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29 December 2012

Praise for 'Gift Tree' Participation in Buchan

Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, has a lodged a motion in Parliament praising volunteers, organisers and participants in The Gift Tree in Peterhead and Buchan for their generosity and hard work in collecting and dispersing donations of toys, books, games, toiletries and food hampers.  The donations will be passed on to families and older people in hardship this Christmas.

Donors were able to select a child’s age and gift tag from one of the many trees dispersed throughout the area and drop the gift off at one of the venues in the area, which included local churches, Peterhead library, and Peterhead Community Centre.

This project is organised by a partnership of agencies working with families in hardship, local social work departments, Community Planning Partners and local businesses.  Last year, the program helped over 600 families and individuals in Peterhead and rural areas of Buchan.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“I am happy to see this program return to Buchan after last year’s success.  The winter months can be difficult for everyone, but picking up one extra gift for those in hardship is a generous and caring act.

“Thank you to all of those who participate and organise The Gift Tree this year.  I hope the rest of Parliament joins me in praising this initiative.”

Stevenson Gives Backing to 'see me' National Mental Ill-Health Campaign

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson has given his backing to ‘see me’, Scotland’s national campaign to end the stigma and discrimination of mental ill-health.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“1 in 4 people in Scotland will experience a mental health problem in any year. ‘see me’ is an innovative and exciting programme of national and local initiatives as well as a range of award-winning advertising campaigns aimed at the Scottish public to change our behaviour towards people with mental health problems.

“Scotland needs a national anti-stigma campaign. People with experience of mental ill-health still face harassment, bullying, social isolation and exclusion. People with mental ill-health tell 'see me' that they struggle to get work or stay in work because of the attitudes and discrimination of others.  This has to stop.

“Key to the campaign is the commitment from volunteers with experience of stigma, discrimination and recovery, who are willing to speak out and support others.  ‘see me’ works in partnership with local and national partners and a group of local ‘see me’ champions across Scotland to ensure the campaign is far reaching.

“Things are getting better but there is still much to do.”

MSP Presents Investors in People Award at Banff Ceremony

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has presented an Investors in People Gold Award to Real Life Options at a ceremony in the Banff Springs Hotel recently.

Real Life Options is a leading national not for profit provider of support for people with learning disabilities, with staff specialising in autism, challenging behaviour, complex needs and mental health.

Real Life Option’s commitment to excellence has recently been recognised by achieving the Investors in People Gold Award.  Nationally, only 23 health and social care sector organisations and less than 3% of recognised Investors in People have achieved the Gold Award.  This award is therefore a great accomplishment for Real Life Options and their Staff and Service Users as it represents the achievement of world class best practice in transforming business performance through people.

The North-east Scotland services celebrated this achievement accordingly as they gathered together for an award presentation at the Banff Springs Hotel.


Mark Richardson, Head of Business Development, hosted the event and Guest of Honour at the event was Stewart Stevenson, MSP for the constituency, who presented the Investors in People award to Mark on behalf of Real Life Options.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“I’m delighted to be able to present this prestigious award to Real Life Options.

“Real Life Options is a leading player in delivering the Care and Support Agenda.  By ensuring that people they support are able to express their real voice and make a real choice, a real and lasting change for the better can be effected.

“I add my congratulations to everyone involved in securing this deserved award.”

The event was attended by approximately 70 Service Users, Family Members and Operational Staff who had travelled from services throughout the North-East of Scotland to share in the celebrations.

There were numerous displays around the room about the various support services provided by Real Life Options, interspersed with personal success stories from the people Real Life Options support as well as profiles of both Service Users and Operational Staff. Stewart Stevenson MSP took time to read through all the displays and also spent time talking to individual people about their personal stories.

The event was a huge success and all enjoyed the presentation followed by teas, coffees and selection of home baking.

26 December 2012

New Figures Demonstrate Progress Towards Food and Drink Recycling

New figures have revealed the extent of the progress that has been made by Scotland’s local authorities towards drastically reducing the amount of food and drink that is wasted every year.

A newly answered Parliamentary Question has revealed that 17 of Scotland’s 32 local authorities now provide a household food waste collection service, with 6 of these councils offering a service that covers every single household in their area. The same answer has revealed that a further seven local authorities plan to introduce such collection services in 2013.

An estimated one fifth of food and drink in Scotland ends up being thrown away, unnecessarily wasting £430 a year on average for every household in Scotland.

Commenting, SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“Christmas is traditionally a time when people celebrate and eat well, but at a time of excess it is worth stopping to think about what happens when we waste food and drink. Households who are spending more than they need to on food are facing an unneeded financial drain on their resources.

“The cost of wasting food and drink quickly adds up and costs every household in Scotland an average of £430 a year.

“That is completely unnecessary and is money that people can ill afford during these difficult financial times, so it is essential that local authorities do all they can to assist people in reducing food waste.

“The fact that seventeen of Scotland’s local authorities are now collecting food waste separately is a significant step forward and that is only set to grow substantially as at least a further seven councils will offer these services next year.

“Some excellent progress has been achieved so far, but we all have a responsibility to do more if we are to reduce food waste down to a sustainable level.”


Note: The following Parliamentary Question was asked by Stewart Stevenson MSP:

Question S4W-11778: Stewart Stevenson, Banffshire and Buchan Coast, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 07/12/2012

To ask the Scottish Government, further to the answer to question S4W-08584 by Richard Lochhead on 1 August 2012, how many local authorities provide a food waste recycling service and how many are preparing to do so in 2013.

Answered by Richard Lochhead (18/12/2012):

Currently, 17 local authorities provide a household food waste collection service. Six of these local authorities offer a service covering all households, whilst the remainder offer a partial service. Six of the councils currently operating a partial service have plans to extend coverage in 2013. At this time a further seven local authorities plan to introduce household food waste collections in 2013.

20 December 2012

Success at Annual Fishing Negotiations Hailed

Confirmation that Scotland’s fishing fleet will not face a reduction in days at sea has been hailed as a significant victory for the industry in annual EU fishing negotiations.

