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28 December 2011

Fish For Festive Season

Hogmanay and festive family feasts this winter provide a great opportunity for Scots to enjoy a wealth of sustainable Scottish fish and seafood.

Breakfast and brunch ideas include kippers made from Scottish North Sea herring or the classic Omelette Arnold Bennet, using Scottish smoked haddock - both of which are Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified for sustainability.

For supper, a bowl of steaming-hot Moules Marinieres from Friend of the Sea certified Scottish mussel farms, perhaps preceded by a dozen oysters grilled with garlic butter and breadcrumbs, or a peppered smoked mackerel pate using MSC Scottish mackerel flaked through yogurt. A plate of grilled langoustine would also make a perfect light dish, as would grilled megrim, lemon sole or witch.

For a grand gesture on New Year's Day imagine a towering seafood platter featuring Scottish farmed smoked salmon and fresh rainbow trout, home-grown mussels and oysters, plus locally caught lobster, crab, langoustine, surf clams and razor clams. Served with fresh bread and a bowl of mayonnaise, this offers the perfect celebratory feast. All are available from many fishmongers or supermarkets and are simple to prepare.

Chef Roy Brett, from premium seafood restaurant Ondine in Edinburgh, recommends that we consider seafood this season. He said:

"There is an abundance of fresh fish and shellfish to buy at this time of year and cooked and served very simply, it can be great celebration food. For a real gourmet treat for guests, mix a dressed crab with breadcrumbs, cheddar and nutmeg, and bake in the oven for 10 minutes. They will be clamouring for more!"

Environment Minister Stewart Stevenson said:

Cooking cod roe for Boxing Day breakfast
"The seafood landed by Scottish fishermen and the fish and shellfish farmed in the pristine waters around our coasts, offers some of the most delicious and top quality seafood found anywhere in the world. This festive season I would encourage more Scots to tuck into sustainable Scottish seafood - not only is it a tasty and healthy option, but it supports our hardworking fishermen and fish farmers."

Libby Woodhatch, CEO of Seafood Scotland said:

"More than 60 species of fish and shellfish are landed in Scotland, and in 2010 this amounted to 385,000 tonnes worth £435.2 million. However, Scottish consumers are conservative in their seafood habits and a great deal of the catch is exported. My New Year's wish is for the nation to become more adventurous with seafood, and the festive season offers a perfect opportunity to make a start! We have lots of tasty recipes on the Seafood Scotland website and are always happy to make suggestions."

27 December 2011

Senior Sainsbury Official To Look At Peterhead Sites In New Year

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed a commitment from Sainsbury’s that the company’s Development Surveyor will be visiting Peterhead in the New Year to look at potential sites and meet with Economic Development staff from Aberdeenshire Council.
The SNP MSP had written to Sainsbury’s asking them to consider locating in the town when the company next considers its expansion plans.  The response from Sainsbury’s indicated that the company has previously looked at Peterhead as an option but felt there were no suitable sites.  With the recent closure of Focus and the continued non-development of the Kirkburn Mill site, Mr Stevenson believes the time is right for Peterhead to be looked at again. 
Writing to Mr Stevenson, Sainsbury’s Chief Executive Justin King said:
“We consider every opportunity and should the right site come forward in Peterhead we would happily explore this but at present we believe there are no feasible sites for a supermarket.” 
Commenting on this latest development, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:
“While we must be cautious and not get our hopes up too much, this is nevertheless a very welcome further development.
“When I approached Sainsbury’s recently about the possibility of their coming to Peterhead, the response I received strongly indicated that the company had been looking at the town previously but had, at that time, failed to find a suitable site. 
“There are currently several options in Peterhead for sites which could be developed and I asked Aberdeenshire Council’s Economic Development team to take this forward with the company.
“I am therefore very pleased at this commitment to visit from Sainsbury’s Development Surveyor and I hope that further progress can be made.”

North-East Air Connections Concern At BMI Sale to BA

SNP DEMAND GUARANTEES OVER SCOTTISH AIR LINKS

Responding to news that International Airlines Group (IAG), which owns British Airways, has bought British Midland (BMI), the SNP demanded guarantees over the future of Scottish air links.

The SNP highlighted research which shows BA's record between Scotland and Heathrow lags behind a more punctual BMI – raising further concerns that the quality of service for Scottish passengers would deteriorate as well as the number of services following the takeover.

Commenting, Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“I am deeply concerned that this deal has gone ahead before we have received guarantees over the future of air links to and from Scotland.  The Aberdeen-Heathrow service, in particular, is of significant importance to the North-east.

“BA has now taken over its only rival which is putting slots at risk on the back of the loss of valuable air links between Scotland and Heathrow.

“The SNP is asking BA for guarantees to ensure Scotland’s air links are not negatively impacted by this and asking what changes we will see.

“We need assurances that further domestic slots will not be withdrawn as air links between Heathrow and Scotland are vital for our economy.

“This comes as figures released showed BA’s record lags behind a much more punctual BMI.  I urge BA to ensure passengers are not left with a poorer quality of service.”

The SNP’s Westminster Member for Parliament for Moray, Angus Robertson, added::

“As an MP I regularly fly on these services from Aberdeen Airport and I regularly see people from Moray who are travelling for business and leisure. These links are critical if we are to support and grow our local economies in Moray and elsewhere in Scotland.

“Research shows that BA's record lags behind a more punctual BMI which will reinforce fears, with this takeover, that passengers could be left with a poorer quality service as well as a reduced number of flight options.

“There is a worry that BA will give its international slots at Heathrow priority over domestic services – and Scottish passengers must not be left with a second class service.

“We have already seen the loss of valuable air links between Scotland and Heathrow, and if BA takes over its only rival, then remaining slots will clearly be at risk. We must have real guarantees that further domestic slots will not be withdrawn.”

26 December 2011

Stevenson Urges Shoppers To Have A 'Green' New Year

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson has urged constituents to throw out ideas for a white Christmas – and have a green New Year instead.

Mr Stevenson says we can all do our bit to help the environment this New Year – starting with shopping locally.

He said:

“I’m talking about taking simple, easy steps to help the environment and support our local economies this festive season.

“When people are nipping out to the shops for the last bits of food for the New Year’s dinner or stocking up for Hogmanay I’d urge everyone to do their best to shop local and to buy Scottish.

“We have some of the best food in the world produced locally and for New Year some Scottish salmon, beef, some of our great tasting local cheese or even a few locally brewed beers or a drop of whisky all make a great celebration meal and help our local economy.

“Shopping locally is a good way to beat the added costs of transportation that comes from the many products that are shipped from halfway around the world.

“This significantly impacts on greenhouse gases but by shopping locally you can combat that and help your local economy.

“Another way to help the environment is to recycle all the wrapping paper and Christmas cards that often end up in the bin.

“Local shops and supermarkets often have special bins dedicated to recycling cards.

“If every household in Scotland made an effort to ensure these are recycled, we can help cut the amount sent to landfill.”

24 December 2011

Stevenson Welcomes £50m Sleeper Commitment

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the Scottish Government’s announcement of £50 million of funding to improve the cross-border sleeper train.

The service is of particular importance to the economy in the North & North-east of Scotland providing a vital business link to London and beyond.

Mr Stevenson says the ball is now in the UK Government’s court to see if the Treasury will keep its promise and deliver its share of the funding.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“I have had occasion to use the Caledonian Sleeper service myself and I know from speaking to fellow passengers how much they value the ability to travel overnight and still be fresh and ready to go early in the morning at the other end.

“This is a high quality service that gives passengers the best possible travel experience and I am delighted that the Scottish Government has demonstrated a strong commitment to the future of this link. It now remains to be seen if the UK Treasury is true to its word and keeps its own share of funding for the service committed.

“Infrastructure investment is absolutely critical to getting the economy moving and the SNP is committed to making major capital investment in a range of projects such as the Caledonian Sleeper service. The UK Government needs to do the same if we are to get people back into work and see proper growth.”

