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31 May 2010

Funding gets stations regeneration on track

Funding worth over £168k will breathe new life into a number of Scottish rail stations said Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson.

The Minister was speaking as he announced details of successful applications to the Station Community Regeneration Fund - a £1 million pot of money to help create new businesses and premises for local projects.

Five projects across the Scottish rail network have successfully secured funding from the scheme including a heritage centre at Cupar and a charity shop at Kilmarnock.

Mr Stevenson said:

"The Stations Community Regeneration Fund is an excellent example of how communities are benefitting from the ScotRail Franchise.

"By re-investing in the station environment and bringing redundant buildings back to life, we are opening up new employment opportunities while communities benefit through the creation of new local facilities.

“These five projects are ideal examples of the type of investment we can offer as we re-open the scheme to the next round of applications.”

Steve Montgomery, managing director of ScotRail said:

“We welcome these successful applications which open up new possibilities across Scotland and underpin our commitment to put stations at the heart of communities."

Launched by the Transport Minister 12 months ago, funding is available from Transport Scotland to contribute towards the costs of structural repairs and to match fund up to 50% of the costs of fitting out station premises for their intended use.

The next round of applications close in October 2010 and 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.

Funding Awards
Station Proposal Use Agreed SCRF funding Applicants Estimated Total Project Cost
Cupar Heritage Centre £37K £70K
Kilmarnock Charity shop £40K £115K
Dundee Headquarters for New Scottish Arts £59.5K £63K
Dumbarton Central CafĂ© £24k £31K
Kinghorn Artist studio £7.5K £15K

28 May 2010

Less traffic for communities as M80 project reaches milestone

Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson today saw the first section of tarmac being laid on a stretch of the new M80 motorway which will reduce traffic through several central Scotland communities by 70 per cent.Transport Minister and Hugh
O'Connor on-site

An eight kilometre section of new motorway, which is being constructed off the line of the existing road, will remove around 45,000 vehicles a day from the existing A80 between Mollinsburn and Stepps, helping communities in Moodiesburn, Chryston and Muirhead by reducing emissions and improving their quality of life.

In addition, when completed the new motorway will help reduce journey times for traffic using the main artery from the Highlands and the North East to Glasgow and the south by 30-40 per cent (up to 15 minutes) in peak periods.

Stewart Stevenson said:

“Anyone driving along the A80 between Stepps and Haggs cannot fail to notice the very significant work being undertaken to upgrade this major arterial route for the whole of the country.

“The start of the tarmac going down on the new eight kilometre section between Mollinsburn and Stepps is a major milestone in this project. People living along this section of the existing A80 can look forward next year to 45,000 fewer vehicles a day passing through their community, with the consequential improvement in the environment in these areas.

“Because we have been very careful to require our contractor to maintain two-lanes open in each direction, the peaktime congestion faced during construction is the self same congestion that makes this upgrade so vital to the economy and communities. It is why this road is so urgently needed.

“However, I am aware that the nature of some of this work, being carried out on a road that continues to carry over 76,000 vehicles a day has led to some additional disruption for motorists. I want to thank them for their patience and assure them that the contractor is taking all steps to keep any delays to a minimum as the work progresses. However the first priority must be to maintain a safe environment for both road users and road workers.

“When completed next year the £320 million M80 Stepps to Haggs project will bring improved journey times, reliability and safety for people using this busy route. It will cut journey times during peak periods, by 30 to 40 percent, saving motorists up to 15 minutes each way.”

Hugh O’Connor, HMG General Manager said:

“It is fair to say that the travelling public and local communities will be very aware of the works being undertaken to upgrade the existing ‘online’ section of the A80 to motorway standard. However very few will be aware of the works and the progress being made ‘offline’ on the new section of motorway linking Stepps to the new M73 interchange at Mollinsburn .

“This new section is progressing well and I am pleased to say that laying this first stretch of tarmac is indeed a ‘key milestone’ for the M80 team . This is another important step towards completion of the missing link in the major route between Glasgow and Stirling.”