The deal that has been struck will prevent automatic cuts in days at sea and quotas that were set to come into force next year. The progress made in the early hours of this morning comes on the back of an agreement earlier this week to drop proposals to cut Cod quotas by 20%.

The agreement secured increased quotas of 18% for West Coast Nephrops, 20% for West Coast Herring and while there will be a reduction in West Coast Haddock quotas of 30%, this follows a 200% increase that was agreed last year.

Quotas for further fish stocks will be confirmed after EU-Norway talks conclude at the end of January.

Commenting, SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson, whose constituency is home to Scotland’s two largest fishing ports said:

“I am delighted that the threat of cuts to days at sea has been lifted and initial quota negotiations have seen largely positive outcomes.

“It seems fair to say that the negotiations this year have seen notable successes for the Scottish industry and that is extremely welcome.

“These annual negotiations make the run up to Christmas a concerning time for everyone involved in Scotland’s fishing industry, so I am sure that all who have a stake in these negotiations will welcome the outcome of these discussions.

“Of course it would be far preferable if this annual ordeal for the fishing industry was brought to an end and the entire system of fisheries management was replaced with the kind of regional system we have long been calling for.

“It is ultimately those who have the greatest stake in creating a profitable, sustainable fishing industry in the waters off our coast who are best placed to make decisions on managing fish stocks.”

16 December 2012

University New-Starts: Up in Scotland, Down in UK

FREE ACCESS TO HIGHER EDUCATION KEEPS SCOTLAND BUCKING THE TREND

Over 50,000 fewer people across the UK started higher education courses this autumn than did so last year, except in Scotland where university uptake is up, highlighting the benefit of free access to higher education.

In England - where fees have trebled to £9,000 a year - a drastic drop in people taking places occurred, with a 6.6 per cent fall, meanwhile the number of people in Scotland is up 0.3%.

Commenting, local MSP Stewart Stevenson, said:

"These figures represent an endorsement for the SNP's policy of free access to higher education in Scotland but reveal a bleak picture elsewhere in the UK.

"It shows that Scotland is delivering far more successful policies and outcomes with the degree of independence that we already have in the Scottish Parliament - and with the full powers of an independent Scotland we could do the same in all the areas currently reserved to Westminster, such as macroeconomic policy, welfare and defence.

"A 6.6% drop shows just how much damage the UK government's socially exclusive policy is doing south of the border.

"With the average debt being kept down - and the Scottish Government delivering the best funding package in the UK, with a minimum income guarantee of £7,250 for students from the poorest backgrounds from next year - Scotland is the best place in the UK to be a university student.

"It is clearer than ever that sky-high tuition fees are fundamentally wrong. Instead of continuing down this path, Westminster must follow Scotland's lead and restore the principle of education based on the ability to learn, not the ability to pay.

"That is the right way forward and these latest uptake figures should act as a wakeup call to Westminster politicians who must now realise the folly of what they are doing."

6 December 2012

Stevenson Welcomes Help for Farmers

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed measures from the Scottish Government to help Scottish farmers who have been hit by the adverse weather this year.

Among the announcements, Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said he would be writing to banks to update them on the timing of Single Farm Payments and asking them to provide maximum flexibility for those farmers whose payments are not made at the start of December.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“We have had some extreme weather this year which has caused difficulties for Scotland’s farmers.

“So these measures from the SNP Government are very welcome – we must do all we reasonably can to help support our farmers.

“Not only have we prioritised Single Farm Payments, the banks have also been urged to show leniency to those farmers who have yet to receive their payments.

“We have increased resources to pay SFP as quickly as possible – including staff working in the evenings and weekends and given a two-month invoices extension for 2012 rural priorities capital works.

“Those who have encountered problems with the slurry rules are being helped by our area staff who are working to help farmers avoid or reduce penalties in Nitrate Vulnerable Zones.

“It is particularly encouraging to hear that most of the small number of farmers who have contacted the Scottish Government for help have avoided penalties completely.

“Farming is fundamental to Scottish life. Agriculture plays an integral role in the wider community and sustains jobs in primary production and throughout related sectors. That is why the SNP is committed to helping Scotland’s farmers through these tough weather conditions.”

Stevenson Welcomes Latest Police Numbers Statistics

GRAMPIAN POLICE NUMBERS OVER 1,500

Police numbers in Scotland have reached an all-time high, as new police officer quarterly strength statistics are released this week.

In Grampian the current officer complement is over 130 higher than when the SNP came to power in 2007 - an increase of around 10% in numbers in that period.

The figures for Scotland as a whole show that there are now 17,454 Full Time Equivalent police officers in Scotland, compared to 16,234 when the SNP first took office. This figure is higher than any previous recorded and every force area in Scotland has seen an increase on the number of police officers in place in May 2007.

Separate statistics released also show that there has been a sharp reduction in the number of offences involving a firearm in the last year. In 2011/12 there were 514 offences involving a firearm, a 21% reduction on the previous year’s figure of 647 and the lowest level for 34 years. In Grampian the statistics show that just 4 offences were recorded involving a firearm.

Commenting, local MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“The figures showing that police officers are at a new high and firearms offences are at a 34 year low will be hugely welcomed by people across Scotland and stand in stark contrast to the situation south of the border where police numbers are being slashed by 16,000 over the current spending review period.

“For communities in the North-east this means a greater sense of well being and a much reduced risk of being a victim of criminal activity.

“The SNP remains focussed on preventative spend. By maintaining investment in frontline policing, crime has been driven down, which reduces the impact on other frontline services, such as courts, support for victims of crime, criminal justice social work and health services.

“Crime is at a 37 year low and communities in Scotland are safer than ever before, thanks to the incredible efforts that the police go to in order to protect us.

“That is no coincidence and shows quite clearly why the SNP Government’s determination to maintain the additional police officers that have been recruited since 2007 is so important.

“Our approach to justice is continuing to deliver results and I am confident it will continue to do so.”

