance and project improvements are proposed for the A82 over the coming year. Some of the intended works for the route include verge safety fencing between Tarbet and Fort William, traffic signal improvements at Inverlochy Junction, a lighting replacement scheme at North Road, Fort William, and additional bridge strengthening and minor bridge works on a number of crossings along the route.

23 November 2009

Stevenson Welcomes Announcement of Aberdeenshre Public Social Partnership Project

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the announcement of a new public social partnership that will see Aberdeenshire Council, the private sector and Cornerstone work together to review the design and delivery of support services for people with learning disabilities within their community.

The partnership is one of 10 pilot projects across Scotland, another two of which are in the North East. The Public Social Partnership (PSP) Project is designed to improve service delivery and maximise competition by ensuring that the third sector is involved appropriately in the design and commissioning of public services in Scotland and that procurement mechanisms are accessible to the third sector.

Specialists from PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC), Forth Sector Development and the Scottish Government will provide advice and support to help 10 partnerships between the third and public sectors design and deliver a wide range of enhanced services to their communities.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“Cornerstone already does important work with people who have learning disabilities in Banff & Buchan and it is excellent news that this partnership will help to ensure that their service is of the highest possible quality.

“This kind of collaboration between the public, private and charity sectors is an important way of improving the services that an organisation like Cornerstone can offer and I know it will be welcomed by those who will benefit from that partnership.

“The third sector has not escaped the economic situation unscathed, but this kind of partnership can help ensure that the vital services which charities provide to our communities continue and flourish.”

21 November 2009

Local Minister's Sermon to Parliament

Broch Minister, Rev Stephen Brown, of the town's United Reformed Church, delivered the sermon at the Scottish Parliament's weekly 'Time for Reflection' slot on Wednesday. Rev Brown's sermon is reprinted below:

Rev Stephen Brown (Fraserburgh United Reformed Church):





Presiding Officer,

"Your old folk shall dream dreams and your young shall see visions."

It was a consequence, Joel wrote, of God's spirit being poured out on people. I think that I have crossed the age threshold to be a dreamer rather than a visionary. I know that because of the "Grumpy Old Men" and "Grumpy Old Women" books. Their introductions say that the age range of the grumpies is 35 to 54. Although that seems somewhat arbitrary, I am encouraged to think that there might be something in it and that in two years my offspring might find me returning to being a benign, mild-mannered minister rather than a spleen venter. I for one am not holding my breath and in any case I am sure that there are plenty of examples in this place of post-54-year-old grumpies to underline the nonsense of the quoted age range.

However, I like to dream dreams and I like to think that even visions are not beyond me. I serve a church that came about because old and young had dreams and not a few visions of long-established denominations becoming united. In 1972, the Congregational Church in England and Wales and the Presbyterian Church of England united as a sign of reconciliation and wise insight. The harder job would have been to justify those churches staying apart. Two further unions later, the United Reformed Church now has an established presence in Scotland. Not that those unions have been without tension, but such creative tension as resulted engaged hearts and minds to find ways of being that respected the distinctiveness of the constituent denominations while celebrating the common purpose: a sign of peace to a divided world.

In the much-lambasted Monty Python film, "The Life of Brian", during the delivery of the sermon on the mount, when Jesus says, "Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth", one of the crowd says, "Oh, it's blessed are the meek! Oh, I'm glad they're getting something—they have a heck of a time." Amusing though that is, it hints at a common misunderstanding of the biblical concept of meekness. It is not weakness but controlled strength—like the definition of a gentleman being a bagpipe player who chooses not to play. I am a piper, so I can say that.

Justice and peace come not through fearful inaction but through wise and compassionate response to the creative tension that wrestling with such issues inevitably brings: a meekness that strongly strives for reconciliation and renewed hope in an often-divided and wounded world.

As Lennon—John Lennon—said, "Maybe I'm a dreamer", but at least in two years I will not be grumpy.

18 November 2009

Loss of Peterhead Project Proves Lack of Commitment

UK GOVT's EMPTY WORDS ON CARBON CAPTURE CONDEMNED

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson and SNP Westminster candidate for Banff & Buchan Eilidh Whiteford have condemned the UK Government’s empty words on supporting the development of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology after a commitment to bring forward legislation to “support carbon capture and storage and to help more of the most vulnerable households with their energy bills” was made in the Queen’s Speech.

The UK Government has promised such support regularly since 2005, yet its lack of support for developing the technology in Peterhead meant that the vital project there was lost to Abu Dhabi in 2007.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“The UK Government may have again offered warm words when it comes to developing vital carbon capture technology, but people in Peterhead have seen first hand just how empty those words have been in the past.