M80 Mollinsburn – Stepps: Facts and figures
  • Traffic flows on the existing A80 between Mollinsburn and Stepps are predicted to reduce by over 70%, from around 62000 vehicles per day to 17000 vehicles per day
  • The new 8 kilometre section between Mollinsburn and Stepps includes 8 bridges and 11 culverts to carry 6 local roads and footways over the new motorway and 7 watercourses and roads under the new road
  • Excavation for this new section of road required 1,175,000 cubic metres of earth to be removed (this is enough to completely fill the bowl of the new wembley stadium), which was reused on other parts of the project or for infilling disused quarries
  • Some 131,000 tonnes of asphalt will be used in this section of the road

26 May 2010

Forth Replacement Crossing project a step closer after backing from MSPs

The Forth Replacement Crossing project moved a step closer today after MSPs backed the Forth Crossing Bill to go forward to the next stage of parliamentary scrutiny.

The Bill, introduced to the Scottish Parliament by Scottish Government Ministers in November 2009, contains proposals for the Forth Replacement Crossing, which would see a new 2.7km bridge and a number of road connections built and upgraded in Scotland's biggest infrastructure project for a generation.

Following the Stage 1 debate, MSPs voted overwhelmingly in favour to carry the Bill forward to Stage 2, where individual objections will be considered in greater detail.

Speaking after the debate, Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson said:

"This is an important milestone for the Forth Replacement Crossing. There is now near universal agreement that this project, the biggest Scottish infrastructure project for a generation, is vital to the sustainable growth Scotland's economy.

"The case for this project could not be more compelling and the Scottish Government is committed to seeing the Forth Replacement Crossing delivered on time and on budget by 2016. I now look forward to seeing the Forth Crossing Bill progress to Stage 2 where these proposals can be considered in greater detail.

"There is, clearly, still a significant amount of work to do and we have made a number of changes and commitments on the project based on objections received and recommendations in the Forth Crossing Bill committee's Stage 1 report. These changes will strengthen our commitments to promoting sustainable transport and minimising unnecessary impact on local communities."

The proposed changes to the project announced by Mr Stevenson include:

The development of a Public Transport Strategy, in conjunction with SEStrans and local authorities, that seeks to ensure integration with public transport and encourage modal shift from cars to public transport, which includes a commitment to work with Fife Council to deliver a park and ride facility at Halbeath.

The formation of a noise liaison group with the relevant local authorities to monitor and control noise during construction, and the development of a Memorandum of Understanding on noise and vibration matters that will establish how works will be planned and monitored to minimise noise.

Reducing the normal core working hours for road construction on the project to take place between 8am and 7pm, with a 30 minute start up time.

A commitment to further explore with West Lothian Council and Newton Community Council ways in which potential traffic impacts in the village may be mitigated.

25 May 2010

Stevenson Welcomes Progress On Dental Registrations

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the fact that progress is being made on increasing NHS dental registrations in the Grampian region, with the latest figures showing that 46.6% of residents are now registered with an NHS dentist compared to just 35.2% when the SNP Government came to power. However, with NHS Grampian still lagging behind the rest of the country, more progress clearly continues to be needed to reverse the legacy of previous years.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“I welcome the fact that the figures for NHS Grampian are moving in the right direction after the appalling legacy on dentistry in the North East that the SNP Government inherited from the previous administration.

“Clearly there is still a long way to go before we reach an acceptable level of dentist registrations, but I am heartened by the Scottish Government’s commitment to improving dentistry in the North East which is in stark contrast to the outrageous neglect we saw prior to 2007.

“It takes time to undo the level of damage that was built up, but with more dentists being trained at the new Aberdeen Dental School which was recently opened by the First Minister, I am optimistic that we will continue to see further improvements in coming months and undo the decimation of dentistry in the region that we saw under the previous administration.”

NOTE:

Newly published figures show that in December 2009 there were 251,271 (46.6%) people registered with an NHS dentist in the Grampian NHS board area, compared to 186,686 (35.2%) in March 2007, the final set of figures before the SNP Government came to power. The full dataset can be found at http://www.isdscotland.org/isd/4680.html

24 May 2010

The Scottish Green List 2010

Guerrilla gardeners, local food champions, recyclable disposable cups and many more inspiring initiatives featured on this year's Scottish Green List. The List celebrates individuals and projects across such diverse issues as travel planning in the NHS, greening traditional businesses, inspiring school children and bringing communities together.