5 December 2012

Stevenson Welcomes Aberdeen University North Sea Report

"MORE THAN HALF OF OIL & GAS REVENUES STILL TO COME"

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has today welcomed the publication of a report from Aberdeen University confirming the “substantial remaining potential” from Scotland’s offshore resources.

The report Prospects for Activity in the UK Continental Shelf after Recent Tax Changes:  the 2012 Perspective – authored by Professor Alex Kemp and Linda Stephen – makes a number of recommendations to maximise the long-term benefit of Scotland’s oil resources, and highlights the substantial investment currently underway.

Scottish Government estimates are that remaining North Sea reserves represent an estimated £1.5 trillion of wholesale value - far higher than the value extracted to date.

Commenting on the new report, Mr Stevenson said:

“This welcome report is the latest in a series of analyses which underline the strength of Scotland’s offshore oil and gas industry for many decades to come.

“Just last week, oil firm TAQA announced the purchase of $1billion worth of assets from BP – underlining their confidence in the North Sea’s future – which itself came on the back of a Scottish Enterprise report anticipating that 86 new North Sea oil and gas fields will begin development by 2016, with investment of £44 billion.

“The £1.5 trillion value of North Sea resources still remaining is much higher than the value already extracted.

“Instead of being squandered as they have been by successive Westminster Governments - Tory and Labour - we need the powers of an independent Scotland to ensure that oil and gas resources work for the benefit of the people of Scotland.

"Westminster governments and anti-independence parties have been saying that the oil and gas is running out since the early years of production in the 1970s - and the reality now is that more than half of the revenues are still to come."

For details of Scottish Enterprise report see
http://www.heraldscotland.com/business

Rosehearty Winners in Holyrood Award Visit

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson has congratulated two local winners of the SCARF School Calendar Competition at an event in the Scottish Parliament.

Winners, Ryan Nicol, P7, and Hannah Sim, P6, from Rosehearty Primary School, will have their artwork featured in the calendar as a design for one month – as March and December.  All entries were required to promote energy efficiency or demonstrate climate change awareness.

SCARF (Save Cash and Reduce Fuel) is a charity based in North East Scotland, aiming to reduce fuel poverty. They provide free and impartial advice on how to increase energy efficiency and reduce costs, encourage investment in renewable energy measures, and create sustainable employment opportunities. The calendar was created in partnership with National Grid.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“I congratulate Ryan and Hannah on their impressive artwork. I am impressed they could so creatively capture such an important message and I’m glad the message can now be viewed in the calendar, year round.

“Thank you to SCARF and the artists for advocating for energy efficiency. Everyone should be aware of the issues and do what they can to achieve sustainable energy and affordable warmth.”

4 December 2012

MSP Ures Local Residents to be "Good Winter Neighbours"

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson is urging people across the North-east to respond to the current cold weather by looking out for vulnerable people in their communities.

Commenting, Scottish National Party MSP Mr Stevenson said:

"As we head into winter, and with conditions forecast to remain very cold for some time to come, it seems likely that local councils and our emergency services will be kept fully occupied keeping major routes open and attend to the most pressing emergencies.

"If you are able to, it would be an ideal time to check on elderly or vulnerable neighbours, make sure they have heat and that their pre-payment meters are topped up.  If you are in an area where the footpaths are still affected by snow and ice, you may be able to help clear paths. 

"It is also very important to recognise the hard work being put in by local council workers, who will be doing their best to keep the North-east moving during the winter”.

20 November 2012

Local MSP Urges North-East to Act Now - ‘Use the Hotline & Keep Warm’

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson is encouraging his constituents to prepare for the fast approaching cold weather by making use of  the Scottish Government’s Home Energy Hotline.

This call follows a new survey finding that almost 80 per cent of Scotland is concerned about the cost of their energy bills this winter. Though many people in Scotland use, or would be interested in using, loft (45%) or wall (32%) insulation to help warm their homes, only 29 per cent of people said they have claimed the free home insulation they are eligible for.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“Living in the North-east, we are subject to severe weather and low temperatures every winter. I would encourage everyone to take advantage of the excellent energy advice and support offered by a phone call to the Home Energy Hotline.

“People can simply make one call in order to discover what services they are eligible for. The Home Energy Hotline advisors can offer information on free offers, discounts, and eligibility in order to help everyone stay warm this winter.

“I would also encourage everyone to check their home’s insulation levels. The cold months are upon us, and proper planning will ensure a warmer, affordable, and greener home. Act now, use the hotline and keep warm.”

The Scottish Government’s Home Energy Scotland Hotline (0800 512 012) is free to call and energy advice is available now for everyone across Scotland.

For more advice and information go to www.homeenergyscotland.org.uk.

19 November 2012

Local MSP Comments on Vion Sale

Following Vion UK's announcement this evening that it is to sell its UK Food Operations, including the plant at Brydock, near Alvah, Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

"The news that Vion intend to sell their UK business will be a worry for the employees of the company at Brydock and for the wider agricultural economy.

“Colleagues in the Scottish Government have been involved in detailed discussions with Vion for some months regarding their plant at Broxburn, and despite continued asking about the future of the Group, this is the first time the company has said anything about this sale.

“I will be contacting the company as a matter of urgency in order to seek clarification on their disposal intentions for the Brydock plant and its dedicated workforce.

“I am confident that a positive future remains for this extremely important rural Banffshire employer." 

15 November 2012

MSP Welcomes Boddam Group's Funding Award

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has today welcomed the news that a funding award has been made to a local community group from the Communities & Families Fund.

Boddam Playgroup is the beneficiary and has commendable plans for the money.  They plan to purchase equipment to encourage and allow the children to spend more time playing and growing food in their community garden.

The Communities and Families Fund is supported by the Scottish Government and the Big Lottery Fund and awards grants of between £250 and £10,000 to grass-roots community projects which focus on improving learning, health, and wellbeing for children under eight years old by supporting them, their families, and their community.  Today, the program announced it would be awarding £182,595 to 20 deserving organisations across Scotland.

