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25 April 2012

New website debunks the myth that salmon angling is the exclusive preserve of the wealthy

A new comprehensive website – http://www.fisheries.asfb.org.uk/ – has been launched today by the Association of Salmon Fishery Boards (ASFB) to highlight the great extent of affordable, good value salmon angling in Scotland. It demonstrates beyond doubt that, contrary to popular belief, much of the available fishing is accessible at very modest cost.

The website is a one-stop portal into a wide variety of affordable and accessible salmon fishings – not only for anglers in Scotland but also those from further afield attracted by the country’s long-standing high reputation internationally for angling tourism. Salmon angling is worth over £100M annually to the Scottish economy, supporting over 2,500 full-time equivalent jobs and crucially, extending the tourist season significantly into the very early and late parts of the year.

Stewart Stevenson MSP, Minister for Environment and Climate Change, said,

"I welcome any initiative that makes people aware of opportunities to enjoy Scotland’s great outdoors, including our rivers, which can be enjoyed by both residents and visitors alike. It’s important that salmon fishing is made as accessible and affordable as possible and I hope this new website can provide people with the information they need to consider getting involved."

Brian Davidson, Operations Director for ASFB, explained:

“The new website provides factual, impartial information to help challenge the common perception that salmon angling in Scotland is elitist and only available to those with deep pockets. The aim is to highlight the abundance of opportunities for affordable and accessible salmon and sea trout fishing in Scotland. Many of these moderately-priced fishings are very productive.

“Indeed it is estimated that 15-20 % of the national salmon rod catch in Scotland is made on angling association waters controlled or fished by local clubs, the majority of which charge less than £200 for an annual permit.

“Furthermore our research indicates that close to a third of all salmon landed by anglers are caught on fishings, both association and private waters, costing no more than £60 per day – the threshold for inclusion on the website.”


Mr Davidson continued:

“The website is designed to provide anglers, both local and those visiting Scotland, with all the necessary details on individual fisheries so that they can make informed choices. It is important to emphasize that ASFB has no financial interest in this project, nor is it a commercial marketing tool for individual fisheries or indeed a vehicle for purchasing permits.”

Mr Davidson added:

“Like many other pursuits, some salmon fishing will always be expensive and this fuels the misconception that the great majority of beats are exclusive and beyond the reach of all but a privileged few. The reality is – and the website provides compelling testimony – that this perception does not stand up to scrutiny.”

The new website currently features over 250 eligible fisheries with more being added on a weekly basis. The project has been funded by a grant from the Fishmongers’ Company.

24 April 2012

Environment Watchdog Freezes Charges For Another Year

Scotland's environment watchdog has frozen charges for operators for the second year in a row.

A second successive year with no increase in the Scottish Environment Protection Agency's (SEPA) charges means that since 2008 operators have seen a rise of only 6.4%, well below the UK Retail Price Index increase of 17.7%.

John Ford, SEPA's Director of Finance and Corporate Services, said:

"SEPA has a responsibility to ensure that the costs of regulatory activities are recovered through charges. While the majority of charging schemes contain the facility to increase fees automatically each year on 1 April, we chose not to do so in 2010/11, to support Scotland's economic recovery. The fact that we can continue this freeze into this year is a very real economic benefit to operators, and reflects the efficiency savings that we have been achieving in recent years."

Minster for the Environment Stewart Stevenson said:

"By freezing charges for another year SEPA is contributing to the Scottish Government's central purpose of increasing economic growth. Keeping charges at 2010-11 levels is good news for business."

22 April 2012

Chinese Delegation Visit Scotland

STRENGTHING RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SCOTLAND AND SHANDONG

Scotland’s links with China continue to go from strength to strength with the visit of Shandong’s Vice Governor Jia and his top team next week.

During their time in Scotland, Vice Governor Jia and his delegation will meet with Environment Minister Stewart Stevenson and visit the Scottish Agricultural College and the Roslin Institute to learn more about Scotland’s expertise in animal research.

The visit to Scotland follows the First Minister’s successful trade and cultural mission to China last December during which he signed an innovation focused Memorandum of Understanding with the Governor of Shandong.