21 December 2011

Crofting Elections Given Green Light

Proposals to provide an election process for Scotland's Crofting Commission have been passed today by the Scottish Parliament.

For the first time, six people will be democratically elected by Scotland's crofting community to represent their interests, with the remaining three spaces filled by Ministerial appointment.

With eligible voters as young as 16, the elections are a solid signal that the Scottish Government wants to see a thoroughly modern, thriving, sustainable crofting sector, according to Environment Minister Stewart Stevenson.

Welcoming the move, Mr Stevenson said:

"Crofting has long been the life blood of many communities in rural Scotland and has defined huge cultural shifts in our history. Today marks another historic moment - when Scotland's crofters get a seat at the table to make decisions that effect their future.

"The 2012 Crofting Commission election is an excellent opportunity to breath new life into crofting and I would encourage everyone eligible - from the age of 16 - to use their voice and to make sure the Commission hold the right details so that they get their ballot paper.

"Crofting is steeped in tradition and I am committed to seeing this long-established way of life become a thriving and sustainable sector in the future."


The deadline for submitting changes to the Register of Crofts, which will be used to compile to crofting electoral roll, is 19 January 2012 and the deadline for candidate nomination will be 26 January 2012. Voting is restricted to one vote per croft and to one vote per crofter: a multiple occupancy croft must nominate one voter where the crofters live at separate addresses, and a crofter with multiple crofts is only eligible for one vote.

For further information on the election and to check your details on the Register of Crofts, please contact the Crofting Commission on 01463 663439 or elections@crofterscommission.org.uk

Stevenson Says Minimum Pricing Will Halt Pocket Money Booze

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has claimed that the Scottish Government’s minimum price-per-unit alcohol pricing policy will end pocket money priced booze and make serious inroads into Scotland’s battle with the bottle. Recent reports show that despite cuts in smoking and illegal drug use by teenagers, the use of alcohol is still far too high among Scotland’s school children.

Commenting on the policy Mr Stevenson said:

“With figures showing that more than one third of 15 year-olds and one in seven 13 years olds admitting that they had taken a drink in the previous week, it is clear that we must introduce minimum pricing of alcohol.

“While alcohol remains available at pocket money prices it is no surprise that teenagers are able to afford it. With the introduction of Challenge 25 we are taking steps to cut access to alcohol for young people but sadly, many children will still find someone to purchase alcohol for them.

“The introduction of a minimum price is in Scotland’s interest – we cannot sit idly by while too many of our secondary school children are poisoning themselves with alcohol.”

£4.5m Invested In Free Childcare

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the Scottish Government’s additional £4.5million funding for vulnerable two-year-olds.

The SNP MSP says this will enhance early years care provision for these looked after children.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“The SNP has prioritised investment in the early years of a child – which is why this new round of funding is greatly welcomed.

“It is a fact that getting it right from the beginning prevents problems from becoming crises and gives our children the best start in life.

“It is also extremely welcoming to see this funding is focused on two year olds who are looked after to improve their life chances.

“This investment is only the latest step in our work to helping expand the quality of early learning and childcare provision.

“The SNP Government has initiated a significant shift to preventative spend through the establishment of a £270m Early Years Change Fund over this parliamentary term.

“This continued investment will make a real difference for all of Scotland’s children and families.”

Stevenson Comments On Moray Council Tax Freeze

Moray’s SNP representatives have welcomed the Council’s early backing of the SNP’s policy to freeze Council Tax.

Commenting, Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“The Council Tax freeze was a big issue on the doorstep during the election - it is hugely popular when every other bill is going through the roof.

"The Council Tax freeze provides vital help for families in tough times and I’m very pleased that Moray Council has backed this important measure which will provide important support for families at this time.”


SNP Opposition Leader, Cllr Pearl Paul, welcomed the proposal, which received unanimous support at a meeting of Moray Council.

Cllr Paul said:

“I very much welcome The Council’s support of the SNP’s policy to freeze Council Tax. The SNP is continuing to provide a record percentage of the Scottish budget to Local Authorities, including funding to enable councils to hold Council Tax levels, essentially a real terms reduction in tax when inflation is taken into account.

“The SNP recognises the financial pressures facing families, who are being hit with pay freezes and soaring bills. Council Tax is one area that we can make a difference to people and today’s announcement will provide at least one degree of certainty for household budgets for the coming year.”


Moray MSP Richard Lochhead said:

“I am delighted that The Moray Council have given early backing to the SNP’s policy of freezing Council Tax once again.

“Council Tax bills soared in the eight years of the Scottish Parliament prior to the SNP taking office and we have sought to re-dress the balance and allow households to recover from the hit they have previously taken.

“To increase Council Tax pressures on households at a time of austerity is unnecessary with the Scottish Government providing funding to compensate councils for that position and I hope that other councils in Scotland will follow Moray’s lead on this.”

16 December 2011

Funding Boost For Banffshire Economy

The local economy has been given a boost with £837,000 of European funding.

Finance Secretary John Swinney confirmed the news on a visit to the area where he also welcomed the creation of 50 new jobs by the international IT services company Atos.

The money from the European Structural Funds will support 79 enterprises and create 108 jobs. It will allow for the development of new business space for start-up companies in renewables and the creative industries as well as provide training opportunities in the renewables sector.

The project is a partnership between The Moray Council, Highlands & Islands Enterprise and the Moray College UHI.

Commenting, Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“This is good news for Buckie, and the wider Banffshire economy.

“These are important local projects which are being supported and I look forward to local people getting the training benefits and employment opportunities which this funding award will create.”


Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth John Swinney said:

"This funding is welcome news for the Moray area and will help grow the local economy, through new jobs and training opportunities.

"The Scottish Government is committed to building sustainable economic growth and we have worked closely with the Moray Economic Partnership since it was established to mitigate the impacts of the UK Government's Strategic Defence and Security Review.

"We will continue to support their work to maximise the opportunities that have arisen since the changes at RAF Kinloss and Lossiemouth."


Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure and Capital Investment Alex Neil said:

"These projects will create jobs in Moray, helping local people gain new skills and will grow the economy locally and in Scotland as a whole.

"By supporting local initiatives, these funding awards will benefit the communities where they are based and strengthen business development over the coming years, as well as bringing much needed employment to the area."


Background

The schemes that received European funding are:
  1. Buckie Renewables Scheme: To refurbish a harbour building in Buckie to provide business space for SMEs in the offshore renewables industry.
  2. Training for Buckie Renewables: To refurbish a 2nd building in Buckie for the renewables sector with half of the building to be used by Moray College to provide training to SMEs in renewables, and the remaining half to provide further business space for renewables SMEs.
  3. Moray Business Sites: To develop business sites through Moray – to provide site servicing at sites in Elgin, Keith, Buckie and Lhanbryde and to refurbish existing business units in Lossiemouth.
  4. Moray Learning Centres (Buckie): This is a partnership scheme between The Moray Council and Moray College. It will refurbish a property in Buckie and will assist people in accessing further education, training and into employment.
  5. Grant Lodge Creative Industries: The Moray Council will refurbish a historic building in central Elgin, part of which will provide business units to attract creative industry SMEs. The remainder of the building will accommodate a visitor information centre, the registrars and a heritage centre.
  6. Green Transport: This council-led scheme will implement the findings of the Active Travel Audits in the towns of Keith and Buckie. This will improve green transport links in and between Moray's biggest towns.

12 December 2011

Future Of Aquaculture And Fisheries

A consultation is underway to support a sustainable future for aquaculture and freshwater fisheries, and the effective management of interactions between these two sectors.

The consultation also includes proposals to update enforcement provisions for aquaculture and fisheries, and a review of the approach to cost sharing and charges. The consultation will inform the development of a new Aquaculture and Fisheries Bill, which will build on existing legislation, strategic frameworks and good practice.