Mr Stevenson has written to the Boddam Playgroup within his constituency who were successful in their application and is hopeful that this funding will support them, and allow them to develop their activities which are of great importance to the local community.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“I am delighted to see that the local Boddam Playgroup was successful in applying for and securing the available funding in order to further support and develop their goals.

“The Boddam Playgroup is a deserving community organisation, and I hope that the funding will allow the children to fully enjoy the community garden. I am glad to see the funding go to such an enriching cause.

 “I would encourage any and all eligible groups in the area to apply to the Communities and Families Fund and enter the running for a grant to help them in continuing their activities, whatever they may be.”  

More information on eligibility and the application process for funding can be found at: 

Local Seafood Champions Wanted

Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, is encouraging local seafood businesses and customers to contact the East Grampian Coastal Partnership (EGCP).  The EGCP is currently researching the possibility of bringing together local “Seafood Champions” for a seafood festival and Seafood Trail project in order to promote the local seafood culture.

The EGCP is asking that Seafood businesses be submitted through an online survey, in order to gain more information on the prospects of establishing a Seafood Trail.  This project aims to encourage consumers to support the North-east coastal communities by visiting the seafood businesses which will feature on the Seafood Trail.

The project is being partially funded by the Aberdeenshire European Fisheries Fund (AEFF) and will be delivered in partnership with Aberdeenshire Fisheries Local Action Group (FLAG).

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“North-east Scotland is known for excellent seafood. This initiative is a great way to recognise and celebrate our local restaurants, chippies, and seafood suppliers.”

“I encourage everyone to submit their favourite seafood place.  The Seafood Trail project would be an excellent way of encouraging consumers to visit and support our local coastal communities.”

12 November 2012

LibDem's Own Arguments Make Case for Independent Scotland

The LibDems have been challenged to acknowledge that the inescapable logic of their call for a regional approach to EU fisheries management is for Scotland to have the powers to make its own decisions across the policy spectrum.

Tavish Scott MSP is quoted as arguing that when it comes to who should make decisions over fisheries, “Scottish fishermen need an active government focused on their interests".

The same argument can be applied to a host of other policy areas where the Scottish Government is currently prevented from acting as a result of the current devolution settlement, leading to calls for the LibDems to acknowledge the simple fact that it is people in Scotland who are best placed to take decisions affecting Scotland.

Commenting, SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson whose Banffshire & Buchan Coast constituency is home to Scotland’s two largest fishing ports said:

“Tavish Scott is right that we need regional fisheries management, because the Common Fisheries Policy in its current form has failed either to protect fish stocks or support livelihoods in coastal communities.

“Quite simply, the people best placed to make decisions on managing the North Sea are the Governments of countries surrounding it, who by definition have the greatest stake in developing a profitable, sustainable industry.

“What the LibDems should acknowledge, however, is that this fact is just as true in many other areas.

“By definition, the people who are best placed to take decisions on Scotland’s economy, taxes and benefits, to name but a few areas, are the people of Scotland.

“If the LibDems can recognise that fact when it comes to fishing, they should acknowledge it is also true in a host of other areas.

“That is why we need the powers of an independent Scotland, as only a Yes vote in 2014 will give people in Scotland the opportunity to make all of our own policy decisions."


Tavish Scott’s comments can be viewed at http://www.shetlandtimes.co.uk/

11 November 2012

Scottish Maritime Academy Hailed as Tremendous Boost for Peterhead and Buchan Economy

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson and Peterhead South councillors Stuart Pratt and Stephen Smith have hailed the opening of the new Scottish Maritime Academy on Friday as a tremendous boost for Peterhead and the Buchan economy.

The SNP MSP and councillors attended Friday’s official opening of the facility which was performed by Olympic Gold Medallist Tim Baillie.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“This is a stunning new facility which underlines the strong commitment to the future of the fishing and maritime industry of operators Banff & Buchan College.

“I congratulate Principal Paul Sherrington and all those involved in bringing this major project to fruition.  I’m in no doubt it will prove to be a very valuable asset indeed.”

Chair of the Buchan Area Committee on Aberdeenshire Council Cllr Stuart Pratt commented:

“This is tremendous for Peterhead and the wider Buchan economy.  The Scottish Maritime Academy is already attracting students from overseas who are spending money in local hotels and businesses during their stay here for their course.

“As the reputation of the Academy and the state-of-the-art facilities it provides grows, I am confident we will see more and more interest from overseas students wishing to study in Peterhead.”

Peterhead South SNP councillor Stephen Smith added:

“It’s a fantastic facility and there is a real buzz about the facilities and the potential the Scottish Maritime Academy offers to further cement Peterhead’s role as Europe’s premier fishing port.”

2 November 2012

MSP Visits Buchanhaven School

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson paid a visit to Buchanhaven School in Peterhead today as part of Miss Hutcheson’s Primary 6 class project on the Scottish Parliament.

Commenting following his visit, Mr Stevenson said:

“I’d like to thank Miss Hutcheson and the pupils of primary 6 for inviting me along today.

“I always find these visits very enjoyable and today was no exception.  The class was lively and engaging and I hope I was able to give them an insight into the day to day work and range of duties and activities which MSPs of all parties are involved in.”

Stevenson Helps MASScot in Promoting Skin Cancer Awareness

MASScot (Melanoma Action & Support Scotland) recently exhibited in the Scottish Parliament, highlighting the high incidence of malignant melanoma - the most common cancer in 15 to 34 year olds in Scotland.

MASScot asked the MSPs to consider a public education campaign to prevent skin cancers by avoiding sunburn and to make people aware of the early signs of skin cancer and the dangers of sunbed use. MSPs were asked to sign that they agreed that Sun Protection is Vital and add a comment of their own. Alex Salmond wrote "Pale is Cool" and many particularly noted the need for protection of young people. We hope the exercise will result in questions being asked about sun awareness and result in a debate on this issue in the Scottish Parliament.

Leigh Smith, Chair of MASScot, commented:

"We are delighted with the amount of MSPs who have signed the Sun Protection is Vital pledge and the many who highlighted how important it is to educate our youngsters on safe sun practice from an early age. Furthermore, knowing the signs to look for and early detection of skin cancer can mean the difference between life and death, and this is something we hope will be debated on in the near future." 