The Scottish Green List was announced by Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change, Stewart Stevenson MSP on 24th May at the Scotsman conference Can the Green Economy Deliver for Scotland? The event celebrated the inspiring achievements of the Scottish Green List in their work to make Scotland more sustainable.

In his speech to the 20 on the list Stewart Stevenson MSP praised the winners for their work. He said

"The Scottish Green List awards may only be in their second year but they are already going some way to turning the spotlight on the inspired efforts of those who are making a difference in championing green issues and helping Scotland in achieving its world-leading climate change targets."


The list will be used by the Scottish Sustainable Development Forum to promote and recognise achievement across Scotland. In return we offer our sustainable champions access to a unique network of organisations and individuals working in sustainable development, and a range of events across Scotland.

MSP Welcomes Triple Buchan Lottery Boost

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the latest announcement by Awards for All, which sees three Buchan schools obtaining substantial awards totaling more than £28,000.

Maud, Fetterangus and Ardallie Schools will each receive awards of around £9000 for specific projects involving children's play areas and equipment.

Commenting on the announcement news, Mr Stevenson said:

"I'm delighted for the schools concerned. These schools are in small rural communities and this funding will be very important in allowing them to improve the play areas and equipment for the children.

"I congratulate all those involved in working up these applications for successfully bringing in lottery funding to their communities."

21 May 2010

Stevenson Welcomes Funding For Scottish Fishing Fleet

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the announcement that the Scottish Government is set to provide an additional £6 million to support the Fisheries Action Plan. On top of this, match funding from the European Fisheries Fund could deliver substantial additional investment into the industry this year.

The SNP Government has also called for Scottish boats involved in catch quota trials to be made exempt from the EU’s days at sea regime, while a new scheme to allow two businesses to transfer their days at sea to a single vessel in order to reduce costs will be introduced next month.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“In these difficult economic times, this funding announcement will be welcome news for Banff & Buchan’s fishing industry. Finding ways to make the fishing industry both more profitable and more sustainable are at the core of the Fisheries Action Plan and this announcement will help to build upon the progress that has already been made.

“The fishing industry in Scotland is showing the way to the rest of Europe when it comes to conservation and developing new sustainable fishing practices. This substantial funding that has been announced will help enable the industry to go further and continue to adopt pioneering new methods and technologies.

“The further changes that the Scottish Government is seeking to make are aimed at improving the lot of the fishing industry within the discredited CFP, but of course the best move of all would be for control of fisheries to return from Europe to a regional level. The SNP Government has consistently been pressing for this to be at the core of coming CFP reforms, and the new UK Government must do so too for the future of the industry.”

20 May 2010

80 years of Scottish town planning profession celebrated

MSPs and town planners from across Scotland have gathered at a reception at the Scottish Parliament to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the founding of the Royal Town Planning Institute in Scotland.

At the reception, hosted by Sarah Boyack MSP (a former town planner), guests heard from Ann Skippers, President of the RTPI and Stewart Stevenson MSP, Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change, whose great uncle in 1928 hosted the meeting in Edinburgh at which it was decided to set up a permanent Scottish Branch of the Institute.

Ann Skippers, President of the Royal Town Planning Institute said:

“Scotland has a proud history of town planning, from Edinburgh’s New Town to the pioneering vision of New Lanark and more recently the regeneration of the Gorbals. It is the birthplace of the widely-recognised father of town planning, Sir Patrick Geddes and his legacy lives on today in the range of innovative projects led by planners underway across Scotland.

Eighty years ago the Scottish planning profession came together to found the Scottish branch of the Royal Town Planning Institute, recognising Scotland’s separate and unique system of land tenure, legislation and local and national character. Its members have shaped the fabric of Scotland’s built environment, culture and character over the past eighty years and I’m delighted to celebrate the achievements of the RTPI in Scotland, and to look forward to an exciting future where planners are leading in shaping Scotland’s development.”