“Peterhead could have been leading the world in the development of the technology, with all the economic and environmental benefits that would bring, but the UK Government’s dithering and delay 2 years ago meant that the project was transferred to Abu Dhabi."

Eilidh Whiteford added:

“The fact that the UK Government continues to proclaim its commitment to seeing carbon capture developed, despite having previously torpedoed the project in Peterhead, is an insult to those who could right now have been working on that technology.”

17 November 2009

Stevenson Delighted by Improvement in NHS Grampian Cancer Waiting Times

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the publication of figures showing that 96.4% of cancer patients in NHS Grampian were treated within the 62 day target between April and June this year. This is the highest percentage for NHS Grampian since the target was first introduced in 2005 and compares with a figure of 87.2% in April-June 2007 when the SNP Government was first elected. NHS Scotland’s target is for 95% of cancer patients to be treated within 62 days, a target that has been met nationally in each of the last 3 quarters.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“I am delighted by these latest improvements to waiting times for cancer patients in the NHS Grampian area and believe it is a real testament to the determination of NHS Grampian staff to continually improve the vital care that they provide.

“The Scottish Government is preparing to set tougher targets for cancer care from 2011 in order to keep driving improvement forward, but I am confident that staff in NHS Grampian will continue to be tireless in their efforts to provide the best care possible for their patients.

“That NHS Grampian has seen a 9.2% improvement since the same period in 2007 when the SNP first took office is excellent news and reflects progress that is being made across Scotland.

“Being diagnosed with cancer is an immensely worrying time for patients and it is vital that they are able to begin their treatment as swiftly as possible following that diagnosis. I am confident that NHS Grampian’s dedicated staff will do their best to ensure that this progress continues and know that this will be welcomed by people in Banff & Buchan.”

Stevenson Welcomes Funding for Flood Warning Research

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the announcement that the Scottish Government is to provide Aberdeen’s Macaulay Land Use Research Institute with £60,000 towards its UR-flood project. The UR-flood project aims to improve planning for floods within Government, environmental organisations and individual households so that people are better prepared when they occur.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“The North East has been hit hard by flooding recently so I welcome anything that will help improve planning for such events in the future. The research will rightly look at how prepared individual households are for floods, as well as environmental organisations and Governments, and I think this is an important approach to take.

“Identifying ways that individuals and communities can better respond to flood warnings is vital if the kind of devastation we recently saw is to be limited in the future.

“Given the amount of flooding we have seen recently in the North East, the fact that Aberdeen’s Macaulay Institute is taking part in the research and is likely to use Aberdeenshire as one of its case studies is good news.“I hope that this research will help residents of the North East be better prepared and protected when flooding occurs and welcome the Scottish Government’s investment.”

Forth Crossing Bill published

The most significant Scottish transport infrastructure project for a generation has reached a historic stage as it goes forward for scrutiny by the Scottish Parliament.

The introduction of the Forth Crossing Bill, which seeks authority to implement and build the new Forth Replacement Crossing (FRC), marks the start of a period where individuals and other parties who may be affected can review full details of the scheme and have the opportunity, should they wish, to lodge objections.

Significant doubts remain over the future viability of the existing Forth Road Bridge, and the £1.7bn - £2.3bn (at 2016 prices) project is aimed at maintaining and improving the vital economic transport corridor across the Forth.

Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson, said:

“Introduction of the Forth Crossing Bill marks a historic day for Scotland and makes this Government’s commitment to delivering the Forth Replacement Crossing in 2016 on time and on budget abundantly clear.

“Given the real uncertainty of the future viability of the current Forth Road Bridge, Scotland simply cannot afford any delay to the FRC.

“That is why we are taking the earliest possible action to prevent serious disruption to cross-Forth traffic arising from maintenance and repair works on the Forth Road Bridge

“The economic importance of this scheme to future generations demands we get this project right and we welcome and look forward to the close scrutiny of Parliament.”

The Forth Replacement Crossing project seeks to construct a motorway-standard two lane carriageway with hard shoulders, spanning approximately 2.7km in length, comprising a cable-stayed bridge with three "mono-towers", two central spans of approximately 650 metres each and approach viaducts, as well as trunk road connections north and south of the bridge.





The bridge and connecting roads will also include ITS (Intelligent Transport Systems) technology to manage and smooth traffic flow via variable speed limits. Along with improved junctions and wind shielding, the Forth Replacement Crossing will significantly improve the reliability of the cross-Forth travel for vehicles.

