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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”.
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