Stewart Stevenson MSP, Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change said:

"I was delighted to discover my family connection with the origins of the Royal Town Planning Institute in Scotland. Planning has achieved much for Scotland over the past 80 years. Our reforms of the planning system are designed to ensure that we have a planning system which is fit for purpose in the 21st century. The Scottish Government wants to see planning playing a key role in addressing the contemporary challenges of economic recovery, sustainable development and climate change."

19 May 2010

MSP Welcomes Fraserburgh Sea Cadets Awards For All Funding

Banff and Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the latest announcement by Awards for All, which sees Fraserburgh Sea Cadets obtaining the impressive award of £10,000.

Commenting on the welcome news, Mr Stevenson said:

“It is great news that the Sea Cadets will receive such a substantial sum of £10,000.

“I am aware that the Sea Cadets intend on using the award to purchase a powerboat which will enable their members to learn and qualify in powerboat handling as well as increasing their social and communication skills.

“Once again, my congratulations go to the Fraserburgh Sea Cadets on their award. I would urge other organisations in Banff and Buchan to apply for similar award schemes, the benefits of which can help new and existing projects alike.”

Stevenson Hails Step Forward For Renewables industry At Peterhead

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the announcement that Scottish Enterprise has secured 30 acres of land in Peterhead to develop an industrial park for the growing offshore renewables industry. Scottish Enterprise intends to invest £2 million in a new access road and other infrastructure to help attract businesses to the site. Work on the site is expected to start later this year.

The development will form part of the Energetica corridor development between Peterhead and Aberdeen and comes on the same day as the Offshore Valuation Study was launched, making clear the scale of economic potential that lies in offshore renewables. The report estimated that Scotland’s practical offshore resource is 206 Gigawatts (GW) and that harnessing around a third of this total would result in net value electricity sales of £14 billion by 2050.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“This is a significant step forward and the development of this infrastructure will help to put Peterhead at the forefront of the growing offshore renewables industry.

“Peterhead was identified as a key location in the National Renewables Infrastructure Plan thanks to its location and quayside infrastructure, and this development helps to underline how important this industry has the potential to be for Banff & Buchan.

“The scale of the jobs and investment that can flow to Scotland from offshore renewables is incredible, as has been highlighted in the Offshore Valuation Study, so this is truly an exciting development for Peterhead and the surrounding area.”

18 May 2010

Local MSP Hails Broch CCTV Success In Apprehending Bag-Snatcher

CULPRIT CAUGHT JUST HOURS AFTER COMMITTING CRIME

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has hailed tonight's news that a bag-snatcher in Fraserburgh has been identified and arrested within hours of committing a crime thanks to the town's newly-installed CCTV system.

Grampian Police have confirmed this evening that following an incident in Cross Street at 12.25pm this afternoon, a 33 year-old local man has been arrested and charged and will appear at Peterhead Sheriff Court.

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson – who joined Fraserburgh police on patrol in February along with Eilidh Whiteford – expressed his delight at the effectiveness of the cameras and in the swift action of the police. He said:

"I am absolutely delighted that in a matter of just a few hours of this incident happening, which must have been a terrible ordeal for the poor woman concerned, that the combination of Fraserburgh's CCTV cameras and excellent work by the local bobbies have resulted in an individual being identified, traced, arrested and charged with this crime in the space of just a few hours.

"This sends a clear message to anyone with criminal intent that you will be captured on film and you will be found. It is a very powerful deterrent and I pay tribute to the hard work over a long period by local SNP councillor Brian Topping and the local CCTV steering group who have helped make Fraserburgh's streets safer."

Fraserburgh's SNP councillor Brian Topping – who has worked tirelessly along with other community campaigners to bring CCTV to the Broch – said:

"It's a very distressing incident to have happened but I'm so pleased that thanks to the efforts of our local police in Fraserburgh, they have been able to apprehend the individual responsible and have done so thanks to the help of the town's CCTV cameras.

"I know the CCTV system is extremely useful, which is why I've been campaigning for it for so long, in spite of opposition from some quarters, but for the police to achieve a result in just a few hours is absolutely fantastic and makes it all worthwhile. They deserve our congratulations."

17 May 2010

David MacBrayne Ltd Appoint New Chief Executive

David MacBrayne Ltd, the parent company of ferry operators Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac) and NorthLink Ferries Ltd (NFL) has announced the appointment of Mr Archie Robertson OBE as its new Chief Executive.