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson added:

Early diagnosis with removal by minor surgery will cure thin melanomas, but all too often the early signs of cancer are missed. That’s why I feel it’s important to support the work of organisations such as MASScot to ensure that people get the right information about the simple steps they can take to protect themselves.”

Further information on melanoma & the support that MASScot provide can be found at: www.masscot.org.uk

Stevenson Welcomes Funding Awards for Banffshire Groups

Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast has today welcomed the news that two community groups in the Banffshire and Buchan Coast constituency are to receive Awards for All Scotland funding from the Big Lottery Fund totalling £13,340.

1st Cornhill Scout Group (£3700) and Friends of Cluny Primary (£9640) were both beneficiaries and have commendable plans for the money.

Awards for All Scotland is supported by the Creative Scotland, Sportscotland and the Big Lottery Fund and awards grants of between £500 and £10,000 to grass-roots community groups and voluntary organisations which promote education, the environment and health in the local community. Today, the program announced it would be awarding £1,293,726 to 173 deserving organisations across Scotland.

Mr Stevenson has written to both of the groups within his constituency who were successful in their application and is hopeful that this funding will support them, and allow them to develop their activities which are of great importance to the local community.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“I am delighted to see these local groups successfully applying for and securing the available funding in order to further support and develop their goals.

“These groups are similarly working towards enriching the lives of our local youth. I am glad to see the funding go to such a deserving cause.

 “I would encourage any and all eligible groups in the area to apply to Awards for All and enter the running for a grant to help them in continuing their activities, whatever they may be.”  

Information on eligibility and the application process for funding can be found at:

30 October 2012

MSP Highlights 'Ask You Pharmacist' Week

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson is highlighting the importance of Ask Your Pharmacist Week, which takes place from 5th – 12th November.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“I applaud and support this significant initiative and the theme of engaging men who should be encouraged to take a more active interest in their medicines.

“It has to be noted that community pharmacists are uniquely accessible healthcare professionals that offer real value and should never be underestimated by customers and patients. 

“We must remember that in some pharmacies – health checks are offered and these should be utilised as in some cases this cuts out the need for patients to visit their local GP.

“For those seeking additional information, please visit:
www.npa.co.uk.”

Scottish Projects Through to Carbon Capture Shortlist

Two Scottish projects have made it through to the shortlist of CCS projects which will now be considered for financial support.

The UK Government today announced that carbon capture projects in Peterhead and Grangemouth had both made it onto a four project shortlist that will be considered for financial support in the New Year.

It was also announced that Peterhead would be considered a reserve project when applying for European funding through the NER300 scheme, while the Sound of Islay Tidal project has been put forward as a full candidate project for NER300 funding.

Commenting, SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson whose Banffshire & Buchan Coast constituency covers Peterhead said:

“It is positive news that Peterhead is one of two Scottish projects to make it onto the final shortlist for funding for carbon capture.

“I firmly believe that Peterhead has an extremely strong case to make and I would certainly hope that the UK Government will fully recognise that when it makes its decisions in the New Year.

“Westminster has a sorry track record when it comes to supporting innovative carbon capture projects in the past, with jobs and investment allowed to slip away before at Peterhead and Longannet.

“People in Peterhead remember all too well that they have been let down before by dithering at Westminster, so what is most important is that history is not allowed to repeat itself.”

Falkirk East MSP Angus MacDonald added:

“The fact that Scottish projects make up half the shortlist for CCS funding clearly reflects the fact that Scotland has the biggest CO2 storage capacity in Europe.

“Getting this technology right can bring huge investment and many jobs to Scotland, but to get there it is essential that these projects are supported in their early days.”

Note: The text of Energy Secretary Ed Davey’s Ministerial Statement can be viewed at http://www.decc.gov.uk/statement along with an accompanying press release at http://www.decc.gov.uk/press

29 October 2012

Hudghton in Historic Euro Parliament Vote

On Thursday (25 October) during a voting session at the European Parliament’s plenary session in Strasbourg, a rare display of political harmony was seen!

Ian Hudghton MEP Voting
in the European Parliamen
t
SNP President and local MEP Ian Hudghton had drafted a Report recommending that national control over fisheries management within the 12 mile limit of each member state should continue. 

In an electronic vote the result was 658 votes in favour, with no votes against and no abstentions.  The Scottish MEP was congratulated by colleagues from all sides of the chamber and the session President.

No one in the Parliament could recall such a result - absolute unanimity - being recorded previously at a plenary session in the EP.  A remarkable achievement!

Commenting, local MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“Ian has been a staunch defender of Scotland’s fishing communities and this remarkable vote is a mark of the respect in which he is held in Europe when he speaks on these matters.”

Westminster Must End Dithering as European CCS Funding Deadline Looms

Indecision at Westminster must not be allowed to again put the development of CCS projects at risk, as a key European deadline looms to access a €1.5 billion pot of funding.

The UK Government has been given until the end of October to confirm whether they will help to fund companies competing for the European funding, a key requirement to enable access to the money. However, with the deadline looming, no confirmation has been forthcoming from the UK Government.

A proposed CCS installation at Peterhead Power Station by Shell and SSE is one of the projects in the running for UK Government funding, however it has already been let down twice by Westminster as dithering and indecision saw previous backers pull out in 2007. Another Scottish CCS project at Longannet power station was previously scrapped after the UK Government failed to reach an agreement.

Commenting, SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson, whose Banffshire & Buchan Coast constituency covers Peterhead said:

“Westminster has a deplorable track record when it comes to encouraging the development of CCS technologies, but it must not allow this deadline to simply pass it by.

“There is a substantial pot of European funding that Peterhead Power Station could gain access to with the right support.

“If people in Peterhead are yet again let down by dithering and delay on the part of the UK Government, then it will rightly cause outrage in the local area.

“The fact is that CCS technology can bring jobs and investment to Peterhead, and in fact it already could have if Westminster hadn’t previously scuppered efforts to bring this technology to Peterhead in 2007.