The scheme, announced to Parliament in December 2008, will utilise the existing Forth Road Bridge to carry public transport, motor cycles less than 50cc, pedestrians and cyclists. This has resulted in an estimated saving of around £1.7bn on the original estimated cost of the scheme and provides a sustainable increase in capacity to meet future demand. 

The procurement process for identifying the contractor who will build the crossing is already under way and Transport Scotland expects to announce the organisations selected to tender for the main works later this month. The construction contract is expected to be awarded in Spring 2011, with work commencing later that year.

Transport Scotland will be holding a series of Public exhibitions starting tomorrow, featuring full information on the Parliamentary Bill and supporting environmental documentation. These will be held at North Queensferry, South Queensferry and at the Holyrood Hotel in Edinburgh. Leaflets, maps, new artist impressions and a Virtual Reality Model (VRM) of the scheme will all be on display.

The introduction of  the hybrid Bill – the first of its type ever taken forward in Scotland - begins the first of three parliamentary stages which it is anticipated will be completed by November 2010.

16 November 2009

Gourock-Dunoon ferry service

Stewart Stevenson, Minister for Transport, told community leaders today that the tender process for the Gourock-Dunoon ferry route is going ahead.

Scotland's Transport Minister has reassured community leaders in the Gourock and Dunoon area that the Scottish Government is committed to delivering a vehicle and passenger ferry service for the area.

Stewart Stevenson told the meeting in Dunoon that, following the European Commission's investigation into support for ferry services in Scotland, the Scottish Government remained committed to providing a town-centre to town-centre vehicle and passenger Gourock-Dunoon ferry service.

He said:

"We look forward to the findings of the European Commission's investigation into Scotland's ferry services. Their conclusions will allow us to secure the future of the Gourock-Dunoon ferry service.

"The Commission has confirmed that public financing for the operation of ferry shipping services in Scotland is compatible with State aid rules. However, this was subject to the condition that we launch a transparent and non-discriminatory public tender for the operation of the Gourock-Dunoon route and that is what we are going to do.

"We have reiterated our commitment to this service on this route many times. The Commission has said the new service should be in place by June 2011 and therefore we are now moving to initiate an open and transparent public procurement process."

The EC investigation concluded on October 27, 2009. It ruled that Scottish Government support for the ferry service between Gourock and Dunoon could continue, subject to a tendering exercise.

Mr Stevenson told the meeting that the Scottish Government will now launch a new open, transparent and non-discriminatory public tender for the route on the following terms:
  • The public service contract will cover a town-centre to town-centre ferry service with a six-year public service contract
  • The tender will allow for a subsidy for passenger traffic on this route (unlike the preceding tender)
  • The current timetable restrictions will be removed
  • The winning bidder could provide an unrestricted commercial vehicle transport service in addition to a passenger service, subject to compliance with the State aid rules
  • CMAL have been asked by the Government to provisionally identify a suitable vessel for the route but under the EC rules the winning bidder may bring in its own vessels, replacing the old vessels currently operating on the route.
The full report from the European Commission is expected to be published by the end of November.

Fraserburgh Minister to Lead Parliament’s ‘Time for Reflection’

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson will welcome Rev Stephen Brown, United Reformed Church, Fraserburgh to the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday 18 November where he will lead the Parliament in ‘Time for Reflection’.

‘Time for Reflection’ is held in the Chamber every Wednesday during parliamentary sessions. It gives representatives from various faith groups, churches, and people of no religious affiliation the opportunity to lead the Parliament in reflection before the commencement of Chamber Business.

Commenting Mr. Stevenson said;

“I am extremely pleased to welcome Rev Brown to the Scottish Parliament and delighted that he will have the opportunity to lead the Parliament in ‘Time for Reflection’.

“Representatives of various churches and faith groups from Banff & Buchan have spoken before the Chamber in ‘Time for Reflection’ on numerous occasions in the past and I am delighted to see this trend continuing in the third session of the Scottish Parliament.

“I hope I will be able to welcome other ministers and faith leaders from the constituency to lead prayers before the Parliament in the future.”

6 November 2009

Stevenson Attends Fraserburgh Launch of Junior Commmunity Warden Scheme

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has praised the Junior Community Warden initiative run by Grampian Police.

A success in Peterhead for two years now, the scheme has been extended to Fraserburgh and was officially launched at the town's police station today. The initiative involves four primary 7 school pupils each from Lochpots School, South Park School, North School and St Andrews Schools in the town.