Minister for Environment and Climate Change Stewart Stevenson said:

"Scotland is home to valuable aquaculture and freshwater fisheries sectors that make important economic contributions, particularly in remote, rural communities. We need to ensure that both these sectors - and in particular farmed salmon and wild salmon interests - can continue to develop and coexist harmoniously.

"Good progress has been made in recent years on a number of fronts. The Ministerial Group on Aquaculture has put focus on key issues and developments, including overseeing the renewal of a Strategic Framework for Aquaculture. Meanwhile the delivery of a Strategic Framework for Freshwater Fisheries and creation of local fishery plans has demonstrated the shared commitment to improved management of our recreational wild fisheries.

"Last year increased farmed salmon production was worth around £540 million, while 2010 figure for rod catches of wild salmon were the highest on record. This demonstrates that both sectors can be supported to grow and thrive together.

"But we must not be complacent. That's why we're consulting on possible changes and legislation to ensure continued and improved high standards of management in both sectors. We want to strike the right balance and not impose unnecessary or disproportionate burdens, therefore I welcome all views through the consultation phase."


The Aquaculture and Fisheries Consultation will run until March 2, 2012.

Aquaculture is mainly focused in the West and North of Scotland and employs over 1,500 people directly. Salmon farming, Scotland's largest food export, is the dominant area, while shellfish production is growing. In 2010 over 150,000 tonnes of farmed salmon was produced, up 6.9 per cent on the previous year and worth £539.6 million.

Scotland's freshwater fisheries are world famous and their management supports one of the largest Atlantic Salmon populations in Europe. Our native brown trout fisheries draw anglers from near and far to enjoy their sport. In 2010 the total rod catch for wild salmon was the highest on record, with 110,496 salmon and grilse caught.

9 December 2011

£1.3m green energy boost for Africa

The Scottish Government is today seeking funding proposals to deliver high quality projects in Malawi and sub-Saharan Africa worth £1.3 million.

Speaking from the United Nations climate change conference in Durban, Climate Change Minister Stewart Stevenson officially opened the funding round and welcomed applications from Scottish organisations with relevant skills and expertise.

The Scottish Government is seeking proposals for renewable projects in Malawi and sub-Saharan Africa.Renewable energy is a priority area for the Scottish Government. Proposals are specifically welcomed which address this important issue by delivering sustainable energy for all and helping mitigate against the effects of climate change in developing countries.

The announcement of the latest round of the Scottish Government's International Development Fund comes as Scotland enters talks to pioneer the first pilot carbon capture programme (CCS) on African soil, Mr Stevenson announced today.

After delegates from the South African Centre for Carbon Capture and Storage (SACCCS) visited Scotland earlier this year, representatives from the Scottish Carbon Capture and Storage Centre (SCCS) will travel to South Africa in February to assess the feasibility of establishing a pilot Carbon Capture plant, as part of a South African programme developing capacity in this area.

Scotland is an international model of a low carbon economy and the Scottish Government wants to share expertise and technology with developing countries, who will be hit the hardest by a changing climate.

Mr Stevenson said:

"Scotland has a long legacy for pioneering successful projects - be it exploration or invention. Today's announcement ticks both these boxes.

"I am delighted to officially open the International Development funding rounds which will encourage high quality bids for renewable energy projects in Malawi, with projects of up to £400,000 in value. While in Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia we will fund one project in each country - a total of £1.3 million over three years. Renewable energy and food security are the main areas this funding will address. Scotland can play a vital role in helping these developing countries create a sustainable energy and hopefully an economic commodity.

"We also see huge potential in developing CCS technology in countries which use fossil fuels. We are happy to share our understanding of this emerging technique, which not only benefits the environment by reducing the amount of carbon ejected into the atmosphere, but also creates a new economic opportunity."


For example, by using mostly existing North Sea subsea infrastructure, Scotland would have the capacity to store 50% of Europe's fossil fuel derived CO2 emissions. South Africa is heavily dependent on coal consumption and demonstrating the capacity to capture the carbon emitted would be a significant development in terms of South Africa's commitment to meet their carbon dioxide target.

Professor Jon Gibbins, a member of SCCS, welcomed the growing South African participation in CCS research:

"Every country will have specific requirements for the CCS plants they deploy, but we all have a tremendous amount to gain by sharing insights and experience in this very important CO2 emission mitigation technology"

Gail Wilson, Stop Climate Chaos Scotland Co-ordinator said:

"The Scottish Government has regularly supported important and innovative projects overseas and this latest focus on renewable energy is very welcome. Scotland is a world leader with its domestic emission reduction targets, and today's announcement demonstrates how knowledge, research and funding from Scotland can make a difference in other countries also seeking to develop green and low carbon futures."

The Scottish Government has strengthened its support for developing countries on climate change over the last two years, focusing on renewable energy development and mitigation. This includes:
  • The Maldives Partnership and the publication of the Scottish Government funded Marine Energy Study
  • International Development funding of 137,638 pounds (over three years) has supported a solar energy project in rural communities in Malawi, run by Strathclyde University.
Commonwealth Games Fellowships funded from Scottish Government carbon levy on travel. The first six fellowships recently visited Scotland and met Mr Stevenson.

International partnerships with the Inter-American Development Bank, the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute and exploring further work on renewable energy with Malawi.

SCCS is the largest carbon storage grouping in the UK comprising in excess of 65 researchers and is unique in its connected strength across the full CCS chain, as well as in its biochar capability. Funding for this visit will come from the Scottish Government's Low Carbon Economy budget. Such a carbon capture programme would complement the South African CCS Centre's existing work on CO2 storage, supported in part by the UK.

4 December 2011

Council Listens To Calls From Local Councillor And MSP As Under-Threat Youth Service Given Reprieve

An under-threat youth service which helps support troubled youngsters has been given a reprieve thanks to lobbying from young people and parents with the support of their MSP and councillors.

Youth workers based at Peterhead’s Barclay Park Pavilion and Peterhead Academy had been threatened with redundancy at the start of the Christmas holidays. Now, thanks to a local campaign, Aberdeenshire Council has responded to local MSP Stewart Stevenson and Peterhead South councillor Stephen Smith saying that the matter will be reviewed and the posts will remain in place until the end of the school year in summer 2012.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“I was approached by several parents of young people who had benefitted immensely from the service provided by the youth workers in Peterhead. They were full of praise for the efforts made by the youth workers and it is no exaggeration to say that the lives of the young people involved have been completely turned around by the support they have received from the service.

“It was therefore critical that the service did not fold in the week before Christmas due to financial issues. It would be unfair to the council to say this was a result of cuts because, as far as I am led to believe, the funding was not being cut from the education budget but merely moved to another heading.

“I’m pleased that Aberdeenshire Council has responded positively to calls from the community for a rethink. At the end of the day, a service like this actually save the public purse more money than it costs as a result of lives turned around and people diverted from other activities which may lead them to place a burden on the police and criminal justice service, which was a very strong point made by the young people themselves.”


Peterhead South & Cruden SNP councillor Stephen Smith added:

“I met with young people who use the service and their parents recently and it quickly became clear to me that there is a huge amount of work carried out by the Youth Workers whose positions are under threat which is greatly valued.

“I made the case very strongly to senior education officials at the council that there needed to be a rethink because the potential consequences of not having this kind of youth work going on in the community are likely to be more expensive.

“I’m therefore delighted by the assurance given to me by the Director of Education to extend the funding for this service at least until the 2012 summer holidays and to look at how we might have a more sustainable arrangement in future.”


Peterhead North & Rattray SNP councillor Fiona McRae commented:

“I know there was a lot of concern among parents who had seen the value of this service in helping their children and they feared what the loss of this service might do to future generations, so this is very welcome news.”

