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27 January 2010

Stevenson Warns Of Deadly Carbon Monoxide Risk

Banff and Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has urged Banff and Buchan residents to protect themselves against the deadly threat of Carbon Monoxide poisoning. New research shows that 75% of households in Scotland are putting themselves at risk of poisoning by not having an audible Carbon Monoxide alarm. Carbon Monoxide is a highly poisonous gas that has no colour taste and smell, making it impossible to detect without an alarm.

Stewart is supporting the ‘Carbon Monoxide – Be Alarmed!’ campaign which encourages people to ensure they have an audible Carbon Monoxide alarm and that they have all fuel burning appliances serviced annually by a registered and qualified engineer. The campaign is also backed by Kirstie Allsopp, of Channel 4’s Location, Location, Location.

Stewart Stevenson says:

"Carbon Monoxide is a deadly gas that you can’t see, smell or taste. I urge every householder in Banff & Buchan to make sure that they have an alarm and that they have their fuel-burning appliances serviced each year by a professional.

"I would like to see a requirement for all new homes to be fitted with an alarm and for landlords to provide an alarm before they can receive their annual gas safety certificate."

Christine McGourty, Carbon Monoxide – Be Alarmed! campaign spokesperson, said:

"We regularly hear about members of the general public whose lives have been saved by a Carbon Monoxide alarm – it’s the only way to detect this killer. You can buy an alarm from around £15 at DIY stores, supermarkets, high street shops or directly from energy suppliers. A number of retailers will also be offering special discounts in support of our campaign this January."

The Carbon Monoxide – Be Alarmed! campaign recommends four simple steps to keep your household safe:
  • Fit an audible Carbon Monoxide alarm which should be marked with the ‘EN50291′ safety standard
  • Have fuel-burning appliances serviced annually by a registered professional
  • Don’t block ventilation and get chimneys swept at least once a year
  • Learn about the danger signs and symptoms of Carbon Monoxide poisoning at http://www.co-bealarmed.co.uk/

Stevenson Welcomes Return To Normality As EU-Norway Negotiations Conclude

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the news that a deal has at last been struck between the EU and Norway over this year’s fishing arrangements. The negotiations, which are usually concluded in advance of the December fisheries council, have now reached a conclusion at the fourth attempt.

The agreement sees a 16.5% increase in North Sea Cod quotas; an agreement on a 10 year management plan for Mackerel and agreement that long term plans for other jointly managed stocks should be developed; Harmonised starting dates for EU and Norwegian Mackerel fisheries to prevent Norwegian vessels having a competitive advantage; and a 500 tonne transfer of North Sea Whiting from Norway to the EU. However, negotiations also resulted in a 5% cut in the Mackerel total allowable catch while final quotas for North Sea Haddock and Whiting will need to be ratified by the Council of Ministers in Brussels.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“I welcome the news that much of the uncertainty that has faced skippers in Banff & Buchan while these negotiations have dragged on has now been removed. It has been an extremely difficult few weeks for many in the fishing industry as they have waited for agreement to be reached.

“The uncertainty that the industry has been experiencing is a clear demonstration of the problems caused by holding short term negotiations at the end of each year rather than planning on a longer term basis and giving the industry greater stability.

“However, the fact that agreement has now been reached is a positive development and the news that an increase in North Sea Cod quotas has been decided upon will be particularly welcome. These have been difficult negotiations, but I commend members of Scotland’s fishing industry and officials who have worked hard to reach the best deal they could secure.”

25 January 2010

Stevenson Encourages Banff & Buchan Farmers To Take Part In Farm Payments Consultation

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has called for farmers in Banff & Buchan to have their say as part of the ongoing Pack inquiry into the future of farming support. Brian Pack has published his interim report and will now engage in a series of public meetings with interested parties to get their input into his recommendations.

The closest public meeting to Banff & Buchan will be held at Inverurie’s Thainstone Centre on the 1st of February at 7:30 pm which will give individual farmers the chance to contribute to the future system of support for farming in Scotland.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“This is an important opportunity for farmers in Banff & Buchan to have their say on the system of financial support that they want to see in Scotland. Brian Pack’s interim report is a useful starting point for debate, but there is still a significant opportunity for individual farmers to shape the final report’s recommendations.

