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25 February 2011

Local MSP To Present Whitehills Cafe With Top Award

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson will present proprietor of the Rockfish Café Mr Billy Gatt with a prestigious national award on Monday 28 February at 9.45am at 3 Loch Street, Whitehills, Banffshire.

The establishment has won the Seafish Friers Quality Award which means that the Whitehills-based business is now nationally recognised for producing first class fish and chips in a first class environment. Rockfish Café has achieved the maximum 5 star rating. Rockfish is only the 15th fish and chip restaurant in Scotland to achieve that rating.

An approved inspector checks the shop's image, design and condition, selection of raw materials (fish, potatoes, oils, etc.), storage, hygiene and cleaning, product care, handling and temperature control, packaging, quality of the final product, management systems, training and skills. The award lasts for one year and is renewed if high standards are maintained.

Mr Gatt points out that Rockfish employs 3 staff and is providing a service to Whitehills that has not existed for over 5 years. Rockfish has opened in premises that were previously vacant and two other businesses are opening in vacant business premises in Whitehills. Mr Gatt is keen to praise the support of local councillors during the planning process which has helped his new businesses in the village to take root.

Rockfish is largely supplied with fish by Mr Gatt’s own fishing vessel Audacious with the catch processed through the local firm of Downies of Whitehills. The Audacious is skippered by Billy Gatt’s son and nephew and the family have been involved in the industry for over 100 years.

Commenting, local MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“I am absolutely delighted for Billy and his team here in Whitehills for landing this prestigious award.

“I think it is a great reflection on the quality of the seafood served which is in large part down to the fact that it is caught locally and processed locally through Downies of Whitehills before being enjoyed locally.

“Hopefully, with this award, many more people from further afield will be encouraged to take a trip to the Banffshire Coast and sample the delicious fare on offer and I offer my congratulations to Billy for bringing a national award to Whitehills.”

23 February 2011

MSP Comments On Portsoy Funding Boost

The historic harbour of Portsoy will use regeneration funding to make it a more attractive tourist destination Culture Minister Fiona Hyslop has announced.

The Minister confirmed that £500,000 is being made available to bolster Aberdeenshire Council’s ambitious plans for the area.

The Historic Scotland Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme funding for Portsoy will be used to fund skills training for young people as well as the repair of historic buildings.

Fiona Hyslop, Minister for Culture and External Affairs, said:

“Portsoy is a beautiful place with a unique character that has much to offer to visitors.

“As well as the £0.5m funding, this award gives the council and building owners access to expertise and guidance. The overall aim is to create opportunities them to improve the streetscapes, attract more visitors, develop training in traditional skills and invest in the local economy.”

Speaking from Holyrood, local MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“This is excellent news not just for Portsoy but the wider Banffshire coast. Portsoy is one of the jewels we have dotted along the Moray Firth and I’m delighted with this announcement from the Scottish Government.

“The town is, of course, already a popular destination with visitors thanks to events like the Traditional Boat Festival and attractions such as the Salmon Bothy and many others. Any assistance in maintaining an attractive and vibrant town has got to be good news and I look forward to further progress in this regard.”

Stevenson Notches Up 700th Constituency Surgery

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson will reach a historic milestone on Friday when he notches up his 700th constituency surgery since he was elected in 2001.

The SNP MSP will be in Fraserburgh, Banff and Fordyce as part of his regular programme of surgeries around the constituency. The historic ‘700’ figure makes Mr Stevenson one of the most accessible MSPs surgeries taking place around Banff & Buchan every month.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“I didn’t realise I had held quite so many surgeries. 700 is a pretty major milestone and when you consider the number of constituents who have visited me at those surgeries over the years then we’re talking about a phenomenal number of cases dealt with.

“I think even in this age of instant communications that it is important for people to be able to access their own MSP in their own town or village. Nothing beats being on the ground and seeing local issues at first hand.

Turning to the type of issues he has dealt with over the years, Mr Stevenson said:

“Many of the issues which are brought to me are not ones over which I have any control and many are not even within my remit. However, sometimes the simple act of sending off a letter on Parliamentary paper is enough to make organisations sit up and pay a bit more attention to people’s concerns and complaints, so I’m happy to do so.”

19 February 2011

MSP Supports Local Schools In Global Rock Challenge Bid

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson will be cheering on four local secondary schools - Peterhead, Mintlaw, Fraserburgh and Banff Academies - on Monday evening when they compete at Aberdeen Exhibition & Conference Centre in the North-east heats of the 2011 Global Rock Challenge.

Mr Stevenson is a strong supporter of the Global Rock Challenge and even picked up his own – unexpected – award at the 2003 event for his help in securing funding to allow the event to continue.

Looking forward to Monday night’s event, Mr Stevenson said:

“I am delighted to be able to attend the Aberdeen heat once again this year given my long association with the Global Rock Challenge and I was even more pleased that more and more secondary schools are signing up and taking part.

“In addition, Peterhead Academy is a “Premier School” in the Global Rock Challenge competition. This means they will be once again travelling to Grimsby to compete in the Northern Premier Finals of the dance/drama competition in June, representing not only the school, but the local area and Scotland.