Mr Robertson, (56), is a former Chief Executive of the Highways Agency, which is responsible for England’s vital trunk road arteries. Prior to that he was Operations Director at the Environment Agency of England and Wales.

These posts followed a 20-year-career with BP across the world including Singapore, New Zealand, Rotterdam and Brussels.

He spent his early years on Skye, and still has strong family connections there.

He will take over from David MacBrayne’s Chief Executive Lawrie Sinclair, who is retiring after 10 years at the end of June. Mr Robertson is due to start on June 1st, to allow a short handover period.

David MacBrayne Chairman Peter Timms said:

“The Board is delighted to have Archie on board. He brings a wealth of highly relevant expertise from one of the the biggest jobs in transportation in the UK where he managed a budget of £6 billion, and has transport experience ranging from oil shipping, and rail projects such as London’s Crossrail, as well as national roads. In the Highways Agency his drive to make it a customer focused organisation received many plaudits, and this ties in well with CalMac and NorthLink’s desire to put customers first and provide the best ferry services possible.

“In addition, he has local roots, and a strong empathy for the challenges facing rural communities and an understanding of the importance of lifeline ferry services.”

Mr Robertson said:

“David MacBrayne is a name I grew up with on Skye, and I am really excited to be joining an organisation with such a rich community heritage stretching back more than 150 years. I am greatly looking forward to playing a part in the next important chapter of its development with NorthLink’s Northern Isles contract due for re-tender soon and the CalMac contract for the Clyde and Hebrides services up for grabs the following year.”

Stewart Stevenson, Transport Minister, said:

"David MacBrayne Ltd plays a crucial role in providing lifeline ferry services to island and remote mainland communities in the Clyde and Hebrides and the Northern Isles. This post requires an understanding of the issues which affect the social and economic life of the Highlands and Islands.

“Lawrie Sinclair has been a dedicated chief executive over the past 10 years and Archie Robertson’s wide experience of transport issues and his Highlands connections will ensure this good work continues bringing to the post the skills and knowledge which will benefit both passengers and business.”

Laurencekirk passenger levels exceed expectations on first anniversary

A Scottish Government and Nestrans investment of £3.5 million in Laurencekirk station has delivered almost double the number of expected passenger journeys Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson said today.

Speaking just before the first anniversary of the station re-opening the Transport Minister revealed that almost 64,000 passenger journeys have been made, well above the predicted 36,000.

Mr Stevenson said: “These figures are a clear sign that the local community has welcomed these new services which are delivering more trains and new services while improving access to jobs, education and leisure.

“This project demonstrates this Government’s commitment to investing in transport infrastructure is encouraging drivers out of their cars and on to more sustainable forms of travel.

Steve Montgomery, managing director of ScotRail, said: “We are delighted to have delivered 64,000 passenger journeys in Laurencekirk’s first year.  

“This is a massive achievement, especially when the initial estimate was that 36,000 customers would use the station per year.”

He added: “It is heartening to know that we are developing rail services where they are needed most.”

Nestrans Chair Councillor Kevin Stewart said “We are delighted at the figures. This demonstrates that investment in rail in this area produces results and we are keen to work towards developing further rail schemes to build on the success and make rail a real alternative for travel in the area”.

The Grade B listed station was transformed through a £3.5 million investment with Scottish Government funding provided by Transport Scotland along with a 20% contribution from Regional Transport partnership NESTRANS and support from Aberdeenshire Council and a Railway Heritage Trust grant.

Network Rail managed delivery of the project on Transport Scotland’s behalf, with Galliford Try being awarded the design and build contract that included the refurbishment and restoration of the station building; a new accessible footbridge; two new platforms and installation of customer information systems.

The new station, which re-opened on 18 May 2009, provides commuters with a direct rail service - 11 services northbound and 10 services southbound daily during the week.

The scheme plays a key part in Nestrans’ Regional Transport Strategy for the North East.

15 May 2010

Scots flights face further disruption

Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson has today called for further action to clarify advice to passengers as volcanic ash moves towards Scotland.