1 December 2011

Grampian NHS Dental Registrations Continue To Rise

MSP SAYS ‘SNP IS MAKING GOOD ON IT’S PLEDGE’

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson says ‘The SNP is making good on it’s pledge to tackle the NHS dentistry crisis left by Labour and the Lib-Dems in 2007’.

NHS dentistry was a key plank of the SNP election campaign in 2007 and 4 and a half years on the latest statistics for NHS dental registrations in Grampian show that the number of patients with an NHS dentist has increased from 35.2% in 2007 to 53.5% last year, with over 25,000 additional registrations in Grampian since last year.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“The NHS Dentistry service in Grampian was teetering on the brink in 2007 and the SNP pledged that we would tackle the dentistry crisis facing Scotland. That is exactly what we have done.

“Many thousands more people in Grampian are now registered with an NHS dentists, we have supported investment in more dental surgeries and a new dental school in Aberdeen which is making a real difference to the availability of NHS dentists in our region.

“Labour and the Lib-Dems left the dental service in an absolutely shocking state which has taken 4 years of solid support and investment to get it back on track. This was never going to be an easy task and there is still more work to be done but with NHS dental registrations now at a record high in Scotland, greatly improved on the position of 4 years ago I am very pleased with this progress.”

Stevenson Supports International Day Of Disabled People

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has shown his support for International Day of Disabled People, which takes places on 3rd December.

Commenting on the initiative, Mr Stevenson said:

“I hope that the day help increase the understanding of the issues around disabilities and draw attention to the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities as well as increasing the awareness of the gains for everybody if disabled persons are integrated into all aspects of political, social, economic and cultural life and raising money for resources for persons with disabilities.

“We must remember that persons with disabilities around the world make up approximately 10% of the population but sadly, even where disability laws are in place, its effectiveness can be held back by negative attitudes towards disabled persons.

“Persons with disabilities deserve equal rights: social, cultural, and political amongst many other important rights they need to live fairly in society.”

Stevenson Welcomes Extra Funding And Dedicated Minister To Tackle Youth Unemployment

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the announcement that the Scottish Government will create a dedicated Minister with responsibility for tackling the problem of youth unemployment. Announced during a debate in the Scottish Parliament today (Thursday), the Scottish Government will also add an additional £30 million to its ongoing efforts to help young people into work, education, or apprenticeships.

Details of the Ministerial post and how the additional £30 million of funding will be allocated will be outlined by Ministers before Parliament breaks for the Christmas recess.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“I welcome the decision that there will now be a dedicated Minister working on behalf of the unacceptably high proportion of young people who are currently unemployed as a result of the economic problems we face. Nobody should go through school only to find themselves unable to work at the end of it, and face potential problems for the rest of their working life as a result.

“When appointed, the Minister will help to ensure that there is a joined up approach to tackling youth unemployment across the Scottish Government and that is the right way forward if we are to tackle this serious problem.

“The creation of this post will build upon the Scottish Government’s commitment to provide every 16-19 year old who needs it a learning or training position through our Opportunities for All scheme.

“The announcement of extra funding is also good news and will only add to the extensive efforts that are already underway to support young people at this extremely difficult time.”

28 November 2011

Stevenson Extremely Concerned For Peterhead Project Following Treasury Raid On CCS Fund

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has expressed his deep concern over the revelation that the UK Government Treasury will raid the £1 billion fund allocated to support the development of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology. Following the decision to scrap plans to develop this technology at Longannet earlier this year, Peterhead power station had been widely considered to be in pole position to benefit from this funding.

However, in an interview on BBC Radio 5, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander revealed that the £1 billion fund will be diverted to support new infrastructure spending stating that “much of the money that we'd allocated to spend in this Parliament we've now reallocated to different sorts of projects.”

At the time the plans to fund a CCS plant at Longannet collapsed, UK Ministers promised that the funds would be ring-fenced for a new carbon capture competition and it was widely expected that the funds from this would be disbursed within this Westminster parliamentary term.

In 2007, previous plans to develop CCS technology at Peterhead collapsed following BP’s withdrawal from the project citing dithering and delay on the part of the UK Government.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“In 2007 Peterhead lost the chance to lead the world in developing Carbon Capture thanks to UK Government dithering and incompetence and it beggars belief that they may have just pulled the rug out from under plans to develop the technology there again.

“Delaying the distribution of funds until the next parliamentary term at the earliest is a significant and unexpected delay and the threat it poses to the future of Carbon Capture at Peterhead should not be underestimated.

“Just a few weeks ago, Scottish & Southern Energy and Shell signed a deal to store carbon dioxide from Peterhead under Shell’s Goldeneye field and real progress towards a CCS project at Peterhead was being made. At a stroke, the UK Government has now put all that in jeopardy.

“I am absolutely appalled by the way that the UK Government has yet again let down people in Banffshire & Buchan Coast. It has been estimated that a CCS project in Peterhead would create up to 937 jobs and be worth £130 million every year over the course of its lifetime. There will be real anger in Peterhead and the wider area if this project now does not proceed.

“History seems to be repeating itself and a UK Government is once again displaying incompetence on a breathtaking scale.”

SEweb: Gateway To Scotland’s Environment

For the first time, everything you want to know about Scotland's environment will now be available at the touch of a button.Today also sees the publication of the second State of the Environment Report to mark the new website provided by Scotland's key environment and health agencies.

Scotland's Environment Web - named SEweb - aims to be the gateway to everything you want to know about Scotland's environment. This three year project, supported by funding from the European Union, will put Scotland at the global forefront of sharing environmental information, prioritising problems and involving citizens in assessing and improving their own environment.

Features of SEweb will include:
  • All information available from the one source
  • Direct link to individual partner agencies, making it easy to navigate through information
  • An Online Library containing all partner agency official reports and publications'
  • Citizen Science' to allow individual to interact with SEweb (coming in 2012)
The first major project to be hosted on SEweb Library is the State of the Environment Report which paints a generally positive picture about the condition of our environment, said to be worth 23.5 billion pounds per year.This latest official government report provides the most comprehensive insight yet into the condition of Scotland's environment. It offers important information and data on how the quality of the country's land, air and water impacts on people's quality of life and how these relate to the decisions we make and our lifestyle.

Launched today by Environment and Climate Change Minister Stewart Stevenson, Mr Stevenson said:



"SEweb is a fantastic public resource and a result of excellent collaboration between our public agencies. As well as acting as a gateway to information, it will helps us meet EU reporting requirements.

"Over the past 50 years, we have seen huge improvements in Scotland's environment - river and air pollution has reduced and our woodland cover has increased from 8 per cent, one of the lowest in Europe, to 18 per cent. While the State of the Environment Report paints an overall picture, it also shows key issues to be tackled and what needs to be done to sustain and improve the environment

"We owe it to future generations to protect Scotland's rich and vibrant environment, and it's essential that every one of us begins to take responsibility for reducing bad impacts. I have no doubt that SEweb will pay a vital role in forming the decisions that make Scotland a clean, green country. Please use it."


According to partner agencies, key areas for improvement highlighted through State of the Environment Report are:
  • Reducing our contribution to climate change - Scotland is moving in the right direction but we have to do more. 
  • Improving our quality of life - the majority of Scottish towns and cities are generally good places to live, but there are still issues such as poor air quality, litter and noise.
  • Managing our resources better - we can all help by more efficiently using resources and improving recycling rates.
  • Managing land for multiple benefits - we must achieve a balance between protecting the environment and benefits such as the production of food, the management of forests and enjoyment of recreational opportunities.
  • Improving the condition of our water environment - we need to continue to address problems such as impacts associated with land management and the health of migratory fish stocks.
  • Reducing human impact on our seas - there are two significant pressures on the marine area which are widespread: human activity contributing to climate change and fishing which impacts on the seabed and species.
Over the three years of SEweb there will be opportunities for the public to get involved with Scotland's environment and will create a forum for debate and assessment from all corners of the environmental community.