China is a key emerging market for Scotland. Salmon exports to China from January to November last year were worth £21.4 million and Scotch Whisky exports – up 15 per cent on the previous year – were worth £60.1 million in the same period.

Mr Stevenson said:

“Scotland’s relationship with China continues to go from strength to strength. Vice Governor Jia’s visit to Scotland, which comes just months after the First Minister’s visit to China, highlights the genuine interest in enriching and developing our relationship.

“China is a key market for Scotland and our commitment to the relationship is justified by results. We now have an export health certificate which allows direct exports of Scottish salmon to China, helping Scottish salmon producers secure major sales to the nation. And Scotch whisky sales to China have soared following the granting of legal status for Scottish whisky in 2010.

“Shandong is the second most populated province in China with 95 million people and its economy is growing rapidly – that is why it is so important that we continue to build strong links with the province.

“We are committed to working more closely with Shandong in a number of sectors, including offshore energy, life sciences, education, agricultural research, culture, sports and tourism.

“Already experts from Scotland's world-leading wave and tidal testing hub the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) are collaborating with their marine energy counterparts from the Ocean University of China (OUC) in Shandong Province – and there is huge potential for more joint working across many sectors.

“The Scottish Agricultural College and the Roslin Institute Scotland’s will showcase Scotland’s our expertise in animal research to the Chinese delegation.

“And in this Olympic year, we will also discuss how to celebrate the life of one of Scotland and China’s national hero’s – Olympic athlete Eric Liddell - who himself had a great love for China and strong links with Shandong.”

20 April 2012

Salmon Fishing In The Highlands

Provisional 2011 statistics reveal that rod catch levels for Scottish wild salmon were the sixth highest on record, while ‘catch and release’ practices increased to 73 per cent.

The statistics show that 86,655 salmon were caught in 2011, 97 per cent of the five-year average. For sea trout, following a long period of decline, catch levels were eight per cent up on the five-year average, to 24,049.

Environment Minister Stewart Stevenson said:

“As the film ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen’ premiers in cinemas today, a rare spotlight is cast on the role of Scottish fisheries scientists and their work to preserve and protect our iconic wild salmon.

“In collaboration with anglers, our network of scientists and biologists are having success in combating declines in salmon numbers returning to Scotland’s coasts, as demonstrated by the continued high rod catches during the 2011 season.

“The practice of catch and release is very important and I applaud fishermen for their efforts, particularly for the critical spring salmon when release levels for rod caught salmon were over 90 per cent.

“Salmon and trout fishing in the Highlands and throughout Scotland is part of our heritage and provides a real draw for tourism and a boost for rural economies. I’m determined to ensure it will remain so for many generations to come.”

19 April 2012

Lowland Raised Bogs: Damaged But Can Be Repaired

Some of Scotland’s most important assets in the fight against climate change are badly damaged, but can be repaired, a new report says.

The Scottish Wildlife Trust has undertaken the most comprehensive survey of lowland raised bogs in the last 15 years. The Trust says it would cost £43,500 to bring a typical lowland raised bog to good condition. The capital cost of restoring all of Scotland’s lowland raised bogs to good condition is estimated at £21m. This money could come from many sources including business sponsorship of a local bog, lottery and rural development funding, or local people raising funds for a site near them. Lowland raised bogs would require annual investment to maintain their quality.

Lowland raised bogs develop in estuaries, valleys or small dips in the landscape. After the area is flooded, peat is formed as the lack of oxygen stops plants from breaking down. As more peat is created the surface is pushed above the surrounding area to create a distinctive dome shape - the 'raised bog'. Scotland’s lowland raised bogs are incredibly important. They comprise 40% of the lowland raised bogs of the UK and are amongst the rarest habitats in Europe.

Lowland raised bogs contain and trap a significant amount of carbon. Protecting them will contribute significantly towards meeting Scotland’s ambitious carbon emission targets, as well as protecting our valuable biodiversity.

Scottish Wildlife Trust Director of Conservation Jonathan Hughes, speaking at the Scottish Parliament during a discussion on the report said:

“This major survey has shown that almost all lowland raised bogs in Scotland are damaged. We found that 97% of sites had been artificially drained. Dry bogs lose their special plants and mosses and release carbon into the atmosphere. Rewetting such bogs is not only good for wetland wildlife, it is also good for the fight against climate change as wet bogs actively take up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

“The report has lots of grounds for optimism. We have estimated the cost to repair all our lowland raised bogs at just £21m, a small amount of money for the benefits it would bring society.