Met Office advice presented to the Cabinet Sub Committee on Resilience this morning shows high levels of volcanic ash covering parts of Scotland tomorrow and the whole of the UK on Monday.

Mr Stevenson has spoken to UK Transport Secretary Philip Hammond and written to BA Chief Executive Willie Walsh following the cancellation of Scottish flights to and from Heathrow yesterday.

Mr Stevenson said:

"High levels of volcanic activity in Iceland and prevailing weather conditions mean that Scotland is once again facing disruption as aviation authorities consider appropriate steps to protect the travelling public. Passengers are strongly advised to check flight details with their airlines before travelling to the airport.

"While we recognise the inconvenience further disruption may cause, safety is paramount. The Scottish Government is working to ensure that additional capacity is available as necessary on road, rail and on our ferries network to mitigate the impacts and Ministers continue to monitor the situation closely.

"While there will be continuing uncertainty as the volcanic eruptions continue it is vital that the public get the clearest advice possible. We therefore welcome the decision to publish Met Office five day ash prediction charts as a useful source of further information. The situation however remains very fluid and the forecasts are always liable to change.

"As important is that airlines are consistent in the way that they report advice and use it to inform operational decisions to avoid unnecessary and unhelpful confusion. I have today written to BA Chief Executive Willie Walsh to convey the frustration of passengers and to urge the airline to engage with the CAA, NATS and the Met Office to ensure there is consistent advice and action across the industry."

14 May 2010

Waverley’s Princes Street Entrance Plans Take The Final Step

Network Rail’s plans to overhaul Waverley Station’s entrance from Princes Street have been given the green light by the Scottish Government.

The proposals will create a new covered step and escalator access between Princes Street and the north entrance to Waverley station as well as lift access from the station to Princes Street via the roof of Princes Mall.

The plans were given final approval as part of a Transport and Works (Scotland) Order by the transport minister in the last few days. This is the first order to be granted under this legislation since it came into effect in December 2007.

The Waverley Steps entrance is now expected to close in early 2011, with work on the escalators and staircase likely to be completed within a year. The lift access will be completed by the end of 2012.

The Waverley Steps improvements are in addition to a £130m Network Rail investment in Waverley to improve the experience of passengers using the station. A repaired and reglazed roof will see natural light stream into the building, while a new step-free access from Market Street will be installed at the south side of the station. Improvements to Platforms 8 and 9, station buildings and platform and concourse surfacing will also help to enhance the Waverley's environment for all users.

Ron McAulay, Network Rail Director, Scotland said:

“It's great news for our customers that we finally have the approval to carry out these vital upgrades to the station. The Waverley Steps project is vital to helping the station become more accessible for everyone.

“The existing steps are impossible to access if you are using a wheelchair, and near impossible with a pram or with a lot of baggage. With around 37% of Waverley’s 24 million annual passengers making use of this entrance, it’s easy to see why we need to make better use of this access point.

“We are now embarking on the biggest enhancement of Waverley Station since the end of the 19th century. We are acutely aware of the demands of passengers and neighbours to keep the station working with as little as noise and disruption as possible while we carry out these exciting improvements and we are confident that careful planning will enable us to do that.”

Mr Stewart Stevenson, Transport Minister, said:

"The Scottish Government is delighted to be funding this programme of works on Waverley Steps, underlining our commitment to improving rail travel experiences across Scotland and encouraging more people to make the switch to a greener, more environmentally friendly mode of transport.

"When completed the project will improve the access to Waverley Station from Princes Street for all users, enabling mobility impaired passengers to access all platforms and station facilities from Princes Street more easily, in turn improving access to train services."

The Waverley Steps scheme gained strong support from the public during public exhibitions of the plans in October 2008. Thousands of visitors viewed the plans, with almost 800 completing a consultation survey. 93% of respondents indicated their support for the design. Network Rail also consulted with local representatives, neighbours, conservation bodies and other special interest groups to create the final design.

Stevenson Welcomes Heritage Access Boost For Schools

Stewart Stevenson MSP has welcomed the extension of a travel subsidy scheme that will allow Scottish heritage sites to be more accessible for schools in Scotland.