SEweb will be introduced in three phases. Partner agencies coming together to create SEweb include: Scottish Government, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Forestry Commission Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage, Historic Scotland, Marine Scotland, Scottish Environment LINK. James Hutton Institute, Food Standards Agency Scotland, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and Rivers and Fisheries Trusts of Scotland.

25 November 2011

SEPA appointments

The Minister for Environment and Climate Change today announced the appointment of a Deputy Chair and four Board Members to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA). The appointments will be for a period of four years from January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2015.

Deputy Chair - Bob Downes

Bob has been a member of SEPA's Board since 2008, and has chaired the Agency's Audit Committee. He brings a wealth of experience of executive and non-executive from across the public, private, and voluntary sectors to the role. He also has extensive experience of strategic analysis, operational excellence, communication management, digital technology application and transformation and change management.In addition to his new role as SEPA's Deputy Chair, Bob is also currently a non-executive director of the Care Visions Group, a UK wide private social and health care service business, a Governor at the Glasgow School of Art and an Advisory Board member for both ScotRail and the Glasgow University Business School. He has also helped with local economic ventures, especially in Northern Ireland, and has provided advice to small technology businesses throughout the UK. Previous roles have included a directorship with BT Group, a role which ended in September 2011.Mr Downes holds a public appointment as Governor and Non Executive Director at Glasgow School of Art. This is a non-remunerated appointment.

Board Members

Dr Lesley Sawers

Lesley brings considerable experience from both the public and private sector. She has held a number of senior positions in international utilities, strategic consultancy, logistics and VisitScotland, Scotland's national marketing and tourism agency. In her current role, as Chief Executive of the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI), Scotland's leading independent economic policy organisation she works closely with members, stakeholders and decision makers to promote economic growth for Scotland and to maximise the effective use of Scotland's environmental resources and natural assets. Through her role in SCDI, Lesley brings to the SEPA Board significant knowledge and experience of regulated industry, local authorities, non governmental organisations (NGOs) and the voluntary sector. She also has knowledge and experience in relation to promoting and developing science and engineering contributions to the Scottish economy. Lesley holds no other public appointments.

Dr Richard Dixon

After a PhD in Astrophysics, Richard completed an energy and environment MSc at Glasgow Caledonian University. After working for Community Service Volunteers (CSV) and Strathclyde Regional Council, he was appointed Head of Research at Friends of the Earth Scotland in 1994. After eight years working on issues as diverse as climate change, bathing beaches and fish farming, he moved to become Head of Policy with WWF Scotland in 2002. In this role Richard led a six-strong policy team working on marine, freshwater, climate, education and resource consumption issues. Richard took over as Director of WWF Scotland in July 2005 and continues to work on energy and climate change issues. Richard has been particularly involved in the setting up of the Stop Climate Chaos Scotland coalition, which pressed for Scotland's strong climate targets and aims to help deliver them., Richard brings to the SEPA Board extensive knowledge and experience of regulated industry, local authorities, NGOs and the voluntary sector, as well as knowledge of marine, freshwater, and climate change issues. Richard holds no other public appointments.

Professor Bill McKelvey

Professor Bill McKelvey has been Chief Executive and Principal of the Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) for the past 10 years. He brings to the SEPA Board significant knowledge and skills in agriculture, land use and rural affairs. His contributions to these sectors were recognised in the 2011 Queen's Birthday Honours List when he was awarded an OBE. As part of his role at SAC he has led one of the Scottish Government's Main Research Providers, managing an £18m research programme which includes work on environmental improvement and climate change skills which will prove useful in helping direct SEPA's own research programme. His academic credentials were recognised by his recent election to the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Scotland's National Academy of Science. Bill holds no other public appointments.

Dr Keith Nicholson

Keith's background is an unusual blend of internationally-recognised scientist and an award-winning company director. As a chemistry professor working on environmental and energy systems he has worked in universities in Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, Denmark and Scotland until he decided to move full time into consultancy. As CEO, Keith founded and managed several firms including EnviroSurveys (NZ) and The TP Group, and has held directorships in a range of environmental and technical consultancies. He has acted as a scientific advisor to past governments in Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and, through the Royal Society for Chemistry, UK MPs, specialising in environmental forensics and impact analysis. Keith Nicholson holds a public appointment as a board member for Scottish Natural Heritage. Remuneration amount for this post is £8,000 per annum.

The Deputy Chair post is part-time and attracts a remuneration of 270.90 pounds a day for a time commitment of 3 days per month. Board member posts are part-time and attract a remuneration of 270.90 pounds a day for a time commitment of 2 days per month.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency is a Non-Departmental Public Body with a Board appointed by, and accountable to Scottish Ministers. SEPA was established by the Environment Act 1995 and became operational on April 1, 1996. The Environment Act 1995 also sets out SEPA's powers and responsibilities.

This Ministerial public appointment was made in accordance with the code of practice published by the Public Appointments Commissioner for Scotland.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 5 years (if there is any to be declared) to be made public. None of the appointees have undertaken any political activity within the last 5 years.

18 November 2011

Impressive Growth For Salmon

National statistics published today show that production of Scottish Farmed Salmon increased by 6.9 per cent in 2010, to the highest level in six years.

At 154,164 tonnes, Scottish salmon production in 2010 was worth £539.6 million - over 30 per cent up on value of salmon produced in 2009, reflecting increases in both prices and production.

Commenting on the Scottish Fish Farm Production Survey 2010, Environment Minister Stewart Stevenson said:

"Scotland is a global player in farmed salmon - the largest in the EU and third in the world alongside Norway and Chile. I'm pleased that the industry has been able to achieve steady growth in farmed salmon production once again this year, demonstrating that demand for quality Scottish Farmed Salmon remains very high.

"Today's impressive figures show that salmon farming continues to dominate fish production in Scotland, which is unsurprising given that new international markets are opening up, with more people than ever before choosing to include healthy, Omega-3 rich salmon in their diet.

"The survey shows direct employment in the fish farming industry has increased by over 100 to some 1,500 people. With many more indirect jobs supported, this provides an importance contribution to the Scottish economy, particularly in rural communities in the West Highlands, Western and Northern Isles.

"The Scottish Government is confident that in the coming years we can continue to see managed and sustainable growth in the sector, while ensuring high environmental and fish health standards."


Farmed salmon is Scotland's single largest food export. The top five export markets for Scottish salmon are USA, France, Poland, Ireland and China.

The value of farmed salmon produced in 2010 is 30 per cent higher than 2009, when 144,000 tonnes were produced, worth £412 million.

Figures for 2010 show that Scotland's total rod catch for wild salmon was the highest on record, with 110,496 salmon caught, up 31 per cent on the previous five year average.

17 November 2011

Stevenson Welcomes Bank Support For Investment In Fraserburgh Fishing Industry

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson will attend an event on Friday 18 November (tomorrow) at 11.00am where Bank of Scotland will highlight their support for the Fraserburgh fishing industry with one of their customers and his £500,000 investment in a new vessel as it heads out of the harbour to fish for scallops and prawns.

Mr Stevenson will meet with bank officials and customers at the Bank of Scotland, Seaforth Street, Fraserburgh at 11.00am before the party walk to the harbour to inspect the vessel.

15 November 2011

Stevenson Encourages Constituents To Help Shape Future Of Scotland's Rail Services

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has encouraged residents of Banffshire & Buchan Coast to take part in Transport Scotland’s Rail2014 consultation which launched today (Tuesday).

The consultation offers the chance for ordinary people to shape the future of the rail network in Scotland following the current funding arrangements for Network Rail in Scotland and the current ScotRail franchise coming to an end in 2014.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“Even though it is of course true that Banffshire & Buchan Coast has no stations and only the smallest stretch of track within the constituency, that does not make the views of local residents any less important.

“Many people may wish to make their views on rail services in the rest of the country known or perhaps call for changes to the rail network that would make it more readily possible for people in the constituency to use the railway as part of their journeys. This consultation gives them the chance to do that.