“I would encourage as many people as possible to take that opportunity and attend the public meeting on the 1st of February. This report will shape agriculture in Banff & Buchan and across Scotland for years to come, and it is essential that farmers make their voices heard.

“The work that has been done by the inquiry so far has identified the key issues that surround direct support for farming and I hope that we will now see extensive contributions to the process from farmers in Banff & Buchan.”

Note:

The Pack Inquiry’s interim report can be found at:
http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/farmingrural/Agriculture/inquiry/interim

18 January 2010

NHS Responds To MSP Concerns

AIM TO RE-OPEN BROCH MATTY UNIT BY END OF MONTH

NHS Grampian Chief Executive Richard Carey has replied to local MSP Stewart Stevenson stating that he is endeavouring to re-open the Fraserburgh Birthing Unit by the end of this month.

Mr Stevenson had approached NHS Grampian again on the closure last month with concerns from local people and fears about the apparent lack of progress being made in re-opening the Unit. The SNP MSP met the NHS Chief Executive in November along with SNP Westminster candidate for Banff & Buchan Eilidh Whiteford to push for progress. At that time, it emerged that the recruitment of a Team Leader for the facility would be key to re-opening the Unit.

Now, Mr Carey has confirmed that a Team Leader has been recruited from within NHS Grampian and will be deployed full-time with effect from today and, after a period of orientation to her new role, NHS Grampian aim to have the facility re-opened by the end of January.

Welcoming this response, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

"This is good news and should mean that the Fraserburgh Birthing Unit is open to local expectant mothers again by the end of next week.

"I cannot stress how important this facility is to local mothers and expectant mothers and constituents have left me in no doubt that the unit absolutely must re-open. I am therefore delighted that this now appears to be only days away."

SNP Westminster candidate for Banff & Buchan Eilidh Whiteford said:

"This is excellent news for the Broch but I hope that NHS Grampian will have learned from this episode so that neither Fraserburgh nor any other town has to lose its maternity facility for months on end due to staff shortages.

"The local mothers fought an exceptional campaign to keep the facility in Fraserburgh in the first place back in 2006 and it must have been extremely frustrating to see it closed due to recruitment issues. I'm pleased that it looks like normal service will be restored next week."

Fraserburgh & District SNP councillor Brian Topping has also been at the forefront of the campaign to secure the future of the town's birthing unit, getting unanimous backing from all parties on Aberdeenshire Council for his efforts. He said:

"Fraserburgh is the only town in Scotland with a population of over 10,000 people which is more than one hour from an acute services hospital. We need to maintain the maternity provision we have in Fraserburgh for local expectant mothers so I'm very pleased with this news from Stewart Stevenson."

A82 Stuckindroin Bridge to benefit from £1.1m upgrade

A £1.1m bridge upgrade on the A82 is to start next month, Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson announced today.

Transport Scotland recently awarded a contract to the ERDC Group Limited to undertake maintenance, strengthening and refurbishment works on the current bridge. The work, which will commence on February 1st, will widen the bridge as well as improve safety for road users.

Mr Stevenson said:

“I am pleased to announce the contract award and start date of this project which is the latest in a number of upgrades scheduled for the A82, underpinning this Government’s commitment to investing in improvements on the route.

“This is the second bridge on the A82 to undergo enhancements this year already, and is one of a series of measures on the route. Future improvements will include road widening, climbing lanes and overtaking opportunities, lay-bys, junction improvements, hard strips and road alignments, between Tarbet and Inverarnan and Corran Ferry and Fort William.

"This vital work will not only improve road conditions and safety on the A82, but also improve transport links to northern Scotland and our island communities."

The Stuckindroin bridge upgrade is expected to take six months to complete, and follows the start of works at Ba Bridge this January, which will see a new crossing finished by the beginning of 2011.

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 another bridge replacement scheme at Allt Chonoglais.