At a time when finances at all levels are under pressure the local Banff & Buchan MSP is pleased that the scheme will help schools to continue to provide exciting and motivational education experiences for pupils.

School visits to all Historic Scotland properties and three iconic National Trust for Scotland sites Culloden, Bannockburn and the Robert Burns’ Birthplace Museum are covered by the travel scheme, which is funded by the Scottish Government and administered by Historic Scotland.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

"I have often met with students and teachers on visits to the Scottish Parliament by schools in Banff & Buchan and I know how prohibitive the costs of such trips can be for them. This is, therefore, an extremely welcome extension of the scheme that will allow local schools to apply for assistance with travel costs in visiting Scottish heritage sites.

"Our history is extremely important in understanding the current social and political landscape, so anything that encourages young people to visit and learn about Scotland can only be a good thing.

"Here in Banff & Buchan there are important historical buildings that will be accessible using this scheme.

"The Historic Scotland and National Trust for Scotland sites included in this scheme will no doubt prove to be an attractive choice for many teachers also looking to improve pupils’ knowledge of Scottish history.

"I would encourage any school in Banff & Buchan interested in visiting any of the sites to apply for the subsidy by visiting the Historic Scotland or NTS websites."

11 May 2010

Island air routes

Measures to minimise disruption to lifeline island air services in Scotland have been agreed by NATS and airline operators.

New arrangements have been put in place to minimise delays caused by the increased volume of international flights using Scottish airspace to avoid volcanic ash clouds in the North Atlantic. Island flights will now be able to operate at lower levels giving operators more options to provide vital services.

Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson said:

"Scotland's lifeline air services provide vital links, supporting employment, education and social activities. The pragmatic approach now agreed with NATS and airline operators will help to minimise disruption and bring greater resilience to these critical services as we seek to respond to the continuing challenges caused by volcanic ash.

"While Met Office advice presented to today's meeting of the Cabinet's Resilience Sub-Committee indicated an improving picture for the next couple of days, the situation remains volatile. Ministers will continue to monitor the situation closely and the advice to passengers remains to check with airlines before travelling."

Ongoing analysis of dust samples by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) demonstrates there is no present risk to human health. The Health Protection Agency advise those with respiratory conditions, such as asthma, to keep medication to hand when outdoors.

Environmental monitoring is continuing, using information from the network of 75 air monitoring sites and 25 radioactivity monitoring sites across Scotland.

9 May 2010

Ash cloud situation

Most flights operating with only small number of airports affected.

The high density area of the volcanic ash cloud is now lying to the North-West of the UK, and as a result the majority of Scottish flights are operating as normal today.

At present Glasgow Airport are flying around 99 per cent of flights, Edinburgh and Aberdeen Airports are flying around 95 per cent of flights. Prestwick flights are unaffected as things stand.

The Scottish Government Resilience Room (SGoRR) Cabinet Sub Committee met this morning to discuss the current situation and examine the forecasts.

There were six Scottish airports affected overnight and as of 1300 hrs Stornoway, Benbecula and Barra Airports remain closed until 1900 hrs.

The skies over Scotland are expected to remain clear over the coming days. However the situation remains fluid and could change depending on increase or reduction in volcanic activity.

Speaking after the meeting, Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson said:

"We welcome the fact that the majority of flights in and out of Scotland are flying as planned today with limited disruption. There has been an inconvenience to some passengers travelling from airports in the far north and isles and those travelling to and from some parts of Europe but I'm sure they will appreciate that safety comes first.

"Volcanic activity has calmed and we expect Scotland's skies to remain clear over the next few days. But clearly conditions are volatile and the picture is fluid. The Cabinet Sub Committee will continue to meet over the coming days to ensure we are fully prepared to respond to changing circumstances."

6 May 2010

UK airspace open

The volcanic ash cloud that disrupted flights from many Scottish airports yesterday has moved west overnight and all UK airspace is now open, the National Air Traffice Service (NATS) reports.

Glasgow, Edinburgh and Prestwick airports and Western Isles routes were among those affected on Wednesday.

After a meeting of the Cabinet's Resilience Sub-Committee, Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson said:

"We welcome the return to normal operations this morning following yesterday's disruption.