“This is an important opportunity to make your views on the future shape of the railways in Scotland known and I hope that many people in Banffshire & Buchan Coast will take the time to complete the consultation.”


Transport Scotland’s consultation can be accessed online at http://www.transportscotland.gov.uk/rail2014

New Service To Provide Better Protection For Public Health During A Significant Air Pollution Incident

A new service launches today which aims to better protect the public in the event of a significant air pollution incident, just hours after it was deployed to monitor air pollution during an incident in the Firth of Forth.

The Airborne Hazards Emergency Response (AHER) service will improve the provision of information about airborne hazards during a significant incident, for example during an explosion or a major fire. This will allow NHS Scotland and the emergency services to assess the potential risks to human health and mitigate them.

Introduction of the new service has been led by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) in partnership with Health Protection Scotland (HPS), Fire and Rescue Services, the Met Office, the Police, Scottish Government, Food Standards Agency Scotland, Health Boards, Local Authorities, Health and Safety Laboratory and the Environment Agency in England and Wales.

The Scottish Government has provided funding of £2 million over three years for the project. A substantial proportion of this funding has been spent on scientific monitoring equipment. The service has a fully equipped mobile laboratory, two response vehicles and a range of scientific equipment dispersed across the country which will be deployed in the event of a significant incident and onsite air monitoring will continue until the threat from the incident has passed.

James Curran, SEPA's Director of Science and Strategy said:

"The main aim of the service is to protect the public in the event of a significant air pollution incident by providing interpreted and informed scientific advice on airborne hazards to colleagues in NHS Scotland. This new service will provide a much improved capability for assessing the hazards associated with significant air pollution incidents, and will provide much better protection for the public and the environment from the risks associated with these types of incidents."

Environment Minister Stewart Stevenson
said:

"Protecting and informing the public are two key priorities during a major air pollution incident.

"The Air Hazard Emergency Response (AHER) service is an important tool which will help inform the public, emergency services and SEPA about any potential air quality implications arising from a major accident. This is a fantastic example of agencies working across boundaries to get maximum use of our available resources."


AHER was deployed yesterday afternoon following a suspected spill from a pipeline between Hound Point Terminal and Dalmeny Tank Farm, which resulted in ballast water entering the Firth of Forth and the release of Hydrogen Sulphide into the air. The SEPA vehicle remained on site until 22.00 last night collecting information, which was passed on to Health Protection Scotland so they could provide advice and guidance to NHS Lothian on public health matters. Monitoring showed that while there was a strong odour over the area, levels were not at a point where they were a risk to human health.

AHER arrived back on the scene at 7.30 am today and will continue to collect data and provide it to partner agencies over the course of the day. Levels this morning have slightly dropped since yesterday.

14 November 2011

Stevenson Hails Multi-Million Pound Investment Boost For Fraserburgh Harbour

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the Scottish Government’s announcement that Fraserburgh Harbour is to benefit from a £7.5 million investment from the European Fisheries Fund. The grant will be used to deepen part of the harbour, giving access to more boats, and also to improve facilities at the site.

Designed to support investment in the fisheries sectors, the EFF programme assists with capital investment in the aquaculture, fishing and fish processing industries. Since its launch in 2007, around £60 million has been invested in Scotland’s fishing industry.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:



Stewart Stevenson at Fraserburgh Harbour with
local SNP Councillor Brian Topping
  “This is a fantastic announcement for Fraserburgh and a real boost for the fishing industry in the area. The fishing industry has had to endure enormous difficulties in recent years, but announcements like this are an important part of ensuring the industry has a sustainable, profitable future ahead of it.

“The Scottish Government is firmly committed to supporting our fishing industry and this latest announcement only serves to underline that fact. I know it is something that will be warmly welcomed by people in Fraserburgh.

“By deepening the harbour and upgrading the facilities on offer, this investment will have long term benefits for Fraserburgh for many years to come.”

Buckie Surgery Marks MSP's 750th

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson will notch-up his 750th surgery this week.

The SNP MSP will be holding surgeries on Friday (18 November) and will reach the impressive landmark when he holds a surgery in the Town House in Buckie that day.

Commenting on the achievement, Mr Stevenson said:

“I try very hard to be accessible to people in their own communities. In addition to my regular surgeries in the larger towns like Buckie, Banff, Fraserburgh and Peterhead, I ensure that every village and smaller community has a surgery every summer as part of my tour with my Mobile Office.

“In addition, I hold surgeries at summer events such as Portsoy Boat Festival and Turriff Show so that people can meet me at their convenience.

“Face to face contact with their elected representatives is still very important, but in addition to personal contact, constituents can now contact me via internet form on my website at http://www.stewartstevenson.net/ and by e-mail, as well as more traditional means of post and fax.”


Mr Stevenson is also holding a surgery in Banff on Friday. Anyone wishing an appointment for either Banff or Buckie should contact the Constituency Office on 01779 470444.

12 November 2011

Funding Boost For Community Woodland Projects

The Scottish Government has today signalled its continuing support for community based woodland projects with another £250,000 cash boost towards next year’s Community Seedcorn Fund.

The popular Fund is run by Forestry Commission Scotland and gives small grants to groups and organisations to encourage small scale woodland projects that benefit communities.

Speaking at the Community Woodlands Association annual conference in Boat of Garten, Environment & Climate Change Minister Stewart Stevenson said:

“The Scottish Government is firmly committed to genuine community engagement, both directly and through organisations like the Community Woodlands Association (CWA).

“The CWA has nearly doubled in size since its formation in 2003 to become an important stakeholder for government and it has delivered some excellent work on the ground for communities.

“Helping communities kick-start their local projects is a key theme of the Commission’s Community Seedcorn Fund. The Fund is already giving financial support for volunteering, skills development and community health promotion schemes.

“The programme has proved to be so popular that I am matching this year’s budget and allocating another £250,000 for next year."


The Strathnairn Community Woodlands initiative is one example of a local project to receive funding this year. The initiative is now providing chainsaw training for a group of volunteers so that they can manage their local woodland better and provide a welcoming place for community activities.

The Kirkhill and Bruchew Community Trust was also awarded financial support to buy hand tools for their volunteers so that they could maintain their local woodlands. The Trust also plans to buy tarpaulins, cooking utensils and steel storage boxes to help the local Scout troop in achieving their Forester badges and to run open days.

Jon Hollingdale, Chief Executive Officer for the Community Woodlands Association (CWA) added:

“The CWA warmly welcomes the Minister's announcement of next year's Community Seedcorn Fund.

“The Fund has proved very popular this year and has been invaluable in supporting a wide range of community woodland projects in both urban and rural Scotland. The application process is straightforward and the decision process is quick and this is highly appreciated."

9 November 2011

Stevenson Comments On Argus Care Homes

Commenting on the news that Argus Care Homes, who operate Wyndwell Care Home in Peterhead, have gone into administration, local MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“I have been in contact with the administrators, PKF, this morning regarding the situation as clearly there will be some people with relatives and loved ones at Wyndwell who may be concerned.

“The administrators were at pains to reassure me that there is no risk of closure and they have operators in place running the care homes as usual.

“PKF advise that things are looking positive in terms of finding new owners and I have also offered my assistance should it be required in any dealings with the local authority and other agencies.”

Stevenson Condemns "Same Old Tories" Wanting To Tax The Sick

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has condemned comments from new Scottish Tory Leader, Ruth Davidson that she would welcome a return to taxes on the sick.

Ruth Davidson's honeymoon period as leader of the Tories in Scotland came to an abrupt end live on TV when she was asked about her Tory policy of reintroducing prescription charges in Scotland.

After efforts to evade the question Ms Davidson conceded that the Tories would bring back the tax on the sick which the SNP Government has abolished.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said

"The SNP abolished prescription charges to help family budgets and stop penalising people who suffer from ill-health.