It is designed to help contribute towards the long-term aim of reducing or eliminating children's future involvement in crime and anti-social behaviour and will involve excursions, basic first-aid training and practical exercises.

Speaking in Fraserburgh, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

"I'm delighted to be invited to attend the launch today and to hear more about the scheme.

"I've certainly heard some extremely glowing reports about its success in Peterhead and I am sure that the children from the Broch who are taking part will make it equally successful here.

"I think it's a wonderful initiative and helps to bring the police closer to local schoolchildren – who I am sure will also have great fun taking part while delivering a serious message."

PC Kevin Forman said:

"The children are encouraged to consider the consequences of their actions and the scheme is designed to contribute towards our long-term aim of reducing the potential for future involvement in crime and anti-social behaviour.

"This was a ground-breaking initiative for Grampian Police when it was piloted in Peterhead and I am excited by the prospect of carrying on this success in Fraserburgh."

Chief Inspector Gerry Cronin said:

"I am pleased to see the continuation of this partnership initiative into Fraserburgh. This has been developed to engage with children and young people and to promote good citizenship, with support of Aberdeenshire Community Safety Partnership and Grampian Fire and Rescue Service."

"The young people are very enthusiastic about this so I am confident this enthusiasm will carry over and make this scheme a great success."

"The scheme also helps them meet new friends, develop their social skills and have fun at the same time."

Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd

The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change, Stewart Stevenson, today announced an extension to the appointment of Mr Grenville Johnston as interim Chair of Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL).

Mr Johnston, who lives in Elgin, served as a non-executive Director of HIAL from 2001-2008. He was formerly senior partner/consultant with Johnston Carmichael, Chartered Accountants based in Elgin and was President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland in 2000-01. Mr Johnston is currently Chair of Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd and of Cairngorm Mountain Ltd. As Chair of Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd, he receives a daily fee rate of £337 for a minimum time commitment of three days per month. He is also Lord-Lieutenant of Moray.

Mr Johnston's interim appointment began on February 1, 2009 and was initially for eight months. The Commissioner for Public Appointments in Scotland has recently approved the extension of the interim appointment for a further six months, from October 1, 2009 to March 31, 2010.

This post is part-time and attracts a remuneration of £21,880 for a minimum time commitment of six days per month.

HIAL is a public corporation wholly owned by the Scottish Ministers and is sponsored by the Scottish Government Transport Directorate. The company's purpose is to maintain the safe operation of its airports and to support economic and social development in the Highlands and Islands. HIAL currently operates 11 airports in the Highlands and Islands (located at Barra, Benbecula, Campbeltown, Islay, Inverness, Kirkwall, Stornoway, Sumburgh, Tiree and Wick) and at Dundee. Total passenger numbers in 2008-09 were 1,296,303, ranging from 8,736 at Tiree to 663,985 at Inverness.

All appointments are made on merit and political activity plays no part in the selection process. However, in accordance with the original Nolan recommendations, there is a requirement for appointees' political activity within the last five years (if there is any to be declared) to be made public. Mr Johnston has not been politically active in the last five years.

5 November 2009

Stevenson vows to Get Better Deal for College

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has today (Thursday) written to the Chief Executive of the Scottish Funding Council urging him to reassess the funding arrangements currently being applied to Banff & Buchan College.

Mr Stevenson has also sought a meeting with the Funding Council after being informed that some of the College’s most important courses such as Engineering and Maritime studies are being undervalued by the current funding formula.

The move comes after the Scottish Parliament endorsed a motion on 1 October that encourages the Scottish Further and Higher Education Funding Council, in allocating funds to the sector, to recognise the particular needs of colleges in rural areas.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“Banff and Buchan College is a first class educational facility that continues to provide excellent opportunities for young people from Aberdeenshire to develop skills that will support their transition from school to employment.

“I am particularly concerned that the current funding formula disadvantages subjects such as engineering and maritime studies at the College which are key to ensuring the employability of students in the oil and gas sector.

“The Scottish Parliament has recognised the massive contribution rural institutions such as Banff & Buchan make to surrounding communities and I am therefore urging the Chief Executive of the Scottish Funding Council to reassess the future funding arrangements being applied to the College.”

4 November 2009

Scotland Joins the Climate Change Group

The Scottish Government has signed up as a member of an influential group leading on climate change.

The Scottish Government has become a full member of The Climate Group, one of the world's most influential organisations focused on developing and sharing expertise on developing a low carbon economy.

Stewart Stevenson, Climate Change Minister, made the announcement in Barcelona while attending United Nations climate change negotiations as part of preparations for the world climate change talks in Copenhagen in December.