“We can also be optimistic that the owners of the bogs want to act as 95% of those we questioned were supportive of grant-aided restoration measures being carried out on their sites. The appetite is definitely there to do something about this problem.

“And we can make a huge difference. The majority of our raised bogs can be restored and we have the technical know-how. By removing woodland and scrub, installing dams to retain water and grazing sheep to inhibit scrub invasion, we can protect these little pockets of wilderness for generations to come.”


Minister for the Environment Stewart Stevenson said:

“I am very happy to see this study. Scotland’s lowland raised bogs are remarkable ecosystems. While, as the report says, the majority have been disturbed over the years, it is encouraging that restoration is feasible in many cases and that good management does not need to be expensive. I welcome the positive steps in this report for land managers to protect and enhance these precious natural resources.”

18 April 2012

MSP Backs National Multiple Sclerosis Week

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson is highlighting the importance of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Week, which takes place from 30th April to 6th May.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“MS is of particular significance to Scotland as it has the highest prevalence anywhere in the world and symptoms of MS can be complex such as; fatigue, vision problems and difficulties with walking. However, we must remember that MS is different for everyone and that most people won't experience them all, certainly not at the same time.

“In terms of treatment, there are lots of options for treating and managing MS. They include drug treatments, exercise and physiotherapy, diet and alternative therapies.

“I hope that people will use this week to think and talk about this shattering condition and how it affects people’s lives.

“For those wishing more information please visit: http://www.mssociety.org.uk/ or call the free MS Helpline on 0808 800 8000.”

Local MSP Welcomes Next Round Of Short Break Funding

Banffshire & Buchan Coast SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the news that the third round of the Creative Breaks Programme is now open for applications.

Commenting, Stewart said:

“I am delighted the next round of applications is open as the funding improves the range and availability of short breaks for disabled children and their families, which is so important.

“The programme is funded by the Scottish Government as part of their commitment to the development of Short Breaks for the benefit of carers and those they care for and provides nearly £1m of grants to third sector organisations for the provision of breaks.

“Third sector organisations can apply for grants to develop new or existing short break services or for funding to establish their own small grant scheme for carers so that carers can then design and fund the short break that’s right for them.

“I would encourage those interested to visit the Shared Care Scotland Website at: http://www.sharedcarescotland.org.uk/short-breaks-fund/Creative-Breaks-Programme.html for more information and to download an application form. The deadline for applications is noon 30th May.”

12 April 2012

Local MSP Criticises Aberdeen Bypass Objectors

Commenting on the news that agents acting for William Walton have served notice of appeal against the AWPR court verdict yesterday, Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

“While it is right and proper that people should have the opportunity to object to developments, this has now gone on long enough.

“The objectors have not only had their day in court but also a second bite of the cherry at the Court of Session, where their case was comprehensively dismissed.

“The people of the North-east want this road to go ahead as quickly as possible, as does the Scottish Government. It is clear that the only thing delaying progress now is the actions of a selfish minority who refuse to accept not only the will of the courts but the will of the people."

Transport Minister Keith Brown MSP said:

"It is hugely disappointing to find that a small number of objectors opposed to the AWPR have again disregarded the wishes of the vast majority of people in the north east of Scotland and caused further delay to this vital project.

“The Scottish Government has an iron will to proceed with the AWPR as soon as the legal process is concluded. There has now been a parliamentary process, a public local inquiry and two clear and comprehensive court verdicts giving the green light to the road.

"This further delay will simply cost the people of Scotland money and subject the people of the Aberdeen area to congestion.

“I strongly believe that the vast majority of people in the North East are running out of patience and, like us, want this vital road built as quickly as possible."

He added:

"In August last year Lord Tyre refused the challenges against the AWPR and in February the Court of Session refused the subsequent appeal.

"We are extremely disheartened to find that the small number of objectors still refuse to accept the decision and allow us to get on with delivering a project that is crucial for safeguarding and creating jobs, the economy and transport infrastructure of Aberdeen and the whole of the North East without further delay.