"The Tories say we shouldn't do this. They want to make the sick and the medium-low income families cough-up to get well.

"Ruth Davidson should try and explain that to the 600,000 Scots on incomes of only £16,000 who would be forced to pay for their medicine.

"The Tories might have a new face at the front their party but the people of the North-east know better than to fall for their old tricks."

MSP Supports UN World Diabetes Day

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has shown his support for the UN World Diabetes Day which takes place on Monday 14th November.

Commenting on the awareness event, Mr Stevenson said:

“Given the escalating diabetes epidemic it is important that awareness is raised of the condition and this year, the campaign is concerned with diabetes in children and adolescents.

“Many people are unaware that babies and toddlers can be sufferers and we have to remember that diabetes is a potentially killer disease, so the more people are aware of the condition, the symptoms and treatments available the better.

“For those wishing to learn more, please visit: www.worlddiabetesday.org.”

8 November 2011

Minister Visits Nith District Salmon Fishery Board

Stewart Stevenson MSP, Scottish Government Minister for Environment and Climate Change, recently accepted an invitation from the Nith District Salmon Fishery Board (NDSFB) to visit the Nith catchment to witness the Board’s work and its management of the river and its tributaries.

Mr Stevenson attended a Board meeting at the Cairndale Hotel on 31st October where he saw at first hand how the Board operates and conducts fishery management. Agenda items included fisheries enforcement and renewable energy proposals through to planning applications, survey work, hatchery operations and other business. Mr Stevenson entered into the free exchange of views and comments with Board members and attending invitees from SEPA, SNH and the Nith Catchment Fishery Trust.

The following morning the Minister accompanied Board Members and SEPA representatives on a trip from Dumfries through the catchment to New Cumnock where he attended two open-cast coal sites to view river diversion projects that have allowed or are in the process of enabling coal to be removed from beneath the bed of the River Nith.

The Minister had expressed a desire to observe how the Board works with other key stakeholders in ensuring the welfare of salmon, sea trout and other fish species whilst still permitting industrial projects to proceed. The Board uses current fisheries legislation to protect the aquatic environment.

The first visit was to Kier Mining’s site at Greenburn where a river diversion channel was under construction to allow for the river to be diverted to a new purpose built course in order to permit open cast coal operations under the existing bed of the river. The necessary engineering procedures were explained by Kier Mining staff and details of the creation of fish habitats within the new river course together with the plans for fish rescue from the original river course were described by Board staff.

The group then visited Scottish Coal’s House of Water open cast site where they were shown a river diversion channel which had been completed in 2004. Scottish Coal outlined how the channel had been constructed over the reinstated ground of a former open cast coal site and Fishery Board staff described habitat features and riparian planting schemes which have benefited aquatic life to thrive.

Scottish Coal demonstrated the various methods of work in the mine and the group saw a controlled explosive blast to free up rock and coal for excavation from the site. The group were also shown examples of mine water discharge treatment carried out to prevent pollution from entering the river system.

Jim Henderson, Director of the NDSFB, said:

“We are very pleased that the Minister honoured us with such an extensive visit. He demonstrated a close interest in and detailed knowledge of the diverse issues that face the Board in its implementation of local fishery management”.

4 November 2011

Stevenson Supports November's Lung Cancer Awareness Month

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has shown his support to Lung Cancer Awareness month which takes place throughout November.

Commenting on the campaign, Mr Stevenson said:

“Lung cancer claims the lives of more than 34,000 people in the UK every year - more than leukaemia, breast and prostate cancer combined – and yet lung cancer still falls far behind other major cancers in awareness.

“Lung Cancer is often associated with smokers, but it must be stressed that non smokers are at risk at contracting the disease.

“Symptoms such as a continuing cough, breathlessness, having difficulty swallowing, or experiencing a dull ache or sharp pain when you cough or take a deep breath should be discussed with a GP.

“Please visit: www.lunguk.org for additional information.”

3 November 2011

New Nature Grants System Launched

Organisations and community groups across Scotland, who are running projects to do with managing and enjoying nature, are to benefit from a new online grants service.

The service, launched this week, is available on the Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) website where customers can apply for a grant and access grant information and advice.

Projects will be given priority if they help engage people with nature, improve the management of nature and landscape, or create better places in the Central Scotland Green Network area.

Another priority is to improve the management of wildlife; for example, tackling problems of invasive non-native species before they get established will help Scotland to save money in the long-term.

Andrew Bachell, director of operations at SNH, said:

"The natural environment is Scotland's most valuable asset. We need to look after it so that it helps to improve our health and quality of life as well as our economic prosperity.

"Supporting projects that help deliver as many of these opportunities as we can is an essential part of this work. We're keen to back projects that are innovative, targeted at key groups, such as young people, people with poor health and people on low incomes, and which address barriers to participation, such as poor health, age and lack of confidence."


Environment Minister, Stewart Stevenson, welcomed the new service. He said:

"Scotland's nature and landscapes make a significant contribution to people's livelihoods, as well as their health and education. We are very keen to encourage more people and communities to become actively involved in looking after it. I very much welcome this new service which will make it easier for groups to apply for SNH funding, with a clear understanding of what the priorities are."

There are two types of grants available. Natural Project Grants are aimed at larger scale, longer term projects, of £10,000 and over. The deadline for these is 30 November 2011, with decisions by end of February 2012.

Community Action Grants will open for applications early in 2012. These grants are aimed at projects of 12 months or less, and between £1,000 and £20,000, that help get more people and communities involved in outdoor recreation, volunteering, outdoor learning, recording nature and biodiversity work. There will be no deadline for these applications as they can be received at any time.

The SNH grants service web page can be found at www.snh.gov.uk/funding/our-grants/

Standards Set For Scotland's Forest Management

Minister for the Environment & Climate Change, Stewart Stevenson, today (Thursday 3 November 2011) welcomed the launch of the UK Forestry Standard (UKFS), which sets the benchmark for sustainable forest management in Scotland.

Developed by the Forestry Commission and the Northern Ireland Forest Service in consultation with a wide range of interests, the UKFS applies to all woodland, and is the code of practice for forest management.

Mr Stevenson said:

“This is a welcome addition to the ongoing effort to ensure that forests and woodland across Scotland – and indeed the UK – are managed sustainably and in ways that enhance the economic, social and environmental benefits of forestry.

“As well as underpinning the new Woodland Carbon Code, the UKFS will ensure that woodland management practices are in line with current international agreements and conventions.”


Mr Stevenson also welcomed the revision of supplementary guidelines on how to meet the requirements of the Standard, which has made them more accessible, and the fact that no new regulations or burdens have been introduced.

Further details about the UKFS and Guidelines, including updates and links to supporting information, can be found at www.forestry.gov.uk/ukfs.

Crackdown on deer cruelty

People are being asked to be extra vigilant following a spate of deer poaching and deer coursing in Fife and Tayside.

In one incident, deer were seen running between vehicles on all four lanes of the A92 in Fife in a bid to escape their pursuers, endangering not only the deer but the public as well.

Environment Minister and Chair of Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime (PAW) Scotland, Stewart Stevenson said:

"The fight against wildlife crime is of paramount importance to us and the illegal practice of deer poaching and coursing is unacceptable. I welcome the joint working by partners in Fife and Tayside to clampdown on this barbaric pursuit and would urge members of the public to report any suspicious activity to the local police."

Fife Council's Animal Health department, who are represented on the Fife Partnership Against Wildlife Crime, are looking into links with commercial distribution of poached game. The council will alert Fife police Wildlife Crime Co-ordinator Ian Laing if any links are suspected between poaching and venison products.

PC Laing said:

"We sometimes see an increase in poaching and coursing at this time of year because game is more evident in fields in which the crop has been harvested, and there are more hours of darkness. We suspect poachers are generally looking to make quick money by selling the venison, while the coursers mostly send their dogs to chase the deer for sport. In both cases, although particularly coursing, the deer are likely to suffer a cruel death.