Speaking at a conference event organised by The Climate Group and the Government of Catalonia, Mr Stevenson said:

"Given Scotland's world-leading framework for tackling climate change, we have no hesitation in signing up to The Climate Group's Statement of Principles.

"The Scottish Government recognises the urgency of addressing climate change and is an active partner in the common desire to identify solutions, work towards adaptation and create a sustainable future. This is why we introduced our world-leading Climate Change Act this year, making clear our intention to work to reduce carbon pollution by 42 per cent by 2020. Today's signing is a continuation of that commitment."

By becoming a full member of The Climate Group, the Scottish Government has joined business organisations such as Marks and Spencer and Scottish Power, as well as administrations such as the State of California and the City of New York in signing up to The Climate Group's principles setting out its vision of the way forward in tackling climate change. All signatories pledge to take further and sustained action on climate change.

Luc Bas, Head of Government Relations Europe, The Climate Group said:

"Scotland has been a member of the States and Regions Alliance for many years and we are delighted to welcome them as full members of The Climate Group. In the run up to the Copenhagen summit, Scotland is setting a great example with its ambitious targets in the Climate Change Act and through its comprehensive climate change Delivery Plan, Carbon Assessment of Government spending, and strategic approach to climate change adaptation. Scotland's commitment to green energy and the economic opportunities of the low carbon economy is impressive and far-sighted. This is a great model for other countries to follow."

The Minister also spoke at an event organised by SCIAF and Stop Climate Chaos Scotland (SCCS), and held discussions with NGOs to discuss what they want as a result of the Copenhagen talks.

He said:

"Legislation alone won't bring about the move to a low carbon economy and therefore this Government is taking action which will lead to real changes in everyday actions: by businesses, the public sector, voluntary and community groups and individuals.

"Across the developed world, we need a cohesive approach to tackling climate change and I am looking forward to real progress being made in Copenhagen in December."

Speaking at the Scottish event hosted by SCIAF/SCCS aimed at informing other countries of Scotland's world-leading climate example, SCIAF's Advocacy Manager Chris Hegarty said:

"Climate change is already hitting people in developing countries hard, despite them having done least to cause the problem. In the run-up to Copenhagen, it is important to recognise how vital it is to make substantial early cuts to greenhouse gas emissions. Scotland has shown that it is realistic and achievable for industrialised countries to commit to the reductions that are needed. We welcome the Scottish Government's involvement with the Climate Group and hope that it helps contribute to an ambitious and fair UN deal."

3 November 2009

Forth Road Bridge Open Week

Feedback from visitors has been overwhelmingly positive, with many calling for the event to be repeated in future or for a permanent visitor centre to be established.

A special exhibition celebrating the history of the Forth Road Bridge and the work of the bridge authority was open to the public all week. This featured displays, models and audio visual exhibits from the bridge authority as well as a number of their engineering consultants and contractors. Transport Scotland provided information on the planned new crossing.

Over the course of the week, over 50 young people from local schools and community groups were given extended tours of the bridge, including the opportunity to climb to the top of the towers 156 metres above sea level.

Visitors on Saturday enjoyed guided tours of the structure and boat trips on the Firth of Forth, with the weather staying fair for most of the day. Demonstrations were held in the car park showing how specialist teams recover overturned HGVs and a steady stream of children enjoyed playing in a bouncy castle overlooking the bridge.

Stewart Stevenson, Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change, said of the week’s events: “I was delighted to have the opportunity to visit the Forth Road Bridge’s Open Week and join in the 45th anniversary celebrations. The Forth Road Bridge is an iconic structure, providing a vital link between Edinburgh, Fife and the North East, and it’s great to see the public given the opportunity to take a closer look and see for themselves the real expertise that goes into its operation.”

Barry Colford, Chief Engineer & Bridgemaster at Forth Road Bridge, added: “The Open Week has been a fantastic opportunity to share some of the passion we have for this great engineering structure, and to explain to the people who live locally and rely on the bridge just how much work goes into keeping the bridge safe and open to traffic.

“What’s been especially pleasing has been the opportunity to meet the public face to face and hear how their lives are affected by the bridge and the work that we do here. Best of all was the chance to talk to some of the men who helped build the bridge back in the 1960s.

“Feedback from the event has been overwhelmingly positive – so much so that I’m sure we’ll consider doing it again in future.”

The Forth Road Bridge Open Week was sponsored by consulting engineers Atkins and Fairhurst, as well as contractors C Spencer Ltd, Tarmac and Raynesway Construction.
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