“We will now consider next steps over the decision to take Mr Walton's case to the Supreme Court. We acted previously to ensure his arguments could be heard and the case expedited. Those arguments were rejected by the Court of Session and we will have to consider carefully his new approach. Our aim is to get on with building the AWPR as soon as possible.

"Our democracy respects the right of any individual to oppose the decision of the Scottish Ministers to build the AWPR, as approved by the Scottish Parliament, the decision of the Public Local Inquiry, the decision of the Outer House of the Court of Session and even the Inner House of the Court of Session.

"We would have hoped that the same respect is shown for the democratic wishes of the vast majority of the people in the North East of Scotland who want to see this road built as possible."

5 April 2012

Stevenson Welcomes Announcement Of Low Carbon Buses For Banffshire

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the announcement that Macduff based Deveron Coaches is set to receive a share of a £1.8 million investment from the Scottish Government’s Green Bus Fund. The funding will see 26 low carbon vehicles added to bus fleets across Scotland.
 
Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“I am delighted that Deveron Coaches has been selected as one of five bus companies across Scotland that will benefit from a share of this substantial investment. Greener buses are not only more environmentally friendly but will also reduce fuel costs for bus operators which is particularly important during these challenging times.

“The Scottish Government is committed to encouraging green travel and measures such as this will help us move closer to meeting our world leading carbon emission reduction targets.

“This is excellent news for Deveron Coaches and the many people in my constituency who use their services on a regular basis. I look forward to seeing this funding put to good use in Banffshire & Buchan Coast.”

4 April 2012

Stevenson Supports Earth Day

Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson encourages participation in Earth Day, which takes place on Sunday 22nd April.

Commenting on the initiative, Mr Stevenson said:

“This is the opportunity for us all to do our part to express our appreciation for the planet and demand its protection.

“We must use this day to raise the importance of environmental issues around the world so that the environment is always at the forefront.

“I trust that the event will reach its aim of raising awareness of the environment and get the message across that we must all act to ensure a sustainable future can be realised.”

3 April 2012

Easter Egg Warning

The arrival of the new bird breeding season has prompted the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime to launch Operation Easter – the annual national effort to deter egg-thieves from targeting wild birds’ nests.

Environment Minister Stewart Stevenson, who also chairs PAW Scotland, said:

”While our member organisations are making significant headway tackling egg thieves, they can’t do it alone and we depend on everyone who’s out and about in the countryside to be vigilant and report suspicious activity to the police.”

Operation Easter was started by Tayside police back in 1997. The police, National Wildlife Crime Unit and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds began working together to share intelligence and ensure effective enforcement action against the egg thieves.

This has resulted in several seizures of egg collections over recent years across the UK. The concerted effort has seen the number of active egg thieves reduced to an all-time low.

But Charles Everitt, Scottish Investigative support officer at the UK National Wildlife Crime Unit, warned that one of the biggest dangers now was complacency.

Said Mr Everitt:

”We can’t afford to relax at this stage. Over Easter and in the coming weeks, Scotland’s wildlife crime officers will be out in force, targeting anyone stealing from Scotland’s wild bird nests.”

Anyone who witnesses or suspects that people are involved in egg theft or any other rural crime should contact CrimeStoppers on 0800 555 111, or their local police.

Stevenson Hails Funding Boost For Banff Sports Club

Banffshire & Buchan Coast MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the announcement that the Princess Royal Sports & Community Trust in Banff is to receive £1914 from the Big Lottery Fund’s 2014 Communities programme. The funding will be used to fund dance & fitness coaching, hockey pitch hire & coaching, table tennis coaching and fishing trips.

2014 Communities is a micro grants programme, offering local sports clubs, voluntary and community organisations, community councils and schools grants of £300 to £2,000 to support and stimulate grass roots involvement in sport and physical activity and is about building a legacy of well-being before and beyond the Commonwealth Games.  The programme aims to encourage more people to take part or volunteer in sport or physical activity as well as encourage greater community cohesion in the run up to the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“This is a fantastic boost for Princess Royal Sports & Community Trust and I know that many people will already be looking forward to the activities that the funding will allow the Trust to offer.