“History cannot be allowed to repeat itself, as Westminster throws jobs out the window through its dithering and delays. People in Peterhead deserve far, far better."

25 October 2012

Stevenson Volunteers for 'Make a Difference' Day

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson will be helping out at Barnardo’s shop at 12 Erroll Street, Peterhead on Make a Difference Day, Friday 26 October (tomorrow) in a bid to encourage more people to consider volunteering with the children’s charity. Mr Stevenson will meet Shop Manager Mandy Ross and her team.

The MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast will give up an hour of his time at the shop where he will be helping with activities like serving customers and preparing stock for sale. Stewart is supporting Barnardo’s Scotland’s latest appeal for more volunteers for its shops over the busy Christmas period.

Stewart Stevenson and Barnardo’s Scotland are encouraging people to give volunteering a try in one of its shops on Make a Difference Day. Tasks could include preparing the stock for sale, displaying it on the shop floor and helping customers, while creative types might enjoy window dressing.

Commenting ahead of his visit, Stewart Stevenson said:

“I am delighted to have the privilege of volunteering at Barnardo’s shop in Peterhead and am very much looking forward to helping out with various tasks. Volunteering is a wonderful way of giving something back to the community and is also an opportunity for people to learn new skills. I would very much like to encourage people in Buchan to consider volunteering at their local Barnardo’s shop, particularly over the busy Christmas period when they could really do with extra help, even if its just a few hours a week. All you have to do is pop into your local shop and find out more."

24 October 2012

Banffshire MSPs Congratulate Moray Winners of Food and Drink Awards

Moray’s MSP and Scottish Government Rural Affairs Secretary, Richard Lochhead, has commented after the Highlands and Islands Food and Drink Awards, which saw four awards come to Moray.

In his role as Rural Affairs Secretary the SNP’s Mr Lochhead made the welcome speech at the event and presented the ‘Excellence Award’, which this year went to the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival.

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson highlighted the success of Buckie firm Lossie Seafoods in winning two of the awards covering export development and ‘ambassador of the year’.

Commenting, Stewart Stevenson said:

“I’m delighted for Lossie Seafoods who are an important part of the Banffshire economy and a go-ahead local company.

“The Food and Drink sector is vitally important to Scotland’s economy and we can be justly proud here in Banffshire of the huge contribution that our local companies and their workforces make to that success.”

Speaking after the event Mr Lochhead said:

“Now in its eighth year, I am delighted that the Highlands & Islands Food & Drink Awards are getting bigger and better each year. These Awards highlight the fantastic range of top quality and delicious food and drink the region has to offer. All of the winners and nominees can be very proud of their achievements.

“I am especially pleased to congratulate 3 of the award winners who are based in Moray - those winners are Macbeth’s Butchers for Best Marketing Initiative, Lossie Seafoods Ltd for Development of Export Markets, Charlie Devin of Lossie Seafoods who received the Ambassador of the Year Award and the coveted Excellence Award went to the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival.

“These companies, individuals and organisations are an absolute credit to our vital Food and Drink sector and are a great advertisement for Moray both home and abroad.

“Scottish food and drink companies continue to perform well and Moray businesses are an important part of that success. Internationally, our food and drink offering is in high demand and I’m confident the industry’s challenging new target for exports of £7.1 billion by 2017 will be met.”

Stevenson Supports Prostate Cancer UK's 'Quality Checklist'

Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, gave his backing to a Prostate Cancer UK initiative to help men with prostate cancer receive the best possible support and care regardless of where they reside in Scotland.

Prostate Cancer UK’s ‘Quality Checklist’ outlines the support men with prostate cancer should expect from the health service through every step of their treatment.

At a meeting at the Scottish National Party Conference in Perth, Prostate Cancer UK and Mr Stevenson discussed the survey which showed a wide variation in experience with care that men with prostate cancer received, indicating the requirement for a checklist. The Quality Checklist was produced by Prostate Cancer UK through a process of consultation with men affected by the disease, their families, health care professionals, and policy makers.

Prostate cancer is predicted to be the most common cancer overall by 2030. Prostate Cancer UK is suggesting The Quality Checklist is adopted by Health Boards throughout Scotland in order to ensure people with prostate cancer throughout Scotland receive the best possible health service.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“Prostate cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in men in Scotland. The Prostate Cancer UK Quality Checklist is a great source of support and information for men to gain the care they need and deserve.

“Everyone deserves the best possible care, and I fully support the campaign for the Prostate Cancer UK’s Quality Checklist to be adopted by the NHS.”

23 October 2012

Local MSP Backs Life-Saving Lessons in NE Schools

Stewart Stevenson, SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast, has pledged his support to the teaching of Emergency Life-saving Skills (ELS) in every Scottish school.

Meeting with the British Heart Foundation (BHF) Scotland and partners at the Scottish National Party conference, Stevenson gave his backing to the campaign to ensure that all students in Banffshire & Buchan Coast are taught the skills which would help save a life. ELS training can be incorporated within the guidelines in the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) very simply and Stevenson himself had a go at discovering how easily Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) is learned.

There is an average of 25 cardiac arrest calls each day in Scotland to the Scottish Ambulance Service. Prompt CPR can buy time before professional help arrives and can drastically improve the chances for survival. Local authorities should ensure all schools are provided ELS classes, as training only takes two hours to teach and includes CPR, how to deal with serious bleeding, choking, and heart attacks.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“Including ELS in our children’s education is an opportunity to save lives. A two hour lesson will give students the skills, confidence, and preparation they need to act in the case of an emergency.

“Our communities can only gain from introducing these life-saving lessons into schools’ curriculums. I fully support this campaign for emergency response preparations.”

MSP Calls on Local Groups to Grab Better Breaks for Kids Funding

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the announcement of the latest round of funding of the Better Breaks programme.

The scheme, funded by the Scottish Government supports organisations who provide creative short breaks for the benefit of disabled children, young people, and their carers. A total distribution of £1.2million of grants will begin in April 2013.  