“Peterhead Academy has perhaps one of the longest and strongest associations with the Global Rock Challenge and this is entirely down to the commitment of the staff there and the motivation of the pupils to be the best they can be. I wish them luck in June.”

The Global Rock Challenge is for the students and their teachers to create and be involved in their own production from conceptualisation through to the live performance. The challenge is also to be the best that they can without the use of nicotine, alcohol or other drugs, and there are severe penalties for anyone who fails that challenge on any event day and for their team too.

Feedback / research indicates that the concept works, with young people clamouring to return year after year to take part, with improved relationships with teachers at school, with a reduction - or even cessation - of substance abuse by team members and with a lower incidence of substance abuse generally within participating schools.

Attendance rates are also boosted, as are staying-on rates into sixth year.

The Rock Challenge® communicates health and social education messages in a positive and supportive environment.

11 February 2011

MSP Urges Entries For The Grampian Food Forum Innovation Awards

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson is urging businesses to enter the Grampian Food Forum Innovation Awards, where the winners will be announced on Thursday 24th March, 2011. This year companies will compete for awards in best packaging, commitment to healthy eating, best marketing plan and judges’ choice as well as the most successful product from the 2010 awards.

Commenting on the event, Mr Stevenson said:

“With the deadline for entries being received just a few days away, there is still time for people to enter the competition which is a showcase for the very best of North-east produce and business enterprise.

“The competition will reward food and drink companies based in Aberdeenshire, Aberdeen and Moray for their new product innovations and has become a well attended yearly event, which will be entering its 21st year.

“This event will help to recognise the flair that the local area has and I’m sure that there will be numerous entries from Banff and Buchan.

“I wish all entrants good luck and trust that they will keep up their good work in inspiring others. For more information, including application forms, please visit: http://www.grampianfoodforum.org.uk/.”

Notes:
  1. Completed entry forms along with a digital photo of the product should be sent via -email to fiona.r.smith@aberdeenshire.gov.uk or, alternatively, post to Fiona Smith, Economic Development, Infrastructure Services, Woodhill House, Westburn Road, Aberdeen, AB16 5GB by Tuesday 15th February 2011.
  2. Winners will be announced by Mr Neil Turton, Chief Executive Officer of Nisa-Today’s (Holdings) Ltd, at the Grampian Food Forum Innovation Awards Presentation Dinner at Marcliffe Hotel and Spa on Thursday 24th March 2011.

9 February 2011

Stevenson Delighted As SNP Government Secures Passage Of Budget

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the passage of the Scottish Government's budget for 2011/2012 which will protect health spending, fund 25,000 modern apprenticeships, continue to freeze the council tax and help support small businesses.

This is despite the budget having seen a £1.3 billion cut in cash terms, or £1.8 billion in real terms, as a result of spending decisions made by the UK Government.‬‪

The budget includes £2.5 billion in infrastructure investment to help stimulate Scotland's economy, which includes funding for the AWPR and recently confirmed upgrade to the A90 in the North East.‬‪

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:‬‪‬‪‪

"This has been an extremely challenging budget given the scale of the cuts Scotland has been given, but I believe it makes the best of a bad situation and I am delighted it has been passed by the Scottish Parliament.‬‪

"It contains significant help for small businesses in Scotland, which will help to further boost our economic recovery, including more funding for our landmark Small Business Bonus Scheme which has seen rates abolished for thousands of small businesses and help for sole traders to take on a first member of staff.‬‪

"It contains £2.5 billion in infrastructure investment which will have a significant impact for Scotland's economy, including funding for the AWPR and an upgrade to the A90. It will also fund a record 25,000 modern apprenticeship places, 60% more than in the final year of the previous administration.‬‪

"This budget will help to protect household budgets by funding a continuation of the council tax freeze and removing prescription charges and it will protect vital services through increasing funding for the NHS. It is a good budget for Banff & Buchan in difficult times, and its passage is excellent news for local residents."‬

8 February 2011

MSP Comments On Smiths Of Peterhead Announcement

Commenting on the news that textile firm Smiths of Peterhead have today called in the administrators, Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson said: 

"The downturn has badly affected the textiles industry generally and I'm aware that the company has been in difficulties with HM Revenue and Customs.  My MP colleague Eilidh Whiteford has been assisting in that regard but it is nevertheless disappointing that the company has had to call in the administrators as it had ambitious plans for relocation and expansion in the Buchan area. 

"The workforce at Smiths are highly-skilled textile workers and the company has a very good reputation, so I hope that the administrators who have been brought in will be able to find a way out of the current difficulties."

Stevenson Highlights Tinnitus Awareness Week

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has highlighted the importance of Tinnitus Awareness Week, which is taking place this week.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“During Tinnitus Awareness Week 2011, the BTA (British Tinnitus Association) will build upon their success of their last campaign, which addressed the impact of exposure to loud music and how this exposure can cause tinnitus and permanent hearing damage.