"We have instances of people who are not legitimate, experienced deer stalkers failing to make a clean kill and leaving deer maimed, which a genuine deer manager would never do. The public can help by reporting suspicious activity involving, for example, unfamiliar vehicles or people. We would also ask that if you see torches being flashed around fields at night or find any discarded deer remains to contact the police"


Fife and Tayside police have also joined forces with the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the British Association for Shooting and Conservation to carry out weekend patrols and further operations are planned.

Chief Executive of Scottish Land & Estates and Chair of the Police Poaching and Coursing Crime Priority Group in Scotland, Douglas McAdam said:

"Poachers and coursers, whatever their intended quarry, are unscrupulous and ruthless criminals with the advantages nearly all on their side. They tend to operate under cover of dark in remote rural areas and policing this sort of crime is clearly challenging. It is imperative then that those living and working in rural areas are switched on and aware of this illegal activity and act as the eyes and ears of the police on the ground.

"Active awareness raising in rural communities, intelligence gathering, responsive policing and then enforcement action on the ground are key in combating these crimes and in some areas we are now seeing the results. Scottish Land & Estates farming and estate members will continue to support Fife and Tayside police to make further progress in combating this area of serious rural crime."


PAW Scotland is the Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime in Scotland. PAW Scotland membership encompasses a wide range of bodies with an interest in tackling wildlife crime including conservation, land management, sporting and law enforcement organisations.

1 November 2011

Environment Minister Visits McPedro’s Home

Environment Minister, Stewart Stevenson this week visited the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project and heard about the innovative work going on there – as well as a Scottish bird of prey on holiday in Spain.

Mr Stevenson was able to see first hand the work taking place on the moor to integrate conservation and grouse moor management. The Langholm Moor Demonstration Project is a partnership of Scottish Natural Heritage, Buccleuch Estates, Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, and Natural England. The Minister noted the good co-operation between all the project staff, both game management and conservation workers, which is contributing to a robust evidence base on the merits of different management activities.

Simon Lester, the project’s head keeper, showed the Minister a range of techniques used on the modern grouse moor including predator control, heather recovery from heather beetle attacks, and burning practices to benefit grouse and other birds. The Minister was able to see areas of the moor that had been badly affected by heather beetle (a damaging pest on heather moors) in recent years and which had been burnt under new muirburn licensing provisions brought in earlier this year – the first moor in Scotland to be so licensed.

Mr Stevenson’s interest was particularly drawn to the project’s role in testing and promoting diversionary feeding of hen harriers. Hen harriers are known to prey on red grouse so scientists have been leaving alternative food sources, such as day old chicks and rats, near hen harrier nests for the birds to take. After four hen harrier breeding seasons, no grouse chicks have been detected being taken into breeding hen harrier nests, leading to a developing consensus amongst partners that this can be an effective management technique.

The Minister heard how young hen harriers are being tracked using satellite tags. One bird, nick named McPedro, which bred on Langholm moor in 2010 spent last winter in Spain. Two other birds tagged on Langholm and a north England moor are currently being tracked in western France.

Environment Minister Stewart Stevenson said:

“The project at Langholm Moor is of crucial importance in finding a way for driven grouse shooting to co-exist with hen harrier populations.

“This visit was an opportunity to see how the project is operating on the ground. Diversionary feeding of hen harriers at the moor is a key part of protecting grouse numbers and it was fascinating to learn that harriers that have been tagged at Langholm are being satellite tracked as far afield as France and Spain.

“Diversionary feeding is only part of the story though, and I was interested to find out more about activities such as predator control and heather management. Muirburn is an important tool in managing heather moorland and I was also pleased to see that the project is able to make use of new licensing arrangements brought in through the Wildlife and Natural Environment Act earlier this year.”


Speaking following the visit, the project’s chairman and the estate manager at Langholm, Mark Oddy highlighted that:

”Mr Stevenson has a genuine interest in supporting the management we are doing here at Langholm. We are very grateful to him for his support. Today has been helpful in ensuring that if any new regulation is being considered for introduction, the project can help ensure it is both effective and practical.”

Last year the project hosted a visit by the Rural Affairs and Environment Committee during its final consideration of the Wildlife and Natural Environment Bill. Further information on the project is at http://www.langholmproject.com/.

30 October 2011

MSP Officially Opens New Boddam Business

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson officially opened a new base in the North-east for Direct Savings on Friday.

The energy-efficiency and insulation company based in Livingston now has a base at the Buchan Braes, Boddam where it employs eight staff and hope to expand to recruit a further four staff by the end of the year.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

Stewart Stevenson MSP; Eileen Smith, Director;
Cllr Stuart Pratt, Peterhead South & Cruden
“I’m delighted that Livingston based Direct Savings have opened up a base to serve the North-east of Scotland here in Buchan.

“This is a positive investment in the Buchan economy and already eight people are employed at the site.

“Energy efficiency is increasingly important with the prospect of escalating energy bills and another harsh winter looming. I therefore wish the Direct Savings team at Boddam every success with their business venture.”


The eight new staff members at the Buchan Braes site, including manager Andy Oglesby, are on hand to help Buchan homeowners eliminate their fuel bill worries this winter and look forward to increasing their customer base even further.

Managing Director, Gerard Smith, is delighted with the firm's new premises, stating:

"We are honoured to have Stewart Stevenson MSP, Minister for Environment and Climate Change officially open our branch at Buchan Braes business centre.

"We have employed eight full-time staff over the past two months and hopefully will be looking to employ more in the foreseeable future."


Further details on the company can be found here: http://www.directsavings.org.uk/

Global Climate Change Experts To Head To Scotland

Scientists from across the globe are set to help Scotland develop a better understanding of the role peatlands could play in meeting climate change targets.

The experts will be in Scotland for an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) science review meeting which Scotland will host in January focussing on wetland management, including peatland restoration.

Climate Change Minister, Stewart Stevenson, said the meeting would be an important step towards developing the world's understanding of the role carbon-rich peatlands play in contributing to the nation's climate change ambitions.

Hosting the IPCC is just one of many high level events Scotland has been involved in which Mr Stevenson said reaffirmed Scotland's reputation as an international leader in tackling climate change.

Mr Stevenson said:

"Scotland has iconic, internationally significant peatland resources, and we need to manage them not only to help meet our climate change ambitions, but also as important reservoirs of biodiversity that stretch from the Borders to the outer islands of our country.

"That's why I am delighted that we will welcome this Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) meeting to Scotland in January. We are well placed to host this international event on peatlands, a land-type Scotland is considerably rich in.

"The IPCC is currently finalising a programme of work which will look to allow wetland management - including peatland restoration - to be incorporated into international greenhouse gas reporting - a position the Scottish Government fully supports.

"As we look forward to the main UNFCCC conference in Durban, hosting this meeting once again demonstrates the leadership role which the Scottish Government is taking both at home and internationally on the issue of climate change."


Professor Des Thompson, Principal Adviser for Biodiversity in Scottish Natural Heritage commented:

"In Scotland we have some of the very best examples of peatland restoration in Europe, and we are delighted to share this experience with IPCC experts. By improving the state of peatlands we can make a significant contribution to reducing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere."

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ( http://www.ipcc.ch/) was established by the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to provide the world with a scientific view on the current state of knowledge in climate change.

Peatlands are significant stores of carbon, which if allowed to dry out through drainage or disturbance, will release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It is possible to restore damaged areas of peat, although the process of restoration is complex and variable in effectiveness.

A change to international rules on reporting of greenhouse gas emissions to include the positive effect of restoration measures on damaged peatlands are currently under consideration by IPCC. As part of that consideration, the IPCC meeting to be held in Scotland 24-26 January will focus on a review of the available science and is the second of a series of five meetings to be held in 2011-2013.
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