Mr Stevenson is encouraging all eligible individuals and groups to apply for this funding and to take advantage of application workshops hosted by Shared Care Scotland.

A workshop will be held at Marywell Training and Conference Centre in Aberdeen. 

Mr Stevenson said:

“The Better Breaks programme is a great cause, which makes a real difference in the lives of disabled children, young people, and their families by allowing them some respite through a short break. It’s a wonderful way to create opportunities for disabled people in our community and goes a long way in aiding recovery and improving quality of life.

“However, we need all those who could be putting these funds to good use to get in touch and apply for a grant which could mean something very special for people in our community.”

17 October 2012

Stevenson Delight at AWPR Ruling

Commenting on the announcement that the UK Supreme Court regarding the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route, Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“The objectors have not only had their day in court but also chance to appeal at the Court of Session, where their case was comprehensively dismissed and now a third bite of the cherry which, frankly, was a step too far and only served to further delay the project and increase costs to the taxpayer.

“The people of the North-east signalled their clear wish that this road to go ahead as quickly as possible, as does the Scottish Government, and I am delighted that work on the project will begin immediately.

“I also welcome the fact that the construction contract will stipulate that all job opportunities must be advertised through local job centres and all sub contracts to be tendered must be advertised on the Public Contracts Scotland web portal.  There will also be minimum requirements set for apprentices, graduate trainees and jobs, securing wider benefits for the local community.”

Local MSP Comments on Gardenstown Bus Service

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the decision by Stagecoach Bluebird to continue with their bus service to the Seatown at Gardenstown.

Stagecoach had undertaken a three-month trial using a different turning area in Gardenstown following difficulties caused by illegally parked cars at the usual turning stance.  However, there was concern in the community that if the trial was deemed unsuccessful, the bus service will terminate at the village petrol station.  This would have left residents in the Seatown area with a considerable walk up the Gamrie Braes.  Gardenstown is famous for its long, winding descent to the village harbour.

Mr Stevenson had previously written to and Aberdeenshire Council over the threat to remove a local bus service from the village.  The SNP MSP had previously said the council subsidise the bus service and if the present operator cannot or will not provide the required service then they should step aside, refund their public subsidy and allow another bus operator to take over.

Welcoming today’s news, Mr Stevenson said:

“This is very good news indeed for Gardenstown.

“It would have been completely unacceptable if the bus service had moved to terminating further up the village, but a common-sense approach has prevailed.

“Public pressure and the success of the trial period has prevailed and we must ensure that the bus service continued to be well-used and unobstructed on its journey around the village.”

16 October 2012

MSP Echoes Call to Get ready for Winter

Scottish Water has launched its winter campaign to encourage customers to follow their winter code. The key steps include protecting your pipes, being prepared for severe weather and ensuring you have heated, insulated and protected your home.

This call to act has been echoed by local MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast Stewart Stevenson who has urged householders, holiday homeowners, businesses, agents and landlords to take steps to heat, insulate and protect their properties.

Endorsing the message Mr Stevenson said:

“We must not be lulled into a false sense of security by last year’s relatively mild winter.

“Here in the North-east we can have very severe weather thrown at us and it is only sensible to be prepared.

“A pragmatic outlook of; hope for the best - but prepare for the worst, will see homes and communities best placed to weather any onset of severe temperatures.”

The MSP continued:

“I would encourage everyone responsible for a property to follow the basic and inexpensive advice contained within the Scottish Water website at:http://www.scottishwater.co.uk/you-and-your-home/be-prepared-for-winter/be-prepared-for-winter.

“Those of us who have experienced the consequences of burst pipes will know what a distressing, costly and time consuming trauma this can be”.

Local MSP & MP Welcome Historic Referendum Agreement

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson and MP Eilidh Whiteford have commented after the historic signing of the agreement between the Scottish and Westminster Governments which paves the way for an independence referendum in 2014,

SNP MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast Stewart Stevenson said:

"The referendum agreement is a very significant milestone towards Scotland achieving the normal independent status of other nations.  The fact that the Scottish and UK Governments have reached a detailed agreement on how to allow the people of Scotland their say is of immense importance.

“I am very conscious that we would not be at this stage without the contribution of pioneers in the independence cause, such as Douglas Henderson, who represented the North-east at Westminster, who were dedicated to giving people the very choice over independence that was accepted by all sides in the Edinburgh Agreement.

“I am also pleased to see the acceptance that 16 and 17 year olds are going to have a vote, and that there will now be a straight yes/no vote on independence on the ballot paper.

“Now the debate moves on, both in the North-east and throughout Scotland, to the substance of the issue.  What future do we want for Scotland – one where our budget, our welfare system and our taxes are in our own hands, or one where the UK Government continues to short-change Scotland?

“Throughout the summer, at the various shows and galas, Yes Campaigners are speaking of a very positive response with people wanting to discuss the issues and make an informed decision on theirs and their country’s future.”

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford said:

“Since I became active in politics at a young age I have made the case for Scotland’s independence and I am absolutely delighted that an agreement has been reached on the referendum arrangements that will let the people of Scotland make that vital choice.

“This historic agreement sets the scene for the most important constitutional debate and decision that the Scottish people will consider in hundreds of years.

“I have been out with Yes Campaigners at different events and people want to get involved in the debate about independence.

“People of all parties and none in the Yes Scotland Campaign are putting forward a positive vision for Scotland and I believe the public are responding to that.

“The road has now been mapped out for Scotland to take on all the powers of a normal country and to have a stronger voice in the world.”

10 October 2012

MSP Backs Osteoporosis Awareness Day

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson is highlighting the importance of World Osteoporosis Day, which takes place on Saturday 20th October.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“I applaud and support this initiative to raise awareness of this condition which causes bones to become thin and frail.

“It is normally the case that people do not realise that they have the disease until they suffer their first fracture.  However, osteoporosis is a treatable condition and with lifestyle changes and medical treatment, many fractures can now be avoided.

“For those wishing more information, please visit: www.worldosteoporosisday.org.”