"The Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Health Protection Scotland and the Food Standards Agency are continuously monitoring deposits of volcanic ash through a robust monitoring network. The Cabinet Sub-Committee was reassured that deposits of ash presented no environmental concerns.

"Last night saw further significant eruptions in Iceland though weather conditions today mean that we expect no significant problems as we move into the weekend. Clearly conditions are volatile and the Cabinet Sub-Committee will continue to meet over the coming days to ensure we are fully prepared to respond to changing circumstances."

The Scottish Air Quality Database contains the most up-to-date continuous ambient monitoring information across Scotland. All concentrations have remained low at all monitoring sites across Scotland.

5 May 2010

Ash cloud situation

Latest advice from the Met Office and Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) suggests that volcanic ash cloud cover above Scotland should clear overnight with normal air services expected to resume tomorrow.

The CAA has said that it is likely that services from Edinburgh Airport will resume at 7pm tonight with Glasgow expected to reopen at 1am.

Speaking after a meeting of the Scottish Government Resilience Cabinet sub-committee, Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson said:

"The Scottish Government Resilience Cabinet sub-committee met earlier this morning to ensure that everything possible is being done to respond to the impact of the return of volcanic ash over parts of Scotland.

"We received updates from key agencies, including the Met Office, CAA and the National Air Traffic Service (NATS), who are all responding to the challenges posed by the return of the ash to our airspace. SGoRR also discussed the importance that agencies ensure that all future passenger and customer information is accurate and consistent.

"We also discussed the mechanics of getting ballot boxes in place for tomorrow's UK Parliamentary election and received assurances from returning officers in Argyll and Bute, Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles that boxes are already deployed to allow tomorrow's poll to go ahead as planned.

"Train and bus operators have also once again moved quickly to boost capacity with additional bus services between Scotland and London and increased capacity on services between Glasgow and the Port of Stranraer.

"We appreciate that people will feel inconvenienced by further cancellations but we hope they will understand the need to follow the precautionary procedures. The Cabinet Sub-Committee will meet again tomorrow as we continue to monitor the situation closely.

"While current forecasts indicate that normal air services should resume tomorrow, this volcano is unpredictable and the threat of further volcanic ash cover in the coming weeks remains. Therefore officials from Scottish Resilience and our other Directorates will continue to liaise closely and remain ready to put our tried and tested contingency measures in place in the event of any future disruption."

Ongoing analysis of dust samples by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) demonstrates no risk at present to human health - health experts advise those with respiratory conditions, such as asthma, to keep medication to hand when outdoors.

Continuous environmental monitoring will be ongoing, using information from the network of 75 air monitoring sites and 25 radioactivity monitoring sites across Scotland.

2 May 2010

SNP Govt Urge Reversal Of Slashing Disability Access Fund

Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson has written to UK Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Mole, calling for a reversal of the proposed slashing by over 50 per cent this year of the ‘Access for All Small Schemes Fund’ – a programme funded by the UK Department for Transport – which invests in improving access to the railway network for disabled people.

Disabled access to the rail network is a matter reserved to Westminster, as it sits within equalities legislation such as the Disability Discrimination Act. The Access for All Small Schemes Fund improves access to the network for disabled people by increasing the number of stations that are step free and wheelchair accessible. UK Ministers agreed to allocate 10.14 per cent of the Fund to Scotland, which is programmed to last until 2015. The annual cash budget is transferred to Transport Scotland from the UK Department for Transport (DfT) each year.

DfT intended to allocate £7.9 million to the Fund across Britain this year (2010/11), in line with previous years. Last October, the initial indication from DfT was that Scotland would receive £796,000, as our agreed 10.14 per cent share of the budget. However, this year’s funding has been slashed by the UK Government to £3.9 million across Britain, with the amount available for schemes in Scotland reduced to £390,000 – an extraordinary cut of 51 per cent.

A spokesperson for Stewart Stevenson said:

“It is unacceptable that UK Government cuts are already falling on services for some of the most vulnerable members of society. How can wasting billions on nuclear weapons possibly be justified, while slashing funding by more than half on an excellent programme to improve access to the rail network for disabled people? This budget cut must be suspended, so that the issue can be revisited after the UK election.”
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