Due to the location of Stuckindroin bridge within the environmentally sensitive area of Loch Lomond National Park, extra care is being taken to plan these works in harmony with the diverse local ecology.

Fewer Elderly Victims Get C Diff

Fewer pensioners than ever are being infected by hospital infection clostridium difficile, new figures showed. The number of c.difficile cases
amongst the over 65’s has fallen by 55% since 2007 under the SNP Government.

Commenting, local MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“These figures show the dramatic impact the SNP’s focus on tackling hospital acquired infection has had. After climbing to over 1700 cases under Labour c.diff rates amongst the over 65’s have fallen 55% under the SNP.

“To more than halve c.diff rates in less than 3 years is a significant achievement. It is time opposition politicians accepted the achievements of the SNP Government and the NHS, the work of the health secretary and the real improvement in standards in Scotland's hospitals under the SNP after their years of neglect.

“Every case is a concern but the rapid fall in cases over the last two three years is a testament to the hard work of the NHS and the Health secretary. Investment in tackling HAI’s, bringing cleaning back into the public sector and establishing the Healthcare Environment Inspectorate are all key steps taken by Nicola Sturgeon to cut c.diff rates across Scotland.

“There is always more to do and I know NHS staff will continue their efforts to tackle hospital acquired infections.”

7 January 2010

Stevenson Delighted By Substantial Funding For Rural Projects In Banff & Buchan

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the announcement of the latest round of funding from the Rural Priorities scheme which sees £25.4 million awarded to 350 projects across the Grampian region. Several projects are located within Banff & Buchan, including £31,500 for Ian G Pirie & Co at Overton of Bruxie to implement environmental improvements, £320,000 for Ordens Farms Ltd near Banff to fund woodland creation and £191,600 for Brunthill Farm near New Deer to expand their skip hire and waste recycling business.

The Rural Priorities scheme is part of the Scottish Rural Development Programme and this latest round of funding brings the total that has been awarded under the programme to £257.8 million.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“The sheer number of projects that have successfully applied for funding in Banff & Buchan and across the Grampian region is testament to the innovative ideas for development that so many rural businesses are developing.

“I know that this support from the Scottish Government will be warmly welcomed by the businesses that are set to benefit, along with those in their local communities.

“With so many projects located in this part of Scotland receiving funding, I believe that this announcement makes a clear demonstration of the importance that the Scottish Government attaches to the rural economy in Banff & Buchan and other parts of the North East.

“This funding will provide an important boost during these difficult economic times and I warmly welcome it”.

Notes:

Banff & Buchan businesses benefitting include:
  • The business of Ian G Pirie & Co at Overton of Bruxie (near Peterhead) will receive around £31,500 to implement environmental measures that will improve both the local biodiversity and landscape. These include management of water margins, hedgerows, eight hectares of grassland for wildlife, wetland, species rich grassland and creation of a 0.5 hectare plot of wild bird seed. Over 1000m of new hedgerow will also be planted. The project will ensure continued management of a number of habitats successfully created under a previous scheme which ended in 2009.

  • Brunthill Farm near New Deer plan to expand the successful skip hire and waste recycling side of their business using a £191,600 grant. Due to increases in demand, they wish to build a large extension and construct an office block incorporating washing, toilet and kitchen facilities. The business also wishes to improve its environmental performance by re-using and recycling as much waste as possible by investing in several specialist items of machinery. With this investment, a higher proportion of waste will be able to be recycled (increasing income) which will reduce the quantity that must go to landfill (reducing cost), improving both the environmental and financial performance of the business. 

  • Ordens Farms Ltd, an agricultural business near Banff, is run by the Taylor family and plans a mixture of woodland creation and improvement of wetlands, water margins, species rich grassland, grass margins, hedges and grazed grassland using a grant of £320,000. Care has been taken to create habitats on the site for endangered species such as water voles and corn bunting. The planting of new hedges and the management of those already there will extend to some 31,500m and safeguard and enhance the landscape. Water quality improvements will also reduce pollution.
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