20 September 2012

Stevenson Welcomes Budget for Jobs, Growth & Fairness

John Swinney MSP
Finance Secretary

GOVERNMENT WORKING FOR THE PEOPLE – NOT AGAINST THEM

Today’s budget highlights the totally contrasting approaches of the Scottish and UK Governments, said local MSP Stewart Stevenson, after a raft of announcements put jobs, growth and fairness at the heart of the Scottish Government’s spending priorities.

Following a week in which the human cost of Tory/Lib Dem cuts to the welfare state were laid bare, and in which Nick Clegg was finally forced into a humiliating apology for breaking the Lib Dem promise on tuition fees, the Scottish Government has today outlined a number of measures designed to boost jobs and protect those on the lowest incomes, including:
  • £180m over two years for investment in construction, skills and the green economy
  • £80m brought forward for the Schools for the Future programme
  • £40m additional investment in affordable housing
  • £18m for skills training
  • A modest wage increase for most public sector employees, and a commitment to uprate the living wage in line with the Living Wage campaign recommendations.
Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“The contrast between the Scottish and UK Governments could not be clearer.  We are living in incredibly tough financial times, and while the UK Government stifles growth and takes money from the most vulnerable in society, the Scottish budget has growth and fairness at its heart.

“The Scottish Government, along with the other devolved administrations across the UK, recognises the paramount importance of capital investment to support economic recovery.  That’s why the hundreds of millions of pounds being poured into vital projects such as the new prison for Peterhead – supporting thousands of jobs in the process - is particularly welcome.

“And of course the living wage, the council tax freeze, free prescriptions, concessionary travel and free university tuition are all helping to put money back into families’ pockets.

“Above all, this budget helps explain why people in Scotland overwhelmingly trust the Scottish Government to make the right decisions for Scotland, while fewer than one in five trust the Westminster Government.”

SNP Representatives Welcome Jags SFA License Success

The success of Buckie Thistle FC, known as the Jags, in obtaining SFA National Club License status has been welcomed by Stewart Stevenson MSP and and Angus Robertson MP, and also by Buckie SNP Councillor and lifelong Jags fan, Gordon McDonald.

Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

“This is another great result for Buckie Thistle demonstrating success off as well as on the pitch! SFA Licensing criteria assesses a wide range of club activities from ground safety to boardroom governance and this is a significant step in the club’s development.

Well done to everyone involved in the club.”


Angus Robertson MP said:

“Moray has seen some fantastic club successes from our local football teams in recent years. Not least of which with Buckie winning a back to back league double to the delight of their fans. Their development as a club continues with this important licensing step and those involved deserve recognition for ensuring the club continues to win behind the scenes as well as in front of the Jags.”

Councillor Gordon McDonald said:

“SFA accreditation for Buckie will provide a significant additional resource for the club to draw upon to help develop community activities, develop the ground and, of course, the first team. Like other fans I have enjoyed the recent big successes at the club and this is another step to help ensure the long-term performance of the club. Congratulations to the club.”

Note: Stewart Stevenson MSP has tabled a Motion in Parliament congratulating the club as follows:

That the Parliament congratulates Buckie Thistle FC on obtaining SFA National Club License status; understands that National Club License is an official endorsement of high quality facilities, safety and club governance; notes that this accreditation allows application to the SFA Cup competition as well as being necessary for eligibility for SFA development grants and is therefore an important step in the development of an ambitious club; notes that BuckieThistle FC are the most recent of a number of Highland League clubs to achieve the SFA National Club License; wishes Buckie Thistle well for the remainder of the season and for the future.

17 September 2012

MSP Congratulates Broch on Dramatic Cup Win

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson has tabled a motion in the Scottish Parliament in recognition of Fraserburgh FC’s dramatic win in the final of the Evening Express Aberdeenshire Cup on Saturday.

After going 2-0 down to fellow finalists Formartine United, Fraserburgh recovered to equalise in dramatic fashion in the 85th minute, and ultimately took the game to a penalty shoot-out in which they held their nerve.

Man of the match was awarded to Fraserburgh’s Graham Johnston, whose late leveller kept his team in the game.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“Such a thrilling conclusion to the Aberdeenshire Cup will no doubt ensure that the memory stays with players and fans alike for years to come.

“Every credit is due to Fraserburgh for showing the resolve to come back from 2-0 down to win the game. However, that is not to do a disservice to Formartine, who battled until the end, ultimately losing very narrowly, and were gracious in defeat.

“This game also underlines the talent that is on show in the Highland League every week and it is my hope that attendances continue to grow as more people choose to spend their weekends supporting their local team.”

13 September 2012

Stevenson Slams Cost to Public Purse of Alcohol Abuse

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has voiced his concern over new figures which indicate total estimated cost of alcohol-related harm in the Aberdeenshire Council area stands at £64.31 million or £262 per person for the period 2010-11.

For the first time ever, Alcohol Focus Scotland has produced a regional breakdown showing costs for each local authority area.  The research was conducted using the same methods as a Scottish Government study from 2010 which reported the overall cost of alcohol misuse across Scotland was £3.6 billion a year.

Highlighting the figures Mr Stevenson said:

“This is a very serious problem for our nation and our communities.  The drastic real terms reduction in the cost of off sales alcohol is holding many people in our communities back.

“Discount and loss leading supermarket promotions, which aim to make alcohol prices so cheap, are costing our country dear in terms of NHS, Police and lost production costs.  The Scottish Government’s minimum pricing policy will have a positive impact but it will not on its own fix the entire issue.

“Reverting to traditional behaviours of social drinking in the local pub with friends, neighbours and colleagues offers a more sustainable prospect.  Supporting your local pub is about community, peer networks and local business creating employment.  This contrasts with discount off sales of vodka or white cider consumed at home, which is about creating and maintaining alcohol dependency in our people.

“We need to be alive to the scale of the threat and act now to modify our perceptions of what is, and what is no longer, acceptable in our relationships with alcohol.

“The continuing extent of Scotland's alcohol misuse problem costs Scotland £3.6 billion per year, this is totally unsustainable in both human and economic terms.”
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