“It is extremely important to raise awareness of tinnitus, which is a debilitating condition due to the detrimental impact expose to loud music can affect a person’s hearing. The BTA has a freephone helpline 0800 018 0527 which is used by thousands of people each year and for those wishing further information, they should visit the website: http://www.tinnitus.org.uk/.”

4 February 2011

MSP Visits 'Twilight Basketball' In Peterhead

TOTAL OIL PRESENT CHEQUE FOR £2000 IN SUPPORT

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson attended a session of the Shell Twilight Basketball on Friday 4 February at Peterhead Community Centre, Balmoor Terrace, Peterhead.

TOTAL presented a cheque for £2000 towards new basketball hoops.

Shell Twilight Basketball is a FREE programme which provides young people across Scotland with an active alternative to the streets at the times when they need it most. The weekly sessions are based in some of Scotland’s most deprived communities and are open to all young people aged between 10 and 21.

The Shell Twilight concept brings together basketball and access to the information that young people need to assist their personal and social development with energetic sessions delivered by qualified coaches and youth workers. Further support is offered by the Rocks professional basketball players who make regular appearances at the Shell Basketball programmes assisting with coaching and encouraging the aspirations of the participants.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“I understand the group has an average of around 30 participants every Friday night, which I think is an excellent turnout.

“It sounds like a very exciting concept and I’m delighted to hear that it seems to be attracting a strong following amongst the youngsters of Peterhead, thanks to the support of local businesses like Shell and TOTAL.”

3 February 2011

Stevenson Hails Launch Of Business Loan Fund

Banff & Buchan MSP and SNP candidate for the new Banffshire & Buchan Coast constituency Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the announcement that the new £55 million Scottish Loan Fund is now open to applications from eligible businesses throughout Scotland.

The fund will provide loans of between £250,000 and £5 million to companies which have an annual turnover over £1 million, up to 250 employees and can either demonstrate growth or the potential to grow.

Private sector investment is also being sought to grow the amount available through the Scottish Loan Fund, and further boost the economic opportunities available to SMEs in Scotland.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“Throughout the economic difficulties of the last couple of years, one of the most consistent complaints has been the difficulty that many businesses have had in accessing adequate finance from the banks. When companies with real growth potential are unable to access the funds they need to expand, Scotland’s economic potential is being held back. Unfortunately, I am aware that too many companies locally have had cause to complain about the banks in this way.

“The launch of this fund will help to address this problem and I sincerely hope that additional private investment will help see the amount of money available to be loaned grow, increasing the impact it can have.

“The Scottish Government’s overriding priority is sustainable economic growth, and the Scottish Loan Fund will help to encourage this.

“This announcement is extremely positive for the Scottish economy and I hope that suitable businesses in Banff & Buchan will be able to benefit from the financing that is now available.”

Scottish Loan Fund Q&A:

What types of firm will be eligible to apply?

Established SMEs (broadly, firms with up to 250 employees) in Scotland with annual turnover above £1 million across most sectors of the economy will be eligible. The Fund targets SMEs which demonstrate growth or the intention to grow and exporting SMEs, as they have the most to contribute to Scotland's economic growth.

What market gap will the Loan Fund target?

The Loan Fund will conventionally lend to firms which, though established and viable, may not be able to offer the extent of security or earnings cover typically sought by a bank or other commercial lender. The cost of borrowing will likely reflect this higher degree of risk.

Eligible firms will be able to apply for loan amounts in the range £250k to £5m, though the great majority of loans will be for amounts of less than £2m.

What types of loans will be offered and what will be the cost to borrowers?

The fund manager will negotiate individual loans on a fully commercial basis, taking into account the particular circumstances of each borrowing company. Most loans, however, will likely have repayment terms of between three and seven years.

1 February 2011

Stevenson Welcomes FSB Manifesto

SMALL BUSINESS IN NORTH-EAST CAN POWER RECOVERY

Banff & Buchan SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the ideas put forward by the Federation of Small Businesses in their election manifesto.

The local MSP believes the FSB’s proposals sit very well with the progress the SNP has made in supporting small and medium sized businesses over the last four years with over 70,000 businesses having their rates abolished or significantly reduced.

Welcoming the publication of the FSB’s ‘The Journey Back’’, Mr Stevenson said:

“Small and medium businesses drive our economy and our communities and they have the support of the SNP. As a Scottish Government, the SNP worked with the FSB to deliver the small business bonus, putting in place essential support for small businesses during the recession.

“We have also invested in major infrastructure projects such as the Fochabers/Mosstodloch Bypass, and the new Transport Minister has given the go ahead for the dualling of the A90 at Tipperty to Balmedie following consideration of the findings of the public inquiry, both of which will be a significant boost to North-east companies moving their goods and services around the region and beyond

"At the next election I want to protect the progress made for small businesses over the last four years, and continue to help small business play their roll in boosting employment and economic recovery.

“Over the coming months I look forward to discussing with businesses across Banff & Buchan the policies an SNP Scottish Government can introduce to help business build a stronger recovery and make Scotland better.”
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