“The Princess Royal Sports & Community Trust plays an important role in the Banff community and I know that this funding boost will be welcomed by people throughout the area.

“The Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in two years will be a fantastic occasion, but it is important that communities across Scotland benefit from the event’s legacy. Encouraging more people to take up sporting activities is an important part of that, so I am delighted that this funding will be put to that purpose in Banff.”

Agreement To Keep Key Messages On Greener Land Management Simple

Scottish Agricultural College
An appeal for researchers to use plain language received strong support on the opening session of the two day conference, “Valuing Ecosystems”, organised in Edinburgh by SAC and environmental watchdog SEPA. John Gilliland OBE, SAC Board member, raised the issue during question time at the event, which is looking at how we can ensure that the full range of goods and services provided by the Scottish countryside are appreciated and valued.

The conference, in Pollock Halls, is discussing issues surrounding the benefits or “services” our countryside provides, like food production, recreation, clean air and water, flood control, energy supply and a host of others. It is considering how they are currently understood and how one activity impacts on the others. However John Gilliland argued that if those managing land are to contribute to helping deliver such “ecosystem services”, they need to understand it through messages that relate to their daily lives.

“We face major challenges like climate change or food security and the way we use our precious land resource and protect our biodiversity is key to that”,

said John Gilliland.

“Often though the way researchers describe things seems completely removed from reality as farmers and other land managers see it. We need to find words we all understand. Then everyone will benefit.”

Earlier Scotland’s Environment Minster, Stewart Stevenson MSP, had opened the conference with support for a “whole system approach” to policy making and one which engaged the support of all those using land.

“Scotland’s rich and diverse natural environment is one of our greatest national assets. We must ensure it is protected and managed well to safeguard its future. However we also need to consider the many and varied needs of different land users. Our “Land Use Strategy” identifies these pressures and it’s essential that all parties work together to build mutual understanding and maximise the opportunities that closer working will bring”. 

Over two days conference speakers are highlighting where the benefits and choices the natural environment offers can conflict. Others offer approaches to resolving the issues through new policy tools or changes in management practices. The role of woodland, soils and water are among the issues discussed. The Scottish Government’s current five year research programme puts a particular focus on addressing many of the important research and policy development questions surrounding eco system services.

The 9th SAC/SEPA, biennial Conference, in Pollock Halls, Edinburgh is on 3rd & 4th of April. It is organised jointly by the SAC and SEPA with the support of the James Hutton Institute, Forest Research and Scottish Natural Heritage.

2 April 2012

A New Era For Crofting

Scotland’s Crofting Commission is now open for business – and Environment Minister Stewart Stevenson met the new commissioners for the first time today.

The Crofting Commission – which was established on April 1 and supersedes the Crofters Commission – aims to meet the needs of crofting and crofters in the 21st century. The Commission will have the power to regulate crofting to ensure that crofts are occupied and worked or, if not, made available to those who want to croft.

The new Commission was one of the measures introduced as part of the Crofting Reform Act 2010. The Act also establishes a definitive map-based crofting register to remove doubt over what is croft land and who has rights and responsibilities for that land, places a duty on the Commission to tackle absenteeism and neglect, and addresses speculation on croft land.

The elected crofting representatives are:
  • Kathleen Sinclair, Shetland
  • Arnie Pirie, Orkney and Caithness
  • Donnie Ross, East Highlands
  • Murdo MacLennan, Western Isles
  • Ian Macdonald, West Highlands
  • Colin Kennedy, South West Highlands
They join Susan Walker, William Swann and Sandy Cross who were appointed to the commission board by the Scottish Ministers. The first Crofting Commission convener will be appointed shortly.

Mr Stevenson said:

“This is a momentous day for crofting as we drive forward the reform agenda which will secure a sustainable future for crofting.

“I’m very pleased to attend the first gathering of the newly elected and appointed Crofting Commissioners in Inverness and to meet those responsible for ensuring the Commission is an effective regulator of crofting. The majority of commissioners have been democratically elected by crofters, putting the power directly in the hands of crofters themselves.

“Crofting is part of Scotland’s history and culture and the Crofting Commission will ensure that it is also part of Scotland’s future.”
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